For those with a knack for infiltration and espionage, few tools are as important as the Disguise Kit in D&D 5e.
In the right hands, the kit’s assortments of cosmetics, dyes, and small props are an endless palette of opportunities to become someone else. While these are most commonly used by actors, other clever types (particularly Rogues) have proven the power of a good disguise!
So grab that brush, straighten your wig, and let’s dive into this guide to the Disguise Kit in D&D 5e!
What Is a Disguise Kit in D&D 5e?
The Disguise Kit in D&D 5e is a set containing an assortment of various cosmetics that can be used to alter your physical appearance. This includes brushes, dyes, powders, and small props that can be used to create a new visage.
Gaining proficiency with the Disguise Kit allows you to add your proficiency bonus to any ability checks that you make to create a visual disguise.
While the description of the Disguise Kit is somewhat vague, it does leave a great deal up to the imagination.
While some items wouldn’t reasonably be in the kit (a full suit of armor, for example), the assumption is that there are enough materials in the kit for a proficient user to construct most disguises that they could need.
Of course, there can be some fun side quests involved with trying to pass oneself off as another person. Trying to impersonate a noblewoman who is never seen without her ornate diamond brooch? You might have to “borrow” it from her or otherwise get a little creative to really sell the disguise act!
All in all, Disguise Kits will not be terribly difficult to acquire. Because theatres and troupes of bards commonly need them for their acts, you won’t raise many eyebrows by purchasing one. It’s nowhere near as sketchy as asking around about where you can find a good set of Thieves Tools!
Using a Disguise Kit in D&D 5e
There’s no limit to the amount of ways that a Disguise Kit can be used beyond the players’ own creativity.
As the player comes up with what kind of disguise they wish to use, they will generally tell the Dungeon Master their plan. From there, the DM adjudicates what happens by calling for skill checks as necessary.
I have to confess… Roleplaying moments that stem from using disguises are some of my absolute favorite scenarios when playing D&D or other RPGs. It’s always very fun in a James Bond or Mission Impossible-type way when things go well. But it also never fails to be memorable when things don’t exactly go as well as planned…
But back to the point…
Skills For Using Disguises
There are four skills that are most useful when using a Disguise Kit. Which skill check is used is decided by the DM and is based on what the character is doing. If the character is wearing a convincing disguise, they get to add their Disguise Kit proficiency bonus to their rolls for these skills.
Deception is used when the character is attempting to tell convincing lies. Perhaps the party is attempting to infiltrate a noble’s manor. Disguising themselves as chefs who are there for the night’s festivities, a Deception check would be appropriate to get past the guard at the gate.
Intimidation may be more appropriate in some situations, though. If the goal of your disguise is to look more fearsome so that you can frighten others, you’ll need to make an intimidation check. This might take the form of frightening some local thugs by looking like an even tougher person. On the other hand, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything also mentions using this to pose as a plague victim to scare someone away.
Performance is pretty self-explanatory. Want to really impress a crowd? Take some notes from famous entertainers in real life and add some flair with your costuming! KISS has their facepaint, The Beatles had their Sgt. Pepper’s Marching Band outfits, and Lady Gaga has… a lot of examples…
So, just in case the party’s Bard doesn’t roll as well as they normally do, that extra boost from looking good might just be what it takes to win over even the toughest of crowds!
Last but not least, there’s the Persuasion skill. Looking the part with a convincing disguise might be enough to achieve your goal. You don’t necessarily need to weave lies or intimidate someone if you have a convincing enough disguise. Simply persuading them to take a course of action is enough.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything specifically uses the example of disguising yourself in the uniform of an authority figure. This might include a town guard, a member of the clergy, or some other such position where most people would recognize the position and respect the authority.
Some Personal Thoughts on Using Persuasion While Disguised
We’ve already gone over the various social skills in D&D 5e in a different article. If you haven’t checked that out, I would really recommend giving it a read. The lines between most of these skills are very fine and it’s not uncommon for there to be some level of confusion about them.
I really think the uses of Persuasion when using a Disguise Kit are incredibly limited. Generally speaking, Persuasion checks are made in good faith and represent a type of honest, diplomatic approach to things.
