A displacer beast is a rare feline creature best known for its illusory ability to appear to be several feet away from its actual position, making it difficult to pinpoint in combat. It is dark in color, and has two distinctive tentacles which sprout from its shoulder. Intelligent, predatory, and evil, they kill casually, for fun and simple hate.
- 1 Description
- 2 Abilities and traits
- 3 Ecology
- 4 Treasure
- 5 History
- 6 Society and culture
- 7 Notable displacer beasts
- 8 Variants and related creatures
- 9 Publication history
- 10 Creative origins
- 11 Reception and influence
- 12 References
The displacer beast resembles a sleek, muscular puma with blue-black fur and a long, thin tail. Two long black tentacles, protruding from its shoulders, have broad tips embedded with deadly brownish-yellow horn-like protrusions, somewhat resembling the catching tentacles of a cuttlefish. Displacer beasts have six legs.
A displacer beast is around 9 feet long and weighs around 500 pounds. Males of the species are slightly larger than the females; the males can range from 10 to 12 feet long and weigh around 500 pounds, while females are typically 8 to 9 feet long and weigh around 450 pounds. One captured male specimen weighed 600 pounds, with tentacles 7 feet long.
The vocalization of a displacer beast can be described as a gutteral growl.
Personality and alignment
Displacer beasts are fierce, vicious, and malevolent. They often kill even when they do not need to feed, purely for pleasure or sport. They will often toy with their victims until ready to eat, eventually dragging the body of their prey to a quiet area to feed without interruption.
They are highly intelligent for a predatory beast. For example, they have been known to avoid heavily-armored targets in favor of their weakly-defended allies, and have a keen tactical awareness of group positioning. Their most common prey is small game, but they will consume larger creatures.
Abilities and traits
The iconic trait of the displacer beast is a continuous displacement effect, which causes them to always appear to be a few feet away from their actual location. This supernatural illusory effect, a form of light-bending glamer, makes them difficult to hit. It is believed to function by means of subtle vibrations emitted from the displacer beast's outer layer of skin, which refract light. It is an automatic effect, though it is possible that the displacer beast may be able to direct the illusion manually.
This ability foils even creatures with the magical ability to see invisible creatures, and makes it much easier for the creature to hide. Counters to the displacer beast's power include the true seeing spell, the illusion bane weapon, and the rare spell phase trap. Displacer beasts are also unfooled by each other's displacement.
The displacer beast's primary weapon is their pair of tentacles. They may use these to draw their victim in, where they bite with powerful jaws. The tentacles are their preferred weapon, however, and they do not like to employ their bite or claws unless near death or when fighting a much larger opponent. They usually kill their prey with the tentacles alone if possible, using the teeth only to consume the finished victim.
The displacer beast is exceptionally fast, and has excellent night vision. Their foot pads provide excellent traction on ice. They are notably resistant to the noxious effects of quicksilver or mercury, which is poisonous to humans.
Displacer beasts primarily live in temperate forests, hills and mountains of the material plane. They are also found in jungles, and at the fringes of the Feywild. A few are found in swamps, where they demonstrate excellent swimming ability.
Adult displacer beasts establish breeding lairs inside dark, humid cave systems. These lairs are ideally highly defensible against humanoid invaders, with narrow passageways and precipitous edges which are trivial for a displacer beast to traverse.
The stench of such a lair can be overpowering to human tresspassers. The floor will be littered with excrement, animal bones, and rotting meat, and covered in dried blood and thin layers of white dust from crushed bones.
In some cases, displacer beasts have been known to dig narrow tunnels through softer rocks like cinnabar to provide hiding places for the young. Multiple pairs of displacer beasts may share the same lair and jointly take on the task of protecting the cubs.
Displacer beasts may also lair in trees and dense foliage.
Displacer beasts form mated pairs, similar to wild cats. Their mating season is the autumn, with a litter of around 1-4 cubs produced in the following spring. The parents are highly protective of their young, and go to great lengths to provide a safe nest for the cubs while they mature. At least one parent will remain with the cubs at all times.
When the cubs are born, they are about the same size as domestic cats. Unlike cats, they are born with their eyes are already open and their teeth developed. The tentacles are absent at birth, and do not begin to grow until eight weeks, at which point they grow rapidly for the next month. At around twelve weeks, the cub will already have grown to around 4½ feet long and weigh around 90 pounds.
Displacer beasts are mammalian, and the females nurse their young until they reach maturity at four months. The parents then spend two months teaching the cubs to hunt in order to prepare them to live independently. The family lair will then disband, and the displacer beasts form their own hunting groups.
Displacer beasts have an unusually high rate of mutated offspring, owing to their strange supernatural physiology. This can lead to the birth of a displacer beast who can grow to massive size, known as a pack lord. Such individuals often become leaders of hunting packs.
A displacer beast may live around 100 years.
Displacer beasts are carnivorous. They will readily hunt and kill any in their territory, including entire bands of humans, orcs and goblins. They hunt in a similar manner to wild cats such as tigers and lions, and will hunt large prey including cattle, bears, and giant deer.
