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    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Hi,

    while preparing for a campaign and thinking about how to make it captivating for my players, I've started wondering about one question: Do you roleplay spell components, and if so, how? The lion's share of this question refers to material components, but even the verbal components are affected.

    With the somatic component, I'll just handwave it (literally) as I suppose that the specifics of how to crook your fingers just so would be lost on us non-magic losers sitting at the table anyway.

    With the verbal component, it's far more difficult. Of course, I can just say 'Fireball.' like characters do in OOTS, but that's neither particularly creative, nor engaging. Wouldn't we expect an accomplished elven wizard to use Elvish or even some long-forgotten language to cast her spells? So do you ominously read a few syllables of the elvish lorem-ipsum and hope that nobody remembers that you read a different line the last time you cast the exact same spell? Do you keep a vocab book? Would you expect your players to learn the words for the sake of, say, counterspelling? Do you hold up pre-printed signs with subtitles?

    Now for the material component, that's the one I have most issues with. We have spell foci and component pouches to help out with the pure stockkeeping side of it, but seriously, how would you RP this? I'm just trying to wrap my head around an archmage holding up his hand yelling 'Time out! I have to find that rotten piece of bat wing I just know I had somewhere in here. Nobody move.' (I made my saving throw against the urge to make the obligatory hand bag joke here.) How do you fit all this into one action while everybody else on the battlefield stares at their boots?

    I read a suggestion somewhere that had the spell's magic reach into the component pouch and pull out and manipulate whatever it needed, which I thought wasn't bad, as it'd also do away with the silly type of 'you crush a diamond worth at least X gp in your hand' requirement that most spellcasters would find decidedly difficult to accomplish.

    I'm honestly tempted to just RP the effects of the spells with some fluff around it to telegraph what's being cast and to give it narrative impact, but that would suggest that components were irrelevant and thus introduce a story-mechanics divide I'm not really fond of either.

    What do you do?

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    DrowGuy

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    I don't concern myself with the lesser spell components, I give my players a focus and wait until we get to a point where the spell components become necessary due to rarity/gp cost.

    At that time there's a couple ways you can handle it:

    Heroe's Feast A gem-encrusted bowl worth at least 1,000 gp, which the spell consumes

    So, somehow the players have to be able to carry this type of item, Bag of Holding does the trick. The caster then does the requisite spell words and hand waves, you then describe how the bowl stretches out to form the table and the various gems turn into plates of food (or whatever delightful narrative you have).

    Shapechange: A jade circlet worth at least 1,500 gp, which you must place on your head before you cast the spell

    There's really very little you have to do here, the spell doesn't consume the item, so you only need one ostentatious bangle in your possession.

    ---

    It's really not that difficult to play the materials off, and many of the greater materials are easy enough to keep in various containers. For the lesser reagents, a spell pouch that automatically has the material you want at the top isn't so far fetched.

    I recall a time where I talked with a player, back in the AD&D days, about why Lightning bolt needed a bit of fur and a rod of glass. I think it was an orb in those days... but I had fun making the analogy of friction causing static, and then placing your finger against someone creating a static shock. With a little imagination and a tiny amount of science, one can see why the ingredients used in the spell components are what they are.
    ~I have never met a man so ignorant I could learn nothing from him~ Galileo

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Material and verbal components are usually handwaved as well, at least when the PCs are using them. This is because most people aren't going to always remember the exact materials one might need for a certain spell (we all know Fireball calls for some sulfur and bat guano, but what about Lighting Bolt? Mage Armor? Summon Monster?), and it slows down the game to double-check them.

    Verbal components can be fluffed in many ways: spoken in a certain language, complex incantations in Common, prayers, etc. Now, most games don't tell you exactly what is the proper verbal component for a spell, because it'd be a lot of work for players and GMs to remember them.

    Now, when NPCs cast spells, you can actually make use of spell components. Mention how the Wizard grabs a spider from her pouch and swallows it after having spoken strange words. A savvy magic user would recognise this as the casting of a Spider Walk spell. Say that the cleric holds a large diamond in his hand while invoking the power of the gods, and that the gem slowly crumbles in his hands while the body of his fallen comrade is surrounded by light, and that then the dead warrior rises again, back from the realm of the dead.

