Sunday, April 26, 2015

U is Useful Things

I'm amazed at how often I hear about players and DMs who decide to NOT use material components for their spellcasters. Worse still, recent editions of the D&D game have started treating this as a kosher activity, providing rules for "arcane focuses" (wands, orbs, whatever) to be used in place of components. The sad thing is, calls for no-components often seem to be coming from the same people who complain about old-school wizards not having anything to do once they cast their single spell for the day...

Clearly they missed the real point of having a spell component pouch and tracking what is in it...

Wizards have BRAINS!

Wizards are high-intelligence characters able to manipulate the fundamental forces of creation, so why can't they creatively use the random crap in their bags? Components are tools to be used, not just campaign-fluff in a bag.

Below is a list of the material components called out in the 2nd edition Players Handbook for 1st-level wizard spells, and some suggestions for why you should make sure you are keeping track of this shit...

Component Obvious Uses
a tiny bell and a piece of very fine silver wire Let’s use make an alarm without casting the spell…
a piece of finely cured leather patch for torn armor or backpack, pocket for a sling, you name it
a bit of wool or a small lump of wax tinder for a fire, earplugs, use wax for sealing missives
a pinch each of powder or sand that is colored red, yellow, and blue throw it in someone’s face…
a pinch of soot and a few grains of salt blacken you face to hide better, kill slugs
a bit of phosphorus or wychwood, or a glowworm elemental Phosphorus bursts into flame on contact with air…
a bit of earth from a grave plug holes, plant seeds, anything you might use dirt for...
a pinch of powdered iron Surely you played with iron filings as a kid…
chalk (or white flour), lampblack (or soot), and vermilion all of these are useful cosmetics
a bit of pork rind or butter grease doors, ladder rungs, or anything else that you would use the grease spell for
a pearl (of at least 100 gp value) and an owl feather steeped in wine pearls and wine? sounds like bribe-time
a grasshopper’s hind leg emergency source of protein if nothing else
a firefly or a piece of phosphorescent moss could make for an interesting distraction in an otherwise completely dark dungeon
two small magnets of any type compass, attract keys, use both to hold things closed
a short piece of copper wire build electronics, makeshift lockpick if heavy-enough gauge
a bit of hair from the type of animal to be conjured camel hair can be used to make clothing, no reason the “bit” has to be free-standing
a small square of silk handkerchief, clothing patch, cleaning rag, statically charge metal objects
a bit of fleece see silk
a circle of powdered iron finely divided iron oxidizes rapidly and produces heat (used in MREs, just add water to heat food)
a clear crystal or mineral prism mount in front of a bullseye lantern for a poor-man’s color spray
a pinch of fine sand, rose petals, or a live cricket volatile oils from rose petals have antiseptic properties
a drop of bitumen and a live spider bitumen is asphalt, and can be used for anything you might use tar or oil for
a slug chucking live bugs (spiders, slugs, crickets) at people is sure to startle them, probably enough to leave your friend an opening to stab them
a drop of mercury poisonous, and can be used to collect stray specks of precious metals
a piece of string and a bit of wood triplines, mark path through a maze, toothpicks, etc.
a parchment rolled up into a small cone rolling papers for a smoke, or just to write a message on
a pinch of split dried peas put in a pot with boiling water for emergency snacks
a pinch of diamond dust (about 100 gp worth) and a pigment diamond dust can be used to highly polish metal surfaces, or put in food to ruin someone’s digestive track

Obviously this is only 1st-level spells so this is just scratching the surface. Once you get to 3rd-level spells and start packing potassium nitrate (guano) and sulfur along with your phosphorous and finely ground iron, you have all the makings of pretty effective home-made bombs. Flint, oil, metal and glass rods, nitre, pine tar, small metal tubes, legumes... Who cares if you have run out of spells or lost your books? You are carrying all the tools of modern chemistry!

Remember WWMD...

What Would MacGyver Do?