Expanding the new Counterspell


Prerelease Discussion


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One of the pleasant surprises from reading the wizard blog yesterday was finding out that Paizo is trying to make Counterspell much more useful. Turning it into a reaction is a big improvement over PF1. But the fact that it requires you to have the same spell that you want to counter already prepared (and prepared at the same level) feels overly restrictive. And while Mark has pointed out that trading one reaction to negate most of your opponent's turn is a VERY powerful ability his point is rather moot if you are almost never in a position to actually use Counterspell on an opponent.

With all of that in mind, I thought it might be interesting collect some ideas about how counterspell could be changed to make it a little more flexible without making it too powerful. So without further ado, here are a few ideas:

1. Dispell Magic as a Crutch: In the thread for the wizard blog post Excaliburproxy pointed out the possibility that preparing Dispell Magic in a spell slot of the correct level may allow you to Counterspell by casting it as a reaction.

This sounds rather plausible since PF1 allowed you to do just that and Dispell Magic isn't a guaranteed way to negate an opposing spell so it should be fairly easy to balance. If Paizo did take this approach it would alleviate a lot of my concerns about how Counterspell works.

2. The Fuzzypaws Approach: In the same thread Fuzzypaws proposed making it so that if you had a spell of the same school prepared that was one level higher than the spell your opponent was casting then you could have the option of sacrificing the higher level spell in order to Counterspell it.

Since wizards now have a much tighter limit on how many spells they can cast per day that should prevent this use of Counterspell from being too powerful. Also, this approach isn't mutually exclusive in regards to option one. It could even be a feat if option one is the default.

3. Action economy shenanigans: The first idea that came to mind when I started writing this post was making it so that if you had a spell of the same school and same level prepared you could spend it as a part of a Counterspell [[R]] in order to increase the number of actions required for your opponent to cast their spell. If the intended target did not have any actions left to sacrifice then they would have to sacrifice their [[R]] instead.

This approach adds a little complexity in order to expand what Counterspell can do instead of making it easier to disrupt another spell. I like the flavor that goes with this idea (your opponent has to spend the normal number of actions to cast a spell plus one additional [[A]]/[[R]] because you are meddling with their spell). But without a visceral "feel" for what the new action economy is like I'm not sure how well this would balance out; although I suspect forcing an opponent to sacrifice an [[A]] would usually have a much bigger impact than forcing them to give up a [[R]].

Any thoughts on these approaches? What other alternatives do people have in mind?


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I think we should all wait to propose "fixes" to the system till we see the system in total. Counterspelling as a Reaction is a feat. We have been given one feat and told there are many, many more. There's no reason that all the suggestions people are making and more aren't also feats that build off the original Counterspell feat that you can opt into if you want your character to be the ultimate spell breaker.

Wait till you know what the situation is, try it in it's default state, then propose changes after you've had table time with it.


I don't want reaction counterspelling available as something you can do reliably. Because then, it's what you ought to do for any caster fight. It's what the bosses ought to build. Trading your reaction for two or even three of their reactions, that is, functionally their turn, is a fantastic deal. It should be a limited-time-offer, though. Arcanist spent points from their pool and traded next turn's swift action to spend an equal slot when they had the fewest full slots of any full caster for a chance at dispelling, and it was broken as soon as you put it on Exploiter Wizard, who had as many slots as the other full casters.

Edit: I suppose that means I’d be okay with expending two slots of equal level in some form in order to do a generic counterspell reaction. “Casting now” is more valuable than “casting later”, after all.


QuidEst wrote:
I don't want reaction counterspelling available as something you can do reliably. Because then, it's what you ought to do for any caster fight. It's what the bosses ought to build. Trading your reaction for two or even three of their reactions, that is, functionally their turn, is a fantastic deal. It should be a limited-time-offer, though. Arcanist spent points from their pool and traded next turn's swift action to spend an equal slot when they had the fewest full slots of any full caster for a chance at dispelling, and it was broken as soon as you put it on Exploiter Wizard, who had as many slots as the other full casters.

Arcanists had the same number of spells as Witches and generalist Wizards, and Exploiter Wizards trade away specialization, so they had the same number of spell slots.


