Undead, illusion immune?

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Undead, illusion immune?

Postby garhkal » Fri Apr 28, 2017 1:42 pm

I am not sure if its a core rule from the MM or one of the ravenloft add ons, but does anyone remember seeing anything on undead and whether cause most of them "ARE" immune to Mind affecting spells, (charm, sleep etc) does that include illusions? And if so, does that mean the regular invisibility wouldn't work on them??
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Re: Undead, illusion immune?

Postby Halaster-Blackcloak » Sat Apr 29, 2017 2:26 am

This is one of those questions where the rule(s) (if there is/are one/any, I forget) is/are difficult to track down. [How's that for a convoluted sentence typed at 3AM?] :P

For most of the undead, the 1E MM repeats the same mantra: "Sleep, charm, hold and cold-based spells do not affect _______________." Skeletons, zombies, ghosts, spectres, etc. Most of them do not mention immunity to illusions or invisibility. 2E expanded on them, but I'm not seeing any that are specifically mentioned as being immune to illusions. I've always ruled that all undead are immune to death spells, paralyzation, fear, charm, hold and sleep spell, along with mind altering spells of all kinds (their minds are so warped as to be uncontrollable/un-influencable). Incorporeal undead are also immune to cold and to certain other spells. If the MM indicates skeletons being immune to cold as well, for example, I go with that in addition to the other immunities.

It's a good question and a hard call. Do undead have eyes that see, like normal living eyes? If so, how do they see in the dark? What about undead without eyes? Skeletons clearly don't have eyes, and zombies may have missing or rotten eyes that clearly don't function. And yet both can "see" things. Mummies can see despite having mummified eyes and liches can also see despite having empty eye sockets with red glowing pin-points of light where their eyes used to be. Should blindness spells therefore not work on these? Lots of questions.

I think the fact that the cleric has an invisible to undead spell as compared to the magic user's invisibility spell tells us that normal invisibility doesn't work on (most) undead. Hmmm. Not sure invisibility to undead existed as a spell until 2E. I'd have to check. [Checked, yep, that is the case].

In any case, invisibility can be foiled by monsters (or even normal animals such as dogs) who can smell the invisible person, or by things with 10+HD, etc, so it's not an all-powerful spell. I would argue that most undead use magical senses, because skeletons, mummies and possibly ghouls and/or zombies either have no eyes or ears or those organs are rotted and of little to no use, while incorporeal undead have no physical ears or eyes at all. I forget where it is listed in 1E, but undead move silently. Another interesting and hard to explain power.

I'm gonna have to give this some thought, but off the top of my head I'd argue that undead that can physically see (vampires, ghouls, maybe zombies) will possibly be fooled by illusions and maybe invisibility, but not incorporeal undead who are basically partly astral (ghosts, spectres, wraiths, etc). Similarly, those with clearly magical senses (skeletons, mummies, possibly zombies, liches, etc) will not be fooled by illusions or invisibility.
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Re: Undead, illusion immune?

Postby garhkal » Sat Apr 29, 2017 8:25 pm

To throw a wrench in the works, i decided to check for "Illusion" using the 'search" function in word (since my mon man is a word doc) and the only undead that even mentions anything to do with illusions are ju-ju zombies which DO get immunity to them... THough that was the 2e Mon man..
And iirc Invis to undead was a clerical spell UA added.
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Re: Undead, illusion immune?

Postby Halaster-Blackcloak » Sat Apr 29, 2017 9:07 pm

I think you're right, it might have been UA that added it. A lot of the "new" 2E spells seemed to originate there if I recall.
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Re: Undead, illusion immune?

Postby Lyrwik » Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:35 pm

I can't speak for 1st ed (only really familiar with 2nd). However, I had also thought that there was some mention somewhere of unintelligent creatures (such as mindless undead) were unaffected, but having looked through the core books, I can't seem to find anything. I think it might have been in later editions that it was made clear - or perhaps in some supplement somewhere.

