The multiverse is an incredibly dangerous place. As an adventurer, your worries aren’t limited to pit traps and undead. There are many terrifying creatures that kill for little more than the pleasure it brings them.
One such creature is the Displacer Beast, a vicious predator based on a black panther. As you’ll learn throughout this article though, these monstrosities are more than just large cats.
What Is a Displacer Beast?
A displacer beast may resemble a large panther, but its predatory instincts are far more attuned than any cat you’ll come across.
Six muscular legs and a set of barbed tentacles would be enough to fear, but these creatures also have the unique ability to displace light, making them appear to be several feet away from their actual locations.
Large Monstrosity, lawful evil
AC 13 (natural armor)
Hit Points 85 (10d10+30)
Speed 40 ft.
STR: 18(+4) DEX: 15(+2) CON: 16(+3)
INT: 6(-2) WIS: 12(+1) CHA: 8(-1)
Senses: Darkvision 60ft., Passive Perception 11
Challenge Rating: 3 (700 XP)
Avoidance. If the displacer beast has to make a saving throw to take only half damage, it instead takes no damage if it succeeds and half damage if it fails.
Displacement. The displacer beast projects a magical illusion that makes it appear to be standing near its actual location, causing attack rolls against it to have disadvantage. This trait is interrupted until the end of its next turn if the displacer beast is hit with an attack, incapacitated, or reduced to a speed of 0.
Multiattack. The displacer beast makes two attacks with its tentacles.
Tentacle. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage plus 3 (1d6) piercing damage.
Just from the start, I’m going to let you know that I have some serious problems with that stat block right there.
Sure, those are the stats of something that is going to be a problem for players, but it’s certainly not the stat block for a displacer beast according to the lore.
I’ll get into what a better stat block can look like when we get into running this creature in a game, but for now, let’s talk about what a displacer beast is.
Displacer beasts are described as incredibly intelligent hunters that track down their prey either alone or in a pack, often ambushing their prey and playing cat and mouse with them.
That is until they kill their prey and drag them off to a private location so they can devour them.
Displacer Beast History
Native inhabitants of the Feywild, displacer beasts were eventually captured and trained by warriors of the Unseelie court.
Put evil creatures at the behest of evil humanoids, and naturally they will only become more evil. As pets of the Unseelie, they were used for hunting unicorns, pegasi, and any number of fantastic creatures.
After some time, they escaped their Unseelie masters, only to be hunted by members of the Seelie court.
Seelie warriors with blink dogs at their side pushed the beasts to the edge of the Feywild, and soon they started to leave for the Material Plane.
The ancient enemies of displacer beasts, blink dogs are fey creatures resembling a cross between hyenas and dogs with a few more spikes and much more intimidating claws.
What makes these good-aligned creatures such natural enemies of the displacers is their ability to teleport at will.
If you put two creatures that are near impossible to track against each other, it’s going to be an epic battle for sure.
Blink dogs may be substantially weaker, but their ability to attack right before teleporting away tends to keep them from being hit at all.
Since displacers have inhabited the Material Plane, they’ve been a thing of legend.
No one knows when these creatures immigrated – it could be even before the first elves arrived.
However long ago it was, just about every humanoid civilization has an ancient story about these malevolent creatures.
Warriors of an ancient kingdom so ancient that few remember it, Bael Turath, would hunt these creatures for their hides, creating displacement cloaks out of them.
These robes gave the wearer the same abilities of the beasts. Some today are still brave enough to attempt such a task, but most cloaks in existence today date back ages.
Displacer Beast Physiology
That brings us to probably the most important piece of information about the displacer beasts – their hide. These creatures are so feared because their black-blue hide has special properties.
No one knows quite how this ability came to be, but their hides literally displace the light around them, sending the image of the mighty cats to a nearby location.
The beasts aren’t the only ones to have this interesting ability. Displacer serpents are another creature with fey origin that have the same ability to displace light, using it in the exact same way.
Because of this, some scientists of the material world actually think displacer beasts were created, rather than evolved.
It is possible that the Unseelie who bred them introduced something to these creatures that gave them their supernatural abilities. That something might also very well be connected to the beasts’ tentacles.
You see, while displacer beasts are undeniably evil creatures, baby displacer beasts are born without any killing instinct.
