In our popular series on smart and creative cantrip uses, we are finally tackling Minor Illusion. When discussing spells that scale with how experienced and how good you are with thinking on your feet, this one just can’t be ignored.
There are a ton of great uses for Minor Illusion in 5e, and I am sure there will be a couple you haven’t thought of yet. I prefer to use Minor Illusion during non-combat situations, as there are just more uses for this cantrip in such a scenario. However, while the spell does not deal damage, it can still be used in combat quite effectively.
We selected these Minor Illusion uses based on our experience, community input, and our notes from previous campaigns.
Great Minor Illusion 5e uses
1. Creating fake bridges
By far my most loved way to use Minor Illusion in DnD is creating fake bridges over a chasm. While this is pretty hard to pull off as most of your fights won’t be anywhere near chasms or gaps, when it does work, it is one of the most fun ways to defeat enemies.
A variation on this is making a trench – by using mold earth, for example – and putting standing-up javelins on the bottom. Then, just cover the hole with an illusion of dirt. This scenario is going to be possible a lot more often. You will need about 3 to 5 minutes to prepare this trap if you have the right spells. If you don’t have the right magic, you will need a good 30 to 60 minutes to make a decent-sized trap.
2. Creating fake treasure
If you want to lead enemies somewhere, or want to make sure they do not notice the tripwire you carefully placed, a bit of fake treasure might do the trick. Do not go overboard and create a huge pile of gold coins and valuable gems. The spell is not cut out for that, and it will be pretty suspicious anyway.
Just place a ruby amulet, a couple of coins, or a nice-looking dagger near your trap. This will often be enough to lure low-intelligence creatures where you want them to be.
3. Creating illusory cover
If you want to make sure your enemy lowers their guard, then giving them a false sense of security is one of the best ways to do so.
Your illusory cover will surely attract enemies if you can saturate them with your projectiles and long-range magic. When they are behind your cover, make sure you target them as soon as you can, as they might deduce that there is nothing there if they want to touch the cover.
Creatures behind a fake cover should have a disadvantage on their saving throws.
4. Making a Fake Distraction
The most obvious and most common use of Minor Illusion in D&D is by creating fake distractions. These can vary quite a bit. You can create footsteps or a voice to distract guards. You can make an insect appear and fly around the target to distract them. You can use these distractions to sneak by or ambush a target.
5. Creating Fake Traps
One of the best ways to slow down enemies or to make the group gather is by making fake traps. One of my favorite uses is to create a sort of safe corridor for your enemy to pass through. For example, you can place illusory traps at both sides of an area to force them straight through the middle.
When they are grouped so close to each other, you can hit them with a strong area of effect spell like Fireball. That way, you can deal damage to more targets without too much work.
Another fun thing to do is to add a series of two or three fake traps and then place a real one. By the second or third trap, they will no longer be as alert and probably think the real one is an illusion too.
6. Creating an Illusory Voice
If you want to give guidance or commands to allies and enemies, then you can also use Minor Illusion for this. You can also act as if something is haunted or as if a god is speaking to an enemy.
The main strength of this use of Minor Illusion is that you can easily cause panic among your enemies and distract them away from you and your party. Make sure not to overdo the voice and keep it to a whisper for the best effect.
7. Summoning a faux creature
There is strength in numbers, but if you don’t have numbers, you need to be clever. A great way to artificially swell your ranks is by creating an illusion of a strong creature or another character.
It’s a good idea to position this creature in a way that draws attacks and attention towards it. That way, you can mess with the action economy of your foes. When they make an attack and/or movement towards your illusion, you have just wasted some valuable actions of theirs.
8. Creating an illusory disguise
If you do not have a good disguise on hand, then Minor Illusion might be useful for this too. You can give yourself a new robe, a mustache, a different skin color, and much more. Just don’t go too overboard, as that would make it easier to spot your illusion.
Also, keep in mind that this disguise will last at most a minute. So whatever you need to be disguised for has to happen fast. This is why I would only use the cantrip as a last resort if no other option is available.
9. Creating a fake wall
If you want to make sure that an enemy takes a certain path, then consider making a fake wall. Not many people are going to check if the walls they see in front of them are real. The most effective way of using this illusion is by simply replacing the door of a building with more wall. This will cause them to go around, giving you a few seconds to escape or to do an ambush.
This way of using the spell is not a set-and-forget thing. The wall will only last around a minute, so make sure you have a good plan.
Some other fun uses for Minor Illusion
- Create a loud explosion to disorient your foes
- Create a massive boulder falling down a hill to make enemies flee
- Create the sound of a massive horde of goblins in a cave and scare off enemies
- Create the image of red eyes in the canopy, so enemies are focussing on those
Outside of combat
- Create a soothing and relaxing melody to entertain and relax
- Make an advertising board that glows to promote your wares
- Create a fake bidding war at an auction with the voice
- Create the sound of a loud argument, so you can steal in peace
- Make your wares look more valuable and rare to attract buyers
- Create the sound of people showing interest in your shop
- Aid artistic performances with nice and fun effects and make money
Some last tips
Above, I have listed some of my favorite uses of Minor Illusion. Which one is best will always depend on the situation and how your foes will react to it. Do keep in mind that this cantrip requires materials, so make sure you have fleece on hand, or you won’t be able to cast the spell.
The spell only lasts for a minute. This duration is not very long, so make sure you have a plan B in case your illusion has ended too soon. However, the major downfall of this spell is that it is not possible to move from the original location. Even though you make it appear to move in place, this will often give away that your enemy is just looking at an illusion.
This cantrip is versatile and will almost always have a use during a player session. Do not be fooled by the fact that the spell does not do damage; it is very strong in combat when used under the right circumstances and with good teamwork.
I hope you have found some interesting new uses for Minor Illusion in 5e. If we missed a good one, definitely let us know, and we will add it.
Can you create an illusion of something very specific, like a certain person?
No, you cannot make very specific illusions like a face or an artwork. You can only create generic objects and sounds. So you cannot create a shadow clone of yourself or a party member.
Can creatures with truesight see through my minor illusions?
Yes, creatures that have this ability or similar ones will be able to see through your illusions easily. These creatures will often also be able to communicate this with their allies, so keep that in mind when you are fighting multiple foes
Can my illusion cause damage?
No, you cannot cause any direct damage. However, there are plenty of ways to deal indirect damage with the cantrip. There are many Minor Illusion uses in 5e that can give you a way to deal damage, such as traps, fake bridges, fake cover, and so on.