While on a long drive yesterday, my son and I spent some time discussing counterspells, which I plan to include in our homebrew game Magic & Monsters. During the explanations, examples, and answering of questions, the subject of permanent magic came up.

Permanent magic spells are something that I’ve always had trouble getting. Not the idea that effects are permanent, of course, but the exact nature of a permanent spell versus one that is instantaneous. In short, I think that most spells that are listed as “permanent” should, in fact, be “instant.” At least as I’m understanding it. Which might be completely wrong.

Here is how I see it:

  • Permanent spells create an enchantment that persists, well, permanently. Continual light creates an enchantment which produces light, and the enchantment does not expire. Similarly, Arcane (Wizard) Lock, Feeblemind, and Polymorph Other create a sorcery on something or someone that continues to effect them and does not run out.
  • Instant spells are enchantments which do something that has a permanent effect but are not perpetual magic. Fireball creates a huge ball of fire which wreaks all sorts of havoc, but then it’s gone. The fires it started burn on normally, but there is no magic left other than maybe a few residual traces. In the same vein, teleport, push, and cone of cold do something magical and then are gone.

My issue, though, is with the majority of spells normally listed as “permanent” which have permanent effects but are not, in my opinion, actually permanent spells. Cure light wounds, for instance, heals someone and the healing is real and permanent. But is the subject still under the effects of a spell? I say not. A detect magic on the subject or wound would not return a positive result, would it? A dispel magic would not undo the healing, would it? A typical high level adventurer is not walking around with dozens or hundreds of healing spells on him forever, is he?

I think that most “permanent” spells would be more accurately classified as “instant.” The enchantment of permanent spells goes on indefinitely and can be detected and or dispelled. Instant spells can not.

Does this make sense? Am I missing something?

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10 Comments to “Permanent Magic Spells”

  1. James Smith says:

    Perfect sense. Didn’t they make that distinction in 3e?

  2. DuBeers says:

    The Editor-in-Chief of OSRIC made a similar distinction in the spell explanations section. It made good sense to me, and I think this is a fine idea.

  3. Yeah, if you’re missing something, I am, too. A permanent spell in my mind is a permanent unnatural effect. A permanent natural effect is different. Many spells of the latter sort would be “instant”, although it’s also possible for a spell with a listed duration, like Wall of Fire, to create incidental natural effects that last beyond the spell’s duration.

  4. Erin says:

    Duration is the time period during which the spell manifests; effects notwithstanding. An instant spell (fireball, magic missile, cure light wounds) goes off, does what it does, and is gone. Damage is lasting, restored hit points remain until damaged again, etc. A permanent spell goes off, does what it does, and keeps on doing what it does until dispelled.

    Think of it this way: instant cure light wounds heals 2-7hp and that’s it. Permanent cure light wounds would heal 2-7hp each round. Forever-like.

  5. 1d30 says:

    You can also think of the spell as an actor, just like a creature. At the start of every round you ask, “is this spell still acting?”

    Continual Light acts every round, throwing off more light continuously even though the light it threw already flies off in every direction. An Instant Continual Light would be a flash that lights up the room for a moment and then disappears forever.

    Fireball acts once, but the aftereffects continue. Nonmagical fires may continue to burn in the area depending on the presence of flammables. The heat and smoke from the fireball remains and must dissipate. A permanent Fireball would be a roiling ball of flames that never goes away.

    Cure Serious Wounds acts once and then stops acting. The wounds knitted together stay together after the spell ends. A permanent Cure Serious Wounds would heal 2d6 (or whatever) HP over and over forever.

    Now the question is, do the permanent Fireball and Cure Serious Wounds occur every round or every segment? Six times per segment? That’s a lot of damage!

  6. Kilgore says:

    The “still acting” way of looking at it is exactly how I see it. The spell does something. Is it still doing it? Or did it do it and finish?