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One of my players is trying to invent a lighter and I was wondering if anything like that existed.


I'm aware that in D&D 5E there are many different ways to make fire, the main groups I can think of are:

  • Magical
  • Racial/Class abilities
  • Mundane equipment

I am specifically interest in how to make fire mundanely. From reading through the PHB the only real fire starter I can find is the Tinderbox.

So what equipment is there in D&D 5e to light fires, or is that it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What exact mechanical details are you looking to find besides the one presented here? What is the problem you are trying to solve? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Feb 12 '18 at 19:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ One of my players is trying to invent a lighter and I was wondering if anything like that existed. \$\endgroup\$ – GPPK Feb 12 '18 at 19:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there something wrong with simply retheming tinderbox as a lighter? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Feb 12 '18 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ No of course not, I just thought id ask the oracle in case i'd missed anything \$\endgroup\$ – GPPK Feb 12 '18 at 19:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Out of curiosity, what is the purpose of inventing the lighter? Are they intending to gain some mechanical benefit from this or is it purely flavor? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Feb 12 '18 at 19:38
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The tinderbox is the closest thing to a lighter in the rules

If you are looking for explicit references to how to light a fire you are not going to find anything more than this.

This small container holds flint, fire steel, and tinder (usually dry cloth soaked in light oil) used to kindle a fire. Using it to light a torch - or anything else with abundant, exposed fuel - takes an action. Lighting any other fire takes 1 minute.

Making a lighter from the tinderbox

If you are interested in allowing a player to make a lighter in game and are looking for mechanics, I would recommend simply reskinning the tinderbox mechanics and call it a lighter.

Depending on how the player goes about making it (and how generous you want to be) you could even give it some advantages over the tinderbox. For example, you could make it waterproof or you could allow it to be used one-handed.

You could also model it after the Rock Gnome's tinker racial ability and just make it a mundane mechanical item:

Fire Starter. The device produces a miniature flame, which you can use to light a candle, torch, or campfire. Using the device requires your action.

Don't worry about fire-lighting mechanics unless it makes the story more interesting or fun!

Adventurers likely know many ways to start a fire: flint and steel, charred wool, etc. Lighting a fire is an essential adventuring activity and doing so would be second nature to most adventurers. For the most part, it is just assumed that adventurers are capable if not very good at lighting fires.

So, under normal circumstances, it doesn't seem super interesting to focus on and track the minutia involved in starting campfires and the like.

If you prefer to do this at your table, or if the characters are in a circumstance that does make it interesting, just use the tinderbox mechanics and you're done.

If the player is trying to use this to gain some sort of mechanical advantage (not just reflavoring a useful item) then you will have to judge to make sure it won't negatively affect your game. I don't see much potential for abuse however, especially if you require that lighting something on fire take an action at least (as per the tinderbox rules).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Rock Gnomes can make lighters. :) \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Feb 12 '18 at 19:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Interestingly enough, in the last session I played in (last week) we had someone trying to light a fire and get ambushed by a direwolf while he was distracted. \$\endgroup\$ – M C Feb 12 '18 at 20:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. Right, but he excluded racial abilities in the original question. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Feb 12 '18 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym Nope, but the answerer got what I was hinting at. :) \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Feb 12 '18 at 21:06
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Page 37 of the PHB describes how rock gnomes can make a Fire Starter that sounds a lot like what you are looking for. It has some serious limitations.

Tinker. You have proficiency with artisan's tools (tinker's tools). Using those tools, you can spend 1 hour and 10 gp worth of materials to construct a Tiny clockwork device (AC 5, 1 hp). The device ceases to function after 24 hours (unless you spend 1 hour repairing it to keep the device functioning), or when you use your action to dismantle it; at that time, you can reclaim the materials used to create it. You can have up to three such devices active at a time. When you create a device, choose one of the following options:

. . .

Fire Starter. The device produces a miniature flame, which you can use to light a candle, torch, or campfire. Using the device requires your action.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey Thanks for the edit. I copy pasted from a scan of the PHB, and didn't realize just how bad the text recognition is. \$\endgroup\$ – BobTheAverage Feb 17 '18 at 1:06
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Other than the tinderbox, there's the magnifying glass, a flask of alchemist's fire, or of course carrying a live flame with you in the form of a lantern or similar.

Historically they used to have containers designed to hold a bit of charcoal or something and keep it smouldering for a long time, but mechanically that's probably just a tinderbox or component thereof.

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In addition to the tinderbox, there is historically a device called "slow match", which was in common use in Europe from the 1400s to the 1600s. Depending on your world's tech level, this could also be introduced into your D&D game, at least for some races and places. I would be inclined to say that if your world is sophisticated enough to have Alchemist's Fire, having slow match wouldn't be out of the question.

The DMG has optional rules regarding blasting powder, early firearms, cannons, and so forth (pp.267-268), so it's up to the DM how much of this technology he wants to incorporate. I'm not choosing to include explosives and firearms in general, but slow match seems to me to be a perfectly fine and useful alchemical discovery.

I have this in my world, although I have not fully decided yet who has it and who doesn't in 5e. In the original AD&D 1e, dwarves were not able to be mages, and didn't use magic much in general, so I had them as the tech leaders of non-magic. They had repeating crossbows, slow match, even primitive cannons, and so on. In 5e, dwarves are not so restricted, so I may have to modify this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest adding the points about optional muskets and such in the DMG to complement your point about slow match. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 12 '18 at 23:22

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