Illusionist Class

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Illusionist Class

Postby Havard » Wed Nov 08, 2017 4:59 pm

What do you guys think of the Illusionist Class? The only instances where I have seen it in play are with the Gnome Illusionist. I think I may even have briefly played one at some point. What is the origin of this class? Have you seen many non-Gnome illusionists in your games?

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Re: Illusionist Class

Postby shesheyan » Wed Nov 08, 2017 5:30 pm

Illusionist has always been my favorite class since it was introduced. Probably because I read a lot of Mandrake comics as a kid. I played them as humans or half-elves.

The problem with the Illusionist is the possibility of disbelieving the illusions. I had one DM who made disbelief rolls for all creatures and NPCs regardless of the situation. That is very crippling and not fun at all for the player. I got tired of that and decided to transform the character into a double class wizard-illusionnist (10/9). I would cast a real Fireball first, then I would cast a phantasmal Fireball in the next round. That was pretty awesome. The DM couldn't make unfair disbelief rolls anymore.
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Re: Illusionist Class

Postby Angel Tarragon » Wed Nov 08, 2017 6:29 pm

I played a dual-class dwarf Fighter/ Illusionist, but that was so long ago I don't remember too much about the experience.

I had a friend that played an Elf Illusionist and everyone in that group enjoyed that character, on more than one occasion her illusions helped the party to evade what seemed like certain doom.
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Re: Illusionist Class

Postby Man in the Funny Hat » Sat Nov 11, 2017 12:09 am

Never had much good to say about illusionists. Still don't. Mostly just because their spell list is poorly done. Their bread and butter spells of actual illusion (the whole Phantasmal Force chain) require excessive DM adjudication and therefore the class can too readily be either overpowered or frustrating and weak. When I've had players try to run them they flounder right out of the gate. Players drown in TOO MUCH possibility and therefore lose ability to exercise actual creativity in what they create illusions OF and WHY. They either reach for the moon, and accordingly get slapped down and then lose interest, or they go for the utterly pedestrian and accordingly find nothing inspiring about the class and again lose interest.

I have long said that playing a worthwhile illusionist PC requires a VERY cooperative relationship with the DM who is then required to put in disproportionate effort in determining what CAN be convincingly done with illusions and yet not allowing those illusions to overwhelm the game, OR to be too INeffective and again undesirable. It's too much work for too little benefit.

I think those failings CAN be overcome, but only with a LOT of work by the DM before gameplay ever begins, to establish a larger, better set of standard spells, and especially in establishing a COMPREHENSIVE set of adjudication rules governing the overall creation and application of free-form illusions. Rules that the player can use to let them know before deciding to cast a spell what they can/can't get away with and why, and rules that a DM can use to FAIRLY and consistently ensure that illusions can be created that will be fun, interesting and useful, but not overwhelm gameplay, nor require an amount of further adjudication on their part that is at all disproportionate to any other class's spells.
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Re: Illusionist Class

Postby genghisdon » Sat Nov 11, 2017 12:31 am

Havard wrote:What do you guys think of the Illusionist Class? The only instances where I have seen it in play are with the Gnome Illusionist. I think I may even have briefly played one at some point. What is the origin of this class? Have you seen many non-Gnome illusionists in your games?

-Havard


I love them, and yes, I have seen many human ones, as the level limits are so low for gnomes (in 1e) & we played into high levels with great frequency.

The origin is the strategic review 104 & the Dragon mag issue 1...or do you mean the idea of the class?

Unlike that first author (Peter Aronson), who envisioned it as fairly weak, it was always viewed as quite powerful by me/us; Gygaxian illusions kill. The class still was always vulnerable to certain monster types, and other limitations, though, so it was quite good, balance wise. It became known as the thinking man's magic user, and magic users were already for the thoughtful, clever or smart player. A class that truly rewards great imagination.
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Re: Illusionist Class

Postby Angel Tarragon » Sat Nov 11, 2017 12:39 am

genghisdon wrote:Unlike that first author (Peter Aronson), who envisioned it as fairly weak, it was always viewed as quite powerful by me/us; Gygaxian illusions kill. The class still was always vulnerable to certain monster types, and other limitations, though, so it was quite good, balance wise. It became known as the thinking man's magic user, and magic users were already for the thoughtful, clever or smart player. A class that truly rewards great imagination.
Hmm, where can I bone up on Gygaxian Illusionists? I'm super intrigued by this.
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Re: Illusionist Class

Postby Big Mac » Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:59 am

Man in the Funny Hat wrote:I think those failings CAN be overcome, but only with a LOT of work by the DM before gameplay ever begins, to establish a larger, better set of standard spells, and especially in establishing a COMPREHENSIVE set of adjudication rules governing the overall creation and application of free-form illusions. Rules that the player can use to let them know before deciding to cast a spell what they can/can't get away with and why, and rules that a DM can use to FAIRLY and consistently ensure that illusions can be created that will be fun, interesting and useful, but not overwhelm gameplay, nor require an amount of further adjudication on their part that is at all disproportionate to any other class's spells.


First time I've heard anyone say this, but it makes sense.

Do you think that later editions of D&D have contributed anything that could be used to make the 1st Edition version of the class have the sort of clarification you think the GM and player needs?
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Re: Illusionist Class

Postby Falconer » Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:27 pm

I’m not sure it is meant to be weaker in OD&D. Of course everything is powered up in general in AD&D, and the spell list is expanded so it does have more options. But there’s a more sinister vibe to the class in OD&D. The OD&D Illusionist has this 5th level spell:

Create Spectres: If a person is killed, this spell can be used to cause him to become a spectre with hit dice equal to half the killed character’s level rounded up. A character must have been at least 2nd level to be raised as a spectre. The spectre is raised with its mind and memory intact. It does not come under the control of the raiser; it still retains its alignment. A spectre can only be raised 24 + 6 times the level of the Illusionist turns after death.

I like to think of Illusionist magic as the “Saruman school,” and prefer to use it for humans of non-good alignment. But that’s just my preference. I allow any BTB PC.

It’s worth noting, in case it’s not common knowledge, that Unearthed Arcana adds more spells for them. Even many DMs who largely ignore UA will allow the expanded Illusionist spell list. Dangerous Dungeons (upcoming from The First Edition Society) expands the spell lists even further, so there are 24 first-level spells, 24 second-level spells, 20 third-level spells, 14 fourth-level spells, 14 fifth-level spells, 15 sixth-level spells, and 10 seventh-level spells. It also provides some great clarifications of how illusions work.
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Re: Illusionist Class

Postby Havard » Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:59 pm

Very interesting to hear about the origins of the class, Genghisdon and Falconer! I am puzzled to what to think about the original concept at this point.

So the marriage between the Gnome race and illusionists comes later then?

-Havard

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Re: Illusionist Class

Postby Falconer » Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:36 pm

Correct. For one thing, there are no gnome PCs in OD&D.

The Illusionist class writeup for OD&D does not actually mention which races may be members of the class. In fact, none of the subclass writeups for OD&D, other than Bard, address permitted races. It can be assumed that either they were meant to be human-only, or that they have the same strictures as their “parent” class.

In this case, single-class Illusionists would be Human-only; with the possibility (DM’s ruling) of allowing multi-classed Elves and Half-elves (eg., Fighter/Illusionists, etc.; see Greyhawk and replace Magic-User with Illusionist).
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