RPGBOT.Podcast Season 2 Episode 4 – Spell Components in DnD 5e and PF2e

Show Notes

In this episode of the RPGBOT.Podcast, we discuss Spell Components. We explore the mechanics and flavor of material, somatic, and verbal components, as well as the mechanics of spellcasting foci in both DnD 5e and PF2, and we discuss how you can make those mechanics both meaningful and interesting in your games.

Special thanks to Mr. Gleam on the RPGBOT Discord for the question of the week this week.

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Materials Referenced in this Episode

Transcript

Randall 

I’ve lost my mind. Anyway. Welcome to the RPGBOT.Podcast. I’m Randall James and I don’t know what to do with my hands. With me is Tyler Kamstra.

Tyler 

Hi everybody.

Randall 

And Random Powell.

All 

*Raucous laughter*

Random 

Howdy.

Tyler 

I’m so sorry.

Random 

Did it take it that long for it to land on your?

Tyler 

I got it immediately. I was trying to hold the laugh.

Randall 

Hey Tyler, what are we gonna do?

Tyler 

We’re gonna tell you what to do with your hands.

Randall 

Nailed it.

Tyler 

Sorry. Today, we’re going to talk about casting spells in D&D and Pathfinder. We’re going to talk about spell components, specifically, including verbal components, which is what you do with your mouth, somatic components, which is what you do with your hands, and material components, which is what you do with your pockets.

Randall 

Perfect.

Tyler 

And we’re gonna explain why those are important, wow to make them interesting, and why you should stop ignoring them in your game.

Randall 

Yeah, and I’ll… maybe a peek behind the scenes. So this was something I brought up because I realized, like, I’m playing Sorcerer in my current game. And I noticed they put these weird consonants next to the spells that I keep casting, and I had no idea what to do with them. Because nobody ever asked me for anything. And I never thought I had to do anything. And so I brought to the group, do these things really matter? If we ignore them and every game that we play, are there things that matter? And should they matter?

Random 

Before we get into the the more mechanical aspect, I just want to take a quick aside to talk about why this is a cool piece of storytelling, your character has to actually act out the somatic components. They have to make some sort of sound for the verbal component. They have to pull out the material components or interact with their focus in some way if it’s a spell that, you know, if you’re someone using a focus. These are cool pieces of character building that you can do in the the long-running Strahd game that I was in, we had a player who was a… not an arcane trickster, but basically straight even levels of Rogue and Wizard. And let me tell you that if you take the the War Wizard, I think it is, that is a very powerful way to make a character that has reactions to negate anything and is very survivable. But she ended up with her focus being a Tarokka deck that was collected over the course of the early parts of the campaign and when the DM would ask her to describe the casting of the spell, seeing how she would interact with the Teraoka deck, as part of the focus. As part of the… the material component, or when any of the rest of us would describe the casting of the spell, like alright, I’m going to array these candles in a particular way when my Paladin character is casting a spell, and I’m gonna read these candles in a particular way that is relevant. And here’s how it’s important to the practice of my religion. These are ways that you can really easily take a mechanic that is often overlooked and immediately add a ton of flavor. If you just ask, “what does that look like? How are you doing those?” For a standard spell it may only be, what, three seconds worth of work to cast something quick in combat. But if you are doing something as a ritual, or if you are doing something that has a longer duration like Ceremony, this is a great way to just inject some flavor by just paying attention to that.

Randall 

Yeah, I think that makes perfect sense. And I will say like, maybe even the first way we should talk about these things is strictly from a roleplaying standpoint. Because they are, like I said, they’re all fantastic. And I’ve tried to actually do that in our current game. So I have a couple spells one, I have to have a small amount of dragon scale, one I have to have peppers. And so I would say something like you know, I pull pepper out of my pocket and I take a bite before I breathe a line of fire. I’ve actually kind of stopped doing it because I don’t think anybody in the game cares. I don’t know if anybody’s noticing.

Tyler 

I am! I’m in that game. I enjoy it every time. Even if nobody says anything, I think that’s great and I look forward to it every time.

Randall 

I’m going to express myself there’s a little bit of self consciousness that like am I taking too much time to do something that should be basic and therefore distracting? Versus am I adding to the game?

Random 

And this is where I think it’s really on the DM. As a DM, set the expectation that you’re asking your players for this because it is super cool. And, you know, if someone is a little bit self conscious that like maybe they’re you know, newer to the game and they don’t want to pipe up with “I want to take this moment to have the spotlight on me to describe my spell,” don’t force it. But if you at least create the expectation that this is a cool thing that I want from my players, then that’s going to really help break that barrier so that the players aren’t feeling self conscious that they are taking too much of the time, too much of the spotlight away from other people. So I think that that’s a really important place where you as the person running the game can set that.

Tyler 

I agree.

Randall 

And so what’s the what’s the right way to do that? Is it to say like, tell me about the verbal component, or show me kind of, show me what you do with your hands? Lik,e what?

Random 

Someone says, “I want to cast Identify.” And just ask them “what does that look like?” A very simple open ended question is going to let players fill in from there. That’s relying on the improvisational skill of the player. If they just say, “Oh, well, I don’t know, you know, I whistle and do a hand thing and go,” that’s fine. If you even hark all the way back to your session zero, and say, Look, I really want to world build in every moment possible. So maybe, especially when you when you gain a new level, when you prepare a spell for the first time, expect that I’m going to ask you to cast it. And, you know, to your point about like biting into the pepper every time. Maybe it’s not important that it’s every time but at least the first few times, until the rest of the party understands what your casting looks like. So, like, it lets you do cool things with not just the actions the components but also the outcome. As that Paladin, I picked up a couple levels of Warlock and I got Lightning Lure. But for reasons the Paladin was very wolf-themed. Basically, I flavored lightning lewer as a pair of spectral wolf jaws flies out grab somebody’s ankle and pulls them towards me. Mechanically, it still did lightning damage. And you know, and all that jazz, but like, just thinking about how you can take both the casting and the effect of a spell and make it personal, is going to be way cooler than just “I cast Lightning Lure.”

