troperville

tools

toys

Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Master of Illusion

"Then I shall make you see... that your hopes are nothing—nothing but a mere illusion!"

Most villains (and the occasional hero, but this is largely a villain power), if given the chance, will employ magic or mechanisms to confuzzle his or her enemies and render them vulnerable, but a Master Of Illusion will go beyond merely using such trickery as a tool. Instead, he or she will hone it into a fine art form; milking it for as much trickery, espionage, and/or personal pleasure as they can derive from it.

Such powers are usually psychic in origin, although they can also be technological as well, creating Holograms which can be especially dangerous when they can make them solid (holograms also carry the bonus of being able to fool electronic surveillance). Despite lacking obvious means of attack like with Pyrokinesis and Telekinesis, they can use a Faux Flame to burn, though resolute heroes may resist, or making a gaping hole seem like an even floor. A common variant is for the Master Of Illusion to trap the hero in a virtual reality simulation over which the villain has complete control. Of course, death or injury in the simulation will usually mean death or injury in real life, so any hero thus ensnared will have to be careful. Most Masters of Illusion aren't content to just let their VR deathtrap program play out by itself - what would be the fun in that after all? So they'll frequently appear in the simulation, usually as a cackling, monstrous tormentor who plays cat and mouse games with the hero and who mocks their every step. If the Master Of Illusion traps a hero in a Lotus-Eater Machine,—or in a simulation of their ordinary, everyday life—they'll frequently appear as an ally of the hero, using this form to distract the hero from discovering their true whereabouts, or as part of a ruse to trick the hero into revealing some important confidential information.

In more insidious cases, the Master Of Illusion will appear to the hero as a romantic interest, either one the hero knows, or one that's been created whole cloth out of the hero's own memories and desires. This gives the Master Of Illusion the chance to screw with the hero's mind (and body, depending on how far the writers let things go.)

Masters of Illusion really needn't bother with such elaborate setups. It would be easy enough, after all, to destroy a spaceship by having its crewmembers press the wrong buttons and steer it into the nearest star (this type of illusionist may often use a variant of the "This Is Not a Floor" trick). Or to kill the heroes by having them confuse each other for enemies and fatally attack each other. But again, what would be the fun in doing something as simple as that? Masters of Illusion, having Trickster personalities by the very nature of their powers, will usually not be able to resist playing with their prey. Of course, this could—and usually does - give the heroes the time and/or chance to think up a way to counter the Master Of Illusion's powers, or leave clues that they are in an illusion in the first place, such as a Blank Book. Once the villain is destroyed, the world they create usually dissolves into nothingness - provided the defeat or death of the Master Of Illusion wasn't part of the illusion itself...

And really, as a hero... how would you know? Could you ever really be sure that you defeated the Master Of Illusion and escaped? Why is Schrödinger's Butterfly flapping nearby?

(Cue an echoing "Mwahahahahaha.")

Interestingly, the Master Of Illusion will very rarely turn out to be the Big Bad - this is because they're far less interested in ruling people than they are in just screwing with them. For some reason, the Big Bad who employs a Master Of Illusion never worries that he himself might be enthralled or under their control. (Although if he were, would the Master Of Illusion allow him to experience any doubts?) Also, while the Master of Illusion is usually villainous, heroic examples are hardly unknown. If the Master Of Illusion is the Big Bad, their power over illusions may become borderline Reality Warping.

Note: This trope doesn't apply to villains who occasionally employ illusory tricks to ensnare enemies. The Master Of Illusion is a specialist in generating manipulative hallucinations, and will usually possess no other powers apart from that. (Although when you have the ability to trick the Mighty Glacier into thinking that his 6-foot long claymore is a flyswatter and that a poisonous mosquito has just landed on the back of his buddy's neck, who needs other powers?)

See also Lotus-Eater Machine, The Masquerade, The Treachery of Images, I Know What You Fear, Cold Flames and Shapeshifting Seducer. Compare Glamour. Not to be confused with Mickey Mouse's games.

