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This is the first time I’m seeing this monster, but it’s been around since the 1e Fiend Folio. Most iterations kept the same haircut.
A long time ago, a certain city was ravaged by a plague. Many died from both the disease itself and from the violence that erupted as starvation, terror and rage gripped the citizens. When everything seemed to be lost, those that were still alive heard a soothing voice in their ears. It said:
“Your gods have fled this place. The spirits of the world no longer walk with you. Your mages’ spells have failed you. In your hour of need, I alone hear your pleas.” This entity proposed a simple bargain. The people of this city would swear fealty to it, and in exchange the plague would cause no more deaths and they would enjoy limitless food forever more. Out of carelessness or desperation, the people accepted.
Turns out the soothing voice belonged to Baalzebul, the archdevil ruler of the seventh hell. And as in any devil’s bargain, he fulfilled his promises to the letter. His new servants no longer died from the plague, but they still caught it and suffered from the weeping sores and endless hunger that were its hallmark symptoms. The only thing that could nourish them and quell this hunger was the flesh of other sapient beings, which technically counts as a “limitless” source of food if you tally the world’s population.
These wretched creatures soon left their original city and spread through the world, to fulfill the will of their new master and to look for new food sources. They became known as Meazels.
Meazels rarely work with other sapients, because they can’t resist their hunger for long. They prefer to work with trained or magically controlled beasts, and their spellcasters can also summon and bind elementals. Some groups of Meazels leave Baalzebul’s service and pledge allegiance to others who promise to rid them of their curse. Most of these end up being Baalzebul’s rival devils.
Meazels are Medium Natural Humanoids, usually former humans. They have a ground speed of 6 and Darkvision. They’re immune to disease, but suffer from an infernal curse that mimics the symptoms of that original plague. This manifests as the Wretched Curse of Baalzebul, their signature ability. It’s an aura (1) that inflicts the same symptoms on any enemy inside.
Afflicted enemies take a -2 penalty to all defenses and become vulnerable 5 to all damage while inside the aura. They also inflict the same effects on any of their allies who are adjacent to them but outside the aura. Auras from multiple meazels don’t stack.
Their other abilities all come from training, and vary per stat block.
These are rank-and-file frontline fighters. Their tactics are straightforward - charge in and hit the enemy until it stops moving. Their curse aura makes them extra-effective in close quarters, and they love narrow terrain that leaves their enemies little room to maneuver.
Bravos are Level 11 Brutes with 136 HP. Their basic attack is a Morningstar. They can also use a Gut Shot maneuver (recharge 5+), which does slightly less damage but weakens the enemy for a turn.
Note that neither attack takes the aura into account in their damage formulas, which means they hit even harder than standard Brute of their level. Anyone in reach of either attack is also inside the aura!
Hunters are archers that like to coat their arrows in their own cursed blood. Their preferred tactic is to snipe at their targets from behind a wall of bravos.
Hunters are Level 12 Artillery with 88 HP. They fight in melee with Spears that benefit from their aura, but prefer to stay back and use their Longbows. Their basic ranged attack damages and slows for a turn on a hit. They can use a Distracting Shot instead, doing the same amount of damage and forcing the target to grant combat advantage for a turn. Once per encounter they can do the blood-dipping thing and fire a Plague-Tainted Shot that does the same damage and inflicts 10 ongoing necrotic damage (save ends). While this effect remains, any of the target’s allies that starts their turn adjacent to them takes 10 necrotic damage as well.
The plague shot is an interesting way to disrupt PC formations, since anyone adjacent to a stricken victim will have an incentive to move away.
While bravos and hunters do the obvious battling, stranglers sneak around the edges of the fight looking for isolated enemies they can drag away. They’re Level 13 Controllers with 125 HP.
All of their attacks are Reach 1, so they all benefit from the aura. The basic attack is a short sword, but the real star of the show is the Garrote. Its intiial attack is weaker, but it grabs the target on a hit. (Athletics DC 24 or Acrobatics DC 26 to escape). In subsequent rounds the Strangler can spend a standard action to sustain the grab and deal a heavy chunk of physical damage to the target.
Once per encounter they can use a Plage Touch that targets Fortitude, does immediate and ongoing necrotic damage, and blinds (save ends both). It’s a good opener to make that wizard easier to strangle.
As a move action, the strangler can use Drag to the Feast, which allows it to move its speed and pull the grabbed victim along without provoking opportunity attacks from them. Other PCs can still make OAs against the meazel, but any that miss damage the grabbed victim instead.
The history of the meazels is the story of a bunch of people who, when faced with the spread of a dangerous disease, chose to abandon science and put their faith in an instant cure sold by a charlatan. They suffered the consequences and still decided to double down.
I will note that this entry was written way back in 2010. Any similarity between meazels and anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and chloroquine/ivermectin enthusiasts is mere coincidence. Mechanically, they’re okay. The aura makes for some nice synergies with their other abilities.