D&D 5E I want a return to long duration spells in D&D Next.


Another one of the many things I didn't like about 4th edition was the short duration spells. I want a return to spells with durations like round/level, minute/level, hour/level, concentration/+2 rounds etc.... I hated that most all spells had the "end of your next turn", "beginning of your next turn" etc durations. I don't mind some spells having short durations but I want a return of the longer duration ones.

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Another one of the many things I didn't like about 4th edition was the short duration spells. I want a return to spells with durations like round/level, minute/level, hour/level, concentration/+2 rounds etc.... I hated that most all spells had the "end of your next turn", "beginning of your next turn" etc durations. I don't mind some spells having short durations but I want a return of the longer duration ones.

Part of this was kept in the form of "sustain" effects.

But also, spells that do things without the caster needing to affect them is one of the sources of imbalance from older editions.

A spell that lasts more than one round without an effort on the part of the caster, essentially makes it as though the caster cast that spell again, for no cost. This effect is multiplicative, as more long-duration spells are cast, they continue to work while the caster casts more spells.

I agree that long-duration spells should exist, but they should require some continual upkeep on the part of the caster. An increasing DC Concentration check each round, a "sustain" requirement demanding the caster sacrifice certain actions to keep it working, and so on.

Also: spells should use a standard unit of measure. Minutes maybe, rounds, I don't care. But doing the conversions from one to the other is annoying and time consuming unless there is a very simple breakdown of time increments.
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Day long buffs became a real headache by higher levels in 3.5. If they are to be in the game, I'd like to see their proliferation tightly leashed. It wasn't much of a problem for the cleric to cast protection from evil or something at the start of each day, but I don't want a return to Persistent Spell spreadsheets every time the group delves into a dungeon.

Since splatbooks will inevitably breed in the dark places of the earth and come spilling forth in poorly vetted droves, my instinct is to avoid day-long buffs altogether. But they could be done well if the designers are very careful. For example, if a Vancian caster only had a dozen or so spell slots, ever, he'd be less likely to bust them by casting every buff on his spell list. I don't know if I'm on board with that design for the Vancian caster, but it is one way to deter buffing bookkeeping boredom.

You could limit spellcasters to a certain maximum number of ongoing spells at a time. If you can't cast a sixth buff without one of your previous five lapsing, buffs are kept to a minimum. You could also approach this from the other side and limit the number of spell effects that can be active on an individual, in the same way that most editions somehow limit the number of magical items a character can benefit from at once.

In summary, I'm not against long duration buffs per se, but they come with a lot of design challenges. There are ways to meet those challenges, but they probably require some new thinking about how magical buffs or magic in general are handled. I worry that the system could end up broken or simply very tedious if that is poorly executed.
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I want a return to spells with durations like round/level, minute/level, hour/level, concentration/+2 rounds etc....
I'm fine with rounds, minutes and concentration. Most of the hour/level buffs get into a type of playstyle where layering buffs becomes too important.

3.X had very standardized durations. Flipping idly through the 2e PHB, the durations are all over the place. Sure it's got rounds per levels and hours per level, but it's also got some interesting diversions. Disguise type spells with random/rolled durations . . . who knows when they'll wear off? An armor spell that lasts until you take a certain amount of damage.

I think I'd most like to see durations chosen specifically for each spell in order to fit the needs of the magic. How long should a mount spell last? 1hr/level? Or until you dismount?


First Post
I'm not a 4e fan, but I think they got this one right. I've always found the round/minute/hour duration buff spells a hassle to keep track of.

That said, I wouldn't mind long duration buffs if the duration is a day. So you're just giving up a slot to give yourself (or a party member) a bonus all day. If you do that consistently, there isn't much bookkeeping.

Rituals are a different beast, but I'd be happy if they avoided anything between "sustain" and "one day" for normal day-to-day magic.



Spell durations that are measured in terms of 6-second combat rounds make it more difficult to use those spells outside of combat. I think it also contributes to the "need" for a wizard to have something to do every round of combat.

In AD&D, sleep lasted 5 minutes per level. In Basic D&D, it was 40 to 160 minutes. By 3.5, it was down to 1 minute per level (and the target now gets a saving throw). In 4e, the target is slowed and then falls unconscious 50% of the time, with a 50% chance of waking up after 6 seconds.

In BD&D, if you cast sleep on a couple of guards outside of combat, you'd actually have time to do something while they were sleeping. The same goes in AD&D, though you might need to gain a couple of levels. In 3.5, you'd best tie them up unless you're already 10th level. In 4e, you're not even going to have time to tie them up unless your party members physically restrain them -- assuming the spell didn't just slow them down.

Hold person is another spell that used to have a lot of non-combat uses. In BD&D, its duration was 90 minutes. AD&D had it at 4 minutes + 1 minute per level. 3.5 brought it down to 1 round/level (and also made it only affect 1 creature instead of 3 or 4). If somebody wasn't listening and kept talking over you, you could hold them so they had to stand there and listen. At 6 seconds/level, you're mainly just able to paralyze a creature so you can tie it up.