For the other type of Master of Illusions, the folks who perform to entertain audiences, see Stage Magician.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn!:
    • Mukuro is master of illusion, and to a lesser extent, Chrome.
    • Actually, most users of the Mist Flame are masters of illusion, like Mammon and Genkishi.
    • The Big Bad of the Inheritance Ceremony arc Daemon Spade.
  • Tomo from Fushigi Yuugi traps the heroine in a Lotus-Eater Machine which resembled her life in Japan. He enters the simulation, impersonates a student and tries to seduce her. (He does this less because he's attracted to her and more because her powers are tied to her virginity.)
  • Phoenix Ikki, Gemini Saga and Virgo Shaka from Saint Seiya
  • Dais from Ronin Warriors uses illusions to trick the heroes into attacking each other. He also uses psychological warfare to trick one of the heroes into believing that his own Empathic Armor will eventually corrupt him.
  • In The Twelve Kingdoms, the Trickster Demon in Youko's sword shows her illusions in an attempt to get her to kill herself and do morally reprehensible things. (It also gave her good advice from time to time, so she never quite knew when to listen to it and when not to.) Eventually, Youko learned that the sword reflected her own thoughts and fears back onto her, and she decided, instead of fearing the sword's power, to use it as a tool for understanding herself.
  • Yugi from Tenchi in Tokyo usually uses this as her power.
  • Get Backers loves this trope, as it allows them to Reset Button all the heart-wrenching deaths in an arc when it turns out that most of it didn't actually happen. The IL arc was an example of a technological version (with supernatural help), and Divine Design was a purely magical one.
  • In Naruto many characters can create illusions (a sensible ability for the magic-using ninja):
    • The undisputed master is Aloof Big Brother Itachi Uchiha, who forced his little brother Sasuke to relive the deaths of their family at his hands over and over, on two separate occasions. Most people affected by his illusions become mentally scarred. It's even mentioned long after his death that Sasuke's illusion techniques still can't compare to Itachi's. And important thing to note is that Itachi doesn't solely rely on his Sharingan to cast illusions, making the whole "don't look in his eyes" plan a lot less useful.
    • This ultimately leads to a bizarre battle when two of these, Sasuke and Itachi, both used an illusion to make the other think they won—which is followed up with more illusions within the first illusions. And more within THOSE! If there was ever a fight scene that could be accurately described using the phrase Mind Screw, this would be it. They don't even move until a few chapters after the battle starts! It's all illusions! This is probably why genjutsu isn't used that much by protagonists; if it's used by more than one side, it gets real confusing and old, real fast.
    • It was later revealed that Tobi, the apparent Big Bad of the series and Danzo can create illusions and make them real using the power of the Sharingan & Senju cells. Just one of many many many insanely powerful and unbalanced techniques, those magic eyes make possible.
    • The 2nd Mizukage has also been revealed to be a Master of Illusion in his fight against the Allied Shinobi Forces. After his clam creates mirages he tries to offer advice on how to defeat them, with hilarious results.
  • Bleach. Sosuke Aizen's illusions are so powerful than anyone who sees him release his Zanpakutō even once falls prey to them ever after. There's no sure-fire way to tell if the illusions are fake or real unless you can gain excellent knowledge of the subject the illusion is covering. His Zanpakutō fits his personality perfectly, as Aizen is the creepy, mysterious, manipulative Big Bad. He also consistently shows us that illusions are not a 'soft' power. There is only one known immunity to falling under the spell: being blind. The only way to escape the power once ensnared is to touch the blade before the illusions can be activated (good luck trying to work out if the illusions are already active, however). It takes decades for Gin to learn this titbit and even then he has to wait decades more for a moment when he's absolutely certain Aizen isn't using his power before he touches the blade. Yamamoto did work out for himself that there was a relationship between the blade and the power, as he realised having the sword buried in his gut enabled him to work out the exact location of Aizen's reiatsu.
  • Kogarashi, the titular Kamen no Maid Guy, has among his (infinitely many) powers one called "Daydreaming Maid Guy Illusion." His uses for it are rather... creative. Such as scaring his master Naeka out of a forced fasting, sending one of her kendo rivals into a rampage, and other fun and games. He is a Sociopathic Hero.
  • Akio Ohtori in Revolutionary Girl Utena has elements of this, but in his world believing illusions is effectively making them real; he even makes presumably dead or terminally ill people hallucinate that they are alive and well, and they indeed are, as long as the illusion holds.
  • Caldina from Magic Knight Rayearth. Starts out as a villainess (though not a full blooded one), then has a Heel-Face Turn and sides with the heroines, becoming their Cool Big Sis in the second half.
  • A heroic example is Mako Urashima, the heroine of the old shoujo manga Mahou No Mako Chan, which is heavily based on The Little Mermaid. Thanks to a sapphire pendant given to her by her father, the King of the Sea, after becoming an Ordinary High-School Student Mako can use mermaid magic to cast diverse illusions.
  • Hellsing:
    • Zorin Blitz.
    • And, to a lesser extent, the Dandy Man, who can create illusionary clones out of cards.
  • Takumi Nishijō from Chaos;Head could be considered a master of illusion; of course his illusions mostly affect himself. But given that half the time he doesn't know if it's reality or not, I'd say it applies.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S:
    • Quattro takes pleasure in using her powers of illusion against the protagonists. Towards the end of the season, she even tricks Vivio into trying to kill her adoptive mother, Nanoha.
    • Teana, meanwhile, is a heroic example, using invisibility and projected images to confuse foes on the battlefield.
  • Pokémon:
    • In the episode "Malice in Wonderland" Mismagius shows off Master Of Illusion powers by hypnotizing all the main characters (except, inexplicably, Brock's Croagunk).
    • Zoroark, a Pokémon from the fifth generation, has the ability to take on the appearance of the Pokémon she faces in a battle. The illusion breaks when she takes sufficient damage. To top that off, Zoroark is the main Pokémon in the 13th movie, appropriately titled Zoroark: Master of Illusions. Zoroark's ability is showcased in a trailer for the 13th movie, where she assumes the appearances of the Legendary Beasts from Generation 2 (who are also featured Pokémon in the film) and Ash.
    • Zoroark's previous stage, Zorua, also possesses the same ability and stars in the 13th Pokémon movie alongside Zoroark.
    • The Gastly line has been show repeatedly to use illusions to either drive people away or just mess with them.
  • The main characters of Wolfs Rain are real wolves that give off the illusion of humans. Much to the disappointment of (some) fangirls.
  • Road Kamelot of D.Gray-Man. She uses it to Mind Rape people.
  • Titan in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX initially employs this to make people think he holds a Millennium Item. The trick is foiled when the protagonists realize that different people see different things (Hayato sees one arm vanished from Judai and Sho sees the other arm, for example), and the trick is broken.
  • Hagall from Ah! My Goddess has the power to project illusions into her opponents minds, which then become real to them.
  • Silky from Tenshi Ni Narumon has the power of creating illusions in the vacuum space that she resides in, as well as making her dolls alive
  • Plasma the Light Demon from Yaiba can create perfect illusions by manipulating the light in the surroundings.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Heroic example: Mystogan/Mist Gun is a mysterious man who usually tries to avoid contact with anyone else in the title guild. His illusions are so convincing and so well used that he's an S-Class mage, and ranks with Gildarts and Laxus as one of the guild's top three. You later find out his reason for staying mysterious: He's an alternate universe counterpart of a man who is a hated criminal in this world. He's here to stop his nation's king from carrying out a deadly plan, and he doesn't want to be mistaken for the criminal while he does his work.
    • Later on, Jellal ups the ante by impersonating Mystogan — including his magic. The fact that he's using illusion magic is itself an illusion!
    • Midnight can do this by bending light before it reaches his target's eyes.
  • Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss is one, but then again he is a Kitsune, so what do you expect?
  • Mayu from Tokko can project images into the minds of anyone within a certain range.
  • In Rave Master, the villain Lance wields the Beast Sword, which can generate illusions of creatures like wolves and dragons. Normally, he uses these to distract his opponent. He acquires the Dark Bring, Real Moment, which lets him make his illusions solid for a moment at a time.
  • In the manga of Konjiki No Gash Bell (a.k.a. Zatch Bell!), Lethal Joke Character Kanchomé is revealed to be one of these in the final saga. His illusions are so powerful and complete that not even seeing through them is enough to break the spell.
  • In Princess Tutu, Kraehe seems to have powers of illusion (along with Villain Teleportation). She uses it primarily against Fakir, manipulating him so that he won't attack her, since it's really her only way of defending herself.

