Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Material Components: Pros & Cons

So I hope everyone got a chance to check out my list of first level components that the local witch would sell if I decided to run my campaign with AD&D first edition.  Not long after the announcement of the new reprints a someone on a thread over on Google+ asked what mechanical weirdness people would cut from the rules if they opted to run AD&D1 again.  My from-the-hip answer was "almost nothing".  If I'm going to run AD&D again I'm going to try to tackle the whole dang mess.  Hence the new weapons chart I did a few days ago and yesterday's material components chart.  Ability score limits by gender are about the only thing I can think of that I would outright jettison.  I'd even try keeping the stupid alignment rules.

Anyway, let's look at some of the issue surrounding material components for spellcasting.

CON: The are a giant headache for the DM.  Obviously this is why no one uses them.  Even with that Dragon article assisting me, that chart yesterday was a giant pain in the ass to make.  And it only covers the first level spell components for sale in one specific shop.  Someone with programming skills could automate the process, but you'd still need a multi-page printout for each magic shop in your campaign world.

PRO: They're a tool for the DM.  You know what's missing from Dremelza's shelf of first level components?  Pearls, owl feathers and live miniature carp.  Those plus wine are the necessary components for Identify.  She doesn't sell them (in fact maybe she buys pearls at a fair price, if asked) because she holds a local monopoly on Identify spells.  A PC entering the region with Identify is suddenly in a new situation.  And what is RPG play if not an exploration of new situations?

CON: Players don't want to mess with this crap.  AD&D1 already has a pretty intense character sheet.  Do you really want to add tracking how much of each of the three things you need to cast Friends?  And what happens if you fall in a pit and half the little jars in your component pouch break?

PRO: Players can use this crap against enemy wizards.  Enterprising thieves can forget backstabbing the necromancer, just swipe his belt pouch instead!

CON: Oh crap, that means I need to generate the component pouch of every NPC spellcaster.  Again, a little computerfication should help here.

PRO: Thinking about where the NPC spellcastes get their components can lead to new adventure situations.  Take the PC who wants to Identify some stuff rather than pay Dremelza through the nose.  Where does she get these components?  She needs a good supply, given that she casts Identify more often than just about any other spell in her spellbook (except maybe Polymorph Other, people on her bad side tend to end up turned into animals).  Perhaps her tiny carp and pearls come from the sea elves who live near the coast.

CON: Gathering components can really bog down a session.  Imagine the party stumbles into a standard bat-filled cavern.  The illusionist immediately starts pestering the DM about how much bat fur can be gathered to fuel his Darkness spell.  How the crap would I know?

PRO: Any activity that further the campaign that isn't just killing things will only make the play experience richer.  In fact, my whole argument probably rests on this assumption.  "I can't cast Comprehend Languages because I'm out of salt" is a bummer for the PC and the party relying on him, but it sure keeps things interesting.  And watching the players squirm as the elf swallows a live spider to cast Spider Climb will never, ever get old.

Obviously this post isn't going to convince everyone to adopt material components.  I'm not even trying to do that.  But let's talk this out.  If you see an objection that I missed or you feel I've glossed over, please say so in the comments.


  1. I see your point(s). Let's game it...

    Ok, so you make (or level up) your PC....

    Now spells.

    Now (extra step) shopping.

    Obviously now you have to assume a Rientsian situation where you return to civilization every time you finish leveling. OR that you carry extra components in _case_ you level up.


    we could assume you have all necessary components for x number of days (like rations) however, unlike rations these are:

    -expensive to replace
    -hard to find to replace

    So we start off, yes you automatically have Eye of Sulphur or whatever, however--if things go awry in the dungeon then you can't cast your spell until you replace it.

    Another problem I see: Gygaxian spell components are often things not actually referred to elsewhere in the system at all. Meaning if you want to have them appear anywhere but in a store then you have to add stuff to your game _just in case_ they come up.

    I think a better system would be to use components that are related to stuff that's definitely extant in your game--for example in wessex components could be Witch's hair, goblin eye, bone from an animated skeleton, etc.