Tyler 

So to draw a comparison to real world media that people are probably familiar with. Harry Potter has a lot of wizards in it. Surprise. The Patronas spell which features pretty heavily in the later books is a great example of how a spell is personalized to the person who casts it. So everyone uses the same gesture, the same incantation to cast the spell. So that’s the same verbal component, the same somatic component. And then the way that it visually manifests is different for everyone who casts it but the function of the spell is identical. How how you describe the visual manifestation of your spells is a really great way to flavor your character, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything has some examples for how to describe how spells might look differently for a spellcaster. There is some absolutely delightful art in there of a farmer Wizard who cast magic missle in the form of glowing green chickens. I strongly recommend. We’;; put the page number in the show notes. It is delightful.

Randall 

I guess I’m thinking about like how as a DM, can we encourage these things? And so I want to maybe start stepping gently into mechanics. I don’t want to go full blown in the mechanics of spellcasting. But what would you do? So for instance, if somebody gives a really interesting description, would you consider offering inspiration? Because you think somebody did a good job with their casting and describing, you know, pulling out the material component and, you know, the jibberish they offered for verbal was fantastic?

Tyler 

Now that’s an interesting idea. Mechanically rewarding role playing that is probably good idea the first few times until people acclimate to it. Just make sure that if you’re going to do that, do it universally. Like, don’t make it caster-only because you have non-casters in the party who presumably want the same benefit. Encourage all your players to describe what they’re doing and a little bit more detail than “Yeah, I poke it my stick.”

Randall 

Let’s, I mean, let’s play this game a little bit for non-casters, right? I think monks are easy, like, take flurry of blows and say, Okay, you have a flurry of blows. What does it look like? And that can be a bit of fun. I guess, how are we going to start describing maneuvers is that…?

Tyler 

I feel like you absolutely should. Battle Masters don’t get to use their maneuvers enough that it would become a problem. So, yeah, they’re going to spend a die and do a cool maneuver. Yeah, showboat a little bit. Describe it to me.

Randall 

Okay. And so there is an opportunity to if you’re going to do something like a metacurrency like inspiration, there is an opportunity to give it to the characters across the board, not just your spellcasters

Tyler 

Yeah.

Randall 

so that’s exciting. That feels like one solution for encouraging the roleplay for the sake of roleplay without it actually having a direct mechanical effect on the spellcasting itself.

Tyler 

Absolutely.

Randall 

Okay. Let’s maybe dive a little bit deeper into verbal and I get the feeling there’s probably enough to say for semantic enough to say for materials that we can we can cover at all, what does it mean to give the verbal component of a spell in 5e and Pathfinder 2. Is it the same Is there any difference?

Tyler 

There are some subtle mechanical differences here. The basic concept is you are saying some magic words. And not all spells require verbal components. Some are purely somatic, some are purely verbal, some are both. Your, your character says some kind of magic words of some kind as part of casting the spell, and that’s just rolled into the action for the spell. Now, the specifics of what constitutes a verbal component are basically left up to the players. So there’s nothing that says officially what you’re saying. There’s nothing that says if it’s in a language or what language that might be. There’s nothing that says how loud it needs to be, at least in fifth edition. It’s a little clearer in second edition pathfinder, but in fifth edition, it’s just described as “audible.” But it’s not clear who it needs to be audible to. So it’s kind of left vague. But there is some fun to be had here, both from a role playing perspective and from a clinical perspective. Like we talked about earlier, you could make the incantation the same for every spellcaster. Or you could deviate from that. So you could say, Yeah, every every class that can learn this spell has a different incantation but gets the same effect. So like maybe, maybe bards have to sing a song and wizards have to, like, say “abracadabra” or something like that. And using those small details to differentiate can both make individual characters more interesting, and it gives you a way to distinguish different styles of magic. Pathfinder second edition has four traditions of magic. Its arcane, divine, primal and occult. And every class picks from one of those four, essentially. So you could have each tradition use different incantations for the same spells and they could all feel very different. Like arcane could feel very scholarly and it might be spoken in draconic and feel very old, and, like, if you want somebody to get fancy, they could say words in Latin, or divine might be Latin. Who knows? And primal might be, like. Druid speak and feel very old and use a dead language. And occult might just be like, Hey, I read a Call of Cthulhu book once.

Randall 

A dead language, maybe like Latin. I don’t know.

Random 

Nobody SPEAKS LATIN.

Randall 

Yeah, so you bring a Bard. So I don’t want to like this is interesting. So could a Bard play an instrument for their verbal component? I’ll argue semantically that isn’t verbal, That’s audible. And I think Pathfinder two actually makes a distinction.

Random 

A fun thing that you could do is if you wanted to let somebody do a woodwind instrument as their verbal component, I would probably allow that. If you’ve got pan pipes, or Ilyn pipes, if you somehow are playing Dungeons and Dragons in the north of the British Isles. Basically, something that involves using breath to power it. That could be an interesting take to replace a standard verbal component. You don’t want the verbal components interacting with the hands, because the hands are where the somatic components happen, and they’re also generally holding things. Eeapons, shields, pets, foci, which is not how you pronounce that word, but.

Randall 

I’m just imagining my Wizard like one-handing a bagpipe walking into a lair or something like this. Yeah, that’s what we want. Well, and so what does it break if I let if I let my Bard use a lute to produce the verbal component? And so I know, I think everybody across any RPG, whether it be tabletop, or computerized or otherwise, is familiar with the idea of silence.

Random 

Yeah. And I wanted to hark back to 3.x for a little bit here. So there were actually rules written about if you were a mute, here used to describe the disability where you can’t make sounds from your mouth or not standard language sounds anyway. If you were a mute character, then you had gotten around it. But if you were not, and you were a normally abled speaking person, who could no longer hear themselves because of something like silence, you could still try and cast spells with a verbal component, and it would have a 20% failure chance. So what it was talking about in the text there was that you needed to be able to hear yourself to be able to correct your pronunciation and stuff mid-incantation to make sure that you’ve got it just exactly right. If we start saying okay, well, let’s throw tradition out the window. You can incant by banging two pots together and then that loud crash is your verbal component. I mean, they they wanted to very intentionally make this this is the the spoken word part of the spell.