     Comic Books 
  • Mysterio, a villain from Spider-Man falls into this trope, though his illusions are all based from his previous employment in the special effects industry. He even titles himself "The Master of Illusion". It's also done on occasion by Chameleon.
    • The original Mysterio committed suicide in Daredevil, and in his subsequent appearances may or may not have Came Back Wrong, with actual illusion-casting powers.
    • The Spider-Man Clone Saga included a mysterious villain named Judas Traveller who appeared to have almost unlimited reality warping powers. After many issues of build-up, it came as something of a disappointment when it finally turned out he was just an illusionist.
  • The Flash villain Abra Kadabra. Born in the 64th century, he initially used technology from his time that seemed like magic to the people of the present; however, he has recently gained the power to perform actual sorcery by striking a Deal with the Devil.
  • Older than Television Heroic example: Mandrake The Magician, regarded by many as the first superhero, who first appeared first in 1934.
  • Batman:
    • The Riddler, particularly in the animated series, was fond of tormenting Batman with illusions and virtual reality.
    • The Scarecrow does it even more, specializing in your deepest fears.
    • The Mad Hatter as well, when his Hypno Trinket thing is interpreted as trapping the victim in The Wonderland.
  • X-Men's Jason "Mastermind" Wyngarde. Two of his three daughters are even better at it (the third has different powers).
  • The only heroic X-Men character with this power is Danielle Moonstar, formerly of the New Mutants. By using her illusion power in conjunction with her basic telepathy, she can cast images based on someone's greatest fears or desires.
  • Batman foe Dr Tzin-Tzin.
  • Minor Spider-Man foe, Mirage, and Fusion, who appeared in only two stories. (Admittedly one of them was awesome.)
  • Spellbinder in The DCU.
  • Princess Projectra from Legion of Super Heroes is a heroic version of this; her illusions can fool anyone even when they know that she's using her powers on them.
  • DC Comics' Brainwave started off as a master of illusion, then inherited his dad's telepathy. Then he got stuck in the Heel-Face Revolving Door, not so much because he was that awesome, but because nobody could remember which side he was on last (or, in one case, that his dad, who had similar powers and used his son's appearance because he was a freaky midget dude, was dead).
  • Phobia, an old Teen Titans villain, has powers like the "fear" version of Danielle Moonstar's. Starting with Identity Crisis, Phobia has been turned into an incredibly squicky version of this trope, with her abducting heroes and villains to become her playthings.
  • Marvel's Squadron Supreme has Moonglow, whose myriad abilities are all illusions. The team's Hot Witch Arcanna also uses illusions, but as an incidental part of her magic powers.
  • Doctor Strange at times (usually when he wants to get rid of enemies without using force). His enemies Nightmare, Mephisto, and D'Spayre are more aggressive about it and all have attempted to catch him in a Psychological Torment Zone.
  • This is a specialty of Darth Andeddu from Star Wars: Legacy. Darth Wyyrlok, in a pure Crowning Moment of Awesome, defeats him by taking control of his illusions and turning them against him. Andeddu is so fooled that he is killed even though they were illusions, not solid.
  • Also from Star Wars, Aleema Keto from Tales of the Jedi uses massive Force illusions (some of which seem to be tangible) in battle to terrify and confuse enemies. (Nomi beats them with a Poke in the Third Eye.)

    Fan Works 
  • In Game Theory, Vesta has an aptitude for illusion magic. So far she's used it to alter her appearance, turn herself and others invisible, and blind enemies with bright bursts of light.
  • In the Pony POV Series, this is the power of the Element of Deceit. It's user can change their appearance, create illusionary surroundings, create copies of themselves, and change their voice. Dark World!Applejack actually gets better at it after her Heel-Face Turn, eventually gaining the ability to fool the sense of touch.
  • Getting Back on Your Hooves has Rarity, as in canon, but also Trixie's grandmother, Helena Midsummer, due to her special talent for theater. In "Happy Mother's Day" we actually get to see her teaching Trixie some of it.
  • Fallen King has Pegasus, who uses an endless hallway to trap the heroes.
  • Trixie is commonly depicted in fanfics to be an illusion specialist - although canonically she is far more versatile.
  • In Opening Dangerous Gates, an enemy Tengu takes it Up to Eleven because he can affect all five senses. He can easily incapacitate people by completely cutting them off from their senses. Only extremely powerful beings like Ulquiorra can shrug off and dispel the effects.

