Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Material Spell Components are the best thing ever and Im sure no one ever ignored them.

Well today I must celebrate the glorious confederation of great nation of Canuckistan. So before I leave the ol'Igloo to club a baby seal and BBQ it I figured I'd do up a short topic on something most people are familiar with.

Spell components (of the material variety)

So Im guessing most players with wizards have done one of the following:
1.) ignored them completely
2.) had a spell component pouch that just had all the common items you need

Now with 1 you are really cutting out a great opportunity for fun, with two its hand waving that ruins its own fun. I mean, with components like 'a grasshopper leg' and 'a bit of bitumen (tar)' just sitting loose in a pouch..can you see just reaching in and getting exactly what you needed in any reasonable time frame? And what happens if they cross-contaminate?

Of course there is a reason these rules came into effect in the first place, pixelbitching your inventory to make sure you have enough grasshopper legs is stupid...and not every player with wizard wants to be grubbing through a bag of bat guano like a dung merchant before majestically hurling a fireball. Not the cinematic issue they want.

The solution with piecemeal is (as mentioned) not to make material spell components mandatory. You are never punished for not having them.

Spell components work in a pretty nebulous way, the hard and the main concrete rule is different kinds of spell components have to be kept separate from each other (in separate clean and otherwise empty containers, thus taking up precious dots).

Magic is by nature unknown and if I attempt to catalogue it too much, it becomes mundane and even banal..which is a very different feel than I like in a game. So a player can declare anything is a spell component, and based on the difficulty of acquiring it, obvious connection to the spell, and how "mystic" the player describes the item, it may give different benefits to be negotiated by the GM and Player.


Play Example:
Thus a player might use a goblin skull as a component in casting Scry..the GM unimpressed gives him a small bonus of -2 to difficulty and -2 to mana overall for trying. If the player used "the skull of a goblin shaman, decapitated with a silver blade under the light of a full moon", the GM and player might decide on a -2 to difficulty and -2 to mana per power level, even though it is exactly the same item..just described better. Then the player announces he is also gathering local herbs to burn around the skull, this is pretty generic so the GM lets him use his skill bonus (a +2) from herbalism against the mana cost. Finally he announces he is staring into the smoke from the burning herbs around the skull when he scry's. Smoke plumes are easy to acquire but are a traditional method of scrying..so the player suggests -1 difficulty per power level, being reasonable the GM agrees. Note the bonus applied could be anything, extra range, bonus damage on combat spells etc.


Why this is good:

1.) Its not mandatory, so players who don't like it can ignore it.
2.) It keeps players from hauling around a bajillion spell components
3.) It gets players looking around their environment for situational bonuses (hey..that goblin is holding A torch, can I get a bonus to damage from my fireball?)
4.) It gives players an opportunity to be really creative and descriptive with their eye of newt and toe of dog.
5.) Anything can be treasure to a wizard now.

Pitfalls:

If the GM and Players aren't on the same wavelength about magic and its strengths and limits it can cause friction. Thus I purposefully made this section very easy to remove.

Side note: Laptop keyboards suck.


So what are your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. Wise words about player/DM friction and wise move making this easily ignorable.

    As far as friction goes I'm pretty much sandpaper.

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