No Assembly Required: Weta Swarm

Welcome to the March 2012 Edition of No Assembly Required, a monthly column that provides DMs with a ready-to-use monster for a Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition campaign. The monster can of course be adjusted for other gaming systems as well. Each monster in the series is displayed complete with Stat Block, Lore, Tactics, Power Descriptions and potential plotlines a DM can use during a campaign.

Of special note is the spectacular artwork provided by Grant Gould. He previously designed the mascot, Iddy the Lich, for my blog, The Id DM, and is illustrating each monster in the No Assembly Required series. He also developed the sweet logo below for the column. Visit his site to learn about commission pricing and view galleries of artwork.

Please be sure to come back next month for another monster that can be used in your campaign. Batteries Included! This month, I present a group of critters for the early Heroic Tier, Weta Swarm.

Weta Swarm

Development

I recently spent two weeks in New Zealand and was incredibly inspired by the vacation. It truly felt like I was driving, hiking and walking through Middle Earth from The Lord of The Rings. If you ever have the opportunity to visit New Zealand, then definitely make it happen. I planned to have a New Zealand themed monster for this month, and the first creature that came to mind is the Weta. For anyone that is familiar with the making of the LOTR movies, you’ll recognize the name from Weta Workshop, which created the magnificent design and effects for the three films. Grant and I discussed creating one huge Weta monster, but it seemed more fitting to create a swarm of Weta.

I find swarms in D&D 4th Edition to be a mixed bag; I enjoy that the swarms have unique traits compared to normal monsters, but I find them a chore to track as a DM and annoying to fight against as a player. Swarms receive half damage from attacks that are not close or area powers; it’s a mechanic that adds flavor to the swarms but often just serves to extend combat an extra round or three. I wanted to add more character to the swarm so it felt like anyone immersed in their space would feel like they are being harried and in serious danger. However, I did not want to make the swarm overly complicated to run for the DM, as swarms are usually just one piece of a larger encounter.

My solution for these issues was to create an Aura for the Weta Swarm that becomes increasingly damaging to players. Something that will cause players to scream, “Bah! Get these things off of me!” The Buried Alive aura results in a logical progression of status effects for any PC caught in the small aura of the Weta Swarm. During the first round in the aura the player is knocked prone. If the player starts their turn in the aura for a second consecutive round, then they are knocked prone and become restrained. If the player starts within the aura for a third consecutive round, then they are smothered by the swarm and knocked unconscious. The player cannot regain consciousness until outside of the aura, and cannot wake up from suffering damage.  The swarm can continue to feast on the player without the player regaining consciousness. However – to be fair, I increased the damage players inflict on the Weta Swarm if they do use a close or area attack by increasing the vulnerability from 5 to 10.

Please read through the details for the Weta Swarm below, and contact me if you have any questions or feedback about the monster.

Origin

Thousands of unique creatures and plants populate the sprawling rainforests throughout the realm. One of the more deadly creatures an adventurer might face during a journey through the area is the Weta. The Weta travel in large numbers by ground but have strong legs that allow them to jump and move quickly. Weta are large by insect standards and some of them are among the largest and heaviest in the world. The most commonly appear with their brownish-yellow bodies, which resemble a long-horned grasshopper or a cricket. Their hind legs are enlarged and typically very spiny, which they use to attack their prey. Weta are wingless but remain hearty as they can cope with variations in temperature. The Weta are nocturnal by nature but will come out to feed during the day if sufficiently disturbed or alerted to prey.

Weta can bite with powerful mandibles and attack prey in large swarms. One Weta bite is not terribly painful but a swarm of Weta bites at once can be devastating. Weta can inflict painful scratches, which result in instant infection. Weta often arc their hind legs into the air in warning to foes and then strike downwards so their spines scratch the eyes of a predator to blind them. Ridges along the Weta’s abdomen are struck by their legs; this action makes a distinctive sound. The chorus produced by a swarm of Weta is painful to any creature not able to withstand the aural onslaught.

