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D&D 3E
A question of balance. 
22nd-Dec-2005 04:44 pm
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Our group has a tendency to drop material components from spell casting completely. I'm just wondering if anyone thinks that that would affect game balance too severely? I've not noticed it doing so, but then I've not really played primary casters regularly enough for it to be relevant to me. However it has occurred to me that if x spell is supposed to cost 1000GP to cast and it in fact costs nothing in our games that does put the spell caster financially ahead of where the fighter types are compared to the situation under RAW.

A secondary part of this is; where do spell casters get their components from? In some settings then it would be reasonable to assume magic shops in large cities for certain things, but who collects them, what about settings where magic is less common? 'Course in D+D it's nowhere near as bad as in Warhammer FRP where the components involve parts of things that can kill off pretty much anyone, and that's sometimes just level one spells.

Edit:
It might be relevant to say what got me wondering about the issue. The most recent FAQ from the Wizards site has a short piece on Hallow/Unhallow and how that would be difficult to counter because of the components. So really I suppose I'm thinking about whether dropping components has made things too easy on the PCs.
Comments 
22nd-Dec-2005 04:53 pm (UTC)
By the time the spellcasters get to the level that they're casting 1kgp spells, the crafters are capable of making enough high-powered magic items that the monetary balance is pretty much shot anyway.

More to the point, if you take that cost off of the casting of, say, Wall of Force, be prepared to see a lot more of these spells cast.
22nd-Dec-2005 05:04 pm (UTC)
That's interesting, I've never actually seen anyone do any item crafting (other than some of the basic smithing type craft skills). I assumed it wasn't popular generally, rather than simply being a bias against it with the people I know personally.
22nd-Dec-2005 05:58 pm (UTC)
My group loved to create minor items (scrolls, low-level wands, etc). Healing spells and buffs were the word of the day. Other groups I've been with have created scrolls for emergency purposes.

When I introduced a modified* version of the Craft Point system from Unearthed Arcana, they started creating bigger and better items. For the most part, it was more powerful scrolls and wands, with the occasional armor or weapon upgrade.


* My modification is retain the time requirement (1 day per 1000 GP), but still allow it to be "background" work.
22nd-Dec-2005 04:59 pm (UTC)
Well in 3e I think it's assumed that casters just "have" the spell components they need for their spells. Like they pick them up on the way. Kind of the way a warrior probably sharpens his sword. Except for a few specific spells with really expensive components; the price is significant enough to warrent the player needing to actually spend the time/money on acquiring the component.

In 2e it used to just be assumed that if you had your stuff, you had your components. I'd make a wizard with an item listed in gear called "component pouch," and as long as he had that he could cast his spells. I did always like the idea of needing to keep track of exactly how many twigs and pinches of sulfur you have with you, but it adds a lot of complexity and bookkeeping for no real effect. I've seen some variant systems where special components can give special powers (I think Unearthed Arcana has one for gaining metamagic effects), and I kind like that and wouldn't mind playing with it if one of the players was interested in keeping track of that stuff.

But to answer your question: if you're already dropping components and it isn't unbalancing your game, then doing it officially probably won't hurt anymore (unless the wizard is saving for components even though he never uses them). The spells that are supposed to cost a lot of money aren't the common one's your casting 10times a day, as at higher levels it'll probably balance out (I mean, what's 1000gp to a 10th level character, by the wealth charts in the book?) So unless you see it as an issue, I wouldn't worry about it. If it DOES become a problem, you could always rule that those few, really expensive spells actually require something, either money or time or whatever to rebalance the game.

Usually its assumed that wizards scrounge for their own materials as the group travels. He happens to pass by a nettle and so collects some for his spell. D&D is intended to be a pretty high-magic setting, so it's usually reasonable that large cities have some kind of shop where you could purchase the rarer stuff. I tend to run a lower magic setting, and even my cities often have small shops where you can buy charms and things (think hedge-wizardry). Again, it depends kind of on your campaign and how specific you want to get about collecting components.
22nd-Dec-2005 05:04 pm (UTC)
We fudge it. Casters are assumed to have a store of their required components. We levy a flat fee (1g/week or so) as a "restocking cost."

They are assumed to have required "basic" materials available for all their spells unless they are captured, disarmed, swept away in a flood, etc.

We do keep track of the possession of and price of expensive components, like diamond dust, holy incense, etc.
22nd-Dec-2005 05:50 pm (UTC)
For the most part, I've dropped spell components. The result has been mixed.

The lack of accounting makes the game easier, and cuts down on prepwork for the players and DM. Low-level spells generally aren't worth the effort (Identify included!). Higherer level spells are limited by the number of times they can be cast, and they can't be put in "easy" magic items like wands and potions.

The downside is that spells that "should" be limited aren't. Players see no reason why Stoneskin, Wall of Force, and True Res should be limited. While the "bad guys" have the same access to those spells, it does get out of hand at times.

There's actually a feat called "Eschew Materials"
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For the most part, I've dropped spell components. The result has been mixed.