By the very nature of disguising yourself as someone else (particularly an authority figure as XGtE mentions), you aren’t really engaging in good faith diplomacy. Depending on the disguise and roleplay of the encounter, you would certainly be either lying to the other person or intimidating them.
Example: Disguising Oneself as an Authority Figure
Consider this: If you weren’t disguised as a Royal Tax Collector, the shopkeeper that you are “persuading” to pay his taxes would kick you out of their shop in a heartbeat.
But because you are disguised as this authority figure, the shopkeeper is giving you money for one of two reasons:
- You succeeded in convincing him that you are the Royal Tax Collector. Not wanting to ruffle feathers with the King’s Court, the shopkeeper believes that he is doing his civic duty by paying taxes to the appointed authority figure.
- You rolled Intimidation instead of Deception. The shopkeeper believes that you are the Royal Tax Collector and is fearful of any consequences if he does not pay up immediately.
Even an honest attempt to genuinely persuade someone to do something while disguised (especially as an authority figure) is inherently not being made in good faith. From their perspective, there’s a very clear implication.
There might be some situations in which Persuasion is appropriate while using a Disguise Kit. Honestly, I can’t think of any that wouldn’t more accurately be Deception or Intimidation checks.
At the end of the day, though, it’s up to the DM to decide what skill check would make the most sense in the situation.
Creating a Disguise
You can make a disguise as part of a long rest. While there are some practical limits (the Elf Mastermind won’t have any luck disguising themselves as a Halfling or a Centaur), there are plenty of options available.
Crafting the disguise itself largely plays to whatever the character’s better abilities are. Trying to observe and remember all of the details of a uniform that you are attempting to recreate might require a Wisdom (Disguise Kit) or Intelligence (Disguise Kit) check. Something ornate and detailed (like a subject with intricate tattoos) might instead require a Dexterity (Disguise Kit) check.
If preparing for a performance, a Charisma (Disguise Kit) check might be more appropriate. Generally, though, Charisma mostly comes into play after you’ve applied the disguise.
If not being made during a long rest, a disguise that involves moderate changes to a character’s appearance takes 10 minutes to create. More extensive changes require more time and take around 30 minutes to create.
Disguises take 1 minute to don (talk about efficiency!) and you can only carry 1 disguise at a time without the help of a Bag of Holding or another such item if you wish to avoid unnecessary attention.
The disguise itself is contested by the passive perception of anyone who the character encounters. A mistake (like a bad Deception roll against a guard) might prompt a closer look that could cause them to see through the disguise.
A character might use their proficiency in using the Disguise Kit to cover injuries or distinguishing marks, copy another humanoid’s appearance, or spot a disguise being worn by someone else.
Disguise Kit vs the Disguise Self Spell
Ok, so with so much that goes into using the Disguise Kit, you might be wondering why even bother using one? After all, the Disguise Self spell is a 1st level spell that basically does the same thing, right?
Well… yes and no…
Both options do give you disguises, but the Disguise Self spell isn’t without some risks or failings of its own.
Using a Disguise Kit in D&D 5e is best when there is time for preparation. Disguise Self is instantaneous, but it only lasts for 1 hour. Plus, it is revealed to be an illusion by someone touching the character, looking closely, or a Detect Magic spell.
In a pinch, Disguise Self can be useful, but the Disguise Kit offers a more reliable option. There’s no substitute for talent and proficiency!
Conclusion – Guide to Using the Disguise Kit in D&D 5e
I really didn’t expect this article to be this long, but there’s a lot under the surface of such a simple tool!
For parties that enjoy roleplaying, interacting with NPCs, and (let’s be honest here…) getting into all kinds of trouble, Disguise Kits provide the catalyst to entirely new dimensions of your D&D game.
With some creativity, charisma, and a pinch of luck, your group will be able to find themselves in any number of new and interesting situations!
If you couldn’t help but find yourself cackling at the idea of some good old-fashioned espionage, you might want to check out our Rogue subclass guides!
My personal favorite Rogue subclass is a newer addition to the game that you might find interesting. You can see what that’s all about in this article!