Follow TV Tropes

Following

Arrows on Fire

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/arrows_on_fire.jpg

"And the students shooting flaming arrows, because, well ... you gotta' have flaming arrows..."
Advertisement:

Creators of fiction generally agree that setting things on fire is awesome, so in military conflict they love to depict archers shooting volleys of flaming arrows at the enemy regardless of whether the situation is a field battle, a siege, or naval combat. A Rain of Arrows looks cooler if the arrows trail fire as they streak through the sky, and it's especially cool when they're used at night so that they light up the air like laser beams. There is also a general assumption that any projectile that is on fire will inflict more damage than one that isn't. Whatever the arrows hit will catch on fire, be it tents, thatched roofs, wooden structures, or some hapless Red Shirt, who—in addition to being pierced by an arrow—will immediately burst into flame, writhing in panic before falling off the battlements with a Stock Scream. On a larger scale, military forces might also fire giant flaming projectiles from siege artillery such as catapults and ballistae. Lastly, sometimes an archer will shoot a single flaming arrow into the sky like a flare, signaling a message to distant units.

Advertisement:

Much of this is unrealistic, and is depicted that way for Rule of Cool. It's true that in real life, flaming arrows were used in certain situations where you needed to set flammable structures on fire. However, fiction tends to ignore the drawbacks that made them unsuitiable for anti-personnel use, least of all in a pitched land battle. To get them to burn reliably one had to wrap them in flammable material and light them first, making them heavier, reducing their range, and slowing the archers' shooting rate because of the preparation necessary. Also, wrapping a cloth around the arrowhead or having an arrowhead with a cage behind the point to contain the burning cloth would blunt its ability to penetrate armor and kill people like a regular arrow is supposed to; wrapping the cloth some distance behind the arrowhead might improve its ability to penetrate a target, but then it might slip off or be less likely to set a fire. Also, the mere speed of the arrow's flight is often enough to douse the flame, so flaming arrows had to be fired at a slower velocity, making them less powerful and easier for enemies to dodge.

Advertisement:

As a result, flaming arrows were practically never used in field battles like they are in fiction because they were less deadly to men and horses, as well as cumbersome and inefficient. Lighted arrows in real life were actually used to:

  • Frighten enemies, since seeing many hundreds of flames coming at you was/is terrifying. Tracer bullets accomplish the same today.
  • Adjust the aim, since flaming arrows can possibly tell the shooters where most of the arrows are going so that they can adjust their shots accordingly, which is another function tracers occupy today.
  • And most of all, set flammable material such as wooden buildings, siege engines, and ships on fire. Usually it would take a lot of fire arrows to accomplish this, since most of them would be duds, but the enemy would have to divert their manpower making sure that none of them caught, since it would only take one or two good ones out of a hundred to set the target on fire. When it worked, it was devastatingly effective.

Therefore there is nothing necessarily ridiculous about them being used en masse to attack tents and wooden buildings or to try to panic a civilian population, but the trope gets taken to unrealistic extremes when they are always used in night battles even in situations where the lighting-things-on-fire factor would be a non-factor, such as when attacking a stone castle (except when the attacking army is in a position to shoot over the walls and there are wooden buildings on the inside — which there usually are — in which case it's justified). They would also not be able to set people on fire by hitting them like they do in the movies, since making arrows that rapidly flammable is impossible without the modern petrochemicals they use for this effect in films.

Molotov Cocktails are the modern counterpart, though tracers can fit the "frighten enemies" and "adjust the aim" parts.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Drum arc of One Piece, Chess fires flaming arrows at Sanji and Chopper after Kuromarimo throws balls of highly flammable hair at them.
  • In Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars shoots arrows that are made of fire...from a bow that is also made of fire.
  • Slayers has a spell called FLAAAAARE...ARROW!!! This spell generates an arrow of pure fire, though if the caster isn't strong in black magic, it comes out more like a carrot.
  • In Sword of the Stranger, Shogen Itadori's army begins their assault on Shishine with a barrage of fire arrows. This has little effect due to the snow.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In DC Nation's take on Blackest Night, Connor Hawke rigs up a truck-mounted hwacha (Korean siege weapon that can shoot dozens of flaming arrows at a time) out of hardware store parts and uses a few volleys of them on invading Black Lanterns while Green Shield Drives Like Crazy down Highway 101.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Miss Alice Band is one of the Assassins' Guild's go-to people on archery and projectile weapons. Alice will use flaming arrows if absolutely necessary - for instance, when taking down classic brain-eating highly infectious Zombies from a necessary distance - but points out to her pupils that arrows take time to make and are expensive, and deliberately damaging them with flame means they are one-shot weapons which cannot be retrieved afterwards for re-use. She also points out that it is not advisable to hold the shot for too long before loosing, as your bow is also made of wood and, guess what, wood is also inflammable and can be damaged by exposure to fire.Damaging an expensive precision weapon for the sake of a showy display, she says, is not a bright idea.