    That way the PC isn't _requesting_ the DM make up something whenever s/he wants a new spell, s/he's going out and plotting against the setting that already exists.

    Also, if we're making people get components, I think we should allow them to cast overlevel spells, possibly with a 50% backfire or Int check vs disaster rule in effect. Otherwise we have just taken away something without adding new opportunities for the player-as-player.

  2. My only problem with the AD&D1 components stuff is I don't get the rationale for most of them. I would probably re-write the requirements if I was doing this.

    A potential problem, but one which I'm pretty sure you'll be able to avoid, is that components can easily mean that spells cost GP, with nothing interesting going on. A clever GM will prevent this, but there's a definite pitfall to watch out for.

  3. A lot of spells are supposed to cost GP - that was a way to rein in their power. Without that 50k GP pearl (or whatever it was) you would have high-level MUs dropping wishes all over the place.

    What if casters were to get a minor bonus for using premium grade components (no, I don't know what premium guano is) that cost more, or could buy the Sam's Club version & suffer a minor penalty?

  4. "Take the PC who wants to Identify some stuff rather than pay Dremelza through the nose. "

    Sounds like she'll accept a copiously productive sneeze as payment... maybe that's only on the equinoxes... ;)

  5. A lot of the components are common things, easily scrounged. (sand for the sleep spell, for instance.)

    Some are a major pain in the butt (potion of heroism for Tenser's Transformation.)

    Acquiring rare components is an excellent reason for adventuring.

    Component substitution/experimentation would be fun.

    BITD I handwaved minor components, but required the PC's to collect anything worth 100GP+.

  6. My players running magic-users used to love gathering components, they took it to extremes and would keep long lists of the oddest things and stash them for future use. It gives MU players something to do when they aren't casting spells.

    I was a lazy ass and would seldom take the time to catalog NPC spell caster component pouches.

  7. I think I'm more in line with what James S. says above -- components for a few select spells only. Personally, I like the idea that certain spells are more like mini-enchantments or rituals that take a long time and have some associated cost. I do that with Continual Light, for example...it's more like crafting a beginner-level magic item.

  8. Anonymous11:18 AM

    I use components as one means of depleting monetary resources between sessions.

    OK, adventure's over and you're back in town. Time to spend money on upkeep (food and shelter), equipment repair/replacement, mystical/magical/martial research and/or training and resupply.

    The only time I'd use components in actual play is if it were an opportunity for the dramatic.

  9. I used to play with a DM who was great with enforcing spell components. From my POV it was sometimes frustrating, but also led to some pretty satisfyingly unexpected game situations. It also led to the MU doing a lot of stuff beyond casting spells, which is always welcome. I've promised to run AD&D pretty soon, and I agree with what you said about running it warts and all. AD&D 1e just has an atmosphere of its own and the baroque rules only serve to heighten that feeling.

  10. Long story short: Requiring material components can lead to interesting character stories and adventures.

    Short story long:

    We use a similar system in our OD&D game for creating magic items (we don't track material components for casting spells). When Magic Users get high enough level (12th) they can create a workshop and make items instead of adventuring. Our Magic Users that have made it make weapons and armor for the lords of the realm (for a fee).

    I recently had my first Magic User reach that level. Being a drunk, he decided to specialize in making "potions". Looking over the list of required ingredients, it occurred to me that someone has had to venture out and acquire these ingredients before they show up in a shop. Further, many of the ingredients are plants and body parts from various beasts.

    He decided to put a few thousand gold together and found a guild of acquisitioners. People whose job it is to go out into the wild places of the world and bring back the required ingredients. Being a Neutral man, and unwilling to deplete the world of natural resources, he decided to employ a Druid as the guildmaster to ensure that the guild got the ingredients without destroying the source. That way they could document where they found it and go back at harvest time or when the beasts have grown.

    We now have a fully functioning guild and when we run low on ingredients we have guildmember characters go get them. One of them is a Hill Giant (after a Reincarnate spell cast on on of my Thieves), because Hill Giant hair is an ingredient of a potion of Giant Strength. It was his reincarnation that gave me the idea.