    Players can do this as well, if so they wish, but they shouldn't be forced to,IMHO.

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Most of the material components (at least in 3.x) are jokes. I mean that literally; they're typically really awful puns or references to what the spell is doing (like the lightning bolt example above). If the caster has a component pouch, I just assume they find whatever it is they need in there. Saying, "I cast ____!" is the usual method of how we play it out. I get the desire for the kind of immersion you're going for, but D&D is a really hard system to use if you're going to pull that off. Combat is long enough as is. Adding that kind of a layer of complexity would just bog it down horrendously. There are other game systems where it would work much, much better.

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    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    First of all, thank you all for your thoughts. I appreciate the time and thought you took to reply.

    Quote Originally Posted by DMThac0 View Post
    I don't concern myself with the lesser spell components, I give my players a focus and wait until we get to a point where the spell components become necessary due to rarity/gp cost. [...] It's really not that difficult to play the materials off, and many of the greater materials are easy enough to keep in various containers. For the lesser reagents, a spell pouch that automatically has the material you want at the top isn't so far fetched.
    I think I'm going to go with this for my PCs in any case, especially since we're all new and don't need to make the magic part of the game any more complicated than it already is. I guess a semi-magic or telepathic pouch can work, though I'm not really happy about it (it's a non-magical item I believe and only costs a pittance). Maybe I'll give my caster a little mini-quest to aquire her very own psi-pouch.

    Quote Originally Posted by Silly Name View Post
    Verbal components can be fluffed in many ways: spoken in a certain language, complex incantations in Common, prayers, etc. [...] Now, when NPCs cast spells, you can actually make use of spell components. Mention how the Wizard grabs a spider from her pouch and swallows it after having spoken strange words. A savvy magic user would recognise this as the casting of a Spider Walk spell. Say that the cleric holds a large diamond in his hand while invoking the power of the gods, and that the gem slowly crumbles in his hands while the body of his fallen comrade is surrounded by light, and that then the dead warrior rises again, back from the realm of the dead.
    Nice examples. One question arises though: Have you ever had issues because players would not recognise the spell being cast and then complain about the consequences, e.g. '... but I would have counterspelled that if I had known'? In general, I guess, the question is: How much do you reveal to your players? Would you let them know what abjuration spell the BBEG just cast?

    Players can do this as well, if so they wish, but they shouldn't be forced to,IMHO.
    Agreed. I'm mostly asking for myself as DM.

    Quote Originally Posted by Telonius View Post
    Most of the material components (at least in 3.x) are jokes. I mean that literally; they're typically really awful puns or references to what the spell is doing (like the lightning bolt example above). If the caster has a component pouch, I just assume they find whatever it is they need in there. Saying, "I cast ____!" is the usual method of how we play it out. I get the desire for the kind of immersion you're going for, but D&D is a really hard system to use if you're going to pull that off. Combat is long enough as is. Adding that kind of a layer of complexity would just bog it down horrendously. There are other game systems where it would work much, much better.
    I also appreciate this opinion, Telonius. Taken to its logical conclusion, though, the consequence would be to just get rid of material components entirely or at least of the ones in the pouch anyway, wouldn't it? I've thought about that, especially since my table could do with a little less complexity, but so far shied away from it because I'm afraid of breaking balance and storytelling options. With regard to game pacing, I see your point. I wouldn't fluff every spellcast, of course, but some BBEGs deserve some spotlight, immersion and all.


    Thanks again, everyone!

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    I fully use spell components in my game. And by ''use" I mean a spellcaster has to have a page with the material spell components their character has and the quantities.

    In general, I don't require role playing, so that includes role playing spell components..but I do give bonus XP for role playing.

    I do encourage individual players to come up with their own unique spell components role playing.

    I do have a large lexicon of magic words, from books and ones other players have made and ones I have made. And I will give an uncreative player one of those lists.

    I very much like real role playing, where a player in my game will have a character that sees and hears spell components For Real. So the player, for real, can figure out what spell is being cast without a lame roll.

