I am creating a Rogue and I decided to take the Charlatan background. After reading that I get a duke's signet ring, I decided to make my false identity a duke.

But then I wondered, doesn't that mean that every time I am impersonating the duke I gain the Noble feature, Position of Privilege?

This also means that as a Charlatan, I can create a false identity about any other background that is not knowledge-related (like Urchin or Sage). Am I right or wrong?

Feature : False Identity

You have created a second identity that includes documentation, established acquaintances, and disguises that allow you to assume that persona.
Additionally, you can forge documents including official papers and personal letters, as long as you have seen an example of the kind of document or the handwriting you are trying to copy.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In reality this is probably true, many cons work this way, but in-game they probably didn't want to give to many cascading advantages to the Charlatan background. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Rogers Jun 10 '18 at 15:13
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ The "No" becomes much easier to understand when you ask "Hey, can my alternate identity be an Archmage so I can cast 9th level spells?". \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jun 10 '18 at 17:49


Being able to pretend you are someone else does not make you someone else, nor does it grant you any of the talents or expertise it would take a real version of that persona a lifetime to accrue.

An actor can pretend to be a lawyer. Even if they fake their credentials and make it into court, it doesn't mean they will actually be able to prosecute a case with any talent.

A telemarketing scammer can pretend to be a bank agent. They might be able to convince you of that over the phone, but it doesn't mean they actually have access to a bank vault.

A charlatan can pretend to be a noble. They may have documentation and a persona they can use to fake their way into a party or exclusive audience, but they aren't actually a noble, so they don't necessarily have sufficient money, relationships with specific real people, and charisma needed to maintain the ruse for long, nor are all nobles automatically prestigious.

Mechanically, 1) you only gain a feature if a rule says you do and 2) if the Charlatan were intended to be able to take on another background's features then the rules would say so.



I will agree with Bloodcinder's answer, but from a more mechanical point of view.

First, as a DM, I would simply not allow it because it makes the Background way more useful than every other. It's a shenanigan trying to abuse a possible flaw in the rules - and most DMs simply won't even care if the rules are actually flawed or not, they have the power to fix that.

That said, I admit it is a creative way to use the background. I'll now explain how I actually read the background features and why the Charlatan will not be the same as having the Noble feature, although it might help you as much in some situations.

The Noble's feature states:

Thanks to your noble birth, people are inclined to think the best of you. You are welcome in high society, and people assume you have the right to be wherever you are. The common folk make every effort to accommodate you and avoid your displeasure, and other people of high birth treat you as a member of the same social sphere. You can secure an audience with a local noble if you need to.

How I read it: This is valid for wherever you go, because your Noble family is an actual Noble family, known in many places.

The Charlatan's feature states:

You have created a second identity that includes documentation, established acquaintances, and disguises that allow you to assume that persona.

I read the "established acquaitances" as "there are people that believe you are a Noble". There might even be Noble people that you believe you are a Noble. But your Noble family only exists in paper, so nobody actually knows them. That means you are prone to travel to a town where people will react with "What family is that? Never heard of it. Are you sure you are a noble and not just a rich farmer?", while an actual Noble would be received as "Sure, I know your family! Your father helped us when we were at a bad situation! Come here, eat some soup for free."

That said, as I mentioned, there are some situations where it might help. In particular, it might give you access to "noble parties", where simply having the document saying you are a noble is enough of a invitation. You might be able to get the audience with the local noble as well. The thing is: unlike the Noble feature, it is not guaranted. The noble will always get the audience, you won't.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The more I think about it. The more I feel like this is the answer. Because a fake identity could be made to imitate most social features of a background. But there is nothing that forbids the gm from throwing problems at the player. Which the actual features do. At least as far as the feature covers. \$\endgroup\$ – 3C273 Jun 10 '18 at 5:01

Well, it's FALSE identity. Of course you're not really a duke, or an acolyte, or a researcher, or a folk hero. But you don't need to be. You just need your targets to believe you are. Once you've bluffed your way into the temple, you might persuade a religious order to shelter you as one of their own. Or maybe you can fool the innkeeper into thinking you're a folk-hero and con him into giving you free beer.

