Rules Index | GM Screen

Pathfinder Unchained

Esoteric Material Components

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 150
A handful of hard-to-find, naturally occurring substances contain magical potency and can be used as special material components. Some spellcasters are trained to use these esoteric material components in their enhanced practice of the magical arts. The four more common types—entropic resin, geodes, prismatic sand, and verdant salts—link to two schools of magic each. A fifth type, yliaster, is extremely potent, but far more rare; it is universally useful, and can be substituted for any other material component.

Use the following rules for esoteric material components with the variants presented on pages 151–152.

Component Cost: The value of esoteric material components that must be spent on a spell is equal to 1 gp × caster level × spell level, as shown on Table 4–7: Esoteric Material Component Costs. This value must be spent if esoteric components are mandatory in the campaign, or can be spent to replace normal material components if esoteric material components are optional.

Expending Components: Each component works effectively for only two schools of magic. A caster can expend an esoteric component type that doesn’t match his spell’s school, but he must expend twice as much of the substitute component to fake the effects of the appropriate component. The esoteric components used in a spell need not all be of the same type. For example, a 3rd-level wizard casting bear’s endurance could expend 6 gp worth of geodes, or 12 gp total worth of entropic resin and verdant salts, or 4 gp worth of geodes plus 4 gp worth of verdant salts, and so on.

Greater Component Effects: Expending twice the amount of components indicated on Table 4–7 activates a greater component effect, which varies by esoteric component type. These benefits are listed under the component descriptions at the end of the chapter, and depend on the component expended. To obtain the greater component benefit, the caster must use a single component type; using a type that doesn’t match the spell’s school still costs twice as much. The wizard in the above example could gain the geodes’ greater component benefit by expending an extra 6 gp worth of geodes, or gain the verdant salts’ greater component benefit by expending an extra 12 gp worth of verdant salts. A single casting of a spell can normally benefit from only one greater component effect, but the caster can expend additional components and attempt a Spellcraft check with a DC equal to 20 + double the spell’s level to add more. The caster must pay the cost in esoteric components even if the Spellcraft check fails. For each greater component effect beyond the second, the DC increases by 5 + the spell’s level. If the caster fails this check by 5 or more, the spell fails and its slot is lost. You can’t apply the greater component effect of a single type of component more than once on a single casting of a spell.

Table 4-7: Esoteric Material Component Costs

Spell Level
1st5 sp1 gp
2nd1 gp2 gp
3rd1 gp, 5 sp3 gp6 gp
4th2 gp4 gp8 gp
5th2 gp, 5 sp5 gp10 gp15 gp
6th3 gp6 gp12 gp18 gp
7th3 gp, 5 sp7 gp14 gp21 gp28 gp
8th4 gp8 gp16 gp24 gp32 gp
9th4 gp, 5 sp9 gp18 gp27 gp36 gp45 gp
10th5 gp10 gp20 gp30 gp40 gp50 gp
11th5 gp, 5 sp11 gp22 gp33 gp44 gp55 gp66 gp
12th6 gp12 gp24 gp36 gp48 gp60 gp72 gp
13th6 gp, 5 sp13 gp26 gp39 gp52 gp65 gp78 gp91 gp
14th7 gp14 gp28 gp42 gp56 gp70 gp84 gp98 gp
15th7 gp, 5 sp15 gp30 gp45 gp60 gp75 gp90 gp105 gp120 gp
16th8 gp16 gp32 gp48 gp64 gp80 gp96 gp112 gp128 gp
17th8 gp, 5 sp17 gp34 gp51 gp68 gp85 gp102 gp119 gp136 gp153 gp
18th9 gp18 gp36 gp54 gp72 gp90 gp108 gp126 gp144 gp162 gp
19th9 gp, 5 sp19 gp38 gp57 gp76 gp95 gp114 gp133 gp152 gp171 gp
20th10 gp20 gp40 gp60 gp80 gp100 gp120 gp140 gp160 gp180 gp

Buying Esoteric Components

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 150
Each common esoteric material component has the same price, and a spellcaster buys them based on their gp value. Though each type of component comes in different sizes and purities, it’s usually simplest to just track the total gp value of each type of component a spellcaster carries rather than the specific forms of those components. In a collection of geodes, some might be large and some small, some fine and some flawed.

