The prestige class shadowcraft mage (Races of Stone 120–2) at level 3 gains the supernatural ability shadow illusion that says that the creature can

infuse [its silent image, minor image, major image, persistent image, and programmed image spells]… with material from the Plane of Shadow, making them partially real. The subschool of these spells changes from figment to shadow. A shadowcraft mage can use the altered spell to mimic any sorcerer or wizard conjuration (summoning), conjuration (creation), or evocation spell at least one level lower than the illusion spell. The altered spell functions identically to the shadow conjuration or shadow evocation spell, except that the spell’s strength equals 10% per level of the figment spell used. (122)

(Emphasis mine.) This is followed by two examples:

  • "[A] shadowcraft mage who uses silent image to create an acid splash would deal 10% of the normal damage to a creature that succeeds on its Will save to disbelieve the shadow.
  • "If [a shadowcraft mage] used programmed image to mimic summon monster V, the creature would have 60% of the hit points of a normal creature of its kind, and its damage would be 60% normal against a creature that succeeds on its Will save to disbelieve." (ibid.)

I'm struggling with the second example. Despite the description of the supernatural ability shadow illusion saying that "the altered spell [can] mimic [a] spell at least one level lower than the [altered] illusion spell," the "altered spell functions identically to the shadow conjuration or shadow evocation spell." However, the second example's shadowcraft mage uses the 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell programmed image [illus] (Player's Handbook 265) to mimic the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell summon monster V [conj] (PH 286, 287), which should be impossible: the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell shadow conjuration [illus] (PH 276) says that it "can mimic any sorcerer or wizard conjuration (summoning) or conjuration (creation) spell of 3rd level or lower," hence excluding the spell summon monster V.

That is, the description says both that the altered spell can mimic any Sor/Wiz conjuration (summoning), conjuration (creation), or evocation spell at least one level lower than the illusion spell and that the altered spell is identical to the spell shadow conjuration—therefore inheriting all that spell's limitations—or the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell shadow evocation [illus] (PH 277) that has similar limitations. (Taken as whole, for example, a shadowcraft mage may still want to alter the spell programmed image to mimic the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell wall of ice [evoc] (PH 299) so that the now-shadow wall of ice spell effect is 60% real if disbelieved.)

In short, according to the text, in the description of the supernatural ability shadow illusions is the second example mistaken?

Note: I know I'm late to the party here. It's likely this topic was already discussed to death on the lost-and-lamented Wizards of the Coast forums, but those discussions are now difficult to reach. Discussion of the dangerous of effects of the ability shadow illusions not being limited by the shadow conjuration and shadow evocation spells is in this answer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you actually looking to get an answer to the question "RAW only, can shadow craft mages' shadow illusions mimic higher level illusions than the listed shadow conjuration/evocation spells can?" \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Aug 6 '17 at 14:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus That's another way of addressing the underlying premise, yes, but my main thrust really is the example. That is, absent the second example, this DM would limit a spell altered by the ability shadow illusions to both one spell level lower than the unaltered spell and within the bands of its parent spell. However, with the example present, I am at a loss as to how to rule (especially given Wizards' history of mistakes in examples). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 6 '17 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is just a partial answer, but if the example is incorrect, then the ability is merely two copies of Signature Spell, but limited to replacing five spells and increasing the reality of the mimicked effects. This is neither how it's presented nor how I've seen it presented or played. (Obviously, this answer is not RAW, thus is a comment.) \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Aug 6 '17 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus It's cool if your answer argues the special ability's presentation in the text makes it seem to you like the example isn't an error, but I'd advise against an answer relying on experience in play for this rules-as-written question as those experiences can vary wildly. Also keep in mind that Wizards of the Coast did their darnedest to keep books separate, so the feat Signature Spell (Player's Guide to Faerûn 43) may not be available in all campaigns and that the feat Signature Spell doesn't allow the parent spells to exceed 20% real. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 6 '17 at 14:50
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me that the crux of the answer relies on how function as should be read. I would be willing to argue that it only concerns the mechanics of the effect, and not the restrictions placed upon the spell selection, which would be consistent with the example. If other occurrences of function as in abilities or spells could be found in the same book, maybe the exact semantics imparted would be more easily worked out? \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Aug 6 '17 at 15:54

Both examples are correct from a RAW perspective.

The description attempts to use shadow conjuration and shadow evocation as a familiar base to describe the ability, unfortunately the way in which it does so is confusing. Perhaps a simpler way to look at it is that the ability allows a shadowcraft mage to use any of the listed illusion spells as if it were a modified version of a shadow conjuration or shadow evocation spell of the same level as the illusion spell being used to mimic it. The two changes cited in the text are used in order to easily scale the effect between illusion spells of various levels.

