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The Casting Time description of Counterspell states.

1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell

I am playing a spell-caster who almost always wears a mask. If he casts a spell requiring only a Verbal component he cannot be seen speaking the words for the spell. By my interpretation this means those specific spells cannot be Counterspelled.

I feel that the use of Metamagic Subtle Spell to avoid Counterspell corroborates this.

If casting without any somatic or verbal components allows someone to avoid Counterspell, surely casting in a way that those components aren't visible has the same effect because Counterspell specifies Sight as a requirement for the reaction.

Usually this is done by hiding behind cover, breaking line of sight to the enemy spellcaster.

Because Counterspell by wording and ruling seems to require Seeing the Verbal/Somatic/Material components of the spell, not the caster themselves, I think that localizing the cover to just the face (like a mask) should not trigger the reaction if that is the spells' only component.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/122014/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 9:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps I'm being salty but I've opened an adjacent question on the English language stack: english.stackexchange.com/questions/609036/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ If it's an important detail for your character, a magical mask that prevents counterspell of Verbal-only spells seems like a reasonable homebrewed Uncommon item to me, since NPC counterspells are very situational, and in some campaigns may not occur at all. Or it could maybe be a limited-use metamagic item allowing Silent Spell. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 18:34

3 Answers 3

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Yes, it can be counterspelled

1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell

You are still a creature casting a spell, you can still be seen, and the spell component is still observable. The text does not say you need to see the component, it says you need to see the creature.

Even if someone cannot see your lips moving, verbalizing the component causes sound to emanate from you that can be observed. An observer will be able to put the two together -- you are the creature where the chanting of magic syllables is coming from, whether your lips are visible or not behind your mask.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything explains this on page 85:

To be perceptible, the casting of a spell must involve a verbal, somatic, or material component.

To detect spellcasting, a component only needs to be perceptible, not visible. It therefore is sufficient that you can see the creature, mask or no mask: the sound is sufficient to know they are casting a spell, because it is perceptible.

So to summarize: to counterspell 1. You must see the creature, 2. It must be within 60 feet of you, and 3. You must in some way be able to perceive it is casting a spell.

Maybe, if the observer were in an area of silence, and could neither hear nor see you casting the spell, this could work.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you may be misinterpreting the wording, Counterspell specifies sight only. This interpretation changes that wording to anything "Observable" which you then say includes hearing. That is not RAW. By this ruling one might see only someone's foot and hear magic words and argue that you can "Observe" them casting even if it's not certain that they are the caster. I will also note it says "see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell" not "see a creature" the focus is not on the creature but the casting itself. (edited) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 20:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MilesPackham You are right, following the text of the rule, you could counter a spell by someone you only partially see, if you agree that seeing part of a creature is seeing the creature (probably another question). There is by the way no text that demands you must be certain they are the caster to attempt a counterspell (and there are questions if you can fool somone into wasting counterspells by faking casting a spell.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 20:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MilesPackham In a non-rules based angle, consider what it would mean for your game world if spells cast under a mask could not be countered. Every mage under the sun would be wearing a mask in such a setting. (Nevermind that Subtle Spell would lose a lot of value). I am playing a wizard too that wears a mask (for other reasons). While I would enjoy if my spells could not be countered, I certainly would not if my DM invalidated my counterspells entirely by paying me back in the same coin. And it would only be reasonable for other casters to wear masks then, too. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 20:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MilesPackham If you are unconviced by my answer, and you seem to have a very clear read on what the answer should be here, I recommend you post a self-answer making your case (instead of making it in the question, if it is really a question for you, and you are not just looking for external confirmation). That way, you can make the case and have people vote on it -- I will refrain from downvoting it, even though I do not think it is correct, because I also might be biased by my reading here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 20:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MilesPackham Thank you - you are entirely right on counterspell being somatic. I’ll remove that comment. And I was entirely forgetting my manners: welcome to the site! If you have some time, and have not done so already, it is a good idea take the tour in the help section. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 21:03
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Yes, it can be dispelled

There are two factors in this; one based on reality and one based on game play.

