Notice: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Thanks and enjoy!
Fire and extreme heat is a fairly common, easy-to-use hazard in TTRPGs. That’s no different for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.
As such, D&D 5e categorizes a lot of damaging effects due to flames or intense heat under fire damage.
This article goes over what newer Game Masters and players need to know about fire damage in D&D 5e.
Let’s start with how fire damage works in D&D 5e.
How Fire Damage Works in 5e
Fire damage is one of the damage types found in D&D 5e. It covers damage done to and by creatures and objects through the use of extreme, painful heat.
Basically, fire damage works in 5e by exposing a creature to extreme heat. A literal fire or the presence of flames aren’t necessarily required to deal fire damage. Intense heat from steam or boiling water deal fire damage the same as an open flame or pool of lava.
Fire damage works like any other damage type; when a creature suffers harm by it, you reduce their hit points by that amount. It also plays by the usual rules for resistance, immunity, and vulnerability.
That said, fire damage interacts with the environment a bit more than other damage types. Many effects that deal fire damage specifically state that they don’t ignite objects worn or carried by creatures. But, these spells and abilities may set fire to any flammable objects not worn or carried in the affected area.
The best part is, since it’s a relatively broad damage type, there are many causes and sources of fire damage in D&D 5e.
Causes of Fire Damage in 5e
There are many ways to cause fire damage in D&D 5e. Both mundane and magical options are fairly common in any adventure or setting.
Fire damage is probably one of the easiest, non-weapon damage types a creature can inflict in D&D 5e. Basically, anything made or or that exudes extreme heat deals fire damage in 5e, flames or no.
Lava pits deal fire damage. Boiling oil deals fire damage. Focused rays from the sun through the use of a massive, magical lens deals fire damage.
As long as it’s extreme, burning, painful heat, it deals fire damage.
Some examples of the causes of fire damage include:
- Using a lit torch as a weapon
- Shoving a creature into a roaring campfire
- Falling into a lava pit
- Standing in the path of a steam explosion
- Pouring hot oil over a creature
- Magically-enhanced environments that increase heat
- Many spells like fire bolt and fireball
Magic possibly being the most common source of fire damage, D&D 5e has many spells that deal or reduce it.
5e Fire Damage Spells
One of the more recognizable ways to deal or reduce fire damage is through spellcasting. D&D 5e has many spells that either deal fire damage or reduce it in some way.
Honestly, magic is probably the easiest way you’ll interact with fire damage in D&D 5e.
Sure, you have lava pits and campfires and boiling oil as mundane options. But, you’re probably more likely to take damage from a mage casting fire bolt at your character.
There are 39 spells in D&D 5e that either deal or mitigate fire damage. The best part is these spells are spread out between Cantrips all the way up to 9th-level. So, you can choose a fire-related spell at almost every level-up.
List of Fire Spells in D&D 5e
- ▸ / ♦ Control Flames
- ▸ / ♦ Create Bonfire
- Fire Bolt
- ★ / ♥ Green-Flame Blade
- Produce Flame
- 1st Level
- ▸ / ♦ Absorb Elements
- Burning Hands
- ▸ Chaos Bolt
- Chromatic Orb
- Hellish Rebuke
- Searing Smite
- 2nd Level
- ▸ / ♦ Aganazzar’s Scorcher
- ▸ Dragon’s Breath
- Flame Blade
- Flaming Sphere
- Heat Metal
- Scorching Ray
- 3rd Level
- Elemental Weapon
- ▸ / ♦ Flame Arrows
- ▸ / ♦ Melf’s Minute Meteors
- Protection from Energy
- 4th Level
- Conjure Minor Elementals
- ▸ / ♦ Elemental Bane
- Fire Shield
- Wall of Fire
- 5th Level
- Conjure Elemental
- Flame Strike
- ▸ / ♦ Immolation
- 6th Level
- ▸ / ♦ Investiture of Flame
- ▸ / ♦ Primordial Ward
- ♥ Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise
- 7th Level
- Delayed Blast Fireball
- Fire Storm
- Prismatic Spray
- 8th Level
- ▸ Illusory Dragon
- Incendiary Cloud
- 9th Level
- Meteor Swarm
- Prismatic Wall
Some spells come from other supplements. Each of the following symbols denotes what supplement or sourcebook the spell comes from. Spells found in the Basic Rules or Player’s Handbook are not denoted.
