[RPG] the point of a spell component pouch


While I'd like to think I know the general Dungeons and Dragons / Pathfinder rules pretty well, one thing I've never quite understood is the spell component pouch, especially in relation to the Eschew Materials feat.

Other class tools, such as the Healer's kit, specifically state how many uses the item has. A spell component pouch has no such limit, but there also isn't much description as to what is inside the kit itself. I understand that most spells use a small, non-costly material component, but what is the point of having a feat like Eschew Materials when you can use a non-costly component pouch? For that matter, why is a spell component pouch necessary at all?

Best Answer

It's a relic of earlier systems.

From the "Dungeonomicon:"

Material Components: A Joke Gone Way Out of Hand

Material components are a joke. I'm not saying that they are metaphorically a joke in that they don't act as a consistent or adequate limiting factor to spellcasting, I mean that they are actually a joke. Material components are supposed to be "ha ha" funny. The fact that even after having this brought to your attention, you still aren't laughing, indicates that this is a failed attempt at humor. Most material components are based on technological gags, when you cast scrying you are literally supposed to grab yourself a "specially treated" mirror, some wire, and some lemons – which is to say that you make a TV set to watch your target on and then power it with an archaic battery. When you cast see invisibility you literally blow talc all over the place – which of course reveals invisible foes. Casting lightning bolt requires you to generate a static charge with an amber rod and some fur, tongues requires that you build a little Tower of Babel, and of course fireball requires that you whip up some actual gunpowder. Get it? You're making the effects MacGuyver style and then claiming that it's "magic" after the fact. Are you laughing yet?

Thus, a spell component pouch was very important in 2nd edition to hold those amber rods, bat guano and silver hammers. (I remember a story of a character who had tiny silver hammers sewn onto hooks on his saddle, just to have an efficient means of carrying them.)

In 3rd, because spell components don't cost anything (except for the ones that do for "balance") they need what amounts to hammerspace for spell components. It's a nod to vancian casting and the earlier editions, but its components aren't tracked because it's assumed that the character is competent and has all necessary components for their spells inside it.

Effectively, it served as a "You didn't prepare enough" tax in earlier editions. In 3rd ed, there is less of a need to compensate for magic and the joke has worn thin. Eschew Materials is mostly a flavour feat which indicates that you don't need a spell component pouch for those times when it's not on you.