I have a player who wants to play a changeling and he states that as the changeling has an ability to disguise self as the spell he could look like a kobold. I told him as the spell changed minor features only but not body type that he wouldn't really look like a kobold but maybe I am misunderstanding the limitations of the spell. What exactly are the limitations of disguise self?
A Big Kobold's OK
The Player's Handbook p 222 (disguise self) says:
You cannot change your body type. For example, a human caster could look human, humanoid, or like any other human-shaped bipedal creature.
The example, which is not in itself rules, gives a reasonable answer that body type is 'general shape and number of limbs'. It also calls out humanoid (apparently the type, considering the later clause regarding shape) for humans. A kobold is humanoid, so a changeling could reasonably become a larger than normal kobold (given the height change limitations of plus or minus one foot in the spell).
How It works For Changelings
For the complete limitations of the ability (see the Minor Change Shape sidebar in the link), as it relates to changelings:
You can [become] 1 foot shorter or taller,
thin, fat, or in between
(Conservation of mass not being a thing in D&D... No real limitation listed; though flesh appears to be required, so no skeletal creatures)
You cannot change your body type. For example, a [changeling] could look human, humanoid, or like any other human-shaped bipedal creature.
(This is extraordinarily broad; definitely any humanoid, most monstrous humanoids (young minotaurs, medusae, large dromites), plus many fey, several devils and demons, many celestials and a significant variety of other outsiders, some giants (like half giants), some aberrations (like elans), just about any undead, and perhaps even a medium ape or baboon)
Otherwise, the extent of the apparent change is up to you. You could add or obscure a minor feature or look like an entirely different person. The [ability] does not provide the abilities or mannerisms of the chosen form, [but it alters your actual] tactile (touch) and audible (sound) properties [though not that of your] equipment.
(You have extremely broad leeway, and you look, and feel and sound like the form you've assumed. The sound properties are demonstrated as Rules As Intended at the very least in the Eberron Campaign Setting and Races of Eberron sections regarding changelings, such as RoE p42-4: 'A Day in the Life' section.)
How It works Otherwise
As for the limitations of the disguise self spell itself, the only differences from the above are that the caster only appears to have the listed changes, and its equipment is visually disguised (so no effect on move silently, for example).
A kobold’s scaly skin ranges from dark rusty brown to a rusty black color. It has glowing red eyes. Its tail is nonprehensile. Kobolds wear ragged clothing, favoring red and orange. A kobold is 2 to 2½ feet tall and weighs 35 to 45 pounds. Kobolds speak Draconic with a voice that sounds like that of a yapping dog.
All Changelings fall within the boundaries of medium size, usually standing between 5 and 6 feet tall.
You can seem 1 foot shorter or taller
At most, a normally-sized Changeling can get down to 4' using his ability. By strictest RAW and normal ranges, the spell does not get him close enough.
An abnormally short Changeling is still legitimate, and those can start at 4' per the rules for medium size creature heights and shrink to 3'. 3' is short enough to pass as a tall kobold, easily. Within your rights to rule that this draws attention, though, if you rule that this is allowed. If you do rule it draws attention, make spot rolls more common to notice something is "off".
The Changeling still has ANOTHER +10(for a total of +20 just for being Changelings) on their disguise check plus normal bonuses to make themselves look shorter. How much of a penalty this is is up to you, but sex and race are each a mere -2, and are a reasonable guidline for this.
2.Edit: Epic Disguise rules state that to change your height by 11%-25% is a -25 on the check, which is sufficient to drop a 4' Changleling down to 2'3" if you rule that this penalty is independent of Disguise Self's magical(and due to it being a racial feature of the Changlinge, actual) height reduction.
- I've seen street performers change their appearances quite radically without a supernatural +20 on their disguise checks. This player is picking a very specific race with disguise as its racial power. Letting that race be capable of passing as a member of other races is not only within the RAI of the race, but also within the realm of believability for a normal human in the real world.
But then there's game balance*
Personally, for a set DC and character implications, I'd be ok with the player being able to achieve the look of a kobold. However, I, personally, would make it clear that this has no impact on his character's statistics, as that is clearly outside the intent of the rules being brought to bear in this case. Specifically, I would rule that he does not get to count as a small sized creature as an at-will racial ability, if I let him count as a Changeling at all.
OMG! It's a giant Kobold!!! 3.5 is a world where Changelings exist, so I am pretty sure they'd be outed.
Per the rules they can only change one foot in height, taller or shorter.
This is why people trust the smaller races, like Halflings or Gnomes to be who they are and not a changeling. You just KNOW they can't be a changeling--right?
If their base height is abnormally short they might be able to pass as a large one but..yeeeah, they are going to be found out. This is specifically a limitation on Changelings, and for sure I would not allow it. They cannot change from medium size (changeling) to small size kobold. They got one foot to work with from their base height up or down, and they can make themselves look fatter or slimmer, change facial features or pretend to be a race. It will not mean they know any of the language or customs though.
And as has already been stated, no they aren't actually a kolbold, and no, they can't automatically use a weapon for kolbolds. Same is true if they go elf--you need a feat for that.
This is far beyond the ability of a standard changeling, and in order to do so, I would say they might need a special feat or something. I don't think any of the racial feats on the books for them covers this. Changing size type just isn't something they can do unless they are already on the edge.