Why is Dispel Magic a 3rd level spell, and why is it a spell at all?


Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells


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It seems like it would be useful for spellcasters to be able to dispel effects like Charm and magic items at character levels lower than 5th. You would think that low level spellcasters would be called upon to counter magic too. It also seems like relegating it to 3rd level limits the number uses quite a bit. In that you need to make a check against a DC, it works a bit like skill. Maybe a better approach would be to make it a spellcaster ability and use spell points or burn spells or daily uses instead. That could let it exist at lower levels and make it easier to have it available more if needed.


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With you on this one - especially as we Encounter Hazards that can be dispelled way before Level 5.


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I think the best option would be to keep the Dispel Magic spell as is, but add a ritual that dispels magical effects and that can be used from a lower level, perhaps with a material component cost--then the spell version is Level 3 because it's a quick Dispel that doesn't cost anything except a spell slot to use.

Adventure designers could add a rider for certain effects that they want to be real obstacles to the heroes of requiring a specific rare component when dispeling with a ritual to increase the cost or to make it impossible without going on a quest for the component or something first.


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A new edition is a good time to rethink some of these old standbys, and I agree. If a spellcaster can detect magic essentially at will, then he/she should be able to try to unwind magic at will. Pull both Detect Magic and Dispel Magic out of the spell lists and make them class features (maybe it's a first level class feature for wizards to get Dispell, but it comes at level 4 for Sorcerers). The only cost of dispelling should be something like giving up a prepared spell at the same level of the effect being dispelled. Of course, you have to detect and identify the effect first.


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DerNils wrote:
With you on this one - especially as we Encounter Hazards that can be dispelled way before Level 5.

That's part of it. The other half of that statement is "and have no other means of being disabled." I swear there's one or two in Doomsday dawn, I just can't remember where.


Both Scenario 1 and 2 have Magic traps with a rule how to dispel them, even though neither a Level 1 nor a Level 4 Party has any way to do so. But in both cases, there is a mundane Option to disarm.

Unfortunately, in

DD2:
it is also gated behind Expert Thievery, so I expect a lot of groups to do the Barbarian Disarm


That's the one I was thinking of, in chapter 2.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I had wondered this about that same trap. I also think it would be a good idea to lower dispel magic, or make it a ritual.


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Add me to the list of people confused about this, because there are magical effects saying they can be dispelled, and listing a dispel level of (1st) or (2nd), even though there is no Dispel Magic less than 3rd level. And why does it also have a DC that you have to make on a spell roll in addition to a minimum level spell you have to expend? One or the other would suffice to set a minimum requirement.

Not to mention that requiring expert Thievery to disable a 3rd level trap is outrageous in its own right. At 3rd level you can only have one skill at expert rank, two if you're a rogue. If you chose anything other than Thievery to be your best skill right out of the gate, then there's no way to not set the trap off.

This isn't just, "Bring a rogue or you're boned." This is, "Bring a rogue, and there's still an 80% chance that you're boned."


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The Narration wrote:
Add me to the list of people confused about this, because there are magical effects saying they can be dispelled, and listing a dispel level of (1st) or (2nd), even though there is no Dispel Magic less than 3rd level. And why does it also have a DC that you have to make on a spell roll in addition to a minimum level spell you have to expend? One or the other would suffice to set a minimum requirement.

The counterspell rules, in general, are crap.

Paizo Employee Designer

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Madame Endor wrote:
It seems like it would be useful for spellcasters to be able to dispel effects like Charm and magic items at character levels lower than 5th. You would think that low level spellcasters would be called upon to counter magic too. It also seems like relegating it to 3rd level limits the number uses quite a bit.

Noted, thanks!


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Madame Endor wrote:
It seems like it would be useful for spellcasters to be able to dispel effects like Charm and magic items at character levels lower than 5th. You would think that low level spellcasters would be called upon to counter magic too. It also seems like relegating it to 3rd level limits the number uses quite a bit. In that you need to make a check against a DC, it works a bit like skill. Maybe a better approach would be to make it a spellcaster ability and use spell points or burn spells or daily uses instead. That could let it exist at lower levels and make it easier to have it available more if needed.

