I'm trying to get to the bottom of using a torch as an improvised weapon in 5e D&D.
Moving from the more to the less certain:
If you make a melee attack with a burning torch and hit, it deals 1 fire damage. (PHB pg.153)
The most certain thing is "1 fire damage", though the wording does not say either "only 1 fire damage" or "an additional 1 fire damage", the former is probably the most natural reading.
As "torch" is not listed under weapons, we seem to be in the area of improvised weapons here:
Sometimes characters don’t have their weapons and have to attack with whatever is close at hand. An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin. (PHB pg.147)
And a torch (burning or not) certainly fits the "any object you can wield in one or two hands" bill.
In many cases, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such. For example, a table leg is akin to a club. (PHB pg.147)
Like the example of the table leg in the PHB, a torch would seem to be most like a club, so presumably proficient in this weapon could add their proficiency bonus. Even if a torch is not considered similar enough to a club, which has a damage of d4 bludgeoning we read:
An object that bears no resemblance to a weapon deals 1d4 damage (the DM assigns a damage type appropriate to the object). (PHB pg.148)
So 1d4 bludgeoning in any case.
If a character takes an unlit torch, the improvised weapon rules are certainly in effect, so 1d4 damage. If however the torch is lit ... the damage drops to 1 (specific rule beats general). Absurd but apparently the case.
My question is twofold:
- Have I correctly understood that the rules-as-written mean an unlit torch has a damage of 1d4 (bludgeoning), whereas a lit one has a fixed damage of 1 (fire)?
- Or would it be possible to recurse to the improvised weapon rules and say "I want to really hit the enemy with my torch, not just burn them a bit". If this latter case is possible, are we looking at 1d4 bludgeoning only, or 1d4 bludgeoning +1 fire damage?
I'm aware that this question is open to house rules, and I'm cooking up my own already, but I'd like to know what orthodoxy I am departing from.