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Secret Crafts: Phantasmer

by Andrew Theisen

Phantasy and Reality: A Dissertation On The Nature Of Our Art-

by Jherek Virayana IV, Prince of Krondahar. Delivered in a covert meeting to the Sect of Phantasmagoria, Flaurmont 14, 1000 AC.

From its humble beginnings as mere sleight of hand, the art of Illusion, the practice of deceiving the perceptions of others, is one of the staples of magic worlds over. Practitioners of the art are known to have arisen on Mystara and on the original Alphatian homeworld independently of one another. There is every reason to believe they exist on other worlds and planes of existence as well.

Many wizards employ spells of Illusion in their craft, and there are those who are known to specialise in their employment. From these, the School of Illusion was first developed- a formalised curriculum of education in the craft of altering and manipulating the perception of reality as others know it. Though many divisions of the School exist, most teach the same skills and practices, though their theories may differ slightly.

One division of the School of Illusion was founded on Mystara some two thousand years ago. Certain Illusionists of Alphatian origin began to investigate the nature of the sleeping mind. They were intrigued by the apparent different state of consciousness that comes with dreaming. In particular, the phenomenon of nightmares- those horrifying dreams all men seem to have at some point in their lives- fascinated them. If they could figure out the common denominator behind such phenomenon, they reasoned, perhaps they could use them to create waking nightmares in their victims- the ultimate in perception altering experiences. It perhaps goes without saying that these Alphatian sorcerers were researching the phenomenon for use as a weapon against the cultures that surrounded the Alphatian continent.

Their researches eventually bore fruit, as the existence of the nightmare causing factor was finally discovered. Nightmares, it was learned, were due to the influence of another realm of existence that lay side by side with our own. The creatures inhabiting this realm were horrifying, evil, and just as superfluous in their realm as we are in our own. Fortunately, their realm was permanently removed from ours, such that none of the creatures had ever been encountered in the flesh.

Strangely, though, it appeared that the sleeping mind was able to contact this realm. Freed from the perceptions of waking life, the unconscious brain was capable of bridging the gap between worlds. If they could bring the conscious brain into a state resembling sleep, then the Illusionists would have found the weapon they sought after so diligently. Shortly, this sect of Illusionists had devised a number of magical abilities that utilised their new principles. Their branch of the school, dubbed the Sect of Phantasmagoria, quickly rose to prominence in certain areas of Alphatia, notably the forest realm currently known as Blackheart.

Unfortunately, the early Phantasmers did not fully comprehend the powers they utilised. Their use and abuse of their new abilities began to tear rifts in the barriers between the Nightmare Dimension and so-called "Normal Space." Great, hideous beasts poured forth from the other realm, causing havoc and warping the forest. Eventually, in response to hostilities between the elves and sorcerers of the central forests, the Council of Wizards became involved. When the Council realised the extend of damage wrought by the Phantasmers, they quickly outlawed their sect. For the first time in Alphatian history, the study of magic was illegal, at least in this form. Not until many centuries later would the Council repeal this new law.

Of course, the study of the Nightmare Dimension persisted in secret, though it never reached the extent of influence in Alphatia as it had before being outlawed. The services of Phantasmers were still sought after by Alphatian citizens- even the Grand Council itself. Halzunthram, the notorious leader of the Alphatian expeditionary force here in Glantri a century ago, personally recruited more than three dozen Phantasmers for his army. Their effectiveness during the Forty Years is noted in many historical texts, and need not be repeated here.

Following Halzunthram's defeat, many Phantasmers remained in Glantri, settling with the rest of the populace. They kept their speciality secret, as much due to tradition as to hide from those who might seek retribution for their Alphatian allegiances. Several of these sorcerers were instrumental in forming the Great School of Magic. It is here that their legacy lives on, among us, the practitioners of Phantasmagoria.