Displacer beasts generally do not carry treasure of value to adventurers. However, they greatly valued for the magical properties of their body parts, particularly their hide. Trade in poached displacer beast hide is illegal in some places.
The hide of a displacer beast has many useful magical properties, making it highly sought after by wizards and alchemists. It is thought to be used to build a cloak of displacement, one of which may require the hides of multiple displacer beasts. The fur of elsewhere is crafted from the hide of a single displacer beast hide immediately after it is slain, though wearing one provokes attack from other displacer beasts. The centuries-old cloak of weaponry is lined with tanned displacer beast pelt. The boots of sidestepping are also made from displacer beast leather. Properly cured displacer beast pelts may be valued at between 500 and 1500 gp, varying considerably depending on condition.
A displacer hellish green beast's eyes continue to glow even after it has been killed. Some thieves use the bright eyes of a displacer beast as a good luck charm, believing that they will protect the bearer from detection.
Displacer beast ivory, made from their teeth, are known to have magical uses and properties. A specially prepared set of teeth can extend the duration of a displacement spell, and sells for around 650 gp on the market.
Displacer beast meat is desired by some as a rare and exotic food, particularly by the ghosts of Manifest.
A small amount of displacer beast fur is used as a material component for the spell Nystul's enveloping darkness. A piece of leather made from displacer beast hide is used as a material component for displace self. The claw of a displacer beast is used as the material component for the spell displacer form, which grants the caster the shape of displacer beast.
Displacer beast cubs are extremely rarely seen. If captured, one would fetch an exceptional price on the open market, perhaps around 5,000 gp each. They are most highly desired by animal trainers, who expect to find them easier to train as a pet than an adult of its type.
Very young cubs who have not yet developed their violent nature can imprint on visitors to their lair, making adoption trivial. Stealing a cub from its parents is dangerous, as the ability of displacer beasts to track prey is legendary.
Captured adult displacer beasts are less valuable, as they are stubborn, intelligent, and generally believed to be impossible to train.
Displacer beasts originated in the Feywild, where they filled an ecological role as fierce predatory hunters. Displacer beasts were tamed by the warriors of the Unseelie Court, who selectively bred the species to reinforce their malevolent and predatory nature. They were used mainly as hunting animals, taking down such powerful supernatural prey as unicorns and pegasi.
The violent and cunning displacer beasts eventually escaped the leash of their masters and spread throughout the Feywild, where they came to the attention of the Seelie Court. The Seelie Court in turn hunted the displacer beasts, using blink dogs to drive them to the fringes of the Feywild. Many displacer beasts escaped into the material plane at this time.
To this day, displacer beasts have a mutual hatred of blink dogs, and the two will attack each other on sight. Even displacer beast cubs will display this instinct. They can intuitively sense a blink dog's presence up to 150 feet away, even without sight.
Displacer beasts have been known to people of the material plane for over a thousand years. Some of the oldest surviving human folk tales involve displacer beasts. In Faerûn, a mummified pet displacer beast was found in the ancient crypt of a Netherese nobleman. They were known to the elite warriors of Bael Turath, who wore cloaks of displacement made from their hide.
The adventurer Douven Staul once encountered a displacer beast, and was bamboozled by its displacement ability.
The wizard Jen-Ahb, lecturer at the University of Sarkawan and expert on the displacer beast, was himself ironically mauled to death by a displacer beast.
Society and culture
Displacer beasts hunt alone, in pairs, or in small prides. A pride of displacer beasts typically contains between 6 and 10. A band is occasionally led by a pack lord, a mutant displacer beast of enormous size, reaching up to 20 feet long and standing 10 feet high at the shoulder.
They are especially cunning, and will use one member to attack a target and withdraw into a dense forest, where the others of its pack lie in wait. They are intelligent enough to learn the schedules of trade caravans in order to place timely ambushes.
Displacer beasts have never been observed to fight among themselves. Their bands are well-organized and highly efficient.
Occasionally, a displacer beast will accept a position as a pet or guardian for a notable evil individual, but only as long as it considers the alliance beneficial. They have a reputation for turning against their trainers. Displacer beasts are often taken as pets by mountain orcs, oni, and evil fey such as dryad witches, fomorians, and have been sold as exotic mounts.
The ancient evil Hulks of Zoretha can summon chaotic evil displacer beast pack lords.
Displacer beasts and blink dogs have long been mutual enemies. It is speculated that this is triggered by a physiological response caused by a clash between the displacer beast's displacement and the blink dog's ethereal blinking. However, actual encounters between the two are rare, as the two creatures do not share territory.
The displacer beast is used in heraldry, where it represents a group or individual who is elusive, tricky, or mysterious. In Eberron, it is the heraldic beast of the dragonmarked House Thuranni, and appears on the unit insignia of the Redcloak Battalion. A raiding party in the Thunder Peaks of Faerûn also once took it as their heraldic symbol, after the creatures were introduced to the area for reasons unknown.
Some druidic peoples revere the displacer beast as a magical totem, who is believed to grant them some protection from targeted spells. The totemists of many worlds invoke the power of the displacer mantle to deploy the power of a displacer beast.
