Monday, November 24, 2014

Pathfinder Musings: Material Components

Material components in Pathfinder are one of those ideas that I like in theory, but never enjoyed the actual execution at the table. I feel like material components could be cool things that add a more esoteric feel to magic and could help limit the power of said spellcasters. However, actually trying to track a spellcaster's material components adds another level of bookkeeping that I'd rather not add to an already complicated game and figuring out the prices of said material components can be a nuisance as well.

I could simply ignore this part of the game, but part of me wants to try and find a way to make the concept work. I've been toying with different ideas for a while and I think I have one that might work. Its heavily influenced by the Occultist class from the Occult Adventures playtest.

In this proposed system, each school of magic would possess a list of possible material components. For example, material components associated with divination spells could be crystal balls, a Tarot deck, augury stones, or anything else that is usually tied to divination abilities. When casting a spell from that school that requires a material component, you must use at least one of these components when casting the spell. You can cast the spell without the component, but the spell is much weaker than it normally would be. Its DC is lowered, the time it lasts is reduced, and other variables are lessened.

I was also thinking about adding another layer to this system, one that would allow spellcasters to add specific kinds of components to receive additional benefits to the spell. For example, let's say a wizard is about to go on an adventure where she knows she'll be fighting a lot of demons. She then purchases a few angel feathers from one of her magical contacts, adding the component to her evocation spells. Now, those spells receive additional bonuses against evil outsiders. This addition could also give players cool things to look for and GMs can build adventurers around characters trying to find a rare material component to help them deal with a specific enemy.

This system is still very much a rough outline and I need to figure out how certain things will work. How will the Eschew Materials feat work with this system? What should the exact penalties be for casting a spell without its school's material component? What should I do for the spells that are balanced around the specific components required for the spell? However, I felt like posting this anyway to see what people thought of the idea and get some different opinions on it. What do you think?