Swarmwyrm – 551 Words

Round 3: Create a Bestiary entry

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6

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The dull gray scales of this dragon undulate as though a writhing mass within were trying to burst free. Black insects dart in and out of its hollow eye sockets and a shrill buzzing noise fills the air.

Swarmwyrm CR 9
XP 6,400
CE Large dragon
Init +5; Senses blindsense 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +15
Aura distracting aura (30 ft.)

----- Defense -----
AC 23, touch 10, flat-footed 22 (+1 Dex, +13 natural, -1 size)
hp 115 (11d12+44)
Fort +12, Ref +8, Will +10
Defensive Abilities swarming wounds; Immune paralysis, sleep

----- Offense -----
Speed 20 ft., fly 60 ft. (poor)
Melee bite +17 (1d8+7), 2 claws +17 (1d6+7), 2 wings +12 (1d6+3)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks breath weapon (60-ft. cone, 6d6 piercing plus nausea, Reflex DC 18 for half, usable every 1d4+1 rounds)

----- Statistics -----
Str 25, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 5, Wis 12, Cha 7
Base Atk +11; CMB +19; CMD 30
Feats Flyby Attack, Great Fortitude, Hover, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Toughness
Skills Fly +11, Knowledge (nature) +5 (+9 to identify vermin), Perception +15, Sense Motive +10; Racial Modifiers +4 Knowledge (nature) to identify vermin
Languages Draconic

----- Ecology -----
Environment any temperate or warm
Organization solitary or pair
Treasure standard

----- Special Abilities -----
Breath Weapon (Su) A swarmwyrm’s breath weapon consists of a 60-foot cone of stinging insects that cling to a victim’s body. Any living creature that fails its Reflex save must also make a DC 18 Fortitude save or be nauseated for one round, after which the insects disperse. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Distracting Aura (Ex) The insects inside a swarmwyrm emit a loud buzzing noise that makes it difficult to hear within 30 feet of the creature. All concentration checks and Perception checks that rely on hearing made within this range suffer a -4 circumstance penalty.
Swarming Wounds (Su) Three times per day, a swarmwyrm can contract its muscles to expel a large amount of insects through open wounds and damaged tissue on its body. Doing so creates a screen of insects that surround it for 1d4+1 rounds. During this time the swarmwyrm gains the benefit of partial concealment. The swarmwyrm cannot use this ability if it is at or above its normal maximum number of hit points.

A swarmwyrm appears to be a recently deceased dragon with dull gray scales, empty eye sockets, and a constantly writhing mass of flies and wasps surrounding every orifice. Because these insects live inside a swarmwyrm’s hide, many people assume that the creatures are magically animated by the vermin within. In truth, swarmwyrms are living beings, though how their maggot-infested organs function is a mystery that scholars have yet to explain.

Swarmwyrms are believed to have originated in the Worldwound, where they sometimes serve as allies to demonic hordes. Crusaders initially believed them to be fallen dragons whose corpses were reanimated by some pestilent demonic force. They have since been found elsewhere, often making lairs in areas where carrion and insects are plentiful.

An adult swarmwyrm is 15 feet long and weighs approximately 1,500 pounds. Dim-witted but sadistic, they enjoy crippling their victims and leaving them to die slowly in a sunlit area. Only when the body begins to rot does the swarmwyrm finally feast.

Paizo Employee Developer , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Congratulations for making it to Round 3! Your item worked for enough people to make Top and you mapping skills got you through Round 2, and now folks get to see your monster. Like previous years that I’ve judged this round, I’m approaching judging the same way I would do a pre-development pass on a turnover one of my freelancers sent me. I start at the descriptive text at the top and then work my way through the statblock looking for errors or weak spots that need to be addressed in development. Then I read the flavor text and see how it is all integrated. My final judgment is not only based on errors or lack thereof. Some of my comments are just personal preference, so please don’t take anything personally. We just have different tastes.

Now on to your monster!

• The descriptive text is fine, and I like that you included sound. It kinda makes this creature seem like an undead creature with the hollow eye sockets.

• Its hit points, AC, saves, attack bonus and damage are all pretty much on point. Most of these values are exactly on the mark. The only thing beyond one or two points off is damage, because dragons.

• I’m a little surprised by the low Intelligence.

• I really like insects, so the idea of a dragon infested with swarms of bugs is a neat idea to me.

