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The spells Phantasmal Force and Major Image allow you to create the illusion of a creature, here for example the text from Major Image:

You create the image of an object, a creature, or some other visible phenomenon that is no larger than a 20-foot cube.

This explicitly refers to "a" creature, in singular. How does this work with a swarm, for example the swarm of rats, which is a single monster. Does the spell allow you to create the illusion of such a swarm?

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2 Answers 2

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You've quoted the only thing you need

You create the image of an object, a creature, or some other visible phenomenon that is no larger than a 20-foot cube.

A swarm of rats would be visible phenomenon.

The problem with the spell is that it uses singular form for part of it, and an "anything goes" clause at the end. Without the "some other visible phenomenon", you could only make a chest, but not a treasure chest. You could make a door, but no shelter around it. You could make a single bird instead of a flock. You get the idea.

In lieu of the "some other visible phenomenon" clause, I wouldn't get hung up on the "a creature" and "an object" portion. I'm not saying they are not part of the rule, but that they are easily overridden by other parts of the same rule.

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some other visible phenomenon that is no larger than a 20-foot cube.

A swarm is not a single creature. It is a visible phenomenon no larger than a 20-foot cube. Therefore you can create an image of it using the spell major image, and any other spells (such as phantasmal force) that use that wording.

Likewise, D&D 5e explicitly states that in edge cases (such as where a spell states 'a creature' but could easily be applied to a swarm of smaller creatures occupying a similar space), the DM's ruling is what you go with.

Which explicitly includes changing existing rules or text where appropriate. It's not just edge cases, it's any circumstance actually, but people tend to get upset at the idea that the game's rules are ultimately up to the referee, so referencing that will get you all kinds of oppobrium and 'edge cases' is much safer language to use.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with your answer, I believe it would be enhanced by quoting the part of the rules that you refer to in your second paragraph. I can't seem to find this rule text that talks about "single creatures" for spells and swarms. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 7:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ You use the term "explicitly" twice. Can you quote where these things are "explicit"? \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 7:41

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