D&D 5E Vecna's Dread Counterspell vs. Subtle Spell (a simple poll)

Can Vecna use Dread Counterspell against a spell cast with Subtle Spell?


  • Poll closed .

DND_Reborn

Legend
Just to keep things simple (and civil), this is just a poll about how the metamagic Subtle Spell interacts with Vecna's Dread Counterspell.

Feel free to hash over the same arguments if you want, I am just curious about raw (not RAW) interpretations for each person. So, I am keeping the options very simple: Yes/No is pretty much it. There is no "other" option available.

References/sources:

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Majority rules and will dictate how we run Vecna's feature in the Vecna battles thread moving forward.

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I wish I had more options. His Dread Counterspell will work if he knows the target is casting a spell. The reason normal counterspell doesn't work against a spell affected by Subtle Spell isn't that Subtle Spell somehow prevents counterspell. Instead, it's that if you cast a spell with no verbal or somatic components, there may not be any "tell" that the caster is doing anything at all. At that point it's a purely mental action, and there's no reason Vecna would necessarily observe that any better than anyone else would.

If, on the other hand, he clearly sees a spellcaster character pop out from behind cover and stand there without physically doing anything, you know for a fact that Vecna is smart enough to realize "someone is trying to cast a spell on me" and will use Dread Counterspell. Since there's nothing that says he can't use it repeatedly, he would lose nothing (except a reaction), though this could potentially be gamed--e.g. the Sorcerer pops out of cover and readies the action to cast a spell, waiting for Vecna to try to Dread Counterspell her, since it clearly has a trigger condition. Vecna tries and fails, because no spell has been cast. Sorcerer then fires off the readied spell, which cannot be subject to Dread Counterspell because Vecna is only allowed one reaction per turn and he wasted this turn's reaction on trying to counter a spell that wasn't actually cast.

So yeah. The problem is, Subtle Spell "prevents" Dread Counterspell in exactly the same way it "prevents" regular counterspell. That is, the person trying to counter the spell has to be able to know ("see," in the case of Dread Counterspell) that someone is casting a spell. That reason is normally seeing someone do the weird hand jives or hearing someone pronounce the mystic words, but logic might dictate that there are other reasons.

So...should I vote "no" because Subtle Spell doesn't OUTRIGHT prevent Dread Counterspell (due to not outright preventing regular counterspell either)? Or should I vote "yes" because Subtle Spell should have exactly the same effects on Dread Counterspell as it has on regular counterspell (namely, unless there's some other reason to know a spell is being cast, the countering person isn't tipped off and thus never gets the opportunity to try)?
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I wish I had more options. His Dread Counterspell will work if he knows the target is casting a spell. The reason normal counterspell doesn't work against a spell affected by Subtle Spell isn't that Subtle Spell somehow prevents counterspell. Instead, it's that if you cast a spell with no verbal or somatic components, there may not be any "tell" that the caster is doing anything at all. At that point it's a purely mental action, and there's no reason Vecna would necessarily observe that any better than anyone else would.
He doesn't have to observe a "tell?" He can just look at you and know that you have 5 out of 12 slots left and that they are 2 1st, 2 3rd and 1 5th. He also knows what your class and subclass abilities are and if you've used them or not. All at a glance and without any tells and without having to even make a roll. Why would he have difficulty knowing you're casting a subtle spell?
 




FitzTheRuke

Legend
So...the Vecna Dossier is incomplete. Great. That's...wow. "I expect nothing, and I'm still let down."

Given this information, then no, Subtle Spell would have no impact on Vecna's Dread Counterspell, as he has permanent scry character sheet active, apparently!
You're not wrong. I would go one further and say that the statblock was incomplete in the first place by throwing in the word "that" into counterspell and letting us all guess as to what they mean by it. I find that there are a lot of words in a monster statblock that don't need to be there... and often ones that aren't there that should be.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
How does he "just know" this? That's not listed in the statblock as far as I can see!
It’s in the adventure (should definitely have been in the stat block though, along with his lair actions which are also in the adventure but not the stat block). Specifically, it says, “Vecna can ascertain the capabilities of spellcasters and identify the spells they cast without making an ability check.” This is under a heading about his tactics, and goes on to say he specifically targets any casters that can heal or resurrect their allies.
 