Or make it a level 1 spell that you can heighten, so use higher level spell slots to dispel higher level magic.

That would also allow the wizard to use it ritual like with Quick Preparation.


Same reason why you cannot fly by magic before level 5, or turn invisible before level 3.


Igor Horvat wrote:
Same reason why you cannot fly by magic before level 5, or turn invisible before level 3.

The question was rhetorical, but you can Levitate at 3rd and Vanish at 1st because there are limited versions of the spells at lower levels in PF1, but you're missing my point. Dispel Magic is different from most other spells because it is metamagic that explicitly exists as a counter and balance to other magic. Until 5th level, because Dispel Magic is a 3rd level spell, there's a major hurdle to handling situations where characters are afflicted by magic, which exists in multiple forms and afflicts characters at lower levels, so that counter and balance isn't there until 5th level. That hobbles parties.

Conceptually, one of the major uses of the low level village spellcaster would seem to be handling magical affliction because of items or spells or reducing the advantages that enemies have because of magic.

And there is the issue of level in a couple of ways. Invisibility does have lower and higher level versions. Below Fly there is Levitate. While spellcasters exist below 5th level, there isn't a lower level Dispel Magic spell.

Having the ability as a spell at a specific level means that it has a very limited number of uses, but there may a larger of spell or item effects of various levels to dispel depending on how opponents are constructed. An encounter with multiple spellcasters armed with spells with long durations of multiple levels could be particularly problematic because of the limited times that effects can be dispelled per day.

The level does seem arbitrary, and there doesn't seem to be a good reason not to have the ability at a lower level. Dispel does work like a skill in that it does involve a roll to overcome a DC. A dispel ability at a lower level would still have trouble overcoming high level magic and an easier time overcoming low level magic, and the odds of overcoming high level magic would improve as the character gained levels. It wouldn't be dramatically unbalancing to have the ability at a lower level, and likely wouldn't be unbalancing at all.

Having the ability as a non-spell with more uses would address some encounters and some collections of encounters better.


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Madame Endor wrote:
Igor Horvat wrote:
Same reason why you cannot fly by magic before level 5, or turn invisible before level 3.

The question was rhetorical, but you can Levitate at 3rd and Vanish at 1st because there are limited versions of the spells at lower levels in PF1, but you're missing my point. Dispel Magic is different from most other spells because it is metamagic that explicitly exists as a counter and balance to other magic. Until 5th level, because Dispel Magic is a 3rd level spell, there's a major hurdle to handling situations where characters are afflicted by magic, which exists in multiple forms and afflicts characters at lower levels, so that counter and balance isn't there until 5th level. That hobbles parties.

Conceptually, one of the major uses of the low level village spellcaster would seem to be handling magical affliction because of items or spells or reducing the advantages that enemies have because of magic.

And there is the issue of level in a couple of ways. Invisibility does have lower and higher level versions. Below Fly there is Levitate. While spellcasters exist below 5th level, there isn't a lower level Dispel Magic spell.

Having the ability as a spell at a specific level means that it has a very limited number of uses, but there may a larger of spell or item effects of various levels to dispel depending on how opponents are constructed. An encounter with multiple spellcasters armed with spells with long durations of multiple levels could be particularly problematic because of the limited times that effects can be dispelled per day.

The level does seem arbitrary, and there doesn't seem to be a good reason not to have the ability at a lower level. Dispel does work like a skill in that it does involve a roll to overcome a DC. A dispel ability at a lower level would still have trouble overcoming high level magic and an easier time overcoming low level magic, and the odds of overcoming high level magic would improve as the character gained levels. It wouldn't be...

Alternative they could use the Bard chassis that finally has a working counter performance and make it similar:

A reaction wizards (or sorcs, or both) gain for free at level 1 and can use for 1 SP as a heightened power vs Arcane spells (as opposed to visual/auditory that bard one is).