It isn’t until they begin to mature and grow the characteristic barbed tentacles that the offspring are turned into vicious killers.
This is somewhat of a new revelation, seeing as displacer beasts mature with extreme speed, only taking a few months to reach full size.
Oh, and did you know that “full size” is extremely varied for these creatures?
Most of the species are just Large creatures that have a body about 9 feet in length, but their DNA is extremely prone to evolution.
It is not at all rare for a mutated displacer beast to be born and reach a full size of 20 feet or more within a few months.
Other mutations may be possible but are less documented (for good reason).
It’s highly possible that gargantuan displacer beasts are out there roaming ancient forests, the subject of adventuring stories that have yet to be told.
The mutated beasts end up becoming the leader of the pack and are referred to as pack lords.
Stronger, faster, and perhaps even more cunning than your average displacer beast, a pack will typically only have one pack lord. This is only due to rarity though, since the beasts never take out their aggression on each other.
Running a Displacer Beast
Even if you decide to go with the incredibly vanilla stat block provided in 5e, these tactically minded creatures are going to be a memorable encounter for your party.
I mean, there’s a reason people who’ve never even played D&D know their names.
Still, with a little bit of creativity and some attention to the actual lore, we can end up with a creature that’s 10 times as much fun for the whole table.
What’s Wrong With the Vanilla 5e Displacer Beast
I’ve already acknowledged that the stat block is sad, to say the least, but of course I’ve got to tell you why. Let’s start with their attacks and work our way backward.
Here we have this terrifying cat-like monstrosity with a vicious maw, six lean legs with claws at the end, and a pair of barbed tentacles.
You’re going to tell me it just swings those tentacles a couple of times each turn and calls it a day? I don’t think so.
I want to see at least two, if not more, of those claws ripping into my players on each turn! Throw in a bite when it has a character knocked down, and let the cat go for the kill? Yes please.
I also want to see those barbed tentacles doing way more than just a little bit of poking. Sure, fine, I understand wanting to mix bludgeoning and piercing damage, but definitely let’s play to those barbs more.
Barb: “a sharp projection near the end of an arrow, fishhook, or similar item, angled away from the main point so as to make extraction difficult.”
These bad boys shouldn’t just be painful; they should leave a mark or maybe even be used to hold onto prey.
I would love to see some bleeding-damage mechanic or see these barbs have essentially the same effect as grappling on a failed strength or dexterity save (player’s choice, naturally).
Then we get into the more nuanced mechanics of the creature. I think these are great and really feel like the creature we’ve been talking about.
I’ve seen some people limit these to only work in darkness because it’s a black cat, but the ability is based on displacing light, so I don’t really buy into that approach.
I’m more worried about the fact that displacer beasts don’t even have the abilities of the CR ¼ panther.
Keen smell and advantage on scent-based perception checks should be a no-brainer for a feline-esque species of pack hunters.
Pounce is even more important than that, giving the creature the ability to try knocking creatures prone when they attack after moving 20 feet in a straight line toward their target and the option to get a bite in as a bonus action if they succeed.
Again, these abilities just make sense. The same can not be said for the ability scores presented in the Monster Manual.
On the same page, displacer beasts are referred to as malevolently intelligent and given an intelligence score of 6. How?
No way, we’re going to need that bumped way up. These shouldn’t just be smarter than the average bear (Int score of 2 by the way); they should be smarter than your average humanoid.
They are “skill(ed) at setting ambushes,” and I’m going to need to at least see a 12 next to the PC dump stat.
Displacer beasts aren’t just a horrible creation from the mind of Gygax. These creatures are based on a cat-like species called Couerl from a few sci-fi books written in the mid 20th century.
Both Black Destroyer and The Voyage of the Space Beagle, written by A.E. van Vogt, feature Couerl.
In those books, like in D&D, this feline-adjacent monstrosity was an incredibly intelligent creature that tricked its prey into thinking it was just a mere animal before ripping them apart with massive tentacles.
We could leave it at saying everything else in the stat block is fine, but I have one particular bone I need to pick.
Why doesn’t Mr. Fluffytentacles have a climb speed?
My four-legged, admittedly clumsy cat, Kaya, can climb just about anything if there’s a toy on top of it, so why can’t one of the most feared hunters climb up a tree with ease?
