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The dire weasel (MM 65) and the weasel (MM 282) have the special attack attach, which says

If [the creature] hits with a bite attack, it uses its powerful jaws to latch onto the opponent’s body and automatically deals bite damage each round it remains attached. An attached weasel loses its Dexterity bonus to Armor Class….

An attached [creature] can be struck with a weapon or grappled itself. To remove an attached weasel through grappling, the opponent must achieve a pin against the creature.

Unlike the stirge (MM 236-7)—which has an identically-named special attack—, the weasels' attach mentions nothing about the weasels grappling. While it's clear the Monster Manual's authors had some kind of vision as to how this special attack should work, how does this special attack work in actual play? That is, can an opponent with a weasel attached to him simply move away to free himself from the "powerful jaws" of the weasel? Does an attached weasel instead immobilize its opponent? Does the opponent's movement take the weasel with it? Is the weasel actually grappling—moving into its opponent's square, making grapple checks, and so on—while it's attached?


Note: In nearly two decades of playing this game, I've never used a weasel, dire or otherwise. Now one of the PCs has a weasel familiar, and he'll likely buff it and send it in to drain his foes' blood, and I'm gonna need to know how that works. An outstanding answer could go so far as to walk me through a couple of rounds of combat between, for example, a generic level 1 commoner and a weasel.

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Weasels, in real life, lock their jaws when they bite down. That's what this is modeling - it bites, and now its jaws are locked and it's attached to you. It doesn't have to make any additional checks to stay attached, grapple or otherwise. It is "grapple-like" in that it's attached to you and loses its Dex bonus, but other things (grappling/grappled conditions, etc.) don't apply.

You can move, but it doesn't unattach the weasel. If it's just a normal sized weasel, it's probably pretty easy to move with it attached to you. If it's giant, then it's probably not so easy; you would need to do a grapple check yourself and use the "move" option. It is not technically grappling you, so they don't say you are grappled. It doesn't move into your square (unless it was a Tiny one and had to in order to attack you).

The way to unattach the jaws is use grappling yourself to achieve a pin (and unlock the jaws). Or kill it, though technically in the real world this doesn't get the weasel's jaws unlocked, so it would be entertaining to make them go through more work to get it off them.

I had a weasel familiar in one campaign but using it to kill downed opponents was about all it was safe to do; because when it bites it's only doing like 1 hp/round and can easily be beaten to death by most any opponent with its newly lowered AC.

In e.g. AD&D 2e the weasels have more description that makes it clear that they are biting down and continuing to suck blood. This means that it's clear the weasel isn't supposed to be able to attach to multiple opponents. As this question isn't tagged [rules-as-written] I see no reason to go past common sense to "well it doesn't SAY it can't do that" lengths.

If you would like to make this easier, the Pathfinder giant/dire weasel just has "grab" and then the blood drain, so it works more within the rules.

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Weaseling out of it

Using the rules from the abilities of the same name in the stirge entry would be reasonable. In fact the stirge appears to use more codified rules regarding both the attach and the blood drain abilities. The stirge, possibly because it's more 'monstrous' than either a weasel or dire weasel, was updated 'better' than the animals were from the D&D 3rd Edition Monster Manual, which uses the same rules for all three creatures, modified only for attack types and damage (pp.58, 174, 203).

So, it appears that the weasels were partially overlooked in the update to 3.5. Just use the stirge rules; they fit with the other two (except for the racial bonus to grappling while attached, as they don't have four barbed legs to grab with).

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The thing you are missing is that the attachment doesn't require that the weasel grapple the opponent, nor does it affect the weasel's speed or ability to move in any way. Rather than ending the 1 hp/round drain by running away from the weasel, you likely must chase down the weasel and initiate a grapple. Once you've managed to catch the creature, its -12 grapple modifier makes removing the attatchment relatively simple. Depending on the ontology of animals as a detail of setting, this may look something like the following:

Case study: Druidic Animals

Where people can talk to animals with e.g. Speak With Animals, animals are moral agents dedicated to nature and balance and stuff, have goals and culture and relationships, and are on average significantly wiser than humans, elves, Dwarves, etc.

3 level one commoners v.s. 1 tactically-savvy weasel in a dense forest.

The weasel hides in a space with a tree connected to the canopy and in a patch of heavy undergrowth until a commoner enters the space. The Weasel takes 10 on this Hide check, resulting in a Hide total of 26, which the 1st level commoners cannot reach. When the space is entered, the weasel attacks in the surprise round, 1d20+4 v.s. a flatfooted AC of 10 for a 70% success rate. If it hits, it attaches.

Hiding while attacking imposes a -20 penalty, so the commoners now have a good chance of spotting the weasel (about 30% each), and they can probably locate the bugger via listen, since it's now making noise. Nonetheless, the weasel has about a 9% chance of still being undetected, in which case it waits the turn out, hides again on its initiative, and waits for the bitten commoner to die (8 rounds, or 48 seconds, later). Even if the other commoners decide to premptively attack the space in which their friend first started taking bite damage from a hidden source once per turn, the weasel benefits from cover (total AC 14 for a 70% miss chance for the commoners, 51/50 if they both attack the space) as well as separate 50% and 30% miss chances, totalling in a 17.85% combined hit chance for a thorough search (if they hit the weasel, it's probably dead). If either of them are stupid enough to actually enter the weasel's square they are subject to an attack of opportunity that is equally capable of applying attachment just as above (but with less eyes to see the attacking weasel).