    Film 
  • Hook from Push can make any object look like another. He uses this as a Mundane Utility quite often, passing off relatively small amounts of money as large bills, and impressing people with his variation of card tricks. Used extensively in the climax. His illusions aren't permanent though, and the object will shift back to its original form after enough time has passed. Unfortunately, when Division found out he was doing this, his wife inexplicably turned up dead the next day after being involved in a car accident...despite the fact that she doesn't drive.
  • Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions features two of these.
    • The movie's villain Nix can, among various other magic feats, project images into people's minds. He makes them see "flesh with a god's eyes"... as it horribly mutates into undead and alien shapes.
    • Nix's former apprentice Philip Swann uses his powers to become a renowned stage illusionist without revealing to his audience that he is a real sorcerer.
  • The Shadowplayer in the German Expressionist classic Warning Shadows.
  • A non-superpowered version of this was F/X: Murder By Illusion, about a special effects master who finds himself set upon by a criminal conspiracy and has to wipe them all out.
  • The Illusionist features one as a protagonist who uses sleight of hand and ingenious mechanisms.
  • The protagonist of Oz the Great and Powerful is a perfect example of this trope.
  • This is the defining trait of Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe because it distinguishes him from his brawnier brother, Thor. In Avengers he asks if Thor is ever not going to fall for one of his illusions.
  • Scanners movies:
    • In Scanners, Kim Obrist briefly causes a security guard to collapse in tears by appearing to be his mother.
    • Scanner Cop II: During the final battle Staziak repeatedly creates a diversion by making Volkin attack an illusory projection of himself, causing Volkin to waste energy trying to kill Staziak.
  • The Japanese sorcerer Nakano in Highlander III: The Sorcerer, Connor MacLeod's mentor, possesses the power of illusion, using it to confuse his opponents. Kane steals it from him by killing him, using it to impersonate people and create fake projections to trick them.
  • Jason Stryker’s power, most of which is expressed in crafting landscapes and scenarios for his victims to wander, though at one point he also creates an illusion of Xavier being able to walk again. Impressively, during the climax of X2: X-Men United, he's able to keep two different illusory scenarios running at the same time.
  • The B-movie Dark Haul features a version of The Jersey Devil that can project illusions into its victims' minds. One of its pursuers, taking a breather from hunting it, pops the top off a can of soda in the truck full of weapons he and his associates brought to kill the creature ... only to discover (too late) that he's trying to drink from an armed grenade.

     Literature 
  • Sorceress Iris of the Xanth books had this as her Talent, and is capable of projecting illusions over long distances.
  • Mara in Lord of Light. Based on Indian mythology, naturally.
  • In Royal Chaos, the sequel to comedic fantasy Jason Cosmo, the wedding of a main character turns tragic due to what he immediately recognizes as the intervention of one of these. This leads to going on a quest to discover just which Master Of Illusion was responsible (there turn out to be several candidates with equally strong motives) and kill him/her/it (one's a shapeshifter as well), despite that they're clearly just being toyed with whenever the Master bothers to check in to see how they're doing. Pretty much all the uses of illusion mentioned above come into play at some point against the heroes.
  • Archimago in The Faerie Queene
  • Peter Riviera in Neuromancer has the ability (enhanced by circuitry replacing a lung) to project the holographic products of his twisted psyche as art, distraction, weapons of terror, and even offensive lasers.
  • Jacob Maskelyne, the Wizard, of the Seekers of Truth. When he's really bringing his A game, no one near him can detect anything that he doesn't want them to.
  • Mars is Heaven, the classic sci-fi short by Ray Bradbury. An expedition to Mars is surprised to find an Earth village populated by all their deceased relatives, only to realize too late it's a trap designed to lure them outside their rocketship so they can be easily murdered.
  • 'Spook' of The Shapeshifter series, pity his powers don't work on his nemesis.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Carthoris and Thuvia witness a battle between auburn-haired, white skinned men, green men, and banths. But when it ends, they see only the bodies of the last two. Shortly thereafter, they learn that the city uses such illusions to protect itself—and are accused of being illusions themselves.
    "They lay in piles," she murmured. "There were thousands of them but a minute ago."
  • In Everworld, the witch Senna Wales started casting psychic illusions at age eight, and only got better at them as she grew older. Even after her power-up upon entering Everworld itself allowed her to use several new types of magic, illusion remained her strongest suit. She is able to make herself appear to be anyone or anything she can picture in her mind, turn invisible, and exclusively exclude certain targets from her trickery, allowing certain people to see her while she is invisible to others. She is also apparently able to spot others using illusion, as another witch tried and failed to fool her with the same tactic in the ninth book.
  • In A Planet Called Treason, there's a tribe that specializes in this. The only way they can be detected is by moving in a faster relative timeframe (the trait of another tribe). It leads to some squicky revelations in regards to a prior encounter when the protagonists realizes that it wasn't a woman that seduced him.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Shadows In Zamboula", Baal-pteor uses this to delude Conan into fighting shadows. Kull faces a race of them in "The Shadow Kingdom".
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Lasciel from is one of these, but mainly just to Harry. When she first came out to play, she had Harry believing she was a bookstore employee, and even decked out an entire run-down tenement to look like comfortable housing to forward the illusion. This made Harry look somewhat delusional to everyone else as he talked to the woman that wasn't there. When Harry calls her on it, she shows how nasty she can get by triggering a curtain of fire, forcing Harry to go running for the fire escape... which doesn't exist, and would've resulted in him falling to his death if he hadn't hesitated.
    • Harry's apprentice, Molly, is also very skilled at illusion. While she's not good at physical magic, veils are second nature of her, and in time, she learns to use the combat applicability of bringing the sound and lights of a rave straight to a battlefield. In Ghost Story, Molly has found numerous ways to use small illusions to get people to fight each other, such as making a dirty cop think that the man bribing him is reaching for a gun.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Rokur Gepta, the last Sorcerer of Tund, in the Lando Calrissian trilogy. For example, he has a You Have Failed Me moment quite a bit like Darth Vader's in Episode V, except that instead of choking his minion to death, he tortures him with images of his worst nightmare. (He later subjects Calrissian to a similar treatment.) It's eventually revealed that He's a Croke, a species of Always Chaotic Evil arachnids who specialize in this sort of powers. The fact that he inherited all the secrets of a powerful force sect made a bad situation far, far, worse.
    • Oh, why is that such a spoiler? We get a reference to the "tiny Crokes" of a certain planet in a way that makes it seem a minor throwaway reference. Turns out one reason the big scary Big Bad Gepta is so hard to battle one-on-one is because in addition to everything else, he isn't there. The real Rokur Gepta is about the size of a mouse and projecting an image of a humanoid foe; no amount of blaster fire can harm an enemy that's several feet below where you're shooting.
    • In this universe, we also have a bunch of Force-users adept at this power. For example, Exar Kun uses a similar trick as the one described above to torture Corran Horn with his own fears. Corran himself, like his ancestors, is also proficient with illusions, which almost makes up for them not having telekinesis. And how does Corran use it? Sometimes in battle, and sometimes so Tionne can see how she’d look with different hair.
  • Penny from GONE uses this power mainly to induce horror and for prostitution purposes.
  • Kroniki Drugiego Kręgu has a mage caste called Illusion Weavers. They create illusions that not only look, but also sound, feel and smell like the real things. A really good Illusion Weaver can draw blood from you with an illusionary shuriken. One character uses this ability to become invisible, among other things.
  • Shadows on the Moon has a number of them.
  • Muiren Shae from Shadow Grail has the gift of illusions, part of the School of Air. Another School of Air gift, Shadewalking, is somewhere between this and Invisibility.
  • A Mage's Power:
    • Averted by Basilard. Despite being a top-tier mage and knowing several illusion spells his skill with them is poor because they're not his speciality. This is why he usually forgoes them in favor of straight up combat.
    • Dengel, Eric's other mentor, advises Eric to become one of these because he doesn't have the sheer power to overcome his enemies.

     Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Painkiller Jane the team hunts an enemy that uses illusions to kill people on the Witness Protection Program that were murderers, and is caught by the protagonists with his power apparently neutralized. When they go to check up on him at the internment center, he was "transferred to another facility"... but there was no other facility.
  • Farscape has two examples. First, Delvian Pa'us of a high enough level can alter one's perception of reality to the point of completely rewriting their memories. In the episode Rhapsody in Blue, while visiting a Delvian colony, the Pa'u's used this power of illusion to prevent the crew from leaving before their business concluded; one Delvian even convinced Crichton that she was his fiancee who had traveled with him on the Farscape project. A more classically villainous example is Maldis, a recurring character with some very impressive magical powers, among them being the ability to project visions and illusions. Given that he was also an Emotion Eater, he used this particular power to provoke fear and rage from his victims, which he would then feed on.
  • Star Trek:
    • The oldest Star Trek example must be the original pilot, "The Cage", footage of which was reused in the only Original Series two-parter, "The Menagerie". The Talosians, alien inhabitants of planet Talos 4, are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens with psychic powers who use them to cause the illusion so realistic that their victims will believe anything - that they found a camp of crash survivors from many years before, that they are beautiful when they are in fact disfigured, or re-create whole landscapes out of memories of the victim (how the victim moves around such a landscape while in fact he's in a small cage, is left unanswered, but probably the movement is part of the illusion). A Talosian not only manages to convince his victims there's no hole in the wall (that they just made with a phaser), but also threatens the example from page text: to manipulate Enterprise crew into pressing wrong buttons and driving their ship into a crash.
    • In the Next Generation episode "Devil's Due" a con artist used holograms, transporters, and tractor beams to try and fool a planet into believing she was their version of the devil, here to collect on a thousand-year-old deal.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • In the episode "Persistence of Vision" an alien tries to capture Voyager by drawing illusions from their subconscious fantasies (a Negative Space Wedgie does the same thing in "Bliss." The short version is, it's not a Negative Space Wedgie, it's a giant creature's jaws.). Eventually Janeway captures the alien and threatens to lock him up for the duration of their journey, whereupon he replies "I'd really like to accommodate you, but you see... I'm not really here!" whereupon he vanishes. In "Coda" an alien takes the form of Janeway's father and tries to convince her that she's been killed. The afterlife he's trying to entice her into is actually his realm where "you will nourish me for a long time." It sure looks like hell. And there's the sinister clown in "The Thaw", the creation of the fears of a group of aliens in suspended animation. Unfortunately he completely dominates their world and can kill them through stress-inducing illusions (like being decapitated by a guillotine) if they attempt to leave.
      • In "Remember", "Memorial", and "Living Witness" in that the person creating the illusions isn't a villain; they're just trying to inform people about a shameful incident in their own history.
  • Supernatural:
    • The Trickster, especially in his first appearance. Also creates his own illusion of Supernatural's TV shows and traps Sam and Dean inside.
      • This illusion was SO good that The Trickster claimed it was real, which was not a lie, given that he is an Archangel with Reality Warper powers.
    • Also War in Season 5, who manages to dump a whole town into armed conflict using no more than illusionary black demon eyes on people.
  • Heroes:
    • Company agent Candice Willmer, using her power of illusion to impersonate Simone Deveaux (to keep the NYPD from arresting precog Isaac Mendez), Sandra Bennet (as part of a sting to catch HRG betraying the Company), Niki Sanders (to kidnap technopathic kid genius Micah Sanders), and Niki's Superpowered Evil Side Jessica (to keep Niki from taking Micah back). To keep Micah from escaping, she cast an illusion that made every door and hallway lead back to the room he just left. She also created a simulation of a Maui beach inside a rundown shack in the middle of a Central American jungle and tried to seduce Sylar into working for the Company by offering to make all his fantasies come true (assuming said fantasies included a geisha; blonde, athletic twin women, and even himself).
    • Later in Volume Two, we are introduced to Matt Parkman's evil father Maury, who has learned how to use his Telepathy to project illusions into people's minds.
    • Matt Parkman himself! Not only can he create illusions, he can also force them into thinking what he wants is exactly what they want with Mind Control.
  • Chuck Norris dealt with one such Indian shaman in an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. The bad guy multiplied himself to confound Walker, but he realised only one of the images is breaking a sweat. It seems to be a relatively common way to defeat illusionist villains.
  • The Fair Folk use this as their primary power in the 1998 Merlin series.
  • Daigo, The Heavenly Illusion Star from Gosei Sentai Dairanger

