OSR: Illusionist Wizards

I've always thought "Illusionist" was a weird class. It's like "Ventriloquist" or "Pole-Vaulter". Sure, you can do a few tricks. Those tricks might even be useful in a dungeon. But when your signature move is tricking some orcs into falling off a cliff or running away... it's hard not to feel underwhelmed.

I'm still tweaking my ideas about how Illusionists work in my unnamed OSR setting. This post is mostly about their mechanics and spells. The class is stolen, more or less wholesale, from Goblin Punch. All credit goes to Arnold K for good ideas.

Illusionist Wizards

Perk: Your illusion spells have a duration of “Concentration + 1 minute”. You start with rainbow-coloured gloves 
The gloves are going to be important in a minute. The duration increase is very, very nice. Other people can cast illusions, but you are an Illusionist.
Drawback: You cannot cast spells unless you can see all 7 primary colours. Your magic supplies the 8th: octarine.
Ah. Right. Pitch darkness is out. Being blind is out. A thick fog is going to make things interesting. Losing your gloves or getting blood all over them is going to be a disaster. Octarine, the Colour of Magic, is stolen from the Discworld series.

1. Create a shower of illusory sparks or a puff of illusory smoke from your hands.
2. Touch another caster’s illusion and make and Opposed Intelligence check. If you succeed, you gain control of the illusion.
3. You always know the position of the sun in the sky.
(1) is standard wizard theatrics. (3) means you will have trouble getting lost underground. But (2)... is very neat. See that neat illusory drawbridge? It's mine now. Your traps? My traps.
1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours
2. Take 1d6 damage
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then Save. Permanent if you fail.
4. Blind for 1d6 rounds
5. All sighted creatures are invisible to you for 24hrs.
6. Eruption of random illusions from your hands. Everyone in LOS must make a Wisdom check to do anything relying on sight for 1d6 rounds.
The first 3 mishaps are the same for every school. (4) means no spellcasting for 1d6 rounds. (5) is hilarious and extremely confusing. (6) is going to be entertaining to narrate, but it affects enemies as well as allies. It's line of sight based as well. If you mishap on top of a tower, everyone is going to stop to watch the fireworks.
Doom of the Illusionist:
1. A 10’ square mirror appears and you are compelled to enter. Your lose a random item, gain a random item of approximately equal value, and have 0 HP. You return the next morning, shivering.
2. You turn into an illusion for a day.
3. Turn into an illusion permanently.
As an illusion, you have no smell or taste. You cannot be felt. Solid impacts cause you to pop. Lose 1d6 Con that cannot be recovered while you are an illusion, and reform the next morning nearby. Illusions are real to you.
(1) is a neat idea. Mirror realms are always fun. 0 HP isn't the worst penalty either. You'll get some of it back at lunch. (2) and (3) are... really bad. Illusions being real to you does mean you can walk across an illusory bridge or ride an illusory dragon into battle, but you're going to pop a lot.
This doom can be avoided by journeying into the mirror-realm and eating one of the eyes of the beholders found there, or performing the Ritual of Prismax; a duel to the death against three of your mirror selves, fought in a neutral battlefield.
We'll talk about beholders and mirrors and the mirror realms in another post.

Spell List

In this setting, spells are creatures. They're spirits that live in a wizard's brain and burst out, doing their duty and then taking a brief vacation. Elementalists have brains like stables or kennels. Illusionists, who rely on more sentient spells, have brains like carnivals or traveling circus wagons. Illusionists feed their spells on coloured light. Illusion spells need all 8 colours to manifest. Any less, and feeble, flickering images will appear from the undernourished spell.

Illusionists get exactly one damage-dealing spell: prismatic ray. It's entirely possible to play an complete pacifist.

I'm not going to write up 100 Illusion Spells like I did for Orthodox Wizards, because most Illusion spells are just minor variants around one idea. Relatively few of them use the highly variable [sum] of a spell, and rely on the [dice] number instead.

If you know something is an illusion, it doesn't vanish. You don't "see through it". It doesn't look any less real. It's like a perfect hologram from Star Trek or one of those really convincing optical illusion, like the hollow mask effect. You can't "roll to disbelieve" an illusion.

Hollow Mask Illusion, LVdigitalphotogrraphy

If you control an illusion and it is within line of sight, you can change it's nature or form once per round. You could use illusion to create a goblin and then, when pursued, transform it into a tiger. Illusions will still work outside of your line of sight, and will exhibit reasonably correct behaviors. A guard-illusion will march if told to march. A fire-illusion will burn (but not spread). The spells that create illusions are about as intelligent as a dog.

