One of the players in my game wanted to recreate a weapon from Terraria for her M&M character. She wanted to create a Flamarang.

We worked out the basic ability: Ranged Damage 8, Limited Range (3) - it shoots out up to 80 feet, dealing fire damage.

She then wanted a chance to set enemies on fire. While the book says that it doesn't take extra for a flame attack to ignite flammable objects, it seems that it's more common for people in superhero comics to not catch on fire from most of the fire attacks (unless it's intentional or supposed to be a learning moment for the hero).

So how would I model a secondary effect to the Flamarang that lights the target on fire if they fail a reflex save, and burns for a number of turns (or until extinguished) dealing damage each turn?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Would the clothes they are wearing be objects that could ignite and burn? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruut
    Aug 9, 2015 at 1:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Jeff, is there anything more we can offer you for an answer? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 2, 2015 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ the title of this is the greatest thing ever to just see pop up in your feed on a Q&A site. How do I light someone on fire? \$\endgroup\$ May 4, 2021 at 2:34

4 Answers 4


Honestly, in 3E, your options are pretty limited. In DC Adventures, they established an Increased Duration extra that would let you take your Instant Damage up to Concentration, then Sustained. When they put out the 3E Heroes Handbook, they took that back out. If you allow it up to there, you could probably add Fades to have it reduce in rank over time.

In 2E, you would bring the Damage up to Sustained, then apply the +0 Independent modifier from Ultimate Power, which was a combination of Increased Duration (to Continuous) and Fades with some handwaved bits about how it continued operating without your control, but it was actually outside of your control after that, requiring something like a Counter action to stop it.

If you do set things up to Fade , I recommend having damage effects fade at a rate of 1 rank per round instead of the canonical 1 pp per round, especially if there are some extras on it like Area (Cone) and with the additional cost of getting it up to Sustained. Also, adopt the commonsense rule allowing for environmental and/or skill counters to end the effect (so that a fire-extinguisher, jumping into a pool of water, or stop-drop-and-roll will work).


There are always a million ways to do one thing in M&M, but in this particular example, the easiest way would probably be to buy the Secondary Effect modifier for the power, possibly at a lessened rank than the full power.

The Secondary Effect modifier causes the target to suffer the effect again on the following round. So you will hit on the first round and they will be on fire. During the second round, assuming you don't attack them, they will automatically have to resist the damage a seconds time.

You can buy it multiple times to make it work multiple rounds in the future and/or only buy it for a few ranks of your attack. So on a rank 10 attack you could buy the secondary effect for the full 10 ranks just once, or for the same price you can buy it at 5 ranks and effect the target twice after the initial attack.


In 3rd I would make it an Affliction (possibly hindered>disabled>incapacitated) effect triggered by taking damage and possibly build in a resistance chance from toughness. Contagious would be another good modifier for someone set on fire.

So the hero attacks with the boomerang. When she hits and the enemy takes damage, then they would make a toughness roll to avoid her boomerangs Affliction (fire). If the boomerang hits but no damage is dealt, in my estimation the enemy would have also been able to avoid getting set on fire.

These are, however, suggestions and you might find a separate power effect more appropriate for such an ability. You may even wish to link more damage to the affliction as they would be burning and getting hurt. I think this particular question leaves it up to the GM to have a lot of leeway as to how to implement it in their game.


The power to "set someone on fire" can be as simple as just being a part of the Fire descriptor. A GM ruling for a setting could go something like this:

Fire Descriptor: Most people hit by a fire attack have something flammable on their person and, until they take a standard action to extinguish it, are considered a source of fire for the purposes of Pyrokinesis and other power that require existing fire. People who choose to remain on fire take Continuous Damage 1 (same as putting your hand on a torch and not pulling back immediately).

This will make it easy for "super-tough" characters to shrug off low-level "on fire" effects no problem via Impervious, but normal human characters may have some issues with being on fire if they don't have even a single rank of Impervious Toughness. Other ways to deal with this are having a free descriptor for a "super-suit" that makes it "Fire Resistant". Aka, it's not the characters in the comics who are so fire resistant, but the suits.

The idea of that descriptor ruling is not to punish people who aren't immune to fire effects but to acknowledge that even though a flamethrower doesn't have Continuous damage, yes, it sets people on fire. Because that's what it does. And there's an infinite number of ways to say "No, you don't set me on fire" or "I'm on fire, but all you've done is give me an awesome special effect".

Higher-level fire attacks, such as covering someone with burning super-napalm, should probably be statted as Continuous Damage, with the Ranged or Perception as is appropriate to the rest of their descriptors, not to mention Fades if there isn't more heat being continuously added. Because countering powers is a thing, the effect's continuous effects can be countered by anyone capable of "stop, drop, and roll" unless it has some other descriptor like "Fires of Hell". High-level pyrokinetics might also elect to not have Fades to represent their ability to continue stoking the flames while fighting other things.

I dislike Secondary Effect for modeling this effect unless it has a lower rank (about half) than the original effect. If a fire is able to continue burning at full strength for six seconds with no additional fuel, why does it suddenly extinguish itself in the next six seconds? Again, some types of fire in the comics do not obey the rules of fire, but I can't cover every brand of fire in the various multiverses.


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