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  • Arson and Firestarting

    So I'm working on turning the city of Detroit, Michigan into a playable setting for WoD/CofD (it'll be called Motor City Breakdown, if you're curious), and I was wondering if there are rule systems for arson, firefighting, and structural damage to buildings? I know that White Wolf released Tales from the 13th Precinct for chronicles which deal with the police, but similar attention hasn't been paid to firefighters.

    I'd assume that setting a fire that doesn’t burn itself out quickly would require an Intelligence + Science roll. Bonuses might be granted for plentiful fuel (dry wood, oily rags, etc.), accelerants (gasoline, kerosene, etc.), and extremely dry conditions, while penalties might be imposed for strong winds, rain or snow, or a lack of kindling. I'm not sure how to handle Structure damage, though. Would the building collapse if it lost more than half its Structure points to fire? If the arsonist scored an exceptional success, then would the fire deal extra damage to the structure each turn? More importantly, what systems could one use to simulate the ways that firefighters combat blazes?


    Author of Motor City Breakdown, [New Seeming] Mechanicals, and [Entitlement] Divers of the Cerulean Pearl
    Accuracy Consultant on Ashes of the Motor City, Author of Devil's Night in the D
    Editor, Compiler, and Senior Contributor to Tenebrous Seas
    Current Project(s): Late Antiquity/Early Medieval Dark Era for Genius: The Transgression

  • #2
    For combating the blaze, first you could have a roll of Intelligence+Science to get a handle on the building type, what the likely cause of the fire is, and the best way to combat it. Then you have extended rolls of Science+Athletics to combat the blaze itself with interspersed Intelligence rolls to plot out the fire and Athletics or Weaponry to break down doors or clear obstacles. First Aid rolls should also be made in case you find a victim in the fire. Bonuses and penalties can be made for training in the type of fire being fought, quality of the equipment being used, time spent fighting the fire, and even the emotional states of those whose house is probably on fire in the first place. Seriously, assaults on firefighters happens more often than most people think. There is a short writeup on Firefighters in the Hunter section, it might help to at least give you some ideas on character types.

    Also, the more important thing if you do have an arsonist character, they'll have to roll well to hide the ignition point from the arson investigators who will investigate after the fire.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Flyboy254 View Post
      For combating the blaze, first you could have a roll of Intelligence+Science to get a handle on the building type, what the likely cause of the fire is, and the best way to combat it. Then you have extended rolls of Science+Athletics to combat the blaze itself with interspersed Intelligence rolls to plot out the fire and Athletics or Weaponry to break down doors or clear obstacles. First Aid rolls should also be made in case you find a victim in the fire. Bonuses and penalties can be made for training in the type of fire being fought, quality of the equipment being used, time spent fighting the fire, and even the emotional states of those whose house is probably on fire in the first place. Seriously, assaults on firefighters happens more often than most people think. There is a short writeup on Firefighters in the Hunter section, it might help to at least give you some ideas on character types.

      Also, the more important thing if you do have an arsonist character, they'll have to roll well to hide the ignition point from the arson investigators who will investigate after the fire.

      That's wrong. Two skills are never rolled together.
      So extended roll could be Dexterity + Science, or Intelligence + Athletics or something else, but not Science + Athletics.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by Flyboy254 View Post
        For combating the blaze, first you could have a roll of Intelligence+Science to get a handle on the building type, what the likely cause of the fire is, and the best way to combat it. Then you have extended rolls of Science+Athletics to combat the blaze itself with interspersed Intelligence rolls to plot out the fire and Athletics or Weaponry to break down doors or clear obstacles.
        Intelligence + Science to analyze the fire seems reasonable. Could this perhaps be a Teamwork action, where one firefighter-scientist (what would his official title be?) tells the other guys what kind of blaze they're looking at, and the "grunt" firefighters react accordingly? If the firefighter-scientist gets it wrong, then it would impose a -4 penalty on the firefighters' efforts to combat the blaze, like any normal Teamwork action. The work of actually fighting the fire would probably be an extended Wits + Athletics or Wits + Science roll, trying to accumulate... I don't know, more successes than points of Structure damage which the fire has dealt to the building?

        Originally posted by Flyboy254 View Post
        There is a short writeup on Firefighters in the Hunter section, it might help to at least give you some ideas on character types.
        I had seen that before, but thank you for pointing it out. That write-up is well written and very useful.

        Originally posted by Flyboy254 View Post
        Also, the more important thing if you do have an arsonist character, they'll have to roll well to hide the ignition point from the arson investigators who will investigate after the fire.
        So in addition to the Intelligence + Science roll to start the fire, the arsonist would also roll Intelligence + Subterfuge (or maybe Intelligence + Larceny) if he wants to make it look like an accident? I'd assume that the number of successes the arsonist accumulates on this roll would be the target-number of the investigators' Intelligence + Investigation roll.