Spell List
1. Illusion
R: 50' T: [dice]x5' diameter D: concentration / concentration+1 minute
You create an illusion of whatever object or creature you want. It can move at your will, but cannot make any sound or smell. Illusions can only add, not subtract. They can cover up a hole, but not create the illusion of a hole.
This spell is the default "make an illusory object" spell. Note the area restriction. At 1 dice you can't create a 6' tall illusory human. The spell is deliberately vague.
2. Disguise
R: touch T: object D: [dice] hours / concentration+1 minute
You cloak the object in illusion, making it appear as another object of the same type. An apple could be disguised as any other type of fruit; a table could be disguised as any other type of furniture. A humanoid can be disguised as any other humanoid of comparable size. This only extends to the visual properties of the object. The maximum size of the object depends on how many dice are invested in the spell: 1 [dice]: human-sized, 2 [dice]: ogre- or wagon-sized, 3 [dice]: dragon- or tavern-sized, [dice]: ship- or bridge-sized.
These disguises are perfect, visually. You can't "see through them", but you can go "Hey, wait a minute, that hill is making a lot of smoke." "Hey, hold on, I'm pretty sure the King had a limp and didn't speak with an accent."
3. Prismatic Ray
R: 200' T: [dice] creatures or objects D: 0
Target suffers a different effect depending on which color strikes the target. Roll a d10: 1. Red. Target takes [sum] fire damage, Save for half. 2. Orange. Target takes [sum] bludgeoning damage and is knocked prone. Save negates. 3. Yellow. Target takes [sum] lightning damage, Save for half. 4. Green. Target takes [sum] acid damage, Save for half. 5. Blue. Target takes [sum] ice damage, Save for half. 6. Purple. Target takes [sum] necrotic damage and is blinded for [sum] rounds. Save negates. 7, 8, 9. Struck twice. Roll a d6 twice. Add effects; make one save. 10. Struck thrice. Roll a d6 three times.
This is the only Illusionist spell that deals direct damage, but even at low levels it can deal a lot of damage. At 4 [dice],  you have a 10% chance of dealing 12d6 damage, although Saves will negate some of it.
4. Mirror Image
R: 0 T: self D: 10 minutes / concentration+1 minute
You create 1d4+[dice] illusory images of yourself, which move as you move and always stay within 5' of you. They are constantly stepping through each other, so that it is impossible to tell which is which. When an enemy attacks you, roll to see if they hit you or an image. An image vanishes as soon as it suffers a solid impact. Area effects such as a dragon's breath will cause all images to vanish.
Also useful for intimidating the credulous. Become a multi-wizard.
5. Mirror Object
R: touch T: mirror D: [dice] hours  / concentration+1 minute
You reach into a mirror-like surface and pull out a copy of an object adjacent to the mirror. The object that you pull out must be within reach of the mirror (as if it were a window), small enough to fit through the mirror (as if it were a window) and light enough for you to pull through with one hand. The mirror object looks and feels exactly like the object it copied. It doesn't copy any magical properties of the object. You cannot duplicate living things in this way. The mirror object pops like a bubble if it suffers a solid blow . If you invest at least 4 [dice] into this spell, it can copy the magical properties of an item, but those magical properties will only function once. For items with continuous properties, such as a flying carpet, the magic properties will last no longer than 10 minutes.
The [dice] part of this spell is more or less useless, but everything else is great.
6. Light
R: touch T: object or creature D: [dice]x2 hours
Object illuminates as a torch, with a radius of 20’+[dice]x10’. Alternatively, you can make an Attack roll against a sighted creature. If you succeed, the creature is blinded for [sum] rounds. If [sum] is greater than 12, the creature is permanently blinded. You can chose the colour of the light. If you invest 4 [dice] or more this light has all the qualities of natural sunlight. Alternatively, if you invest 4 [dice] or more the light can be purest octarine, although it will only last for 1 round. Octarine light is extremely dangerous.
Light sources in the dungeon are very valuable. At one [dice], this spell is a slightly worse emergency torch, but at two [dice] it is already significantly better. And what does pure octarine light do anyway? At a minimum, I'd say [sum] damage to all sighted creatures in the area, plus whatever mutations, mishaps, summonings, and explosions the GM cares to inflict. Mad Illusionists build special mirror-cages and wear visors tinted with the bones of extremely dull bureaucrats.
7. Hypnotic Orb
R: touch T: object D: [sum] minutes / concentration+1 minute
You enchant a mostly-spherical object so that it's surface is covered with a captivating, shimmering pattern. Any creature who sees the enchanted object must Save or be compelled to sit still and observe it for the spell's duration. Flying creatures will land or circle it. The caster is not immune to this effect. The effect is broken if line of sight is broken, if something startles a target (a loud adjacent shout), or if the target see signs of obvious danger (such as someone killing their friends). Groups of statistically identical NPCs should make their Saves as a group.
I'm sure you can easily imagine a scenario where an Illusionist and friends is preparing to ambush some goblins. The entire group is waiting outside a door. The Illusionist casts this spell. The party fails their Saves and stare at the orb. The goblins turn up and also stare at it. When the spell's duration expires, all hell is going to break loose.
8. Colour Spray
R: [dice]x10' cone T: sighted creatures D: 0 / varies
If [sum] is equal or greater to the creature's HD, it is befuddled for 1d6 rounds. If [sum] is three times the creature's HD or more, it is stunned for a round, then befuddled for 1d6 rounds. If [sum] is five times the creature's HD, it is stunned for 1d6 rounds, then befuddled for 1d6 rounds.
This spell is a bit variable, and a little fiddly for my tastes, but mass stun effects are nice.
9. Wizard Vision

