Since a Swarm of Fine/Diminutive size is immune to all weapon damage, can you at least swing a weapon with an elemental enchantment through it for that small amount of damage? (usually a 1d6)

I definitely recall in earlier editions of D&D (3.5 in particular) that you could swing a torch or flaming weapon through a swarm for damage--does this become a DM ruling for Pathfinder?


Yes, you can.

While there are (literally) dozens of threads at paizo's message boards asking clarifications about swarms, a few topics are consensus on the community:

  • Splash weapons can affect a swarm, despite their immunity to direct attacks. If you hit they take +50% damage, otherwise they only take the splash damage;
  • Energy effects from weapon attacks will affect the swarm, anything that depends on the weapon's damage will not (bleed, precision damage, stun, etc);
  • A torch will damage a swarm for 1 point of fire damage;

The part that is relevant to us has been answered by James Jacobs (Paizo's Creative Director) here:

Does a Torch affect a swarm with its 1 fire damage. Or is a swarm immune to the torch completely?

The fire damage from a torch does damage normally to a swarm; a swarm is only immune to that if they're immune to fire.

And once again here:

In pathfinder can you still use the energy from a flaming(or frost, shock,etc.) weapon to harm a swarm?

Yes. It's energy damage, not weapon damage.


I think the RAW is a little unclear, so you will be at the mercy of GM variation.

The language used on most such items is similar to the Flaming weapon, which says, in part

Upon command, a flaming weapon is sheathed in fire that deals an extra 1d6 points of fire damage on a successful hit.

Note the use of 'successful hit' - while you can hit a swarm of any size, the smaller ones are immune to the damage, which might be considered an unsuccessful hit by a GM.

However, a flaming torch is also commonly used to harm swarms, and the language used there is similar.

treat it as a one-handed improvised weapon that deals bludgeoning damage equal to that of a gauntlet of its size, plus 1 point of fire damage.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Torches work in 3.5 but not Pathfinder, at least by the RAW. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 22 '17 at 8:07

In 3.5, swarms were vulnerable to such effects because of the following rule:

Vulnerabilities Of Swarms

Swarms are extremely difficult to fight with physical attacks. However, they have a few special vulnerabilities, as follows:

A lit torch swung as an improvised weapon deals 1d3 points of fire damage per hit.

A weapon with a special ability such as flaming or frost deals its full energy damage with each hit, even if the weapon’s normal damage can’t affect the swarm.

The extra damage dealt by such abilities is still weapon damage, albeit of an unusual type, and so swarms would be immune to it without such a rule.

Pathfinder made several changes to how swarms work, but still includes an immunity to weapon damage for many swarms. However, they have removed the section regarding energy weapons and extra-effective torches, which renders such weapons incapable of affecting swarms in that system. Furthermore, Pathfinder has introduced many more area of effect weapons (rocket launchers, shotguns, flamethrowers, etc) than 3.5, highlighting the fact that such weapons do not work against swarms as effectively they do against massive groups of non-swarm targets.

Technically, bonus elemental weapon damage is still weapon damage, and so such enchantments are ineffective. However, as reverting the situation to the 3.5 era rules merely slightly decreases the widened gap between weapon and spell based classes while simultaneously lessening the widened gap between swarms and other monsters of their CR, such a reversion is very unlikely to cause problems as a house rule.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Cool, that context helps. I never played enough 3.5 to find that out. \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Sep 22 '17 at 11:57

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