• The breath weapon is cool. Not a huge amount of damage, but that nausea rider can wreak havoc.

• Distracting aura is a neat idea. In the future make sure to use an en-dash for a minus sign instead of a hyphen.

• Swarming wounds is neat, but I feel like you could have included some damaging effect in it as well as the concealment. The bit about the dragon needing to be damaged is a nice touch.

• I don’t know how I feel about the first paragraph of the flavor text. I like that it addresses my first thoughts upon reading the descriptive text, but I don’t like that it basically gives a “Who knows?” answer to the why if it all. It would have been nice to at least entertain a few theories.

• Placing them at the Worldwound makes good sense, perhaps they are creatures related to Deskari? I like that you gave dimensions for this creature, and it’s good that you included a bit about their eating habits.

This is a decent submission, but it didn’t “wow” me completely. I am on the fence about whether this designer should advance to the next round.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Charlie! Welcome back for Round 3! This is the round where we temporarily set aside your earlier tests--i.e., a magic item "calling card" to showcase your potential, and a map to literally draw in the viewer so they can connect with your vision for an inspired gaming experience at the table. Instead, this go-around, we're testing your skill with monster design--one of the most important skills a freelancer can have--and, it'll be measured from the ground up rather than relying on class levels or special templates to make it stand out. This is absolutely vital to a great designer, because new monsters are always needed, and always in demand. Even if you don't necessarily go on to win the entire RPG Superstar competition, you can still make a significant enough impression in this round to serve you well in securing future freelancing opportunities, whether with Paizo or Pathfinder-compatible third-party publishers.

So, with that in mind, I'm going into these monster evaluations looking for a handful of insights into what your design choices and overall execution tell me about you. Aside from just a useful, compelling monster, I want to see how creative you are in selecting a particular concept and bringing it to life with your words. I also want to see how you match that with an accurate stat-block, and I want to ascertain how well you understand the mechanics which distinguish one monster creation from another, both as a combination for incorporating existing rules into your design, as well as being innovative enough to invent all-new material which others may eventually reference for their future designs, as well. Essentially, it's one thing to create a competent monster for the game table, but it's quite another to transcend that, and create something truly iconic and ground-breaking. You do the latter and you'll definitely be on your way to the next round.

First up, let's evaluate your monster's name: the Swarmwyrm. Sounds nasty. Mixing a dragon-like creature with a swarm promises an entertaining encounter at the gaming table.

Now, let's examine your creativity in describing and explaining what your monster is all about. "The dull gray scales of this dragon undulate as though a writhing mass within were trying to burst free. Black insects dart in and out of its hollow eye sockets and a shrill buzzing noise fills the air." Okay. That sounds scary. Right up there with a hellwasp swarm inhabiting someone, but a dragon? Scarier still. Having them connected to the Worldwound even reinforces the idea that this might be a demonic version of a hellwasp swarm within another creature, but you've done a different interpretation, of course. But then, reading further into your descriptive paragraphs, we really don't get a definitive connection like that. Instead, it's left up to the interpretation of scholars. Given that the Worldwound crusades on their fourth go-around in the Golarion campaign setting, you'd think one of those good-aligned, enlightened scholars would have divined its origin by now. Beyond that, there's a fair bit of creativity on display here. The breath weapon with the clinging insects creating nausea and the swarming wounds both have a lot of flavor, but I'm really left looking for some swarm-like damage effects from it, too. The breath weapon generates piercing damage, but something like the cling ability could have been leveraged to keep on damaging its victims, for instance, and that would have made the swarmwyrm even more menacing. As-is, it's kind of watered down a bit from what it could have been. So, I take a lot of inspiration from this monster's design...it's just not necessarily the direction you chose to take it, and that kind of disappoints me a little.

So, what about the mechanics? In the interests of time, I didn't try to number-crunch everything, but you look pretty solid across everything to me. The AC, saves, hit points, and attack bonuses are spot-on for a CR 9 creature. In combat, if all its attacks hit, it'll blow through the typical damage curve for such a monster, but dragons enjoy that advantage with the extra attacks. If you wanted to dial it back, you could eliminate the wings. And, if you fear losing its fly speed as a result of that, you could still grant it flight by saying the swarming insects are capable of lifting its body through some fusion of demonic magic and the original draconic form, kind of reminiscent of Deskari's swarm-defined wings. Everything else is reasonable. I really want the swarming wounds to create an aura of swarm damage around it, though, requiring ranged weapons, magic, or reach weapons to continue attacking it without risking yourself.

