I'm looking for a way to become a subtype, specifically the swarm subtype.

How can I become a swarm?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related—not really the same question, but several answers answer it by answering this question. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since you have a “more specifically”, I changed the question to actually be about that. (The alternative likely being that the question was too broad.) I've also added the [character-creation] tag, on the assumption that this question is about achieving this during character creation. If that is not the case, please edit the question to indicate more about the circumstances that answers need to work with. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Eh, the original question could have been “is there anything that lets me get just get any subtype I want?” which is answerable—the answer is “No,” at least if you bar Pun-pun—but I agree that this question is far more likely to resulting in information that is actually useful to Avenger \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Yeah, it's debatable whether it would have been too broad (and I hedged that statement ;), but yes, no need for it to be any broader than the actual problem included in the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Avenger You have two things you want to know then. That means you have two questions. Post the other as a separate question. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:40

6 Answers 6


Find a swarm that has a hive mind, and true mind switch into it.

From swarm traits:

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, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind.

... which makes it a valid target for mind switch.

Species that have Int and a hive mind include: Hellwasp Swarm (MM1), Shimmerling Swarm (MM3), Abyssal Ant Swarm (Fiend Folio), Cranium Rat Swarm (Fiend Folio), Viper Swarm (Fiend Folio), Silthilar (Lords of Madness), Death Scarab Swarm (Sandstorm), Feral Spirit (Sharn: City of Towers).


Cough There's a soulmeld for that Cough It's the broodkeeper's heart from Dragon Magazine #350. It grants you the swarm subtype when you bind it to the heart chakra. I believe this does exactly what you want to do so long as you have access to Dragon Magazine.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's a little late (level 16 for an incarnate, 17 for a totemist, and 21 for everyone else) and often expensive (except for a totemist it costs 2 feats or 1 for an incarnate), but the soulmeld broodkeeper's heart delivers. (And consider seeing a doctor about that cough.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 19:46

A sarrukh from Serpent Kingdoms can give you anything it wants to, provided you are a “scaled one,” though it’s easy enough to qualify as a scaled one with magic (e.g. alter self into a kobold). You can also cut the actual sarrukh out of the equation by turning into one yourself (they are scaled) and sharing that spell with your familiar (sarrukhs cannot target themselves with this ability, so your familiar has to use it on you rather than you doing it yourself). Note that for this to work, you need to be able to get supernatural abilities, e.g. by using shapechange or the Assume Supernatural Ability feat, because the manipulate form ability is supernatural. Also note that you should never do this because this is literally the Pun-pun trick.

Aside from that silliness, various polymorph effects, from polymorph to shapechange, can let you temporarily transform into swarms. Alter self if you get particularly creative. The warlock’s dark discorporation likewise lets you turn into a swarm, and that one is at-will/lasts as long as you want it to, but it also prevents you from doing anything while in that form.

The only way, to my knowledge, to be a swarm as much as you want without resorting to manipulate form is to be a were-murder-of-crows. The murder of crows is an Animal (swarm) from Tome of Magic, and it’s a valid choice of base animal for the lycanthrope template. When in animal form, you would have the swarm subtype of the murder of crows. Your humanoid and hybrid forms would not get the subtype, however.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why does the murder of crows get all the attention when there's the ubiquitous equally Tiny and predatory rat swarm? (I must also mention the hilarious piranha swarm (Sto 162) and the terrifying needletooth swarm (MM3 109).) (It might be worth mentioning, too, that without shenanigans were-swarms are pretty much exclusively Small humanoids and, of course, Small giants.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan No idea. The were-murder-of-crows is more absurd? Actually almost-kinda-sorta-but-not-really good for something? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I suspect that most people incorrectly assume (as I did until I just looked it up) that a rat swarm is a Vermin swarm, not Animal. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 22:16

Savage Species Route:

Interestingly enough, Savage species actually does indeed allow you to do it via the rituals listed Chapter 11 - Becoming a Monster. They even address this very case and purpose:

If you are a DM, chances are your players will want to build new characters when they see this book. Some, however, will want to transform their existing characters into monsters. This chapter provides information to use when that happens.

