Even in the modern world, the risk of fire, in the home or workplace, from accidents, environmental issues, and deliberate arson is a real problem.
In a medieval-based fantasy world where you have to factor in magic, fire-breathing creatures, flaming weapons, torches, oil, and much more, fire and the potential for significant damage and harm are all around you.
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How Fire Damage Works in 5e
Just as in the real world, fire damage covers any injury caused when a character or creature is exposed to extreme heat. This covers not just damage caused by actual flames but also things such as steam, boiling water, pools of lava, fires of a magical nature, and flames or heat generated as part of a creature’s natural ability.
The mechanics of fire damage work the same as any other type of damage. When a character or creature suffers harm from fire damage, the amount of damage is calculated, either a dice roll or a stated, fixed amount, and the hit points are reduced accordingly. Fire damage also follows all of the usual rules that govern things such as resistance, immunity, and vulnerability.
The one big difference between fire-induced damage and other forms of damage is that fires affect their surrounding environment in a way that normal damage doesn’t.
Often, the rules state that certain types of fire damage don’t ignite objects and artifacts carried or worn by the recipient of the fire damage, but that doesn’t mean that such spells and latent abilities won’t affect other elements in the environment… dry grass, wooden furniture, barrels of oil, etc.
Causes of Fire Damage in 5e
Fire damage can come from many sources, from the mundane — torches, deliberate acts, or arson, and flaming arrows to more magical options such as from spells and exotic creatures.
It is also one of the most commonly encountered types of damage, as flame and extreme heat are found everywhere in the typical DnD setting. Examples include…
- Using a flaming torch as a weapon
- Pushing a creature into a campfire or boiling vat.
- Falling into a lava pit
- Standing in the path of a steam ejection, such as a geyser
- Pouring hot oil or boiling water over an enemy
- Magically-enhanced environments that increase heat
- Magical spells, such as fire bolt and fireball
5e Fire Damage Spells
The nature of the DnD setting means that one of the most common ways of encountering fire damage is through magical means. There are many spells in the various spellbooks of the character classes that either deal out fire damage or go some way to mitigate its effects.
Fire pits and lava pools may be found and navigated around on adventures. Still, spellcasters are an essential part of the adventuring community, so more than likely, any fire damage inflicted will be at the hands of a spellcaster.
List of Fire Spells in DnD 5e
|Cantrip||Control Flames||Create Bonfire||Fire Bolt||Green-Flame Blade||Produce Flame|
|Level 1||Absorb Elements||Burning Hands||Chaos Bolt||Chromatic Orb||Hellish Rebuke||Searing Smite|
|Level 2||Aganazzar’s Scorcher||Dragon’s Breath||Flame Blade||Flaming Sphere||Heat Metal||Scorching Ray|
|Level 3||Elemental Weapon||Fireball||Flame Arrows||Melf’s Minute Meteors||Protection from Energy|
|Level 4||Conjure Minor Elementals||Elemental Bane||Fire Shield||Wall of Fire|
|Level 5||Conjure Elemental||Flame Strike||Immolation|
|Level 6||Investiture of Flame||Primordial Ward||Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise|
|Level 7||Delayed Blast Fireball||Firestorm||Prismatic Spray|
|Level 8||Illusory Dragon||Incendiary Cloud|
|Level 9||Meteor Swarm||Prismatic Wall|
Most of the spells come from the Player’s Handbook, but such is the nature of DnD that there are other, additional sources of spells to be found. The key below indicates where to find these non-canon spell descriptions.
- Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
- Elemental Evil Player’s Companion (Princes of the Apocalypse)
- Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
- Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Monsters That Deal Fire Damage
In the DnD 5e world, there is no shortage of creatures that can utilize fire as a weapon. From the titular dragon to elementals, from mythical creatures to fiends from the underworld, it won’t be long before you find yourself on the business end of a ball of flame or a jet of fire.
Some creatures have fire as part of their very essence. They can control it, manipulate it and weaponize it. It is part of who they are. Others use magic to conjure and wield fire weapons. And, of course, there are dragons and similar creatures who can breathe jets of fire at an enemy.
There are 46 creatures found in the Monster Manual that can use fire as a weapon but again, there is all manner of creatures to be found in scenarios, alternative rule additions, and magazines, as well as any that the DM might choose to invent and add to your world.
Environmental Fire Damage
Magic and monsters you encounter whilst adventuring are the obvious ways of dealing with fire and the damage it can inflict. But the DM should also think about the environmental factors that can be worked into an expedition.
The DnD world is a strange place, bounded only by the imagination of the person creating it. Also, the adventuring life will take the characters to places that sensible folk wouldn’t dream of stepping foot in.
Underground caverns, lava landscapes, and scalding waters add exciting elements to your adventure. And then, you can build in factors such as seasonal forest fires and random volcanic eruptions.
Still, environmental fire damage can only come from one of two places. It is either natural, a geographical feature, a seasonal occurrence, or the result of some magical creation or conjuration.