    Films — Animated 
  • Kyra in Dragons: Fire & Ice can outright create walls of magical flame, so it stands to reason she also sets her arrows aflame.
  • Lord Shen's mooks shoot these in Kung Fu Panda 2. Tigress still manages to outright catch one without even looking at it.
  • Mulan: The Huns shot flaming arrows at the highly volatile Chinese cannons in order to prevent those weapons from being used against them, and create explosions amongst the Chinese formation.
  • The Vikings frequently deploy these in The Secret of Kells.
  • Smurfs: The Lost Village: Clumsy gives Smurfstorm the idea of setting one of her arrows on fire by using Spitfire's flame breath in order to knock Monty the vulture out of the sky.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • When the kids dressed as Native Americans turn the Thanksgiving play in Addams Family Values into a rampage, these only add to the mayhem.
  • Army of Darkness - Ash equips his soldiers with gunpowder arrows for the climactic fight against the army of the undead.
  • Justified in Ben-Hur (2016), as the burning arrows are followed by catapulted pitch in an effort to set the warships on fire.
  • In Beyond Sherwood Forest, Robin uses flaming arrows to wound the dragon during the attack on Will's village.
  • Done in Braveheart. The night before the battle of Falkirk, Wallace's soldiers had coated the ground under the English army with pitch. He then used archers with lit arrows to light it and set many of the English troops on fire. It's justified earlier during the siege of York, the English dump hot tar on the Scots and then launch fiery arrows to ignite the tar.
  • Used by the Indians to set fire to the covered wagon leading the mule train in Canyon Passage.
  • The teens in The Final Girls try to stop their Slasher Movie killer by shooting arrows with burning tampons on them. They barely slow him down.
  • King Arthur's troops made use of these in First Knight. Interestingly, the arrows appeared to use something like magnesium as the flammable agent, which, at least, looked cool. They took the trouble of baiting the enemy army into a lot of dry grass first.
  • Used in the opening battle of Gladiator. The Romans initially held the barbarians back with conventional arrows then, once the battle started, they shot flaming arrows and flaming catapult projectiles which seemed to have a longer range. We see a lot of barbarians break and run: smoke and fire clogging up your side of the field, watching allies being burned alive — not good.
    • In the DVD extras, Ridley Scott said his use of flaming arrows was designed to invoke the images of tracer bullets from the footage of the Gulf War.
  • In Hawk the Slayer, Baldin gets captured by a cult, tied to a raft, and is about to be sacrificed by the cultists setting said raft on fire with arrows when the Hawk finally intervenes and rescues him.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Like in the book, Beetee gives Katniss Everdeen special explosive-tipped arrows. And they are very explosive.
  • In The Huntsman: Winter's War, Sara uses one of these to blow up the horde of goblins that are attacking Eric.
  • In Jack the Giant Slayer, the oil poured into the castle's moat is lit with these.
  • In Justice League (2017), the Amazons shoot an arrow with a magical fire on it to ignite a temple dedicated to the Amazons in Greece. This happens after Steppenwolf stole the Mother Box they were guarding for millenia, and the fire was meant to warn the humanity about the invasion. Humanity has long forgotten about said fire's meaning, but not Diana.
  • During the final battle of The Last Samurai, a fire arrow is used to light up a pile of oil-soaked straw spread out over the battlefield, thus dividing and panicking the Imperial Japanese forces.
  • In The Last Wagon, these are used to set off dynamite from a distance.
  • These are used during the assault of the Third Castle in Ran.
  • The Allied soldiers in Red Cliff use flaming arrows to complement their more creative ways of using fire in the ultimate battle. Both sides mostly use a regular Rain of Arrows, though.
  • These fly overhead in the opening scene of The Revenant, as the Ree attack.
  • One of the most famous shots of the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was Kevin Costner's Robin letting fly with one of these in slow-mo while another fire burned behind him.
    • Before that, the Sheriff's men used flames arrows and flaming trebuchet on the Merry Men...in the forest. They react with appropriate horror.
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights parodies the trope's overuse in Robin Hood films. It featured an opening credits sequence back by random shots of people shooting Arrows on Fire... and then they show the thatch-roofed village that they destroyed with these arrows "every time they make a new Robin Hood movie."
    Villagers: "Leave us alone, Mel Brooks!"
  • When the misguided hero leads his troll-like people to scare away a tribe of elves they've already driven to a beach in Rollo and the Spirit of the Woods, he plans to initiate the attack by shooting a flaming arrow in the air. However, he's not too much into actually hurting anyone, intending to shoot the arrow so that it'll fall in the sea. Unfortunately, his much more malevolent adviser "accidentally" strikes him as he aims, causing the arrow to hit one of the elves' tents and set the camp ablaze. This alone gets the hero regret his decision.
  • After Memnon proves adept at catching regular arrows in The Scorpion King, they ignite one, while quipping Catch this.
  • In The Sword and the Sorcerer, the Red Dragon Archers carry these, but are wiped out before ever letting one loose.
  • Timeline - Used straight, then subverted: "Fire the Night Arrows." In the book, the time travelers use their knowledge of advanced chemistry to create pseudo-Greek Fire arrows: when they hit their targets, they explode into flames that can only be doused with sand, not water. They never actually get used, though, as the time travelers blow up the entire storehouse before leaving.
  • Subverted in Troy, where the Trojans use flaming arrows to set wooden boats on fire, then return to using conventional arrows to kill people. Also subverted in the actual Iliad, for the same reason — they also used firebrands.
  • In Tumbleweed, the Yaqui use flaming spears to set fire to the wagon train.
  • A single one is loosed in The Wild Hunt.
  • Amazons try setting the German boats on fire in Wonder Woman (2017), out of old habit. They drop it after seeing it no longer works.

