Certain circumstances within a campaign tend to require less direct approaches to handling situations within a single session. For example, sneaking past guards and enemies in a giant dungeon, attempting to avoid boss encounters or brutal battles by sneaking past them, or simply trying to remain undetected in areas through stealth checks are all valid methods in attempting to seek these non-direct options. However, one spell can help make these types of things much easier without putting in a full amount of effort; Disguise Self 5e.
This Illusion Spell is one of the first Shapeshifting spells that can be selected by a decent handful of spell-casting classes within DnD and is the subject of this article.
Disguise Self has many uses, and its range of capabilities is rather widespread. This spell has a few downsides, but they are not major disadvantages that can hinder it for too long.
What is Disguise Self 5e: mechanics and requirements
- Casting time: 1 Action (6 seconds)
- Level: 1st
- Range/Area: Self
- Target: Caster
- Components: Vocal and Somatic
- Duration: 1 Hour
- Classes: Artificer, Bard, Cleric (Trickery Domain), Sorcerer, and Wizard
Disguise Self Spell description
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 Disguise self fail to hold up to physical inspection. For example, if you use this spell to add a hat to your outfit, Objects pass 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 reaches out to touch you would bump into you while it was seemingly still in midair.
To discern that you are disguised, a creature can use its Action to inspect your Appearance and must succeed on an Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC.Official DnD Player Handbook
Advantages and drawbacks of Disguise self 5e
The Caster can change a wide range of things as possible options
Through Disguise Self 5e, the Caster can change a wide range of items that can be used to change their outward appearance. The Caster can change their Clothes, Weaponry, Armor, and their other personal belongings that are worn externally to whatever they choose to do so. The spell even permits the Caster to change their height, making themselves either a foot taller or shorter than their current natural height.
Many possible options can be chosen in terms of what the current situation requires, though more detail into said combinations will come through in the Uses Section of this article. All that must be picked up here, for now, is that the spell allows the Caster to have various options for what they wish to do.
Low Spell Slot Requirement
Many spells with a wide range of uses and abilities tend to hold themselves at a higher spell slot requirement to promote balanced use of the spell in case it could be deemed too overpowered for a lower slot. Disguise Self, however, was released with a lower spell slot requirement to cast and utilize it.
Having it at the most basic level of spell slot allows it to be seen as a more viable option and promotes its use by not having players with the spell in their lists contemplate as to whether the spell casting is truly worth the slot in whatever situation they are in. Pairing it with the next Advantage in this article’s listing, it can be used as often as the player wishes to, so long as they can hold onto the required spell slot needed.
Lack of Physical Material Requirement for Casting
Several spells, including first-level spells in many spellcasters’ lists, require a physical material of some kind to be used in tandem with the vocal and somatic components to properly use a spell. However, other spells do not have this requirement and only need the Vocal and Somatic components for casting to be successful, with Disguise Self being a part of that listing.
As stated in the previous Advantage, having this and the low spell slot level requirement for casting the spell promotes the use of it to the player. In addition, not having said physical requirement removes the stress and worry of having to try and find and/or stockpile any needed materials needed for casting the spell.
A large amount of time for Disguise Self Duration
Besides the Spell Slot Level and the Physical Material requirements that exist with a healthy amount of the spells within Dungeons and Dragons is the spell’s duration upon casting it, which can sway the decision as to whether a player wishes to cast it or not. By technicality, the amount of time it takes to cast the spell is also a deciding factor in this choice, but a majority of spells take only a single action to be able to cast or about six in-game seconds.
Therefore, the hour-long duration of this spell gives players more than enough time to use it for whatever purpose they wish to use it for and have time to spare in case something goes sideways before having the spell end and require a recasting. This also permits more outside-the-box thinking regarding a player’s uses when deciding how they wish to use the spell.
Very Slight Limitations in what changes can be done
Although many options exist for a player to utilize Disguise Self in terms of what they can change and the combinations they wish to do it in, there are still some limitations. For instance, the most obvious one is the limitation on the height changes a player can initiate upon themselves; As listed above, a player can only change their height by a single foot, either taller or shorter than their natural height.
Other less obvious limitations are in terms of a player’s body type, as they cannot add limbs or change them to match that of another creature; They must keep to the same body structure of their original body. Of course, these limitations are minor, and a player’s Dungeon Master can even wave some in whatever way they wish.
However, it is best to at least ask about certain limitations of the spell and what will be permitted past the written wording before going through with whatever you may have planned for your disguise.
Disguises can fail under perceptive eyes
Despite the disguise’s physical appearance, someone with a keen eye for disguises and other magical illusions could see through the disguise. Not only that, but if someone were to use Disguise Self to create a hat and another person tried to grab it, their hand would phase through and reveal the deception.