One, masks do not always stop someone from seeing another creature use their mouth

When you speak, your whole head moves. You lower mandible/jaw goes down while the rest of the skull raises up. Watch yourself in a mirror saying "How now brown cow."

With practice and concentration, you can probably learn to lessen the amount of movement, but if someone is watching you because you are a spell caster, it would still be difficult. Which leads into the more game play answer.

Two, if you allow this, then every spell caster would wear a mask

If stopping a creature from seeing verbal components is as easy as wearing a mask, the every spell caster would do it. They'd also turn around and hide their hands and arms inside their robes so no one could see somatic components as well. They could probably keep a spell focus in there too so no seeing material components too. Clerics and paladins could just hold their shield in front of their face to block the view. You get the idea.

In other words, no one could be counterspelled because the caster creates this little, no cost, bubble to hide all of the component aspects of spell casting.

Hold the cheese...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Small nitpicks regarding your 2nd section: Spell foci don't remove the need for somatic components, and holding a shield in front of your face probably blocks line-of-sight, which would prevent many spells. \$\endgroup\$
    – TylerH
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH, I didn't say that the spell foci would remove the somatic component, but you need to be touching the material component, so it would need to be hidden in the same place that you're doing the somatic portion. Make sense? As for line of sight, the caster could have one eye poking around the edge while still obscuring most of their face. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 18:25
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At the DM's discretion, it can not be counterspelled

Because:

  1. You must see casting to counterspell
  2. See means see

But the DM's discretion is required regarding the extent to which a mask makes the verbal component of a spell visually imperceptible.

1. You must see casting to counterspell

In order to cast counterspell, the caster must

see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell

Firstly, note that it is not enough to merely

see a creature [who is] casting a spell'.

Rather, you must

see a creature casting a spell

This requires sight of the creature and sight of their spellcasting

2. See means see

'See' means 'see'. To hear a creature casting a spell is not sufficient. They must be seen. There is no precedent is the D&D rules for 'see' being used a shorthand for 'observe'; sight is a specific effect which specifically interacts with various spells, abilities and features (e.g. hiding or invisibility).

But it's still at the DM's discretion

Zanathar's tells us that:

If the need for a spell’s components has been removed by a special ability... the casting of the spell is imperceptible.

It follows that if a spell's only component is verbal, and the caster visually obscures the verbal component of the spell, then the spell has become visually imperceptible (i.e. it cannot be seen). Because the spell cannot be seen, it will not trigger Counterspell.

The question requiring the judgement of the DM is: Does a mask render the verbal component of a spell invisible? As others have pointed out, it may still obvious that you are speaking even if you are wearing a mask. But if the DM decides that the mask makes your speech visually imperceptible, then the spell cannot be counterspelled.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It IS enough to merely see a creature who is casting a spell, as long as one of the three components is perceptible to you. If you see someone IRL making a call on their smart phone there are multiple ways you could tell they're making a call (hearing what they say, seeing them dial, or just seeing them put the phone to their ear). \$\endgroup\$
    – aslum
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aslum yes but the question specifies a case in which only a verbal component is used \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 18:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aslum: The question isn't about how you perceive (hearing/seeing/...), it's about what you perceive. When you see someone making a call on their smartphone, you at the very least see both the person and some kind of visual evidence that they're making a call on their phone (not necessarily the phone itself, e.g. if they have a bluetooth headset, or if their hand is obscuring the phone they're holding - but in either case there is clear evidence of a call being made) \$\endgroup\$
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 4:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ To counter a spell you only have to see the creature that is casting the spell, not the components (verbal or material). Otherwise you couldn't counter a spell with only verbal components unless you can see sound. \$\endgroup\$
    – aslum
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 14:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just want to comment since I see you getting down voted here. Yours is the opinion that I agree with mechanically, and how I intend to present it to my DM. I did not mark this as the main answer because while I agree, the difficulties other answers have with possible game balance issues are compelling. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 20:04

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