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d20 is one of the very few systems to actually a defined spell duration. And all the others function just fine.
And no the World of Darkness example, for having spell durations, does not count. First, they are obviously talking about keeping track of the round to book keeping. Second, it already fits into the example given in the original post.
Keeping track of every player and monsters 8 different ongoing spells is tiresome at best. Let them either be really neat for a round, or just last for the "Scene."
[LIST=1]1/Round Per Level
I can't see the point. By 5-6th level, spells which are 1 round/level would last for the whole encounter (usually), so why bother?
Solbergb brings up what's perhaps the strongest argument in favor of keeping X-round spell durations. I'll call it the "Tuff Buff" (which can also be a debuff). Something gives you or your party tremendous help, or severely limits your opponents. Can X-round spells be eliminated while keeping Tuff Buffs in the game?
I think they can. The trick is to realise that 'encounter' doesn't always mean for the length of the encounter. Tuff Buffs need to have a condition which, if fulfilled, ends them. If the condition's not fulfilled, they continue for the length of the encounter. An example in 3.5 is hold person, where a held individual can attempt to break out on their turn. Possible conditions to fulfil are these:Break the caster's concentration.Break the focus item maintaining the Tuff Buff.Do nothing for one round but try to shrug off the effect (for spells like confusion)Break the caster's line-of-sight to the target(s).Force buffed individuals to move outside the caster's range. Some Tuff Buffs may not reapply themseves if the individual moves back within range.Fill the area with light or darkness.
Beyond that, we don't need 1 hour/level spells or the like. Either make them last as long as the caster is conscious, until dispelled/dismissed, and/or until some obvious condition is met (sunset/sunrise, etc). It's magic, so the duration doesn't need to be set in stone per se, rather it is tied to the mystical energies in the world itself.
So ideally then, we'd want a short list of conditions characters/creatures can find themselves in, and ideally conditions that affect other aspects of the game.
Yeah, Ars Magica has spells that end at sunset/sunrise. Could they work in D&D? I'd have to think about that. Since sunset and sunrise aren't precise time points (like midnight) but events that last a certain amount of time, you'd have to adjudicate just when in the sunset or sunrise they finish.
Things would be so much easier if certain buffing spells simply had a duration of 24 hours. Like Mage Armor. I am not talking about the higher powered effects that currently measure their durations in rounds. I mean stuff that lasts for hours anyway. Cast it and forget it spells.
If you know that your movement blocking spell is going to last for the entire combat, no matter how long the combat takes, then there's no incentive to time it or indeed to think; you just drop it as soon as possible.
So far, they have said that all classes get at will abilities, per encounter, and per day abilities. I am going to guess that buffing spells are per encounter or per day abilities. Because if they were at will, they may as well be permanent.
Anyway, I think that this means that many buffing spells with last for the duration of the encounter.
And yes, keeping track of rounded durations are a pain in the *****. On the digital tabletop, that probably will not be a problem, but I can't count the number of times the DM or the player has forgotten how many rounds x effect has been in play.
That is just the sort of thing that gets forgotten in the heat of the moment.