It’s time to trade combat for goods and services, but wait, who’s that guarding the camp?
So there I was, trying to buy a miniature platinum sword so I could cast Arcane Sword, when a messenger burst into the shop and exclaimed that a competitor down the road had dropped his prices on the trinkets – only 240 gold pieces! By the time I turned back around, the shopkeeper had sighed and marked down his price to compete, at 239 gold pieces. I didn’t know how they were doing it – they must be swimming in platinum to be able to discount like that – but now I was out of luck. The sword I needed had to cost at least 250 gold. Oh well. Maybe in the next town…
From a game-mechanics standpoint, having material components have consistent, fixed costs makes a certain degree of sense. A player always know what a certain spell is going to cost her, and the system is already built on the assumption that everything always costs the same no matter where or when you are.
But in a diegetic sense, why should magic care about the economy? If someone finds a new ruby mine and drives ruby prices down, why would spells suddenly require more rubies? If someone gets almost all the world’s platinum together and shoots it into space on a rocket (look, you come up with a reason to make your DM convert your game to Spelljammer), is the aforementioned Arcane Sword going to suddenly require microscopic trinkets to cast as the price of the remaining platinum goes sky-high too?
This is a set of alternate rules for material components that allow players and DMs to use set quantities of the components rather than set costs. It was originally just supposed to be a 1:1 conversion – “the spell as written requires X gp worth of materials, X gp buys Y amount of materials, now the spell requires Y amount of materials” – but as I went through the spell list, I realized that some of these spells have absurd material components – components that were selected for flavor and cost, but which would be ridiculously difficult to acquire or transport in their stated form. So I’ve added a third listing to some spells: a revised material component, which is reasonably acquirable without reducing the cost substantially.
Some of these spells require that their material components be crafted, as opposed to just raw materials. For each of these, I’ve made a judgment call about how much the crafting cost contributes to the final cost. On average, I’ve tried to keep the final cost of crafted components to about 80% materials and 20% crafting, but some of these take a lot of crafting in order to make the costs realistic.
For the most part, I’m using real-world price equivalencies at the time of writing, googled to the best of my ability. Also, I’m only addressing spells in the 5th Edition SRD; beyond that, you’re welcome to use this as a guide to perform your own conversions!
Original: gold dust worth at least 25 gp
Equivalent: 8 oz of gold dust
(Gold’s price is pegged to the gold piece per the game rules – 50 coins per pound – so 25gp is equal to 8oz.)
Original: a miniature platinum sword with a grip and pommel of copper and zinc, worth 250 gp
Equivalent: a miniature platinum sword with a grip and pommel of copper and zinc, weighing 6 oz
(Platinum is worth ten times as much as gold. Assume 20% of the cost goes to crafting.)
Original: one jacinth worth at least 1,000 gp and one ornately carved bar of silver worth at least 100 gp per creature affected
Equivalent: one 2300-carat jacinth and one ornately-carved bar of silver weighing 16 pounds per creature affected
Revised: a statuette of a meditating figure, made of silver inlaid with jacinth and weighing sixteen pounds, for each creature affected
(A jacinth is an orange zircon; on average, assuming real-world equivalencies, zircon sells for about 2.3gp per third of an ounce. Silver is worth one tenth what gold is; 1000sp weighs 20 pounds. That sounds like a lot, but silver is quite heavy, and this figurine is only about half again the size of a pint glass.)
Original: specially marked sticks, bones, or similar tokens worth at least 25 gp
Equivalent: specially marked sticks, bones, or similar tokens with a volume of at least 1/2 cubic foot
(This is a weird one. 25gp is a huge amount to pay for the base materials, so it must be the crafting that’s important, and since that’s the case I can just basically make up a number. Half a cubic foot – about 15 liters – seems like a good place to set it.)
Original: an agate worth at least 1,000 gp
Equivalent: an ornately-carved agate weighing at least 300000 carats
Revised: a mask in the shape of a humanoid face, with movable eyelids, carved from agate and weighing one and a half pounds
(…look, I’m not gonna lie to you: I’m not sure the designers of D&D ever actually priced gemstones. The most expensive agate I could find on the market was about $8 USD per ounce, compared to gold’s $53 USD per ounce (author’s note: I messed up here. Gold is $53 per gram. But since gold appears to be more common in D&D than in the real world, I’m gonna stick with the “per ounce” figure). An uncarved agate worth 1,000gp would weigh around 129 pounds and would be by far the largest gemstone ever found. So we’ll make it a carved agate, make the carving worth 90% of the gem’s cost – if you think that’s unreasonable, check out actual gem prices – and bring it down to a reasonable size.)
Circle of Death
Original: the powder of a crushed black pearl worth at least 500 gp
Equivalent: 4 oz of powder from crushed black pearls
(Finally, one that’s reasonable. Tahitian (“black”) pearls can be had for about 1gp per carat, and 500 carats comes out to a little under 4 ounces.)