Makes no difference whether he knows or not. The spell description says it works against a character he sees that is casting a spell, not a character he sees casting a spell.
I refuse to accept the idea that anyone can just say "boop, counterspelling you!" despite having ZERO evidence that, y'know, they're ACTUALLY casting!

Like...if we're talking about natural language, it's very clear that the natural language meaning of the phrase is that you have to be seeing someone cast a spell. That's necessary for counterspelling. Why would you counterspell someone who doesn't appear to be casting anything? It would be a waste of effort for no gain.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I refuse to accept the idea that anyone can just say "boop, counterspelling you!" despite having ZERO evidence that, y'know, they're ACTUALLY casting!

Like...if we're talking about natural language, it's very clear that the natural language meaning of the phrase is that you have to be seeing someone cast a spell. That's necessary for counterspelling. Why would you counterspell someone who doesn't appear to be casting anything? It would be a waste of effort for no gain.
The implication is that he knows...probably through thousands of years studying for udder magic, or something. The mechanics are clear and the narrative flows easily enough. It's scary because the player doesn't know how Vecna knows.
 

The implication is that he knows...probably through thousands of years studying for udder magic, or something. The mechanics are clear and the narrative flows easily enough. It's scary because the player doesn't know how Vecna knows.
Well, as I said above, in the context of the full adventure, where it IS said that Vecna has a persistent scry character sheet effect active, then of course he can always do that.

But the response above was claiming that just Dread Counterspell itself justifies being able to counter a sorcerer's Subtle Spell based on wording alone. I reject that argument, because the text of Dread Counterspell does not establish the ability to know whether a spellcaster is, in fact, casting a spell. When Dread Counterspell as written is combined with the absent information that Vecna is always able to detect spellcasting no matter what, then you get the unavoidable conclusion that Subtle Spell is worthless against him because he isn't reliant on witnessing verbal or somatic components to know that someone is casting.

That is, to be very clear: if we got a different creature later on that also had Dread Counterspell, with the same mechanics, then that feature alone would not justify being able to ignore Subtle Spell's suppression of the only obvious tells of (some) spells. Let's call it a Baleful Necromancer. Something like a fireball or magic missile, which clearly has an origin at a particular person, might permit the Baleful Necromancer to use Dread Counterspell; out of respect for the player's expenditure of resources, I would probably make some kind of roll (likely Investigation) to see if the Baleful Necromancer notices where the spell originated from. But something like a Divine Soul (or Boros Legionnaire) Sorcerer casting Subtle flame strike would be perfectly reasonable to not give any tells, since the spell pulls down fire from the sky onto the target--anyone could've cast it.

Vecna specifically has hacker powers that let him see the game rules even when he has no business knowing them. Those powers enable him to use Dread Counterspell even on a spell modified by Subtle Spell. A creature without Vecna's permanent scry character sheet effect does not have that benefit.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I refuse to accept the idea that anyone can just say "boop, counterspelling you!" despite having ZERO evidence that, y'know, they're ACTUALLY casting!

Like...if we're talking about natural language, it's very clear that the natural language meaning of the phrase is that you have to be seeing someone cast a spell. That's necessary for counterspelling. Why would you counterspell someone who doesn't appear to be casting anything? It would be a waste of effort for no gain.
He can see/sense the casting with a glance. The wording is different from counterspell as multiple english majors/professors have backed up. The way Dread Counterspell is worded, you only need to see the person, not the spell being cast.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But the response above was claiming that just Dread Counterspell itself justifies being able to counter a sorcerer's Subtle Spell based on wording alone. I reject that argument, because the text of Dread Counterspell does not establish the ability to know whether a spellcaster is, in fact, casting a spell. When Dread Counterspell as written is combined with the absent information that Vecna is always able to detect spellcasting no matter what, then you get the unavoidable conclusion that Subtle Spell is worthless against him because he isn't reliant on witnessing verbal or somatic components to know that someone is casting.
The wording of Dread Counterspell requires no detectable spellcasting in order to be used. The problem with it is that it provides no context or reasoning for why it can be used that way, so the DM has to supply it or rule against the wording as you would do and not allow it to work.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Well, as I said above, in the context of the full adventure, where it IS said that Vecna has a persistent scry character sheet effect active, then of course he can always do that.

