Here is the specific scenario I am thinking:

Spellcaster A uses a spell to frighten an enemy, and they can no longer move closer to them. On certain spells, they actively have to run away from the target until they can no longer see them.

Could another player (Spellcaster B) cast an illusion spell (silent image, major image, etc.) of Spellcaster A to keep that person pinned between the real Spellcaster A and the illusion of spellcaster A?

And additionally, could the illusion of Spellcaster A be used to extend the frightened condition once the target is out of Spellcaster A's line of sight?


2 Answers 2


Mostly depending on the spell, but in general, it doesn't work that way

First some preliminaries:

The Frightened condition says: The creature can't willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

So we have to consider, what is the source? Most spells don't have the "line of sight" clause, you just get a save as described per spell. But I did find a few that need to be looked at.

The Fear spell

You project a phantasmal image of a creature's worst fears.

This one is pretty easy. The caster is projecting an image of the target's fear. The caster most likely is not that fear. It could be a swarm of bees, a ghost, a snake-headed humanoid. But the caster doesn't know. So making a duplicate of the caster doesn't do anything for the fear spell. It just makes another target.

The Phantasmal Killer spell

You tap into the nightmares of a creature you can see within range and create an illusory manifestation of its deepest fears, visible only to that creature.

This is the same; you create an image of fear, but it does not need to be the caster so a duplicate doesn't mean anything.

Here it may or may not make a difference

The Antipathy/Sympathy spell

You target something within range, either a Huge or smaller object or creature or an area that is no larger than a 200-foot cube.
Antipathy: The enchantment causes creatures of the kind you designated to feel an intense urge to leave the area and avoid the target. When such a creature can see the target or comes within 60 feet of it, the creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened. The creature remains frightened while it can see the target or is within 60 feet of it.
Ending the Effect. If an affected creature ends its turn while not within 60 feet of the target or able to see it, the creature makes a Wisdom saving throw. On a successful save, the creature is no longer affected by the target and recognizes the feeling of repugnance or attraction as magical.

This is a little weird. Everything is based on "the target"; but the target can be a person, a place, or a thing. The image spell could duplicate a person or a thing, but it can't duplicate "an area". So we can assume that isn't a valid case for what you're trying. But it's still relevant.

The other clue is that the enemy can still be influenced by the spell if they are within 60 feet of the "target", regardless of seeing them or not. Which means that the effect emanates out from the target. To me, this means that the victim "feels" the Antipathy. So just seeing another copy of the caster, if they were the original "target", doesn't give the same vibe.

So it could go one way or the other. Since the save is based on either distance or line-of-sight, it really doesn't matter if the creature is within 60 feet. However, outside of the range, if the DM does say it works, I would recommend that the save is with Advantage as even though it looks like the target, it doesn't feel like the target. Also keep in mind that spells like minor illusion only work for 30 feet, so they might not even extend out far enough to matter.

The Eyebite spell

The target is frightened of you. On each of its turns, the frightened creature must take the Dash action and move away from you by the safest and shortest available route, unless there is nowhere to move. If the target moves to a place at least 60 feet away from you where it can no longer see you, this effect ends.

This is very close to the previous spell in that it's not just line of sight, but must be over 60 feet away.

I would rule this in the same way--Advantage to break the Frightened condition once they are out of the 60 foot radius and looking at an illusion.

There are probably a number of features that have similar wording, so use this as a guide.

  • If the feature causes a creature to see a frightful image, then making a duplicate doesn't change anything.
  • If the feature has a radius, then it doesn't matter while they are still in the radius. And the illusion spell might not reach beyond the radius.
  • If the feature causes a creature to be afraid of "you", then it's really "you" they are afraid of so an illusion most likely won't be as intimidating.

Keep them pinned? Almost certainly no. Have the illusion 'chase' them and avoid letting them make a saving throw against the condition? Up to the DM.

The general consensus is that this part of most spells that give the frightened condition -

While frightened by this spell, a creature must take the Dash action and move away from you by the safest available route on each of its turns, unless there is nowhere to move.

means that if you cast this spell while the creature is eg, in a corner, it either counts as 'nowhere to move' or they must move first towards you (to get out of the corner) and then away from you. Opinions differ, with more hardline ones angling towards 'nowhere to move', aka they can act normally, and less hardline ones leaning towards 'they try to flee past you'.

If there were two of 'you' and they were trapped between them then depending on table there would be 'nowhere to move', or, they would try to flee past one of the two 'yous'.

Whether or not an image of you (that presumably, the frightened creature cannot discern from the real you) counts as 'you' for this statement will largely be up to the individual DM. Some DMs will decide that an illusion of you is not 'you' and therefore give the creature a magical ability to tell which thing they are scared of is real, or something similar. Others will go by whatever seems realistic in the situation and/or want to reward clever play (that isn't just shooting people in the knee for extra damage) and allow an illusion of the object of fear (if convincing) to have a similar effect to the actual object of fear.

I would generally expect around 1/4 to 1/3rd of tables to go with the former outcome and 2/3rds to 3/4 of tables to go with the latter, based on my current understanding of how the 5e community generally rules things (at least based on online games and forums).

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Can I see the survey data that led to your numerical conclusions? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 2:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ "a magical ability to tell which thing they are scared of is real" is not needed. It's magical fear coming from a specific creature. Scared victim doesn't need any ability to discern real from illusion. She is scared of one, and can't get closer to one, because spell said so. If it's the real one is not a concern, it's the one causing magic fear and that's all what matters. If DM chooses this interpretation, it doesn't need to be as complicated, ridiculous even, as you paint it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 22:07

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