Each bit of esoteric component goes a long way, so 500 gp worth of components weighs 1 pound regardless of its type. Esoteric material components aren’t inherently magical, and can’t be found using detect magic.

Material components can be found either in the form of raw, unprocessed base components or ref ined units of various values. They can be found in nature, purchased from merchants, or discovered in treasure hoards. How often a PC finds esoteric components is determined by the variant you are using (see below). Especially among the treasure of a spellcaster, it would be reasonable to f ind various quantities of multiple types of esoteric components. The same could be said for an alchemist’s lab or a stash hidden by bandits who recently raided a wizards’ college.

The rare esoteric component yliaster is a special case. Yliaster appears only in major treasure hoards, especially those belonging to powerful spellcasters. A GM who would prefer not to allow the effects of yliaster can simply use only the common esoteric components and leave the rare one out of the game entirely.

Implementing Esoteric Components

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 151
There’s more than one way to introduce esoteric components to a game. Three variants are detailed below.

Optional Components

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 151
The esoteric material components system can be added directly on top of the normal spellcasting system. Spells don’t need esoteric components to be cast, and normal material components function as normal. Expending esoteric material components worth the listed values allows the caster to replace normal material components she lacks (but not to replace expensive material components). It’s far more useful in this system to pay double the amount of esoteric components to gain the greater component effect. A 6th-level wizard casting fireball can do so using a normal spell component pouch. If he’s missing his pouch, he can expend 18 gp worth of entropic resin to cast the spell anyway. He could expend 36 gp worth (with or without a spell component pouch) to make the spell more powerful with its greater component effect.

Adding esoteric material components as an option makes spellcasters considerably more powerful. When used this way, esoteric components are essentially an additional type of treasure. Use esoteric components as treasure only rarely, and consider ignoring the rules that allow scrounging for components. Esoteric components might not be very well known in the world, and aren’t readily available to purchase.

Mandatory Components

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 151
If esoteric components are mandatory, casting any spell that requires a material component requires expending the proper amount of esoteric material components instead. A 6th-level wizard casting fireball must expend 18 gp worth of entropic resin, and can expend 36 gp worth to make the spell more powerful with its greater component effect. If he doesn’t have enough components, he can’t cast the spell. However, if he had 15 gp worth of entropic resin, he could cast the fireball at caster level 5th. A spell that doesn’t require material components can be cast normally, but the caster can choose to expend esoteric components for the greater component effect.

Under this system, a spell component pouch includes 1 gp worth of each common component, plus an additional 1 gp worth of a common type of the buyer’s choice. Requiring esoteric components significantly impacts a spellcaster’s treasure acquisition, so the mandatory components variant should be used with caution, especially if the campaign already uses variants that make spellcasting less powerful (such as limited magic; see page 146). Include esoteric components in most treasure hoards and in NPC spellcasters’ gear.

Lowering Your Caster Level

A spellcaster using esoteric material components can voluntarily cast a spell as though she had a lower caster level. This means if she doesn’t have enough components—or would like to save some money—she can still cast a less effective version of the spell. She can’t lower her caster level to be lower than the level at which she could cast the spell. Table 4–7: Esoteric Material Component Cost shows this value for clerics, druids, and wizards, but a spellcaster with a slower progression has the same limitation. A bard couldn’t cast a 3rd-level spell at a caster level lower than 7th, for example.

For spells that don’t continue to increase in power after a certain caster level, it’s usually best for the spellcaster to cast that spell as though she were a lower caster level to reduce the cost of her esoteric components.

With Limited Magic

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 152
In a game that uses the limited magic variant, you can add esoteric components to take some of the sting out of the weakened spellcasting. It’s best to include the components as described in the optional components variant, rather than saddling spellcasters with both weakened spellcasting and decreased treasure.

Limited magic uses a fixed caster level, which acts as the baseline for casting a spell using esoteric components or gaining the greater component benef its. When used together, the esoteric components and limited magic systems also allow another option: expending esoteric components to gain the benefits of a higher CL or save DC. The specif ic limited magic benef it is listed under each component description. The caster must expend components whose value is equal to twice the esoteric component cost for his caster level (rather than the spell’s minimum caster level) to gain the limited magic benefit. For example, a 6th-level wizard casting fireball could gain the limited magic benef it by expending 36 gp worth of entropic resin.

