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Description for Cloak of Displacement (emphasis mine):

While you wear this cloak, it projects an Illusion that makes you appear to be standing in a place near your actual location, causing any creature to have disadvantage on Attack rolls against you. If you take damage, the property ceases to function until the start of your next turn. This property is suppressed while you are Incapacitated, Restrained, or otherwise unable to move.

Does that mean the cloak makes your actual body unable to be seen and projects an illusion of your body nearby, or are both bodies visible?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What difference would it make? The mechanical effects of the item are described fully. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Jul 12, 2017 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ The difference would be the number of bodies others see. \$\endgroup\$
    – A.B.
    Jul 12, 2017 at 15:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega There's more to RPGs than rules. There is a fictional world underneath. For example, if other see two bodies, they will obviously know magic is involved. If you're simply offset, they might not suspect anything at first. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12, 2017 at 15:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Objects and spells generally do what they say they do. Which part of the item description do you think could be interpreted as "You become invisible"? \$\endgroup\$
    – nwp
    Jul 12, 2017 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ The part where it says "...you appear..." not "...a copy of you appears..." (or similar). \$\endgroup\$
    – Jay
    Jul 12, 2017 at 17:36

4 Answers 4

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In the Realms, at least, your true location is not visible.

The cloak of displacement is at least patterned after, if not made from, the hide of a displacer beast. (See the illustration on DMG p.158.)

Displacer beasts made their first appearance in Realms-lore in the book Darkwell, by Douglas Niles (1989). Here we learn they're made by the god Bhaal, jealous of the Earthmother's champions (The Pack, The Leviathan, and Kamerynn the Unicorn). Bhaal snags deer, panther, bear, octopus, blink dog, owl, and eagle to use as base materials for his champions: Thorax the Owlbear, a flock of Perytons, and Shantu the Displacer Beast.

Later in the book we have it definitively, when a pack of blink dogs help fight Shantu:

The blink dogs, conversely, snapped at no apparent foe, their teeth closing on apparently empty space, but as they pulled back, the image of the displacer beast snarled. (Emphasis mine, commas all his.)

Or, later:

the great moorhound was confused by the monster's location, but when the blink dogs managed to hold the creature at bay, the hound made a shrewd guess and lunged in, clamping his jaws over a place that seemed to be in midair. Sharp fangs sank through skin. (Emphasis mine.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Displacer beasts were introduced in Greyhawk, historical trivia wise; this is a nice answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12, 2017 at 20:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I'm a little ashamed to admit that I've been keeping my eyes peeled for years, looking for a place to shoehorn this little triviality onto the site. (Not too ashamed to post, though!) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Jul 12, 2017 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to nitpick, displacer beasts and displacer cloaks were doubtless in the Realms much earlier than 1989 given that "the Realms" were originally Ed Greenwood's home campaign, and there was a Realms supplement for AD&D 1e that I still have, somewhere, but I suppose in the lore/fiction record, your source fits. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12, 2017 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast so my Greenwood Realms source is the boxed set printed in 1993 (which specifically references the events of the two Moonshae Trilogies). Is there an earlier Realms publication--other than combing through all of Ed's articles form the 80's--that I should look at? (Not saying I wouldn't read all those articles!) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Jul 12, 2017 at 20:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ The displaced beast is actually based on the Coeurl en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coeurl created by A. E. van Vogt (1912–2000) and featured in his first published short story Black Destroyer (1939). The displacement ability appears to be D&D original \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jul 12, 2017 at 23:11
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The Cloak displaces your true location and shows you in a slightly different spot

Invisible is a problematic term because that term imparts specific mechanical effects.

The Cloak does not give you the benefits of Invisibility - it only gives you what it say that it does.

There aren't two images of you - there is one image that is in a slightly different spot - but you are not given the mechanical benefits of Invisible.

The fluff of how it works may be more table-dependent, but functionally it is moving your visible location by magic. Doing so gives enemies Disadvantage until they hit you, after which they've figured out your location and the Cloak is no longer doing anything helpful (until the start of your next turn.)

Similar in effect to Hallucinatory Terrain

From PHB, 249

You make natural terrain in a 150-foot cube in range look, sound, and smell like some other sort of natural terrain...

The terrain itself is not changing, but it looks like something different. It is not invisible, but it is changed by magic.

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Who wears the cloak, and displacer beasts, "seem to be somewhere else."

Observers don't see two bodies. They see the body but are mistaken as to its location.

Displacement is described as a visual illusion in this edition. You would expect it to be countered by truesight, or by a spell or item that grants true seeing.

