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Casting disguise self (a first level illusion spell requiring no concentration) on a target of Self results in being able to:

"make yourself [...] look different until the spell ends or until you use an action to dismiss it". (PHB, 233)

Casting mislead (a fifth level illusion spell requiring concentration) on yourself means:

"You become invisible at the same time that an illusory double of you appears where you are standing" (PHB, 260).

Since mislead presumably typically results in an illusion that is identical in appearance to the caster (including all their clothes, weapons, armour — and any physical disguises they might be using), I would assume that the you that appears is the yourself that is affected by disguise self, and so this combination would work. But is there anything RAW or in subsequent un/official rulings to suggest otherwise?

Example: if a human wizard/bard/warlock has cast disguise self and made themselves look like an orc, and then subsequently casts mislead, will the illusory double look like their true human self or like the orc illusion caused by disguise self?

And if the latter, then can the caster (while maintaining concentration on mislead) use an action to dismiss disguise self in order to make their illusory orc double shift into a human, revealing what they really look like (without necessarily revealing where they are)?

I note that there is a somewhat similar question here asking about the interaction between disguise self and project image, though there are no approved answers there.

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3 Answers 3

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The illusion has the appearance of the caster when they cast mislead

The description of the Mislead spell does not contain any reference to the original or true aspect of the caster, nor does it contain any particular rule for interacting with other spells, in particular those from the Illusion school.

Moreover, in the PHB, page 205, one can find the rules for combining magical effects:

The effects of different spells add together while the durations of those spells overlap. The effects of the same spell cast multiple times don't combine, however. [...]

We have thus two different spells, which are doing two different things: the first sentence assures us that both their effects apply during their overlapping duration.


Mislead specifies that an illusory double appears in the same space where the caster is standing (emphasis mine):

You become invisible at the same time that an illusory double of you appears where you are standing.

The intent and the meaning of this is to provide no evidence1 that the apparent creature that is moving and acting like the caster is actually an illusory double. If the modifications provided by Disguise Self were bypassed by Mislead, then the latter spell would have little use in crowded places (like scouting the royal palace during the Gran Gala, or running away from the deadly fight with Rocs). Moreover, Mislead is a 5th level spell: it would be not so useful if it couldn't interact well with lower-level spells such as Disguise Self.


Can one change the appearance of the double?

The spell description does not provide such option: for comparison, see the Alter Self spell (emphasis mine):

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. [...] At any time for the duration of the spell, you can use your action to change your appearance in this way again.

In this case, the option to modify the appearance when the spell takes place is clearly stated.


1 Note that there is only the Somatic component for this spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would rule the same way, but for an answer, I think some support from the rules, official rulings etc would be helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    May 17, 2023 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Molot I provided the explanation in the first part of the answer: there is no indication on how it interacts with other spells. I searched among the other illusion spells, but none provides any insight. But you're right, I should have added from the beginning references to "combining magical effect": does it look better now? \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    May 17, 2023 at 20:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot While I agree that the second part of the answer sounds a little bit opinon-y, the first part refers to spells texts, which are rules, and to the rules for combining magical effects. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    May 18, 2023 at 7:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt regarding the footnote, it is about that it does not require an arcane chanting (verbal component) or using a specific component or an arcane focus (material component), so imho it could be easier to cast it unnoticed in particular situation. For example, my DM let us do a Stealth check when one of us is trying to hide the fact that is casting a spell, with just a S component maybe the DC could be lower. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Aug 12, 2023 at 23:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt For the other question, I was thinking if it is the case to have another question , in order to have one question per post. But a quick reading of the spell suggested me a possible answer, but in my timezone is quite late in the night, I'll see tomorrow about posting an update \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Aug 12, 2023 at 23:26
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Yes, they can work in tandem

What's import is the wording of each spell; disguise self and mislead

Disguise self states (emphases mine):

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

And mislead says (emphasis mine):

You become invisible at the same time that an illusory double of you appears where you are standing.

So disguise self alters your appearance, and mislead creates an illusion of whatever you look like.

Disguise self also says that:

The changes wrought by this spell fail to hold up to physical inspection.

The mislead spell is not physical inspection. It is a spell that duplicates the appearance of the caster; that's it. No true sight, no dispel illusions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand your last sentence. Do you mean that mislead is not physical inspection, so it won't 'detect' disguise self, and neither is mislead true sight or dispel illusion, which would also detect disguise self even though they also are not physical inspection? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Aug 12, 2023 at 22:14
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It is a double - of your appearance at the time of casting

Mislead says that

You become invisible at the same time that an illusory double of you appears where you are standing

The question is, what does the double copy, your current appearance (that is, the false form you are projecting with disguise self) or your true form? Mislead doesn't say which "you" the double copies, but the intent of the spell appears to be that it copies your current appearance, regardless whether that is real or disguised. There are two distinct lines of evidence for this:

The spell is intended to, well, mislead

The whole point of the mislead spell is to fool observers into thinking that the illusory double is the actual you, even if they are witnessing you cast the spell. You become invisible at the same time the illusory double appears in your space - for any observers, nothing has happened to you beyond you making a few hand gestures. At least, that is what they would perceive if the double copied your current appearance. If your current appearance was a disguise, and the mislead spell copied your true appearance instead, observers would immediately notice the incongruity. They might think you had changed your appearance (rather than that your disguised self had become invisible and an illusion of your true self had appeared), but they would not be mislead into thinking nothing had happened. The purpose of the spell would be thwarted. In order for mislead to function as intended, it has to copy your current appearance, whether or not that is a disguise.

Spells interact with your appearance unless they say otherwise

This point is even more implicit, but it goes to the nature of how spells work in 5e (spells do only what they say they do). In general, any spell that interacts with creatures by perceiving them, perceives them as they currently appear, unless the spell specifically says it can see their true form.

