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In my campaigns we typically don't rely on material components, allowing casters to use any spells as long as they have the right spell slots available. My impression is that using components would be more challenging, since players' spells would be limited by gold, component availability, and carry weight.

Is it significantly more challenging or cumbersome to include this feature? How do others incorporate components?

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If you are talking about the material components specifically... Most of the components are fluff, for most casters, most of the time. They choose a component pouch or an arcane focus, and they don't have to worry about the lint, sand, feathers or eye of newt. If they get separated from their focus, the materials needed can be an interesting plot point or puzzle.

Of course, if a material component has a cost, that cost must be paid. The cost of the spell prevents spam casting and may affect casters choices of spells to cast. The cost for Hero's Feast, for instance, makes it so that the party isn't constantly enjoying immunities and advantage on the savings throws. Those provide balance, by making it more painful to cast more power spells (compared to the spell level).

If you are referring to verbal and somatic components as well, I think they serve basic purposes. Somatic components are to force a free hand, and the verbal is a weakness that casters have. It means that keeping a caster prisoner includes gagging them and tying their hands.

Most of the time, it isn't something you think about -- until it is something you have to think about; or you're casting something with a cost.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that components which have a cost listed (e.g. crushed diamonds worth 5000gp) must be obtained and supplied - they cannot substituted with an arcane focus. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 25 '16 at 9:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also note that not every component with a cost is consumed on casting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tin Wizard
    Nov 29 '16 at 23:01
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To expand on J. A. Streich's answer:

By ignoring material components, you are increasing the power and versatility of spell casters. Of course, D&D is a game where the rules say you can change the rules, so you are free to make the rules what you want, and what you think is fun.

You asked if it is significantly more challenging or cumbersome to use this feature. Consider three cases:

Find Familiar

The material components are 10 gp worth of charcoal, incense, and herbs that must be consumed by fire in a brass brazier. 10gp is a significant cost to a first level character. The brass brazier is also perhaps a challenge. It isn't even listed in the equipment list in the PHB. So acquiring the components requires at least a stop in a suitable store, and perhaps work to find such as store. However, if you ignore the components, a first level character can cast find familiar right out of the gate. Either option is fine, but they are definitely different.

Continual Flame

The material components are ruby dust worth 50 gp, which the spell consumes. Ignoring the material component allows the caster to cast it at will. In some campaigns, having light underground is a challenge to be overcome. If this spell is free, it is easier to overcome the challenge. Either option is fine, but they are definitely different.

True Resurrection

The material components include 25,000 GP of diamonds, which the spell consumes. The presence of the component helps to make death-reversal magic a possibly rare commodity. Of course, since true resurrection requires at least a 17th level caster, it is already limited, but the presence of the costly component means that even well-intentioned NPC casters can reasonably ask PCs for a significant outlay in order to use the spell. Either option is fine, but they are definitely different.

So, yes, using the material component rules is significantly more challenging and cumbersome, in certain cases.

You ask how others incorporate components.

I expect players to adhere pretty close to the rules. For most material components, they either have to have the component, or have to use an arcane focus. For consumable components, they have to acquire them specifically. For death-reversal magic, the cost is situation-dependent; in other words, they don't actually know how much it is going to cost until they try to cast the spell.

As they advance in levels, I allow them to hand-wave a fair amount of trivial stuff. A first level caster needs to acquire the components for find familiar specifically. A tenth level caster with lots of gold can be assumed to have stocked up at some point in the past.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for giving concrete examples of some common spells and how waiving the requirements would affect game play. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 24 '16 at 5:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Something you may want to append to this answer is that it nerfs certain class features as well. Resurrecting the Zealot Barbarian from XGtE doesn't consume costly components due to their 3rd level class feature, thereby making it much more affordable for that character to come back. Negating the component cost for all characters is a significant nerf to the Zealot. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 4 '18 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note: Per Jeremy Crawford "The 10 gp of other components need to be burned in something, brazier or not." Source: twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/616744564951355392 \$\endgroup\$
    – mdrichey
    Sep 27 '18 at 1:49
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Expensive material components such as "500 gp of crushed diamonds" are considered to be balancing factors for spells whose in-game and meta-game effects are not even. For instance, spells that revive the dead have varying power levels, and are sorted into spell levels based on that power level. However, quite aside from the in-game power level, they have very strong effects on the overall game. If a Cleric could simply revive anyone at any time, why would they let anyone die before their time? And so the major spell components try to balance that out a little.

These spell components are important to track, and can even make for good side adventures. "25,000gp of crushed diamond? I know he was a really good teammate, and we need him back, but where in hell are we gonna find that?"


Trivial spell components, like a pinch of sulfur rolled up in bat guano (the Fireball spell) is mostly intended for flavor.

Additionally, as this answer mentions, Spell components are literally a joke. The Fireball spell components mentioned above are also an allusion to really cheap gunpowder.

Generally, tracking these components is unnecessary, unless it was introduced as a specific plot element. "All the bats for at least a hundred miles have become tainted. The guano can't be used anymore. The Mage's Guild is in an uproar, and adventurers are needed to find the cause of this."

At that point, tracking that specific component becomes an interesting mechanic. "You've got enough prepared for 3 more fireball castings."

