Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Magic in Minerals

Component pouch? More like Component luggage
I started to think about material components (which of course means I would eventually write a 3000 word article about them) and why certain spells needed certain materials.

Well, that turned into a huge hunt across the Player's Handbook for similarities between different spells. In the end, some materials had common effects, but others didn't. I did my best to combine them in creative ways.

I would use this article as an interpretation of how D&D (as a system) says certain materials should act or be used. Also, it can lead to more experimental wizards - for example, using sulfur to cast Invisibility might earn you a visit from an Efreeti. Meanwhile, knowing silver is linked to souls could get players thinking about how to create custom spells and rituals.

I focused on costly components for this article, since, let's be honest, everyone who can get their hands on an arcane focus is going to do it.


Cast spells with integrity and luster!
This common metal seems to have a direct link to the mind, in particular the areas of language and thought. Though the applications of such magic are surprisingly limited, their usefulness has been thoroughly exploited by the wizarding community. Though once part of the development of spells such as Tongues and Comprehend Languages, new methods for casting those spells without copper have been devised.
  • Spells: Detect Thoughts, Message, Sending

One of the standard means of harnessing and controlling magical power. Though its practical applications are few, it is invaluable to any wizard in terms of storing and cataloging magical effects. In fact, magical energy is drawn to gold, which is one of the reasons it remains so valuable as a currency.
  • Spells: Arcane Lock, Levitate
  • Required for spellbooks and spell scrolls

A versatile substance, most known for its resonance with the flesh of mortals. Though normally used for simple elemental earth spells and body-changing magic, some holy spellcasters have exploited this Iron-body connection to create spells that oust non-mortals, in many of their forms. A powerful wizard may take this even further, using the simple metal as a potent Antimagic catalyst.
  • Spells: Antimagic Field, Enlarge/Reduce, Dispel Good, Flaming Sphere, Heat Metal, Hold Monster, Hold Person, Protection from Evil and Good, Magic Circle, Move Earth, Reverse Gravity
  • Effective Against Fey

Rare magnetic ore, the lodestone is one of few materials that seems to be linked to the passage of time. For the lodestone, a talented caster can bend this property to momentarily reverse the flow of time in a small area, usually to useful or devastating effect.
  • Spells: Disintegrate, Mending, Reverse Gravity

A somewhat-common component used as a reagent alongside other materials. It has the effect of extending the duration of a particular effect, though wizards who try to use this trait in their potion-making may end up sick or worse. The clever wizard Tenser made good use of this effect; his floating disk spell works by causing an object to fall so slowly it appears to be fully supported.
  • Spells: Symbol, Tenser's Floating Disk, True Polymorph

Platinum is a rare material for a wizard to come across, and even then it is more than likely to be quickly traded away for more useful gems, silver, or gold. However, it is used in some spells that require a means of channeling magic from a soul into another item.
  • Spells: Mordenkainen's Sword, Warding Bond

It is said that silver is a wizard's best friend, and indeed, this metal has been exhausted of every possible use by the magical community. This is because silver is crucial in spells that seek, damage, or protect the mortal soul. This property also gives it a particular potency against creatures who deal in souls (such as Devils) or who bear incomplete or half-souls (Lycanthropes).
  • Spells: Alarm, Astral Projection, Chain Lightning, Dispel Good, Protection from Evil and Good, Guards and Wards, Magic Circle, Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound, Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion, Sanctuary, Scrying, See Invisibility, Telepathy
  • Effective Against Lycanthropes, Devils

Though unused in magic, Adamantine is considered the hardest of all metals, and carries some property that holds sway over creatures of the Elemental Plane of Earth. It's theorized that, being the most durable and impenetrable of metals, stones and lesser metals "worship" it, in a sense. Indeed, armor made of Adamantine turns away direct hits from Iron weapons, and blades made of Adamantine can pierce the thickest of armor.
  • Prevents critical hits, effective against Golems and Earth Elementals

