[5E] Disguise Self - Scope and RAW

Fenris-77

Explorer
I have a question for the group. Disguise Self allows the caster to change his appearance to "look different". This would seem to include all general humanoid possibilities based on the rest of the spell text, but I'm not sure about the scope for the spell to make you look like specific people. From a RAW perspective this would seem to be included inside "look different" but it would change the scope of the spell considerably, especially in intrigue/social pillar campaigns.

The specific reason I'm curious about the range of opinion is I've been looking hard at the utility of a 2 level warlock dip for Mask of Many Faces (disguise self at will) maybe combined with the mimicry ability that's part of the Actor feat, as part of a Bard-based Spy/Infiltrator skill monkey build. If Disguise Self lets you look like specific people, and Actor lets you perfectly mimic their voice, the possibilities are pretty sexy.

Personally, I think this might be more DMs discretion than straight RAW, but I'd like to know what people think.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The spell says that other than having the same body type, the extent of the illusion is up to the caster. So, I would say that this means you can look like specific people.

That said, as DM, it seems reasonable in the absence of specific mitigating circumstances that it is harder to pull off than appearing to be some non-specific person. Thus, I recommend being ready to have to hit some higher DCs if an NPC tries to discern that you are disguised.

And, of course, the disguise may be noticed the moment that an NPC physically interacts with your character. Something to bear in mind. A simple hug or handshake or other common physical interaction may spoil the illusion.
 

Immoralkickass

Explorer
You definitely can look like specific people, because if its not allowed, it would be spelled out explicitly, like in Assassin's feature for Rogue.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
That brings up another good question. Disguise Self has a built in INT (investigation) to see through specifically the physical part of the illusion. However, the game has different mechanics for pretending to be people, namely Deception, and the actor feat gives advantage on that kind of role. So is the disguise simply physical in all instances (so always INT), or does Deception come into play when the disguuse has more than one element? I can see an argument going both ways.
 

Immoralkickass

Explorer
That brings up another good question. Disguise Self has a built in INT (investigation) to see through specifically the physical part of the illusion. However, the game has different mechanics for pretending to be people, namely Deception, and the actor feat gives advantage on that kind of role. So is the disguise simply physical in all instances (so always INT), or does Deception come into play when the disguuse has more than one element? I can see an argument going both ways.
Looking like someone else is one thing, behaving like someone else is another. Of course YMMV depends on DM, but mine has always have NPCs believe the disguise at first glance, until given sufficient reason to suspect otherwise (thats where the Investigation check comes in). Actor only helps you sound like them, but if you say things that the disguised NPC would never say, that won't help you.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
My point was more that Deception is the 5e mechanic for instances of "pretending to be someone else", which is why you make a deception check when in disguise seperate from the check to make the disguise using the disguise kit. My question would then be is the spell Disguise Self, in this instance, standing in for just the physical disguise? More specifically, does Deception interact with it in the same way it does with a physical disguise? Because if it does most characters have way higher mods for Deception than their basic spell DC. Its an effectiveness question.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
My point was more that Deception is the 5e mechanic for instances of "pretending to be someone else", which is why you make a deception check when in disguise seperate from the check to make the disguise using the disguise kit. My question would then be is the spell Disguise Self, in this instance, standing in for just the physical disguise? More specifically, does Deception interact with it in the same way it does with a physical disguise? Because if it does most characters have way higher mods for Deception than their basic spell DC. Its an effectiveness question.
In D&D 5e, the ability check happens when the task that is being described has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. With that in mind, we can deconstruct how this is handled. Passing yourself off as someone else (goal) by using a disguise (approach) might reasonably be resolved by a Charisma (Deception) check, if the DM decides to call for one. Your character is undertaking that task. An NPC on the other hand might interact with your character and, during that interaction, try to closely inspect your appearance (approach) to figure out if you are who you say you are (goal). Thus, the DM may make an Intelligence (Investigation) check - a deduction based on available clues - to resolve any uncertainty as to the outcome here.