  11. I don't really like most material components in D&D because to me having a bunch of reagents you mess with seems to chip away at the Vancey "there's an alien mantra in your brain."

    I guess I could see the spell having your do stuff with the components in like a trance state but it still doesn't feel right to me

    basically I think memorization is cool, and material components are cool, but the mixture of the two makes each less cool

    1. I wholeheartedly agree. That's why I've been cooking up a two tiered system of magic use:

      On the first tier are magical classes, able to cast spells per day by expending personal effort (I went for mana rather than spell slots). But mana is even more restricted than in traditional spell-point systems, so there's a need to choose spells carefully.

      On the second tier are ritual castings (similar to 3E incantations or 4E rituals). These actually consume time and effort. Figuring out how much they cost is a balancing act of spell level vs. casting time + material components + assistants required + possible backlash.

      So you could have a spell that costs nothing but takes a year, or is fast and cheap but has a side effect of afflicting random allies with the moops, or safe and fast but consumes a ruby the size of a baby's head. And rituals are used to make magic items, albeit at an increasingly higher effort required depending on the permanency of the item.

      PCs skilled in a given area can invent new ritual uses for materials they find that seem sympathetic to a certain sort of magic (red dragon tongue for fiery spells, etc.). In theory even non-magicians can use rituals if it pertains closely enough to their areas of expertise (e.g. a jeweler and a planar sage may collaborate to make an amulet used to contact other planes).


    cole long - I don't really like most material components in D&D because to me having a bunch of reagents you mess with seems to chip away at the Vancey "there's an alien mantra in your brain."

    I guess I could see the spell having your do stuff with the components in like a trance state but it still doesn't feel right to me

    Harald Wagener - On lower levels, spell components are a nice way to part mages off their hard-earned gold pieces if they can buy them and give them a good justification to check out all these dangerous pieces of architecture to find them if they don't have enough hard-earned gold pieces. Nonetheless, I feel that vancian magic + spell components puts a bit of a harsh on low level magic users and may or may not be nerfing the high level ones (by a low level thief as you pointed out).

    cole long - basically I think memorization is cool, and material components are cool, but the mixture of the two makes each less cool

    Marc Hertogh - I always use spell components as flavor text, and as something generic that could be removed from a wizard to limit his spells when imprisoned

    I can't help but houserule … how about spells cast without material components get a slight bonus to resist against with saving throws / limited damage?

    Jeff Rients - +Harald Wagener If I was designing from the ground up I'd allow all spells to be cast in (at least) two versions: Crappy no components version and proper components version.

    Evan Elkins - I'm more or less of the same opinion as +cole long (spell components make Vancian magic less Vancian), but they do bring the magic system closer to one based around crossroads and goat sacrifices, and that is appealing.

    Roger Burgess - If you get a small bonus for using powdered bicorn horn instead of giving a small penalty for not using it, then you avoid the following detrimental effects on play:

    1. People aren't carting around reagents just to get normal spells. You basically get rid of all the logistical problems, the 'Crap guys, the Wizard needs an escort to the bat caves, again for guano. I really needed to oversee the construction of my castle...' You also avoid turning Wizards into walking pharmacopeias. AND you avoid turning that Necromancer into one too - less work for the DM, YAY!

    2. You introduce another form of cool treasure. Dude, 5 uses of bat guano! WOW! You know that stuff basically doubles the size of your fireball, right?

    3. You reward people who go the extra mile to use the system, you don't penalize people who don't care to bother with it. Psychologically, that's a BIG F'ING DEAL.

    Jeff Rients - You know, the BX spell list is pretty dang short...

  13. @Marshall If you don't get the rationale for a material component it's probably a seedy pun or joke. Like to cast Friends you doll yourself up with makeup, and when you cast Fireball you whip up some gunpowder.