With the release of Glantri: Kingdom of Magic, and the change from OD&D to AD&D, the Secret Craft of Illusion described by Bruce Heard in Gazetteer 3: Principalities of Glantri, was altered from its original presentation. Part of the problem was that the distinction between Illusionists (the AD&D speciality) and Illusionists (called Dream Masters in GKoM) wasn't very clear. Another difficulty was that the cosmology of OD&D, upon which the Gaz 3 Illusionist was based, didn't mesh with the larger cosmology of AD&D. To that end, I have endeavoured to retool both types of Illusionists for the AD&D campaigns. Note that this retooling utilises the cosmology as originally presented by Frank Mentzer in the Gold Box Immortals set. Also note that, though mostly designed for AD&D usage, this new take can also be utilised in OD&D settings with little modifications necessary.

To that end I have developed two distinct (but related) fields of study: the School of Illusion and the Sect of Phantasmagoria (a branch of the School of Illusion). Illusionists are just as common on Mystara as they are in most AD&D campaigns, and follow much the same rules as set out in the Player's Handbook. The Phantasmers, however, are slightly different, and have additional rules.

The Illusionist

Description: Illusionists are those who specialise in sorceries that change a person's perceptions of the outside world. To this end, they utilise magics that affect the senses directly or indirectly, by altering the sensory input. They can change light and auditory patterns, physical appearances, and more, all with the intent of fooling the victim into believing things are not as they appear.

Special Name: Illusionist.

Allowed Races: Humans (and gnomes in AD&D). Elves (and half-elves in AD&D) are able to enter into the secret craft taught at the School of Magic in Glantri, but cannot otherwise specialise in the field of Illusion.

Ability Requirements: Illusionists play with the very perceptions of the outside world. As a result, a high degree of willpower and strong grasp on reality is a prerequisite to become an Illusionist. A score of 16 or higher in Wisdom is sufficient to meet this requirement. (Note that this is a change from the AD&D rules on Illusionists.)

Saving Throw Modifiers: Illusionists add a +1 bonus when rolling saving throws against any type of illusion. Opponents suffer a -1 penalty when rolling saving throws against illusion/phantasm spells cast by an illusionist. These modifiers are only used against illusions where a saving throw is applicable.

Bonus Spells and Acquired Powers: Illusionists can memorise an extra spell at each spell level, provided that at least one of the memorised spells is from the school of illusion.

Upon reaching 18th level, the illusionist gains an additional +1 bonus when saving against illusions (bringing his total to +2 on saves).

When the illusionist reaches 20th level, he gains the ability to cast a special dispel illusion spell three times per day. The spell's range is 30 yards, and has a casting time of 1. The illusionist need merely point at the subject to be dispelled and concentrates; no material or vocal components are required. The spell enables the illusionist to dispel any form of phantasmal force. It is only effective on spells cast by non-illusionists, however.

There is a base 50% chance of success for the dispel ability. For each level of the illusionist above the caster of the phantasmal force, the chance of success is increased +5%. Conversely, a lower level illusionist has a -5% chance of success per level of difference between himself and the phantasmal force's caster.

Opposing Schools: Illusionists are forbidden to learn spells from the schools of Necromancy, Invocation/Evocation, and Abjuration.

Illusionist Spells:

Audible Glamour (1st)
Cantrip (1st)
Change Self (1st)
Nystul's Magic Aura (1st)
Phantasmal Force (1st)
Spook (1st)
Ventriloquism (1st)
Blindness (2nd)
Blur (2nd)
Deafness (2nd)
Fools' Gold (2nd)
Hypnotic Pattern (2nd)
Improved Phantasmal Force (2nd)
Invisibility (2nd)
Leomund's Trap (2nd)
Mirror Image (2nd)
Misdirection (2nd)
Whispering Wind (2nd)
Confusion* (3rd)
Hallucinatory Terrain* (3rd)
Illusionary Script (3rd)
Invisibility, 10' Radius (3rd)
Phantom Steed (3rd)
Spectral Force (3rd)
Wraithform (3rd)
Fear (4th)
Illusionary Wall (4th)
Improved Invisibility (4th)
Minor Creation** (4th)
Phantasmal Killer (4th)
Rainbow Pattern (4th)
Shadow Monsters** (4th)
Vacancy (4th)
Advanced Illusion (5th)
Demi-Shadow Monsters** (5th)
Dream/Nightmare** (5th)
Major Creation** (5th)
Seeming (5th)
Shadow Door (5th)
Shadow Magic** (5th)
Demi-Shadow Magic** (6th)
Eyebite (6th)
Mirage Arcana (6th)
Mislead (6th)
Permanent Illusion (6th)
Programmed Illusion (6th)
Project Image (6th)
Shades** (6th)
Veil (6th)
Mass Invisibility (7th)
Sequester (7th)
Shadow Walk** (7th)
Simulacrum (7th)
Screen (8th)
Weird (9th)

