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I'm playing a Firbolg character. The Firbolg's racial Firbolg Magic trait (VGtM, p. 107) allows them to cast disguise self once per short rest. As part of the character's backstory I want someone to be able to see through his racial ability to disguise himself, and instead be able to see his normal form so that rumours start spreading about this creature that's new to town.

I haven't been able to find any item that can make this possible, I'm new to the game so there's no surprises there. So before I scrap the idea and just go with "he ran out of time on the spell" or using dispel magic.

Is there a magic item, spell, etc., that can make it so that you can see through (specifically what's underneath) a disguise self spell?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.se! Take the tour and check out the help center centre when you get a chance. This is a pretty good first question. Thanks for participating and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jan 15 at 1:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I noticed you have accepted an answer, while I'm glad we were able to provide a solution to your problem it is often a good idea to wait at least 24 hours before accepting an answer. This encourages more responses and you may find one you like better. This isn't a rule though and feel free to use the accepted answer however you prefer. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jan 15 at 3:08
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There are several methods for defeating illusions such as Disguise Self.

Outside of the two methods listed in the spell (succeeding an Investigation check and physical interaction), any creature with access to Truesight automatically detects illusions as false. The True Seeing spell gives you that ability.

True Seeing: This spell gives the willing creature you touch the ability to see things as they actually are. For the duration, the creature has Truesight, notices secret doors hidden by magic, and can see into the Ethereal Plane, all out to a range of 120 feet.

Another similar method is to acquire the Witch Sight Eldritch Invocation for Warlocks:

Witch Sight: You can see the true form of any shapechanger or creature concealed by illusion or transmutation magic while the creature is within 30 feet of you and within line of sight.

You could also use the Polymorph or True Polymorph spells to become a creature with Truesight. I am not aware of any beasts with Truesight to Polymorph into (although they may exist in a rulebook I don't have), but one example for True Polymorph is the Couatl.

Finally, you could find or create a magic item that grants Truesight, such as the Gem of Seeing, which also grants Truesight.

Gem of Seeing: This gem has 3 Charges. As an action, you can speak the gem's Command Word and expend 1 charge. For the next 10 minutes, you have Truesight out to 120 feet when you peer through the gem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I meant for the Couatl to be an example for True Polymorph, sorry for the confusion. I'll edit the answer to be more clear \$\endgroup\$ – the_moooon Jan 15 at 4:05
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I think that your best bet is actually described in the spell description:

The changes wrought by this spell fail to hold up to physical inspection. 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. If you use this spell to appear thinner than you are, the hand of someone who reaches out to touch you would bump into you while it was seemingly still in midair. To discern that you are disguised, a creature can use its action to inspect your appearance and must succeed on an Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC.

This could easily have any random person that makes physical contact with you know that this is an illusion.

Also, the duration is only an hour, so maybe you got to your inn a second too late and someone saw you.

Additionally, an anti magic field, true sight, dispel magic and a few others should also work fine, although much less common.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer needs more appreciation. While the question did specify a magic item/spell/etc (and this falls under etc), the spirit of finding a way to see through it is easily met by someone simply having the person come in contact with them, or otherwise have a high enough score to consistently beat the spell DC (give the NPC high intelligence or proficiency/expertise in investigation). \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Jan 15 at 6:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ The quote in your answer (which I'm guessing is taken from some unofficial wiki) doesn't match the wording of the disguise self spell description: \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 15 at 8:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ "The changes wrought by this spell fail to hold up to physical inspection. 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. If you use this spell to appear thinner than you are, the hand of someone who reaches out to touch you would bump into you while it was seemingly still in midair. To discern that you are disguised, a creature can use its action to inspect your appearance and must succeed on an Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 15 at 8:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oops. My bad. Thanks for pointing that out; I will fix it. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Jan 15 at 12:03
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Based on the description of what you want, I don't think you're going to find it. While there are many ways to see through an illusion, I can't think of any that the user wouldn't be aware of using. If someone casts true seeing and sees your true form, they're going to know exactly what's happening: the spell let them see through your magical disguise. There's no confusion or uncertainty: if no one else can see your true form, the one person who can see it knows exactly why.

However, there is a spell that might allow someone to become suspicious without giving up the whole game: detect magic. Suppose there's a low-level wizard who runs a magic shop in town. She regularly casts detect magic to determine whether items her customers wish to sell are magical or mundane. If you happen to walk by her open front door as she's inspecting an item, she might notice your aura of illusion magic out of the corner of her eye. However, that's all the information she'll get: that there is illusion magic on you. She won't know exactly what spell you're using. That seems like the perfect basis for a rumor: "something about this new guy isn't what it seems, but I don't know what."

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    \$\begingroup\$ And Disguise Self, being a fairly novice (1st level) spell, could reasonably be at (or near) the top of that wizard's list of likely suspicions to why the character has an aura of illusion magic about them. Said wizard, if curious enough, could then take appropriate actions to try and see through said illusion... \$\endgroup\$ – Dave B Jan 15 at 4:35
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Eldritch Invocation

You have this invocation for 15th Level warlocks.

Witch Sight: You can see the true form of any shapechanger or creature concealed by illusion or transmutation magic while the creature is within 30 feet of you and within line of sight.

Truesight is an ability some creatures have that allow them to see through magic

Truesight: A creature with truesight can, out to a specific range, see in normal and magical darkness, see invisible creatures and objects, automatically detect visual illusions and succeed on saving throws against them, and perceives the original form of a shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic. Furthermore, the creature can see into the Ethereal Plane.

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Just an out-of-the box suggestion, disregarding magic items :

Disguise self does trick vision, but not the other senses.

To start rumors, you could use :

  1. Dogs intrigued by the specific scent, coming to sniff at your character - and running in fear once they touch you.
  2. A local blind man, intrigued by either the unusual scent, or the loud steps heard on the pavement - asking around if an ogre just arrived in the town.
  3. This testimony could even be approved by a local huntsman, who found a disproportionate footprint in a muddy street.

Once rumors have spread, someone curious with high investigation and the "observant" feat should be enough to pierce your disguise consistently.

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