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Last night the party ran into a swarm (this one was rats) which proved rather difficult, but interesting, for them to overcome. The bard, looking for an effective way to light them on fire cast blistering invective which requires a successful intimidate check. This got us wondering two things:

  1. Can a swarm be verbally intimidated, as the spell requires?
  2. Can a swarm be demoralized by an intimidate check?
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According to SRD:

A swarm is immune to any spell or effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate), with the exception of mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind.

Demoralize Opponent per se would not work, because it is an effect that targets one opponent and Rat Swarm does not posses Hive Mind feature.

But!

Blistering Invective affects 30-ft. radius, thus overriding above limitation, as specific beats general.

Sadly, it also changes general "verbal threats and displays of prowess" of Intimidate to very specific "insulting tirade" and spell has language-dependent descriptor. Rats normally do not have any languages listed, so this spell will not work on them, unless you can make them understand first:

Language-Dependent: A language-dependent spell uses intelligible language as a medium for communication. If the target cannot understand or hear what the caster of a language-dependent spell says, the spell has no effect, even if the target fails its saving throw.

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Blistering Invective could be effective against Rat Swarms, but it is unlikely. Other Swarms may be immune or not, depending on their composition.

While Swarms have their own immunities:

A swarm is immune to any spell or effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate), with the exception of mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind.

You must also consider that a swarm of Rats is also an Animal creature. Luckily, being an Animal leaves them susceptible to Demoralization. However, many Swarms (including Spiders and Wasps) are composed of Vermin:

Mindless: No Intelligence score, and immunity to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms).

Additionally, as has elsewhere been stated, Blistering Invective is [language-dependent]

A language-dependent spell uses intelligible language as a medium for communication. If the target cannot understand or hear what the caster of a language-dependent spell says, the spell has no effect, even if the target fails its saving throw.


So an Animal Swarm could be intimidated by an area effect (but not a simple Intimidate check), but you would need to speak a language that they do (and Rats/Rat Swarms, like most animals, speak no language).

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