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The Staff of Swarming Insects (DMG, pp 203) allows you to :

Spend an action...to cause a swarm of harmless flying insects to spread out in a 30'foot radius from you.

It also allows you to cast Giant Insect, which states:

You transform up to ten centipedes, three spiders, five wasps, or one scorpion within range into giant versions of their natural forms for the duration.

Could the wasps be generated from the "harmless flying insects"? Or is "harmless" the key word here?

It also has states this on targets:

The DM might allow you to choose different targets. For example, if you transform a bee, its giant version might have the same statistics as a giant wasp.

Otherwise, Giant Insect is really situational and dependent on those insect types being around!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Arguably, 10 centipedes or 3 spiders could be considered harmless insects, though "flying" may restrict this interpretation \$\endgroup\$ – B. S. Morganstein Jul 5 '17 at 17:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @B.S.Morganstein Yup - that's why I went for the Wasps :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 5 '17 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mm, I suspect this is going to be a RAW - probably not, RAI- maybe. I'm happy to post a full answer explaining if you'd be open to a RAI answer \$\endgroup\$ – B. S. Morganstein Jul 5 '17 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @B.S.Morganstein I generally like RAW, but RAI and other types are interesting if you have good support for them. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 5 '17 at 17:55
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Giant Insect can target the generated insects...

The item specifies that the insects must be harmless when generated, but makes no stipulation that they must stay that way. Wasps generated by the first ability would seem to be a valid target for Giant Insect.

...but you may not be able to generate wasps

The first ability states that you create a swarm of harmless flying insects, but does not give you control over the type of insects generated. Furthermore, a swarm of wasps is listed in the Monster Manual, has a CR of 1/2, and is far from harmless. Whether a "harmless"(i.e. sub-swarm) number of wasps could be generated for future targeting by Giant Insect is entirely under the DM's purview.

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RAW - Probably not.

The staff creates a swarm of :

...harmless flying insects...

Thus, there are 2 characteristics of the insects created: they are both harmless and flying.

The second Giant Insect ability is limited to:

...up to ten centipedes, three spiders, five wasps, or one scorpion...

The only one of these that is flying are the wasps. It would then come down to an interpretation of the word "harmless" and as a DM I would probably rule that wasps would widely considered to be harmful insects (especially when compared to the harmless gnat-like creatures I would envision as being created on a plain reading and imagining of insect swarm. A swarm of wasps are also included in the MM with a CR of 1/2, so I don't think they would be "harmless").

RAI - Probably not.

Here it would again come down to the word "harmless". In the grand scheme of harms in a magical DnD world, wasps could be characterized as harmless, especially since a level 1 character would presumably be able to kill wasps without taking much damage (if any).

As such, I could see a DM being open to an argument along these lines, though ultimately I would probably still rule against it. The language describing the Staff of Swarming Insects likely would have been clearer if this was indeed the intention of the game designers (eg "you may turn up to 10 of these insects into a giant version of any of the following: 10 centipedes..."). It is also important to remember that a swarm of wasps is dangerous to lower level characters (especially level 1 characters). So while I would rule it could not be used in this way, it would ultimately be up to the DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have to disagree with the second part, RAI would coincide with RAW. A swarm of wasps is not harmless, therefore cannot be summoned by the staff. A lv 1 character that encounters a swarm of wasps is probably dead. A single hit from the swarm would kill over half the lv 1 classes. And very few lv1 characters can dish out 22 damage fast enough. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Jul 6 '17 at 5:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin Another reason why I would ultimately rule against it ;) \$\endgroup\$ – B. S. Morganstein Jul 6 '17 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ then don't send mixed signals with "maybe". Make your point and stand by it. -- Expert advice such as expected from a stack answer should be precise, actionable and unambiguous. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Jul 6 '17 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ And please, get some lv1 premade characters and make 1 x 1 head on head mock battles between them and the wasp swarm. you will see that "without taking much damage (if any) is a fallacy. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Jul 6 '17 at 16:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin While I agree it could be somewhat ambiguous, since it is ultimately up to the DM, I think my answer has done justice to the ability of the DM to rule as they please. I did explain that I would rule against it, though I can make this clearer in both the subtitle and my explanation \$\endgroup\$ – B. S. Morganstein Jul 6 '17 at 16:09

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