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Fire Rules - "Oh no, oh no, oh no, you gonna BURN!"


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#1 Sinister-Ornament

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 01:29 PM

One thing I have seen much attention paid to in RPG rules is the treatment of fire. I remember running a scenario (I think it was 2nd Edition AD&D’s Ship of Horrors) and a section of that adventure concerned a burning building. And usual with D&D the adventuring party had huge amounts of hit points and so could wander quite freely through burning rooms without much trouble. In much the same way several first level archers could have turned them into pincushions before they got worried about their hit points.

The thing is I always though this was a trifle unfair, I know most role-playing rule sets aren’t trying to accurately portray real life they are more broad strokes, rough approximations and have to allow for heroics and general daring-do but I still think fire should be something that characters of every level should have some respect for, in pretty much every RPG. Unless your playing a character that has some command over it (e.g. a magic-user specialising in fire related spells)

How’ve handled it in games the past

Two examples –

1). Character is set alight.
2). Character is escaping a burning building.


With the first I’d be inclined to half the Characters hit points every round after the fire really took hold. Some sort of Spot Hidden or Perception roll to notice before the damage starts

With the second example I ignored the smoke (which would probably be the major hazard) – and made characters roll Dexterity checks to avoid falling rubble and roll their character hit point dice for damage if leaping through flames (d10 for fighters, d4 for mages, etc.).

I’m quite happy with the first instance but the second seems somewhat lacking. I just looked in my shiny new BRP Rulebook and can’t see fire as a topic mentioned in the index.


How do you handle these situations (and any other you can think of) involving fire in your game system?



I wonder if this guy would know :lol: !






++Late Addition+++

Fire in Zero gravity(– Mmmm, Oxygen rich) How on Earth would you handle that?
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#2 Ieqo

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:03 PM

Another thing to consider when someone is face-to-face with fire is a "Fright Check" (or whatever mechanic your system of choice uses). Fire is one of our primal fears. Everyone learns "stop drop and roll" at a young age, yet almost everyone who gets clothing set alight freaks out; the terror is hardwired into our crocodile brain.

If I were going for a quasi-realistic treatment, any PC who got lit up would be making a Fright Check...at a penalty.

Also look at whatever your system uses for "fatigue" or "subdual damage". Even if you do have sufficient breathable air in a burning building, your body's cardiovascular system is going to automatically go into overdrive to try to keep your core temperture down where it is supposed to be. This is why people who inadvertantly spend too much time in the sauna sometimes pass out, have heart attacks, and die. Characters who are away from the flames, but still trapped in the building may need to make "Fort saves" every round else take subdual damage. If they don't get out quickly they may fall unconscious long before they start taking traditional fire damage.
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#3 Daniel

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:26 PM

For the whole burning building, if it was 3.x I'd just use the suffocation rules at the back of the book. That'll kill even a level 40 character if they're not wary.
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#4 Guest__*

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 03:15 PM

There's another option (and please don't be upset when I say this)... it's have the fire do whatever fits the story best...



Having said that I do like Hero System and that is very crunchy, so what do I know? :D
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#5 centauri

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 04:25 PM

There's another option (and please don't be upset when I say this)... it's have the fire do whatever fits the story best...

I agree with this. Know the limits of hit point systems and route around them.
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#6 Balgin

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 02:08 AM

Everyone learns "stop drop and roll" at a young age


And people have only been taught this for what, a couple of centuries at the most. Depending on the game you're running folk might not have such training. I mean, swimming wasn't even part of the education system for years. We are very lucky these days that we are trained to survive many natural hazards nthat might befall us. Imagine some cultures where such training is not endemic.
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#7 Daniel

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 03:30 AM

I mean, swimming wasn't even part of the education system for years.


Hells I'm 22 this year and I didn't even see a pool till I was in the last two years of Primary School.
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#8 Telemergion

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 09:53 AM

I mean, swimming wasn't even part of the education system for years.


Hells I'm 22 this year and I didn't even see a pool till I was in the last two years of Primary School.


My first school that had a pool was a university.

