I'm mastering a game using the MERP second edition rules. One of the players was lucky enough to start with an Item which contains a daily spell, which he chose to be Invisibility (from the Illusion path) which is a level 4 spell. As the rulebook states, if the spell chosen is of level 4 it can be used once a day.

4 - INVISIBILITY (E) As Unseen, except everything within 30cm of the target is invisible as long as it starts and remains within the 30cm radius.

Unseen in turn says:

2 - UNSEEN (E) A single object (or being) is made invisible (1 garment, 1 naked body, etc.) until 24 hours pass OR the object is struck by a violent blow (being hit by a weapon, falling, etc.) OR the object (or being) makes an attack.

The spell grants the user invisibility for 24 hours, which is a whole day. The player is trying to abuse the system by not leaving his invisibility state and reactivating it right after 24 hours, not stopping from being invisible ever. He waits for the spell effect to finish before executing his move, in order to become invisible again without spending too much time being visible.

(The other players are fine having an invisible, one-action-a-day companion. As long as he helps with acomplishing their goal, they don't really care about not seeing him. In addition he's sharing his earnings so everyone's happy. Of course he has not been invisible for the whole campaign, just whenever they enter a new location, when he starts his stealing rampage while the rest act as normal people gathering information and so on. He'll leave his perma-invisibility when facing bigger dangers and the rest of the team needs help, but he'll usually wait for entering combat.)

As it's just too powerful because it's not using any of his power points I tried to limit it by making the cooldown of the item start when the effect stops, but the player claims that the item, just as a human caster, does not need to keep casting the spell to become invisible, so the cooldown for the item should start counting since it was cast.

He is right in his statement and I can't disagree with him, so he's free to rob/steal or even kill if waiting for the 24 hours of the spell coming to an end before striking his blow to the objective to then become invisible again.

Is there a rule which restrict this kind of abuse or did he made a really nice strategy to advance through the game?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I might be misremembering but a level 4 spell that allows movement while invisible is rather more powerful than what I am used to as level 4 spells… You sure they can move? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14, 2018 at 14:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I've edited the post because the radius is of 30cm and not 3m, which is the radius matchng for the level 8 spell. The spell does not state anything about moving restrictions neither there's a higher level spell which states the characters are allowed to move, so I understand the restriction does not exist. I agree with the spell being more powerful than other of the same level, that's why I find it so problematic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Desolli
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ What does the rest of the party do while he is waiting for his 24h cooldown? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 14, 2018 at 16:06
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Seems like a powerful item - perhaps it attracts unwanted attention? \$\endgroup\$
    – flaZer
    Aug 14, 2018 at 19:24
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Critically injured and invisible characters may find that other players can't render help to them. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14, 2018 at 19:27

4 Answers 4



Part of your answer is in the quoted text...

as long as it starts and remains within the 30cm radius.

Unlike other games' invisibility, this effect doesn't apply to things the character picks up after the spell goes into effect - they explicitly have to be on him (or within 30cm) when he casts the spell. Anything the character attempts to steal will remain visible.

A related, and somewhat disgusting, stumbling block is what happens when he eats. If he tries to spend his whole life invisible, he'll have to carry food with him when he triggers his invisibility. What visible, eaten food looks like inside an invisible person is an image I'll leave to others imaginations.


Another factor is the unreliability of pre-modern timepieces. The idea of him killing somebody and then immediately becoming invisible again requires precise timing. He needs to strike the blow (and kill with the first blow) exactly 24-hours after becoming invisible. Even if he can time it so precisely, there's still a narrow window between becoming visible and being able to trigger the invisibility again.

Of course, even if he somehow did have an exceptionally precise portable timepiece, everything he's carrying becomes invisible when he casts the spell. He may not be able to see a watch, even if he has one.


In response to your final question, though not an answer to the specific wording... Your player is very much trying to abuse the system. He's not really being all that clever about it, though.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Then what would happen if the character ate something? Would it be visible? Sounds like it but at the same time sounds weird. Your post about killing gave me some ideas. Guess I could make him do some rolls to see if he misscalculates the exact time as being precise without a way to record the time is not that easy. And it would not seem I'm just not accepting his character setup. \$\endgroup\$
    – Desolli
    Aug 14, 2018 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Desolli A disgusting option I didn't consider, but it might be a good way to drive the point home. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Aug 14, 2018 at 13:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ In addition to having to be on him when the spell is cast, all items have to stay on him throughout the duration of the spell. Anything that gets more than 30cm/1ft away will become visible again. That's not a huge area, and anytime he dropped, threw, or gave something away it would become visible again. \$\endgroup\$
    – David K
    Aug 14, 2018 at 16:08
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ While it might be hard to perform the first-blow-kill accompanied by an immediate vanishing, one can give themselves, say, 15 minutes to do all the stuff needed and THEN vanish. Or an hour. One can play interesting burglary this way. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14, 2018 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the game world is replete with spells with an exactly 24 hour expiration timer (or exactly 1 minute, or exactly 10 minutes, etc.), then creating precise timekeeping devices would be easy as long as you can create a magical device that (re)casts an effect whenever it ends. And even in this case all he needs is a spell or item that creates an illusory noise or something in his ear after 24 hours, or an illusory stick he holds before going invisible, etc. Bingo, alarm's gone off; if it was cast the round before the cloak was triggered you have your precise moment to act. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 15, 2018 at 1:04

