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The illusionist is a specialty wizard in D&D, a master of deception, light, and shadow. Like any magic-user, mage, or wizard, they cast spells, but an illusionists's spells are of a distinctive character, creating figments and phantasms to decieve and trick their foes in creative and interesting ways. Illusionists are exceptionally flexible, able to craft a falsehood and create almost any image their mind desires, but they must be creative to get the most out of their spells, as they lack the firepower and blatant arcane power of their brethren in robes.

Original D&D

Illusionists in this edition were purely a periodical class, though they recieved extensive treatment there. They made their debut appearance in The Strategic Review - Volume 1, Number 4 (Winter 1975). It is presented as a subclass of magic-user, with its own unique spells. The illusionist is noted as severely limited in the use of magic items, but with very powerful magic. They are stated to have two prime requisites, Intelligence and Dexterity, both of which must be 15 or better.

The Illusionist is given further elaboration in Dragon Magazine #1, which adds some higher-level spells, and a few class features. Dragon Magazine #12 re-addresses the spells and features of the class as well.

Basic Information



1 Prestidigitator
2 Minor Trickster
3 Trickster
4 Master Trickster
5 Cabalist
6 Visionist
7 Phantasmist
8 Apparitionist
9 Spellbinder
10+ Illusionist

Usable Magic Items

  • Scrolls with Illusionist spells on them
  • Crystal Balls (not with ESP or Clairaudience)
  • Fear Wand
  • Paralyzation Wand
  • Illusion Wand
  • Magic Detection Wand

Dragon Magazine #12 introduced several other categories of usable magic items.

  • Rods of Cancellation, Beguilement, and Rulership.
  • All wands of Detection
  • Wands of Illusion, Fear, Polymorph, and Negation
  • Staffs of Command and Striking
  • Crystal Balls
  • Talismans of the Sphere
  • Wizard's Robe for hypnosis and polymorph

Illusory Expertise

This class feature was introduced in Dragon Magazine #1.

Illusionists have a +4 bonus on saving throws vs. illusions or light.

Recognize Illusions

This class feature was introduced in Dragon Magazine #12.

Illusionists can recognize when a spell has been cast by an illusionist, even if it is the same spell that a cleric or magic-user could cast. Illusionists can also recognize illusions cast by other creatures (such as rakshasa, succubi, or leprechauns) and polymorphing, though this is difficult (7% chance per level).

Trans-Dimensional Attacks

This class feature was introduced in Dragon Magazine #12.

Illusionists can hit astral and ethereal creatures with their spells and attacks.

Craft Magic Items

This class feature was introduced in Dragon Magazine #1.

At 9th level, illusionists can manufacture minor items such as talking puppets, toys, or other harmless trinkets. At 10th level, the illusionist may start manufacturing scrolls, wands, etc. with Illusionist spells.

Spell List

1st-Level 2nd-Level 3rd-Level 4th-Level 5th-Level 6th-Level1 7th-Level1
Phantasmal Forces (as magic users) Improved Phantasmal Forces Invisibility, 10' Radius (as magic user) Improved Invisibility Projected Image (as magic-user) Mass Suggestion1 Astral Spell1

Light (as cleric)

Invisibility (as magic user) Fear Massmorph (as magic user) Summon Shadow Permanent Illusion1 Prismatic Wall1
Wall of Fog Fog Spectral Forces Shadow Monsters Major Creation Programmed Illusion1 Maze1
Darkness (as anticleric) Blindness

Continual Light (as cleric)

Shadow Magic Chaos Shadow Monsters III1 Vision1
Change Self Misdirection Continual Darkness (as anticleric) Minor Creation 2nd-level Magic Spells** Conjure Animals1 Alter Reality1
Gaze Reflection Hypnotic Pattern Paralyzation Emotions Demi-Shadow Monsters True Sight1 Prismatic Spray1
Hypnotism Detect Magic (as magic user) Nondetection Confusion Demi-Shadow Magic
Detect Invisible (as magic user) Deafness Hallucinatory Terrain (as magic user) 1st-Level Magic User Spells* Create Spectres
Ventriloquism1 Magic Mouth1 Suggestion1
Mirror Image1 Rope Trick1 Phantasmal Killer1
Detect Illusion1 Dispel Illusion1 Illusory Script1
Color Spray1 Blur1 Dispel Exhaustion1

* Those who gain this option learn all 1st-level magic-user spells.

** Those who gain this option learn all 2nd-level magic-user spells.

1 Addition to the Illusionist class from Dragon Magazine #1.

Variant Spell List

The Illusionist was updated in Dragon Magazine #12 to have a distinctly different spell list, more closely resembling a normal Magic-User. This variant included new spells, removed some other spells, and eliminated most spells cast as a cleric or anti-cleric.

