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If a character has Resist 35 fire, and was standing on the rocky shore of a river of lava, exactly how far into the process of wading/swimming across would he get before he starts taking damage?

I can't get a sense of whether it would be something in the region of 20 fire damage per round or 120 per round. I have no frame of reference.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wade? Swim?! Do you know what the density and viscosity of lava is? Hell, you could run or just about walk on it providing you didn't fry your feet. See wired.com/2011/12/… \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Aug 12 '15 at 1:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MontyWild Lava in fantasy tends to be more like burning thin mud, though. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 30 '15 at 16:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie, I agree, that is how it seems to be depicted (as well as in Hollywood), but it is hardly realistic. Then again, D&D does have a similarly tenuous relation to reality. \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Sep 1 '15 at 23:13
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Lava deals an appropriate amount of damage for the level of the characters and the intensity of the challenge you want them to face.

4e doesn't use static numbers based on the objective source of the damage; in 4e the mechanics scale with the party, according to the thing's role in the story, in order to challenge the group appropriately.

Lava is probably a pretty intense challenge, so I'd use maximum damage values for the level of the challenge it's appearing in. To get a feeling for the right amount of damage I'd look at powerful hazards of the right challenge rating, and at daily powers of monsters in that same range (using MM3 and later monsters because monster design was re-tuned at that point in the edition's development cycle). I might also/instead use a table like Level 1 Equivalent damage; I've had great success with the damage values on that table for all my monster/world needs.

Then I'd have to figure out the lava's role in the scene: is it active or passive? An active lava hazard has its own initiative turn and deals damage on that turn. A passive lava hazard deals damage whenever a creature enters its area and at the start of each turn thereafter. Either way, the character's probably taking damage each turn he stays in the lava, and fire resistance applies to each instance of the damage. I wouldn't have an attack roll because he's wading through lava--the "attack" should land automatically. (If I were allowing an attack, miss would deal half damage and I'd dramatically increase the total damage the attack could deal.)

Lava's probably also going to count as difficult terrain, making it take longer for the character to wade through--probably increasing the number of turns he's spending taking damage.

What might this all look like? Here's my off-the-cuff "river of lava" hazard, with the level-dependent numbers scrubbed out.

River of Lava (level X obstacle)
A shallow river of lava oozes slowly.
Hazard: Lava fills each square of the riverbed, turning it into difficult terrain.
Perception: No check is required to notice the lava.
Trigger: Whenever a character enters the lava river or starts their turn in one of its squares, they take XdY+Z fire damage and are targeted by a Relentess Flow attack.

Attack: Relentless Flow
Opportunity Action (melee)
Target: triggering creature
Attack: +XX vs Fortitude
Hit: the target is slid 3 squares downriver.
Miss: the target is slid 1 square downriver.

This means that with high enough resistance a character could walk through my lava hazard undamaged, even if the cumulative damage the lava tries to deal him is much higher than his resistance. This is, I think, in keeping with the spirit of 4e: heroes are awesome beyond all reason.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. 4e doesn't attempt to simulate the world; rather, for any given thing, that thing's mechanics are based on its role in the story. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 11 '15 at 22:02

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