This question is in respect to two other questions that have been raised here:

Does a Silent Image Move on It's First Round?

Can I use Silent Image as an Adjacent Enemy for Sneak Attack?

Basically, what part of an illusion spell qualifies as an enemy of the target?

For example, Does the spell have to be able to harm the target in order to qualify, and if so, why?

  • \$\begingroup\$ If you asked this as "does the caster have to be able to harm the target" would that be the same question, or am I missing a subtle distinction? My point is "it's the Spartan, not the spear, that's trying to kill you." \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 11 '16 at 17:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. That's another good way to put it. Would the illusion have to be capable of harming the target to qualify as an enemy? If so, why? This is based on target's perspective, so to the target, it doesn't know if there's a Silent Image, Phantasmal Force or actual creature there. As far as I can tell, an enemy is an enemy to the target. Anything outside of that becomes meta (like saying, I know that's an illusion because you're casting illusion spells). \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Mar 11 '16 at 17:48

An illusion is never actually an enemy of the target. It doesn't have initiative, for example, and it isn't hostile. It's the manifestation of a spell.

However, a target may believe an illusion is an enemy, and the gm may allow advantage or allow other game features to come into play because of that.

Furthermore, a target may not completely believe an illusion, but might be sufficiently distracted for it to in some way affect combat. Again, it would be up to the gm to adjudicate the exact scenario.


what part of an illusion spell qualifies as an enemy of the target?

The target of the silent image is a space, not a creature. Everyone sees it and has to determine what to make of it. If you create an image of creature or person, your enemy might believe that the image is his enemy, or (depending on the image) his friend.

You can make it appear to attack anyone you want, but the second it interacts with anything real the real things pass right through exposing the image as an illusion. It can't really attack, so it can't flank (flanking not being a real thing in 5e, I mean that it doesn't count for abilities or rules like the rogue's sneak attack -- "if another enemy is in 5 feet").

It can provide cover providing disadvantage on attacks the monster makes, if you makes something you can hide behind. It might cause a distraction that may be ruled by a DM as providing advantage on attacks against the monster.

The your enemy might target the illusion with an attack or spell, thinking it is a real threat. How certain spells interact with it would be up to your DM (like if your enemy tried to banish it does he lose his spell slot for the attempt or does not complete the spell when the touch passes through the image?).

Your enemy might burn its action investigating to see if the 15 foot tall whatever that suddenly burst into existence in front of it is a real threat or a trick of some kind. Your enemy might flee because it doesn't want to face the apparent dragon that is now staring it down...

  • The illusion isn't really an enemy,

  • It cannot provide flanking (read note above),

  • It can be the target of spells and attacks,

  • It might be able to provide cover,

  • It might be able to provide distraction

Phantasmal Force

The illusion in this spell is still an illusion. It is still not an enemy, RAW. It can appear to be create, and that creature can attack causing psychic damage.

A phantasm created to appear as a creature can attack the target. ... Each round on your turn, the phantasm can deal 1d6 psychic damage

Rules as written, there is nothing that grants this any extra consideration as an enemy as far as things like sneak attack are concerned. Some DMs would likely grant it, but that would be house rule to talk through with the DM.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to note in your answer that 5e by default has no rules for flanking; you mention it as not an option for silent image but it's not an option for anything so it could be a bit misleading. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Mar 11 '16 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ You've also only cited silent image. I asked about illusion spells. Silent image is simply one of those, whereas Phantasmal Force can actually interact with the target. That's where the confusion starts to come in. If something is perceived as an enemy, doesn't it qualify? \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Mar 11 '16 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Too small for a suggested edit: it's spelled rogue, not rouge. (Feel free to delete this comment (or flag it obsolete) after fixing.) \$\endgroup\$ – Jeffrey Bosboom Mar 11 '16 at 21:44

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