Disguise skill in play

Hey all,

First, thanks again for all of your help on the social skills thread I started a couple weeks back. Second, here is another question on which my GM and I can’t agree. How is disguise handled mechanically?

For background, I made a grifter. Life paths of Born Noble, Lord, Courtier, Con Man. Basic story: he was a lord at a very young age. Several members of his family, those who were ruling on his behalf because he was too young to do so himself, betrayed the crown and were beheaded. My character lost his rank and land, at which point he adopted a new identity and started a long con of the court, a con devoted to regaining his lordship. As part of the long con, he runs a series of short grifts designed to make him very wealthy in the hopes that he can make a substantial enough donation to the court that they give him a lordship in return. He’s known by many individuals, which means he needs to be disguised as he’s running his short grifts, most of which are illegal. In play, my guy will be disguised most of the time. He has a B4 disguise skill and a G5 falsehood. (Indeed, we’ve played one session thus far, and he spent the entirety of that first game in disguise.)

With that background in mind, here’s where my GM and I disagree. He thinks disguise is usually going to be a linked test with whatever social skill I’m using in the moment. We’ll do the disguise check first, and then–linked to it–the social skill. He says, perhaps accurately, this is more interesting than rolling disguise each time I don a new appearance, his concern being we have no idea in advance whether a disguise will actually matter to the fiction. So, in his view, we’ll roll disguise only when someone has cause to care about the way I look (when they are trying to see if I’m really whom I claim to be).

I do not think this represents disguise as written in Gold. To me, the disguise skill is not about tricking people into thinking I’m someone else–it’s about looking like someone else. If I succeed, I look as I wanted to. If I fail, I don’t, and everyone who sees me knows something is wrong. In my view, then, disguise is rolled when the disguise is applied, not when someone investigates to see if something is amiss. Social skills, usually Falsehood forked with Acting, would be rolled later, when I’m interacting with people and trying to trick them into thinking I’m who I claim to be. In that way a failed disguise doesn’t hurt my interaction with just one person, but with everyone who sees me.

Take an example that will come up very early in our next game:

My character is male, but he is going to disguise himself as a female merchant in an attempt to con a powerful merchant into giving him some information that is essential to a larger heist he’s helping execute. In my GM’s view, I will go to the merchant in disguise and start roleplaying. When the fiction calls for it, I will make a linked test starting with disguise and ending with Falsehood or Acting or Seduction or whatever other social skill is appropriate. The disguise roll will only matter to this single merchant, so failure will only apply to my interaction with the merchant in question.

In my view, I will make the disguise test to see if I look like a female merchant when I first don the disguise. The players will all know if I succeeded or not. Independent of success or failure, my character will go to the powerful merchant. Assuming I fail, everyone with whom I interact will know I’m a man dressed as a woman, not just the merchant in question. If I succeed in the disguise check, I will look like a woman to everyone and thereby get an advantage die or a FoRK on my social skills tests. If I don’t succeed, the merchant (and anyone else) will get the advantage and/or I will have an increased obstacle, because I look like an idiot.

So now I get back to my question: does disguise get rolled when you first disguise yourself so that interactions with everyone are affected, or do you wait to roll until it is relevant in a single social situation with a finite audience? (In the latter scenario, a disguise could be awesome with one set of people and terrible with another set.)


P.S. Thanks in advance. And I’m sorry this was so long. Brevity has never been one of my talents. :frowning:

Disguise gets rolled when it matters. Since it doesn’t really matter most of the time until someone tries to see through your disguise it should get rolled then most of the time. In my opinion.

You’re laying out stuff here—failure in particular—that should be left for the moment of play. You should be telling the GM very clearly what you want to do and why (and how). Then he will give you an obstacle and a failure condition. The obstacle and failure condition are based on your task (disguised as a woman) and your intent (conning the merchant out of some information).

There are myriad possibilities for failure in that set up, but only your GM can give you that information.

As for your question, the answer strictly comes down to your intent. Strictly. Your intent is to con this merchant. Your intent is not to fool the whole town. Therefore, the results of the disguise test only come into play with the merchant character. If your intent was different, the effect could be different as well.

Awesome. Thank you both. That answer indicates I was wrong, at least in this situation, but I’m good being wrong. Just so long as I know we’re playing it correctly.

As a subset to the first question, though I am risking more layering that should be saved for the moment of play, here is another question.