    Literature 
  • A Song of Ice and Fire. The Brotherhood Without Banners use them to set a building on fire to smoke out the mercenaries within, and one is used to light a Viking Funeral for Lord Hoster Tully — Edmure Tully keeps missing the shot so his uncle has to take over.
  • In the final battle of the first Firekeeper novel, flame arrows are used by a scout troop that had snuck through the lines to the enemy camp to destroy their supply wagons.
  • In Mockingjay Katniss and Gale are supplied with three kinds of "trick arrows" invented by Beetee, one type of which are incendiary.
  • Played with in the Inheritance Cycle. Eragon's first use of magic is to make an arrow he shoots explode with blue fire once it already hits. Played painfully straight in Eldest when a ballista bolt is lit on fire and used improperly.
  • Mariel of Redwall features burning projectiles; the searats make "fire-swingers" to kill the defenders on the Abbey walls. A fire-swinger is a clump of cloth and dry grass wrapped around a rock on the end of a rope, which is set on fire and swung around as fast as the thrower can (very carefully, because swinging a burning object around is dangerous at best, particularly when you have fur), then released. Apparently the range of fire-swingers is greater than that of slings or shortbows, though the Long Patrol hares get good results when they retaliate with longbows.
  • In Robert Asprin's Myth Conceptions, the hero manages this by performing his most basic magic trick (lighting a candle by concentrating on a single point) and having his ally fire his arrows through that point. A little later when he gets ticked off, the archer asks him to calm down since his anger is almost burning up the arrows before they can hit their targets.
  • In C. J. Cherryh's The Paladin, Shoka uses fire arrows to sow fear, confusion and panic in an enemy encampment.
  • These are alluded to (but not shown) in the second book of Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series, exciting the trainees enough to make them improve with regular arrows. The trainer also points out that fire arrows fly differently from regular ones, which is why they have to get better before he will let them try them.
  • Halt uses one in "The Warriors of Nihon-ja" of the Ranger's Apprentice series for a Justified reason. He uses it to light the tent roof of the opposing commander on fire to piss the commander off and cause him to make aggressive, predictable maneuvers.
  • Young Sherlock Holmes: In Red Leech, Sherlock uses flaming arrows to set fire to the Union Army's hydrogen filled balloons.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide lists this as one of the more effective ways of dealing with zombies, as the mindless walking cadavers will not think to simply pull the arrows out.

