So one of my loony players found a necklace of fireballs. He is a suicidally over-confidant Tiefling sorcerer.

Against all logic and reason, and probably just to prove that he could, he ate one of the necklace of fireball beads, confident that his racial fire resistance would save him.

My issue is he ate the damn thing. I know holding a firework tightly can cost you your fingers but by that logic, it should be so much worse to swallow, what is basically a grenade.

Can someone give me some idea of what should happen in this case?

Edit: Thank you all the great answers. Some fantastic ideas to be found in the responses.

  • 2
    This somewhat-related question includes some discussion about what actually activates the beads. – Oblivious Sage Nov 2 '17 at 13:14
  • Something to consider is that it might not be My Guy but one of the articles referenced in that answer bankuei.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/abused-gamer-syndrome. I realized I was doing this in one of my friend's games and have decided to never be a player there again. – Slagmoth Nov 2 '17 at 13:47
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    How was the bead consumed? Did he throw it in his mouth like a piece of popcorn, or placed it in his mouth? – Anketam Nov 4 '17 at 11:11
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    This question about fireball beads hit the ... hot question network. – Andrew Grimm Nov 5 '17 at 11:31
up vote 132 down vote accepted

By the book, not dead at all.

From the description of the item on page 182 of the DMG:

You can use an action to detach a bead and throw it up to 60 feet away. When it reaches the end of its trajectory, the bead detonates as a 3rd-level fireball spell (save DC 15)

The beads have to be thrown for them to detonate. By RAW this is the only way for them to activate and thus swallowing them does nothing.

Even if you want to make a ruling, the text seems to imply that they blow up on impact. You could extend that to "when destroyed", but it is also unlikely that an item like this would be damaged by gastric fluids, as it is most probably made of glass or stone. The worst they would be facing if I were the DM is an explosive diarrhea. You are free to decide otherwise, however.

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    "I drop my pants and cast Fireball" should totally give them Inspiration. – Erik Nov 2 '17 at 11:14
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    As a sidenote; this is an awesome way to smuggle a bead into a prison or a similar situation. Personally, I'd make it a 10-20% chance it explodes unless "extracted" carefully when nature takes it course. – DocWeird Nov 2 '17 at 11:51
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    @DocWeird you and people like you are the reason I come to this site. – Overthinks Nov 2 '17 at 11:54
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    Next step: throw the tiefling somewhere. With the bead inside. Will he blow up on impact? Alternatively, wait for the next time he falls a few feet. A three-foot deep ditch has suddenly become a lethal trap for him. – Stephan Kolassa Nov 2 '17 at 12:02
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    That, too, shall pass. – Novak Nov 2 '17 at 21:45

I'll save the most important bits for last.

What should happen (rules)?

In my opinion, nothing.

By the rules, the Necklace of Fireballs only causes fireballs when individual detached beads, or the whole necklace, is hurled as an action. My interpretation is that eating the necklace or a bead does not constitute hurling it, and therefore doesn't trigger the effect. If we would compare it to the grenade, it would be like having the safety pin on while eating it - probably unpleasant and unhealthy, but not explosively so.

What should happen (around the table)?

Your player sounds like they are experiencing My Guy Syndrome. They have chosen to play a suicidally overconfident loony, and either feel obliged or simply want to keep playing this type of personality to its fullest, even when it's detrimental to the game experience the rest of the party (and possibly the character' player themselves) is pursuing.

Now, it may seem tempting to deal out a lesson here by making the necklace explode inside the tiefling, causing a ludicrously loud and messy death. Trust me, it's not a good idea, and here's a few reasons why:

  • The player may actually be trying to roleplay their character to their full extent with good intentions. Punishing the player by killing their character is an unjust way to correct the issue and is likely to cause tension between the players involved.
  • The player may actually be trying to provoke you. You giving interesting outcomes for all kinds of stunts they pull off is the reward they seek, even if these outcomes are adverse to their character.
  • It sets a precedent to everyone involved, including the more serious players, that you are willing to kill off characters at whim, and will increase adversarial attitude around the table.

So my suggestion? Talk to your players about the expectations in your game, My Guy syndrome and negotiate the tone for your game so everyone's happy with it. Consider using the Same Page Tool if you haven't already. Open discussion about how the game is to be played around your table will improve your experience.

