Accept no substitutes.
"I don't know the scientific explanation, but fire made it good."
If one encounters writer's block, there is always the option of setting something on fire. Therefore, the Incendiary Exponent combines the Rule of Cool
and a Man on Fire
according to the following principle:
The perceived Badassery of any given action will increase tenfold if the action is performed while on fire.
The exact reason for this is uncertain. Maybe because being on fire is very, very painful, it's assumed that quite a lot of Heroic Resolve
is required to overcome it. Maybe it is due to the association of fire with hot blood
. Maybe colours and lights from fire are delightful
, especially when moving
and when it's dark
. Maybe it's just because it looks really damn cool
. Whatever it is, the chances are that being set on fire for your big moment will result in a Crowning Moment of Awesome
Doesn't really apply to persons who are normally Wreathed in Flames
anyway, like The Human Torch
. When the enhanced coolness comes from walking out
of a fire, it's Out of the Inferno
. See also Flaming Sword
, and the entire fire-related index
. Just be careful about Infernal Retaliation
Compare Awesomeness Is Volatile
. Also see Lava Adds Awesome
. If fire doesn't feel right but you still have writer's block, try Chandler's Law
. If that doesn't work, do both at once and blow something up
. Or set a gun on fire
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Anime & Manga
“What is it?” Torian replied, watching Tiger with a worried expression. Not too worried though, since her flaming crown had disappeared the moment she had doubled over in pain.
“The enemy temple! It's on fire!” the voice shouted.
“Huh?” He involuntarily looked down, and then kept looking, his eyes growing wider and wider. Something underneath the waves was burning bright enough to make them shine like the setting sun. “I- I can see that.” He looked up at Tiger, his expression begging for an explanation. “What are they burning?”
“Yes, you already told me that!”
“You don't understand! The stone is on fire! Underwater!”
Torian blinked. So did most of the youma.
“By all the dark gods, it just crashed and now the sand is burning too! Look at it!” another warlock shouted in the background.
“I think even the water is on fire,” the first one muttered in a voice that bordered on religious rapture.
“Don't be silly,” Tiger interrupted. “The water is too busy exploding to be on fire!”
“I... I stand corrected.”
- In the Naruto fanfiction Nin Tech, Naruto is found by Sasuke in his room tinkering with a gadget... with his hair on fire.
- Then again he is crazy, so what does he care?
- In the Firefly fanfic Forward, the crew is captured by an enemy crew of pirates. Salvation comes in the form of Jayne drenching a coat in lighter fluid, throwing it on, setting himself on fire, and then rushing the enemy crew with his knife in hand. Probably the most awesome Refuge in Audacity moment in the entire story.
- This was, in fact, a Shout-Out to an example from The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. In fact, the dialogue is almost identical, but with Mal as the titular Doctor and Jayne as Dan.
- Much, much later on, we learn where Jayne got the idea: One of the "six men came to kill me one time" did the same thing to Jayne when he used a gasoline bomb on him. It was the most righteously terrifying thing he'd ever seen.
Films — Animated
- This is why the weather in The Lion King, after Scar takes over the savanna, suddenly turns from drier-than-a-bone to thunderstorm. Something must be set on fire, after all.
- In his final fight with Shifu at the end of Kung Fu Panda, Tai Lung knocks over a torch and lights his hands on fire. There's a slo-mo shot of him flying through the air with his forepaws wreathed in blue flames. Awesome.
- At the beginning of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington sets himself on fire, therefore having one of the most awesome entrances in Disney history.
- The Monstrous Nightmare from How to Train Your Dragon likes to set itself on fire as a combat technique.
Films — Live-Action
- In Freddy vs. Jason Jason is lit on fire at a rave, but unfortunately for the people there doesn't slow him down in the slightest as he continues to kill people.
- Westley in The Princess Bride is well aware of this trope. When the heroes have to storm the castle he has Fezzik (played by André the Giant) climb on top a wheelbarrow and then sets the giant on fire. The image of a ten foot tall floating man on fire claiming to be the Dread Pirate Roberts who leaves no survivors is enough to scare the sixty men guarding the gate. Fezzik at least has a holocaust cloak which supposedly prevents a person from burning to death and even then it doesn't make it pleasant.