Assuming it is spotted as it attacks, the weasel then 5-ft-steps diagonally up onto the opposite side of the tree and out of the undergrowth, using its climb speed, and uses the tree's cover to hide again (at the lower total of d20+11). Everyone rolls initiative. The weasel wins approximately 30% of the time, and goes before the guy it bit around 60% of the time. The commoners can't run or charge, but they can still possibly move to within 5 feet of the weasel within a turn, maybe make their spot checks, possibly by some of them using Aid Another, and then maybe hit the weasel with their 1d20 v.s. 12 AC attack (40% odds of a hit once the weasel is spotted). If they expect the weasel's position, they can also just attack the space and hope to hit it (accepting the 50% miss chance and probable cover bonus), resulting in a 51% survival rate for the weasel if they choose the correct side of the tree to attack from (so as to negate cover) and all attack before it flees.

The weasel, if it is alive on its turn (either because the commoners all lost initiative or because those who didn't failed to find and hit it) withdraws using the withdraw action into the forest canopy, where its climb speed can allow it a higher effective movement rate than the commoners, and moves to set up an additional similar ambush further along the commoner's path of travel or eat the fallen commoner or whatever as fits its goals.

In a setting with more anti-animal bias, the weasel might stay adjacent to the commoner and continue attacking, or attempt to flee less effectively, or have set up less good of an ambush, or just run away and never attack humans, or something.

A dire weasel functions similarly except that it is less good at hiding, can't climb, has enough hp to maybe take a single hit, and doesn't need to enter an opponent's space to attack. It's also, obviously, scaled up to challenge higher-level characters but that doesn't really affect its combat role.


Hopefully the test cases help show that weasels are extraordinarily dangerous for their CR. The only ways to remove the attachment they cause, which otherwise results in swift death for low-level characters, require that you catch them first, which is not a simple task either because they are tiny and can climb (for regular weasels) or because they run at a 40 ft. movement speed (for the dire variety). However, weasels also have almost no defensive prowess. Dire and regular weasels are essentially very-low-level high-level D&D characters: they turn combats into rocket tag at levels 1 and 2. If the weasel attaches and gets away, the thing it attached to is dead. Even at high levels, attachment, while difficult to pull off, can kill almost any opponent when used by a regular weasel. Undead are immune to a whole lot of stuff, but 'bite damage' isn't one of them so e.g. a Lich can be temporarily killed by a single weasel benefitting from the 1st level Druid spell Magic Fang if it fails to kill the weasel before the animal escapes (perhaps due to a lucky application of the 1st level Druid spell Entangle).

This, of course, is somewhat different than how weasels work in real life (though surprisingly accurate to weasel folklore), and so you may well wish to change this all to something more... reasonable.

Speaking of weasel folklore, I'm going to leave you with a passage I ran into while reading about real-life weasel burrowing habits in the above linked source:

The seemingly innocuous little creature we call the weasel is an insatiable killer driven to murderous frenzy by a large parasite residing in its stomach. It sucks the blood of its victims, conceives through its mouth and gives birth through an ear, can squeeze itself through a wedding ring, and magically changes from brown to white within hours of the first snowfall each winter. (See the different varieties of weasels in the image gallery).

which I think is pretty great.


Unfortunately, Blood Drain does not work the way I've been running it for years, so my actual play experience with the Dire Weasel is quite limited (i.e. nonexistant). My experience with the regular weasel, however, is quite extensive.

Lastly, a note on PCs fighting weasels, though your question is of a different bent: weasels have very low hp and low movement speeds, making mundane ranged attacks one of the most effective ways of taking them down. While NPCs like commoners and warriors are unlikely to have or be able to afford the luxury of a short bow, 1st level parties may well have a character with a light crossbow or even a full-blown archery-focused PC. Enemies like the weasel, with it's use of cover, concealment, and difficult terrain, coupled with its extremely low hp and ability to present a credible offensive threat to the party provide a rare opportunity for mundane ranged characters to shine. Of course Magic Missile solves the encounter trivially, if the weasel can be found (even Magic Missile has a miss chance against an opponent with total concealment), and Burning Hands kills all the weasels in a fairly large area without allowing much of a chance of failure, but magic is sort of always better and at least in this case it's much less better than normal.

As a warning, though, weasels are extremely dangerous and there is a significant chance that a PC or even several will die if they fight a weasel, so don't introduce them to your game if PC death from goblin dice is something you don't want to risk happening.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, that's certainly… evocative! However, I don't see much textual support for a weasel being able to attach to multiple creatures at once (but you're correct that there isn't anything against such a practice, either!) nor for a weasel getting temporary hp from its blood drain (like the vampire and spawn do). Also, how do you justify narratively a creature clamping its jaws onto a foe then simultaneously keeping those jaws clamped and running away and hiding until the foe dies? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 29 '17 at 22:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ability Drain has a general rule that specifically states you get 5 hp when you drain if nothing is specified in the description (double on a critical hit). Yes, that's a terrible way to lay out the rulebook X.X The narrative justification is that weasels are terrifying death monsters whose combat prowess defies human comprehension. That justification is actually a holdover from various OSR games which also have a history of weirdly brutal Mustelidae. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil May 29 '17 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ For example, in Hackmaster Dire Weasels (or maybe Dire Badgers? I can't remember which specifically right now) are an exception to the normal animal alignment rules, being instead Always Chaotic Evil. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil May 29 '17 at 22:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's no justification for an "attached" weasel being able to move away arbitrary distances from its victim while attached. Just because they didn't disintermediate "attached" with a condition definition doesn't mean the word loses its English meaning. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica May 30 '17 at 0:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ignoring English words is not "rules as written.' \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica May 30 '17 at 5:22

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