    Live Action TV 
  • The 100: In one episode, Lincoln shoots a flaming arrow at a bomb in order to ignite it.
  • In the Season 10 of The Amazing Race, the second leg Roadblock involved shooting flaming arrows to light a target on fire.
  • In the Season 3 finale of Buffy, the students have a flaming arrow unit in their offensive against the Mayor. Buffy-verse vampires tend to be about as flammable as the average person after a dip in the ol' gasoline swimming pool.
    • Which makes a flashback scene in the spin-off Angel rather puzzling, as Angelus is rescued from Holtz by some vampires firing flaming arrows for no reason whatsoever.
  • Deadliest Warrior once tested Sun Tzu's Fire Arrows. They found out that the cloth on the arrow actually stopped the penetration power of a typical arrow, and while the fire likely wasn't hot enough to spread the flames over the enemy, it definitely would have been hot enough to cauterize the wound.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard had bomb arrows, that is, arrows with dynamite tied to them. But then they also had cars with Feather Fall permanently cast on them, able to land safely after flying hundreds of feet in the air.
    • Likewise in the movie of the same name & the video games.
  • A notable subversion was in 2006's Fūrinkazan. The main character, Yamamoto Kansuke, before working for Takeda Shingen, was an enemy of the Takeda clan (the latter famed not only for cavalry but for having flaming arrows in their repertoire). In order to prevent the burning of the wooden castle Kansuke was assigned to assist, he ordered the castle walls to be smeared thickly with mud and dirt, for the purpose of neutralizing/putting out the flaming arrows even when they land their marks.
  • Game of Thrones. Tyrion gives the specific order, "Rain fire on them" when Stannis is landing his forces before the castle walls in the Battle of Blackwater. There seems no reason to use flaming arrows except for psychological purposes (earlier a flaming arrow was used to set off a wildfire explosion) and all it does it cause their toughest soldier to have a Heroic BSoD when he sees a Man on Fire. Tends to stick out as in the novels on which its based, George R. R. Martin avoids Hollywood Tactics — flaming arrows are only used when someone wants to set a building on fire. In the wildlings' attack on Castle Black, both sides use flaming arrows for no discernible reason whatsoever, yet during the battle at Hardhome no flaming arrows are used despite that being a weakness of the undead wights (that was a surprise attack however, so they wouldn't have much time to prepare the arrows).
  • Lexx featured Fire and Water factions, and the raiders from the former once attacked the latter with these.
  • In the Lost episode "The Lie," the left-behinders get attacked by flaming arrows just as they're bemoaning their lack of fire.
  • MythBusters (2017) tested if one could set a car's gas tank on fire. It proved incredibly difficult to do and didn't ignite the gas tank like one might expect, but it did set the car on fire.
  • Used several times in the BBC's version of Robin Hood, typically to detonate explosives (most notably, Robin's final arrow is used to spark off the explosion that destroys Nottingham Castle).
  • One Survivor:Africa challenge involved shooting these at a bulls-eye. Hilarity Ensues when Brandon tried to shoot and botched it completely.
  • Three Kingdoms: Cao's army launches flaming crossbow bolts into the battle when it looks like her commander is losing. These weren't intended to fly far or to kill single targets, but to ignite explosive powder in the light cavalry's saddlebags and take out remaining enemy commanders.
  • One of the experimental archeology sections in Time Team tested to see if fiery arrows hitting thatch would work in real life. Their conclusion was; yes, but only if whatever they hit was left to smolder for several hours.
  • Young Dracula: The Count delivers an Arrowgram to the Branaghs via flaming arrow. However, the burn marks make the message hard to decipher.
  • In one episode of Zorro, the titular protagonist saves an old friend of Don Diego from hanging by shooting the rope with a flaming arrow. However, he does so before the trapdoor is opened, thus leaving time enough for the fire to burn the rope. He also pins the executor's sleeve to the gallows by firing another arrow to prevent him from interfering.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • A strip from The Far Side had a defender of a wagon train say about the attacking natives: "They're lighting their arrows! Can they do that?"
  • The fence Garfield performs on once got burned to ashes by unidentified assailants (implied to be some of his hecklers) using these.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, magically enchanted Flaming Arrows are inexpensive enough to be available for purchase in bulk in the average large town or small city, assuming you don't just buy a Flaming Bow, which bestows the Flaming quality on any arrows it fires. Then there's the Arcane Archer prestige class that can imbue arrows with spells as their entire shtick, and the Wizard and Sorcerer base classes that don't even need the arrow when they want to burn things.
    • Depending on the edition your wizards — and sorcerers, if available — may also have potential access to the Flame Arrow spell, whose main purpose is to turn a bunch of regular projectiles (that somebody hopefully remembered to have on hand) into exactly this for a while or until used, whichever comes first. (The spell gets somewhat overshadowed by the more iconic Fireball, but has its applications.)
  • Seeing as Exalted has Charms that replicate nearly every variation on weapons or physical actions that can be thought of, of course there'd been a Charm that allows you to light your arrows on fire without a match.
    • Fire arrows also serve a unique tactical purpose in some parts of the setting, in which they're concentrated on enemy firedust reserves, causing catastrophic explosions.
    • The setting also contains arrows with fragile glass bulbs as heads that are filled with a magically produced adhesive resin that ignites instantly on contact with air, making it much more effective at starting fires.
  • GURPS correctly mentions that the burning rag is behind the arrow head and penalizes accuracy. The burning damage is fairly unimpressive without magical assistance. Low-Tech has a variety of them including one that uses a small explosive charge.
  • In Krosmaster, this is what Jems Blond's attacks are supposed to be. There are also three variations: low damage and high range, medium range with medium damage and Cross Area of Effect, or short range but high damage and Square Area of Effect.
  • Shadowrun has a plethora of these for mages and shamans under the appropriate study. This being the future, there's even more fun stuff to light on fire. Ice-based spellcasters can make this work with elements and minerals that ignite around water.
  • In Warhammer, the Bretonnian archers may be equipped with braziers to provide them Flaming Arrows.
    • These were also introduced in ''Mordheim Annual 2002, as a rare item that can be purchased between battles. These are simply arrows wrapped in oil-soaked rags that are set alight before being fired. If they hit the enemy then fire arrows have a 50% chance of setting the target on fire, causing damage each turn until the fire is put out.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • In 0 A.D., the Iberians have access to mounted javelineers. They are skilled enough to throw burning javelins by hand, and the extra anti-building damage this inflicts compensates for the Iberians' lack of siege weapons.
  • Age of Mythology features a Fire Arrow upgrade that makes arrows much more effective against buildings. Which makes sense since they are mostly made out of wood. Castles on the other hand...
  • Age of Empires
    • Age of Empires: Archers have an upgrade which adds fire to projectile attacks, increasing their damage, particularly against wooden walls, ships and war machines.
    • In Age of Empires II, this upgrade is required to produce gunpowder units.
    • Age of Empires III: Portrayed in most realistic manner in comparison to the others — archers only fire flaming arrows at buildings, using regular arrows against other troops, and the range at which they can attack buildings is smaller than against troops.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, upgrading the Compound Bow into a Pyrotechnic Bow will turn all arrows into these. However, the alternative is to create an Envenomed Bow and thus make all the arrows poisoned.
