Thursday, December 23, 2010

Faking Being an Illusionist

Perhaps my favorite childhood AD&D character was an Illusionist.

I'm currently playing a different kind of Pathfinder character, and it would be extra fun to somehow make my character a bit of an old-school Illusionist.  The Pathfinder rules provide great ways to do this!

First, the foundation.  The spell silent image is the iconic illusion spell.
This spell creates the visual illusion of an object, creature, or force, as visualized by you. The illusion does not create sound, smell, texture, or temperature. You can move the image within the limits of the size of the effect.
This spell only creates a visual illusion but can make a big one that is moving, even far away.  Thinking of clever ways to fool the enemy using only silent image is much of the fun and challenge of the classic AD&D Illusionist character.

Now, the only weakness silent image has is that, as a first-level spell, the opponent's saving throw to resist it does not increase as the game goes on.  Its illusions are initially effective, but later on powerful opponents always notice the illusion is fake.  To fix this problem, spellcasters use the feat Heighten Spell to increase the saving throw difficulty.
A heightened spell has a higher spell level than normal (up to a maximum of 9th level). Unlike other metamagic feats, Heighten Spell actually increases the effective level of the spell that it modifies. All effects dependent on spell level (such as saving throw DCs and ability to penetrate a lesser globe of invulnerability) are calculated according to the heightened level.
So far so good.  But at this point my character is just a spellcaster who memorizes a bunch of hyped-up silent image spells.  That's not really an Illusionist.  So we turn to the feat Preferred Spell (which somehow lacks its own page in the SRD) to allow using any spell as if it were the character's favorite spell.
Choose one spell which you have the ability to cast.  You can cast that spell spontaneously by sacrificing a prepared spell or spell slot of equal or higher level.  You can apply any metamagic feats you possess to this spell when you cast it.  This increases the minimum level of the prepared spell or spell slot you must sacrifice in order to cast it but does not affect the casting time.

Ah, much better!  Now anytime my character does does not think he will cast that a particular spell that day he can use a correspondingly hyped-up silent image instead.  That feels like something deserving the name "Illusionist".

But it gets better!  Eventually the feat Spell Perfection will allow a favorite spell to freely benefit from any one metamagic feat.
Pick one spell which you have the ability to cast. Whenever you cast that spell you may apply any one metamagic feat you have to that spell without affecting its level or casting time, as long as the total modified level of the spell does not use a spell slot above 9th level. In addition, if you have other feats which allow you to apply a set numerical bonus to any aspect of this spell (such as Spell Focus, Spell Penetration, Weapon Focus [ray], and so on), double the bonus granted by that feat when applied to this spell.
This feat is only available late in the campaign, but is the bee's knees when combined with Preferred Spell.  Am I misreading the rules, or could my character really apply Heighten Spell to silent image freely, using a first-level spell slot to create a visual illusion with the saving throw of a ninth-level spell?

Alternately, my character could use Disruptive Spell to make the illusions briefly disrupt enemy spellcasting.  Even more fun, my character could use Quicken Spell to create an illusion and then fake reacting to it: perhaps pretending to carefully jump over an illusionary pit that just appeared, or pretending to duck under an illusionary portcullis as it closes.

NOTE: This plan is certainly not the way to make a very powerful character.  It requires using up five feats (because Spell Perfection has a prerequisite of knowing three metamagic feats).  The character would be much more powerful learning the four feats Spell Penetration, Greater Spell Penetration, Spell Focus (Conjuration), and Augment Summoning as well as some other fifth feat.  But this could be so much more fun!

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