As with greater component effects, expending multiple types of esoteric components can apply other limited magic effects, but requires a Spellcraft check. This option is deliberately more expensive to discourage casters from using it too routinely.

A spellcaster can choose to apply either greater component effects or limited magic effects—but not both—on the same casting of a spell.


Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 152
This optional rule allows a low-level spellcaster to find enough components to keep casting her spells. It’s recommended to use scrounging if esoteric components are mandatory.

Over the course of an adventuring day, a spellcaster can scrounge for esoteric components in her environment. At the end of each day, she can collect 1d6 gp worth of each common esoteric component. (Rare components can never be found by scrounging.) This requires her to explore a decent-sized area. Spending several days in one town or repeatedly going through the same few rooms in a dungeon doesn’t yield more than 1 day’s worth of components. Depending on the likelihood of finding a type of component in an area, the GM can adjust the die size up or down by one. For instance, while exploring caverns, a scrounger might find 1d8 gp worth of geodes, but only 1d4 gp worth of verdant salts. A scrounger can hunt exclusively for a specific type of common esoteric component. Because esoteric components are naturally occurring, she must succeed at a DC 15 Knowledge (nature) check or come up empty-handed. If she succeeds, she gains 2d6 gp worth of the component she was searching for and none of the others.

Esoteric Components

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 152
This system uses four common esoteric components— entropic resin, geodes, prismatic sand, and verdant salts—plus one rare component called yliaster. A GM can change the descriptions of these components to different substances that better fit her game if she so chooses. The rare component could be a catchall for a number of equally potent magical substances. The blood of a god, a sliver of stone from deep in the earth, or a piece of ethereal substance made solid could each be used as the rare component, even within the same campaign.

Each entry includes the associated schools, a description of the esoteric component type, the greater component effect, and the limited magic effect. The limited magic effect entry applies only if the campaign is also using the limited magic system.

Entropic Resin

Associated Schools evocation, necromancy

This slightly viscous, pearlescent gray-black substance is most commonly stored in small vials, jars, and bottles. It’s most frequently found at sites of carnage and places where undead creatures dwell. Locations where multiple creatures died from flames, acid, or lightning are excellent potential sources of entropic resin. It seems to be organic in nature, or at least formed of trace substances from the bodies of organic life forms, though there is some debate on the issue among necromantic scholars.

Unrefined entropic resin is potent, but can still be distilled and refined. The more it’s refined, the darker and more solid it becomes. The most potent entropic resin is pitch black and snaps if bent.

Greater Component Effect: Treat your caster level as though it were 1 higher for determining the number of damage dice used by this spell. This also increases the maximum number of damage dice a spell can have by 1, if applicable. For example, a 10th-level wizard casting fireball could expend 60 gp worth of entropic resin to deal 11d6 points of fire damage.

Limited Magic Effect: Use your full caster level (to a maximum of the spell’s minimum caster level + 3) for determining the damage dice of the spell.


Associated Schools abjuration, transmutation Geodes are loose, spheroid, rocklike structures found within flows of lava rock, areas of upheaval, and places associated with earth and fire elementals. Often mistaken for simple rocks due to their nondescript coating, geodes are hollow with various crystal formations hidden within. Formed from molten rock and exotic trapped gases that turn into crystals, geodes can have innate properties that help extend perceptions and pierce barriers, both astral and physical.

Small or crudely worked geode fragments or nodes are more than potent enough to be used with low-level spells, but for more complex spells, it’s more efficient for the geodes to be cleansed, cut, and worked into a more refined state.

Greater Component Effect: Treat your caster level as though it were 2 higher for determining the duration of this spell.

Limited Magic Effect: Use your full caster level instead of the minimum for determining the duration of the spell.

Prismatic Sand

Associated Schools conjuration, illusion Made of incredibly tiny polyhedrons, prismatic sand reflects a rainbow of colors. Most commonly found by sifting sand from warm beaches, this substance appears to be normal glass cut into very specific multifaceted shapes. Due to the substance’s apparent mundanity, spellcasters frequently try to manufacture it, but so far no attempt has been successful. When gathered in enough quantity, typically 2 ounces or so, prismatic sand takes on a rainbow sheen across its surface.

