Blink dog as it appeared in 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual (1977)
|First appearance||Greyhawk supplement (1975)|
The blink dog is a fictional magical beast from the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, an intelligent dog that has a limited teleportation ability known as Blinking. The blink dog was created for D&D, and has appeared in many subsequent editions of the game. Blink dogs are Good or Lawful, and therefore can be allies of the players. In The Geeks' Guide to World Domination, Garth Sundem describes the blink dog as "one of fantasy's signature creatures".
Blink dogs sometimes appear in games inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, but are sometimes designed to be opponents.
Blink dogs first appeared in the original Greyhawk supplement (1975) by Gary Gygax and Robert Kuntz, shortly after the original rules booklet for D&D had been published. Unlike many D&D monsters that had been inspired by creatures from mythology or fantasy literature such as dragons, lycanthropes and harpies, blink dogs were an original creation. They were originally described as closely resembling African wild dogs, except they are highly intelligent. They travel in packs and attack enemies from all sides in a coordinated manner. Their ability to randomly teleport during combat was called "blinking"; in game terms, this enabled the pack to materialize around an opponent; then each dog was able to "blink", disappearing and instantly reappearing in a different spot, attacking again as soon as it rematerialized. An inborn instinct prevented it from blinking into a solid object. If an opponent seriously threatened the entire pack, the pack would flee by blinking out and not reappearing. The blink dog was a natural enemy of displacer beasts. In this edition, its alignment was Lawful; Evil/Good descriptors did not exist in this edition.
Although blink dogs did not appear in the condensed rules of the D&D "white box" set published the following year, they reappeared in 1977 in the D&D Basic Set. The description from the Greyhawk supplement remained essentially the same, but was edited into a shorter paragraph. The only substantive changes were that now a pack "will always attack a displacer beast"; and the blink dog's alignment was changed to Lawful Good, meaning that they would often be natural allies of players rather than opponents. In the original rules, very few creatures' abilities other than speed had been given hard numbers. In this edition, weapon or claw/bite damage was quantified as a die roll; the damage inflicted by a blink dog's bite was a single 6-sided die roll, comparable to the damage inflicted by a short sword.
In the D&D Expert Set, published in 1981 and reprinted in 1983, the blink dog's appearance was now compared to an Australian dingo. Its combat strategy was further refined so that now the blink dog appeared beside an enemy, attacked, and then blinked away before the opponent could react, reappearing anywhere from 10–40 feet away. It continuously repeated this strategy, blinking in beside the enemy for an attack before retreating to a safe distance.
This description was reprinted in the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia in 1991, which further described the rivalry between blink dogs and displacer beasts, describing the two creatures as "from some distant plane of existence" and suspected to be "at war with one another throughout the dimensions."
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977–1988)
In 1977, the blink dog appeared in the original AD&D Monster Manual. The illustration that accompanied its entry looked neither like an African wild dog or a dingo, but rather like a small terrier with a badger's head and a short stiff tufted tail. For the first time, the blink dog's coloration was described as a mixture of brown and yellow. The pack now had a complex language of "barks, yaps, whines and growls." Also, blink dog pups were said to be worth considerable money, since they could be tamed and trained if taken from the pack at a young age.
Although the AD&D rules stated that players could only create characters using the original races listed in the AD&D Players Handbook (humans, elves, dwarves,etc.), several variants started to appear in non-TSR sources. Some of these suggested using "monster" races to create AD&D characters, and in issue #17 of White Dwarf, Lewis Pulsipher took this a step further when he suggested using an entire pack of blink dogs as a single character, a unique concept at that time.
The blink dog appeared in set 3 of the Monster Cards series in 1982.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989–1999)
For the second edition of AD&D, the blink dog was listed in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989) under "Dogs" (along with wild dogs, war dogs, and death dogs.) The text from the earlier Monster Manual was repeated in slightly condensed form, the only change being that the blink dog was now described as being stockier and more muscular than other wild dogs. This text was reprinted in the Monstrous Manual in 1993.
Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (2000–2007)
With the advent of D&D's third edition in 2000, the blink dog took on a much different appearance in the new Monster Manual. Gone was the small stiff-tailed terrier of the 1977 edition. Instead, the full color illustration showed a large yellowish wolf-like creature lying at ease, its front feet crossed. The text drew heavily upon previous editions but there were a few substantive changes:
- blink dogs were now omnivores, eating both meat and plants
- the blink dog's fast speed was reduced to that of a typical human character, making it a moderately slow creature
- they were highly protective of their young because of thefts by outsiders
- they were now larger and stockier than other wild dogs. (In second edition D&D, blink dogs were more muscular and stockier than other wild dogs.)
- both 1st- and 2nd-edition D&D had included a complex and precise game mechanic so the Dungeon Master could determine each blink dog's random location during combat; in this edition, the Dungeon Master was simply told that the pack teleported "in a seemingly random fashion until they surround their prey", leaving the exact mechanism to determine their location up to each Dungeon Master.
Because of third edition's use of 1-inch grids to define character movement and monster sizes, the blink dog's size was listed as "Medium" (equal to an area of 1 inch x 1 inch, or 5 feet x 5 feet in game scale.) The third edition of D&D also included a game mechanic called Challenge Rating, an attempt to quantify the combat ability of each creature versus an average party of four adventurers. The blink dog was given a Challenge Rating of 2, meaning one single dog was an appropriate challenge for a party of 2nd-level characters. (In comparison, a ghoul was rated a 1, and a mummy was rated a 3.)
In the upgrade of Dungeons & Dragons to version 3.5 in 2003, the new Monster Manual's illustration was changed to show a snarling blink dog attacking an unseen foe. Although the illustration showed a brown dog, the text still described their fur as yellowish-brown. For the first time, their ears were described as large. The only substantive changes from 3rd edition to v3.5 were:
- the blink dog's speed was restored to its original value, making it a fairly fast creature again
- their alignment was changed from "always lawful good" to "usually lawful good". (This allowed dungeon masters to create blink dogs of any alignment, making confrontations with Good players more credible.)
In the Eberron campaign setting, the House Ghallanda—a House of halflings bearing the dragonmark of Hospitality—use the blink dog as their heraldic beast. Their coat-of-arms displays the head of a snarling blink dog on a green field, supported by scythes, adorned with four bunches of grapes, and crowned with a wheat sheaf surrounded by six separate stalks of wheat.
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition (2008–2013)
The fourth edition of D&D was the first in which blink dogs were not included in the main compendium of monsters and other creatures. In a book of optional rules, Heroes of the Feywild, the blink dog was briefly mentioned as a possible animal companion, described as a yellow-coated pack hunter with a speed slightly faster than average, able to teleport short distances. Rather than an animal, it was now described as a fey creature.
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (2014– )
In the 5th edition of D&D, the blink dog returned to the Monster Manual. Its illustration is of a large muscular yellowish-brown dog with long claws. As with 4th edition, it is once again described as fey rather than as an animal. It is now the companion of fey hunters of the Seelie Court, trained to hunt and destroy displacer beasts. Its Challenge Rating, which had been 2 in the 3rd Edition, has been reduced to 1/4.
The blink dog appears in Paizo Publishing's Pathfinder roleplaying game, in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 2 (2010). The Pathfinder version of the blink dog is as intelligent as a human, able to converse in Sylvan, and living in highly organized packs led by an alpha female. They give their pups names drawn from their own myths and folklore of the celestial constellations. The illustration shows a wolf-like creature with extremely long, pointed ears and a billy-goat beard, wearing two gold bracelets around one front leg. The Pathfinder blink dog's natural enemy has been changed from displacer beast to phase spider.
