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Story

We're starting an Icewind Dale campaign with level 15'ish characters we've built up through 4 previous campaigns. The team is concerned that one player (pyromancer, Roy "Trogdor" Mustang the Burninator of Amestris) will be exceedingly overpowered, and the DM seems to be in favor of some overpowered features from unearthed arcana. The team thinks the pyromancer should branch out a bit for spells, but "Roy" insists on staying in-character, and that "anything should be able to burn". This is what the typical battle looks like:

A Dragon Ball Z animated image/gif, in which you can see Vegeta provoking a huge explosion by unleashing a powerful energy attack. The explosion is growing like a dome and destroying everything in its path around him

Problems: Burninate all the Things

In "Plane Shift: Kaladesh":

Fire in the Veins: At 6th level, you gain resistance to fire damage. In addition, spells you cast ignore resistance to fire damage.

Fiery Soul: At 18th level, you gain immunity to fire damage. In addition, any spell or effect you create ignores resistance to fire damage and treats immunity to fire damage as resistance to fire damage.

And from the Player's Handbook:

Elemental Adept - Fire. Prerequisite: The ability to cast at least one spell. When you gain this feat, choose one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder. Spells you cast ignore resistance to damage of the chosen type. In addition, when you roll damage for a spell you cast that deals damage of that type, you can treat any 1 on a damage die as a 2. You can select this feat multiple times. Each time you do so, you must choose a different damage type.

Roy is already wandering into the middle of a crowd of enemies, using wall of fire, and encircling enemies plus himself, and roasting all the enemies (ignoring enemy resistance on his attacks, and also having resistance on self damage against himself, so he's less likely to take damage), and uses font of magic to further skew this. The DM has already ruled that when Roy hits level 18, he is immune to his own self-damage, and against enemies:

  • Treats immunity to fire as resistance to fire (Fiery Soul), and further treats that immunity-reduced-to-resistance as no resistance at all (i.e. allowing this to stack with Elemental Adept, largely due to another answer on this site, and this answer too).
  • Can use Font of Magic to further boost this, and basically nuke an entire area while being in the middle of it, while taking no damage from his own spells.
  • He has resistance to fire attacks against himself, and ignores resistance to fire by enemies. Pretty soon, he will be immune to his own attacks, and can ignore resistance and immunity to fire by enemies.

Remedy

We had a vote to introduce some iron golems into the campaign, which appear to have the ability to absorb fire damage, even from Roy:

Fire Absorption. Whenever the golem is subjected to fire damage, it takes no damage and instead regains a number of hit points equal to the fire damage dealt.

However, the DM has ruled that the "spirit" (i.e. intent) of the stacking of Fiery Soul and Elemental Adept would also bypass the fire absorption (i.e. "If this fire can set fire and lightning elementals on fire, a golem would be just as vulnerable to the same damage").

Question

Is there anything we can throw into the game, without changing the DM's rulings, that would prevent this one pyromancer min-max'er from dominating the battlefield? We're not trying to get them to leave, but the game is getting a bit boring with one person running into the middle of the battlefield and just nuking everything.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure why the PC is running into the crowd of enemies to cast the spell. This seems unnecessary. It has a range of 120 feet and can't move once cast so I'm wondering if some other confusion is taking place. Are they thinking the ring of fire is centered on them and moves with them? Because that is untrue. \$\endgroup\$
    – Steve
    Nov 7, 2021 at 8:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm confused on why Roy isn't taking damage. Level 6 grants him resistance to fire damage, but also says his spells ignore resistance to fire damage. Shouldn't his spells ignore his resistance to fire damage? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2021 at 18:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JasonGoemaat He isn't taking damage from his own spells because the DM made a bad ruling. It's hard to get around bad rulings. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael W.
    Nov 8, 2021 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you are not the DM, how do you plan to add things to the game? Does the rest of the table share your concerns? Was there ever a session zero about what the game would be like (if so, can you give us that info? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Nov 8, 2021 at 20:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the DM has house-ruled that the Pyromancer does not bypass all fire resitances/immunities (their own), and has house-ruled that Iron Golems do not gain HP from fire attacks of the Pyromancer, what makes you think they won't house-rule everything else too, making this question moot? IOW, what do you want from us? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2021 at 14:02

6 Answers 6

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Talk with your DM.

I don't know how much of this you've already tried, given that you specifically note that "changing their rulings" is outside the scope of the question, but open communication in a gaming group is so fundamental and important that I'm going to cover - and recommend - it anyway.