Special Spell Notes:

Spells marked with one asterisk (*) are available as 3rd level spells to members of the secret craft of Phantasmagoria (below). Note that Phantasmers still are subject to the -15% penalty to learning Confusion (an Enchantment/Charm spell). Regular Illusionists must learn these spells at their normal levels and chances of success.

Spells marked with two asterisks (**) are not available to regular Illusionists. As (with the cosmology utilised) there is no Plane of Shadow, these spells do not exist. Similar spells are available to those members of the secret Sect of Phantasmagoria described below, however.

The Masters of Phantasm

The secret craft of Phantasmagoria is an offshoot of the school of Illusion. Practitioners of the illusory arts came to realise the affinity between their perception altering craft and the Dimension of Nightmares. Investigating the relationship further, they developed the ability to reach the Nightmare Dimensions, and bring it into alignment with "normal" space with varying degrees. The resultant effect provides them with some devastating powers. Though not all Phantasmers (as they call themselves) are members of the school of Illusion, most find the perceptual training provided by that school to be invaluable in their practice. The result is that there are more Illusionists who are also Phantasmers than there are of any other specialisation.

As their history is laid out by Jherek Virayana (introduction, above), Phantasmers may be found in isolated locations in Alphatia. This is an optional rule, however. If DMs prefer to have Phantasmers exist only in the Great School of Magic, simply rule that persecution among Alphatians and the development of differing areas of study (such as Dimensionalists, described elsewhere) caused the study of Phantasmagoria to die out on the continent in Alphatia.

Circle Advancement for AD&D (from Glantri: Kingdom of Magic, p. 99)

Circle Days Cost Experience Level Success # of Uses
1 14 500 5 000 5th 60+2/level 3 a day
2 28 1 000 10 000 7th 50+2/level 2 a day
3 42 1 500 20 000 10th 40+2/level 1 a day
4 56 2 000 35 000 14th 30+2/level 1 a week
5 70 2 500 55 000 18th 20+2/level 1 a month

Special Abilities of Phantasmers

(Note: You may either utilise these abilities in 3 ways: 1) as originally laid out in Gaz3, p. 73, 2) as per the AD&D spells of similar effects (listed after the name in the descriptions below), or 3) as laid out in the following descriptions:

Hypnosis (First Circle) (AD&D: Hypnotism, 1st level)

Periods of sleep are the most common instances during which normals come into contact with the Nightmare Dimension. The reasons for this are not fully understood, but there are many theories. One prevalent one has it that the sleeping brain, unhindered by the constant sensual perception of the first three dimensions, is somehow capable of understanding the greater dimensional reality.

Hypnosis is the ability to influence others into a state of suggestibility similar to sleep. This is the first ability learned by a Phantasmer, and in many ways forms the basis of all their powers. The ability works as per Gaz3: Principalities of Glantri, p. 73 (or Glantri: Kingdom of Magic, p. 108).

Dream/Nightmare (Second Circle) (AD&D: Dream/Nightmare, 4th level)

The caster may attempt to affect the dreams of one intelligent person, up to 1 mile away per level. He may send a message through the dream, which the dreamer will recall completely upon awakening. False messages may be sent as well, possibly affecting the dreamers reasoning upon rising (Intelligence check for NPCs; PCs should role-play their characters interpretation of the dream as appropriate.)

