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I am trying to argue that Nauseated affects swarms (as a reult of the swarm being in a stinking cloud) but I am being told that Swarm Attack is not an action because it does not require an attack roll and the damage is just auromatic because the swarm stopped in your square. My argument is that the Swarm Attack is the action that does the automatic damage and a nauseated creature cannot do anything but take a move action.

Looking at RAW I can't see where swarms act unlike a normal entry in the bestiary with regard to action costs or where their attack is not actually an action. Their attack is referred to as an attack in the swarm description but I was told that it doesn't count as an attack because it is not capitalized (except for the Swarm Attack description which doesn't count because it is "automatic").

Thinking about it outside of rules, a swarm is still a bunch of creatures that have to do something to inflict damage - rats bite, wasps sting, etc just like their larger bestiary entries. I understand why there is no attack roll - it would be impossible to defend against a swarm of hundreds to thousands of tiny or smaller creatures. But if the swarm didn't have to do anything to inflict damage then wouldn't it happen whenever something passed through the swarm not just on the swarm's turn?

I also found this forum thread and in the end it looks like the consensus is that the above is correct:

Can somebody explain to me where I am wrong?

In the end it is not a huge deal for game play, but I would like to know where I am reading the rules incorrectly.

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Readers: I've suggested a synonym for [raw] -> [rules-as-written] – doppelgreener Jun 6 '14 at 4:43
up vote -1 down vote accepted

Swarm Attack: Creatures with the swarm subtype don't make standard melee attacks. Instead, they deal automatic damage to any creature whose space they occupy at the end of their move, with no attack roll needed. Swarm attacks are not subject to a miss chance for concealment or cover. A swarm's stat block has “swarm” in the Melee entries, with no attack bonus given.

By default, attacks take an action. And nothing in the swarm rules specifically overrides this, so their attack should also take an action. Keep in mind that the swarm attack is listed as the monsters attack, not as a special quality or (Ex) ability.

If the writers had intended for a swarm to perform two move actions and attacks, they would have spelled this out more clearly. You can try to interpret the word "automatic" to mean that no action is needed; but since it appears in a discussion of how the swarm needs no attack roll, that seems a more obvious reason for the word to be used!

The kind of baseline assumption of rules system like this is that, if a creature has a special exemption to the normal rules, that exemption only bends the rules as much as necessary. Swarms play perfectly fine if you assume they require an attack action; if you assume they don't, then you immediately run into further questions.

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This is incorrect. Swarm Attack damage occurs at the end of the movement and don't need another action to occur. Jack's answer is spot-on. – Thales Sarczuk Aug 4 '14 at 11:56
@ThalesSarczuk "An attack takes an attack action, so Jack's answer is wrong and mine is spot-on." It's ambiguous what the literal RAW mean, which is why I discussed other considerations. – starwed Aug 5 '14 at 17:19

You're Conflating the 'Special Attack' monster ability with the 'Attack' action(s) in the Combat section - 'Special Attack' also refers to offensive combat auras, trample abilities, and other things not covered under the 'Attack' definition in the Combat section.

Swarm Attack: Creatures with the swarm subtype don't make standard melee attacks. Instead, they deal automatic damage to any creature whose space they occupy at the end of their move, with no attack roll needed. Swarm attacks are not subject to a miss chance for concealment or cover. A swarm's stat block has “swarm” in the Melee entries, with no attack bonus given.

Swarm Subtype: [..] In order to attack, it moves into an opponent's space, which provokes an attack of opportunity. [...].

The text is very clear. Standard melee attacks require attack roll to hit, cost an attack action, so forth. Swarm attacks don't. The swarm special attack automatically deals damage (like a Fire Shield, or a Holy Star) when certain conditions are met (ending a move action within a creature's square).

Note, this means that Nauseated DOES have an effect on swarms. They can't double-move and deal swarm damage twice per turn.

This is a pretty effective debuff, halves their damage output and halves the number of saves vs Distraction nausea the group has to make.

Nauseated says 'Nauseated creatures are unable to attack'

My reading of this, RAW, is that as part of this list,

Nauseated creatures are unable to attack, cast spells, concentrate on spells, or do anything else requiring attention. The only action such a character can take is a single move actions per turn.

Immediately followed by allowing move actions indicates that it is talking about the Attack action, not any use of the word 'attack'. This is an extremely edge case, but the fact the swarm ability is only called 'swarm' in the statblocks of swarm creatures, that it distances itself specifically from normal attacks and attack actions, that it specifies that it is automatic and part of a move action leads me to assume that that sentence would not apply to swarm attacks, and would instead apply to standard attacks or other actions using the Attack Action (such as AoOs).

Swarm 'attacks' are automatic damage as part of a move, that is specifically called out as not being a standard attack. It's poor word use, and open to interpretation, but my view of RAW is that being Nauseated would restrict a swarm to a single move action, but that move action would still deal automatic swarm damage.

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@James; No, making an attack is either a standard action, a different kind of action based on special ability, or part of a full round action, depending on stuff. Looks like they dropped the 'Attack Action' wording from pathfinder, though, in favour of just 'Attack'. Rules still are word for word the same as 3.5e, though. – user2754 Jun 6 '14 at 14:03
Interesting. I don't think I ever considered that a swarm could double move and do damage twice. I always interpreted that as "after they're done moving" (i.e. if they double move, then after the 2nd move) – Bobson Jun 6 '14 at 14:08
I see. I was reading it as an attack and thought that making an attack is a standard action: I figured the way it was written as "Swarm Attack" mimics the way Melee Attack, Ranged Attack, etc were written so it was another type of Attack. The text says it isn't a "normal melee attack", then describe how it is different from a normal melee attack - no attack roll. It does not say that it is not an action. If it happens as part of a move then it applies b/c nauseated allows them to move. Thank you for explaining that it's part of the move. – James Jun 6 '14 at 14:10
also, sorry about the comment move. I started to make my comment then hit enter to create a new line and it took the comment. I took too long in the edit screen (b/c something came up) so I had to make a new comment. – James Jun 6 '14 at 14:24

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