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I had the idea of throwing oil flasks on enemies at level 1, then hitting them with a torch to deal a bunch of bonus fire damage.

PHB 152:

If the target takes any fire damage before the oil dries (after 1 minute), the target takes an additional 5 fire damage from the burning oil.

PHB 152:

If you make a melee attack with a burning torch and hit, it deals 1 fire damage.

A flat 6 fire damage is pretty potent at level 1, but does the oil remain or does it burn out in a flash when hit (since it has no damage over time) when hit?

If not there is potential for a dual torch wielding PC to throw down 12 fire damage per round, or for multiple PCs to deal 6 damage per torch per PC per round.

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Yes, it is consumed.

In the PHB 152 it is described what happens when a part of the floor is drenched with oil and lit (emphasis mine).

You can also pour a flask of oil on the ground to cover a 5-foot-square area, provided that the surface is level. If lit, the oil burns for 2 rounds and deals 5 fire damage to any creature that enters the area or ends its turn in the area.

What it is not told is what happens with the oil on the creature. Logically one may say that the oil would burn for 2 rounds mimicking the mentioned effect. But there are plenty of evidence that fire does not stay in creatures unless specified. For example; Burning hands, Fireball, Delayed Fireball, and Meteor Swarm are spells that clearly specify that no worn objects catch fires, and one of these is a level 9 spell; a mere oil would not light a candle to that. Furthermore, the text ends with a full stop where it should state something in the lines of "every round for two rounds", or so.

It ignites flammable objects in the area that aren't being worn or carried.

If the target takes any fire damage before the oil dries (after 1 minute), the target takes an additional 5 fire damage from the burning oil.

It is important to emphasis that flammable is also a description of oil.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the effects of the poured oil matters too much because they describe different effects (incompletely, I guess) for the melee attack. I'm not clear on what your interpretation is. Fireball doesn't ignite anything worn or carried but would ignite oil, so what conclusion does this give us about a torch and oil? I don't see why that would mean the oil ignites and burns instantly. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Sep 23 '16 at 23:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jeff What I ment is that the oil is consumed as soon as it does its 5 points of damage. Thanks to the fireball and co we know that creatures "don't catch fire" (DOT) and keep doing damage per round. Also, oil is not infinite, you can't keep igniting it per torch hit, it is assumed that as soon as it is ignited it is consumed, otherwise it would be specified. \$\endgroup\$ – Chepelink Sep 23 '16 at 23:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well it actually states that lit oil is consumed after 2 rounds in the description of the oil itself, so I don't understand what's confusing about that? Being doused in oil is neither carrying nor equipping it, so a Fireball would ignite it, dealing an extra 5 fire damage that carries on in the next round, at which point the oil has burned itself out. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Sep 7 at 18:47
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I'd rule yes, you can straight dish out 6 damage a turn after the first, not including the torch's improvised weapon damage (something very debatable) or just a mage in your party hitting the creature with firebolt. It's an expensive tactic to use level one, (I imagine an entire party of levels ones throwing oil onto enemies and their primary spellcaster using burning hands) however, and there is an important note at the end, "A creature can only take this damage once per turn."
I cannot immediately conclude whether or not the last quote applies only to the dousing of an area in the oil description or not, but if DM rulings go towards it being dealt only once a turn I wouldn't argue otherwise.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It actually very cheap. Oil is 1sp, torch is 1cp. I assumed that last quote was to prevent creatures from repeatedly taking the damage if they move back and forth, but did not apply to the melee attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Sep 23 '16 at 22:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cheap is dependent on the game you run, some people start out with rolled gold, others start out with starting equipment and background gold, in which this could be a somewhat expensive decision. It's still pretty cheap though, thinking about it. \$\endgroup\$ – A Fish Sep 23 '16 at 22:49
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I think the PHB is clear if you read a larger section from the passage you quote on p.152:

As an action, you can splash the oil in this flask onto a creature within 5 feet of you or throw it up to 20 feet, shattering it on impact. Make a ranged attack against a target creature or object, treating the oil as an improvised weapon. On a hit, the target is covered in oil. If the target takes any fire damage before the oil dries (after 1 minute), the target takes an additional 5 fire damage from the burning oil. You can also pour a flask of oil on the ground to cover a 5-foot-square area, provided that the surface is level. If lit, the oil burns for 2 rounds and deals 5 fire damage to any creature that enters the area or ends its turn in the area. A creature can take this damage only once per turn.

While it may not seem to correlate perfectly with reality, the description states that the extra 5 damage can occur once per turn, for up to a minute, at which point the oil dries. The target would have to take fire damage at least once every turn to suffer this additional damage. The 2 round limitation applies specifically to "oil on the ground to cover a 5-foot-square area."

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    \$\begingroup\$ The sentence regarding the 2 round burn limit is a standalone, why do you think it's only associated with the immediate sentence before and not a general rule for burning time? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 8 at 13:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I at least have a very hard time interpreting a creature to count as "the area" \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Sep 8 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ "the area" is where the burning oil is; because the oil is on the creature, they share the same space, thus the creature is "in the area". \$\endgroup\$ – Journer Sep 8 at 21:43
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As a DM, I would say that yes it is consumed.

For the purposes of differentiating the fire damage dealt by burning oil from, say, a fireball it is important to note that fire damage from spells is magical in nature. Essentially, the flames that would ordinarily need to come from combustible materials are instead created via supernatural effect (and their intensity varies with the strength of the spell).

I usually treat things like burning oil as an environmental hazard that outputs damage to creatures in/on/near it. So consider the oil to be an environmental hazard that lasts for a certain number of rounds, with the possibility of being ignited before it dries.

As an aside, I find it very strange that the oil can "dry out" in a minute. It really ought to stay on the target until it is washed out by a nonpolar solvent, but I guess that's semantics.

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The oil is consumed after 2 rounds, and deals a maximum of 10 fire damage itself during that time, assuming the fire is not extinguished.

The relevant text for this is:

If lit, the oil burns for 2 rounds and deals 5 fire damage to any creature that enters the area or ends its turn in the area. A creature can take this damage only once per turn.

On a hit, the target is covered in oil. If the target takes any fire damage before the oil dries (after 1 minute), the target takes an additional 5 fire damage from the burning oil.

That being covered, or standing in a space that is covered, deals the same damage, indicates that the amount of oil for the effect is the same. Which means the duration of effect would also be the same, barring a specified difference in duration (which is absent from this item).

In addition, because the damage from the burning oil can be applied only once per turn, and the burning oil lasts only 2 rounds (the same as 2 turns in this case), the maximum amount of damage from it is [2 rounds x 5 fire damage] = 10 fire damage.

This means that the tactic of using a lit torch with oil to inflict damage can do a maximum of 12 fire damage (6 on each turn). A reasonable to high amount for 6 cp in consumable supplies.

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