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I have a D&D 5e combat strategy for all the masochist mad lads out there. It’s time to set yourself on fire…
Light Yourself on Fire
Sometimes the best move is to set yourself on fire. I’m not talking about ending it all; I’m talking about absorbing the fiery energy, and channeling it into your attacks. The key is to use a persistent fire effect so you get the most bang for your buck, coupled with the Absorb Elements spell (published in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything) and plenty of spell slots. To remind you, Absorb Elements’ casting time is ‘1 reaction’, and it gives you resistance to a triggering elemental damage type while allowing you to add that same elemental damage type to your next melee attack on your next turn. The damage scales with your upcasting at higher spell levels. You can greatly enhance your action economy if you can weaponize that reaction.
The key piece to this concept is an item that usually gets passed over due to its low damage output and saving throw threshold: Alchemist’s Fire. Dealing a mere 1d4 damage, a flask of Alchemist’s Fire is ideal for lighting yourself up like the Human Torch to immolate an attack with infernal fury each round. While you’re on fire, use your reaction to cast Absorb Elements. You’ll resist the 1d4 fire damage, basically taking no damage. Your next attack will then be empowered with 1d6 fire damage per spell level used to cast Absorb Elements. Alchemist’s Fire won’t extinguish until you use your action to attempt a Dexterity check to end it, so it’ll keep firing you up for as long as you need (and perhaps a bit longer than you hoped). It’s like your a Pokémon with the Guts ability and holding a Flame Orb. Alchemist’s Fire is expensive at 50 gold pieces, but the increased fire damage combination with Absorb Elements may be worth that price. Adventurers typically have too much gold anyway…
What Does the Alchemist’s Fire/Absorb Elements Combo Need?
The ideal characters for self-immolation will meet the following criterion:
- The character uses melee attacks as the preferred method of dealing damage.
- The Absorb Elements spell is on the character’s class spell list.
- Spell slots are abundant and not needed for other spells in combat.
I was inclined to analyze which character builds will focus on quantity of attacks instead of quality since Absorb Elements will only enhance one melee attack per casting, but that’s not logical. Any character can benefit from extra damage no matter how many other attacks they perform in a round.
Due to the amount of spell slots required, this combo may be something to attempt at higher levels. Low-level attempts could deplete your spell slots really quickly, and at low levels you can use those spell slots for other things that will be more impactful prior to level five. At higher levels, gaining extra damage with low-level spell slots is viable since you may not need those spell slots in combat anyway (exceptions apply, of course).
Bladesinger as a Fire Dancer
The Bladesinger (found in Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide) is a full caster Wizard stocked up with spell slots for days. At eighteenth level, the Wizard class receives Spell Mastery, which will allow the Bladesinger to cast Absorb Elements without expending spell slots. Absorb all the fire you want and redirect it through your melee attacks!
The negative synergy is with the Bladesinger’s Song of Defense since it requires a reaction to use. I think Song of Defense isn’t always needed anyway, and you won’t always be setting yourself on fire… so the negative synergy seems acceptable.
If you don’t want to use Alchemist’s Fire, you could also concentrate on the Flaming Sphere spell and keep it near you. The sphere’s fire damage can consistently activate your Absorb Elements reaction, though you will suffer damage faster than if you used Alchemist’s Fire. Your allies can also include you in elemental damage from their area-of-effect spells to activate your Absorb Elements.
Druidic Fire Beasts
Druids of eighteenth level have the Beast Spells feature, allowing them to cast Absorb Elements while in beast form. Druids of the Circle of the Moon can transform into powerful creatures while on fire. What a cool image! The beastly Druid will then attack with elemental damage with their beastial claws, teeth, and so on.
Any druidic circle can use the self-immolation strategy since the concept relies on being at a very high level to use Beast Spells. Seriously, just picture it; a gigantic beast enveloped in fire, clawing into a Hill Giant with fiery paws. I think it’s an awesome aesthetic.
Other Character Builds for Self-Immolation
- The Thief Rogue doesn’t have spell slots, but it would do well if it multiclasses with a spellcasting class. A Thief can self-ignite as a bonus action with Fast Hands on the first round of combat while still having an action to do other things. The Absorb Elements damage would begin at the start of the next turn since that’s how Alchemist’s Fire damage works. Like I said, it requires multiclassing, and the Rogue has negative synergy since it prefers to use its reaction defensively with the Uncanny Dodge Rogue feature.
- The Arcane Trickster Rogue has spell slots, though it suffers the same drawback of negative synergy with reaction fatigue as the Thief (see above). It does have its own spell slots though, so no multiclassing required. Arcane Tricksters are quarter casters though, so spell slots are not abundant. Tricksters will also have to use an action to activate Alchemist’s Fire because they lack the Fast Hands feature.
- The Eldritch Knight Fighter has quarter-caster spell slots like the Arcane Trickster (see above). It doesn’t have the same reaction economy fatigue as Rogues, so the Eldritch Knight could get away with this combination of Alchemist’s Fire and Absorb Elements. You may want to have a supporting character ignite you instead of sacrificing your own action.
- Clerics have a tendency to use melee attacks, and they can multiclass as a Wizard to gain Absorb Elements. As full spellcasters, Clerics will have no shortage of spell slots. Clerics also typically use spells that have longevity in a fight, so they don’t need to spend heaps of spells per combat encounter. However, Clerics would be better off multiclassing as Paladins to gain Divine Smite.
- Bards from the College of Valor might not mind investing spell slots in Absorb Elements. They already have skills that allow them to wear better armor and use shields. Similar to Clerics, Bards would probably be better off multiclassing as Paladins for Divine Smite if they mean business with their melee strikes. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Bard playing hard rock tunes while fighting in flames though.
I’m gonna have to try this strategy. Sure, it’s a little bit goofy, and potentially inefficient, but it’s charming. It’s especially viable in a lot of the games I play in; many D&D 5e games are shifting toward fewer combat encounters in an adventuring day, so I can afford to use more of my spell slots on the self-immolation strategy. I typically won’t see more than one fight in a day, so I’m gonna get my spell slots back anyway.
What do you think of this concept? I’ve never seen it done, so I’m curious whether you have tried it or if you think it sounds fun. While you read this article, I was ritual casting Rary’s Telepathic Bond so you can communicate with me in the comments section below. It only lasts an hour, so don’t hesitate to let me know what you think!
You’ll find additional articles below for more character concept ideas from Flutes Loot!
4 thoughts on “<b>Masochist Fire Dancer</b>: D&D 5e Bizarre Builds”
Hello, just a thought. Using a torch instead of Alchemist’s Fire would be cheaper and deal no damage with resistance applied.
1 fire damage halved and rounded down is 0 fire damage for 1d6 fire output.
Hi Stephany252! That’s a great idea, too. I suggested Alchemist’s Fire for its duration; the longer it burns, the less the character would need to devote actions to reigniting. Torches will deal one fire damage resisted to zero as you said, though they’d only help for one attack at the cost of another attack (since you used your action). Do you know of a way to perpetuate a torch’s damage over several rounds? That would be fantastic.
I’m building this character now for a West Marches style game…it will either be very, very rad…or very, very bad! But I’m pumped up about it! And if he dies…then he goes out in a blaze of glory!
Blaze of glory guaranteed one way or the other! 😀