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 .

Parmandur

Book-Friend
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.
I think this could definitely be spelled out better (no pun intended).
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
No, Dread Counterspell as worded is clear that Becna does not need to see the casting, just the creature casting. This means when he sees, that he can act. Of 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.
No need to bring his wife into this. He's scary enough all by himself!
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
This is true, but if the guy can look at a Diviner and know how many uses of Portent are left, what those Portent numbers are, how many slots he has left for the day and which levels they are, and even know what spells that Diviner elected to memorize for the day, how could he not be capable of knowing what spell is being cast even if Subtle Spell is being used?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
This is true, but if the guy can look at a Diviner and know how many uses of Portent are left, what those Portent numbers are, how many slots he has left for the day and which levels they are, and even know what spells that Diviner elected to memorize for the day, how could he not be capable of knowing what spell is being cast even if Subtle Spell is being used?
I think you’re extrapolating a lot from “ascertain the capabilities of spellcasters and identify the spells they cast.”
 


Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
Specifically, it says, “Vecna can ascertain the capabilities of spellcasters and identify the spells they cast without making an ability check.”
It should be noted that this, by itself, doesn't allow Vecna to identify every spell cast by enemy spell casters.

There are no rules for identifying spellcasting in the Players Handbook -- those rules only exist in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, p.85:

"To [identify a spell], 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."
Unless there's something else about Vecna's abilities in the adventure module that aren't being shared, the ability to identify spells without an ability check only absolves Vecna from that last sentence; he doesn't have to make an ability check to identify a spell.
Nothing in the text quoted from the adventure means that Vecna doesn't have to perceive the spellcasting, nor does it absolve Vecna from having to spend a reaction to identify the spell. It simply means that once he does so, he does not have to succeed at an ability check. This is explained in Xanathar's Guide this way: "This Intelligence (Arcana) check represents the fact that identifying a spell requires a quick mind and familiarity with the theory and practice of casting."

Because of this, I vote 'Dread Counterspell will NOT work against a spell cast with Subtle Spell."

--
Pauper
 


By RAW it is only the "Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell" language which makes counterspell generally impossible against subtle spells. In the absence of that language I see no RAW reason why Vecna's Dread Counterspell would be so limited.

In actual gameplay I would allow characters to use regular counterspell against any spell in range they have a reason to believe is being cast beyond the metagame knowledge that someone just said it was being cast, though I would be generally avoid doing this against a player using subtle spell, simply because of the opportunity costs and investment required to make a character able to do so should see some payoff.

But when players go up against a past-master of all wizardry so superlative he has ascended to godhood and become arguably the most infamous arch-villain of D&D they should expect their old tricks to be less reliable. I'd want Vecna to be able to (at least sometimes) counter subtle spells even if he was just using regular old counterspell. I'd want him to be able to as a DM and (unless I had just gotten subtle spell metamagic specifically for that fight) I'd want the same as a player.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It should be noted that this, by itself, doesn't allow Vecna to identify every spell cast by enemy spell casters.

There are no rules for identifying spellcasting in the Players Handbook -- those rules only exist in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, p.85:

"To [identify a spell], 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."
Unless there's something else about Vecna's abilities in the adventure module that aren't being shared, the ability to identify spells without an ability check only absolves Vecna from that last sentence; he doesn't have to make an ability check to identify a spell.
Nothing in the text quoted from the adventure means that Vecna doesn't have to perceive the spellcasting, nor does it absolve Vecna from having to spend a reaction to identify the spell. It simply means that once he does so, he does not have to succeed at an ability check. This is explained in Xanathar's Guide this way: "This Intelligence (Arcana) check represents the fact that identifying a spell requires a quick mind and familiarity with the theory and practice of casting."

Because of this, I vote 'Dread Counterspell will NOT work against a spell cast with Subtle Spell."

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Pauper
That's cool and all, but Specific Beats General. Those general rules don't apply here. Vecna's specific rules do allow him to identify every spell, because they say so.
 



gnarlygninja

Explorer
Subtle spell isn’t cheese. Avoiding counterspells is literally its intended use.
Especially considering how many groups let casters use magic sneakily, or just make the casting a lot less obvious than the default assumptions are. Letting it be counterspell proof is really all it has going in a lot of groups.
 


What is cheap about using a class feature exactly as intended?
It's available at low level. Therefore, it's common. Vecna should be preped to counter it, just as he would prep to counter any other low level ability that could be used against him.

The way to run a a character like this is to give them a way to neutralise pretty much anything the players can throw at them.

I.e. they should be unfair, by design. Vecna isn't interested in a fair fight.
 


Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
I voted no. Dread Counterspell could work on a subtle spell if Vecna had some reason to use the ability, but he will not make the IC decision to use Dread Counterspell if he isn't aware IC that the trigger condition has been met.

I don't interpret the adventure text as giving Vecna the ability to be aware IC of all spellcasting, and even if I did, that's an ability specific to the adventure text that Vecna wouldn't have if encountered outside that adventure. The poll question isn't limited to the recently released adventure, so we can't assume he has any of those adventure-specific abilities.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Subtle spell isn’t cheese. Avoiding counterspells is literally its intended use.
It doesn't even do that completely. If you're using material components for the spell, people can still see you grab it and counter your spell. It's not like an enemy spell caster is going to be like, "He's grabbing bat guano and sulfur, but since he's not saying anything or waving his hands, he must not be casting a spell and have some other reason for grabbing those in the middle of battle." And lots of spells have material components.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Oh, you mean cheap as in not-costly. I was thinking you meant it as in sordid.
Yeah. To Vecna it's a parlor trick that he knows for a fact that PC has. The PC still has to stop and concentrate for a bit on the spell and probably grab a material component. Vecna has thousands of years of magical combat with which to recognize when someone is using that ability.
 

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