Consider the use of Minor Illusion to distract an enemy and perhaps gain advantage during combat. Suppose a small character hides somewhere, then casts an illusion elsewhere. So far so good. (Minor Illusion has no verbal component, so the character can do it silently and stay hidden.)

Suppose this illusion is of that same character, perhaps cowering or frozen stiff as if frightened. This makes it more plausible that the enemy would move to engage or examine the illusion, turning its back on the hidden character.

Is this allowed? Can Minor Illusion look like a creature? An illusion of a frog seems reasonable. But a fox? A wolf? A gnome? My gnome?

The 5e PHB text says

You create a sound or an image of an object within range...

Does the PHB define an "object"? One might think it is ambiguous and thus up to the DM; but a discussion of prior editions quotes the 2e illusion rules:

the illusion of any object, creature, or force...

So perhaps 5e has reduced the scope of the spell. Yet I think most would agree, a change or omission from one edition to the next does not constitute rules-as-written.

In other words, are there written rules defining the limits of Minor Illusion, or is it implicitly up to the DM?


Given that Silent Image is a first-level spell, I wouldn't think you could do anything with the Minor Illusion cantrip that would duplicate the effect of the higher-level spell.

Silent Image specifically lists "creature" as an option of what to produce:

You create the image of an object, a creature, or some other visible phenomenon that is no larger than a 15-foot cube.

Whereas, Minor Illusion does not:

You create a sound or an image of an object within range that lasts for the duration.

In addition Silent Image also allows you to move the illusion, and change it such that the movement seems natural (by appearing to walk, for example).

If you are allowed to create an image of a creature with Minor Illusion, it's not going to be very convincing - it can't move at all.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There seems to be some name confusion in your answer. It references both 'Silent Image' and 'Silent Illusion' and also says the 'Minor Illusion' allows you to move the illusion and then contradicts that on the next line. I think you need a bit of cleanup :) \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jan 14 '15 at 10:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I submitted an edit request to correct the spell names. That is an excellent point, a great catch! Silent Image pretty clearly (if implicitly) establishes the scope of Minor Illusion because it makes no sense for the cantrip to be as powerful as the spell. \$\endgroup\$ – JasonSmith Jan 14 '15 at 10:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note, I was aware that the minor illusion would be immobile, hence the idea of a still, cowering or frightened-looking creature. But the larger point is more important. It's not possible. What I would do instead is to "throw my voice" using Minor Illusion so a creature would think I had given away my hiding position. That is clearly within the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – JasonSmith Jan 14 '15 at 10:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JasonSmith - First, even if it can mimic creatures or "some other visible phenomena", the cantrip is not as powerful as Silent Image at all. Why? Animation. Movement. That alone is worth a 1st-level spell slot. There's also the minor bonus that Silent Image allows for way bigger illusions (by a factor of 27). \$\endgroup\$ – El Suscriptor Justiciero Jan 16 '15 at 9:23

There's no reason it couldn't reasonably resemble a living entity, but without any form of motion in the illusion it would be easy to see through (likely to give advantage to those trying to tell), as it doesn't breath, it doesn't shift around at all, it doesn't do any of the small and subtle things that we almost take for granted about living creatures.

It would feel unnatural to look at a lifelike object that doesn't move in any way whatsoever, so its use to simulate a creature would likely be very ineffective. It would take the illusionist using the cantrip in a manner that my give the spell advantage to being able to discern what it is to make it effective.

As Mark Bessey stated about Silent Image vs. Minor Illusion, Silent Image allows for the object to move, and is thus able to convey the illusion of a living creature. Minor Illusion does not do this.

As justification for the ability to create a creature's appearance, you could likely create the illusion of a crafted object with it, thus statues aren't out of the realm of feasibility. The only thing missing there is colors, and a skilled artisan could likely make them relatively realistic with time and patience. Of course, this could lead to a DM requiring the skills and training associated to create something that precise.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think colour would be a problem, a statue can be painted. If there really exists a restriction against images of creatures with Minor Illusion, the fact that there is none against painted statues makes it moot. \$\endgroup\$ – El Suscriptor Justiciero Jan 16 '15 at 11:44

The rules don't say that the object cannot look like a humanoid however the object must be smaller than a 5 foot cube, meaning any person taller than 5 feet (all but our halfling, gnomish and dwarven friends) would be disqualified. Of course you could say that a crouching person to fit within the 5 foot cube.

The point of it being more powerful than a first level spell suggests that it would make sense for it to not show anything but a statue or stuffed animal.
Safest bet would be to ask your DM. When the rules are up for interpretation, they decide how the universe works in that particular instance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It needs to be 'no larger than a 5-foot cube' but that doesn't mean that it can't be taller than 5 feet, necessarily. That depends on how your GM is defining 'larger'. A 5ft cube of volume is quite enough for most human-y races. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jan 29 at 10:24

Object means object. A creature is not an object. A golden chalice is an object, a key is an object, etc.; a person is not an object.

The answer is that you'll need to be very creative with minor illusion. I can imagine a David and Goliath type scenario in which the big bad guy is demanding you turn over some papers, or some-such, and the cunning bard makes the papers appear on the table behind him. "Mr. Bad Guy, your papers are on the table behind you."

Bad guy looks, and BAM, advantage for all.

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