Randall 

Yeah, what you say kind of resonates. If you think about real live performers. You know, so many folks depend on having monitoring and their ability to hit the right note, to be in time and in tune, at the right pace, at the right pitch is all attached to the ability to actually hear themselves as they go. And so this idea that if the verbal component of a spell is tied to pitch, is tied to pace of how this fella said, not being able to hear yourself would be a huge hindrance. And so taking that away, and saying, like, oh, well, I’m just gonna let you pick it on a lute, you’re gonna have a great time with it. You might be losing something. I feel like in most games, let’s be honest, you’re probably not… what I’ll pose to you folks. Outside of silence, is there… in, let’s say, like anything that creates a region of silence. Are there any other effects we have to worry about and 5e or PF2 that would not allow the verbal component of a spell to happen?

Random 

Not that it’s exactly a thing that you’re going to find in the standard D&D game, but duct tape. Like, if, if you have…

Randall 

Yeah, a gag.

Random 

If you had gagged someone, and they can make a verbal component by, you know, banging finger cymbals together or something, then..

Randall 

that’s real 100%.

Random 

Right.

Randall 

Well, luckily, the verbal component for fireball for me it was always *the sounds of muffled grunting*

Random 

Perfect.

Randall 

It works.

Tyler 

So, I want to, I want to set some time aside later when we’re going to talk about messing with spellcasters and their components. But yes, duct tape. Excellent choice.

Randall 

Okay. Yeah. Okay, so the verbal component is important. There’s a great like RP flourish to this. Mechanically, we can silence it. And there’s not much to disallow it. And it feels like if you’re a DM for flavor, allowing your characters to use something besides their voice, is probably not going to be too detrimental.

Tyler 

Generally, no, and yeah, I like I like using the woodwind instruments as a good choice. Just one word of warning, because I know we have character optimizers out there. Close to my heart. A harmonica on one of those stand things that sits in front of your face. That is cheating because it doesn’t use your hands. And Pathfinder second edition, at least, is very specific that bards can use a musical instrument as a spellcasting focus if it’s held in their hand,

Randall 

That’s interesting. Because they have like the thing where you wear it around your, like, it’s a neck harness. And then you can just lean into it if you want to do it.

Tyler 

Exactly.

Randall 

Yeah. Got some Blues Traveler going in the back of your mind right now. Maybe.

Random 

Okay, sorry. I now need a Zydeco Bard in my next D&D game and I need one of you to play it. Please.

Randall 

I think I’m the right person for you.

Random 

I think you are.

Randall 

I will get my washboard out and we will have a good time.

Tyler 

True story. I promised someone on Reddit that the next character I build any long-form campaign will be a whispers bard. So we may have a two-Bards game.

Random 

A whispers Zydeco Bard is the silliest thing that I can think of right now.

Tyler 

Well, how about he… Randall can be the zydeco Bard and I’ll just lean in and be like “Hey. Shh.” No? Wonderful.

Randall 

That’s about right. Zydeco is a lot of fun. We’re gonna have links in the show notes to some great Zydeco bands and I think you’re gonna love it. Okay, somatic components. All right.

Tyler 

Yes.

Randall 

What do I do with my hands?

Tyler 

Exactly. So somatic components are magical finger wiggles, if you will. It’s it’s waving your hands about doing gestures, maybe making funny faces, it might be waving your wand around and pointing. But the basic premise is you must use a hand to do some kind of gesture. Now the fact that a lot of times you need to have an empty hand to cast a spell is actually a huge limitation on spell casters in fifth edition. So PF2’s rules for somatic components are surprisingly generous. Like, they add a trait to your action which causes it to provoke reactions. So, like, Attack for Opportunity will be triggered if you try and cast a spell with a somatic component within somebody else’s reach. But otherwise PF2, your hands can be full. Sword, shield, you are fine. The rules specifically say if you need to touch someone to cast a spell, if you can just touch them with part of your hand even through glove or a gauntlet. That counts. So, like, if you are holding a sword, and you just smack somebody with your mailed fist to cast a spell, that counts in PF2 and that’s fine. Which is weird because PF2’s hand mechanics are way more costly than fifth edition’s. So 5e the rules for somatic components are one of the ways that they have tried to balance spellcasters against martial characters because if, if your Wizard can say okay, I’ve taken one level of Fighter, I’ve got a sword in one hand, shield in another hand, I’m wearing full plate armor. I am untouchable and also the most dangerous thing in the party because I’m a Wizard. That’s gonna throw some balance issues into your game. So just the the chore of having to figure out, do I have a free hand to cast a spell? What is in my hands right now? Where am I taking material components? Do I have a focus in my hand? All that stuff, it feels a little bit boring…

Randall 

Well, okay, let’s let’s be clear, though. When does the tin can Wizard fail? Alright, so Timken Wizard puts away the shield, but it’s still wearing full plate carrying a sword. Can he use somatic components?

Random 

Tin can Wizard puts away the sword, holds the focus and a shield, and is still as defensible as a regular Fighter, and is a Wizard. But you know, then they’re…

Randall 

Because you weren’t going to take the attack action anyway, you’re a Wizard and you’re better than that.

Random 

What are you doing? Yeah. So in this, this hand economy is one of the things that you need to figure out as quickly as possible. If you look at classes that are kind of Gish classes, so like your Artificer, your Paladin, they often give you a way to try and mitigate that to some extent, because they want you to sword-and-board Paladin, while getting to cast your Paladin spells without having to, okay I put down my hammer, I cast my spell, I pick my hammer back up. You know, looking for things like if you slap a holy symbol on your shield, congrats, your shield is now your focus. Or you know, things like for the armorer Artificer where I put on my Iron Man suit. My Iron Man suit just now my focus! Looking for ways to get around that, or if you are neither of those, but you know, let’s say you’re a full caster, War Caster. While it is a rough feat to fit in early, because the power spikes really expect you if you have, you know, done point-buy, to hit 18 in primary set at level four and 20 in primary set at level eight, and therefore saves are balanced around that. So it’s it, it can feel very hard to fit warcaster in before level 12. But if you do decide to, you know, fit warcaster in earlier, having that capacity to just, eh, I don’t need to focus. Like, weapons are fine. That can be a really good way to get that if this this hand dance is a problem that you’re running into on your character.

