Phantasmal force can make the target believe what they see to such an extent, they will always rationalize what they experience. This goes as far as to inflict damage on them if they experience a damaging illusion.

Reversing this, but along the same lines, can phantasmal force create an illusion that heals its target? For example, creating a luminous angel that heals the target, or a medic who injects a healing serum into their blood, or even just a guy with ten boxes of healing potions who stuffs one potion down their throat once per 6 seconds?


Yes, it can heal the target. (Qualified)

There are a variety of healing (as in hit point recovery) mechanisms in the PHB that do not require (a) some sort of medical knowledge/skill, or (b) magic, including spending hit dice during a short rest, hit point recovery during a long rest, temporary hit points accruing to a character and/or her allies as a result of (non-magical) class features. Indeed, in the real world, the field of psychosomatic medicine is concerned with precisely the question of how one's beliefs, perceptions, emotions and state of mind influence health and healing (e.g., placebo effects are one such example).

Therefore it is reasonable to infer that phantasmal force can cause healing (temporary or permanent). Of course, 5th ed. D&D is predicated on rules in the broad stroke, with DM fiat, rulings or house rules on the details (for example, such healing might be ruled to require the availability and expenditure of hit dice, etc.), so of course "it's up to the DM."

One might argue that the psychic damage mechanic described in the write up for phantasmal force somehow indicate only a possibility of psychic harm. I disagree that there is no mechanism for healing (see my first paragraph) given the spell description's emphasis on effects on the beliefs of the target creature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't say that psychic damage isn't real. \$\endgroup\$ – Liesmith Jun 10 '16 at 22:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ The main problem is that, RAW, spells don't do anything they don't say they do. E.g. it might sound reasonable to light the Grease spell effect on fire, but it does not produce a flammable substance because it would say so if it did. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Jun 13 '16 at 4:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure in 5th ed., but Grease was flammable in other editions. Also @Liesmith, saying psychic damage 'isn't real' doesn't prevent it from killing in D&D be it a sword, fireball or psychic attack, the damage is 'real' \$\endgroup\$ – John Grabanski Oct 17 '16 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bloodcinder Ok! Can you help me out a tad? By 'generalize' do you mean a 3rd paragraph "One might take position X against my view, however, blah blah blah here's how persuasive I am in this regard" Something like that? \$\endgroup\$ – Lexible Sep 17 '18 at 15:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bloodcinder Edited now, thank you for helping me improve my answer (whether or not you agree with my reasoning :). \$\endgroup\$ – Lexible Sep 17 '18 at 15:26

No, it can't heal the target.

The damage dealt by a phantasmal force illusion is psychic; the target only perceives that it is a type appropriate to the illusion. The target's mind is what's harmed. Therefore, a creature's skin won't be cut just because it believes hard enough.

Conversely, there's also no mechanism by which a creature could mentally heal itself, just by believing hard enough. Therefore, there's no way for the phantasmal force illusion to induce such healing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain If you have an answer you prefer already, please use an answer post to detail it instead of multiple comments requesting this one be changed. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 10 '16 at 14:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ The closest existing mechanism would be temporary hp. You could house rule that they get temp hp until the spell ends. \$\endgroup\$ – yinzanat Jun 10 '16 at 15:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting: HP damage isn't necessarily physical injuries, it simply represents wearing down the character. Also, Purple Dragon Knight restores hit points entirely through non-magical inspiring words, so there is some precedence for hp recovery through psychological means. I still think this is probably the right (RAW/RAI) answer, since there is no mechanism provided within the spell itself and no more general rule to allow it. It's plausible for a generous DM to allow it, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan Jun 10 '16 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ How would you characterize the fighter's Second Wind ability, which is "a limited well of stamina that you can draw on", if not willing yourself more HP? \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Harmon Nov 16 '16 at 12:40

No, it can't heal the target

RAW, phantasmal force can only inflict damage, there is no part of the description that even implies that you can heal. This alone is enough to say no.

Supporting this is the way the damage works:

An affected target is so convinced of the phantasm’s reality that it can even take damage from the illusion.

The target perceives the damage as a type appropriate to the illusion.

This damage does not change the physical state of the target, they just perceive it to.

If the spell is used to "heal" the target they will believe they have been healed, and rationalises the blood still pumping out of it's body, for instance, as being from the remaining flesh wound or whatever. However there is no physical change in the state of the target. When the spell ends they will find that they are still just as injured as they would have been without the spell.


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