Last Updated: September 20, 2023
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While Baldur’s Gate 3’s version of Minor Illusion isn’t the same really-shaping omnitool that it is in DnD 5e, it is still a tool built for mischief. However, the in-game description of the spell is borderline useless and does nothing to explain the nuance of the spell or how to use it to meaningful effect.
If you’re an illusionist wizard, you’re locked into this spell at level 2, and gain the ability to cast it as a Bonus Action. Because it requires Concentration (a change from the DnD 5e rules), it can often compete for space with more impactful spells, but since it’s a Bonus Action, you can cast it, force enemies to turn to face it, then immediately abandon it in favor of a different spell.
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Minor Illusion’s function interacts heavily with facing both in and out of combat, so it’s crucial to understand how facing works to maximize the spell’s effects.
Creatures can see in an arc in front of them. If you hold Shift or enter stealth mode, these will be revealed as a red pattern on the floor. If you attempt to hide while inside this arc, you will fail. If you move into this arc while already sneaking, you will make a Stealth check to remain hidden.
If you approach a creature outside of their field of vision, they won’t notice you unless they move automatically (some creatures pace back and forth, for example) or you do something which causes them to turn to look in your direction.
Minor Illusion is a Cantrip (Illusion). It conjures a simple illusion to distract creatures.
Create an illusion that compels nearby creatures to investigate.
“Compels nearby creatures to investigate” is vague. See “Use in Combat” and “Use Outside of Combat”, below, for practical examples.
You can remain hidden while casting this spell.
This makes Minor Illusion especially useful for sneaky characters. The ability to cast Minor Illusion as a distraction, then move to somewhere safe without giving away your position can be a huge tactical advantage.
This spell can be cast while you are Silenced.
Not usually impactful, but if you’re short on good ideas you can cast Minor Illusion to force enemies to look away, hide, and move to safety unnoticed.
Duration: 10 turns.
Enough to last through combat if you don’t lose Concentration. The duration also ends early if no creature is successfully distracted (ex: every creature passes their Investigation check), or if creatures interact with the illusion.
- Range: 18 m / 60 ft
Minor Illusion can be cast in an area of silence. This doesn’t matter often, but it does mean that you can cast Minor Illusion, then move and hide while enemies are forced to look away.
Minor Illusion can be cast without breaking stealth. Other spells, including re-applying spells like Hunter’s Mark or Hex, causes you to stop sneaking. Minor Illusion allows you to distract creatures while still sneaking, making it easier to sneak past other creatures.
Use in Combat
Changing creature’s facing can both prevent them from making opportunity attacks and can allow your characters to hide.
In an environment with little cover, this is especially useful for rogues. If your party casts Minor Illusion, your enemies make Investigation checks. Creatures which fail then turn to face the illusion. If this means that your rogue is no longer in a creature’s field of vision, they can now hide. This allows you to use Cunning Action to hide, then immediately attack with Advantage due to being hidden.
Use Outside of Combat
Minor Illusion is phenomenally useful when used to support picking pockets. Picking a creature’s pocket causes them to start looking for the culprit, which naturally leads to them questioning you if you’re close enough for them to see you. Minor Illusion can buy you just enough time to reliably escape without being spotted or questioned.
My targets are currently standing watch. They’re not moving, which makes this very easy.
At this point, pre-cast Guidance and/or Enhance Ability to improve your ability checks. Switch to turn-based mode to help coordinate your escape. Move anyone except your Minor Illusion caster and your pickpocket away so that your victim won’t try to talk to them.
Pick their pockets. Taking any number of items is one Action. Use your remaining movement to flee.
Your target’s pockets now empty, cast Minor Illusion far away from yourself but within your victim’s sight arc. If the illusion is too far away, they may not notice it and react. Fortunately, their current facing doesn’t matter, but placing the illusion inside the facing arc helps guarantee range of detection.
Creatures now make an Investigation check. Creatures which fail are compelled to investigate, as you can see in the screenshot.
If you are in turn-based mode, this won’t occur until the “Environment Turn”. Use whatever movement (Dash if you can) to move away in the opposite direction.
This isn’t completely necessary; you typically have plenty of time to escape. But sometimes you’re overladen with items or need to escape through obstacles like buildings or other NPCs and the additional time can be helpful.
Your targets will stand adjacent to your illusion and investigate it. Pathing may cause their vision arc to do something unpredictable, so be sure to run away before the Environment Turn.
The illusion will only last briefly once creatures reach it, so you have a narrow window to escape. Stay away until the creatures give up looking for pickpockets.