I hope they also make as a feat that 3.5 feat as well: Dampen Spell
The feat in 3.5, let you sac a spell as a free action (basically reaction in response) to lower DC's of spell cast.
While not true Counterspelling, it isn't bad as it works better if you don't have same spell as opponent (since 2E needs that).

Maybe double benefit in 2E.


Xenocrat wrote:
QuidEst wrote:
I don't want reaction counterspelling available as something you can do reliably. Because then, it's what you ought to do for any caster fight. It's what the bosses ought to build. Trading your reaction for two or even three of their reactions, that is, functionally their turn, is a fantastic deal. It should be a limited-time-offer, though. Arcanist spent points from their pool and traded next turn's swift action to spend an equal slot when they had the fewest full slots of any full caster for a chance at dispelling, and it was broken as soon as you put it on Exploiter Wizard, who had as many slots as the other full casters.
Arcanists had the same number of spells as Witches and generalist Wizards, and Exploiter Wizards trade away specialization, so they had the same number of spell slots.

Oh, that's right, it's just the delayed access.


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I love the idea of action economy shenanigans. Turn the spellcasting into an actual duel.

Back in 2007 I wrote the War of the Burning Sky campaign for D&D 3.5, and the recurring antagonists were magical inquisitors, who wore bear skull masks and articulate bronze claws on one hand. They were clerics who traded out turn/command undead for being able to counterspell.

Narratively, if you cast a spell by them, they'd slash the air with their claw and 'cut' the spell to pieces.

In playtesting the campaign, we had some amazing action scenes where an inquisitor would show up and send in his foot soldiers to engage the party's warriors, while the party's wizard tried to outwit the inquisitor. His best play ever was ducking behind a tree, muttering the verbal components for a spell (but not actually casting it -- Bluff check!) to draw out and waste a counterspell, and then he cast a silent Minor Image of himself.

He had the image step out from behind the tree and keep casting, tricking the inquisitor into wasting his uses of counterspell, while the PC got to keep his spell slots.

---

What I'd do for PF2 is spellbinding. Allow an option to 'bind' a spell. You ready an action (or use the feat to be able to counterspell without readying), and if you have the right spell, great, you counter it. If you don't, you spend your reaction, spend a spell slot of the same level or higher, and then the enemy's spell is held at bay as long as you keep spending an action on your turn.

If you stop concentrating, or if you get hit and lose your concentration, the spell goes off. But by that point maybe people can have moved out of the area of effect, or you've killed the caster so getting charmed ain't a big deal, etc.


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Remy P Gilbeau wrote:

I think we should all wait to propose "fixes" to the system till we see the system in total. Counterspelling as a Reaction is a feat. We have been given one feat and told there are many, many more. There's no reason that all the suggestions people are making and more aren't also feats that build off the original Counterspell feat that you can opt into if you want your character to be the ultimate spell breaker.

Wait till you know what the situation is, try it in it's default state, then propose changes after you've had table time with it.

Yeah, I'm inclined to agree with this. There's a lot we don't know. For example, we have some evidence that points to PF1 having less spells than PF2, even setting aside the splatbook factor. Mark has mentioned {i]Charm[/i] as a spell worth keeping in a first level slot at higher levels, making me think the Charm Person/Animal/Monster line may not be a single spell. We know all the cure spells are getting rolled into Heal. We know various spells are getting turned into Rituals. We know they want to make PF2 better balanced, and that is easier with a smaller spell list whose spells are very carefully crafted. All this increases the odds of you having the same spell prepared as an enemy.

Also, we have evidence spells will be more COMMON. Domain powers, school powers, Channel Energy, spell like abilities... It's all just spells now. We know the Cleric Heal pool is just a heal spell. While I doubt we will get Counterspell on a cleric or Heal on wizards, if we did we could almost certainly expect to get a counter off when fighting an enemy cleric. It isn't crazy to think other creatures and classes will have common spells as powers, providing opportunities for counters. Certainly PF1 had lots of this in spell like abilities.

(Also, we don't actually know that you need to have the same spell at the same level prepared to counterspell. At minimum, I'd assume you can "undercast" for a counter and we might find out you can shut down a higher level spell too.)

