Campaign of the Month: January 2015
Skies of Glass
Magic is not entirely a science, but it does work on principles. The choice of material components for a given spell can now be shown not to be a pointless piece of arbitrary restriction there to make spells harder to cast, nor a definite and unalterable requirement — but instead a time-honored way of achieving a given effect. When the principles underlying magic are understood, more variables enter the equation. The more you know, the more you can change. The more you can change, the more you can craft spells to your own liking. Crafters may also find a knowledge and understanding of material components to be to their advantage, as the mystical forces that making imbuing magics while Crafting easier obey the very same principles as spells do.
The Five Principles
Material components are incorporated into a spell according to one or more of five fundamental principles. These are linkage, transference, essence, mythic resonance and sacrifice. A spellcaster who understands the precise role played by each component in a given spell can, if he is competent and careful, make substitutions or alterations.Linkage
Linkage is the process in magic whereby two things are brought together. Material components may achieve this in two ways. The first is the method of analogous correspondence, in which one thing is made to stand for another. The archetypal example of correspondence is the voodoo doll or witch’s poppet. An ingredient or focus operating on a basis of correspondence is magically linked to either the caster or the object of the spell. It represents them, or some aspect of them.
An example of this is the demand spell, which uses copper (for communication, as we will see later) and a fragment of the individual such as a nail paring. The portion of the person is made to stand for the whole person. By affecting a tiny part, like a fingernail or a tuft of hair, you affect all of them. Another example is project image, in which the material component (a small image of the caster) represents the caster’s projected image. Yet another is the astral projection spell, where the silver bar provided for each person represents the silver cord connecting their astral body to their physical form.
The second method of linkage is that in which the material component itself acts as the link between the two objects. An example here is the copper wire used in a sending spell.
Linkage is rarely used by Crafters unless creating an unusual item with an incredibly specific purpose.Transference
The process of transference, the most commonly encountered principle in arcane magic, rests on the premise that the attributes and powers of a thing can be transferred to another thing, or to a person. This holds true even if only a tiny portion of the original thing is present. Transference can involve the symbolic power of a thing being abstracted and imbued into the target, instead of any purely material quality.
The best example is bull’s strength. Extracting and amplifying the latent power of the bull that resides in a tuft of its hair or a pinch of its dung can transfer the strength of the bull to a recipient. The jump spell works by transferring the ability of a grasshopper to leap long distances to the caster, by means of breaking a grasshopper’s hind leg in the course of the spell. Transference does not have to involve a creature; it can involve a substance. For example, mage armor transfers the protective qualities of a piece of leather to the person protected by the spell.
Transference is possibly the most widely used principle by Crafters. By working the wing membranes of a drake into their cloak the Crafter makes it a better medium for air and flight magics. By working the hide of a rukh into their gauntlets the Crafter makes it a better medium for magics that warp and control stone.Essence
The principle of essence is similar to that of transference, but in a cruder form. It holds that a small amount of material substance or of energy can provide power to fuel a spell. It is not the attributes of the component that are used, as in the case of transference, but the raw energy of the item. This energy is amplified and discharged rather than being transferred to another being or an item.
For example, the lightning bolt spell requires fur and a glass or amber rod. The fur is rubbed briskly on the rod, in order to produce a static electric charge; this electricity thus becomes the basis for the energy of the lightning bolt. Similarly, the sulfur component of a fireball spell is the basis of the explosion of flame, because of its fierce combustibility. The cold crystal cone employed in a cone of cold spell provides the basis for the freezing energy projected by the caster.
It is easy to confuse transference components with essence components. The easy way to remember which is which is to consider that transference components pass their attributes on to a person or thing (an area of material counts as a ‘thing’ but an area of space does not) while an essence component releases its energy at a person, thing or area. The bit of fat or butter used in a grease spell is a transference component; it transfers the slipperiness of the fat or butter to an area of the floor. The hard metal bar of hold monster is an essence component; it uses the essential hardness and immobility of the bar against the target, holding it in position.
Precious metals and jewels, or the ground dust thereof, contain magical essence that can be tapped. The type of essence available is determined by the type of precious substance; for example, sunstone is used as a source of light energy. When a gem is crushed in the course of magic, as it is in many high-level spells, it is usually done in order to tap the energy of the jewel, though sometimes it may be done in accordance with the principle of sacrifice (see below).
