D&D General Fixing spellcasting components

M_Natas

Hero
After reading a lot of discussions here about Caster/Martial imbalances and that one of the things to keep caster power just check is barley used or actively ignored at a lot tables: Spell Components (V,S,M), I had an Idea on how to fix that problem with a simple homebrew rule.

So first: why is V,S,M so readily ignored? Because it is a hassle to look it up every time, if the spell has one, two or all of those components.
It is easily forgettable and only ever comes up, when the DM rembers to ask in a certain situation (like sneaking) if a spell has a verbal component.

So I would propose a paradigm shift for spell casting components.
At the moment be 5E Raw a Spell is considered to have no components, unless otherwise noted in the spell description. So the default is: spells don't need components, unless otherwise noted.

That means you always have to look up, if a spell has V, S, M. That takes mental capacity, time and energy. That is why it is often ignored and people go for the default (no components). Also looking up, if you have a negative thing for your spellnis also psychologically bad for a game. "Yeah, just let me see if I have a negative effect, that could stop me from casting this spell ..." is not ideal game design.

But when we inverse that, it makes the game easier and removes the psychologically bad parts of that design decision.

So here is the Homebrew-Rule:

By default, all Spells have a Verbal, Somatic and Material (need of spellcasting focus or other Material noted in spell description) component.

While you cast a spell, by default that is audible in a 30ft range, visible and you need a material to cast it.

Spells can have the following tags:

- silent (no verbal component needed)
- subtle (no somatic component needed)
- substanceless (no material component needed)

So, now if a PC casts a spell, by default it is an visible, audible act - but if he has the need to do it silently and subtly, he can look it up and gets a benefit for looking it up. Now it is psychologically rewarding to look up spell components, because it will give you a benefit in the game instead of punishing you and one of the balancing mechanisms of spells is more easily useable.

I think reversing the paradigm of spellcasting components will improve the play of casters at most tables and will also now remove cognitive load for the DM, because now the players will remind him if they cast a spell that is silent or subtle if the situation weren't for silent or subtle spellcasting.

What do you guys think about that?
 
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Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
I think the biggest reason components aren't used is due to the occlusion in the rules for S/M components and how they require free hands, unless you are using both of them at the same time.

For instance, if you have Somatic component, but not a Material one, you have to drop everything out of one hand to cast a spell. You absolutely need a free hand with nothing in it. Even if you are using something like a +1 wand to empower the spell!

Likewise, if you have a Material component, but not a Somatic component, you don't actually hold on to the material components. You instead need a free hand to access the materials. Meaning a pouch hidden in your belt is fine if you only have a dagger in one of your hands (or a two handed weapon), but a holy symbol painted on your shield, isn't! You would still need to cross your arms and touch your shield to use it.

The exception to both of those rules only occurs if you are required to use both a Somatic and Material component. Then you can hold the Material or Focus with one hand (or equip it to your hand, like a shield), and use that same hand to gesture. This creates the backwards scenario of making it easier to cast a more complex spell!

That's it. That's the secret headache right there. The big thing that doesn't make sense about the system.

Make it so:

Material components are required to be equipped on your person, but not necessarily in your hand (Unless you couldn't equip them otherwise)

Somatic components means you need to have a free hand for gesturing (Unless you are also holding a focus, or the material component for the spell you are casting, in said hand)

It would resolve 99% of the headache with components.
 

Horwath

Legend
most people do not use them as they are a hassle.
And spell components are last thing to look to balance caster/martial strength.

But for some effect to work in game, they are needed.

So lets simplify them;

Material: removed unless they have a significant GP cost.

Verbal: from whisper to yelling, preference of the caster
Casting is negated if you are gagged, in area of silence spell or have a collar of cold iron around neck.

Somatic: need one free hand for a moment.
Casting is negated if both hands are bind, holding objects that you cannot let go for a moment(I.E climbing and holding a party member with other hand, carrying a 200lb barrel or chest) or being in cold iron manacles.
Weapons and shields do not prevent S components. They can be a part of it.
 

M_Natas

Hero
I think the biggest reason components aren't used is due to the occlusion in the rules for S/M components and how they require free hands, unless you are using both of them at the same time.

For instance, if you have Somatic component, but not a Material one, you have to drop everything out of one hand to cast a spell. You absolutely need a free hand with nothing in it. Even if you are using something like a +1 wand to empower the spell!

Likewise, if you have a Material component, but not a Somatic component, you don't actually hold on to the material components. You instead need a free hand to access the materials. Meaning a pouch hidden in your belt is fine if you only have a dagger in one of your hands (or a two handed weapon), but a holy symbol painted on your shield, isn't! You would still need to cross your arms and touch your shield to use it.