As for the necklace, it's now eaten. In a day's time, in-game, during a short rest or other downtime, give it back. It came out naturally. Don't embellish this in any way if you don't want them to keep eating random stuff again for more excretion scenes. This way, you'll both be fair to your players by giving the magic item they deserved back, and reduce the appeal of weird responses to weird behaviors.

Treat it like eating a jalapeño: it burns on the way out.

The bead needs to be thrown at a target to activate the fireball.

... and throw it up to 60 feet away. When it reaches the end of its trajectory, the bead detonates as a 3rd-level fireball spell (save DC 15) (DMG p. 182)

The PC didn't activate the magic by throwing it at a target, so the bead will behave like a bead ... eaten by a child. My daughter did this more than once when she was very young, swallowing beads from play necklaces, and in one case a straight pin (which required a visit to the doctor). Checking a child's stool is part of the joys of parenthood.

This (bead) too shall pass. When it does, let the PC know how it feels, and how it burns. (Substitute in other hot and spicy food for jalapeño as appropriate). Whether or not the PC then wishes to use it as intended, or to leave it with the other waste, will be a PC decision.

The whole point here is to have fun with this.

Well, as mentioned above, I don't think swallowing it would trigger it, unless his act has stomach acids capable of destroying it, which would probably cause a fatal release of magically power.

The widest definition of 'hurled/thrown' however would basically be 'Propelled by a organic or mechanical mechanism so it leaves it's owner's possession'.

So a day or so later, when (ideally) the character has kinda forgotten all about it, they go off a little way from the party to 'do their business'..... there is an almighty bang (don't forget, the added power of methane!) and the character is half-way up some tree in the forest feeling kinda sorry for it's bum-hole!

Fire resistance might save him, but well.... a close proximity fireball is certainly going to cause a lot of pain!

TL;DR, No more than usual, probably less

It probably doesn't even go off

The other answers have all addressed that it probably doesn't go off, as it is not being used as indicated. But a few things I want to add to that. Namely that not all explosives trigger the same way. Google "Mythbusters burn C4" if you want a great example. If a real world explosive can be that powerful, yet that safe and stable, imagine what you can do with magic. Or what you would do with magic, if you were designing a set of bombs that you wear around your neck.

If you decide it does explode

If you decide it does go off anyway, I direct you to my answer from this remarkably similar question.

Mixing potions via ingestion & critical failures on potion miscibility

If that was also a TL;DR, the short version is that HP and damage are an abstraction to make the game simpler and more fun. Messing with that is not to be done lightly. And if you do, be prepared for the players to use it against you. Like waiting until the white dragon is sleeping, and making her swallow the beads for instant-kill or at least massive extra damage.

So the player should only take 6d6 (or whatever size bead it was), minus the tiefling's fire DR.

(Personally I would have it do nothing, as acid does not set it off. But the bead would also be consumed by the acid. Thus punishing their foolishness by not getting the effect they want, at the same time depriving them of a useful, consumable magic item.)

  • 6
    "...useful, consumable magic item." Yes, the player's already proven it's consumable, when he consumed it. – gatherer818 Nov 6 '17 at 0:54
  • A 3rd level Fireball does 8d6 damage in 5e. A sorcerer has a D6 hit die. So a tiefling sorcerer will probably have to be roughly 4th level to survive it, but preferably 5th level. Given that a Necklace of Fireballs is worth anywhere between 1500 and 8000 GP and the player found it as part of a treasure hoard, I doubt they're only 5th level, and probably closer to 11th level. – Nzall Nov 6 '17 at 13:39

To extend SZega's answer, I'd suggest considering the other characteristics of the item. It might be hot, or they might choke on it, or maybe it breaks a tooth if the PC bit down on it. I had a similar situation in a campaign I was running a while ago, and made the PC roll an easy throw to determine whether they choked on the item. They did, but another PC saved him and recovered the item (which was a ring, swallowed to prevent them from being locked in a dungeon under suspicion of murdering a local moneyman).