Monsters That Deal Fire Damage
D&D 5e has many creatures and monsters that deal fire damage. From dragons to elementals, a Game Master has a variety of fire-themed monsters at their disposal.
Many monsters that deal fire damage do so due to their physiology. Fire infuses their very being, giving them control over flames or exuding intense heat. Others deal fire damage through the use of spellcasting.
Often, a creature deals fire damage by hurling or breathing flames at their enemies. These monsters span a variety of creature types including dragons, elementals, fiends, and even a few aberrations.
46 creatures in the Monster Manual deal some form of fire damage either through traits, actions, or included spells. The following creatures can deal fire damage in some way:
- Death Knight
- Barbed Devil
- Horned Devil
- Pit Fiend
- Spined Devil
- Ancient Red Dragon
- Adult Red Dragon
- Young Red Dragon
- Red Dragon Wyrmling
- Ancient Brass Dragon
- Adult Brass Dragon
- Yound Brass Dragon
- Brass Dragon Wyrmling
- Ancient Gold Dragon
- Adult Gold Dragon
- Young Gold Dragon
- Gold Dragon Wyrmling
- Dragon Turtle
- Fire Elemental
- Half-Red Dragon Veteran
- Hell Hound
- Lizardfolk Shaman
- Magma Mephit
- Steam Mephit
- Young Remorhaz
- Fire Snake
- Green Slaad
- Gray Slaad
- Death Slaad
Environmental Fire Damage
The environment of your adventure or setting may also serve as a source of fire damage.
Magic and monsters are easy ways to incorporate sources of fire damage in your D&D 5e game. But, never forget that the environment itself can serve as a source of extreme heat.
When you’re running the game, adding various sources of damage, fire or otherwise, makes encounters more interesting. And, that’s not exclusive to combat encounters. The threat of an oncoming fire while dealing with an unwilling resident adds pressure to the scene.
There are basically two ways to add environmental fire damage to your game; mundane and magical. I’ll also go into lava as a source of fire damage separately because it’s unique enough to warrant its own section.
Non-Magical Fire Damage
Campfires, torches, and boiling water are all examples of relatively commonplace and mundane sources of fire damage in D&D.
Open flames or steam are easy, mundane fire damage hazards a GM can introduce to their game.
Examples of mundane sources of fire damage include:
- Wild fires
- Boiling oil
- Boiling water
Some of these could be traps or simply set dressing for a battlefield.
Water may become super-heated due to a volcanic eruption. Maybe the ramparts of a castle are lined with pots of burning oil ready to pour onto invaders. Or, small fires burn around a battlefield, the results of flaming trebuchet charges or spells.
Including mundane, environmental sources of fire damage gives players extra obstacles they need to navigate instead of focusing squarely on combat or puzzle solving.
How Much Damage Would Non-Magical Fire Do?
The amount of damage a non-magical fire would do depends on the size of the fire. A lit torch only does 1 point of fire damage, an aflame pool of oil deals 5, or a river of lava deals up to 18d10 (average 99).
Honestly, this all depends on the size and source of your non-magical fire.
Falling into a campfire probably should do roughly the same amount of damage as a small, lit pool of oil. They’re both comparable in size, so it’s an easy comparison.
On the other hand, entering a burning building almost entirely engulfed in flames should do considerably more damage. Possibly on a level with a 3rd-level fireball spell of 8d6 fire damage.
If you’re running a game and need to adjudicate how much damage a non-magical fire does, I’d recommend basing your decision on the size of the flame and even compare it with a magical stand-in.
For example, the create bonfire cantrip does 1d8 fire damage at it’s lowest. That sounds like a fair amount of damage for a non-magical campfire. Likewise, the middle of a burning building is a veritable inferno. So, dealing a comparable amount of damage as a 3rd-level fireball spell seems fair to me.
At the end of the day, this is up to the GM. But, using magical fire damage as the basis for non-magical flames is an easy place to start.
