Once you’ve decided to ignore encumbrance, material components are usually the next fiddly-bits rules on the chopping block. Sure the bat guano/sulfur of fireball and the amber rod/fur of lightning bolt are amusing, but who wants to deal with all the bookkeeping? Well if you’re anything like Wizard, you understand how these nitty-gritty details can contribute to immersion. The big question becomes whether it’s worth the trade-off.

The answer will vary from mage to mage of course. When I’m the dude wielding the robe and wizard’s hat though, I like to ignore material components until they’re relevant. In other words, I won’t bother to track my stores of spider webs or ashes of mistletoe down to the gram. By the same token, if there’s good reason to wonder whether my component pouch is safe and handy, I’ll begin to pay attention.

Case in point, my group sat down to play Out of the Abyss last year, and that particular adventure begins (SPOILER ALERT) with a prison break. Your stuff has been taken from you by your nefarious jailers, meaning that melee-focused characters have to make do with whatever sharpened bone fragments and board-with-nail-in-it type weapons they can scavenge. My dude was not a melee type though. He was a warlock, and that meant I had only half a spell list to play with. My minor illusion was off the table, sheep being a rarity in the Underdark. I couldn’t pull off hex without a suitably petrified eye of newt, meaning I was on the lookout for amphibians lying in odd puddles. Material components were suddenly more than irrelevant details. They were affecting the game world in concrete ways, and I found myself enjoying the challenge.

My group escaped without recovering our stuff, so this kind of play continued as we leveled up and trekked through the subterranean wilderness. Tactical questions kept popping up, and I had a lot of interesting decisions to make. Should I bother taking invisibility without a ready supply of gum arabic? Was it worth sending my familiar into a danger zone without the necessary incense to summon him back? I’d have killed for an arcane focus of course, but I’d have also liked a rod of lordly might and a piggy back ride from the Demogorgon. All of these things were in short supply.

Understand, this is not the kind of experience I want to have every time I sit down for an adventure. More often than not I just want to throw my arcane weight around and feel like an eldritch badass. But after falling into the habit of hand-waving material components, it was nice to see that part of the game making the game interesting rather than irritating. It made my character’s struggles more concrete, and I think that was worth a little bit of inconvenience.

What about the rest of you guys? Do you bother tracking your material components, or do you prefer not to sweat the small stuff? Let’s hear all about the state of your component pouch down in the comments!


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