Rules clarification on "Dispel Magic"


Magic Items


According to the playtest rulebook in order to dispel an effect I make a counteract check using the spell level as the counteract level, but if I go to pg 319,320, nothing in the entry or table tell be what dc I'm supposed to use in order to determine what they should be rolling against. I assume it is a spell roll against the spell/items spell dc but this isn't made clear.
How is this all supposed to work? I find the entire Counteracting Conditions entry unclear, obtuse, and confusing and could use some help, please.


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counteract wrote:
... against the DC of the target effect. ...

If the dispel magic level is higher than the level of the effect you dispel it automatically. If the dispel magic is the same or lower level make a dispel check at a cumulative -5 penalty for each level lower than the effect your dispel is. The DC is that of the effect.


Not to thread-Necro on this, but according to the way the rules are currently written, it's impossible to use Dispel Magic on a spell or magical effect of 8th Level or higher.

Dispel Magic is 3rd Level.

You cannot counteract anything that is 4 or more levels above you.

Being generous, that means you could dispel or counteract something that was a 7th level spell or magical effect, but not 8th or higher.

There's no heighten option for Dispel Magic, and no, say, 5th level Greater Dispel Magic...

So are we to assume that spellcasters are supposed to be waiting around with their high-level spell slots readied in order to spontaneously counter-spell? (which has its own problems)

Or was there some kind of error when these rules were written that forgot to take Dispel Magic in to account?

I ask because we literally just had this problem come up in our Doomsday Dawn adventure tonight, and all of us (seasoned game vets all) ended up scratching our heads as we tried to decipher the Dispel/Counteract rules.


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jemstone wrote:

Not to thread-Necro on this, but according to the way the rules are currently written, it's impossible to use Dispel Magic on a spell or magical effect of 8th Level or higher.

Dispel Magic is 3rd Level.

You cannot counteract anything that is 4 or more levels above you.

Being generous, that means you could dispel or counteract something that was a 7th level spell or magical effect, but not 8th or higher.

There's no heighten option for Dispel Magic, and no, say, 5th level Greater Dispel Magic...

So are we to assume that spellcasters are supposed to be waiting around with their high-level spell slots readied in order to spontaneously counter-spell? (which has its own problems)

Or was there some kind of error when these rules were written that forgot to take Dispel Magic in to account?

I ask because we literally just had this problem come up in our Doomsday Dawn adventure tonight, and all of us (seasoned game vets all) ended up scratching our heads as we tried to decipher the Dispel/Counteract rules.

Preparing it in a higher level spell slot makes it count as a higher level. This is a general rule. Any spell can be made a higher level, it's just many don't have an additional effect beyond counting as higher level. And those spells don't have a heightened entry, that's only for when using a higher level slot directly changes the effects.

Same for spells like True Seeing, Shadow Siphon, and Globe of Invulnerability that attempt dispel checks in a similar manner.


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jemstone wrote:

Not to thread-Necro on this, but according to the way the rules are currently written, it's impossible to use Dispel Magic on a spell or magical effect of 8th Level or higher.

Dispel Magic is 3rd Level.

You cannot counteract anything that is 4 or more levels above you.

Being generous, that means you could dispel or counteract something that was a 7th level spell or magical effect, but not 8th or higher.

There's no heighten option for Dispel Magic, and no, say, 5th level Greater Dispel Magic...

So are we to assume that spellcasters are supposed to be waiting around with their high-level spell slots readied in order to spontaneously counter-spell? (which has its own problems)

Or was there some kind of error when these rules were written that forgot to take Dispel Magic in to account?

I ask because we literally just had this problem come up in our Doomsday Dawn adventure tonight, and all of us (seasoned game vets all) ended up scratching our heads as we tried to decipher the Dispel/Counteract rules.

Counteract in general is pretty simple once you get your head around it actually.

Both the dispeller and the dispellee have a counteract level. This works on the 1-10 spell level scale, not the 1-20 character level scale.

