Originally posted to Google+ in February 2015:
Basically, the DM wanted a fight that forced some choices: there’s going to be a hellhound, a zealot bad guy, and the scene is going to be on fire. It’s going to make the PCs have to decide whether to turn and flee or fight on, and the zealot is apparently willing to be martyred by fire and so isn’t afraid.
Cool, that’s the set up.
She was originally going to have the fire act at the top or bottom of the initiative and expand 1d4 spaces. PCs can cross the fire with a DC10 Dex check. If they’re standing in a fire space, they take 1D6 damage ongoing. There are 5 PCs and 3 NPCs in this fight.
That was where I started offering ideas. I suggested waiting 8 turns to move fire 1 to 4 spaces is flat. The fire is either acting first and everyone can plan around it, or its acting last and has no influence over plans for the round – and a single fire source moving 1 to 4 spaces isn’t itself much of a threat. Whether or not this is objectively true, the DM felt the same way and so we brainstormed. This is what we came up with.
1) instead of a single source of fire, there are 2.
2) each source has an Initiative score based on its fuel source – maybe the Hellhound’s level, or its attack score? I forget what she decided.
3) each round, the fires reroll their initiative – making their movement unpredictable and threatening to upset the characters’ plans and tactics
4) each round on its turn, each flame grows 1d4 spaces
5) if you’re standing in a spot with fire, you take 1d6 damage ongoing
6) you can cross a fire with a DC10 Dex check; if you make a DC13 Dex check, do not mark a tally. If you mark three tallies, one of your items catches fire.
7) each square of fire has HP equal to the source’s Initiative [bonus] – again, representing its fuel source.
8) dirt or a bucket of water deals 1d6 “damage” to the fire; a trough or a bedroll deals 1d8 “damage” to the fire.
So in the end we had two sources of fire, each moving in a way the PCs can’t hang their plans on, with a custom mechanic to cross them that forces the PCs to press their luck about leaping through walls of fire, with a built-in “out” that gives PCs an additional constructive use of their turn if they want to try and “stabilize” the battlefield. More things happening, more options, more dangers, all with very little overhead maintenance on the part of the DM.