I think my favourite game to handle fire is Mutants and Masterminds. It comes in three components: Direct Flames, Heat, and Smoke.

If people are in a building or area that's on fire, the first thing they encounter is the Smoke which requires a fairly easy (DC 10, I think?) Fortitude check to beat. This increases by 1 every round. Moreover, the time a character can spend in it is increased by how long they can hold their breath. Those with anything like a normal human constitution have a few rounds to get out before they start to suffocate, while the incredibly hardy tank has longer but still must pay attention to it.

Then comes the Heat, which works in much the same way. I forget the initial DC offhand, but it too increases by 1 for every round the players are in an area of extreme heat. If they fail they begin to take some Con penalties, making it that much harder to beat the next one. Once again, even the tank has to watch this.

Contact with a Direct Flame does direct damage. MnM, being a system that doesn't use hit points, does this by potentially injuring anyone who fails a toughness save against the damage of the fire, which would be about a DC 20, probably. Every time a character gets injured they get a -1 on further saves, and is that much more likely to potentially be outright killed.

If I were running 3.5, I think I'd port that system in. Certainly it'd take a little work, since DnD doesn't have toughness saves and does have HP, but it wouldn't be too difficult. 4E, with its static defenses, is less fun.
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#9 centauri

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:46 AM

4E, with its static defenses, is less fun.

My neurophysiologist advises me against responding to threads that mention 4th Edition, but he's a git.

In 4th Edition, since no one asked, I'd handle a serious fire as a skill challenge, with success meaning that the characters escape with minor (or at least impermanent) injuries and failure meaning that they succumb to heat, smoke and pain and have to be rescued/captured and perhaps lose some equipment or NPCs. The primary skill would be Endurance, with Dungeoneering and Perception (if it's inside) to spot and avoid destablized structures or backdraft, Heal to mitigate burns and smoke inhalation, Nature or Perception (if it's outside) to find safe passage via rivers and rocks while avoiding exploding trees, maybe Athletics to just run like hell. Intimidate and Diplomacy could by used to form a fire brigade, or organize an evacuation.

In theory, this could be incorporated with combat, though I admit that would be trickier. Perhaps someone must make one of the above skill checks every round of combat or Bad Things begin to happen. On the upside, the enemy could have to lose a random minion or bloodied creature every round.
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#10 Phneri

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 11:24 AM

Fire also depends on the structure involved. Is it a mill? I'd give a random countdown (no more than 4-5 rounds) before the entire building goes up in a fireball effect, doing huge damage (and a fall if they're up high).

A shop with magical items? Well, they may get a fortitude save to avoid being consumed in flame. Which eventually they'll fail. I could see lots of nasty explodey things happening here.

A house/inn/etc? Well, even the most mundane home is going to have a cask of lamp oil someplace, and the bar will be full of random spirits that will burn quite well. I'd use a halved (1/2 damage and explosive range) fireball for those, in addition to suffocation and the d6/round fire damage. And most often those casks will be on a first floor, which means the structural integrity of the building is going to take a big hit when that goes up. And flaming wreckage is going to get an extra d6 damage.

At this point fires are looking fairly nasty even for a mid-level party without energy resistances. Even with energy resistance (fire) up to essentially render a character immune to burning, suffocation should still be in play here. I'd allow a character that holds a wet rag in front of their nose a small bonus to the check, but even that won't help past a round or two. Similarly I'd give a character that dumped a large quantity of water over themselves a +2 fire resistance for d6 rounds or so.

And remember, fire damage can run a risk of being set alight in cloth/leather. Running into a burning building in plate?

:lol:

Well, at least you'd be a nice golden brown when they found you.
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#11 Sinister-Ornament

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 02:25 PM

Thanks for the replies – lots of good suggestions and things to consider amongst them all. Sorry for my delay in replying.

Mutants and Masterminds sounds interesting, I’ve not heard of that one before have to look it up.


My neurophysiologist advises me against responding to threads that mention 4th Edition, but he's a git.


