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When holding the charge for a touch attack, what kind of effect is this? Can it be dispelled? Do counterspells operate when the charge is first created or when it is discharged?

The specific case I'm concerned about: the spellthief has a steal spell effect ability. Can this ability be used to steal a touch attack spell that has been cast but not yet discharged?

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2 Answers 2

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This is a really interesting question; I don’t think the rules actually say.

I can say for sure that you cannot counterspell the discharge; counterspelling affects casting specifically. So when the spell is cast is when you have a chance to do that. Similarly, damaging the person holding the charge doesn’t force Concentration checks to save from losing the spell.

As it’s clearly magical, it seems like it should be something you can dispel, but dispel magic doesn’t mention it. It seems most like a spell effect, but usually a charge has no duration, and the effect of the spell certainly isn’t to create a charge, its effect is whatever it applies to the target. Still, I’d probably rule it as a spell effect.

And thus, if we treat it as a spell effect, Steal Spell Effect should partially work on it. As @EnvisionAndDevelop’s great answer explains, the particular rules of Steal Spell Effect don’t actually let you get the full effect because there’s no way for a spellcaster to “give you” the charge. See the linked answer for more details.

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"This is a really interesting question; I don’t think the rules actually say." I'm quoting KRyan because I said the same thing out loud after reading the question.

On the one hand, it seems like holding the charge might be a whole new "phase" of casting a spell; I'd break the normal flow into three "phases": ready (spell slot form), casting (where magic words are spoken, and as KRyan mentioned, counterspell and interruption are possible), and result (where the effect occurs). It seems like touch spells have a weird phase 2.5; the spell has been cast, but the effect of the spell itself hasn't occurred.

It probably shouldn't be considered a "spell effect".

Holding the charge is something you do with spell energy from a touch attack. It's not a part of the spell itself, but rather a feature of spell-casting as a whole.

On the other hand, there doesn't seem to be an official definition for "spell effect".

Because of this, I'd be inclined to rule that spell effect simply means "any magic stuff that's the result of a spell". In this case, even though "the charge" isn't a listed effect of a spell, it's still part of the result. I would consider it equivalent to the "glowing, pea-sized bead" that embodies a not-yet-exploded fireball.

Ultimately,

Because a held charge is absolutely a magical "effect", and it's specific to a particular creature, I would treat it as a spell effect. However, the ability text states that "[a] spellthief can steal the effect of a spell only if the spell could be cast on him by the original caster." It then goes to explain how the shield spell cannot be stolen because it is cast at a range of personal. With that in mind, because the original caster could not have given you the charge in the first place, you cannot steal it. That is, while you can steal the effect of a touch spell (the bonus from Bull's Strength, etc.), you cannot steal the held charge itself.

With that in mind, I'd say you can suppress the held charge on the target (from the description):

If a spellthief tries to steal the effect of a spell not allowed to him, the effect is still suppressed on the original target of the spell for 1 minute per spellthief class level.

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That is an awesome point about stealing personal effects being verboten. Great call. –  KRyan Jul 3 at 16:49
    
It's an interesting point about stealing personal effects, but I think the rules are still a little fuzzy there - CLW for example has a range of touch, so the spell can be cast on the spellthief, even though she could never actually receive the held charge "effect". Though I think your interpretation is probably in keeping with the spirit of the rules. –  shaydwyrm Jul 3 at 17:27
    
@shaydwyrm, yeah, I was thinking that if CLW wasn't instantaneous, you could steal the healing effect but not the held charge. Maybe I'll clarify that a bit more. –  EnvisionAndDevelop Jul 3 at 18:21

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