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Quote Originally Posted by terodil View Post
    Nice examples. One question arises though: Have you ever had issues because players would not recognise the spell being cast and then complain about the consequences, e.g. '... but I would have counterspelled that if I had known'? In general, I guess, the question is: How much do you reveal to your players? Would you let them know what abjuration spell the BBEG just cast?
    If they don't recognise the spell by description alone, they're entitled to a Spellcraft roll (I mostly play 3.5), as by the rules. If I describe a spell, it is because it's funnier and more interesting (especially when the spell itself doesn't have any flashy effects like Fireball or Icestorm) than just saying "the enemy wizard casts a spell. Anyone want to make a Spellcraft check?".

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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Quote Originally Posted by Telonius View Post
    Most of the material components (at least in 3.x) are jokes. I mean that literally; they're typically really awful puns or references to what the spell is doing (like the lightning bolt example above). If the caster has a component pouch, I just assume they find whatever it is they need in there. Saying, "I cast ____!" is the usual method of how we play it out. I get the desire for the kind of immersion you're going for, but D&D is a really hard system to use if you're going to pull that off. Combat is long enough as is. Adding that kind of a layer of complexity would just bog it down horrendously. There are other game systems where it would work much, much better.
    They aren't jokes, they're sympathetic magic. Things that resemble each other or correspond to each other can produce similar effects. You make a little bit of electricity with the glass and fur, and the magic turns it into a lot of electricity. Butter is slippery and greasy, and so the magic produces a large slippery area. Bat guano, along with sulphur, used to used to make explosives.

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    DrowGuy

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Quote Originally Posted by terodil View Post
    I think I'm going to go with this for my PCs in any case, especially since we're all new and don't need to make the magic part of the game any more complicated than it already is. I guess a semi-magic or telepathic pouch can work, though I'm not really happy about it (it's a non-magical item I believe and only costs a pittance). Maybe I'll give my caster a little mini-quest to aquire her very own psi-pouch.
    Well, I argue that there's no reason to quest for it. The amount of time a caster has to put in to learning their craft (obvious exceptions to Sorc/Lock) could easily explain the unnatural ability to always find the right components in their pouch. Over and over they fill the pouch, every day for years they cast the spells, the magic is infused into this pouch and becomes an extension of the caster. Warlocks, this spell pouch can be explained as a supernatural boon granted by their patron upon completion of the pact being signed. Sorcerers, well...that one is a bit more hand wave worthy since their ability springs forth from their ancestry.
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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    There was one guy I played with who sorta used material components. He made little figures using sculpy for each spell his wizard memorized, and kept them on the table next to his character sheet. Lightning bolt was a stylized electricity symbol, magic missile was a blue dart looking thing, etc. When he cast one he just put it back in the bag he carried them in. He talked about it like keeping track of materials used to cast the spells.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Quote Originally Posted by terodil View Post
    I guess a semi-magic or telepathic pouch can work, though I'm not really happy about it (it's a non-magical item I believe and only costs a pittance). Maybe I'll give my caster a little mini-quest to aquire her very own psi-pouch.
    You can keep this mundane. Just get away from the idea of a 'big pouch' full of endless stuff like a silly cartoon...and think more realistic.

    In the real world, hunters, campers, hikers and solders carry a ton of gear. And one way they do that is to carry it all over their bodies. Every article of clothing has a way of providing carrying space for something.

    Some examples:

    Rings with hollow spots: perfect spot for a 'pinch' of anything
    Twine can tie any small item to a finger or thumb
    A bracelet/armband can hold lots of small items
    The fishing type hat, can hold lots of small items

    That way a wizard can have a 'spot' where they know the component is and grab it in a second.

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Pathfinder does a really good job of depicting this with their wizard Iconic:
    http://pathfinder.wikia.com/wiki/Ezren

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Right now I have a character who, in backstory, came down with a terrible illness that had an even worse treatment healers simply referred to as "burning." It was not applied solely to his exterior, and as a result his vocal chords are scarred to the point where it's torture for him to speak. RPing verbal components involves a lot of grimacing, face twisting, choking and coughing. Thinking about it, it would have been more fun if he was playing a healer, as he could make the most vicious and hateful of expressions while casting simple cure spells. Bit of a missed opportunity to have this on a necromancer.

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    You can keep this mundane. Just get away from the idea of a 'big pouch' full of endless stuff like a silly cartoon...and think more realistic.
    Your avatar is tempting me to make a joke about spell pouches being bigger on the inside.