The counteract level of a spell is equal to the spell's level (Some spells like Shadow Siphon and Globe of Invulnerability specify that their counteract level is x levels higher or lower than the spell, but this will be clearly stated if it is the case). If it isn't a spell (Maybe a poison or a Ghast's paralysis or something) you cut the level of the item/creature/etc. in half and round up (Essentially the highest level spell a caster of that level could cast). (This is all assuming the effect or spell doesn't state itself as having a specific counteract level or spell level. That would take precedence. But I've seen very few examples of that.)

After determining the counteract levels of dispeller and dispellee you compare them. If the dispeller is higher level than the dispellee then the counteract is automatically successful.

If they are equal level then the dispeller makes a Spell Roll, with a DC equal to the DC of the spell or effect (generally the same DC as whatever saving throw was made against the effect. If it didn't involve a save then it is the spell DC of the caster, or their class DC if they don't cast.). If you meet or exceed the DC it is dispelled, if you fail it isn't.

If the dispeller is lower level than the dispellee, you still make the spell roll against the spell DC, but the spell roll takes a -5 penalty times the level difference. Unless the dispelee is 4 or more levels higher, then dispel automatically fails.

So it sounds like a lot but once you get familiar with determining the counteract level or something then it's a really easy matter of comparing the levels, auto success if the dispel is higher, spell roll (with penalties if applicable) against DC if equal or lower, auto fail if dispel is 4+ levels lower.


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I'm grateful that you were able to explain that, as four gamers who've been doing this for decades weren't able to suss it out.

Your explanation is clearer and makes more sense than what's in the book. It isn't written very clearly, and I say that because four of us in 30 minutes couldn't decipher what you just explained.

Thank you!


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jemstone wrote:

I'm grateful that you were able to explain that, as four gamers who've been doing this for decades weren't able to suss it out.

Your explanation is clearer and makes more sense than what's in the book. It isn't written very clearly, and I say that because four of us in 30 minutes couldn't decipher what you just explained.

Thank you!

Lol no problem. It was fuzzy for me at first too until I noticed the simple way to remember how to work out counteract levels. XD

Something funny I heard about one of the Paizo streams, someone asked in the chat for a dev to explain Dispel rules to him like he was a 5 year old. The dev proceeded to do so and someone in the chat commented that their actual 5 year old son understood the explanation.

So apparently it was a good one. XD


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Edge93 wrote:


Lol no problem. It was fuzzy for me at first too until I noticed the simple way to remember how to work out counteract levels. XD

Something funny I heard about one of the Paizo streams, someone asked in the chat for a dev to explain Dispel rules to him like he was a 5 year old. The dev proceeded to do so and someone in the chat commented that their actual 5 year old son understood the explanation.

So apparently it was a good one. XD

Yeah, I'm hoping that they'll clarify a lot of the language (and cut down on the cross-page reference loops) in the production version of PF2E. There are a lot of areas where the text is thick and impassable, and I say that as someone who used to play Rolemaster.

Thanks again for the help!


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I think the dispel magic rules as presented in the playtest are a shining example of the poor presentation of the rules in the playtest.

In addition to not being easy to understand at first glance, the spell entry for dispel magic tells you to reference the page on dispelling magical effects for how it works. The page on dispelling magical effects literally says nothing on the issue except to tell you to reference the page on counteract checks. So to understand how one spell works you are sent to a page reference that only leads to another page reference.

Just miserably bad, and I hope they clean it up significantly in the final version.


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It's definitely one of the worst examples, maybe the worst. My runner up would be leap and high/long jump, plus anything that increases your leap distance.


Speaking of dispel magic, I can't seem to find something that Remove Curse does (counteracts a curse) that dispel magic doesn't already do (counteracts magic, which includes curses). In pf1, curse spells specifically stated that they can't be dispelled and needed Remove Curse (or restoration or what not).
Anyone?


Depends. I don't have the rules in front of me but if the curse has a duration of "Instantaneous" rather than "Permanent", then Dispel Magic can't fix it as there basically isn't an active thread of magic to unravel or something like that, the curse is self-sustaining at that point and needs more specialized magic.


morphail wrote:

Speaking of dispel magic, I can't seem to find something that Remove Curse does (counteracts a curse) that dispel magic doesn't already do (counteracts magic, which includes curses). In pf1, curse spells specifically stated that they can't be dispelled and needed Remove Curse (or restoration or what not).