Are displacer beasts just constantly falling from a tree as they fail their athletics checks, or do they nail in handholds as part of setting up for an ambush?
Let’s recap. Here are the things a more lore-accurate Displacer Beast should have.
- More versatile attacks, including but not limited to claw and bite attacks.
- Scarier tentacles that make our displacer beasts feel like apex predators.
- The common courtesy to be at least as good of a hunter as a CR ¼ panther.
- Intelligence. Intelligence. Intelligence.
- The Bast-given right to climb at least as well as they can walk.
After that, if you want to play around with actual damage dice, health, or any other stats, be my guest.
I personally think that with a reputation as legendary as these creatures have, they should be higher than CR 3, but how they fit into your campaign is up to you. Besides, that’s why we have the next section.
Displacer Beast Tactics
Just from the 5e Monster Manual alone we get a lot of information about these creatures’ tactics.
“They target prey even when not hungry, often toying with their victims to entertain themselves until they are ready to eat,” and “Displacer beasts hunt alone or in small prides that demonstrate much skill in setting ambushes.”
With just that alone, you’ve got yourself the basic concept of how this fight is going to go down.
You’re going to want these creatures lurking in the shadows, drawing the PCs into the perfect location to pounce. In a flash, the players should be overcome by a group of displacer beasts ready to go for throats.
Hunter or Hunted
Your adventuring party might be asked to come to the aid of a small village or they might be hunting the beasts down to make a matching set of displacement cloaks.
No matter how your players get called to this adventure, there is definitely a lot you can do to get more than just a combat encounter out of a pride of displacer beasts.
Dael Kingsmill over at Monarchsfactory on YouTube has a great video detailing an absolutely ingenious minigame/adventure for your players.
Using a minesweeper-style grid, they outline a process for tracking and hunting displacer beasts that’s way more exciting than a one-and-done roll.
Check it out on YouTube, then come back and finish reading some more feline tactics.
A displacer beast alone is a threat, but a pride is an encounter that few live to tell tales of. Both options are equally great for storytelling, and you can use real-world knowledge to pack either choice.
A displacer beast hunting alone would act like a puma, a solitary hunter that commands a large territory. These creatures stalk their prey, waiting for the perfect moment to leap out from behind going straight for the throat.
Similarly, a lone displacer beast should wait for the most opportune moment to go after its prey, the PCs.
If at any point the PCs split up, that is a golden moment, and a hunting party often splits up to cover more ground. If they don’t split up, the beast should stalk its prey until they reach a favorable position.
Patches of tall grass or really any areas with plenty of spaces to hide are all excellent options.
Keep in mind, displacer beasts hide differently than other creatures. Aware of their own abilities, they might walk alongside a patch of grass to make their visages appear to be walking through it.
They also might sit on a branch near a tree’s trunk so their visage is hidden behind the tree.
This makes for a really cool moment when your beast appears to jump straight out of a tree toward a character that thought walking alone would be a good idea.
Displacer beasts in a pride or pack will work in much the same way, except they’ll have numbers on their side.
A whole group of these creatures can confuse and overwhelm their opponents, but before they do that, they’ll be sure to get them right where they want them.
Displacer Beasts in Combat
Whether you’re working with a solo displacer beast or a pride, the basic 5e stats, or a lore-appropriate homebrew, these creatures are going to put up a great fight.
They’ll seize every moment they can to get the upper claw on their prey, and you as the DM will be able to decide exactly when that is.
On the surface, it might look like displacer beasts have no choice but to attack and attack often. That’s not the case, and more often than not they’ll jump in for an attack and run away again.
They won’t be hiding and attacking on each turn, but they’ll certainly make sure to put themselves in advantageous locations.
As predators, they’ll also have a keen sense of which of their prey are the weakest, taking out any characters that show signs of frailty.
This might not be accurate, and they might choose to go after an unarmored player that is actually a barbarian, but their choices should at least make sense from a predatory standpoint.
Displacer beasts are one of the oldest creatures in D&D, both in the lore and in the real world. There’s a reason these creatures have changed very little since their introduction in the Greyhawk Supplement of 1975.
I hope you get the chance to run an amazing encounter with your take on these fearsome felines, and as always, happy adventuring.