Though unused in magic, Mithril has a reputation of lightness and durability and a certain sacredness among the dwarves. Its use is associated with the dead, and objects made of Mithril are often included in funeral rites. Those who work in shadows find that the relative lightness and flexibility of the metal allows them to move easily, but those who find it sacred are loathe to use it for such base purposes.
  • Light and flexible, associated with the dead


They'll always save the day
Like many gems, the agate is used to affect light, altering its spectrum to allow sight in normally dark areas. However, advanced wizards understand that its real power lies in the ability to create sentience, and some wizards speculate that agate plays an important role in the formation of intelligent life in the universe.
  • Spells: Awaken, Darkvision

Black Onyx
One of the few gems banned from many wizard schools, due to its use in necromancy. Black Onyx is said to form in the ground beneath where a violent murder occurred. Though this is only a folk story, no reputable wizard would dare to test the hypothesis.
  • Spells: Create Undead

Black Pearl
One of the few gems banned from many wizard schools, due to its use in necromancy. Approximately one in every thousand pearls is black, though the cause of this is yet unknown. Because of the chaotic nature of their appearance, wizards who harvest pearls for their work are generally given lighter penalties if they happen to return to their conservatory with one.
  • Spells: Circle of Death

This gem, when powdered finely, can be used to create a sound-dampening effect. However, it is generally only used when such an effect is needed for an extended period of time, as even apprentice wizards can cast a Silence spell without the need for these gems.
  • Spells: Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum

Crystals are the unrefined form of many gems, proving just how useful these stones are even before they are divided into their distinct types. Crystals can channel light, elemental energy, or even pure magical force. Rumors abound that powerful Wizards can even call forth the magic that created the River Styx with simple glass or crystal spheres.
  • Spells: Chain Lightning, Cone of Cold, Lightning Bolt, Feeblemind, Leomund's Tiny Hut, Otiluke's Freezing Sphere, Otiluke's Resilient Sphere, Scrying

It's a common misconception that diamonds are a holy substance, due to their prevalence in spells that bring the dead back to life. However, few churches disclose the more mundane truth: diamonds are a primary conduit for reaching and traveling among the outer planes. The "holy" effect is simply a limited form of the Gate spell, targeting a single petitioner's soul. Of course, like any material, wizards have exploited this outer plane connection to great effect. Summoning elements from various planes, "borrowing" the sequestering effect of the Nine Hells or the Stoneskin of Creatures of Pandemonium. The more powerful the wizard, the more versatile the effect they can create from a diamond.
  • Spells: Chromatic Orb, Clone, Gate, Greater Restoration, Nondetection, Raise Dead, Resurrection, Revivify, Stoneskin, Symbol, True Resurrection

Of all the gemstones, Jacinth is the only one which resonates with the Astral Plane. Some wizards speculate that Jacinths themselves originate on the Astral Plane, then travel to the material plane via the Color Pools of the Astral. Others say that Jacinths are actually the material that makes up the portals. Either way, Jacinth veins can almost always be found near portals to the Astral Plane.
  • Spells: Astral Projection

Jade is very valuable to certain spells, as it allows the caster to pre-set sounds related to a particular spell. This is commonly used with honeycomb or fleece to craft magic messages or images that make sound without the wizard's active attention. As with many materials, extremely adept casters have found other uses for Jade, the most notable being the ability to mimic the powerful beast forms of druids.
  • Spells: Magic Mouth, Programmed Illusion, Shapechange

A catalyst of sorts, Opals grant a spellcaster the ability to syphon various magical energies into a more useful form: a preset rune that can be activated at the spellcaster's discretion. Though only used with Diamonds as of yet, this connection alone has allowed wizards to channel energy from the outer planes into their runes, creating the powerful symbol spell. Opals, being rare as gems go, are generally too precious to be used or experimented with in other ways.
  • Spells: Symbol