When precious metals or gems are used as essence components, they are always crushed in the course of the spell (either by the spell itself or the caster), or are used in powder form. This is because it is far easier to extract the energy from a disrupted mineral matrix than to attempt to extract it from a large lump. The process is not really any more mysterious than the making of coffee. It is easier to make coffee with ground beans than with whole beans, because the particles are smaller and the oils thus easier to extract.
Crafters use the concept of essence primarily to tap into the natural powers of items, relying more on transference due to the nature of their art. Unlike spellcasters, Crafters can tap into the latent power in a great variety of materials, not precious metals and gems. The principle of essence is why adamantine or dragon scale is a better enchanting medium than common steel or leather. The principle of essence does notably play an important role in the process of transference, explaining why phoenix feathers would make a better medium for magics that control fire than an average firecat’s hide. Though both would accomplish the goal of improving the medium for that type of magic, the power (the essence) of a phoenix is greater than that of an average firecat.Mythic Resonance
Mythic resonance is one of the most perplexing principles of arcane magic. Some sages believe that it proves the Gods have a sense of humor; others see it as evidence that the universe itself is sentient, albeit in a fashion which mortal minds cannot grasp. Others flatly refuse to think about it at all, muttering ‘that way, madness lies.’ Whatever the truth of the matter may be, mythic resonance works by using a material component to tell a story or depict an idea. It is essentially as if one was making a pun and the universe ‘got the joke’.
There can be no better example than the feeblemind spell, which requires a handful of clay, crystal, glass or mineral spheres. In the casting of the spell, these spheres are casually tossed aside, where they vanish. The target of the spell thus ‘loses his marbles’. A similar example is found with passwall, which requires the use of sesame seeds. This alludes to the well-known magical phrase ‘Open Sesame’. Some examples of mythic resonance are less peculiar and only involve the commemoration of an event or idea. An example would be the tongues spell, in which the clay ziggurat represents the well-known Catfolk legend of a time when all races spoke the same language and built a tower to try and reach the Gods; the shattering of the ziggurat represents the collapse of that tower and the resultant multitude of different languages.
Mythic resonance takes on a different tone for Crafters. Rather than a reference or a joke, the resonance exists as a fundamental link between the Crafter and the item they’re imbuing with magic. This resonance is why items that represent experiences and that hold sentimental value often make for excellent enchanting mediums.Sacrifice
The principle of sacrifice is that the component is of great value and is offered up in order to gain the favour of a deity or similar being. Some magic spells require that costly incense be burnt, the idea being that an offering pleasing to the caster’s God has to be made and nothing less than the best will do. Some believe that substandard sacrifices insult or offend the Gods, explaining why spells fail in such instances. Many scholars, particularly the atheistic, question if the sacrifice principle is not simply a misunderstood meeting ground between transference and essence.
Sacrifice components are frequently employed in anointment and suffumigation. Sacrifice does not always imply pouring the substance away or immolating it upon an altar. Most sacrifice components are spread over an area, most commonly in the case of incense, which is used ceremonially to waft sacred smoke into all parts of the area which the spell shall effect.
Material Components Outlined
Below are a number of pages reflecting some of the many types of material components and how they interact with magic.
- Miniatures and Models
- Minerals and Gemstones
- Animal and Monster Parts
- See Materials, Items and Commodities for everything else
It’s obvious from even a cursory glance at the components used in spells that they do not have to be made of precious metal or gemstone to be valuable. Two things determine the value of an item: how rare it is and how much a person wants it. Water is so plentiful by the shore of a lake that charging for it would be absurd, but in the desert it is a different matter.
While Magic-Shops will commonly carry wide ranges of material components in addition to their normal assortment of magical items, it’s rare to see one of these shops outside of large towns and the demand for material components extends much farther than these towns. To meet this demand, shops customarily called ‘botanicas’ spring up, with their staff risking life and limb to fetch ingredients that they know their customers will want.
See Botanicas for more information. Botanicas also sell the commonly required items to create your own material components (and such items are listed both on their page and in the Materials, Items and Commodities page). A Masterwork Survival Kit will have all the tools needed for a savvy Survivalist to harvest most any foe they find.
Changing and Augmenting Material Components
Because of the distinct differences in magic between the Planes in the multiverse and, on a smaller scale, the difference in casting methods between casters, many casters have found variant material components for a number of spells. Casters may usually change the material component or focus required to cast the spell to an appropriate component of identical value and similar form and rarity (DM discretion, see Crafting New Spells).Augmenting Material Components
A spellcaster may attempt to use an additional material components or focus to amplify or alter the effects of a spell, though such items are usually very expensive. See Augmenting Material Components for more.