Randall 

Okay, I have to ask the question, when do I need to… When do I need a focus? And how am I supposed to know?

Tyler 

That’s a great question, and the answer may surprise you. So spellcasting focuses in fifth edition have a very, very specific and limited function. A spellcasting focus can be used to replace an inexpensive material component that is not consumed by the spell. So a lot of spells will have… like, Fireball as an example, you need a bit of sulfur. So the bit of sulfur is not consumed by the spell so you can use a spell casting focus to replace that spell component. It’s essentially the same as having a spell component pouch because who wants to track that? Ah, yes, my character went to the market and bought a tiny tiny speck of sulfur to cast spells with.

Randall 

Okay, so, this is kind of like the products that we buy they were made with cheese in the room but the cheese wasn’t actually consumed or in the product you bought.

Random 

It’s your La Croix. In 3.x, you just, you had your material component pouch, and you got that a character creation, and then it was literally never mentioned or thought of again,

Randall 

That drives me crazy though! Like, that’s… it feels like… I’m, I’m in Icewind Dale right now I am in the middle of the frozen tundra. And somehow I have a plethora of peppers that I can eat whenever I want to cast a spell?

Random 

Exactly! And so in in fifth edition, they said okay, we’re going to make it so that you either take a material component pouch, and if you take that material component pouch, DMs, make them think about it. Or you can just take a focus and then treat it the way that everyone treated spell component pouches anyway.

Randall 

I, again, and I apologize I’m cutting you off. It feels like what they’re trying to say mechanically is this doesn’t actually matter, but people will be mad if we take it away.

Tyler 

In some ways, yeah. The idea of material components and spells goes back to like the earliest earliest editions. And a lot of them are kind of funny jokes. Like the spell, the spell, uh, mind read… the spell Detect Thoughts. Thank you. Goodness. The component is a copper coin because penny for your thoughts.

Randall 

Perfect.

Tyler 

Yeah, yeah, it’s some of them are dumb jokes like that. Some of them kind of make sense. Some call back to, like, real world fantasy fiction, like popular books, Arthurian legend, things like that.

Random 

Gems are things that you’ll find as material components a lot. In particular, the more expensive material components. Any of the and these sort of, sort of tend to be tied to real-world associations with the gemstones. Diamond dust gets used in a lot of healing magic because diamonds, they’re pure, and they’re… sure, right? Next tends to get used in a lot of necromancy because it’s black and that was the color associated with people doing nefarious deeds in the dark.

Randall 

So Soul Stone, that’s great. Yeah.

Random 

You tend to get a lot of of those for the more expensive things, but you can also get really odd… Okay, the feat is called Black Lore of Moil, and that’s the wrong edition. What’s the spell that you call out for warlocks?

Tyler 

Hunger Hadar? Oh, Shadow of Moil.

Random 

Shadow of Moil, thank you. So it has like a petrified eyeball, which has a cost as a material component. And as you start getting into the the more weird costs of material components…

Randall 

Is it consumed?

Random 

So, weirdly, No. At least I…

Randall 

Great news. I can’t imagine walking in. Hey, I need another four petrified eyeballs, come on.

Random 

So fun fact, as a long time, 3.x native, I didn’t understand when I first got into fifth edition, that material components were not always consumed because in fifth era in three point x, they were assumed to always be consumed by the spell. And so the first time I read Shadow of Moil, I was like, Oh my God, you’re gonna be like, just bags of petrified eyeballs. Where the hell are you finding these?

Randall 

At some point that’s a campaign is to stop the harvesting.

Random 

But that’s that’s exactly my point. So the first time that you want to go out and find a petrified eyeball, you know, if you’re in the middle of a dungeon crawl, where are you going to find that? And just the simple act of making your players buy those more expensive material components can be a great way to introduce story. Unless you are, like, living next to a mine in South Africa in Faerun, you’re not going to be able to go and just say, Yeah, I need 5000 pounds of diamond dust for my spells. That’s not a thing that people just have on hand. Now, because it’s such a predominant material component, the more… I don’t know catering to high level adventures, places may have it you know, your capital cities, your planer hubs, may… that that can be a story all on its own is okay, we’re, you know, we just finally hit level nine, we can finally cast Raise Dead. But we need to go find 1000 gold worth of diamond dust to do it. And that can be, like, a great way to spend a session as you have to go track that down.

Randall 

Like why did you take two levels in Rogue? Well, I need to start robbing people to get diamonds.

Random 

There ya go.

Randall 

Is this something… I want the mechanical bit of finding my material components to be more exciting and more meaningful. And I’m just really not sure if we can do it well. Like, I’ll tell you where my head’s at. My head’s at thinking about computerized RPGs like video games, right? Where what do I do, I fight monsters and at the end of it, I find random stuff they had no business carrying. Like, I just bought a frog in the middle of the forest and the frog dropped two diamonds, a pack of bandages and a heal potion. No idea where these things came from but I was looking for those things and now I can use the bandages to finally build my airplane. Somehow. Don’t ask questions. Is is that the right idea? Like do I want my DM like the end of combat when I searched the corpse they’re like oh, by the way petrified eyeball. Don’t know where they got it but it’s yours now.

