D&D General The Original Reason for Spell Components: Balancing Bad Jokes


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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I genuinely don't know, and I've puzzled over that one for a LONG time.

To begin with, Identify as a whole is one of the most FUBAR spells in all of 1e; seriously, it's like Gygax finished it, and was like... naw, let's make it even MOAR GYGAX.

It's got everything.

Dense, nearly impenetrable verbiage? Check!
Does it take forever and then some to cast? You betcha! (ONE TURN!)
Does it have a labyrinthine number of conditions? I can't even count them all!
Does casting this first level spell lead to terrible things happening, up to and including the death of the caster? YOU DON'T SAY!
Does it have the possibility of destroying the object that you actually want to identify? Why not????
Do you need to spend a ton of money just to cast this useless spell? SURE!

Heck, let's just humiliate the caster by making them do some gross stuff with material components, too! THUS SPAKETH THE GYGAX.

For the record-

The material components of this spell are a pearl (of at least 100 g.p. value) and an owl feather steeped in wine, with the infusion drunk and a live miniature carp swallowed whole prior to spell casting.


So, here's what I've got. Owls are wise. Okay.
The pearl in wine bit? That's from Cleopatra. Sure.
Miniature carp? Eh .... got me.
Carps in Chinese lore represent luck, prosperity or good fortune, which are needed for 1e Identify to be useful. It even writes in that if you use a luckstone your percentages are 25% more favorable and saves are at +4.
 

Voadam

Legend
My magic user in a long running 1e campaign had an in-character theory that material components invoked a sympathetic magic relationship to help form a spell. For those components where the relationship was not clear, it was probably a common reference at the time the spell was made and could even be a pun in a different or even a dead language.

So while the water breathing reed sympathetic magic connection is clear, the tongues miniature ziggurat or tower was probably referencing something specific to do with translations or universal language that the D&D world does not recognize in modern common.
 
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Laurefindel

Legend
Sleep:
"The material component for this spell is a pinch of fine sand, rose petals, or a live cricket."

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream.

Use Rose Petals to Get a Good Night's Sleep.

Crickets are nature's night time white noise machine.
Which is funny because crickets (plural) are indeed a natural white noise generator but alone, a (singular) cricket prevents a lot of people from falling asleep!
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
My magic user in a long running 1e campaign had an in-character theory that material components invoked a sympathetic magic relationship to help form a spell. For those components where the relationship was not clear, it was probably a common reference at the time the spell was made and could even be a pun in a different or even a dead language.

So while the water breathing reed sympathetic magic connection is clear, the tongues miniature ziggurat or tower was probably referencing something specific to do with translations or universal language that the D&D world does not recognize in modern common.

Or, you know, Fizbang the Fantanbulous made a bunch of funny sounds and used a snorkel to "water breath" while everyone else in the party was like, "uh huh."

2Gb.gif
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Fear: The material component of this spell is either theheart of a hen or a white feather.
Who is chicken now?
Chickenhearted being an old term for cowardly, and the white feather being its own (somewhat related) symbol of cowardice, especially relating to WWI, which Gygax and his wargaming chums would have been very familiar with.

 


Laurefindel

Legend
Although this was 2e AD&D and material components were already turned down a notch, my thief/mage elf character would refuse to cast some spells based on their material components (and was part of the in-game reason for multiclassing). "I have to eat a live spider to cast spiderclimb! Ewww, no way! I'll climb the good old-fashioned way thank-you-very-much!"

I threw a lot of glitter however. I miss glitterdust...
 

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