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Using Minor Illusion to create a 5x5' cube of stone, one of my players who was a 6'4" ranger claimed it gave him three quarters cover and that he was shooting over it. I was okay with that. But after an Orc shot an arrow at him, and missed, I wanted to say that it broke the illusion by hitting his illusory stone and passing through - but he argued that it wasn't "physical interaction" as the Orc didn't use an action to target the stone.

Is it, or isn't it? Does the way the spell is written require walking up to the illusion and touching it/poking it with a blade, or targeting the stone purposefully with ranged attack?

Clarification: I guess what I'm asking is, can the illusion be broken unintentionally, or does it require an action?

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It can reveal it

The part of the spell dealing with physical interaction does not say anything about it requiring an action to do so. What does require an action is to make an ability check to reveal it, as it is stated in a different paragraph. These are two completely separate ways to reveal the illusion. Also, things passing through the illusion break it for anyone observing it, making it work only for the one who actually performed an Action would be illogical.

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It can happen unintentionally. In this Sage Advice at one point they talk about snow falling through an illusion revealing the illusion with a perception check.

Dragon Talk: Sage Advice on Illusions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6l51s0GFflY

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So then you'd have to use an action to make that ability check? \$\endgroup\$ – AshRandom Jul 17 '18 at 14:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AshRandom Perception check doesn't imply an action. Characters are perfectly capable of noticing things without actively going out of their way to search for something. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jul 17 '18 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thought ability checks required an action. Are you talking about passive perception? Can I classify it as passive perception? I like that idea. \$\endgroup\$ – AshRandom Jul 17 '18 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AshRandom ability checks don't inherently require an action. The spell creates an Action that can be taken to "examine the sound or image" and that action involves an ability check, but ability checks themselves don't require any action. \$\endgroup\$ – Kamil Drakari Jul 17 '18 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AshRandom In general you don't "make a Perception check" as an action. If you suspect that something is an illusion, you can examine it as an action, which then triggers a check. (In this case an Investigation check, not Perception.) The action is what your character is doing for those few seconds. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jul 17 '18 at 16:11
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Honestly I'm not sure the stone should give 3/4 cover in the first place (since an arrow hitting it would just go through and, if it was going to hit, hit his legs), but I'd say the orc definitely interacted with the illusion - how different is having an arrow go through it from having the same happen to the tip of your standard issue 10' pole?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure either, but I figured it wouldn't work for long. My player argued that it's like being shot at by elves hiding behind some bushes, they have partial cover since all you have to aim at is what you can see. \$\endgroup\$ – AshRandom Jul 17 '18 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay, now he's saying that there's no difference between missing and firing the arrow over the stone, or missing and saying the arrow hit the stone both are equally possible when it's a miss - he claims I can't just say the arrow missed in a beneficial direction each time, always having it hit the stone..... Should I do a percentile roll, and say it went high or went low? \$\endgroup\$ – AshRandom Jul 17 '18 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AshRandom Honestly, it's tricky - the only thing affecting the orc's accuracy is that it'd try to aim high, but I don't think that's nearly enough to grant disadvantage. It definitely feels like a strong effect for using a cantrip. Creative, yes, but claiming 3/4 cover that doesn't go away? Doesn't sit right with me. \$\endgroup\$ – vonBoomslang Jul 17 '18 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AshRandom Personally, I would rule the illusion gives the orc disadvantage and if it succeeds on an attack, it also notices the illusion. Cantrips are supposed to be simple, minor spells since they can be cast as often as you want. A cantrip that gives +5 AC is wayyyy too strong. \$\endgroup\$ – Mage Xy Jul 17 '18 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ The thing that pops to mind immediately for me is roll the attack with disadvantage, and if one roll hits and one misses, then the arrow passes through the stone and reveals the illusion. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jul 17 '18 at 20:06
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The "cover" is imaginary. It should be treated as obscurement instead, since it hides rather than blocking.

I might allow the PC to hide behind the illusion if he was completely hidden by what appears to be full cover (total obscurement).

Regardless of the PC's actual AC, I think you could use a simple mechanic where you roll a d20 to see if the illusion was hit (regardless of whether the attack was a hit or miss on the character - the chance should be independent of the PC's AC). I think assigning a chance to hit the illusion equal to the cover AC it appears to have vs. a d20 roll is fair. If you like higher numbers do something good for the roller, then a 16-20 hits the illusionary 3/4 cover and 19-20 hits the illusionary 1/2 cover. If the illusion is hit, then anyone who notices would see through the illusion (no action required).

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