The lack of accounting makes the game easier, and cuts down on prepwork for the players and DM. Low-level spells generally aren't worth the effort (Identify included!). Higherer level spells are limited by the number of times they can be cast, and they can't be put in "easy" magic items like wands and potions.

The downside is that spells that "should" be limited aren't. Players see no reason why Stoneskin, Wall of Force, and True Res should be limited. While the "bad guys" have the same access to those spells, it does get out of hand at times.

There's actually a feat called "Eschew Materials" <a href="http://www.systemreferencedocuments.org/35/sovelior_sage/featsAll.html#eschew-materials" (SRD link)</a> that lets casters ignore material components costing 1 GP or less. So on some level, the D&D designers think minor material components don't matter.
22nd-Dec-2005 07:40 pm (UTC) - So on some level, the D&D designers think minor material components don't matter.
I see that completely diffently: if there's a feat that allows you to overlook it, their opinion is that every single spellcaster in existence who doesn't have that feat has to keep track of the cost.
22nd-Dec-2005 07:49 pm (UTC) - Re: So on some level, the D&D designers think minor material components don't matter.
"their opinion is that every single spellcaster in existence who doesn't have that feat has to keep track of the cost."

Which is how the game is written.

My point is that if the rules on spell components were absolute, the feat wouldn't exist. It appears to me that the game designers feel leeway isn't campaign breaking.

Then again, I don't view any official rule as infallible. YMMV.
22nd-Dec-2005 10:26 pm (UTC) - Re: So on some level, the D&D designers think minor material components don't matter.
You read it wrong.

Quoth the SRD:

Spell Component Pouch: A spellcaster with a spell component pouch is assumed to have all the material components and focuses needed for spellcasting, except for those components that have a specific cost, divine focuses, and focuses that wouldn’t fit in a pouch.

Eschew Materials lets the character get by without a component pouch. But D&D as-written very much presumes that essentially no player will be tracking every material component they use, only the GP value of the expensive ones.
22nd-Dec-2005 10:55 pm (UTC) - Re: So on some level, the D&D designers think minor material components don't matter.
So when they get robbed of their pouch, then you can give them hell. Unless they have the feat. Plenty of novels feature the mage being stripped of his ocmponents until he brushes against a spiderweb that he can use for a Web spell.
22nd-Dec-2005 05:51 pm (UTC)
From the sounds of things, your campaign waives all components, even costly ones. This is a major change to game balance which you may not have discovered yet due to low player character level.

Spells (like stonekin) are assigned an expensive material component because they are more powerful than other spells of their level, and the gp cost ensures that the spell will not be cast as often. Even at low levels, this is true: spells like Arcane Lock may not seem that powerful, but when a wizard could cast it on every door in the dungeon (or every door in town), denying entry to everyone except himself, things get wierd. When Continual Flame is free, then every town and village with a 3rd level cleric in it should have permanent streetlights everywhere and darkness is no longer an issue for even low level parties (since an everburning torch would now be free).

When Raise Dead does not cost 5,000 gp to cast, there is no reason why -everyone- cannot be raised from the dead. (provided they want to be, of course). Every farmer, bartender, and candle-stick maker can be raised. That makes one of D&D problems (revolving door syndrome) worse, not better. It's hard to even imagine what that kind of society would be like.

No spellcaster likes spending money on expensive components, but it is a necessary evil that helps balance their rule-breaking power against the fighters and thieves. In fact, the fighter and thieves are spending this money too, in the form of bull's strength and invisibility potions.

Now, non-expensive components are much easier to hand-wave, but they should not be eliminated altogether. Material components are a weakness for casters which canny fighters can exploit: when a wizard is grappled, for example, he cannot draw new components. He is limited to the ones he has in his hand at the moment. This creates a strategy which PC teams can use to shut down enemy spellcasters, one I have both used -- and been victim of! -- to good effect.

There are some cases in which a PC caster may not have access to all his components, but these are rare and special situations which the DM uses to create adventures with a specific feel. For example, the PCs may be captured and put in prison. They must escape using only what they can find and improvise. If a wizard does not need material components, escape becomes trivial. But if he has to find the things he need to cast each spell he wants to ready, a new challenge is born. This sort of thing would not be employed regularly -- unless you are in the World's Largest Dungeon, as my caster is at the moment, and boy is he sorry -- but in special cases can be very rewarding.

Finally, remember that "Eschew Materials" is a feat that the players can take if they want to avoid much of this. But the feat does not allow them to avoid the cost of expensive components which, as I have noted, are a game balance issue. If your players really hate components, have them take the feat.

There is another possibility you might consider, if you want to give the option of avoiding material components: you can charge XP instead. 3.x converts gp to XP at a 5-1 ratio, which means a spell with a material component cost of 25gp would cost the caster 5 XP to cast. Focuses cost 1/10th this amount, so a spell with a 150 gp focus would cost its caster 3 XP to cast. Giving wizards the opportunity to burn XP instead of costly components on a spell-for-spell basis would give them some added flexibility and allow them to avoid those "limited resource" scenarios, but would not change your world much. Raise Dead would still be rare (1,000 XP to cast) and wizards aren't going to go around making every door in the Baron's Castle arcane locked if each casting costs them 5 XP.