Next up, the presentation. You're pretty solid here in terms of the template use. You bolded, italicized, and alphabetized the right things and got everything in order. The professional polish is there, and I really appreciate that you went the extra mile with your word count and explained its size, weight, and feeding habits. That gives solid information and flavor to the creature.

Bottom Line: This monster design is interesting and meets the mechanical expectations of a CR 9 monster. It has a unique niche and some iconic abilities that can certainly make for a memorable encounter at the game table, and I can see this creature getting lots of reuse over time, especially in a Wrath of the Righteous campaign. There are a few areas where I can already envision punching it up a bit to do further justice to its abilities, but as it stands, it's still good enough for me to say I DO RECOMMEND this designer advance to the next round. You've got a spark here (and in your earlier designs), and I'd like to see what else you've got.


Welcome to the top 16! Great job getting this far! Now let’s take a look at your monster.

Well, here’s a dragon that breathes clouds of stinging bugs. Very creative! This is something I would throw at players with more than a touch of sadistic glee. You hint that they might have originated in the Worldwound, which is a nice touch, as what other place would host such a terrible monstrosity?

Mechanically, I appreciate that even though “swarm” is in the creature’s name, the monster’s abilities don’t exactly use the swarm rules. I think it would have been easy to give this dragon a vomit swarm spell-like ability and call it a day.

In the end, I recommend this designer move on to the next round. Well done!

Loud buzzing is a potentially very, very annoying, but -4 seems pretty heavy to me. Most circumstance penalties are -2. I think distracting aura should be sonic and mind-affecting.

Swarming wounds seems weak, since it only functions after it's wounded. I'm thinking it should either be a swift action, take no action, or have a longer duration.

I like the breath. I'm torn, because I kind of like the idea that it might create short-duration swarms. Bad guys that summon are potentially complicated to run, but this seems like it should be no ordinary encounter.

Overall, I like it, although I think it could use a little polish. The biggest sticking point to me is -- is this a dragon? It seems like it might be better to go ahead and say it's an undead. In Golarion, it would be simple for a spellcaster to determine that. So, I have to assume it's not an undead. so what is it? It really seems more like an aberration with a dragon theme. I think what might have kicked this up a notch for me is either making it a dragon with some kind of aberration blood ability, or an aberration with dragon blood. Maybe it should even be vulnerable to things that affect vermin. Even if you don't give the whole game away, as a GM I would like a better idea what this thing is. Can you control the insects inside its body? If you read its mind, what is it thinking?

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

I like the idea of this monster, just a few things irk me. But a very cool idea!

Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

RJGrady wrote:
The biggest sticking point to me is -- is this a dragon? It seems like it might be better to go ahead and say it's an undead. In Golarion, it would be simple for a spellcaster to determine that.

In Golarion, animating the dead as undead involves negative energy. This is a corpse powered by insects, so it can't be undead. It can't be a construct like a skinstitch, either, as that involves magical or mechanical animation.

The dragon's mind is still alive and its soul is presumably intact, but has given over its material bodily functions to the swarm, effectively fusing the two into a symbiotic creature. Since that creature is still a dragon that does dragon things, it makes mechanical sense for it to be a dragon-type creature and have dragon traits.

Another approach would be the Kakuen-Taka from Inner Sea Bestiary, a swarm that infests and operates a flesh structure. The stat block modeled the intact creature, and the ability that provided for it included a micro stat block modeling the swarm on its own.


This is a corpse powered by insects, so it can't be undead.

So is it a vermin? It the creature actually something controlling the insects? I'm just not sure about accepting that a corpse animated by any means is a dragon.

Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

RJGrady wrote:

This is a corpse powered by insects, so it can't be undead.
So is it a vermin? It the creature actually something controlling the insects? I'm just not sure about accepting that a corpse animated by any means is a dragon.

Actually, it's not really a corpse, and I'm wrong to use the word.

A swarmwyrm appears to be a recently deceased dragon with dull gray scales, empty eye sockets, and a constantly writhing mass of flies and wasps surrounding every orifice. Because these insects live inside a swarmwyrm’s hide, many people assume that the creatures are magically animated by the vermin within. In truth, swarmwyrms are living beings, though how their maggot-infested organs function is a mystery that scholars have yet to explain.

