D&D 5E How do you deal with expensive material components in your campaigns?

Spell components are a scraced cow and are vital to the "feel" of D&D. If PCs could cast magic without fiddling over unusual items, it would be too video gamey.
 

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MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Because it seems like such a wildly unnecessary extra step.

You go through the adventure, get the loot, but you then have to waste time and money to figure out what it does -- even if that should be obvious just putting it on, swinging the sword.

I sometimes dislike identify, but that is mostly because it takes away from trying to figure out what a magic item does.
 

der_kluge

Adventurer
Clearly the people in this thread still discussing this topic haven't gone and downloaded my book on the topic. You can download it free, folks, I don't even care.

That's your homework assignment here. Go download it (the link is back a page), read it, and come back when you're ready to discuss. :)
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Clearly the people in this thread still discussing this topic haven't gone and downloaded my book on the topic. You can download it free, folks, I don't even care.

That's your homework assignment here. Go download it (the link is back a page), read it, and come back when you're ready to discuss. :)
Okay, okay. Done. Some interesting ideas. If I ever get around to running a campaign I've been designing involving a low-magic world and a party being part of a underground group seeking lost magic, I'll definitely mine this for ideas.

My only nit pick is that you don't recommend the "A$$h0le, Rat-B@stard DM" approach. But...I mean, if we don't spend 30 minutes arguing how much flesh is in a "chunk of flesh" are we really playing D&D?
 

der_kluge

Adventurer
Okay, okay. Done. Some interesting ideas. If I ever get around to running a campaign I've been designing involving a low-magic world and a party being part of a underground group seeking lost magic, I'll definitely mine this for ideas.

My only nit pick is that you don't recommend the "A$$h0le, Rat-B@stard DM" approach. But...I mean, if we don't spend 30 minutes arguing how much flesh is in a "chunk of flesh" are we really playing D&D?
At least the humor in it isn't lost on folks. :)
 

Mad_Jack

Hero
At least the humor in it isn't lost on folks. :)

Speaking about "a chunk of flesh", one time back in the old days my party had a very interesting discussion with a vampire about turning into a bat so that we could cut one of his ears off in order to let an npc wizard cast a Clairaudience spell for us...
 

Has this been errated to have a cost? The PHB I have does not list a cost, which has always caused problems with how much holy water or how much powdered silver is needed. We have generally played you must have some powered silver or holy water and just sprinkle it (so you never run out).
I generally rule on the side of whatever interpretation makes it harder on the player characters. In this case it would take a whole 25gp flask of holy water. This approach in general i think helps to control outlandish combinations.

Not perhaps specifically with this example but in general.
 

I think this is my most recent list. C means consumed
Arcane Lock - 25 gp gold dust C
Acana Sword - 250 gp miniature platinum sword
Astral Projection -1,000 gp piece of Jacinth C, 100 gp silver bar for each creature C
Augury - 25 gp tokens
Awaken - 1,000 gp agate C
Booming Blade – 1 sp melee weapon
Ceremony – 25 gp powder silver C
Circle of Death - 500 gp black pearl
Chromatic Orb – 50 gp diamond
Clairvoyance Focus - 100 gp horn/ eye
Clone- 1,000 gp diamond C,
2,000 gp coffin
Contingency -1,500 gp statuette
Continual Flame - 50 gp ruby dust C
Create Homunculus – 1000 gp dagger
Create Undead - 150 gp black onyx per corpse
Dawn – 100 gp Sunburst pendant
Divination -25 gp offering incense C
Find Familiar - 10 gp of herbs and spices C, brass brazier
Find the Path- 100 gp divinatory tools
Forbiddance- 1000 gp ruby dust, rare incense
Forcecage -1,500 gp ruby dust
Gate- 5,000 gp diamond
Gentle Repose – 2 cp pinch of salt
Glyph of Warding - 200 gp diamond dust C and incense C
Greater restoration -100 gp diamond dust C
Green Flame Blade – 1 sp melee weapon
Guards and Wards -10 gp silver rod
Hallow -1,000 gp herbs & Spices C
Heroes’ Feast -1,000 gp gem encrusted bowl C
Holy Aura- 1,000 gp reliquary
Identify -100 gp pearl
Illusory Script -10 gp lead base ink C
Imprisonment -500 gp per hit die statuette
Instant Summons - 1,000 gp sapphire
Invulnerability – 500 gp adamantine C
Legend Lore - 250 gp incense C, 50 gp each 4 ivory strips
Magic Circle- 100 gp silver dust C
Magic Jar- 500 gp gem
Magic Mouth -10 gp jade dust C
Magnificent Mansion -15 gp polished marble, ivory door mini, silver spoon
Mighty Fortress – 500 gp diamond C
NonDetection- 25 gp diamond dust C
Planar Ally various min 100 gp
Planar Binding - 1,000 gp jewel C
Plane Shift- 250 gp tuning fork attuned to plane.
Programmed Illusion- 25 gp jade dust
Project Image - 5 gp replica
Protection from Evil and Good -1 gp silver dust & iron dust C, or
25 gp holy water C
Raise Dead -500 gp diamond C
Reincarnate -1,000 gp rare oils C
Resurrection- 1,000 gp diamond C
Reverse Gravity- 1 gp lodestone and iron filings
Revivify -300 gp loose diamonds C
Scrying -1,000 gp crystal ball focus
Secret Chest- 5,000 gp chest 50 gp replica chest
Sequester 5,000 gp mixture of diamond, emerald, ruby, sapphire dust C
Shadow of Moil – 150 gp undead eyeball incase in gem
Shapechange 1,500 gp jade circlet
Simulacrum -1,500 gp ruby dust, snow man and piece of subject. Repair 100 gp per hit point
Soul Cage – 100 gp tiny silver cage
Steel Wind Strike – 1 sp melee weapon
Stoneskin- 100 gp diamond dust C
Summon Aberration- pickled tentacle, eyeball, 400 GP platinum vial
Summon Beast – gilded acorn 200 gp
Summon Celestial – golden reliquary 500 gp
Summon Construct- lockbox 400 gp
Summon Elemental – gold inlaid vial 400 gp
Summon Fey – gilded flower 300 GP
Summon Fiend – ruby vial 600 GP
Summon Shadowspawn – tears in gem 300 gp
Summon Undead – gilded skull 300 gp
Sunbeam -100 gp magnifying glass
Symbol - 1,000 gp diamond & opal dust C
Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise – object 500 gp
Temple of the Gods – 5 gp holy symbol
Teleportation Circle -50 gp rare chalk gem dust C, 18,250 gp + 1 year to be permanent
True Resurrection -25,000 gp loose diamonds C
True Seeing -25 gp ointment
Wall of Light – 5 gp hand mirror
Warding Bond- 100 gp 2 platinum rings