    Spell pouches are a bit easier to explain with prepared casters - part of preparing your spells is selecting the components needed for each of them. Sure, at higher levels the pouch is still going to be a piece of Time Lord technology, but at earlier levels it's not too unreasonable.

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Quote Originally Posted by hotflungwok View Post
    They aren't jokes, they're sympathetic magic. Things that resemble each other or correspond to each other can produce similar effects. You make a little bit of electricity with the glass and fur, and the magic turns it into a lot of electricity. Butter is slippery and greasy, and so the magic produces a large slippery area. Bat guano, along with sulphur, used to used to make explosives.
    Okay, that fits for some, care to explain Gust of wind, which I believe has beans as the component? I am fairly certain itís a fart joke.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Telonius View Post
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    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Some more good points in here, thanks again.

    @Darth Ultron: Wow. That's intense. Your spell/vocab book must contain hundreds of entries by now if I lowball it at ~50 frequently used spells * ~5 frequently used languages... You have my respects, but I doubt I could pull anything like that off.

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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMS View Post
    Okay, that fits for some, care to explain Gust of wind, which I believe has beans as the component? I am fairly certain itís a fart joke.
    OK, maybe that one.

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    In the long D&D game I was in, we didn't really RP it at all. However, we did track expensive components and foci. Usually it was just something on the character sheet, listing something like I have X charges ready for this spell, Y charges ready for this one, and this much diamond dust on-hand. There were enough times when we'd have trouble restocking supplies that it made sense to track expensive components, but stores were common enough we never worried about things without a cost. (Plus, it'd just be annoying. I think the DM gave me Eschew Materials for free, anyhow, as part of giving each PC a 'trash feat' that was usually a feat tax. And I think my PC carried a few component pouches and dummy spellbooks on his person just in case the DM decided to have a thief try to pickpocket his stuff.)

    I did enjoy picturing my character as wearing some of the more ostentatious foci.

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Quote Originally Posted by hotflungwok View Post
    OK, maybe that one.
    Not just that one. Most all of the old-school spell components are referential. Some of those references are serious (fireball's sulfur and saltpeter, lightning bolt's glass rod and fur), some of them are... less so.

    For example, the material component for feeblemind is a handful of small glass or stone spheres, which are consumed by the casting... in other words, you lose your marbles.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    No - I never have and never will. But I have RP'd spell casting. I'm not going to 'RP' something predefined by the books, I honestly cannot imagine anything less RP than that. But on the rare occasions I play a caster, I'll make up my own bits of fluff casting.

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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    I think in the Ultima video games, you need to gather the spell components to put the spell in your book, but you don't need them afterwards.
    Wouldn't that work? You could still quest for certain items and make it rewarding without bothering with all the bookkeeping.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrawn4 View Post
    I think in the Ultima video games, you need to gather the spell components to put the spell in your book, but you don't need them afterwards.
    Wouldn't that work? You could still quest for certain items and make it rewarding without bothering with all the bookkeeping.
    Well, that's not the case. For the Ultimas I remember:
    Ultima I: Buy each spell cast from a magic shop, like scrolls of everything. It still took MP. So, six casts of magic missile took six purchases.
    Ultima II: Same as in I, I think.
    Ultima III: You automatically learned the cleric and/or mage spells with sufficient intelligence and wisdom. Getting -that- up, however, was a serious pain. Spell cost was only in MP, which regenerated per step.
    Ultima IV: Magic was part of copy-protection; each spell required previous preparation with a combination of two to four(?)reagents (from a pool of sulphurous ash, ginseng, garlic, spider silk, bloodmoss, black pearl, and two secret reagents mandrake and nightshade) Depending on the magic shop's location, each portion cost between one and nine gold (in which finances was always tight.) The NES version just had it automatically deduct components from the pool with each cast.
    Ultima V: Similar to IV, but had more spells. I think they were still prepared before battle; the manual had flavor text for each recipe. Maybe they were automatically deducted, but I don't think so.
    Ultima VI: I don't remember now. I played the SNES version through and think components were either removed or automatically used on demand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TaRix View Post
    Well, that's not the case. For the Ultimas I remember:
    [snip]
    Pretty sure it worked like that in 9 (Ascension).