Looks like one, but isn't. It's a symbiote with a draconic form and abilities. There's not much prior work to model symbiotes as Pathfinder creatures, so this is (for better or worse) exploring a somewhat open design space.

I agree in that it's a missed opportunity to not give it more explicit vermin traits or vulnerabilities. I also think the Kakuen-Taka executes a similar concept better, but it has the luxury of twice the available word count and a higher CR.

For what it does, claims to be, and intends to do, the type and abilities generally work. I'm not sure a vermin swarm would work as well, especially with the word count.

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The monster round is always my favorite, so I'm going to give some feedback on all the entries. Basic run-through using the monster creation rules to see if the numbers line up, then general thoughts and critique. I'm running down the list as I find them, so this is the first monster entry I've seen.

Basic Stats [+: high for CR; =: within CR range; -: low for CR]
hp =
AC =
Atk =
Dmg +
DC =
Saves =

Everything is on par for a monster of CR 9, except for the average damage output, which is high. That's not a deal-breaker by any means, because creatures of the dragon type are typically tough customers no matter their CR.

I like the name, it's evocative and immediately clues me in on what I might be seeing. The description works well, though I have to wonder how it sees with no eyes. I'm imagining drones in the swarm whose job it is to act as eyes, sitting in the sockets and keeping lookout, though how they communicate what they see to the dragon remains a mystery.

The aura is a nice touch, but the penalties seem a bit much for a non-magical effect.

I'm noting a lack of the dragon's typical tail slap attack. It seems odd, since it presumably still has its tail and it retains all the other attacks of a dragon of this size. I'm hoping it wasn't left out to keep the damage output down, but if it's a blatant omission that's not so great either.

I like the concept of the breath weapon, as it's like bees spilling forth from their hive to defend themselves against attackers. The nauseating effect is a nice touch. Given that this is its big, showy attack, it still seems lacking somehow. If the clinging insects inflicted continuous damage over another round or two, that might have clinched it for me.

The low Int doesn't bother me, as it seems that we have a hive mind running the show rather than the original dragon's intellect, so that's cool.

I appreciate the Worldwound connection. There's a lot to work with there. Unfortunately, I don't think you did quite enough with it. As has already been mentioned, given the risks faced at the Worldwound, you would think someone would have investigated this thing, put forth theories as to its origins, something. A little more depth on the ecology of the thing would have gone a long way. I like the idea of some extraplanar insect hunting young dragons, infecting them, and creating a parasitic/symbiotic relationship with the dragon getting the short end of the stick.

Overall, my impressions are positive, but I'm not sure I'm sold on this being a Superstar submission. I'll have to see what the remaining fourteen hold for me. Best of luck to you.

Dedicated Voter Season 9

First of all A job well done. It's an encounter that even long term players could get confused with what kind of monster they are dealing with. And the dragon subtype is a little out of place and as a Virmin it could work better and you could make somesort of template of it.

On the other hand, it reminded me of a encounter in the Adventure Path Jade regent : Night of the frozen shadows, there was a battle with a hellwasp swarm. (the animating part to be clear)

But who am I kidding ? Don't listen to me there's a reason why you got it to round 3 ! And with this monster we will see you again in the next round !

Grand Lodge Star Voter Season 9

I really like the descriptive text and flavour of this monster, I particularly like the Swarming Wounds ability.

Overall I think that this is a very cool monster and would be fun to GM whilst giving players something to think about.


RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

How I’m rating monsters:
Creativity: does this seem innovative and original or does this seem contrived? How is the description?
Description is good but this feels pretty contrived, like you said to yourself mashup a dragon and swarms… done. Here’s what really hurts it for me, I saw a swarm breath in round 1 with the choker so it seems somehow even less original. Sorry but this is a 4/10 for me.
Marketability: are the choices you made smart and marketable to a voting public? Does the name pop? Name works and this is about as marketable as it gets 10/10
Trade craft: did you format correctly and scale correct to Paizo standards? Formatting is tight and this for better or worse is right in line with Paizo standards 9/10.
Encounter worthy: as a GM is this easy to use and reuse? It’s a 1 trick pony and you failed to really give this a popping ecology for me. You could have made this a symbiotic relationship rather than a poorly explained parasitic one… I’d use it once and it’s be memorable but I can say that of any one use monster. 6/10
All get a 1-10 score which I will then average. I reserve the right to add or subtract points from the final score as long as they are justified with reasoning.
7.25 out of 10: I suspect this will be good enough to get top 8 but I need a better ecology to sell me on a monster in general and there’s something lacking in this beastie. I get a vibe that this is made to get votes and doesn’t really tune with your real aesthetic but that is pure conjecture I have nothing to back that statement up other than my gut.
Good luck on next round.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

