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I have a player who wants to take the Snowcasting feat. But before he does he wants to know how I will rule on the matter.

Snowcasting (General)

You add ice or snow to your spell's components to make them more powerful.

Prerequisite: Con 13.

Benefit: If you add a handful of snow or ice as an additional material component to a spell when you cast it, the spell gains the cold descriptor. This does not actually change the nature of the spell you cast; a fireball cast with this feat still deals fire damage, but since it also carries the cold descriptor, it can be augmented by a number of feats listed in this chapter, such as Cold Focus and Frozen Magic.

If you add a handful of snow or ice as an additional material component to a spell when you cast it and that spell already has the cold descriptor, you increase the effective level of the spell being cast by +1.

Adding this additional material component requires you to spend a move action immediately before the spell is cast to gather fresh snow or ice from the surrounding environment. This snow or ice can be magically created by a conjuration spell, but no other ice manifested by a spell will do. You may take no other action between gathering the snow or ice and casting the spell (Frostburn, p. 50)

Here are my concerns

  • Very little if any of the campaign will be in a snowing region and it will be mostly indoors. He is okay with making a small open container made of Blue Ice to get snow from, that he has made. I'm not sure this will work though due to this line, "Adding this additional material component requires you to spend a move action immediately before the spell is cast to gather fresh snow or ice from the surrounding environment.". This leads me to believe a Blue Ice container wouldn't work. Is this correct?

Eschew Materials (General)

Benefit: You can cast any spell that has a material component costing 1 gp or less without needing that component. (The casting of the spell still provokes attacks of opportunity as normal.) If the spell requires a material component that costs more than 1 gp, you must have the material component at hand to cast the spell, just as normal.

  • The main arguments against using Eschew Materials goes like this..."From a RAW point of view, I would also say no. The Snowcasting feat mentions requiring a move action to gather the snow/ice, and specifically defines it as an "additional material component". The wording also says "if you add a handful or snow or ice" you get the effects described. By eschewing materials, you are not adding a handful of snow or ice. The Eschew Materials feat, meanwhile is worded to say you are able to cast a spell with material components less than 1gp without needing them. As the spells being cast do not require snow or ice to be cast, but do require them to be augmented I would interpret that as meaning that Eschew Materials does not allow you to augment a spell without the requisite component, but does allow the spell to be cast as normal." (Doc Holiday, post at rpgcrossing.com)

Would the Eschew Materials feat let him ignore the requirements of the Snowcasting feat or is Doc Holiday's interpretation correct?

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RAW, Eschew Materials absolutely works; the person in your link is simply wrong. Snowcasting adds an extra material component to the spell, at which point it is now a material component for the spell, and snow doesn’t cost anything. So now you are casting a spell that has this cost-free material component of snow, and you have Eschew Materials, so your spellcasting works even though you don’t have that component. There is no part of Snowcasting that actually goes back and says “if you actually used snow,” the only condition is “if you add a handful of ice or snow as an additional material component,” which you have done.

That’s RAW, with everything that entails; it’s not the be-all, end-all answer to what makes for the best gameplay.

I am not going to speculate about whether or not this was intended or not, but I am going to take a moment to shut down anyone thinking they know what was intended here—no one does, no one who worked on Frostburn has ever commented on the issue. People think it’s “obvious” that it should work one way or the other (and that just so happens to, coincidentally I’m sure, match their own preference), but that isn’t so. On the one hand, sure, the feat seems like it wants snow to actually be involved and part of the difficulty of the feat. On the other hand, Snowcasting as a feat kind of doesn’t do anything. It adds the Cold descriptor to spells. What does that do? Nothing, by itself. It interacts with things. Snowcasting seems to me to be a feat that was written with the idea that it would be for the express purpose of building around it and seeing what crazy combinations you could come up with. It seems like it was actually written to be an optimizer’s feat. Having an unexpected, particularly strong combination with another feat? Seems totally in line with that. I won’t say they intended it, I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem implausible to me that they might have.

Now then, that covers the rules as written, and dismisses any speculative intent, but again, neither of those things are ever really going to automatically tell you how the game works best. For that, you need to consider what you want out of your game and what you expect of players. Is spending two feats to add the Cold descriptor to every spell going to improve your game, or worsen it? Well, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Again, adding the Cold descriptor to a spell doesn’t do anything in and of itself. Spending two feats to do nothing might be a problem, but only because it’s not really good for the game for players to lose two feats for minimal benefit.

  2. On which point, bear in mind that feats are extremely valuable. You can do a ton of things with feats, and you don’t get very many of them, especially as a spellcaster.

  3. The extra action cost on gathering snow and ice is extremely painful. The feat is almost-certainly not worth using if you have to do that.