  • In the Microsoft Excel-based Arena.Xlsm, FIRE ARROWS is one of the two potential rewards given for defeating the Dragon boss at level 10. It is also by far the more useful one - not only because it's ranged, but also because its shots set fire to whichever square they land in. Thus, even if your enemy is currently out of range, you can still create a flame trap right ahead of them.
    • This property is devastatingly effective when combined with the stamina drain spell, since you can just get your enemy too tired to move, and stuck in the burning square until they expire.
  • Flame arrows are available along with all the other elemental arrows in Asheron's Call.
  • In Assassin's Creed Origins, Bayek can light his nocked arrows on fire at any fire source in the vicinity, assuming his bow doesn't already have the On Fire legendary ability, and so can the enemy arches. It works best against the highly flammable reed boats on the Egyptian rivers and coastlines. Interestingly, it'll not work against the wooden triremes, but the living targets shot by flaming arrows (including yourself) will still get the burning status, and both lose health over time and become more vulnerable to the other kinds of damage.
    • These make a comeback in the Assassin's Creed: Odyssey. While there are no highly flammable reed boats this time, this is compensated for by the appearance of explosive arrows as an eventual upgrade.
  • The Battle for Middle-Earth plays this in a similar manner to the above. Fire Arrows, an upgrade for most archer units, adds a decent damage boost vs most normal units, and makes them much more effective vs buildings. It also allows them to cause damage to the wooden walls and gate of Rohan castle defenses. In BFME2 Men of the West keep fire arrows, but Elves get silverthorn blue-glowy arrows. Dwarves get axe throwers (upgraded by forged axes) and human archers of dale — upgraded with fire arrows. All the bad guys get Orcfire arrows, because fire set by Orcs is just better.
  • In Battle for Wesnoth, all orcish archer units have an alternate ranged attack utilizing these, making them very effective against undead.
  • In Beyond Oasis, you get to use both flame arrows, and the even more powerful bomb arrows.
  • Horseback-riding Indians in Blood Bros will shoot burning arrows at you. Being able to light an arrow on fire while still having to control a horse is certainly an impressive skill, but it doesn't help them much.
  • In Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, Lily can shoot her bow at some torches to light her arrows on fire, though they're mainly used for solving puzzles, and don't light enemies on fire.
  • Bow Master includes these, to be used on the ice-affiliated units. There are also all kinds of elemental arrows you can possibly think of.
  • General Yohm in Breath of Fire IV deploys a squad of soldiers armed with burning arrows early in in the game, in a bid to destroy Fou-Lu.
  • In the MMORPG City of Heroes, one of the powers in the Archery powerset is a Blazing Arrow. This is not the strangest.
  • Burning and explosive arrows are present in the Clonk games and their (official and fan-made) expansions,along with many other varieties of arrows.
  • This is one of the skill items players can use in Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals. Puzzle-wise, it's used to burn unreachable grasses.
  • In Civilization V, everything shoots flaming projectiles when attacking cities! Even swordsmen.
  • The Algerians in Cossacks European Wars have a special Archer unit that fires flaming arrows that are used to set buildings and ships on fire. They're also available as mercenaries to other factions.
  • As its name implies, Critical Depth is set completely underwater. That still doesn't stop flame arrows from working.
  • In Dark Messiah, if you hold down the attack button to keep your bow drawn, you can set the arrow alight using fires in-game, such as torches. This allows you to deal fire damage and/or set barrels of oil on fire.
  • In Deception, an obvious way to upgrade the standard arrow trap is to make it shoot flaming arrows. Don't forget to make sure your unfortunate target will get covered in oil right before it stumbles in range!
  • In Dishonored, your wrist-mounted crossbow can fire incendiary bolys, in addition to plain bolts and sleep darts. However, the incendiary arrows fired by the Tallboys from their enormous compound bows are a far more impressive example of the trope.
  • Flame Arrows are enormously useful in Divinity: Original Sin. They'll deal bonus damage to everyone not of the fire element, sure, but their greatest use lies in setting oil and toxic spills on fire. The latter is especially relevant when fighting the Undead, as the zombies will "bleed" poison as soon as they get hit, and that both heals them, and any of their skeleton allies who got splashed by their poison, while also dripping a slowly expanding poison pool where they stand, potentially poisoning any of your melee attackers. Setting them on fire eliminates all that; if you've managed to ignite a pool, then they'll usually be forced to take fire damage while trying to get to you, and likely die while on their way, especially if you've managed to stun someone already trapped in the flames.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, the first move the battle of Ostagar opens up with the Fereldens launching a volley of flaming arrows at the charging darkspawn horde. It does little to slow them down. In the game proper one can equip quivers of fire arrows, ice arrows, filth arrows, etc. There's also a sidequest where you have to fire a flaming signal arrow, but that signal also serves to draw people to the shooter as well as warn others. Darkspawn are weak against magical fire.
  • In Dragon's Crown, the Elf's Salamander Oil skill lets her turn her arrows into flaming arrows. Throw in some Clone Strikes for some Rain of Arrows goodness and she could set a large part of the battle field ablaze.
  • In Dragon's Dogma, gaining Fire Boon or Fire Affinity buff from a pawn will infuse your weapons with flames: if you wield a bow, your arrows will catch fire. Then, when you find a ballista and commandeer it, you have a choice between a normal bolt and an explosive bolt: should the target survive the explosion from the latter, it still gets set on fire.
  • In Deus Ex, one can obtain flare darts for the minicrossbow. Sometimes these only have the effect of creating a light where they hit, and don't burn; other times they burn burnable things and set people on fire.
  • Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup, features a bow of flame that turns arrows into flaming bolts when fired. In previous versions, it was possible to get "arrows of flame" too, which could be fired from ordinary bows for the same effect.
    • The unique centaur enemy Nessos uses a particularly deadly version of this, combining an (often highly enchanted) flaming bow with toxic arrows for a combination that's highly lethal to anyone who doesn't have resistance to both poison and fire.
  • Dungeonland had a more roundabout version: If the rogue shoots arrows through a mage's fire wall, they'll become fire arrows.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Morrowind has arrows enchanted with the various Fire, Ice, Lightning trio of Destruction magic spells. Flame Arrows, Arrows of "Wasting Flame", and "Firestorm" arrows (which are explosive with a large Area of Effect) naturally qualify. The official add-on Area Effect Arrows adds a shop in Vivec which sells these.
    • Oblivion and Skyrim instead move toward enchanting the bow with magicnote , which is then imbued to any arrows you fire from it. Game Mods add enchanted arrows, including flaming arrows, back into both games.
  • In Empire Earth, flaming arrows are only available to Greece, because they are all doused in the legendary Greek fire. These will deal bonus damage to normal units, but are most effective against buildings, where even one arrow has a chance to engulf it in a firestorm.
  • You can get these in the Fable series, if you use a Flame Augmentation on any bow.
  • In Far Cry 4, the player can deploy these, and their main utility is in igniting plant growth from a distance, and thus potentially causing a bushfire right next to your enemies. However, you are more likely to see these arrows used by the Royal Army Hunters, which act as a counter to the common player tactic of sniping while hidden in the bushes. After all, a single flaming arrow will set the bush and all the growth around it on fire, and if the wouned player manages to escape the flames, the entire outpost will take notice and try to finish them off.
    • Far Cry 5 reintroduces the fire arrows, though the cultists wielding them are only present in the Whitetail Mountains area.
  • Final Fantasy XII plays this straight with the Fiery Arrows ammunition.