In the interest of sharpening my skills I'll finally be chiming in on entries! I do a stream-of-consciousness style of review (just like my other critiques) and I will do my best not to read other folks' comments so as to not be influenced one way or the other. I believe creatures serve more than just a combat capacity, and removing choices from players (such as forcing them only into combat with a specific creature) is not Superstar design. Plus, who doesn't like outwitting/outsmarting/etc. a creature?


The name is...serviceable. I'm expecting a dragonesque creature that breaks into a swarm or an actual swarm of dragonesque creatures. Although the name suggests the former as it is a singular versus a name like Wyrm Swarm.

Not a fan of "as though" in the intro description. Commit! Just like with items!

Good second sentence in the descriptive text.

The fact that it is a large dragon again points to a creature that will utilize or break into a swarm. Let's see!

Hollow eye sockets, blindsense...AND darkvision and low-light vision? That seems weird to have those last two, thematically. It's got no eyes and already has blindsense. I'd think it would make more sense to have something like tremorsense or blindsight.

Defense portion looks good.

Swarming wounds gives it partial concealment upon command 3x per day. But the flavor of what it seems like you are going for means this should have been a reflexive thing when it takes damage (probably by a certain type of damage, i.e. bludgeoning or slashing or piercing). Especially with the intro I don't know why this wouldn't be a reflexive type of thing. I'm also a little confused as to why it has so many insects as its not a demon and not undead...its a living dragon. I don't want to look ahead yet but I had to...and you kind of copped out on explaining why it tolerates insects all around and through it without it being undead or a demon. It doesn't have any kind of regenerative ability either so how does thing survive with insects constantly eating it away?

Without delving into each creature type's base stats and such I can't say for 100% but your attack routines and such look fine, maybe a tad under on the attack bonuses.

The breath weapon makes sense. Although the any "living creature" line would raise questions by some. Are creatures made of soulstuff living? What about divine creatures?

I find it slightly odd to have poor flight but also have flyby attack and hover. I'd expect average or to lose one of those.

I think you missed an opportunity with your treasure line. This should have given something special with the bug flavor you went for, but I'm also biased towards special treasures.

In your description you copped out a lot. A lot of "appears to be", "people assume", "believed to be" type descriptives and it just makes me think you don't know exactly what you wanted this to be. The last two sentences firm up but don't really give me much to play with other than carrion feaster that is dumb and cruel.

Overall, I'm not feeling this dragon that much. You had a neat idea, I think, but you went in an odd direction that contradicts itself. Why does it allow these insects to swarm inside it and eat it away constantly? How does it stay alive after any amount of time with this going on? Why is it just a regular dragon instead of an undead dragon or an outsider of some sort? It doesn't have eyes, but you followed the standard dragon template and gave it low-light and darkvision, but it does have blindsense so you acknowledge the fact that it has no eyes and is blind. It has specific knowledge to identify vermin, so there's some roleplay possibility, but it's only 5 int and 7 cha, which means it's not going to be talking to PCs much and excercising that vermin identification (unless its using that to identify vermin it can take inside itself?). This is my first creature I've looked at in the Top 16 so I can't say definitively but as of now I'm not thinking this is getting a vote. It has a neat concept but I think you either didn't have the words or could have used the revision comb a few more times to really tighten up the theme and commit to what and where this creature is and came from.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Before I begin, I'd like to say that I like your creativity here - that's not an issue that needs to be debated. A handful of monsters animated by swarms (hellwasps and that undead spider, for instance) exist in a few places, but this is a fun take on it.

I find it odd that nobody's mentioned the name, so I'm going to bring it up. It's not going to be called the swarmwyrm, ever. It will be called the swarmswarm, or something else. It doesn't really roll off the tongue, and is easy to mistake for a very silly version of the same name. In fact, I had to read it twice before I mentally corrected it. I would have liked to see it called something else linguistically related, but slightly less 'same sounding' as swarmwyrm.

