The Illusionist

by Peter Aronson

ADD05 Illusionist (Citadel)


  • Must have a min. INT of 15
  • Must have a min. DEX of 16
  • No 10% bonus for high abilities
  • Can use any potion not restricted to fighters only, scrolls with illusionist or avail. magic-user spells upon them <x: cf. Ruathlek>, all rings, and other magic items
  • Upon becoming 10th level, can enchant items and scribe scrolls with illusionist magic



    Illusionists form a sub-class of magic-users, and in most respects they
    conform to the characteristics of the latter. To be an illusionist, a character
    must have a minimum intelligence of 15 and a minimum dexterity of 16 (a
    high manual dexterity is required in casting of the spells used by this
    class). An important difference between illusionists && magic-users is
    thot the former do not gain any experience bonus for having high scores in
    their required abilities of intelligence and dexterity.

    While being equal, or even slightly inferior, to normal magic-users in most
    respects, illusionists have different and highly effective spells to employ.

    * Spellcasting: A perusal of the number and types of spells usable by illusionists (see
    CHARACTER SPELLS) will reveal that they are at least as powerful as <sic>
    normal magic-users and possibly slightly more potent at very high levels.

    The power of illusionists due to their spells is offset, however, by the
    limitations placed upon the magic items they can use.

    The magical items usable by illusionist class characters are enumerated below:

        -- all potions not restricted to fighters only

        -- Illusionist scrolls and magic-user scrolls which contain spells
        usable by illusionists

        --  all rings

    -- rod of cancellation, staff of striking, and wands of enemy detection,
        fear, illusion, magic detection, metal & mineral detection,
        secret door & trap detection, wonder

        -- miscellaneous magic items usable by every class of
        characters, crystal balls (but not with any added powers), all
        robes (excluding robe of the arch-rnogi), and books and
        similar written works readable by magic-users

        -- artifacts which are not proscribed items with respect to
        illusionists (such as armor, swords, axes, etc.)

        -- magic daggers

    Illusionists are capable of manufacturing those magical items which create
    or sustain illusion. They may do so at 10th level (Illusionist) and above; this
    is done in much the same manner in which regular magic-users create
    magic items.

    <DMG: Fabrication of Magic Items, Including Potions and Scrolls>

    Experience Points Experience Level 4-Sided Dice for Accumulated Experience Points Level Title THACO Saves Proficiencies
     ---- - - - 20n -
    - - - - - - -
    0 ---- 2,250 1 1 Prestidigitator 20n 1/3
    2,251 ---- 4,500 2 2 Minor Trickster - - ^
    4,501 ---- 9,000 3 3 Trickster - - ^
    9,001 ---- 18,000 4 4 Master Trickster - - ^
    18,001 ---- 35,000 5 5 Cabalist - - ^
    35,001 ---- 60,000 6 6 Visionist 19 ^
    60,001 ---- 95,000 7: May hire followers 7 Phantasmist - - 2/4
    95,001 ---- 145,000 8 8 Apparitionist - - ^
    145,001 ---- 220,000 9 9 Spellbinder - - ^
    220,001 ---- 440,000 10 10 Illusionist (Master of Phantasms - OSRIC) - - ^
    440,001 ---- 660,000 11 10+1 Illusionist (11th level) 16 ^
    660,001 ---- 880,000 12 10+2 Illusionist (12th level) - - ^

    220,000 experience points per level of experience beyond the 12th.

    Illusionists gain 1 h.p. per level after the 10th.

        Illusionist Spell Level
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7
    1 1 - - - - - -
    2 2 - - - - - -
    3 2 1 - - - - -
    4 3 2 - - - - -
    5 4 2 1 - - - -
    6 4 3 1 - - - -
    7 4 3 2 - - - -
    8 4 3 2 1 - - -
    9 5 3 3 2 - - -
    10 5 4 3 2 1 - -
    11 5 4 3 3 2 - -
    12 5 5 4 3 2 1 -
    13 5 5 4 3 2 2 -
    14 5 5 4 3 2 2 1
    15 5 5 4 4 2 2 2
    16 5 5 5 4 3 2 2
    17 5 5 5 4 3 2 2
    18 5 5 5 5 3 3 2
    19 5 5 5 5 4 3 2
    20 5 5 5 5 4 3 3
    21 5 5 5 5 5 4 3
    22 5 5 5 5 5 5 4
    23 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
    24 6 6 6 6 5 5 5
    25 6 6 6 6 6 6 6
    26 7 7 7 7 6 6 6

    ADD05 Illusionist (Citadel)

    Related Article: Illusionists in the Forgotten Realms

    In your opinion, what literary figures would be the appropriate archetype example for the Illusionist class?

    I believe that the best examples of illusion magic are found in L. Sprague de Camp's "Haorld Shea" stories, with various practitioners using it, the Finnish wizards most generally.
    there are plenty of others found in fairy tales such as those of Andrew Lang.

    - Gary Gygax

    merkholz wrote:
    Another quick AD&D question for you, Gary. The illusionist is a sub-class of magic-user, was there ever any talk of having other sub-classes such as conjurers or necromancers? Or did you see the illusionist as a special case?


    Indeed, I viewed the illusionist as a very special sort of magic-user, one using magic to simulate magic as it were.

    Conjurers and necromancers in the AD&D system would have been only specialists in forms of regular magic.


    orgcandman wrote:
    Apologies if these have been asked before, but I have three questions:

    1) Why were illusionists the only specialty wizard mentioned in the PHB / UA?

    Howdy, and no problem...even though those are not Lejendary Adventure game questions.

    1) Because illusions are so distinct from other forms of magic.

    Illusion magic is difficult in all because it is based on the projected images of unreal spells, so it is twice removed from our actual ken.

    Well Dang!