  • In the Half-Life 2 mod Fistful of Frags, you can get flaming arrows for the bow weapon. They either light people on fire, or light an area on fire. For a few frags more, you can get dynamite arrows. The regular arrows do a lot of damage, and are pretty good; the fire arrows, being a little hard to use, are kinda bad; the dynamite arrows—well, the result of using those is just ugly.
  • In For Honor, the Samurai heroes can call down a barrage of flaming arrows from offscreen.
  • The Hunter class, from Ghouls vs. Humans, can use these; they do radius damage around themselves as they fly through the air, and explode on impact.
  • Knight Archers in the Doom Game Mod GMOTA can sometimes shoot fire arrows, which will spread fire to the ground. However, they might as well fire ice arrows, which will slow you down.
  • In Guild Wars, being a skill-heavy game, rangers have different bow attacks that do can light a foe on fire, do a massive amount of fire damage in one hit, give all bow attacks a fire-damage bonus for a period of time, and do explosive damage that affects all nearby foes when a target is hit.
  • Gun: In addition to the "whiskey bomb" molotov cocktails, flaming arrows are also a weapon option. It is not clear exactly how you are setting them on fire.
  • In Heavenly Sword during the levels where you control Kai(well, starting with the second one where you control Kai) you can shoot an otherwise normal arrow through an open flame, resulting in a flaming arrow, useful for detonating explosives which are downrange from the flame source.
  • In the freeware, Ace Attorney-inspired Hexepta Mayor Attack, this trope is invoked as a solution to Court Case 3: a flaming arrow from a crossbow needs to be shot out of the dining room window.
  • E'lara, one of the protagonists of Hunted: The Demon's Forge, can light her arrows on fire to solve various puzzles.
  • In Jeanne d'Arc, the Meteor Shot skillstone provides this ability.
  • Shooting flaming arrows is one of the key abilities of the Archer class in King Arthur's Gold, where they can both ignite the enemies and burn down various wooden obstacles.
  • Human archers in King's Bounty can do this once per battle. Flaming Arrows deal slightly more damage than their normal attack and more importantly set the target on fire.
  • In Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, Burning + Needle has Kirby turn himself into a bow to fire flaming arrows.
  • Flaming arrows are often fired by the barbarian archers in Knights of the Round.
  • In The Legend of Zelda series you can occasionally obtain fire arrows for your bow... as well as ice arrows that freeze enemies, light arrows that beat enemies in one hit, and bomb arrows. Most arrows are implied to be magical, but you can still set regular arrows on fire by shooting them trough burning torches. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess gives fire arrows to Bulblins (and their twilight counterparts), which typically do minimal damage and can be swatted out of the air with your sword. If you're wearing the Zora armor, however, they do a massive six times normal damage. Out of combat, Fire Arrows are used on two separate occasions to trap you on a bridge coated with oil. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild also lets you set your regular arrows on fire, whether by sticking them in an open flame already present or using one period in the Eldin region, for a similar if weaker effect to proper Fire Arrows.
  • Legend of Grimrock has Fire Arrows and Fire Quarrels for crossbows. However, every other spell school can enchant projectiles with that school's element as well.
  • Zhuge Liang's Trinket skill in Lost Saga is to fire a rain of flaming arrows.
  • In The Lost Vikings, some levels have a fire arrow item for Baleog. If he uses it, all arrows he shoots from then on will be on fire, and can take out otherwise invincible enemies.
  • Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals has these as one of the several skill items, which allow you to burn grasses and bushes from a distance. (They can remotely activate switches as well, but so can the normal arrows.)
  • In Mabinogi, standing next to a campfire and drawing your arrow will cause the arrowhead to catch fire. This gives the arrow a damage bonus and fire element status. Also, landing 3 critical hits with this grants you the Fire Arrow title, which is needed in order to get the Arrow Revolver skill.
  • The Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable games' version of Signum's Sturmfalke, which coats the arrow in flames before Signum fires it.
  • In Magicite, you can create a flaming mist with a spell, and then fire your arrows through it.
  • In MapleStory, this trope is represented by the Bowmaster’s upgraded hurricane and flame surge skills.
  • In March of War, these are used by the Latin Junta's Amazons, and the Shogun Empire's Korean Archers. The latter's arrows also have dynamite attached to them.
  • MediEvil 2 has an automatic crossbow that fires flaming bolts.
  • The Lawless Bow fires these in Metal Max Returns.
  • Fire Arrow is a Wraith skill in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and it will set everyone ablaze within its impact radius. Sending it straight into a firepit or a grog barrel causes an explosion that outright kills all of the basic enemies.
  • In Minecraft, firing an arrow through lava will set it ablaze in, and any mobs struck will burst into flames. A similar effect can be achieved by giving a bow the Flame enchantment.
  • The Blue Archer Samurai in Mini Ninjas can do this, while the Red Archer Samurai fire explosive ones, which will knock the player character back. However, Shun also has an explosive arrow as his special move.
  • In Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight possessing the Pocket Incensory sets all of your arrows on fire. This causes them to hitstun enemies as well.
  • The Desert Archer and Crimson Ranger shoot these in Mousehunt.
  • Skull ninja archers shoot these in Mystic Warriors.
  • Archers in the Myth series get a single flaming arrow per battle. As the main benefit is starting fires in dry grass, depending on the map and weather conditions they range from utterly devastating to completely useless.
  • In Neopets: The Darkest Faerie, Dark Ixi Archers will shoot flaming arrows at you.
  • The Black Spider Ninjas in the modern Ninja Gaiden trilogy wield explosive kunai.
  • In Ōkami, gaining entrance to Sei-an City requires that you light a torch to lower a bridge. Said torch is on the other side of the gorge which you need to cross. The solution is to get the archer who normally uses a flaming arrow to light said torch to fire an unlit arrow, just to prove he can, then light it on fire midflight using a brush skill.
  • Most of the arrows in the Onimusha series tend to be on fire so that you can anticipate and block them more easily.
  • In Orcs Must Die!, the Guardian Archer's arrows can be upgraded with burning pitch. Your crossbow can also be upgraded thusly, after which it changes its glow color from blue to red.
  • In Painkiller, Stakegun's projectiles will catch on fire if they travel far enough. And if the stake hits a Stakegun grenade in mid-air, it ignites, and accelerates like a rocket.
    • Templar archers in the Oriental Castle and Babel levels only fire flaming arrows and never bother with the normal ones.
  • In Patapon, Yumipons (the archer units) can gain an upgrade for this, but you need wind and dry weather conditions for them to be the most effective.
  • In Pharaoh, warships will normally try to sink each other with flaming arrows. However, ramming is usually much more effective.
  • In Poseidon: Master of Atlantis, upgrading the defensive towers with Main/Orichalcum results in this.
  • In Powder, dipping arrows in Greek Fire or lava will set them on fire.
  • In Quest 64, Homing Arrow spell simply sends out a whole lot of flaming arrows.
  • Bow using classes in Ragnarok Online could equip Fire Arrows as ammunition, dealing fire damage.
  • Recettear has Archer Archetype Tielle, whose very first skill is, you guessed it, Fire Arrow. Given her ability to charge up her normal attack to fire eight arrows at once, Fire Arrow isn't all that helpful. She also has some sort of laser arrow...no, really, she fires a magical arrow upwards that causes the screen to get covered in Beam Spam. As awesome as it looks, it's useless against most moving targets.
  • In Red Alert 3: Paradox, a massive Game Mod of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, Order of the Talon troops often use crossbows that shoot red-hot bolts.
  • In Red Dead Revolver, Shadow Wolf's special move is shooting flaming arrows.
    • Then, these can be crafted in Red Dead Redemption II, and will naturally set their targets on fire. Attaching dynamite to the arrows again leads to explosive results.
