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Because of a comment Gustie left on my Sorcerer Patrol post, I’ve been playing Dragon Age: Origins recently. The magic system in this game uses the “mana” magic point system that has become standard in most computer RPGs. Spells are divided into activated and sustained categories. Activated spells cost a fixed amount of mana and have an immediate effect (which also may sometimes persist for a short period of time, but wears off quickly). Something like paralyze (which affects an enemy) is an activated effect, as is fireball.
Sustained spells, however, are essentially permanent but also reserve a fixed amount of mana which can’t be used for other magic while the sustained ability is maintained. Effects generated by this type of spell are often defensive (arcane shield, rock armor), but also auras which penalize opponents (miasma) or benefit allies (flaming weapons).
It occurs to me that this mechanism could be used for spells in a tabletop game as well, replacing or in addition to the idea of other durations. For example, a spell like shield or armor could be maintained indefinitely, perhaps by occupying two first level spell slots. Personally, I am less likely to modify existing spells in this way than to use this approach as a basis for new custom spells. In most cases infinite duration, even at the cost of extra spell slots being occupied, seems like it might cut into the resource management aspect of the game. However, I still think the idea has legs, especially for effects that are more interesting than a simple bonus.
I experimented with something like this at one point, but one problem with using this for traditional D&D spells is that they have varying base durations. Ex: in 3.5, mage armor is +4 AC and 1 hour / level, while Shield is +7 and 1 round / level. Having permashield cost the same as permaarmor was a problem; a per-spell cost might be necessary. And yeah, resource management was not helped by this rule :\
Yeah, that’s true, and it’s one of the reasons I feel like this mechanism would be better to use with custom spells, rather than trying to figure out a general formula that could be used with the durations of existing spells.
could make spell last as long as you want but it occupies a memory slot in DnD – but id probably have to rewrite spells – a feat or skill to do this with one spell might be handy – i make lots of druid spells last 24 hrs though a player worked out how to create several hundred healing berries for starting a dungeon-crawl
Doing this with feats or skills would be totally legit too, if you were playing with a ruleset that uses such things. Recently, I have been playing editions that don’t have either feats or skills though.
Rather than spell levels, for something like D&D or an OSR clone I would say 1 HP per level of the spell. So a wizard with a maximum of 9 HP drops his maximum down to 8 HP to keep a Shield spell active. Or if you want to make magic difficult to keep maintained, 1d3 per spell level.
Hey, that’s not a bad idea.
What do you think about AFG implementation of them?
The AFG method is spend one extra mana to extend the duration, right? That seems pretty reasonable, and could be ported to traditional D&D by perhaps making the caster forfeit another prepared spell (given that AFG mana points are approximately equal to level one spell slots).
Yep. One mana point is used to power any spell though, so for D&D one would probably forfeit a spell of the same level.