1st-Level 2nd-Level 3rd-Level 4th-Level 5th-Level 6th-Level 7th-Level
Read Magic Protection from Evil Continual Light (as cleric) Feeblemind Summon Shadow Legend Lore Gate

Read Language

Continual Light Invisibility, 10' Radius Project Image Major Creation Polymorph Object Astral Spell
Mirror Image Illusory Script Improved Displacement Protection from Evil, 10' Radius Chaos Symbol Prismatic Wall
Pyrotechnics Blindness


Shield Demi-Shadow Monsters Power Word: Blind Prismatic Spray
Ventriloquism Misdetect Fear Improved Invisibility Demi-Shadow Magic Power Word: Stun Maze
Phantasmal Force Hypnotic Patterns Paralysis Massmorph Create Spectres Basilisk Gaze Vision
Color Spray Deafness Continual Darkness (as cleric) Shadow Monster Geas Second-Level Spells** Alter Reality
Light Rope Trick Polymorph Shadow Magic Simulacrum Anti-Magic Shell
Detect Magic Blur Sensory Deprivation Minor Creation Beguilement
Gaze Reflection Dispel Illusion Nondetect Emotions Contact Higher Plane
Detect Invisible Locate Object Hallucinatory Terrain Gaze of the Umber Hulk First-Level Spells*
Wall of Fog Displacement, 10' Radius Phantasmal Killer Extension I
Displacement Continual Darkness Dispel Exhaustion
Hypnotic Suggestion Personal Silence Silence, 15' Radius
Magic Mouth Multiple Hypnotic Suggestions
Invisibility Discord
Hypnotize Monster

* Those who gain this option gain the ability to use any 1st-level magic-user spell if they make a save vs. magic. If they fail the save, they must wait 2 weeks before trying again.

** Those who gain this option gain the ability to use any 2nd-level magic-user spell if they make a save vs. magic. If they fail the save, they must wait 4 weeks before trying again.


Illusionists made their first core appearance in AD&D, in the PHB, as a sub-class of magic-user. The illusionist is a separate class entirely, having a different XP table, a different spell list, and even a different maximum HD from the standard magic-user. The spell lists were highly differentiated, with little overlap between them. AD&D Illusionist spells include a host of transmutation, enchantment, and other "tricky" spells. Their spells are acknowledged to be weaker, and their slightly less restrictive magic item selection was meant to compensate for that weakness.

Of special note is that gnomes could become illusionists, though they could not become magic-users of other sorts.

Subclass Details

  • Ability Score Requirements: Int 15, Dex 16 (Illusionists do not gain an XP bonus for high Int or Dex scores)
  • Usable Magic Items:
    • All potions (except Fighter-only potions)
    • Any scroll with a spell that Illusionists can use
    • All rings
    • Rod of Cancellation, Staff of Striking, Wand of Enemy Detection, Wand of Fear, Wand of Illusion, Wand of Magic Detection, Wand of Metal & Mineral Detection, Wand of Secret Door & Trap Detection, Wand of Wonder
    • Miscellaneous Magic Items usable by any character class, Crystal Balls (but with no additional powers), all robes (exclusing the Robes of the Arch-Magi), and books and other written works that magic-users can read.
    • Artifacts that do not specifically exclude illusionists (such as armor, swords, axes, etc.)
    • Magic Daggers
  • Magic Item Creation: At 10th level and above, illusionists can make magical items that create and sustain illusions, much in the same manner that regular magic-users create magic items.

Spell List

1st-Level 2nd-Level 3rd-Level 4th-Level 5th-Level 6th-Level 7th-Level
Audible Glamer Blindness Continual Darkness Confusion Chaos Conjure Animals Alter Reality
Change Self Blur Continual Light Dispel Exhaustion Demi-Shadow Monsters Demi-Shadow Magic Astral Spell
Color Spray Deafness Dispel Illusion Emotion Major Creation Mass Suggestion Prismatic Spray
Dancing Lights Detect Magic Fear Improved Invisibility Maze Permanent Illusion Prismatic Wall
Darkness Fog Cloud Hallucinatory Terrain Massmorph Projected Image Programmed Illusion Vision
Detect Illusion Hypnotic Pattern Illusionary Script Minor Creation Shadow Door Shades 1st-Level Magic-User Spells
Detect Invisibility Improved Phantasmal Force Invisibility, 10' Radius Phantasmal Killer Shadow Magic True Sight
Gaze Reflection Invisibility Non-Detection Shadow Monsters Summon Shadow Veil
Hypnotism Magic Mouth Paralyzation
Light Mirror Image Rope Trick
Phantasmal Force Misdirection Spectral Force
Wall of Fog Ventriloquism Suggestion

AD&D 2e

The Illusionist appeared here as an example of a Specialist, a kind of Mage, distinct from the Wizard. The example illusionist given throughout the 2e core books is Joinville, a human illusionist. Illusionists in this edition had few unique powers, but differentiated themselves largely by having more power in a narrower band than standard mages.

