Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In the AD&D players handbook, many of the spells require spell components. However, there are no rules associated with spell components. So I'm guessing it's safe to assume that this is one of the do it yourself aspects of the game. I'm wondering if anyone has a system or at least a set of guidelines regarding spell components that covers costs or actually gathering the components.

Example: the material component for Tenser's Floating Disk (pg68 PHB) is a drop of mercury. However, no rules are given on how to obtain mercury. This would seem to be an uncommon substance that should require some effort on part of the spell caster to obtain.

So basically I am looking for a way to handle spell components without resulting in a spell component pouch (such as in D&D 3.5).

share|improve this question
FYI, word around the campfire is that spell components are a joke. Literally. They're supposed to be funny.… – cr0m Feb 27 '13 at 3:41
That was intriguing to say the least. I like how it pointed out that your making a TV powered by a battery made with the acid in a lemon for scrying. It adds a little science to the game. Thanks for sharing that link!! – Antonio Feb 27 '13 at 13:34
up vote 13 down vote accepted

You either handwave them away or you require them to be gathered on the wizard's initiative and you roleplay it out.

Lots of groups opt for the former. It means you don't have to track every live spider or think about how they're stored and carried. The disadvantage is that you lose a huge aspect of the original power balance between wizards and other classes, who can just toss off fireballs easily without ever watching their bat-guano ammo.

The advantage of playing it out is that it can lead to very interesting adventures. Where does a wizard get quicksilver for the Floating Disc? Maybe they have to visit the Big City every once in a while to stock up at the purveyors of such oddities and curios (and where do they get it?), but if they're not so lucky perhaps they have to cut a deal with a pixie clan who gathers it from rare blossoms during the yearly blue moon.

Both work just fine. Anything in between though, and you get the worst of both worlds: trying to create a clever minigame or subsystem for gathering, you end up having to track it all, but it's not a real limit in their power, and you just end up with some dry dice rolling and busywork. Either make it a central concern of wizards, or dismiss it as something that's handled off-screen.

share|improve this answer
"Either make it a central concern of wizards, or dismiss it as something that's handled off-screen." -- And of course, you can do this on a spell by spell basis. – starwed Feb 27 '13 at 3:08
@starwed True. Handwaving the 100gp diamond that a certain spell needs isn't recommended! – SevenSidedDie Feb 27 '13 at 4:38
@starwed You could even do both for a single spell: If the wizard discovers a bat-cave in an area with a lot of hot springs and binds a minor demon to teleport stuff back and forth, by all means, let him have his infinite fireballs. – GMJoe Feb 27 '13 at 6:01

When it comes to vague rules like spell components (and many other rules in the older D&D systems), as I see it you really have 3 main choices: ignore them, let them complicate your life, or make them a tool for the GM. @SevenSidedDie and his commenters indicated 2 common uses that GM's make: keying adventures and power regulation. And if you're going to incorporate them and use the mechanics to manipulate the story, you need to make sure you're clear, at least in your own head, on the extent to which you employ them. You'll need to be ready for any overhead their use will add to the play and if you're not consistent you'll make your mages feel like you're randomly hamstringing them.

As was also mentioned, they seem to have originally been intended as an opportunity to inject lame jokes and bad puns into the rules text. In that spirit I usually hand wave the details of collection and storage, but still use the details for color commentary. "The orc hits you in the middle of casting your Color Spray, and the spell is disrupted as the air is filled with a shower of multicolored sand."

And even if you're not focusing on the mechanics of these items in regular play, you can still leverage them as plot devices as long as your players are aware that they're in use. For instance, many of the higher level spells use large gems as a non-volatile component, which means there are people out there who know that high level mages are almost guaranteed to carry expensive gems...

share|improve this answer

Dragon Magazine Issue 81 had an article called, "Living in a Material World" that dealt with the issue of costs and where to find spell components. It looks like it's available at the Internet Archive ( with a direct link to the Issue 81 at

share|improve this answer
Thank you for sharing the link to that magazine! – Antonio Feb 27 '13 at 13:56

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.