Subtle Spells Cannot Be Counterspelled?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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I haven't been able to find anything explicit saying this in the PC, but the consistent use of the word "manifestations" makes me think that spells with the subtle trait can't be counterspelled RAW.

Counterspell states that you must be able to "see the manifestations" of the triggering spell.

"Manifestations" are loosely defined on page 299 as obvious sensations created by a spell, such as flashing lights or glowing runes or what have you, but it's not a word that's defined in the book's glossary.

Conceal spell, which works for any spell, states that it hides the "manifestations of a spell, but not its effects," and that language seems to distinguish a spell's manifestations from its actual mechanical effects. Conceal spell grants the subtle trait, and if we look at the subtle trait in the glossary, it says a spell with the subtle trait can be cast "without incantations" and "does not have obvious manifestations." By that definition, conceal spell doesn't just hide a spell's manifestations, but eliminates them.

Since you need to be able to precisely sense a spell's manifestations to counter it, it would seem that all spellcasters have access to a level 2 feat that can, for a single action with no daily limit, make their spells uncounterable in addition to the myriad of other benefits conceal spell provides.

Is this interpretation off base?


I don't think it is, given the change for the Remaster (instead of it being a Stealth check against Perception DC, it's automatic and applies a trait to the spell).

Remember that it still takes an additional action (which locks you out of things like Summon spells, most Wall spells, or anything else requiring 3 actions), and for certain manifestations (such as Polar Ray, or any Cone-based spell), it still originates from you, meaning while it's not apparent that you are casting a spell, it is apparent such an effect is originating from your being. So, while yes, it prevents counterspelling, it is still feat (and action) intensive, and it doesn't necessarily prevent you from being identified as a spellcaster if you use the wrong spell in the wrong situation here.

That being said, it is certainly still potent in the right situations. Illusionary spellcasters would absolutely love a feat like this (though it would be nice if it also worked for sustaining spells as well, so that it doesn't become apparent by the following round that you are sustaining the spell), as well as Enchanters and maybe even Evokers or underground Necromancers.

In my opinion, this feat went from "Pretty meh, and requires skill, attribute, and item investment to maintain its benefits," to "Pretty neat when used in a proper situation," in which case that's a step in the right direction.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Stuff

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm absolutely behind casters having more powerful feat options (even if it's accidental in some ways), and it's important to me that my evaluation doesn't come off as fearmongering about strong options. I'm here for it.

My initial thinking is that this is super exploitable, but I'd need to figure out some use cases.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

@ParasiteHouse,

You are not the only one asking these questions and there is no current consensus or Developer statements clarifying the intention. This is a conversation you currently need to have with your GM because tables are going to be running it very differently. What you will likely get from asking the question here is several different responses that you can consider for yourself and your table.

My word of warning about assuming subtle spells cannot be countered is to point out that it is a level 2, common feat for wizards that completely negates certain character builds without even requiring a roll. Many players will become irate if GMs start building NPC casters who have the feat and just can't have their spells countered. What wizard, in a world of wizards, is not going to place a lot of value on such a feat? I am personally resistant to giving players access to options that they would hate to have used against them, and will be letting casters make a stealth or deception check (their choice) against any potential identifier's Perception DC when they use conceal spell to see if can be identified.


The nature of subtle spells appears to be "you don't notice when someone is in the process of casting the spell, but you can notice what it does." Which suggests that more "countering the spell as it is cast" you'd be more interested in a counteract check to dispel the effect.

Like if someone is lurking around while invisible, or you found out the duke has been mind controlled you want to end the magical effect, not "prevent it from being cast in the first place" because of how causality works.

This is, I think, how subtle spells are supposed to work. It's less clear how this is supposed to work with "using conceal spell to make fireball subtle."


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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
though it would be nice if it also worked for sustaining spells as well, so that it doesn't become apparent by the following round that you are sustaining the spell

But... Sustaining always was and is absolutely invisible? Apart from Concentrate which could probably be detectable only by a very perceptive and deliberably seeking person, there's nothing to see.

PossibleCabbage wrote:
It's less clear how this is supposed to work with "using conceal spell to make fireball subtle."

Fireball isn't a ray or even a small flying ball like in 5e. So, there's just a sphere of flame from nowhere. Strange.


Unicore wrote:

@ParasiteHouse,

You are not the only one asking these questions and there is no current consensus or Developer statements clarifying the intention. This is a conversation you currently need to have with your GM because tables are going to be running it very differently. What you will likely get from asking the question here is several different responses that you can consider for yourself and your table.

My word of warning about assuming subtle spells cannot be countered is to point out that it is a level 2, common feat for wizards that completely negates certain character builds without even requiring a roll. Many players will become irate if GMs start building NPC casters who have the feat and just can't have their spells countered. What wizard, in a world of wizards, is not going to place a lot of value on such a feat? I am personally resistant to giving players access to options that they would hate to have used against them, and will be letting casters make a stealth or deception check (their choice) against any potential identifier's Perception DC when they use conceal spell to see if can be identified.

