D&D Next (5E) Counterspell Idea




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  1. #1

    Counterspell Idea

    I don't think counterspell should be a spell at all. It should just be a type of action that any spellcaster can take. For example:

    Counterspell: As a reaction, you can attempt to counterspell a spell being cast by a creature within 50 feet of you. You engage in a contest with the caster, opposing your magic ability check against the caster's. If you win, the spell has no effect. If you beat the caster's check result by 10 or more, you can reflect the spell back upon him, as if you had cast the spell and the original caster was the primary target. On your next turn, you cannot take an action.

    To take this action, you must expend a prepared spell or unused spell slot of equal or higher level of the spell being countered or an equal number of Willpower points (you know how powerful the spell is once you choose to take this action). If you are a warlock, you can expend an unused favor instead, but only if your warlock level is at least twice the level of the spell being countered. If you don't have a powerful enough spell or enough Willpower points, you can't attempt to counter the spell, but you don't lose your next action.

  2. #2
    The problem w/ easy counter-spells is that it's far easier for a DM to wind up locking down the PC casters than vice-verse. I noticed this problem last campaign I ran (the WotBS w/ cleric Inquisitors who could re-actively expend a Turning attempt to Dispel Magic). Now, the Inquisitors worked given the theme of the campaign and when used sparingly. But I know it would have been frustrating/not-fun for the party caster if he was locked down anytime they ran into any caster.

    Prior to my experience w/ easy counter-spelling, I thought like you did and that counter-spelling should be easier. After that, I see some wisdom in making counter-spelling limited, but effective.
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  3. #3
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    I hadn't given counterspelling much thought. It never got used much in my games, so it doesn't really ping very strongly when I brainstorm about DDN stuff.

    Off the top of my head, the way that DDN handles different casters by giving them fairly different casting mechanics may put an end to the idea of the universal "counterspell". If my warlock gets access to an at-will counterspell, he probably shouldn't be able to spam it against a wizard until she has none of her daily spell slots left.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slobster View Post
    I hadn't given counterspelling much thought. It never got used much in my games, so it doesn't really ping very strongly when I brainstorm about DDN stuff.

    Off the top of my head, the way that DDN handles different casters by giving them fairly different casting mechanics may put an end to the idea of the universal "counterspell".
    Mechanics don't matter if you simply decide that an arcane caster using counterspell can try to counter any other arcane spell regardless of its casting mechanic. That said:
    Quote Originally Posted by slobster
    If my warlock gets access to an at-will counterspell, he probably shouldn't be able to spam it against a wizard until she has none of her daily spell slots left.
    Counterspell should NEVER be an at-will ability under any circumstances. If a warlock or other at-will caster type gets it there still needs to be a usage limit, and a pretty harsh one. Otherwise any spell battles that ever arise will quickly turn into very boring games of counterspelling. (the simplest answer, of course, is to make sure counterspell is something that is simply never available to at-will caster classes)

    Lan-"and if you're foolish enough to allow counterspells to target counterspells you'll get no sympathy from me for the train wreck that follows"-efan
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    Counterspell should NEVER be an at-will ability under any circumstances. If a warlock or other at-will caster type gets it there still needs to be a usage limit, and a pretty harsh one. Otherwise any spell battles that ever arise will quickly turn into very boring games of counterspelling. (the simplest answer, of course, is to make sure counterspell is something that is simply never available to at-will caster classes)

    Lan-"and if you're foolish enough to allow counterspells to target counterspells you'll get no sympathy from me for the train wreck that follows"-efan
    That was kind of my point, though I don't necessarily agree that at-will counterspelling is impossible to implement. If counterspelling is an at will option, but so is spellcasting, and counterspelling has a chance of failure, then counterspelling becomes a rather poor choice for an action denial ability: you give up your turn for a chance to deny an opponent theirs. It's only useful against opponents who are rather more powerful than you are, or are about to do something particularly nasty.

    I'm not advocating that system for DDN, mind you, just pointing out a counterspell system that works (from experience).

    But matching up at-will counterspelling with resource-based, exhaustible spells is a problem, because then your action denial is also resource destruction, and all of a sudden the counterspell action is far too powerful.

  6. #6
    I don't know, I think the main thing is that traditional counterspelling has all the issues that other action-denying abilities have. That is, they can lead to stun-locks on the one-hand or lots of wasted turns on the other. The risk-reward analysis is pretty tricky, especially if there are multiple sources of counterspelling. I mean, if I'm going to spend my action to counterspell I'd want to have a decent chance to actually deny the other caster their turn. But if 3 casters can counterspell, they can almost certainly lock-down a single caster.

    Instead, I think it would be better to reorient counterspelling toward "spell dampening." Then it is more likely to do something, much less likely to completely negate a spell, and potentially a lot more scalable when multiple casters are involved. Find an elegant expression for this and we could probably also put spell disruption back into the game using the same principles.

    In 3.5 one could almost do this by reducing caster levels by a variable amount, but the importance of caster level was sufficiently inconsistent between spells that it didn't quite work and at low levels it was still pretty binary. I ended up writing an alternate bard with a bardic song that introduced the least frustrating counterspelling I saw in 3.5. The song itself was useful and one could end the song to try to counterspell, so it didn't cost an action in the usual sense but also couldn't be spammed. It came in quite handy for the bard a few times in the campaign.

    In 5e I'm not sure how to go about it, but "impede the other guy's spellcasting" is such an obvious (and fictionally iconic) thing to try that I think it might be worth looking at the entire spell system with that in mind. If every spell had a roll to determine it's power (as some magic systems do) that would be straightforward, but it wouldn't be D&D. Given the diversity of systems and effects, maybe the thing to do is make it a la carte: at time of counterspell select one of minimize k dice, give targets a small boost on saves, give caster penalty on related checks, adjust hit point thresholds by kd6, etc. That might also be an ungainly mess if there isn't a very simple way to communicate what happens and move on. Just tossing out ideas.

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