I'm also not really going to focus on the rulings themselves, and I'll encourage you to do the same. While I do believe that Roy and your DM are reading/ruling these abilities incorrectly in a way that makes Roy ridiculously powerful, especially in situations that are supposed to be challenges for him, favoring the players in general with rulings is common DM practice, and while it may be a major contributor to the problem, it isn't the real problem.

The problem here is not that Roy is so powerful; it's that you feel left out. Frame it accordingly. Accusing Roy of being a min-maxer, or accusing the DM of poor rulings or even favoritism, will only escalate the situation and lead to a shouting match and hurt feelings. Even directly asking them to reconsider the rulings can make them feel like their authority is being directly questioned. Instead, focus on the negative effect it's having on the rest of the table - and if you can, hold this conversation with everyone, yes Roy too, in attendance.

Don't just say you're not as powerful, don't focus on damage numbers or save DCs or anything like that. Focus on how your character's presence in combat has become almost completely unnecessary, and on how that translates directly to you, as a player, feeling like your presence at the table has become almost completely unnecessary. Focus on how that's not fun for you.

Most DMs (or players - you did include Roy in this conversation, right?) worth their salt, on hearing that this is happening, will want to find remedy and will ask what can be done to make things more fun for you. And at that point, you're having an open conversation about how the activity can be fun for everyone. If you want to address the rulings, now's the time, but keep the focus on what they do to hamper your experience.

Let him be the blaster, find another niche.

If for whatever reason this does not solve the issue, I fear you're not long for that table, but there is another thing you could try.

It's not uncommon for combat in general to be the least favorite part of the game for a player, or for the interest level among players to vary wildly among different parts of the game. Players who don't enjoy combat tend to prefer the rest of the game; the exploration, the socialization, etc. These are things that Roy and his wall of fire can't solve; fill one of those needs as you like.

Ask your DM if, in pursuit of one of these, you could change characters or respec your existing character. Again, if they're sensitive to the fact that you're not having a good time, they should be more than happy to accommodate you.

If all else fails, then leave.

If none of the above remedies the issue, then re-evaluate whether this is a table you want to be part of. Not gaming at all is preferable to this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As much as I appreciate the vote of confidence, the question is only four hours old, the answer is only four minutes old, and questions with accepted answers tend to get much less attention than those without. You can expect a much wider field of answers if you wait at least 24 hours before accepting an answer. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7, 2021 at 4:50
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Note that the Pyromancer ignores his own resistance.

If a Pyromancer Sorceror hits himself with his own spells, he'll deal the full damage to himself. Spells they cast ignore all fire resistance, including their own. If the sorceror is casting wall of fire and catching himself in the affected area, he'll take full damage.

Additionally, it sounds like you're confusing resistance to damage and advantage and disadvantage on attacks.

There's a general principle in 5e that spells only do what they say they do; wall of fire only affects attacks insofar as it is opaque, and blocks line-of-sight, imposing both disadvantage on attacks made through it due to attacking a creature you can't see, and advantage for attacking a creature who can't see you, for not net advantage or disadvantage on the attack roll.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ahh. OK, confusing resistance versus (dis)advantage: check. However, DM seems to be ignoring the first point (i.e. allowing the "best of both worlds" for pyromancer). As for wall of fire, my mistake: doesn't have (dis)advantage, just ignores enemy resistance. My biggest concern is that at level 18, Roy can just nuke everything with an attack he is immune to thanks to the DM's rulings so far. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7, 2021 at 2:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RoyMustangIsOP This is a very valid concern and exactly why the rules makes the pyromancer not immune to his own fire spells. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10, 2021 at 13:41
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This does not appear to be a good tactic

Your caster's wall of fire spell does 5d8 damage (around 23 damage) per turn on a failed save, or half that on a success.

Your caster's spell can kill a 210-hp iron golem in around 10 rounds, assuming the iron golem fails most of its saves.

But an iron golem does 46 damage per turn with its two sword attacks, with +13 to hit.

I'm guessing that your caster's AC is around 21 (with mage armor and 16 DEX and shield) and his HP is around 108 (assuming 16 CON). The golem lands around 30 damage per turn, and the caster goes down after four rounds.

That's making a lot of assumptions -- for example, I've assumed that the caster makes all his concentration checks, but I also assumed that he doesn't use any magic other than his wall of fire spell. But I hope that it still demonstrates the point that this wall of fire damage technique is not enough to kill even a single iron golem.

You've written that your caster is already doing this and somehow it is working. I'd recommend that you check that all the rules are being followed correctly. Your strange use of the term "disadvantage" when describing fire damage makes me think you might be misunderstanding some other important rule as well.


