21
\$\begingroup\$

Some characters in my campaign were involved in a magical experiment. Said experiment went wrong and the participants were all afflicted with (randomly determined) side effects. One of the participants was a wizard and as a result of the failed experiment, she is now permanently invisible. This only affects her body though, and not the clothes she wears or the things she holds.

If she undresses completely and leaves behind all her gear, she is completely invisible and therefore gains all the associated benefits. But most of the time, she wears clothes and carries around a backpack, an arcane focus and other adventuring gear like that. This whole predicament has led to some interesting scenes.

Every now and then, this character would like to speak face to face with people, which is difficult while having an invisible face. Different methods to solve this problem were discussed. One of the potential options is for her to cast disguise self. Ideally, she could use that spell to let her body temporarily “reappear” as an illusion. But I am not sure if that would work.

In order to avoid a discussion about this being based on a magical homebrew effects, let me reframe this question:

Person A is under the effect of a greater invisibility spell and completely naked. This spell was originally cast by Person B, so Person A cannot stop concentrating in order to end the effect. Person A is also in the middle of a heated battle and must warn her deaf comrades (who are too far away to reach them) from incoming danger. So Person A has to become visible somehow, but the only spell Person A has available is disguise self.

Can Person A become visible by casting disguise self, or would the illusion created by this spell be also invisible, because greater invisibility is a higher level illusion (affecting the same target)?

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ If this was indeed a spell, do the normal rules apply? Dispel Magic would remove it entirely, or is this something akin to the Potion Mixology table? \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 3 '18 at 14:22
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ because greater invisibility is a higher level illusion — how is the greater invisibility spell related to the question? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Aug 3 '18 at 14:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ She could also wear a mask to talk to people. \$\endgroup\$ – TheHansinator Aug 3 '18 at 20:15
14
\$\begingroup\$

Yes

The spell Disguise Self is an illusion. It does not actually change your (invisible) form and the description points out:

If you use this spell to add a hat to your outfits, objects pass through the hat and anyone who touches it would feel nothing or would feel your head and hair.

and

If you made yourself appear thinner then the hand of someone touching you would bump into you while it was still seemingly in midair.

From the description this illusion is obviously visible - cloaking your actual form - and, like any spell, your own state of (in)visibility doesn't matter.

This is not that different from casting Silent Image that "creates an image of an object or creature or some other visible phenomenon". This would also be visible regardless of the caster's visibility. Disguise Self is doing pretty much the same thing, except the illusion is restricted to a roughly humanoid form that is superimposed over your own body.

So I would say 'yes' you can render yourself temporarily visible with this spell.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I get the idea that this answer is pointing to the Disguise Self as providing another layer, like a sweater over a shirt, but I may be misunderstanding this. PJRZ, can you provide some more detailed explanation on how the two different magical effects are acting on the invisible caster? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 3 '18 at 13:19
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ To expound: Where in the rules does it say that the effect of any spell you cast is invisible if you are invisible? It doesn't. Obviously if the spell is merely altering something already exists and that object is invisible, then that won't change (unless the spell says so), but otherwise...if a spell creates a visible effect, then it continues to create a visible effect, regardless of the caster's state. \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Aug 3 '18 at 13:33
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @PJRZ can you fold a bit more of that into the answer? Anchoring your answer in a bit of the rules text from the spell description would support your idea; I also think that the spell description supports it. some of the points are You can seem 1 foot shorter or taller and can appear thin, fat, or in between and the extent of the illusion is up to you and 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 to support "adding another layer" with this spell. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 3 '18 at 14:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this answer, and I think it’s pretty clear the effects don’t need to interact: the caster’s body is invisible, but the illusory body created by Alter Self is visible. There’s no contradiction there; Alter Self doesn’t make the caster visible, but creates a visible illusion that overlays and mirrors their body’s movements. It would still work if the caster closed their eyes, presumably, so not being able to see their own body is no impediment. Plus it’s temporary and uses up a spell slot so I think it’s a fair price to pay for overcoming a drawback for a while. \$\endgroup\$ – Guybrush McKenzie Aug 3 '18 at 14:03
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Just to add to this... according to this interpretation a PC with Disguise Self that fails to lose himself in a crowd then casts Invisibility and it fails utterly. Until you dismiss Disguise Self obviously. Interesting RP opportunity though. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 3 '18 at 14:07
18
\$\begingroup\$

Yes or No — the DM has to make a decision

Disguise Self description has no details about being applied to permanently invisible targets. It's the DM's job to resolve situations like this, when a spell is being used in a non-standard way. See also What is the source of the "spells do only what they say they do" rules interpretation principle?

The spell description says only that

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.

It is unclear if you can become visible using Disguise Self. As a DM, you can treat this both ways:

  • Yes — since spell says it can create an illusion of clothes and face features "over" your own
  • No — since spells do only what they say they do, and this spell explicitly says it makes you "look different", neither "make invisible", nor "make visible"

Apparently, you cannot become completely invisible using the Disguise Self spell. But rules are silent about the opposite situation — casting Disguise Self while being invisible in order to become visible. Since you are the DM, it's up to you to decide, how does this spell work in your world. Be consistent — make a decision and stick to it.