  • The crossbow-wielding enemies in Resident Evil 4 shoot flaming arrows, though this doesn't seem to do anything to enhance their lethality.note  Most likely the reason for the fire effect is to help the player spot the crossbowman at a distance rather than any in-universe justification.
  • In Rise And Fall: Civilizations At War, Archer units and watch towers can be upgraded to use flaming arrows. As he levels up, Alexander the Great's arrows can spread AOE flames across multiple enemies (depending on his level).
  • In the now-offline Rise of Immortals (later known as Battle for Graxia), Nyssus's Hellfire Arrow fit the trope.
  • Upgrading Rangers can do this in the Warcraft III Game Mod Rise of the Blood Elves. However, the increased damage also comes at a cost of a small amount of mana per shot.
  • In Ryse: Son of Rome, every arrow fired at you while you move with the others in the testudo formation is on fire, so that you can spot them. When Marius is moving alone, they'll sometimes be on fire, and sometimes they are plain, and there'll be an "incoming" warning, so that you can either deflect or evade them.
  • Romancing SaGa 3 had Plasma shot, Arrows with electricity imbued into them, the Remake of the original game had a similar technique, and a technique in which you can summon a lightning bolt from an arrow shot.
  • The archers in Salt and Sanctuary's Red Hall of Cages will attack with these.
  • This is Shadow hunter Banebow's special ability in Shadow Era. All hunters can use them, as well.
  • In Shadow of Rome, these are present, but are meant to be combo-ed with the oil slings or oil barrels to be truly effective.
  • Flameslinger from Skylanders is an elf archer who specializes in flaming arrows. And fire-based powers in general, but the arrows are his specialty.
  • In Solomon's Keep, flaming skeletons will attack with the flaming arrows as well.
  • In Sonic Adventure, flaming arrows are one of the hazards in Lost World.
  • In Spyro: A Hero's Tail, Hunter has limited supply of fire arrows, which can be used to destroy strong chests and breakable walls.
    • In the Reignited version of the original Spyro the Dragon, The Cupid enemies in Dream Weavers levels now fire flame-tipped arrows to go along with their new fiery heads.
  • In Stronghold, braziers can be placed on castle walls. Archers firing from nearby will shoot flaming arrows which are more deadly to enemies and can also light pitch for further pyromania.
  • Some of the enemy Amerindians will use these in Sunset Riders.
  • Team Fortress 2 allows a sniper with a bow to light his arrows on fire with the assistance of a friendly pyro, or via flames located around maps. This is pretty expected of the game, so no one minds.
  • Terraria allows you both to craft flaming arrows by combining a torch with a few normal arrows, as well as craft a Molten Bow that makes normal arrows fired by it flaming arrows instead. Either way the weapon deals a bit of extra damage and has a fairly high chance to set enemies on fire, something that's quite practical as it makes monsters light up in the dark and be very visible targets no matter ambient lighting (hint: at any point of the game where flaming arrows are relevant this usually means no lighting at all).
  • Thief allowed you to purchase fire arrows. The arrows didn't actually burn (but rather had magical glowing crystals on them instead), and they exploded violently when they hit something. In a stealth game like Thief, though, a weapon that makes a loud explosion isn't very practical (unless you're planning on using it as a distraction.) They are, however, the only weapons (save holy water and, in Deadly Shadows, flash bombs and land mines) that can kill zombies. They can also relight torches. The games also include three other elemental arrows as well.
  • In Tomb Raider (2013), Lara creates these by applying a lighter to an arrow wrapped with white cloth, which can then be used to set enemies or the environment aflame.
    • In Rise of the Tomb Raider, fire arrows are the third of four Trick Arrow types available for Lara's bow. The Remnant can use them as well, even shooting down a heavy attack helicopter with those. The Deathless Ones' archers deploy their signature Greek Fire arrows.
  • Total War:
    • In Rome: Total War and Medieval II: Total War archers can be told to light their arrows on fire. However, due to the Total War series being more of a realistic tactical simulator and less of your usual real-time strategy fare, flaming arrows in this game are less accurate and, on the whole, less damaging and take a lot longer to reload. The entire point of firing them is the psychological punch, as they deplete enemy morale like mad, often sending fearless spearmen running within a few volleys. Flaming catapult ammunition, on the other hand, is much more destructive (and utterly ruinous to morale), but again less accurate and slower to reload. Setting any projectile on fire also eats through the ammunition supply more quickly, so a unit of archers firing flaming arrows will probably only get off half the shots of their non-flaming counterparts over the course of a battle. The siege engines can fire rather ahistorical flaming/exploding projectiles. Flaming Arrows can also be used to set enemy siege equipment (such as siege towers or battering rams) on fire, which is a very important thing when you are defending a castle/town. And because of the importance of breaking enemy units' morale in the Total War series, units of archers with bows can actually become more useful than crossbowmen, who tend to deal more damage. Bow-wielding archers can set their arrows on fire, whereas crossbowmen can't, so the archers can do hefty damage to the enemy's morale even if they aren't killing very many of the enemy, which in turn can break the enemy unit much faster.
    • Total War: Shogun 2: Flaming arrows are a researchable upgrade that are added to most bow units once the technology has been researched. It's a cooldown ability that can only be used once every three minutes (so once or twice in an average battle) and causes the unit to take an extended reload period before firing a single volley of flaming arrows. While no more damaging than regular arrows (the extra reload time actually lowers the unit's damage potential), flaming arrows deal increased morale damage and — more importantly — can set fire to the game's mostly wood-based walls and ships and ships. Especially in sea battles bow ships with fire arrows become a near Game-Breaker.
    • Total War: Warhammer: Flaming arrows exist as an upgrade for Bretonnia's archer units. Like in previous Total War titles, they deal less damage than regular arrows but deal incredible morale damage. They are also very effective against units that take extra damage from fire attacks. This gives them a sort of situational usefulness for Bretonnia, since the factions it usually ends up fighting in the campaign — the Wood Elves and the Vampires of Mousillon — have a lot of units (tree spirits for the first and undead for the second) that are very vulnerable to fire attacks.
  • These are Zoya's alternate weapon in Trine. They can also be upgraded to fire an explosive shot.
  • Every arrow in Viking: Battle for Asgard is on fire, all the time.
  • Vlad in Viva Caligula! In Hell will shoot burning stakes at the titular protagonist.
  • Warcraft 3 has Searing Arrows, a spell which sets arrows on fire for added damage in exchange for a bit of mana. It also has Frost Arrows, which slow the enemy down too. Orc catapults could be upgraded to have their ammo covered in burning oil, lighting the ground on fire to deal extra damage to anything in its area of effect.
  • Archer Towers in War Dragons only shoot flaming arrows.
  • The Warhammer Fantasy video game Mark of Chaos allowed elven archers to use fire arrows (slower firing rate as a drawback). These wreaked havoc among the enemy's morale, which is probably the most tactical goal to achieve - probably more than killing every single enemy soldier.
  • In Wilds.io, this is the special attack of a bow. It does 0,5 damage more than a normal arrow (which matters given that the starting health is 8, and it doesn't get much higher), travels a lot faster, and is capable of Over Penetration. Its most important feature, however, is not consuming any stamina when fired, and knocking its target down. This makes it into a valuable emergency skill that gives you breathing space when a player with a melee weapon is about to close in.
    • However, it is still an arrow, and so can be countered in the same manner. Raising the shield in time blocks it completely, and sufficiently skilled players can even kick just in time to send it back, turning it against you unless you already moved away by then.
  • The titular protagonist of Will Rock uses an Automatic Crossbow that fires flaming bolts.

