Saturday, June 28, 2014

Did / Do Illusionists Get Any Love in Your Campaigns?

I'm not going to say Illusionists were worthless in AD&D 1e - they weren't. They had their uses, but they were very specific and fairly rare. They were, however, a very poor substitute for a magic-user in the party, and if the party passed on the mage for an illusionists, especially at low levels, they were pretty much screwing themselves. (Unearthed Arcana changed this balance a bit and made the Illusionist more viable, but it was likely he would still be the second "arcane" caster i0n the party, not the only one.)

Gnome thief / illusionist made for a decent class combination - it's just a shame that folks in my groups always imagined the gnome in D&D to look like that stupid garden gnomes - as a race, gnomes never seemed to have a niche besides "talk with burrowing animals", but that's a whole 'nother post.

The fighter subclasses could easily substitute for a regular fighter, but it wasn't the same for the magic-user and it's subclass (and to some extent, that probably applies to the cleric and it's druid subclass too).

So, how much use did / do Illusionists get in your campaigns?


  1. I've got a home brew illusionist class for my Classic D&D game (BECMI-based Frankengame). A few people have tried it out, but I don't get to DM often enough so we've never had one get past level 1. They have some useful spells, but require a bit more creativity in a standard "explore, fight, loot" adventure. And would probably work best paired with a Magic-User. For a more "explore, negotiate/entice/bamboozle/intimidate, loot" adventure, they can be pretty useful.

  2. Last ran one (multi-class Illusionist/Assassin) about 1981, hung out with a monk. Very good combo actually. Since then I don't remember seeing any. Sounds like a challenge next time I roll up a character.

  3. I played a gnome illusionist/thief for a while. The DM asked me to retire him because he was overpowered by the time he was about 5/7. We used the DMG guidelines for adjudicating illusions. He was a lot of fun to play and I tried to be creative with my use of illusions, but the malleability of illusions makes an illusionist enormously powerful.

  4. I never had problems with illusionists as player or DM. I suspect they are simply avoided by a lot of players because you don't get to go "BOOM ZAP" at low level.

  5. I ran an Illusionist briefly (he died before reaching 2nd level - I have no recollection how). No one else in my group ever tried one. Even my brief exposure really forced me to be creative with how to use his spells. I can definitely see how an Illusionist can be overpowering in the hands of a creative player. On the other hand, for a non-inventive player it seems like you would just keep getting variations on pits with spikes appearing out of nowhere.

    1. The repetitive suddenly appearing pit trap would be an awful use of illusions as the locals in a dungeon (or elsewhere) would have little reason to believe a pit just appeared where they had no reason to expect one to be. Only the PCs suspect there may be a pit under feet wherever they go because they are ignorant of the local terrain.

  6. everybody loves gnome illusionists, don't they?

  7. My very first group back in 1979 had a player who insisted on playing an Illusionist, and while he realized it was no substitute for a Magic-user, he excelled at making the most out of what he could do. Sometimes to the point of being annoying. About the only enemies he had trouble with were those of the "mindless" variety. A few others tried Illusionist, but didn't want to be as annoying as the other guy was. Plus, Magic-user was just more fun. The Gnome Illusionist/Thief, on the other hand, got a fair amount of play.

  8. I'm playing in an online AD&D 1e game and after some player turnover, a new player came in with an illusionist. The rest of us were 2nd level.
    He used hypnosis to help take care of an encounter after we had just surfaced from a tomb under the city accessible via the sewers. We surfaced to rioting and a curfew, as we had been down there nearly two days. A band of ruffians had kidnapped a young girl after terrorizing her family and beating the father. We were outnumbered and banged up a bit.
    Thankfully, he got the leader and about half the group and we didn't have to fight.
    What's really funny, on the trip we had just completed in the dungeon, he was hitting things with his staff and killing them and the fighters couldn't hardly hit anything that session.
    We're playing in a game that is harsh and brutal if the players are stupid. We have avoided TPKs three times so far. Fight when we have to has allowed us to avoid a single PC death.
    Other than that, there have not been many illusionists in the games I have played, the last 36 years. They were not memorable as I can't think of any of them in play.
    We always wished we had one that could throw all the cool illusionist spells at higher levels, but no one took the effort to make it happen.
    I don't have any planned as NPCs in my own campaign yet, but I need to, just to mix it up a bit.

  9. I have actually seen single-class illusionists four or five times in 35 years, whereas I almost never see single-class magic-users in AD&D.

  10. The Gnome Illusionist was usually seen in our AD&D games in the mid to late 80s. In my current Castles & Crusades game I have 2. An elven illusionist created by a 1st time player. He creatively used 'hypnotism' to save the small party from a stirge attack. The other is a classic Gnome illusionist named Herman. The player is bit or miss due to work but stays with the party as an NPC when the player isn't there. C&C expanded the illusionist class a bit bringing in healing spells and taking the 1st level spell list from 12 to 20 spells. One being 'Minor Dark Chaos' (or something like that). It creates 2 tendril whips fon2 rounds causing 3 damamg each which was used to great effect while exploring Brave Halfling Publishing's Ruins of Ramat.

  11. I don't actually remember many illusionists in the AD&D games I played in the past. I've reskinned them as the ascetic "saints" of a Buddhist-like religion in the Middle Sea world (alongside monks), who teach that all things are illusion and that the world is therefore malleable.

  12. Illusionists are muder machines and well respected in Seaward. The players shudder at the thought of fighting an illusionist and are always eager to have one in the party.


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