PF2E monsters and NPCs aren't built using player rules. That's one of the big differences between PF1E and PF2E. The GM giving enemy casters conceal spell would be an adversarial GM style. NPCs casting naturally subtle spells is just those spells functioning as intended


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Unicore wrote:

@ParasiteHouse,

You are not the only one asking these questions and there is no current consensus or Developer statements clarifying the intention. This is a conversation you currently need to have with your GM because tables are going to be running it very differently. What you will likely get from asking the question here is several different responses that you can consider for yourself and your table.

My word of warning about assuming subtle spells cannot be countered is to point out that it is a level 2, common feat for wizards that completely negates certain character builds without even requiring a roll. Many players will become irate if GMs start building NPC casters who have the feat and just can't have their spells countered. What wizard, in a world of wizards, is not going to place a lot of value on such a feat? I am personally resistant to giving players access to options that they would hate to have used against them, and will be letting casters make a stealth or deception check (their choice) against any potential identifier's Perception DC when they use conceal spell to see if can be identified.

It is bonkers the way Paizo go from taking an ability that was really difficult to use because most of the time it required 2 checks to be successful - and that is before any saving throw. Then they decide to fix it by just making it automatic no check. I feel like I've said this before but there was a middle ground choice they could have made here.

I don't think it is a bad decision in this place. Because this is encouraging people to use indirect tactics and options other than charge in and smash. I want the players to be innovative. So I approve of the change.

The GM can always fall back on the spell effects themselves to keep things noticeable.

That there is a defence against counterspell, doesn't upset me there is a defence to most other things. Every tactic should have a response.
If the players or enemies are going to soak up actions using spell shape because they are worried about counterspell - I see that as a real cost and a win of sorts.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
WWHsmackdown wrote:


PF2E monsters and NPCs aren't built using player rules. That's one of the big differences between PF1E and PF2E. The GM giving enemy casters conceal spell would be an adversarial GM style. NPCs casting naturally subtle spells is just those spells functioning as intended

NPCs have always been buildable like PCs and what other level 2 common class feat exists that would be considered hostile GMing to give to an NPC? There might be some narrative investigator ones that just don’t make sense for an NPC, but they don’t break the game to give to NPCs. Maybe some GMs will feel such abilities are too much and others won’t. We’ll see how long it takes for adventures to have NPCs with it, it is a recommended feat for a basic mentalist build.

Liberty's Edge

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Surely this was side a cornercase issue they didn't foresee and connect the dots on because Counterspelling was already one of the trickiest and most finicky aspects of spellcasting and new easy-to-grab options that makes doing that impossible to do outright... that doesn't seem correct.


Unicore wrote:

@ParasiteHouse,

You are not the only one asking these questions and there is no current consensus or Developer statements clarifying the intention. This is a conversation you currently need to have with your GM because tables are going to be running it very differently. What you will likely get from asking the question here is several different responses that you can consider for yourself and your table.

My word of warning about assuming subtle spells cannot be countered is to point out that it is a level 2, common feat for wizards that completely negates certain character builds without even requiring a roll. Many players will become irate if GMs start building NPC casters who have the feat and just can't have their spells countered. What wizard, in a world of wizards, is not going to place a lot of value on such a feat? I am personally resistant to giving players access to options that they would hate to have used against them, and will be letting casters make a stealth or deception check (their choice) against any potential identifier's Perception DC when they use conceal spell to see if can be identified.

It's new because it's part of the remaster, and one of the biggest things is that it's basically a complete 180 on the concept. What used to be an opposed Stealth check against numerous onlookers and probably a DC that is very hard to do without serious investment is now an automatic success (without things like True Seeing in place of course). The big question becomes "What made Paizo do a complete 180 on this?" (Also, with how strong of a change this is, why wasn't something like this previewed with the Wizard Remaster thread instead of the garbage we got before?)

I mean, most NPCs aren't going to have the same tools as PCs, so acting like it's going to invalidate PCs because GMs are going to build NPCs the same way seems like an absurd take. It is even more absurd a take compared to when I said Tyrant Champion PCs would get invalidated by NPCs having the Kip Up skill feat, and that's because this reeks far more of "GM is being vindictive towards the Wizard PC," and less "This NPC is just a very skilled illusionist." Especially since the GM doesn't need to create an illusionist NPC that requires any personal interaction with the PCs at all that doesn't warrant that level of vindictiveness.

And quite honestly, if a PC is built specifically around countering, and is somehow effective at it, this would be a good way to challenge that particular PC to contribute in a different way besides "I nullify the big bad spellcasters," which is hardly an unreasonable expectation.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

The nature of subtle spells appears to be "you don't notice when someone is in the process of casting the spell, but you can notice what it does." Which suggests that more "countering the spell as it is cast" you'd be more interested in a counteract check to dispel the effect.

Like if someone is lurking around while invisible, or you found out the duke has been mind controlled you want to end the magical effect, not "prevent it from being cast in the first place" because of how causality works.

This is, I think, how subtle spells are supposed to work. It's less clear how this is supposed to work with "using conceal spell to make fireball subtle."

Yeah, it works against Counterspell because Counterspell attempts to stop the effect from coming into place, it doesn't stop an effect already in place; that's what Dispel Magic is for. (Or Remove Curse if you're Cursed. Or whatever it might be.) And it's not like this feat prevents a magical effect that it creates from being dispelled.

