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In a game it got brought up that a frost creature is vulnerable to fire. Me being GM they ask if they can quote "drip their arrows in oil and light them on fire" to produce more damage against someone vulnerable to fire. While I think this is a very creative idea how can I implement an added damage for such a feat?

I had an idea of adding *1.5 to the damage roll so 1d10 *1.5 for the damage roll.

Or they want to tie a rope to an arrow to bring the NPC in closer for melee damage if out of range.

I want the attack to be more effective but not make it over powered, because this being an RPG I want my players to enjoy and be creative in situations. Any idea on how you could implement such on the fly changes?

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Not a full answer, but it's worth noting that physically shooting an arrow with a rope attached is not very effective. For typical adventuring rope, it has too much mass for the arrow to pull very much of it. This severely limits its range and ability to puncture and embed in its target. For RPGs, this means not only a penalty to hit, but reduced range and damage. –  Martin Carney May 21 '14 at 22:50
Seconding this. I am a medieveal reenactor and archer, so I've got some first-hand experience here. The "shooting rope" trick doesn't work at all. What you can do is to attach a string to an arrow, shoot that over an obstacle, and use the string to pull up a piece of rope. The rest is Holywood. -- As for "dipping in oil", the release of the bow will snuff the flame (tried it, personally). It takes purpose-build arrows with special tips, e.g. pitch-dipped cloth, to carry flame to the target. –  DevSolar May 22 '14 at 9:03
(ctd.) The power of even a 80-100 lbs bow will not carry a real rope further than a few yards. And you will break the arrow, rip the tip off, or rip the tip out of the target long before you can pull a (resisting) person towards you. And no, the ripping will not do more damage; at least not more than what you lost by making the arrow travel slower by trailing the rope / string in the first place. –  DevSolar May 22 '14 at 9:05
Unless their enemy is a squirrel, or a mouse, I'd say that using an arrow to pull enemies always fails. –  BЈовић May 22 '14 at 15:30

5 Answers 5

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The idea of "Flaming arrows" can be emulated using the Flaming Property:

Flaming: Upon command, a flaming weapon is sheathed in fire that deals an extra 1d6 points of fire damage on a successful hit. The fire does not harm the wielder. The effect remains until another command is given.

Dipping an arrow in oil could in a way emulate the Flaming property, with the need to spend an (maybe move?) action each turn to set the arrows on fire as a drawback to compensate.

It will come close to your "x 1.5 damage", but it have the advantage of separating the damage from the fire from the damage from the arrow, so if a creature takes extra damage from fire you could just add the relevant adjust to the fire damage die.

The same is true for every other change that the players happen to try. Look for something that resembles it, them apply the appropriated effects to the damage roll, precision, etc.

The Rope+Arrow trick is... well, tricky. The arrow, unless special somehow, would probably break away on a strong pull. Not always player ideas are good ideas, and sometimes things go bad. My advice is:

If the thing they are trying to do looks reasonable and viable, look for the most similar stuff on the books and try to emulate it, considering possible drawbacks (extra costs, in gold or even in actions) and advantages over the standard methods.

If what they try to do is... a bit off, then feel free to say that it went bad.

Try to reward creative, realistic ideas, but don't feel obligated to say "Yeah, that work" for everything they try.

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Perhaps add a "Usually the PCs should pay a cost, such as using an Action, or take a risk with a skill or luck roll" to last paragraph as well (although clear in your fire arrow example). –  Neil Slater May 21 '14 at 13:52
You guys are awesome thank you so much! –  Kpt.Khaos May 21 '14 at 13:56
Great answer. The idea of emulating something that was done occassionally in real life by invoking a property meant to apply to magic amuses endlessly. –  TimothyAWiseman May 21 '14 at 15:39
I love this answer. I'd take it a step further by saying "yes I'll let you do that", but handle the mechanics behind the scenes. The character is basically improvising and would have no way of knowing the outcome –  Doktor J May 21 '14 at 20:12
Upvoted, but I'd say 1d6 is too much for simply dipping the arrow in oil and lighting it. Taking the extra action along with a negligible amount of oil is just too little price. I'd recommend reducing it to 1d4 or maybe even 1d2 as a sort of "improvisation" penalty. After reading DevSolar's comments on the question, I'd rule that a specially designed arrow for lighting on fire would get a full 1d6, but that anything not designed to be lit on fire will be far worse at it. –  EnvisionAndDevelop May 22 '14 at 13:18

You improvise with the closest match.

Here the player wants to set their arrows on fire, fair game to them; what else is on fire? A torch.

The torch text states:

If a torch is used in combat, treat it as a one-handed improvised weapon that deals bludgeoning damage equal to that of a gauntlet of its size, plus 1 point of fire damage.

So for their arrows I'd add one point of fire damage. Not brilliant, but a nice to have for emergency "must do that troll some fire damage".

Similarly for tying a rope to an arrow; you can modify it; what else grabs people? A whip which you can use to trip or grabble someone. Doing this isn't going to help the accuracy of the weapon, so make it count as an improvised weapon (-4 to attack)

I'd also add, beware beware damage multipliers; these can swiftly get out of hand and cause insane amounts of damage. Very few things (except crits) multiply damage (and then it's a separate roll); most things will add dice or straight points of damage.

As @KRyan has observed, you want to reward player cleverness but all ideas shouldn't necessarily work or you'll end up with people trying increasingly insane things. Some things will work; some won't - it'll be your call.

