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Is there any way for a character with the Crystal Master prestige class and Vow of Poverty to use the class's embed gem feature without breaking the vow? The gem must cost 100 gp but it is destroyed in the embedding process so could they use a friend's gem in the same manner that they can consume a friend's potion or use a friend's spell components?

Embed Gem (Su): When the crystal master gains this ability, she adds another embedded gem to her body. She can embed up to five gems (see table below) -- one each in the arms, legs, and chest. Once a part of the body has a gem embedded in it, another gem cannot be embedded in that part of the body. The powers and restrictions on each gem are found below. The level restriction is the minimum level of crystal master needed to take this gem. Each type of gem can be embedded only once.

The gem itself must initially be unworked and nonenhanced in any way (in other words, it cannot have any magical or psionic properties). It needs to have a minimum value of 100 gp before it is cut. The crystal master needs to make a DC 15 Craft (gemcutting) check to successfully shape the stone for embedding.

If for some reason the crystal master's body is destroyed and she somehow gains access to a new body, she may re-embed any lost gems within the new body. The gems must be the same type as the originals and embedded in the same order.

"The gem is destroyed in the procedure since it fully integrates itself with the psionic character's body."

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No.

Vow of Poverty concerns itself primarily with magical items. Most of the text emphasizes that you cannot have them, use them, borrow them, and so on, though there is a rule that says you can have them used on you (which somehow includes drinking a potion given to you, but not activating someone else’s wand).

But none of that applies to these gems. The only thing that does apply to these gems is

you must not own or use any material possessions, with the following exceptions: you may carry and use ordinary (neither magic nor masterwork) simple weapons [...] You may wear simple clothes [...] with no magical properties. You may carry enough food to sustain you for one day in a simple (nonmagic) sack or bag. You may carry and use a spell component pouch.

These gems are definitely not among the exceptions, and at 100 gp each, they clearly constitute “material possessions.” You are barred from using such things, even if they are not yours, so using someone else’s gem does you no good, because embedding the gem certainly constitutes “using” it.

They are sort of similar to spell component pouches, being necessary to activate your class features, but “spell component pouch” is very specific—and commentary from Wizards of the Coast indicates that it is intended to be so (for example, according to them, other things you might need to cast spells, like spell books or, absurdly, divine foci are not permitted to those with the Vow of Poverty), so there is not much support for expanding that enough to allow these crystals, either in the rules that are written or, apparently, in the intent.

You might be able to argue, however, that a crystal master who has these crystals embedded in him and then takes Vow of Poverty is not required to remove the crystals, and then can use the class features they enable without issue. Similar arguments are sometimes made for grafts. Basically, once these things are part of your body, they are arguably no longer “material possessions,” but parts of your body.

But I must reiterate that Vow of Poverty is a complete trap. It will always, 100% of the time, severely inhibit a character’s ability to contribute to many aspects of adventuring. While there are a few classes that are so overpowered that they can handle this self-nerf and still be useful (and psions may be one of them), no one is ever better off with Vow of Poverty than they would be without it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So I can borrow a gem from a friend to use as a spell component but I can't use that same gem as a supernatural ability component even though it will similarly be consumed in the process? \$\endgroup\$ – Cellheim Sep 10 '17 at 10:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cellheim Well, whether or not you can borrow expensive components from teammates is sort of questionable, RAW—it’s not one of the exceptions listed in the feat, but it’s explicitly mentioned in the Voluntary Poverty section on page 30. Whether that flies as a modification to the vow is unclear, again RAW-speaking. But regardless of the answer there, RAW certainly offers no similar or broader exception to use these items for anything else. And again, Wizards has interpreted that very strictly in the past—see the absurd prohibition on divine foci. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 10 '17 at 12:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cellheim Here's the link to the Q&A that says, essentially, "If you have to ask, then you're breaking the Vow of Poverty." By the way, I, too, recommend against the Vow—the bonuses are comparatively terrible in all but the stingiest campaigns, and just playing your PC like he had a vow of poverty (lower-case V and P) will make the PC more competitive, flexible, and rewarding and without any mechanical baggage. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 10 '17 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I respect what the sage has to say, but "If you have to ask, then you're breaking vow of poverty" is a truly ridiculous thing to say as it presupposes some kind of awareness with what is allowed by RAW. It's not immediately obvious to everyone that warforged plating or incarnum abilities (which in many cases seem to create items) would be okay, but crafted contingent spells (which seems odd to consider an item) are not. Not everyone has the same level of understanding. \$\endgroup\$ – Cellheim Sep 10 '17 at 19:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cellheim No matter how much you like them, please make sure your party (each and every player, not just the DM) is OK with those. They drastically change the nature of the game and for many players, the game it changes into is no longer D&D. I have decided not to participate in games because players took Vow of Peace, and I consider it to be among the rudest things you can do in a game of 3.5 to take that feat without clearing it with the party. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 10 '17 at 19:58

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