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Being Deceptive

Gwenevere Rothwell

Nov 24, 2023

Deception in Pathfinder 2nd Edition covers a lot of ground with its abilities. It is the combination of Bluff and Disguise from Pathfinder 1st Edition, which makes playing a more Ethan Hunt style character a lot easier. It is a skill that focuses on misleading others, either through lying, disguises, diversions, or feinting in combat.

Image by Kiwihug

Deception in Pathfinder 2nd Edition covers a lot of ground with its abilities. It is the combination of Bluff and Disguise from Pathfinder 1st Edition, which makes playing a more Ethan Hunt style character a lot easier. It is a skill that focuses on misleading others, either through lying, disguises, diversions, or feinting in combat.

Create a Diversion

You can use Create a Diversion whether or not you’re trained in Deception. It costs 1 action to perform, you roll a Deception Check against the Perception DCs of those whose attentions you are trying to divert, and then you become Hidden to everyone you successfully diverted the attention of.

When you become Hidden from Create a Diversion you can then follow it up with the Sneak action to move around, or the Hide action if you’re near an object you can hide behind or can fulfil the requirements some other way.

The type of Diversion you do determines what traits are associated with the Diversion. Did you rig something to collapse, explode, or used some sort of gesture? Then it has the Manipulate trait. If you instead shouted something like, “Hey that’s the thief over there!” Or, “Woah is that the Kirstin Chambers?” Or even, “Hey, your mom’s in the lobby and wants to talk to you,” then your diversion would have the Auditory and Linguistics trait, meaning you’d have to share a language with the person you are trying to divert the attention of.

If you fail to divert someone’s attention, they become aware of your presence and the fact that you tried to fool them.

Whether or not a creature succeeds against your diversion, they gain a +4 circumstance bonus against further diversions from you specifically for the next minute. This means that your buddy can then try to divert their attention and the creatures they are trying to divert the attention of would not gain the +4 bonus to their Perception DCs.


This is the game’s Disguise action. You do not roll for this, and instead after 10 minutes of setting up your disguise, creatures who try to see through your disguise have to use the Seek action and roll a Perception check against your Deception DC. If you directly try to interact with someone, the GM instead rolls your Deception check in secret against the creature’s Perception DC. If you are disguised as a specific individual, the GM might also give the creature a bonus if it knows that individual.

If you succeed in your disguise, then they think you are who you say you are.

If you fail at your disguise, then they see through it.

If you critically fail at your disguise, then they see through it and if they know you they recognize you.

As a reminder, since we’ve talked about DCs a lot in this article, you determine your DC by taking your overall total for the skill, and add 10 to it. So, if you have a 20 in the Deception skill, your DC would be 30.

There are some things that I’d like to note with this check as well from a homebrew/hoserule/things to make note of. 

For starters, the Impersonate check does not state anywhere that you have to be the same size as you actually are. This means that you can disguise yourself as a Sprite, or as a Dragon. Rather than completely disallow such silliness, I’d actually encourage it and I would encourage the player or even the party to figure out the specifics of the disguise. Obviously you’re too big to be a sprite, so are you trying to disguise yourself as just a really big sprite? Are you small sized and can get away with being a pixie specifically? Or are you disguising yourself as, say, a bush or maybe even a slave or butler and having a small plastic figure pose as your “sprite.” 

If you’re trying to impersonate a dragon, then maybe you have an elaborate costume featuring sticks and mechanisms that make you move almost like a dragon, or maybe your party is joining in on the disguise with each player controlling a limb? I feel Impersonate is left open like this to allow silly antics and unique solutions for the skill action.

Something else I also want to point out is that it could get tedious to roll a check every single time a disguised individual interacts with someone. A Gnome trying to impersonate a Kobold might have a chance of rousing suspicion when interacting with other Kobolds, but a Halfling disguising themselves as a caterer during a party likely won’t rouse the suspicion of guests because, for all they know, you’re just doing something tied to your job unless it’s woefully out of character.

Finally one last thing I’d implement sometimes is the use of a Clock system where instead of failure being an automatic failure, it ticks up the “failure” clock. When/if the failure clock ever becomes full, then that is when enough people have seen through your disguise that they might act on it—representing that one person might say that Captain Fizzy Muckles has been acting rather strange today, and on his own that’s where this random Kobold’s thoughts began and ended, but upon talking to other Kobolds who also saw through your disguise they come to the realisation that you are, in fact, not Captain Fizzy Muckles. It could also be used to represent someone not immediately seeing through your disguise. It took Little Red Riding Hood a fair bit of time before she realised that the Wolf was in fact Grandma, despite noticing the strangeness of her appearance which the Wolf countered with his own deceptions. Which brings us to…


Lying is pretty elaborate and realistic in Pathfinder 2nd Edition. Telling a lie takes a minimum of 1 round (6 seconds), but it could take more depending on how elaborate the lie is. Are you saying a simple phrase like, “It’s raining outside,” when it’s actually quite sunny out? Or are you telling a grand story of your exploits against a dragon that… never actually happened? The former would take about 6 seconds to convey, while the latter could take a minute, 10 minutes, or even an hour depending on how long you want to be telling this story for. 

The mechanics of lying are comparable to other Deception skill actions where you roll a Deception check against the Perception DCs of all who are listening. If you succeed at your check, they believe you for right now, but evidence in the future might have them doubting you. For example, if you told someone it was raining outside, and then they went outside and it was a sunny day without a cloud in sight, the GM might have them roll a Sense Motive check against your Deception DC to realise you were lying, or maybe the GM decrees that because of the overwhelming evidence (no clouds, no puddles, dry air, etc) that you were in fact lying and that he doesn’t even need to roll to tell that you were lying.

Additionally, if you succeed in your lie, the creature believes your lie. But if you fail, the creature not only doesn’t believe you, but they also get a +4 circumstance bonus to their Perception DC and Sense Motive checks in the future. This could either be for the duration of the conversation, or, if you’ve lied to them a lot in the past and they’ve seen through it, that +4 circumstance bonus might persist for longer or even indefinitely.


Feinting is the only Deception skill action that requires you to be trained in Deception. It is a maneuver used in combat to catch a foe off guard, usually by attacking in one direction to distract them, then going for an attack with a different weapon or part of your body. You are effectively setting yourself up for a follow up attack with the first attack being a fake out. This uses the same mechanic as the rest of the Deception skill actions: Deception check against the Perception DC of the opponent.

If you critically succeed, you make the target flat-footed until the end of your next turn.

If you succeed, you make the target flat-footed against your next attack, or until the end of your current turn, whichever comes first.

If you critically fail, you become flat-footed to all of the target’s attacks until the end of your next turn.

Wrapping Up

Deception is quite the tricky skill, not with its complexity (it’s actually quite straight forward), but with its versatility and how much is left on the GM and the player to decide on specifics. It’s an interesting and dynamic skill that I hope to see more of in the future.

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