Tyler 

There’s a lot of ways you can handle it. If you’re in a game where the, where the party is frequently in major cities like your major trade hubs, like, think London or Boston or Los Angeles in the real world. Like anywhere that has a lot of ships coming and going those are generally places that you’ll be able to find these weird components somewhere. If there’s like a wizard’s college, they’ll generally have this stuff and you might be able to buy or barter for it. But yeah, like Random said, if you’re, if you’re out in the weeds, you’re not going to find a petrified eyeballs stand sitting by the side of the road. So you’re…

Randall 

If you do, run.

Tyler 

Look, it’s very easy to farm petrified eyeballs. You grow spiders, they have eight of them, and then you get one basilisk. Problem solved.

Randall 

That’s not what I thought you were gonna say.

Random 

Why do you have an answer to that off the top of your head?

Tyler 

Uh, uh…. uh…

Randall 

I thought you were gonna say, just, you have a petrified eyeball stand. When people come to get the petrified eyeballs, bingo-bango, we’re good to go.

Tyler 

I needed an excuse for petrified eyeballs stand on the side of the road for my Wizard. Yes, if the party is out in the weeds, you might very reasonably say to your spellcasters, look, there is no way you’re going to find that out here. You’re going to have to go back to town and look for it. And if you can’t get to a major city, maybe you need to like mail off a letter and be like, yes, please, I would like to mail order a petrified eyeball, and then two levels, I’m going to need this thing. So throw one of those in there too. We’ll come back to town and two levels and collect whatever we got back.

Randall 

But that’s super dissatisfying too, right? Like I let you know you take level you come back next session you’re like, you know I took… oh, I’m not gonna remember. Ebenezer’s, Scorcher? Is that is that the spell that I’m thinking?

Random 

Aganazzar.

Randall 

Aganazzar, that’s what I said. Ebenezer, whatever. I, you know, I took Aganazzar’s Scorcher, and now I have to chew my pepper. That’s what’s at the top of my mind, and I apologize. And the DM’s, like, oh, I don’t remember you saying you were carrying any peppers. Where’d you find that at? It’s like, I… have to go back to the market. And I have to go shopping. And I have to go to this specialty section to see if they happen to have spicy peppers left. I have to taste the peppers because they’re bland. Like, it would be this satisfying to not let somebody have that new spell because they didn’t have the components before they took the spell. Is that, is that what we’re going to do?

Random 

That is the sort of decision that you need to make as the person running a game is how adversarial do you want your table to be? If you are just going for let’s all have a good story, then maybe you’re going to want to talk to your players who are making spellcasters and say, look at character select, you have two options. You can take a spell component pouch, or you can take a focus, because literally every spellcaster has those options. Like that’s, that’s just baked into the character creation. They’re not going to hose you there. But if you as a DM say you have these two options, if you take a focus, great, we never talked about it, except to make sure that your, you know, hands are appropriately decent. Right. If you take a spell component pouch, be aware that I may incorporate this as a story element where if you are looking for a particular component, it may be hard to find. But a reminder, what you were talking about and what we were talking about with petrified eyeballs, even if you have a focus that’s still instead needs the expensive material component. You still need to find them. And that is part of how they balance it. You should not let your players use a spell without that because… Shadow of Moil is a third level spell, I think?

Tyler 

Third or fourth. Somewhere in there.

Random 

But but the short answer is it is like a strict upgrade to Displacement. And the way it gets away with being a strict upgrade to displacement is that you need this random specialty material component. And so just letting somebody have that, without going to the effort of finding it. Set the expectation with your players, like, look, if you need something, we can talk about how you’re going to find it. If you do need it, and you’re in Ten Towns, and you need a bunch of spicy hot peppers. Maybe you’re going to some folks who are bringing you stuff, but they actually cost a lot of money. Or maybe you find someone selling you these hot peppers at a really great deal until it later turns out that’s because they stole them from the mayor and now you’re in trouble. Set the expectation that if these people are, or that if your players are taking these spells that have these interesting, expensive material components, that they need to think about where those are coming from because that’s part of how the game is balanced.

Randall 

I’m actually imagining this amazing thing where your your players go to the market to buy the hot peppers, and they’re just astronomically priced. And so they don’t buy them, but then later they’re sitting at the tavern, and they’re serving like a habanero soup. And it’s like you you roll through. It’s like oh yeah, you know, we’ve got, you know, we’ve got Swedish Fish, and we’ve got the beyond burger, and we’ve got habanero stew. And if if your wizards like, habanero stew! I want that out here. Then fantastic, they can pick their components. And if they go…

Random 

And what you just did, that’s brilliant storytelling, and we all had a good laugh out of it, right? That is exactly why I shill so hard for make players think about these material components. Because you’re either going to get a little bit of a laugh like that, or maybe some real story.

Randall 

Yeah. And I will say like, we’ve talked about this in past episodes, but I think it’s 100% in line for this episode. It would be a lot of fun, like, if you have a Wizard. Don’t just let them take a spell when they hit the next level. When you know, leveling is coming, have the conversation of like, hey, what kind of spell would you love to find? You know, give me a list of a couple spells you have an eye out for and then give them the one they want. Like when they’re perusing some dungeon like oh, you find a book and in the book is the spell and the spell is the spell that you want to you’re happy. Oh, you can’t have it yet. But when you level like oh by the way at the end of the session, by the way you did level and now you can have it. I think you could even do the same thing with the material components where, like, actually, you know, be fun if there was some unique component that a particular spell needed that they had, let them find the component before they find the actual spell as it Wizard.

Tyler 

That would be cool.

Randall 

Or the, you know, if you’re a warlock, like your patron communicates to you that they want you to do X, Y, and Z, and one of them is a fetch quest, where you have to find like, 10 GP of diamond dust, and then at the end, they were like, just kidding, you keep the diamond dust for yourself. I wanted to see if you could actually figure out how to get it. Have a spell!

Tyler 

I like that idea. Yeah, having having the spells known come from a more interesting source than just ding, I’ve leveled up, I know two spells definitely makes things feel a little more interesting. Like there’s those classes who just have their whole spell list like clerics and druids. But yeah, wizards, maybe you find a scroll. Warlocks, yeah, like you said, Randall, have the patron be say, yeah, do this fetch quest, and I’ll give you this spell on level up. I like those ideas. Those are fun.