A DM may resolve this based on who is describing what task at what time and what exactly is at stake in that moment. It might also be resolved as a contest in which case your Charisma (Deception) check becomes the DC for the NPC's Intelligence (Investigation) check.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I'm completely fine with the INT check in cases of physical inspection, variable DC or not, that makes sense. Extending things to add the Deception check is a little less clear, from a RAW perspective at least, and that was what i was curious ro get opinions on. If the character with expertise, for example, gets to roll deception (with advantage!) it puts the whole endeavor at a very different level of effectiveness. Assuming you can avoid the physical inspection pitfall.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm completely fine with the INT check in cases of physical inspection, variable DC or not, that makes sense. Extending things to add the Deception check is a little less clear, from a RAW perspective at least, and that was what i was curious ro get opinions on. If the character with expertise, for example, gets to roll deception (with advantage!) it puts the whole endeavor at a very different level of effectiveness. Assuming you can avoid the physical inspection pitfall.
Charisma (Deception) is what the rules say is the ability check used to resolve a task to pass one's self off in a disguise, if there's uncertainty as to the outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. That is the task your character is undertaking.

The spell creates uncertainty and, presumably a meaningful consequence for failure, by default which prompts the Intelligence (Investigation) check from (in this example) the NPC if it attempts to undertake the task to inspect your appearance. "Inspect" does not appear to mean any sort of "physical" inspection. Engaging with the disguise physically removes the uncertainty the spell provides and reveals it to be false under certain circumstances as outlined by the spell.

In short, the two ability checks resolve two different tasks by two different people: The character trying to pass himself or herself off as someone else or the NPC trying to inspect the character's appearance. It depends on who does what.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Let me be clear. I agree with you completely. I can see a certain kind of GM sticking to the straight INT check though, and I was sort of wondering how many guys like that were out there. When it comes to things like guides and general builds, establishing some consensus of opinion is important.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Let me be clear. I agree with you completely. I can see a certain kind of GM sticking to the straight INT check though, and I was sort of wondering how many guys like that were out there.
If I had to guess, there's probably more of them than either of us would find desirable. That's especially true of DMs who consider this sort of character build and associated tasks to be problematic for their event-based adventure prep. There's a lot of incentive in such a scenario for the DM to treat the ability check like a saving throw.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
If I had to guess, there's probably more of them than either of us would find desirable. That's especially true of DMs who consider this sort of character build and associated tasks to be problematic for their event-based adventure prep. There's a lot of incentive in such a scenario for the DM to treat the ability check like a saving throw.
Yeah, again i agree with you, sadly. I wasn't approaching this as a "surprise, your whole plan for the night is effed" sort of character build idea. I'm more interested in finding ways to pad the social interaction pillar and create some different and interesting ways to interact with a primarily intrigue-based campaign. The whole idea is kind of limp in a dungeon crawl, although creativity does go a long way.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yeah, again i agree with you, sadly. I wasn't approaching this as a "surprise, your whole plan for the night is effed" sort of character build idea. I'm more interested in finding ways to pad the social interaction pillar and create some different and interesting ways to interact with a primarily intrigue-based campaign. The whole idea is kind of limp in a dungeon crawl, although creativity does go a long way.
It seemed like in your initial post you were considering a character for a specific campaign. If so, I'd be curious to know how your DM typically runs social interaction challenges and how you'd think this character's effectiveness would rate in that context.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Actually, I'm the GM. My next campaign for my current group could be a lot of things, but I would really like to run an intrigue heavy social interaction kind of thing. To that end, I'm exploring a bunch of ways my life could be made unexpectedly difficult. I'd like to flesh out that side of the game in advance and do some proactive problem solving. I get that I can do what I like in my own game (obviously), but I'm also interested in broad based consensus approaches to that sort of thing, in a way that would, for example, lead to an intrigue campaign guide. Rules are always better with input.
 

MarkB

Hero
In terms of checking whether a creature suspects you of being disguised, I'd play it as a Charisma (Deception) check opposed by other peoples' passive Wisdom (Insight) checks. Anyone who doesn't know the person you're disguised as doesn't get a check. If a person has specific reason to doubt you, they may make an active check as an action.

