In this medieval fantasy world there are several deities that both help and hinder the prosperity of its various populations. One of the these deities is a god of illusion and lies. Master of manipulation and illusory magic, this deity seeks to cover the world in its influence and destroy any semblance of truth. There is a population of people in the world devoted to fighting this deity and its minions.

In fighting illusion, it would be difficult to tell the difference between what is real and what the enemy wants you to think is real. The question on their minds is how to tell when their victories are real, or just an orchestrated illusion.

My question is, what convincing mechanisms could be used to keep the group from becoming paranoid to the point of insanity?

  • $\begingroup$ Can the illusion turns us on fighting each other? $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 5:47
  • $\begingroup$ Are the illusions like hallucinations? What differs the perception of the illusion to the reality? If nothing, than there's no way to tell if something is illusion or not. $\endgroup$
    – jawo
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 11:53

6 Answers 6


It's all about the weakness of these illusions, which you have not discussed.

If the illusions are perfect, you have created an omnipotent god of illusion, as a perfect simulation is essentially a separate reality. You need to somehow implement a weakness in these illusions. A few possible ideas as to the weaknesses of these illusions:

  • They might be dream-like: rather formless, and if you realize you are in one, they essentially fall apart or can be controlled.
  • They might not be authentic: the best example would be people. Can fake people perfectly replicate the real ones? Senses are another possible case of this: various things might not feel "real" and give away the illusion.
  • They might be subject to being broken: such as the proverbial "glitch in the matrix." There could be things that those expecting to possibly be deceived could do to break out of the deception by straining the bounds of the illusion. Think pinching yourself to see if you are sleeping.
  • They might be limited in scope: perhaps they are small or lack certain parts of the real world. Maybe only locations you have visited exist in the illusion, or people you have met, or events you have seen.

Any of these weaknesses could be targeted via training or possibly even just expectation. Merely knowing how the illusion works and what its weaknesses are would go a long way towards defeating it.

Alternatively, maybe there is merely an upper limit on the number of people that can be deceived at a given time. This would make the group size key.

In any case, it would no doubt be useful to bang some Solipsism into anyone dealing with this situation. Evaluating the authenticity of not only your experience but of your memory and thoughts as if they might all be false would be a necessity.

  • $\begingroup$ I really liked the idea of the illusions being glitchy. I think that will allow for some very interesting plot devices. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – TheNewGuy
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @TheNewGuy Glad I could help. I have something somewhat similar going on in one of my current stories, but I went more with the dream-like case. $\endgroup$
    – user5083
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 19:21

This all depends, is there a weakness to the illusions? If they are flawless then it is impossible to tell.

What you might need to do is have all your people trained to handle illusions and taught techniques to detect them. For example visual illusions might be detected by throwing powder or sand across the area. Invisibility can be detected the same way.

Code phrases and passwords can be used to identify individuals. Tricks similar to the spinning top in Inception might also be used, something that you know works one way in illusions but not in the real world.

To go into more detail on answers though we really need more information about the scope, nature, strengths and weaknesses of these illusions.


Practice some of the reality checks used for modern Lucid Dreaming checks. For example, one of the more common ones is to get into the habit of turning the light switch of and on or on and off (basically, flip the switch, and notice the change in lighting). In reality, if the source of light is altered (powered off) than the ambient light changes (Called the "No dip, Sherlock" rule). However, in dreams, this is not the case... if you turn off a light switch, the ambient light in a room does not change... even if you turn off all the lights. Our subconcious doesn't do that.

Another technique is that you should read a book backwards word by word... to get into the habit. Again, in real life, the letters correspond to words, but in dreams, the letters do not... but we are still able to process the expected information from the dream book, even though on inspection, the dream book has gibberish and if you're lucky, it will look like the alphabet too. Again, no real reason why, but I'm always struck that the brain in a dream state does not notice more subtle environmental changes related to a source of change.

Another option is that this order, in part of it's vowel, partially blinds or fully blinds their practitioners. Sighted people who lose their eyesight for some reason are often quite capable of lucid dreaming more than fully able bodied people. Again, this is some bizarreness, but blinded people will often dream in sight, which is an immediate tell that something is wrong as they can no longer "see" in the real world. Perhaps your illusion god achieves perfect illusions by manipulating the senses, which would be perfect to someone with all sense fucntions, but to someone with a disabled sense (deafness could work too), the sudden return of a sense that they did not have would be a clue that the world is not real.



This is similar to dealing with psychological warfare in general. Training is needed and this has to be done through realistic simulation. If you have friendly gods who are willing to help, they could create practice illusions for your warriors. If not then humans must do their best with lights, mirrors and costumes.

Psychological warfare

Various techniques are used, and are aimed at influencing a target audience's value system, belief system, emotions, motives, reasoning, or behavior.



You can rely on tautologies. If you can make it good to fight the real thing, but not-bad to fight the illusion, it is provably never bad to fight.

Of course, it is very difficult to do that with fighting. The win/lose nature of fighting makes it very hard to ensure it is not-bad to fight. Instead, focus on the winning side. Allow the troops to explore win/win scenarios. It's okay if the enemy thinks it won, as long as you also feel you won.

An ideal solution would be to fight in inches rather than miles. If you can win an inch of ground without losing anything, who cares if it was against an illusion. You are happy with the situation. However, if you win a mile of ground and lose lives, whether it was an illusion or not truly matters.


You could take a note from the real world. People lie and exaggerate and use bad sources and draw false conclusions from good sources on a routine basis - to the point that the overwhelming majority of 'knowledge' is at best speculation.

It's a paid position in most companies and organisations to deceive, to one degree or another, clients and sources. Our entire society, that is to say every single one of it's metrics, exchange & value systems are valued subjectively, opinion based and subject to 'spin' and perception adjustment.

One of the ways people attempt to counter this is by 'independent' analysis reviewed by other independent sources. Such a process cannot tell you what the truth is in the present, one has always to 'act with what is in front of you' so to speak, but it does allow for error correction. A TV station could convince millions of one result in an election, but independent sources might counter the effects of that.

All that is to say that they would make an effort to keep their own records, and perhaps 'use' another deity to keep those records secure.


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