Playing With Fire

The AD&D system doesn’t have rules for every situation, but by sticking to the Core Rule system, we can always use them to establish our own. For instance a building catches on fire with characters inside of it. This scenario is going to need lots of logic on the DMs part, but I think that I have the basics covered. If you see any holes, kind readers, please let me know.

I’ve got two different methods to handling this situation; let’s do the hard way first.
A building constructed with normal planks has the structural hp of 10. (Source: Player’s Option: Combat & Tactics)

 FIRST ROUND: Save vs. Mag. Fire: failure = structure fire, building loses 2d3 structure hp, or half damage with successful save.  (2d6 is in the DMG but this seems too much to me, so I cut it in half)

SECOND ROUND: structure takes 1d3 points of damage, if save was successful, half damage.
Third Round: If save was successful, must make a Save vs. Normal Fire, if this save is successful the fire goes out, if it fails, the structure takes 1 point of damage per round until it is either extinguished or its hp is gone, at which point the building falls down.

  • ·         Attacker can add more oil or fuel to the fire, and cause another saving throw vs Magic Fire.

  • ·         People still in building when it burns down must save vs. death. Failure = death. Success = 2d6 of damage the first round, character runs blindly outside by the fastest possible means,  1d6 the second.

  • ·         Assume all items are destroyed. If a specific item is in question, it may make a saving throw vs. magic fire. Item will be damaged, but not destroyed if it makes its save.

  • ·         Under some circumstances, a saving throw vs. normal fire is applicable (i.e. throwing a torch into a building with oil on the floor may land on a table, or sit funny so that fire doesn’t start). Once oil catches on fire, it is treated as a magical fire until the fuel is consumed, which takes 2 rounds.

  • ·         Use logic to attempts to put out the fire. A wall that is burning cannot be put out by non-magical means, without lots of water.

  • ·         A structure won’t fall down on the first round, regardless of hp consumed. A building with 0hp is out of control, and cannot be put out or saved. It may still stand in some form. Use logic!

  • ·         This is a none-direct attack and players who use this method do not acquire XP for every creature that dies inside. Players who do use this method of attack, depending on their alignment, and the situation, may lose their current alignment at the discretion of the DM.

  • ·         Characters who survive being burned from getting trapped in a structure fire will be scarred, even if critical damage systems aren’t used.

  • ·         Those inside of a building while it is burning may be subject to heat or smoke damage, a person who is on fire takes 2d6 of damage, radiated heat or smoke damage might cause half of that, depending on the intensity of the fire, I’d say that it would be anywhere from 1d2 to 1d6. However if we are going by the movies (which we probably are) then only dish out damage to failed saving throws , because lets face it, sword fights that take place in burning buildings are awesome!

I suppose that the fire serving the story that you are telling works best of all. Ignore these rules and just start the fire, and write a detailed chain of events to guide you through the process. Have key items and/or locations be on fire and write how and when the fire spreads. Rules be damned!
I would be interested to hear about any play testing or get some tips from other DM’s who have ran similar scenarios.
Now, before we wrap this up, we should discuss barrels of oil. The PHB says that oil is purchased by Flask, but this wouldn’t work for shipping, or for evil wizards, dungeon keepers, castle dwellers and the like. They would purchase it by the barrel, or by the tun (a smaller barrel like the kind you’d get beer out of).  By using the weight of the lamp oil, we could fit 30 flasks of oil in a small barrel and the average price would be 38sp. Greek Fire (if available) would contain 15 flasks and cost 152gp both of them would weigh at least 60lbs.
Large barrels of Greek Fire would run double that and weigh at least 120lbs. but as they say, sieges aren’t cheap! Of course, a warrior who has gotten a siege or two under his belt, with the right materials, may be able to turn normal lamp oil into Greek Fire. Goblinoid creatures of some intelligence and resourcefulness could probably make some too, course it wouldn’t be a good as the stuff that a man at arms would hurl at a fortress wall, but it would be good enough to burn down a serfs house or two. A giant with a stolen wagon of the stuff could be a nightmare! It isn’t something that would be an every day thing, as this would change the world away from what we and our characters want to play in, but it would make some encounters that more memorable!


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