Counterspells Draft

Rather than take a standard action, a magic-user may ready a counterspell. When deciding to ready a counterspell, the magic-user must select a target caster and must be aware of the target (this awareness can either be via direct physical perception, or can use an intermediate medium such as a scrying spell). From now on, the target will be referred to as the caster. As when casting a spell, no movement is permitted. A magic-user may not use a counterspell when surprised. Only magic-user spells (that is, not cleric spells) may be countered. Countering spells may result in gridlock while both magic-users wait for their counterparty to take the first action. This is intended.

There are two kinds of counterspells, temporary and permanent. A temporary counterspell prevents the casting of a spell, but does not wipe it from the target’s mind (or consume the scroll if they were casting from a scroll). Any magic user may always attempt a temporary counterspell. A permanent counterspell wipes the spell from the caster’s mind as if it had been cast or consumes the scroll. A permanent counterspell costs a spell slot of equivalent level from the countering magic-user. For example, if the target is casting levitate (a second level spell) and the countering magic-user wishes to attempt a permanent counterspell, the countering magic-user must also have a second level spell prepared, though it need not be the same spell. That spell is expended during the countering attempt (whether the counter is successful or not). If the countering magic-user does not have such a spell prepared, treat the countering attempt as temporary.

If the target casts a spell while the magic-user is in countering mode, a counter attempt may be made. If the spell being cast is one that the countering magic-user has in a spell book, the countering magic-user will be aware of which spell is being cast before they must decide whether or not to attempt a counter (though they will still be unaware of details such as the spell target). The caster must make a saving throw versus spells, with penalty equal to the highest level spell the countering magic-user can prepare. If the save is successful, the spell goes off as normal (i.e., the countering attempt has failed). If the caster fails the counterspell save, the spell is countered.

If a 1 is rolled on the counterspell saving throw, the caster must roll on the counterspell catastrophe table (see below). If a 20 is rolled on the counterspell saving throw, the countering magic-user must roll on the counterspell catastrophe table. Engaging in sorcerous combat is always dangerous, and opens a countering magic-user to a magical counterattack. Rather than rolling on the catastrophe table, referees may also make something up that is suitably nasty.

New Magic Item: Counterspell Scroll

A counterspell scroll is a “bottled” version of a permanent counterspell. A counterspell scroll has a level, determined by the scribe. Costs are as per Holmes scroll creation rules (page 13): 100 GP and 1 week of time per scroll level. A higher level magic-user may produces a lower level counterspell scroll at correspondingly lower cost. Thus, a seventh level magic-user may produce up to fourth level counterspell scrolls. Such a fourth level counterspell scroll would cost 400 GP and take four weeks to produce. Counterspell scrolls are consumed when used even if the target caster makes the counterspell saving throw.

Counterspell Catastrophe Table

  1. 1d6 psychic damage
  2. Lose another prepared spell (determined randomly)
  3. Thrown 2d6 feet in a randomly determined direction
  4. Struck blind for 1d4 turns
  5. Screams due to severe pain (wandering monster check)
  6. Age 1 year (may include hair and fingernail growth)
  7. Knocked unconscious (as per sleep spell)
  8. Mind violation (as per ESP spell); duration 12 turns
  9. Develop spell allergy: future casting of countered spell always requires save
  10. Polluted luck: penalty of 1 or 2 (depending on die) to all rolls for 12 turns
  11. Weakness: movement and all physical ability scores halved for 12 turns
  12. Warped reality: all missiles within 50′ arc to target the subject for next turn
  13. Feeblemind (as per spell) for remainder of encounter
  14. Hostile 1 hit die elemental summoned (determine element randomly)
  15. Strange gravity: as if in 0 G environment for 1 turn
  16. Riposte: other magic user gets free spell or attack against subject
  17. Entrancement (as charm person, another save applies)
  18. Moon curse: exposure to moonlight causes 1d4 damage (remove curse ends)
  19. Sun curse: exposure to sunlight causes 1d4 damage (remove curse ends)
  20. Hostile 1 hit die demon summoned

8 thoughts on “Counterspells Draft

  1. John Bell

    Have you experimented with this rule, and how did it work? It’s very similar to the 3.x rules for counter-spelling, which were mainly incentivised wizards to never counterspell.

    1. Brendan

      I haven’t had a chance to try this yet. What aspect of the proposal do you think would disincentivize counterspells? Is it the chance of being forced to roll on the catastrophe table if the caster rolls a 20 on their save? I was actually trying to make counterspells an attractive option for casters, so maybe the “counterspell feedback” part should be taken out. The first time I test this, I will leave it in and see how players behave.

      I actually didn’t know 3E had counterspell rules. Off to the d20 SRD…

    2. Brendan

      Here’s the text from the d20 SRD:

      To use a counterspell, you must select an opponent as the target of the counterspell. You do this by choosing the ready action. In doing so, you elect to wait to complete your action until your opponent tries to cast a spell. (You may still move your speed, since ready is a standard action.)

      If the target of your counterspell tries to cast a spell, make a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + the spell’s level). This check is a free action. If the check succeeds, you correctly identify the opponent’s spell and can attempt to counter it. If the check fails, you can’t do either of these things.

      To complete the action, you must then cast the correct spell. As a general rule, a spell can only counter itself. If you are able to cast the same spell and you have it prepared (if you prepare spells), you cast it, altering it slightly to create a counterspell effect. If the target is within range, both spells automatically negate each other with no other results.

      So, to cast a counterspell you need to have the exact same spell available and succeed on a skill check based on the level of spell being cast. It seem like the exact same spell would rarely be available. I haven’t played enough 3E based games to really know about that though.

      I guess the fact that one has to forego a standard action might make countering less likely (this is required both in my draft and in the d20 SRD). Perhaps it would work better to allow counterspells as a sort of free response action (only one of which could be attempted per combat round). That might make them more popular.

    3. RedHobbit

      As I recall you can also use Dispel Magic as an all purpose Counter Spell. The drawback is that it is not an automatic success. You either made opposing Spell Craft checks, or opposing caster level checks.

  2. waywardwayfarer

    I really don’t see a problem with counterspells as you’ve developed them here. In a party vs. party combat, even a low-level magic-user has a relatively good chance to counter a spell from a high level one. It seems like a fair trade of an action for a shot at blocking a fireball or disintegrate.

    In a wizards’ duel, it still makes sense to have it take an action. I think the choice of whether to cast or counterspell, combined with the randomness of initiative, makes for a pretty interesting combat. If counterspell is a free action, it would make it a predictable sequence of spell/counterspell for each wizard each round.

    Just my two coppers.

  3. RedHobbit

    I really like the distinction between temporary and permanent counter spells. Delaying a spell from being cast is classic fantasy right there. Having an upgraded version that strips the spell from the mind is great (especially if such a spell is rare and often sought after).

    That being said I think my favorite part is that any Wizard may temporarily counter a spell and doesn’t need to burn any spells in the process. It makes the action tempting enough to engage in. When I played 3e it was very rarely that anyone would even attempt a counterspell since it would either waste their action or take away a spell slot.

    1. RedHobbit

      Well in my current LL game there are no M-U’s but anyone can use a scroll. So I might swap out the Thief’s Use Scroll ability with one that allows them to attempt to disrupt a spell, functioning as a temporary counterspell.

      They got hit with both a fireball and web spell last session so I’m sure the player will be eager to try it out.


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