    Tabletop Games 
  • Vampire: The Masquerade has the Ravnos clan and their specific Discipline, Chimestry. Its general levels range from affecting one sense alone to creating illusions so tangible they do damage. When you get into the elder levels, reality gets... strange.
  • Geist The Sin Eaters has the Phantasmal Key, which deals with the hallucinatory and ephemeral aspects of death and the afterlife. When filtered through the various Manifestations, its powers include cloaking oneself in guises so horrific they rend sanity (Caul), causing someone to experience terrible visions (Curse), hitting someone with an illusion so powerful it causes damage (Rage), and causing yourself to look like anyone else (Shroud).
  • In Magic: The Gathering:
    • This is a standard ability of blue magic. The typical mechanical representation is that the illusory creature you summon is cheaper than usual, but opponents can Shatter The Illusion—if the creature is targeted by some effect, the illusion breaks and the creature dies.
    • This common weakness is negated by "Lord of the Unreal," a wizard that beefs up illusions and makes them impossible to target.
    • Jace Beleren is a prominent user of illusion magic in the storyline and in the Video Game Adaptation Duels of the Planeswalkers. However, this has not appeared on any of his four planeswalker cards so far, a fact that Head Designer Mark Rosewater has publicly regretted.
    • Also, Ixidor's title is "Reality sculptor". He's such a good illusionist, he can will his illusions into reality!
  • Dungeons & Dragons has plenty of illusion spells, and Halfling Bards tend to be illusionists.
    • For several editions, the Wizard/Mage class had specialist variations, who specialized in one specific school of magic. Illusionist was one of them, and back in 2E Gnome mages had to be illusionists. And before there were specialist wizards, illusionist was its own class. In all cases, a high-level illusionist was a master of illusion by default.
  • Illusion spells in Kitsune: Of Foxes and Fools are powerful Trick cards that double a fox's wits when scheming against a specific type of fool. Like False Riches works best on greedy fools. Of course, other kitsune are immune to illusions.

    Toys 
  • Several characters in BIONICLE, including Makuta, Toa of Psionics and anyone using a Mask of Illusion.

