It is most commonly used in the game to disguise another person, place, or thing.
Minor illusion functions by creating false sensory information with the intent of convincing the viewer through trickery or even some form of mind control. The information can be anything imaginable – sight, sound, smell, taste…depending on the campaign setting you are playing in minor illusion could have extensive magical properties.
The Minor Illusion cantrip lets you create an auditory, visual, olfactory and gustatory (taste and smell) illusion. For instance, you can make a sound seem to come from somewhere other than the direction it’s coming from or make someone taste something they’re not actually tasting.
The spell requires concentration and is sustained by your channeled energy like any spell. It won’t last for more than one 5 Minute period at a time unless you get Idle Hands to extend its duration past 3 hours. If the spell is broken during that time, either due to touching or Dispel Magic spells or hostile actions against it/you break concentration forcefully enough, the illusion instantly dissipates without harming anyone in the area of effect.
Minor illusions are spells that enchant the minds of other creatures, creating false images or other sensory effects. They can’t create anything truly substantial, so they mostly serve as a distraction, giving the caster time to slip away from enemies or to force enemies into an unprepared state. A minor illusion can be cast as a single action and lasts until concentration ends with no upkeep cost once cast.
If you’re under attack by multiple enemies and want some cover for escape, casting a minor illusion close by will confuse your attackers and foes alike long enough for you to escape without getting hit. Alternatively, if you have an archer who’s sneakily drawing near undetected, casting a minor illusion in front of him will give inaccurate directions about your position, which will buy you a few seconds before they realize that your actual location is closer.
In combat, minor illusions are best used in a way that makes it easier for your party to land hits on enemies who have no idea where you actually are – either by blocking the enemy’s vision or moving out of their line of sight and/or giving them misleading directions.
In a way, it’s similar to how you use the “fake retreat” tactic in RTS games: By misleading your enemy about where your actual location is, you prevent them from attacking you effectively and give yourself an opportunity to remove their numbers. In this case however, they will need to simply think that you’re not around instead of actually retreating.
Minor illusion is a very niche spell, but there are some games where you might find it useful. In 5E, an effective use of this spell would be to create the sound of coins clinking, or someone’s footstep nearby. It can also be used to mimic thunder without damaging players who might not want their attack or abilities cancelled out by a blast from a greater thunderstone.
I hope that was helpful! Please let me know if something needs clarifying. And as always, have fun! Minor Illusion is a very fun and rewarding spell for those who spend their D&D time at lower levels doing stealthier work. As you climb in challenge rating and encounter more potent threats to your party’s well-being, however, the utility of this spell becomes increasingly less useful. If you come across any issues with my suggested usage or have an idea for a creative use of the spell that I didn’t think of, please leave me a comment and let me know!
There are a few ways you can leverage this great little cantrip to have some serious fun during your next D&D session. The first way is as a spell interrupt. In the instance that one of your players casts a spell that requires either line of sight or has a long casting time, use minor illusion to bewilder them and make them miss their opportunity. A great example would be if they were relying on enemies being blinded by darkness or fog to sneak up on them for a melee attack – use the concussive blast from thunder wave instead!
Minor illusion also works well as an area-of-effect ability, where you can create multiple copies of yourself and confuse opponents before retreating back into the shadows with invisibility before reappearing later for another attack. Remember, the range of this ability is only 60 feet, which even in D&D 5E can be pretty limiting unless you are using a ritual or item to increase your range.