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Offline manfred

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Illusions
« on: January 26, 2005, 06:19:30 AM »
Let's talk a bit more about Illusions. What do you think of this group of magical effects? What do you like and dislike, and what game mechanisms do prefer/consider/use to make them challenging and attractive?

All I have for you: questions, questions, questions!



(Note: while speaking mostly of _visual_ illusions, other senses can be fooled, too.)


What are illusions?

 - actual images - similar to holograms, wrongly placed light can ruin the effect. If there are cameras, you could take a picture of it. Pretty much all seeing creatures percieve it, and may believe it. While immaterial, it is "real".

 - a magical fata morgana - Poof! It's magic. It may or may not be possible to take a picture of it. Some magical creatures may feel it even without looking (or having eyes), some may not even see it, and to a few could be an illusion impenetrable. It should be easy to detect as magical.

 - a delusion bound to place - the magic tries to force on-looking creatures see something else than reality. There is no image, so it can't be photographed. Due to complications in influencing various types of minds at once, a spell often excludes many groups of targets, often targeting only humanoids, etc. Mindless creatures (with a very low intelligence) may not even grasp the suggestion, ignoring it completely.

 - a targeted effect - one or more specific targets, others do not see it (nor can it be photographed), the victims in effect have hallucinations.

 - Note: consider the various senses various creatures have. What if their perceptions conflict?


Can they do any harm?

 - none/psychic shock only - it's not real, so it can't harm you. While this may be realistic (or not?), it takes some part of the fun away.

 - wound - if nothing else, a physical reaction on imagined wounds (burns, etc.) can produce similar effects. If you believe it, it happens to you. Luckily, you can't die of a scary image alone. *)

 - death - yes, an illusion could kill. While interesting in a story, problematic in a game: is a bad saving throw enough to cause death? If the owner believes, does the body believe, too?


*) Not counting heart-attacks, etc. from a shock. But that is more indirect harm.


How can one see through an illusion?

 - "inborn ability" - some creatures may simply have different eyes, the caster may not be familiar with fooling. Some may have the ability to see through illusions. Similarly, skilled illusionists may simply "sense" them.

 - strong mind - can resist feeble suggestions easily

 - spotting a flaw - it is hard to make a perfect virtual reality. From tiny details up to fatal mistakes, anything can be suspicious to a careful eye. This can happen automatically - making a roll when it is encountered, or after some time, or on player demand, if they declare to study it carefully.

 - using other sense(s) - you shouldn't trust your eyes all the time... especially if the fingers/nose/ears/... claim the reality is different.



What if I try to disbelieve?

 - Stating "I disbelieve!" is way too cheap. But honestly: what options have the characters to not believe their own senses (or rather the GM...), and how can they show it? What game mechanisms solve the problem, and under which conditions?


What then?

 - nothing happens, the illusion stays as it is

 - it becomes partially transparent for those that don't believe in it anymore

 - it vanishes; either for those not believing, or permanently (the spell ends)


Dispelling?

 - common means as Dispel Magic

 - successfull disbelieving disrupts the spell's fine strands, it collapses


Other thoughts

 - it is useful to combine real items, creatures, etc. with illusory ones, so they will be harder to disbelieve. Get a few bones and "create" some more, arrange them to create a nice lair. What if half of that army is a fake? The front ranks (or back ranks, or a part of each group...) are mere illusions, confusing the enemy effectively.

 - illusions targeting specific groups - predators for horses to spook them, for instance

 - can there be "illusionary beings"?
Do not correct me, I know I am wrong.

Offline Kinslayer

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Illusions
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2005, 12:15:51 AM »
Much of the questions can be answered by deciding by what means illusions work.  Whether they are created via spellcraft, psionics, or holographic technology, there will be some commonality.  

