The rules for spell components in the Pathinder rules are brief, but as we’re currently using very different house rules, it’s worth bringing these up. The rules I’m referring to are on pages 212-213 of the Core Rules (2009) and also on the Pathfinder PRD.
The rules as written discuss the traditional Verbal (V), Somatic (S), Material (M), Focus (F) and Divine Focus (DF) components that need to be present to cast a spell. I’m sure you know what they all mean, so I’m not going to go into a lengthy discussion of them here. The big difference between the house rules and the written rules is what we do with material components and foci.
In the house rules there aren’t any components per se. If the spell obviously needs a component (e.g. you need a mirror to cast a scrying spell) then you still need it, but otherwise material components have been replaced with foci. A wizard uses a wand or a staff, a cleric uses a holy symbol and so on. The house rules were largely born from the fact that we could never be bothered to track components anyway.
I intend to ditch all that now in favour of the rules as presented in the book, so all spells are back to having their requisite bizarre and obscure spell components. The Pathfinder rules acknowledge that keeping track of these things can be a hassle so this is what they say about them: “Don’t bother to keep track of material components with negligible cost. Assume you have all you need as long as you have your spell component pouch.” Obviously sorcerers or other classes with the Eschew Materials feat don’t even need to worry about that.
Okay, that’s all fine as it goes… but there’s still a whole host of spells where you do need to keep track of components. Take Stoneskin for example. Each casting requires 250gp of granite and diamond dust.
The Three Tests
Basically, introducing these rules will mean that all spellcasters will need to do a little more book-keeping. It also means that I as a GM need to start worrying about giving characters an appropriate amount of gold. For the components rules to work as they are written then money is going to have to matter more in the campaigns.
The house rules for foci have made so little impression on the world so far, that I don’t think anyone is going to notice getting rid of them. There’s not been any adventures or plot-twists that hinge on this game element. No objections on this score.
Games without Miniatures
Equally, there’s nothing here to do with tactical combat either. This change in the rules would make no mechanical impact on the game.
So it’s all down to whether we want these components rules or not. Looking to our Pact of Minimal Tinkering I’d say that there’s no compelling reason not to use them. All of the various components can be confusing, but Graham has worked very hard to produce a Spell Filter for Pathfinder, that I am currently adding content to. The spell filter will be able to identify spells that have components with “minimal cost” and also that have expensive components. Also as well as searching for Verbal and Somatic components, it’ll also search for non-verbal and non-somatic: which is really jolly useful in the context of the game. When the filter is up and running, it will drastically help manage components.
I’ve no suggestions for any extra rules to throw in here. I’ll talk more about the money element when I discuss equipment. Iourn will continue to follow the “low magic” approach to magic items as discussed in the Core Rules (2009) and the Gamesmastery Guide (2010), although I’m making more of an effort to get magic items into the hands of PCs even if there aren’t any magic item shops. More on that when I get to Equipment.