The Phantasmal Force spell can be used to place a delusion inside a creature's head for the duration. I understand that the spell is worded very openly to encourage creative usage, but I'm not sure about how I should be ruling it case-by-case. I understand the purpose of most other illusion spells, but I just can't seem to get my head around certain aspects of this particular one.

The phantasm includes sound, temperature, and other stimuli, also evident only to the creature. (PHB pg.264)

Does this mean you could use the illusion to impart status effects on creatures?

  • For example, would you blind the creature by putting a bag over his head that it wouldn't be able to remove?
  • Would you be able to deafen a creature with an extremely loud auditory illusion?
  • I'm assuming restraining the creature with illusory chains wouldn't work, considering it would probably struggle to escape only to find that it's not actually physically being detained, but I'm sure there is something you could add to the illusion to try and prevent them from escaping or moving.

Can Phantasmal Force apply conditions (Blinded, Deafened, Restrained, etc.)? If so, which conditions?

It seems to me that the spell shouldn't be able to place conditions on creatures, but that would only be because of how strong and flexible this might make it relative to other spells if it's level. Is this how it is intended? I don't want to accidentally gimp the spell by ruling it too harshly, but it seems difficult to me to consistently judge it fairly.


2 Answers 2


Yes, insofar as the creature believes that it's under those conditions

First, let's compare this spell to Major Image, which explicitly forbids damage, deafness, and the like:

You can't create sufficient heat or cold to cause damage, a sound loud enough to deal thunder damage or deafen a creature, or a smell that might sicken a creature (like a troglodyte's stench).

Phantasmal force has no such restrictions. Instead, it states

While a target is affected by the spell, the target treats the phantasm as if it were real. The target rationalizes any illogical outcomes from interacting with the phantasm.

Thus, if the creature believes it has a bag over its head and can't see, it believes that it is blinded and can't actually see. Perhaps it rationalizes the things it actually sees as hallucinations, for example. Likewise, if your illusion is that the creature is chained to the ground, it might rationalize its ability to move around by thinking that the chains are very long.

Therefore, it seems like any status condition that can be inflicted by some physical phenomenon can be "inflicted" by the spell. The spell doesn't modify how the creature feels about other creatures, so it probably can't do things like charm or frighten (unless the DM rules that the creature is frightened of the illusion), and it doesn't make much sense to allow it to inflict poison, exhaustion, or petrification. However, the creature can certainly be made to believe that it's being grappled or restrained, for example.

The status effect is only a belief, and not "real"

The only actual effect that the spell can impose is damage. This limitation means that a creature that thinks that it's restrained can still move around freely, for example. Therefore, the DM has a lot of latitude in determining exactly how this spell would affect a creature.

If you think it's too powerful for a creature to be restrained, the creature could realize that its restraints are loose enough that it can still make an attack, but it might not try to move because it believes it wouldn't be able to.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Differentiating between real conditions and belief seem to be a very good point. Nonetheless, it would be nice (i think) to have more info about how the (not so much) different conditions will really affect the creature. For example, @Ceribia explains a creature believing is restrained probably will try to move or push the 'restriction', finding no resistance (the chain broke!, this web is very weak!). Trying to prone him will probably fail (the trip failed! I've narrowly dodged it!). A deafened creature will still listen all sounds... \$\endgroup\$
    – Abby
    Jul 17, 2017 at 9:11
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Related tweet by Jeremy Crawford supporting that bag example: "Yes, assuming the illusory bag can fit in a 10-foot cube." ...But Chris Perkins says: "If a spell applies any sort of condition (blinded, restrained, etc.), its description says so." \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 2, 2018 at 3:11

The comparison between the 2nd-level Phantasmal Force and 3rd level Major Image cannot apply if you don’t consider all the characteristics of both spells:

Phantasmal Force Major Image
Number of targets: 1 Many
Duration: 1 minute 10 minutes
Saving throws: Yes No
Damage: Yes, if applicable No

For the example of the bag, the result is not worse than the 2nd-level spell Darkness cast on an object that you stick to the back of an adversary. So, you have to agree with Jeremy Crawford but note that the target may notice that it’s touching its face when it tries to remove the bag.

I once had an enemy believe it was receiving lava in the eye as we were close to a volcano. It would have been a lot less conceivable for the target to maintain a perfect vision than to have it blinded alter for the remaining of the spell. And everything in its beliefs was plausible.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. It's not entirely clear what your answer is asserting as the answer to the question; answers are expected to stand alone, rather than "reply" to other answers or simply comment on the issue. In addition, you should link the Crawford statement you're referencing and quote/summarize it, and explain how it relates to your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 25, 2019 at 7:48

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