Original: a focus worth at least 100 gp, either a jeweled horn for hearing or a glass eye for seeing
Equivalent: an ornately-carved glass eye about one inch in diameter (for seeing) or a ram’s horn set with at least four carats’ worth of tourmalines (for hearing)
(The web tells me that if I meditate next to tourmaline, it will improve my hearing.)
Original: a diamond worth at least 1,000 gp and at least 1 cubic inch of flesh of the creature that is to be cloned, which the spell consumes, and a vessel worth at least 2,000 gp that has a sealable lid and is large enough to hold a Medium creature, such as a huge urn, coffin, mud-filled cyst in the ground, or crystal container filled with salt water
Revised: a 4-carat diamond and at least 1 cubic inch of the flesh of the creature that is to be cloned, which the spell consumes, and a vessel that has a sealable lid and is large enough to hold a Medium creature, such as a huge urn, coffin, mud-filled cyst in the ground, or crystal container filled with salt water
(Should we assume that the Forgotten Realms have a DeBeers consortium? Sure, why not. As for the container – well, that’s why there isn’t an “Equivalent” on this one. I was with the 2000gp bit until I reached “mud-filled cyst in the ground”. I can do that in an afternoon with a shovel and a hose. There’s no way that costs 2000gp. So instead we’re going to transfer the cost to the diamond, which would otherwise only be 2 carats. This makes the spell slightly more expensive for repeat uses, since the chamber can be re-used but the diamond is consumed, which is why it’s not 6 carats.)
Original: a statuette of yourself carved from ivory and decorated with gems worth at least 1,500 gp
Equivalent: a statuette of yourself carved from ivory and decorated with at least three carats’ worth of diamonds and emeralds
(D&D likes to be vague about “gems” and “jeweled” objects, but let’s be honest: a statuette with a 200-pound agate glued to it just isn’t going to work as well. Let’s keep it simple.)
Original: ruby dust worth 50 gp, which the spell consumes
Equivalent: 1 carat of powdered rubies, which the spell consumes
Original: one clay pot filled with grave dirt, one clay pot filled with brackish water, and one 150 gp black onyx stone for each corpse
Equivalent: one clay pot filled with grave dirt, one clay pot filled with brackish water, and 3000 carats of black onyx stone for each corpse
(That’s a lot of onyx. I made it 3000 carats’ worth of stone rather than a single stone because onyx rarely comes that big.)
Original: incense and a sacrificial offering appropriate to your religion, together worth at least 25 gp, which the spell consumes
Revised: 4 oz of incense and a sacrificial offering appropriate to your religion worth at least the value of two oxen, which the spell consumes
(This winds up being a little more expensive than the original. Here’s my rationale: in many parts of the world, the ox has, historically, been a pretty basic unit of sacrifice. If you’re just looking to propitiate a god, you sacrifice an ox. But with this spell, you <em>want</em> something from the god to whom you’re appealing, so you give them more than the basics. “An ox and a cow” or “an ox and a chicken” is too wordy, and two oxen feels about right anyway. So whatever your religion’s basic “this is what you sacrifice to keep the gods happy” sacrifice is, double it. As for the incense, the original wording allows you to show up with to show up with a couple pounds of incense and a chicken leg, which seems silly (and you’re gonna be coughing too hard from all that burning incense to hear the results of the divination), so we’ll be a little more specific about how much you’re supposed to bring.)
Original: 10 gp worth of charcoal, incense, and herbs that must be consumed by fire in a brass brazier
Equivalent: one pound in combination of charcoal, incense, and herbs that must be consumed by fire in a brass brazier
(None of these items have prices in the core rules – even the “Block of Incense” item doesn’t have a cost associated with it! – so I’ve had to guess based on real-world prices for liturgical incense.)
Find the Path
Original: a set of divinatory tools— such as bones, ivory sticks, cards, teeth, or carved runes—worth 100 gp and an object from the location you wish to find
Equivalent: a set of high-quality divinatory tools — such as carved bones, ivory sticks, cards, inscribed teeth, or etched runes — and an object from the location you wish to find
(Here we fall into the same trap as with Augury. 100gp worth of bones looks a lot different from 100gp worth of carved runes. “Okay, I have my sixteen full cow skeletons, let’s get started.” Making each set of divinatory tools crafted allows them to be roughly equivalent without becoming absurd, and “high-quality” means you can’t just pick any old stuff up off the ground.)
Original: a sprinkling of holy water, rare incense, and powdered ruby worth at least 1,000 gp
Equivalent: a sprinkling of holy water, rare incense, and 20 carats of powdered rubies
(If 50gp of powdered rubies is 1 carat, then 1000gp is 20 carats. QED. I can’t stop wondering, though: is the whole thing supposed to be worth 1000gp, or just the powdered rubies?)
Original: ruby dust worth 1,500 gp
Equivalent: 30 carats of powdered rubies
(As you can see from Continual Flame above, I’m trying to standardize on “powdered rubies”.)
Next time: G through O!
The party has met up with the missing moms. Now what?