Goblins who previously inhabited the rainforest worshipped the Weta and would often consume the creatures before battle to increase their power. However, the relationship between the Weta and goblins did not last long as the goblins swore allegiance to the god, Maglubiyet. Their new goal was to wage constant war on the followers of Gruumsh. The goblins were slaughtered in their campaign against the orcs, and now the Weta reside unaffiliated in the area with other dangerous creatures and wildlife.

Lore

Nature DC 16: The rainforests are known to have thousand of unique species of wildlife. One of the more curious is the insect known as the Weta. The Weta travels in large swarms and hunts for food mostly at night. The insects naturally create an eerie sound that fills the surrounding area, which is a warning to other predators. The Weta can quickly blind their enemies and often attempt to knock out their prey by overwhelming them with sheer numbers.

History DC 18: The term Weta is believed to come from an ancient goblin dialect. It is written that goblins at one time populated the rainforest and worshipped the Weta, believing their buzzing chorus spoke the language of the great god, Maglubiyet. The goblins were decimated during their wars against the orcs and Gruumsh, leaving the Weta behind.

Weta Swarm In Combat

The Weta Swarm would be quite effective with other support creatures and environmental hazards. For example, staying with the rainforest landscape I experienced in New Zealand, the players could find themselves in a bubbling bog of steaming slime. The slime might burst at random locations during the encounter, which damages the players while the Weta Swarm instinctively disperses to avoid harm from the hazard. A sample trap is presented below for inclusion in an encounter with the Weta Swarm.

The Weta Swarm will move into position to ensnare as many enemies as possible with the Infection and Buried Alive auras. When surrounded, the Weta Swarm will use Menacing Echoes to stagger as many foes as possible. Leaping Stings is the most common offensive attack for the Weta Swarm, although they will use Powerful Mandibles if their prey is already blinded. Weta are creatures of instinct, and will flee if many of their numbers have been eliminated.

Power Descriptions

Infection: The swarm of insects envelopes you as they jump and move in all directions. Tiny slices and cuts appear on exposed body parts and the wounds quickly sting and burn.

Buried Alive: The insects begin to smother you with their sheer numbers. The weight of the tiny beasts stagger you to the ground and continue to pile on top to feed on your flesh. As more of the swarm is gains leverage, you find that you cannot move. The air becomes thin as you cannot breath through the swarm of insects. The deafening sound of the swarm’s excitement is the last thing you sense as you drift into unconsciousness.

Powerful Mandibles: Hundreds of insects sink their teeth into your flesh and armor. While any one bite does not pose a threat, the hundreds of bites at once is incredibly painful.

Leaping Stings: The insects hop and jump with strong legs and swarm around your eyes. You feel tiny pricks around your eyelids and feel your eyes beginning to water. The stings from the insects causes your vision to blurs as the tears pour down your cheeks in the hopes of cleansing the wounds.

Menacing Echoes: The insects moan and hum in  a disturbing chorus that echoes throughout the battlefield. The sound rattles your body to the core, making it impossible to regain strength for several moments as you recover from the booming sounds.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. The Id DM is a psychologist during the weekdays. He DMs for a group of fairly loyal and responsible PCs every other Friday night. In the approximate 330 hours between sessions, he is likely anxious about how to ensure the next game he runs doesn't suck.


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About The Id DM

The Id DM is a psychologist during the weekdays. He DMs for a group of fairly loyal and responsible PCs every other Friday night. In the approximate 330 hours between sessions, he is likely anxious about how to ensure the next game he runs doesn't suck.
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One Response

  1. Love it. Stealing it.

    To give swarms that unique swarmy feeling rather than just another monster I run them slightly differently:
    – double their hitpoints
    – remove the melee, ranged resistances and area vulnerability
    – allow them to be targeted up to three times by powers (burst, blast, multi-target)

    Not much of a change mechanically, but single target characters really hate having their damage halved. Plus the blast/burst/multi-target character likes getting to roll lots of dice at the same monster.

    I’ve always got good feedback from the change.

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