I have the Silent Image and Disguise Self spells. Let's say I Disguise as a muscular gladiator, then I make a Silent Image of a muscular gladiator on my own space, but a tiny bit bigger so that it englobes the Disguise (think of Russian dolls). Which of these 3 scenarios happen if a suspicious guard successfully investigates the Image ?

  1. He automatically sees through the Disguise as well and sees me (as suggested below, the above Investigation check could optionally be made in Disadvantage due to the illusion being multi-layered);

  2. He sees through the Image but not the Disguise, but stays suspicious and will most likely investigate the Disguise on his next turn;

  3. He sees through the Image but not the Disguise, and as he sees the same thing he saw before investigating, he stops being suspicious (essentially transforming his success into a failure).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Silent Image targets a space, not a creature. How are you using it “upon myself”? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30 '17 at 3:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have edited my wording for improved clarity. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 4:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GaelL: The use of Silent Image to enclose yourself in a "creature shell" like that could still have problems - at the very least I would expect DM rulings over possible accuracy, support for movement etc. And it clearly eats into the separate utility of Disguise Self. Worth its own question IMO. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30 '17 at 13:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NeilSlater You mean, a question to determine whether Silent Image could be used to disguise yourself ? (if so, it's still less good at the job than Disguise Self, as it requires concentration to maintain AND eats your action if you wanna move, so it seems reasonable to allow a "Disguise Image" in my opinion) \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GaelL: Yes. Although I agree that those restrictions make it a lot less desirable, and would make me err on the side of allowing it as a DM. It might still be an interesting question, because understanding of and rulings on illusions is a hard topic even when there are lots of rules as written covering situations. I think Yakk's answer here summarises some of the objections very well \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30 '17 at 16:27

What Spells Do

Well, you have a few problems with the abuse of Silent Image.

  • First, Silent Image is positioned on a space in a 15 ft cube. It can move, as long as it stays in range -- but it is clear you are trying to man handle a casting on position into a casting on a person. It feels clunky because that isn't what the effect is meant to do. That isn't a deal breaker, yet...
  • Second, physical interaction with silent image reveals it to be an illusion. That means that if the image touches you, the effect becomes useless. And while you may be aware of where your arms are, are you aware where your sleaves are, your glasses that slid a bit down your nose, or the Ye Old Toilet Paper that is stuck to ye Old Boot? Maybe. Seems a check two might be in order to see if you can control your body mind sync as well as you think.

    physical interaction with the image reveals it to be an illusion

  • Third, if you manage to move in such a way that you don't interact with Silent Image, the silent image will be slightly too large. And when someone is slightly too tall, fat, and have a slightly larger head.... It might draw suspicion. "Why Duke, you're looking... if you don't mind me say, My Lord... like you're a little swollen... Did you get stung by a bee?"
  • Lastly, and most importantly overlapping effects of the same spell don't stack. The illusion came from 2 different spells, but the effect is the same -- an illusion hiding your appearance. You really should only get the benefits of the more powerful effect. Using two different spells, rather than two castings of the same spell, seems like just a cheat to try to get around this. I think this is the thing that bothered me most that I couldn't put my finger on last night. I think you're too close to that rule for most DMs to let this work:

    The effects of the same spell cast multi pie times don't combine, however. Instead, the most potent effect-such as the highest bonus-from those castings applies while their durations overlap.

Okay, okay... But What Happens If the DM Allows It?

I personally would allow it, even though I think the spells usage is an abuse and wouldn't work under RAW.

However, how it should work according rules is that

Allowing it, what would happen is:

A creature that uses its action to examine the image can determine that it is an illusion with a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC.


to inspect your appearance and must succeed on an Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC.

The rules strictly as written, it would logically follow that one check... As inspecting the illusion would be the same as inspecting your appearance. As such it would reveal that both illusions. This would be supported by the overlapping spell rule quoted above.

Rules as fun, and how I'd likely adjudicate that such use of resources warrants two separate rolls -- especially if the two images are different. You're a gnome wizard, but you disguise yourself to be an evil human wizard, and then cast a silent image covering that of a half orc barbarian in town. If someone gets suspicious, they investigate and see through the outter shell to see to think the evil wizard from the tower outside the town has come in to gather intel.... Seems like that could have more plot fun. But I think it is still a technical abuse of the rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think I believe "that means if the image touches you, it vanishes". I think, instead, that if the image touches you, then you realize it is an illusion, but you can still kind of see it, and it's still there for everyone else. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Jun 30 '17 at 5:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Using Silent Image as a disguise is also in a "grey zone" concerning rules - yes, you can make a Silent Image move as if someone was walking (in this case, your disguise), but the precision of that movement is up to interpretation. The easiest way to deal with that is to say that if you're disguising yourself up, then your body is perfectly in sync with your mind's illusion. If you're disguising someone else (who is also moving), then that's a lot trickier, and maybe should not be working properly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 12:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem with sync with your mind is that people are human. Have you ever accidently left your fly unzipped or gotten your coat (or even hand/finger) stuck in a door? In general you can sense where your body is, but you don't always know where your clothes are. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30 '17 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited because Irealized what it was that didn't set right with me, and what the real abuse/cheese was. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30 '17 at 15:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the style of your edited answer - here's a virtual second upvote for you. As for the clunkiness... You make a reasonable point ("you know where is your body, but not necessarily your clothes"). Provided that my double-layered illusion isn't a naked dude, that can become a problem. Concerning your second point, well, physical interaction reveals it to be an illusion... for the person (in this case, me), so no problem there. Concerning the slighty too large problem... That's a reasonable point. It comes down to whether someone wearing two green shirts would appear as wearing only one... \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 16:09

It's not in the rules

Neither explicitly nor implicitly does it state whether you can nest multiple illusions. It's therefore up to the DM to say what happens. It could be as bad as a 'destructive interference' type of issue where the duplicate effects effectively unmask each other as false, or as good as your third option where the second effect is covering for failures of the first.