- Overheard in this review of a Bollywood movie:
Shaitan Singh has escaped from prison, a feat he has accomplished in part by means of setting himself on fire (badass). To be honest, I'm not sure that the whole setting himself on fire part was all that necessary to his escape, but the shot of him emerging from his cell in slow motion, on fire, while shooting everyone in sight was definitely necessary to me being able to make it through the remaining hour of Toofan.
- The protagonist of the martial arts movie Ong Bak (played by Muay Thai expert Tony Jaa) kicks a mook in the head with his legs on fire. Jaa did his own stunts.
- He also insisted on doing the take over and over again until he was sure it was right, despite having already suffered burns to his legs from prior takes.
- The final showdown in the Hong Kong Wire Fu movie Iron Monkey is a one-on-two fight on wooden poles, which are slowly burning. All three participants catch on fire at some point, and just for extra ridiculous badass credit they proceed to use said burning poles as hand-held weapons.
- The title character of The Terminator is on fire when he punches through the windshield of the heroes' getaway car. Granted, he isn't human, but a literal killing machine, but it's still made of plenty of win.
- In Transformers, for a brief moment after crashing through a bus and rollerskating towards Optimus Prime, Bonecrusher is on fire. (Which he hates.)
- Near the end of Crank High Voltage, Chev Chelios walks in slow motion towards the camera while completely consumed in flames, and gives the audience the middle finger.
- In Avatar, Colonel Quaritch is set on fire when a missile explodes in his gunship's engine. He walks over to his mech and prepares to bail out. Then he puts out the flames.
- In Alien vs. Predator, one predator, upon being ignited via an improvised flamethrower, kills the human wielding it but does not otherwise react to being on fire.
- In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, during Cobra's assault on the Joes, a random Viper gets set on fire in the background and continues as normal. He dies when he reappears, because they stick a grenade in his neck guard.
- Oblivion (2013) : The drone on Tower 49 right after it gets reactivated by the Tet and vaporizes Victoria 49 is briefly on fire for no reason other than looking pretty scary (and floating into the room through recently-shot curtains).
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, at one points when Will is fighting Davy Jones' crew he sets his sword on fire by sticking it through a lamp.
- Red Rackham in The Adventures of Tintin makes his entrance with his cape on fire, and he actually uses it as a weapon in his first battle with his adversary, Sir Francis Haddock.
- In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Thud!!, Commander Samuel Vimes fights several dwarves wielding flamethrowers, with only two axes and a sword, while on fire.
- What's more awesome than a seven-foot-tall skeleton rushing into a burning building to save a small child? A seven-foot-tall skeleton walking out of the inferno, after the building has exploded, on fire, carrying said child. What's even more awesome than that? Said seven-foot-tall skeleton is Death, in the novel Reaper Man.
- In Larry Niven's World of Ptaavs, a character lights the planet Pluto on fire with his rocket's exhaust. And yes, it was still a planet at the time.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment to J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, Neville is stuck in a body-bind curse with a flaming hat on his head. Once freed, he's still able to take out the snake holding the last piece of Voldemort's soul. Any wonder he's become the Potterverse's Chuck Norris to the fans?
- Crowley, the friendly demon from Good Omens, makes a good chunk of the trip between his offices in London and the site of Armageddon (a sleepy little town called Tadfield) with his vintage Bentley on fire, held together through sheer force of will.
- Including when he stops and asks for directions. The result is too hilarious to describe here.
- In The Shining by Stephen King, Dick Hallorran reaches his Crowning Moment of Awesome when in desperation he sets his gasoline-soaked arm on fire and punches into the possessed hedge lion.
- The Bible has so many example of this...
- Flaming Swords.
- Fiery Chariots.
- God's holiness being described as an "all-consuming fire"
- Burnt offerings.
- Burning bush.
- Several judgments from Revelation.
- Pillar of fire by night.
- Fire and brimstone.
- Burning hail.
- And so on and so on...
- In the third Empire from the Ashes book, Stomald douses the "demon" Sandy (who had an invisible personal force field on) in holy oil. Sandy issues forth a booming laugh, uses a nearby torch to set herself on fire, and then keeps going toward Stomald, laughing and ranting about Stomald's sinful nature. Stomald shits bricks. Great success!