Fireball would be more subtle than Lightning Bolt because the effect isn't originating from yourself; using spells like Burning Hands or Acid Arrow would quite clearly be problematic, since these effects originate from you. Other effects would be significantly harder to pinpoint the origin from.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Players casting fireball in a room full of people with no one having a chance of figuring out who cast the spell is not something I would ever allow as a GM and would strongly caution any GM from considering. Pathfinder 2e is not “mass murderer the role playing game.”


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Unicore wrote:

@ParasiteHouse,

You are not the only one asking these questions and there is no current consensus or Developer statements clarifying the intention. This is a conversation you currently need to have with your GM because tables are going to be running it very differently. What you will likely get from asking the question here is several different responses that you can consider for yourself and your table.

My word of warning about assuming subtle spells cannot be countered is to point out that it is a level 2, common feat for wizards that completely negates certain character builds without even requiring a roll. Many players will become irate if GMs start building NPC casters who have the feat and just can't have their spells countered. What wizard, in a world of wizards, is not going to place a lot of value on such a feat? I am personally resistant to giving players access to options that they would hate to have used against them, and will be letting casters make a stealth or deception check (their choice) against any potential identifier's Perception DC when they use conceal spell to see if can be identified.

I am the GM, man. I run the underdark, guy. I roll the dice. I deal the loot.

But no really. You dredge up what I feel is a significant design issue with the system. I love PF2e partly because it was designed with enough prudence to be functional. However,

Many of the standout options in this game result from accidents or oversights because 1st party material is published in such a narrow power band. This may be one of those options. Since they result from accidents, they aren't balanced well, and they have potential to invalidate other modes of play. If they were balanced well, they wouldn't be accidents, but they probably wouldn't be powerful, satisfying options either, would they? Bad options are usually working as intended, but great options are often malfunctional. The remaster has fixed a lot of that, but it introduced a lot of new problems.

So this cool thing I found might not be working like the devs meant it to work. Its strength comes from it being aberrant, but now that I have it, I like it even though it has the capacity to damage the game. So what do I do? Your solution is functional and consistent with the rest of the game, but that's not my bag I guess.

I'm going to roll an assassin who uses conceal spell to eliminate his targets in plain sight and then we can do a little murder mystery. They'll be more invested because I dared to challenge them in an unexpected way. If they turn my weapons against me I might have to go make a deal with a bunch of barbazu.


Themetricsystem wrote:
Surely this was side a cornercase issue they didn't foresee and connect the dots on because Counterspelling was already one of the trickiest and most finicky aspects of spellcasting and new easy-to-grab options that makes doing that impossible to do outright... that doesn't seem correct.

There is a fair chance you are right that this was likely not intended. So what.

There is a real action cost.

It is only a problem if the GM does it to you regularily. Its exactly the same as a GM always throwing fire immune creatures against a fire specialist.


Themetricsystem wrote:
Surely this was side a cornercase issue they didn't foresee and connect the dots on because Counterspelling was already one of the trickiest and most finicky aspects of spellcasting and new easy-to-grab options that makes doing that impossible to do outright... that doesn't seem correct.

I agree. If we consider the remaster version of conceal spell without relating it to counterspell in any way, it's already quite powerful. I don't currently have the data necessary to determine how powerful, and it's probably hard to quantify, but this one seems like an oversight, or at the very least an exploit that emerged from the language staying consistent.


Unicore wrote:
WWHsmackdown wrote:


PF2E monsters and NPCs aren't built using player rules. That's one of the big differences between PF1E and PF2E. The GM giving enemy casters conceal spell would be an adversarial GM style. NPCs casting naturally subtle spells is just those spells functioning as intended
NPCs have always been buildable like PCs and what other level 2 common class feat exists that would be considered hostile GMing to give to an NPC? There might be some narrative investigator ones that just don’t make sense for an NPC, but they don’t break the game to give to NPCs. Maybe some GMs will feel such abilities are too much and others won’t. We’ll see how long it takes for adventures to have NPCs with it, it is a recommended feat for a basic mentalist build.

I don't recall any pre-remaster monster/NPC statblocks that had the old conceal spell


Gortle wrote:
Unicore wrote:

@ParasiteHouse,

You are not the only one asking these questions and there is no current consensus or Developer statements clarifying the intention. This is a conversation you currently need to have with your GM because tables are going to be running it very differently. What you will likely get from asking the question here is several different responses that you can consider for yourself and your table.

My word of warning about assuming subtle spells cannot be countered is to point out that it is a level 2, common feat for wizards that completely negates certain character builds without even requiring a roll. Many players will become irate if GMs start building NPC casters who have the feat and just can't have their spells countered. What wizard, in a world of wizards, is not going to place a lot of value on such a feat? I am personally resistant to giving players access to options that they would hate to have used against them, and will be letting casters make a stealth or deception check (their choice) against any potential identifier's Perception DC when they use conceal spell to see if can be identified.

It is bonkers the way Paizo go from taking an ability that was really difficult to use because most of the time it required 2 checks to be successful - and that is before any saving throw. Then they decide to fix it by just making it automatic no check. I feel like I've said this before but there was a middle ground choice they could have made here.

I don't think it is a bad decision in this place. Because this is encouraging people to use indirect tactics and options other than charge in and smash. I want the players to be innovative. So I approve of the change.

