Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spell and Potion Components

I don't think I ever played in a game where I needed to keep an inventory for spell components. It is one of those parts of the game, like weapon speeds, that never got used. Swords & Wizardry doesn't mention components for spells. Neither does Labyrinth Lord. OSRIC includes it to mirror AD&D as does Castles & Crusades. Resource management is not high on the entertainment list.

But...I like to use them as an enhancement. Spells can be cast as described in the books without components. But should a mage have the big toe of a fire salamander then maybe the fireball does an extra dies of damage. If the mage has a the crusty bits from a eyes as a dryad awakens then maybe his sleep spell will effect creatures higher than 4HD or add an addition die to total affected. I love using bits of critters for other stuff. In HackMaster they call it the yield. The great thing about this is once you get the players into it they may think of things you hadn't considered. "What if I use a displacer beast tentacle when I cast a Blur spell?" Instead of giving a +2 to armor class I may grant a +4. When components are used in this way they are consumed upon use. They are a one shot nitro injection.

As mention above what I like about opening this door in my campaign is it allows the players to be creative and add to the world. I went through the monster manual and picked out a few of them and described what part would enhance what spell. This opens the door to other knowledge the players can learn, maybe through rumors, books they find and the players have another source of income they can exploit.

The other aspect of the game this can enhance is alchemy/herbology. The potions are like spell, can be made like right out of the book, but let's say the player come across a patch of Blood Drops, small red flowers that only seem to grow near gallows. If a alchemist adds the Blood Drops to a healing potion it adds another die of healing (this one is from my upcoming adventure, Knowledge Illuminates). So adding these small details, enhancements, whatever you would like to call them can add a nice depth to a section of a campaign that is often overlooked.


  1. I enjoyed AD&D spell components back in the day but they are too much book-keeping for me now. I really like your approach and have used something like it in the past (though not nearly enough). Something to keep in mind as I prepare my next session...

  2. This is an excellent idea for all the reasons you mention: not required, but there for flavor; let's players become involved creatively; let's players get involved more with the world, collecting bits; and a mechanic that is pretty simple to implement. Wonderful.

    The only thing I might wonder about is should the bonus be more nailed down, i.e. damage, range, duration etc. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Yes, I kept a journal what did what to keep track of it. When something new was discovered I usually discussed it with my players what an appropriate effect would be. It was a fun exercise.

  4. In my D&D 3.5 game I used something similar for the creation of magic items.

  5. I've used something similar with 2E and it's worked well - feathers from a particular breed of griffin boost fly spells for example.

    Like all things it's best used with moderation, one player in that game has a habit of trying any old thing and complaining if they didn't get the benefit.

    The way I solved that one was to start using handouts to provide little bits of game lore and decreasing gp values of treasure - oddly enough it worked well.

  6. While I liked the idea of spell components (it made sense from the the literary inspirations of a magic user) the bookkeeping seemed a nightmare. This idea seems like it could work though...hmmmm..I may give it a shot.