As DM, I'd rule that as both spells are present and performing the same effect, a viewer would make the Intelligence (Investigation) check versus both spells simultaneously, but at disadvantage. Success or failure on the roll would see through both spells, or not as the case may be.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the destructive interference idea. Does not benefit me, but it's fun to think about ! \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 4:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GaelL Yeah, that's a tiny bit of 'frame challenge' in this answer: You set up 3 possibilities, but there are more than that, as it's not codified or even notably implied how illusions can interact. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Jun 30 '17 at 4:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ The closest thing would be some ruling somewhere which says that when two same-named spells co-exist, the most potent one (here, the bigger illusion) is active while the other one "waits out". When the most potent ends, the other one jumps in. It's kind of a far-fetched read, as Disguise Self =/= Silent Image, but they're both illusions, so... Meh. Dunno. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 4:40

I question the very premise of your question.

Silent Image cannot do that. It permits "natural movement" of a creature while moving if you spend an action, not "infinitely thin holographic shell of a creature that mimics your movement".

Silent Image is not disguise self. You cannot generate a similarly flawless disguise this way. You also cannot create fake invisibility by projecting an illusion of the wall behind you that moves as you do; you could create an illusionary wall 3 feet away from the wall.

Having Silent Image move in exact sync with another object is not guaranteed to work by the spell. All you get is the ability to move it. You can try to keep it in exact sync, much like a dancer with two swords can try to move them so that the sword in front perfectly hides the sword behind, but it doesn't come for free, and doing so is a highly difficult task.

Such an act -- hiding someone in the shell of an illusion while letting them move freely -- would be an impressive stunt beyond the scope of what the spell guarantees you can do.

So the DM would have to invent rules to cover that stunt.

In a more general case, if you have an illusion of invisibility and under that you have disguise self, penetrating the invisibility illusion doesn't penetrate the disguise self.

If you have two magical effects that both generate the same effect, only the most powerful one takes effect. So if you have two different illusions that disguise you, the most powerful one works. This continues until the most powerful effect ends. So if you penetrate the most powerful effect in a way that doesn't end the effect (like seeing through it), the less powerful effect isn't active so is ignored. If you penetrate it in a way that ends it (like dispelling it), the less powerful effect takes effect.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Your answer provides a very nice addition to the subject. However, I believe that if the Silent image is on yourself, it is kinda easy to move it like your own movement because your mind (in control of the illusion) knows in advance what your body will do. Of course, cloaking another moving person with Silent Image is doomed to fail, as you can't predict their movement. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ As for the "most potent rule", it may only apply to same-name spells (which is not the case here), or to same-type spells (which is the case here). In that scenario, the 3D "Russian doll" layer of Silent image disguise doesn't use the same space as the Disguise Self disguise, so it works. But you got a valid point concerning the complexity of such a thin layer. After all, unlike onions (and ogres), illusions are not supposed to have layers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GaelL It has to be perfect within the window of the "expansion" you did. It is akin, like I said, to moving one arm and fingers (or sword) in such a way that the other arm (and fingers) is perfectly hidden by it to a camera, except with your entire body! In short, nearly impossible without extensive training to do this exact trick if you want to move naturally. If you practiced and practiced over many days (and where, say, already a trained dancer) and did the exact same set of movements with someone watching you and showing you where you screwed up, I could see pulling off this stunt. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Jun 30 '17 at 14:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ An Acrobatics check, then, perhaps ? Would seem reasonable. (my character is an Entertainer, after all) \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 16:10

That's a bit tricky, since I don't see anything official about it in PHB, but if I was DMing, I would dare say: 4) The guard has disadvantage on seeing through the initial illusion, but succeeding on the illusion would make him also succeed on the check against the disguise. If the guard sees through the illusion and sees the same exact thing behind the illusion, he would probably be inclined to believe that there is some extra trickery involved, and thus be able to also see past the disguise.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your option has been added to my first scenario. Many thanks ! \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 4:31

Since the investigator is investigating your appearance, he must beat both the DC of the silent image to see that its an image, and the DC of Disguise self, to see who you really are. These DCs are your spell save DC, and are exactly the same for both spells.

This means that anyone investigating you, specifically, would be able to see through both illusions if they beat the DC.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A key part of your answer is "must beat both". They may be the same DC, but not to see through the same illusion. What you are suggesting is scenario #1, but the (valid) logic you use could also result in ruling with scenario #2 or #3 (all assuming the investigation targets me specifically). \$\endgroup\$
    – Gael L
    Jun 30 '17 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ True, True. Ill remove the last line then \$\endgroup\$
    – Timi
    Jun 30 '17 at 15:30

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