Can static illusions be cast on and move with moving objects?

As a 20th-level Illusionist Wizard, I can make an illusion of:

  • a functioning volcano (Mirage Arcane)
  • or a ferocious monster (Major Image)
  • that can even deal damage (Phantasmal Force)

But using an illusion spell, can I, for example:

  • put an illusory sweater on my dog?
  • put an illusory blade on the end of my normal wooden staff that follows the staff even while I use it? (it would look scary!)
  • put an illusory vase on a table, which moves with the table if the table is pushed? (it wouldn't get knocked over, of course)

Note: This question is about the general function and utility of illusion spells as a school of spells in 5e rather than about a specific spell. If specific illusion spells give different answers, that is a valuable part of the answer to this question.

Supporting Thoughts:

Illusions can be cast at a place on the ground, and they stay there unless the spell gives you the ability to move them.

If the ground moves, does the illusion move? Does the D&D world spin like Earth does or fly through space? If so, the illusion usually moves with the ground on which it was cast.

Can an illusion spell such as Minor Illusion or Silent Image be cast on an object such as a sword or a table? If that object is then moved, does the illusion move with it? What about an illusory hat on my ally's head?

Put another way, what is the reference frame in which an illusion is cast, and is this something the caster can choose?

Clarification: I am not asking if I can pick up an illusion and move it, only if the illusion can be attached to something other than a fixed point on the ground and what happens when that something moves. A Minor Illusion would still be a simple, stationary object sort of illusion.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide the specific case you are trying to resolve? That will help narrow down answers and provide directly relevant feedback to you. This question may also be related \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jul 27, 2017 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


Yes, within some restrictions.

There are a wide range of illusion spells, each of which have their own specific conditions and limitations. This means that we have to look at each spell in turn. Generally, though, you should be able to create at least some of the effects you're looking for.

Illusions on creatures

Creating moving illusions on creatures is much easier, and there are several spells that allow for this. Specifically, spells like Disguise Self and Seeming allow you to change the appearance of your body, clothing, and any items you carry, including weapons: (text from Disguise Self)

You make yourself, including your clothing, armor, Weapons, and other belongings on your person, look different until the spell ends or until you use your action to dismiss it.

In fact, the text of disguise self gives an example of an illusory hat:

For example, if you use this spell to add a hat to your outfit, Objects pass through the hat, and anyone who touches it would feel nothing or would feel your head and hair.

Thus, altering your weapon to look scarier or adding sweaters to dogs is perfectly plausible with disguising illusion spells.

Illusions on objects

It's a little more difficult to make an illusion that moves on objects. You could accomplish everything you ask about with Major Image, but you have to spend an action on moving the image around:

As long as you are within range of the Illusion, you can use your action to cause the image to move to any other spot within range. As the image changes location, you can alter its appearance so that its movements appear natural for the image.

However, because you can have the illusion alter itself to appear natural during the movement, you can alter the sweater on the dog to move like a real sweater or have the vase wobble on the table. This is a rather costly spell to use, given that you have to be in range and constantly spend actions in order to maintain it. Note that Minor Illusion doesn't say that you can move it around with an action, so you can't use it to create these effects.

You could use a Programmed Illusion to replicate some of these effects, but given that the illusion is fully scripted, it doesn't seem like the kind of dynamic response you're talking about.

Illusions on Terrain

For spells like Mirage Arcane, the terrain itself is changed in appearance. This means that if the terrain moves (as the world turns, for instance), the illusion will also move with it. It's worth noting that the world isn't always round and rotating, but that's usually up to the DM. Generally, the rules don't specify a particular frame of reference for illusions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So, if I'm on a moving train and I cast Minor Illusion, the image I create will appear to quickly whisk backwards through the train, as it remains stationary with respect to the ground? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 26, 2020 at 18:02

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