- In The Hunger Games series, this is basically why the outfits Cinna designs are so awesome. The dress originally Katniss's wedding gown, bursting into flames and turning into a mockingjay dress in particular comes to mind.
- Katniss isn't called the "girl on fire" for nothing.
- The Ramayana has the villainous Rakshavas set fire to Hanumann's tail. He escapes and leaps from building to building, setting the entire city on fire with his tail.
Live Action TV
- The CSI episode "The Theory of Everything" has a drunk man escape custody and wreak havoc all over the station, overpowering many police officers. When he's finally cornered, Brass orders a deputy to drop him with a stun gun, saying "Light him up!" When the pins strike the man, he flashes into flame in the most awesome manner possible. (Most of the rest of the episode is devoted to finding out why he caught fire from a taser hit, including a cameo from the MythBusters, who would later test that very myth on their show.)
- An episode of The Tick features a dolphin show where the dolphin jumps through a ring and such, following which the announcers say "But can he do it... ON FIRE?" Soon the dolphin gains human intelligence and some henchmen, and turns the tables on them.
- This is how Minbari decided caste dominance in Babylon 5, at least in the old days. More would be spoiling. Never has deciding to become a priest been so badass.
- The Daily Show/The Colbert Report's Indecision 2008 has a Man on Fire voting. And then the booth explodes.
- Duff of Ace Of Cakes will put fireworks into a cake if given half an excuse.
- In Kamen Rider Double, this happens to Double himself when Shotaro executes a twin maximum drive to defeat the Weather Dopant. To quote John Doe, it didn't work.
- Kamen Rider OOO has a habit of doing this when he performs a Finishing Move in TaJaDor Combo. His Prominence Drop Rider Kick involves him turning his legs into a set of flaming talons and crushing the opponent with them while his Magna Blaze Giga Scan involves him being surrounded by a huge phoenix made of fire and flying through the opponent.
- Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear is a strong believer in this trope. He once outlined plans for an Olympic opening ceremony in which everything was on fire. Including the spectators.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: One of Gile's most awesome moments is when he beats the crap out of Angelus with a bat that's on fire.
- Ultra Series
- Ultraman Taro has his Ultra Dynamite Finishing Move, which involves igniting into explosive flames, charging the opponent and triggering a massive explosion on impact.
- Ultraman Mebius has his own variation, which involves grabbing the opponent then lighting on fire, burning them severely for a few moments before triggering the explosion.
- At least one or two challenges per episode on the Spanish game show El gran juego de la oca involved either setting something on fire or putting a fire out.
- The playfield and cabinet of No Fear: Dangerous Sports are decorated with flames, just to make everything more EXTREME.
- The pinball machine Elton John is playing in Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy is on fire... but he's too awesome to care.
- In Hankin's The Empire Strikes Back, just about everything is either exploding or on flames, including the clouds over Hoth.
- Nearly everything is either exploding or on fire in Bally's KISS.
- Wizard!! shows the background of the playfield and backglass covered in flames.
- Striker Xtreme (and its Americanized remake, NFL) include flaming arrowheads, logos on fire, and balls with fiery trails. Because it's XTREME!
- Evel Knievel includes assorted flaming backgrounds, fiery bike trails, and fireballs decorating the table.
- Almost everything on the AC/DC pinball playfield is on fire.
- In Metallica, nearly everything on the playfield is either surrounded by flames or on fire.
- In Sega Pinball's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the resurrected Elizabeth is shown framed by fire on the playfield.
- Carried as far as it can reasonably go with Williams Electronics' Fire! — not only is everything in the game shown on fire, but the game also has a rotating color cylinder inside the cabinet to make the playfield and model buildings appear to be on fire. The "Champaign Edition" of the game uses a similar feature to depict animated flames in the backglass.
- Several spells and a few feats in Dungeons & Dragons allow the user to light his weapon, his fists, or even his entire body on fire. These generally aren't especially effective, but damn if they don't look cool.
- D&D 3 also has the rule that ordinary fire does only d6 damage per round — fairly little to a high level adventurer and easily negated by moderate damage reduction or energy resistance (never mind a host of creatures which are immune to fire to begin with). It's entirely possible to cast Protection from Fire on an ally, cover him in cotton and oil, set him on fire and use him as a distraction.
