Friday, September 26, 2008

The Illusionist: His Kith and Kin

Today, I choose to expound on the illusionist. Needless to say, it is difficult to discuss the illusionist without discussing their professional focus (i.e.: illusions). Therefore, a brief discourse regarding the adjudication of illusions will preface my revision of the class.

Illusions have always been a difficult matter. In my experience, they have either been too powerful or too weak. Usually, too powerful when used by the DM and too weak when used by PCs. This seems to be because illusions normally need to be disbelieved to be avoided and whilst the DM controls the descriptions given to the players, and does not mention any small flaws in the creation, the DM normally demands specific details from the player and ruthlessly exploits any flaw.

Disbelief has always been a tricky matter. Without any penalty, there is no reason not to disbelieve every encounter, thus getting a save in case any illusions are present (no matter how ridiculous that doing so may be...), but with a penalty, none will disbelieve unless the player is certain of an illusion being present (at which point the illusion is merely annoying). Also, few take into account expectations and what "everyone knows" when adjudicating illusions.

For my own part, I choose to edit out the choice to disbelieve. When confronted by an illusion, the victim is entitled to a saving throw versus spells. This saving throw represents the chance that the character notices whatever flaws might be present in the illusion. This save is modified by certain things, the aforementioned expectations and what "everyone knows", as well as personal skill and whatever else might be appropriate. It is imperative that the DM be as fair as possible when judging illusions, as tricky as it might be, as otherwise we return to the basic problems already noted.

As an example: If the Amazing Rando is known to travel with the Ice Barbarian warrior Erik Longtooth, and a band of bandits encounter a robed man travelling with an Ice Barbarian, then the bandits would have a penalty to there saving throw to realise that the warrior isn't real. Even if there has never actually been an Erik Longtooth, as they "know" that the warrior exists.

Conversely, should the Amazing Rando conjure forth an illusion of a goblin band and make the goblins yellow, because he has actually encountered goblins, but the surly villagers he's attempting to scare off "know" that all goblins are green, then the villagers would get a bonus to their saves, even though the illusion is accurate to reality,

Furthermore, unless partially real (as the higher level illusion spells often are), an illusion fights as well as the illusionist, including such niceties as weapon proficiencies and such. So the aforementioned Erik would fight much as the Amazing Rando does, i.e.: poorly. Partially real creatures will fight as well as the real creatures upon which they are modelled.

As a last note, the longer an illusion is interacted with, the more chances there are for it to be noticed for what it is. So, for every three rounds that an illusion persists, the victim receives another saving throw to notice something amiss. These additional saving throws may receive bonuses that the initial save did not get. (In the case of the Amazing Rando versus the bandits, the bandits may realise that the "barbarian warrior" is a terrible fighter, which may cause them to twig to the actual facts of the matter.) Allies of the victim may trigger a secondary save by informing their deluded friends that they are, in fact, facing an unreal foe. Partially real illusions do not receive these secondary saves, however.

And now we head forth to the illusionist...

It has long bothered me that certain classes, of which the illusionist is the chief example, required very high prerequisites, but were, for the most part, inferior to their base class. To my way of thinking, a class that required high scores to enter should be, not more powerful per se, but spiffy-er than the base class. The druid, for example, just seems cooler than the cleric, it's not really more powerful (some would agrue it is less powerful), but it does have a variety of unique and nifty special abilities. This line of thinking colours my philosophy towards sub-classes and is the base for what I am about to offer for the illusionist. Other bits for this revision have been taken from the Strategic Review article that introduced the illusionist and the Dragon magazine article a short time later that further detailed them.

Our first point of departure is in regards to the restrictions placed on the magic items usable by illusionists. Illusionists are capable of using all magic items normally usable by magic-users with the exception of the staff of power, staff of the magi, robe of the archmagi, bowl commanding water elementals, brazier commanding fire elementals, censer controlling air elementals, and the stone of commanding earth elementals. Note that whilst the illusionist may be able to command the use of, say, a wand of lightning, that does not mean that the illusionist will want to use such items. These individuals chose a career of trickery, not one of blasting things to death for a reason, though that reason is unique to each illusionist.

As masters of trickery, illusionists are keenly aware of the nature of illusionary magics and so have a 7% chance per level of recognizing any illusion for what it is and, if successfully recognized, the illusionist will know whether it was cast by a fellow illusionist or not. This is in addition to the normal saving throw.

Illusions can affect any creature that can perceive them. Thus, the illusionist is able to combat astral or ethereal creatures without having to shift to those planes.

Finally, starting at the eighth level of experience, an illusionist is able to employ a small number of magic-user spells of the lowest levels. These spells are cast as a magic-user of the illusionist's level and must be recorded in the illusionist's spell-book as usual.
At eighth level, one first level spell may be cast.
At ninth level, two first level spells may be cast.
At tenth level, two first and one second level spells may be cast.
At eleventh level, two first and two second level spells may be cast.
At twelfth level, two first, two second, and one third level spells may be cast.
At thirteenth level, three first, two second, and one third level spells may be cast.
At fourteenth level, three first, three second, and one third level spells may be cast. This is the maximum amount of magic-user spells castable by illusionists.

These spells are usually employed to convince others that the illusionist is not an illusionist at all, but really a magic-user of the more normal sort and in the support of their illusion spells (one is less likely to question an illusionary magic missle, for example, if one has just been hit by a real one...).

This, for now, ends my revision of the illusionist. No doubt I have forgotten something, or failed to make clear something else, but nonetheless I forge onwards...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.