Extreme Heat Fire Damage
Prolonged exposure to the sun or traversing an enchanted or enclosed environment may also expose creatures to the threat of fire damage.
Now, prolonged exposure to extreme heat is a great way of inflicting levels of exhaustion on your player characters. But, pushing that further, it can also chip away at their hit points if the heat is intense enough.
For example, fighting within the massive forge of a Fire Giant. The heat required to smelt metals for smithing would serve as an extra obstacle for an adventuring party to overcome while fighting the giant.
You can get creative with your environments if you want to add a bit of danger to your game’s adventures.
Lava Fire Damage
Possibly the most extreme source of natural fire damage, lava serves as a dangerous obstacle for creatures and player characters.
Technically, lava is a mundane source of environmental fire damage. But, since it’s unusual and uncommon in most people’s lives, I feel it’s worth giving it its own section.
Lava is a wonderfully dangerous fire hazard to place in front of your players.
If you want to go for realism, bright, flowing lava is much too dangerous to approach. So, a creature may start taking fire damage simply by getting too close to it.
On the other hand, slow moving lava may be relatively safe to approach within five feet of it. But, you should note it’s like standing in front of a very hot oven; fine for a minute or so, but terribly uncomfortable for prolonged exposure.
Now, falling into lava is the real danger.
Page 249 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide suggests 10d10 fire damage for wading across a lava stream. Now, I’d also suggest that’d be 10d10 per round because, simply put, lava is very hot.
The DMG also suggests 18d10 for getting completely submerged in lava.
Is this terribly realistic? Probably not.
Touching lava is enough to cause a severe burn. Actively wading through lava would…probably not end well.
That said, D&D is a game where people can call literal meteors from the sky with nothing but a wave of their hand and a few choice words. So, realism shouldn’t be a major concern here.
Being on Fire in D&D 5e
There aren’t any explicit rules for being on fire in D&D 5e. But, there are a few precedence you may use when deciding how it works in your game. The Fire Elemental creature has a feature that describes a creature catching fire and the rules for lighting oil.
Pretty much all spells that deal fire damage explicitly mention how the effects do not ignite items being worn or carried. This is mostly due to simplifying and balancing these spells. After all, any spell that would cause a creature to catch fire automatically becomes a greater threat than one-and-done damage.
That said, as in reality, mundane creatures and clothing aren’t generally fireproof.
So, how do we deal with being on fire in D&D 5e?
Well, there’s nothing explicitly laid out in D&D’s ruleset. Which means we must seek out alternatives through like circumstances or homebrew rules. Luckily, we have a couple examples of the former we can base our rules on.
The first comes from the Player’s Handbook on page 152 for Oil. This piece of equipment comes with rules on igniting it and how long it lasts.
So, a creature doused with oil that takes fire damage suffers 5 points of damage. The next sentence mentions that the oil burns for two rounds if ignited on the ground. If it were me, I’d rule that lit oil burns for two rounds period. So, a creature doused with oil that ignites would burn for two rounds taking a total of 10 points of fire damage.
An easy basis that you could modify if you feel that burning in this way should last longer.
Now, the second method we can use for determining how being on fire in D&D 5e should work is through the Fire Elemental’s stat block.
5e Fire Elementals have a trait called Fire Form which reads:
Personally, this is my preferred method for ruling how being on fire in 5e would work. Granted, I might dial the damage back a bit since a Fire Elemental is a magical entity that represents the very essence of flame. So, catching fire through mundane methods might only deal 1d8 fire damage instead of 1d10 as with a Fire Elemental.
Aside from that slight difference, I feel this includes everything we’d want in ruling how being on fire in D&D 5e should work.
You have a condition that declares a creature catches fire, important to marking the initial damage and how things proceed. It includes a duration in that a creature that catches fire continues to be on fire until they or someone else douses the flames. Finally, it states how much damage being on fire does.
Like I said, for mundane flames, I might reduce the damage so as to still give the Fire Elemental its dues. But, I wouldn’t do so by much. Being on fire is a dangerous circumstance to be in, magical or not. So, any homebrew rules you use should reflect that.
