Illusions: differences between PF1 and PF2


Rules Discussion


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The illusionist was always my favorite character conceptually, but one of the most difficult to play in PF 1 unless I had a very strong sense of if the GM was ready to handle really out of the box play and had an incredibly strong sense of the rules of magic down to nitty-gritty details about things like figments vs glamours, so in other words, almost never. Even then, the illusionist was stuck spamming color spray for several levels and rarely doing anything fun with illusions until reaching a pretty high level because most of the spells required silent spell, or a combination of feats to be able to pull off without being fairly obvious. Plus they all had such short durations that you couldn't really cast them somewhere else and move them any distance without having to maintain concentration for a pretty implausible amount of time.

If you want an example of how much illusions have to be arbitrated around to be functional in PF1, watch Joe O'Brian play an illusionist in the Glass Cannon Live shows and try not to cringe at how much he and Troy bend the rules to make Joe's plans not be a complete and utter waste of actions. Or look through past forums where people talk about Silent Image as either an overpowered or useless spell based upon how they interpret the rules around illusions.

PF2's basic illusory spells on the other hand look to have really addressed these issues, as well as giving fairly elaborate guidelines in the description to help GMs understand what they can do. My favorite character type feels much easier to play, as a creator of illusions and not just an invisible condition dealer and that is pretty exciting.


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Hmmm that seems to be the opposite of what I have concluded so far.

To me it seems like they have solved the problem with illusion being either OP or UP depending on interpretation and creativity by just taking most of the creativity out of it.

Now it is "make squares that create difficult terrain". Or "a creature that can hit people". Instead of anything you can imagine within this size, makes no sound (exagerating a bit)

Have I misunderstood or overlooked something? That would be great!

Paizo Employee

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TrueMonk wrote:

Hmmm that seems to be the opposite of what I have concluded so far.

To me it seems like they have solved the problem with illusion being either OP or UP depending on interpretation and creativity by just taking most of the creativity out of it.

Now it is "make squares that create difficult terrain". Or "a creature that can hit people". Instead of anything you can imagine within this size, makes no sound (exagerating a bit)

Have I misunderstood or overlooked something? That would be great!

IMO, it has a lot to do with the rules surrounding the system. Illusions were often borderline useless for PCs in PF1 due to the many things that were simply immune to them and the fact that they often had hard counters; for example, true seeing was a 5th level spell for many classes that simply shut down the vast majority of illusion effects. The "reward" for illusions being so easily overcome was that the illusions that did work were generally much more powerful than spells of a comparable level, like how color spray was famously potent in PF1 for its ability to simply end a lot of level appropriate encounters (though even then there were wide swaths of creatures that it simply didn't work against at all).

PF2 illusions are much less binary in their usefulness; rather than working effectively or not working at all they have more gradations in their effects (especially thanks to the 4 levels of success) and you're much less likely to find that a spell simply doesn't work.


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Just having a set definition for what it means to interact is huge, but also the fact that illusions require a higher level detect magic/read aura, means that a 0th cantrip doesn't give away most illusions.

Also set durations that are of decent length is a great help and having clear feats for casting spells silently/secretly is a big help.

As open to possibility as silent image was as a spell, 90% of the time I saw it used, it was a player trying to argue with a GM about what they were doing with the spell and the GM having to read through pages of rules about what different words could mean to decide if it was possible. It is important that both GMs and Players have a decent sense of what a spell of a given level is capable of accomplishing rather than thinking that they can use the spell to convincingly summon a dragon at first level without having to deal with why it has no smell, sound or aura of dread.

I love the creativity of illusion spells and I feel like PF2 does a much better job of making clear the parameters for what I can expect to do as a caster.


TrueMonk wrote:

Hmmm that seems to be the opposite of what I have concluded so far.

To me it seems like they have solved the problem with illusion being either OP or UP depending on interpretation and creativity by just taking most of the creativity out of it.

Now it is "make squares that create difficult terrain". Or "a creature that can hit people". Instead of anything you can imagine within this size, makes no sound (exagerating a bit)

Have I misunderstood or overlooked something? That would be great!

Anything you can imagine within the size of the spell sounds like Illusory Object. Difficult Terrain or a monster that can hit things are different tools, they didn't remove the old one.


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I for one am very happy with how the new Illusion mechanics work out.

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