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Hmm interesting concept I like it thank you for your help!. I have one more question about this. I modified my asked question to include it. –  Kpt.Khaos May 21 '14 at 13:45
Modified can you look and see if you can help? –  Kpt.Khaos May 21 '14 at 13:46
Thank you so much your awesome! –  Kpt.Khaos May 21 '14 at 13:56
This is definitely what I would do. Sure, 1 added fire damage isn't that much, but if you really, really need some fire to make that troll stop regenerating, it's good enough. I would probably make it a move action to light a pre-prepared fire arrow, assuming there's already a handy source of fire nearby. This doesn't really hurt low-level archers anyway, since they get no benefit from full-attacking. –  Paul Z May 21 '14 at 15:41
Also, low level guys need all the help they can get. High level characters should be carrying specific alchemical flame arrows or magical flame arrows if they want to do this sort of stunt - doing it with random oil or pitch should necessarily be worse. –  Jack Lesnie May 22 '14 at 18:02

Fire Arrows

I want to try to give a bit of analysis on the existing answers, which were the two things my mind also jumped to when I saw the question.

The flaming property adds 1d6 fire damage to weapon damage. Torches, as improvised weapons, add 1 fire damage to their weapon damage. So we have a range of +1 to +1d6 damage; 1d6 averages 3.5, so it is about 3½× as good as the +1.

Personally, I feel that an improvised fire arrow isn’t likely to be much better than an improvised torch, and probably not nearly as good as true magic. But it probably is a little better than the torch; after all, the fire is, ideally, getting plunged into the target. So for consistency, I’d probably rule the damage to be +1d3 (average 2) or +1d4 (average 2.5).

That said, consistency isn’t the only concern. There’s also a desire to reward clever players, and possibly to improve mundane access to alternate damage types. After all, non-magical characters have painfully few options for dealing with, e.g., swarms. So from that perspective, I probably would go with +1d6 fire damage. But, I might also improve the flaming property itself, now both for consistency (should be better than an improvised fire arrow) and for improving player options (it’s a bit lack-luster on its own, perhaps).

Gwet Ovar Hier!

For the rope+arrow thing, I’d probably rule it an impromptu harpoon, from Frostburn, though with arrow damage and proficiency requirement, and an improvised weapon penalty on the attack roll (−4). Now, the harpoon does not actually allow you to drag enemies to you (and I feel that the arrow would slip out or break, or the rope would break), but it does stick in opponents, and you can hold the rope to prevent them from moving further away from you. The enemy can remove the arrow, but it wastes an action and deals extra damage (though I’d probably reduce both of these with respect to the harpoon, unless it was specifically a barbed arrow or something).

Mostly, this tactic probably just wouldn’t work, and while I would give the players something for rule of cool, I don’t think I could justify very much here. I would suggest that they might be able to work on making a real version of what they tried to improvise, and that might work better.

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+1. I agree that a true flaming weapon could be better than an improvised arrow. I mostly used the d6 for simplicity, however you have a point here for consistency with other options. –  Thales Sarczuk May 21 '14 at 14:37

Hmm. Never having fired a flaming arrow personally I don't mind being corrected but I've seen lots in movies. They have a wad of cloth or something absorbent up near the head to carry the flammable material. The arrow has to be long enough so that the flaming part doesn't come back and burn the bow - all the non-flaming arrows I have fired have the head very close to the bow at full draw.

How much oil can the head of an arrow not carrying a wad of cloth carry? Not much! 1.5x damage seems very generous.

If the entire arrow is dipped in oil to carry more of it, how does the bow, bowstring and archer's hand react when the arrow is ignited?

It doesn't seem at all practical even within the realm of fantasy RPGs.

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I'm not sure the question is asking about realism or in-game practicality; it seems to be more focused on finding a mechanical solution which is balanced but rewarding for the players. –  BESW May 22 '14 at 3:02
the main reason for the rag-and-cage setup on a flaming arrow (and that rag soaked in oil) is not so much the amount of fire carried, but to get a flame going that is resilient enough to not be blown out by the firing of the arrow. IRL, that's the biggest difficulty with flaming arrows: they tend to blow out when fired, and getting that to not happen has a trick to it, and is moderately difficult to pull off. –  Matthew Najmon May 22 '14 at 3:23

Considering you are role playing, you have to think about what it would actually be like to use the weapon that they are trying to create. Often there are similar weapons in a book somewhere, or rules on how to change weapon properties, and even using improvised weapons.

In regards to the flaming arrows, depending on how detailed you want the game to be, you could have the players use time, or an minor action to make each arrow. I wouldn't say that just putting oil on the end of an arrow enables it to flame, but if they found cloth to wrap around the end to light on fire then it could be feasible. Aswell as that, you could have to use a minor action to light the arrow, maybe reduce the range if it was flaming, and possibly reduce the basic damage of the arrow. Then I would say adding flaming damage to the hit, usually flaming weapons add 1d6 and 2 onwards damage. It all really depends on how complex you allow the weapon to be, and how hard you want the use of these to be.

With the arrows attached to rope, it seems infeasible for an arrow to fire with a rope attached to it. if it did it would have massive reductions in range, accuracy (lower for an attack roll) and damage. If they really like the idea, maybe look at modifying a sling? seems much more likely that a rock could send a rope long distances. At the end of the day the best advice is to think about whether you could make it in the real world, and if you couldn't, maybe its a bad idea to make it in your RPG.

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