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Red dragons have immunity to fire. They take no damage from fire, lava, or anything like that.

But in both Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and Pathfinder

Boiling water deals 1d6 points of scalding damage, unless the character is fully immersed, in which case it deals 10d6 points of damage per round of exposure.

Boiling water deals scalding damage, not fire damage.

Does this mean that one can essentially make red dragon soup, cooking a dragon as one would an oversized, fire-breathing lobster?

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"as one would an oversized, fire-breathing lobster?" -- great tip. I already had a recipe for over-sized fire-breathing lobster but none for red dragon, and I didn't realise I could just substitute ;-) – Steve Jessop Feb 20 at 19:23
Related: It need not be the heat that kills the dragon as it boils. ;) – jpmc26 Feb 21 at 7:02
up vote 66 down vote accepted

Although it's silly, you may be able to boil to death a red dragon

The distinctions both Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and Pathfinder make between scalding damage and fire damage is, while sort of dumb, pretty clear: both sets of rules say, "Boiling water deals 1d6 points of scalding damage...," and scalding damage isn't fire damage. (However, I suspect many DMs and GMs would probably—no matter the letter of the rules—nonetheless say a red dragon's immune to damage from boiling water if serious business demanded it.)

However, a diligent chef should be aware that in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 the spell boiling oil [conj] (Heroes of Battle 125-6) says, in part, that

A torrent of boiling oil rains down in the area you specify. Creatures in the area take 4d6 points of scalding (fire) damage from the oil. (126)

Thus it's possible that with this spell Noonan et al. were trying to put this particular rules quirk to rest by pointing out that scalding damage is, in fact, fire damage and would everyone just stop with the wisecracks already? But no one paid any mind, and the quirk persists. Whether it persists in the campaign is something best discovered through adventuring.

Likewise, in Pathfinder, in a thread where creative director James Jacobs will answer just about any question, there's the following exchange:

Question: Can you make a ruling about the effectiveness of cold/fire resistance and evironmental [sic] dangers of heat and cold? Does cold/fire resistance negate the dangers of cold/heat? Does it reduce the lethal damage one would take if the fail the associated save? Does one get a bonus to fortitude save for their resistance? Inquiring minds would like to know.
Answer: Damage from cold temperatures is cold damage. Damage from hot temperatures is fire damage.

Again, whether that's sufficient to change in a particular campaign the damage boiling water deals from the printed scalding damage to actual, for-reals, about-darn-time fire damage is best determined by experimenting.

Anyway, to aid you in your quest, here's a possible recipe.

Red Dragon Soup

This is the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 version of this recipe. The Pathfinder version will likely require an oversized cauldron of brewing.



  1. Create a big enough pot to accommodate the red dragon by casting on the appropriate raw materials the spell fabricate or casting the spell major creation.
  2. Create enough water in the pot to immerse the red dragon by casting the spell create water.
  3. Entice the red dragon into the pot. Note: The author is not responsible for dangers encountered during this step.
  4. On the water in the pot cast the spell heat water.3
  5. Boil the dragon until dead. Note: The author is really, really not responsible for dangers encountered during this step.
  6. Carve dragon.4
  7. Serve in thick bowls with thinly sliced shriekers for dipping.


1 This step can be omitted if an appropriately sized pot is available, perhaps one affected by the spell shrink item.
2 This step can also be omitted if the (kind, generous, quirky?) DM allows the water in the pot to also be affected by the spell shrink item.
3 The 0-level Sor/Wiz spell heat water [evoc] (Dragon #302 50) targets only 2 pints of water, likely significantly less than what's needed. This chef suggests equipping sous chefs possessing ranks in the skill Use Magic Device with wands of heat water so that all of the water in the pot can be heated simultaneously.
4 This chef leaves this heavy lifting to a custom version of the spell blade barrier, but an adamatine weapon should work just as well.

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Even though the recipe does not include spices, +1 for thoroughness. – KorvinStarmast Feb 19 at 19:35
+1 for the recipe. But in pathfinder, boiling damage is fire damage. Same for hot water, hot steam, hot breath. If it deals damage through increase of heat, you can say its fire damage. Examples bellow. – ShadowKras Apr 7 at 11:38
Enviromental Rules: "Extreme heat (air temperature over 140° F, fire, boiling water, lava) deals lethal damage. Breathing air in these temperatures deals 1d6 points of fire damage per minute (no save)." – ShadowKras Apr 7 at 11:38

My first instict would be to say this is a language problem. Of course scalding damage means heat damage and so fire damage. It's poetic license (yes even rules writters get that).

Pathfinder Dev James Jacob agrees::

Damage from cold temperatures is cold damage. Damage from hot temperatures is fire damage.

So scalding damage is fire damage.

To further support this I'd also use examples like Scalding touch:

And then I'd use the example of Scalding creatures:

But only until I come up to this (Scalding Form (Su)):

"half of this damage is fire damage and the other half is untyped."

Why Pathfinder? Why? Joking aside, obviously some Dev here decided that there's something different (magical?) about the heat transfer from boiling water/steam to the heat transfer from open flame or a white hot iron poker or whatever (there isn't in real life).

For 3.5, other than the same linguistic arguments, one can consider the rules from the book Sandstorm around page 15 and close to it:

Resistance to Fire: A character with a spell or effect granting resistance to fire applies this resistance to both lethal and nonlethal damage from hot temperatures.

And also look up the Scalding Mud spell in that book, also says fire damage.

