WoWS – A Possible Solution to Detonations: Ammunition Fires

Written by beachedwhale1945


There are few things as disappointing in World of Warships as going from full health to no health from a single shell. Unlike in World of Tanks or War Thunder, where some skill and vehicle knowledge can improve your chances of causing or preventing a detonation (knowing what to protect/aim at), detonations in World of Warships are almost completely up to RNG due to dispersion. Even people, like myself, who think magazine detonations should remain in the game want the system improved.

When I initially drafted this post, beyond making the detonation more interesting (bigger boom, damage nearby ships) I had not seen a proposal that solves this problem beyond reducing the frequency or removing detonations entirely. Since then some have come out, with some interesting ideas of their own. Many center around two major fixes: making the explosions larger and removing the random splash damage detonations. While in theory a nearby shell might detonate a smaller ship, in my research I have found no historical cases of a detonation from a near miss.

While researching the Battle of Jutland, I came up with a possible solution that is heavily based in history.


Gunhouse: the visible portion of a turret where the guns are loaded and fired. May or may not be divided into smaller sections for each gun.

Stalk: the rotating part of a turret that extends below decks. Generally four or five stories tall. Yes, this is the proper term according to Navweaps.

Barbette: rotating turrets with a stalk had an armored cylinder down to the main armor deck and often below.

Charges: the propellant that shoots the shell out of the gun. Stored in silk bags (bag guns-the most common method) or brass cases like most bullets (cartridge, separate, and semi-fixed guns-generally used for c.127mm and smaller guns and most German guns). The primary culprit behind detonations.

Handling Rooms: the rooms where powder charges and ammunition are transferred from the magazines, lower hoists, or projectile rings to hoists that lead to the gunhouse. Projectile and powder rooms were usually separated.

Hoists: the elevator/lift-style system that brings shells and powder charges to the gunhouse or handling rooms. Can be used for projectiles only, powder charges only, or both in a single hoist.

Magazine: the room where the powder charges are stored. Projectiles are normally stored in shell rooms or on projectile rings in the stalk.

How Magazines Exploded

This summary is based on the design elements common to 150mm and larger guns in turrets with stalks. Destroyers and casemate/pedestal guns (Omaha) had slightly different arrangements that accomplished the same job.

First, we need background. A magazine is not the only place powder charges (almost always the culprit) are found during combat. Powder charges are moved via hoists to the gunhouse constantly during combat. As the magazine is much more difficult to hit and has very strong protection, most ships that exploded were hit here or in the gunhouse.

Usually, detonations begin as ammunition fires. These are dangerous, but not instantly fatal: at Jutland many ships burned but did not explode, even from fires in the gunhouse and stalk. Ships were designed to prevent shells from penetrating the stalk with well armored barbettes and keep ammunition fires in the stalk or gunhouse from spreading to the magazines (flash protection).

Ammunition fires can become explosions if the pressure is too high. Much like log in a campfire that turns into smoke, charges turn into a mix of deadly gases when burned. Unlike a campfire, however, simply denying oxygen to a burning charge will not stop the fire: they have everything they need to burn already except a spark. In an enclosed space these gases increase the pressure, which increases the burn rate, which increases the pressure. If the pressure gets too high, the structure is deformed or the charges burn so rapidly they explode. This pressure is different for every propellant, but more stable charges can reach higher pressures before exploding.

Once a fire starts, you have four ways to stop an explosion:

  1. Flood the magazine. Charges covered in water cannot be set on fire, and the fire will not be able to set off the magazine. This is only an option if the fire is outside the magazine.
  2. Vent the pressure. Get the smoke into the open air as quickly as possible. This is risky as including vents could allow flooding AND difficult as these spaces are very confined. This is often out of the hands of the crew and only occurs when the steel itself warps and breaks from the pressure (Boise, Gneisenau).
  3. Put out the fire. Good luck. These fires are very aggressive and hard to extinguish. By the time you get a dedicated damage control party with gas masks to the burning charges it is usually too late. Even if you think it has been put out, you may find yourself burning again soon (Lion).
  4. Hope the fire goes out. This did happen on occasion (Boise, Lützow), but only if the ship was designed well, the charges were stable, and/or very few were ignited.

