Insect Plague -- What am I missing?


Pretty much what it says on the tin. I'm looking at the spell Insect Plague, which summons several stationary wasp swarms.

So, on the one hand, I love this spell from a thematic perspective. It's just really cool for a druid, for a Cleric of Calistria or Rovagug, for a conjuration-specced Wizard, etc. It is scary and awesome.

On the other hand... wasp swarms are CR 3. They deal 2d6 damage a round. Their distraction and poison abilities have a DC of 13. As far as my players are concerned, at level 10-11, this means that the front-liners have a 10% of failure at the most, and the rear-echelon types... maybe 30-40% of failure.

And it's a 5th level spell. You only get it around 9th level at the earliest. I'm comparing it to things like Cloudkill (DC would be about 7 higher, does nasty stuff even on a save) or Blade Barrier or the like.

So... is there something that I am missing that makes Insect Plague actually badass, or is it just a really bad spell despite the visuals? Or to put it another way, how can I justify my BBEG using it.

Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Area control or other situational cases? Essentially it's a wall of stingy things. 5th level does seem high.

It's been nerfed to uselessness for its level. Use it as a terrorist thing on the main exit from the market square or something, not directly on the PCs.

Dang. I'd been hoping someone would prove my initial estimate of "this is utterly useless" wrong. And such a cool spell too. Oh wells.

Maybe you could argue that the save DCs are as per the spell level (15+WIS) instead of swarm standard. That would help.

The Chained Summoner gets it as 4th level, but even then not that great.

Malignor wrote:
Maybe you could argue that the save DCs are as per the spell level (15+WIS) instead of swarm standard. That would help.

Well, I'm the GM, so what I say goes. It's just I always feel sketchy buffing a spell purely so that the BBEG can use it.

Now if a player wanted the spell, I would totally grant a tweak like that (and what's good for the goose is good for the gander...)

I'll see what other options are out there.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
taks wrote:
Area control or other situational cases? Essentially it's a wall of stingy things. 5th level does seem high.

"Wall of stingy annoyance" - that about summs it up.

I would have wanted it to work like in the first Brendan Fraser Mummy movie. Which would mean non-stationary.

It seems that a guy can actually mùove through it and take zero damage, as long as he doesn't end his turn in the swarm's area. So as a wall, it's decidedly suboptimal.

IIUC this is a failed port from earlier editions. (It used to be nastier.) There aren't a lot of these, but a few crept in.

In its current form, it would be a good solid 3rd level spell or a very weak 4th level spell. As a 5th level spell... yeah, no. It's thematic and cool, but mechanically it's just too pathetic to ever be worth the bother. Using the spell DC as the swarm save moves it from ridiculous to just very weak.

If you could move the swarms, now. But no, it's RAW that they're stationary. Which is annoying, because the darn things normally have a 40' Fly speed. And the swarms called by Summon Swarm -- 2nd level spell -- can move, albeit automatically and not under your control. And they also must be contiguous, which nerfs this even further. About the only thing to work with here is that it's long range, meaning you could cast it from so far away that nobody knows you're casting. But, meh, by the time you're throwing 5th level spells that's not usually much of an issue.

Quick comparison: Summon Swarm gives you a choice of three swarms, two of which are CR 2. So to be balanced, this should give you a swarm that's around CR 5. A naive analysis might say "well it gives three CR 3 swarms, that's at least CR 5". But if the swarms don't move, then no, it's not. It's like comparing three orcs standing immobile, so you never have to fight more than one at a time, to three orcs who can dogpile you.

Comparison #2: Summon Monster V lets you call stuff like the CR 5 bearded devil, the CR 6 babau or the CR 6 salamander -- mobile, intelligent melee brutes with a bunch of useful abilities and SLAs. (And you get to choose from a list.) There's pretty much no situation where you're going to prefer the wasp swarms to casting SM V.

TLDR, your initial assessment unfortunately correct.

Doug M.

I'm mega late to the party. But if you have something like DR 10 you can cast it on yourself so that all melee focused characters have to commit to 2d6 dmg per round to attack you. I got to this from looking at the Div Pairaka.

Dude if you have DR 10 there are a of tricks you can play that won't cost you a 5th level spell slot. Stand in a pool of flaming oil, for goodness' sake. That's 1d6 right there, and now you have a 5th level spell slot free. Or cast some spell that's actually useful, like Ice Storm -- everyone around you will take 5d6, you'll probably take either no damage or just a few hp, and it's only a 4th level slot.

I could see this as soooort of okay if you could move the swarms around. But you can't, which means it's only okay for a round or two until someone decides to chase you out of that square.

It works for the Div Pairaka because it does indeed have DR 10 and also gets Insect Plague as an SLA. Even there, if I were running a Pairaka I'd probably say "hello" with Charm Monster against the strongest melee party member first, although I agree that's super situational. (Honestly, the pairaka's obnoxiously high SR and ability to Dim Door out of melee means your best bet is to hit it with cold iron missile weapons all day long. It doesn't have any good ranged attacks of its own, so there's that.)

Doug M.

Ooh, a new sale! How wonderful. As a bonus I'll throw in the typically well-known fact that Damage Reduction does not work on elemental damage - such as standing in fire. You need fire resistance or immunity for that.

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