     Videogames 
  • Zexion, one of the members of Organization XIII in Kingdom Hearts. Illusions are pretty much the only things he uses with the heroes, and he doesn't even get to be a boss battle in the original Chain of Memories. Of course, that doesn't make him a pushover.
    • Final Mix + And Re: Chain of Memories show just how far the Cloaked Schemer can impliment his powers. Creating copies of himself and his book, creating pocket worlds where meteors rain down on you, and even mimicing your weapon and fighting style.
  • Reisen Udongein Inaba of Touhou Project has the ability to refract and twist light and other waves, both disorienting and confusing her enemies with illusions and inducing insanity.
    • Nue Houjuu has a variation on this power: she can disguise the true shape of things. Including herself, so no one has ever seen her true form, and she has appeared different to everyone who's ever seen her.
  • Stanislaus Braun ensnares the main character in his virtual world as part of the story of Fallout 3.
  • The Mesmer class of Guild Wars boils this trope down into a spellcaster profession, with illusion (in addition to domination and inspiration) magic as one of their primary attributes.
    • This applies even more to the Mesmer in Guild Wars 2, where they are able to conjure up a small army of illusory doubles of themselves and can are also capable of rendering themselves and their allies invisible.
  • In City of Heroes, Illusion Control is a powerset for heroic Controllers.
  • The Spy in Team Fortress 2 can disguise as one of the enemy's team in order to backstab them, or as a different class of his own team in order to cause confusion and misleading.
  • Hargon from Dragon Quest II. A good deal of the game is spent just trying to find a way to break through his illusions.
  • Pokémon Black and White introduces Zoroark and its pre-evolution Zorua, who come with the ability Illusion. In the games, the disguise is dependent on the Pokémon positioned last in the player's party. However, the illusion is broken whenever the user takes direct damage from another Pokémon's offensive move.
  • Laughing Octopus in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is arguably this. She's able to hide herself as nearly anything or anyone within the small medical clinic you fight her in, sometimes turning invisible, pretending to be your Robot Buddy, cloaking herself with inky mist, sometimes even just playing dead as one of her subordinate soldiers. While all this is going on, an extremely disturbing soundtrack laced with dissonant laughter plays. Laughing Octopus also effectively has access to the powers of Doctor Octopus, too, due to the four large mechanical tentacles attached to her.
  • Emperor Ladantine of Lusternia was a Master Of Illusion and a Dream Weaver, making him an adept spy and very dangerous after his Face-Heel Turn. He managed to hide the fact he had become a lich through illusion - though he slipped up at least once, when it was noticed he was not affected by the extreme heat of the Plane of Vortex, cluing the good guys in as to his real nature.
  • Anyone holding one of the Pieces of Eden becomes one of these in the Assassin's Creed franchise.
    • This is used as an explanation for many seemingly impossible or unlikely events in history, including Jesus's miracles. You can even do some of it in the games, such as Altaďr using an Apple of Eden to defeat an entire army by causing them to think an army of assassins is striking them down.
  • Illusions in Defense Of The Ancients All Stars are simply copies of units that deal proportionally less damage than its original, take much more damage, and can't use active skills. While sometimes they can come in handy for tricking the enemy into thinking it's you, they are more often used by carries to multiply their damage output. Chaos Knight, Terrorblade, and Naga Siren are carries that use illusions of themselves to deal damage and have skills that synergize with illusions well, and any hero can have two copies of themselves by using a Manta Style or picking up a Rune of Illusion. But the true king of illusions is Phantom Lancer. Not only do all but one skill create illusions of himself, his illusions can create illusions. With as much as 14 Phantom Lancers on the map, things can get hectic when you're facing an army of him.
  • Circe from Heroes of Newerth specializes in illusions and plays this trope straight by craftily utilizing them to trick her enemies. She has the ability to create an illusion of any hero, which means not only can you create several illusions of your team's carry to multiply its damage output, you can recreate your own team and maybe trick the enemy team into wasting their skills on them. Another skill discretely turns herself invisible and leave a copy of her illusion to distract her foes while she makes an escape.
    • Silhouette also deserves a mention, as her ultimate creates an almost perfect illusion of herself. While normally illusions are proportionally weaker than its original, her illusion is unusually powerful and at max level, it actually takes and deals normal damage. She can also swap positions with her illusion, which is great for avoiding damage should the enemy team try and kill her.
  • Mother Maya from Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is so goddamn powerful, her illusions can warp entire dimensions.
  • Jagar Tharn from The Elder Scrolls: Arena kidnapped the emperor and used his magic to look and sound just like him.
    • Throughout The Elder Scrolls franchise Illusion is one of the magic schools available to the player, defined by the ability to alter the world without respect to the physical laws, but only affecting the caster and the target. While some effects are mostly useful when exploring (such as making lights), it can also be used to calm an enemy or frenzy someone into attacking, and more importantly to paralyze someone. Illusion school also covered the Chameleon effect, which was a Game Breaker if brought up to 100%.
      • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim the perk 'Master of the Mind' allows you to use illusion spells against undead,daedra and automatons. However, many illusion spells from the previous game (Oblivion) are missing or placed in different schoolsnote 
  • This is the theme of the jester-like Illusionist class in Eden Eternal. Blending this sort of illusion with both stage and true magic. Though not much of it is seen in actual gameplay.
  • Izanami, the Big Bad of Persona 4. Fitting, as the game's central theme is about finding the truth.
  • This is a specialty of Darth Phobos from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. She takes Juno Eclipse's form, makes it look like there is an army of her, and even clouds Starkiller's vision.
  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the Scarecrow uses hallucinogenic gas on Batman to play with his mind. Since this is a video game, this causes Batman to enter a Mental World populated by skeleton enemies where Scarecrow is fifty feet tall. If you lose in combat during these levels, Batman goes insane. (And when you defeat the giant Scarecrow in the final one, Batman breaks through the illusion and beats Scarecrow senseless).
    • In the sequel Batman: Arkham City drugs are used to similar effect. In the ritualized fight against Ra's al Ghul Batman uses his cape and grapple gun to fly through air courses and then does battle with ninja sand clones and a giant spell-slinging sand ninja. When Batman is abducted by The Hatter he fights rabbits on a giant watch in an Amazing Technicolor Battlefield.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Sith Inquisitor's master, Darth Zash is revealed to have meddled so much in the Dark Side that she ended burning up her youth in the process. Her young and beautiful appearance is revealed to be simply an illusion created by the Force, to hide the fact she really looks like a wizened old hag.
  • In Disney Princess Enchanted Journey, Genie Bogs' mirages shatter trust in Jasmine's world.
  • Dimentio from Super Paper Mario. He can make his own dimensions, construct magical, destructive cages and Talks Like a Simile. He is also an Omnicidal Maniac who not only murders the entire Mario cast but wants to ''destroy the entire universe and recreate it in his own image! Definitely the real Big Bad.
  • Zonda from Azure Striker Gunvolt has this power. It manifests as the ability to create portals that move you or the enemies, and at one point flips the entire stage upside-down (which also means you have to press up twice rapidly instead of down to reload).