It strikes me that for the GM in this case timing is everything. If you force the character into interactions for which they have to be visible, such as being hired, or recognised (read paid) for services shortly after they renew their invisibility it will make life awkward for them. Have the spell wear off during an encounter, preferably without the character immediately noticing, because they've lost track of time in all the excitment.

The other option is to exploit the

"OR the object is struck by a violent blow"

deactivation clause in Unseen; Invisible people should regularly get hit, stood on, and/or tripped over because people can't see them. My favourite example that points this out being the Je Souhaite episode of the X-Files where an invisible man gets hit by a truck as a direct result of his invisibility. To apply this to your situation; trying to move through a crowd should be a bad experience for an invisible character, they should get barged into and tripped over by more than one NPC. Getting into busy rooms without ending up visible, either jammed in or knocked down by a closing door, or exiting customer, a major feat of skill and agility. Have the character distracted crossing the road and sideswiped by a wagon, little to no damage done but the spell gets cancelled, if what distracted him is the victim of his latest theft and they see it happen... you get the idea.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Passing through people won't do, as a violent blow is considered only if the character takes damage. But crossing roads and getting hit seems a good way to making things difficult for him. \$\endgroup\$
    – Desolli
    Aug 16, 2018 at 12:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ After taking a look to rolemaster rules (MERP is based on them), I've seen invisibility has a small section which helps managint it, and even being hit by people or falling from not so high has a chance (which may be small, but a chance after all) to end the effect. So thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Desolli
    Aug 30, 2018 at 8:38

He can only use the power once per day. As is, it's fine. They get one powerful ambush from the shadows and just one, and only if they do it during a short duration of time which counts as 24 hours. If you want to test them, attack them with more than one enemy or more than one thieving job and make them choose what to use invisibility on.

As TJ noted, there are some serious complications in their plans, but being quite effective for a single action is not that overpowered.

You noted that your issue was them doing immoral acts without consequence. If you want the group to have a ban on immoral acts, it's worth talking to them about it. One player shouldn't be singled out, especially if everyone is having fun. If you want them to face dramatic consequences then it would be better to escalate things. Have them spy things too large to smuggle out on their person, but valuable, and have the merchants band together to hire mercenaries or trouble shooters to handle them, or to take the ring.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've recently added a comment to the original question related to some things you've said. When they dace many enemies or combat is frequent, invisibility won't help much, and he will enter combat normally right after an ambush. His overpowered play comes when they come into a city or camp where he goes into his steal mode. I'd like to relate his crimes with the whole group so they push him into acting righteous but as he remains invisible and not relate with them, I can't find a way to do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Desolli
    Aug 14, 2018 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the group morally opposed to thievery? If there's a tone issue and they hate hobbits or something, it's worth just talking to them about it directly OOC. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ The group is a bunch of mercenaries mainly, so earning a few pieces of silver without any risk is fine with them. Appealing to morals won't work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Desolli
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there some reason why you are opposed to them earning a few extra pieces of silver? It doesn't sound like a balance issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not against earning money, but against doing wrong acts without consequences. Right now half of the stealing problem is solved, as any object he picks does not turn invisible and he'll only be able to carry small items or pieces of copper/silver/gold (he was stealing almost anything in reach and could carry by weight). But, I'm just trying to figure a way to this actions backfires him. As he's not stealing from any nobles or important merchants, there are not many chances that he gest caught. \$\endgroup\$
    – Desolli
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:24

I only find this now. After so many years. Hahaha. I also had a group of players with a mage and once he reached lvl 5 he made them all flying and invisible a soon as things got a little hairy.

I solved it by defining that an invisible person would be slipping into another plane of existence: the "ghost world". This is the same plane that Frodo enters when he puts on the one ring. Like in the movies the invisible persons perception of the real world is severely impacted. He can only see shadows and silhouettes of the real world and navigating and movement becomes a pain with constant orientation checks. Melee attacks are still possible but using ranged weapons is not.

My players hated me at first but this change brought back a lot of challenge and ultimately fun.


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