However, trying to track assorted bits of fluff, lengths of colored string, teeth, hair, leaves, sticks, twigs (not the same as a stick!), branches (also not the same!) and so on just turns the casters into accountants. This adds "fake difficulty" in that the characters are forced to act out a lot more of the mundane tasks required to prepare their magic. These tasks are typically uninteresting, and glossed over as "things done while resting/during downtime". Additionally, you will be facing any number of varieties of "Well I didn't know I needed to do that, but my character would have known, and he's not an idiot!"

Dungeons & Dragons is intended to be a fun game. Ledgers & Logbooks would appeal to a much smaller audience.

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When I am playing a PC wizard, I find some of the components to make fun personalization. My wizard loathes wizard robes dangling with spell component pouches (because that screams “Low HP! Shoot me first!”) So I don’t just assume I can grab something weird. For example, I know where focus items are and how they are arranged. If I have prepared a spell, I know where the component is — and I avoid some spells because the components (though mundane and free) are weird and hard to keep handy).

One of my favorite spells (in a different edition) was “Zone of Cold”. Material component was a snowball. I don’t care if it’s free, how do you make (or store) a snowball? What fun — even though the DM didn’t care and I amused only myself dealing with it.

I assumed that during downtime most mundane stuff was just taken care of, unless it really was something weird.

That being said, as a DM I generally let wizards not worry about sticks and twigs and pinches of dust. But I did occasionally make it hard to find 100gp pearls for identify, but they could buy a 200gp pearl that would work...

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The short answer is yes, using the material component system would make things much more challenging and frustrating for casters. I suppose you could consider it a limiting or balancing factor, but that's also what spell slots are for.

The other answers touch on very good points as to why to modify or skip over this system. Personally as a DM I view these kinds of rules as ways things could go wrong for a character. I expect in the preparation of a spell, a caster has whatever they need for casting the spell. But roll a 1 while casting a spell? Maybe it accidentally burns up your generic wand, or explodes your focus, or the spell is botched cause you accidentally dumped all of x component into it. It provides that challenge and extra issue in the moment, but once the encounter is done there's no permanent damage. I employ similar techniques for rangers losing ammo or a melee weapon breaking.

The exception to the rule again is with material components that have a cost. These are intentionally to make those spells more expensive. But even with these sometimes I make a call on the fly.

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J.A and Jack closed the door on this issue. "Most of the time, it isn't something you think about -- until it is something you have to think about; or you're casting something with a cost." and "So, yes, using the material component rules is significantly more challenging and cumbersome, in certain cases."

Speaking of cumbersome, in some instances it is up to the DM to look at a RAI(rules as intended) verses the RAW with specific spells. For example, the first level spell Ceremony (XgtE) requires "Components: V, S, M (25 gp worth of powdered silver, which the spell consumes)". If the DM is using encumbrance then 10sp = 1gp value making 25gp of silver powder = 250sp worth of powder. 50 coins weigh 1 pound so to make 1 vial of Holy Water your character needs to carry around 5 pounds of silver powder which is a bit ridiculous.

Most DM's would conclude it is the value of the silver powder that was intended to create a limit so substituting 25gp worth of gold powder, crushed pearl, or gems should be allowed. This idea also can be used by DMs and Players to customize their components for campaign flair as a Cleric worshiping an ocean god should be crushing a pearl in a marriage ceremony or a Paladin of Torm burying an alabaster fist in the ground during a funeral rite. The intent is they are out 25gp to use the spell and, bonus, it adds to the campaign.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please be careful about RAI as it's meaning can be confusing. Additionally, I"m not quite sure what your intent is with this answer. Are you just saying that tracking components adds weight issues with encumbrance? I mean, that kind of is obvious because if you need things, then things have weight. Can you clarify what you're saying? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Apr 16 '20 at 13:04
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No. All of you are missing the point of this game. You are playing Dungeons and Dragons. The rules for spells are defined clearly by the resources provided.

The rules are made for balance and changing any one rule breaks the system.

For example: Jack decides to build a wizard, his power comes from his spells, which in turn rely on components. Henry decides to make an elven ranger with a bow and arrow and leather armor. Henry's powers come from his equipment.

  • The group is attacked by an orcish war band and the orc sorcerer lands a luck hit with a fireball which both Henry and Jack fail their saves for. Henry's bow and arrows take enough damage and are burned beyond use. Jack's components are also burned.

    Take away the rules and whats the point of the fireball? Wood is weak against fire. So are rose pedals and sun-dried frogs legs.

What if their rogue decides to steal their components or replace them? Removing that dynamic lowers the versatility of the rogue.

Just follow the rules and the game mechanics will work organically to make the magic happen. Messing with rules is pointless. Just build your own system instead.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure you're really answering the question and indeed seem to be instilling mechanics of your own creation that do not exist within the system. I would recommend you revise this answer to focus upon the querent's specific question as well as the system they are playing. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 4 '18 at 17:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, in this edition, if the bow is equipped on the ranger, it doesn't burst into flame while the ranger has it and is still alive. The rules text usually says "a flammable item ignites if not being worn or carried." Check the D&D 5e rules on fireball. (Spell Description) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 '18 at 20:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I made a small edit to fix some spelling errors and add a little formatting. Suggest you revise your answer to account for (1) the rules text for fireball (2) the class in 5e is rogue (3) making the rest of the answer fit the edition the question asks about. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 '18 at 20:08

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