    Web Comics 
  • Mort from Gunnerkrigg Court just uses his powers to scare people (and he isn't even very good at it). Martin seemed to have similar powers, though he was using them unconsciously—and fooling himself as well.
  • Girard Draketooth from The Order of the Stick is / was a master illusionist (probably on Epic Level). Notably, he rigged his dungeon with a spell that traps people in a Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • Fata Morgana in Flipside, so well that she can trick spells with her illusions.
  • Vish, an angel of the Trickster Goddess in The Water Phoenix King, at the end of Book 4, in order to prevent Kawunei from killing his escaped slave to protect his reputation. He promises to teach the art to Anthem after revealing the truth.
    • The dubious sorcerer-adventurer Vax regularly employs illusions as a way of evening the odds in melees, using charms and talismans as the magical equivalent of Snakes-In-A-Can [1].
  • Jack Snipe, from Erfworld, is a Foolamancer, a caster with powers of illusion and misdirection. His use of them on the battlefield repeatedly demonstrates the main purpose of illusion magic: to get the enemy to look the wrong way at the right time.
    • He's no slouch at elaborate and planned deceptions, either, fully capable of casting an illusion over an entire army (spoilers in that link). In the backstory, he was capable of hiding whole cities.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the Demonic Duck (being a professional distraction) is also a self-proclaimed master of illusion.
    Justin: That couldn't have been an illusion! She tickled me!
    Duck: What part of "master" are you failing to understand?
  • Magick Chicks: During her first combat exam, Jacqui suprised everyone by casting multiple illusions at once without anyone suspecting anything was amiss. She goaded Chastity into KO'ing herself, by using one illusion to disguise herself as Sandi, while using another spell to make a tree appear to her.

     Web Original 
  • In the Red Panda Adventures episode 51, "The Puzzle Master", this is how the villain ensnares his victims in a seemingly endless maze.
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, multiple characters are Masters of Illusion. Peekaboo, a member of the Vandolls supervillain team, creates light-based images. Mindscape projects images into the minds of her opponents, as does the Indian supervillain Rakshasa. Amethyst is a sorceress who specializes in illusion magic. Dream Catcher manipulates people's dreams and can bring them into reality as illusions. Figment, a student at the Hyperion Academy, creates holograms.
  • Confundus of the Whateley Universe loves to do the illusion bit, but has other powers she can call on (but only one at a time: she's a Package Deal Psychic). Then there are Beltane and Thorn, who are both masters of illusion because they're tricksters: they both manipulate ectoplasm.
  • Nyx from the web serial Worm can create ultra-realistic illusions that are somehow made of poison gas.
  • Mikelle, the main character of Polyhistor Academy, specializes in Illusions. The creator once compared what he can do to [[Manga/Naruto Itachi]].

     Western Animation 
  • Zarm, a shape-shifting evil spirit from Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
    • Gaia, the good spirit can do this as well. Her spirit appearance can be summoned by Mat-Ti's Heart Ring, or she can appear to tell Planeteers they had an eco-crisis cooking up.
    • The Heart ring has an element of telepathy. If not for the fact that it's not that kind of show, there's no reason Ma-Ti couldn't make the villains think a cliff was flat ground and make the enemy a rather icky mess a thousand feet below.
  • Mad Mod in the Teen Titans animated series is a tech-based master of illusion, controlling holographic emitters by use of his cane.
  • Another good Master of Illusion: On Jem, Synergy's output are life-like holograms.
  • The teenage Guardian, Scooter, from The Gobots, uses his holograms to help the Guardians trick the Renegades.
  • Speaking of bots, Transformers Generation 1 had Hound as their illusion master—but Megatron saw through Hound's fake rocket base.
  • The Cloaked Skull from Teamo Supremo.
  • In Static Shock, the West African hero Anansi the Spider has the power of storytelling, granted to him by the sky god Nyame; this tends to manifest itself as the ability to project illusions. He can also walk on walls for some reason too, although that can just be another illusion!
    • Another, slightly more villainous example from Static Shock; Mirage, Boom's kid sister, also has the power to create illusions. Unlike Anansi, she received her powers from the Big Bang that gave all of the other show's metahumans their superpowers. Slightly villainous because her heart's not in it at all, and there's something Woobieish about the way she always holds her arms across her chest as if she were cold.
  • Heroic example: Action Mom Helen Bennet/Mother-1 from Bionic Six.
  • The Psycho Pirate, as portrayed in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He traps Batman and the Outsiders in a Your Mind Makes It Real simulation so he can feed off their negative emotions. What takes it to Master Of Illusion level is when Batman exits the simulator and sees Psy Pi off-handedly kill the Outsiders, and flips out. Turns out Bats is still inside the sim, and the apparent deaths were an illusion to trick him into powering Psy Pi with his rage.
  • In Defenders of the Earth, Mandrake The Magician is actually called this during the Theme Tune Roll Call.
    "Master of magic, spells and illusion, Enemies crumble in fear and confusion! Mandrake!"
  • She hasn't used it much, but Rarity from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has this is one of her magical abilities, as shown in "Suited For Success" when she used it to provide special effects for her second fashion show. Pretty much everypony's entrance involved completely changing the stage into some fantastic location, all done by Rarity's magic.
    • Zecora also uses illusions to spice up her telling of the story of Nightmare Night.
  • Darcy from Winx Club uses this as well as her psychic powers to manipulate people for her own purposes.
    • Mirta also uses illusions, though Darcy can see right through them.
  • The Impostors from The Secret Show use holograms to shapeshift into anything and anyone they want.
  • The fairy Puck in Gargoyles, borrowed from the character in A Midsummer Night's Dream, can work incredibly detailed illusions ... as well as genuine transformations (and of course, he'll never say which is which).

     Real Life 
  • There's a reason magicians are sometimes called "illusionists".
  • Pretty much any animal that employs camouflage or mimicry to protect themselves from predators (or drive them away, in some cases) qualifies, but the reigning champion of natural world masters of illusion are the cephalopods (octopi, squids, cuttlefish, etc.). Not only can they change color to match they're surroundings, but their skin texture as well. The mimic octopus, in particular, is a good example.

Making a SplashStock SuperpowersMaster of Your Domain
Manipulative BastardThe TricksterMooching Master
Manipulative BastardVillainsMaster Poisoner
The IllusionistImageSource/Live-Action FilmsI'm Gonna Git You Sucka
Mass HypnosisMind ManipulationMeditation Powerup

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
116198
0