Let’s say I succeed with the first merchant and get the information I want. Cool. Extend the scenario. I remain in the same disguise and visit a new person, say the local duke. The information I just attained would, hypothetically, cause serious harm to the Duke’s reputation, so now I have the following intent: Using the same female disguise I employed with the merchant, I want to blackmail the duke into giving me the item I’m trying to steal from him. Does the successful disguise roll with the merchant mean I Let it Ride and treat the disguise as successful with the Duke, or do I re-roll the Disguise in a linked test with whatever social skill best suits blackmail (probably persuasion)?


You let it ride but since the Duke might have a higher perception you record your successes from your first roll and compare it to the Duke’s perception. At least that’s how I would do it.

I’d do a linked test, or LiR if the circumstances are still the same. The social skill would depend on how you go about getting the item: demand and threaten (Intimidation), attempt to be convincing (Persuasion), tell him thieves are coming for it and that it will be safer in your hands until the thieves are dealt with (Falsehood), hint at bestowing certain favours (Seduction).

Lots of options.

Just let it ride unless the situation has honestly changed. If the Duke and the merchant are equally gullible and you’re using the same disguise, DO NOT REROLL. If the Duke is a LITTLE MORE SHARPER than the merchant…DO NOT REROLL. If the Duke has a special trait or a very high Perception like 7 or 8, then maybe the GM should call for a reroll.

But remember, this goes for failure too. If you fail, you ride that into your con with the Duke. Hilarity ensues.

Alright. That’s what I expected everyone. Thank you again.

One last question:

The GM thinks disguise can and will often function as a versus test. I’d roll my disguise and my opponent will roll whatever is appropriate in the situation to see if he or she believes the disguise. The GM’s instinct is to say most of the opponent’s rolls are going to be Observation (under the theory that I am hidden behind a costume and some make up, and the opponent is trying to see my hidden self). I said if it is a versus roll it’ll probably be Perception most of the time. He said we’d see when we get into a situation and know what the opponents’ intent is. I think that’s a good call.

But I’m still not convinced disguise should be a versus test. Isn’t it a fixed obstacle skill because those are the obstacles I need to meet? If I want to be a female noble, for example, I’m rolling against OB 5 (OB 1 for being female plus OB 4 for being a noble), right? The opponent’s perception and/or observation doesn’t really factor into it, does it? (I am aware that a high perception could be a reason to increase my obstacle.)


I think it’s going to depend on intent.

I disguise myself as a female noble to go walk around the noble quarter and not get harassed by the guards, merchants and so and so. Fixed ob like you said.

I disguise myself as a female noble to go have a meeting with merchant x and duke y. It could be a versus test.

The fixed obs are mostly for removing the penalties to Inconspicuous.

This quote confuses me.

I’d ask with your use of Disguise where Acting comes in? Falsehood is fine for lying, but convincingly playing a role often requires Acting. It’s not just about delivering lines, but about movement, tone, inflection, colloquial language and a host of other subtle stuff.

Also, with his Mark of Privelage trait I’d penalise a merchant disguise.

And don’t forget the Extortion skill for Blackmailing scenes.

Well, in a 2010 thread on the disguise skill Luke suggested using acting only if there’s a performance element in the scene. For most interpersonal stuff, he said to use inconspicuous or falsehood. I have acting at B3 for those times it’s necessary. (I know I’ll need it sometimes.)

Also, we already plan to penalize me in almost everything I do, since I’m not really interacting much with nobility in the fiction. The Mark’s not really my friend, but whatever. I like the complication.

Good call on extortion. Forgot all about that skill.


I don’t have my copy of BWG with me at the moment, but i seem to recall the Inconspicuous skill having penalties for trying to blend in among, for example, people of a different race or social/economic class than you. I assume that a successful Disguise test negates these penalties.

Disguise might mitigate some of the problems, but problems of language, attitude and other things would still be a problem. Different provinces, even different social classes might have wildly divergent accents, colloquial language, mannerisms and such. Doing yourself up to look Jewish to convince someone you are an agent of their moneylender come to collect his due might not help all that much when you don’t understand customs, language and so forth. It might help a little though.

Yes, although really it should be a linked test. At least this was true in BWR, I forget if this changed in BWG.

It would still be a linked test.

You know, I think I would let Inconspicuous cover most of that. If you’ll be subject to specific scrutiny, if someone will be looking at you and asking if you really are who you say you are, that would require something else. But if you’re disguised and just hoping to walk into a shop full of poor Armenians and be treated like an ordinary customer, I’d say Inconspicuous can handle enough slang and body language to get you through a purchase.