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I had an idea that my Draconic Bloodline sorcerer would use the Dragon Wings feature before casting alter self to basically look like an angel. But I thought the look wouldn't be complete without a halo or some sort of "radiance", so I was wondering if alter self could also add a bioluminescent ring on the scalp that would glow like a halo, casting superficial light, or dim light at best.

Does anyone know if this would work?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You probably already know this, but just for the record, the little hovering ring above your head isn't a 'halo', that was just a visual shorthand some late-medieval artists used. A halo is supposed to be a sourceless light that illuminates a holy person or object. (Or a hero, in many ancient cultures beyond the Christian realm.) \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Dec 14 '18 at 16:38
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Probably not

Alter self (PHB, pp. 211-212) includes the following on changing your appearance:

Change Appearance. You transform your appearance. You decide what you look like, including your height, weight, facial features, sound of your voice, hair length, coloration, and distinguishing characteristics, if any. You can make yourself appear as a member of another race, though none of your statistics change.

That it says "you decide what you look like" and that you are allowed to change "coloration" suggests that maybe this could work to include bioluminescence, but on the other hand, usually anything that is considered a source of light includes it radius (usually describing bright light and dim light), which alter self does not.

Contrast this with something like produce flame (PHB, p. 269):

The flame sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet.

It sounds as though the bioluminescence you're after isn't necessarily to actually create any "real" light (since you said "casting superficial light, or dim light at best"), so a DM might allow it, but the fact that this is not mentioned suggests that this wouldn't be what the spell offers RAW.

As an alternative, if you know the light cantrip, you could cast that and work that into the "disguise"?


If it's a halo you're after, then as an aside, there is one way to get something that is unambiguously a halo, but it's not easy...

Read the Book of Exalted Deeds

This is a legendary artifact that will only allow good aligned creatures to attune to it, but it does bestow the following benefit (DMG, p. 222):

Halo. Once you've read and studied the book, you gain a protective halo. This halo sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet. You can dismiss or manifest the halo as a bonus action. While present, the halo gives you advantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks made to interact with good creatures and Charisma (Intimidation) checks made to interact with evil creatures. In addition, fiends and undead within the halo's bright light make attack rolls against you with disadvantage.

This would make your disguise very believable, because your halo will be a real halo, but having access to such a powerful artifact probably makes this solution unviable... but, y'know, for completeness.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've considered those options, and light works on objects, not people, and dancing lights is concentration so I would have to drop alter self, which is also concentration. \$\endgroup\$ – RallozarX Dec 14 '18 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RallozarX I didn't realise dancing lights was concentration, I've removed that suggestion. Light could still work if you wore a hat or something and cast it on that? But yeah, if that doesn't work, then the light suggestion might not be that useful either... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Dec 14 '18 at 15:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you cast light on a cloak, or something else you're wearing? A simple circlet could work if this is something you intend to do regularly. \$\endgroup\$ – Blue Caboose Dec 14 '18 at 16:17
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I think the answer is better extrapolated from the limiting examples than from the possible examples.

Change Appearance. You transform your appearance. You decide what you look like, including your height, weight, facial features, sound of your voice, hair length, coloration, and distinguishing characteristics, if any. You can make yourself appear as a member of another race, though none of your statistics change. You also can’t appear as a creature of a different size than you, and your basic shape stays the same; if you're bipedal, you can’t use this spell to become quadrupedal, for instance.

What this tells you is that you can change your apparent race, as long as it is more or less humanoid and similar in build. The main problem is the great difference you get from obtaining bioluminescence, which in my interpretation would be a very serious change in statistics.

What I think would be okay, however: seemingly being bioluminescent. It would be little more than a very special colour change, and with the ability to keep changing your appearance for the duration, you could even compensate for passing through mild differences in light.

However, without another light source (light or dancing lights cantrip seem to be quick sources), such a trick would quickly be seen through when you pass through too much darkness, because your bioluminescent parts can be seen to be affected by the shadows and/or the surroundings don't become less dark as you pass by.

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