Randall 

Yeah, I do want to take a step back. We get so excited about material components, and I’m gonna be honest, that was actually the main reason I even wanted to do this whole episode. Back to somatic for just a second. So we talked about for verbal silence can prevent spells that have a verbal component. If I had a spell that didn’t have a verbal component, I could still execute the spell, correct?

Tyler 

Yes, in an area of silence, you can execute a spell without verbal components unimpeded. So a lot of spells, like, even cantrips, like, True Strike doesn’t have a verbal component. So you could cast that in an area of silence. It’s still a bad spell, but it doesn’t have a verbal commitment.

Randall 

Well, that’s the benefit, though. You could silence me and I can still True Strike, right? Is there an equivalent idea to somatic?

Tyler 

Yes. If you are, basically, if you’re unable to move your hands for any reason, maybe you’re paralyzed, restrained, maybe your hands are tied up, maybe your hands are just full. Like we talked about the hand economy a little bit. So your focus can actually be a problem for somatic components. And this is, this is a rule that a lot of people get wrong, because the rule doesn’t make any sense in my opinion. And it has been clarified to work the way I’m about to describe it. It’s been clarified in the sage advice PDF. So you can use your focus to substitute for an inexpensive material component which is not consumed by the spell. And if you are holding a material component or a focus for a spell with a material component, you can use that same hand to do your somatic components. So you’re casting Fireball, you need a bit of sulfur, so you can use your magic wand as your focus and use that same hand to perform your somatic components. So you cast fireball. Next turn, you want to cast Fire Bolt. Fire Bolt has no material component, but it has a somatic component. You can’t use your focus hand to… er, you can’t use your hand holding the focus to perform somatic components because there’s something in your hand. So you have to put your magic wand away to cast your spell, or

Random 

Or your other hand.

Tyler 

Or use your other hand which, if you put on a shield, suddenly you don’t have another hand to do that with. Now, this is really frustrating for clerics, especially because the expectation is you’re a Cleric, you have a shield, you have your holy symbol on your shield, you have a mace in your other hand. You go to cast Sacred Flame. Oops, you don’t have a freehand form somatic components. So you have to put away your mace, cast sacred flame. And you get one item interaction per turn to either put away an item or take an item out. Yeah, I hear you groaning. I see the facepalms. It is exactly as dumb as you think it is.

Randall 

Yeah, Tyler, this is really dumb. Why is it like this?

Tyler 

I don’t know! And when people, like… this is a rule that people frequently ignore and I encourage you to do so. Just let people do somatic components with their wand, man. Come on!

Randall 

Okay.

Random 

A pretty easy cheese for this if your DM is being more adversarial about this. So while Tyler is correct that it takes a lot of interaction to put away or pull out your mace. You can drop your mace as a free action, cast the spell and then use your item interaction to pick the mace back up. If you need to have that fight, you’ve got some ammo, but it’s dumb.

Tyler 

It sure is.

Randall 

Yeah. Dumb problems require dumb solutions. That’s what you’re saying right now.

Random 

Correct. Yes.

Randall 

That, that all sounds awful. What are they trying to prevent? What am I missing That’s an abuse case?

Tyler 

They… so it’s to prevent…

Randall 

They.

Tyler 

The eponymous “They”. I think they want to prevent that case where you have your sword Wizard, like, you have sword in one hand, shield in the other, and somehow you’re still juggling material components. I don’t think they solved that problem because you can drop your mace. You have a free hand to do somatic components. And fifth edition specifies you have to have a hand, if you’re using a material component, you have to have a hand free to retrieve the material component. As the action of casting the spell, you can retrieve the component, cast the spell, and then stow it again. And then you have your item interaction pick your weapon off off the ground. So it’s like, why bother?

Randall 

Because the material interaction is not a item interaction. It’s just a free part of the actual spellcasting action.

Random 

Explicitly, the only person this hoses is someone who is trying to shield and focus that is someone who is trying to shield and other hand to cast spells who isn’t using their shield as their focus. Xlerics and paladins are fine. But like it explicitly hoses sword wizards who are using a shield. And, like, why? I mean, when when everyone else gets the cheat for my shield is my focus, then it feels just like a needless tax on people who want to play one particular mechanical version of a character concept.

Randall 

Yeah.

Random 

I am also very much there with Tyler on just let the focus hand cast the spell.

Randall 

And the best news is, luckily, we ignore all of this constantly and so it never actually matters.

Random 

Many tables do!

Tyler 

I will point out one thing where it, it may matter, you might not want to ignore it. So spells that are cast as a reaction. Shield is a great example. So famously how people like to stack AC on bladesingers is you get armor, you get a shield, you cast the spell shield, and you can do this on plate so your wizards, artificers, and your AC shoots above 30. And you’re untouchable, it’s wonderful. But Shield doesn’t require material component. It does require a somatic component. So you have to have a free hand to cast the spell. So if you’re an Artificer and you’re in Melee, you’ve got a shield on one hand, weapon in the other. It’s not your turn. You can’t cast shield because your hands are full.

Random 

I will just say, fix that problem by being an armorer, where you are wearing your weapon.

Tyler 

Yes. Yeah, that can certainly solve the problem. But it does it does severely hinder those sword wizard builds and then War Caster comes into play where you can use a weapon…

Randall 

Before you go. Is it going to break the game if you let, as a DM, if you let the Artificer cache Shield while carrying your weapon and holding a shield?

Tyler 

Probably not. Most people don’t look at it that way anyway, since the game came out, and I don’t think anyone’s complained too much. If, if in your game… or if you as the DM look at your game and say okay, the casters are running away with things. The non-casters are basically irrelevant because the the casters have gone like, oh, yeah, I’m the Artificer and I’m simultaneously the tank, the DPS, and the healer. You can say “okay, we’re gonna have to get strict about the components now guys” to kind of rein in the spellcasters. It is kind of a pain. There are some ways around it, like the warcaster feet lets you use a weapon as a focus. So you can do your sword and shield and do your focus. You still don’t have a free hand for somatic components, though, so like your eldritch knight typically can’t catch shield, because you’re doing a sword and board. So like, what are you going to do?

