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A person is wearing a Ring of Counterspells which is storing a Fireball spell. When this person is in the AOE of a fireball is the entire fireball countered? Do they negate it just for their square? Is there some other outcome?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Nothing happens.

A ring of counterspells only triggers when the wearer is the target of the same spell it stores. Since area-effect spells target a location, not a creature, the ring can't be triggered by merely being in the AoE of a fireball. Being merely caught in the blast area isn't enough to activate the spell-countering effect.

The ring might counter a fireball that directly impacted you, at the GM's discretion. Fireball is a bit of an odd-ball spell for an area-effect spell, since it can "impact" something between the caster and the target location:

[if the glowing, pea-sized bead] impacts upon a material body or solid barrier prior to attaining the prescribed range, [it] blossoms into the fireball at that point

A GM could rule that this is enough interaction between the wearer of the ring and the fireball to count as having the spell being cast directly "upon" the wearer – even though fireball doesn't have a creature target – that the ring would trigger.

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The ring doesn't technically use that particular phrasing, though; the trigger is "should that spell ever be cast upon the wearer". Contrast with the phrasing of spell turning, which does require that you be the target of the spell. And you could certainly ready an action to counterspell fireball. So, I'd interpret the phrase "cast upon" as being just the regular English usage, and not another way of saying "targeted by". – starwed Sep 21 '12 at 17:20
@starwed I know. But that wording is system-equivalent to being the target of the spell. Fireball isn't cast upon a creature, it's cast upon a point in space. There's a reason that the ring is confusing when you try to apply it to AoE spells: it doesn't interact with them, so the designers didn't bother to explain how much it counters a spell that it doesn't interact with. – SevenSidedDie Sep 21 '12 at 17:22
I disagree. There isn't actually any confusion; the fireball is counterspelled, just like the ring's name suggests. If they meant only targeted spells, they would have said so. Again, contrast with the nature of spell turning -- turning AoE spells would be confusing, since they can't be redirected to target the original caster. Such an issue does not exist with counterspelling. – starwed Sep 21 '12 at 17:26
Oh, this is actually brought up in the official FAQ, but the answer is somewhat anti-helpful. See my posted answer. – starwed Sep 21 '12 at 17:29
@starwed That FAQ answer says pretty much exactly what my answer says. Nothing happens, unless you're the target of the spell. Quod erat demonstrandum. – SevenSidedDie Sep 21 '12 at 17:32

This is in the official 3.5 FAQ, but honestly the answer is somewhat hard to generalize from. Pathfinder does rule differently on some issues, of course.

Can a ring of counterspells counter a fireball spell or other area effect if the wearer is in the affected area?

The ring of counterspells counters spells that are cast on you only, not necessarily a spell that affects you. So if you were the target of a fireball, then the ring would counter it; however, if you were just standing too close to the intended target, you would be affected normally and the ring of counterspells would not come into play.

I would personally interpret the ring as working the same way a readied action to counterspell would work -- that anytime you'd be affected by the spell, the ring would counterspell it for you. This is not 100% clear from the rules, and is specifically contrary to the FAQ answer. (Which was 3.5 in any case.)

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I disagree that the ring should work as a readied action to counterspell. I think that in this instance the RAW is best, and that AoE spells get under the ring's defenses. – Robobot Sep 22 '12 at 2:08
Absent the (3.5) FAQ, that's not the rules as written. The phrase "cast upon" is not a defined game term, so there is legitimate ambiguity on whether it means "targeted" or just "affected by". I am using the idea of a readied counterspell as an analogy, to suggest why I would infer a particular meaning. – starwed Sep 22 '12 at 18:03
I understand, but I disagree that your inference makes for the best game, and the FAQ supports my opinion, so I'm erring on the "no effect" side. – Robobot Sep 22 '12 at 21:02

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