In any case, ammunition fires almost always knock out the turret where the fire took place. The crew is either killed or the pressure has damaged the structure beyond easy repair (or both). The only exception I know of was aboard Lützow at Jutland, where the left-hand gun of Turret B was returned to working order half an hour after a single powder bag burned in the right-hand shell hoist. This is largely due to the bulkhead between the guns and the small size of the fire (which, interestingly, did not ignite the powder in the large brass case directly above).

The Solution

Add in ammunition fires.

When the stalk or gunhouse of your turret is hit, there is a small chance an ammunition fire will start. Once this starts the turret will be knocked out or the ship will explode. But the choice is no longer up to RNG alone. You the player have some control.

Once the fire begins you have a small window of time to react (10-20 seconds). In this time you can use the repair party consumable to flood the magazines, lose the turret, and save the ship. If the repair party is on cooldown, you can do nothing while you pray to RNGesus. RNGesus has three choices to choose from:

  1. The fire burns out your turret, which is disabled for the rest of the game.
  2. The fire turns into an explosion that does not reach the magazines. You lose the turret and take HP damage. This would be equal to the full damage of the loaded shell type times the number of guns in the turret (1 gun=1 shell, 3 guns=3 shells, etc.)
  3. The fire reaches the magazine. You explode. Odds of raging in chat increase by 92% and on the forums by 78%.

The chances of these events are variable, but I would recommend something like 40%-40%-20% as a good starting point.

To counteract this increase in magazine detonations overall, the chances of a shell hit to the magazine causing a detonation are reduced or eliminated entirely. Thus the combined chances of losing a turret permanently and detonating are not increased overall, though it is now much more likely to lose a turret and less likely to completely detonate.

Various flag rewards are added for each option above. The effects for each option could be:

  1. Turret burned out or magazine flooded: reduce the cooldown of repair party consumable, improve turret survivability, reduced chance of ammunition fires.
  2. Turret explodes: reduced chance of fire reaching the magazines, reduced chance of fire becoming an explosion, reduced chance of ammunition fires.
  3. Ship explodes: current detonation flag. Modified to complete removed ammunition fires as well as detonations. The chances of losing a turret do not increase beyond current levels.

The player that hits you also gets flags that improve the chance of causing ammunition fires. This is less than the reduction from the flags above (~50% as a start).

The equipment module that reduces magazine detonations is modified to reduce the chances of losing a turret (higher than Main Armaments 1, say the current 70% to 20%), and reduce fires (same 70%). Unlike MAM 1, this does not improve turret survivability or affect torpedo tubes. While torpedoes did explode and sink ships, this would be an unnecessary complication and nerf torpedo-carrying ships (particularly IJN DDs).

Optional elements that could enhance the system, but would also cause confusion among newer players:

Decrease chances of ammunition fires becoming detonations with improved hulls when flash protection was improved (early British ships explode often, later hulls not so much).

Give each powder charge different chances to explode. British ships that used MD charges are much more likely to explode if set ablaze than German or American ships that used more stable RP series and SPD charges. Ships that received more stable charges over time (particularly British) reduce the chances of fires and explosions with hull/gun upgrades.

Allow some form of short minigame between the player that hit the magazine and the player that was hit that determines if the ship explodes or just loses a turret.

Give players that cause ammunition fires flags with a higher chance for their shells to hit guns, stalks, magazines, or citadels.

Add an equipment module that increases your rate of fire, but also the chance for an ammunition fire becoming a detonation. [Similar to flags added since this post was first drafted]. This is similar to MBM 3, but does trades slower turret traverse for the fires->detonations.

If the magazine is hit, automatically use the repair party if available. Otherwise, a countdown timer appears on the screen showing how long your robotic crew has to live. Odds of raging in chat increase by 100%.

Same as above but remove the above timer. Odds of raging in chat increase by 200%. Odds of losing the next three games due to anger increase by 67%.

I welcome feedback and critiques.