Your Pc casters won't like these options. It's much easier to simply waive material components altogether. But such a move throws campaign balance out of whack in favor of casters. If you want a game where wizards and sorcerers are the most powerful classes, and everyone comes back from the dead every time, then stick with the changes you've made.

Good luck,
JT
22nd-Dec-2005 06:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks, you've brought up a couple of issues I hadn't thought of there (and some I had of course:>).
22nd-Dec-2005 05:56 pm (UTC)
It comes into play with the hardcore protection spells most, eliminating the restrictions on costing them too often. Stoneskin for example... costs 250gp worth of diamond dust every time you cast it, Identify costs a 100gp pearl a pop in addition to the other spells mentioned above.

ESCHEW MATERIALS is a way around it, costing a feat slot to ignore the little stuff... and our GM has suggested a feat tree in the same vein, with IMPROVED ESCHEW MATERIALS covering up to 100gp of materials and GREATER ESCHEW MATERIALS for up to 500gp (with appropriate spellcraft rank requirements built in for each (I believe 10 and 15 ranks respectivly).

might be something to think about... shouldn't change material costs for making items tho... unless it's a percentage change.

:o.
Dan
22nd-Dec-2005 06:08 pm (UTC)
I like the feat tree idea, that's a nice idea and seems the equivalent of buying improved critical rather than a keen weapon from the fighters point of view.
22nd-Dec-2005 06:10 pm (UTC)
Something I have done with my groups:

I did not do away with the gold cost of the higher spells. For the PC's many of their components were easily available (through shops etc..) because they were lower levels. Many of the PC's took levels in herbalsim and alchemy as they advanced in levels for this reason: They would often in their downtime (away from fights or such) would go hunting in the woods/rivers/where ever they were for spell components, often finding enough to not only fill their own pouches, but enough as well to take back to town to help offset the costs of the higher spells.

Thats just an idea..I played the games as spell components were always in demand, and most any spell shop would buy components from people that came in to sell some.

It wasnt until 3 or 4th levels where I made the PC's actually look harder for the items. With the alchemy skill that some took, they were able to get different items (say a goblins ear and bark from a tree) and combine them to get the same effect as another component. The spell would work as normally, although maybe it didnt go as far or do as much damage, but it would work. The players liked that idea because it gave their characters more control over their spells and a few of them even came up with modified versions of spells.

just a thought.
22nd-Dec-2005 06:46 pm (UTC)
You know, I think there was a Dragon article that dealt with this... Something along the lines of dropping the component materials unless the spell would 1. - Unhinge the game, 2. - Could be used as a plot point (You have to cast a WISH spell to save someone but you have to go find the component first) and 3. - If people get too used to popping out magic like Pez at higher levels, this would bring them in again, as it were...

Personally, it is usually ok with me to let the materials slide unless it is something major.
22nd-Dec-2005 06:48 pm (UTC)
In 3.5 Player's Handbook, there's an item listed as "spell component pouch" that says it contains all the components less than 1gp a spellcaster could need. You should be able to ignore all material components under 1 gp for someone who carries this pouch. The PH describes it as a normal part of travelling for a spellcaster to be wandering off into the brush every now and again to pick some material components, which would build these cheap ones into the adventuring process if they've bought the pouch to carry them in.

For more expensive components, by which I mean anything that actually has a price listed in the spell description ("a crushed pearl worth 100gp"), they really should buy them seperately. Most of these components are available in any decent town, unless they're described as "rare".

WotC went out of their way to simplify the component system - in addition to the things above or grabbing the Eschew Materials feat, the spells which have a component which must be bought seperately are marked with an "M" on the class spell list in the beginning of the Spells chapter.
22nd-Dec-2005 08:53 pm (UTC)
we have a kind of laissez-faire attitude about material components. most of the time, if they're cheap and common, we assume we've got them. for things like identify where you need a specific expensive thing, we keep track. but we also assume that if we lose our stuff we lose our components. our party was just kidnapped and lost all our stuff and the only spells we could cast were ones we didn't need spellbooks, holy symbols, or material components to prepare or cast.
22nd-Dec-2005 09:10 pm (UTC)
This is how my group plays. For an upkeep fee of a few gold every couple months, it's assumed that they have any component they need that isn't rare or 100gp or more. If they lose their equipment, they can't cast spells with material components.

They reason I charge for 100gp or more is pretty obvious. That's a fortune to a commoner, and it would have a lot of negative world-balance implications if every spellcaster could go around casting animate dead or what-have-you at will. In my current game, the characters are level 13 but still very frightened of death, because a true res is nearly impossible to find for under 50k. It helps keep the revolving door issue down, in my opinion.
22nd-Dec-2005 10:22 pm (UTC)
I play on a D&D MUX, and one of the things we did was grant sorcerers the Eschew Component feat for free. It brings a lot of flavor and doesn't make them too overpowered. It also further serves to emphasize the gap between sorcerers and wizards.
23rd-Dec-2005 12:15 am (UTC)
I'm fairly sure when you have a spell component pouch it's automatically assumed you have the required components as long as they have no cost listed. I think.
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