There are three points at which an illusion can affect someone:
1. Physical Reality:  There is some degree of "realness" to an illusion.  While the object may not be there, the light it would reflect is present, and may be perceived.  Another example would be the haunted attraction; a series of speakers makes it seem like bats are swarming down from overhead.  
2. Direct Sensory Baffling:  These illusions directly target the sensory organs themselves, or the nerves connected to them.  This would prevent the illusion from being photographed, recorded, or measured, but would still equally affect any creature that possesses that sense.  This would still cause, for example, sweating from the illusion of a large fire.
3. Mental Phantasms: This form would exist solely in the minds that perceive it.  While it would be completely ignored by constructs, machines, and simpler animals, this type of illusion is far more realistic than the others, as it would allow the victim's own imagination to fill in the blanks, or overlook discrepancies.  

Once it has been determined where the illusion truly exists, many of the other questions are readily answered.  For example, for a PR illusion, I would simply describe exactly what the characters experience, and would not grant a saving throw.  However, these illusions would exist completely external to the pc, so there would not be any real danger of harm.  It's always interesting to see the looks on the players' faces when faced with what they have deduced to be an illusion. One of them states "I disbelieve" and picks up a die for the forthcoming saving throw.  My response, "Ok, you disbelive... but you still see it there."  For DSB illusions, I would grant a saving throw, but only because the magic (et al) is now directly targeting the pc, or they are in the affected area.  However, this type of illusion can cause real pain and some types of damage, but no real hit point loss or potential for death.  

Finally, MP's would be able to do more substantial harm.  This can definately cause pain & shock, and potentially death--if you feel like the possibility should exist.  It is possible for a sufficiently scary illusion to have the possibility of causing a heart attack, but I would not personally mandate a system shock roll to survive just because the illusion was something that should have killed them.  For example, it is said that if you fall in your dream, and do now awaken before landing, that you will die in reality, however this is not the case. The chemical and autonomic functions will continue, regardless of whether the conscious mind thinks it should have been killed.  There is the possibility of physical (hit point) damage from MP's, through a stigmata-like effect.  As being able to cause yourself to suffer actual damage due to a mental state is not something that the average person does on a routine basis, I would only inflict this upon those that are decidedly a cut above the norm--that is, on those players with the most twinked-out characters.
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2005, 12:29:27 AM »
Without a means to dispel the illusion, disbelief alone would not do so, with the possible exception of MP illusions, and even then the memory of the effect would still be very strong, vivid, and recent. That is, even if you made your saving throw against a DSB, you would still see, hear, etc, the illusion--it wouldn't go away from mere disbelief.

PR & DSB's would affect only those senses that they target, which would clue someone to their illusory nature.  However, MP's would not need this, instead the mental suggestion of "the monster is about to get you" would allow the victim's mind to fill in any needed or pertinent sensory information.  

Illusions are great.  Especially when combined with some degree of reality.  For example, no player will attempt to disbelieve any illusory army if the first round of battle causes him or her real damage from the few real soldiers.  Subtle is also good, such as the non-magical illusion of having only two or three soldiers tending each campfire, spaced fairly apart, so that it looks like your encampment contains far more troops than it really does.
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Offline manfred

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Illusions
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2005, 09:30:38 AM »
Thanks, Kinslayer!

Any other opinions are welcome, too, but let me get to the dirty stuff now:


How do you do those Illusions?

So how exactly do they work in your games? How do you achieve the innate flexibility of this school of magic?

Many game systems are based on precisely (or at least roughly) defined spells, which does not look very flexible to me for this purpose. Some may concentrate the effects into groups - Audible, Visible, Smell, etc. Some may allow complete freedom, with building blocks for instance - "3 Magic Points for the senses affected, + 2 Points for the size, + ...".


To put it shortly, how can a game system offer a common wizard a simple Illusion spell or two, and still leave the specialist with a free mind, yet plenty of space to improvise? (And of course, allow the GM to keep both in check.)

What are your favourite solutions for this dilemma?
Do not correct me, I know I am wrong.