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I agree with the notion of making Dispel a reaction as a class feature for Wizards and Arcane Sorcerers. I would even take it a step farther and also allow it as an action that can be used to remove an ongoing magical effect as well.
It would make spell combat more interesting, I think.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Great topic that I had not thought about. The question in the title is perfect - why is it a spell at all? Interesting to think about Dispel as a class feature instead of a spell.


In Shadowrun, counterspelling isn't a specific spell, but just a thing that spellcasters do as a reaction to their teammates being attacked with magic. It's one of the main reasons to have a spellcaster on the team. I don't know if that paradigm is right for PF, but I don't see any reason why it should be impossible to protect against 1st level magic until 5th level. That doesn't seem to fit with the pattern of "counter spell with equivalent level spell" established by divination vs. illusion and light vs. darkness. It might even be worth making Dispel Magic a cantrip that autoscales.


shroudb wrote:
Alternative they could use the Bard chassis that finally has a working counter performance and make it similar:

Counter Performance isn't even close to Counterspell.

Counter Performance allows your allies to use your rolled Performance check result instead of their own saving throw.

This is in no way dispells a magical trap.

(What is a lightning bolt trap anyway, auditory or visual? Looking at the spell Lightning Bolt it is neither: Electricity, Evocation)


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I need to read up on rituals.. If they can be used by non casters via some sort of skill checks..
Honestly that would be cool.

Like dispel rituatl anyone can pull off but it takes time. and casters can do it with less trouble and far faster.

..and now I weirdly want an Onmyouji class with ritual paper casting effects. long version of rituals that have higher power and short talismen ones for quick stuff.
but there was that cool 3PP one in P1.


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Githzilla wrote:
Great topic that I had not thought about. The question in the title is perfect - why is it a spell at all? Interesting to think about Dispel as a class feature instead of a spell.

Dispel Magic could even be an Expert use of Arcana, Nature, Occultism, and Religion, rather than solely in the purview of spell casters.


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StratoNexus wrote:
Githzilla wrote:
Great topic that I had not thought about. The question in the title is perfect - why is it a spell at all? Interesting to think about Dispel as a class feature instead of a spell.
Dispel Magic could even be an Expert use of Arcana, Nature, Occultism, and Religion, rather than solely in the purview of spell casters.

Perhaps a core ability attached to each pure class, with the max level of spell which you can dispel based upon your level of proficiency.


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StratoNexus wrote:
Githzilla wrote:
Great topic that I had not thought about. The question in the title is perfect - why is it a spell at all? Interesting to think about Dispel as a class feature instead of a spell.
Dispel Magic could even be an Expert use of Arcana, Nature, Occultism, and Religion, rather than solely in the purview of spell casters.

i wouldn't like that really:

oh you cast a fireball? "because i know how magic works, i somehow stop you even though I'm a rogue at 30ft away" doesn't seem good to me from either balance or thematic viewpoint.

in order to "stop" magic you should be using "something" not just your brainpower. That's why I personally tied it to SP and Powers.

Stopping magic just because you're good at knowledge arcana is equal plausible to me as stopping a sword cutting you because you're expert at Lore(swordsmanship)


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shroudb wrote:

oh you cast a fireball? "because i know how magic works, i somehow stop you even though I'm a rogue at 30ft away" doesn't seem good to me from either balance or thematic viewpoint.

in order to "stop" magic you should be using "something" not just your brainpower. That's why I personally tied it to SP and Powers.

Stopping magic just because you're good at knowledge arcana is equal plausible to me as stopping a sword cutting you because you're expert at Lore(swordsmanship)

Hmmm. I wasn’t thinking of counter spelling, but more like the way Rogues can thwart magical traps. I didn’t picture you could use it in combat either, requiring too much time and intricacy.

