I am working on a game that features rooms full of fire and I am considering introducing a mechanic that will allow the fire to spread from one room to another. The fire is not the main focus of the game, but is a hazard the players need to address so it may not benefit the game to allow the fire to become rampant...
The fire is represented by a counter or token and a single room will have 1-3 fire tokens. Mostly I am hoping for some general feedback about how the fire could spread...could it spread to another room after only 1 fire token or does it require 3 before it spreads? Is the chance of a spread increased with each token?
Thanks for reading!
Have you played Pandemic or Forbidden Island? Matt Leacock has a very nice mechanic using cards to dictate the spread of diseases/floods. You could borrow something similar for your game.
Fires are unpredictable; that's what makes them terrifying. The one thing you CAN count on, though, is that an unchecked fire, allowed to burn, will continue to burn and spread. Consider using each Fire Token as a counter for how many die to roll to determine a spread. One token means you roll one die, and determine a number that indicates a spread. If it doesn't spread, add another token and another die next time, because a fire in a house or building will get out of control quick. Next time, roll two...then determine a number where luck just isn't enough anymore...say three or four fire tokens and that thing's spreading, regardless of a roll...a suggestion that I feel like might make it a little more interesting would be causing the direction the fire spreads to be random...maybe a 'north, south, east, west' die or something to roll when it does spread...not knowing how to anticipate their speed or intensity or direction makes for some scary fires!
I think the idea of fire tokens affecting chance to spread is a good one. Perhaps a d6 is rolled, and you must roll the number of tokens or less for it to spread. That way even at 3 tokens, there is only a 50% chance of spread. Obviously if you want more spreading you could change that.
The more important question here would be "Which room does the check?" If you have a square grid board, then each room touches four other rooms. If a single room is on fire, it has a chance to affect four possible rooms. If this is the case, would you roll once for the flaming room, or would each room adjacent to that room get it's own roll? Also, what if a room, currently not on fire, is touching two flaming rooms? Do the odds increase there? Will the odds take into account the possibility that a room could have 12 total fire tokens adjacent to it? Also, if the fire starts moving quickly, each round will end up involving many, many rolls. Just two unconnected flaming rooms would generate 8 calculations. Touching rooms would only save two rolls.
So yeah, that could be a problem. But if the odds are low (like the d6 idea above), there is a good chance that as long as the player has some sort of fire-extinguisher ability, it shouldn't get too crazy too fast.
Rolling for the room on fire is IMHO more natural, as it is the "active" one. In reality, the exact position of the fire in the room would affect which neighboring room catches fire. Of course, there are more things having an influence.
Using a roll per room on fire answers the questions: Roll two different dice, the first one (together with the fire token number) determining if the fire spreads, the second one determining the direction (e.g., 1=N, 2=E, 3=S, 4=W, 5=none, 6=none).
The real fire spreading probably differs: With 12 adjacent fire tokens the room gets heated intensively and you can be sure it catches fire. But this way the whole house would get burned very quickly and that's probably not what you want, so I'd ignore reality here.
Using my proposal you only need a single 2 dice roll per room on fire, which should be acceptable. Instead of dice you could use cards, which would also allow you to fine tune the probabilities very easily. OTOH cards would increase the cost of the game and some probability tuning is also possible using dice.
For example, in my proposal using "none" twice diminishes the fire spreading probability by 1/3. In case this is too much, you can change it e.g. by using a third die: In case the second die shows 5 or 6, simply ignore it and look at the third one. This way the fire spreading probability gets diminished by 1/9 only. There many other ways, just find out what probabilities you need.
Lots of great thoughts here - I appreciate the feedback!