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The fluff for a Fire Elemental states: "This creature looks like a living, mobile bonfire, tongues of flame reaching out in search of things to burn."

Does that mean that the Fire Elemental I summon with Summon Monster spells causes flammable objects to catch fire? My party was concerned about this while we were battling our way out of a midnight abduction attempt in an inn that had wooden floors, walls, ceiling, etc.

My feeling is that the flames coming from an Elemental are magical in nature and not physical fire, so it would only burn things/creatures it attacks.

Even if the Elemental causes fires, I know that fire spreads at the speed of plot and can be extinguished at any time using many methods, so it shouldn't be a huge issue, unless we want our security deposit back.

Is there a RAW answer for this?

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I'm going to support @BBlake on this one by pointing out that this is theoretically a problem for basically any type of elemental interacting with the normal universe.

  • What happens if I summon an Ice Elemental into a sauna?
  • What happens if I summon a Mud Elemental on top of a sand pit?
  • What happens if I summon a Lightning Elemental into an armoury?
  • What happens if I put a Magma Elemental anywhere?

In all cases, it looks like the Elemental is basically in control of its form and its interactions with the "normal" universe into which it is summoned. If this wasn't the case, the elementals would have all kinds of problems and would likely start dying or massively destroying things just by being summoned into the world.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Pratchett's Discworld mentions that Death tried a fiery steed, but it repeatedly set his barn and his robe on fire… \$\endgroup\$ – liori Oct 28 '14 at 3:23
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The fire elemental Burn ability specifically states that:

A fire elemental deals fire damage in addition to damage dealt on a successful hit in melee.

and that

Creatures that hit a burning creature with natural weapons or unarmed attacks take fire damage as though hit by the burning creature and must make a Reflex save to avoid catching on fire

Nothing in the RAW states that objects in casual contact catch fire or are damaged. The Burn ability, like all other extraordinary abilities, would seem to be an at will, controlled, ability. Most discussions on the topic I've seen (such as this one) seem to support this interpretation of the RAW, but nothing in the RAW clarifies the subject further.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Aside from being RAW, if the opposite were true, fire elementals could light things on fire with a Move action. This is too powerful. Restricting it to an Attack action lets it be "at will" without being unbalancing. \$\endgroup\$ – TREE Oct 28 '14 at 13:58

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