The first example purposefully uses the weakest spell in the list (silent image) as the example, while the second uses the strongest (programmed image) to showcase the spectrum of the ability's use.

Neither of the two examples the text gives are in error.

If you are getting hung up on the "functions identically to..." phrase, consider it again with the following emphasis:

The altered spell functions identically to the shadow conjuration or shadow evocation spell

Note that the shadow evocation spell is a level 5 spell, and shadow conjuration is a level 4 spell. Focusing on what makes the two spells similar, we see that they both mimic another spell of at least 1 level lower than the spell actually being cast. The shadow illusion ability functions identically to both spells in that it also allows you to produce an effect that must be, at most, 1 spell level lower than the spell actually being cast.

A shadowcraft mage can use programmed image (a level 6 spell) to produce a shadow-version of Summon Monster V (a level 5 spell) because the desired effect is a conjuration (summoning) spell that is at least one level lower than the spell being used to imitate it via the shadow illusion ability. Therefore, it falls into the parameters described in the text of the ability.

This example is completely valid by RAW.

In the comments it was brought up that mixing shadow illusions with heighten spell could prove problematic and cause this ability to be overpowered, so let's take a look at how heighten spell would work when casting an illusion spell, such as silent image:

A heightened spell has a higher spell level than normal (up to a maximum of 9th level). Unlike other metamagic feats, Heighten Spell actually increases the effective level of the spell that it modifies. All effects dependent on spell level (such as saving throw DCs and ability to penetrate a lesser globe of invulnerability) are calculated according to the heightened level. The heightened spell is as difficult to prepare and cast as a spell of its effective level.

If the part in italics makes you cringe, note the part in bold. Let's look at how this metamagic feat would apply if we used it on a normal casting of silent image. No matter what level you heightened your silent image spell to, it will never be able to produce sound; it is always outside the scope of the spell to produce. Your heightened spell will have a higher DC to disbelieve it and will be harder to dispel and similar things that rely on level, but the scope of effects you can produce with the spell do not change. This remains the case when shadow illusion is applied, no matter what level you cast silent illusion at, it cannot ever produce an effect beyond the scope of a cantrip (level 0) spell any more than it could produce sound. Because this is the case, the absolute level cap for a shadow illusion effect is to mimic a 5th level spell, and then only by casting programmed image (level 6), even if you apply heighten spell to it.

Taking this one step farther down the rabbit hole, I would even go as far as to argue that if you used heighten spell to cast a shadow illusion version of the fireball spell, the increased DC would apply only to the wisdom save to disbelieve the illusion, while the fireball effect would occur just as it normally would for a level 3 fireball spell. The heighten spell feat does not change the effect produced by an illusion spell.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Rules as Intended is a loaded phrase 'round these parts. Unless there's designer commentary to back up the answer's assertion of what the designer actually intended, it's best that the answer use a different argument. Also, note that the pre-bar section of the answer repeats the question back, adding only the boldfaced sentence; I'm not sure how that's helping. (However, later claiming that or has been misunderstood as exclusive rather than inclusive is valid.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 6 '17 at 3:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your points are well taken, I have updated my answer to reflect your input. \$\endgroup\$ – user39671 Oct 6 '17 at 4:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. It might just be my tunnel vision, but I'm still not seeing it. I don't see where in the text that the spell level cap on shadow conjuration or shadow evocation is removed by the special ability shadow illusion outside that example. Emphasizing or rather than identically doesn't change what the duplicated spells say in their descriptions. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 6 '17 at 4:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that it seems logical to infer that when it says the ability can "mimic any sorcerer or wizard conjuration (summoning), conjuration (creation), or evocation spell at least one level lower than the illusion spell" that removing the level cap is exactly what this ability does. Since Programmed Image is only 1 level higher than Shadow Evocation, rather than completely removing the level cap, all it really does is potentially raise it by 1 level for SE and 2 for SC, assuming you spend the appropriate spell slot. \$\endgroup\$ – user39671 Oct 6 '17 at 5:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your inference that despite the limits of the original spells as per the second example applies is, I think, as valid as me inferring that within the limits of the original spells. And, actually, the special ability shadow illusions is much more powerful according the first inference: Heighten Spell then allows a lone 9th-level spell to replace the full range of 8th-level Sor/Wiz creation, summoning, and evocation spells, likely at over 100% efficacy. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 6 '17 at 13:33

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