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I have been GMing for 10 years, and we are currently are using Pathfinder with little to no house rules. The only character that has ever used counterspell is when we made a prestige class up that could do it well. Otherwise it never happens. The improved counterspell feat is a poor substitute for other more powerful metamagic feats, etc. 3.5 had Reactive Counterspell but it was a third tier feat.

This option makes it available to anyone (albeit at a penalty). My hope is that combat involving magic becomes more dynamic and more about choosing when to counter or not. It also allows mage duels to function more organically, not that I envision my characters ever doing that.

I am thinking of introducing this rule to a brand new campaign doing rise of the runelords.

Immediate Counterspell (this is a general ability, not a feat): You can take an immediate action to try and counterspell (as long as you are not flat-footed), but you lose your whole next turn no matter if you succeed or not (you can do this only once per round). If you are counterspelling by using dispel, you incur a -5 to the check. Some spells can be countered by using its opposite at the GM’s discretion (fire spells countered by cold ones, etc.).

Improved Counterspell feat: In addition to the benefits listed in the Pathfinder rules, characters who have this feat and who use the immediate counterspell option only lose their next standard action. In addition to this, they can immediate counterspell using dispel with a -2 penalty.

How broken do you think this is? Does it unfairly advantage PCs or NPCs?

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Hi Okeefe. I didn't mean it to be a feat, it is an immediate action that anyone can do. –  Montassiner Mar 4 '13 at 4:13
    
Not all those edits were mine, but I see your point. –  okeefe Mar 4 '13 at 4:23
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I also should have said thankyou to those who cleaned up my post. I appreciate it. –  Montassiner Mar 4 '13 at 4:43
    
Depends how many spellcasters the players meet in game really! –  Rob Mar 6 '13 at 8:35
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3 Answers

The penalties are too harsh; you’ll still have no one using Counterspells.

I’d suggest straight-up just letting Counterspell be an immediate action, always and without additional penalties. No lost actions on the following turn (aside from the Swift as normal for Immediate actions), no penalty on your Caster Level check. It will make Counterspelling more common, make the limitations on one’s spell slots matter more, and reduce the power of mages fairly significantly.

I have played a (3.5) dedicated counterspeller, who had numerous abilities to counterspell as an immediate action. I generally felt the character was rather disappointing; even though I had an advantage on my CL check due to various boosters I had, I was by no means capable of guaranteeing a counterspell against most enemies, and because I’d invested so much in it I found myself struggling to manage to do much else. When there weren’t spellcaster enemies, I was quite sub-par, and even when there were I could only shut down one of them most of the time.

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So I have successfully used Counterspell a couple of times, but rarely used the Dispel-Counterspell. The problem with both of these things is the general risk.

Counterspell:

  • Have to give up initiative
  • Have to make successful Spellcraft on (15+spell level)
  • Have to have the same spell available and prepared

Dispel / Counterspell:

  • Have to give up initiative
  • Have to make successful Spellcraft on (15+spell level)
  • Have to make a "Dispel Check" (d20+your level vs 11+opponent's level)

The problems here abound.

First you have to give up initiative. So if we both have fireballs prepared, I can either cast mine and try to kill you or wait until you cast yours, make a roll that can possibly fail and run the risk of possibly eating a fireball anyways.

Second, there are the failure possibilities. In most cases the "Dispel check" is basically 50/50. You roll a d20 and the opponent gets an 11. Opposing spell casters are going to be similar level to you, so this is really a toss-up.

The way the system is set up always favors offense and initiative.

Your "immediate action" counterspell does mitigate the initiative problem, but it doesn't mitigate for failed spellcraft checks, mismatch on spells, or dispels rolls. So there are two really key spots for failure.

With all of that chance for failure, it's often better to just cast defensive spells like Protection from Evil or Energy Resistance or Death Ward or Spell Turning.

So I'm not saying your idea is bad, I'm actually not sure that it's really good enough to make counterspelling common.

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There are ways to get bonuses to dispelling (in 3.5, at least): Inquisition Domain gets +4, Master Abjurer gets some, etc. Doesn't really invalidate your point though. –  KRyan Mar 6 '13 at 15:21
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Here's an idea, I haven't really thought it through. How about doing something akin to spontaneous casting? Allow characters to perform a counter spell whenever a player wants but only once per round, and they'll have to burn a total of spell slots equal to the level of spell countered.

This will affect PC more negatively then NPC (as NPC don't usually need to save spells for the next encounter) but then again it will have benefits (sacrificing 3 magic missiles to encounter a fireball is a good trade). But the loss of spell slots will prevent it from happening all the time.

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I'm not sure how that's akin to spontaneous casting. It's pretty powerful flexibility; I feel like it might be going too far in the pro-counterspell direction, but then again it might not. I'd probably only go there if using the normal counterspell rules but as an immediate action still seemed unsatisfactory. –  KRyan Mar 5 '13 at 23:00
    
Hi thanks for responding. I agree with KRyan that this might make counterspelling too easy. I like that the characters need to counter with the same spell, or with something else that makes sense (cold vs fire etc)--adds flavour. Cheers. –  Montassiner Mar 6 '13 at 0:31
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