Yes, it sucks when your PC is asleep or held in combat and you can't do anything while everyone else gets to take a turn. Not to harp on it, but if combat doesn't take 45 min to an hour and can be resolved in about 10 minutes, then it's not really that big a deal to be on the sidelines.

I much prefer long-term buff spells to ones that are measured in rounds. I especially hate the 4e "+X to attack/damage/defense until the start/end of your next turn" durations -- everyone in my group finds them a nightmare to keep track of. Bull's strength in 3.5 lasts 1 minute per level, or basically long enough for a single encounter. Better than having to track what the floating bonuses are on any particular round. I think I prefer the AD&D strength spell: it lasts 1 hour per level, and it gives a random bonus to strength (1d4 for magic-users, 1d6 for clerics & thieves, 1d8 for fighters). It caps at 18 strength, but allows fighter classes to improve exceptional strength for the duration of the spell. This spell won't make the cleric a better fighter than the fighter and it lasts long enough to be useful for both exploration and combat.

I don't see a need to have a buff spell for every ability score. I think that AD&D just had strength and friends, the latter of which boosted the caster's charisma score by 2d4 points for 1 minute per level to all those in the area of effect (they get a saving throw and if they succeed, the caster gets a 1d4 penalty instead). The buff spells for all six ability scores reeks of the whole "unnecessary symmetry" aspect that seemed to drive much of 3e design. Spells that enhance your own casting stat seem like a bad idea to me. Spells that buff derived stats (attack/damage rolls, AC, saves, skills, etc) are probably a better idea than spells that buff the base ability scores.

I also miss the old style charm person, whereupon an individual of average intelligence fails his saving throw is charmed and gets a new saving throw every 3 weeks to break the spell. It was great for world-building, but also great for PCs, as you could charm people in town and keep them friendly to you for a while. 3.5's 1 hour per level disappoints me as a DM, never mind if I were playing a wizard. If a 1st-level AD&D magic-user had charm person as his single spell per day and successfully cast it on a hobgoblin, then the player gets to meaningfully contribute to the game by interacting with their new friend and possibly playing it in combat so that I don't have to do it (so long as he's not making the hobgoblin do something stupid and suicidal).

If longer-term spell effects are deemed to be unbalancing, it would make sense that a caster cannot regain use of that spell slot until the spell is ended. For example, the wizard's 1st-level spell slot is required to maintain the charm person spell over the course of days or weeks. Unless the spell is broken or he ends the spell effect willingly, he can't prepare/memorize a spell in that slot.


Long duration buffs or spells as per 3rd ed are not something I miss at all. I quite like the idea of buffs being a accompanying short term benefit as in the case of some 4th ed spells - eg divine glow. That said I would like to see the option of longer term benefits in the forms of rituals.


Yeah, I'd agree with Incenjucar on this. Anything that's in the 1 hour/level territory becomes a de facto magic item by about 10th level. Too powerful.

I'd say that anything that has a duration longer than a single encounter should be a ritual. You don't necessarily have to have GP costs, that's a bit lame. But, it shouldn't be a case where you get up in the morning, Heroes Feast and buff the party six ways from Sunday and then start your day.


Relaxed Intensity
I have no issue with long duration spells as long as spell slots don't ever get out of hand to the point where casting them is an afterthought. That being said spells should have a set duration. If a spell is meant to last all day have it always last all day and balance it accordingly. Don't make it so a spell that was originally supposed to have a relatively short duration turns into an all day affair.

Edit: That being said if a spell's duration lasts longer than a day I would like a mechanic in place that would require that the spell slot used stay committed to that spell much like how in Exalted you could maintain some effects but would have to leave your essence (spell power) committed to the task.
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I'd like to split the difference. Have most spells have durations at best in rounds, and if the spellcaster wants to maintain the duration for longer he gives up a (standard) action to continue the spell. To put a further limit, the spellcaster might only be able to maintain it for say, maximum 1 hour/level - and/or might have to make Con check to maintain the magic.

Thus, someone could use a charm spell in combat to gain a quick bodyguard, or use the spell while in town to make a friend out of an unwilling townsperson - at least for a little while. Someone could use invisibility in combat to position themselves for a well-placed strike in the middle of a fight, or do a little scouting or hiding or an extended period of time - but as soon as the character attempts to use it to strike (thus using a standard action), the spell is going to drop.

I think spell duration is an interesting topic worthy of discussion.

Sometimes, multi-round spells in 3.x/PF cause tracking issues (although as we play with an initiative board with rounds on it, it is not that difficult for our group). Our group has found the managing of conditions and spell effects in 4e somewhat awkward as well; although we fixed this by making special bases for the minis that have a stalk that you could put coloured tube pieces representing all the different stuff but that is a little messier. In 4e the "until the end of next turn stuff" became the biggest thing to remember (and the most often flubbed) so I would happily see this go the way of the dodo.

Perhaps spell durations could be represented by a more abstract:
* Instantaneous
* Sustain
* Encounter
* Day

The aim here is to take as much of the accounting out of it as possible. Sustaining a spell is the only one where you need to track the duration and this responsibility falls on the shoulders of the player who gets the greatest benefit from it. Perhaps as a character's spell mastery increases, they can sustain more than one spell. I really like the idea of spell/condition cards handed out until the spell/condition expires but I understand that anything card-related gets the auto nerd rage M:tGification knee jerk reaction from a section of the community. A shame, but I can certainly understand that if the core rules need cards/initiative boards/mini stuff to run the game, it has gone one step too far.

