We are roleplaying in 5e D&D. Typically, I agree with DM decisions. However, a question came up on a decision that I don't agree with and I'm wondering if maybe I'm just missing something.

Our party includes a Drow warlock that is disguising herself as a half-elf. No one in our party has been able to see through this disguise and we all still think she is a half-elf. We are all still level 1, so I'm assuming no magic items are involved. I also don't believe that she is capable of casting powerful enough disguises to fool all of us (I say this knowing someone will find a way and post it). We have just finished a week long forced march traveling 14-16 hours a day.

Is there anyway that a drow could disguise herself as a half-elf convincingly, and would any such methods hold up to a week long forced march so that none of the party members would notice anything was odd? (I don't believe that she is wearing a permanent mask, because that would raise suspicion)

My goal is not to discuss rules (I added what system we are using in case it did become relevant). I'm mostly just wanting plausible story answers.

EDIT: I think the main problem with my belief is I didn't consider the option of dark skin. I mentally picture elves as 'fair folk'. I sort of bunched half-elves into the same category. I don't remember her description saying she was dark skinned, but if so it's quite possible.

On the other hand if she is trying to pass herself off as a light skinned elf, that is more difficult. Makeup at best is water resistant and would start to run from the sweat of 14-16 hours of hiking daily. If she brushed her face, makeup would smear. Clothes brushing against makeup would rub it away. If anything like that occurred then her obsidian black skin would show up in stark contrast against her light skin.

I guess it basically comes down to if she is disguised as a light skinned half elf or dark skinned. I don't remember for sure either way (making me assume it was light because I feel I would have noticed/remembered if it was dark).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi! Welcome to RPG.SE! Check the help center or try the tour for a useful intro to the site! Sorry, I'm not really understanding your question... You don't want to discuss rules, but you want in-game methods to explain how the disguise would work at low levels? Because, without rules and focusing on just story, anything is possible really. Even simply just waiving the rules and saying your characters fall for the disguise. Or granting the Drow temporary access to more powerful magics. (This question may present too broad a spectrum of answers) \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 6:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I read the question as asking how this is plausible primarily from a narrative point of view, rather than whether it’s remotely possible from a rules-lawyering point of view. That is, given that it’s allowed (through some loophole or power build or DM fiat), how can you explain it so the other players can believe it, or at least suspend disbelief? Nerdy Fool, it’d help if you could confirm or clarify that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 7:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Three questions: 1) Had anyone in the party ever seen an actual drow before? 2) Has anyone asked the warlock what type of elf her elven half is? 3) How are any of you even alive after a week of forced marches? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @braddSzonye You are correct. I'm just looking for a believable story because it seems quite difficult for me to believe. Some of these answers so far are write good. I think it is possible that none of us have noticed (although maybe still unlikely). \$\endgroup\$
    – NerdyFool
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 20:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NerdyFool Thanks for the clarifications. By the way, is there a reason why you haven’t just asked the other player what the character looks like in disguise, and why they think it’s plausible? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 2:15

6 Answers 6


Drow appearance is very distinctive: white hair, smooth jet skin, pointed ears. It might seem impossible to cover up, if you ignore all of the black-skinned people who aren’t elves. However, if you dye a drow’s hair brown or black, she could easily pass for a black-skinned human, especially if you also frizz or fluff or dreadlock the hair and cover the ears. You can further enhance the disguise with facial hair, scarification, tattoos, chalk, or paint, depending on the setting and gender and what people expect a “black” person to look like. If you can’t hide your ears, remember that it’s a fantasy cliché that pointy ears and a beard always means half-elf!

If you want more flexibility in skin color (e.g., if black men are just as shunned as drow in the setting), you can lighten it with cosmetics. The more skin you show, the more likely you are to slip up eventually, so this works best for outfits that don’t show much skin. Of course, it’s pretty common for adventurers to cover up with armor or robes, cloaks and hoods and gloves and bandanas and veils. You needn’t cover all the skin, just enough so that the rest is easy to cover with make-up. Alternately, the drow could use bleaching agents to lighten the skin long-term (or at least until magical disguises are available). Skin lightening has a long history in the real world. You could even use dirt and mud – you don’t need to be pretty, just different enough so that “drow” isn’t the first thing to come to mind.

As long as you aren’t trying to pass as a fair half-elf, there are many plausible options that will stand up to the rigors of adventuring life. Most of them won’t even need much touching up.


There is one fairly simple method: Don't show your skin. Wear clothes that cover your entire body, gloves over your hands, and a hood and/or veil for your head.

