One of the cooler ideas from the Dragon Age video game, in my opinion, is the Sustained abilities. Unlike in most games with maintained powers, these abilities aren’t a constant drain against the user’s refresh rate (though some do drain extra stamina or mana when in combat). Instead, they reduce the overall size of the character’s resource pool. A character can very usefully be built around running a large series of constant buffs instead of using resources for one-off powers.

Something very similar could be done in D&D 3.x/Pathfinder without drastically upsetting the rules base:

Any spell with a range of Personal or Touch and a duration greater than instant and less than permanent can be Sustained. A Sustained spell uses up greater casting energy than normal, but lasts until the caster rests or otherwise falls unconscious.

  • Spells with a duration of 1 hour/level can be sustained with 1 additional spell slot of the same level (2 slots total).
  • Spells with a duration of 10 minutes/level or 1 hour (unmodified by level) can be sustained with 2 additional spell slots of the same level (3 slots total).
  • Spells with a duration of 1 minute/level or 10 minutes (unmodified by level) can be sustained with 3 additional spell slots of the same level (4 slots total).
  • Spells with a duration of 1 round/level or 1 minute (unmodified by level) can be sustained with 4 additional spell slots of the same level (5 slots total).

As mentioned, falling unconscious ends the effect, whether through incapacitation or sleep. Additionally, if any short rest rules are in effect that allow recovery of spell slots, a sustained spell’s slots are not recovered if the spell remains active. Spells cast on other individuals cease functioning if the individual moves farther than Short range (25 ft + 5 ft/2 levels) from the caster, though they resume functioning at the beginning of the caster’s next turn after returning to the correct range.

This system is primarily intended for buffs, but shouldn’t be game breaking if applied to the few offensive spells with the correct range and duration, given the cost in spell slots and the ability for enemies to break range. However, GMs should disallow any spells to be sustained that seem too good even with the additional rules.

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