    Webcomics 
  • Haley of The Order of the Stick usually keeps a few Flaming Arrows on hand, and has made use of them more than once.

    Web Video 
  • Lindybeige: Addressed in this video, where he discusses why they didn't use fire arrows in open battles despite how it's always shown in movies because it's a silly idea for anything except sieges and naval warfare. All the modifications to the arrow necessary for it to stay burning when it's shot reduce its range and penetrating power, and you can't really set a man on fire through his clothes or armor before he puts it out. They also can't be fired at anywhere near the same rate as regular arrows. In short, they're useless as anti-personnel weapons, and only good for setting buildings and ships on fire.
    "Fire arrows! They're just so cool, aren't they? You've seen them in the movies, and they look like laser guns!..They must have used them in battles, didn't they? ..I mean, people being shot, just fire, burning and *PSHHHHT* "AAARGH!" They must have used them, right, right, yeah? *deadpan* No.
  • History Buffs criticised this trope in Timeline for the same reasons this page does.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television and what makes this Older Than Feudalism, Sun Tzu in his Art of War has a chapter dedicated to attacking with fire. Among other things, he recommends attacking with "dropped fire into the enemy camp" which may reference flaming arrows and/or burning catapult projectiles.
  • The Romans had purposely made ballista bolts heads that held flammable material, as did medieval archers.
  • In an utter kickass Real Life example, the Olympic Flame at the 1992 Barcelona games was lit with an arrow on fire going over the bowl and through the gas it burned.
  • Modern day Incendiary Rounds are the Bullet version of a Flaming Arrow. Tracers are less so: the primary purpose of a tracer is to tell the shooter where he hits (or used at designated parts of a magazine to keep count of bullets remaining), and are a less then ideal choice for setting things aflame.Hollywood uses both tracers and flaming arrows at times when it would be ineffective, typically because both put on a better light show then their regular, oftentimes more practical, counterparts.
    • Although tracer rounds were modified for night-fighter use not only to tell the pilot where his bullets were going, but also to set the target on fire. The first Zepellin to be shot down over England in 1917 was downed by tracers designed to ignite the hydrogen inside the airship's balloon; normal bullets just made entry and exit holes and left the structure largely intact. A bullet hot enough to ignite the contents in passing turned out to be an airship-killer, and a contributory reason why they were discontinued from military use.
  • Flaming arrows used by Medieval archers have a number of modifications from the normal arrow, in order to avoid some of the engineering challenges of such arrows (the difficulty in getting it to stick in the target, the added weight of the flammable material, etc.); some had longer and thicker shafts (so that they wouldn't snap off when fired, and won't set the bow or the archer's bow hand on fire), cage-like heads (to allow them to stick into the target while burning), and such.

Alternative Title(s): Flaming Arrows

Top

Example of:

/

Feedback