    One way to use material components but avoid bookkeeping would be to assume that, with maybe a few exceptions, the components don't get "used up". So once you have them you have an effectively unlimited supply, but you still need to obtain the components first. If you've just copied Darkness into your spell book, you still can't cast it until you've gone foraging for bat fur. Common components could be easily picked up in town, while rarer ones might require adventuring.

  14. Anonymous11:49 AM

    The Arneson-inspried retro-clone, Dragons at Dawn, by D.H. Boggs steps around specific ingredients by making all spells reside in some sort of thing like a potion, globe of gas, grease, powder in a tube and so forth. The wizard must spend time and money in between adventures making these things in a laboratory (he gains XP for succefully making "spells"). There is also a skill roll involved to see if it works. Except for being able to cast lightning bolt, fire ball and identify(?) spontaneously with Constitution checks they are basically what we would usually call alchemists or artificers.

    Incidentally, I think they also seem more like pulp S&S magic users AND it mkaes the "fire and forget" system more eaisly understandable to the average Joe than the so-called Vancian system.

  15. Anonymous11:52 AM

    Ah the joys of resource management. Personally, I think having material components is a good thing. It makes for good roleplay, forces PCs to spend their loot and offers adventure hooks and opportunities.

    I've seen few Characer sheets that track arrows/bolts and rations with little boxes or circles, this works just as well with components and makes it fairly painless. There is no other magic way of tracking it that I'm aware of though i suppose counters, a deck of cards, dice, etc. could be used.

    One other option with material components is allow the Wizard to cast without the material components...BUT...it costs her either physical damage (i.e. Hit Points) or Experience points. That's more of the stick verses the carrot approach, but still allows spells to be cast, but at signficant cost to the caster. After the first few times this happens you can be sure the player will learn see the joys in resource management. And when it's really needed, it still allows the player to make a good roleplaying choice.

    Perhaps an experience point cost based on Wizard Level would be the easiest, double or tripling every level.

    1st - 100 Experience Points or 1 Hit point, 2nd - 300 Experience points or 2 Hit points, 3rd Level - 900 experience points or 4 Hit Points, 4th level - 1800 Experience points or 8 Hit Points, 5th level - 3600 Experience points or 16 Hit Points, 6th Level - 7200 Experience points or 32 Hit Points, 7th Level - 14,400 Experience points or 72 Hit Points, 8th Level - 28,800 Experience Points or 144 Hit Points, 9th Level - 57,600 Experience points or 288 Hit Points.

    Of course all these could be tailored for particular spells, etc. And further, for Hit Points, who says it has to be the Caster that pays in blood...if a willing companinon(s) wants to do it, which would have to be the case in terms of Hit Point cost probably anything higher than 6th Level Spells.

  16. I really like the idea of spell components; I prefer a Sword & Sorcery vibe to my magic, and spell components help to create it.

    What I do to mitigate the 'cons' is have standardized spell components for sale on my equipment lists that comes bundles of 10 uses:
    Spell Components, common (10) 5gp (for 1st-3rd level spells)
    Spell Components, uncommon (10) 20 gp (for 4th-6th level spells)
    Spell Components, rare (10) 50 gp (for 7th+ level spells)

    I leave it up to the players to define what those spell components are, if they wish, but the details don't really matter.

  17. @Gnomeo I don't use material component rules, myself, but I absolutely use the potion ingredient rules. No PC can order a potion from an alchemist without bringing him some treant sap or nixie organs or whatever. The difference is that most of the material components are common and easily obtained in town, and need to be used multiple times. That means bookkeeping. Whereas most of the potion ingredients are rare and dangerous to acquire, and only need to be obtained once. That means adventure. If material components worked the same way I'd be more likely to use them.

  18. This discussion is relevant to my interests, as I'm brainstorming for a "Spell Component Tycoon" game.

    It seems that when I ask about components, that 3rd and 4th edition players really don't like spell components and get angry when you suggest a 5 GP "spell component pouch" isn't really a balancing mechanic OR all that interesting a role-playing element. 1st and 2nd edition players seem to love spell components, but get angry when someone suggests streamlining the spells so you're not counting cricket legs.

