“Reality can be Whatever I want.” -Purple Josh Brolin Meme
Sometimes the Party needs to go undercover or lay low when the heat is on. For any time a person has to be someone just a bit different than they actually are, there is the Disguise Self Spell.
But how exactly does this spell work? Who gets it? What can you use it for?
All those are valid questions and are the subject of today’s lesson.
Pull up a chair, grab an ale, and let’s talk about how to be someone you are not!
Table of Contents
What exactly does Disguise Self do?
From the Pathfinder d20SRD:
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Duration 10 min./level (D)
You make yourself – including clothing, armor, weapons, and equipment – look different. You can seem 1 foot shorter or taller, thin, fat, or in between. You cannot change your creature type (although you can appear as another subtype). Otherwise, the extent of the apparent change is up to you. You could add or obscure a minor feature or look like an entirely different person or gender.
The spell does not provide the abilities or mannerisms of the chosen form, nor does it alter the perceived tactile (touch) or audible (sound) properties of you or your equipment. If you use this spell to create a disguise, you get a +10 bonus on the Disguise check. A creature that interacts with the glamer gets a Will save to recognize it as an illusion.”
So as I said to my partner when they wanted a new deck built on their house, let’s break this down.
Disguise self is a spell of the Illusion Wizard School and is a First level spell. That means that it will be easy for low-level casters to get quickly.
It takes a standard action to cast, and requires Verbal and Somatic Components to cast. Casting Disguise Self is not subtle unless you decide to start using Metamagic Feats like Silent Spell and Still Spell. For more info on Metamagic, check here: Best 5 Metamagic Feats for Players in Pathfinder 1e & 2e: A Guide.
The spell affects only you and your person. There is another spell for others called Disguise Other which is exactly this spell but usable on others.
It lasts for 10 minutes per caster level. A Wizard level 3 would be able to have Disguise Self up for 30 minutes before the duration runs out and the Wizard either needs to cast it again or get out of dodge.
In the text of the spell, it describes who your limitations are. You cannot change your dimensions beyond a foot, so a Human cannot attempt to disguise himself as a Dragon or a Giant.
However, a human can make themselves look like an Elf or an Orc. It could even be a simple change as well, changing your hair and eye color just to not look like yourself.
You don’t get any of the abilities of another race. For example, if a Human makes themselves look like an Elf, they would visually appear as an Elf but wouldn’t possess the Elvish immunity to Sleep Magic or the Elven long life.
It also is limited to only a visual medium. If you attempt to disguise your Full Plate Armor as a Ballroom Gown, it will still sound and feel like a suit of Full Plate, complete with the same Armor Check Penalty and Max Dex Bonus. Not the best for Dancing.
If this spell is used in conjunction with a Disguise (Cha) check, it adds a +10 to the roll.
If another person interacts with your disguise through touch or listening closely, they will get a Will Check to try and see through your Illusion.
Who Can Use Disguise Self?
Disguise Self is on several Spell Lists: The Alchemist, Antipaladin, Bard, Inquisitor, Psychic, Sorcerers, and Wizards all have access to Disguise Self as a Level 1 Spell.
Clerics can also access Disguise Self as a Level 1 Spell if they have access to the Trickery Domain.
Disguise Other on the “other” hand is more limited. It is a Level 2 Spell, meaning it requires several more levels in your casting class to access. It also only appears on the spell lists for Bards, Inquisitors, Psychics, Sorcerers, and Wizards.
Disguise Self Versus Illusory Disguise
Disguise Self is not present in Pathfinder 2e by that name. Instead, we have a spell called Illusory Disguise:
“Illusory Disguise Spell 1
Duration 1 hour
You create an illusion that causes you to appear as another creature of the same body shape, and with roughly similar height (within 6 inches) and weight (within 50 pounds), as yourself. The disguise is typically good enough to hide your identity, but not to impersonate a specific individual.
The spell doesn’t change your voice, scent, or mannerisms. You can change the appearance of your clothing and worn items, such as making your armor look like a dress. Held items are unaffected, and any worn item you remove returns to its true appearance.
Casting illusory disguise counts as setting up a disguise for the Impersonate use of Deception; it ignores any circumstance penalties you might take for disguising yourself as a dissimilar creature, it gives you a +4 status bonus to Deception checks to prevent others from seeing through your disguise, and you add your level even if you’re untrained. You can Dismiss this spell.
Heightened (3rd) You can appear as any creature of the same size, even a specific individual. You must have seen an individual to take on their appearance. The spell also disguises your voice and scent, and it gains the auditory trait.”
This version of the spell is ALMOST exactly the same with a few tweeks. For one, it lasts longer. 1 Hour rather than 10 minutes per Level. It is also somewhat more limited to only a 6 inch change to your height and only 50 pounds of weight.
The spell can also be Heightened by casting it at a higher level. When doing that, it can change even more details about your person, including your scent and your voice. At the highest level you can imitate specific people as well.
Interesting Ways to Use Disguise Self
There are a few interesting ways to employ Disguise Self as both a boon and a bane to your party and yourself.
I’ve mentioned a few already, but I can go into more depth here.
Gotta Lay Low!
What do player characters do best? If you said “Get in Trouble” then you are obviously a Game Master.
When the Law or the Local Thieves Guild or just any organized group comes to bring the hammer down on the players, one of the most useful spells to throw off the pursuit is to just not look like yourself. Get out of sight, and throw up a glamor on yourself and/or party members and just hide in plain sight.
The limitation here is that Disguise Self affects ONLY YOU, and Disguise Other affects only ONE person. The best way to employ this would be with scrolls/potions, but that does require some investment. A spontaneous caster could pull this off easier than someone who prepares spells regularly.
Can I Bring My Armor?
You’ve been invited to a ball! Not just you, but your whole Party as well! This will be fun!
Of course, the Fighter/Paladin/Barbarian/Druid doesn’t have formal attire…
This is where Disguise Self/Illusory Disguise comes in handy! Glamor them up with something nice, and they can even wear their armor underneath. Make sure to remind them though, they will still clank or creak if they try to dance.
If you don’t have the cash on hand, this can make a better use of your time than a shopping montage. Granted, a shopping montage could be pretty fun as well.
Alright yeah, the most obvious use for the spell is for spying. If you can manage to blend in well enough to look like someone who is supposed to be there, then Disguise Self can open plenty of doors for you. Literally AND Figuratively.
The limitations are needing to know who exactly you are trying to infiltrate. Not necessarily a specific person, but someone who would be there. If you are at a Formal Occasion, you will need to know how the court works. If you are in a tavern, you need to know how commoners interact with each other.
Social moors are important after all. The best spies study their targets for a long time before stepping in to fill the role. Research is your friend even before the spell is cast.
Keep those Secrets, Pathfinder!