A similar situation could occur if a player used the spell to make themselves appear fatter than normal, as if someone bumped into them as they walked past, they’d phase through the extra parts of their body that were added from Disguise Self. Of course, as with the previous Disadvantage, how the deception can be found out is up to the Dungeon Master, especially in a situation where such deception would be more difficult to pull off without someone catching on to it.
Best uses for Disguise Self 5e
1. Suits for the Ball, Jumper for the Bed
Seeing as one of the uses of the spell is changing the appearance of one’s clothing, a player could use the spell as a simple way to change without really changing. This would be most useful in short events with a certain dress code, such as a royal ball or a party. However, in a similar light, a rogue or otherwise crafty thief could use this spell to allow them to fit into an area without raising suspicion that would otherwise get them caught.
If a player wishes to be the member of the group that steals everything that is not nailed down and holds value in the coin, then they would be able to benefit from this spell the most.
2. Would you not part an old man from his walking stick?
In some situations, a paranoid monarch or a villainous character willing to make a deal could request the party to disarm themselves to have a discussion in a standing position of peace and strength. After all, there isn’t much a party can truly do against a group of enemies without their standard weapons.
However, by using Disguise Self, players could hide their weapons to make them appear as part of their outfit or as if they weren’t even there. That way, should a player find themselves in this situation, they can go into the area confidently, knowing that those around them believe they are unarmed when they are unarmed.
This can also work with the previous use, as some establishments would most likely have someone checking the weaponry of its patrons at the door unless someone was able to hide it through magic. If a Dungeon Master allows it, they could also take their weapon and make it appear as a different, separate item, such as a cane or a walking stick.
Having the weapon appear like this could serve the same purpose but give a bit more entertainment value as having a guard search a person for a weapon, only for them to miss it because of its new disguised form, which can be quite fun to witness.
3. As light as a feather and as hard as Dragon-Scales
Disguise Self doesn’t stop at Weapons or basic clothing but extends to Armor. So, in a similar hypothetical scenario, a player going into an establishment with a certain dress code, such as a party, or a nervous king who is in fear for their life, could use Disguise Self to make their Armor appear as basic clothes.
That way, a party member wouldn’t have to go in without the proper protection that could have been used if they go into these situations and find that they are in danger once they are too far in to be able to get their equipment back properly.
4. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
As a final category of use that a player can take from this spell, items of any nature can be changed within the Dungeon Master’s rulings and digression. Although the least useful of the options available, someone could attempt to make a profit out of such a choice by taking a seemingly basic item and making it appear as an incredibly valuable one.
This would bring the item in question into heavy scrutiny, and it could be revealed as a fake should someone be able to beat the DC of the perception check and see through the disguise, but this option is High-Risk, High Reward.
After all, if a player can pull this off, they would be able to sell junk essentially as if it was pure gold, only to walk away with the coin in tow and fool anyone into buying it off of them. The item will revert to its original state when the spell’s duration is over. The player who sold it to them could be long gone, making chasing after them a lost cause and, in turn, giving the Caster in question a decent payday should they be able to pull this off.
Of course, as with all things, this can be limited or promoted based on the ruling of the Dungeon Master. So do pass it by them and ask before going through with it.
Advice and final thoughts
Regardless of what combination of Disguise self´s effects are used, how they are used, and/or what situation calls for them to be used, Disguise Self has a wide range of capabilities that would make the spell a highly useful utilitarian spell to have. Not only that, but the benefits of having such a low-level spell be capable of doing all of this can decide to add it to one’s spell list or to exclude it, a rather simple one to make.
Characters that are more into evil actions such as thievery, assassinations, or other more devious crimes could make just as much of a use out of this spell as those who’d be using its capabilities for good-natured endeavors. These things include investigating a crime for local law enforcement or protecting a local official through deception tactics.
Overall, I would recommend a player wanting to have the means to get into places they normally would not be capable of entering to pick this spell up and use it to the heart’s content of both themselves and the Dungeon Master. Just be careful not to get too out of hand with it, or else you could find yourself biting more than you can chew.
Disguise Self-Spell FAQ
Would the Warlock’s ability to cast Disguise Self to synergize with the Actor’s feat, or would they be mostly redundant?
Using the Actor feat alongside the spell’s effects could be helpful in the listed Uses above, along with any others that may be thought of by the player in question. After all, the Disguise Self spell does not change a person’s voice, but the Actor Feat could help with that and, in turn, make the disguise all the more convincing when it is in effect.
If a thin character use Disguise Self to take the appearance of a really fat person, Would his enemy combatants have a disadvantage hitting him?
No, there would not normally be a disadvantage. Instead, an enemy trying to attack a skinny character disguised as a fatter individual would simply miss, though the deception of the spell would be revealed after the fact.
Does casting Disguise self at a higher level via upcasting give any extra benefits, such as an extended duration?
No, there is not. The Published variant of the spell has no ruling on upcasting nor lists any benefits a player could gain from upcasting the spell. However, nothing stops a Dungeon master from permitting a player to upcast it to gain such a buff.