Minor Illusion 5e
You create a sound or an image of an object within range that lasts for the duration. The illusion also ends if you dismiss it as an action or cast this spell again.
If you create a sound, its volume can range from a whisper to a scream. It can be your voice, someone else’s voice, a lion’s roar, a beating of drums, or any other sound you choose. The sound continues unabated throughout the duration, or you can make discrete sounds at different times before the spell ends.
If you create an image of an object–such as a chair, muddy footprints, or a small chest–it must be no larger than a 5-foot cube. The image can’t create sound, light, smell, or any other sensory effect. Physical interaction with the image reveals it to be an illusion, because things can pass through it.
If a creature uses its action to examine the sound or image, the creature can determine that it is an illusion with a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC. If a creature discerns the illusion for what it is, the illusion becomes faint to the creature.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: S, M (a bit of fleece)
School: Illusion cantrip
Player’s Handbook, pg. 260
Minor Illusion 5e
For spellcasters who like to fleece their foes, the Minor Illusion cantrip is a tempting offer. While not as powerful or dynamic as later Illusion spells like Silent Image and Major Image, Minor Illusion has more uses and applications than you might think. Let’s go over the basics, as well as the best ways to pull the wool over people’s eyes with Minor Illusion.
Who Can Cast Minor Illusion in 5e?
The following classes have Minor Illusion on their spell list:
The following subclasses get Minor Illusion for free:
- Wizard (School of Illusion)
What Does Minor Illusion Do in 5e?
Minor Illusion creates a three-dimensional object no larger than a 5-foot cube or a sound, either of which lasts for up to one minute. You can recast Minor Illusion or dismiss the illusion as an action, and it does not require a verbal component to cast or concentration to maintain.
A creature can use its action to investigate the illusion by making an Investigation check against your spell save DC (8 + proficiency bonus + spellcasting modifier). If a creature discerns the illusion, it becomes faint.Wizards of the School of Illusion have an improved Minor Illusion that can create both a sound and image simultaneously (PHB 118).
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how Minor Illusion works.
What Are the Rules for Minor Illusion in 5e?
The rules for Minor Illusion in DnD 5e are as follows:
Images can’t move. When used visually, Minor Illusion essentially creates a stationary, static hologram when you cast it. If you put an illusory hat on your head, it won’t follow you as you move. Lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford has confirmed this.
Physical interaction breaks the spell (kind of). The description clearly states that “physical interaction…reveals the image to be an illusion, because things pass through it.” However, what’s less clear is whether that applies only to the creature who interacted with the illusion, everyone who saw it happen, or everyone — regardless of if they saw it happen.
Here’s a Sage Advice thread in which Jeremy Crawford confirms that the illusion becomes evident to all who “witness the revelation.”
In other words, if anyone witnesses an illogical physical interaction (such as a hand going through something), the illusion immediately becomes faint to them. So if you hide in an illusory barrel and shoot someone from behind it, you’re an unseen attacker (more on that below), but if the target sees the arrow coming out of a barrel, they’ll see through the illusion right away (and you’ll give your location away (PHB 195).
Minor Illusion can obscure you from sight. As mentioned above, one popular tactic with Minor Illusion is hiding behind an illusory wall or an illusory container. This can make you an unseen attacker and target, giving you advantage on attack rolls and enemies disadvantage on attack rolls against you (PHB 194-195).
Just keep in mind, as this Sage Advice thread points out, that most creatures will need to kneel in order to fit within/behind the 5-cubic foot illusion.
An obscuring image blocks enemy sight, but not allies. The spell description indicates that “if a creature discerns the illusion for what it is, the illusion becomes faint to the creature.” Presumably, you and your allies are aware that you’ve cast an illusion and therefore discern it for what it is — meaning it is faint and therefore not obscuring your or their vision.
Minor Illusion can’t create creatures (technically). While the spell description clearly states and Jeremy Crawford confirmed that the spell is limited to creating objects. However, what’s less clear is the gray area of things like statues, taxidermied animals, and other lifelike objects.
Our two cents: a static wax statue of an Orc is a-okay (supplementary DM advice below).
The illusion can’t create sensory effects. Light, smell, heat, etc. are all off the table for this one.
Minor Illusion doesn’t require concentration to maintain. It just lasts for 1 minute, or until the caster dismisses it or casts it again.
Fun fact: Minor Illusion has the longest spell description (194 words) of any cantrip in DnD 5e.
How Do I Use Minor Illusion in 5e?
While Minor Illusion is the most limited of Illusion spells, it still has plenty of fun and practical applications:
Bolstering ability checks. Getting an advantage on ability checks is the most popular application of Minor Illusion. There are so many different versions of this that we need to break each of them down:
Intimidation. Creating the sound of an approaching army, the shriek of a banshee, the roar of a dragon, or the voice of a commanding officer can be just the thing to make your party seem a whole lot more fearsome than it really is. Note that this may only work on less intelligent, more easily-awed creatures.
