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Continual Fire Damage

Willy Elektrix

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I'm trying to figure out a simple way to handle recurring fire damage in my game. The combat is very fast and pretty deadly. Most combat encounters are over in 2-4 rounds, so I want an effect that is simple but dramatic.

Right now, it works like this: Fire causes 1 damage per round at the end of the burning character's turn. Each subsequent turn of burning, the damage doubles (i.e. turn 2 is 2 damage, turn 3 is 4 damage, etc.). A burning character can extinguish herself by spending her action.

It works okay, but I'm not satisfied with it. For one thing, it doesn't really provide an interesting choice. Characters have between 10 and 20 hit points. The optimal way to handle the burning condition is to ignore it for 2 turns while trying to kill your opponent. Then, once the damage reaches 4 per turn, the character extinguishes herself. Is that good or bad? I don't know.

What are your thoughts on this? What are some good ways that other games handle fire damage?
 

CharonsLittleHelper

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Why does your game need continual fire damage at all? I know that D&D has it - but most don't. (Only other game I can think of off the top of my head is Pokemon.)

Really though - being on fire is BAD. If rounds are more than a second, it would cause massive damage - and remember that HP in most systems is mostly abstract (near misses / scratches etc.) and being on fire... isn't! Plus - it runs into one of HP's major flaws. Being hit is abstract - until it's poison or fire etc. - then suddenly it's as if you're being hit solidly even though it's only 5% of your HP.

If you REALLY want being on fire to be a thing in your game - accept that it's a REALLY bad thing. Make the damage high and cause all sorts of penalties. It's hard to fight well when you're skin is charring off and you're in excruciating pain. Though - it would likely require re-balancing as it would basically force the character to spend an action to put themselves out immediately.

But really - my main advice is... don't include it at all.
 
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Zev Linare

Coder of Dice
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If your combat is so quick, it's probably not relevant. One doesn't simply become engulfed in flames head to toe unless a wizard is involved. Clothing lights, a sleeve say, and it takes time to spread to the point at which it's really dangerous.

And if you're getting hit by a fireball from a wizard or struck by someone's torch, I'd treat it more like being seared by a nearby explosion than completely engulfed in a hurry, where you'll have some burns but you're not on fire.
 

Xander

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Why does your game need continual fire damage at all? I know that D&D has it - but most don't. (Only other game I can think of off the top of my head is Pokemon.)

Really though - being on fire is BAD. If rounds are more than a second, it would cause massive damage - and remember that HP in most systems is mostly abstract (near misses / scratches etc.) and being on fire... isn't! Plus - it runs into one of HP's major flaws. Being hit is abstract - until it's poison or fire etc. - then suddenly it's as if you're being hit solidly even though it's only 5% of your HP.

If you REALLY want being on fire to be a thing in your game - accept that it's a REALLY bad thing. Make the damage high and cause all sorts of penalties. It's hard to fight well when you're skin is charring off and you're in excruciating pain. Though - it would likely require re-balancing as it would basically force the character to spend an action to put themselves out immediately.

But really - my main advice is... don't include it at all.
True - are you trying to "simulate" reality or just have a game mechanic?

4e had a great simple mechanic with Ongoing 5 damage. Take your turn, roll your save. If you fail, take x damage per round. It can apply to any damage source, no physics required. "You take 5 Peanut Butter and Jelly damage."

If you want an actual "You are on FIRE!" condition, then I wouldn't be afraid to amp it up. It probably wouldn't happen very often unless there's magic or flamethrowers involved, or if you fight in a burning house or a lava field.

A doubling-damage scale could be pretty bad, depending on how hard it is to shake off being on fire. Say you have a 30% chance of extinguishing - you would probably want to start extinguishing early because you could miss 2-3 rolls and get into deadly damage range quickly. If it is merely one lost action to extinguish, that diminishes the threat a lot.
 
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4AcrossIsEmu

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The fire could come with a rule that it is a distraction to doing other actions until dealt with. It is agonizing so give it that effect. It cripples a PC if not dealt with. You could even then introduce skills that DOES ignore crippling effects. What cripple does is up to you. What do you feel would hinder the player somewhat but not to the point where it has to take has to be dealt with first. - to hit - to accuracy?
 

SlideAway

failing every quest
Validated User
A doubling-damage scale could be pretty bad, depending on how hard it is to shake off being on fire. Say you have a 30% chance of extinguishing - you would probably want to start extinguishing early because you could miss 2-3 rolls and get into deadly damage range quickly. If it is merely one lost action to extinguish, that diminishes the threat a lot.
Agree. Guaranteed putting out often isn’t a thing.

Also:

Having to make a WILL roll just to operate would be realistic. Damage that won’t heal is, sadly, realistic.
 
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Willy Elektrix

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Thanks for your help folks! I agree with all your responses. Fire is debilitating and deadly. Everyone forgets to track ongoing damage. People don't really light on fire unless they are doused with accelerant.

I think I'm going to scrap fire damage altogether. It doesn't make sense, and to do it right will slow down combat. I am a "more is more" type of game creator. More features are always better. But now I am on the second half my game's development. It's time to trim out some of the pointless stuff.

Why does your game need continual fire damage at all? I know that D&D has it - but most don't. (Only other game I can think of off the top of my head is Pokemon.)
Most editions of D&D (other then 4E) don't have recurring fire damage, if I recall correctly. Usually it is just a damage type, like cold, lightning, or negative energy.

The Fantasy Flight Warhammer 40K games have it, but it is really deadly. You take crazy damage and fatigue and must roll not to flail around in agony. I think FantasyCraft also has it. You are right though: Most games don't have it, probably for good reason.

Thanks again for all your help! I love this forum!
 
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robert4818

Registered User
Validated User
Thanks for your help folks! I agree with all your responses. Fire is debilitating and deadly. Everyone forgets to track ongoing damage. People don't really light on fire unless they are doused with accelerant.

I think I'm going to scrap fire damage altogether. It doesn't make sense, and to do it right will slow down combat. I am a "more is more" type of game creator. More features are always better. But now I am on the second half my game's development. It's time to trim out some of the pointless stuff.
As you are trimming I would go back and look at your stuff with the philosophy of "What does this add to the game?" "Why is this fun at the table?" and "Does the add and the fun outweigh the burden?".

While "more is more", you want stuff you add to actually increase enjoyment of the game, without slowing it down.
 
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