Grand total 91,342 gp 3 sp 2 cp
Consumed 41,825 gp or 60,155 gp
Non consumed 31,187 gp 3 sp 2 cp
*****
So by the time you could cast some of these spells, your cut of the treasure should cover the cost of casting.
The list of components isn't really the issue we're talking about. The game, as you pointed out, provides enough monies to buy all the items you might need for spells. My question is more, "how readily available is 25,000gp of loose diamonds". What if you need 2 castings of true resurrection? If you have 50k, does any town have it?

As I mentioned in my OP, in the game where you can aquire it anywhere there's a town, it felt less interesting (worldbuidling-wise) and my Wizard felt potent. In the game I'm playing a cleric in Avernus, I feel very restricted and many, many of my cleric's spells are locked behind gold piece barriers.

So, sure, (some)of the spells are potent, but it's still up to the DM to decide how much access a player has to those potent (and often, situational) spells. From your description, as a DM, you make it easy for players to have access to spells but I've been in quite a few games where getting access to those spells made them a rare commodity.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
The list of components isn't really the issue we're talking about. The game, as you pointed out, provides enough monies to buy all the items you might need for spells. My question is more, "how readily available is 25,000gp of loose diamonds". What if you need 2 castings of true resurrection? If you have 50k, does any town have it?

As I mentioned in my OP, in the game where you can aquire it anywhere there's a town, it felt less interesting (worldbuidling-wise) and my Wizard felt potent. In the game I'm playing a cleric in Avernus, I feel very restricted and many, many of my cleric's spells are locked behind gold piece barriers.

So, sure, (some)of the spells are potent, but it's still up to the DM to decide how much access a player has to those potent (and often, situational) spells. From your description, as a DM, you make it easy for players to have access to spells but I've been in quite a few games where getting access to those spells made them a rare commodity.
Yes, it does!

In some games, the 25,000 gp is hard to come by as well. In others it is chump change.

In some games, diamonds are easy to buy. In others, getting diamonds is a quest. In others, one empire holds a near monopoly on diamonds, and they are horded by the ruling class to allow for resurrection.
 

Yes, it does!

In some games, the 25,000 gp is hard to come by as well. In others it is chump change.

In some games, diamonds are easy to buy. In others, getting diamonds is a quest. In others, one empire holds a near monopoly on diamonds, and they are horded by the ruling class to allow for resurrection.
It's nice because different tables like different things. Depending on what you like your table can just ignore them outright, make them so ubiquitous that they simply represent a number on paper , or you can search for and collect them as you go adventuring.
 

delericho

Legend
It's nice because different tables like different things. Depending on what you like your table can just ignore them outright, make them so ubiquitous that they simply represent a number on paper , or you can search for and collect them as you go adventuring.
Probably a good idea if the DM sets expectations ahead of time, though - especially for casters who only ever learn a very small number of spells.
 

