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My group has previously joked about my gnome Bard disguising himself as an Orc and broadly suggested that wouldn't work because of the height difference.

However, my interpretation (based on understanding of disguise kits and deception) is that accounting for the height difference (i.e. stilts) is implied in the disguise/deception process.

If I put myself in the shoes of the GM, the only limiting factor I can see is the availability of the materials to make the disguise.

How does the game handle this attempt?

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Usually, the Disguise Kit contains materials that do not allow you to change your physical structure and somatic characteristics a lot:

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 checks you make to create a visual disguise.

However, nothing prevents your GM to let you find material such as stilts or masks that allow for a rough disguise. Maybe, a higher Deseption CD is required with respect to the original case, since Gnomes and Orcs are very different races.

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The Disguise Self spell restricts any height change to one foot taller or shorter, and the Alter Self spell doesn't allow you to change your size when adopting the form of another race/person.

The disguise kit is quite vague (likely intentionally), but makes no mention of any height-altering apparatus, meaning the DM would have to decide if what you describe seems feasible, and if allowed, should apply an appropriate DC for the disguise. However, if the above magic spells (designed specifically for the purposes of disguising yourself as others) include these limitations for disguising yourself as other races, then I very much doubt the feasibility of a box of cosmetics and other devices managing it.

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I'd be inclined to allow the attempt, but require the character to come up with a very good rationale. There is the precedent of Sam and Frodo doing just this in Mordor, though Tolkien's orcs are closer to D&D goblins in stature.

He might disguise himself as a short Orc wearing a heavy cloak, for instance (to conceal body shape), or say he is going to remain seated during the encounter.

Ultimately, the game is about larger than life characters doing impossible things. I'd allow the attempt (at a higher DC, probably) with a serious and well-planned approach.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd say Disguise won't be able to make the gnome look 2 meters tall, but he could still attempt to pass as an orc with dwarfism. It would be one reason for others to look a bit closer at him, but that would be covered by an increased DC. Disguise is not simply creating the look, but also pulling off a convincing act. Being of an unusual size means you have to act harder to make people buy it. \$\endgroup\$ – Yora May 18 '16 at 10:21
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Use an Enlarge Person spell also, if the disguise is needed for a short period of time.

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