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<   No. 435   2004-04-05   >

Comic #435

1 [sound]: Fwackoom! {a huge fireball engulfs the whole panel}
2 Kyros: {standing alone amidst fallen bandits and fellow party members} Oh...
2 Death of Being Ground By A Mars Rover Rock Abrasion Tool: YEAH.
3 Death of Being Ground By A Mars Rover Rock Abrasion Tool: I'LL GIVE YOU A CLUE. THE FORMULA FOR THAT NEW SPELL IN THE MYSTIC TOME YOU FOUND?
4 Death of Being Ground By A Mars Rover Rock Abrasion Tool: THE WORD "DUCK" WAS WHAT YOU SHOUT BEFORE CASTING IT, NOT A MATERIAL COMPONENT.

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2013-03-20 Rerun commentary: Material components are one of the three types of spell component defined in the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game. The other two were verbal and somatic components.

The various spells in the game are defined as having different combinations of these. Almost all spells have verbal components - the major exception being the spell Dispel Silence, which would be much less useful otherwise. Somatic components can vary from a flick of the fingers to complex ritual movements that must be performed with the entire body. Illusion spells in particular were described as having movements so complex that illusionist spellcasters had a minimum specified dexterity score.

Material components are the little magical ingredients; things like a pinch of sulphur or an eye of newt. Some are mundane items that can be gathered anywhere, while some are rare and expensive, such as dragon's blood or gemstones.

The existence of material components in a game performs two functions.

  1. It mimics the use of material items in real world and literary magical traditions, ranging from the sympathetic magic of Vodou to the various world myths about soul objects, to the magical law of similarity which states that effects are linked to objects exhibiting similar properties. So, for example, a fireball might be conjured by a pinch of sulphur (also known as brimstone) - a material associated with the smell of burning. This grounding in real world magical tradition gives an aura of authenticity to the magical rules within a game.
  2. The requirement for difficult to find or expensive material components places a game mechanical restraint on the use of powerful magic. A sorceress may be able to level a castle with an earthquake spell, but if she needs a boulder from the Elemental Plane of Earth and a diamond worth 10,000 gold pieces to do it, it's not going to happen on a whim to every castle she comes across.

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