    Peter, you did disappear from the mainstream D&D print vehicles, so I erroneously assumed that you had dropped out of FRPGing as so many did after a period of active participation.
    your contribution of the basis for the Illusionist class influenced the AD&D game considerably...and explaining illusion magic gave me heartburn many a time.
    Cogently detailing how phantom images of something wholly make-believe operate can be a poser.

    Anyway, thanks for setting me straight, and great to have you back in the mainstream of RPGing.

    BTW, I have an unpublished book of chess variants I have created. if you are interested, I'll see if i can find the electronic file and send it to you.
    It was posted as a free download on my old website, but that is long gone, and I am not sure if the book was recovered.


    Greg Ellis wrote:
    I knew it!

    The earnest efforts of a teenager immortalized as gospel by the masses, pondered and debated for eons, ad nauseum.

    Peter, please wade into one of the many illusion-related threads in the AD&D forum. We'd love to hear your input, and especially how you grew to interpret and re-interpret (over time) what you had wrought.

    And it'll be fun to throw bits of popcorn at your head, of course. After all... you caused all this mess in the first place.

    BTW, welcome! So good to see you.

    I'll see what I can do to further confuse matters, er, I mean, help (time permitting). Some things to keep in mind, however:

        I wrote the versions that appeared in The Strategic Review and The Dragon -- the better known versions from AD&D had been edited by other people;
        Even the original versions had been edited some by Gary (they had to be: my spelling in those (pre-spellchecker days) was, in the words of one of my teachers "disturbingly original"; and as icing on the cake, the documents I had sent him had been inexpertly typed, then photocopied using an early copy technology that produced translucent brownish sheets with print in a somewhat darker brown -- I probably owe him a pair of glasses);
        My handling of illusion magic in those days was heavily influenced by the general style of the extended gaming group which I belonged to, which did not make it easy for illusion spells to do actual damage;
        Many of the brain cells involved in those projects have since gone south;
        On the other hand, I'm not particularly worried about being made fun of, as I have two teenagers and am thus used to it.

    But I'll look around.

    - Peter Aronson


    Age never was an impediment to me when looking at something creative.
    Joe Fischer was around the same age as you were when he submitted the Ranger material for the zine...and I had to do some text editing there as well 

    I have located the file of the book of chess variants. Email me at ggygax@genevaonline as to where to send it.


    Originally posted by Moorcrys
    Hey Gary,

    One of my favorite things about the original AD&D was the illusionist class. In fact, I'm still disappointed with the 'genericized' specialist wizards in both second and 3E (a fireball flinging illusionist? Where's the flavor in that?) As it was such an odd class in the first edition of the game and forfeited a good deal the damaging 'punch' of the magic-user in favor of something subtler, I was wondering if you recall any of the more successful players of illusionists in your earlier games? What was your inspiration for that particular class?

    Thanks, and I appreciate the good words.The illusionist sub-class sprang from my reading. So many spellworkers in fable and fiction used only the illusory, not "real magic" that had actual substance and effect, that I thought it would be fun to include such an option in the game.

    Subtilty was indeed a factor in play--and for that reason not a lot of illusionists were active in my campaign. Also, as a "latecomer" to choices, those who did have such PCs were not in the level par with the veteran characters of other class. As I recall, there were a couple of mid-level illusionists, somewhere around 9th-10th level active. Don't recall who played them. Rob might...

    As noted previously, I have a gnome illusionish/thief PC, but he is of pretty low level, about 4th in both classes, and I haven't had opportunity to play him for a couple of years, so I'll have the devil of a time finding his character sheet if the opportunity arises.


    Originally Posted by Gray Mouser
    Hey Gary, I was just curious about your experience with Illusionist characters (I know you have a Gnome Illusionist/Thief PC). Do you (or any of the players you have DM'ed) have any memorable/unexpected/ingenious uses of illusions? I've always been attracted to Illusionists but have never had a lot of experience with them (either DMing them or playing them) and am just curious if you've had any stand out experiences with such characters.

    Gray Mouser

    My PCs have fallen many a time for a clever illusion, and I have similarly duped many a PC thus when I am DMing.

    The trick in using them as a PC is not to have the prospective subjects notice the casting being done, so there will be little reason for them to disbelieve.

    I have had an Illusionist PF use illusions of various traps in a dungeon setting to prevent pursuit or slow attacks.

    Other than saying that, I've DMed and played so many game sessions clear recollection of outstanding examples not otherwise in a module of essay are not in my easily accessable memory banks :\


    1. SUBCLASS = MU
        STRENGTH = 6 (3d6)
        INTELLIGENCE = 15 (8d6)
        WISDOM = 6 (7d6)
        DEXTERITY = 16 (9d6)
        CONSTITUTION = 3 (5d6)
        CHARISMA = 6 (6d6)
        COMELINESS = (4d6)
    4. POSSIBLE RACES & MAX. LEVEL ATTAINABLE = deep gnome (max), surface gnome (max), human (U)
    6. HIT DIE TYPE = d4
    8. SPELL ABILITY = yes
    9. ARMOR PERMITTED = none
    10. SHIELD PERMITTED = none
    11. WEAPONS PERMITTED = caltrop, dagger, dart, knife, sling, staff
    12. OIL PERMITTED = yes
    13. POISON PERMITTED = DM's option
    14. ALIGNMENT = any
    15. STARTING MONEY = 20-80 gp
    16. WEAPON PROFICIENCIES = 1, 1/6 (1st: 1, 7th: 2, 13th: 3)
    18. NON-WEAPON PROFICIENCIES = 3, 2/6 (1st: 3, 7th: 4, 13th: 5)
    19. STARTING AGE = human (30 + 1d6), gnome (100 + 2d12)
    20. COMBAT = MU
    22. MAGIC ITEMS = see above