Alternatively, the caster may attempt to disrupt the dreamer's sleep with horrid nightmares- a glimpse of the Nightmare Dimension itself. The victims are allowed a saving throw vs. spell to avoid the effect. Such nightmares cause 1d10 points of damage, negate the effects of a night's sleep, and keep the victim from recovering his spells for the day.

If the Phantasmer fails two attempts against the victim in a row, he cannot affect this particular victim ever again (and his true face is revealed in the victim's dream). Additionally, if rolling a 01 on the ability check, the caster is caught in a nightmare of his own and awakens with the same effect as if casting a successful nightmare on his victim (1d10 damage, loss of rest, no spell recovery).

Nightmare Creatures (Second Circle) (AD&D: Shadow Monsters, 4th level)

The Phantasmer is able to bring one sleeping victim's mind into partial conjunction with the Nightmare Dimension. One intelligent creature, up to 1 mile away per level of the caster, can be affected. The total Hit Dice of the creatures appearing cannot exceed the level of the caster- eg, a 9th level caster can summon a Malfera into the dreamer's mind. All Nightmare Creatures appearing must be of the same sort.

If the creatures win the dream combat, the victim awakens screaming, and temporarily loses 1 point of Constitution. All lost points are recovered after 1 full night of uninterrupted sleep. At 0 points of Constitution, the victim goes insane. A Heal spell is needed to cure this insanity. Suspicious characters may identify the origin of the nightmares (ie, the Phantasmer) by casting a Contact Outer Planes spell.

As with Dream/Nightmare, if the Illusionist fails two attempts in a row, he may not contact this victim ever again. On a roll of 01, the Phantasmer must face a Nightmare Creature himself. If beaten, he permanently loses one point of Constitution.

(Optionally, you can have the victim make a Horror check using Geoff Gander's rules, upon awakening. Note that during combat, they will not need a Horror check, as the sleeping mind is able to adapt to the Nightmare Dimensions horrors more easily than the waking consciousness.)

Delirium Tremens (Third Circle) (AD&D: No true equivalent; use Shadow Magic, 5th level)

By means of this ability, the Phantasmer can cause the victim's waking mind to come into contact with the Nightmare Dimension. The effect is similar to those caused by the illusionist spell Spectral Force, in that the caster can create whole landscapes and images in the victim's mind. These scenes are not illusions, however (they are actual places and images that exist in the Nightmare Dimension), and thus victims do not gain a saving throw to disbelieve them. Up to 1 HD or level of persons can be affected for each level of experience the caster possesses. The spell's effective range is a radius of 120'.

If used to create damage causing images- ie, falling from a cliff, duplication of spell effects (such as a Fireball)- all damage is real. The damage caused is equal to 1d6 points per level of the caster (up to 10d6 maximum).

If the caster rolls a 01, he himself falls victim to a waking nightmare of the sort he intended to create. Even if he or she survives the damage caused by the nightmare effect, he will be trapped between Normal and Nightmare space until he either finds a way to escape the Nightmare Dimension (via magicks worked there) or is awoken in Normal space by another person.

Demi-Nightmare Creatures (Third Circle) (AD&D: Demi-Shadow Monsters, 5th level)

This ability is similar to Nightmare Creatures (Second Circle), except that the Phantasmer can bring Nightmare creatures into phase with a victim even while they are awake. Such Nightmare creatures have statistics similar to those of the Second Circle spell (1 HD per level of the caster). The caster can affect multiple victims, as well (unlike with the lower level spell). Up to 1 HD or level of victim per caster level may be affected, within a radius of 120'. Those who are unaffected by the spell see the victims fighting invisible enemies.

On a roll of 01, the caster is attacked by the very Nightmare Creatures he was attempting to summon. Further, even if he survives their attacks (all damage suffered is real), his mind will be trapped in the Nightmare Dimension until he is awoken in Normal space or manages to otherwise escape. In Normal space, his body falls into a coma-like state, and is vulnerable to any actions taken against it there.