Offline MoonHunter

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« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2005, 09:56:03 AM »
My favorite solution to this dilemma is Hero System, where every spell is purchased by character points, so a non specialist mage can buy some general illusions for 5 to 12 points or so, and have 40 or so points left for regular spells, a specialist mage will spend 35 points on full spectrum illusion.

To gain access to better illusions might require the PC to gain membership in a lodge (occult word for guild or group) for illusion orriented magic users. This should be more than merely saying "you're a member" or taking some feat/ perk/ gift, there should be feats to perform (journeyman quest/ work) and obligations to meet (in terms of fees, jobs you have to do, meetings to attend, labwork to do). Players get bossed around by more senior members until they get their act together and meet their obligations and advance in the lodge. If players can meet their obligations, they can get access to the "really great" illusion spells.

Of course, if they meet the minimums just to scam the spells, then abandon the lodge by not meeting future obligations, the person should then be shunned by general magic users (because of what the lodge says... you need to black list this guy, or we wont do XXX for you) and/ or hunted by other illusion lodge members.

Characters need to be part of the world, intergrated into existing power and social structures. Without that, the characters might as well be video game characters with KOOL POWRZ or Crunchy Bits, rampaging through a setting gaining gold and finding items. Remember, with great powers or skills come great responsibilties. This si true in both the real world and the fantasy world.
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2005, 11:57:03 PM »
While I like the idea of a lodge of illusionists, I don't like the idea of a known group of illusionists. The very basis for their power stems from those perceiving the effects of their spells to be reality.  That is, one can assume that someone wearing the official robes of the illusionists' guild will be casting spells that can be safely disregarded.  I can invision the lodge idea working, however, by having it be a secret society.  Even if there is a public front, the lodge would swear its members to secrecy, and have several different "degrees" of membership before certain secrets are revealed.  One of the most important secrets, at least until the mid-levels, is that the lodge is a cabal of illusionists.  

As for how I plan on adding illusioncraft to my game, I haven't decided yet. I plan on building up--start with card tricks, and later develop mental phantasms, but the exact methods haven't been worked out.
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Offline EchoMirage

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« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2005, 11:19:35 AM »
An illusionist needs, first of all, imagination.
A non-imaginative player will find it hard to play anillusionist, for saying: "I make the illusion of a scary monster" is not enough. He must work out the details. Take David Eddigs' Belgariad and Malloreon series: a demon summoner had to maintain a credibleshape for his demon with the details worked out, lest he would lose control of it... now, summoning is a different matter, yet the maxim stays: you must convince reality, your target, and, in case of a summoning, also the creature you call.
The GM couldassign a 'reality' bonus for a good description.

Kinslayer did a great job at describing the difference between an outside illusion you see, and the one in your mind - I'd classify only the first kind as an illusion, the others are hallucinations and belong into the realm of mind control.
So, a wizard would place strands of magic and let them shape light and sound to create an image. That image is seen.
If he is also capable of weaving force, (telekinesis and the like) he can let a field of strength accompany the image, granting it substance and the ability to actually do harm or move objects. If he can also use mind magic, he could place a suggestion on it, making it seem more real, or grant it a semblance of independence, a program so that he does not have to steer it all the time. Thus, he could create a magical creature thatlasts as long as his power does.

As for true illusionary beasts - an insubstantial creature with magical ability could make a fake shell to allow mortals to interact with it easier. This could be the way how ghosts are percieved - they could have an innate ability to project an illusion, so you could judge a ghost's wits by how elaborate and realistic his image is. Now, a ghost appearing as a symbol could either be totally stupid, or see no point in appearances, and go for simplicity  8)

As for illusionists, I see two kinds:entertainers, whoare open about using illusions, and those who hide it totally, not admitting to use even one spell that's 'not real', and use illusion to gain an advantage.

