Illusionist as Specialist, not Magic User
My version of the Illusionist has more in common with the LotFP Specialist than the Magic User.
As you might know, LotFP uses the d6 for various skills incuding the usual thief skills. Every skill begins at 1 and can go up to 6. The player rolls under his skill level to succeed a skill check, and if he has a 6 in a skill, fails only if he rolls a six and then rolls a six on a second roll. One of the skills, backstab, works differently–as a damage multiplier for successful backstabs.
Specialists start with 4 points at first level to alot to the various adventuring skills on his list in any way he likes and gets two more points per level thereafter. I was thinking that an Illusionist should have a similar mechanic.
The Illusionist Class
As an Illusionist, you have access to magical, but not spell based, ‘phantasms’ that you create and maintain with your magically expanded mind. A phantasm can simulate anything you want at any time, but it effects only one sense on one target per the illusionist’s level. A phantasm is a part of an overall illusion, although when you have only one it is the whole illusion. A phantasm could be the roar of a dragon in one round and the smell of a medusa the next. At first, you’ll have to be creative, but as you gain levels and get additional phantasms, you can create a very convincing illusion.
You start at level one with only one phantasm with four skill points in it. As your first phantasm, it can effect any one of the five traditional senses (see, hear, taste, touch, smell) at a time. So as a rookie, you can effect one target at a time and you succeed on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6.
How you, a first level illusionist, creates an illusion with your one phantasm
You describe the phantasm–which sense it effects, how you are familiar with the subject of this phantasm and how the target might react. What you are going for. Describe it in a table-appropriate amount of detail (remember this isn’t about hogging the spotlight or slowing the game down). You character must concentrate all during this process, which means he cannot be walking a tightrope simultaneously or take an arrow to his knee. Those break the illusion just as it would do to any mage. Then roll, hopefully a 1-4 on 1d6.
A roll of a 5 is failure–the phantasm just fizzles. That target’s brain just didn’t like what you were telling it and from now on forever, that target gets a saving throw vs. magic against your illusions. These saving throws may get GM-determined bonuses when the illusionist tries to create something unrealistic, surreal or otherwise weird to the subject. A roll of 6 means the target will always get that saving throw AND the phantasm backfires in some way that works to the illusionist’s disadvantage. (Players: be sure to note failures and backfires and which target you were after so the GM doesn’t have to.)
If the phantasm is at skill level 6, then just like any LotFP skill it only fails on a rolled 6 followed by a second rolled 6. In this case the phantasm backfires in a big way.
Loss of concentration
When the illusionist takes damage from any attack or otherwise has his concentration broken it will take him one action to restablish concentration, during which no phantasm manifests and during which he must not be hit again. He cannot even parry, although he can hide behind something if he doesn’t need to move faster than walking speed to do so.
Who is this? What’s your operating number?
If the illusion is extremely out of place given the situation, or the illusionist fudges things he doesn’t know (like what a cockatrice looks like) the GM can give the target a saving throw with appropriate modifiers.
So with these limitations, why wouldn’t you just be a magic user with the *phantasmal force* spell? First, because your illusions are skill checks, so they would work well against high HD monsters that would easily pass a saving throw against a puny magic user’s *phantasmal force* spell. Second, the illusionist can keep this up all day because there are no spell slots.
Phlegm’s party is attacked by four wolves and a dire wolf. His companions are focused on the dire wolf, so he decides to create a phantasm that smells like a female wolf in heat. Since he knows what this smells like (having previously established with the GM that he spent his formative years making hunting parfums) he should create a convincing smell phantasm. Because he is not yet to the level where he can effect multiple targets, he has to choose one wolf to fool.
He picks one and the GM flips a coin for wolf gender–it’s male but he doesn’t tell Phlegm. Phlegm’s player tells his GM that the phantasmal scent will seem to be coming from the dire wolf and rolls his skill check vs 4. He rolls a 2–a success! The he-wolf now thinks its boss dire wolf is in heat (which is weird, it thinks, because he thought the boss was male). He is now trying to mate with the dire wolf, who the GM rules is distracted fights at -1 to hit. One of Phlegm’s companions takes out this turgid wolf later in the round.
In round 2, Phlegm tries the same phantasm on a second wolf and rolls a 5 on his skill check. A 5 means the phantasm doesn’t manifest and now the wolf gets a saving throw even when Phlegm passes his skill check. Phlegm notes this on his scratch paper.
In round three, Phlegm tries again to fool the second wolf and rolls a 6–a backfire! The wolf thinks the scent of a she-wolf in heat is coming from Phlegm! The wolf attacks our hero and hits! Phlegm will not be able to use any phantasms while he restablishes concentration next round.