Randall 

Okay, I think you sold me and so I guess I’m going to call it back to make sure I understood it. None of these things are probably gamebreaking. And we probably can continue to ignore these things into the end of our days. But if if you find yourself at a table, especially as the DM where the spellcasters are leveraging these rule-breaking configurations, I’ll call them, and it’s really like reducing the amount of fun for your non-spellcasters that is a good reason to really enforce these things at your table and make sure everybody’s following it. But outside of that, it… maybe it’s not so serious. Maybe it’s fine.

Random 

Yeah, it definitely is. And I will say just one hilarious way of getting around that. If your DM is enforcing this and you don’t want to, you know, be dropping your stuff constantly. Play a thri-kreen. You have four arms.

Tyler 

It solves so many problems.

Random 

It really does.

Randall 

They’re available now. It’s great. I can imagine the DM it’s like oh, it’s a fifth time it dropped, it’s like, it broke. Wait, it was solid iron, what do you mean? No, it broke. It’s gone. Cracked forever.

Tyler 

I knew I shouldn’t make my wand out of glass.

Randall 

Serves you right. I have one more thing I want to pick on material components. Well let’s let’s kind of keep the… keep the outline, right? So we talked about what kills the verbal not you know silence kills the verbal what kills the semantic, somatic.

Tyler 

Somatic. You got it.

Randall 

Sometimes it’s tying things together sometimes. We said we’re straining does grappling actually stop somatic?

Tyler 

Not in fifth edition. In fifth edition grapple being grappled just reduces your speed to zero, it does nothing else.

Randall 

Okay, but paralyzed and restrained would would prevent.

Tyler 

Yeah, cuz they keep you from…

Randall 

Okay.

Random 

In 3.x, just as a quick call out if you’re still running that system if you are grappled and try to cast a spell, you have to make a concentration check. Which, concentration checks and 3.x are radically different than what they are in fifth edition. So don’t let that be a point of confusion.

Randall 

Okay. And then for PF3 I think silence is still very real and very much the issue, what are the effects that will prevent us from the somatic component of a spell in PF2?

Tyler 

Pretty much the same. Basically, just if you can’t move. If you can’t move your hands for whatever reason. So if you’re tied up, if you’re paralyzed, if you can’t take actions, anything that would keep you from moving your hands.

Randall 

Okay. And then for material components, there’s not necessarily a block out of these. It’s just, hey, you don’t have that.

Tyler 

Yeah.

Randall 

Or I’m going to adjudicate that that’s an expensive component, and therefore your focus is not a reasonable substitute.

Tyler 

Yeah, exactly.

Randall 

And that’s kind of DM discretion more than than hard line in the rules.

Random 

That actually is a hard line in the rules. If a material component has a listed gold cost. That is what makes it an expensive component.

Tyler 

Yes.

Randall 

Oh! Okay.

Random 

Yeah. So, like, a pepper does not have you listed gold cost. But, and this is one of the the changes that they intentionally made to the cantrips recently. Like Booming Blade, you can no longer cast Booming Blade through a focus because they now made the component for booming blade, a weapon that costs at least a silver piece. So basically, as a dagger is fine. But previously, technically, by the rules, you could cast Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade without holding a weapon. You could cast it through your focus. And once the between the when they went to a router that they said, I guess we did make that mistake didn’t we should probably fix that, which resulted in some weird targeting wording shenanigans,

Randall 

Okay wait, but what if my focus is worth at least one silver? Am I good to go again?

Random 

Only if it’s also a weapon,.

Tyler 

A staff. In 5e, the staff focus also pulls double duty as a quarter staff so it can satisfy both as a spellcasting focus and as a weapon.

Randall 

Okay, but if it’s a light baton, then maybe I’m not going to get away with it.

Tyler 

Probably not.

Randall 

Okay. There’s one more thing I want to pick on in PF2 core rulebook. As I was preparing for this, I wanted to see what kinds of material components were necessary for particular spells. And the punchline is… literally could not find a single necessary material component. Like they would say material component necessary, but then they would not tell me what it was. And I wondered, Is there something wrong with me as a person?

Tyler 

I honestly don’t know the answer. You know, I wish you’d called me out on that before we got on the episode and I would go try and figure it out for you.

Randall 

I put it in Discord, but it was like 10 minutes before we started.

Tyler 

Aw, shame on me.

Randall 

We should get this out. And if we do, maybe we do we pop in with something. Vice versa. Feel free to tweet @JackAmateur and tell me what did they do? Because I couldn’t find the particular thing told me what material I was supposed to use. Alright, I think we did it. I think that’s a whole episode we covered V, S, and M for both PF2 and 5e. We do have a question of the week this week. Our question this week comes from Mr. Gleam on the RPGBOT.Discord. Can I target a creature with a spell if I can see them In a mirror?

Tyler 

Alright, let’s go around the table just quick yes/no. And then we’ll fight it out. Random, yes or no?

Random 

Nope.

Tyler 

Randall, yes or no?

Randall 

Absolutely.

Tyler 

I’m also going to say no.

Random 

My no is actually a qualified No, because as I was doing some research on this question, I came across a fascinating case where the answer is yes. Rules as written, you need both line of sight to the target of your spell, and an unimpeded path to your target. 3.x natives will know this as line of effect. So you need line of sight and line of effect to your target. Now, if there is an illusory wall between me and my target, and I have a mirror at the end of the illusory wall that lets me see my target, I can see my target and there is nothing blocking the path to my target.

Tyler 

I’m not sure I’d allow that. So so my excuse is if you’re looking in the mirror, you can’t see the target, you can see the targets reflection. Which, I get that that’s splitting hairs, but spellcasting is all about…

Randall 

A distinction without a difference.

Random 

Alright, so you are fine with the photon hitting one thing and going directly into my eye but if the photon hits something else in the interim, you’re not okay with that.