Class Details

  • Ability Score Requirements: Int 9 (prime requisite), Dex 16
  • Races Allowed: Human, Gnome
  • Illusion Mastery: The illusionist gains a +1 bonus to saves vs. illusions, and targets of their illusions take a -1 penalty on their saves. The illusionist can also memorize an additional illusion spell at each spell level. The illusionist also finds it easier to learn new illusion spells.
  • Opposed Schools: Illusionists cannot learn spells from the schools of necromancy, invocation/evocation, or abjuration.

Complete Wizard's Handbook

The Complete Wizard's Handbook added some optional powers for high-level illusionists

  • Improved Illusion Mastery: At 18th level, the Illusionist gains a further +1 bonus to saves against illusions cast by non-illusionists, which stacks with thier normal +1 bonus to saves against illusions.
  • Dispel Illusion: At 20th level, the Illusionist can dispel an illusion within 30 yards, three times per day (as if casting a spell with a castim time of 1, without somatic or material components). This is ineffective against phantasmal force spells cast by other illusionists, and has a base chance to work of 50% (adjusted up or down depending on the power of the illusion to be dispelled).

3e D&D


School Specialization is an option for Wizard characters in this edition of D&D. The iconic specialist was Nebin, the gnome illusionist. A specialist is treated like a wizard in all respects, except for the following:

  • School Mastery: You can prepare an additional spell of your school specialty each day. You also have a +2 bonus on Spellcraft checks to learn spells of your chosen school.
  • School Prohibition: You must choose two schools of magic that you are not permitted to learn or cast spells from. Diviners need to select only one.


A Wizard in Pathfinder may specialize. Those who specialize in Illusion are treated like a wizard in all respects, except for the following:

  • Illusion Mastery: You can prepare an additional Illusion spell each day.
  • School Ineptitude: You must choose two schools of magic that you are inept in. You may still learn and prepare spells from these schools, but you must spend an additional spell slot of that spell's level to prepare it.
  • Extended Illusions: An illusion spell that requires concentration lasts a number of rounds after you stop concentration equal to 1/2 your wizard level (minimum 1). At 20th level, you can make one illusion spell with a duration of "concentration" permanent. You can change which spell is permanent at some later date, but you can only have one permanent spell at any one time using this ability -- if you change it, the previous permanent illusion ends.
  • Blinding Ray: Three times per day (plus once per day per point of Intelligence bonus), you can fire a shimmering ray at any foe within 30 ft. as a ranged touch attack, executed as a standard action. Creautres who are hit and who have HD equal to or less than your wizard level are blinded for one round. Creatures who have more HD than you have wizard levels are dazzled for one round instead.
  • Invisibility Field: At 8th level, you can make yourself invisible as a swift action, as the spell Greater Invisibility. You can spend a number of rounds per day in this state equal to your Wizard level (these round need not be consecutive).

4e D&D

Illusionists appe

4e illusionist.jpg

ared in 4e as part of the Mage subclass, a wizard class that specialized in schools of magic rather than in specific implements. Mages study from multiple schools of magic, though they choose one school as their primary school. Illusion powers in general in 4e focus on moving the target around the battlefield, keeping their position ideal for the party. Though any wizard could take and learn illusion powers, and become quite adept at them, the Illusionist Mage had abilities related specifically to illusions, including the following:

  • Illusion Apprentice: A target hit by your arcane illusion power takes a -2 penalty to the next attack it makes against you before the end of your next turn.
  • Illusion Expert: Gain a +2 bonus to Bluff and Stealth checks.
  • Illusion Master: When you hit or miss a target with an arcane illusion power, it grants combat advantage to the next attack made against it before the end of your next turn.

5e D&D

All wizards in 5e are specialists in one school or another, and they don't have prohibited schools. Wizards begin specialization at 2nd level. Illusion specialists gain the following specific benefits:

  • Illusion Savant: At 2nd level, halve the gold and time you must spend to copy an illusion spell into your spellbook.
  • Improved Minor Illusion: At 2nd level, you learn minor illusion if you don't know it (or some other cantrip if you do), and when you cast it, you can combine sound and image in a single casting of the spell
  • Malleable Illusions: At 6th level, when you cast an illusion with a duration of 1 minute or longer, you can use your action to change the nature of the illusion (as if you had cast it again), provided you can see the illusion.
  • Illusory Self: At 10th level, you can create an instantaneous illusion of yourself in response to danger, allowing you to use your reaction to have the attacker hit your illusory duplicate rather than you with an attack. The use of this feature recharges with any rest.
  • Illusory Reality: At 14th level, you can weave shadow magic into your illusions. When you cast an illusion spell (that isn't a cantrip), you can choose one inanimate, nonmagical object that is part of that illusion, and declare it to be real, as a bonus action on your turn. The object can't deal damage or harm anyone, and it remains real for 1 minute.


1e: Player's Handbook

2e: Player's Handbook, Complete Wizard's Handbook

3e: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/classes/sorcererWizard.htm#wizard


4e: http://www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/class.aspx?id=722

5e: Player's Handbook