Deception. Minor Illusion can be used in similar ways to gain an advantage on Deception checks. Need to get past a locked and guarded door? Have the guard’s buddy (whom you dispatched earlier, after learning his voice) tell him to open up.
Sleight of hand. Sometimes, you just need to palm something valuable and leave the room without anyone noticing. Ideally, they won’t notice the missing item until you’re long gone. To make your job easier, you can buy yourself a one-minute head start by duplicating the stolen item in the same location.
Performance. If you’re a Bard trying to win over a crowd, using Minor Illusion to create an image of the battle you sing about can give you an advantage on Performance checks.
Persuasion. Maybe you need an official-looking seal or signature to get into the room full of nobles. Minor Illusion should be good enough to create a forgery (provided you know what the real thing looks like).
Hiding, observing, losing foes, etc. Obscuring yourself to gain the unseen attacker attack roll advantage is a popular application of Minor Illusion. It can also be good for hiding bodies of slain foes, observing a place without being noticed (the ol’ “in-an-illusory-barrel” trick), or having an easier time hiding from foes that are chasing you.
Bait, distractions, and diversions. A big pile of gold or gems, the voice of a screaming ally in the distance, or even the image of a duplicate of yourself (at DM discretion) can be the perfect thing to bait, distract, or divert your foes.
“Blocking” pursuers. In narrow passages, you might be able to throw off pursuers by throwing up an illusory wall (or something more menacing) behind you.
Communication. Need to communicate without speaking? Create a little hovering message over your head that acts as a speech bubble using Minor Illusion. Or come up with pre-established bird-cries for different meanings. Or literally whisper to your allies from up to 30 feet away.
Pictures and false objects. If you have an item that a BBEG wants, you can use Minor Illusion to pretend you have it already. Or you can make a picture of a person that you’re looking for. What quicker way to find your quest objective?
Arcane Trickster madness. Arcane Trickster Rogues have the most to gain from using Minor Illusion in combat. The unseen attacker bonus not only gives them advantage, but also the bonus damage from Sneak Attack.
Minor Illusion does take an action to cast, so it’s best used as an ambush set-up or in a situation where you can duck behind the illusion multiple times without enemies becoming aware of the illusion.
Illusion Wizard fun. Illusion Wizards can create sounds and visuals with Minor Illusion simultaneously. Now your taxidermied dog can make barking sounds, or your pile of gold can whisper “take me” enchantingly at passers-by. At 14th level, Illusion Wizards can also make one inanimate, nonmagical illusory object “real” for 1 minute.
Is Minor Illusion 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Minor Illusion is a good spell that creative players can have loads of fun with. While limited in its combat capabilities, Minor Illusion has plenty of out-of-combat applications that you can’t get out of most cantrips.
There’s also the stipulation that comes with every illusion spell: Minor Illusion is as good as your DM allows it to be. Work with your DM to understand what is and isn’t allowed with the spell, and you’ll have a much better and more consistent time with it.
Minor Illusion 5e Compared to Prestidigitation
Prestidigitation has many similar applications as Minor Illusion, and it has additional ones as well. Prestidigitation can produce sensory effects like smells, light, and heat, clean or dirty a small area, leave long-lasting marks, and create very short-term illusory objects of hand-held size — and you can maintain up to 3 of these effects at a time.
Minor Illusion benefits from having no verbal component (adding to its stealthiness), its superior range, and larger maximum size. Minor Illusion also has more potential limited uses, because imagination (and the spell description) are its only limitations, whereas Prestidigitation’s uses are clearly spelled out.
All in all, they’re both fine spells that achieve similar effects — talk to your DM about how you plan on using one or the other to learn which one can give you more of what you want. Definitely don’t take both if each is on your class list; it would be pretty useless and redundant.
Minor Illusion 5e DM Tips
Minor Illusion can be a tricky spell for dungeon masters — allow too much, and players get an overpowered cantrip; allow too little, and players won’t have fun with the Illusion school or see any reason to pursue it. When players get frustrated by its capabilities, remind them that Minor Illusion is a cantrip and the school of Illusion has more impressive things in store for them later.
One fun way to lean into the gray area of Minor Illusion’s creature-making capabilities is to make players get better with illusion magic if they want to make more lifelike faux-creatures. For example, a first-level Wizard might make a childish deformity that fools exactly no one when trying to create an illusory Goblin, but at level 20, it may be a genuine work of art.
In short, be communicative, be consistent, and reward creativity from your players. Illusion spells feel really satisfying when they work, but they’re only attractive enough to pick up when players understand the spells’ full rules and applications.
Simple Minor Illusion 5e Spell Text
Minor Illusion: (cantrip, 30 feet, 1 minute, S/M (a bit of fleece)) You create a sound or static object in range that lasts the duration. The spell ends if you cast it again or dismiss it with an action. If you create a sound, it can be continuous or discrete. If you create an image, it can be no larger than a 5-foot cube and it can’t create sensory effects.
Physical interaction with the image reveals it to be an illusion. A creature can examine the illusion with an Investigation check against your spell save DC. If it discerns the illusion, the illusion becomes faint.