Ooo has your neurophysiologist seen the ‘game geeks’ videos over on you tube where fourth edition is reviewed. It is the first time Kurt’s done a negative-ish review!




I was wrong in my first post BRP does have rule for fire on page 223 (that’s going to be pencilled on the margin of the index page) and it does mention increased damage for larger fires and includes asphyxiation if PCs are caught inside. Interestingly a character who takes one-fourth of his HP in damage must make a Luck Roll to avoid a loss of 1d4 of characteristic points due to burns.

I caught a programme on BBC, Horizon in the past few days, I think it was, either way it was entitled ‘How to Survive a Disaster’ it was chilling viewing. In summary the mini-documentary seemed to say it doesn’t matter how fit or clever you are, it is the people who respond quickly and perform the right action right first time who survive in an emergency.

Sadly nothing in the programme about fires in zero gravity (candles I believe burn with a spherical flame in such conditions).

One thing that I never realised was dangerous is peer pressure. Psychologists did an experiment - people are filling out a form on a clipboard in a room when smoke starts to curl out from under one of the many doors exiting the room. When they repeated the experiment with more people in the room, some of which were actors paid to ignore the smoke, it was amazing that some people (test subjects) succumbed to peer pressure and relied on others to act before they would.

I know this isn’t strictly relevant, but it is semi-related and fascinating. I don’t think I’d want any sort of ‘peer pressure influence’ mechanic in a RPG because players are supposed to be playing heroic characters.
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#12 Balgin

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 04:24 PM

It is the first time Kurt’s done a negative-ish review!


I wouldn't call that negative. Part 2 on the other hand is what I'd call honest about this "skill challenge" thing. Now I think he might be a bit narrow minded saying he can handle that with a little face to face role playing (most of us could) but as a GM who's actualy run games for people with social disabilities on occassion I'd say that sometimes those skills can come in sueful (especialy if you're not entirely unsure how to judge a player's roleplaying in one encounter and because a character's social skills should not be dependant upon the player).

He doesn't seem to have done any Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay reviews, done lots of Star Wars & Worlds of Darkness reviews but hey, he did cover the Lone Wolf d20 RPG from Mongoose.
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#13 Sinister-Ornament

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 01:02 PM

I suppose I should have linked to both parts. I like his reviews I wish he'd do more small press stuff that's really fresh and different (Lacuna: The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City, Run Robot Red, etc.), having said that he did do Don't Rest Your Head.

With reviews somebody’s negative might well be is someone else’s positive!

What you said Balgin regarding Social Skill reminds me about articles I’ve read regarding Intelligence – how does a player play a PC who is a genius?

but as a GM who's actualy run games for people with social disabilities on occassion


I always imagined that running a game for children would be quite hard, but for people with such disabilities as you mention, I have not idea what that would involve, is it really difficult, do you have some super-GM method for coping?

When I was at school and was given a counsellor – one of the options she offered me was Dungeons & Dragons (naturally already being a player I leap at the chance), so it, as an activity, must have some recognised social improvement value.

I really envy those guys who GMed at the this charity - If they got paid for doing it - I want that job!
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#14 MelkiorWhiteblade

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 01:08 PM

My wife is an out patient counselor and sometimes works with children. One of them enjoys games*, especially Sorry, so they play that sometimes.

* - I think all children enjoy games, but this one especially.
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#15 ZachDood77

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 03:50 PM

What you said Balgin regarding Social Skill reminds me about articles I’ve read regarding Intelligence – how does a player play a PC who is a genius?


Well if you wanna do it the annoying dick way one would assume you ust blatantly metagame... ALOT!!!
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#16 Balgin

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 07:32 PM

I always imagined that running a game for children would be quite hard, but for people with such disabilities as you mention, I have not idea what that would involve, is it really difficult, do you have some super-GM method for coping?


Well I have Asperger's Syndrome so I didn't feel too out of place :P. Just be patient, don't set up really harsh do or die moments, and keep an eye out for unexpected group tension.