Among the gems useful for Divination magic, pearls have the unique property of allowing only true information to be discerned, similar to the effect of a Truesight or Zone of Truth spell. However, their application is limited in spellcasting - partially due to the size of pearl required to be useful, partially because the services of many clerics can often supersede the need for Divination magic.
  • Spells: Identify

Though quartz is the most common gem used when plain "crystal" is called for, it does have one unique property to boast: the ability to channel energy directly from Frostfell, the Elemental Plane of Ice. Due to the dangerous nature of the plane, however, most wizards prefer using glass as a safer alternative when casting more powerful ice-based spells. It's not unheard of for an incorrectly-cast Wall of Ice spell to appear accompanied by a swarm of angry Ice Mephits.
  • Spells: Wall of Ice

Ruby is a rare and dangerous gem, and in some lands is highly restricted by local nobility. Why? Because Rubies have a powerful connection to a particular Outer Plane - Carceri. They can be used to bind creatures in place, seal part of a creature's soul away, and hide treasure so that it can never be found again. However, small amounts (only able to summon the fires of the lower planes) can usually be bought and sold with less scrutiny.
  • Spells: Continual Flame, Forbiddance, Forcecage, Simulacrum

Many gems help wizards forge a connection across planes to summon creatures, converse with deities, or obtain rare magical effects. A sapphire has the distinction of being the sole gem to work completely independent of planar barriers. Their rarity prevents them from being used too commonly, but when they are used, it is usually to summon important items from a wizard's study to whatever location they are in trouble.
  • Spells: Drawmij's Instant Summons

The sunstone, as the name implies, is a powerful channel for radiant energy. It is generally only used when a spell requires so much power that a spellcaster would otherwise be destroyed simply by casting the spell. Thus, small effects such as Sacred Flame do not require Sunstone, but the powerful Sunburst would. Some clerics claim Sunstone is touched by the holy light of the gods, but due to the rarity of the gem no wizard has publicly confirmed or denied such a claim.
  • Spells: Sunburst


Cast spells with stuff you found on the ground!
A common substitute for Crystal, mainly employed by wizards who don't have access to their component pouches. No wizard plans on losing their components and getting lost in a forest, but in fact, many wizards do just that.
  • Spells: Chain Lightning, Lightning Bolt

Blood is an important component to many Abyssal rituals - and in fact, spells that use blood are widely known to be Abyssal in nature. Though this does not prevent the Church from banning use of the Bane spell, the Abyssal energy summoned for the Animate Dead spell is more than enough reason to outlaw Nercomancy in nearly every area the Church holds sway. Some necromancers attempt to point out that the Shadowfell is actually the source of most undead, but those that do so publicly usually end up dying publicly shortly afterwards.
  • Spells: Animate Dead, Bane

Like Blood, this material is far too common to be banned outright - and indeed, tribes not allowed to perform Augury spells would push back against civilization harder than they already do. However, its use in Nercomantic rituals means that high-quality bones must usually be sold discreetly - lest the agents of the Church start investigating.
  • Spells: Animate Dead, Augury, Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound

Though common, these materials are key in contacting and accessing the Elemental Plane of Earth. But their uses pass far beyond the obvious, with specially formed stones being manipulated to perform several spells normally kept within the domain of the Dao, Lords of Earthly Magic. Clever wizards and bards even tap the energy of the plane to cast the powerful Feeblemind spell, making their victims, in essence, as dumb as a box of rocks.
  • Spells: Conjure Elemental, Earthquake, Feeblemind, Flesh to Stone, Longstrider, Hallucinatory Terrain, Move Earth, Stone Shape, Tongues, Wall of Stone

These normally mundane materials show just how versatile, and dangerous, magic can be. Wizards use these materials to channel the pitch-darkness of the Negative Energy Plane, an impressive feat. However, they dare not push the spells any further, lest they unleash the soul-destroying plane on the world. This aspect of these materials has inspired more than a few cautionary tales about the horrors of magic gone wrong.
  • Spells: Darkness

