Alternative Material Components: Spice up D&D 5e Spellcasting

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Concept Overview

I recently participated in a campaign with high-level Wizards in the party. It became bothersome to seek out dull gemstones of various values for purposes of casting high-level spells. The DM didn’t enjoy this part of the game, so it became an awkward part of the game to seek and retrieve costly spell component. It wasn’t an option for this table’s style to just wave a hand and say the Wizards have whatever components they need. Ever since, I’ve been musing to myself about the components system and how it could be improved.

I came to the conclusion that it’d be fun to create opportunities for alternative spell components, allowing parties to seek odd rarities for spells instead of mere gemstones. To develop the idea further, I’ve brainstormed what forty spells’ material components might look like if they had alternative materials. The original components are still valid, but I came up with alternatives. The original materials and their gold costs should remain, but it can’t hurt to add other options for players to gather materials for their spells!

My alternative materials are meant to enable players to accomplish more with their loot and monster parts (I think we all know someone in our gaming groups who enjoys collecting bodily trophies from fallen monsters). I considered monsters and items that possess narrative or mechanical ties to each spell, while also considering the rarity of monsters and items in relation to the original spell components’ gold costs. I only focused on spells that require gold-value materials, such as “Diamond dust worth at least 100 gp, which the spell consumes” for the Greater Restoration spell. I also tried to keep the gold cost consistent with the difficulty that would be assumedly required to obtain my alternative component ideas. Check out my ideas below!