- A third-edition druid can take a T. rex as an animal companion, and cast a spell that engulfs its target in flames that do not damage the target itself. It's not as effective as some of the other combinations available to high-level druids, but still. Flaming T. rex.
- At level 14 the Totemist class from Magic of Incarnum can bind the Phoenix Belt soulmeld and set himself on fire for continuous Fast Healing 1. Yup, you can set yourself on fire to HEAL. Actually a decent idea in a grapple-focused build.
- 4th edition updates the ordinary fire rule. It does ongoing, static damage. 5 per turn in some cases. Which is how much resistance to fire Tieflings have. Ideas are forming.
- 2nd edition's rings of fire resistance gave perfect immunity to non-magical fire, this coupled with falling damage being capped at ten six sided dice led to people eventually doing orbital insertions. Eventually Spelljammer would address this and add a critical failure point on fire resistance leading to a sort of red hot chunky salsa rule.
- Forgotten Realms has even more of fun with magical fires, such as Flamespin, Darsson's Fiery Cube, Firestaff (sticks balls of fire to a staff's ends without burning it) and others. There are also fiery versions of existing spells from pyromancer Daltim. Bigby's Hands spells? He designed Daltim's Flaming Fist. 3e version of Shining South adds Daltim's Fiery Tentacles — which, you guess it, is just like old good Evard's Black Tentacles, but on fire.
- In d20 Modern, a Tough Hero with the Energy Resistance (Fire) talent, and a Constitution of 22 is immune to being on fire (being on fire deals 1D6 of fire damage, and the character described above has Fire Resistance 6).
- In Urban Arcana, a high level character could use the Fortify incantation seed to grant someone an inherent resistance up to 5 to any element. It can apply to fire, and then, see above...
- In a similar example, the typical munchkin characters in Rifts could take minimal damage from being on fire, and in a situation where they are fighting in the darkness against opponents who could see in the dark, the cost of being on fire was more than offset by the bonus the player received from the fire providing the light for them to see.
- Speaking of Rifts, at least two independent factions have each developed a Power Armor that uses plasma and forcefields to make it appear to be on fire.
- Warhammer 40,000 example: the Ork Mekboy/biker/Warboss/raving lunatic Wazdakka Gutzmek once found himself up against an Imperial Warlord Titan, a Humongous Mecha protected by powerful energy shields and armed with enough firepower to level entire cities. Undaunted, Wazdakka ramped his bike off a cliff and rammed the Titan with it, overloading the energy shields and setting both him and his bike on fire. The bike continued on its trajectory and slammed into the Titan's head, whereupon Wazdakka, still on fire, proceeded to butcher the Titan's pilot and bridge crew.
- "Since that day Wazdakka has treasured the still-flaming skulls of the Titan Princeps and his crew as a grisly reminder of his biggest ever kill."
- Warhammer 40,000 again - 2nd Edition this time. The rules for weapon effects and combat were horrendously in-depth, concentrating on having different effects on individual models in an army - however, this did mean that flame weapons could set infantry alight, who then ran around panicked whilst their squadmates tried to beat out the flames. Unless they were Frenzied, of course - in which case they charged screaming at the enemy, ignoring the fact that they were covered in burning chemicals. If you avoided rolling the "goes out" result, you could theoretically have a squad of insane, howling madmen, running across a battlefield and cutting down their enemies whilst all the time being human torches.
- The fluff from those days also mentions the Flame Falcons Space Marine chapter.
- 40k also has Doomrider, a Demon Prince of Slaanesh with a flaming skull head who rides around on a motorcycle. His fan-made theme song sums it up nicely:
- In Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II: Retribution, Chaos Sorcerers have the Coruscating Flame ability. It engulfs friendly units in flames dealing damage to anyone in the immediate vicinity. It is absolutely devastating against units with high model count.
- Some (read: the more powerful) Avestites in Fading Suns can shroud their whole body in holy fire, from which they do not suffer damage themselves. Of course, the symbol of the Templar Avesti church is a flame, and their inquisitors use flame throwers...
- In Changeling: The Lost, there's a school of powers called Contract of Elements. You choose an element to master (in this case, fire) and at level 2 you can have Armour of Fire and at level five you can be fire!
- In Genius The Transgression this trope is mentioned in the section on Storytelling, along with High-Altitude Battle.
