Disguise Self 5e Guide: How Does it Work?

D&D is not always about hacking and slashing your way through swarms of enemies. There can be situations where you need to deceive your way to victory. Infiltration and stealth missions can be present in a campaign.

Maybe you need to get an important letter that is kept safe in a highly secured mansion. Perhaps you are all low in health and in need to go inside an enemy’s ranks to avoid confrontation.

There are many ways to approach these situations. You can sneak your way in, which is perfect for the Rogue Class. You can also fake it till you make it by deceiving your enemies. Bards are viable for such a role as their high charisma. However, if you do not have a bard in your party, other spellcasters can fill in that void. How? Through the Disguise Self spell.

Disguise Self can change your appearance completely as seen through the naked eye. It is an incredibly useful spell to have as it can help you through many difficulties. At times when your appearance is crucial to achieving your goal, the Disguise Self can save you from a pinch. Read more to get a better look at this spell and realize how practical it can be.

What is Disguise Self?

To understand the spell, we need to take a look at its full description. The details of the spell below come from the Player’s Handbook, page 233:

    • Disguise Self
    • 1st-level illusion
    • Casting Time: 1 action
    • Range: Self
    • Components: V, S
    • Duration: 1 hour

You make yourself—including your clothing, armor, weapons, and other belongings on your person—look different until the spell ends or until you use your action to dismiss it. You can seem 1 foot shorter or taller and can appear thin, fat, or in between.

You can’t change your body type, so you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs. Otherwise, the extent of the illusion is up to you.

The changes wrought by this spell fail to hold up to physical inspection. For example, if you use this spell to add a hat to your outfit, pass objects through the hat, and anyone who touches it would feel nothing or would feel your head and hair.

If you use this spell to appear thinner than you are, the hand of someone who reached out to touch would bump into you while it was seemingly still in midair.

To discern that you are disguised, the creature can use its action to inspect your appearance and must succeed on an Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC.

It is a level one illusion spell that lets you change your appearance, including your clothes, armor, weapons, and other belongings. The next section will go into detail on how this spell works.

How to Use Disguise Self

How to Use Disguise Self

To use Disguise Self, you would need at least an available level one spell slot. Do note that if you expend a higher-level spell slot to use Disguise Self, it would have the same effect as expending a level one spell slot. This is because Disguise Self has improved the level of the spell slot.

You can cast this spell only on yourself; you cannot make other people look different. In combat, casting it will take up your action for your turn. However, it can last for an hour, which would be a whopping 600 rounds. Of course, in the normal fight would even reach that number. The spell lasting for an hour is more helpful outside of combat.

You cannot transform into anything you so desire; there are limitations. Listed below are the limitations on what you can transform into, as stated in the spell’s description.

  • You can change to look only one foot taller or shorter. So if you are a three-foot-tall Halfling, you cannot appear to be like an eight-foot-tall Goliath. The reverse also holds.
  • You can change to look thin, fat, or in between. If you are trying to impersonate someone who has a different body weight than you, Disguise Self can still solve that problem.
  • You cannot change to look like a different body form. No, a humanoid cannot cast this spell to look like a spider. As stated in the spell’s description, the altered appearance must have the same arrangement of limbs as the caster.

And that’s it. You can add any clothing you want to your disguise, whether it be a fashionable vest, a sturdy chest plate, or a ludicrous hat. Just remember that you cannot change to look like a body form not similar to yours.

How does Disguise Self Work?

How does Disguise Self Work?

The Disguise Self spell is an illusion spell that alters the outer appearance of the caster. Note the nuance in “outer appearance” because the spell does not change anything physically, only visually.

Therefore, if you are casting this spell, you would still have your belongings, and you would still be the same person. It’s just that other people can see you differently.

Think of it as a hologram; touching it would result in nothing but air. If you added a hat to your disguise, other people trying to touch it would just touch air. Similarly, belongings and clothes that you have hidden using Disguise Self could be physically felt if someone reaches them. In their perspective, it would look like they are touching the air!

A creature can actively see through your disguise. During combat, doing would only be considered as their action. When trying to inspect your appearance, the creature must succeed an Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC. The spell save DC differs from class to class.

Who Can Use Disguise Self?

Surprisingly, there are a lot of options and ways for a character to use Disguise Self. Firstly, let’s talk about the D&D classes that can use it. Listed below are the four classes that can use the spell along with the source they are from and their spell save DCs.

Note: If you are nitpicky about characters being legal for Adventurers League (AL), the Artificer is AL Legal for Eberron campaigns only, not Forgotten Realms campaigns. However, your DM can still introduce this class if they want to. It is entirely up to your own game.

Classes That Can Use Disguise Self Source Spell Save DC
Artificer Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, page 9

 

 

8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier
bard Player’s Handbook, page 51 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Sorcerer Player’s Handbook, page 99 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Wizard Player’s Handbook, page 112 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier

Next, the subclasses. Listed below are four subclasses that can allow the use of Disguise Self, along with the source they are from and their spell save DCs.

