Making Tools Useful in 5e: Disguise Kit
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The peasants let out a large uproar in celebration! The King has arrived, along with his retinue of strangely-dressed, and slightly rough looking guards who all look like those heroes who were just here. But your eyes have never lied to you, that is surely the king! He even has a golden crown and a fancy sword, and they don’t give those out willy-nilly! You have to find some sort of lake monster to get one from!
But of course, those rough looking guards all know the truth. That’s their friend, a wily half-elf who really didn’t want to pay for a room at the inn tonight. So they hatched a plan to dress him up as some sort of nobility and it all just got really out of hand. At least, they’ll be gone early in the morning before any of the peasants catch on to them… they hope!
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Now there is all sorts of fun you can get yourself into with a Disguise Kit… well, maybe trouble is more appropriate. Let’s see what our favorite floating eyeball has to say about it, page 81 of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything:
The perfect tool for anyone who wants to engage in trickery, a disguise kit enables its owner to adopt a false identity.
Components. A disguise kit includes cosmetics, hair dye, small props, and a few pieces of clothing.
Deception. In certain cases, a disguise can improve your ability to weave convincing lies.
Intimidation. The right disguise can make you look more fearsome, whether you want to scare someone away by posing as a plague victim or intimidate a gang of thugs by taking the appearance of a bully.
Performance. A cunning disguise can enhance an audience's enjoyment of a performance, provided the disguise is properly designed to evoke the desired reaction.
Persuasion. Folk tend to trust a person in uniform. If you disguise yourself as an authority figure, your efforts to persuade others are often more effective.
Create Disguise. As part of a long rest, you can create a disguise. It takes you 1 minute to don such a disguise once you have created it. You can carry only one such disguise on you at a time without drawing undue attention, unless you have a bag of holding or a similar method to keep them hidden. Each disguise weighs 1 pound.
At other times, it takes 10 minutes to craft a disguise that involves moderate changes to your appearance, and 30 minutes for one that requires more extensive changes.
I don’t know about you but this one just feels a bit… well, mailed in. Obviously the designers at WotC had there hands busy with other things than making a system for each tool, which is fine, but this is just… Something else. I understand what they were doing, they went through all the skills and highlighted where the tool could match up with their skills. Unfortunately, it leads to some pretty uninspiring moments… like how a disguise can improve your ability to make convincing lies or how a disguise can be used in a way to enhance a performance.
Though, I can’t be completely hard on them. I like the last part about creating a disguise. Though, I’d love it if it made any sense. First off, you can make a disguise as part of a long rest… but it takes 10 minutes to craft a disguise and other times it takes 30 minutes to craft a disguise. I’m getting three different values, and the restriction of only one costume on a person at a time is ridiculous.
Are adventurer’s getting their backpacks checked so frequently by guards that you can’t hide a costume? I must be missing something… or I’m going too easy on my players by never checking their bags? Furthermore, if I were a guard I’d be more suspicious of a bag of holding than a backpack. It’s a bit ridiculous and I’m not sure what they were trying to accomplish with that weird restriction. But you know what, we can work with what they have here, and I’m going to make a pretty simple system for using the Disguise Kit.
I Swear I’m the King
The basics of a Disguise Kit is to disguise who you are, and in our system I am going to break it down into three different categories. Not every costume is going to be a huge masterpiece, and thus will take less time… which is what I think they were going for in Xanathar’s, but they really didn’t make it clear. Our categories are:
Plain disguises are simple changes like a superficial scar, a costume change or applying a small temporary tattoo. These are quick to apply and only take 10 minutes.
Middling disguises are somewhere between being very fast and time consuming to assemble. In an hour, you can create a large tattoo, dye your hair, or put on complex dresses like those huge ballroom gowns from way back when. This typically requires about an hour of work as you need more time to get things just right.
Elaborate disguises require the most work and don’t have a set amount of time to create. These disguises include things like using makeup to give yourself an entirely new face, creating entirely new costumes, or creating a new persona for a performance. The time it takes to create something is largely up to the DM’s discretion as some things will take longer than others.
Creating the costume does not require any checks and is just something you can create. Of course, a DM might decide something is very complex and require a check but for most costumes, you are proficient in make them. The only check involved with this costume is when you are interacting with others. If someone becomes suspicious of you, either because you fail an important deception check or say the wrong thing, they must make an Insight check contested by your Disguise Kit check. The check only comes into play when there is a chance for meaningful failure.
You can give yourself advantage on this check by spending extra time making sure everything is just right. When you give yourself a small scar to mimic someone else, that would be considered a Plain disguise which requires 10 minutes to apply. If you spend double that time, in this example 20 minutes, you can give yourself advantage on any Disguise Kit checks as you made sure everything was perfect.
Now, this is a very simple system and that is kind of on purpose. If one were to make an entire system for an infinite number of possibilities for a disguise kit, well that would just be ridiculous. It’s impossible to get into granular details of disguises and still come out with a simple system that can fit on a single page, though I’m open to being wrong on that! Instead, I think this will be a good kit to help give your players something to spend their money on. When they go to create a costume, a Disguise Kit only has so many things in it and they will be forced to go out and buy supplies.
I have added a small list of typical supplies that an inspiring “actor” may want for their costumes, but there really is no limit to what you could disguise yourself as! The disguise kit is a fun little tool that can really help the party sneak into places that they probably shouldn’t be… but where’s the fun in not sneaking into the King’s Ball tonight?
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