    Anyway, it might still be a valid approach.
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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    I personally treat material components as being like energy cards in the Pokemon trading card game- the wizard taps the energy of those things to fuel the spells they've created the framework for in their mind.

    A wizard is always prepared, and perhaps even offscreen uses a weak divination spell that we have no need to note down in our spell slots to gather and find resources in their downtime, and then in combat instinctively whips out a cricket at will to chirp a sound.

    I wouldn't mind roleplaying having to keep track of material components and getting them and getting equipment to stop them from fleeing/decaying/going off, but my god a game session takes ages anyway, there's no sense adding extra busywork to wizardry on a gameplay side.

    In my group, the DM's told me that generally he just abstracts the material components in his games, and it's only expensive ones that matter, and even then he's happy abstracting expensive ones to a pure gold cost in most instances. (he also doesn't like xp costs, so they get added as gold costs too)

    This of course means that he's basically given all casters the first level of geometer for free, since they can create a spellglyph that basically lets you spend fancy inks that equal the value of your material components.

    I try to roleplay things a bit, but it's honestly just a hassle to keep track of a bajillion tiny inconsequential objects when you don't need to.

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    On material components being jokes, I'm pretty sure that was something that was said by Gygax or one of the other early developers in an interview. They fully admitted that most material components were jokes.

    For me it depends on the character in question. I mostly play 4e, which did away with traditional components and leaves the flavor more open.

    One of my characters is a tiefling wizard|warlock (fey pact). He uses a combination of fire (melded hellfire and summer fire from the sidhe) with thunder (Supernal, the first language of creation), so I went and found single word commands that fit for each of his thunder powers,then google translated them into Welsh (because i like welsh). Since he needed to use a sword in order for the build to work, the sword is insrcibed with the supernal runes for fire, and is how he is able to wield the disparate forces of summer fire and hellfire
    I follow a general rule: better to ask and be told no than not to ask at all.

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Having the components ready and at hand wouldn't be that out of place for prepared casters, but doesn't work as well for spontanious casting. You've got your large component pouch will all sorts of things in it, and when you're preparing your spells in the morning you move the required components for those spells into easy to get locations on your self/pouch/belt.

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    My family had, for some reason, a particular incantation spellcasters would use for the beginnings of a Fireball spell that I can no longer remember. It was essentially a way to fill us with dread (I think it mostly came from when we played AD&D and Fireball took time to cast).

    I have a Wizard in 5e that's going to be a Transmuter. His background is as a guild alchemist, so I'm planning on flavoring most of his transmutation components as looking like a haphazard chemical reaction.

    As for material components, I assume most spellcasters have their components organized. Part of practicing their spells involves being able to reach a material component quickly. I imagine it's actually something like a wild west gunslinger, only you have different guns for different purposes. Additionally, most material components (with no cost) are quite small (a single grasshopper leg, a pinch of sulfur, and so on). I could see dozens of pouches filled with only a few ounces of most materials. From there, it's muscle memory.
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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    To be honest, the jokes do not translate well across cultures.

    When playing D&D in Chinese, I never thought about why fireball asks for "bat guano", whose only use I can think of is a fertilizer.

    But... someday I play the same thing but in English, and immediately it means "bat****"...

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    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    Guano is a good fire starter though. No bat **** joke at all.

    The players usually pick how and if they want to RP it. I only do it when it enhances the RP. I liked it with my Pathfinder alchemist, because alchemy is much more "real" and physical than arcane magic. My friend's wizard also clawed through her spell pouch searching for said guano to cast Fireballs, because it just showed how bizarre and eldritch some of the rituals required to cast magic are.

    I'd probably use the components on any witch-like character too, but refluff the stuff a bit. Eye of Newt would be tossed into a water surface needed for scrying, Comprehend Languages would incorporate a parrot's tongue, Poison Spray would probably include dried toad pustules.
    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    "Dammit man, I said to use the MORALLY GREY flaming catapults!"
    Kriv, the Boastful - Dragonborn Fighter//Bard - Calm before the Storm
    Brimaz of Oreskos - Tabaxi Druid/Life Cleric - Labyrinth of Zaaar the Mad
    Ferrin - Human Swashbuckler - Shackles of Blood

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Orc in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Default Re: Do you RP spell components and if so, how?

    We allow casters to quicken their spells for free if they provide the spell components in real life.

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