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Typically in fantasy, creatures that are infused with fire (dragons, pyromancers, fire elementals, fire-infused monsters, you get the drift right?) seem to be completely unharmed by said fire and its effects (smoke inhalation, deoxygenation, burns from resultant heat.....). In other words, mages and monsters with fire magic seem to give off heat or even have parts of their bodies on fire constantly with no side effects, even starting and shooting fires without getting burned or dying from the aforementioned natural consequences of flame.

How is this possible? Magic, obviously, but that isn't good enough for me. Magic in my worlds have rules, right down to how someone can be born with magic powers. This very phenomenon is likely how a fire creature gets it's protection; the spiritual connection they have with flame alters them, much like any relationship affects a person, turning them into what is more or less living ash.

That's what I thought would work, anyway. Ash is what's left after a fire's burnt out, so it shouldn't be able to burn, right? And with that fire magic linking body and spirit together even as it burns the body into this incombustible state, surely the organism would survive right? But now I've realized a few glaring issues with this:

  • Fire causes decomposition, breaking down chemicals necessary for the functioning of a lifeform, so the result, if it was alive, would almost certainly be a form of undead, living through magic alone since magically induced combustion made biological processes impossible
  • Even if #1 is accounted for, resulting in a living creature with altered biochemistry, the creature will likely still be vulnerable to the smoke inhalation and/or deoxygenation that comes with fire
  • Natural selection is unlikely to solve the issues above

And so my question is simple: How Fireproof Could a Creature Feasibly Become?

If further clarification is required, please let me know and I will do my best.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you explain the biology of your creatures that are magically living ash? We'll need to know that to answer your question with anything other than, "they are fireproof as you want them to be". $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ You mean like how a stomach works with gastric acid? $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Alendyias It's a magic creature. You only have a problem if you want there to be a problem. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ Ash is calcium carbonate and calcium oxide mostly. It doesn't have any real structure other than that which the substance takes. It's a powder. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ Well, somebody wants clarification, but they weren't very clear about it. "Needs details or clarity. This question should include more details and clarify the problem." $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 1:53

6 Answers 6

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When you've got magic in play, you're basically talking about one of two schema: passive immunity vs. active management (which can be an unconscious process).

Passive immunity is where you find stuff like elementals - which aren't 'alive' in the biological sense, but are instead something already fireproof being given animate attributes through non-organic processes. Biologics that are immune to fire that fall into this category are probably not actually immune to all fire - they're just unbothered by ambient temperatures/atmospheres that the vast majority of fire occurs in will produce. Either the various chemicals from normal combustion are filtered out by their lungs, or they're extremely efficient with oxygen-use, etc. Smoke is an additive to, instead of a replacement for, the existing air - the problem for humans is that the additives bind to our biology and cause toxic effects but if some creature has different physiochemistry it's possible that it simply doesn't process carbon monoxide or whatever. You could probably push such biologics out of their tolerances, it'll just take more than conventional fire (stuff like thermite, etc).

Active management is a much more interesting case because this is where your 'human fire mage' becomes immune to fire. Humans, as we know, are NOT fireproof. But when you're able to make fire obey your will, you're presumably also able to will it to go bother someone else.

The thermal issue from fire, which causes burns, is a function of energy flow + chemistry. If you can control the energy flow (i.e. make the heat NOT flow into your body) then the thermal issue is completely avoided. This makes sense as a knock-on effect to any magical discipline that involves manipulating fire.

Magical models where the power is drawn from the external phenomena are even easier: if you're used to drawing strength from fire, then being exposed to that source means you're able to use what would otherwise be a harmful input to your body as the fuel to redirect it.

Active management schemes can be unconscious if, e.g. the magic isn't a skill but rather something you're born with: the same source that gives the power also suffuses into your reflexes and so you regulate your own body temperature as naturally as you breathe, etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting, thank you! This is immensely helpful and very well thought out, though I must admit I was looking for how fireproof a creature could become through magic. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ Or, in better terms, how close I could feasibly get to a creature totally immune to fire. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Alendyias If that's the goal then just have a creature constantly have a spell effect like stone or bark skin but it'd be 'ceramic skin' instead. $\endgroup$
    – Rubrikon
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your comments! I have found them very helpful in figuring out this problem. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ Humans, as we know, are NOT fireproof[citation needed]. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 10:42
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As far as dragons are concerned...

Although modern dragon myths seem to suggest something else: not all dragons are serving humans in battle! Free dragons use fire against each other when fighting for a mate, or territory.

Dragon fire from another dragon does hurt a dragon, but only their belly and eyes are vulnerable. The scales will resist fire.

The problem for the dragon using the flame is minor. Dragons only feel the heat of ignition shortly.. it won't feel the flame as it persists. The flame is kept on by the dragon, when it spits out fuel. The actual heat - top of the flame - will be at a distance.