Best Regards
Herremann the Wise


Yes, the downside of long-duration spells is the tracking. I think simplified durations are the way to go.

Apart from the usual "until the end of (somebody's) next turn", "sustain (action type)" and "save ends" durations, 4e also had "until the end of the encounter" and "until the end of your next extended rest" for longer-duration effects.

"Until the end of your next extended rest", is (IMO) a pretty good duration for really long-term effects that can be swapped out on a daily basis (unlike feats and class features). "Until the end of the encounter" probably needs to be reworded to remove the encounter stigma, but tying the effect duration to the standard duration of a "short" rest (or the 5e equivalent) and then making explicit the potential balance issues in de-linking the two durations might work. There could even be some flexibility in tying the spell duration to the duration of two, three or more short rests - the onus would be on the PCs to fit as many combats as possible within the time frame to maximize their advantage, of course.

The return of the concentration duration might also be interesting, with the proviso that a spellcaster can only maintain one sustain (action) or concentration duration effect at a time. The difference could be that whenever the spellcaster takes damage, he must succeed at some check or lose the concentration duration effect. Actually, given the way that actions seem to be playing out in 5e (everyone gets just one action per round, plus free actions), sustain (action) might no longer be applicable (expect for major effects that you are willing to give up your one action per round for) and concentration might be the way to go.

Since it seems likely that caster level will no longer affect spell power, we will probably also not have (round/minute/hour) per caster level durations. That said, it should be possible to extend an effect's duration by preparing it in a higher level spell slot. Perhaps as a 1st-level spell, it lasts for the duration of a short rest. As a 3rd-level spell, it might last for two short rests. As a 5th-level spell, it might last for four short rests, and as a 7th-level spell, it might last until the end of your next extended rest.

Holy Bovine

First Post
A long-duration buff quickly becomes a class feature or feat rather than an action unless there's a major, scaling cost to use it.

Having made a Favoured Soul who specialized in buffing the rest of the party (and healing when necessary) I can that this is 100% true, ime. We never bought stuff like cloaks of resistance or belts of giant strength thanks to my ability to buff (thanks to Extend Spell) for hours at a time. I had my spells/day laid out to make sure that, at the minimum, our party tanks and wizard were heavily buffed all day every day. In my estimation we were effectively 3 levels higher than we actually were. APL+4 encounters were breezed through and even the APL+8 encounter the DM threw at us when we kinda complained the encounters were too easy caused only 1 PC death that was quickly resurrected. We were 10th level and the fight that caused the death was a buffed Fire Giant w/6(?) levels of Fighter acting as bodyguard to the 13th level wizard Rakasha he worked for (who was also buffed to the max).

I will say it was fun while it lasted but keeping track of all that stuff was a major time investment on my part to make sure everyone always knew exactly what we had up and how long we could expect it to last.(I didn't mind I did it deliberately to see how much fun a PC like that was - he had zero offensive capability in spells)


Not sure why long term durations and problems with tracking are even mentioned. If you have a buff that lasts even 1 minute then tracking isn't a problem at all. That is 10 rounds of a buff that you don't have to worry about until 10 rounds later. Buffs in rounds are easy as well because everything is done in rounds anyway. You write your buffs on a separate sheet of paper and you right when they end.

If you want to talk about difficulties in tracking buffs then 4th edition is your worst nightmare. Having to to track multiple buffs that last only until the end of your next turn, or the beginning of your next turn etc can be a real headache.

It's a hell of a lot easier to be able to cast and spell and not have to worry about it for a while than 4th editions method. I can't tell you how many times he forgot about buffs and conditions and god knows what else.


A 10 round buff is basically just an Encounter buff so just make it an Encounter buff. Having multiple multi-round buffs is just as hard as one-round buffs are in 4E - you have to check every round to see which buffs you still have. 4E's method gives you a narrow window so you don't have to remember how many rounds its been.


A 10 round buff is basically just an Encounter buff so just make it an Encounter buff. Having multiple multi-round buffs is just as hard as one-round buffs are in 4E - you have to check every round to see which buffs you still have. 4E's method gives you a narrow window so you don't have to remember how many rounds its been.

Sorry but no way: What's more work?

1: Having to sit there and check your sheet every round to add and take away buffs.


2: Maybe having to check your sheet every 10 rounds to see if your buff ends?

Does your group not say the rounds out loud as they come up? "Okay guys we are on round 2."

It's very very simple actually and can all be done with a sheet of notebook paper.

Write down your buffs.

1: Buff A "ends on round 5"
2: Buff B "ends on round 20"
3: Buff C "ends on round 60"
4: Buff D "ends on round 4"
5: etc......

Long term durations are a lot easier to keep up with than the "coming and going" buffs of 4th edition.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
I'm not sure I agree with the premise that most spells had "until next turn" durations. There were plenty with "save ends" or with "Sustain: Minor".

Epic Threats

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