The GM can always fall back on the spell effects themselves to keep things noticeable.

That there is a defence against counterspell, doesn't upset me there is a defence to most other things. Every tactic should have a response.
If the players or enemies are going to soak up actions using spell shape...

It is a profound change, and I'm wondering why they buffed it to this degree, but I think it has some interesting potential that I'm going to explore when I sit down to do my campaign work tonight. There's a serial killer I've been needing to roll for awhile now. This might be just the thing.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It is remarkable how quickly threads like this answer their own questions.

You have someone asking if this is how it works, someone else saying yes and it is fine because only players will use it, but the op is the GM wanting to do exactly what the “yes, it’s not a problem” poster said wouldn’t/shouldn't happen.

In my opinion, this is a mechanic that will cause many problems for both players and GMs when players think they have cart Blanche to cast spells without anyone possibly knowing that is going on.


I think the pain point they're trying to address with subtle spells is that if you're invisible, and you want to cast invisibility again then you shouldn't have a light show accompany the spell.

Likewise some actual subtle spells, like Charm, would most likely carry significant social stigma if people knew you were casting them which is a disincentive to use those spells. The spells that come pre-loaded with subtle are mostly fine to be uncounterable.

Making conceal spell give the subtle trait is the simplest way to make this sort of thing work, for sure, but I'm not sure all of the consequences were considered. Probably the fix is to change the counterspell rule allowing you to counter a subtle fireball when you see the ball of fire forming rather than when the caster would wiggle their fingers, etc.


Unicore wrote:

It is remarkable how quickly threads like this answer their own questions.

You have someone asking if this is how it works, someone else saying yes and it is fine because only players will use it, but the op is the GM wanting to do exactly what the “yes, it’s not a problem” poster said wouldn’t/shouldn't happen.

In my opinion, this is a mechanic that will cause many problems for both players and GMs when players think they have cart Blanche to cast spells without anyone possibly knowing that is going on.

Fast turnaround time is always nice, isn't it? Truth be told, my goal was to assess whether or not my interpretation of the rules was sound and to hopefully get ahead of any major issues this interpretation could cause. I reckon I got what I wanted, so that's good.

Thanks for your input, for what it's worth. Your opinion is meaningful, and I think you're accurately zoned in on the potential hazards here.

My check to this would probably be a low level homebrew feat improving counterspell if interpreting the rules this way becomes destructive.


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Unicore wrote:
Players casting fireball in a room full of people with no one having a chance of figuring out who cast the spell is not something I would ever allow as a GM and would strongly caution any GM from considering. Pathfinder 2e is not “mass murderer the role playing game.”

The feat doesn't mean you can't ever be pinpointed as being the spellcaster behind a given magical effect, especially if you start doing suspicious stuff afterwards (or suspicious magical effects emanate from you). It also doesn't mean you're going to go around and murderhobo everyone (even if it is indeed a possibility, probably something that's been done long before this feat came to pass), so we can take these claims of badwrongfun and pitch them into the trash where they belong.

It just means they won't immediately identify you as casting a spell, which is precisely what the feat is accomplishing and what the feat is meant to accomplish. The feat doesn't deny people from putting two and two together, or from taking guesses amongst the crowd and getting lucky by identifying one of the PCs as the spellcaster, like you seem to think it doesn't.


Unicore wrote:

It is remarkable how quickly threads like this answer their own questions.

You have someone asking if this is how it works, someone else saying yes and it is fine because only players will use it, but the op is the GM wanting to do exactly what the “yes, it’s not a problem” poster said wouldn’t/shouldn't happen.

I didn't say it wouldn't happen. One villan using this is perfectly OK. That is not a problem. A problem would be nearly every villain using it.

Unicore wrote:
In my opinion, this is a mechanic that will cause many problems for both players and GMs when players think they have cart Blanche to cast spells without anyone possibly knowing that is going on.

So inform the players. Problem solved.


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WWHsmackdown wrote:
PF2E monsters and NPCs aren't built using player rules. That's one of the big differences between PF1E and PF2E. The GM giving enemy casters conceal spell would be an adversarial GM style. NPCs casting naturally subtle spells is just those spells functioning as intended

While it is true that NPCs and PCs are not built using the same rules, I don't agree with that conclusion.

Abilities a creature uses on its turn have the most flexibility and scope. You can use Table 2–11 to determine active ability DCs as well as spell DCs. You can have an ability use 1 to 3 actions as needed (or be a free action in rare cases) and use just about any type of tactic. Feats, spells, and existing creature abilities provide a wide variety of examples, so look for something similar to your idea to use as a basis.

If done well, it can be a very memorable villain.

I wouldn't use it specifically to cast in combat without risk of counterspell though. It is either going to be a completely pointless use of an ability and an action when casting against a party that doesn't counterspell, or it is going to be seen as specifically targeting and trying to shut down a player whose character uses counterspell. It should instead be for casting subtly outside of combat or as a seeming bystander to the combat.

As a side note, this topic reminds me of my own question about counterspelling Heal.


Finoan wrote:
WWHsmackdown wrote:
PF2E monsters and NPCs aren't built using player rules. That's one of the big differences between PF1E and PF2E. The GM giving enemy casters conceal spell would be an adversarial GM style. NPCs casting naturally subtle spells is just those spells functioning as intended

While it is true that NPCs and PCs are not built using the same rules, I don't agree with that conclusion.