On page 108 of the 2nd ed PHB, it talks about illusions vs phantasms - illusions being the manipulation of light, etc. whereas phantasms are the projection of images into the target's mind. Based on such a distinction, I think it would be logical for a phantasm to not work against a mindless creature, whereas an illusion would. However, the rules are rather unhelpful after that, as there's no real distinction in the rules of individual spells as to whether they are one or the other (with a few exceptions - strangely, Phantasmal Force is actually an illusion, and Fear is a phantasm - hence undead are specifically immune).

As for Invisibility to Undead, in 1st ed, yes it's in UA, whereas in 2nd ed, it's in the PHB. I can see the argument for why the existence of Invisibility to Undead might suggest that Invisibility doesn't work against undead since there's a spell specifically for undead, but I just don't find it especially compelling. Here's why: Invisibility to Undead is a 1st level Cleric spell; whereas Invisibility is a 2nd level wizard spell. Being a first level spell, it's inherently weaker (hence only effective against undead), and being a cleric spell, it has a different purpose, being that it's intended to assist clerics in defeating undead abominations. As such, there's nothing there to suggest that they're intended as complementary spells, simply that the cleric spell Invisibility to Undead has a much more specific (and therefore limited) purpose.

Also (at least in 2nd ed), Invisibility specifically works against infravision as well as regular vision. This suggests that it doesn't just protect against normal sight, but other forms of vision as well. To me this indicates that it's intended to work against (broadly speaking) all forms of vision. However, this is far from conclusive.

Regarding Ju-Ju zombies, yes they are immune to illusions, but it's also pretty specific that this is in addition to the usual immunities that undead typically have. However, I think this does suggest that most undead are not immune to illusions.

Overall - it appears that by the book, invisibility does work against undead (absent someone finding some other specific reference to the contrary). However, I think a DM could very fairly rule either way on it.
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Re: Undead, illusion immune?

Postby garhkal » Sun Apr 30, 2017 2:22 pm

(with a few exceptions - strangely, Phantasmal Force is actually an illusion, and Fear is a phantasm - hence undead are specifically immune).


I always laughed when i read that in the spell differentiation between phantasm/illusions. A SPELL with the name phantasm in it is actually the opposite... Talk about someone not paying bloody attention to what they are writing..
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Re: Undead, illusion immune?

Postby Cole » Tue May 16, 2017 3:02 pm

Halaster-Blackcloak wrote:This is one of those questions where the rule(s) (if there is/are one/any, I forget) is/are difficult to track down. [How's that for a convoluted sentence typed at 3AM?] :P

Do undead have eyes that see, like normal living eyes? If so, how do they see in the dark? What about undead without eyes? Skeletons clearly don't have eyes, and zombies may have missing or rotten eyes that clearly don't function. And yet both can "see" things. Mummies can see despite having mummified eyes and liches can also see despite having empty eye sockets with red glowing pin-points of light where their eyes used to be. Should blindness spells therefore not work on these? Lots of questions.


The answer is NO, they do not have living seeing eyes, they ALL see magically. Skeletons (magical), zombies (rotten and not functional, go mostly by smell), mummies (magical), same with liches.

So your answer to part B (for me) is also NO as well. Blindness spells don't work at all on undead ever. They CAN see in the dark, and smell in the dark where applicable.

Halaster-Blackcloak wrote:I think the fact that the cleric has an invisible to undead spell as compared to the magic user's invisibility spell tells us that normal invisibility doesn't work on (most) undead. Hmmm. Not sure invisibility to undead existed as a spell until 2E. I'd have to check. [Checked, yep, that is the case].


Yup, the cleric's invisible to undead is more focused and includes removing the smell part as well. Thus completely making them invisible. It is NOT to be used against living - seeing eyes.

Halaster-Blackcloak wrote:In any case, invisibility can be foiled by monsters (or even normal animals such as dogs) who can smell the invisible person, or by things with 10+HD, etc, so it's not an all-powerful spell. I would argue that most undead use magical senses, because skeletons, mummies and possibly ghouls and/or zombies either have no eyes or ears or those organs are rotted and of little to no use, while incorporeal undead have no physical ears or eyes at all. I forget where it is listed in 1E, but undead move silently. Another interesting and hard to explain power.