In round four, the wolf misses and Phlegm spends the round getting his concentration back. Next round, Phlegm decides to make himself look like a large snake. He rolls a 1 for his skill check. Because the wolf wasn’t fooled by the heat scent before, Phlegm’s player dutifully reminds the GM that the wolf gets a saving throw. The GM decides that because the illusionist turning into a giant snake suddenly is not a natural part of the wolf’s experience, it gets a +1 bonus to its saving throw. It rolls a 3 which fails anyway and the wolf is fooled!
It has never seen such a large snake but knows that a snake is trouble, decides to attack someone else this round. It looks around. Everyone else on Team Wolf is dead, so the GM makes a morale check, which the wolf fails. He runs off, unsure of what just happened.
When you reach a new level, you get two points and your phantasms effect 1 target per your level.
The points can be spent on:
- Improving the level of an existing phantasm or on creating an additional one or both. When you improve a phantasm, you choose what of the remaining senses you want to add to its repetiore. If it’s already at 5 then there’s no choice: you already have the five senses, now you add thought.
- Getting a new phantasm. When you spend a point on a new one, you have to choose one sense for its range. And its at level one. But you can spend more points on it if you have them now or when you level up again. Hey remember how your first phantasm got all five senses at level 4? Well that was a bonus for daring to be an illusionist. From now on, one point, one sense added to a phantasm’s range.
You have reached level two! Your phantasms can now effect two targets at once. You decide to alot one point to your first phantasm so that it will be at level 5. You spend your other point to create another phantasm at level 1. You get to choose ONE sense that it can fool and you choose sound. You can add sound to the orc illusion! *You just need to roll a 1 on 1d6 to add that sound to the picture.*
“Wait!” says a reader I just made up. “That kind of sucks.”
Ok, well then how about this: When combining phantasms into a complex illusion, when the first phantasm succeeds, you get to add one to the level of another for its roll. If you succeeded in creating the visual orc phantasm, you treat the orc sound phantasm as if it were skill level 2 for as long as you are combining them. A 1/3 chance is way better than 1/6!
If you have three phantasms and the first two succeed, you can treat the third phantasm as if it were two levels higher. Because if it looks like a duck AND quacks like a duck, the target will expect it to smell like a duck. But if you roll a 6 on that last one, it still fails and it still backfires and the target is gonna get a saving throw against the whole dang thing! Eff a duck!
If you use the phantasms as separate things, there’s no bonus.
Play Example 2
Phlegm reaches level 2 and puts his two points into a second phantasm, choosing sound and smell. So he has his initial phantasm at level 4 and it can effect any one of the five usual senses. His second one is at level 2 and it can back up the first with sound fx or smell.
He then creates a beautiful elf maiden to lure away a bank guard. He uses the first phantasm to create her appearance (rolls a 3 and succeeds). He then uses the second one to make her smell of rose parfum, which on its own has a 2 in 6 chance of succeeding, but since the image worked he gets a bonus of +1. He rolls a 4, which still fails, but doesn’t backfire. So the guard doesn’t smell anything but he is still drawn away by the beautiful elf maiden he sees. Phlegm tries something different the next round with phantasm 2: he makes her laugh at his dumb joke. He still gets the +1 bonus for having a working phantasm going, so he needs to roll under a 3. He rolls a 1. Because the rose smell thing didn’t work before, the guard will get a saving throw. The GM rules that the guard has a -1 penalty to his roll because the guard expects her to laugh and he thinks he’s funny. The GM rolls a 19 and the guard makes his save!
GM: “The guard tries to touch her hand but it passes through her. He knows something is wrong and runs back to his post!”
Phlegm’s Player: “Ah rats. Well, the not-real elf maiden laughs and tousels her hair at him just as…”
Another Player: “I, Bilbao, the party’s halfling prince drives a dagger into the guard’s spine.”
The illusion allowed Bilbao to get in position.
You can put a simple thought into a target’s mind, which they will think is their own idea, but they will not necessarily believe it. Phlegm is level 4 and has been captured. He is tied up by the Warmaidens of Hel. He could try to make the leader and three of her aides think “Let him go.” One of them might say “We could let him go…” The leader might even say “Hey I was just thinking that we could see if he leads us back to his friends.” But if Phelgm tried to incept “Make sweet sweet love to Phlegm, serve him some stew and then let him go,” the GM would have to say, “Dude, first of all that’s three different thoughts. Secondly, you really need to find a girlfriend.”
Now I welcome everyone’s feedback on any of this, but I especially want some thoughts on:
- Should a phantasm that works on a person continue to work on that person in subsequent rounds without checking again?
- Is this too complicated? What would you take out to streamline it?
- Is this too powerful? What limits would you impose on the size and power of illusions? Would illusory damage work the same as phantasmal force (target gets a save when hit and if successful is not fooled at all)?
- I was thinking fake catching someone on fire (visual plus tactile phantasms plus the illusionist needs to know how that feels) would only create subdual damage but then again, once you’re subdued you are pretty much as good as dead.