    1. You get the same divide on equipment. My OD&D characters have more equipment written on their index card than class abilities (with the exception of spells for the casters). Even the Thieves with their percentile rolls for everything have 10' poles, bags of flour, iron spikes, a mallet, 50' of rope, marbles, caltrops, a couple sets of lockpicking tools (in case one breaks), etc.

    2. I've never played anything post-2e release of the game, but I have zero interest in adding this level of micromanagement to the dungeoneering phase of the game. Equipment, I'm sympathetic to- in no small part because it tends to be common. Having spell components means dealing with their ability, and telling the second level magic user that he can't cast light or sleep for lack of gadfly wings is just going to make me feel like a jerk. On top of that, it contributes to a kind of fun-killing retail magic.

      Maybe I'm just tired and cranky right now. I'd feel better about components if, Grey Mouser style, spells were an infrequent and powerful incursion into adventuring instead of the principal mechanic for one of the fundamental classes. I'm also perplexed by the suggestions that magic users need more resource management, since I tend to think of them as the most strictly resource-managed class. Hmm.

  19. I think the best way to handle this would be to have material components be something in the gameworld that they can find along the way, procure from various beasts and for the particularly extravagant spells they would need to be purchased from a specialty store or actively sought out (like a gorgon eye!)

    Personally, I'm of the mind that spell components should be both relevant and relatable so that players will pick up ingredients they know pertain to their spell and more importantly so that they don't have to remember a bunch of jargon and tenuous connections. Something like bone dust for an animate dead spell, spider legs for spider climb, a mirror for invisibility, an eyeball for clairvoyance (fun application: the eye in question lets you see out of an eye of the same creature type in the nearby vicinity), a coiled spring for a jump spell, a piece of slag for heat metal, a great bird's feather for fly. You could also have versatile ingredients that say work for any fire spell, like sulfur. There could also be substitutions for quick thinking PC's, in place of sulfur you could use magnesium or even bat guano with the outcome of the replaced ingredient left up to the DM. Going off the previous two substitutions your fireball may also be blinding or leave a residual stinking cloud. Ideally you want it to be flexible so that if the ingredient isn't on hand you can make a substitution, you want it to be intuitive so player's can get creative with their substitutions, and you want to be tied directly into your setting to improve verisimilitude.

    I've actually been toying with an idea to do something similar for potions and alchemy. Have ingredients used in salves, poultices, and ointments based on real world plants. Whether or not the plants used are based on superstition or actual medicinal properties is up to the DM. I think it would be fun to have a situation where a player cooks up an salve of tallow, ginger root and sorrel and applies it to his companion to ward off the residual numbness of the ghouls scratches.

  20. I personally like using spell components, but I've only used them in the following house-ruled version:

    You need all of the components for the highest 2 spell levels that you can cast.
    You need only one of the listed components for the next 2 spell levels.
    You don't need any components for spell levels lower than that.

    It worked well, as it achieved many of Jeff's pros, but it limits some of the book keeping, while rewarding higher level casters. As a bonus, you can drastically cut down on NPC components. Just roll on a random table a few times to generate loot, as they don't need a full set on components for the spells they're casting.

  21. Tim of Gothridge Manor suggested a system by which spell components only add benefits to baseline spells. I like this idea because players can just ignore them if they want or they can get meticulous about collecting things to get maximum effects from their spells.

    I wrote a post cogitating on it here:


    probably the only thing I add to the discussion is not having set components but going to the magicky-feeling sympathy and contagion so players get more engaged and try out things. Will salamander skin make for a better fireball? How about fire giant skin? HD is a easy indicator of power. So maybe the witch doesn't have one thing but has a weaker similar item.

  22. For a while I let people cast without components, but with components they could get bonuses or even alter how a spell worked. This was very case by case basis.

    Not many players really took me up on it. They had fun collecting things but never seemed to want to use it. Go figure.

  23. I recently refereed Stormbringer 1e by Chaosium for the first time. I really loved the way they handled the spell components, though its really my interpretation of the rules rather than explicitly stated on the page.