Randall 

And to be very clear, like, between you and your target, the amount of atmospheric scatter of very, very slightly photon absorption and reemissions or even like literally photon bending around nuclei is tremendous.

Tyler 

Hey, don’t go bringing your science into my fantasy.

Random 

I’m just… boy that that is that is some words you and I would have at a table if if you wanted to use that interpretation.

Tyler 

I know, I know. Honestly I don’t know what the official answer is here. I think I’ve seen Crawford tweet that that he wouldn’t allow it at his table, but he’s not sure that the rules support it. I would leave it up to your DM, but as a player, if you go to your DM and say okay, I’m going to use a mirror to peek around the corner and cast spells at people, expect your DM to immediately do the same thing to you. Like, that.. That is not a box you want to open

Randall 

Vicious Mockery. Can I, can I cast Vicious Mockery? If I’m looking in the mirror and I see how ugly my opponent is, and I let them know?

Tyler 

Are you your opponent?

Random 

Wow. That was savage. I actually dug into this a little ways back. And there’s some interesting things that are called out with spell targeting one thing that is explicitly called out and I think that this was in a Crawford podcast segment. You explicitly cannot target a spell through a pane of glass. That this leads to people arguing about the semantics for the wording on Sacred Flame because the flavor intention of sacred flame was you cast the spell and divine fire comes from the sky and smites them. The way that they worded that in the spell is that cover provides no bonus to the saving throw made against the spell. But that is one whole sentence cover provides no bonus to the saving throw. Crawford interpreted that in a Dragon Talk as saying cover provides no benefit when you are the target of sacred flame. And so he actually specifically said “I would allow you casting sacred flame at somebody through a glass pane.”

Tyler 

Huh.

Random 

Which is dumb. But that’s just me. Realistically, cover can be gained in a lot of ways. I have had players angry at me for a couple years at this point because I had the boss that they had blinded hide under a sheet in an inn and prevented spells being cast that way. And so thread counts have come up in my games. There is really a important difference between “Do I have an unobstructed sight to this person?” Which is like, see them in a mirror around the corner and see them in a mirror in that one bizarre case that I was talking about with an illusionary wall. In general, am I going to say can you cast something through a mirror? Probably not. Because the movie Wanted aside, you can’t curve magic bullets.

Randall 

Okay, I do want to ask, let’s say I stick my big toe out beyond the wall so there is direct line of sight from the enemy to my toe. Is that sufficient? Is it my eyeball that has to cross the wall? Is it my entire body?

Tyler 

Okay, so in my opinion, you need to be able to directly see the target. And Random’s opinion seeing them through a mirror is sufficient. I would argue that you could draw…

Randall 

I think Random was with you that you had to have direct line of sight.

Random 

For me, I’m saying you need line of effect. And if… I would say if someone wanted to peek out, I would say if you want to target them, you can have half cover, and they can have half cover. Or you can have half cover and if they’re like way standing out in the open, okay, great, you have half cover, you can target them just fine. But the cover mechanic is there. So you know, I’m not going to let you just stick your toe out and cast the spell. But if if you need to make yourself vulnerable to them somehow by line of sight by line of effect for my table to let you cast a spell.

Randall 

Okay, so my my rule is going to be and the difference between what we talked about so far in this is that I’m right. If the target has direct line of effect between either the emission of my verbal component or the, or my somatic component, that it’s going to work. So for instance, if I reach my hand out beyond, and I do the gesture, and we all know what the gesture. It’s the gesture. That creature has direct line of effect between the gesture and that creature. It’s totally going to work and it’s going to be fun.

Random 

That’s you know, maybe you’re trying to give somebody three-quarters cover for that. I wouldn’t be that generous.

Randall 

That’s fair. That’s fair. I will chuckle. So when we were getting ready for the holiday episode, there was this this thing I wanted to do where I was going to have a green hag who can breathe underwater underwater fighting are heroes above water. And instead, if you haven’t listened the episode, she got in Santa’s sleigh and flew off or, excuse me Klaus. And that was very exciting. But part of what, like, kind of took that whole bit of ways we were having this conversation and what it came down to was that I think we all agreed or at least I agreed and nobody argued with me, that your interpretation of this essentially comes down to you cannot have a spell that transmits across a change in coefficient of refraction.

Random 

Yeah.

Tyler 

I think that is where we landed, I might just impose disadvantage on the attack roll. Or like, if it’s a spell attack, I’d say probably disadvantage. I’d let people throw fireballs into a pool.

Randall 

Perfect. That’s all I wanted to hear. That’s all I was really looking for here. All right. Our next episode will be on adapting media to tabletop RPGs. I’m Randall James, you can find me@amateurjack.com and at JackAmateur on Twitter and Instagram,

Tyler 

I’m Tyler Kamstra. You’ll find me at RPGBOT.net. Facebook and Twitter at RPGBOTDOTNET, and patreon.com/rpg bot

Random 

And I’m Random Powell. I’ll be checking around corners with Amir to make sure you don’t find me. But if you do, it’s probably here on RPGBOT.net contributing articles and hear on the podcast or in places where people play games as either Hartlequin or Hartlequint.

Randall 

Awesome. Alright, all hail the Leisure Illuminati.

All 

*conspicuous silence*

Randall 

Thanks, Producer Dan, we do appreciate it. You’ll find affiliate links for source books and other materials linked in the show notes. Following these links helps us to make this show happen every week. You can find our podcast wherever find podcasts are distributed. If you enjoy this podcast, please rate, review, and subscribe. And please please please share it with your friends. If your question should be the question of the week next week, please email podcast@RPGBOT.new or messages on Twitter RPGBOTDOTNET. Thanks, folks. We’ll see you next time.

Tyler 

But it’s really hard to talk with thumbs in your mouth.

Randall 

It makes questioning hard is what you’re getting at.

Tyler 

It sure does.

Random 

Wonderful.

Randall 

I had a good time.

One Response

  1. Keovar January 27, 2022

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