Non-Magical Fire Damage
The everyday life of an adventurer puts the character in contact with all manner of fire. Campfires, torches, and boiling water are part and parcel of your existence. And that is before the landscape has thrown firey obstacles your way. These include…
- Campfires and cooking stoves
- Seasonal wildfires
- Torches and lanterns
- Steam from kettles or geysers
- Boiling oil, tar pits, or lava
- Boiling water from cooking or naturally occurring
Some of these might be encountered because they are part of deliberately set traps. Some may be part of battlefield tactics. Some might be naturally occurring features. Everything from boiling oil being readied for a siege to a lake being superheated due to the volcano that rises above it.
Flaming arrows fired in battle might cause wildfires to rage, or the local geyser might cause a few problems because you still need to do your homework and get caught in its eruption.
These can be used as more than mere window dressing for your story but can provide the players with all manner of puzzle-solving opportunities or roleplaying moments.
How Much Damage Does Non-Magical Fire Do?
That’s an open question. The amount of damage inflicted depends on the size and nature of the fire. Swatting someone with a lit torch would only inflict one point of damage; a pool of oil, maybe five, and a river of lava will inflict massive amounts.
Generally, it will be up to the DM to determine the damage inflicted, but the best way is to compare the incident to the known amounts found in the rules. Someone falling into a campfire would expect to take the same amount of fire damage as that inflicted by a pool of burning oil.
Enter a building engulfed in flames to rescue a party member; this might be similar to the 3rd-level fireball spell, and a role of 8d6 would follow.
Extreme Heat and Lava Fire Damage
Crossing a desert under the baking sun’s rays is one source of extreme heat damage that the adventurers might encounter. So, finding yourself in an unnatural or magical environment or faced with exotic encounters is also something that puts your character in the firing line for extreme heat damage.
Such scenarios can cause the characters to become increasingly exhausted as the intense heat saps their energy, slowly chipping away at their hit points.
And then there are the problems that come with being faced with a creature who is essentially fire-made-flesh, such as a Fire Giant. The Giant exudes the heat that melts metals, like standing next to a blacksmith’s forge.
So either the party can fight at a distance lobbing missiles and magic at it. Or they can try to fight closer in, where the intense heat will add to any damage they take. Or they can get right in close and suffer the additional burns from getting up close and personal with such a creature.
This is an example of a harrowing encounter that pushes the players to choose how to engage with such a ferocious foe.
And the time will eventually come when your characters find themselves in the most hostile heat environment ever and are faced with lava pools and rivers of molten rock. Technically, it is non-magical and mundane as a source of fire damage, but it is both unusual and perilous and deserves a closer look.
Lava is both immensely dangerous and often unpredictable. It is so hazardous that even getting too close to it would cause fire damage to be inflicted. Especially if the lava is fast flowing and found in large amounts, slower moving and smaller streams might be more tolerable, though it still feels like you are standing in front of a furnace.
This would be fine for a short period but still very uncomfortable and dangerous if you lingered there too long.
Lava is fine at a distance. Falling into lava, that’s where the problems occur. The Dungeon Master’s Guide states that a character finding themself in lava will take 10d10 of fire damage (presumably per round.) It goes on to declare that being completely submerged would cause 18d10 fire damage.
This may not be realistic, especially with higher-level characters who opt for such actions based on their high hit points. But in a world where wizards can call down literal meteors and bolts of lightning with a wave of their hand, realism isn’t the prime concern here, and the creation of an epic and unique tale is —one of the DM to decide for themselves, it’s your world, it’s your call.
Being on Fire in DnD 5e
All spells that deal with fire state that the effects of the fire don’t ignite items carried or clothing worn. This is mainly done to keep the spell effects in the more manageable territory; any spell that catches a target on fire would be much too powerful to appear in the lower-order spell lists.
But logic would dictate that standard clothing and equipment in a medieval fantasy world wouldn’t be fireproof. A helpful guide to how to deal with people being set on fire can be found in the section of the Player’s Handbook that deals with oil.
Here it sets out how you ignite it and how long it burns. Also helpful is the information related to the Fire Elemental and its Fire Form ability, which reads…
…the elemental can enter a hostile creature’s space and stop there. The first time it enters a creature’s space on a turn, that creature takes 5 (1d10) fire damage and catches fire; until someone takes an action to douse the fire, the creature takes 5 (1d10) fire damage at the start of each of its turns…
Both of these are valuable sources for how to use the rules on targets catching fire. Between the two, your DM should be able to work out a system that works for your campaign. Again, remember, there are no hard and fast rules; all rulebooks should be seen as guidelines to create a rule set that runs your world.
Resistance to Fire Damage in 5e
Fire resistance works like most other resistance by cutting the damage in half. Several creatures have a natural resistance to fire damage. Several spells grant resistance for those who aren’t naturally adapted to deal with such intense heat.
The Half-Red Dragon Veteran gains resistance to fire damage due to its draconic nature, and spell casters can prepare spells such as absorb elements spell as a reaction to getting hit by an enemy fire bolt.
A Barbarian following the path of the Totem Warrior subclass can obtain fire resistance by choosing the bear as their totem spirit. And so on. The point is that many ways of upping your resistance to fire damage exist.
Final Thoughts on Fire Damage 5e
Fire is all around you. It is the most common form of attack after being hit with a lump of iron or poked with a pointy stick. But it makes for interesting encounters and can often ask a lot of the players as they try to stay safe and work out how to navigate the obstacles and the danger it puts in their character’s way.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages. She is also a professional content writer at SlashGear.com