Scarab Sages

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I want to say, somewhere, Mark indicated that dispel magic could still counterspell, but it had limitations. You couldn't use the 3rd level slot to counterspell a 9th level spell.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I’m not a huge fan of a 1st lvl wizard being able to automatically counter the spell of a 20th lvl wizard. PF1’s Dispel Magic was better in this regard, with opposed caster checks, but it joined PF1 save-or-suck spells in being unhappily binary—you either completely block the spell, or wasted your turn.

I’d prefer a counterspelling system that involved caster checks and had varying degrees of success. For example:
—Success: Lower effect of the opposed spell by one step (crit success to success, success to failure, failure to crit failure).
—Crit Success: Lower effect of the opposed spell by two steps (crit success to failure, success to crit failure).
—Failure: Decrease DC of opposed spell by 2.
—Crit Failure: Increase DC of opposed spell by 2.


Remy P Gilbeau wrote:
I think we should all wait to propose "fixes" to the system till we see the system in total. [abbreviated quote]

Fair point, I got a little over-excited when I saw that using Counterspell might be a more viable tactic in PF2. And it appears that my normal "wait and see" approach was accidentally tossed out the window during said excitement.

QuidEst wrote:
I don't want reaction counterspelling available as something you can do reliably. Because then, it's what you ought to do for any caster fight. It's what the bosses ought to build. Trading your reaction for two or even three of their reactions, that is, functionally their turn, is a fantastic deal. It should be a limited-time-offer, though. [abbreviated quote]

I agree that Counterspell should not be the default for any caster fight. One of the unstated "design goals" (that I failed to mention in the original post) was that I was trying to find a way to make it so that Counterspell could reliably be used once or twice per day to either negate a spell or at-least undermine the effectiveness of another spell.

Also, I like your idea for a potential two-for-one countering mechanic.


Captain Morgan wrote:

There's a lot we don't know. For example, we have some evidence that points to PF1 having less spells than PF2, even setting aside the splatbook factor. Mark has mentioned {i]Charm[/i] as a spell worth keeping in a first level slot at higher levels, making me think the Charm Person/Animal/Monster line may not be a single spell. We know all the cure spells are getting rolled into Heal. We know various spells are getting turned into Rituals. We know they want to make PF2 better balanced, and that is easier with a smaller spell list whose spells are very carefully crafted. All this increases the odds of you having the same spell prepared as an enemy.

Also, we have evidence spells will be more COMMON. Domain powers, school powers, Channel Energy, spell like abilities... It's all just spells now. We know the Cleric Heal pool is just a heal spell. While I doubt we will get Counterspell on a cleric or Heal on wizards, if we did we could almost certainly expect to get a counter off when fighting an enemy cleric. It isn't crazy to think other creatures and classes will have common spells as powers, providing opportunities for counters. Certainly PF1 had lots of this in spell like abilities.

(Also, we don't actually know that you need to have the same spell at the same level prepared to counterspell. At minimum, I'd assume you can "undercast" for a counter and we might find out you can shut down a higher level spell too.)

The smaller spell list in PF2 is something I had failed to fully consider when I wrote the original post. That combined with everything now being a spell does increase the chances of Counterspell being more useful.

And you're probably right about being able to "undercast" with Counterspell.


Starbuck_II wrote:

I hope they also make as a feat that 3.5 feat as well: Dampen Spell

The feat in 3.5, let you sac a spell as a free action (basically reaction in response) to lower DC's of spell cast.
While not true Counterspelling, it isn't bad as it works better if you don't have same spell as opponent (since 2E needs that).

Maybe double benefit in 2E.

Considering the way that success and failure works in the new system this would probably be easy to implement. The first idea that comes to mind is to make it so that you can sacrifice a spell of the same level in order to increase the level of success for any saving rolls by one against the spell you are dampening.

But I also think they could fold a mechanic like this directly into Counterspell itself rather than making it a separate feat. Doing that might also make it so that Counterspell had parity with the option of getting a familiar. Although I would need to see exactly how Counterspell works before making any vigorous arguments for this approach.


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Porridge wrote:
I’m not a huge fan of a 1st lvl wizard being able to automatically counter the spell of a 20th lvl wizard.

100% in agreement with you about that.

