Sorry if this question is a bit nit-picky, but I have asked a few questions before based on misconceptions of "flavor text" in 4e... Now my RP oriented mind has a question about a specified visualization in the actual effect of a spell. The Druids spell "Swarming Locusts" states

Effect: The blast creates a zone of swarming locusts that lasts until the end of your next turn. While within the zone, enemies grant combat advantage.

I have before been told that the italics and even the name of a move to do not matter, but the actual hit conditions, damage, and effects need to be performed as written. Personally, I think a Swarm Druid that turns into a swarm of spiders wouldn't use Swarm of locusts and summon locusts... however, if I understand how to implement the rules as written, I would need to summon this as a swarm of Locusts as it specifies locusts in the Effect clause of the spell.

Am I over thinking this? I don't think it fits the flavor of my Spider Swarm druid. So, if I play RAW... would I be locked into summoning locusts, as it is defined in the effect that it is locusts? I think the term locusts in the effect clause could easily be changed... but having been told before that the specific wording of the effects is what matters I am looking for input from people that stick as closely to RAW as possible. Does it have to be Locusts?


2 Answers 2


You're right about both things here:

  1. The rules lines in 4e powers have to be followed, whilst the flavour text line and the name are just mechanically meaningless description.
  2. The "swarming locusts" bit in the Effect line is basically just flavour text, and you can probably change it, even though it's in the Effect line.

That second bit is weird, I know. This is because zone powers buck the convention here. Effects which create zones will never simply say they create "a zone" and leave it at that - they always say they create a zone of something. The something never actually means anything mechanically (as in the case of "swarming locusts"), and the actual mechanics of the zone are described by the rest of the Effect line.

Zone powers always say "zone of something" for the sake of roleplaying. It's kind of hard to visualise what a zone is on its own, so powers will say they're zones of radiant light, or heroic song, or stifling gas, or so on. They could just leave this in the flavour line, but it's easier to just describe it right there.

Can you replace the "something" part in "zone of something" like flavour text?

By the rules themselves? No, since the flavour text line is the only bit you can actually change.

But regardless: yes, you should feel free to do so, because it doesn't matter if you do. The power will still work the same whether it's a zone of swarming locusts, or leaping spiders, or vile gas. So change it anyway if you want to, and treat the "something" bit as flavour text.

Just don't make it something silly like a zone of lava, because that won't mechanically mean anything and you'll have a power with a description inconsistent with its effect.


This really comes down to the GM who is running the game and how they are running it. This sort of "fluff" flavour change, as you say usually has no in-game impact so many GM's will allow it but you would need a ruling from the GM and it would be a change to the rules as written.

After all, perhaps there is an encounter coming up with monsters that have the power to control locusts - if you cast swarm of locusts maybe they can control them and turn them on you. Perhaps the kingdom is run by someone with a deadly fear of spiders and anyone consorting with spiders must be put to death. Suddenly the "fluff" change has real in-game consequences.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I am skeptical that there are 4e powers that would care whether the zone is locusts. Maybe previous editions would care, but 4e would stick to what is defined by the mechanics. If it's a power that can manipulate zones, it wouldn't care what it's made from. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2014 at 12:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ So you come against a "spider queen" bad guy that can control spiders and make them do her bidding - and you try to use a spider swarm spell against her. What do you think will happen? The result would very much depend on the GM and how they run their game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim B
    Feb 22, 2014 at 12:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ 4e powers would base themselves on things that actually exist, e.g. the keywords in a monster block. It does depend, but at that point the DM would be playing outside 4e's rules. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2014 at 12:57

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