I allow Snowcasting + Eschew Materials in my games, and haven’t really had any problems. The exploits that it opens up are just not that significant (with one exception1). There are some useful interactions, but none of it really is worth 2+ feats. I do play a pretty high-power game; your game might be more significantly affected.

As for keeping snow in a blue-ice container, I’d allow that without breaking a sweat. I don’t see any particular reason why it matters where the snow came from—in fact, if they already had snow in-hand (say, in a handy blue-ice container), I’d waive the action cost, too. The feat says “from the surrounding environment,” but I wouldn’t put too much weight on that. Worst case, you drop the cooler in front of you (free action) so it’s now part of “the surrounding environment” and you can gather snow from it (move action) and cast your spell. I just don’t see any real need to do that—the cost of having to have this in your hand instead of something else (shield, wand, weapon, whatever) is pretty substantial.

Snow kept in a blue-ice container should last about as well as snow kept in a refrigerator—those are usually kept just above freezing, which is what I assume Frostburn is getting at with its “constant temperature of about freezing.” For gameplay reasons, I’d probably just rule it’s “good enough” and be done with it.

  1. I do ban the locate city bomb, which is a really problematic abuse that relies on Snowcasting.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ He was hoping the line "A room lined with sheets of blue ice remains at a constant temperature of about freezing and, " At "Other items +400 gp/lb.", he thought to line a large mug to keep snow he had made intact enough for a while. As it takes snow a while to melt due to the high air content. \$\endgroup\$ – Zarus Nov 9 '19 at 10:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zarus Oh, to keep snow in? Yeah that should work for a pretty long while at least. If you want to think about how long, consider how long a mug of snow would last in a refrigerator—those are usually just above freezing, which is what I assume Frostburn was getting at there. Anyway, I thought the idea was that the blue ice would somehow produce more ice, which doesn’t seem plausible. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 9 '19 at 12:10
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The snowcasting feat seems fine. Holding snow in a container of blue ice seems fine. Using Eschew Materials on it also seems fine. A straightforward reading of the rules suggests you can do this, and it's not broken because it doesn't actually do anything.

Here is the risk: it's not clear why your player wants to do all this. He spends all this effort to... add the Cold descriptor to his spells? He wants to take Cold Focus for +1 save DC? Why bother?

If one of my players asked me this, I would be suspicious: why are you trying to chain these feats in this way? What are you really trying to accomplish that you're not telling me about?

In this case, it sounds an awful lot like your player is trying to cast the Locate City Bomb. He's worried that you'll stop him from doing it by ruling that there's no snow in the environment, so he's asked for a preemptive ruling on this piece of the combo specifically, while not telling you about the rest.

(Maybe this is too paranoid, but I've had several players who have tried to trap me in this way.)

I recommend you tell him that the snowcasting feat is allowed, but also preemptively ban the Locate City Bomb. If you ban this combo up-front, you can avoid a potential difficult conversation later where he says: "but I invested so many resources into this plan, how can you ban it now?"

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil: The last paragraph seems to have been slightly revised now. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 12 '19 at 5:58
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Doc Holiday is correct.

Eschew Materials just lets you cast the spell when you would not have otherwise been able to cast it. That's all it does. Snowcasting isn't the only place this interacts. There are a number of single-use reagents (admittedly, usually more than 1gp gold cost, but still) that can be used to augment a spell in some way. Escew Materials won't let you get the benefit of those, either.

Blue Ice is a sort of evercold ice material that can be forged into weapons. You might be able to get it to generate a thin layer of ice for you, but it's not something that would be able to do so consistently or quickly. You could certainly put together a container of Blue Ice that you could store normal ice in, but you'd still have to get the normal ice to store. Conjured ice can work, but is almost always of limited duration. As a DM, I'd be willing to let him say that his belt counts as "the surrounding environment", but I'd still require him to spend the move action, and he'd still have to get the ice in there to begin with. That sounds like a rather lot of hassle to go to for not-amazingly-impressive gains.

Have you asked why he wants this thing? It sounds like he's building towards some weirdly broken combo (this is 3.5, after all), and you might want to take that into account when deciding how lenient you want to be on this one.

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    \$\begingroup\$ “Eschew Materials just lets you cast the spell when you would not have otherwise been able to cast it. That's all it does.” Great, then please explain why it doesn’t let you cast a spell that now requires snow due to Snowcasting when you do not have snow. Nothing in Snowcasting requires that snow get consumed (unlike those reagents you mention), only that you add them as a component—which you do, and then you ignore it. Doc Holiday is emphatically and objectively wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 8 '19 at 23:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Eschew Materials just lets you cast the spell when you would not have otherwise been able to cast it." — well, that's not how it's written. Do you have any source for this claim? \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Nov 9 '19 at 9:36

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