Homebrew effects require homebrew adjudications

she is now permanently invisible. This only affects her body though, and not the cloth she wears or the things she holds

I have to point it out, there is no such invisibility effect in 5e. Rules as written, you either completely invisible (including all your equipment), or you are visible. Being "partial invisible" raises new questions (does she get advantage on attack rolls and stealth checks, etc). If it is more like physical effect (transparent body tissues), and not an illusion, Disguise Self probably helps. If it is kind of a powerful illusion curse, 1-level spell probably won't be enough.

Fun > Story > Rules

By its design, 5th edition chooses not to explicitly codify many things. The ambiguity in spell descriptions is actually a possibility, not a problem — as a DM, you can use the common sense and treat the rules the way would be better for the game. See Geek&Sundry "How Watching Critical Role Made Me Better At D&D":

A spell is typically written vague enough that you don’t have to worry about specific limitations unless you’re trying to stretch them. When in doubt, explain to the DM what you want to do and see if they’d be game

Keep in mind, that the rules are a DM's tool, not vice versa. As a DM, you use this tool to do the DM's job — to facilitate the enjoyment of the game for the players. See the AL DM's guide for more details:

Always follow this golden rule when you DM for a group: Make decisions and adjudications that enhance the fun of the adventure when possible.

Putting it in a nut shell:

  • If this helps the player, gives you a useful plot device and doesn't break anything — allow it
  • If this makes things too easy for the player and seems too cheat-ish — don't allow it
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes. \$\endgroup\$ – Celestialgranturismo Aug 3 '18 at 21:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I knew I would get this sort of answer, if I ask about something homwbrew. It's the usual "It's up to the GM, because it not official" answer. That's why I expanded the problem that showed up in a homebrew context and gave it an "official" context. \$\endgroup\$ – hohenheim Aug 4 '18 at 10:44
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @hohenheim if you're not comfortable with this answer, could you please add the "good" answer criteria? what sort of answer do you want to get? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Aug 4 '18 at 11:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ enkryptor: I will keep that in mind for my next question. thx \$\endgroup\$ – hohenheim Aug 6 '18 at 7:15
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @hohenheim could you please add such criteria for this question? This would help other RPG.SE users \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Aug 6 '18 at 8:46
4
\$\begingroup\$

No.

The text of the disguise self spell describes its effect:

You make yourself--including your clothing, armor, weapons, and other belongings on your person--look different...

This can change how you look (what your appearance is like) but it doesn't automatically mean anyone can see you. For example, you can change how you look in any number of ways (by casting disguise self, applying makeup, changing your clothes, receiving a scar, or so on), but if you're behind a wall or shrouded in total darkness then I still can't see how that might look.

In the case in question, you're under the effect of the invisibility condition from a spell (the specific spell doesn't actually matter). The text of the invisibility condition describes its effect:

An invisible creature is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense.

It doesn't matter whether your appearance if you were to be seen right now would be how you normally look or somehow different from normal. Nobody can perceive your appearance because you're literally impossible for anyone to see, so that change goes unseen, barring the following exception.

If someone has "the aid of magic or a special sense" then they would be able to see you despite the invisibility, and you would appear to them as you look under the effects of disguise self. To revisit the previous examples, if I use clairvoyance then I can see you despite the wall, or if I have darkvision then I can see you despite the darkness.

(Note that disguise self itself is not "the aid of magic" because the text is passively describing the capability of onlookers to see you; they're the ones that would need to benefit from such aid, not you. Examples of such aid are see invisibility and truesight. The only way disguise self would aid onlookers is if it canceled your invisibility or if it made you able to be seen despite your invisibility in a case of specific beating general, but the text of the spell does not.)

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you elaborate on "Nobody can see how you look because you're invisible." and specifically how/why greater invisibility masks the effect of disguise self? \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Aug 3 '18 at 14:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're invisible, you're impossible to see, so nobody can see how you look. There are any number of things that can change how you look: makeup, mundane disguise kits, changing your clothes, getting a scar. If somebody can't see you because you're literally impossible to see then they have no way to notice that change in your appearance. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Aug 3 '18 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand the vernacular meaning of invisible and the condition. I was suggesting you cite the text of greater invisibility and the invisible condition to specifically point out why this is the case. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Aug 3 '18 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I did cite the text of the invisibility condition. It's in quotation marks in my answer. I don't see how the specific spell granting the condition impacts the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Aug 3 '18 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ The invisible condition includes a clause about "without magical aid". Disguise self could be construed as a magical aid. That could be addressed. The language about "belongings on your person" is mirrored in the greater invisibility description. Seems like making it on the nose obvious would improve the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Aug 3 '18 at 19:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.