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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5 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.

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