On Skill Deconstruction: Disguise

Disguise is a skill reflecting your skill at changing your appearance. It uses the Charisma stat as a modifier

What can you do with Disguise?

It is your ability at changing your appearance. When you do you make the check once, and everyone then uses that as their perception target number.

It is assumed most people are taking 10 on these checks, which is another example of the elimination of randomness among the use of the skills.

Which of these have ground for use?

I think this skill is one that clearly falls under the 'no skill is necessary' category. It comes up rarely enough that we probably don't need a system for dealing with it.

Current Analysis

What is it we gain by having this skill?

The ability to give a target number that once passed means the skill is seen through.

What do we lose?

A good deal of play. If we work from the assumption that the skill provides, that most characters with a minimal skill or a first level spell will be able to disguise themselves beyond cursory detection, then we create a situation where the only time an actual roll is called for is when the character does something suspicious.

Why are we bothering to roll the dice at all? What benefit to play does it provide?

If we assume that the players are competent heroes, and that they are disguised against inspection, then they simply have to do in character research to avoid being suspicious. Then if they fail, let their actual skill at explanation replace their die roll. Both processes of doing the research and fast talking yourself out of the situation are more interesting then just rolling the die and adding modifiers. At this point it seems a function of whatever social interaction / combat system you use. It doesn't even have to be up to the Dungeon Master - the party could take a vote or perhaps expend some sort of social resource.

Some people might complain that certain players might not be as good at these things as others. That is a core feature of games - not a bug. They require skill, not just luck. So there is nothing wrong with smarter more social people being better at play, and players who are not social or creative or intelligent being worse and losing or doing badly on their own merits.

This, I think, people need to realize applies to life.

Conclusions & Suggestions:

My preference is to eliminate the skill and simply assume the player can disguise themselves effectively. Then I would allow the players own skill at research and fast talking to represent their success.


  1. "So there is nothing wrong with smarter more social people being better at play, and players who are not social or creative or intelligent being worse and losing or doing badly on their own merits."

    If I have any misgivings from this otherwise wonderful series that you are doing, it's this. At what point does adventure gaming allow me to step outside my own limitations and enable me to accomplish things that I could never do in real life?

  2. I have become a strong believer that Disguise should simply be rolled into Perform (can you apply makeup and costumes effectively?) and Bluff (can you convince people you are someone you are not?). It is a very rare game in which a player is going to get their money's worth out of this skill.

  3. I too have to say that the most divisive opinion here is that one's real life social-ness determines how good you are at the in-game social aspect. The reason these social type skills are built into the game system to work with a d20 roll is because the game developers are explicitly saying "do not use real player skill. Everyone should use character skill, following the rolls, and work within the published system".
    If you are playing D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder, you have to realize the game is written so social-ness is not a skill needed to improve within the game. Whether this system design works or not is a completely different matter :)


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