Playing AD&D – Spellcasting: Components, and Combat

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Each spell description includes a Components description that shows whether a spell has Verbal, Somatic (movements), and/or Material components. Pay attention to this as it can have an impact in-game.

Material components are often glossed over in games, but they have three great side-effects.

  1. They provide another bit or resource management – imagine a Magic-user wanting to cast Fireball but being out of bat guano.
  2. They provide some great role-playing flavor –
    Dominik calls Foggy over, wraps an eyelash in gum arabic, and taps Foggy on the shoulder casting Invisibility on him. “I’d like you to try and follow that mystery man. You won’t be visible but try to be stealthy as you could still be heard.”
  3. They provide a great source of quests. Some of the spells require rare components and procuring them could provide any number of adventures.

Some material components are consumed during casting while others do not. This is not always spelled out in the rules. DMs can make their best assessment and roll with it. Sometimes alternative components are mentioned, occasionally with modified results.  This is a good area for PCs to engage in some spell research, a topic I’ll write about later.

Spells also list their casting time, this is often 1 segment per spell level. (A segment is 6 seconds or 1/10th of a combat round.)  When determining initiative, you should add the casting time to your initiative to see when the spell actually goes off. (I’ll cover initiative and combat in a later post.)

For example:
Omris has a 2 for initiative and the goblins they’re facing have a 3. They have declared that they’re casting Aid on their henchman, which takes 4 segments. They begin casting on segment 2, the goblins attack on 3, and the spell goes off on 6.

If a spellcaster takes damage while casting the spell, they fail to cast the spell and the spell is lost from their daily prepared spells.  Spell casters lose any dexterity bonus to their AC while casting a spell.

Some spells (e.g., Chant) require that the caster continue the verbal and somatic components of the spell for the duration.  If the caster takes damage from a spell or attack, if they are grappled (in the case of somatic components), or if they are silenced (with a Silence spell, for example) they are unable to continue and the effect of the spell is dropped.

Some spells have an extremely long casting time, these generally have either a long-lasting effect or are used out of combat situations.  It’s worth thinking about when and how to cast these spells, and how the party might act differently once they’re cast.

Finally, I was asked about what rules I might allow for “Risky Casting.”  One example is casting from scrolls. If a character casts a spell from a scroll that is beyond their normal casting ability, there is a 5% chance per level above their ability that the spell will be miscast. For example, Mesterwhyl is a third level illusionist, able to cast up to 2nd level spells. They have a scroll of Shadow Monsters, a 4th level spell. If they attempt to cast it, they have a 10% (2 levels of difference times 5%) of miscasting.  A miscast spell might simply fail to go off, it might impact the caster and/or their allies instead, or have some other negative effect.

Another kind of risky/emergency casting is working directly from a spell book. I covered that in my post on spell books.

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