        Author of Motor City Breakdown, [New Seeming] Mechanicals, and [Entitlement] Divers of the Cerulean Pearl
        Accuracy Consultant on Ashes of the Motor City, Author of Devil's Night in the D
        Editor, Compiler, and Senior Contributor to Tenebrous Seas
        Current Project(s): Late Antiquity/Early Medieval Dark Era for Genius: The Transgression

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Super_Dave View Post
          Intelligence + Science to analyze the fire seems reasonable. Could this perhaps be a Teamwork action, where one firefighter-scientist (what would his official title be?) tells the other guys what kind of blaze they're looking at, and the "grunt" firefighters react accordingly? If the firefighter-scientist gets it wrong, then it would impose a -4 penalty on the firefighters' efforts to combat the blaze, like any normal Teamwork action. The work of actually fighting the fire would probably be an extended Wits + Athletics or Wits + Science roll, trying to accumulate... I don't know, more successes than points of Structure damage which the fire has dealt to the building?
          Tactics rules in Hunter let each actor to roll diffrent dicepool in same Extended Action. I use those sparsinlgy in general CoD games, when logic would dictates it. Here your "scientist" could roll Intelingace+Science, and classical fireifghter on his... Wits+Athletics?


          My stuff for Realms of Pugmire, Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E, MtC 2E & BtP
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          • #6
            Why Science for all the Rolls? It makes all arsonists well educated physicists Or else they are rolling Chance die.

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            • #7
              I don't know about arsonists, but one of the biggest parts of a firefighter's training is identifying and combating a blaze based on the origin and fuel sources. For them, science is how they survive.

              The ranking man on the scene dictates what to do. In city departments that's usually a captain or battalion chief, though if they aren't present a lieutenant or most senior man makes the determination.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by WHW View Post
                Why Science for all the Rolls? It makes all arsonists well educated physicists Or else they are rolling Chance die.
                Well, yeah, that's the idea. Even if they don't have any formal training in the sciences, arsonists need to understand things like combustion and airflow in order to set a fire that doesn't burn out before its work is done. It's not impossible to start an arson fire if you don't grasp the underlying principles, but it should certainly be more difficult if you don't have a clue what you're doing.

                Most arsonists are probably not well educated, but they're not going to get very far if they don't even understand how fires work.


                Author of Motor City Breakdown, [New Seeming] Mechanicals, and [Entitlement] Divers of the Cerulean Pearl
                Accuracy Consultant on Ashes of the Motor City, Author of Devil's Night in the D
                Editor, Compiler, and Senior Contributor to Tenebrous Seas
                Current Project(s): Late Antiquity/Early Medieval Dark Era for Genius: The Transgression

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                • #9
                  Suggestions ahoy!

                  Arson:

                  Extended Action: Intelligence + Science - Durability of the most common material in the building. Successes needed equal the building's Size.

                  Common Modifiers: Accelerants (+1 to +5, depending on their effectiveness and quantity). Dry conditions (+2). Windy conditions (+1 to -1, depending on intensity). Flammable building materials (+1 to +3). Wet conditions (-1 to -5).

                  Dramatic Failure: Not only do you fail to start a fire, but it becomes immediately obvious that arson was attempted (scorch marks, burnt smell, etc.). Any Wits- or Investigation-based rolls on the nature of the attempted arson become exceptional successes on 3 successes instead of 5.
                  Exceptional Success: Attempts to fight the fire take your Intelligence as a penalty on all rolls.

                  New Merit: Instinctual Arsonist ( * to *** ). You are instinctively gifted at starting fires, despite your lack of formal knowledge on the subject. You may roll Intelligence + Wits to start a fire instead of the normal dice pool. You also add your dots in this merit as a bonus to your dice pool, also increasing your maximum rolls by that amount.

                  Fire:

                  Add the Extreme Heat and Fire Tilts to the building, add the Extreme Heat Tilt to the surrounding area.

                  Calculate a building's Structure using its Size and the Durability of its most common material. A building on fire takes one point of Structure damage every minute. When the building has taken more damage than its Durability, it imposes a -1 roll to all rolls made to fight the fire. When the building has taken more damage than its Size, it begins collapsing, halving the Speed of all those inside and imposing a -3 to all Athletics rolls. When the building has taken its full Structure in damage, it collapses, dealing its Size in Bashing damage to everyone inside it and burying them alive, which begins to cause suffocation after a few minutes (either roll 2d10 for randomness or determine narratively).

                  Firefighting:

                  Each firefighter rolls a single dice pool every minute that best represents their current efforts. Any successes are added to a total, communal pool. A failure in a roll subtracts 1 success from the communal pool. A dramatic failure removes all successes. An exceptional success prevents the building from taking damage the next minute. Every minute, there is a 10% chance a neighbouring building begins to catch fire as well.

