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efreysson
07-08-2014, 08:24 PM
Toward the end of my fantasy WIP the protagonist sneaks into an enemy war camp to try and assassinate the general. She starts a fire as a distraction before moving on the general's tent. The assassination fails, but she gets away and the havoc she causes does tip the scales a bit in the upcoming battle.

I'm just not entirely sure how to pull this off. There's no gunpowder or equivalent of greek fire. The enemy army is poorly organized and exhausted. Would you buy it as a reader if she drops burning embers onto the corners of several tents, they gradually catch on fire as she sneaks about and no one really notices until the fire has started moving between tightly packed tents?

Marlys
07-08-2014, 08:38 PM
The embers sounds iffy to me. How about fire arrows? She could shoot off several in quick succession, and if it's dry enough the tents could go straight up--and catch from tent to tent, since they're tightly packed.

thothguard51
07-08-2014, 08:47 PM
Burn the hay that feeds the horses. The horses, panic and run. The fire spreads to nearby tents which further creates more havoc...

You get the idea. The point being, she creates a little distraction, but because of unforeseen events, the havoc she created grows naturally...

Something like this I would believe.

fdesrochers
07-08-2014, 09:32 PM
^ this. Depending on the humidity and setting, you'd have to drop a load of embers to make a tent catch fire; why not use the torch you would have needed to get those embers? Short of explosives, the best distration I could have thought of was the fire in the horses hay or have one or a couple of commissary wagons go up in flames.

Does the distraction need to be fire-based? Depending on setting and what else is going on, you could have myriad of choices:

- Local refugees get pushed into their camp with false promises of food and help
- Light the nearby forest on fire; smoke and embers doe the rest of the work
- poison the food and watch as people start collapsing and panic ensues
- Horses, as mentioned, make great distractions
- Have a rival gang slip in and try to attack the same target; once the threat is easliy repulsed and the target relaxes, your character strikes
- Depending on the level of magic and fantasy involved, a whole host of tropes are available.

jennontheisland
07-08-2014, 09:58 PM
Alcohol is flammable. Do they have booze?

efreysson
07-08-2014, 10:43 PM
Burn the hay that feeds the horses. The horses, panic and run. The fire spreads to nearby tents which further creates more havoc...

You get the idea. The point being, she creates a little distraction, but because of unforeseen events, the havoc she created grows naturally...

Something like this I would believe.

Ah, I like this idea.


Alcohol is flammable. Do they have booze?

Well yes, but alcohol needs to be extremely strong to burn well.

jclarkdawe
07-09-2014, 12:00 AM
Fire creates light. The bigger the fire, the brighter the light. In the dark, if you want to avoid being seen, you don't want light.

Further, a fire starts in the camp. Rather then the general staying in a fixed location, the general is going to be all over the place organizing a response. That's what generals do. A fire would make it next to impossible for her to carry out an attack on the general.

Only way a fire works as a diversion that is timed to start at a fixed point in time when she is in a position to kill the general.

Possible approach is releasing the horses and scaring them off. General sends soldiers off to recover the horses and goes back to bed.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

davidjgalloway
07-09-2014, 12:44 AM
Just an FYI on the tents: canvas tents, even those that have been fireproofed, go up like you wouldn't believe. There's no steady burn. It's light, catch, huge fireball. That's when they've been treated. I can't imagine how fast an untreated canvas tent would go up. I like the idea as a diversion--it's not a sight you look away from--but you'd have to either have multiple ones go up in series or something for it to last long enough as a diversion.

Based on safety demos we used to do at summer camps, where we'd actually light an old ripped tent to demonstrate how fast they went up.

Lillith1991
07-09-2014, 02:35 AM
Toward the end of my fantasy WIP the protagonist sneaks into an enemy war camp to try and assassinate the general. She starts a fire as a distraction before moving on the general's tent. The assassination fails, but she gets away and the havoc she causes does tip the scales a bit in the upcoming battle.

I'm just not entirely sure how to pull this off. There's no gunpowder or equivalent of greek fire. The enemy army is poorly organized and exhausted. Would you buy it as a reader if she drops burning embers onto the corners of several tents, they gradually catch on fire as she sneaks about and no one really notices until the fire has started moving between tightly packed tents?

Embers no, but a torch or something of that nature I would believe.

jennontheisland
07-09-2014, 03:07 AM
Well yes, but alcohol needs to be extremely strong to burn well.
It doesn't need to burn well, it just needs to light other things. And you don't need much of it. Spill a shot glass of flaming ouzo and see how far those flames travel...

Kallithrix
07-09-2014, 05:17 PM
Setting tents on fire really isn't difficult - just this weekend, in my ancient Greek living history camp, someone set a goatskin tent on fire by leaving an oil lamp unattended inside. Fortunately it was stamped out pretty quick, but leather burns more slowly than canvas.

I'm with Jim tho - a huge fire in the camp will create too much light and too much movement for a stealth attack. As soon as it's noticed, the shouts will wake the general, who will rush right into the thick of the action rather than waiting patiently to be assassinated in bed.

I'd suggest doing this the other way round - create a distraction to cover her escape after she's killed the general. Or failed to kill him. Either way, she needs to get out of Dodge pretty quick, no? That's when you need a fire.

Bolero
07-10-2014, 01:44 AM
What period is the fantasy? Having a big camp of tents depends on having plenty of transport for the tents and good enough roads for the transport. Also the kind of economy where the canvas of the tents was affordable enough for them to be provided for common soldiers. If it is a hand weaving period, that might not be the case.
So in some periods tents were mainly for officers and everyone else had a blanket and hoped for a nice hedge. Good days were when they billeted on a village.

benbenberi
07-10-2014, 03:23 AM
Bolero's got an important point. Tents for the whole army are actually a very modern innovation. Well-organized national armies began trying to provide tents for the men in the 17-18c but didn't necessarily manage it. As late as the mid-19c (US Civil War), it was routine that a large % of the active force had no tents at all, but had to improvise shelter out of the surroundings (e.g. huts or lean-tos built out of whatever foliage was to be had), billet in a village/take over whatever farms & outbuildings were available, or sleep rough in the open air. (Tents were expensive to make and difficult. to transport: heavy fabric, heavy rope and long, heavy timbers to hold them up could not be carried on a soldier's back, but required wagons, horses, teamsters & roads.)

Speaking of which -- a pre-modern military force would normally involve a lot of people who weren't technically military but had to be there to keep an army functioning in the field. This includes the whole logistics, support & maintenance side of things (e.g. transport, supplies, technical specialists like smiths & carpenters, not to mention the "camp followers" who saw to all the cooking, cleaning, medical care, etc.). All of these people would be in the camp too, and so would all their animals, equipment, & gear. Lots of hay & straw for the horses: very flammable. If it's a large & well-organized army & they're not planning to be lodging mostly in towns, there may well be a corps of bakers to keep them supplied with bread, and that means very very very flammable stores of flour (kaboom!!), plus hot ovens if the camp has been in the same place more than a day or two.