For a location, the simplest thing to do is to imagine a fun place to have a fight[...] If there's not enough excitement inherent in the location, light the whole thing on fire. Or drop it from a great height. Something that is on fire and falling is more or less ideal.
- In the rather obscure diceless RPG Everway, starting characters have easy access to a power called Sweat Fire. It's more useful for providing light than for dealing damage, but hey, you're still on fire!
- An aggressive mage in GURPS can set not just his weapons one fire but also set his clothing on fire, intelligent fire that actively attacks people who strike at the wearer. And if that's not enough he can turn himself into nothing but fire!
- According to a strict reading of the rules, the penalty for being on fire is less than the penalty for being blinded, making self-immolation an effective (for at least a brief time) alternative to being caught in total darkness. On the other hand, it would be reasonable to say a burning human is a lousy light source.
- Exalted features the Fire aspected Dragon-Blooded, who light themselves on fire as they expend Essence with their special ability Charms.
- The notorious pirate Blackbeard tied slow match (the kind used in match-lock muskets) into his hair and beard before boarding a victimized ship or entering combat. He did it because it was as scary as hell.
- Flaming pudding! Who cares what it tastes like, it's on fire!
- Flaming Sambuca, the instigator for many a sloppy night.
- "I kicked a burning terrorist so hard in balls that I tore a tendon in my foot."
- Incendiary pigs!
- Priests of Mithra (the Persian sun-god, who was very popular in Rome) would impress new initiates by having them drugged up, and then appearing to them as the god in the middle of the night… the priest wearing a leather cap covered with flaming pitch. Yes, they set their own heads on fire.
- According to Dave Barry, strawberry pop-tarts will combust spectacularly if one sticks them into an old-fashioned pop-up toaster and prevents it from popping up.
- British consumer watchdog programs investigates this claim and issued warnings that you can indeed do this if not careful.
- Way back in 1994, Patrick Michaud (original author of the Pm Wiki engine this wiki runs on) started an early Internet meme by testing Dave Barry's assertion and posting the results.
- Audie Murphy takes on the Germans in a flaming M-10.
- Similar to the above, an airman by the name of Sergeant Maynard "Snuffy" Smith was serving as a gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress that was severely damaged and engulfed in flames during a bombing raid on the German submarine pens at St. Nazaire. The fire, which was beginning to engulf the plane's ammunition supply, had already burned holes through parts of the fuselage. Snuffy, rather than bailing out (as two of his crewmates chose to do), stayed aboard, splitting his time between fighting the fires, tossing burning boxes of .50 calibre ammunition out of the plane, tending to the wounds of another crewmate, and of course, using the machine guns to fend off the Luftwaffe fighter planes that were still trying to shoot the plane down. He became the first living airman to receive the Medal of Honor.note
- How many monster truck rallies / daredevil shows have advertised themselves with the prospect that something is going to be set on fire?
- This is the driving concept behind flambé, a flashy cooking technique that involves setting food aflame.
- During The Middle Ages in Europe and even before, it was a common roofing technique to use thatch (for insulation) and tar (for waterproofing). Of course this was in the age that people used torches and candles, so you can guess how well that panned out...
- Two Words: Fire Tornado. They have these in Southern California. What more can be said? It's a tornado made out of freaking FIRE! They look exactly as pants-pissingly scary as the name would imply. One killed 38,000 in 15 minutes during the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake in Japan.
- Firestorms can be particularly devestating. With a big enough fire, there is so much hot air/smoke rising that it creates a low-pressure zone, pulling in cooler air from all around the fire. As anyone who has fanned a flame knows that more air means a more intense fire, which creates more heat which causes the air to rise faster, pulling in even more air to fan the fire with. Worth noting, those winds are also likely dragging in any loose flammable material (including any buildings or trees that were blown down or uprooted by the winds) to feed the flames. Most such fires are caused by naturally-occurring forest or bush fires covering large areas, but a few have happened in cities, often as the result of massive air raids.
- What's scarier than GRU troops? GRU troops that are ON FIRE.
- Except these are signal corps academy cadets. Which may or may not make their NBC training routine more cool.
- Watching things being chewed up by a giant shredder is fascinating and kind of hypnotic. When that thing is exploding lumps of metal it's amazing.