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.

jasper

Rotten DM
I am AL DM. so I tell the spell but not if it is upcasted. Yes it kind of video gaming but they are burning a spell slot. And since some modules don't allow short/long rests it does affect later encounters.
 

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aco175

Legend
I just tell them unless some rare spell or non-PHB. It goes back to threads on PCs knowing that fire affects a troll and how far can someone see with a torch and such. The PCs would have grown up in that world and trained in these things. Spellcasters are the only ones that can counterspell at 5th level which should mean something. Summers at Mage Camp would have had a class on the teacher saying, "If you see someone pulling out bat crap and saying these words..."- Counterspell.

There is also the fairness of the DM knowing the spell the players are casting and if I want the bad guy to use his counterspell. If a player starts to tell me he is casting a spell and checking if I want to counter it before he tells me what spell is being cast, I would have problems with him. "I'm wiggling my fingers and it could be magic missile, but it could be fireball- what are you going to do DM." His PC would likely be targeted, a lot.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
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.
ORIGINAL: What was the problem with it? It's rather easy for a caster to avoid, and intelligent casters (both PC and opposition) should be taking those precautions when they can.

EDIT: I see from a later post that the issue was that the players were counterspelling all the time, and you disliked counterspelling them as it negates their action and wastes a slot.

Just like it seems every attacker knows about area of effect and spreads out, many/most casters able to cast 3rd+ level spells should probably know of Counterspell. And just like spreading out, there are tricks they can use to avoid it that should be standard nature. Here's a few easy ones.

  • Range is only 60', many spells are longer than that.
  • If you can't observe the casting you can't counterspell it. Subtle metamagic is an easy one. Invisibility works if there are no verbal components.
  • Move out of line-of-site, Ready a spell (which explicitly casts it) to trigger when you can see a foe, move back. This also uses their reaction, so they can't Counterspell back.
  • A caster only has a single reaction per round. If you have multiple casters on your side, use this. Will they disable an earlier spell and let you unleash a big one, or not in which case use a lesser spell. Or if they use reaction for Shield, Absorb Elements, Hellish Rebuke or something else.
  • A caster only has a set number of slots - run them down. This works best against PCs, since foe casters usually only have a single combat a day to worry about.
 
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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I've only experienced this on the player side, but usually neither I as DM nor the DMs I have had speak in spell names when describing the action. It might be "It gestures and three bolts of force fly out striking Gumar in the chest." but generally not "it casts magic missile, three bolts, all at Gumar." But that would be completely normal on the PC end to communicate to the DM your action "I cast magic missile, three bolts all at the hag."
Once you can see the three bolts, it's too late to Counterspell. The effect of what is happening occurs after the completion of casting.
 

Stalker0

Legend
ORIGINAL: What was the problem with it? It's rather easy for a caster to avoid, and intelligent casters (both PC and opposition) should be taking those precautions when they can.

EDIT: I see from a later post that the issue was that the players were counterspelling all the time, and you disliked counterspelling them as it negates their action and wastes a slot.

Just like it seems every attacker knows about area of effect and spreads out, many/most casters able to cast 3rd+ level spells should probably know of Counterspell. And just like spreading out, there are tricks they can use to avoid it.
A lot of my fights were in dungeon / room scenarios, so getting out of range was often not an option.

and the tactics was part of the issue, I was tired of having all of my caster fights having to use the same tricks over and over because of one spell.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
A lot of my fights were in dungeon / room scenarios, so getting out of range was often not an option.

and the tactics was part of the issue, I was tired of having all of my caster fights having to use the same tricks over and over because of one spell.
Why? Most intelligent foes will spread out because of area effects, they are adjusting their behavior due to the presence of magic. That casters, the most magical, are the ones most likely to have their behavior impacted by magic.
 

MGibster

Legend
I'm absolutely flabbergasted to hear that Counterspell isn't used in some of your campaigns. In every campaign I've run, Counterspell has been a very popular spell. I just tell the PCs what I'm casting and let them decide whether or not they want to use Counterspell. But I do the same thing to them and have the bad guys cast Counterspell after being told what's being cast.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I look at it this way: Every counterspell is one fewer haste that adventuring day (unless they burn higher-level slots at some point). So I'm not bothered by it. Certainly not enough to implement checks to identify spells.
 

dave2008

Legend
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.
Actually I think your idea makes less sense than also including a reaction as in Xanthar's. To me it is all about time. In roughly 6 seconds you get your turn + reaction. If I am taking the time to study a caster's spell, when would I also have the time then cast my own spell (on top of everything I am doing on my turn). Now, I could see circumventing this if a ready action. So if ready a spell casting and then use my reaction to decipher a spell I could cast counterspell with my readied action. Also, I could see improving as you get higher in level. So at some point you can identify and cast counterspell with the same reaction if you want. I just wouldn't make that the default.
 

TheSword

Legend
A knowledge arcana check to identify the spell folded in with Counterspell as the reaction. It doesn’t come up enough and level 3 spell slots aren’t so widely available that it’s necessary to nerf Abjurers and wizards investing in counterspell more than that.

Having to guess the spell level without any clues is the kind of silly rule that shouldn’t need to be put in place unless players take the Michael.
 

cmad1977

Hero
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?