So yes, you can receive benefits similar to the "Noble Background". However, there are a few limitations:

  1. It's not an automatic success. You have to convince your audience that you are, indeed, the Great Duke Roscoe. It'll be relatively easy to convince a passing traveler of your identity. It'll be much more difficult to persuade noble well-versed in the politics of the city.

  2. It's not a permanent success. Somebody can realize you're a fraud and stop giving you any benefit (or they might actively seek revenge).

  3. It can backfire. People don't just give you stuff for free. They want something in return.

    • "How convenient that an able-bodied acolyte appeared just when we needed a quest done! It must be a sign from God!"
    • "You're the hero who stood up to a tyrant and led a people to freedom? Amazing! I've got just the tyrant for a righteous hero like yourself to overthrow."
  4. It can collapse. Maybe you've been running this scam for years, and people have been warned about "The Duke Roscoe" as a textbook example of a scam. Or somebody's put him on a hit list. Or maybe you've been summoned to appear before the prince for a formal investigation of your claim to royalty. You might need to ditch that identity permanently.

In a comment, you asked about acquaintances. Yes, you have acquaintances who will say you're a duke. But remember, you don't have the wealth, the land, or the political heft to back up your claims. You can have two types of acquaintances: co-conspirators and gulls. The co-conspirators know you're a fraud and expect a share of the profit. The gulls do not.

You'll need to coordinate with your co-conspirators to build a consistent identity. You don't want them to slip and call you "m'lord Baron Schemer" when you're playing the Duke Roscoe.

For the gulls, you'll have to maintain their belief, or else you'll lose them. If they discover you've been conning them, they may try to get revenge. You also must not gull the wrong people. You do not want the mafia to hear that there's a vulnerable noble just begging to be kidnapped for ransom, and you do not want the nobles to stomp out a potential competitor who's been hanging around the slums.

If posing as a fallen noble

If you're playing a fallen noble, then you'll lose some advantage in one of the four areas above, or in the nature of the benefit. Fallen nobles might be scorned by regular nobility, for instance. Or it'll be tougher to convince people. "Oh, sure you're a fallen noble, and my uncle's a Sahuagin".

Disadvantages during the scam

Normally, I'm going to fall for your scam because the greedy part of my brain overpowers my skepticism. Once I realize that you don't actually have anything, my greed's going to back off. Now, greed and skepticism both come to the forefront of my mind and demand: Am I actually going to get paid or not? I'm starting to doubt whether you can deliver, even if I'm 100% convinced you are a bona fide duke.

In the long term, you're sitting on a time bomb. The people you do manage to con are going to come calling and asking what your status is on reclaiming the throne. Eventually, you'll gain the reputation of that one duke who lost his throne, promises everyone riches, but never delivers. That can still be your false identity, but don't expect to get much of a bonus from it.

Exception: Long-Term Scam

If your scam depends on a consistent story, playing a fallen noble is easier, since your identity will survive some scrutiny. This is usually more in line with big target with a long setup: a mass of people, a prince, or maybe a wealthy guild. Once the setup is done (which could take months), you pull the string and vanish with a ton of money. That's hard to do without making a campaign out of it; check with your DM (and the rest of your party) beforehand to make sure that this is something they want to do.

I'd recommend you try fleshing it out some more. What does a typical encounter look like? Who are your targets, and what are you trying to gain? What kind of reputation will you accumulate as time passes?

  • \$\begingroup\$ What if I pose as a fallen noble? I wouldn't need money or land. I can gain favors because "one day" I could reclaim what "wrongfully" mine and repay everyone else. \$\endgroup\$ – Roscòe Jun 9 '18 at 23:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a good exposition on what's involved in trying to run a con +1. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 21 '18 at 13:12

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