Power Component
rating: 0+x

"That's as maybe, but if you want that you'll need to bring me a liar's tongue to work with. Not with the rest of the liar attached, by the way, but the fresher the better."

Basic Information

A power component is a piece of material useable in magic which by some peculiarity of its nature is particularly suited for its use - either enhancing the quality of the working or item in which it is used, or making the production process easier or cheaper.

In some cases, this may be because the component stores "mana" or equivalent magical energy - this is common amongst organs harvested from creatures with inherent magical powers - in other cases it exploits one of the laws of magic (probably sympathy) by being very suitable in some way. Suitability may be thematic (cockroaches may be particularly useful for protective and defensive magic) or involve some more complicated correspondence (for example an astrological connection) or other property (as, for example, the various mystical properties assigned to gemstones). Also, just being "special" - from a rare variant of the source - may make their magical potential greater where magic requires (or is assisted by) thematic significance and relevance. These may be combined - for example, unicorn hair may make a superior rope to regular horsehair and, being from an inherently magical beast, may be easier to enchant, thus making a magical rope made of unicorn hair doubly superior. Where relevant, social status (especially royalty), birth order (seven son of a seven son), vagaries of appearance (red hair, albinism1) and other conditional modifiers (such as virginity) may also be significant.

Power components are likely to be particularly useful in low end magic, where the practitioner needs all the help they can get: charm making and the potion brewing version of alchemy for example.

Obviously the edges of this shade into animal sacrifice (and sacrificial magic generally, up to and including blood magic and human sacrifice) and it can get dark really quite quickly, especially if what-measure-is-a-non-human is applied - eye of toad may be one thing, and dragon's blood another (if you can overlook the fact that the donor was probably involuntary and almost certainly a centuries old sapient creature) … by the time you start looking at fairy wings, the rest of your party may well be sleeping with one eye open and a knife under their pillow.2 For those looking for a magic is evil theme, this is a great way to go, and there is plenty of historical precedent for magic to require components that are not legal, moral or wholesome.

Mandrake would seem a significant item in this field, possibly with the side benefit of being able to adsorb and store life energy lost in its presence.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • These are obvious treasure and bait for fetch quests and similar things.
    • It even allows a critter that has no logical reason to carry cash to be worth something.
  • Also cargo for a fedex quest.
  • Depending on the system, PCs may be assumed to be capable of harvesting things, or have to invest in the right non-combat skills (gasp!) to collect them effectively.
  • Can give a cheap, consumable power up as a minor bonus.
  • Can also explain how entry level casters get things done.
  • Perhaps flavour and other forms of immersion building as well.
    • Clever/immersed players may spot potential correspondences and/or ways that substances can be swapped between recipes … magic need not be that logical, but it gives a good opportunity for rewarding players who get their heads into the game.
  • Note that even the fairly "family friendly" Buffy The Vampire Slayer got quite (implicitly) dark about this at times, with the assorted organs and extracts of various "demons" being regularly used for various magical workings … despite the series establishing that most, if not all, demons were sapient and many of them free willed and not necessarily evil or even dangerous.
  • As a rule of thumb, any time you get a critter that defies science, it might be expected to have one or more organs that inherently channel magic and can be stripped for use as power components. Like the platypus and the bumblebee, there may be one or two "weird mundanes" that are expected to have a "mana organ" … and don't.
  • "That RPG" used to make a big deal of "material components" in a lot of its magic system, but the majority of them were simply bad jokes as written and served very little useful purpose. Later editions have tended to drift away from them, unless they are simply being used as an egregious "cash to magic" conversion.
  • The use of components which are immoral, illegal and/or unwholesome, in or out of character, may prove a useful brake on PCs flinging around as much magic as their opponents (especially in modern/wainscot settings) - cultists may think nothing of boiling up a baby or two to make flying ointment, but all but the most murderhobo of players will probably balk.
  • It may also be entirely congruent for PCs to get into the habit of collecting significant parts from the less mundane things that they kill - if the party wizard can't use them, they may be able to get cash or credit for them from some NPC. Especially the weirder ones: just because normal people don't want the teeth from that stone dog you killed, doesn't mean that a goblin kobylah in a hole-in-the-wall conjure shop might not swap them for a charm, or accept them by way of some other payment. And no, he won't tell you why … or at least, not without additional payment.
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