Bone and scales with asbestos

The ignition heat will be inside the mouth. This is very hot, but the palate of a dragon is mainly bone. Scales are bone too. Suppose, dragon evolution has mixed in asbestos, into the bone and teeth.. asbestos is a very common natural silicate mineral, young dragons chew asbestos, to reinforce their scales and bone against heat.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for addressing dragons in your answer! I appreciate this and will keep this in account when designing my dragons. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ Succes with that ! Great question.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:24
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Fire is not really an issue. Fire never hurt anyone, it's the heat from fire, that's the thing that gets you. And maybe smoke, but I that's more of a problem in a burning building, less when there are fireballs thrown at you.

Nothing except a black hole in our universe is immune to heat. If it's not working, you are not using enough heat. Even if your monster is made out of ash or stone, with enough heat that ash can be evaporated, melted or chemically altered to a new substance.

So there are 2 questions to ask yourself.1 Can the creature survive this physical or chemical change. 2 How much heat would this change take

The second one can be looked up form a table. All materials have melting, evaporation, or reactive points. Just compare it to how hot your fire burns, and you know if the creature can withstand that heat. If on the other hand the creature can survive these massive changes to it's biology, then maybe it's fire proof, but then it's most likely everything proof. A sword is not going to do anything heat can't.

Finally you may have fire elementals. These creatures are the embodiment of fire, and heat may just make them stronger. Their biggest issue is they most likely need to oxidize to live. Oddly enough these creatures may ignore heat on their own, but fire destroys their fuel and oxygen. This becomes a real fight fire with fire situation, making fire elementals quickly die if caught in a larger flame.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for sharing your knowledge! I will keep this in mind. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:15
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They need a tough outer shell of ash.

This is calcium carbonate. It's often used to make cement, so they can have some natural version of this. Calcium carbonate can take temperatures of up to 1000C without melting, and cement 1500C.

They need a heat resistant core.

Extremophiles can have functional proteins at high temperatures, of 100C+. With magic, all their proteins could be around this, meaning that heat wouldn't hit them hard.

Together, they would be very resistant to quick flames, and take longer for heat to break down.

They also need to be able to use non oxygen respiration

You can gain energy without oxygen. They would need to have very acid tolerant blood, and various mechanisms to break down lactic acid and such much faster than we can, so they could rely on non oxygen based respiration.

Then, in a flame they could just shut their mouth and nose and not breathe in smoke.

A hot enough flame would still melt them, and a sledge hammer could expose the fleshy underlayer, but they could be pretty fire resistant.

Enough heat would exhaust them, but they could go without oxygen for a long time. Magic could make these things a bit more efficient.

You could have fire magic and mana be some sort of parasite that stole a number of genetic traits from heat resistant creatures and would pass it on to those that mastered fire. They would grow rocky skin, have their biology twisted to become more heat tolerant, and their innards adjusted. A slow disease.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea, thanks for this new perspective! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ I can see a possible problem with this, anaerobic respiration is very inefficient, iirc around 18 times less efficient than aerobic respiration. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 0:31
  • $\begingroup$ That means that being in fire is very resource intensive, but if it lets you win fights it may be worth it. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 10:04
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Immunity in high fantasy, resilience in everything else

When it comes to high fantasy, most authors tend to equate resilience with absolute immunity. Basically anyone that relies on fire as his main weapon is invulnerable against his own effects, so when two of the same entities meet you basically have an impasse and the only way to resolve the conflict is to use something else, unless someone breaks this standard just for a passing joke. The exception that comes to the top of my mind is from the anime BASTARD!! when the main character fights a demon that's basically the lord of fire. At first the demon is quite arrogant when he realizes the main character also specializes in fire, but fails to realize that the main character is capable of cranking up the heat so far up that even the demon himself can't handle it.

As far as low fantasy to medium fantasy goes, I haven't encountered a single example where somebody is completely immune to anything. As far as narrative goes, the more proficient someone is with a certain element, the more resilient he becomes in handling all the harm that originates from that particular element, which means the only two instances when he's in jeopardy is either when caught off-guard or fighting someone who's more proficient with that element. I personally think this is the best way to go and I'm personally using this kind of system in my world. If you are a Fire Mage in world you might be the best when it comes to setting stuff on fire, but if somebody catches you off-guard with a well placed Firebolt to the face you're screwed.

Realistically speaking, there are natural ways to adapt to certain elements and develop a high tolerance for their effects. It's down to basic evolution but it requires such a tremendous amount of time that nobody could be sure where that process actually begins, how many phases it actually has and what are the finer details that influence it. The Komodo dragons have perhaps the most toxic bite in the world because of the bacteria cultivated in their mouths (saliva) but they themselves obviously developed an immunity to it, strange underwater creatures adapted to surviving in oceanic depths in absolute darkness and immense water-pressure, water fowl developed unique feather configurations and secretions to keep themselves completely dry and isolated from water even when they're completely submerged, etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your points and thoughtful advice, I found them very helpful! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:15
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Well - for organic entities - the Leidenfrost effect. Your fire 'magic' has a basis in physics, and the fuel vaporising forms a barrier. There's illusionists and physisists who have a great deal of fun with it. It would be energy intensive to constantly secrete your fuel/coolant/barrier liquid - but that's probably the price to pay.

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