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As the game I'm in progresses, the looming threat of Dispel Magic (and its variations) renders off-class Permanent spell effects less and less attractive from logistic point of view - even if characters get their hands on a good Permanent buff, a single lucky enemy with a Dispel can make said buff vanish into a puff of smoke.

As such, I was looking into what spells have Instantaneous durations and yet amount to something other than damage dealing - not necessarily powerful, but useful spells, that won't have an arbitrary "the effect ends in a year" kind of deal (like some Calling spells), and... These kinds of spells are really hard to find.

So - what spells (preferably, buffs) have Duration: Instantaneous?

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There aren't really instantaneous buff spells, by virtue of what "instananeous" means

It's always hard to prove a negative, but the very nature of what "instantaneous" effects entail make them almost impossible to be buffs. They are effects that happen in an instant, leaving no ongoing effect (but permanently change something, for better or worse). Any "buff" is, almost by definition, an ongoing effect and would thus be subject to dispelling.

There are some exceptions, in spells that do, in fact, permanently change a creature. The most obvious one (and the only one I can recall off-hand) is Wish, when used to give an inherent bonus - but that perhaps emphasises how rare and limited such buffs must be to be balanced.

If you are still not convinced, there are searchable spell databases (for example here) that let you list all instantaneous spells. I could find none that could be described as a "buff".


This is a good thing

Buffs in 3.5 are already really powerful - especially long-duration or permanent buffs. The existance of Dispel Magic as a counter is essential to preserve any semblance of balance to the system. It's possible to mitigate this counter, but any spell that ignores that threat completely would almost be overpowered by default, no matter how light the effect (especially since, by definition, Instantaneous spells have permanent effects).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Another exception might be Cure spells. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jun 18 '18 at 11:23
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The DM will likely rule most instantaneous buffs are accidentally instantaneous; nonetheless, a few withstand scrutiny

As this fine answer mentions, the problem with buff spells that have durations of instantaneous is that such spells—when they exist—are going to be totally unbalanced, extraordinarily expensive, or wholesale setting-changers, and—when discovered—will likely be banned or nerfed by the DM.

However, if you want, below are the two spells that can be considered buffs that I immediately thought of. Both spells require the reader to approach them from an extremely strict perspective, and if accusations of being a rules lawyer hurt your feelings, you shouldn't even try to convince your DM to allow them into the campaign as they can be read.

  • The 4th-level Clr spell mystic aegis [abjur] (Player's Handbook II 120) has the entries Casting Time: 1 immediate action and Duration: Instantaneous. Its entire description says, "You cast mystic aegis immediately when you are targeted by a hostile spell. You gain spell resistance equal to 12 + your caster level against that spell." A generous reading sees the aegis spell's caster forevermore gain SR against that spell and any future castings of that spell—making it useful for casting between adventures to gain SR against specific spells the PCs know their enemies will be using, for example,—, but I suspect most DMs will read that description as granting the caster SR against that casting of that spell. Ask the DM.

  • The 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell opalescent glare [evoc] (Spell Compendium 150) has the entry Duration: Instantaneous. It's description leads with the following sentence: "Inspired by the deadly gaze of the noble ghaele eladrin, you gain a gaze attack usable against creatures within 60 feet." I suspect many DMs will likely rule (as this DM has) that the spell allows the subject to immediately make this gaze attack, and the gaze attack's effect is instantaneous. However, that isn't what the spell says.

    (You can compare the glare spell with the 2nd-level Drd spell blinding spittle [trans] (SpC 32) that says, "You spit caustic saliva into your target’s eyes with a successful ranged touch attack," and the more similar 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell bodak's glare [necro] (SpC 34) that says, "Upon completion of the spell, you target a creature within range that can see you," both of which also have instantaneous durations.)

Other than these, there's, like, the 9th-level Sor/Wiz spell kissed by the ages [necro] (Dragon #354 54) that stops a creature's aging—a buff of sorts—, and the 9th-level Sor/Wiz spell wish [univ] (PH 302-3) that, in addition to its listed effects, can pretty much do anything the caster wants… if you don't mind the DM "pervert[ing] your intent into a literal but undesirable fulfillment or only a partial fulfillment."

There are spells that create things, of course. For example, the 2nd-level spell fire shuriken [evoc] (SpC 92) has the entry Duration: Instantaneous, and the effect doesn't say the spell's magical weapons ever disappear, although they disappear when they strike a target. While a strict reading suggests that they can be thrown only by their creator, I guess an assassin could create a bunch of fire shuriken effects during his downtime. However, free weapons aren't much of a buff, really.

And there are spells that change things forevermore—like the 4th-level Drd spell awaken [trans] (PH 202) and the 3rd-level Clr spell planar familiar [trans] (Spellbook Web column "Planar Familiar")—, but those aren't particularly ripe for use on PCs (although with some work I suspect someone can probably force them to be).

In sum, increasing caster level is a better route than trying to leverage an instantaneous effect into a long-term buff or researching an original spell that grants a instantaneous buff. If angling for long-term buff spells, a really high caster level will, essentially, render moot most attempts at dispelling your buffs, and having a really high caster level won't in and of itself ruin the setting's verisimilitude, although making your spells impossible to dispel—and from here I speak from experience—may still irritate the DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A Ring of Counterspells or something similar with Dispel loaded could protect against the first instance of Dispel. A Leadership gained Cohort who's sole purpose in life is to have a readied action to counter a Dispel attempt is another possibility. ^^ \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Jun 19 '18 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko This DM's high level NPCs tend to gravitate toward a pair of spellblades keyed to dispel magic and greater dispel magic when this is the game that they're playing, but What can I do to prevent my long-term buffs from being dispelled? is, I think, beyond the question's scope. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 19 '18 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Now you just need to cover the Spell Compendium dispelling stuff and Disjunction, and you're set! \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Jun 19 '18 at 15:31

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