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<   No. 1842   2008-02-11   >

Comic #1842

1 Alvissa: It doesn't matter what village it is. We need supplies. Let's go down.
2 Kyros: I dunno. We're more likely to find sulphur and bat guano in these caves.
3 Lambert: Yes, to the village.
3 Kyros: Didn't you hear me?
4 Kyros: I'm out of spell components. I can't cast any more fireballs!
4 Mordekai: Yes, we heard you.

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Sulphur and bat guano are the traditional material spell components for fireball, consistent across various editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

Sulphur and guano are two of the principal ingredients of gunpowder. If you ever get lost in a previous century before the invention of gunpowder, remember this simple recipe:

The primitive people around you will probably know how to get all of these components, but just in case:

Sulphur is a bright yellow crystalline element, which can be found in areas around hot springs and volcanoes. Charcoal is the gritty black residue left after heating wood without burning it, to drive off all the water and volatile compounds. It's a good fuel for fires, and many pre-technological societies will produce it. Saltpetre is a white crystalline compound, potassium nitrate, which is most easily found as the crystalline deposits around and underneath aged piles of manure or guano.

Grind and mix these components together, and you have black powder, the simplest form of gunpowder. Be careful with it. Use it to conquer history.


2018-09-28 Rerun commentary: When this comic was originally published near the beginning of 2008, the most recent edition of Dungeons & Dragons was the revised 3rd edition, commonly known as 3.5 Edition. The 4th Edition Player's Handbook, containing that editions spell descriptions, was released just a few months after this comic.

Unfortunately for my assertion, 4th Edition did away with specifying any material components for the spell. Yet another strike against the rather derided edition.

But since then, 5th Edition has been published (in 2014), and with it comes the welcome return of specifying "a tiny ball of bat guano and sulphur" as the material component of the spell. Yay!

Though I must confess that of early editions of the game, the bat guano and sulphur only appears as a material component in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, what is commonly known as the "1st Edition" of the game. But there were two editions before that: the original boxed set of tan-coloured booklets, and the Basic Set and its expansions (which preceded Advanced but was released over several years largely in parallel with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, hence the "Advanced" name to contrast with "Basic"). Neither of these early editions specified components for spells.

So for the record:

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