Alternative Components

SpellsOriginal Component(s)Additional Component Options
Magic MouthA small bit of honeycomb and jade dust worth at least 10 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: A drawing of a pair of lips drawn, painted, or otherwise crafted by a proficient artist. Option 2: Kenku feather.
Ceremony25 gp worth of powdered silver, which the spell consumes.Option 1: A symbol, work of art, or other tribute to the spellcaster’s god that is worth 25 gp or more.
Arcane LockGold dust worth at least 25 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Key dipped in molten gold or coated in gold dust or encased in amber. Option 2: Chains of a Chain Devil. Option 3: One hundred feet of silk rope.
NondetectionPinch of diamond dust worth 25 gp sprinkled over the target, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Manacle or magnifying glass made with charcoal black glass by its glazier (reusable). Option 2: Glass forged by fire from the Elemental Plane of Fire, with silica sand from the Elemental Plane of Earth (consumed, but effect becomes permanent).
True SeeingAn ointment for the eyes that costs 25 gp; is made from mushroom powder, saffron, and fat; and is consumed by the spell.Option 1: Gem of Seeing (reusable). Option 2: Fluid from a Beholder’s main anti-magic eye. Option 3: Powdered Lycanthrope eyeball.
Continual FlameRuby dust worth 50 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Fire derived from a Fire Elemental.
Warding BondPair of platinum rings.Option 1: Matching tattoos on the target and spell’s caster. Option 2: Marriage between the target and the spell’s caster, or other familial bond.
Teleportation CircleRare chalks and inks infused with precious gems with 50 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Charcoal from a Blink Dog funeral pyre.
Magic CircleHoly water or powdered silver and iron worth at least 100 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Modron dust. Option 2: Sea salt from the Elemental Plane of Water, blessed by a priest of a god of order or justice.
StoneskinDiamond dust worth 100 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Debris from an elemental of rock. Option 2: Basilisk claws.
Greater RestorationDiamond dust worth at least 100 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Tea brewed from a Gulthias Tree mixed with holy water. Option 2: Powdered vampire teeth mixed with holy water to become a paste. Option 3: Saliva of a Werewolf mixed with holy water, and a silver coin.
Soul CageTiny silver cage worth 100 gp.Option 1: Bottle covered in runes etched by a Night Hag claw. Option 2: Night Hag’s soul bag.
Glyph of WardingIncense and powdered diamond worth at least 200 gp, which the spell consumes.Option Explosive: Jar of sulfur and three flasks of Alchemist’s Fire. Option Spell Storing: Spell scroll for the stored spell.
RevivifyDiamonds worth 300 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Papyrus scroll with the deceased’s greatest desire/goal inscribed. Scroll must have a wax seal. The seal’s wax must be made with holy water and fat from a female animal.
Legend LoreIncense worth at least 250 gp, which the spell consumes, and four ivory strips worth at least 50 gp each.Option 1: Holy water created by a priest of a god of knowledge or secrets combined with octopus’ ink, sprinkled onto a page of a leather-bound book. The ink then forms into the revealed lore in a known language of the spellcaster.
Raise DeadDiamond worth at least 500 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Silk scarf dyed with the deceased’s blood. The silk must be woven from silkworms or spiders who were blessed by holy water created by a priest of a god of death or life. Option 2: Wrappings of a mummy lord wrapped around the target of the spell. Option 3: The heart of a silver dragon.
Circle of DeathCrushed black pearl worth 500 gp.Option 1: Gong worth 500 gp. Option 2: Gulthias tree root. Option 3: A lich’s hand or phylactery.
Magic JarA gem, crystal, reliquary, or some other ornamental container worth at least 500 gp.Option 1: Bag of Devouring that existed in the Shadowfell for ten days. Option 2: Genie’s lamp corrupted by a god of trickery or necromancy.
Mighty FortressDiamond worth at least 500 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Tapestry or piece of furniture from a castle of royalty worth 500 gp. Option 2: 10-pound stone of a fortification that survived an army’s assault.
InvulnerabilityA small piece of adamantine worth at least 500 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Tempered glass worth 500 gp. Option 2: Two unblemished tower shields.
Planar BindingA jewel worth at least 1,000 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: The heart of a similar or same type of creature that the spell is targeting. Option 2: Valuable relic from the creature’s native plane of existence. 
AwakenAn agate worth at least 1,000 gp, which the spell consumes.Option Beast: Scroll of Speak with Animals, servings of food that the animal naturally eats in an amount equal to the animal’s weight in pounds, and a name for the animal carved into a clay mold. Option Plant: Scroll of Speak with Plants, an amount of manure equal to half of the plant’s weight in pounds (minimum one pound, maximum fifty pounds). The manure must contain fifty mashed berries from the Goodberry spell.
HallowHerbs, oils, and incense worth at least 1,000 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Bones of a saint. Option 2: Relic dedicated by a god or originating from a god. Option 3: Potion of Heroism and a scroll of Protection from Good and Evil.
ReincarnateRare oils and unguents worth at least 1,000 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Phoenix egg. Option 2: Fan made of Phoenix feathers and plumage. Option 3: Lich’s phylactery. Option 4: Vampire’s soil of rest soaked with holy water or charred by a lightning bolt. Option 5: Two Rakshasa paws. 
Create HomunculusClay, ash, and mandrake root, all of which the spell consumes, and a jewel-encrusted dagger worth at least 1,000 gp.Option 1: Clay, ash, and mandrake root (consumed). Doll woven with a dead (or undead) humanoid’s hair, and a dagger coated with a monstrosity’s blood (not consumed). Option 2: A creature’s baby teeth, and one pound of your own flesh (all consumed).
Heroes’ FeastA gem-encrusted bowl worth at least 1,000 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Meal prepared by a master chef on a holy altar or druid grove altar. Option 2: Artisan rug worth 1,000 gp that unrolls to reveal the meal. Option 3: Assortment of at least five different species of rare mushrooms, and fermented fruit juice.
Drawmij’s Instant SummonsA sapphire worth 1,000 gp.Option 1: Eversmoking Bottle (not consumed) which summons the item when the bottle is opened. Option 2: Crystal ball crafted by a Duergar artisan. Option 3: Scroll of Wristpocket and a cat’s eye marble.
ForbiddanceA sprinkling of holy water, rare incense, and powdered ruby worth at least 1,000 gp.Option 1: Scroll of Leomund’s Tiny Hut that has survived either a Moonbeam or Dawn spell. Option 2: Tower shield made of glass worth 1,000 gp. Option 3: Quiver of magical arrows worth 1,000 gp shot into the target area during the casting time of the spell. Option 4: Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple oil paints collectively worth 1,000 gp that is used to coat the ground of the intended target area of the spell. Option 5: Hand of a Deva. Option 6: Jawbone of a Goristro.
ResurrectionDiamond worth at least 1,000 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Two scrolls of Revivify. Option 2: Beehive of bees that fed on psychedlic flower nectar, and a cherished possession of the spell’s target. Option 3: Crysallis of a caterpillar that never emerged as a butterfly as it died during its metamorphosis, and tithes worth 1,000 gp offered by at least ten people who want to revive the spell’s target.
SymbolMercury, phosphorus, and powdered diamond and opal with a total value of at least 1,000 gp, which the spell consumes.Option Sleep: Golden bird cage worth 1,000 gp with a dead canary inside. Option Stunning: Jeweled goblet worth 1,000 gold that is filled to the brim with Carrion Crawler venom. Option Pain: Doses of medical anesthetics worth 1,000 gp. Option Insanity: Mustard mixed with mashed flesh and tongue of a gibbering mouther. Option Fear: Dragon’s eye or a dead person who has been possessed by a ghost before. Option Hopelessness: Bodak’s liver or tusk of a Catoblepas. Option Discord: Eyes of an Umber Hulk or Nothic. Option Death: Mirror kissed by a banshee, or the corpse of a Death Knight or person slain by a Death Knight.
CloneDiamond 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.Option 1: Chicken’s egg, Scroll of Enlarge/Reduce, and jar of Mimic’s glue. Option 2: Flesh Golem resembling the living creature, sealed by chains within a barrel of pickles. Option 3: Sibling of the living creature that is sealed within a vessel until the sibling dies.
Astral ProjectionFor each creature you affect with this spell, you must provide one jacinth worth at least 1,000 gp and one ornately carved bar of silver worth at least 100 gp, all of which the spell consumes.Option 1: Powerful psychedelics worth 1,000 gp per creature you affect with this spell. Option 2: Decapitated heads of an entire coven of Night Hags. Option 3: Golden mirrors worth 1,000 gp each. Each creature you affect with this spell must have its own golden mirror that is large enough for the creature to walk through. Option 4: Githyanki swords per creature you affect with this spell.
ContingencyIvory statue of self.Option 1: Rakshasa’s eyeball that replaces your own eyeball. Option 2: Beholder’s eyestalk, which you eat and consume. Option 3: Prayer wheel worth 1,500 gp that contains your contingency plan.
ForcecageRuby dust.Option 1: Brain fluid of a Mind Flayer mixed with molten silver and mercury, forged into a cube by a proficient blacksmith. Option 2: Five pounds of powdered Flail Snail shell mixed with magnetized iron. Option 3: Aboleth mucus coating a minotaur’s unblemished horn.
SimulacrumSnow or ice in quantities sufficient to made a life-size copy of the duplicated creature; some hair, fingernail clippings, or other piece of that creature’s body placed inside the snow or ice; and powdered ruby worth 1,500 gp, sprinkled over the duplicate and consumed by the spell.Option 1: Ice that has been frozen for at least twenty years and weighs as much as the spell’s target, coated in a Mimic’s secreted skin glue. Option 2: Doppleganger’s skull encased in clay or ice, weighing at least as much as the spell’s target. Option 3: Ten-pound shard of a Flail Snail shell pierced into a statue crafted of ice or clay, resembling the spell’s target. Option 4: Puzzlebox crafted by wood of a petrified tree from the Feywild or Shadowfell, which you must be able to solve to cast the spell.
ShapechangeJade circlet.Option 1: Vial of blood of the creature the spell’s caster seeks to become. Option 2: Spell Scroll of Polymorph and Spell Scroll of Tenser’s Transformation. Option 3: The Transmuter’s Stone created by a Transmutation Wizard of 14th level or higher.
SequesterPowder composed of diamond, emerald, ruby, and sapphire dust worth at least 5,000 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: Modron eye forged into a crystal ball. Option 2: Silver dragon egg yolk coating the target. Option 3: Blood of a High Elf and fur of a Sphinx. 
GateDiamond worth at least 5,000 gp.Option 1: The corpse of a creature of CR 10 or higher that was native to the target plane of existence. Option 2: A Heartstone crafted by a coven of Night Hags. Option 3: Two eyes and five claws of a Rakshasa woven into a necklace.
True ResurrectionSprinkle of holy water and diamonds worth at least 25,000 gp, which the spell consumes.Option 1: A Vampire Lord’s soil of rest, and an adult dragon’s egg. Option 2: A sprinkle of holy water, a tank of glacial water large enough to receive the resurrected creature’s body, a Behir’s heart, and either a Unicorn’s horn or a Solar’s feather.
Create UndeadOne clay pot filled with grave dirt, one clay pot filled with brackish water, and one 150 gp black onyx stone for each corpse.Option 1: One clay pot filled with grave dirt, one clay pot filled with brackish water, and two glass eyes for each corpse. Option 2: An artifact of Orcus and a corpse. Option 3: Head of a goat and a humanoid corpse.