As the Intelligence (Investigation) check requires an action, I'd only have someone make the check if their Insight check had given them reason to doubt your identity, or if a physical interaction had made the illusion somewhat apparent, or if they were actively inspecting all passers-by (such as at a guard checkpoint).
 
I have a question for the group. Disguise Self allows the caster to change his appearance to "look different". This would seem to include all general humanoid possibilities based on the rest of the spell text, but I'm not sure about the scope for the spell to make you look like specific people. From a RAW perspective this would seem to be included inside "look different" but it would change the scope of the spell considerably, especially in intrigue/social pillar campaigns.

The specific reason I'm curious about the range of opinion is I've been looking hard at the utility of a 2 level warlock dip for Mask of Many Faces (disguise self at will) maybe combined with the mimicry ability that's part of the Actor feat, as part of a Bard-based Spy/Infiltrator skill monkey build. If Disguise Self lets you look like specific people, and Actor lets you perfectly mimic their voice, the possibilities are pretty sexy.

Personally, I think this might be more DMs discretion than straight RAW, but I'd like to know what people think.
I definitely think Disguise Self allows to try and look like a specific individual. What are the chances of success are another matter, and it's impossible to pin them down because of too many variables, so the DM has to make some judgement.

You can use the spell for a variety of purposes, in vague order of difficulty:

- you can look different enough from yourself (so that someone looking for you would fail to recognize you)
- you can look like another race
- you can look like another specific individual

The difficulty is circumstantial, for example if you're trying to look like an orc, it should be very different whether you then show yourself to a human who perhaps hasn't even seen an orc personally, or an actual orc who should have an easy time spotting gross mistakes in your disguise.

Similarly, you might be able to fall for someone disguised as a famous individual you've seen only in pictures, but the disguise may not easily fool their mums.

In addition, as a DM I'd like to decide the difficulty also based on how much the caster herself knows about the look of the race/individual she's trying to pass for.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Actually, I'm the GM. My next campaign for my current group could be a lot of things, but I would really like to run an intrigue heavy social interaction kind of thing. To that end, I'm exploring a bunch of ways my life could be made unexpectedly difficult. I'd like to flesh out that side of the game in advance and do some proactive problem solving. I get that I can do what I like in my own game (obviously), but I'm also interested in broad based consensus approaches to that sort of thing, in a way that would, for example, lead to an intrigue campaign guide. Rules are always better with input.
I recommend taking a look at the social interaction rules in the DMG. It provides a useful structure for creating a challenge as opposed to just social interaction for the sake of exposition. An "intrigue heavy social interaction kind of thing" is going to lack a lot of exciting stakes, unlike combat, so that's another thing I'd look at and the challenge structure in the DMG will help.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
General response... based on my read and how it plays st my table...

The illusion changes your looks, that's it. Give someone a chance to touch you or an interaction which can reveal you acting differently than it seems, and you open the door

Looking like someone else- that's the spell.
Seeming to be another person especially a specific person to folks who may know them or know of them - that's deception, though I tend to give advantage due to the disguise unless they touch you or you say something.

"Witnesses say a heavy set dwarf in the uniform of the Serpent Guard" - spell.

"Witnesses saw the barkeep Harley Foster and gave chase" - deception plays into that.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The way I run it depends on the interaction. Impersonating a random guard? Okay until you don't know the password, don't respond like a guard would or someone bumps into you and realizes you aren't really wearing armor.

However, it does nothing to disguise your voice or mannerisms so impersonating a specific individual if you interact with anyone that has actually met that person is likely to fail. It is, after all, only a first level spell. So impersonate someone that people have only seen a picture of? Only briefly seen or at a distance? You have a decent chance. Need to interact with someone who knows the individual? The gig is up as soon as you open your mouth if not sooner. Need to interact with someone that only has passing knowledge? Disguise time.
 

Len

Prodigal Member
Previous editions had an explicit rule that Disguise Self gave a bonus to the skill check for disguising yourself. I would do the same in 5e.
 

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