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The spell "Phantasmal Force" (p.264 PHB) is an illusion that takes root in the mind of the target creature. One of the options is to create the illusion of a creature, and this creature can attack the target (the target rationalises this and takes 1d6 psychic damage, perceived as a type appropriate for the attack) as long as it is within 5ft.

The target of the spell is the creature, not a point in space. There is no text in the spell's description that describes how to move the illusion (or that it is possible to).

It makes sense that if the target believes it is being attacked by a creature, so much so that it takes damage from the illusion, it would also rationalise the creature moving to get in range to attack.

To clarify, I have seen JC's tweet confirming that the illusion could be moved by the target creature (i.e. a bag over the creature's head). My question is about the illusion moving of its own (or the caster's) accord.

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Yes, the Phantasmal Force illusion can move.

Jeremy Crawford has indirectly answered your question in this Sage Advice (emphasis mine).

Q: Can be the effect of phantasmal force a bag on the target's head which is moving with the target?

A: Yes, assuming the illusory bag can fit in a 10-foot cube.

Thus, as long as your illusion satisfies the other criteria for the spell, it can move with the target.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a different scenario than I described. That is the illusion being moved by the target creature. My scenario is the illusion moving itself. I've added clarity to my question. \$\endgroup\$ – Luke Jun 1 '18 at 0:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ You might consider elaborating on how that Tweet indirectly answers the OP. JC's answer does allude that the 10ft cube is specifically for the size of the illusion and after that is free to move around, especially since the bag is only in the target's head. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jun 1 '18 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe note that the illusion can move but only within the area Phantasmal Force was cast to logically be able to deal damage to the target. As the 10ft cube is also a criteria for the spell and can't be moved after cast. \$\endgroup\$ – FenrirG Jun 1 '18 at 15:10
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Yes. It can move wherever the target goes (assuming the thing created can move).

Ultimately, it is the DM's decision however I think the evidence definitely supports it being able to move with the target since it is their head anyway.

Jeremy Crawford's tweet (emphasis mine) indicates that the size of the illusion/phantasm is limited to a 10ft cube.

Q: Can be the effect of phantasmal force a bag on the target's head which is moving with the target?

A: Yes, assuming the illusory bag can fit in a 10-foot cube.

Note he doesn't say "stays within the 10-foot cube"...

Couple that with the fact that you target the creature not an area or point in space for this spell to seed the mind of the target with the phantasm. It does not anywhere indicate that it can't move out of the 10ft cube it starts in and since everything occurs within the victim's head there would be no reason that it couldn't if it were an imagined creature.

This means that when you cast you target a creature within 60ft with the idea of a creature or object no larger than a 10ft cube. After that point for the duration (assuming you chose something that is ambulatory such as a lion) it will follow and attack the subject of the spell.

Mike Mearls' tweet also indicates that such a phantasm need not roll to attack; it just automatically does damage. I would expect the text of the spell to indicate as much if it were required.

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The phantasm moves but only within its 10 foot cube

you create a phantasmal phenomenon of your choice that is no larger than a 10-foot cube

Each round on your turn, the phantasm can deal 1d6 psychic damage to the target if it is in the area of or within 5 feet of the phantasm, provided that the illusion is of something that could logically deal damage.

An ogre or similar sized creature can occcupy the 10-foot cube and do damage within the space and 5-feet around it.

A sprite also fits and can dart around within the 10 foot cube and do damage within the space and 5-feet around it.

The bag on the head can follow the target within the 10-foot cube and do damage (by suffocation) within it but not 5-feet around it, as it cannot "logically deal damage" where it isn't.

The illusion must stay within the 10 foot cube in which it was created, however, it can move (in the target's mind) within that space.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I cannot see anywhere in your answer that explains why it cannot move outside of a 10 ft cube. The quote only says that the illusion cannot be larger than a 10ft cube. \$\endgroup\$ – Luke Jun 1 '18 at 2:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Luke: Nothing in the spell description specifies that it can move. Spells do what they say they do, and no more. Anything beyond that is up to the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 1 '18 at 3:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast that sounds like part of an answer to the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Luke Jun 1 '18 at 5:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that the 10ft cube is only the size of the phantasm. Back when schools and subschools used to have meaning a phantasm was only in the target's mind therefore it would not make sense to have a creature be constrained so much. Combine that with JC's tweet that the bag's size is limited to the 10ft cube. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jun 1 '18 at 12:50
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Strictly RAW: No your illusion can't move on it's own.

Phantasmal Force (emphasis mine):

Choose a creature that you can see. It must make an Intelligence save. If it fails, you create a phantasmal phenomenon of your choice that is no larger than a 10-foot cube. It's only visible to the target.

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. An affected target is so convinced of the phantasm's reality that it can even take damage from the illusion. A phantasm created to appear as a creature can attack the target. Each round on your turn, the phantasm can deal 1d6 psychic damage to the target if it is in the area of or within 5 feet of the phantasm, provided that the illusion is of something that could logically deal damage.

Jeremy Crawford's tweet with the bag is RAW because of the emphasis part above.

The reason I say it can't move by itself is what's missing in the description when compared to Silent Image:

You can use your action to cause the image to move to any spot within range. As the image changes location, you can alter its appearance so that its movements appear natural for the image. For example, if you create an image of a creature and move it, you can alter the image so that it appears to be walking.

"Spells only do what they say they do."

And there is nothing about your illusion moving in the description of the spell.


I've changed my answer from Yes to a No, this is the old answer:

Your phantasmal phenomenon can move freely. There is no limitation on the movement of your illusion. Only limitation is that it can't be larger than 10ft cube, not that it must remain within a 10ft cube. Your phantasmal phenomenon can be a little killer bunny that chases and attacks your target relentlessly for example, even if your target leaves the range of the spell afterwards the bunny can keep chasing because the spell doesn't say it's broken if your target leaves spell range.

Justification of this is that 'phantasmal phenomenon' is not specified, you can create the illusion of whatever you want. The only limitation of the illusion is that it must fit within a 10ft cube and if able to deal damage it has a 5ft reach to do so. You can say your phantasmal phenomenon is a hit&runner owl that pecks at his eyes or a clown that runs around mocks your target. Nothing in the spell description says your phantasmal phenomenon has to be static.

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