D&D General Fixing spellcasting components

Stormonu

Legend
I just remember my B/X days and skip components unless they're expensive.


----- If it does come up ----------
Someone whose tied, gagged or otherwise restrained, I'll bend to the rulebook if the spell doesn't have somatic components and the player pipes up - otherwise no spellcasting. Holding weapons, shields or other objects doesn't interfere with spellcasting (so Paladins that want to use sword & shield don't get hosed if they do something other than Smite, for example).

Someone Stealthing? Disadvantage if the spell has Verbal components.

Lost your components? Then we'll start worrying about what spells needed them.

Basically (har har), I only worry about V,S,M in unusual situations in the first place.
 

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Laurefindel

Legend
I’m a bit conflicted on the whole components part. On one hand, if they are to be in the game, do it right and thoroughly. In that regard, I like the OP’s proposition; all spells are VSM except in a few rare-ish and significant cases where they are not.

On the other hand, if VSM components are supposed to be a balancing factor to rein-in casters’ power relative to martials and VSM are not used because the are considered annoying, it’s bad design to balance power with annoyance. Personally, I like tracking components and balancing the frequency at which some spells can be cast with availability of spell components (including immaterial ones such as “at high tide”, “under full moon” or “during a storm), but I know that’s an unpopular opinion …
 

M_Natas

Hero
I’m a bit conflicted on the whole components part. On one hand, if they are to be in the game, do it right and thoroughly. In that regard, I like the OP’s proposition; all spells are VSM except in a few rare-ish and significant cases where they are not.

On the other hand, if VSM components are supposed to be a balancing factor to rein-in casters’ power relative to martials and VSM are not used because the are considered annoying, it’s bad design to balance power with annoyance.
That's why I reverse it. V,S,M are not an annoyance, they are the standard and having no V, S or M is something positive, something special. So the opposite of what we have right now, where no components is seen as the standard and tracking V,S,M is seen as something negative and annoying.
With my proposed rule, you don't track V,S,M, you just assume they are there and if you want to benefit from no V,S,M you look it up. So it also reduces bookkeeping and it will only come up in situations where the players want to be quit or subtle or are missing their arcane focus.

Personally, I like tracking components and balancing the frequency at which some spells can be cast with availability of spell components (including immaterial ones such as “at high tide”, “under full moon” or “during a storm), but I know that’s an unpopular opinion …
I like that idea but I also think my tables would rebel against that ^^.
 

delericho

Legend
With the exception of the expensive ones, spell components aren't really a balancing factor. They're a nod, not to realism (as is the case with things like encumbrance), but to flavour. Unfortunately, because pretty much everyone uses either a focus or, less often, a spell component pouch, the flavour is lost.

If I were charged with 'fixing' spell components, I'd do the following:

Firstly, all spells require V, S, and M components. The material component doesn't need to be the one listed - anything that is thematically appropriate will serve, where that can be appropriate to the spell, the caster, or anything else really. Casters are encouraged, but not required, to provide some description for their casting actions, just as martial characters are encouraged, but not required, to describe their attacks.

Use of a focus allows a caster to ignore any one of the components. Most casters therefore ignore spell components most of the time. Similarly, a caster can choose to cast a spell at one level higher and ignore all components (but gains no other benefit from using the higher slot).

I'd move all spells with expensive components up one level, and remove those expensive components.

However, I would also add various power components to the world, that can be found as treasure (but not purchased). Expending one of these would allow a spell of a given level to be cast as though using a higher-level slot for free.

Those same power components would also serve as required components for magic item crafting. So if you're wanting to craft that sword +1, you'll need to quest for some Khyber Dragonshards (or whatever)... and the Wizard might decide to use them to upcast his fireball instead!
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Ok so if what you want is "spellcasting to be noticeable", there's an easy way to do it. Ditch components entirely and just have everyone sense that magic has been cast ("Crom, it stinks of sorcery here!").

Then if a caster attempts to cast spells subtly, have them make an ability check using their spellcasting ability (Wisdom for Clerics, Intelligence for Wizards, etc.) at a DC of 5+the level of the spell (5 for cantrips). No proficiency applies normally (the Bard would get half proficiency from Jack of All Trades, but that's fine, I feel the Bard should be pretty good at this sort of thing). The Subtle Spell Metamagic would grant advantage on this check.

Then if the caster fails, give them an option: cast the spell normally so everyone notices, or lose the spell slot.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I say get rid of material components entirely instead require a spellcaster to have a Focus/Talisman -
for Wizards the focus can be a Staff or a Wand, maybe an Orb or paper Ofuda. A spellblade can use their sword, a Sorcerer needs a drop of their own blood, a Bard can use their Instrument or Song, Warlocks use some symbol of their patron.
These Talismans are the equivalent of the Fighters weapons

Then use an Arcana check DC 5 + Spell Level to represent the Caster 'imbuing their talisman' with arcane 'materia' before casting the spell. If the Caster wants to be subtle or silent then raise the DC to 10/15
Somatic components represent the prima materia being set into a particular form (waving a wand, hand gestures, writing an ofuda), Verbal can be heard by everyone within 30 ft
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
Components aren't much of a balancing factor in 5e, even in TSR D&D, they were more of an ineffectual balance-thru-tedium factor which, as has been discussed recently around here, isn't much of a balance. 1e did make casting spells pretty inconvenient, you needed both hands, had to be standing up rather than crouching behind cover or moving around, etc.. and no armor, for magic-users, of course - the actual rules on interrupting spells were not at all clear (and there were commonly used alt initiative systems), but casters tended to just stay out of melee as much as possible, IMX.

If you want to try to balance the power/versatility of spells by restoring limitations on them, bringing back AoOs for casting, and requiring concentration to cast all spells might do a little something - it wouldn't make casters actually squishy, but it'd make them wish that fighters actually were good at protecting them.

You could do away with spontaneous casting for prepped casters like the wizard and Cleric, which cuts down their versatility a bit (though they're still ultimately more versatile than known/spontaneous casters), that's rolling them back to 3e, which, I mean, think about it.

Ultimately balancing casters with restrictions is something that earlier editions tried much, much harder than 5e, and it didn't ever work well - it made playing casters un-fun for more players, and it didn't much restrain the abuse of spells by those who learned to work around it.
 
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Laurefindel

Legend
That's why I reverse it. V,S,M are not an annoyance.
They are for many people (especially the “M” part), and many tables hand-wave components unless they come with an expensive gp cost (and even then, only on certain spells like resurrection).

I don’t think OneD&D is going there but I could see components becoming an optional rule and if that’s the case, components cannot be used as a balancing factor.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
I'd go the other way: if a spell has either S or M components you need BOTH hands free in order to cast it (ignoring the specifics of whether one or both hands is holding the M component or whether both hands are simply making gestures).

In other words: make casting harder, not easier.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Spellbooks can be vulnerable things, though most halfway-wise casters keep them in an oilskin backpack.
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.).
It's the removal of most of those "weaknesses" in 3e and the subsequent removal of the rest during 4e-5e that's directly led to most of the caster-martial balance issues we keep seeing today (at-will cantrips being the rest of the problem)

Put those weaknesses and drawbacks back in. All of them. Then run it out and see what the caster-martial divide looks like. I very much suspect it would be greatly diminished.
 

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