Anyone?

That's a good question. Dispel magic says it works on SPELLS or items. Theoretically you could have a curse that isn't a spell though. The bestiary probably has a bunch.


I know mummy rot is one, it's a curse and disease but not a spell.


That's interesting. So dispel magic with upcasting covers almost all occasions while remove curse is very specific (mummy rot and maybe more monster non spell curses) and starts at 4th level. Someone on a previous thread offered that dispel magic should by a hightenable 1st level spell and a developer said they will think about it.

I kind of like the elegance of spells being so versatile but on the other hand in this case I find it over simplified and not so interesting. It's nice if some forms of magic are more sticky and persistent.
Maybe adding some rule to the "curse" tag like:

"effects with the Curse trait are difficult to get rid off and are considered one level higher in regards to counteracting and cannot be dispelled with Dispel Magic". May allow for stories of people going to great lengths to remove curses.


FWIW I think just one of those changes or the other would do it, doing both makes Remove Curse much harder to work with.

I like the raising counteract level idea, it makes it so it isn't impossible to use Dispel Magic on so you aren't screwed without a divine caster, but if you get cursed by something on-level or above level then you'll need to look beyond your party for a reliable cure.

I'd take that as more of a houserule though, makes curses kind of unusable at the party's level if you DON'T want them to be quite as much of a disruption.


Edge93 wrote:

FWIW I think just one of those changes or the other would do it, doing both makes Remove Curse much harder to work with.

I like the raising counteract level idea, it makes it so it isn't impossible to use Dispel Magic on so you aren't screwed without a divine caster, but if you get cursed by something on-level or above level then you'll need to look beyond your party for a reliable cure.

I'd take that as more of a houserule though, makes curses kind of unusable at the party's level if you DON'T want them to be quite as much of a disruption.

Oh I DO...


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I found it fairly easy rulewise, it just took a long time to understand the way it was written - until I found it a bit too good.
Has anyone considered lowering the automatical counteracting to Dispel level -2, and let people roll with bonuses instead?


Ediwir wrote:

I found it fairly easy rulewise, it just took a long time to understand the way it was written - until I found it a bit too good.

Has anyone considered lowering the automatical counteracting to Dispel level -2, and let people roll with bonuses instead?

I know I'm not parsing this correctly.

When you say "automatic at Dispell level -2" do you mean that a 3rd level Dispell automatically succeeds against a level 1 (and fails against a level 2) spell?

Or are you saying that a 3rd level Dispell automatically succeeds against a 5th (and fails on a 6th) level spell?

In neither scenario do I understand where the "rolling with bonuses" comes in.


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Draco18s wrote:
Ediwir wrote:

I found it fairly easy rulewise, it just took a long time to understand the way it was written - until I found it a bit too good.

Has anyone considered lowering the automatical counteracting to Dispel level -2, and let people roll with bonuses instead?

I know I'm not parsing this correctly.

When you say "automatic at Dispell level -2" do you mean that a 3rd level Dispell automatically succeeds against a level 1 (and fails against a level 2) spell?

Or are you saying that a 3rd level Dispell automatically succeeds against a 5th (and fails on a 6th) level spell?

In neither scenario do I understand where the "rolling with bonuses" comes in.

In the normal counteract rules you auto counter anything below the level of your counter act effect. Anything above that you have to make a roll (with a -5 penalty for each level below your counter effect is.)

Ediwir is, I guess, hoping for it to be automatic at 2 levels below your effect not 1 level.

E.G Currently your level 5 dispel auto dispels level 4 and below effects. You can attempt to dispel things up to level 8 with a roll. Ediwir would have it be that your level 5 dispel auto dispels level 3 and below, and requires rolling from 4-8.


The "rolling with bonuses" part is presumably that if you were using a level 5 dispel against a level 4 effect, then you would receive a +5 bonus on the roll (mirroring the -5 penalty you'd suffer if you tried to dispel a leve 6 effect).


