Meenlock Tactics

Meenlocks are the unseeliest of the unseelie fey: deformed, sadistic, dark-dwelling predators. They look like a cross between a lobster, a stag beetle and Jeff Goldblum in The Fly (toward the end of the movie, not the beginning). They’re halfling-size and not very strong, relying on Dexterity-based shock attacks, psychic terror and a paralyzing touch to take down victims quickly. They may also hunt in groups.

Because of their Light Sensitivity feature, which gives them disadvantage on attacks and Perception checks in bright light, meenlocks shun daylight. However, because the frightened condition requires their prey to see them in order to suffer disadvantage from their Fear Aura feature, total darkness isn’t ideal, either, unless their prey has darkvision. Thus, meenlocks are most active at twilight, though they’ll also be drawn to the dim light of torches and campfires at night.

Dim light also allows meenlocks to take full advantage of their Shadow Teleport feature, even in view of creatures with darkvision—both the space it’s teleporting from and its destination must be in dim light or darkness, regardless of whether these spaces are unobscured or only lightly obscured to an onlooker. Because this is a recharging feature, available on average one turn out of three, Shadow Teleport is more useful as an ambush tactic than as an escape tactic—it simply isn’t reliable enough for the latter. The fact that it’s a bonus action means that it can be combined with an attack, and a meenlock will usually use this bonus action first, then attack as a follow-up action.

Meenlocks’ claw attack has a chance of paralyzing an opponent, a disastrous condition for anyone who suffers from it: the paralyzed individual is unable to take actions or reactions, fails all Strength and Dexterity saving throws, and takes critical damage from every close-range hit. Fortunately (or unfortunately), meenlocks aren’t out to kill their prey, but to abduct and torture them and turn them into new meenlocks.

Thus, a meenlock attack typically looks something like this: When the light is dim, a meenlock Shadow Teleports up to an isolated victim and attacks with its claws until one of three things happens: the victim is paralyzed, the victim is killed, or the meenlock’s Shadow Teleport recharges. If this feature recharges before the meenlock has succeeded in paralyzing a victim, it gives up and teleports away, though it may try again presently if it’s not moderately or seriously wounded (reduced to 21 hp or fewer).

If a meenlock does manage to paralyze a victim, it stops attacking and tries to haul him or her away. The description of Shadow Teleport doesn’t say whether a meenlock can carry a victim with it when it makes the jump, and unless I hear otherwise, I’m going to assume it can’t. On the other hand, a paralyzed character can’t move and can’t resist being moved, so the meenlock dragging him or her shouldn’t be subject to the 50 percent movement penalty for dragging a grappled victim, either. So in the same turn that it paralyzes its victim, the meenlock will also use its full 30 feet of movement to abscond with him or her. On subsequent turns, as long as the paralysis hasn’t worn off, it will Dash. If the paralysis does wear off, it goes back to square one, attacking with its claws with intent to paralyze again—unless it’s wounded and its Shadow Teleport has recharged. Then it splits.

A group of meenlocks will be more aggressive and less skittish, staying in the fight until they’re seriously wounded (reduced to 12 hp or fewer) but also focusing more on making sure they can capture at least one victim than on trying to get away with one each. Although they aren’t super-intelligent or creative, they can coordinate to the extent of, say, having two run interference while the other two paralyze and drag away a victim.

Meenlocks are mostly indiscriminate in their target selection, generally picking out whichever person in a group is most physically isolated. However, they do know better than to try to take down the largest person in the group. All other things being equal, they’ll favor a smaller target over a larger one—avoiding dwarves, though, because they’re more likely to resist paralysis.

A single meenlock will flee when seriously wounded (reduced to 12 hp or fewer) regardless of its degree of success so far.

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9 thoughts on “Meenlock Tactics

  1. I heartily admire your analysis. I have been playing D&D since the box sets, and concur that credible monster actions are essential to game satisfaction. Thank you so much for making this resource available to the gaming community.

  2. So I might be a few years late to this one, why would Meenlocks care if their target can’t see them due to total darkness? The fear aura still takes hold, as unlike the similar feature in the Sea Hag the target doesn’t need to actually see the meenock to become frightened. And yes its true that they don’t suffer disadvantage on attack rolls from fear if they can’t see the meenlock, but they’d be at a disadvantage on attack rolls from complete darkness instead with the added bonus that a creature that can’t see them can’t make opportunity attacks and may not even target the correct space with their regular attacks.

    The only way I can see dim light being preferable to darkness is if a group of meenlocks were trying to isolate one target out of a group of enemies (like an adventuring party). That way they can use the fact that you can’t approach a creature you’re frightened of to a) stop a target’s allies from rushing in to help them and b) stop the target from fleeing back to the safety of their allies, using the fear aura as a sort of barricade.

    1. Good point. The meenlock doesn’t have to be visible; it only has to be within line of sight. In fact, I exploit this very loophole in an example battle in the new edition of Live to Tell the Tale.