But the response above was claiming that just Dread Counterspell itself justifies being able to counter a sorcerer's Subtle Spell based on wording alone. I reject that argument, because the text of Dread Counterspell does not establish the ability to know whether a spellcaster is, in fact, casting a spell. When Dread Counterspell as written is combined with the absent information that Vecna is always able to detect spellcasting no matter what, then you get the unavoidable conclusion that Subtle Spell is worthless against him because he isn't reliant on witnessing verbal or somatic components to know that someone is casting.

That is, to be very clear: if we got a different creature later on that also had Dread Counterspell, with the same mechanics, then that feature alone would not justify being able to ignore Subtle Spell's suppression of the only obvious tells of (some) spells. Let's call it a Baleful Necromancer. Something like a fireball or magic missile, which clearly has an origin at a particular person, might permit the Baleful Necromancer to use Dread Counterspell; out of respect for the player's expenditure of resources, I would probably make some kind of roll (likely Investigation) to see if the Baleful Necromancer notices where the spell originated from. But something like a Divine Soul (or Boros Legionnaire) Sorcerer casting Subtle flame strike would be perfectly reasonable to not give any tells, since the spell pulls down fire from the sky onto the target--anyone could've cast it.

Vecna specifically has hacker powers that let him see the game rules even when he has no business knowing them. Those powers enable him to use Dread Counterspell even on a spell modified by Subtle Spell. A creature without Vecna's permanent scry character sheet effect does not have that benefit.
No, Dread Counterspell as worded is clear that as far as the mechanics go Vecna does not need to see the casting, just the creature casting. This means when he sees, that he can act. If that means that he needs to know, then the flavor that flows from the mechanics suggests that he knows somehow. The RAW undercuts Subtle Spell entirely, and the Adventure confirms that is RAI.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Well, as I said above, in the context of the full adventure, where it IS said that Vecna has a persistent scry character sheet effect active, then of course he can always do that.

But the response above was claiming that just Dread Counterspell itself justifies being able to counter a sorcerer's Subtle Spell based on wording alone. I reject that argument, because the text of Dread Counterspell does not establish the ability to know whether a spellcaster is, in fact, casting a spell. When Dread Counterspell as written is combined with the absent information that Vecna is always able to detect spellcasting no matter what, then you get the unavoidable conclusion that Subtle Spell is worthless against him because he isn't reliant on witnessing verbal or somatic components to know that someone is casting.

That is, to be very clear: if we got a different creature later on that also had Dread Counterspell, with the same mechanics, then that feature alone would not justify being able to ignore Subtle Spell's suppression of the only obvious tells of (some) spells. Let's call it a Baleful Necromancer. Something like a fireball or magic missile, which clearly has an origin at a particular person, might permit the Baleful Necromancer to use Dread Counterspell; out of respect for the player's expenditure of resources, I would probably make some kind of roll (likely Investigation) to see if the Baleful Necromancer notices where the spell originated from. But something like a Divine Soul (or Boros Legionnaire) Sorcerer casting Subtle flame strike would be perfectly reasonable to not give any tells, since the spell pulls down fire from the sky onto the target--anyone could've cast it.

Vecna specifically has hacker powers that let him see the game rules even when he has no business knowing them. Those powers enable him to use Dread Counterspell even on a spell modified by Subtle Spell. A creature without Vecna's permanent scry character sheet effect does not have that benefit.
I’m not even convinced his scry character sheet ability tells him when someone is casting a spell. All it explicitly says is that he knows what spells you’re capable of casting and can identify them as you cast them without a check. I would certainly believe that it was the intent for this to mean he also knows when you cast a spell, even if it’s subtle. But it doesn’t actually say so clearly.
 

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