D&D 5E Do you allow a spell to be identified before counterspelling?

Do you allow the player to know the spell cast before they counterspell?

  • No, they can either counterspell or identify the spell as it is cast, not both.

  • Yes, I tell them the spell and they can then decide whether to counterspell or not

  • Something else


Results are only viewable after voting.

Mort

Legend
Supporter
So, counterspell is coming up more and more in my group. I've been letting the spellcasters know the spell cast before counterspelling.

But I'm thinking of stopping that. Basically they know a spell is cast, and they have to decide whether to counterspell before knowing it (This is per Xanathar's).

Thoughts on either way?
 

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In theory, I run it RAW: you only know that a spell is being cast and need to decide form that alone (and the broader context) whether to counterspell.

In practice, I will sometimes say "The lich casts fireball..." and allow the players to interrupt with a counterspell even though they have more knowledge than they "should." This has never felt like a big deal to me.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
In theory, I run it RAW: you only know that a spell is being cast and need to decide form that alone (and the broader context) whether to counterspell.

In practice, I will sometimes say "The lich casts fireball..." and allow the players to interrupt with a counterspell even though they have more knowledge than they "should." This has never felt like a big deal to me.
That's how I ran it. Never realized how it is RAW. Interesting!
 


If they have detect magic active they gain the rune of the spell and a rough level (1st-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th+). The rune of the spell is based vaguely on the RuneQuest runes: haste is tied to Movement, shield to Stasis, magic missile to Death, &c. If not, their passive Arcana may give them this information depending on the level of the spell. Under no (current) circumstances do they know the exact spell and level as counterspell is a reaction. They don't have time to analyze what is happening.

(Currently I am transitioning from an AD&D game to 5e. Therefore this a untested translation of how I do things.)
 

Oofta

Legend
The person counterspelling doesn't know the spell or the level it's being cast at is how I've always run it.

That was supported by XGtE

Identifying a Spell​

Sometimes a character wants to identify a spell that someone else is casting or that was already cast. To do so, a character can use their reaction to identify a spell as it’s being cast, or they can use an action on their turn to identify a spell by its effect after it is cast.​
However, it's not really spelled out that I know of in the PHB.
 


Mort

Legend
Supporter
My dm usually describes the spell so I don’t need a check. But I said “something else”

I allow an arcana check to see if you can recognize it. The dc depends on the tells. (Lack of V, M, S makes it harder).

I just don’t get why it would be one or the other. If you recognize it, you’ll counterspell it. Maybe it’s lack of time? Idk.
The theory is:

recognizing the spell is a reaction (per Xanathar's)
Countering the spell is a reaction

You don't get both (You can tag team - have one player recognize and another counter).
 

The person counterspelling doesn't know the spell or the level it's being cast at is how I've always run it.

That was supported by XGtE

Identifying a Spell​

Sometimes a character wants to identify a spell that someone else is casting or that was already cast. To do so, a character can use their reaction to identify a spell as it’s being cast, or they can use an action on their turn to identify a spell by its effect after it is cast.​
However, it's not really spelled out that I know of in the PHB.
No arcana check? Just automatic?

if that’s the case I still like giving them an opportunity to figure it out with an ability check. If they fail, they can still try to counterspell. If they want to be 100% sure, they can use the (re)action.

-> that’s my house rule.

(see, I’m learning from other threads)
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
I use the 3e rules here, because the 5e PHB has no guidance and the Xanathar's rules here are totally stupid.

As long as the counterspeller can see (somatic component) and/or hear (verbal component) the baddy casting the spell, the counterspeller can make an Arcana check (DC 15+spell level) to identify the spell, no action required.
 
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Oofta

Legend
No arcana check? Just automatic?
The entire text

Identifying a Spell​

Sometimes a character wants to identify a spell that someone else is casting or that was already cast. To do so, a character can use their reaction to identify a spell as it’s being cast, or they can use an action on their turn to identify a spell by its effect after it is cast.​
If the character perceived the casting, the spell’s effect, or both, the character can make an Intelligence (Arcana) check with the reaction or action. The DC equals 15 + the spell’s level. If the spell is cast as a class spell and the character is a member of that class, the check is made with advantage. For example, if the spellcaster casts a spell as a cleric, another cleric has advantage on the check to identify the spell. Some spells aren’t associated with any class when they’re cast, such as when a monster uses its Innate Spellcasting trait.​
This Intelligence (Arcana) check represents the fact that identifying a spell requires a quick mind and familiarity with the theory and practice of casting. This is true even for a character whose spellcasting ability is Wisdom or Charisma. Being able to cast spells doesn’t by itself make you adept at deducing exactly what others are doing when they cast their spells.​
I was just pointing out that identifying a spell is already a reaction and you can't have 2.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
All they know is a spell is being cast. However, I do houserule that if they attempt to identify it (via the process in XGtE) that they can use the same reaction to cast Counterspell based on their results (including failing the roll).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I know the RAW method. I have house ruled it slightly. If it is on their spell list and of a level they could theoretically cast, the character can attempt an Arcana check without advantage, but not using their reaction. If they fail this check, I give them a false answer, rather than tell them they aren't sure. If they are making that much of a snap judgement, they take their chances.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I use something a bit different.

If your trained in Arcana (Wizard, Bard, Ranger, Sorcerer or Warlock spell) or trained in Religion (Cleric, Druid or Paladin spell), you can attempt to identify it as a free action. DC is 12 + the spell level.

If you aren’t trained, but have seen the spell cast before, I generally allow a check as well. Same if you’re a spellcaster but not proficient- though in this case, at disadvantage (example, a Wizard not proficient in Religion, trying to identify a Cleric spell).
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
I know the RAW method. I have house ruled it slightly. If it is on their spell list and of a level they could theoretically cast, the character can attempt an Arcana check without advantage, but not using their reaction. If they fail this check, I give them a false answer, rather than tell them they aren't sure. If they are making that much of a snap judgement, they take their chances.

Ok that's actually pretty fun.

Are you sure that's just a magic missile? Could be disintegrate -what are you going to do!
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I know the RAW method. I have house ruled it slightly. If it is on their spell list and of a level they could theoretically cast, the character can attempt an Arcana check without advantage, but not using their reaction. If they fail this check, I give them a false answer, rather than tell them they aren't sure. If they are making that much of a snap judgement, they take their chances.
Oh, yeah. Yoink.
 


Mort

Legend
Supporter
I tried 3 different houserules for counterspell in 3 different games, and finally just banned it outright. I hated the spell, and since the ban I have never once looked back.

Was it a matter of bogging play down? Counterspell being way too common?
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I haven't had anyone with Counterspell in my games, but if it comes up I plan to do the same that I do with every ability check: I decide if the players needs a check or not to succeed at something ("rule zero") on a case-by-case basis, or if it is an automatic success or failure.

For my own guidelines, I would certainly grant an automatic success when the counterspeller knows / can cast the spell themselves, and probably also when they have seen the spell cast by someone else before (this is where I would be flexible, I wouldn't necessary require them to have seen the spell cast during this campaign, especially if the spell is common stuff).

On the other hand, absolutely no "tag-team" shenanigans.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
For my own guidelines, I would certainly grant an automatic success when the counterspeller knows / can cast the spell themselves, and probably also when they have seen the spell cast by someone else before (this is where I would be flexible, I wouldn't necessary require them to have seen the spell cast during this campaign, especially if the spell is common stuff).
Just a clarification - are you saying you wouldn't require a check if the player has seen the spell cast in one of your campaigns before? Or are you saying some characters port over to other campaigns?
 

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