Illusions anchored to a substantial skeleton could be more durable and realistic - one meant to disguise a person would be more real than one feigning the existence of such a person, and an illusion of skin covering a skeleton warrior would need no force effect to break a skull. A golem might also be made more pleasant to look at through an illusionary skin.

As for power and cost - a simple illusion can be erected through basic knowledge of light and the like, with little energy expenditure, but the mana cost and necessary spells to be know increase exponentially if it is mean to exert force, and be independent (pinnacle of the illusionary's quest to make his dreams real). So the grading could be: Illusion, tactible illusion (minion), creation (semi-real), independent creation (a semblance of sentience) and permanent independent creation (a being of magic).
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Offline MoonHunter

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« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2005, 12:50:56 PM »
In process - will be right back


Quote from: "kinslayer"
While I like the idea of a lodge of illusionists, I don't like the idea of a known group of illusionists. The very basis for their power stems from those perceiving the effects of their spells to be reality. That is, one can assume that someone wearing the official robes of the illusionists' guild will be casting spells that can be safely disregarded. I can invision the lodge idea working, however, by having it be a secret society. Even if there is a public front, the lodge would swear its members to secrecy, and have several different "degrees" of membership before certain secrets are revealed. One of the most important secrets, at least until the mid-levels, is that the lodge is a cabal of illusionists.


Eeek. Who would actually wear such robes except at special ceremonial occasions? They are always hot and itchy, that is why so much work is done skyclad. Anyways. Most of the time mages would probably dress much like everyone else. It may be a secret society of sorts, but then again almost every lodge in history has been a secret society to some degree. Unless magic is "workmans" class, something that people treat much like a smith or wine maker, most people who are magic users should hide that they are.  Lets face it, magic disrupts the status quo (I'm lord of this area, yet I have to fear what this magic user can do... to the horses, lets remove this pest) and bites into most religions (The Godless trafficer with divine forces (magic to a cleric), let us make an example of him).  

Quote from: "EchoMirage"
As for illusionists, I see two kinds:entertainers, whoare open about using illusions, and those who hide it totally, not admitting to use even one spell that's 'not real', and use illusion to gain an advantage.


I can see a third, people who call themselves mages or wizards or what ever, who just have a specialty towards illusions. You can "hide" behind the expectations of what the people have as a "normal" spell caster. Then your illusions would be more effective because people would expect them to be "real spells".
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2005, 07:57:06 PM »
I wish I was only imagining the "official robes" bit.  However, I have seen treatments for many different game systems and worlds that included such with each category of magic... including illusionists.  

I've always been partial to the "hidden illusionist" tactic as a player (notably of 1st & 2nd ed AD&D). For one character I had the other players upset with the DM because he let me play a "high level" character. In reality, I simply stocked-up on low level illusions & cantrips, and portrayed my character as a powerful archmage.  For another character, I hid the class entirely.  This was for 2nd edition during the explosion of kits phase. I dressed him in a monk's gi, gave him lots of every weapon available to a wizard, and coloured his hair blue with a cantrip ("You gotta have blue hair"--Strong Bad).  I kept the character constantly in motion in a fight, hid verbal components by having him constantly running his mouth--and using polysyllabic words--and was continually passing notes to the DM, for spells or just as red herrings.  Again, the players were upset because I had some new "kit" (untrue, plain specialist mage) with "too many powers."  

If you can trick your fellow players for an entire campaign, that is a good illusion.

The more I think about it though, the more I like the "secret cabal of illusionists" idea.  They could realise (as illusionists) that perception equals reality in many ways, and use a reputation for immense power, along with other subtle bits, to gain real power and influence.  They might even allow in certain useful/important people (e.g. local noble), and have them progress through a secondary (entirely ceremonial) rank structure, and select early those with knowledge and talent for illusioncraft for the real deal. It's yet another illusion:  a secret society inside a secret society.  I don't know if Midian would provide a good home for this idea, but I do like it...
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