To make prismatic sand more effective, it must be carefully separated from the normal sand it’s typically mixed with—it functions much better when pure. Prismatic sand also works better when treated with cleansing chemicals, polished, and shined with a variety of specialized cloths and materials. Individual grains come in all variety of prismatic shapes, and the more sides a grain has, the better its mirrored surface captures light. The most intricate grains bend, manipulate, and split light into a dazzling spectrum.

Greater Component Effect: You can either treat your caster level as though it were 4 higher for determining the range of the spell, or increase or decrease the spell’s area of effect by 5 feet if it’s a burst, emanation, line, or spread with a radius or length of at least 20 feet.

Limited Magic Effect: Use your full caster level for determining the spell’s range and area.

Verdant Salts

Associated Schools divination, enchantment Verdant salts are found upon the dried, post-flowering pods of a common plant used in making textiles. The salt gathers on the plant only on dewy mornings following a full moon. Consuming verdant salts alters perceptions, and is said to improve the eater’s health. Grazing animals drawn to the salty taste frequently eat the crystals, so following deer or livestock that exhibit erratic behavior can lead a spellcaster to fields where verdant salts can be found.

Raw verdant salts can be dissolved, refined, and processed into more complex salt crystals or solid rods of compressed salt. Such refinements take time, and require special training in order for a wizard, alchemist, or craftsperson to produce properly.

Greater Component Effect: Increase the DC of any saving throw, skill check, or ability check an enemy must attempt due to this spell by 1.

Limited Magic Effect: The saving throw DC of the spell equals the base DC + 3, or 10 + the spell’s level + your spellcasting ability modifier, whichever is lower.

Yliaster (Rare Component)

Associated Schools All The rare substance yliaster is the universal esoteric component, and has the same effect and price no matter the school of the spell it’s used on. It can even be substituted for an equivalent value of an expensive material component—5,000 gp worth of yliaster could be used to cast raise dead without a diamond worth 5,000 gp, for example. Yliaster is a claylike material found in small clods typically no bigger than a berry or thimble. It’s remarkably light, seems to be composed of many colors, and does not crumble or compress in the same fashion as normal clay or soil.

A spell cast using yliaster can’t also benefit from common esoteric components.

Greater Component Effect: Increase the DC of any saving throw, skill check, or ability check an enemy must attempt due to this spell by 1. In addition, treat your caster level as though it were 2 higher for this spell. This increase can also raise the maximum damage dice of the spell beyond its limit. For example, a 10th-level wizard casting fireball could expend 600 gp worth of yliaster to cast it at CL 12th and deal 12d6 points of fire damage. This bonus also applies on caster level checks to overcome spell resistance and on concentration checks while casting the spell.

Price: Unlike with other esoteric components, the required amount of yliaster doesn’t vary with caster level. The cost of using yliaster is always 200 gp per spell level. Yliaster is even lighter than common components, weighing 1 pound per 2,000 gp of value. Few people, even experienced spellcasters, are able to find yliaster easily. Treat it as though it were a major magic item for the purposes of determining its availability. It’s typically sold in pieces worth 1,000 gp (five castings of a 1st-level spell), or multiples of 1,000 gp for larger pieces.

Crafting Magic Items

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 154
Scrolls, wands, and magic items can be crafted using esoteric components. This increases the cost of the item accordingly. If a wizard expends 56 gp worth of prismatic sand while creating a scroll of black tentacles, that spell gains the greater component effect when cast from the scroll. For a staff or wand, the creator must make the same decision for all castings of a particular spell and pay the full price for each. He can’t make a wand with 30 charges of cure light wounds and 20 charges of cure light wounds with the greater component effect, but can spend an additional 100 gp to give all the charges the greater component effect (for a CL 1st wand). In a game that uses mandatory components, magic item crafting becomes much more expensive since each casting of the spell requires spending components. A wand of burning hands would cost a minimum of 800 gp (750 gp + 1 gp per charge).


Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 154
In a campaign that uses the esoteric material component system, characters have access to Esoteric feats. Any time a character would gain a bonus metamagic feat, he can choose to take an esoteric feat instead.

Alternate Eschew Materials

Because it would function poorly with the esoteric components system, the Eschew Materials feat should be replaced in a game that uses esoteric material components. Use the alternate version below.

Eschew Materials

You can cast spells using fewer esoteric material components.

Benefit: When you cast a spell that uses esoteric material components, you can spend components as though your caster level were 2 lower (with a minimum of the spell’s minimum caster level). This does not affect the cost of expensive material components.