Re-examine the oil flask

Hello All,
I would like to re-examine the damage the lowly oil flask is capable of. On a direct hit, the oil flask deals 1d8 damage for 2 rounds totalling 2d8. It is also capable of doing 1d3 damage to nearby targets as splash damage. This is pretty potent. First off, compared with most weapons, the 1st round of damage already out damages a lot of weapons in the game. Second, the guarantee of a further 1d8 damage on the second round makes it even better when compared with weapons as a weapon wielder requires an additional succesful attack throw to keep pace with the oil flask.
I think there is a case to reduce the damage to 1d6 for two rounds. Even at this damage output, this is still a fantastic option simply due to only 1 successful attack throw required to do 2d12 damage.
I don’t believe the drawbacks (fumble and missed throw direction rolls) outweigh the bonuses of the oil flask.
Anyone else agree or am I off my ACKS rocker?

Personally, I think the 5% chance to set yourself on fire for 2d8 is a significant enough drawback to balance it out at low levels, when you’re most likely to be tempted by it. The chance of self-immolation in 10 throws is about 40%. If you throw first and light later, you’ve spent an extra combat round doing zero damage.
Odd that it does more damage than a 4th level spell, though. Wall of Fire is only 1d6.

My biggest point is the damage comparison with weapons. Its at the high end of weapons and as you pointed out Undercrypt,a 4th level spell only does 1d6. There just seems to be some inconsistency here…

It definitely does good damage, but it takes 2 rounds to use to inflict 2 rounds of damage; costs 2gp per shot; and has a risk of harming its user.
If it only did 1d6 damage, you’d be better off just using an arrow, which is cheaper, does similar damage per round, and doesn’t risk hurting you.

Shouldn’t that be the point? Using a weapon should make sense more often than using an oil flask. Otherwise, oil flask should be listed in the weapon chart.
I’m being tongue in cheek there, but my point stands - its illogical for non magical fire to out damage most weapons and also outdamage the fire die damage of magical fire.
To me it just seems inconsistent in a game that goes to great lengths for a consistent word.

Also, on page 104 underneath the OTHER ACTIONS there is a paragraph with the following sentence:
Simply dropping a weapon and drawing a new one do not count as an action during a round, however. For example, a combatant can drop a bow, draw a sword, and attack in the same round.
The word “do” should be the word “does”.

I am going to put the notion of the Wall of Fire aside for the time being and just address the worry about inconsistency. It seems perfectly consistent to me that being doused with a pound of oil and having it lit on fire would out-damage a slashing wound. Fire was dreaded in the ancient world. Burning oil was the terror of medieval siege-makers. Greek Fire was a secret weapon that won wars. I just don’t have an existential problem with 1d8 burning oil, I guess. In another thread, folks wanted me to up the damage of torches, so it’s not like there’s even consensus on this point…
As far as Wall of Fire, I think it highlights a general inconsistency in how fire damage is treated within the D&D tradition. Why, for instance, does a fireball do so much damage (5d6+) compared to a wall of fire (1d6) or burning oil (1d8)? It seems like if one wanted to truly rationalize the system, it would put all 3 on similar footing. There is, however, something to be said for tradition, inter-compatability, and not messing with stuff that seems to work ok.

The big thing with Wall of Fire is that it stops creatures of less than 4 HD. It’s almost as if it is an illusionary wall with a little actual heat; the high-level dudes can look at it and say “we’ll jump through it’s no big deal”, but lesser heroes will refuse to do so even if they would indeed survive.
Likewise sensewise I imagine that a fireball is a concussive explosion that does blast damage, sets the air on your lungs on fire, etc and is thus worse than just jumping through a bonfire. From a gameplay viewpoint the risk of hitting comrades, losing the spell if hit in combat, etc. also helps balance fireball.
Here is Delta on these and related issues:

Well, now that we’re on a tangent, the fireball always did a lot of damage because it was a heavy catapult designed to knock down walls in a man-to-man scale siege, as well as route fantastic foes off the battlefield–to route a superhero you have to do at least 8 men’s worth of damage, so you might as well tether it to the wizards level (leaving aside the analogy that the hero also does his level in damage, but only at melee range).
The question is a good one though: Alex, in your games have you noticed an ‘emergent play’ style where the players simply run around setting monsters on fire to the exclusion of other abilities?
2) oh hey! Why not a proficiency–call it “alchemists guild initiate” or something a la game of thrones and let pc’s who take this feat/proficiency be particularly good with burning oil/wildfire? Then raise the danger threashold for non-members? Perhaps 5% for PC’s with the proficiency and 15% for those not taught the mysteries of the alchemists guild? Heck, create a hireling version as well.

Bargle, no, in our game we did not see extensive use of burning oil. It certainly was useful, but it never became an issue. That’s partly because of cost, partly time to use, partly risk. And two other things that (further) balance oil are the weapon damage bonuses and cleave rules. In ACKS fighters are doing +1 damage with their weapons at level 1, and +2 by 3rd level. In addition with melee and missile attacks you can cleave.
Tavis, I agree re: wall of fire. That’s how I interpret it, too – scary more than damaging. That said, my players are very fond of defending their positions with “Z” shaped walls, so that if attackers pass through the wall, they find that they have another two more walls to pass through to get to the other side.
Bargle, having Alchemy proficiency avoid the danger of fire is a neat idea. Thoughts?

I shall bow to the collective wisdom then. Thanks for your thoughts on the subject. :slight_smile:

The Z-shaped Wall of Fire is genius.