Abilities a creature uses on its turn have the most flexibility and scope. You can use Table 2–11 to determine active ability DCs as well as spell DCs. You can have an ability use 1 to 3 actions as needed (or be a free action in rare cases) and use just about any type of tactic. Feats, spells, and existing creature abilities provide a wide variety of examples, so look for something similar to your idea to use as a basis.

If done well, it can be a very memorable villain.

I wouldn't use it specifically to cast in combat without risk of counterspell though. It is either going to be a completely pointless use of an ability and an action when casting against a party that doesn't counterspell, or it is going to be seen as specifically targeting and trying to shut down a player whose character uses counterspell. It should instead be for casting subtly outside of combat or as a seeming bystander to the combat.

As a side note, this topic reminds me of my own question about counterspelling Heal.

Homebrew monsters/NPCs, fair enough, you could give them anything. I was just scratching my head trying to remember any statblocks that had the old conceal spell and basing from that the assumption that things moving forward should be fine


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It isn’t bad wrong fun to want to play a caster that can cast a spell without notice. But it is bad game design to present that option to a player in a way where they can walk away believing their character should be able to cast any spell without anyone ever being able to notice, without ever requiring dice checks, and that no one else in the world is going to realize how broken this one feat is, that is pretty much giving away a mythic power as a common second level feat.

It is going to be a pain in many GMs rear for it to work this way, especially with players assuming their characters should be able to do things like cast fireball in a crowded room without any chance of detection. It is a broken power fantasy that went too far, and players will throw tantrums when GMs “ruin their fun,” by asking for deception or stealth checks when the player’s plan is clearly using a spell to pull some deception or covert operation.


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Unicore wrote:
[...]players will throw tantrums when GMs “ruin their fun,” by asking for deception or stealth checks when the player’s plan is clearly using a spell to pull some deception or covert operation.

Needing a check to use subtle is, under the present rules, a house rule. (I make no claim as to whether it is a good house rule.) If the GM included it when going over the house rules in/before Session Zero, the player should have b$**&ed then and is 100% in the wrong if they wait and throw a tantrum when it comes up in play. If the GM wanted it but did not include it, they screwed up, and should not be "fixing" the screwup by introducing a new house rule in the middle of play.


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WWHsmackdown wrote:
Homebrew monsters/NPCs, fair enough, you could give them anything. I was just scratching my head trying to remember any statblocks that had the old conceal spell and basing from that the assumption that things moving forward should be fine

I think I am being a bit oversensitive too. Sorry about that.

One of my gaming groups recently had a player pitch a fit because enemies are built differently than PCs. The reasons given were because NPC enemies get all of these special abilities that the players don't ever get access to. Which just seems like a bogus reason. Especially since the NPC enemy in question...

Agents of Edgewatch:
was Pratchett, who has Double Slice under a different name.

I'm pretty sure that the player just doesn't like being surprised by what the enemies are capable of. If they do anything other than Stride/Strike he starts whining that PF1 was better because the enemies are 'built the same way as PCs'.

So yes, NPC enemies absolutely can and do have player accessible class feats. Both homebrew ones and published ones.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
Unicore wrote:
[...]players will throw tantrums when GMs “ruin their fun,” by asking for deception or stealth checks when the player’s plan is clearly using a spell to pull some deception or covert operation.

Needing a check to use subtle is, under the present rules, a house rule. (I make no claim as to whether it is a good house rule.) If the GM included it when going over the house rules in/before Session Zero, the player should have b*@*$ed then and is 100% in the wrong if they wait and throw a tantrum when it comes up in play. If the GM wanted it but did not include it, they screwed up, and should not be "fixing" the screwup by introducing a new house rule in the middle of play.

Well, technically, the cast a spell activity is something that would inherently break stealth and draw attention to you. Conceal spell specifies that they won’t realize you are casting a spell per se, but if you are flailing your arms around and a fireball goes off, what should people assume just happened? This is inherently a GM fiat situation and not a house rule situation. The rules of the game generally lead to the assumption that dice would be rolled to resolve the tension of the situation, but there is no specific rules based guidelines for it. So many players will assume, the answer is that “no one should suspect that I cast the spell, because I cast it subtly” and that the NPCs should have no reason to assume it could have been your character instead of anyone else present. It is a situation that will lead to GM player frustration without some care.

And it is not just for blatantly hostile actions.
Is invisible concealed translocating movement that never requires a stealth check? Is Concealed invisible item, concealed mage hand an undetectable way to steal an unattended object? These are perhaps creative ideas for a one time use, but will become problematic, repeatable exploits very quickly if players assume GMs can never ask for stealth, deception, thievery checks when the spells are being used to do these skill actions (perhaps with a significant circumstance bonus when the use of magic would be particularly unexpected).


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On Counterspell:
I personally would generally allow counteracting Subtle spells if the counteracting caster observed the subtle caster and/or the unfolding spell effect. (I assume, the side-effect of Subtle on Counteracting could have been an unintentional one. Just guessing, idk.)

