Does magic missile hit silent image's illusory creature?

Jack 03/31/2016. 3 answers, 1.216 views
dnd-5e spells illusion

Magic missile says:

You create three glowing darts of magical force. Each dart hits a creature of your choice that you can see within range.

Silent image says:

You create the image of an object, a creature, or some other visible phenomenon....

If one caster creates an illusory creature with silent image what happens when another caster targets that illusory creature with magic missile? Assuming of course that the mm caster is shooting first and asking questions later, ie, rather than using his or her action to investigate the illusion is simply choosing to attack it. Or I suppose the magic missile caster might have failed the investigation check. Either way, the magic missile caster believes the illusion to be real.

My own inclination would be to rule that magic missile would in fact appear to hit the illusory creature, but I can't find much to either support that conclusion, or to support another.

3 Answers

LegendaryDude 04/01/2016.

No, Magic Missile does not hit the target. It sails right through it. Magic Missile targets a creature, and in your mind the illusion is a creature.

Each dart hits a creature of your choice that you can see within range.

The end result is that the Magic Missile is cast, the slot is expended, but it does not hit anything unless you specified more than one creature and any of those other creatures are valid targets (non-illusionary creatures). This may give the caster reason to believe his target is not quite what he expected, and may give cause to inspect the Silent Image more closely.

As for what actually happens in the narrative when this occurs?

Let's say the caster casts magic missile and decides to hit one (unknown to him) illusionary target and two other real targets, one missile each. The missiles streak towards their targets, and hit the two real ones. The third target is an illusion and can't be hit, so the missile passes right through him. This may tip the caster off that this may be an illusion. This is the most likely scenario.

The other option is for the DM to say, "that one isn't a valid target. Try again." This, of course, tips the player off, and lets the player choose a new target for his missile. This way involves metagame information, pulls the players out of the scene, and is probably a lot less fun.

J. A. Streich 04/01/2016.

I read it this way. The spell creates an image of a creature, and the caster believes it to be a creature, so that can be a valid target of the spell. The spell hits the space the illusion is in. Since the illusion has been interacted with, it is now clear the creature is an illusion.

Physical interaction with the image reveals it to be an illusion, because things can pass through it.

In regards to targeting the illusion:

Each dart hits a creature of your choice that you can see within range.

You are choosing a creature, that creature just happens to not really exist. You believe it is a creature, so you choose it as a target.

Dale M 04/01/2016.

Each dart hits a creature of your choice that you can see within range.


You create the image of ... a creature

An image of a creature is not a creature so it is an invalid target for a spell.

If the player had said "I target this statue with magic missile because I think its a stone golem" and it isn't, you have exactly the same circumstances.

So, what happens?

So, what happens next is up to the DM because this is one of those circumstances that the RAW do not foresee; in particular the rules on Targeting on p.204 don't help. Essentially I can see these choices (others may occur to you):

  • You can't do that, try something else with your action
  • You lose your action, no spell is cast
  • You lose your action and the spell slot with no other effect
  • You lose your action and the spell slot and magic missiles impact the image/statue with no effect

Except in the first case, you have met the criteria of using an action to interact with the image so that you now know that it is an illusion.

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