So, that’s how I’d work being on fire in D&D 5e into my games.
Resistance to Fire Damage in 5e
As with any other damage type, creatures in D&D 5e with resistance take half damage from fire or other sources of extreme heat.
Many creatures have a natural resistance to fire damage. Even better, there are a number of spells that grant resistance for creatures that aren’t naturally adapted to intense heat.
For example, the Half-Red Dragon Veteran has resistance to fire damage due to its draconic nature. Or, a mage may prepare the absorb elements spell as a reaction to getting hit by an enemy fire bolt.
If you’re playing a Barbarian with the Path of the Totem Warrior subclass and chose the Bear as your Totem Spirit, you also have resistance to fire damage (among others).
The point is; you have a myriad of ways at your disposal to either throw fire-resistant enemies at your players or to obtain resistance to fire damage in some way. Granted, most of those ways are magical. But, you take what you can get.
Now, many fire-aligned creatures don’t have a resistance, they have immunity. A lot of these creatures and monsters have an immunity to fire damage by virtue of embodying a certain level of the element by nature. The correlating dragons and elementals are such examples of creatures with fire damage immunity.
So, know when a creature take half damage and one who ignores it when dealing with fire damage. Otherwise, your strategy for using them against your players or when engaging in combat as a player will most likely change.
Fire Damage While Underwater
Creatures fully immersed in water have resistance to fire damage.
Page 198 of the Player’s Handbook, under the Underwater Combat section, states:
So, simple as that. If a creature is completely underwater, they’ll take have damage from fire damage.
D&D Fire Damage FAQ
What is the Average Damage of Fireball in 5e?
The average damage of a 3rd-level fireball in 5e is 28 points of fire damage.
That said, fireball can get upcast to higher levels, dealing an extra 1d6 fire damage for each spell slot used above 3rd. So, 5e’s fireball spell does the following average amount of fire damage per level of spell slot used:
- 3rd-level: 28 average fire damage
- 4th-level: 31 average fire damage
- 5th-level: 35 average fire damage
- 6th-level: 38 average fire damage
- 7th-level: 42 average fire damage
- 8th-level: 45 average fire damage
- 9th-level: 49 average fire damage
Are Fire Elementals Resistant to Fire?
The Fire Elemental monster is not resistant to fire damage, they’re immune to it.
Many other elemental creatures based on fire also have immunity to this damage type.
How Fast Does Fire Spread in D&D?
There are no rules for spreading fire in D&D 5e. So, any ruling comes at the Game Master’s discretion.
That said, it should be fairly easy to homebrew a rule for this. Perhaps a 5 foot square that is on fire spreads to another, adjacent 5 foot square. In reality, larger fires spread much faster than smaller ones. So, this spreading method compounds on itself until the fire either burns out or consumes everything as it continues to grow into an enormous inferno.
Does Fire Bolt Set Things on Fire?
The fire bolt spell does set things on fire so long as those objects aren’t being worn or carried.
In fact, the spell explicitly states: "A flammable object hit by this spell ignites if it isn’t being worn or carried." So, articles of clothing or any flammable objects currently in the possession of a creature (such as a cloth sack or an unlit torch) do not ignite as a result of getting hit by fire bolt. But, hitting a wooden crate would cause it to catch fire assuming the environment allows.
Do White Dragons Take Extra Damage from Fire?
No. White Dragons in D&D 5e do not take extra damage from fire. They do not have a vulnerability to fire damage but they don’t resist it either.
White Dragons have an immunity only to cold damage. With no vulnerabilities or resistances, this means they take normal fire damage.
Summary of Fire Damage in 5e
That about covers the basic rules concerning fire damage in 5e.
Fire damage is one of the many damage types found in D&D. It represents harm done by intense heat, not necessarily exclusively flames. As such, the normal rules for resistances, immunities, and vulnerabilities apply. Being such a broad damage type that encompasses both magical and mundane sources, fire damage has many causes including various spells, monsters, and non-magical environmental effects.
What’s your favorite fire spell? How have you used fire damage in your games? Leave a comment below!
Make sure to follow Role Player’s Respite for more rules clarifications and inspiration for your game!