Monday, May 11, 2015

Revised GURPS Magic: When Do You Maintain?

We ended up need to make a rules clarification on Flame Jet - and by extension, all 1-second duration spells - in my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game.

In pre-4e GURPS, Flame Jet was clear:

Turn 1: Concentrate.
Just before Turn 2: Roll for Flame Jet, pay for the spell.
Turn 2: Attack with the Jet. If you don't still need it, simply don't maintain it.

In 4e, you get an issue:

Turn 1: Concentrate and cast Flame Jet. Pay for the spell.
Turn 2: Maintain Flame Jet. Use it to attack.
Turn 2: Use it to attack. Maintain or don't maintain Flame Jet.

For example, in 3e a Flame Jet-15 caster with a 4d Flame Jet pays 3 points to use it once. A 4e caster pays 6 points to create it and use it once. Or 3 points to create and use it one, if you maintain after. So when you maintain is a big deal.

It really depends on when you maintain spells. GURPS Magic doesn't seem clear on this, nor is GURPS Basic. Mostly, it doesn't matter - spells tend to last long enough that a second either way doesn't affect things.

So we ruled that it's "maintain at the end of your turn." Do you stuff, and then pay before the next guy goes. It just happens automatically when needed, and deciding not the maintain is (of course) a free action. This approach seems to cause the least damage, and gives you a full turn of utility for those 1-second or otherwise very short duration utility and movement spells (Walk Through Earth for example).

But it's interesting how the shift from "end of your turn, which is just before you decide on your next action" casting to a cast-and-it's-there approach changed things. No 0-second casting time spells saved a lot of headaches, and this makes the whole process more clear, but it doesn't seem like when you maintain is ever formally addressed/ Or maybe it is and I just can't lay a finger on it. A subtle change that didn't really come up until last game, which shows you how rare it is to use short-duration spells in combat in my games.


  1. I see that Flame Jet has a Duration of 1 second. To me this makes it clear that the flame jet maintenance cost is paid at the end of the character's turn.

    When the spell reaches the ***end**** of its duration, you may continue the spell by paying its maintenance cost.

    So the sequence is as follows
    I declare a concentrate maneuver for a 1 second Flame Jet
    Per page 9 Time Required, at the END of my turn I roll to cast the spell and pay the fatique.
    Also per page 9 in the opening paragraphs of casting spells, the flame jet appears from my fist at that moment.
    So the 1 second duration starts from that point. Since it started at the END of my turn it makes sense that the spell will terminate at the END of my next turn. As this is the only way to achieve the full 1 second duration as called for in the book.

    1. That's pretty much the logic we went with - that and a 1-second spell burning out before you could use it didn't make any real sense.

  2. If memory serves, we did it at start of turn: you pay for it just before you use it. My group haven't been heavy magic users, though, and it's been probably about 3-4 years since I've last had one at all.

    1. You can see the issue with that approach with 1-second spells - you end up casting it (and paying), and then maintaining (and paying), and THEN you get to actually do something with it. It's such a non-issue with long duration spells or ones you can't maintain (Great Haste, for example), but it's been an edition change since we had a big combat Flame Jet user.


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