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The Firbolg Magic trait says:

Firbolg Magic. You can cast detect magic and disguise self spells with this trait. When you use this version of disguise self, you can seem up to 3 feet shorter or taller.

If the "seem" in this description wasn't clear enough, disguise self itself hammers home the concept that the change is purely optical.

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.

Does this mean a Firbolg can essentially make their real head invisible, being thus able to stand behind a wall tall enough to fully conceal their illusory form but with their real, invisible head poking out above?

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2 Answers 2

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This works

Your quotations cover all the relevant rules. (Up to) Three feet of the Firbolg's height is not visible, so all they have to worry about hiding is the remaining part of their image.

Obviously, if an opponent has Truesight or the like, the Firbolg will look like an idiot trying to hide with three feet of them sticking over the top, but otherwise, it works exactly as you expect.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoakimM.H. They wouldn't be able to see the bits behind the wall, but the grinning, oblivious head of the Firbolg they definitely could. \$\endgroup\$
    – biziclop
    May 30, 2023 at 13:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoakimM.H.: That question covers the case of actual shapechanging (needing to spot the small current form to have a chance perceive the real form), but for the case of "illusion conceals part of body, which is still physically there", I think it's pretty clear truesight will work. It automatically detects visual illusions, and Disguise Self is just a visual illusion. It's not making the Firbolg any smaller, so the 3' of "real Firbolg" concealed by the illusion, if in line of sight, would be visible to anyone with truesight. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2023 at 16:05
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Let's be careful with words

The firbolg is not invisible, because invisible is a game term with a specific definition, and that definition is certainly not 'having part of them behind cover and the other part under an illusion'. For example, they would not be revealed by a see invisibility spell, but could be seen as normal (that is, the part not concealed by the wall) by a creature with truesight.

Rather than say they are invisible, we can say that even though the firbolg can see, it is completely unseen. It is unseen because part of its body is behind total cover / is concealed by an obstacle, and the part of its body that is not behind cover does not appear to be present because of their magical disguise. Since they are unseen, if they were targeted, we would use the rules for attacking and being attacked while unseen.

Because the wall is concealing the part of them that can be seen, we could also say that they are heavily obscured. This largely overlaps with them being unseen, but in addition means that any skill check made against them that relies on sight would fail.

Finally, if we suppose the firbolg is actually 7' tall regardless of appearances, them more than half of it is behind the wall. We would grant them three-quarters cover, but not total cover, to effects originating on the other side of the wall. Their cover depends on their actual body, not their appearance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note. Fir in Old Irish is the nominative plural (so too in modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic), either that or the genitive singular. So you should be saying ‘fear bolg’ when you want the plain singular. How’s that for pedantry? The mistake probably arises because they were so often referred to in the plural. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cecil Ward
    May 30, 2023 at 17:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another fyi. The spelling system was different in OIr and nowadays we would spell this ‘fir bholg’ (nom. pl.), or ‘fear bolg’ (nom. sing.), and the ‘b’ now spelled ‘bh’ for clarity was and still is pronounced like a /v/. Back then it was perhaps bilabial, ie pronounced lip-to-lip, not labiodental, teeth-to-lip. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cecil Ward
    May 30, 2023 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ So /fir’ voLg/ for the nom. pl. and /fɛr voLg/ for the nom. sing. This would also be the pronunciation in modern Scottish Gaelic, although Irish dialects differ. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cecil Ward
    May 30, 2023 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CecilWard I have no reason to doubt your linguistic corrections, but note that in MMoP (their source in 5e), firbolg is used as the singular and firbolgs as the plural. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    May 30, 2023 at 23:50

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