I also don't like the swarming wounds ability. I mean, it is at least fine, but it's the sort of thing that makes you imagine other cooler things you could do. Like, what if whenever it was damaged more than a certain threshold in a round, it spawned a wasp swarm? Or, what if damaging it in melee inflicted the attacker with swarm damage like a lesser version of its breath weapon.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

Name is solid; it doesn't really wow me, but gets at what the creature is obviously.

Really excellent description. I could simply read that at the table and people would have an idea of what this looks like. Creepy and gross, in a good way. I could totally see a player thinking these are undead and reacting that way only to find out the truth a little later on.

The write-up's OK. I like having the monster's dimensions, but I'm not sure I really get much more of an idea how to use it as a GM. I felt like it was more giving me mysteries instead of telling me what I need to know. What does it do in combat? I like that you tell me they enjoy crippling their enemies, then leaving them out in the sun (I'm hoping the stats will allow for that), but do they have any particular preference for fighting armored opponents or spellcasters? Do they rush into melee or hang back?

And while this isn't a big deal, I also thought the Worldwound seemed like an odd location for these guys. I get the possible Deskari link, but I'm not feeling the demon connection I think Worldwound should have.

Stats-wise, I'm excited to see a Large dragon; Superstar has only seen six dragons and at least five of them have been Small or smaller (IIRC). I think that's probably a factor of the CR choices, but I'm glad to see you taking advantage of the higher end of the spectrum. A little bummed to see no group option in their organization listing -- do these things never appear in groups more than two?

I like the breath weapon, it suits this monster and feels creepy. I definitely can see why others suggest adding a round or two lingering effect on it, but it's a neat idea.

Distracting aura's a nice tertiary power.

Swarming wounds doesn't quite live up to the promise of that name, IMO. I wish it did something more than concealment. I like the design thought that went into not being able to use this at maximum health, though I also feel a little like it contradicts the idea they're flying in and out of its eyes.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

The distracting aura should indicate it is a sonic effect, or that deaf creatures aren't affected, and it's blocked by silence effects, etc, since it's based on being a loud distracting sound.

My bigger concern with the monster is none of the flavor text indicates how it behaves. It's great that scholars don't understand how its biology works, but that's not helpful running the monster in the game. What kinds of tactics does it use, what motivates it - just hunger? loot? sadistic glee killing people? Does it ally with other creatures?

Dedicated Voter Season 9

My first thought reading the entry was "oh, someone took a dragon/Draco-lich and applied a swarm template; how terribly unoriginal."

Despite that, you do a reasonable job of selling the wyrm as its own entity as a different take on a dracolich. Mechanically there's not much to suggest the dragon has swarm traits until it breaths on people; that should be addressed. Give me something to play with as the GM, not just another re-skin.

In all this was solidly enough written to secure a vote, but I'd like more imagination next time.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

Just a quick preface - the point of commenting for me is to force myself into coherent thoughts about the design choices. That might make it feel like I'm being super-critical of a given monster, but that's not my intent.

I'm so-so on the name. It certainly conjures a certain image. But there's something about "swarm" that doesn't fit with the older style "wyrm" for me. That makes it feel a little forced.

I like the part of the description about a writhing mass about to burst free. That creates a sense of menace and danger. I do think, though, that the description makes me expect an undead creature. I think the "dull gray" and the hollow eye sockets are the main guilty parties there.

I like that the dragon is fly (poor). Far too many non-pro monsters have fly (perfect). Poor flight is fairly common for dragons, but the 60 ft. seems rather low compared to most others. But then it only moves at 20. So it's slow all around, which is thematic I suppose, but always kind of worrying to me.

The special ability names aren't that inspired, just sort of functional. The breath weapon is fine. I guess nauseated is the right effect, but I'm not sold 100% on that, something else might fit better. The aura is a nice thematic touch. The concept of swarming wounds is cool, but partial concealment isn't superexciting.

I like most of the text. I wish it was a bit more explicit about making it clear the monster is a symbiot of some sort. I like giving the dimensions of the monster.

Overall, imagining a combat with one of these, I don't think it would be as memorable as the description promises. I think that's mostly a result of the special abilities, which don't seem that impressive individually or collectively.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

I am going to be rather direct in my feedback.