It seems interesting to me that with strong understanding of the way magic works, a character could use that skill to end ongoing effects. I would think this type of skill use would take 1 minute to attempt. Could be a way to bypass a magical barrier, counter magical traps, end a discovered illusion, activate/deactivate a magical lock, close/activate a magical portal, etc.

It makes sense to me that the person could somehow disrupt or slightly manipulate the flow of energy that is keeping the magic going. It could be roleplayed in a lot of ways, whether it is disrupting runes, an innate sense of magical flow, an understanding of some magically disruptive phrases or gestures (which is the classic form of Dispel Magic as a spell, sans the 1 minute), or some odd disruptive effect of your characters aura that you have learned to unlock.


StratoNexus wrote:
shroudb wrote:

oh you cast a fireball? "because i know how magic works, i somehow stop you even though I'm a rogue at 30ft away" doesn't seem good to me from either balance or thematic viewpoint.

in order to "stop" magic you should be using "something" not just your brainpower. That's why I personally tied it to SP and Powers.

Stopping magic just because you're good at knowledge arcana is equal plausible to me as stopping a sword cutting you because you're expert at Lore(swordsmanship)

Hmmm. I wasn’t thinking of counter spelling, but more like the way Rogues can thwart magical traps. I didn’t picture you could use it in combat either, requiring too much time and intricacy.

It seems interesting to me that with strong understanding of the way magic works, a character could use that skill to end ongoing effects. I would think this type of skill use would take 1 minute to attempt. Could be a way to bypass a magical barrier, counter magical traps, end a discovered illusion, activate/deactivate a magical lock, close/activate a magical portal, etc.

It makes sense to me that the person could somehow disrupt or slightly manipulate the flow of energy that is keeping the magic going. It could be roleplayed in a lot of ways, whether it is disrupting runes, an innate sense of magical flow, an understanding of some magically disruptive phrases or gestures (which is the classic form of Dispel Magic as a spell, sans the 1 minute), or some odd disruptive effect of your characters aura that you have learned to unlock.

But can't you already "disable device" magical traps?

I always pictured that as messing up the glyphs and rest permanent fixtures that keep the spell in place.

But even for ooc general dispelling, I don't think simple knowledge should be enough to stop immaterial stuff like ongoing curses, enchantments and etc.

It could be used for a very small subset of magic that is glyphs. But to my knowledge, Disable Device already does that.


shroudb wrote:
But can't you already "disable device" magical traps?

There's a trap in chapter 2 of Doomsday Dawn that can't be disabled unless:

1) You have an actual rogue in your party
2) Your rogue spent one of his 2 skill increases above trained to boost thievery (instead of one of his other 12 skills).


Draco18s wrote:
shroudb wrote:
But can't you already "disable device" magical traps?

There's a trap in chapter 2 of Doomsday Dawn that can't be disabled unless:

1) You have an actual rogue in your party
2) Your rogue spent one of his 2 skill increases above trained to boost thievery (instead of one of his other 12 skills).

can you spoiler tag where?

we had such a thief (with trapfinding as well) and i don't recall it


shroudb wrote:
Draco18s wrote:
shroudb wrote:
But can't you already "disable device" magical traps?

There's a trap in chapter 2 of Doomsday Dawn that can't be disabled unless:

1) You have an actual rogue in your party
2) Your rogue spent one of his 2 skill increases above trained to boost thievery (instead of one of his other 12 skills).

can you spoiler tag where?

we had such a thief (with trapfinding as well) and i don't recall it

Spoiler:
The back entrance. Page 27 of the adventure book. ELECTRIC LATCH RUNE HAZARD 4 (see bestiary).

The bestiary then says this:

Quote:

Disable Thievery DC 19 (expert) to scratch out the rune without

allowing electricity to flow, or spell DC 17 (2nd level) to dispel
the rune

The "expert" tag there means that you need to have thievery trained to Expert to even be capable of getting a success (Trained and lower is an automatic failure).

Note that the spell DC 17 to dispell requires a third level spell (cough, Dispell Magic) and auto-bypasses the DC because of the rules on dispell.

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