My feeling on that is that the spell slot expenditure is already pretty expensive. If you consider that quite often you'll be usually counteracting something close or equal to your level, it seems like sacrificing a top level spell slot should let you vanquish a lesser spell level 100% of the time. If anything, I'd probably increase the odds of success a little for on level spells.


The flip side of that, though, is that action economy can make counterspelling an always-optimal strategy for taking down enemy spellcasters.

I had some of that in my Hell's Rebels campaign - one of my PCs specialized in counterspelling and would just shut down enemy casters every turn. Assuming you outnumber the enemies - often the case in caster battles - "my wizard does nothing but negate your wizard while the fighters kill the now-helpless wizard" is frighteningly effective.

I can almost see counterspelling being shifted such that countering a spell is a level harder than dispelling an ongoing spell; no one likes wasting a turn.

Actually what I ended up doing when I sat down with the player to hash out a compromise, since I've backported four tiers of success into PF1e, was to say that a successful counterspell lowers the success category of the "countered" spell by one (or two on a critical success). So if you successfully counterspell a Phantasmal Killer, then anyone who fails their save counts as a success, and anyone who succeeds counts as a critical success.

That's admittedly a fairly complicated solution, though - especially for spells that don't normally have tiers of success. It also mainly needed to happen because of feats that let you counterspell as an immediate action and because PF1e characters can have lots of spell slots to burn on counterspelling. PF2e might not have the problem in the first place to such an extent.


MaxAstro wrote:

The flip side of that, though, is that action economy can make counterspelling an always-optimal strategy for taking down enemy spellcasters.

I had some of that in my Hell's Rebels campaign - one of my PCs specialized in counterspelling and would just shut down enemy casters every turn. Assuming you outnumber the enemies - often the case in caster battles - "my wizard does nothing but negate your wizard while the fighters kill the now-helpless wizard" is frighteningly effective.

I can almost see counterspelling being shifted such that countering a spell is a level harder than dispelling an ongoing spell; no one likes wasting a turn.

Actually what I ended up doing when I sat down with the player to hash out a compromise, since I've backported four tiers of success into PF1e, was to say that a successful counterspell lowers the success category of the "countered" spell by one (or two on a critical success). So if you successfully counterspell a Phantasmal Killer, then anyone who fails their save counts as a success, and anyone who succeeds counts as a critical success.

That's admittedly a fairly complicated solution, though - especially for spells that don't normally have tiers of success. It also mainly needed to happen because of feats that let you counterspell as an immediate action and because PF1e characters can have lots of spell slots to burn on counterspelling. PF2e might not have the problem in the first place to such an extent.

Is any of that relevant to PF2 though? Counterspell is no longer a thing you can do with Dispel Magic. You can't ready a two action spell. It is now a thing you can only do if you have the Counterspell reaction feat and they use a spell you have known/prepared. That's a pretty narrow range of circumstances on top of the spell slot expenditure.

And keep in mind that the combats this would make the biggest deal in involve a single powerful boss caster, probably of a level higher than the party. Which means you aren't likely to get the auto-success until they have already used up their best and 2nd best spells.


Exactly. Even for an on-level wizard you have to have prepared the exact spell you want to counter. And often not-countering is a better use of your time.

That is, do you spend the spell to make the enemy waste a turn...or do you cast it on him and cause him to miss two turns? (For example for a spell like Fear, Sleep, etc)


Huh. I totally missed that you can't use Dispel Magic as a global counterspell anymore, nor is there a feat for that.


Draco18s wrote:

Exactly. Even for an on-level wizard you have to have prepared the exact spell you want to counter. And often not-countering is a better use of your time.

That is, do you spend the spell to make the enemy waste a turn...or do you cast it on him and cause him to miss two turns? (For example for a spell like Fear, Sleep, etc)

I think most of the time using coutnerspell is the obvious answer to that. Action economy is king, and if the enemy gets their spell off you might be losing your next anyway, or dead. Spending a reaction to neutralize 2 actions from an enemy is really, really good. It's just the times you get to do that seem rather slim unless you know you are playing a Caster heavy campaign.