It feels much like already done on many aspects and some parts actually restrict it from becoming a more interesting creature.

My feeling is that you tried to merge two aspects (here : bugs and dragon) but ended up in the middle of nowhere instead of combining the best of both.

- Swarmwyrm is quite descriptive : I know what to expect. But at the same time, it feels unimaginative.

- The description starts quite nicely and fits the visual I got from the name, but the hollow eye sockets kill it for me. Because it makes me expect an undead, which it is not, and in turn reminds me of an existing monster (hellwasp swarm IIRC). It heavily detracts from focusing my attention on what your creature actually does, which is not good.

- I like the breath weapon very much. It is spot on for such a creature.

- Why the racial modifier to identify vermin ? It adds nothing and you could use the words to add crucial new abilities to the monster.

- Toughness is one of the unneeded feats in monster creation. And Iron Will should have been replaced by some partial or total immunity to mind effects, to make it closer to a swarm.

- Pet peeve : why so many monsters with Improved Initiative coming out of the blue ?

- It should be immune to its own distracting aura, so that you could add some potential for it getting spells, like most dragons do. I think that would have been an interesting twist for what is otherwise just a combat monster.

- Swarming wounds feels very much like one of the items from this season's first round. I would have preferred that it would expel a swarm, maybe with the same HP that the dragon had already lost.

- The link to the wordlwound came out of nowhere, so I do not see its need or impact on the monster (ie, nothing about it screams demonic).

- I liked the tidbit about its preferred diet. Puts some meat on the chassis.

All in all, though I think the concept has promise and the breath is a great idea well executed, the rest of its abilities do not really contribute to making this monster all it could be.


I have to admit that I feel as if the [monster + swarm] thing has just about been played out. It was creative the first few times, but now it seems almost like a trope: the hellwasp swarm and kakuen-taka have already been mentioned, and we've also seen the vermiurge from the 3.5 edition SRD, the verminvine from James Jacobs' WotC online stuff, and the termite mound golem and beehive golem from Necromancer Games -- shoot, go all the way back to the original 1st edition Deities and Demigods (with the Melnibonean Mythos) -- the vampire tree and its leaves pretty much worked that way. I'm sure others can list any number of other examples. Not all the mechanics are identical, but the basic idea of having a monster either inhabited by swarms, animated by swarms, or surrounded by swarms, is the same.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka DeathQuaker

Charlie, congrats on getting into the top 16! Trying to comment this time while voting rather than after...

What I like: Congrats on a dragon concept I've not seen before, with fairly unique qualities (distracting aura, swarming wounds) in spite of the sources of inspiration (swarms, dragons) being fairly common in the game already. I can strongly picture this monster and can think of ways I could use it as a GM or writer. I like that it's NOT an undead dragon, just looks like it is, though would love some more-than-vague-speculation origins.

What I struggle with: I struggle with the name for pedantic game mechanics reasons: "wyrm" mechanically indicates a really old "true" dragon of a particular level of skill (and this monster is obviously not a "wyrm" in that sense), and "swarm" of course mechanically indicates a different kind of monster. I get why you might not have wanted to call it, say, a "Swarm Dragon" or "Carrion Dragon" -- as "X dragon" type dragons are usually designed according to age category and have things like spells. I take it this creature is more like a wyvern or drake or linnorm and doesn't get age category entries (all the more reason NOT to have the word "wyrm" in the title).

I'd like to cut about half of your first paragraph and put those words to more specific descriptive, background use.

Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yes. But it at least is a dragon with an unusual breath weapon I've never really imagined before and fills a niche that another existing dragon could not.

Final Thoughts: Nice, tight design job that shows creativity and an ability to describe potentially complex monster abilities cleanly (a greater challenge than one realizes).

Dark Archive

I really like this monster, and the way you constructed and tied in the special abilities shows your creative nature. However, I agree with those who've said your description at the end leaves something lacking. I would have liked to know more about what is actually know about the Swarmwyrm, instead of what's speculation. This was a strong contender for my fourth vote, but unfortunately due to the lack of descriptive information, it was edged out by another entry.
I wish you luck, and hope to see what you bring in the next round!

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mechaPoet

Overall this seems like a solid monster. My favorite part is definitely the breath weapon of swarming insects. I don't mind that they don't stick around our become an actual swarm afterwards, as I feel that would complicate things too much. I like the description, but with this kind of nasty thing, even if it's not undead, I think you missed your chance to describe how bad this thing must smell. It's alive, yeah, but you don't get to be filled with maggots if there's no necrotic tissue in there.

