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I am curious whether the abilities granted from the Slasher feat from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything (p. 81) would work on swarms. More specifically, the second and third benefits:

  • Once per turn when you hit a creature with an attack that deals slashing damage, you can reduce the speed of the target by 10 feet until the start of your next turn.

  • When you score a critical hit that deals slashing damage to a creature, you grievously wound it. Until the start of your next turn, the target has disadvantage on all attack rolls.

The argument is that using the Slasher feat to lower an opponent's speed would likely consist of something along the lines of slashing at the legs or heel, or something along those lines, to debilitate your foes. Or on that crit you could be slashing a big gap out of an attacking creature's arm or hand...

If the creatures in a swarm are constantly dying as the swarm's HP drops (assuming this is how it works based on the damage drop when swarms hit half HP), then would these abilities technically work on a swarm or not?

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Yes, the Slasher feat still works on swarms

Simply put, a swarm is still treated as a single creature for the purposes of stat-blocks and rules. There are no other special rules anywhere for swarms other than the abilities that are actually indicated in a swarm's stat-blocks.

These abilities do tend to have common features to represent the "swarm-i-ness" of the creature. E.g. Resistance to piercing and slashing and the "Swarm" ability to occupy another creature's space.

But beyond that there are no special rules. A swarm with resistance to slashing damage would take half damage from your slashing attack but would still be subject to the additional effects of your Slasher feat.

A DM could overrule this of course if they think it just doesn't make sense. Although in my opinion it's a matter of interpretation. For example, perhaps your slashing attack agitates the coherence of the swarm enough that it can't move or attack as effectively until it regroups!

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    \$\begingroup\$ "For example, perhaps your slashing attack agitates the coherence of the swarm enough that it can't move or attack as effectively until it regroups!" Just yeet those rats all over the room with your sword. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 16:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Notably, this was a significant change from older editions, where swarms were all but immune to anything that was single target, such as an attack with a normal weapon, or single target spells, because your action only affected one out of the hundreds of members of the swarm, and was basically irrelevant to the swarm overall. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 21:41
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Yes, the Slasher feat still works on swarms

What you have done hear is justify to yourself how the Slasher feat works, and tried to apply that to every situation, but there is no actual description of how the feat works, beyond cutting for great benefits.

Changing abilities to work 'where they make sense' is very much a homebrew rule (or an invocation of rule zero, which is basically permission to homebrew anyway), and can weaken or strengthen abilities in unintended manners.

What you should really be doing in situations like this is trying to change your narrative justification on how the ability works to match the situation instead. For example; you could seriously wound the front ranks of the swarm which slows it down while they run away through the swarm and it takes a little while to regain forward motion.

There are obviously as many ways to describe it as there are people, and there are probably a lot of people who don't even think about the narrative, but I would never recommend 'nerfing' an ability just because you struggle to justify how it works. Usually those feats and abilities were chosen by the player for a reason, and most people probably won't like you changing how they work (I would personally be furious, especially in this case because Slasher is a poor feat even without the nerf!).

The only good advice I can give for changing how things like this work is if you are granting the players a bonus. For example; letting players use a fire based cantrip like fire bolt to start a fire. Even that requires thought to make sure you don't step on the toes of a player who made an active choice to pick an ability that lets them start a fire.

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