To be fair we were all students and doing the same courses so we knew each other fairly well and nothing too awkward happened during any of our sessions. One of the teachers even asked if I could work a few things like managing finances and budgetting into the games to help the students cope with managing their finances in the real world.

Nothing awkward, that is, untill the session after one of our players got run over trying to cross the road late at night when it was raining and died three days afterwards. We sort of took a big break for a month or two when that happened as it puts a real damper on the mood. The group didn't really survive that rtagedy but we'd been playing for about a year and ahalf or two years by that point and everyone had had areally great time up to that point.

Now an unusual set of fire rules that I've noticed works like this:

Since I'm currently trying to run Cursed Empires (despite the cruel amchinations of fate) I've observed that it's very close to Rune Quest (and 2 or 3 other systems). So it has locational damage as many games do. However the way that the game handles suffocation,, falling, drowning and fire is like this: each location takes damage (which is a huge hit to total life when they're all getting damaged).

Fire in that system does 1d6 damage to each location (so that's 6d6 damage when the average heroic character might have between 35-50hp and that's mean 6-7 on each location, double that on the body). However, fire changes to 1d10 on any location that doesn't have armour on. So that'd be some ten siders, some six siders. Fire also ignores armour (but armour afefcts the damage die type taken).

So a few rounds of fire damage in Cursed Empire can really mess up a character. And considering the average hand weapon seems to do a d8 damage (plus maybe a bonus) which does not ignore armour, fire's really nasty. Falling damage is also dealt to all locations (but I don't remember if it ignores armour but it's an additional damage roll for each falling distance increment so it's quite nasty too).
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#17 Sinister-Ornament

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 01:32 PM

if I could work a few things like managing finances and budgetting into the games to help the students cope with managing their finances in the real world.


That sounds like a really good idea - its like your sneaking a lesson into something and making it fun. In an ideal world that's what school and college would be like!

I love the fact that your post put this derailed thread back on its rails - it was so subtle I nearly didn't notice.
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#18 Balgin

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 03:10 PM

if I could work a few things like managing finances and budgetting into the games to help the students cope with managing their finances in the real world.


That sounds like a really good idea - its like your sneaking a lesson into something and making it fun. In an ideal world that's what school and college would be like!


I let them all know that I'd been asked to do this and then didn't dwell on it much (but I did the sums for them a little bit less when they went out buyign equipment :P). That's all.

I love the fact that your post put this derailed thread back on its rails - it was so subtle I nearly didn't notice.


I did? I didn't even notice it had been derailed. I'd been meaning to post about the Cursed Empire fire system since early on page 1 but wanted to check I'd got the details right (and generaly couldn't be arsed to try and write a short version of it) so I left it for a bit. Responding to your comment sort of got tacked on to the top of my post.

I was originaly intending to respond to this:

What you said Balgin regarding Social Skill reminds me about articles I’ve read regarding Intelligence – how does a player play a PC who is a genius?


with something along the lines of "actualy it's much harder to roleplay a character who is considerably less intelligent than yourself, unless you're a bit thick" but then saw your post and decided to respond to that, and then got derailed into finaly trying to post asummary of those fire rules :P.

And yes, we did have a tragic player death occurr (that wasn't a joke or something).
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#19 Sinister-Ornament

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 03:42 PM

I decided, in my earlier post, not to comment on the tragedy. I didn't think that you remarks were a joke. I'm sorry if it came across that way.

I not sure I can imagine what that would have been like for everybody involved.



actualy it's much harder to roleplay a character who is considerably less intelligent than yourself, unless you're a bit thick


Hmmm, I'm not sure about that. That makes me want to dig that article out and see how it compares to your comment.
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#20 Balgin

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 04:03 PM

I decided, in my earlier post, not to comment on the tragedy. I didn't think that you remarks were a joke. I'm sorry if it came across that way.


Not a joke but the incident was roughly twelve years ago so I'm over it now.

Anyway my point was that it's hadrer for an intelligent person to polay an idiot (without occassionaly doing something to clever) than it is for a less intelligent person to play a clever character, as the GM can just go "yeah you know the answer to that".
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