For example, consider the scrying sensor produced by clairvoyance, where you can see "through the sensor as if you were in its space." Or the arcane eye, which "has normal vision and darkvision out to 30 feet." Or the sensor of the scrying spell, which allows you to "see and hear through the sensor as if you were there." In each of these cases, the scrying spell registers and transmits only the surface appearance of what it perceives. If anything is magically disguised, that fact is not noted by the spell. If you were there, and your normal vision would be fooled, then the image transmitted to you through the sensor will also fool you.

Contrast this with features and items that actually say they see through disguises. A wand of enemy detection, for example, "can sense the presence of hostile creatures that are ethereal, invisible, disguised, or hidden, as well as those in plain sight." The truesight ability of monsters (referenced in the spell true seeing) permits them to "automatically detect visual illusions...and perceive the original form of a shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic." If a spell would interact with the true form of a creature under disguise self then it would say so, and we can otherwise assume that it will be interacting with the creature's false appearance.

Thus, when mislead says that it creates an illusory double, we can assume that it creates an illusory double of your current appearance, whether disguised or not. If it was meant to copy your true form, it would need to specifically say that.

Can you change the double's appearance once cast?

So far my answer agrees with the accepted answer, although I have used slightly different reasoning to reach the same conclusion. However, the original question asks something that that answer does not address:

can the caster...use an action to dismiss Disguise Self in order to make their illusory orc double shift into a human, revealing what they really look like...?

The easy answer to this is no. By the previous logic, the function of mislead is to create a duplicate capable of fooling observers. Suddenly changing from one form to another does not enhance its credibility as 'you'.

Further, the spell does not 'track' your appearance after the creation of the double (spells do only what they say they do). If you cast mislead and then take off your hat, your illusory double does not automatically copy that gesture (although since you control its behavior, you could choose to make it do so - whether your true form actually did so or not). In fact, if the illusion tracked your appearance in real time it would vanish immediately after it appeared, since it would have to copy your new appearance - which is invisible! Simply dismissing your disguise self will not change mislead's illusory double, because once created it does not track your appearance.

That was the simple answer. But there is a more difficult issue to contend with. Mislead also says that:

You can use your action to move your illusory double up to twice your speed and make it gesture, speak, and behave in whatever way you choose.

If you you have an illusion that can be made to behave any way you choose, why can't you choose to have it assume another appearance, whether your true form or any other form? Can it "behave" by appearing to cut off its beard? To grow its beard? To grow a foot in height? To turn from orc to human? What are the limits of its 'behavior'?

Illusions are stable unless otherwise noted

One might think of illusion spells as being all mimsy-whimsy pools of amorphous color. But the illusion spells in 5e generally have pretty static forms. So much so that we can make another assumption as a corollary of spells do only what they say they do: illusions, once made, can be changed only to the extent that they say they can be. For example, the spell minor illusion creates the image of an object: for example, "a chair, muddy footprints, or a small chest". The object itself does not change appearance over the duration of the spell. A more powerful spell like major image allows you to change the illusion, but only in a very defined way:

you can use your action to cause the image to move to any other spot within range. As the image changes location, you can alter its appearance so that its movements appear natural for the image. For example, if you create an image of a creature and move it, you can alter the image so that it appears to be walking.

'Altering the appearance' of the major image does not open it up to turning an illusory orc into a human; rather, it only permits that the movements of the illusory creature to appear 'natural'. Within this context, making mislead's illusory double of you 'behave' any way you choose is limited to the 'natural' behavior expected of your (disguised) appearance. Cutting off your false beard, sure. Instantly growing a beard, no - and certainly not changing instantly from an orc to a human. Your DM may need to adjudicate what is 'natural' for your form, but there is a limit to the 'behavior' you can represent.

As further evidence for this, the OP of the question itself cites in a comment the school of illusions feature malleable illusions:

Starting at 6th level, when you cast an illusion spell that has a duration of 1 minute or longer, you can use your action to change the nature of that illusion (using the spell's normal parameters for the illusion), provided that you can see the illusion.

Another corollary of 'spells (and features) do only what they say they do' is that if a specific feature grants the ability to do something, that ability is not generally available. In this case, if wizards of the illusion school gain the ability to change the nature of their illusions at 6th level, that means other casters of illusion spells do not have this ability, since otherwise the feature would be superfluous. A wizard from another school does not have the ability to change the nature of the double in mislead, nor is that ability granted by the spell itself, specifically because an illusionist school wizard does get that ability as a specific feature of their school.

Mislead's illusory double copies your appearance at the time of casting, even if that appearance is a disguise. Once cast, the appearance of the image can only be changed within the range of what might be considered the natural behavior of the form.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlackPuddingAteMyDessert I hadn't considered that, but will add it because it makes my point so well \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 2, 2023 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlackPuddingAteMyDessert Good catch! But I do not think that if just one spell allowed this it would result in nerfing the Illusionist's feature, since this spell is also in Bard and Cleric lists. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Sep 2, 2023 at 17:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage It is just one spell, so 'nerf' is a strong word - but 'reduce the utility of' is fair. The fact that the spell appears on multiple class lists actually makes this point stronger, not weaker. Using the ability means that illusionists can do something with this spell that bards and clerics can't, which is the 'point' of the feature. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 2, 2023 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt I disagree, I think that if just one spell allowed it (and I agree that this is not the case), it is not a big deal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Sep 2, 2023 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlackPuddingAteMyDessert Remember that if you find this answer more satisfying than mine, you can un-accept mine and select this as solution to your problem. Or, if you prefer, you can put a bounty reward. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Sep 2, 2023 at 18:24

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