The open field seemed very quiet as the bandits approached the farm house. From out of nowhere, a strange fog begins to form from the middle of the group. The leader barks orders to the others, their spirits drop as the fog swirls with some force moving around them. The sudden sound of wails and blood curdling screams causes their morale to drop and flee.
As the fog dissipates, only the bandit leader and a strangely garbed person are in the field.
From the farm house, the farmer and his family watch the strangely garbed adventurer stare into the eyes of the bandit leader, they exchange a few words, and suddenly the bandit sheathes all weapons and walks away satisfied that the raid was successful, and nothing was gained.
The Adventurer returns to the farm house and by morning, will be gone, armed with the knowledge of the bandit camp location.
The Illusionist is an oddity of a class, in later revisions of the game, the Illusionist is merely an extension of the Magic-user (Mage, Wizards, etc) that specialises in Illusion/Phantasm spells.
In this treatise, the Illusionist gets a moment to shine.
For many, the Illusionist is a throw away character that is taken as a joke rather than any desire to explore the class.
The purpose of this document is to bring into light that which the Illusionists would keep away, to throw away the veil of misdirection that the class cannot survive on its own or hold their weight within a party.
The exploration of the class will include looking into the Spells being offered and some different ways they can be used.
Sit back and enjoy the show.
The Illusionist class has a minimum requirement of DEX 16 and INT 15. Here is the separation from Magic-user to Illusionist; Intelligence is important (clearly by having a 15 minimum makes the class special), but the DEX 16... here’s the show stopper. It could be argued that DEX is the most important statistic for the class and Intelligence is ‘just a thing’ needed to function.
The high DEX is required because some of the Illusionist spells require only somatic components (meaning intricate hand and/or arm movements to perform the spell), but also because in an era before cantrips, the Illusionist is still capable of non-magical feats of trickery as a Secondary Skill (close up hand magic? As if the class couldn't be any less cool!).
Illusionist vs Magic-user
Illusionists are similar enough to Magic-users that if one has a familiarity with the Magic-user, an assumed familiarity with the Illusionist may be guessed at. In order to explore this class, we should start by looking at the similarities and differences.
- The Illusionist suffers Armour and Weapons limitations of the Magic-user
- They must find and learn their spells as they travel, and they must read from lengthy tomes in order to lock the spell in place
- Of course the Illusionist also has d4HP per Level
- Illusionists don’t need to know spells higher than 7th Level
- Illusionists don’t require Read Magic
- Illusionists still need to ‘try’ and learn spells, they have a fewer number of spells available
- The Illusionist starts with three Spells at 1st Level, chosen by the Player and/or DM
- There is no 10% XP bonus for high ability scores
- They don't have to make a stronghold
- An Illusionist also has some XP advantage over the Magic-user at the lower and higher levels of experience
Putting a Magic-user and Illusionist side by side doesn't show much more than appearances would suggest.
This is what an Illusionist does, makes the appearance of something more or less. As the Spell section will highlight, expecting the Illusionist to behave as a front line spell caster is fraught with danger; having said that an unhinged Illusionist is dangerous indeed (imagine a party discovering a pile of gold, and greedily dive into it, only to discover the gold is a pile of dragon dung!).
A magic-user lives in a world where invisible enemies are either spying or plotting against the Magic-user; the Illusionist lives in a world where the only defence tactic is to not believe it (sometimes, that charging Minotaur is really a charging Minotaur).
The Illusionist uses the Magic-user Saving Throw Matrix; the following values make up a 1st to 5th Level:
- Paralysation, Poison, or Death Magic: 14
- Petrification and Polymorph: 13
- Rods, Staves, and Wands: 11
- Breath Weapon: 15
- Spells: 12
There are only two Races that are able to take on the role of Illusionist: Humans and Gnomes.
Gnomes are a race of creatures that live in the tunnels made from hills and under plains. Similar to Dwarves, they value gems and fine jewellery, unlike their slightly taller cousins, the Gnomes stick to softer grounds, and trade more freely with other races.
A Gnomish kingdom will welcome travellers with fine food and warm beds; however, if you upset or insult them the shadows will come alive to eat you.
Dwarves make sturdy Fighters, Halflings make excellent Thieves, and perhaps the association of Gnomes to Illusion, is not an odd pairing as it first appears. To be an Illusionist requires serious minds for study (Halflings are out), and sharp imagination and nimble of fingers for the practice of something otherworldly (Dwarves are right out – such flippancy is beyond their practicality).
For the Gnome, the Illusionist (maximum Level of 7th) can multi-class with Fighter or Thief. In the latter case, the Illusionist/Thief (unlike any similar pairing with the Magic-user/Thief) is able to wear Leather Armour while casting spells, and as the Dexterity score for the Illusionist is already reasonable, the Unlimited level cap for the Thief makes it almost the mandatory choice as a Multi-class (the Fighter being often limited to 5th Level).
There are other racial benefits in being a Gnome, but these belong to all Gnomish characters and not pertaining to the Illusionist alone.