Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Scarce spell components

I'm currently reading a translation of a couple of the Black Books from Swedish folk-magic, and one thing that struck me was the really interesting items (what D&D-me would call "material components") are needed to properly do the spells. For instance:

  • A "blade of regret" - a steel weapon that was used in some way that the user later regretted.
  • Filings from the wedding ring of a bride who lost their husband on their wedding night.
  • A Rowan twig that has been gathered on Maundy Thursday.
  • A pea that has been grown in the eye-socket of a human skull.
  • A headpiece worn by a baby that was baptized in the same church that you were.
  • A horseshoe from a horse that has thrown its rider, killing him.
Etc.

The idea is that it's not that the item itself is innately valuable; no 500 g.p. gems to be crushed up or anything, but that the circumstances of its creation are so rare that an ordinary item becomes valuable due to its provenance. I kinda like that idea as a mechanism for keeping some more powerful spells rarely used, even though they might end up in someone's spell book. 

6 comments:

C.D. Gallant-King said...

I've always loved the idea of weird and evocative spell components, but in practice it's always fell flat. It's something else to keep track of, and most players (at least the ones I've played with) can't be bothered to keep up with it. It would take a firm hand by the DM to make sure they kept their components stocked up, and it just adds more bookkeeping for everyone.

Still, I really do love the idea if it. Maybe if it's just relegated to very rare and powerful spells.

Luka Rejec said...

Can I riff this to create a weird and bizarre d100 table of spell components and their effects? Cans eyes?

Adam said...

Have a list:

Ashes of an ancient hero
Bleached skull of an unborn lamb
Brains of a foe
Breath of a dying mage
Catigern silk from Shards
Clay from the bed of the river Tarantis
Clothes woven from the hair of a Black Saint
Coffin nails
Distillation from the scraps of an ordination feast
Dust taken from the footprint of a witch/giant/demon
Elemental remains
Entrancing figure made with string as in cat's cradle
Hair of a spinster
Hangman's noose
Mirror, silvered and bright
Knife that has pierced the heart of an adulterous woman
Needles used to sew funeral shrouds
Paste made from the fat of the executed
Phase Spider's silk
Pink crystals from deep in the earth
Powdered or dried organs from a Mummy's canopic jars
Powdered skull of a Saint / honest man
quenched in maker's blood
Quenched in holy water
Quenched in milk
Robes made from the funeral shroud of a betrayed king
Runes scribed in oak gall by a True Troll
Silver coin, never spent
Silver penny stained with the blood of a traitor
Skin of a serpent with a broken jaw
Skull of a strangled murderer
Skull of a thief
Spittle from a living minotaur
Stone kissed by an old woman who has never spoken
Tallow from dead humans
Tears of a cruel man, shed honestly
Temple tar, scraped from the smokey residue in the dark corners of busy temples of Illuin
Thirteen finger bones taken from living virgins.
Three black mice wrapped in cloth
Tomb salt, scraped from the mineral buildup on tombs
Touch of a true King
Wand of rowan wood taken from a hanging tree
Water from a sacred pool dedicated to Perchta
Wood from a gallows

Credit me if you want!

C.D. Gallant-King said...

Oooh, I'll throw another d100 on top of that!

Edward Wilson said...

I've been thinking that instead of required spell components, there should only be optional ones which boost the spell in some way. Thus you don't have routine bookkeeping and the players will want to seek out goodies which boost their casting. Only drawback I can think of is coming up with plenty of cool "boost" components.

5stonegames said...

Cool idea. This might work well with some kind of variant magic system with common magic (something any MU can learn to do) scarce magic (spells that require effrtto find) and rare magic (requiring funky stuff)