                  Most common dice pools for firefighting:

                  Intelligence + Science to determine type of fire and develop firefighting plans.
                  Dexterity + Stamina to aim giant hoses at the correct areas.
                  Dexterity + Athletics to avoid fire hazards while inside the building.
                  Strength + Athletics to force down doors and other obstacles.
                  Stamina + Athletics to carry survivors and perform extended or demanding physical tasks.
                  Strength + Stamina to lift heavy objects for an extended period of time.
                  Intelligence + Socialise to use comms in order to coordinate diverse firefighting efforts and other logistics efficiently.
                  Composure + Socialise when reacting to unforeseen catastrophes during firefighting in order to maintain the group's calm, refocus them and avoid losing progress.

                  When the firefighters reach a total number of successes equal to the building's Structure, the fire is contained and the building stops taking damage (and neighbouring buildings no longer run the risk of catching fire). When the total number of successes equals the building's Structure + the amount of damage it has taken thus far, the fire is fully extinguished.

                  New Merit: Disaster Coordination (** or ***). You are trained in coordinating groups of professionals during disasters. You gain a +2 to Socialise rolls during emergencies of any type. Any people under your coordination during a disaster gain a +1 to their rolls to fight the disaster or perform rescue operations. If you have the 3-dot version of this merit, you achieve exceptional successes on Socialise rolls during disasters on 3 successes instead of 5 and, if you have dots in the skill the people under your coordination are using for their rolls, the bonus you grant them increases to a +2.
                  Last edited by ShadowKnight1224; 03-26-2016, 06:25 AM.


                  My homebrew hub.

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                  • #10
                    Great job, ShadowKnight! Now I want to add mass fire to my stories, somehow...

                    Only some advices...

                    Originally posted by ShadowKnight1224 View Post
                    Fire:

                    Add the Extreme Heat and Fire Tilts to the building, add the Extreme Heat Tilt to the surrounding area..
                    There is Burning Tilt in spoiled Hurt Locker Appendix. There was, also, Inferno Tilt - but I do not remember where - maybe Demon core or Quickstarter?


                    Originally posted by ShadowKnight1224 View Post
                    Intelligence + Socialise to use comms in order to coordinate diverse firefighting efforts and other logistics efficiently.
                    Composure + Socialise when reacting to unforeseen catastrophes during firefighting in order to maintain the group's calm, refocus them and avoid losing progress.
                    AND

                    Originally posted by ShadowKnight1224 View Post
                    New Merit: Disaster Coordination (** or ***). You are trained in coordinating groups of professionals during disasters. You gain a +2 to Socialise rolls during emergencies of any type. Any people under your coordination during a disaster gain a +1 to their rolls to fight the disaster or perform rescue operations. If you have the 3-dot version of this merit, you achieve exceptional successes on Socialise rolls during disasters on 3 successes instead of 5 and, if you have dots in the skill the people under your coordination are using for their rolls, the bonus you grant them increases to a +2.
                    Socialize sound bad here - Socialize is "Etiquette" Skill - it's much more open than "high society behavior" but it still ill suited for the "logistics and commanding" Skills.

                    We had the same problem when my players were doing battle plans in our Mage game - as leader was Exalted fan, he wanted to have Warfare Skill in game. And I agree it would be the most logical. In the end, I would use Expression Skill for "morale talk" ( see Inspiring Merit in CoD corebook ) or Survival for understanding your environment, using it to your advantage and other logistics matters.
                    Last edited by wyrdhamster; 03-26-2016, 02:20 AM.


                    My stuff for Realms of Pugmire, Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E, MtC 2E & BtP
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post
                      Great job, ShadowKnight! Now I want to add mass fire to my stories, somehow...

                      Only some adivces...

                      There is Burning Tilt in spoiled Hurt Locker Appendix. There was, also, Inferno Tilt - but I do not remeber where - maybe Demon core or Quickstarter?
                      Thank you! Glad you like them!

                      I knew there was a "EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE OH MY GOD" Tilt somewhere, but I didn't really know exactly where (or even what the name was). Since I'm away from my books right now, I appreciate the reference.

                      Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post
                      Socialize sound bad here - Socialize is "Etiquette" Skill - it's much more open than "high society behavior" but it still ill suited for the "logictics and commanding" Skills.

                      We had the same problem when my players were doing battle plans - as leader was Exalted fan, he wanted to have Warfare Skill in game. And I agree it would be the most logical. In the end, I would use Persuasion Skill for "morale talk" ( see Inspirational Merit in CoD corebook ) or Survival for understanding your eviorment and using it to your advantage.
                      I do not consider Socialise to be simply an etiquette skill (otherwise, it'd be called Etiquette, like in the oWoD days! :P ). It's a skill that allows you to navigate social situations, particularly when it comes to groups of people. That's the strength of the skill: it shines when it comes to finding the right way to communicate with or influence a group (one of the traditional uses for Socialise is, after all, Carousing, and that has very little to do with traditional etiquette). Persuasion is more of a 1-on-1 skill, and it's also ill-suited for being a communication skill, particularly when it comes to logistics and the like. Survival also doesn't fit here, since it's a Physical skill, not a Social one. Expression is too emotional for me to associate it with logistics and the like.

                      So yes, I consider Socialise to be a good skill for the type of communication/coordination angle I'm looking for. It's also a criminally underused skill, so giving it some love is a plus.
                      Last edited by ShadowKnight1224; 03-26-2016, 02:39 AM.


                      My homebrew hub.

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                      • #12
                        My problem with the arson formula is that unless you posess enough education to get 1 dot in science (dunno, my players never took it), due to untrained massive penalty of -3 to mental skills, combined with another penalty equal to durability, your average arsonist who isnt exceptionally intelligent will be looking at chance die to set fire.

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                        • #13
                          I'd say that requiring Science for people to seriously know what they're doing it fine. If someone literally has no idea how fire works, just ask them what they do and how they do it and go from there. If they do it wrong and the fire burns itself out before doing even moderate damage then that's a sign that they probably need to go read up on how to set places on fire (aka get a dot in Science).

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by WHW View Post
                            My problem with the arson formula is that unless you posess enough education to get 1 dot in science (dunno, my players never took it), due to untrained massive penalty of -3 to mental skills, combined with another penalty equal to durability, your average arsonist who isnt exceptionally intelligent will be looking at chance die to set fire.
                            Hence why Instinctual Arsonist is a thing. With only 1 dot, you can use Wits instead of Science, and you get a +1 to the rolls to boot. Strictly better, XP-wise, than a dot of Science.

                            Also note the most common modifiers. If on top of having no Science dots and no Instinctual Arsonist, you bring no accelerants and the conditions aren't mildly windy and/or dry, then yeah, you kinda deserve to chance-die it.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ShadowKnight1224 View Post
                              Suggestions ahoy!
                              Wow, your work is incredible! For brevity's sake, I won't repost it all here, but I like what I see. Is it alright with you if I use what you've written here in my soon-to-be-released Changeling supplement Motor City Breakdown? I would be sure to give you credit, of course.

                              At the moment I'm using 1st Edition rules, so I'd need to do some finagling to make your ideas mesh with the rest of the setting; but when I update Motor City Breakdown for 2nd Edition, I'd basically just use your suggestions as-written (again, if that's OK with you).

                              I do think wyrdhamster is right, though: Expression probably makes more sense than Socialize, because the dispatcher is trying to communicate clearly and give factual instructions to first-responders; it's less about making people like you and more about speaking clearly, without ambiguity or missing information. However, Socialize could be appropriate if the dispatcher were trying to talk someone through the steps for escaping a burning house, because they'd probably be very scared and emotional, so getting them to trust the dispatcher might take some social finesse. (Though maybe that's more in the realm of Empathy?)

                              Originally posted by WHW View Post
                              My problem with the arson formula is that unless you posess enough education to get 1 dot in science (dunno, my players never took it), due to untrained massive penalty of -3 to mental skills, combined with another penalty equal to durability, your average arsonist who isnt exceptionally intelligent will be looking at chance die to set fire.
                              While that would normally be true, mental Skills like Science and Academics don't necessarily represent formal schooling, just how well you understand a subject (for example, a 19th-century blacksmith could have an excellent understanding of metallurgy and thermodynamics, despite being completely illiterate, because he works with metal and fire every day). In the modern era, it would be even easier to gain a basic understanding of arson, thanks to all the free resources which are available online.

                              Plus, many people don't realize just how common arson is in Detroit. Every second of every day, something in Detroit is on fire, and usually from arson. It would not be difficult at all, even for someone who was functionally illiterate (as 50% of adults in Detroit are) to find someone who had torched a few buildings in their time and ask them a few simple questions about how it's done.

                              I mean, seriously, Detroit is home to an insane number of fires. Firefighters from L.A. and the Bronx make pilgrimages to Detroit to see what it's like for themselves. Detroit has something like nine times as many fires annually as New York City, despite having less than an eighth of New York's population. If you want to learn more about how bad it is, check out the free documentary Detroit on Fire on YouTube.)


                              Author of Motor City Breakdown, [New Seeming] Mechanicals, and [Entitlement] Divers of the Cerulean Pearl
                              Accuracy Consultant on Ashes of the Motor City, Author of Devil's Night in the D
                              Editor, Compiler, and Senior Contributor to Tenebrous Seas
                              Current Project(s): Late Antiquity/Early Medieval Dark Era for Genius: The Transgression

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