The main problem there will be coming up with a plausible explanation for why you're doing this, but there are a number of options:

1) You come from a culture where full body-covering clothes and a veil are normal, and in fact your culture/religion require you to wear such things and not show your skin to anyone. Real world parallels should be obvious. Easy to pull off in the short term, but may cause long-term problems when your friends become suspicious of why you're so adamant about it or suspect that your "culture" is fabricated.

2) You're a burn victim, and while your wounds have healed, they've left terribly, disfiguring scars that you would be ashamed if anyone saw. The key to this one is to not play it out too quickly, you're ashamed after all, so you should try and dodge the question at first, or even give a different reason and fall back to this as "revealing the true reason" if someone catches you on the first one you gave.

3) You've been cursed in some way, perhaps changing your skin color, making you sensitive to light, or bringing misfortune to anyone who looks upon you. This works similarly to option #2, but would be a bit more difficult to convince someone of, with the advantage of having an even better reason to keep covered.

4) You've been cursed with the appearance of a drow, despite being of a different race. This is perhaps even harder to pull off than #3, but is a great long-term solution, since it means you don't have to worry about accidentally revealing yourself to your friends. You'll still keep covered in public to "hide your shame and prevent misunderstandings", of course, but among friends you could even forgo the disguise altogether.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related to 4 is the spell reincarnate. Say you are actually a (non-drow) half-elf and just had bad luck with the new body. (I've had this happen in 3e.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Hassassin
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 9:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it too late for the Drow to be an albino? \$\endgroup\$
    – Korack
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 12:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Prestidigititation can be used to recolor your skin (albeit not much of it, and only for a few hours at a time, but you can cast it all day, and if only your face is exposed, you're gold) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 15:53

As an addendum to many answers already posted here, you need to remember that every person you encounter only ever has a roll to discover your disguise if they actively try to do so. Unless you give them a reason to suspect you are using one, like disguising yourself as someone they are intimately familiar with and not having mastered their manerism, as long as you beat their passive insight and/or perception, you should be in the clear.

In this situation, you are not trying to pass yourself as someone in particular. In fact, you are merely trying to hide some very easily hidden racial features: a drow, except for his skin and hair color, looks pretty much like a normal elf. A normal disguise kit should have good dyes for the hair and makeup for the hands and face. After all, everyone is wearing armor or robes that cover everything, and so should you. Besides, you're attempting to pass as a half-elf, which the PHB describes as having a broad range of coloration for skin and hair, due to the mixed lineage. This makes the coloration issue a lot more permissive. Also, the racial guidelines for height and weight presented in the PHB allow for drows that are very similar in build to the lower end of the half-elves distribution.

As a GM, I'd even give you advantage on your disguise roll to reflect the lower difficulty of the disguise and your superior practice in using it. After all, your character's been using that disguise everyday for years, and it's basically become a real second skin to him. This can be worked out as an alternate background ability, too! In fact, the "False identity" from the charlatan background would work really well for this, and the rules don't seem to require a check for this second persona. The GM could very well rule that unless someone interacts with both personas, and thus have a chance to notice they look strangely familiar, each persona is so ingrained in the character that observers simply don't even get to roll to notice them. I'd still make you roll a disguise check with a low-ish base DC, however, as it's not impossible that you slip up someday. Or perhaps someone in the party could notice, but believe that you are an imposter masquerading as your actual character!

To facilitate your disguising operation :