Nightmare Walk (Fourth Circle) (AD&D: Shadow Walk, 7th level)

The Phantasmer may enter into the Nightmare Dimension itself through the use of this spell. Passage to the Nightmare Dimension may only be accomplished through areas of shadow. The reasons for this are unclear, but there are many different theories (such as that proposed by the Dimensionalists, that light and darkness are caused by emanations from the Nightmare Dimension). The ability lasts for 1 round per level of experience of the Phantasmer. The caster may affect an area of 1 yard per level.

While using this ability, the caster may travel from shadow to shadow (the effect of which is identical to a Dimension Door spell), by crossing the dimensional boundaries between Normal and Nightmare space. He may also shift himself partially into the Nightmare Dimension while remaining in place. The effect of this dimensional shift is that the caster becomes immaterial and invisible. His presence may only be detected by Detect Invisible or similar spells, and he may only be affected by magical weapons. The caster may not cast normal spells while out of phase with normal space, though he may use other Phantasmer abilities. The Phantasmer may only remain immaterial while in the cover of darkness.

On a roll of 01, the caster actually shunts himself completely into the Dimension of Nightmares, and cannot use this ability to return himself to normal space. He must find another way to return, or be trapped in the Dimension of Nightmares forever.

Nightmare Moulding (Fourth Circle) (AD&D: Major Creation, 5th level)

With this ability, the Phantasmer may bring items from the Nightmare Dimension into phase with normal space. Only items of non-living, vegetable nature or inanimate mineral matter may be thus called forth. Such objects may only be called forth from areas of darkness or shadow, but once called forth, they remain in existence for varying periods of time (equivalent to those suggested in the spell Major Creation, PHB p. 170). The range of this spell is 1 yard per level, with a duration of 1 round per level (note that the duration of the spell and the period of existence of items thus summoned are not the same thing).

Light spells cast on summoned objects act similar to a Dispel Magic spell, with the same chances of success. Shadows created by Darkness spells may be Dispelled normally; naturally occurring shadow areas may not be Dispelled.

On a roll of 01, all of the caster's items carried are themselves shunted into the Dimension of Nightmares. There they will remain until recovered by the caster, or picked up by denizens of that realm.

Dreamlands (Fifth Circle) (AD&D: No equivalent)

The High Master of Phantasmers may fully enter or leave the Nightmare Dimension once per month. Once there, he may create a stronghold of solid shadow matter. This stronghold will remain in permanent existence until physically destroyed.

Any creatures native to the Nightmare Dimension that wander into the stronghold (25% chance per week) must save vs. spell or fall victim to the High Master's control. A number of creatures equivalent to twice the caster's level may thus be controlled at any single time. While under the caster's control, the creatures will be utterly loyal and will serve and protect the High Master's territory to the best of their intellect and abilities.

On a roll of 01, the caster causes a rupture between Nightmare and Normal space. His Nightmare stronghold collapses, and any Nightmare creatures residing therein are pulled into Normal space to wherever the High Master is. The shock of transport will have driven them insane, and they will seek to destroy the caster. They will seek him every night until either he or they are destroyed.

Horrors (Fifth Circle) (AD&D: Shades, 6th level)

With this spell, the High Master of Phantasmers may bring Nightmare Creatures into full phase with Normal space, there to do his bidding. The total HD of creatures thus summoned may be up to 1 HD per level of the caster. The High Master may then bequeath the Nightmare Creatures with a mission, which they will perform to the best of their ability. The casting of this spell requires the burning of a Nightwing's tongue as the prime material component.

The creatures thus summoned arrive from the High Master's Nightmare stronghold (as in Dreamlands, above). While present in Normal space, the High Master may see and hear all that the creatures themselves see (similar to Clairvoyance and Clairaudience), and he may communicate through them. There is no range limit to this connection. Upon completion of their mission, the creatures return to the Nightmare Dimension, and are freed of the caster's control.

A roll of 01 summons the creatures, but the shock of transport drives them insane. They will seek to destroy the summoner, coming after him every night until he or they are destroyed.