    The sorcerer needs exotic herbs, incenses, metals and odd trinkets to practice their craft. Only one spell ingredient is really necessary of the level of detail given on your table, everything else is just rare "stuff". The sorcerer then has a limited supply of this generic stuff and needs to resupply at some point. A high herb lore skill can suffice for a single dose. Then the one special ingredient for the spell (actually the binding object and possibly a sacrifice, its all demonology in this game) needs to be colorfully determined and prepared by the caster.

    For D&D purposes, I would alter this rule to just be generic "stuff for X number of spells" plus anything particularly colorful for the spells that need to be slightly restricted. For Identify, you need a pearl and 1 dose of "stuff". For Spider Climb or Magic Missile, you need just 1 dose of "stuff" - color it how you will.

  24. I'm a fan of Material Components, or Spell Memorization, but Material Components + Spell Memorization seems silly to me. Either magic is the product of knowledge + equipment, or magic is the product of Vancian spells leaping off the page and writing themselves on your mind till cast.

  25. I'm digging the sympathetic magic idea. Like, you don't need any particular component (except maybe in the case of powerful spells that the ref wants to limit by component availability), but you do need some component. Example: fly spell could use eagle feathers or a dead bumble bee.

    As long as the player can come up with some sort of metaphysical or literal connection between the component and the effect. Woe to the magic-user that tries to use a piddly component for a big spell though.

    And maybe the form of the final effect is modified by the component. Magic missiles using arrowheads versus magic missiles using bird poop (a missile if ever I saw one) for example. I don't know, this is a totally half-baked, off the cuff idea, but it seems like it would be fun. And would recruit player creativity muscles, as they scrounge through hobgoblin store rooms looking for something that might power a fireball (or whatever).

    Interestingly, before I read this thread I had never thought that Vancian magic and spell components might be somehow in conflict, but that seems to be a common complaint.

  26. Will you require components in Wessex, going forward? How about for flailsnailers who come from no-component campaigns?

    Best thing about Carcosa: you are a spell component. Really puts things in perspective...

  27. I'm with Brendan and RedHobbit. Ad hoc components give the player an opportunity to grab stuff as it comes up in-game and relate it to their spell list. My magic-user might prefer to use gecko feet instead of live spiders for Spider Climb. Maybe he even thinks it works better that way! You can still have shopkeepers stock 'proven' components but also let a quick-thinking magician to sub in found ingredients out of preference or because he's out of the standard stuff.

  28. @Brendan
    In my mind, it's bad enough to have the memorized spells but further limiting it with components seems like a redundant kludge to try to reign in how powerful spell casters are.

    Again, I like how Dragons at Dawn harmonizes limited uses with materials without getting too fiddly.

  29. I run it with sympathetic magic, always have. The components listed will work, as listed. 'Better' components might generate a better effect, and subpar components will give you a shit version of the spell cast. No components at all is not an option! I'll have to do a blogpost on this subject since it's something I always thought was noncontroversial - guess I was wrong! The magic-user in my current game is all about the components, and the player is getting really good at predicting what might be worth grabbing and then justifying why it's a solid component.

    If you're counting arrows, you should be counting spell components. If weapons break or need sharpening and armor needs repair, you should be using spell components.

  30. One thing that occurs to me as being vital in any discussion of spell components is HOW MUCH of a thing is enough to be a proper component? Does magic use the same rough definition of "pinch", "a bit", or "a dash" as cooking? Because it's a pain, but doable, to calculate the average amount of pinches of bat fur in a colony - and if someone does it ONCE and published it, it would save everyone else a lot of time.

    How much bat guano do you need to cast fireball? How much bear dung is necessary for bear's endurance?

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. Sorry for this in advance but I just couldn't keep silent on this one...I will try to keep the snark low but not promises...

    OK, maybe it's me but when most of the old schoolers say they prefer the older games because they were 'simpler', I think of how often I see stuff like this.

    Waaaay too complicated for something that could have a lot of potential. If you need charts for this sort of thing, may I suggest dropping the boring world of RPGs for the exciting sport of Competition Spread Sheet Development.

