In my current campaign one of my players is playing a Changeling. He has requested that he be allowed to keep his Changeling lineage a secret, and so far it hasn't been a problem as he hasn't shifted in front of the party members.

However, last session we ran into a grey area. He ran out into the hallway (in game) during a Social Encounter and came back into the room a few seconds later and announced "I am now disguised as the sheriff." Since I didn't know what to do, I just had him roll bluff against everyone's passive insight. This confused the other players as they thought How could his disguise fool us? We know what he looks like already! but I quickly moved on blaming it on the changeling being an "illusion" wizard and everyone just fell prey to magic.

So today I am looking back at the game notes from last session, and am reminded of this situation in the game. I go to look up the specific rules for the Changeling power "Changeling Disguise" and I read this:

Effect: You alter your physical form to take on the appearance of any Medium humanoid. You retain your statistics in your new form, and your clothing, armor, and possessions do not change. The new form lasts until you change form again. Any creature that attempts to see through your ruse makes an Insight check opposed by your Bluff check, and you gain a +5 bonus to your check.

So in my specific case I wasn't too far off in my guess (I should have had them roll active insight against his bluff instead of passive insight) of how to navigate this?

  • Is treating the other player character's as "creatures" and making them do skill contests in situations like this one the right thing to do?
  • What about in "normal" settings should the changeling have to make bluff checks even when he is in his standard "human form"? (So far since he introduced himself as this "human" wizard I have been going on the assumption that his allies blindly accept him as a human.)

2 Answers 2


Two Interpretations

This depends on whether you meant to say that his character came back in the room and announced "I am now disguised as the sheriff", or whether you meant that the player announced that his character was disguised as the sheriff after coming back in the room.

Character Announced

In the first case, his character isn't trying to convince the other party members that he's the sheriff, he's trying to convince them that he used a disguise, rather than changing shape. That's a normal bluff interaction, which wouldn't work on the other player characters. They would each just react according to how suspicious their player feels that they are and how strange that character would find this event.

Player Announced

In the second case, his character is actually trying to fool the other characters with a magical effect. In this case, it seems each player would decide whether their character was suspicious of the sheriff, in which case they would qualify as a "creature that attempts to see through your ruse", and would be entitled to an active Insight check against the Changeling's Bluff + 5 check. I think this makes sense, because we're not really testing the player characters' opinions about something someone said, which the players have control over, but their ability to see through a magical trick, which is a difficult task that should depend on their skills.

Ongoing Trickery

As for your last question, the first time he met the other characters, he was probably just trying to appear human, not as some particular person they actually know. In which case it's unlikely they would be suspicious enough to attempt to see through his ruse, and wouldn't need to roll any Insight checks. Any future time he shifts back to human he's trying to emulate a particular person, so they might be more likely to be suspicious and try to see through the ruse. That being said, if a player decides their character wants to make an active attempt to see through the changeling's ruse, let them.

How I'd Do It

It seems to me like there's no real guideline for determining when to make a roll. I doubt this is RAW, but here's what I would do to make this make sense.

Have the player roll a Bluff + 5 check every time their character uses Changeling Disguise. This number represents how good of a job the character did on that particular shapeshift attempt, which would be static until they shift again.

When anybody sees them - PC or NPC - compare that Bluff check to their passive Insight. If the Insight is higher, have the character roll Insight. This represents the character passively noticing something is off and doing a double-take.

Add or subtract any relevant modifiers to the Insight roll, like if the character rolling Insight knows the person the Changeling is disguised as or not, then compare the active roll to the Bluff roll. If the Insight roll is higher, then the character is consciously aware something is wrong and may take action to determine exactly what it is.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer got a downvote without a comment. Anybody have any idea why, whether you're responsible or not? \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    May 12, 2014 at 22:14

In general, in D&D and other d20-type games, interaction skills don't work on PCs. You can't Bluff or Intimidate the players into doing something, or convince them to believe a lie you've told. You can't use Diplomacy to improve their disposition. The idea is basically that, while you can influence an NPC, PCs are run by actual players and you can't change another player's mind.

That said, I think it's perfectly reasonable that, for something mechanical like seeing through a disguise, the interaction skill works fine. It's not a matter of convincing them. It's a matter of working mechanically against what they notice. From there, they can decide whether or not they think it's strange that this guy was able to step out and back in with a perfect disguise, and they can come up with their own conclusions about how he did it.

As regards the final question, it hits that weird middle ground of "Am I disguising myself as a specific person or as a general type". They're really judging him by the latter, which generally carries a bonus since they have nothing specific to base it off of. So instead of "My goodness... you can't be Elvis the Elven Enchanter! You look nothing like him!", it might instead be "You know... anyone ever tell you that your ears don't look quite right? Like they're half-baked?" Theoretically, he should be making a new Disguise change every time he morphs back to this "default" form, but with all of the bonuses for "knows the target extremely well".

As a postscript, there's a good discussion on the pros and cons of allowing use of interaction skills on other players in How to use social skills versus player characters, with the general tenor of the answers weighing towards "it's no different from deciding to swing a sword at a PC. It might work. It might not. It might also cause mild resentment form the player".


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