The exception to both of those rules only occurs if you are required to use both a Somatic and Material component. Then you can hold the Material or Focus with one hand (or equip it to your hand, like a shield), and use that same hand to gesture. This creates the backwards scenario of making it easier to cast a more complex spell!

That's it. That's the secret headache right there. The big thing that doesn't make sense about the system.
I try to understand the problem here ...
So, let's say I cast Acid Splash (V, S).
That has a Somatic component.
So I need a free hand to cast it.

Now I wanna cast darkness (V, M). I need a free hand to access the component (pouch) or hold the arcane focus in it.

Now I want to cast Acid Arrow (V, S, M)
I need a free hand to access the component (pouch) or hold the component/arcane focus in my hand. I can use the same hand for the Somatic component.

So I always need a free hand (that can hold an arcane focus or a component) to cast as long as there are S and/or M components. That's not complicated 🤔

ButnI can agree that having a wand of Warcaster +1,2,3 and you not being able to use it as an arcane focus is silly.
Make it so:

Material components are required to be equipped on your person, but not necessarily in your hand (Unless you couldn't equip them otherwise)

Somatic components means you need to have a free hand for gesturing (Unless you are also holding a focus, or the material component for the spell you are casting, in said hand)

It would resolve 99% of the headache with components.
Is your problem that you can cast a spell with a Somatic component or material component as easily as a spell that has both components?
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Components were rarely a serious concern for spellcasters- most could be easily acquired, and how many bits of fur, glass rods, pinches of guano and sulphur, or scraps of blessed leather you had laying around was just tedious and pointless busy work.

If the DM wants to prevent you from casting spells, they can just have your component pouch get wet, destroyed, lost, or whatever. Just like how some DM's took perverse pride in doing so to a Wizard's spellbook because they somehow believed it was meant to be a necessary limitation to the Wizard's power.

As if the laundry list of other Wizard weaknesses weren't enough (terrible hit points, terrible AC, terrible ability to do anything other than cast spells, limited spell slots, slow advancement, things are more likely to make saving throws as you gain levels, easily interrupted casting, lowered AC while casting, creatures immune to random spells, creatures with bonuses to saving throws, creatures with resistance to some or all forms of magic, spells that aged/debilitated/had a chance to kill you for having the gall to cast them, vague or badly worded spells open to DM interpretation, DM's who insisted that you should have to make rolls in order to not fry yourself or your party with fireball, etc.).

You (generic you, not indicating any particular person) really shouldn't try to balance mechanics by making them annoying. That just turns people away from interacting with them. Far better to identify what the real problems are and deal with them directly.

*Is a spell too good. Nerf or remove the individual spell.

*Do you not want someone casting the same spell all the time? Make other spells viable alternatives.

*Do your players have too many spell slots? Give them reasons to cast more spells over the course of a day (this doesn't mean more encounters- find reasons to make them use some utility spells to overcome obstacles and solve problems).

*Are spells overshadowing the skills and abilities of other classes? Find ways to showcase how skills can be better than spells- ie, you can employ them more often. Or buff the skills and abilities of other classes.

The only reason to worry about material components without costs is if you're running the kind of game where gold is scarce, and you already want people to track each and every last torch, arrow, 50' length of rope, waterskin, and daily food ration so you can chuckle with glee* when they find themselves starving, thirsty, in pitch blackness.

*this is hyperbolic, I don't really expect there are many DM's who are so mean-spirited (at least, anymore...). There are many reasons to want to run the kind of game where detailed tracking of resources is important. There are many reasons why that level of bookkeeping isn't very much fun for some people, and why D&D has only paid lip service to the idea ever since Gary (presumably) created Bags of Holding, Decanters of Endless Water, and spells that create food and such. Why Rangers don't have a spell to conjure arrows is beyond me, lol.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
I try to understand the problem here ...
So, let's say I cast Acid Splash (V, S).
That has a Somatic component.
So I need a free hand to cast it.

Now I wanna cast darkness (V, M). I need a free hand to access the component (pouch) or hold the arcane focus in it.

Now I want to cast Acid Arrow (V, S, M)
I need a free hand to access the component (pouch) or hold the component/arcane focus in my hand. I can use the same hand for the Somatic component.

So I always need a free hand (that can hold an arcane focus or a component) to cast as long as there are S and/or M components. That's not complicated 🤔

ButnI can agree that having a wand of Warcaster +1,2,3 and you not being able to use it as an arcane focus is silly.

