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What are the limits of Image spells?

An example in the 'All about Illusions' articles on wizards.com (1, 2, 3, 4) is an illusionary guard: Can I make the guard (keeping concentration) dissolve into smoke (and grant concealment with the smoke)?

Or more general: Can I morph/transform/change the illusion while the spell is on-going?

And: A monster who tells his friend that something is an illusion grants that friend a +4 bonus to the will save. However, the friend still needs 'an action' of his own to interact. What action? (Standard, Move, ...)

I would prefer answers including rule text references, if possible. References to related material or other discussions of the possibilities and limits of the image spells are very welcome.

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3 Answers

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The various "image" spells are basically a carte blanke to do anything you can dream up, within the stated limiters of the spell. You manipulate the spell with your concentration, and can alter it as you please as long as you do not take the image out of the limiting area of effect or attempt to do more with it that then the spell allows you to do (i.e. produce any sound or thermals with Silent Image, or recognizable speech with Minor Image).

Illusions such as these are staples of fantasy fiction; why would you assume you can't create a fluid effect with these spells?
For example: an illusionist, hidden in a room whose volume is not larger than his AoE for the spell, casts Major Image: that of an egg in a pentacle. When the door to the room opens and creatures enter, the mage has the egg crack open and a mist start pouring out. in a few seconds, a vicious horned demon forms from the mist. If the creatures do not attack it, the mage then holds a conversation with them out of the demon's mouth. If the creatures attack it, he disperses it into mist again, mocking the hapless creatures.

As long as the mage concentrates, all this is within the purvey of the spell.

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This is exactly how I run it, but do you have any rules reference that confirms this? –  DuckTapeal Nov 6 '12 at 0:53
    
The most persuasive point in favour of this argument that I can think of is that there's no spells that explicitly do allow you to do demon-mist-egg type 'creative' illusions, and I can't imagine an illusionist who wouldn't want to do something like in that at some point. Surely such a common desire would be reflected in the standard spell lists? And if not in the image spells, where else? –  GMJoe Nov 7 '12 at 6:49
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It seems to be unstated but implied in the descriptions of the various "...image" spells that the thing you're mimicing does not change during the course of the illusion. So turning into smoke would be out of the question.

The exception that proves the rule is the Persistent Image spell, where it follows a script, and that script could include "turn into smoke". But it wouldn't do that on command, just following the script.

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How do you come to this conclusion? If you can make a guard move around using Concentration, you change the illusion. I don't see any rules for or against changing the illusion, anywhere in the rule text or in the All About Illusions articles. –  Mala Apr 19 '12 at 16:52
    
I see "moving it around" as something categorically different tan changing it. But that's just opinion. –  Snowbody Apr 23 '12 at 14:17
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@Mala Moving is specifically allowed by the spell. From the text of Silent Image: "You can move the image within the limits of the size of the effect." You can't move it outside the volume you initially target, according to All About Illusions. Also, Part 3 of AAI says that it's a move action to actively make a save against an illusion: "which DMs can choose to make a move action since this is an extrapolation of the rules and not an actual rule". –  DuckTapeal Nov 6 '12 at 0:44
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Typically speaking up to five words is considered a free action, so when the character making the warning gets their turn, as a free action they can say "It's an illusion!" without triggering anything or using an action. However, more verbose sentences could end up taking a standard action, such as "I saw Baron Von Evil cast a spell with verbal, somatic, and material components and after that I saw that thing there!".

As for the opportunity to polymorph an illusion, I have not seen a spell specifically stating one way or the other. However, with spellcasting there is often an implicit denial of privileges, as spells with ancillary effects will often state them in the description. However, Prestidigitation is a cantrip that should be able to alter an illusion's image since it is only a minor effect on your own spell.

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I like the comment about prestidigitation, but it doesn't really answer the question. –  Mala Apr 19 '12 at 16:53
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You can talk as a Free Action even when it is not your turn. –  KRyan Nov 6 '12 at 0:29
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Then allow me to amend my answer by saying that it's a house rule to wait until their turn. I do this for continuity and to try and prevent off topic discussion (IE people getting into full conversations when a round should be 6 seconds) –  CatLord Nov 6 '12 at 18:17
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