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I'd like to ask the following question about what the "standard"/"expected" way to do something in D&D 5e is, but I feel that it'd likely be deemed opinion-based or unclear with regard to the meaning of "expected." Is the question acceptable for the main site, and, if not, how can I modify it so that it is?

What is the expected way to acquire costly material components?

If a spell's material components include any items with an indicated cost (such as the pearl worth at least 100 gp needed for identify), those items cannot be satisfied via a component pouch or spellcasting focus but must specifically exist in the caster's inventory. This raises the question: Where are characters expected to find such items? The DMG does not seem to address this (and if it does, that would likely be an answer).

There are two basic options: either cities have stores where you can buy these components at exactly the right prices, or else players can find costly components in treasure piles. The first option is boring, and the second option isn't supported by the treasure rules in the DMG. Said treasure rules only acknowledge treasure that is made up of coins, gemstones, art objects, and magic items (DMG p.133). Some spells do need gemstones, though, and while identify's pearl can be found in a treasure pile, that doesn't work for all such spells:

  • Some gemstones are listed in the tables at insufficient price; e.g., awaken requires an agate worth at least 1,000 gp, but all three types of agates in the treasure table are only valued at 10 gp each.

  • Some spells require gem dust, but there's no mortar & pestle listed in the adventuring gear that could be used to grind down a gem to dust — and even then, there are price issues; continual flame requires ruby dust worth 50 gp, while a ruby is worth 5000 gp; does grinding down a single ruby give you enough dust for 100 castings?

  • Some spells require gems that aren't even in the treasure tables, like create undead needing a black onyx stone worth 150 gp. (There's an "onyx" listed, though, and while its description states it can be black, it's still only worth 50 gp).

Plus, there are still all the other spells whose costly components don't resemble any DMG-listed treasure, such as the incense and sacrificial offering together worth 25 gp needed for divination.

While flipping through the DMG to write this question, I encountered a third option: crafting. Page 46 says, regarding the forked, metal rod worth at least 250 gp required for plane shift: "Crafting the fork is expensive (at least 250 gp), but even the act of researching the correct specifications can lead to adventure." Putting aside the need for research that is specific to this spell, this answers some questions but raises more: Can all costly components be crafted? How long does the crafting take? Are skill checks, tools, or proficiencies needed? Does the character need a formula for crafting as is needed for magic items? Is the money spent on anything specific from a special store, or does the player just subtract it from the number of gp on their character sheet even if they're currently in a dungeon nowhere near civilization?

Or do we just go with the really boring fourth option: The first time you cast a given spell with a costly component (and every time after that if the component is consumed), do you just subtract the cost from your gp and call it a day?

[dnd-5e] [spell-components]

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking if you can craft any costly component? Or is there something specific for a specific character that you're trying to figure out? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 16 at 14:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch: For the third option, I'm asking whether all costly components are craftable in general. If the only thing that ever prevents a character from being able to craft a costly component is a lack of a skill or tool, rather than crafting just not being an option the game provides for that component, the answer to that question would be "yes." \$\endgroup\$ – jwodder Sep 16 at 14:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've now posted the question with a couple edits: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/156390/… \$\endgroup\$ – jwodder Sep 17 at 17:01
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It would probably be better if you focus on what the books and/or other specific sources have to say, since otherwise this question may be seen as inviting speculation and thus closed (or it might, in actual fact, start attracting speculative answers and then closed). A question like that is unquestionably allowed here, even if the real answer is “they don’t,” since you aren’t (and can’t be) required to know the answer to your question before you ask it.

Don’t worry overmuch about the likelihood that the books have nothing useful to offer—users here tend to try to fill in for such shortcomings without being invited to anyway. By focusing on what books and/or other authoritative sources say, you improve the likelihood that any actual statements in the books or other sources get reported accurately and not buried under chaff. Perhaps more importantly, you also force answers that want to “fill in” to demonstrate that they are actually experts on the subject by showing that the approved sources don’t cover things, warding off the purely speculative “well I imagine that I would...” kind of answers that we frown upon, or even the better but still problematic “I have no idea what the official rules are, this is what I’ve always done” sort of answer. And your question is also less likely to be closed.

That said, I probably wouldn’t vote to close it as is unless problematic answers started to appear.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How about if I inserted the following parenthetical before the last sentence of the first paragraph? ("Expected" here means "As instructed, recommended, or suggested by any official material and/or statements by designers.") \$\endgroup\$ – jwodder Sep 16 at 21:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jwodder An improvement, no doubt; I’d probably try to pepper the idea throughout the question for emphasis (seriously, you have no idea how hard it can be to ward off speculation), but even just that would help. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 16 at 21:30
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Personally, I think it's fine.

Your wording and verbiage isn't quite how I would do it, but that's a subjective matter.

The meat of your question seems reasonable and I would try to answer it. 5e leaves a lot of the "fluffier" (more story based) elements of the game up to interpretation, which leaves room for questions.

And that's why we're all here.

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