Admittedly, this counteracting might require some suspicion up front and very precise timing. However if you are already in confrontation with someone you believe could be a caster and you notice them taking that extra moment of concentration (actually an extra action, always remember) I consider that suspicion for very plausible, up to granted. Now we might argue about the timing. Still, in this case I'd argue from a game balance perspective, and I'd also compare the countless other effects (reactions etc.) that one can apply at just the right moment, as well.

On Subtle, in general:
On the same hand, I really appreciate and argue in favor of robust covert casting mechanics (for few thematically fitting spells by-default, plus with feats investment into conceal spell/melodious spell). Including avoiding heavily investment in stealth/deception/performance skills just to have reasonable chance in exactly the moment you need it the most. Besides, which in the past often meant a decision where a single failure meant total failure of your covert casting - and everything associated with that, maybe an undercover identity or a secret plan - for good.

Considering "checks & balances":
As already mentioned: Just because things like Subtle spells exist, the world around is not automatically stupid or unaware. On the contrary: If you know that these things are possible, you might watch certain casters with much more attention. (An earthly equivalent might be a special force agent with explosives and a remote control in their gear walking around in town.) Or put differently: If a bomb wents up, and you find s.o. qualified and able to detonate the bomb at exactly that place and time, I presume people will put one and one together.

I reiterate that detection, dispelling (persisting effects), or just mundane means of discovering what happened, are further aspects that can keep overly bold "subtle casters" in check. Though I'd not totally object, if there was (or maybe already is?) some additional high-ranking(?) tool to detect traces (auras? residual energies?) of spellcasting, incl. subtle casting, if one needs another countermeasure and/or investigation tool. Note however that every hurdle of hidden casting quickly tends to make it unreasonably risky or even deadly (depending on the story).

You can find more personal, detailed arguments in older post of mine: https://paizo.com/threads/rzs43wf2&page=2?Remaster-Covert-casting-mecha nics#63. (If you like Wall of Text, though I still think it had good reasons.)

TL;DR
Personally would allow Counterspell even of Subtle Spells. Also strongly appreciates (more) robust Subtlety ;-) of Remaster.


This does seem like a strong effect for its level.

I think my house-rule approach would be to add the caveat that:
- the feat can only be used as is while the character is not observed (i.e., can only be used while hidden or undetected). While observed, the character must first make a successful Thievery, Performance, or Deception check (expanding the action needed to employ the feat to a 2-action activity) to misdirect the attention of onlookers before they can benefit from Subtle Spellcasting.

In my experience it is very difficult to subtly throw a hand grenade while folks are looking at you...

I think another option would be to lean more heavily into the "magic" portion of the metamagic tag and kick its level all the way up to 10. IMO, free, uncontested, invisible spell-casting is actually more game-breaking than letting characters fly, have extra reach, or summon hordes.

A third option is to add an additional feat at the 2nd level. Call it something like "spell sight" and give it an effect like, "you can sense magic as a precise sense." This does cause something of a feat arms race...(but this game is like an Advanced Rock-Paper-Scissors D&D).


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Unicore wrote:
Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
Unicore wrote:
[...]players will throw tantrums when GMs “ruin their fun,” by asking for deception or stealth checks when the player’s plan is clearly using a spell to pull some deception or covert operation.

Needing a check to use subtle is, under the present rules, a house rule. (I make no claim as to whether it is a good house rule.) If the GM included it when going over the house rules in/before Session Zero, the player should have b*@*$ed then and is 100% in the wrong if they wait and throw a tantrum when it comes up in play. If the GM wanted it but did not include it, they screwed up, and should not be "fixing" the screwup by introducing a new house rule in the middle of play.

Well, technically, the cast a spell activity is something that would inherently break stealth and draw attention to you. Conceal spell specifies that they won’t realize you are casting a spell per se, but if you are flailing your arms around and a fireball goes off, what should people assume just happened?

Um, no. Conceal spell says it "hides your spellcasting actions" and renders them "barely noticeable." Flailing your arms around does not qualify as hidden nor as barely noticeable. Anything that picks you out of a crowd of people who are not standing perfectly still does not qualify. GM fiat is not called for. Any unexpected demand for a check at that point is a house rule which should have been discussed at Session Zero.

The rest of your post is all justification for having such a house rule (though you refuse to call it that), and I don't really care if people do have it (as long as they acknowledge it), so I'm not replying to it.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I agree with Fuzzy-Wuzzy.

In my games Subtle Spell negates the need for incantations, gestures, breathing, and cannot be counterspelled under normal conditions.

They do set off other reactions, provided the trigger does not specify that the spell in question, or the act of casting a spell, must be known. A well-concealed distraction is still a distraction, and an opening that can be taken advantage of.


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Jacob Jett wrote:
In my experience it is very difficult to subtly throw a hand grenade while folks are looking at you...

How fortunate that neither normal nor especially concealed spellcasting are throwing grenades-like.


Errenor wrote:
Jacob Jett wrote:
In my experience it is very difficult to subtly throw a hand grenade while folks are looking at you...
How fortunate that neither normal nor especially concealed spellcasting are throwing grenades-like.

