A PC in my campaign uses burning hands all the time. He keeps asking, "If the monster is on fire, does the monster keep on taking damage automatically?" Does it?

The monster is on fire because it was wearing clothes and leather armour which presumably become on fire after burning hands.


1 Answer 1


By RAW, the monster is not on fire. Burning Hands states (emphasis mine):

Burning Hands:

The fire ignites any flammable Objects in the area that aren't being worn or carried.

roll20 compendium and PHB p.221

Thus, you could use Burning Hands to start a campfire, brush fire, or even light a barn on fire. But not set a creature or its clothing on fire.

Related topic:

Spells only do what they say they do, so if continued damage was intended then the spell would say so.

There is no general rule for being on fire. Effects that can cause a creature to be on fire will specify how much damage is done for how long. Different effects will cause different amounts of damage.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's best to think of burning hands as burning in the same way that a hot stove is 'burning'. It wont set you on fire if you touch it, but it will still burn you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Omegastick
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 1:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Omegastick - except that it will set a shirt on fire if it's lying in the corner. I don't think it's worth trying to rationalize this bit of the rules - they just are how they are. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 12:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MartinBonner The rationalization for that bit is actually pretty easy. Items being worn or carried can be assumed to be moving. The creature targeted will take damage from being exposed to the flame, but likely the flame won't have an opportunity to focus on one specific section of a shirt (or other wearable item) long enough to ignite it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Beofett
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 13:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ If I were DMing this, I'd narrate that the monsters do catch on fire, but that the damage they take while on fire is calculated up-front. So, if they take 3d6 damage I pretend for 3 rounds that they're still on fire. If that damage dropped them to 0HP then they're rolling around on the ground in agony for 3 rounds. That way the spell needs no mechanical changes, but the player still gets the satisfaction of seeing their enemies running around on fire. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 17:15

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