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This question arose when my players have diamonds worth of 2000gp and were thinking of casting restoration. If they cast restoration using that specific gem, does the worth just drop, or is the whole gem consumed by the spell? Does the rule apply to all spells or are there exceptional spells that do it some other way?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My reading of the rules is that "A diamond worth 3000 GP" doesn't meant "ANY diamond worth 3000 gp", it means "A specific kind of diamond, which can usually be bought by 3000 gp". You can't use any other kind of diamond. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 7 at 8:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MartinEpsz Sure, a GM could say, "No, you can't use that 3,000-gp diamond you just found as a material component; you actually have to buy a 3,000-gp specially prepared diamond that's suitable for use as a material component from an appropriate vendor," but, since that requires making up even more rules, I'm trying to figure out what problem that ruling solves. Was the PCs' ability to turn treasure into spell components wrecking your campaign? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 7 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Can't say I've derived any benefit from the spell component rules at all. This is just how I read them. I find it very hard to explain any other way how the cost of the material would enter into it's usability. Any other explanation invites question like "what's the value of half a diamond" which just seem absurd to me. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 7 at 16:45

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Restoration requires diamond dust, so if you have 2000 gp worth of diamond dust, you can simply use half of it, since it’s dust.

To use, perhaps, a better example, resurrection requires a single 10,000-gp diamond. If you have a 25,000-gp diamond (say, for true resurrection), then there simply aren’t rules available for how to handle this. The lack-of-rules would suggest that, say, magically “diminishing” the diamond to be worth 15,000 gp is not part of the functionality of resurrection, so we can be pretty confident that doesn’t happen. But whether it consumes the entire 25,000-gp diamond, or it simply does not work since resurrection requires a 10,000-gp diamond and you don’t have one, is unclear.

(If you have some means of splitting the diamond, you might be able to physically create a 10,000-gp diamond for yourself, with some left over. But realistically, the value of diamonds is not linear with size, so splitting a 25,000-gp diamond does not leave you with multiple diamonds that sum up to 25,000 gp: you’d lose a ton of value that way.)

Ultimately, material components are a pretty poorly-designed part of the game, and even the more relevant ones—the non-negligible ones—are priced as much by tradition as they are by any sense of “balance.” I have always found my games much improved by all-but-ignoring them: let spellcasters just deduct funds from their account and leave it at that. It empowers spellcasters—who really don’t need the buff—but that mechanic does not improve balance nearly enough to be worth the hassle.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You may gain value by splitting a large diamond if you can cut away the flaws \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented Apr 5 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM True, true, that is a good point, but also something the game has absolutely no system for handling. I guess you could roll Craft (gemcutting) but that the DC should be is anyone’s guess. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 6 at 0:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM remember that getting components at a bargain price makes them useless, as per giantitp.com/comics/oots0677.html \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10 at 0:16
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Psychic Magic Can Consume an Item of Greater Value

When a spell calls for an expensive material component, a psychic spellcaster can instead use any item with both significant meaning and a value greater than or equal to the spell’s component cost. For example, if a spiritualist wanted to cast raise dead to bring her dead husband back from the grave, she could use her 5,000 gp wedding ring as the spell’s material component.

A material component consists of one or more physical substances or objects that are annihilated by the spell energies in the casting process.

A psychic caster could use an item of greater value as the material component annihilated by the spell, but there isn't an equivalent rule for other casters hoping to use more valuable material components in place of what's required. Using a diamond worth 10,001 gp or more for resurrection might technically not work at all, though that seems needlessly harsh.

If using a more valuable version of a component is allowed for non-psychics, then it would seemingly also be completely consumed by the spell's energies with no rules allowing for a partially-annihilated component.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Now imagine if the diamond prices fluctuate. Thousands of mages watching the market tickers to time their resurrection to the nearest sale at exactly 10,000 gp... \$\endgroup\$
    – Therac
    Commented Apr 7 at 10:25
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The rules on this are unclear, but they can be used to establish some basic guidelines.

From the Pathfinder core rulebook;

Material (M): A material component consists of one or more physical substances or objects that are annihilated by the spell energies in the casting process...

From this description, it is pretty clear that the consumption of the item by the spell is a magical process. Which is to say, it is not some mechanical process that the caster physically performs as part of the casting of the spell that destroys the item, but that the magic of the spell is actually responsible.

In the case of restoration, which requires diamond dust, it would be reasonable to assume that the magical nature of the spell would only use up as much diamond dust as is necessary to complete the casting. If for no other reason than because there is nothing saying it would do otherwise.

From there, though, things become less certain. In the case of many other spells specific, single items are called for; notably raise dead and similar require a single diamond seemingly of a set value. However, in all cases the term used to specify these items is 'worth.' Notably, nowhere in any of these descriptions is any indicator like 'exactly' or 'explicitly' used. From this, it seems reasonable to assume that an item can be considered 'worth' a given amount if it would be reasonable and common for a buyer to be willing to pay a given price in order to acquire this good. The main reason to make this assumption is because there is no better alternative, or strong compelling evidence to suggest that it is wrong.

If it's assumed that an items 'worth' is determined by how much someone Has paid for it, then so long as a person pays the appropriate price to get the item in question the actual value of the item they received is irrelevant.

If it's assumed that an items 'worth' is determined by how much someone Would pay for it, you run into the same problem except that the person does not even have to actually pay the price. I.e, "Would you pay 5,000 gold pieces for this diamond if it could be used to resurrect your dead loved one?" Regardless of the actual value of the item, the answer would almost certainly be 'yes.'

It could be assumed that all items have a 'true worth,' i.e. a set value that is its actual cost, but if this is the case then there are certainly no guidelines given to this effect within the game. Despite the exhaustive list of prices for items, nothing within the book demands that those items must be bought for expressly those amounts. If anything, those specific amounts seem to be present as a guideline for approximate values things Could cost, and not based on how much people would actually be willing to pay for them.* Likewise, there is nothing anywhere in the lore that suggests there is some divine truth that ultimately determines the 'value' of any given item, or that an items 'worth' in the use of magic is set by going market values within the given area.

Given all this, for practical reasons if nothing else, it stands to reason that any item with a value of at least the given amount is suitable as a material component for a spell that calls for it. Combined with the original description of what happens to material components, it is safe to assume that so long as the item is a single object, it would be consumed in its entirety by the spell.

*E.g. the meta-cost of a scroll is determined by the caster level of the scroll, even when caster level is entirely irrelevant to the spell on the scroll. It stands to reason that someone would never purchase a scroll for its theoretical 'maximum' cost, despite there being almost zero ability to determine the caster level of the spell scroll without casting the spell.

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