Captain Morgan wrote:
I think most of the time using coutnerspell is the obvious answer to that. Action economy is king, and if the enemy gets their spell off you might be losing your next anyway, or dead. Spending a reaction to neutralize 2 actions from an enemy is really, really good. It's just the times you get to do that seem rather slim unless you know you are playing a Caster heavy campaign.

In some cases, I could agree. But in the general case, I'm not so sure.


Draco18s wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
I think most of the time using coutnerspell is the obvious answer to that. Action economy is king, and if the enemy gets their spell off you might be losing your next anyway, or dead. Spending a reaction to neutralize 2 actions from an enemy is really, really good. It's just the times you get to do that seem rather slim unless you know you are playing a Caster heavy campaign.
In some cases, I could agree. But in the general case, I'm not so sure.

I think the strongest argument for the general case is the fact that it has to be the same spell.

In other words, however devastating the spell could be if you saved it to cast it, that's how devastating it will be for the enemy caster to successfully get it off.

On top of that, the vast majority of encounters with casters have fewer casters than PCs, meaning trading actions with a caster is almost always a net win in action economy, with the size of the win going up as the number of casters goes down. Even spending two actions to waste two actions of a solo caster is a good trade, because the overall action economy is likely something like 12 actions to 3 action, and turning that into 10 actions to 1 action raises you from a 300% economy lead to a 1000% economy lead.

The only situation I could see where countering a spell would be a poor choice is if the party is outnumbered by casters.


MaxAstro wrote:
The only situation I could see where countering a spell would be a poor choice is if the party is outnumbered by casters.

Or if the caster who you're trying to counterspell doesn't cast a spell (or moves out of sight before casting), thus wasting the counterer's turn...


I assumed that the implied "when countering is tactically feasible" was obvious, but apparently not, so there it is.

And honestly, if your ability to counter spells baits the enemy caster into spending their turn not casting or giving up an advantageous position, that's a win, too.


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The counterer wouldn't be wasting a turn anyway in that scenario. Again, Counterspell is a reaction and only a reaction. You cannot ready a counterspell anymore. So the only person wasting their turn is the caster who is now not using their best tools (spells) or burning valuable actions to get them off.

Even in a scenario where you are outnumbered by casters, it is PROBABLY worth the spell slot. If the spells are powerful enough enough to want to conserve, they are probably too dangerous to ignore and the focus shifts from conserving resources to surviving THIS fight. If the spells aren't that dangerous (say, 1st level spells being launched against a 12th level caster) than the spell slot you are giving up probably wasn't that valuable either.

I guess you could come up with some edge cases where a spell wouldn't be that bad to let go, especially for a sorcerer who has more flexibility in how that spell slot gets used later, but we are mostly talking like "I already cast Resist Energy and they are using Burning Hands" levels of corner case here.


MaxAstro wrote:
Draco18s wrote:


In some cases, I could agree. But in the general case, I'm not so sure.

I think the strongest argument for the general case is the fact that it has to be the same spell.

In other words, however devastating the spell could be if you saved it to cast it, that's how devastating it will be for the enemy caster to successfully get it off.

Are you accounting for the 50% success rate?

If you fail the check, the spell goes off anyway and you lose the spell.

That's why on-level (and exact spell) countering sucks.


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Draco18s wrote:
MaxAstro wrote:
Draco18s wrote:


In some cases, I could agree. But in the general case, I'm not so sure.

I think the strongest argument for the general case is the fact that it has to be the same spell.

In other words, however devastating the spell could be if you saved it to cast it, that's how devastating it will be for the enemy caster to successfully get it off.

Are you accounting for the 50% success rate?

If you fail the check, the spell goes off anyway and you lose the spell.

That's why on-level (and exact spell) countering sucks.

That's a good point, actually. I think most of the time it is still probably worth it. Spellslots are valuable, but action economy is usually more so. A 55% to effectively waste an opponent's turn seems worth not having a spell slot for later if said opponent is actually a credible threat, unless it's reaaaally late in the adventuring day.

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