The displacer beast's iconic displacement ability has been duplicated in various spells, psionic powers, and magic items. These include the spells displacement, displace self, and Nystul's enveloping darkness; and the popular item known a the cloak of displacement.
The deity Malar, the Beast Lord, of Faerûn sometimes appears in the form of displacer beast, or acts through them. The goddess Leira also assumed this form, as did the shapechanging Jagre chieftains Michitl, whose fur has a reddish tint, and Jeordos, whose fur is dotted with white stars, and Priatl.
- "Although it's true that powerful implements are works of incomparable beauty, so too can a displacer beast be thought of as lovely or the appearance of a wyvern inspire awe. And like those beasts, such items should not be loosed upon children. You are not yet ready to wield all the powers at my disposal."
Notable displacer beasts
For a full list, see Category:Displacer beasts.
- Emerald Fire, a captured as a cub by researcher Jen-Ahb
- Fessid, cohort of the necromancer Vrex
- Grippa and Hissa, pet displacer beasts of The Warden
- Ripper, a huge rust-red fiendish displacer beast owned by the drow Zedarr T'sarran
- Shantu, created by the Faerûnian god Bhaal
- Shimmer, a devious displacer beast in the service of the mind flayer Ixxiata
Air half-elemental displacer beasts are known to live on the plane of air, although they are rare. fiendish displacer beasts, derived from evil outer planes, are summoned as guards, but obey their masters only grudgingly. Umbral displacer beasts inhabit the plane of shadow.
Displacer beast skeletons have been animated which retain their tentacles. Evil fomorian spellcasters have been known to corrupt creatures such as displacer beasts into twisted, two-headed forms.
The feral yowler is thought to have been bred from displacer beasts, corrupted by magical energy and made immune to necromancy. The hound of the gloom is speculated to be a distant relative of the displacer beast. The yellow-eyed gloom beast has similar tentacles, though it lacks the displacement ability.
The displacer beast has been included in every edition of the Monster Manual, from the very first one in 1977 to the latest in 2014.
The displacer beast was introduced to the game in its first supplement, Greyhawk (Supplement 1) (1975). It is described as a puma-like creature with six legs and two tentacles growing from its shoulders.
The iconic displacer beast appeared in every edition of the Dungeons & Dragons product line, including the original Basic Set (Holmes) (1977), Expert Set (Moldvay) (1981), Mentzer's Expert Rules (BECMI) (1983), Allston's Rules Cyclopedia (1991), Denning's The New Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991), and Stewart's The Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game (1994).
AD&D 1st edition
The displacer beast appears in the Monster Manual (1e) (1977), p.28, where it is described as a vaguely puma-like beast that always appears to be three feet away from its actual position.
David M. Ewalt, in his book Of Dice and Men, discussed several monsters appearing in the original Monster Manual, describing displacer beasts as looking like "pumas with thorn-covered tentacles growing out of their shoulders".
The displacer beast also appears in Monster Cards Set 1 (1982).
The displacer beast was detailed in Ecology of the Displacer Beast, Dragon #109 (May 1986).
AD&D 2nd edition
The displacer beast appears first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989), and is reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993), p.56.
D&D 3rd edition
The displacer beast appears in the Monster Manual (3.0) (2000), p.59-60. It reprises its role in the Monster Manual (3.5) (2003), p.66-67, accompanied by a more powerful mutated enormous displacer beast pack lord.
D&D 4th edition
The displacer beast appears in the Monster Manual (4e) (2008), including the displacer beast packlord.
A displacer beast appears prominently on the cover of Dungeon #221 (Dec 2013).
D&D 5th edition
The displacer beast appears in the Monster Manual (5e) (2014), p.81.
Wizards of the Coast released the following miniatures products featuring the displacer beast:
- D&D Miniatures: Harbinger set #41 (2003)
- D&D Miniatures: War of the Dragon Queen set #29 (2006) (Displacer Beast Pack Lord)
- D&D Miniatures: Unhallowed set #37 (2007) (Displacer Beast Manhunter)
The displacer beast was inspired by the coeurl, a feline-like creature originally from the 1939 science fiction story "Black Destroyer" by A. E. van Vogt, later incorporated into the novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950). In a 2005 interview, Gary Gygax cited the latter novel as his inspiration for the creature.
In the article D&D Alumni: Barrier Peaks, Dragon #394 (Dec 2010), p.83, writer Bart Carroll specifically notes the similarity of the coeurl to the displacer beast, and suggests that The Voyage of the Space Beagle also inspired D&D's will-o'-wisp.
Reception and influence
Rob Bricken from io9 named the displacer beast as the 2nd most memorable D&D monster.
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- ridureyu.tripod.com/ggygax.html. "...the Displacer beasts I ripped off from the novel, Voyage of the Spaceship Beagle...if I recall rightly. That was one of the monsters in there - they sucked out something from humans with their tentacles, I don't remember!"
- Gygax: "The displacer beast was most assuredly inspired by A. E. van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle." Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 400. ENWorld, Aug 2, 2007.
- The 10 Most Memorable Dungeons & Dragons Monsters.