In popular culture
- In the German roguelike game Ancient Domains of Mystery (ADOM), blink dogs are monsters that can be killed, eaten for a valuable ability to control player teleportation, or used as companions. They are valued by optimizers as a low-level creature that can summon more of its kind, providing the opportunity for farming.
- Blink dogs appear in the roguelike game Angband as monsters that can both teleport themselves and teleport the player to them.
- In The Geeks' Guide to World Domination, blink dogs are characterized as one of fantasy's signature creatures.
- In the Canadian TV series The Littlest Hobo, in the 1983 episode called Dragonslayer, (Season 5, Episode 12), a group of young children are playing a live action roleplaying game in a forest. The youngest child, played by actor Audra Williams, while roleplaying a character called Princess Theaella, encounters the protagonist dog on her own and fears he is an evil "winter wolf". When the dog picks up her fallen toy and gives it to her, she changes her mind decides he must be a good blink dog.
- Blink Dogs appear as an early encounter in the D&D based web-comic Table Titans (written by Scott Kurtz).
- Gygax, Gary; Kuntz, Rob (1975). Dungeons and Dragons Supplement I: Greyhawk. Lake Geneva WI: TSR. p. 38. Search this book on
- Gygax, Gary; Arneson, Dave (1977). Holmes, Eric, ed. Dungeons & Dragons: Rules for Fantastic Medieval Role Playing Adventure Game Campaigns. Lake Geneva WI: TSR. p. 23. Search this book on
- Gygax, Gary; Arneson, Dave; Mentzer, Frank (1981). Dungeons & Dragons Expert Rule Book. Lake Geneva WI: TSR. p. 46. Search this book on
- Allston, Aaron; Pickens, Jon; Schend, Steve; Watry, Dori (1991). Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia. Lake Geneva WI: TSR. p. 46. Search this book on
- Gygax, Gary (1977). Monster Manual. Lake Geneva WI: TSR, Inc. p. 12. ISBN 0-935696-00-8. Search this book on
- Pulsipher, Lewis (February–March 1980). "My Life as a Werebear". White Dwarf. Games Workshop (17): 33.
- Cook, David "Zeb; Winter, Steve; Pickens, Jon (1989). Monstrous Compendium, Volume 1. Lake Geneva WI: TSR. Search this book on
- Stewart, Doug, ed. (1993). Monstrous Manual. Lake Geneva WI: TSR, Inc. Search this book on
- Cook, Monte; Tweet, Jonathan; Williams, Skip (2000). Monster Manual. Renton WA: Wizards of the Coast. p. 28. ISBN 0-7869-1552-8. Search this book on
- Cook, Monte; Tweet, Jonathan; Williams, Skip (2003). Monster Manual, v.3.5. Renton WA: Wizards of the Coast. p. 28. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X. Search this book on
- Baker, Keith (2004). Eberron Campaign Setting. Renton WA: Wizards of the Coast. p. 223. ISBN 0-7869-3274-0. Search this book on
- Mearls, Mike; Thompson, Rodney; Townshend, Steve (2011). Heroes of the Feywild. Renton WA: Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0786958367. Search this book on
- Perkins, Chris (2014). Monster Manual, v.5. Renton WA: Wizards of the Coast. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-7869-6561-8. Search this book on
- Baur, Wolfgang, Jason Bulmahn, et al. Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 2 (Paizo Publishing, 2010)
- "ADOM FAQ, Monsters". ADOM. Retrieved 2010-04-09.
- "ID scumming/stair-hopping". Ancient Domains of Mystery Forums. 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- "Angband Monsters". Thangorodrim. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Sundem, Garth (2009-03-10). The Geeks' Guide to World Domination: Be Afraid, Beautiful People. Random House. pp. 288. ISBN 978-0-307-45034-0. Search this book on
- "The Dragonslayer". The Littlest Hobo. Season 5. Episode 12. 1983. 5:08 minutes in. CTV.
- "Table Titans". Tabletitans.com\accessdate=22 January 2018.
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