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As a GM, how do you deal with or manage Stirges? Equally, how do you make use of them? For them to be a relevant threat, do they have to be in such numbers that they become unmanageable?

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Stirges are definitely an under-rated creature for any edition of D&D. In old school D&D I'd hesitate to put a flock of them up against 1st level characters, they ability to drain blood could conceivably wipe out a low level party! However, they DO make a good nasty foe for a low level party in small numbers, especially if the party has been warned if they are about. Here are some examples how I use them (or could use them):

When I use stirges for low level parties I would first give some sort of warning that a flying menace is about (drained bodies, etc). Then I would hit the party with 1-2 of them to warn them that there may be a nest about, and let the fun ensue! In early D&D editions they only have 1+1 HD but attack as 4th level monsters, which could be tough....this plus their ability to latch on and drain blood should spell the end of most low level characters in a round or two unless they are clever or have a good strategy.

In larger numbers they could be quite more than a simple menace to even a high level party. If they swarm the party in low light conditions, and several of them fasten on, they could cause quite a few problems. Don't forget that characters with stirges attached cannot strike at them with larger weapons (at least that's what I rule) and have pull them off or use short hand held weapons or lit torches to dislodge them....not to mention the fun and games should a companion begin striking at stirges attached to one of his buddies! I wouldn't hesitate to have a large nest of say 20-30 of the critters take on a higher level party due to the havoc they could wreak. Of course, if warning is given there are plenty of spells that could finish off a flock fairly quickly, but if nothing else this wastes party resources.

To make them a full fledged menace I'd have the encounter in a dark, very tight space (say, a 5x5 cavern passageway), coming out of small holes in the ceiling and walls, where a spell like Fireball, Web or the like is truly impractical. Forcing a party to hack through a flock of these in a narrow passageway not only is tough but could alert other monsters or baddies ahead....they could be used by a tougher monster (say, a minotaur or vampire) as a warning system for their lair.

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A Stirge in 4e is actually quite a fun creature. They deal ongoing damage while attached, instead of ability damage (which happily no-longer exists). The real challenge is escaping from their grab, as they get a tremendous AC boost while grabbing.

However, as their Fortitude and Reflex are equivalent to a moderate skill-check to escape grabs through athletics or acrobatics, an encounter with stirges will mostly force the party to use different tactics (party-unfriendly area attacks become functionally unusable) but no character is simply "eliminated" from the fight nor dropped horribly quickly.

The mechanics mean that stirges are a relevant threat in any number, as their grab-tactics demand high-priority, though they don't do tremendous amounts of damage. With high numbers, they become seriously vulnerable to controllers willing to "back scratch" with damaging powers, but do not pose a party-ending threat.

The Stirge swarm, on the other hand, is quite lethal as swarms tend to be, and should be used with extreme moderation.

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It somewhat depends on version, as in some editions they are a lot more dangerous than others. Compare the 3.5e version (1d4 CON damage a round) with the Pathfinder version (1 CON damage a round).

In any event, CON damage is nothing to mess around with. It takes your hit points down quick, and can kill even a high level PC quickly. And though it takes a couple stirges to kill one person, they have a disproportionate effect in long term weakening of the PC - healing ability damage requires higher level spells and means bad Fort saves and hit points for days while it heals.

They're only a "kill outright" threat to low levelers unless they're in bulk, but as a random encounter they definitely weaken a party a lot more than something else.

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