Share Your Ideas!

I racked my brain for inspiration, but I bet some of our readers can come up with even better material component concepts than what I came up with. Please cast Message in the comments below to tell us about your ideas. We can help improve one another’s D&D games if you share your own inspiration for material components.

As a side note, I also considered how it would be fun for spellcasters to automatically upcast particular spells if spellcasters use ‘greater’ spell components. Let me know if you want me to write about this concept because it could be transformative for the average D&D game played by people who enjoy detailed inventory tracking and acquisition.

Don’t forget to check out our other articles about spellcasting. I know you’ll find something useful and inspiring if you explore Flutes Loot. Stay tuned for our future articles as well, and happy looting to you and your adventuring party!

3 thoughts on “<b>Alternative Material Components</b>: Spice up D&D 5e Spellcasting”

  1. Apologies for any thread necromancy invoked by my reply. I was recently reading some 3e supplements (Forgotten Realms, iirc) and read some spell entries that gained benefits when specific components were used, or in some cases used by specific classes, races, or prestige classes. For example, “If you sprinkle remains of an object damaged or destroyed by the breath weapon of a dragon (worth at least 100 gp), the caster level of the spell increases by two.”
    I’m seriously considering including this concept in my campaign as a benefit for performing a little research about the creatures they’re battling and taking the time to do a little hunting and harvesting. My casters typically use a focus instead of components and I love this idea for the immersion factor alone.

    1. Hi Bryan, I didn’t realize past editions had mechanics for this! Many players enjoy hunting and harvesting, especially if it means they can become more powerful for their trouble. This is an easy way for DMs to customize a game for their players without breaking any game balance they’re maintaining. Thanks for sharing your mutual interest in this concept!

  2. Recently discovered your blog, and finding lots of good stuff as I dig through your posts.
    Added to my Blog Database.

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