I don't know. Dancing around, waving your arms, and muttering to yourself seems bound to draw attention and highly abnormal...but YMMV


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Jacob Jett wrote:
Errenor wrote:
Jacob Jett wrote:
In my experience it is very difficult to subtly throw a hand grenade while folks are looking at you...
How fortunate that neither normal nor especially concealed spellcasting are throwing grenades-like.
I don't know. Dancing around, waving your arms, and muttering to yourself seems bound to draw attention and highly abnormal...but YMMV

What part of:

Subtle Spells wrote:
A spell with the subtle trait can be cast without incantations and doesn’t have obvious manifestations. Most of these spells enhance your subterfuge or stealth, such as invisibility. Some abilities, like the Conceal Spell feat (page 201), allow you to make spells subtle even if they wouldn’t normally be.

means that the spellcaster is "Dancing around, waving your arms, and muttering to yourself"?


Finoan wrote:
Jacob Jett wrote:
Errenor wrote:
Jacob Jett wrote:
In my experience it is very difficult to subtly throw a hand grenade while folks are looking at you...
How fortunate that neither normal nor especially concealed spellcasting are throwing grenades-like.
I don't know. Dancing around, waving your arms, and muttering to yourself seems bound to draw attention and highly abnormal...but YMMV

What part of:

Subtle Spells wrote:
A spell with the subtle trait can be cast without incantations and doesn’t have obvious manifestations. Most of these spells enhance your subterfuge or stealth, such as invisibility. Some abilities, like the Conceal Spell feat (page 201), allow you to make spells subtle even if they wouldn’t normally be.
means that the spellcaster is "Dancing around, waving your arms, and muttering to yourself"?

I suppose it's definitely the part where Errenor adds in the word "normal", implying that normal spell-casting isn't a grenade-throwing-like activity (i.e., something unusual and noticable).

My issue with this metamagic feat boils down to simple suspension of disbelief. How does one "subtle-ify" an otherwise abnormal, attention-drawing situation when observed. IMO, you have to lean into two alternatives.

Alternative 1, you use misdirection to create the circumstances to "subtle-ify" the spell.

Alternative 2--it's a metamagic feat, so the "subtle-ifization" is a magical effect.

However, as I already mentioned, I personally feel that this kind of magical effect (i.e., Alternative 2) is much too strong for a level 2 feat. Personally, after 36 years of GMing (and house ruling) TTRPGs just like this one, I find that a spell that cannot be counterspelled to be much more disruptive than handing out flying, extra reach, and minion hordes to PCs like candy. YMMV


Jacob Jett wrote:
a grenade-throwing-like activity (i.e., something unusual and noticable).

Well, you should have said that. Because otherwise as I said, even normal spellcasting doesn't look like grenade throwing.

Otherwise...
Jacob Jett wrote:


My issue with this metamagic feat boils down to simple suspension of disbelief. How does one "subtle-ify" an otherwise abnormal, attention-drawing situation when observed. IMO, you have to lean into two alternatives.

How do you suspend disbelief that some nonsensical words and gestures first make light show and then sudden extreme rise in temperature and flames without anything flammable? It's hard for everyone. But then you seem to have this ability. So you can just take it and use for explaining that some rare special characters in fiction can specially train and then make additional effort to remove light show, nonsensical words and gestures keeping sudden extreme rise in temperature and flames without anything flammable. You can do it.

P.S. Also I searched for 'counterspell' among creatures on AoN: whole 10 entries, none of which are less than 12th level or both common and in normal bestiaries. 6 of them are unique. I'm pretty ok that Lich's counterspell won't work for some spells of some characters.
There aren't creatures with Conceal Spell.
Confirming the obvious: counterspelling is not an important mechanics in PF2.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jacob Jett wrote:

My issue with this metamagic feat boils down to simple suspension of disbelief. How does one "subtle-ify" an otherwise abnormal, attention-drawing situation when observed. IMO, you have to lean into two alternatives.

Alternative 1, you use misdirection to create the circumstances to "subtle-ify" the spell.

Alternative 2, it's a metamagic feat, so the "subtle-ifization" is a magical effect.

Alternative 3, the caster simply stands there focusing on the subject of their spell with little more than a determined gaze.

Alternative 4, all of the above as determined by the player and GM in any given moment.

Silver Crusade

I really hope the find the time to look at subtle spells again, it fees weird, that a level 2 nobody could use this to cast ghost sound or another annoying spell at a big reception, and nobody with magic detection skills really has a chance of finding them.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
I really hope the find the time to look at subtle spells again, it fees weird, that a level 2 nobody could use this to cast ghost sound or another annoying spell at a big reception, and nobody with magic detection skills really has a chance of finding them.

Make it a check opposed by the DC of a hundred guests (much less two) and you end up with the opposite issue: an ability that almost never works when you need it to.


Errenor wrote:
Jacob Jett wrote:
a grenade-throwing-like activity (i.e., something unusual and noticable).

Well, you should have said that. Because otherwise as I said, even normal spellcasting doesn't look like grenade throwing.

Otherwise...

If this is a true state of affairs for the game's mechanics (it isn't) then, we don't actually need a metamagic feat like conceal spell. I kind of take it for granted that casting a spell is as obvious as swinging a sword (or a club), shanking someone, punching their nose, or shouting "fire". This is more or less what I get from the game's description of spell casting as an activity. Obvious activity is obvious. Else, why have a feat so specific as to conceal it. And again, YMMV (and obviously, we agree to disagree on this issue).