Bang on! ALL magical (the only answer needed) :up:

Halaster-Blackcloak wrote:I'm gonna have to give this some thought, but off the top of my head I'd argue that undead that can physically see (vampires, ghouls, maybe zombies) will possibly be fooled by illusions and maybe invisibility, but not incorporeal undead who are basically partly astral (ghosts, spectres, wraiths, etc). Similarly, those with clearly magical senses (skeletons, mummies, possibly zombies, liches, etc) will not be fooled by illusions or invisibility.


Ghouls and zombies are smell based creatures and illusions would have 0 effect on either of them IMO. They may magically see what's in front of them, but they won't care what it is... they are self driven with a single purpose. They may even run into trees etc, but I would say they see somewhat and can avoid obstacles (but perhaps not cliffs)

Vampires, now this is an interesting one. They do see! But it's magical as well (any dead creature will rot without magical properties keeping them going/animated etc). This why they can see in the dark, their sense of smell is exceptional also. The eyes don't rot and look human (at least mostly), but I rule it's magical ability. Otherwise the whole undead system doesn't work.

IF any creature has infravision it's magical (I think this is why they specifically put in night / low light vision later on to separate these visions. Low light can't see in pitch black setting, whereas infravision can.

Final Thoughts;

Undead are 100% immune to illusions and ALL mind affecting spells (they don't have minds). Fear won't work, phantasmal killer won't work, normal invisibility won't work etc.
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Re: Undead, illusion immune?

Postby Halaster-Blackcloak » Tue May 16, 2017 10:03 pm

Cole wrote:

The answer is NO, they do not have living seeing eyes, they ALL see magically. Skeletons (magical), zombies (rotten and not functional, go mostly by smell), mummies (magical), same with liches.

So your answer to part B (for me) is also NO as well. Blindness spells don't work at all on undead ever. They CAN see in the dark, and smell in the dark where applicable.


I'd agree with that answer 100%. While some may have actual physical eyes, those eyes are dead. They don't work the way living eyes do. Likewise, I don't allow blindness or darkness impede them.

Yup, the cleric's invisible to undead is more focused and includes removing the smell part as well. Thus completely making them invisible. It is NOT to be used against living - seeing eyes.


Agree again. To me, invisibility to undead is more like non-detection by undead - they cannot perceive the recipient of the spell in any way.

Bang on! ALL magical (the only answer needed) :up:


Since undead are magical creatures to some degree (in that they're not natural), they operate by somewhat different rules. I can never find the rule that says undead move silently, but I've always loved it even though in some cases it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Ghouls and zombies are smell based creatures and illusions would have 0 effect on either of them IMO. They may magically see what's in front of them, but they won't care what it is... they are self driven with a single purpose. They may even run into trees etc, but I would say they see somewhat and can avoid obstacles (but perhaps not cliffs)


I've always thought of undead as having a magical seeing ability, or detection ability might be more accurate. They "know" what's there, but they don't necessarily "see" or "smell" in the traditional sense.

Vampires, now this is an interesting one. They do see! But it's magical as well (any dead creature will rot without magical properties keeping them going/animated etc). This why they can see in the dark, their sense of smell is exceptional also. The eyes don't rot and look human (at least mostly), but I rule it's magical ability. Otherwise the whole undead system doesn't work.


I'd agree. Even though a vampire's eyes would work the same as a living eye (compared to the rotting eye of a ghoul or the mummified eye of a mummy), it's still empowered byt he Negative Material Plane so it detects things with a special sense, not the typical mortal ones. It "sees" with perfectly good eyes, but it also "sees" via another undefined magical sense. That does work to explain how undead see in the dark (or with their eyes rotted or bandaged and mummified).

Final Thoughts;

Undead are 100% immune to illusions and ALL mind affecting spells (they don't have minds). Fear won't work, phantasmal killer won't work, normal invisibility won't work etc.


I like it. That just might be the best answer, and the easiest to go with, without complicating it by over-thinking it. It deals with the issue head-on. I can, however, see demi-shadow monsters being able to affect them since they're quasi-real. Illusions, charms, phantasms, mood-altering or mind-altering spells though, no.
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