There's certainly some confusion around the question of how all these immunities and resistances and immunity- and resistance-ignoring powers combine. Rules As Written, it's not at all clear whether this character's spells deal full damage or half damage to fire-immune monsters. Rules As Written, it does appear that the caster's fire spells should be capable of piercing his own immunity.

But this doesn't seem relevant to the root of the problem, which is that the tactics you described just aren't very good, and they shouldn't be capable of beating an appropriately-leveled group of enemies, fire resistance or no.


When dealing with overpowered casters, one of the first things to check is if your group is doing enough combats per day.

Spellcasting is balanced around the assumption that the group does a lot of combats, like 6-8 per day. A common error is for the DM to allow the group to move entirely at their own pace; then the group can choose to do only one combat per day, and the spellcasters can use all their daily spells and powers in every single combat, which makes them much more powerful than the designers intended.

Could that be part of what's happening here?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. The question isn't how to rein in an overpowered tactic, it's how this as-described pretty mediocre build is somehow so strong that its an actual problem, something doesn't add up here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Nov 8, 2021 at 15:41
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Don't play Roy's game

In D&D things are only as overpowered as the DM allows. I would suggest that the DM of this game needs to focus less on numbers, and think more about situations.

Roy is good at:

  • Dealing a lot of fire damage
  • Ignoring fire resistances/immunities
  • Dealing AoE damage
  • Not taking fire damage

So immediately we see several solutions:

  • Dealing a lot of fire damage? Create problems that aren't solved by dealing a lot of damage.
  • Ignoring fire resistances/immunities? This does nothing against monsters which are not resistant/immune to fire.
  • Dealing AoE damage? This is not effective against enemies who are spread out or when there are few enemies.
  • Not taking fire damage? Use other damage types.

Rather than playing into Roy's strengths, instead try something else.

From your description of the way the game plays out, I think I can identify two fundamental flaws in the way combat is being run.

Make combat harder

Firstly, low combat difficulty. This is a common problem I've seen many many times before. You have a squish sorcerer running into the middle of a mob of enemies? It sure makes me wonder how they aren't dying - sorcerers are not known for being tanky!

To fix this problem simply play monsters smarter and increase CR (if you use it).

Remember combat is problem solving

The second problem is that combat seems simple. Roy runs into the middle of all the enemies, burninates them, and then you go on your merry way. This indicates that combat consists of "enemies appear -> kill them -> win". I have found that this generally causes players to min-max their characters and not play tactically.

To fix this problem there's a two-part solution; 1. make sure that combat doesn't exist for its own sake. When people fight, there needs to be a reason for it. The goal of combat shouldn't be "kill everyone", it should be "solve the disagreement".

And 2. make sure that the environment, monsters, and context add a layer of complexity to the combat. Roy seems to be well suited for fighting in barren plains, but what about in a market place? What about against sneaky goblins hiding in the dark? What about when the goal is to capture (not roast) the queen's prize bunny?

In my experience this greatly decreases the effectiveness of min-maxing as well as making combat more dynamic. I would highly recommend you take a look at your combat and see if it is the reason why Roy is able to dominate.

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The Archenemy.

My upvote went to @StopBeingEvil's response; it's best to treat this type of this by communicating with the others.

That said, there's an additional in-game remedy, if your DM is open to it.

Roy can't be the only wizard in the world to have stumbled upon this tactic. And wizards can be really competitive or antagonistic. Kind of like The Flash and Reverse Flash, or Green Lantern and Sinestro.

What if another fire-immune wizard starts hunting him down, hoping to duel him to the death? Or, out of sheet jealousy, starts selling some kind of charm to the bad guys that somehow blunts Roy's overpoweredness?

What if, every time Roy incinerates a fire elemental, there's a 75% chance that one of the Lords of the Elemental Plane of Fire show up? Either with burning indignation at this crime against nature, or with such warm admiration that they try to take him home with them? Maybe Roy will cut back on his biggest attacks until they're really needed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm kind of fond of the North Korean - style kidnapping solution. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 10, 2021 at 15:28
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Burning stuff has in-game consequences. Start a big fire in a large building, and soon enough the roof will be collapsing on his head. In an ice cave, you've got a flood. The townsfolk aren't gong to appreciate the burninator setting their village on fire; if the macguffin is a book that is highly flammable then flaming stuff willy-nilly might be a bad idea; etc. It seems to me that the DM could set up encounters where this player's favorite strategy wouldn't be that effective, providing you all with some new and different challenges.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ the DM is part of the problem \$\endgroup\$
    – Tony Ennis
    Nov 9, 2021 at 22:18

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