Porridge wrote:

PF1’s Dispel Magic was better in this regard, with opposed caster checks, but it joined PF1 save-or-suck spells in being unhappily binary—you either completely block the spell, or wasted your turn.

I’d prefer a counterspelling system that involved caster checks and had varying degrees of success. For example:
—Success: Lower effect of the opposed spell by one step (crit success to success, success to failure, failure to crit failure).
—Crit Success: Lower effect of the opposed spell by two steps (crit success to failure, success to crit failure).
—Failure: Decrease DC of opposed spell by 2.
—Crit Failure: Increase DC of opposed spell by 2.

I would love a counterspelling system like the one you are describing. The only issue I see is figuring out how it would handle certain spells that directly target AC/TAC and how it would handle spells that aren't attacks (such as teleport).


Tallow wrote:
I want to say, somewhere, Mark indicated that dispel magic could still counterspell, but it had limitations. You couldn't use the 3rd level slot to counterspell a 9th level spell.

I also remember Mark said that Dispel Magic had limitations (it's why I considered option 1 to be a balanced approach for expanding Counterspell), but I don't remember him directly saying that it could counterspell. I'm not saying you're wrong, I just can't remember if he did actually confirm that.


RangerWickett wrote:
I love the idea of action economy shenanigans. Turn the spellcasting into an actual duel.

Yes, I would like that to be more of an option in PF2. I remember when I read the rules for PF1 and got really excited when I saw that you could counter someone else's spell. I also remember being disappointed when I realized that the mechanic was much more limited than I had expected.

RangerWickett wrote:

What I'd do for PF2 is spellbinding. Allow an option to 'bind' a spell. You ready an action (or use the feat to be able to counterspell without readying), and if you have the right spell, great, you counter it. If you don't, you spend your reaction, spend a spell slot of the same level or higher, and then the enemy's spell is held at bay as long as you keep spending an action on your turn.

If you stop concentrating, or if you get hit and lose your concentration, the spell goes off. But by that point maybe people can have moved out of the area of effect, or you've killed the caster so getting charmed ain't a big deal, etc.

Spellbinding as an alternate use of Counterspell sounds like a very interesting approach.

RangerWickett wrote:

Back in 2007 I wrote the War of the Burning Sky campaign for D&D 3.5, and the recurring antagonists were magical inquisitors, who wore bear skull masks and articulate bronze claws on one hand. They were clerics who traded out turn/command undead for being able to counterspell.

Narratively, if you cast a spell by them, they'd slash the air with their claw and 'cut' the spell to pieces.

That is, easily, one of the more interesting ideas I have heard for a "spell-breaker" enemy concept; both in regards to mechanics and story. I suspect I will be borrowing that concept in the near future. :)


Saheir wrote:
Porridge wrote:
I’m not a huge fan of a 1st lvl wizard being able to automatically counter the spell of a 20th lvl wizard.

100% in agreement with you about that.

Porridge wrote:

PF1’s Dispel Magic was better in this regard, with opposed caster checks, but it joined PF1 save-or-suck spells in being unhappily binary—you either completely block the spell, or wasted your turn.

I’d prefer a counterspelling system that involved caster checks and had varying degrees of success. For example:
—Success: Lower effect of the opposed spell by one step (crit success to success, success to failure, failure to crit failure).
—Crit Success: Lower effect of the opposed spell by two steps (crit success to failure, success to crit failure).
—Failure: Decrease DC of opposed spell by 2.
—Crit Failure: Increase DC of opposed spell by 2.

I would love a counterspelling system like the one you are describing. The only issue I see is figuring out how it would handle certain spells that directly target AC/TAC and how it would handle spells that aren't attacks (such as teleport).

On level 1 vs level 20: to be fair, that really only seems like it would be a thing if the 20th level Caster is using 1st level slots (in which case, the 20th level Caster clearly doesn't feel like they are in any danger) or at worst a 1st level spell heightened to a higher level. A 20th level Caster shouldn't have any problem running roughshod over 1st level threats.

But since spells no longer scale with Caster level, it seems like arcane spells in particular are basically magical formulas or programs you tap into to unleash very specific effects either through study or instinct. I think of a Counterspell as basically exploiting a bug in that program, so I don't inherently object to a weaker person being able to shut down a spell by having just the right tool to screw with it.

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