Through the Fire and the Flames

2008 January 24
by Dante

Well, it’s been an interesting week in the Stupid Ranger household. Without descending into too much detail, we had a situation involving carbon monoxide being detected in our bedroom and a faulty 36 year old furnace that was actually venting flames outside the firebox RIGHT BY THE GAS LINE.

Needless to say, the fire department indicated that we were lucky that things didn’t end “under much worse circumstances.”

What’s this got to do with D&D, Dante?

Well, after the initial shock of the situation, I started to think about why this was so scary. The answer, for me anyway, was the impending fireball that would have ensued underneath my house should the gas line burn through.

We are entering into epic levels in our current campaign, and our characters are able to summon some pretty incredible feats of elemental damage. Several of our characters possess fire based magical abilities, and this whole experience got me to thinking what the common guy would think if they saw something akin to a large gas explosion.

You know what? The mere NOTION of this happening to us in real life was pretty darned scary. That’s why I always have some trouble with the concept of magical gladiatorial combat, or people that would knowingly put themselves in the vicinity of two powerful mages doing battle.

The gravity that should go along with even a mid-level spell caster able to conjure up a 5d6 or more fireball should be enough to keep a “common” person at a pretty far distance. I would treat a mid to high level sorcerer with the same respect as I would someone with a big flamethrower strapped to their back.


The key to this discussion is treating things with the appropriate level of gravity. As a DM, you can use NPC reaction and some colorful description to add weight to your epic scenarios. If someone enters the building that looks edgy and has demonstrated an ability to conjure a 20d6 fireball you’d better make some common folk leave the premises quickly.

I would also engineer activities that play up the uncommon skill required to weild this power. Create some scenarios where your mid to high level players must help a group of common people achieve some otherwise impossible tasks that exercises the players specific epic skills. This puts the players on guard not to accidentally flash-fry a whole group of townspeople, adds an opportunity for them to exhibit uncommon mettle and heroism, and more importantly is a distinctly different type of challenge than their common tasks of annihilating major forces of evil baddies.

Take an opportunity to step back and look at the abilities that your characters wield when viewed through the eyes of a common man. You may get some new inspiration that can add some interest to your sagging high level campaign!

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS