Why You Should Use a Torch

A sunrod [DDI] is only 4gp, lasts 4 hours, lights up 20 squares, and most importantly comes with the Adventurer’s Kit. On the surface this seems like a better deal than a regular torch [DDI]: for 1sp, lasts 1 hour, and dim lights 5 squares. From this seemingly one-sided contest, I’m going to try to convince you to buy torches for your characters!

Arugment 1: Torches are cheaper. To light 20 squares for four hours requires 16 torches, which is less than half the price of a sunrod. Even if you count the double distance for bright light vs dim, 3.2 gp is still less than than the 4 for one sunrod! “But Mike,” you say, “one sunrod weighs 2 pounds whereas 32 torches weighs 32 pounds!”

Maybe that’s true, and maybe that isn’t. What matters is that you should have at least one buff guy that has a 18+ Strength, so what’s an extra 100 pounds of easy-burning lumber to him?

Argument 2: Torches set shit on fire. Sunrods and even fancy everburning torches [DDI] provide light but not heat. Torches are flaming sticks and one useful property of fire is that you can use it to set other things on fire as well. A single torch can turn a dark dungeon into a dangerous inferno for your enemies. Some easy flammables your characters might find flammable: wizards’ desks, tapestries, inn common rooms, and Marty’s House of Torches. Not only can you light stuff on fire, but you can light most creatures on fire too. If you light an opponent on fire, he’ll take ongoing fire damage! Just don’t try it on a Tiefling.

Argument 3: Torches are smoky. In my personal experience, torches tend give off a lot of smoke, and if made from period materials, probably noxious, dark smoke at that. This smoke could draw attention of enemies if you’re trying to sneak around somewhere, but can also be used to your advantage. Natural beasts aren’t likely to want to come near all that smoke. You can also use a few torches to smoke out a room in a dungeon and make the inhabitants come rushing out into your devious trap.

Argument 4: Torches are intimidating. You don’t see angry mobs carrying pitchforks and glow sticks. A flaming torch tells people that you’re on a mission and they better not get in your way. Fire can also have religious or social connotations, and may add an extra destructive flair to a negotiation.

If this doesn’t make you go out and buy a ton of torches for your character, nothing will!


6 thoughts on “Why You Should Use a Torch

  1. Hah! Very nice. In my own campaigns I’ve houseruled Sunrods from super-torches to magnesium flares by reducing their duration to 5 minutes. Adventurers still buy them, but they think twice before spoiling all those wonderful shadows and mood lighting with one.

  2. My players would completely disagree with you. In the last session they were fighting things that had darkvision. The enemy had grunts up front to keep the characters busy while the hidden ranged enemy sniped at the party with impunity from the dark. Torches couldnt reach the darkened enemy. Things looked bad until they popped a sunrod and suddenly with the extra light range they could see the hidden casters.
    Range > all

  3. @Michael,

    I’ll agree with you. For these reasons and these reasons alone:

    1. Torches set shit on fire.

    2. Torches are intimidating. You don’t see angry mobs carrying pitchforks and glow sticks.


    In similar circumstances, we threw torches on the floor in front of us/beyond the melee action. Not only did it light up the snipers, but if they wanted to extinguish the torch, they had to leave concealment/cover to do so, opening them up to ranged/area attacks.

    Sunrods (and the like) have their place, but torches are useful in a lot of situations too.

  4. @Callin,
    That is the advantage of the sunrod. I was trying to be tounge-in-cheek. The ease of obtaining/using a sunrod makes them a little ridiculous.

    What other situations are torches useful? I’d like to add more cases to strengthen the argument.

  5. @Michael,

    Well, you’re reasons cover quite a bit, due to their broad nature.

    I mean, you say they “set shit on fire”. But that also covers starting campfires (for warmth as well as nighttime protection), cooking things, or clearing out heavily cobwebbed catacombs. All are part of setting shit on fire, but none of which can be achieved with fake flames.

    You mention indimidation, and that covers things as broad as interrogations, for which, we’ve used them successfully multiple times. The properly applied heat of a torch can make the most stubborn captive willing to cooperate.

    Another nicety of torches is that they are abundant and widely available. They can even be “makeshifted” if you have some rags and oil handy, which most adventure settings do.

  6. Yep, it’s hard to beat real fire. And if a torch doesn’t provide enough illumination, try a flaming pig. This actually happened in my campaign once.

    The PCs were in a dark cave and heard kobolds beyond their line of sight. The party’s barbarian just happened to be carrying around a rotting pig corpse, so he chucked it up ahead and the wizard lit it on fire with Scorching Burst. Nothing says “we’re coming to kick your butts” like a flaming pig corpse flying through the air.

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