A most versatile substance, commonly used to transmit vision or elemental energy. However, its fragile nature means that unless the spell is near-instantaneous, the material component will shatter and become useless. Of course, that can be exploited as well, with the shattered shards being conjured into the Cloud of Daggers spell.
  • Spells: Chain Lightning, Clairvoyance, Cloud of Daggers, Cone of Cold, Lightning Bolt, Feeblemind

These common materials are vital for contacting and accessing the Elemental Plane of Air. Similarly to their Earthen counterparts, they can be manipulated into accessing the magics reserved for Djinni, powerful Lords of Wind Magic. However, the presence of incense is also key to obtaining access to certain types of divine magic as well, with the particular scent linked to a particular Deity. It is well-known that the church of Pelor smells of sunflowers, and the priests wouldn't dare allow any other kind of scent within its walls.
  • Spells: Commune, Conjure Elemental, Control Weather, Divination, Forbiddance, Gaseuous Form, Glyph of Warding, Guards and Wards, Hypnotic Pattern, Speak with Dead, True Polymorph

What Jade is to sound, Ivory is to magic, which is to say that Ivory has the powerful ability to allow clever spellcasters to pre-set magical effects before they occur. This is quite a magical feat, however, and using ivory demands quite a lot from a wizard. Often, countries without powerful wizards will not realize the power of Ivory, and instead use it as a crafting and jewelry material.
  • Spells: Contingency, Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion

Lead, the anti-divination material. Most students of divination won't touch it with a 10-foot pole, while nearly all abjuration wizards keep a bit handy to protect themselves from divination effects. Though limited in its uses, you would be hard-pressed to find a wizard's tower without lead lining in every wall.
  • Spells: Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum
  • Blocks various detection spells

An unusual, but not rare, material. Its resonance with sound waves makes it an ideal conduit for channeling thunder energy, but its extreme fragility limits its use. For nearly all other spells aside from Shatter, it is easier and more effective to simply use the air around the caster as a conduit. Some Wizards theorize that the distance at which Shatter can be cast is a result of Mica's effects.
  • Spells: Shatter

Salt contains the power of preservation. Simply by touching food, it can confer this property, and a simple extension of this is to keep remains from being affected. However, specially prepared salt, combined with soot, can tap into the abilities of the Efreeti (normally a dangerous prospect) without their knowledge. In order to prevent such borrowed magic from being detected, simple spells, such as Comprehend Languages, are considered the safest bet.
  • Spells: Comprehend Languages, Gentle Repose

Sand has two primary uses, the first being a part of water-related spells. This requires beach sand. The other use demands desert sand - the ability to induce a sleepy warmth, which can put simple creatures into a short stupor. Feyfolk claim that some of their kind use sand to induce sleep, but wizards take such magic a step further - a powerful illusionist can actually access and manipulate the dreams of a sleeping person.
  • Spells: Conjure Elemental, Destroy Water, Dream, Sleep

Infused with the power of Elemental Fire, sulfur is an invaluable tool for Evocation Wizards. It also finds common use in mining, excavation, and military strikes due to its combustibility. In fact, on worlds where sulfur is in rich supply it is unlikely that its common replacement, gunpowder, is ever developed. Intelligent spellcasters do not dare to use Sulfur to obtain the power of the Efreeti, however. Most wizards don't enjoy being enslaved.
  • Spells: Conjure Elemental, Delayed Blast Fireball, Fireball, Flame Strike

A necessity for utilizing the magics of the Elemental Plane of Water, and the magic of the Marid, lords of Magic Water. By combining it with lime and stone, it can also represent the water within the mortal body for a Flesh to Stone spell. However, this is a limited usage, since for nearly all spells affecting the mortal body it is more effective to obtain blood or iron.
  • Spells: Armor of Agathys, Conjure Elemental, Control Water, Create Water, Flesh to Stone, Ice Storm, Sleet Storm
What do you mean D&D is a demonic game?

Thanks for reading!

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