      1. That’s just how I considered things when I ran a meenlock encounter (and I somehow failed to check *before* the session to see if you’d written about it), as it happens I ran my meenlocks in dim light anyway because they were minions of a sea hag who does rely on being seen.

        But that’s just battle strategy, from a story point of view there’s nothing to say that a Meenlock’s Fear Aura doesn’t penetrate total cover, such as walls, or that it has any way of turning this aura off.. Which means that meenlocks scurrying about behind walls or underground (in such cases where their lair might have generated below the surface) they should be able to inflict fear on anything less than 10ft around them, regardless of whether they’re visible or even within line of sight. If the meenlock isn’t visible, then there’s no real downside to this condition, you’d just know you have it. Just to rack up the tension in advance of a combat encounter and drive your players crazy. Got to lean into the horror with these creatures.

        I’m not sure if a meenlock might be able to weaponize this because I’m not sure if a meenlock would automatically know if some creature on the other side of a wall or ceiling is affected by its aura. For some reason I’m inclined to say no.

  3. Given that meenlocks are small and only have 7 strength, I don’t think they should be able to drag away a fully grown warrior in full armor with no speed reduction. In that condition, just paralyzing one character and draging him away would be difficult. The rest of the party can just move with them to get their paralyzed friend back.
    But since they can teleport, they are perfectly suited to jump behind the party and attack them from two sides. When two characters are paralyzed and dragged off in opposite directions, things get really tense. And in case of my players, they always only have light source with them. Which happens to be an oil lantern. A meenlock can attempt to disarm the lantern, causing it to fall to the ground and brake. Unfortunately this is irrelevant if any of the remaining fighting characgers can cast light.

    1. Very valid point abotu carrying capacity. Per PHB (p 176), a creature’s carrying capacity is 15 x STR lbs. So, 105 lbs for a meenlock with STR 7. It might be able to carry off some incapacitated PCs – Small size and/or lightly armored – but probably not a big Medium-size warrior in heavy armor and full gear.

      A creature can also push, pull or drag up to 30 x STR (210 lbs) but in that case, the PHB tells us its speed drops to 5 ft / round. So if there are still hostiles nearby, the meenlock won’t really be “getting away with it” so to speak.

      Maybe if multiple meenlocks co-operated, they could pick up a bigger opponent and run off with him. Not sure what rules there are about that.

      1. After a closer inspection of the Meenlock stat block recently, it could be that they don’t really need to drag people into their lairs per se if they can incapacitate them some other way (assuming of course that the goal of the meenlocks in this instance is to turn people into meenlocks). It might make more sense for them to teleport into the tent of a sleeping person and just do their thing on a sleeping target. The psychic damage only comes at the end of the hour, so before that there’s nothing to say that their psychic torment would actually wake someone up. Sure, their lairs are a secure place to keep prisoners while they wear people down with their telepathy, but it isn’t necessary. Meenlocks can also teleport through walls, so while they can’t take targets with them, they can teleport out of their lairs under the floor or in the walls, do the thing to a sleeping person (or one that’s been beaten unconscious), and teleport right back if they get caught. They don’t even need to get close to the target really, as long as they can see them, since the feature seems to be based on their actual telepathy which has a pretty respectable 120ft range. So yeah, despite how the lore text says that they drag people back to their lairs, they’re not well suited for it and have much better ways of getting at people.

        The only situation where I can see the meenlocks resorting to kidnapping people is when they’ve found out the hard way that this target can tank 3d6 psychic damage, so bringing them somewhere safe to make multiple attempts is the only option. After all, that damage will wake a target up if it doesn’t kill them, and they can’t use Telepathic Torment on a foe that isn’t incapacitated.

        So a meenlock attack might look more like this:

        -They locate one person living/camping near their lair. Wait for a non-elf to go to sleep (intelligence 11, they’re smart enough to know that elves don’t sleep.

        -Use their stealth proficiency to get in close. If they can get a sightline on their target from afar, that’s all they do. Otherwise, they’ll have to use their teleport feature to move into the target’s tent/room.

        -Start tormenting. If the target makes the save, keep going.

        -Once the target fails the save, they take 3d6 damage. if it kills them, there’s now a new meenlock, mission success, teleport out of there. If it doesn’t kill them, the target is now awake, roll initiative.

        -If the meenlocks had to get within 30ft, they can try and silence the target. If a meenlock doesn’t win initiative and get a paralysis off with the first hit, mission failed, get out of there. If they can paralyze the target, keep going until they fall unconscious. if nobody heard the commotion, they make a medicine check to stabilise the target. Yes, anyone can try and stabilize someone making death saves, and meenlocks are marginally more intelligent than the average commoner. If they save the target, they can keep trying to torment. If not, mission failed, see if there’s another person nearby to try their luck on.

  4. Good writeup but unfortunately doesn’t stand up to mechanics – a meenlock can’t grapple a paralyzed target in the same turn it claws it. Would be interesting if that was the case.

    1. Nowhere is it stated or implied that these things happen on the same turn. It’s a simple “if>then” progression, perfectly capable of occurring over multiple rounds.

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