First the minor ritual in SS Pg. 147 states:

Some characters may wish to gain the benefits of a particular type or subtype of monster, without actually becoming a specific kind of monster. For instance, a character may wish to gain the goblinoid subtype in order to use goblinoid specific magic items. Another character may want a specific subtype in order to qualify for a prestige class. Minor rituals allow these sorts of transformations.

You can then follow the rules listed on the same page to gain the subtype or modify one of the example rituals provided to so the same.

If you are looking for more impact in the change, a major ritual will allow you to take on a monster class through LA or class levels at the cost of the experience points you already have, SS Pg. 149.

Doing that, or may I suggest even re-imagining, your character will require you to figure out the LA or class structure as a swarm monster; as such I have done so below as an example.

This is what the entire chapters two and three are all about. You have two choices, to do it as a level adjustment or as a class. Both chapters give recommendations on Monsters to use, though they have wording that suggest you can use their templates for other creatures. Though they do warn of the challenges of doing such and suggest working closely with your DM.

You said you wanted to be a Master of Flies with the swarm subtype, for my example let’s use Hellwasp Swarm (MM Pg. 238) as it has the best intelligence (6).

Please note: I made a few assumptions as I am not your DM and I do not know the power level of his campaign. The beauty of this game is you can make easy adjustments.

Chapter 2 - has the rules for the LA version.

This falls under the category of “Difficult Monsters”.

Starting Skill Points would be: Magical beast (2 + Int mod) × (HD + 3) SS. Pg.13

HD: 12d10+27

Level Adjustments:

  • Fly Speed 40ft. gives your first +1 LA
  • The Hellwasps Swarms do not meet the requirements of the Abilities Score Equivalencies in the DMG Pg. 173. +1 LA
  • The Swarm attack nets you another +1 LA
  • Poison +1 LA
  • Reach of 10ft. another +1 LA
  • 3+ Skills +1 LA
  • DR 10/Magic +1 LA
  • Hivemind +1 LA
  • Resistance fire 10 + 1LA
  • Immune to Weapon Damage +1 LA
  • 3+ Feats +1 LA
  • First true hurdle: Swarm Tactics & Darkvision/Low-light Vision. This is really between you and your DM but I would go with +½ LA each for a total of +1 LA.

That is a total of LA of +12 and the subtype swarm, yay! Also, considering the creature has 12HD this lines up perfectly. All following the rules of Chapter Two!

Chapter 3 has the rules for the Class version. - A monster character gains the benefits and drawbacks of its type and subtype at first level. SS Pg. 26

This option is more open ended and thus requires more involvement and permission from your DM.

Mainly because it requires his approval for the progression to balance. It also has a more home-brewed feel. Though to gain the subtype you would only need one level; that is if you could convince your DM to let you multiclass before completing your racial class; this would be against RAW though - just so you know.

Here is a very rough version of using the rules as shows in Chapter 3 of SS, Pg 22 PHB, and Chapter 6/Pg. 173 DMG.

Hellspawn Swarm has no LA listed in the MM, so it is a 12th level class and would look something like this:

Level; Hit Dice; BAB; Fort; Ref; Will; Skill Points; Cr; Special

1st 1d8 +0 +2 +3 +1 (2+Int Mod)x4 1 Poison; Ability Focus (Poison); low-light vision; hive mind; swarm traits

2nd 2d8 +1 +3 +3 +2 2+Int Mod 1 DR 2/Magic

3rd 3d8 +1 +3 +3 +2 2+Int Mod 1 Alertness

4th 4d8 +2 +4 +4 +3 2+Int Mod 1 DR 4/Magic

5th 5d8 +2 +4 +4 +3 2+Int Mod 2 Dark Vision 60ft

6th 6d8 +3 +5 +6 +4 2+Int Mod 2 Distraction; Improved Init; DR 6/Magic

7th 7d8 +3 +5 +6 +4 2+Int Mod 2 Resist to fire 10

8th 8d8 +4 +6 +7 +5 2+Int Mod 2 DR 8/Magic

9th 9d8 +4 +6 +7 +5 2+Int Mod 3 Iron Will

10th 10d8 +5 +7 +8 +6 2+Int Mod 3 DR 10/Magic

11th 11d8 +5 +7 +8 +6 2+Int Mod 3 Immune to weapon dmg

12th 12d8 +6 +8 +9 +7 2+Int Mod 4 Inhabit; Toughness

Lastly, the rules in the books are meant to be applied to creative situations like this; otherwise they would not have given us the tables and guidelines used above to do so. We are encouraged to so come up with something new using the framework provided in conjunction with other players and DMs.