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Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
I really hope the find the time to look at subtle spells again, it fees weird, that a level 2 nobody could use this to cast ghost sound or another annoying spell at a big reception, and nobody with magic detection skills really has a chance of finding them.

But you don't have to feel weird about that. Because that can be done by any level 1 nobody as the new ghost sound - Figment - is inherently subtle. And Message. And Charm. And Invisibility.

Jacob Jett wrote:
If this is a true state of affairs for the game's mechanics (it isn't) then, we don't actually need a metamagic feat like conceal spell. I kind of take it for granted that casting a spell is as obvious as swinging a sword (or a club), shanking someone, punching their nose, or shouting "fire". This is more or less what I get from the game's description of spell casting as an activity. Obvious activity is obvious. Else, why have a feat so specific as to conceal it. And again, YMMV (and obviously, we agree to disagree on this issue).

Ugh. I only meant that your metaphor is bad and not obvious for normal spellcasting and completely wrong and non-applicable for concealed one.


Finoan wrote:
Jacob Jett wrote:
Errenor wrote:
Jacob Jett wrote:
In my experience it is very difficult to subtly throw a hand grenade while folks are looking at you...
How fortunate that neither normal nor especially concealed spellcasting are throwing grenades-like.
I don't know. Dancing around, waving your arms, and muttering to yourself seems bound to draw attention and highly abnormal...but YMMV

What part of:

Subtle Spells wrote:
A spell with the subtle trait can be cast without incantations and doesn’t have obvious manifestations. Most of these spells enhance your subterfuge or stealth, such as invisibility. Some abilities, like the Conceal Spell feat (page 201), allow you to make spells subtle even if they wouldn’t normally be.
means that the spellcaster is "Dancing around, waving your arms, and muttering to yourself"?

While I don't disagree, it wouldn't be any more or less suspicious than someone just sitting there and not reacting to obvious harmful effects taking place.


Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
I really hope the find the time to look at subtle spells again, it fees weird, that a level 2 nobody could use this to cast ghost sound or another annoying spell at a big reception, and nobody with magic detection skills really has a chance of finding them.

Yes they can be noticed. There are rules for this if there are observers that are actively seeking for it. You can imagine situations where this might be the case, eg guards looking for suspicious behaviour in a crowd because a fireball dropped last round. Then they get a roll.


Jacob Jett wrote:
Errenor wrote:
Jacob Jett wrote:
a grenade-throwing-like activity (i.e., something unusual and noticable).

Well, you should have said that. Because otherwise as I said, even normal spellcasting doesn't look like grenade throwing.

Otherwise...
If this is a true state of affairs for the game's mechanics (it isn't) then, we don't actually need a metamagic feat like conceal spell. I kind of take it for granted that casting a spell is as obvious as swinging a sword (or a club), shanking someone, punching their nose, or shouting "fire". This is more or less what I get from the game's description of spell casting as an activity. Obvious activity is obvious. Else, why have a feat so specific as to conceal it. And again, YMMV (and obviously, we agree to disagree on this issue).

Yes, spellcasting is, by default, obvious. But that doesn't mean it is obviously hostile.

So casting a spell is as obvious as swinging a sword or throwing a grenade, yes. But also as obvious as throwing a ball, walking to a different location in the room, picking up and drinking a mug of ale, or opening a door.

On the other hand, a Witch using Conceal Spell to cast Malicious Shadow could sit there demurely while someone else in the room quietly gets strangled by their own shadow.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Gortle wrote:
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
I really hope the find the time to look at subtle spells again, it fees weird, that a level 2 nobody could use this to cast ghost sound or another annoying spell at a big reception, and nobody with magic detection skills really has a chance of finding them.

Yes they can be noticed. There are rules for this if there are observers that are actively seeking for it. You can imagine situations where this might be the case, eg guards looking for suspicious behaviour in a crowd because a fireball dropped last round. Then they get a roll.

What are they rolling? And against what DC? Sense motive requires you focus on one target with one action. Imagine putting players in a situation where there were 30 + potential targets all probably trying to get away from an obvious point of danger.

Well you didn’t randomly guess the right one out of 3 tries on the first turn, before everyone is running away, too bad!


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I don't know about anyone else, but I am getting a bit lost in all of these hypothetical situations where Subtle spells or Conceal Spell is being claimed to work or not work or possibly work depending on dice rolls and which are houserules and which are not.

Does anyone want to put forward a few concrete scenario encounters to better illustrate the mechanics?


Sounds easy enough. I assume the sneaky caster is using stealth or maybe deception for initiative as all things must do when individual actions start to matter? Players can immediately eliminate all npcs that moved or otherwise interacted with their environment before or after the effect goes off from consideration if it's a spell that isn't innately subtle and then burn sense motives on the rest.

If the spell is innately subtle initiative is still rolled and a room of 30 people would take a party of 4 three rounds to sweep. Innately subtle spells don't exactly cause a stir to begin with so a better strategy would be to secure exits while sweeping with sense motive or whatever else.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Put me in the anti counterspell, pro subtle spell camp. I think the latter is better for the game than the former, so I'm ok with it being dominant.

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