    Believe it or not, we use material components all the time in our D&D-But-Not game. Here's how it works...you stop by the Wizard Shop you favor and let them know what you need. It's a D&D world so they have these things in stock most of the time for most of the common spells. I give you a price that is probably a rough average of what it would cost or maybe a tad less if you are a regular at this particular shop. Wizards love repeat business.

    Next the guy at the shop says...

    GM: (As Wizard Shop guy) "I overheard you talking to your friend there and you said you needed dust for Gust of Wind but didn't buy any. How come?"

    PC: "Er...'cause it's dust. Duh. We can get dust anywhere."

    GM: "True, if you want just any dust. I have dust from a wind swept castle, dust from the Tomb of the King of Hollow Stars and, oh yes, dust from the ocean floor."

    PC: "I...what...do they do?"

    GM: "I don't rightly know but change the component, change the spell."

    This is followed by PC wizards spending gold on all sorts of strange things in order to create new effects with their magic.

    Another thing is most spells can be cast either without material components or with less of them or less quality. Enter the possiblity of spell failure or weaker effects.

    Where are my charts for this? My hard and fast rules? Don't have any. It's simple and it's magic for crying out loud. Let the players experiment, you decide on the effects and have them take notes of the ones they like (and the ones that backfire).

    I know, I know, crazy.

  33. Anonymous8:02 PM

    Can I ask a question (i.e., to Jeff) that he may respond to here or in a future post?

    Why are the particular profiles of individual editions of TSR-era D&D important to you? You write a lot about your fondness for B/X, the quirks of BECMI, the LBBs, AD&D, and so on, but we all know that you can (and, it seems, most do) take what suits your group best from each, and the hell with the editions' official perimeters. What is it about discrete, reified editions that means so much to you?

  34. Anonymous8:51 PM

    Try and make the prices sensible (e.g. coal, silver dust).

    Also, why don't you try this, you might find some of the problems?

    Make up a ninth level NPC spell caster right now.
    Make up his list of spells.
    Work out the components he would need to cast these spells a reasonable number of times.
    As you are doing that keep track of:
    - encumberance.
    - cost.
    Work out how many containers he would need to store them and what type they would be.
    As you are doing that keep track of:
    - encumberance.
    - cost.

    When you are done:
    - how long did it take you?
    - how much are the components worth?
    - how much does it all weigh?
    - picture how the spell caster would look and how he could travel.
    - how long would it take him to find a component when casting a spell? To take it out of its container?
    - which spells would be cast often because of the cheap component cost?
    - which spells would be cast rarely because of the component cost?
    - how would that effect your campaign world?


  35. In most of my fantasy campaigns in most systems I use, material components are opt-in items offering mild improvements or bonuses.

  36. I just don't see components as being worth the hassle except in circumstances where I want to introduce a weird ritual spell into the equation (eg the creepy self grown Familiars from Zak or summoning a Deep One). & I'd like that to remain a weirdo suprise until I spring it, not another version of an existing mechanic.

    The Witch can still be relevant by having access to new spells or impermanent charms, real potions, knowledge to improve /gain skills etc.

  37. Anonymous9:01 AM

    So I thought I might as well do my own work.
    As you may be able to tell I have never played AD&D1 before.

    9th level Wizard
    4 3 3 2 1

    I didn't roll for intelligence or to see if I could learn the spells. I just picked them which the handbook tells the player to do!

