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Basic Information

Tinder is an essential part of the fire-lighting process - it is the material that is ignited by the initial spark and from which the fire lighter expects the flame to propagate to the rest of the fire. Technically this probably includes the use of flammable liquids like alcohol or gasoline to light a fire, but they're not what most people would think of as tinder (indeed they are generally known as accelerants in the modern era).

Most people's idea of tinder is lightweight, dry stuff such as seed fluff, grass, dry leaves and the gills of fungi - these can be scavenged directly from the wild environment. More processed forms of tinder include axe fly, wood shavings and the like, whilst materials such as cotton wool or paper can also be used. Some materials, such as char-cloth1 and sulphur or saltpeter impregnated wood2 are also specifically designed for use as tinder.

In the pre-match era, when anyone who wanted fire and didn't have a existing fire to light it from needed to spark light something, tinder was an important part of most people's lives. Most RPGs set in pre-modern (or after the end) environments should have a tinderbox (or something similar) in their equipment lists - this would be a small, waterproof box in which the user keeps their choice of kindling, and, quite often, a portfire such as a candle. To be honest, timber is still important in the modern era for anyone who insists on lighting fires, but is at least more plentiful and, given friction matches, a lot easier to get going.

Arguably, modern firelighter blocks, although technically a fuel in their own right, can serve as kindling (hence the name - whether it's sold as a solid fuel tablet or a firelighter will often be a question of marketing rather than composition).

For reference, the next stage up from tinder is usually called kindling - small, dry pieces of wood which sustain the fire until the main load is hot enough to ignite.

In extremis, the propellant from a cartridge can be used as a form of kindling, but this is not particularly safe, especially in the post-black powder era.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • For games in the great outdoors, looking after your tinder is part of any outdoor survival skill - a tinder box should give some kind of bonus but the GM should feel free to call for skill rolls after river crossings, fights, chases, falls etc. to ensure that the tinder remains safe and dry. For PCs without tinder and/or poor survival skills, the GM should break out the rules for exposure, hypothermia and death.
  • Likewise when PCs decide to strike a light, hilarity may ensue if no-one paid out for the tinderbox and flint and steel.
  • Also necessary for arson of various kinds.
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