  1. Be proficient with Disguise Kits (and possibly Charisma [Deception]). These are your main tools. As a warlock, you'll have a high charisma, making the rolls pretty easy, especially if you get advantage on the roll from a backgroud ability. While the rules list "pulling together a disguise" as an Intelligence check, this specific disguise has been practiced so much that it's more a "personna" issue, justifying the use of charisma with the disguise kit.
  2. Clip your ears. As a full drow, you probably have longer ears than a normal half elf. This is the only physical feature that can betray you upon inspection. If the job isn't well done, say you were enslaved in your youth and your ears were clipped as an identifying mark. People do that to half-elves all the time in some parts of the world...
  3. Get a single person tent. As a drow, you only need to sleep 4 hours, something that a half-elf can't do. Use those 4 extra hours in the night to disguise yourself in your tent while no one can see you. It's probably easier if you get first or last guard duty, but not impossible nonetheless.
  4. Stay away from water. You don't want water to mess up your makeup and hair dye. Get a good oiled hooded cloak for the rain (antique waterproofing for you!) and don't take public baths.
  5. Buy a small mirror. While you can put gloves to hide your hands, you can't always do so with your face. Check your face regularly. You'll pass off as vain, probably, but better being vain than discovered. Find excuses to isolate yourself and touchup your makeup when needed.
  6. Justify the wearing of a ritual mask. If you can somehow justify to your friends that you need to wear a mask full-time, you're golden! Keep using makeup, so you can take the mask off when required, but now it will require a lot less touching up! Maybe it's for religious duties, maybe your patron requires it of you (if you being a warlock is public domain), etc.
  7. Get to level 2. At this point, warlock gives you the disguise self spell at will. Find an excuse to be away from the party 6 seconds every hour to cast it and you're in the clear. Since the changes are only color-based (skin and hair), there is nothing physically amiss for a physical inspection to notice. You're not thinner/bigger or taller/smaller than you should, you do not have extra features, like longer ears when you shouldn't, etc. It's only color, and a physical inspection shouldn't be able to reveal it. After all, you did clip your ears, right?
  • \$\begingroup\$ Brilliant answer covering both narrative and rules. +1 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 21:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given drow culture, you have to ask why she'd be slumming it with the lesser races in the first place. Perhaps she'ss raised from childhood to infiltrate the surface as part of Lolth's long-term schemes? She'd have professional training then, and the priestesses would have no compunction clipping her hairs and bleaching her skin (shudders) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed! If the character is some kind of Drizz't-like underdark escapee, hiding can be difficult, but not impossible. If it's some sort of matriarch master plan, I'm pretty sure a polymorph spell isn't out of their reach either. My answer is based on the assumption that the character is on their own, however. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dungarth
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 5:26

I am currently playing in a game where I am a chromatic dragonborn. Being a warlock added to the adversity I would have faced.

Similar to AgentPaper's answer, I have chosen a cultural reason to hide my identity.

The GM and I decided that I came from the equatorial regions where the sun is harsh, and the native humans are pygmies. I thought about it and decided that I would have served some time as a voodoo priest in a tribe and start wearing garb like Diablo 3's witch doctor: long robes of light fabric with feathers and leaves and a similar hood and a huge wooden mask.

Where I would have drawn attention and animosity, I now bring curiosity and interesting, subtle wariness.

Rules-wise, at 2nd level warlock gains access to the disguise self spell at will, so I suppose its not too far fetched that you could manage something along those veins with your GM, probably sacrificing one of drow's natural abilities or something for it.


I think that one of most difficult things to hide would be your eye color. How would you cover that up? I'm finding myself at this disadvantage also since I'm interested in running a drow rogue. A cowl with a face mask could work fine and if needed be i could use make up to make my skin lighter or dye my hair; eyes are a different matter for drow since they are very indistinguishable.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.stackexchange.com, it may be helpful to provide RAW (rules as written) reasons why eyes or other features would be difficult to hide. If you link to specific sources helps users understand that this isn't your opinion. Also, check out the tour at rpg.stackexchange.com/tour to familiarize yourself with basics of the community. Cheers! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 20:56

With DM intervention your options are almost endless.

Interpretting the question as can a Level 1 Character, with access to the standard spells/skills/equipment available to level 1 create a disguise to hide their nature from a party for an extended period.

One solution would be a disguise kit:

Disguise Kit: This pouch of cosmetics, hair dye, and small props lets you create disguises that change your physical appearance. Proficiency with this kit lets you add your proficiency bonus to any ability check you make to create a visual disguise.

At the moment within the extent of the rules there is no further explanation on kits. How long does a disguise last, how often can someone check to see through your disguise. It becomes entirely up to the DM. Logic dictates makeup and such would run during any heavy effort, and would have to be redone at least every long rest. Disguises are meant to get you into the ball or passed the security guards. Not fool anyone for an extended period of time.

There are no level 1 warlock spells which allow you to alter your physical appearance, the only low level spell is Alter Self which is level 2 spell and warlocks do not have access to it and it only lasts up to an hour.

The answer is simply no. There is no way a level 1 character can maintain a disguise for an extended period without DM intervention.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "This question has a huge range of answers depending on what the DM allows." Means we should work with the OP on narrowing the question before answering. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 7:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ These are disguise kits in a magical world full of magical items. That could be magical cosmetics with magical dye and magical props, all capable of looking totally realistic for weeks. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 8:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Yes, but disguise kit per the disguise kit tool that is available to level 1 characters. Magical disguise kit would go beyond the basics a level 1 character has access to without DM intervention. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tashio
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 8:02

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