While you wear this cloak, it projects an illusion that makes you appear to be standing in a place near your actual location, causing any creature to have disadvantage on attack rolls against you. If you take damage, the property ceases to function until the start of your next turn. (DMG p. 158)

Truesight

A monster with truesight can, out to a specific range, see in normal and magical darkness, see invisible creatures and objects, automatically detect visual illusions and succeed on saving throws against them, and perceive the original form of a shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic.

Displacement (MM p. 81 (Displacer Beast))

The displacer beast projects a magical illusion that makes it appear to be standing near its actual location, causing attack rolls to have disadvantage.

Displacer Beast (Description)

... takes its name from its ability to displace light so that it appears to be several feet away from its actual location

This is mechanically the same as the cloak.

Does True Seeing counter this? That's an interesting question. I'd rule yes.

... gives the creature... the ability to see things as they actually are. For the duration, the creature has truesight (see above), notices secret doors, hidden by magic, and can see into the Ethereal Plane ...

The key to that ruling is that what displacement does is create a visual illusion.

Let's use some lore to fill in the blanks.

To understand what's going on with displacement versus invisibility some lore is helpful. This item, once called a Displacer Cloak, is from the original game. It predates the displacer beast's introduction.

OD&D (TSR, Monsters and Treasure, 1974, Gygax & Arneson)

Displacer Cloak: This device warps light waves to make the wearer appear to be up to 1" away from where he is actually standing. It makes it 10% harder to hit its wearer, whether by smiting or Wand (add +2 to defense and saving throws). {1" = 10 feet in that editions scale convention}

OD&D (TSR, Greyhawk, 1975, Gygax/Kuntz)

DISPLACER BEASTS: {snip} They always appear to be 3' from their actual position, so for purposes of hitting them, or when they must make saving throws, they are treated as a man wearing a displacer cloak as far as penalties and bonuses are concerned.

AD&D 1E (Monster Manual)

The molecular vibrations of the displacer beast are such that it always appears to be 3' (left, right, ahead, or behind) its actual position. Thus, these monsters always cause opponents to subtract 2 from attack dice rolls and add 2 to their dice rolls for saving throws.

AD&D 1E (DMG)

Cloak of Displacement: This item appears to be a normal cloak, but when it is worn by a character its magical properties distort and warp light waves. This displacement of light waves causes the wearer to appear to be from 1' to 2' from his or her actual position. Any attack by missile or melee strike which is aimed at the wearer will automatically miss the first time*. Thereafter the cloak affords +2 protection, i.e. 2 classes better on armor class, as well as +2 on saving throw dice versus attack forms directed at the wearer (such as spells, gaze weapon attacks, spitting and breath attacks, etc. which are aimed at the wearer of the cloak of displacement). This can apply to first attacks from multiple opponents only if the second and successive attackers were unable to observe the initial displacement miss.

AD&D 2e had a similar description, though for displacer beasts there was a die roll to see if the beast was in front of, to the right or left of, or behind its perceived location.

  • A spell or item with true seeing made it possible to see displaced creatures, like displacer beasts or folks wearing displacer cloaks. So would "Dust of Appearance."

  • Displacement was a psionic power in AD&D 2e, that worked like a displacer beast's natural ability in making the character appear up to 3 feet from her actual location. (Some Githyanki had this ability).

D&D 3.5. (D20 SRD)

the cloak works like a displacement spell, and "its magical properties distort and warp light waves"

Displacement (A spell, 3rd level, Sorcerer / Wizard, D20 SRD)

The subject of this spell appears to be about 2 feet away from its true location. {note; displacement does not prevent being targeted, as total concealment would}

In this edition also "true seeing" reveals its true location

Summary

In all editions, displacement means that they see you, but they think that you are somewhere else due to an illusion, a magical effect, or a psionic effect that messes with light / vision.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you saying that true sight is immune to the cloak? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jul 12, 2017 at 21:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nautharch From what I was reading in the two descriptions in the SRD, truesight negates, or overcomes, the cloak's deception of whomever has truesight. While that intuitively makes sense based on previous editinos, I need to hit the DMG when I get home and do a bit more looking. I will also look at the displacer beast in the MM. But that's my read for 5e. Key Word is Visual Illusion. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12, 2017 at 21:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I definitely agree in the description of the cloak, but disappointed it doesn't actually say that. Does it need to or is the magic different? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jul 12, 2017 at 21:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch It doesn't need to say that. The key word is the clue. There are a variety of rulings and answers that rely on picking up on little linkages like that. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12, 2017 at 23:18
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Your real body is not visible

Compare with the wording of Mirror Image:

Three illusory duplicates of yourself appear in your space.

With Cloak of Displacement you appear to be somewhere else, with Mirror Image duplicates appear somewhere else.

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