RPG Monster Spotlight: Blink Dogs

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This week’s monster is a good boy, who’s a good–wait where’d he go…?

That’s right folks. Ever since we talked about Displacer Beasts last week, we’ve had this week’s monster sniffing around all over the place–and let me tell you, he’s been everywhere. Got into the trash, knocked over the decorative wall-hangings, managed to get into the neighbor’s yard without even jumping the fence–but it’s all been worth it to bring the Blink Dog into the spotlight. At least for now. He’s gone already, hasn’t he.

 

Much like their evil feline counterparts, Blink Dogs have been a part of D&D from the beginning, going all the way back to the Original Rules, where Blink Dogs were “lawful” (good and evil descriptors had yet to exist). They’re a Gygax original, though are said to have been inspired by African wild dogs and dingos–and in their pre-1st Edition state were basically described as such. Changes would come, but even in these hazy days of the mythic past, a few qualities were baked into the DNA of Blink Dogs.

For one, they’re intelligent.

Obviously.

And then of course there’s their blinking, but that one is more of a gimme really as it’s in the name–but here we also get their hatred of displacer beasts and an idea of their “pack tactics.” Their teleportation was less defined, but 1st Edition would quickly fix that.

Blink Dogs look a fair bit different from their original description here. They’ve come a long way since their first edition days–here the blink dog looks a lot like a terrier, only with a tufted tail and head that looks more like a badger’s than anything else.

Even so, the Blink Dog is still pretty cool. Their teleportation rules got locked down a little more–when on the attack, they blink in and out at random, teleporting on a 7+ on a d12. When blinking they could appear at a random location (but mostly behind the opponent) interestingly enough the locations are listed as flans–owing to D&D’s origins as a wargame. Couple that with a bite attack that does 1d6 damage and the fact that you’re facing 4d4 of them at once (they hunt in packs) and you’ve got an encounter that goes from cautious to catastrophic, contingent on the canine count.

2nd edition Blink Dogs look a lot more like their dingo inspiration, and they gain a preferred terrain: temperate plains, but otherwise they are identical to their 1st edition counterparts. Still, they look much more like a dog (even if it reminds me more of a greyhound than a dingo). Their description does call out their intelligence, noting that they speak in a complex language of barks and yaps and other dog noises, which means that all those movies about what dogs get up to when no one is around are absolutely true.

Look who’s talking now, indeed.

3rd edition Blink Dogs get much much more defensive than before. In earlier editions, they’d just teleport around and strike as a pack and then when things got rough, they’d teleport away and not return. In 3rd edition Blink Dogs get access to Blink as a spell-like ability that they can evoke as a free action. So they can just decide to have a 50% miss chance–which admittedly carries in return a 20% miss chance for the dogs, but it’s a free action to start or end it, so maybe not–and on top of that, they can also once per round as a free action cast dimension door to get wherever they want. Gone is the chance to appear randomly to one side or another (but gone too are any rules relating to facing), instead they can just teleport as much or as little as the like.

Other than being updated to have a 3rd edition stat block, the blink dog is largely unchanged. It still is moderately Intelligent (coming in at 10), still has 4 hit dice, and STILL has a lone bite attack that deals 1d6 points of damage when it hits.

I guess you don’t mess with a classic.

Blink Dogs are conspicuously absent in 4th Edition, which is one of the few failings of that particular edition. But it makes a triumphant return in 5th–well sort of. Now instead of warranting their own entry, or even a significant entry in the monster manual, Blink Dogs are relegated to the appendix where they have their own entry but much of their flavor is lost. They are streamlined though, and see a return to their original edition roots. Their teleport is changed to an action (they are still given full control over it though), but they can teleport and make an attack. Against all odds, they retain their signature 4 hit dice and d6 damage, though they are now much more of a pack creature.

In 3rd edition, a single Blink Dog was CR 2, in 5th edition, a Blink Dog rates CR 1/4. They’re also classified as a fey creature (as are displacer beasts in this edition), so they’ve got ties to the elves, and you can divine part of their lore from the displacer beast entry:

With blink dog companions at their side, [Seelie Court] hunters drove displacer beasts to the fringes of the Feywild, where many crossed over to the Material Plane. To this day, displacer beasts and blink dogs attack each other on sight.

So even their lore has been coopted by the displacer beasts…no wonder these two hate each other so much.


There you have it. Two mortal enemies, both of whom probably look adorable when they’re young. If you want to cue your players in to the fact that they’ve stepped into the wild (wyld) then let them stumble on a pack of blink dogs taking on a displacer beast. It doesn’t get much more D&D than that…

Chasing down a litter of blink dog pups is the ultimate fetch quest…

  • Shawn

    Thanks for the spot light. I’ve always maintained the 1st edition appearance of blink dogs in my games, as I think the asthetic is much better and not as frighting for a canine that is supposed to be lawful good.