This monster is actually full of missed chances, I think. Distracting aura is a nice minor ability, but I don't know that it needed to be an ability at all. This may also just show off my ignorance, but what even is a hearing based Concentration check? If a spell caster is making concentration checks around this thing, I imagine it's from damage or the threat of damage from a dragon, not from the sound of it's flies. Swarming wounds also seems weird; I like that it doesn't function until the creature takes damage, but I think it would have been better as a reactive ability as others have said. Finally, I wanted to see a bit more out of the ecology. Why does it ally with demons? Why don't we know anything more about them? You would think there are enough paladins around the World wound that they could recover a body or two, and maybe just the internal decay of its flesh renders investigation futile. There's also no indication as to how it feels about being swarm filled. Is it painful? A willing host? I do like that you point out how it likes to consume sun-rotted flesh, and more of that kind of detail would have been nice. I just want to see this pushed further.

All that said, the rest of this is very solid, and voters will have to decide whether your creature with a swarm inside it concept is old hat or done well here. Good luck!

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Boxhead

Name It’s a dragon that’s full of a swarm. It’s pretty good, if a little bland.
Gimmick It’s a dragon full of a swarm. That’s a pretty cool gimmick in my book.
Description The description is really evocative, and asks questions about the monster. It also means that parties will likely assume it’s an undead creature and waste some resources that way.
Usefulness This is most likely a monster I’d only use once. That said, it would likely be a cool encounter.
New abilities The new abilities all look good to me. There’s an offensive power in the breath weapon, a nuisance in its aura and a defensive power that grants concealment, all of which are flavored around the swarm inhabiting it. They make sense and really reinforce the creature’s gimmick.
The rest Statistics match the guidelines, there’s nothing particularly odd in its skills and feats (though nothing particularly interesting either). I like the swarmwyrm, but I’m not sure if I love it.

Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Reminds me of Tim Connors Skincrawler Dragon.

Mostly I just don't get the theme - I do like me some shades of grey, but the whole is it alive? Is it undead? gets me. There seems to be a lot of handwavium applied to the creature that destroys verisimilitude.

I'd prefer the wound swarms to further deplete the creature seeing as it is a living being.

Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Charlie Brooks wrote:

The dull gray scales of this dragon undulate as though a writhing mass within were trying to burst free. Black insects dart in and out of its hollow eye sockets and a shrill buzzing noise fills the air.

Swarmwyrm CR 9

Hi Charlie,

Dragon! & a large one to boot, this is a good start. :)

Creative: +-Swarms are overdone, but they are not much of a threat at level 9. I think this steers from swarm and more toward dragon, so I think you hit the right balance for its CR. BW of vermin is OK, I was wondering why not have the vermin stay around, but then it would have been summon vermin so again, good choice. I might compromise & let the distraction stick around for 1d4 rounds or something. I do like the wounded cloud trick, the other special abilities are expected from a swarm.
Useable: ++I think so, PCs will have access to fly by then so will kite it for a while, but it will take them a few rounds to figure out they want to do so.
Memorable: +- maggot infested organs, cone of creepy crawlies, yes my players will remember this one.
Voting: Keep

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Great idea for a monster, unfortunately this didn't deliver for me. I think you just didn't have enough space to properly execute this concept.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Congratulations on earning the votes to see you through to Round 3! Here’s what I’m looking for in a monster.

Does it make sense as something that could really exist? I like the challenge of integrating new themes into these creatures, and you’ve done some good work here. It’s full of insects, and the abilities are woven together with that fact in mind.

Are the abilities exciting to run? I predict my players will be itching frequently while fighting one of these. The abilities all make sense, and you borrow effects from swarms rightfully, but all together I wonder if there’s enough here to really stand out as something unique. You packaged swarms in the body of a dragon well enough, but I was hoping for something a little fresher.

Does it spark ideas for use in an adventure? Dragons are a fun playground that we don’t get to see enough of, at least not in the circles I frequent. I wouldn’t mind dredging up some locals to use this putrescent beast in.

Oceanshieldwolf wrote:
Reminds me of Tim Connors Skincrawler Dragon.

That's the one! I knew I'd seen something almost identical somewhere else.

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