R: touch T: sighted creature D: 10 min / permanent
If you invest one [die]: Target can see invisible things. Target can see through illusions. Non-magical disguises are not penetrated.

If you invest two or more [dice]: This can only be cast on yourself. As above, except you can also see through magical darkness, and see the true forms of shapeshifters. There are also some permanent effects: (a) You can forever see invisible things as a slight warping or lensing of light. You know “there's something over there” and what size it roughly is, but nothing else. (b) You can tell if someone else is a spellcaster by looking them in the eyes.

The price for this gift is your mind. You suffer a permanent loss of 1d6 Wisdom (as you reject the true nature of Creation and go slightly mad) or 1d6 Charisma (as you accept the true nature of Creation and alienate yourself from your peers).

Wizard Vision is, as usual, a very good idea stolen from someone else. It makes you a little crazy.
10. Wall of Light
R: 50' T: wall or sphere D: 10 min / concentration+1 minute
You conjure either (a) a hemisphere [dice]x5’ in diameter, or (b) a 10' by 10' panel per [dice], which can be arranged in any contiguous formation joined by their edges. The wall is intangible, but you can control what each side shows. It can be either (a) inky darkness, (b) light out to 30', (c) mirror, (d) transparency, or (e) a simple texture, such as stone, brick, or carpet. Both sides do not have to show the same thing. You can change these surfaces with a thought. If you invest 4 [dice] or more into this spell, you may make the duration permanent.
Not much of a "wall", as it's intangible, but people don't necessarily know that.

Emblem Spells
are the "classic" spells of a school.

11. Mirror Self
R: touch T: mirror D: concentration / concentration+1 minute
You reach into a mirror-like surface and pull out [dice] copies of yourself. The mirror must be large enough for you to pass through. Your mirror clones behave as you wish. They can walk and talk, but it cannot pick anything up. You can see through their eyes and hear through its ears. You can cast spells through them. You can switch places with your mirror twin as a free action. A mirror twin pops like a bubble if it suffers a solid blow.
While the "concentration" difficulty of this spell makes spellcasting tricky, I'd say you can regain control if you regain concentration within 1 minute, as an Illusionist. Once you learn this spell, expect the Illusionist in the mirror to reach out and copy you from time to time.
12. Fade
R: 50' T: creature or object D: [sum] rounds
Target phases out and becomes unable to affect the world in any way except visually. It stands or floats like an illusion until the spell concludes. Not even magic can affect the target. If they would be in a solid object when the spell expires, they are harmlessly shunted into the nearest open space. The maximum size of the object depends on how many dice are invested in the spell: 1 [dice]: human-sized, 2 [dice]: ogre- or wagon-sized, 3 [dice]: dragon- or tavern-sized, [dice]: ship- or bridge-sized.
Fade a bridge away. Fade your enemy away and then have the fighter line up for a two-handed baseball bat swing at their neck.


  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcPMzkwi-j4

    1. This has to be the weirdest film experience I've had in a while.