Subclasses that can use Disguise Self Originating Class Source Spell Save DC
Arcane Trickster pray Player’s Handbook, page 97 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier
Eldritch Knight Fighter Player’s Handbook, page 74 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier
Gloom Stalker creak Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, page 41 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier
trickery domain Cleric Player’s Handbook, page 62 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier

Some races can inherently cast Disguise Self due to their natural abilities. Below are the four races that can do so, along with the ability to cast, the source they originate from, their spell save DCs.

Note that races originating from the Eberron setting (ie, the Mark of Shadow Elf) are AL Legal for said campaigns only. But again, it is entirely up to you, the players, and the DM. D&D is a fun game, not a courthouse of strict rules.

Races that can use Disguise Self The ability that allows its casting Source Spell Save DC
Elf (Mark of Shadow) Spells of the Mark (needs to have the Spellcasting or the Pact Magic class feature) Eberron: Rising from the Last War, page 49 depends on the class
Firbolg Firbolg Magic Volo’s Guide to Monsters, page 107 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier
Tiefling (Dispater) Legacy of Dis Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, page 21 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Tiefling (Glasya) Legacy of Malbolge Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, page 22 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier

And there are still three more ways to cast this spell! Unbelievable, right? The first one is the Dimir Operative background, originating from the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, page 46.

This is also not AL Legal for the Forgotten Realms campaigns, only the Eberron campaigns. If your character has this background and has the Spellcasting or Pact Magic class feature, then they can add Disguise Self to their list of spells to choose from.

Another alternative to using Disguise Self would be through an Eldritch Invocation known as the Mask of Many Faces, found on page 111 of the Player’s Handbook. Eldritch Invocations are forbidden knowledge that warlocks can learn.

They can gain several of these depending on their level. The Mask of Many Faces is one of them, and it allows warlocks to cast Disguise Self at will, without using any spell slots at all.

Finally, you can also use Disguise Self through the use of items. One such item would be the Hat of Disguise, as found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 173, on the Magic Item Table F.

Those who wear this hat can cast the Disguise Self spell at will, and during combat, this would take one action. The spell (along with the disguise) automatically ends when the hat is removed.

Is Disguise Self Good?

Is Disguise Self Good?

It can be considered good depending on the circumstance. On the battlefield, there is not much use of Disguise Self to deal damage, help your allies, or hinder your opponents. Again, the use of the spell is purely situational. Most of the time, Disguise Self is used outside of combat.

For example, you are trying to enter someone else’s house, Disguise Self would be a good spell to use. You can cast it to change your appearance similar to the homeowner, and no one would question you getting in there. Another great way to use it would be by deceiving others.

For example, you want to make the villain’s minions go away from the castle gates. You can cast Disguise Self to make yourself resemble the villain, then tell those minions to go somewhere far from the gates.

What’s good about the spell is that it is a first-level spell. That means it is very accessible early on in the game. From the very first level, you can have this in your arsenal and trick your opponents. In summary, determining how good Disguise Self is would be very situational.

You need to get very creative so that you can use the spell to its fullest potential. It is indeed a useful spell.

FAQ

Question: What’s the Difference Between Disguise Self vs. Alter Self?

Answer: Disguise Self is a level one illusion spell, while Alter Self is a level two transmutation spell. The main difference between the two would be that Disguise Self changes your visual appearance only, while Alter Self changes your actual physical body.

Question: What’s the Difference Between Disguise Self vs. Disguise Kit?

Answer: Disguise Self is a level one illusion spell, while the Disguise Kit is a tool used to make disguises. Logically speaking, making a disguise with the Disguise Kit would take time, and you would need to be proficient with the tool. Meanwhile, Disguise Self is an instant illusion without the need for preparation.

Question: Can Disguise Self Change Your Voice?

Answer: Since it is not changed in the spell’s description in, Disguise Self can not change one’s voice. It only affects the visual appearance of the caster.

Question: Can Disguise Self Allow One to Hide or Gain Wings?

Answer: If you are a humanoid with wings (eg, Winged Tieflings, Aarakocra), then no, in the literal sense. Wings are considered as limbs, and Disguise Self can only alter your body to be a form with the same number of limbs. However, it is entirely up to your DM if they would allow it or not. After all, you do not always need to be strict and by the book.

Question: Can Disguise Self Allow One to Hide or Gain a Tail?

Answer: Yes. Tails are not limbs, so you can indeed hide them or make someone appear to have a tail.

Question: Can Disguise Self Change One’s Race?

Answer: Yes, as long as (1) the race is the same form as the caster (ie, having the same number of limbs), and (2) the race does not exceed one foot taller or shorter than the caster’s body.

Question: Does Disguise Self Require Concentration?

Answer: No, it does not, as it is not indicated in the spell’s description.

Question: How Long does Disguise Self Last?

Answer: One hour, or 3600 seconds. In combat, it would last for 600 rounds.

Question: Can I Cast Disguise Self on Others?

Answer: No. If you want to make disguises for other people, the spell you are looking for would be the Seeming spell, the fifth-level illusion spell. Alternatively, you can use Disguise Kits, but once again, it would take time, preparation, and proficiency to succeed in it.

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