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Say I were to make a pit within the bounds of Mirage Arcane. Suppose I make the pit real with Illusory Reality and a creature falls into the pit. Then Illusory Reality's duration ends.

Would the creature remain stuck in the ground, or at least stuck in its perception of the ground, from the illusion?

I understand that Mirage Arcane follows the general shape of the terrain, but it can also create structures where there are none. This is where the text gets kinda foggy. As an extension of my question, could I create illusionary structures that go into the ground, make them real for a minute, and then get creatures stuck in the ground?

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First let's look at just Mirage Arcane on its own, to get a baseline, and then we'll look at what Illusory Reality adds.

An illusory pit is not actually underground!

Mirage Arcane only changes the feel and appearance of the terrain, not its actual shape.

You make terrain in an area up to 1 mile square look, sound, smell, and even feel like some other sort of terrain. The terrain’s general shape remains the same, however. Open fields or a road could be made to resemble a swamp, hill, crevasse, or some other difficult or impassable terrain. A pond can be made to seem like a grassy meadow, a precipice like a gentle slope, or a rock-strewn gully like a wide and smooth road. Similarly, you can alter the appearance of structures, or add them where none are present.

Every part of the spell changes the experience of the terrain, not the actual terrain itself. A stick can be picked up — but only because it feels real and interacts with you magically-intelligently. A precipice can appear to be a gentle slope — but you will still fall vertically if you try to walk down it. Difficult terrain can feel difficult to move through — but to a viewer with truesight you're just moving yourself unnecessarily slowly to deal with non-existent obstacles. In all cases, the terrain alters your belief about what you're interacting with (and thus alters your behaviour accordingly), not what you are actually interacting with in reality.

So: an illusory pit. The pit would be visible, and if you stepped above it, you would feel, see, and appear to others to fall into it. You would still be on level ground aboveground though, in reality. When the illusion fades, you would not be somehow underground, as the spell does not have the power to change the terrain in a real way and you never were below the ground in the first place.

Now add Illusory Reality

The Wizard class feature that lets you pick one object in the illusion to make real is a bit tricky.

A stick could be made real by weaving shadow magic into it, and then it would have real substance, not just trick you into believing that it has real substance. An Illusory Reality stick could help you dig a hole in the ground, and the hole you make will still be there after Mirage Arcane ends. Without Illusory Reality's shadow weave, you could still dig that hole, but it would be only an illusion and mistaken belief and disappear when Mirage Arcane ends.

So, Illusory Reality can make what you believe, see, feel, hear, etc. happening when you interact with an illusion into an actual fact. Walking over a chasm created by Mirage Arcane would result in believing you're crossing the chasm, at least until you hit bottom and the awful reality literally hits you. With Illusory Reality applied to that bridge, thinking you're actually walking across it would match the reality: you would cross the bridge and not fall, because the shadow weave has made it real, unlike the rest of the illusion.

How does this apply to a pit? The trouble with a pit is that it is not an object. As the joke goes:

Q: What becomes larger the more you take away from it?
A: A hole!

A hole is not actually an object, even though it's convenient to give it a name and think of it as an object sometimes. Investing empty space with shadow weave isn't going to work because there's nothing there to weave it into — it's not an object.

Not convinced? Look at it from the other direction and consider where the dirt would go. Does weaving shadow stuff into the space where the dirt is make the dirt suddenly unreal? No, Illusory Reality doesn't have the power to unmake things, only to temporarily make things.

So, you can't make an illusory pit real with Illusory Reality.

What about buildings?

Sure, you can make a fake building from Mirage Arcane into a temporary shadow-stuff actual object. The stone and timbre of its walls will actually support a character's weight, instead of just making them believe they are, just like with the chasm bridge. (And just as with the bridge, they can fall when the spell ends and the shadow-magic stops supporting them.)

However, underground constructions would still not actually put a character underground. The ground is still not "unmade" by either the illusion or by the Illusory Reality. A character could still think they were moving around in the below-ground spaces of such a building, but in reality they would just be walking around above the ground, on the still-existing actual ground, and the below-ground shadow-stuff would become irrelevant, buried inside the real ground. When the Mirage Arcane wears off, regardless of Illusory Reality the character would still be aboveground.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you 'layer' the effects? That is, create an Illusory Reality set of stairs that those walking across think is level terrain? \$\endgroup\$ – Clockwork-Muse Apr 24 '15 at 11:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Clockwork Maybe. It would require a second spell though, so that depends on how your DM ruled conflicting overlapping illusions interact. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 24 '15 at 14:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ "but only because it feels real and interacts with you magically-intelligently. A precipice can appear to be a gentle slope — but you will still fall vertically if you try to walk down it." That is not clear from the spell's description because of the initial statement that the changes feel as if the terrain is real. Ruling that you fall over a precipice that been changed to a gradual slope is contradiction because falling doesn't not feel like there is a gradual slope. Keep in mind it is after all a 7th level spell. \$\endgroup\$ – RS Conley Apr 24 '15 at 17:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also Hallucinatory Terrain, a 4th level spell, makes an explicit point about how the tactile characteristic of the terrain remains unchanged. While Mirage Arcane explicitly adds in the tactile element. \$\endgroup\$ – RS Conley Apr 24 '15 at 17:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Crawford has ruled on similar questions here: "The mirage arcane spell gives you tremendous latitude in how you make the affected terrain look and feel. The altered terrain can even hurt someone. You could drown in the spell’s illusory lake, for example, or fall off an illusory cliff." And here: "You can climb an illusory tree formed by mirage arcane." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 24 '18 at 22:12
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The problem is that there are no clear paths to rule on this.

With Illusionary Reality you run into the following

The object can’t deal damage or otherwise directly harm anyone.

So a pit made real can't damage a target who falls into it. And once the target hits bottom and gets up unscathed they will know there is something is up and they are a target of an illusion.

However Mirage Arcane states

The illusion includes audible, visual, tactile, and olfactory elements, so it can turn clear ground into difficult terrain (or vice versa) or otherwise impede movement through the area.

So for all purposes the illusion created by Mirage Arcane is "real" for the duration of the spell.

You can look at the Hallucinatory Terrain spell which explicitly states that the tactile elements of the terrain remain unchanged. With the Mirage Arcane a cliff turned into a gradual slope can be walked on. With Hallucinatory Terrain you will fall right through the illusion and plummet to the true ground.

This is further reinforced by the spell stating later on.

Creatures with truesight can see through the illusion to the terrain’s true form; however, all other elements of the illusion remain, so while the creature is aware of the illusion’s presence, the creature can still physically interact with the illusion.

However "can still physically" seems to state that the creature with truesight has a choice of whether to interact with the illusion or not. However since there is no explicit exception to any other part of the spell the earlier part about making clear terrain difficult and impending movement still applies. This indicate despite seeing the illusion's true nature, the creature with true sight is still effected by the other aspect of the illusion.

Reading through the rest of the Mirage Arcane spell I find

Similarly, you can alter the appearance of structures, or add them where none are present.

...

The terrain’s general shape remains the same,

...

a rock-strewn gully like a wide and smooth road.

The last suggests that you can make minor alteration in the terrain height. A man height pit wouldn't be out of line.

My ruling would that the use of Illusionary Reality is unnecessary to do what you want as the illusion Mirage Arcane is more "real" enough. That Mirage Arcane could create a pit big enough to put a man sized creature underground far enough so that when the spell ends it would find itself underground. Barring abilities, magic items or special circumstances this would instantly kill the creature.

Frankly it is a 7th level spell and doing this seems to be the least of the uses this spell could be put too.

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