I might let them know the power level of the spell? Maybe they can feel the arcane energies are more powerful than a standard counter spell so the player can make a call about wether or not they want to upcast or take a chance on counter spell failing.

But I DEFINITELY would NOT roll arcana checks mid combat. Don’t slow things down.

Or maybe not tell them altogether.
 


TheSword

Legend
I’d actually allow a caster an optional rule where if they cast a spell it can be identified as part of the counterspell, but the original caster has an option to use a higher spell slot to cast. The caster counter spelling can then have the option to put more power in as well. Like raising in poker. This continues until one side can’t put more power in, in which case the result is resolved.

I think this would be more satisfying than counter spelling a counterspell which just seems a battle of numbers not power.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Actually I think your idea makes less sense than also including a reaction as in Xanthar's. To me it is all about time. In roughly 6 seconds you get your turn + reaction. If I am taking the time to study a caster's spell, when would I also have the time then cast my own spell (on top of everything I am doing on my turn). Now, I could see circumventing this if a ready action. So if ready a spell casting and then use my reaction to decipher a spell I could cast counterspell with my readied action. Also, I could see improving as you get higher in level. So at some point you can identify and cast counterspell with the same reaction if you want. I just wouldn't make that the default.
That makes no sense. Readied actions use your reaction and so does the casting time of counterspell (which has a specific trigger that does not require a readied action). You can’t use a reaction to decipher a spell and then also cast counterspell in the same turn! The rules forbid it!

Additionally, counterspell’s trigger does not require that you know what the spell being cast is, only that you see it being cast (and note that it’s see, and not hear).

For these reason’s it’s clear that the rule for identifying spells found in Xanathar’s Guide does not work in conjunction with counterspell. They are mutually exclusive (re)actions.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I let them make Arcana checks to identify the spell, but I don't let them know what level spell slot it's being cast at. And I upcast all the time. So they gamble as to what level they want to cast the counterspell at.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Why? Most intelligent foes will spread out because of area effects, they are adjusting their behavior due to the presence of magic. That casters, the most magical, are the ones most likely to have their behavior impacted by magic.
Damage is damage, but knocking out the action economy is one of the most powerful things you can do in combat. I would much rather my guy get hit with a fireball than get his key spell that shapes the fight counterspelled. And I didn't ban it lightly, as I said I tried various versions over 3 campaigns before I finally just said "I don't like this spell, I don't want to have to deal with this spell, and so I won't".

But lets not take the thread too Off Topic, the OP asked how people handle counterspell. I choose the "other" option, with the option being a ban.
 

MGibster

Legend
Damage is damage, but knocking out the action economy is one of the most powerful things you can do in combat. I would much rather my guy get hit with a fireball than get his key spell that shapes the fight counterspelled.
I hadn't thought about it from that perspective but I think you're making a valid point. I've certainly seen the look of disappointment on the faces of players when their Fireball spell fell prey to Counterspell. But I'm the type of DM who thrives on the tears of my players so I never really gave it much thought until now.

I was really disappointed when one of my player's characters, a Cleric, had the ability to cancel critical hits. It just sapped some of the fun out of combat for me and it's an ability I'd never give to a bad guy. Rolling crits is fun!
 

dave2008

Legend
That makes no sense. Readied actions use your reaction and so does the casting time of counterspell (which has a specific trigger that does not require a readied action). You can’t use a reaction to decipher a spell and then also cast counterspell in the same turn! The rules forbid it!
I was not trying to suggest it was RAW. I was saying that is something I would allow.
Additionally, counterspell’s trigger does not require that you know what the spell being cast is, only that you see it being cast (and note that it’s see, and not hear).
I never said it did. The idea was you might want to know what spell is being casts before you waste a counterspell on it. That is the who idea behind this thread. So if the villain is casting a spell that does poison damage and your immune to poison, does it make sense to counterspell it?
For these reason’s it’s clear that the rule for identifying spells found in Xanathar’s Guide does not work in conjunction with counterspell. They are mutually exclusive (re)actions.
Yes, I agree. I even said that is how we play. I simple suggested a way I would allow you to both identify a spell and also cast counterspell. My suggestion is not RAW, but it seems in the spirit of the game to me and I would allow it.
 

dave2008

Legend
Damage is damage, but knocking out the action economy is one of the most powerful things you can do in combat. I would much rather my guy get hit with a fireball than get his key spell that shapes the fight counterspelled. And I didn't ban it lightly, as I said I tried various versions over 3 campaigns before I finally just said "I don't like this spell, I don't want to have to deal with this spell, and so I won't".

But lets not take the thread too Off Topic, the OP asked how people handle counterspell. I choose the "other" option, with the option being a ban.
Not sure what variants you tried, but to me it might make sense to say after you use counterspell, you can't cast a spell on your next turn.

I think the idea of counterspell is such an iconic part of magic users that I would hate to see it taken out completely.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I eyeball whether they’d just know the spell, based on spells they know, level, if I’ve used it against them before, etc.

If they don’t auto-recognize it, they can roll arcana, religion, nature, or a Spellcasting check, to determine if they know it.

If they have detect magic active, they gain the detect magic info and have advantage to determine the exact spell.
 

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