RoleCraft: The Magic of Roleplaying, Part 3: Spell-casting

Here we go with part 3 in The Magic of Roleplaying series. In this edition, we’ll look at the act of spell-casting, and I’ll share some ways to RP this out in game.

The majority of my spell-casting knowledge was developed through many years of playing Dungeons & Dragons. Specifically, the game taught me about the three components that make up the casting of a spell: verbal, somatic, and material. Click over the the Wiki page called Magic of Dungeons & Dragons and read the section titled Casting for further explanation. Of all the roleplaying things that can be gained from classic tabletop RP games, this is thankfully one that MMORPG developers make strong use of in regards to in game magic.

Material components are just that, physical items that assist the spell-caster with the casting of spells. In the greater part of fantasy-based MMORPGs, these components are commonly known as reagents. You may think your first encounter with the term reagents was with your favorite MMORPG, but I would bet you heard of them long before that.

“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,–
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
Macbeth | Act IV, Scene I

That is a classic example of the use of reagents, and illustrates perfectly what they are and can be. Reagents are used up in casting the spell, and therefore have to be replenished. Therein lies one of the best RP events any spell-caster can do. Collecting reagents can keep a roleplaying spell-caster constantly busy, what with studying new spells, perfecting old ones, learning about what reagents work best, and where to find them. Grand quests may even be derived by investigating and gathering those extremely rare-to-find and difficult-to-get reagents. Reagents can be of such importance that a spell-caster may even take on an apprentice or hire others to help with their gathering, especially when those reagents are found in dangerous places.

Reagents are not the only material items that exist. Material can also mean scrolls, spell books, wands, staves, rods, a bard’s musical instrument, or some ancient tome. Material may also mean some specific location, such as an altar, magical ley line, or any place where a certain form of magic exists in natural form. Material can also be defined as time, as in dusk or dawn, during a full / new moon, or the “witching hour”. Simply take a good look around your favorite MMORPG for more such examples, and engage your roleplaying skills however you see fit.

Somatic spell-casting involves movement, predominantly (but not exclusively) gesturing with the hands. This component is graciously built in with MMORPG spell-casting, at least with every one I know of, so there’s not much to include here. One suggestion I have is to take some time from RP, go someplace quiet and sheltered in game, and closely watch your character casting spells, paying attention to what movements are made. Perhaps you could match up a physical emote to do before or after the spell-casting? Or make use of an item that bestows some physical element to your character (glowing hands, head, or body, for example) and match it with a spell-casting motion? Or any combination of all!

Verbal components are, of course, spoken commands and phrases that accompany spell-casting. Of the three components, this one is vastly unused by roleplayers. If your MMORPG is fortunate enough to allow the use of addons, then one that makes speech automatic under certain conditions and for specific functions (like the WoW addon Roleplaying Helper 2) is the way to go. Saying the magic word(s) can be a very powerful and unique method for roleplaying. It’s quick to identify your character as a spell-caster, and when used with moderation in public, may even help bring other roleplayers and non-roleplayers into alignment with your RP style.

Verbal components can easily consist of the words of your imagination, meaning there’s really no limit. If your imagination could use some help, however, there are plenty of crafty assets from which to draw inspiration. One of my favorite reference points is Ultima Online, and the Words of Power. Follow the below links see for yourself.

Words of Power Definitions
Spells (sorted by Words of Power)

Searching the world wide web can result in finding countless magic words and phrases, and it’s relatively easy to do. Combined with books, TV, movies, and music, I’ve collected a fair amount, some of my favorites which I’ll share here:

The Magician’s Hidden Library

– Allaminar! = Word of magic that creates a illumination spell, which causes a bright light.
– Keermissar! = Word of magic that causes three whirling magic stars to flash forth and strike an enemy.


Anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha – The Charm of Making

Gunter glieben glauchen globen – Rock of Ages, by Def Leppard

Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho – Jambi, from Pee Wee’s Playhouse



Sim Sim Sala Bim – Hadji, The Adventures of Jonny Quest

Oh, I could go on and on, but you hopefully get the picture. Magic words are everywhere, you have but to look them up, or better yet, create your own!

In the fourth and final part of this series, we’ll look at the discipline and philosophy behind magic in game, and consider some classic examples of spell-casters from history. As always, please leave your comments below in the Comments section, or send them directly to my email at RoleCraft at gmail dot com, and via Twitter. Also click over to The RP Archives, a blog where I gather all the roleplaying knowledge from across the interwebs into one handy reference place. Until next time, role on!

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