I am going to run down the displacer beast lore from each edition to try to give a clear picture of all the relevant information available to us. I will also do my best to dig up displacer beast appearances in other official D&D publications.
In addition I will detail the cloak of displacement, made from the hide of a displacer beast, and we'll look at the hatred that exists between blink dogs and displacer beasts. How that story has evolved is really cool.
The point of this is to give you a good idea on how to run a displacer beast in your game. This guide should give you a nice outline and references to draw from.
Real Life Origins
There's a lot more detail here.
AD&D 1st Edition
It uses its two tentacles in combat, slashing victims with "the rough, horny edges of these appendages".
They hate all life - especially blink dogs. That's a weird little factoid. There's actually art of a pack of blink dogs devouring a displacer beast corpse.
"There is a great enmity between blink dogs and displacer beasts and the two creatures will always attack each other".
Dragon Magazine #109 - Ecology of the Displacer Beast
- It has six legs and a pair of horned tentacles.
- It can appear to be up to a yard away from its actual position, an effect caused by "subtle vibrations emitted from its flesh that apparently refract light".
- Cubs only have nubs, no tentacles.
- They reach full maturity in four months.
- Displacer beasts can see through each others displacement.
- They can jump 20 feet straight up, and up to 50 feet across.
There's even a pile of fun notes at the end, including:
- The DM can roll a d10 to determine where a displacer beast's actual location is.
- Most displacer beasts are neutral, but some are just plain evil.
- Blink dogs will attack anyone wearing a cloak of displacement with great ferocity.
- Displacement can not be dispelled like an illusion.
Vault of the Drow
In this well-regarded adventure, the heroes explore the underdark and a drow city. The drow nobles have trained displacer beasts as pets. The drow like to form hunting parties to track and kill escaped slaves. These hunting parties include bugbears and trained displacer beasts.
AD&D 2nd Edition
A second theory is offered as to why blink dogs and displacer beasts hate each other. Blink dogs are lawful good, and thus they hate the savage and destructive displacer beasts.
"The eyes of a displacer beast are a highly prized, if uncommon, good luck charm among thieves..."
Dungeon Magazine #36 - Asflag's Unintentional Emporium
Asflag's displacer beasts are heading into the city at night hunting people and animals, and dragging their kills back to the tower to eat. People in the city are afraid to walk the streets at night. Obviously our heroes need to take care of this.
There's a nice review of this adventure here.
D&D 3rd Edition
Their displacement ability now causes the attacker to have a 50% chance of missing unless the attacker has truesight.
There's a new type of displacer beast - a pack lord. It's a mutant offspring that can grow up to 10 feet high and 20 feet long! Crazy.
Dungeon Magazine #119 - Wrath of the Abyss
|Shahg and a displacer beast|
In this, the drow have trained displacer beasts that fight alongside them..
On the cover is Shahng, a female drow who has a "unique fighting style". She drinks a potion of haste and does a dervish dance, slicing into groups of heroes.
D&D 4th Edition
Displacement still causes attackers to miss 50% of the time. This effect stops and starts when it is hit and when it moves. This is one of the very few monsters in 4e that have threatening reach (seriously.. I can only think of about 3 creatures that had it).
We get very little lore. Here it is: "Displacer beasts can be trained as attack beasts or guard animals, but they're prone to turning against their trainers."
Monster Vault gives us a bit more info. Displacer beasts have lairs in foliage or up in trees. They take down the weakest targets first. Pack lords are as smart as ordinary people (!).
It is also stated that they are kept as status symbols by "callow young eladrin nobles."
The updated Monster Vault displacer beast handles displacement differently. Now, if a PC rolled an odd number on their attack roll, it misses. An even one hits it. The beast loses this trait until the start of its next turn.
Madness at Gardmore Abbey
|This image is explained in the 5e section.|
In one section, the adventurers need to rescue an eladrin's sister. She's being attacked by some stirges and displacer beasts. There's some good flavor text:
"A pale, slender figure with long silver hair flees through the dark grove, her desperate footfalls making hardly a whisper. Behind her and to either side, two feline monsters pursue her in eerie silence toward a ruined bell tower. Their black, six-legged forms are hard to focus on clearly.
Spiny tentacles whip forward from the back of one of the beasts and lash the fleeing figure, who drops with an agonized shriek. A rustling at the top of the tower signals a nest of stirges, awakened to the scent of blood. On the ground, the tentacled beasts move in for the kill."
There's even flavor for if the heroes fail to save her: "The corpse of the young eladrin lies still and bone-pale among the roots and climbers of the grove. A star-shaped ring on her finger flares once and then falls dull as plain steel, as though a bright spirit had departed."
D&D 5th Edition
They can't speak common. Their feywild origin has been expanded. Long ago, they were captured and trained by the Unseelie Court, and are used to hunt unicorns..! And pegasi..!! Wow. But the displacer beasts escaped their masters.
The fey hunters tried to track them down with blink dog companions at their side. Wow... awesome. Displacer beasts hunt for food and for sport. They'll toy with their prey.
Their displacement is now tied to the disadvantage mechanic. You have disadvantage until you hit them, then the effect is disrupted until the end of their next turn.
Last but not least, let's check out the cloak..
Cloak of Displacement
I really like that they made art of the cloak, and went out of their way to show that it is made of the hide of a displacer beast.
I wonder if anyone has a blink dog vest that lets them teleport? I think someone needs to make an adventure based on the conflict between displacer beasts and blink dogs.
Thanks for reading.