    1st level
    Sleep - pinch of fine sand/rose petals/live cricket
    Magic Missile -
    Charm Person -
    Detect Magic -

    2nd level
    Invisibility - eyelash + gum arabic
    Mirror Image -
    Web - bit of spider web

    3rd level
    Fireball - (V,S) bat guano + sulphur
    Fly - wing feather of bird
    Haste - shaving of licorice root

    4th level
    Dimension Door -
    Monster Summoning 2 - tiny bag + small candle

    5th level
    Teleport -

    - a large number of the spells don't have any material component listed. This would add an interesting dimension to spell choice as, if you didn't like spell components, you would have to choose only those spells.
    - the spells I chose that have components generally have what I would consider free components (sand, spider web, eyelash, feather).
    - gum arabic was traditionally from Arabia (duh) or West Asia according to Wikipedia. You could have areas where some spells are common. There could be something like the spice road but for spell components where spell casters would pay high prices for components that they didn't really know what they are or where they come from that come from far off lands.
    - sulphur was (again Wikipedia) a common and well known element found around hot springs and volcanoes. Using components you may learn something about our world, and it may add depth to yours. Again Magic users from a particular area may be trigger happy with particular spells.
    - Fireball has components of V and S but has a component listed in the description. Cue the arguments.
    - page 100, under Spell Casting, says that spell components are used up as each spell is cast. So he would have to carry multiple of the above but it still wouldn't be any great weight. Maybe the candles would weigh the most. I can think of worse things than going into a dungeon with a bag full of candles. Perhaps other party members could carry some components as well to share the load around and provide backup in case the ones the Wizard is carrying are damaged.

    So not as big a deal as I thought but I guess you would still have to want to deal with that in your campaign.


  38. If I were to use material components in AD&D (or anything), I would probably use my favorite trick of substituting rolls for book-keeping. That is, you don't track exactly how much you have: you are presumed to have what you need (maybe except super-rare components like diamonds or pearls) until you roll an event that means you've run out. E.g. if the spell allows a save, then if any target gets a 20 on the save, that incidentally means you're out of whatever ingredient you need for that spell until you either buy it or get it while adventuring. I'd have to look at the spells to see how many already have rolls you can piggy back off of, or would it be simpler to just say when you choose a spell for the day roll and see whether you'll be out after you cast it. This kind of thing lets you keep the once-in-a-while it makes a difference to the details of the adventure without needing to do a whole bunch of accounting. If I wanted to get fancy I might make the roll differ depending on how common the ingredient was, or let you spend extra gold to stock up and reduce the likelihood (e.g. if you've paid double, then you're overstocked on everything and only run out when you roll a 20 and then reroll and get >10 or something).

  39. Anonymous1:07 PM

    One of the most useless attempts at game balance that TSR ever fooled with.


    1. Or Gygax expressing his rather outre sense of humor.

  40. How I handled it when playing AD&D back then:
    CON 1 - I just modified that percent chance on the fly for different shops. I'd roll it when a wizard went to a shop and asked "do they have any lark's tongues in aspic?" I just shifted the price up or down based on availability.

    CON 3 - Random roll after they kill him. They always had enough to keep casting through the encounter.

    CON 4 - I picked a die or dice, rolled, and that's how many 'uses' they were able to collect.

    My main problem with material component rules as written? No divination spell used eye of newt. Now _that_ I would have to fix.

  41. One way to resolve components with vancian fire and forget magic is to have a single set of reusable components that are required to initially learn/transcribe and to re-memorize the spell. You lose or break a piece of your collection, parts of your spell book become useless. If you don't want to travel with a whole cabinet full of stuff, risk picking it up along the way, or shop when you get where you're going.

  42. It could be simplified.

    Reduce all components, by spell, to GP cost (perhaps dropping anything less than 100GP or that would be suitably common).

    If the MU is in such a place where most expensive components would be available, and they are preparing spells there, I say just let them pay out the GP cost as part of the memorization option. They prepare spells that have 1600GP in expensive components? Just pay it out, and assume that over the rest period various shops and squires are supplying the MU with what they need. (A visiting MU would be a big deal to modest locales, it could be assumed he spends his rest time interacting with people and casting minor spells for them while the fighters heal up).

    Even further, you might abstract the GP cost into Spell Component Points. Magic shops sell bagged-lots of components, and then the MU is assumed to have what's needed until the lot is exhausted. For example, a 100GP pouch might have 10SCP, and with this system component cost would translate to 10GP = 1SCP. The wizard just marks off the cost of the spell when he memorized it. Spells with cheap components might cost 1 or even 0, just as long as he has the pouch.