But just don't dig too deep into the Heat Metal:: spell which says "if cast underwater, heat metal deals half damage and boils the surrounding water." You will not find a rule about what "surrounding water" volume and effect is. You will just have to use DM's common sense (I think it's poetic license, no extra damage, only some water fizzling around target, flavor text basically).

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DM Discretion
There is nothing linking scalding damage to fire, other than they are both mentioned in the Heat subsection. In fact, that boiling water line appears to be the only mention of scalding damage in either Pathfinder or DND3.5. Furthermore, Lava specifically mentions that fire resistance counts, in that same document.

Immunity or resistance to fire serves as an immunity to lava or magma.

While there is no rule equating scalding damage to fire resistance, there is also no rule that states that heat immunity would apply to scalding either. The game assumes some knowledge of real world phenomena and reasonable DM rulings. I think this would fall into that category, and that a reasonable DM would likely consider boiling water equivalent to lava for calculating resistances.

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Please note the presence of the RAW tag. 'DM discretion' when not indicated by the rules, and "I think this would fall into that category, and that a reasonable DM would likely consider boiling water equivalent to lava for calculating resistances." with no evidence or support, is not an answer. Remember that you must Back Up your claims, and also that untested homebrew (e.g. 'just rule it as lava') in generally not an acceptable answer. – the dark wanderer Feb 19 at 19:14
@thedarkwanderer Eh, I’m inclined to say this is a reasonable frame challenge. The “answer” is that there is “nothing linking scalding damage to fire, other than they are both menitoned in the Heat subsection. In fact, that boiling water line appears to be the only mention of scalding damage in either Pathfinder or DND3.5.” Per challenging the frame, a frame challenge should justify itself by giving an as-asked answer, which this does. It doesn’t prove the negative, but then negatives can’t be proven. – KRyan Feb 19 at 19:29
@thedarkwanderer It is an answer, but I'd have separated that last bit about rulings from the main body due to the [rules-as-written] tag with a caveat. "The game assumes" IMO ought to begin a separate paragraph. OBTW, your defense of the RAW tag is both noted and supported. – KorvinStarmast Feb 19 at 20:31

To be brief

Writing in 'scalding' instead of 'fire' or 'necrotic' instead of 'negative energy' does indeed mean that damage type is, for the purposes of RAW, a new type of damage. Even if it's a typo (as long as it is uncorrected). There are many weird types of damage in DnD, some intended, others not, none of them particularly balanced, and multiple instances where a writer probably intended some other type of damage but got it wrong (as with other rules terms and terminology).

RAW is dumb, though, and the rules require patching in many circumstances, which is why they are written in plaintext instead of computer code, and we have a living arguably-sentient being (the GM) to make decisions about things like 'whether or not red dragons are immune to scalding damage'. Which yes, they probably should be, unless you decide that their immunity to magma doesn't extend to boiling water because the steam goes inside certain non-fire-proof folds of their sensory organs or whatever and damages them in that way. Or any other explanation to allow it to exist for whatever reason - because it's funny, because it's interesting, because why not. When not going strictly from RAW (which you.. never should) the course of action depends on the table on the GM. The only real guideline is to be consistent with your application of the rules. If one red dragon can be scalded to death but another can't, there needs to be a reason for that, such as lead earplugs or being a clearly different breed. Plausibility, verisimilitude, etc. Otherwise, it really is just up to whatever works best for the table and the story.

As trying to 'interpret RAW' to be less insane often results in something still fairly insane, and doesn't take into account local factors like what the people at the table think is interesting, realistic, or fun, it's less valuable than the GM simply making a decision. As RAW is sometimes insane and doesn't take into account local factors, it is equally less valuable than the GM making a decision.

So the answer to 'Can a red dragon be boiled to death?' is 'Depends if your GM thinks it can or not.'

It may be a relatively moot question. If you submerge a red dragon long enough, it will simply drown.

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Oh, I'm not arguing that RAW sometimes is dumb. However, one of the favorite things of my players is actually creating silly situations that are only possible because the way RAW is worded - Like a night elf being able to swing naked on a volcano thanks to Fire Resistance 1. That's why I asked this question as Rules-as-Written. I KNOW the rules are silly, I'm trying to find out how much. – Thales Sarczuk Apr 11 at 10:59

Not wanting to nitpick, but a Red Dragon would actually drown when submerged in lava, for the simple reason it cannot breathe there.

Its' immunity versus fire does not grant any immunity versus scolding steam damage, however, at young adult it does get DR 5/magic (a mature adult has DR 10/magic) and that will actually protect the dragon versus (non-magical) steam damage attacks. Problem with DR is, that although scolding damage is never mentioned as an energy subtype, it is not an attack in this case, either, DR therefor has no use. (Thank you for pointing that out in the comments.)

Conclusion: IF you('re able to) submerge a Red Dragon in boiling water -quite the spectacle I presume- it'll probably be a race between drowning-effects (high Con) and the loss of hit points (a lot) for a long time, so place your bets now!

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DR x/magic won't protect a dragon from steam damage: “The creature takes normal damage from energy attacks (even nonmagical ones)”. – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 at 21:09
(I would've pointed you here.) – Hey I Can Chan Jul 18 at 21:14
I would prefer a link to something that actually states steam is an energy-attack in the first place, and scolding damage is an energy-damage-(sub)type that DR thus cannot negate. (I Said I was nitpicking...) However, the "no-attack-roll" is a definitively valid argument, I stand corrected. – agodwithoutananswer Jul 18 at 21:21

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