Book of Vile Darkness Look at the rules for Hivemind as shown in the Book of Vile Darkness Pg. 34 it fits well with this concept. Have fun!


I would say home-brewed mechanics can get you there, I am sure something is floating around somewhere. If not create your own.

  • \$\begingroup\$ First place I looked; the Savage Species ritual lets you count as any subtype, but there is none for actually gaining the subtype. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough.... \$\endgroup\$
    – makadus
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LegendaryDude done :) \$\endgroup\$
    – makadus
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 2:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I can't comment on the other answers yet, but I can here: Mind switch and/or True Mind Switch can be dispelled via dispel psionics sending your mind back to you "last" body, implying you would have to guard it and assumes upkeep. \$\endgroup\$
    – makadus
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 4:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @makadus True Mind Switch can't be dispelled. It's duration: instantaneous. \$\endgroup\$
    – Topquark
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 15:53

Wild Shape

The Urban Class Features web enhancement for Cityscape includes the Druid ACF City-Shape:


The ability to transform into an animal is the hallmark of the druid, so much so that even many urban druids choose to retain it. Some, however, prefer the ability to blend and maneuver within the streets of the city, sacrificing size for a wider range of forms.

Class: Druid.

Level: 5th.

Replaces: If you select this class feature, you do not gain all the aspects of standard wild shape (except for the ability to wild shape into an elemental at high levels, which remains unchanged).


At 5th level, the druid gains the ability to transform into an animal, as per the standard wild shape ability. She can do this once a day to start with, but the frequency of her wild shapes increases as per the standard druid advancement chart.

At 8th level, the druid does not gain the ability to transform into Large animals. Instead, she may transform into Small and Medium vermin, as well as animals.

At 11th level, the druid gains the ability to transform into Tiny animals and vermin.

At 12th level, the druid does not gain the ability to transform into plant creatures. Instead, she may transform into an animal- or vermin-based swarm, so long as it fits within her standard wild shaping Hit Die limits.

At 15th level, the druid does not gain the ability to transform into Huge animals. Instead, she gains the ability to transform into Large animals and vermin.

Special: The Natural Spell feat functions with city-shape just as it does standard wild shape.

If temporarily getting the subtype is enough, then 12 levels of Druid with the City-Shape ACF will enable you to Wild Shape into one.


Just wanted to add my personal experience with Swarm Form question to the other information already posted. The path eliminated the PunPun shtick and its undesired unplayable aspects.

A changeling with the Assume Supernatural Ability feat assumes Swarm Form (SU) from a creature with the Swarm Shifter template from the Forgotten Realms would be a very neato way to get Swarm Form for a character.

Citation Source:

D&D 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting p12-13 - Race: Changeling - Minor Shape Change (SU)

D&D 3.5 Savage Species p30 - Assume Supernatural Ability feat

D&D Libris Mortis p125-127 - Creating a Swarm Shifter - Swarm Form (SU)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour! Does this get around the limits of the alter self spell (and the rest of the polymorph line of spells)? (I.e. "You cannot take the form of any creature with a template, even if that template doesn’t change the creature type or subtype.") Thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 6:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, Removed the link to realmshelp. \$\endgroup\$
    – CREED
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you Hey I Can Chan! The Minor Shape Change ability uses Disguise Self as its base effect with specifics outlined within. Specifically, it is not an illusion and the changes are an actual physical change. Also, more importantly the limits of that change are limited to humaniod-shaped creatures. A humanoid shaped creature with a template is still a humaniod shaped creature. \$\endgroup\$
    – CREED
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 20:27

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