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Meaningful Spell Components

So one thought that kept reoccurring when I was going through spells to figure out how to price them was, why do all of these spells have components? They are basically just flavor, if anything, and they add little meaningful in the way of player choices. The players will simply gather what components they need and then never think of them again. It isn’t interesting to have to gather a branch struck by lightning nor is it interesting to do the accounting on how much bat guano one has. What would it take to make them interesting then? It doesn’t help to penalize players for not remembering a component, rules are best implemented when it is something that can give the players a bonus. What if we assume that spellcasters have a bag of minor components, but there are some special components that can be applied to spells for minor bonuses or modifications to the spells? What if their is an alchemical flame flask for spells, so to speak? What if the spell components a caster invested in gave them different capabilities and actually said something about their style?

Does this caster rely on components to give them a slight edge in damage? Do they keep one of each type of component for versatility? Do they try to find complex interactions between multiple components with exotic spells?

If I were to write a magic system from scratch, this would be how I treat components. Spell components should have an effect on the spells that use them, making it materially important to track the rare reagents for their effects. This also opens up a whole avenue of new rewards instead of just potions, scrolls, and wands, you can give the spellcasters a rare gremlin horn or albino drake scale. Here are some of my initial ideas:

Alternative spell components 

Fire Powder: Give a lingering burn to evocation or necromantic spells, dealing 1 damage as many rounds as the spell level until extinguished as an action. Metal dust coated in salamander spit or burnbark seed oil.

Ice Flux: Apply a -1 penalty to damage rolls to the target of an evocation or illusion spell for a number of rounds equal to twice the spell level. Made from powdered glaciers mixed with yeti or winter wolf breath.

Timewood candle: controllable wick to use to allow a delayed activation of a ritual of 1d4 rounds. Each additional timewood candle adds a cumulative 5% chance the ritual fails to go off. Created using a wick made of wood fibers that have been displaced in time.

Thunderstorm Vial: charged air that lets an electricity spell arc for minor damage to an additional target

Ethereal Antennae: Plucked from ghostly bugs and spirits, these add to an information gathering spell to allow an additional sense to be felt or gleaned through the divination spell. Alternatively, it enhances answers or foresight obtained by such spells. This grants either a rudimentary sense of smell biased towards sweets or alcohol, a faint sense of the wind currents, or blurry and short ranged ultraviolet sight.

Sand Dollar: Crushing this circular urchin in the casting of a protection spell causes the target of the protective effect to gain one temporary hit point per spell level when the abjuration ends.

Black Coin: Using this when casting a mind-affecting spell has a 25% chance to cause a target to make a morale save or come to the sudden conclusion that they should parley.

Chaos Ash: Use as a spell component to change the damage type and school of a spell to a random other one. It registers and triggers other effects as if it were that damage type and/or school of magic.

Astral Elm Leaves: Burning these leaves as part of a movement or teleportation spell envelopes the target in a thin layer or mirage-air-distortion, granting them a +2 AC bonus against attacks of opportunity.

Aberrant Spit: The living target of a transformation spell rolls for a random mutation and may choose to apply it for the first round of the transformation spell.

Sea Sponge: A nonliving target of a transformative spell can have its hardness increased or decreased by 1 for the duration of the effect, depending on if the sponge is left dry or wetted, respectively, when this sponge is consumed as part of the spell.

That also got me thinking about more interesting components that could be applied to weapons and armor too. Break outside the boring acid flasks and holy water. Give players more options while making them of niche usefulness such that they reward player choice and preparedness.

 

Alternative weapon components 

Activated Slime: Make an automatic grapple check against the next foe struck with the weapon as the weapon adheres to them. This dried, hibernating slime is activated with a bit of water while being applied to the weapon.

Devil Spit: This sulfuric smelling, faint yellow liquid adds 1d4 necrotic damage to the next damage roll of the weapon it is applied to but it will corrode the weapon, giving it a -1 to attack and damage if it does not strike a foe within 1 minute.

Blink Dust: Rubbing the dried fur and skin flakes of blink dogs on a weapon, the weapon deals a minor amount of damage even on a miss, dealing the weapon damage with disadvantage without applying any other bonuses. This applies even to misses due to cover, displacement, illusions, or magical effects.

Stretch Oil: This shifting reflective oil applies an illusory effect to make it appear the weapon is smaller, less threatening, or of a different composition than it actually is. If the attack would miss, the target makes a wisdom save against 8+attack bonus, and is still struck on a failed save. In either case, the oil is consumed by the attack.

Storm Giant Sweat: The briney liquid causes the weapon it is applied to to stretch and bulge, increasing its damage die and size by one category, making it more unwieldy inflicting a -2 attack penalty. If the damage die rolls an odd number, the effect wears off and the weapon shrinks back to normal size.

Leaping Cap Spores: Explosive fungal residue, gently applied to a weapon will detonate on impact, pushing the the lighter of either the attacker or the defender back five feet, on a tie they both get pushed. Ranged attackers are always pushed back when they make the attack and if the defender is lighter, they are also pushed back.

Temporary Armor salves/polishes

Hookseed: Spreading a covering of barky nettles on ones armor will cause them to latch on to the next three creatures making attacks against them within 5 ft. For the next 5 minutes, they leave small trail of shed seeds wherever they go.

Tar: A byproduct of pitch production, this black goop will stick to everything. Creatures attempting to exit a grapple you are involved in recieve a -2 penalty, including your own grapple checks. After 5 minutes, the tar dries and picks up enough dust to lose its stickiness.

Soda Ash: Coating one’s armor with this white-grey dust will negate the next source of acid damage dealt to them within 5 rounds.

Warding Salts: Applying this mix of purple, pink, and silver salts to armor will allow the wearer to use either their armor bonus, including magical improvements, or their attribute bonus on their next saving throw against a magic effect, whichever is better, for the next 5 rounds.

Bloodroot Poultice: This pulpy, red-brown mix of a rare, magic-infused root vegetable will delay the damage the wearer receives, up to cumulative total of ¼ of their maximum hit points, by one round. This effect lasts until the maximum is reached or it dries in 1 minute.

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