At the risk of a derail, here's (roughly) what I would do with components, given a clean slate to work from:

  1. Rebalance all spells to remove the need for expensive components. That may mean some spells need moved up a level.
  2. All spells now require Verbal, Somatic, and Material components. The Material component can be anything thematically appropriate, either to the spell or to the caster - they're not specified in the book. Players are encouraged, but not required, to provide some description of how they cast the spell, in the same way that casters of martial characters are encouraged but not required to describe how they make their attacks.
  3. A character using a spell focus can skip using any one of the three components. Most Wizards therefore cast spells with a flick of their wand and a magic word.
  4. A character can also remove any one of the three components by using an action to "pre-cast" part of the spell. This can be combined with the focus, as above.
  5. A character can also remove all components by using a slot one level higher, but gains no other benefits of doing so.
  6. I would then introduce four types of "expensive" material components: Lore, Special Materials, Reagents, and Residuum. These cannot be purchased - they must either be created in downtime or found while adventuring. (I'll get to why there are four different ones later...)
  7. Casters can optionally use an expensive component when casting a spell (the value consumed depends on the spell level). This allows the spell to be cast as if using a slot one level higher, to a maximum of the highest level slot the caster could normally use. (So a 7th level Wizard could use it to boost a fireball, but not an ice storm. Only one boost is allowed in this manner, and it is always added last.
  8. But those same four types of components are also used to craft magic items, and Wizards use Lore to learn new spells. (Which is why there are different types, so different items can require different costs. Lore, as the name implies, is secret knowledge. Special Materials are things like meteorite iron, religious icons, or whatever. Reagents are similar but much more organic - unicorn horn, dragon's tears, mistletoe, etc. And Residuum is raw, unprocessed magic.)
  9. Under this model, a captured spellbook provides a source of Lore that can be repurposed for any use, rather than a textbook allowing you to learn the specific spells therein. (Under this model, a spell is effectively a cheat code for reality, but they're encrypted for the specific caster. So you can't learn a spell directly, you have to learn the techniques to allow you to derive your own cheat code.)

There's more, but that's enough, and the whole thing would need some more fleshing out anyway. So I'll stop there.
This looks neat as long as removing components doesn't give you the same effects as subtle spell metamagic. So, sure, you can remove the need to vocalize but you're still shaking your staff or dancing in a circle. Basically, everyone knows you are casting a spell. I suppose the cost of removing ALL componenets might make it worth the ability to cast a spell subtly. I'm just thinking of how it could be abused.

I like #9 with the exception that it never gives a spellcaster a chance to try spells they normally wouldn't use. Sometimes, if you find a book with an unusual spell, you might study it just to try it. If I had the choice to turn any spellbook into my own recipe book, I'd just take the spells I had on my wish list. And you might find that many wizards end up taking the same spells...
 


Probably a good idea if the DM sets expectations ahead of time, though - especially for casters who only ever learn a very small number of spells.
You're talking about the spell's they get from progressing in their class, right? Rather than the spell's they get from spell's books and schools they've collected and copied. Ever table is different.

And I'd rather not put more stuff on the Dungeon Master's shoulders. No, I'm referring to whole tables and the way they play the game together.
 


You're talking about the spell's they get from progressing in their class, right? Rather than the spell's they get from spell's books and schools they've collected and copied. Ever table is different.

And I'd rather not put more stuff on the Dungeon Master's shoulders. No, I'm referring to whole tables and the way they play the game together.
It's already on the DM's shoulders. They are the gatekeepers to treasure and, therefore, a player's ability to have their characters cast spells with costly material components.
 

der_kluge

Adventurer
I'm just going to add here that OD&D had no components for spells. Not just (M) - no components at all. That's right, those old grognards playing OD&D raised the dead and resurrected people with complete impunity and it cost them absolutely nothing.

My book gives suggestions for how to replace the M components for spells. Short version: Most of them can either be handwaved away easily, or in some cases, requiring a better version of an arcane focus is a decent substitute.

Some spells have costs because they create permanent things. Illusory script, arcane lock, etc. Just limit the # of times those can be done based on the level of the casters. And then you're mostly golden.

The material components are there primarily to prevent abuse, or to balance out some overly powerful spell that would otherwise be completely broken (I'm looking at you, Heroes' Feast)
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
IMO, those expensive material components are mostly in there for a reason: to keep those spells from being fired off willy nilly. Look at how expensive identify is until you're higher level. Figuring out what the cool dagger you found at level 2 does is a big deal for low level adventurers, while it's just busy work for higher level ones.

So I'm fine with most of them being a small to medium pain in the butt to get access to, in general campaigns.

In campaigns like Descent to Avernus, where the designers may have forgotten about this issue, I'd look at the spells with important components and seed in a certain number of them into treasure caches or have enemy spellcasters have them. (Diamonds, handily, are something lots of people want, for a variety or reasons.)

But in some cases, not having access to quality of life spells like secret chest are just part of being in a tough survival game in an extreme environment. If the player characters get access to a safe haven, though, more of this stuff should be available at that point, both as a reward and a way to differentiate where they are now versus what the rest of the campaign is like.
 

It's already on the DM's shoulders. They are the gatekeepers to treasure and, therefore, a player's ability to have their characters cast spells with costly material components.
True, but I think it depends less on the Dungeon Master and more on the idiosyncratic culture of the Table of gamers. In my experience, Tables develop a culture of gameplay (an unspoken set of house rules, to say it another way) together, without really thinking about it.
 

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