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Is this spell balanced for what it can do? Are there other issues with it?

Nystul's Magic Mask

Second level illusion

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S, M (an item touched by or from the creature to impersonate)
Duration: 24 hours

You touch a creature, masking it with the personal aura of another creature. For the duration of the spell, the creature detects and functions to other effects as if it were that other creature. For example, an alarm spell that would not trigger for the other creature will not trigger for the target, and a sending spell will appear to come from the other creature. If an effect would need to determine if it affects the target or the other creature (for example, a sending spell send to the creature), determine randomly which of the creatures it will affect.

The spells purpose is to enable magical impersonation, which I believe could have many interesting applications (such as the ones mentioned in the examples, but not limited to them — you could also steal a replica of a leomund's secret chest and retrieve the original or any number of other ideas) and enable creative solutions to story challenges.

I am looking for review as a fundamental change effect like this could have issues I overlooked (one already identified in an answer: it provides a cheap alternative to Nondetection I had not considered as I was focused on the aspects of proactively using another identity).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you obtain an aura you use as a mask? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 7:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Matthieu Yes, "Mask" is just a name for hiding who you are. I also thought calling it Impersonation instead, which might be more straightforward. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 8:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ How does it interact with things like Pact of the Blade's pact weapon, where it disappears if not near the caster? (and anything else that's meant to be "self" with a bunch of flavour wording around it) \$\endgroup\$
    – Cassie
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 9:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1: This question would be significantly improved by including more details about what the spell’s purpose is, what balance concerns you have with it, any details about play testing you already tried, etc. See these meta discussions for more detailed direction on improving your question: here and here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 9:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I added the recommended information, does this address your downvote reason sufficiently? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 13:23

3 Answers 3

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As already said, this spell is doing everything Nondetection is doing, but different/better. ̶M̶a̶y̶b̶e̶ Apparently it even protects against more spells. As such, it shouldn't be lower than 3rd level, cheaper than 25gp and longer than 8 hours, unless you offset some of the benefits with another costs.

Object being just touched by a creature seems way too easy to acquire. High Priest may touch a lot of offerings during service, and a lot of followers (and their things). Making every protection of the High Temple fail that easily seems a worldbuilding issue as it renders many spells, including high level ones, useless unless social norms are changed to everyone wearing gloves all the times and bringing their own spoon to the party.

Solutions to consider:

  1. Consult Scrying for familiarity with the person whose aura you want to copy. Maybe require item actually owned by that creature?
  2. Add material component: masterfully crafted mask worth at least 25gp, consumed by the spell.
  3. I'd leave it at 2nd level, but I'd make it work only against spells of the same level or lower. With option to upcast, of course. That way it will not render all of the protection spells in the world useless.
  4. To make nondetection worth it, goldwise, either cut time to 8 hours or increase price to 75gp.

I'm not sure if implementing all of the above wouldn't make it too weak, so it's just a list to consider, not fully rewritten spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for world building concerns. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 9:50
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I see a few issues with how the spell is written that could cause confusion and potentially have game-breaking ramifications.

The first issue is that, as written, the spell simply targets a creature and its effect is applied. It does not restrict you from casting it on an unwilling creature, and it doesn't require an attack roll or saving throw when you do so. A spell that has offensive applications should specify how it works when used on an unwilling target, like Polymorph and Plane Shift do.

The second issue is with the way the rest of the spell works: "the creature […] functions to other effects as if it were that other creature." Off the top of my head, I can think of several ways this could be exploited.

  • You can use any item you've touched to force an enemy creature to be function as a humanoid, allowing you to target it with Magic Jar. This provides a way for a player character to gain access to the game statistics of any creature, not just humanoids.
  • You can use any item touched by a celestial, fey, fiend, or elemental to make the target eligible for Planar Binding. Now any creature in the game can be bound to serve you, not just those types. A number of summoning spells like Find Familiar give you easy access to the material component you'd need to do this. Speaking of which…
  • Don't have Magic Jar or Planar Binding? Use the Find Familiar spell to summon a familiar and have it touch an item. You can then use Nystul's Magic Mask to make any creature be treated by the effect of Find Familiar as if it were your familiar, which means it must obey any and all commands you issue to it. In fact, this trick would work with most summoning spells and other effects that give you control over a specific creature, ranging from Simulacrum to a Battle Smith Artificer's Steel Defender feature.

Maybe the first two cases there are intended to be valid uses of the spell, maybe they aren't; I doubt the interaction with summoning spells/features like Find Familiar is intended. This ability to bypass creature-type restrictions and identity restrictions is incredibly powerful and I suspect that a more comprehensive search through the game's spells would turn up similarly confusing interactions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Great observation thank you. I definitely should limit this to a willing creature. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 19:34
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Probably a little too strong for its level and cost

This is a very interesting concept of a spell. Given the right circumstances, it could lead to some very clever tricks. As for balance, there is one spell that comes to mind which compares easily to this.

Nondetection

Nondetection is also a spell that messes with magical-related detection effects. However, it does it a little differently, as it prevents divination magic from working on the target altogether, as well as making it undetectable to magical scrying sensors.

While Nondetection has the advantage of being able to also target a place or object, Magic Mask wins in most other stats. It has a duration of 24h (8h for Nondetection), only requires a second spell slot (Nondetection is a 3rd level spell) and has no material cost (Nondetection consumes a pinch of diamond dust worth 25 gp).

Moreover, Magic Mask covers a wider variety of situations, since it isn't limited to divination magic. For instance, Nondetection will not help with an Alarm spell*, since it is an abjuration spell, while Magic Mask may help if the user knows about the person who set it up.

Overall, while it may be better to have total protection from divination magic and magical scrying sensors in some cases, the lower costs, higher duration, and overall greater versatility of Magic Mask outshines Nondetection.


* After reconsideration, whether or not Nondetection prevents an Alarm from triggering might not be as obvious as I first thought. I opened a question regarding this topic here.

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