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  1. #1

    Spell components, to use or not to use?

    I finally got the chance to swivel out of the DM seat for my in person game and be a player again. A long time player of mine is now helming the stead and house ruled back in spell components for spell casting. Not that they were ever gone mind you, but shopping around for quantities of bat guano and owl feathers is now something our casters will keep track of as opposed to the infinite bag of minor spell components. It puts a material availability to spells which is interesting.

    Now this is the PF system, and if I recall, 5e does something similar in regards to mundane components. Personally I love it as I describe burning/tossing/eatting my various components to flare into magic. Spell components however were removed for a reason in PF due to the book keeping nature of it. I do suppose it gives more paper work for your magic casters, but it also allows more interesting things to happen as well as evokes the classic feel of magic compared to the 'power' oriented direction it has gone in 4E+.

    Would you use spell components in your game?

  2. #2
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    May 2015
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    I don't currently, and rarely have. But I do agree it can add a nice flavor and realism if it is used.

    One aspect that is always a consideration for me, is enforcing spell components, and especially availability and cost of them means that casters might end up with a restriction that other classes don't. For instance, components limit the number of times you can cast a spell, but the number of times a sword is used is not limited. At least with archers you can track their ammo.

    Another thing would be volume and weight. How much does a pinch of sulfur weigh? How many can you carry?

    Maybe there is a middle ground where you can track number of uses without it impacting carrying capacity (but setting a reasonable limit?) or being a cost burden (easily obtained or many uses for a copper). But that would still allow the flavor and role playing aspects?

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  3. #3
    Zacchaeus's Avatar
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    Dec 2014
    This is another of these questions to which the answer is that there isn't really an answer because it comes down to personal preference.

    Specifically in 5e you can use a component pouch in place of the individual component for each spell unless the component has a price attached - such as a 500gp Diamond or some such. You can of course ignore this and have your spellcaster root around for components. My problem with that is the bookkeeping and of course the time spent trying to find the components. Do you just allow the spellcaster to visit their local spell component shop and obtain whatever they need? Or do you make them find their own components? If the former what about when they are in a backwater village where there isn't a handy spell shop and if the latter where do they go to find the components and how long do they take. In many ways this is an entire sub-game and many will enjoy that kind of thing. But what will the rest of the party be doing whilst the spellcaster is off hunting down bat guano where there are no bats.

    I don't personally enforce spell components and none of my players have ever expressed a problem with that - perhaps not surprisingly. But there are those who will want to play that sub-game.
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  4. #4
    I've always considered spell components to be interesting in concept but not fun in play. I never used to keep track of them when I started in second edition, and the way they were de-emphasized in third edition onward made perfect sense, since there is so much going on in the game and they really just sidetrack the players' attention. Of course, I'm the guy that would just write "Toolbox" on his character sheet and ask the DM how much gold it would cost to assume I always had pitons, nails, torches, and other basic gear as it came up.

    It's fun to read about the components when you're looking at a spell for the first time; it's tedious to make sure your character has a bunch of random garbage on hand. I've never thought inventory control was one of the enjoyable components of a game, and spell components are the worst offender.

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  5. #5

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    Jun 2013
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    I use a "spell components" belt pouch that all the magic users carry. This is assumed to have all needed minor spell components - only if the spell description specifies some thing of significant value ("a gem worth 50gp", for example) do I need the magic user to actually acquire the components, otherwise I assume they have the needed components in their pouch. When they hit a town, they "reload" their pouches at the local spell components / herbalist shop, for a fixed cost (typically 10-20gp).

  6. #6
    Hmm, about what I expected. I remember a 3.5 game where a player carried around a pet owl for a renewable source of owl feathers which made for for some interesting interactions. It's less for mechanics and more for role-play in that regard as mechanically it's another spreadsheet of things to track. There was the material availability component that influenced stocking up on certain things before venturing as well as learning difference spells due to a lack of X component in Y area.

  7. #7
    Personally I only use them for the "big" spells, things like Wish for instance. I do adjust that based on level though. At lower levels a 500gp reagent required for a spell they really want to cast can make for a nice sidequest, but when 500gp is chump change I will ignore the reagent in order to decrease book keeping.

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