Is your problem that you can cast a spell with a Somatic component or material component as easily as a spell that has both components?
I'll present the problem of the Cleric. The Cleric (and other divine casters) can declare that their Shield is a divine focus (presumably, the symbol of their god is attached or otherwise depicted on it). This means that they can cast a spell while holding a weapon and a shield- only as long as it has a Material component. By the rules, if the spell only has a Somatic component and no Material component, the Cleric has to put away their weapon or drop their shield to do so, when they're perfectly fine casting with the shield as long as a Material component is required!

It's so silly a situation that I have honestly never seen a 5e DM ask that a Cleric sheathe their warhammer to cast Cure Wounds.
 

M_Natas

Hero
Components were rarely a serious concern for spellcasters- most could be easily acquired, and how many bits of fur, glass rods, pinches of guano and sulphur, or scraps of blessed leather you had laying around was just tedious and pointless busy work.

If the DM wants to prevent you from casting spells, they can just have your component pouch get wet, destroyed, lost, or whatever. Just like how some DM's took perverse pride in doing so to a Wizard's spellbook because they somehow believed it was meant to be a necessary limitation to the Wizard's power.

As if the laundry list of other Wizard weaknesses weren't enough (terrible hit points, terrible AC, terrible ability to do anything other than cast spells, limited spell slots, slow advancement, things are more likely to make saving throws as you gain levels, easily interrupted casting, lowered AC while casting, creatures immune to random spells, creatures with bonuses to saving throws, creatures with resistance to some or all forms of magic, spells that aged/debilitated/had a chance to kill you for having the gall to cast them, vague or badly worded spells open to DM interpretation, DM's who insisted that you should have to make rolls in order to not fry yourself or your party with fireball, etc.).

You (generic you, not indicating any particular person) really shouldn't try to balance mechanics by making them annoying. That just turns people away from interacting with them. Far better to identify what the real problems are and deal with them directly.

*Is a spell too good. Nerf or remove the individual spell.

*Do you not want someone casting the same spell all the time? Make other spells viable alternatives.

*Do your players have too many spell slots? Give them reasons to cast more spells over the course of a day (this doesn't mean more encounters- find reasons to make them use some utility spells to overcome obstacles and solve problems).

*Are spells overshadowing the skills and abilities of other classes? Find ways to showcase how skills can be better than spells- ie, you can employ them more often. Or buff the skills and abilities of other classes.

The only reason to worry about material components without costs is if you're running the kind of game where gold is scarce, and you already want people to track each and every last torch, arrow, 50' length of rope, waterskin, and daily food ration so you can chuckle with glee* when they find themselves starving, thirsty, in pitch blackness.
Okay, my initial idea is not so much about if no-cost material components are good or bad, but about changing the spellcasting paradigm from "a spell has no V,S,M components unless stated otherwise" to "a spell has V,S,M component unless stated otherwise".

So that when a player casts a spell, in general the DM can assume that it makes noise, that the character needs a free hand and a spell focus/material, unless proven otherwise.
So in general, Spellcasting is noticeable.

Now, if a character wants to be stealthy about his spellcasting, he can now look up a spell that has the silent and subtle tags (so no verbal and somnatic components) - so it adds a bonus to the spell. So now looking up and adhering to Spell Components gives the player a bonus.

That is my idea in the initial post.

If a player doesn't care about No-Cost Spell-Components, he always can use an arcane focus.
 

M_Natas

Hero
I'll present the problem of the Cleric. The Cleric (and other divine casters) can declare that their Shield is a divine focus (presumably, the symbol of their god is attached or otherwise depicted on it). This means that they can cast a spell while holding a weapon and a shield- only as long as it has a Material component. By the rules, if the spell only has a Somatic component and no Material component, the Cleric has to put away their weapon or drop their shield to do so, when they're perfectly fine casting with the shield as long as a Material component is required!

It's so silly a situation that I have honestly never seen a 5e DM ask that a Cleric sheathe their warhammer to cast Cure Wounds.
Ag, okay, but that is an easy fix.
You can do the somatic component of your spell with a hand that haves your spellcasting focus equipped to that hand.
Should fix that, no?
 


M_Natas

Hero
Tag spells individually make the use lame.
Put the Tags on the school level or related to class or subclass.
I went with the Tag Idea because it is easy to use on existing spells.
Just look at an existing spell and if it has V, S or M missing you can apply the appropriate tag.

It is just a way on how to represent it. But my basic idea is just:
Unless otherwise stated a spell has V, S and M components.
 

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