Fire Swarms are colony insects found in warm, tropical climates. Colonies live ten or twelve feet below ground in a twisting maze of tunnels that has a diameter of ten or more feet. Colony sites are usually marked by two or three earthen mounds dumped near the exits during tunnel excavation, though this waste may have been blown or washed away in the case of older colonies.
Colony members are about the size of a common honeybee, and have black, wasp-like bodies striped with red, orange, yellow, or gold; each colony has its own unique markings. Each insect has both pinching mandibles, capable of inflicting a painful bite, and a sharp sting that injects a potent toxin. Each insect also has long, flexible legs covered short, curled bristles. Colony members use these bristles to link themselves together, forming living bridges, vine-like hangings, or other structures as needed. Colonies have both winged and flightless members, usually a 50/50 split, and fliers are fairly swift, able to outpace a running horse over short distances. Crawlers move much more slowly. Colonies have thousands to tens of thousands of members.
Each colony has a basic communal intelligence which allows cooperative behavior. Colonies aggressively defend their territory against all intruders, and actively seek out and hunt prey, with fliers ranging as far as five miles from their nesting site. Once prey is located fliers return to the nest and a massive swarm forms to pursue and slay the target, then dice up the remains and drag them back to the nest.
Fire Swarms attack as a swarm, and due to the small size of individual creatures normal weapons are almost useless against them, inflicting minimal damage at best. Swarms are susceptible to area effect attacks and avoid extremes of both heat and cold. In combat treat a swarm as a number of separate clumps, each made up of either flightless or winged members, and covering about a five foot diameter area (though multi-clump swarms may be contiguous or even stack up in a single location). The typical swarm is 3d6 clumps in size, and though clumps usually form a cohesive whole, they can and will split up to pursue opponents. Each clump has the following characteristics:
- Flying clumps move at Great speed, flightless clumps move at Mediocre speed.
- Ignore all but minimal damage from any mundane attack (weapons, blows, etc.)
- Full damage from area of effect attacks.
- Automatically inflicts a Fair damage biting attack on all opponents adjacent to it.
- Automatically inflicts a Fair damage stinging attack against a single adjacent opponent.
- Anyone struck by a stinging attack must make a Fair resistance check against poison or suffer the burning pain of the venom and its slowing effects (see below). The resistance check against poison increases in difficulty by one rank each time an individual is stung (even if they make the resistance check).
- Envelop opponent: A swarm may Envelop an adjacent foe, increasing the damage done by bites and stings by one rank. An Enveloped foe attempting to flee carries the clump along with them until the insects are destroyed or they evade them by other means (diving into water being a typical method).
- A clump struck by a Good damage attack is dissipated, but reforms in 1d4+2 rounds.
- A clump dissipated more than once, or struck by Superb damage is destroyed.
Fire Swarm colonies have a single queen who never leaves the nest. Destroying the queen will disable the entire nest for several weeks until a replacement queen is hatched from a specially treated egg. A nest without a queen goes inactive, with all members returning to the nest and falling dormant. The most reliable way to wipe out a Fire Swarm infestation is by burning out the nesting site, preferably from as great a distance as possible.
Side note: Since it's been a while since I've posted something using this method, here's a quick reminder of what the various adjectives used mean and how they relate to each other.