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    "I use the Heimlich maneuver." "As you squeeze on [character]'s rib cage, he splutters and gags. The bead shoots out of his mouth and across the room. Everyone in the room roll to save against fire..." – user3067860 Nov 2 '17 at 16:15
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    My thoughts exactly. The zany events that can ensue from tabletop RPGs will never cease to astound me! – DingusKhan Nov 2 '17 at 17:04

Others have addressed that swallowing the bead doesn't cause it to detonate, however, because its much more fun, let's assume that it does detonate.

A fireball is not a chemical explosive

There is no explosion, just an area of fire:

You select a sphere’s point of origin, and the sphere extends outward from that point. The sphere’s size is expressed as a radius in feet that extends from the point.

For a Fireball:

The fire spreads around corners.

Therefore, as the fire has several paths out of the creature - some involving a lot of corners - the creature is at the centre of a 20 foot radius sphere of fire.

It is probably appropriate to give the tifling disadvantage on their Dexterity saving throw for half damage.

Disadvantage? Surely they should automatically fail? Surely not! While a Dexterity save represents, in part, an ability to get out of the way (the Dexterity modifier), it also represents skill (proficiency) and luck (the roll). Of these, luck is by far the biggest component. A creature must be unconscious before it automatically fails saving throws.

To treat it any other ways leads to the type of commonsense but game-breaking considerations that the person at the edge of a Fireball should have a better chance than one in the centre. If D&D was a simulation I will entertain such arguments, but it isn't and this sort of detail is below the threshold of its abstractions. Not to mention that the same conditions that let the Fireball out of the tifling will also let it into anyone else.

As others have pointed out, eating the ball isn't listed among the triggers and so probably won't set it off.

Additionally, I would suggest that the analogy of holding a firecracker probably does not apply. Fireball causes a brief sphere of fire, but squeezing the explosion in one dimension (say by casting it into a narrow corridor) does not cause it to extend further in other dimensions. Likewise, casting it in a contained space does not increase the damage done. In short, it does not generate a pressure wave, the damage comes entirely from thermal effects. So if it does happen to go off you're either going to get a small fireball entirely inside the tiefling, or you're going to get a normal fireball with the tiefling at the center, but in either case there's nothing that his damage resistance won't help with.

This does, of course, mean that the party doesn't get to use fireball as a general-purpose explosive, which they may find to be disappointing, but calculating fireball spread in corridors and around corners is a pain and doesn't add much to the game.

Necklace of Fireballs (DMG p.182)

You can use an action to detach a bead and throw it up to 60 feet away. When it reaches the end of its trajectory, the bead detonates as a 3rd-level fireball spell (save DC 15)

RAW the bead has not been thrown to be able to reach the end of a trajectory so nothing happens. This has already been said.

However the "rule of cool", the expectations of the consequence of such a stupid act suggest that this should probably not be so anti-climactic. There are many examples in popular culture fiction of someone swallowing something that will go bang (XMen First class is the one that springs to mind straight away) and in this case the DM should feel free to house rule that it does indeed count as having been triggered, and the end of it's trajectory is the stomach of the Teifling (hereafter known as the idiot ;) ).

As to the effects of this a fireball is constrained by barriers, even if only the idiot's chest, so it will only effect the idiot themselves. It is clear that Dexterity saves against swallowed fireballs should automatically fail, much as if the target was paralysed as far as this effect was concerned and they take the full 8d6 damage, doing damage in the range 8 to 48 with an average of 28. As they have fire resistance then this will be halved to a range of 4 to 24 with an average of 14. There is a good chance a reasonable level character will survive this.

However there is a rules option you may want to consider given the internal damage nature of this.

Lingering Injuries (DMG p.272)

It's up to you to decide when to check for a lingering injury. A creature might sustain a lingering injury under the following circumstances:

  • When it takes a critical hit
  • When it drops to 0 hit points but isn't killed outright
  • When it fails a death saving throw by 5 or more

These are just suggestions of when a DM might decide to apply a lingering injury. I think judging that eating a fireball should count as a condition for sustaining a lingering injury is very reasonable.

And then there is the Massive Damage optional rule which may apply also, depending on how much damage was done:

Massive Damage (DMG p.273)

When a creature takes damage from a single source equal to or greater than half its hit point maximum, it must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or suffer a random effect determined by a roll on the System Shock table.

Obviously whether you can apply this depends on the hit point total of the idiot.

protected by nitsua60 Nov 2 '17 at 16:43

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