“There!” Locklar shouted, pointing at the robed mage they had pursued the day before but lost in the maze of alleyways in the Old Quarter.

Mortigan looked and was dismayed to see the bearded man gesturing at his comrade. He recognized the pattern and was not surprised to see Locklar suddenly frozen in place, completely motionless. The bearded magician whirled and disappeared into a dark alleyway between two buildings.

Quickly, Mortigan called the holding spell to mind and began casting it, making a few minor changes at the appropriate points. He finished and gestured at Locklar. The fighter shook his head.

“I really, really, hate that son of a goblin,” he muttered.


Countering a spell which is already in effect can be attempted by casting a “counterspell” of the same spell at the same target or target point. Base chance for success is 6-in-12, with +1 or -1 for every level of difference between the caster and the counterer. Successful counterspells end the target spell immediately, though indirect effects already applied are not undone.

Instant and permanent spells cannot be countered. Counterspells can only be cast to counter the exact same spell, not different spells with similar effects, though different classes can counter spells of the same name. A counterspell cannot be used as a reversed version of the spell and a failed counterspell has no other effect.

This is basically a narrow version of dispel magic which affects only spells with limited durations. Rather than being a separate spell, it consists of casting a counter version of the spell in question. Thus, a first level magic-user could attempt to counter a charm person spell if he knows it by casting charm person’s counterspell.

Regarding the indirect effects, a control weather spell that flattens a building with a tornado or dumps six inches of snow onto a meadow could be countered and the skies would return to normal, but the building would still be demolished and the snow would still be there.

Spells like polymorph other would still require the spell dispel magic because polymorph other is permanent. Continual light could not be countered, because it too is permanent; continual darkness would still cancel it as normal, though, as that is a specific function of that spell.

13 Comments to “Counterspells
–Thursday Thaumaturgy”

  1. Erin says:

    Rather than being a separate spell, it consists of casting a counter version of the spell in question.

    So you’re saying that a separate counterspell exists for every counter-able spell? That is, charm person has its own counterspell, as does hold person and web and bless, etc.?

    If so, would you allow a caster to counter a spell if he already knows it? From your flavour text, it seems like Mortigan already knows hold person, – but from the description, it sounds like he also has to know hold person’s counterspell. Correct?

    Either way, good concept. And I like the simplified success determination (go d12!)

    • Kilgore says:

      Not exactly. If you know hold person, you know the counterspell to hold person. A counterspell is essentially the spell with a couple of key “bits” “flipped” during casting. If you don’t know hold person, you can’t know the counterspell.

      You won’t find counter hold person in a scroll or spellbook. It’s just an alternate casting of hold person. (I’m trying to avoid using the term “reversed” because of the existence of “reversible” spells, which are something different.)

      It would be up to individual DMs, but I’d allow someone who had memorized hold person to cast it as a counterspell (like in my little story) instead of normally if they wanted. Others may require pre-memorizing the counterspell version, but that kind of defeats the purpose, IMHO.

      This is intended to allow the “Poof! I froze him!” followed by “Foop! But I un-froze him!” which sometimes shows up when wizards battle in books or movies.

    • Kilgore says:

      Re: Reversible spells: I guess it works with reversible spells like this:

      Sticks to snakes turns X sticks into snakes. Snakes to sticks can turn X hit dice of snakes into sticks. It could be used on sticks that have been turned into snakes, turning them back into sticks. Durations of one would overlap with the duration of the second effectively canceling it out.

      EXAMPLE: I could stick to snake a stick for 5 turns. You could then snake to stick it, but maybe your duration is only 3 turns due to level or whatever. After 3 turns, it switches back to a snake for the remainder of my spell. When my spell expires, it reverts to its original stick form.

      The counterspell of sticks to snakes, on the other hand, would simply undo the original casting of sticks to snakes.

      EXAMPLE: Poof! I stick to snake a stick. You counterspell it successfully. Foop! My spell is undone and its just a normal stick again.

      Gah. No wonder a good INT or WIS is important to a spell caster. [Fixed typo]

  2. Erin says:

    Got it – I completely agree with how you’re handling this. Basically, if I had memorised web, I could use it as intended, or I could use it to counter someone else’s web.

    That’s how I would envision this, pretty much for the scenario you describe (Poof vs. Foop).

    Cheers for the clarification – sorry if I was slow on the uptake…just wanted to make sure. 😉

    • Kilgore says:

      I just updated my sticks to snakes and reverse of comment.

      I had not completely considered countering and reversible spells until I started writing an example. I think this still just works, if anyone can shoot holes in it go ahead.

    • Kilgore says:

      Basically, if I had memorised web, I could use it as intended, or I could use it to counter someone else’s web.


      FWIW, we don’t use pre-memorization in our game, so a caster can use any spell he knows. (We’ve added Spells Known for clerics and druids due to this.) Which makes the idea of countering something on the spot much more useful. If you need to have pre-memorized (and not yet cast) web to counterspell web, the odds of being ready/able to do so plummet.

  3. Erin says:

    I had always considered a spell’s reverse as a way to produce an opposite, but not negating, effect with respect to the original spell. IOW, cause light wounds does not negate cure light wounds, it simply does the opposite of heal (i.e., causes damage).

    In your sticks to snakes example, here’s how I’d see it:

    * Reverse – turns X number of snakes into sticks
    * Counter – causes converted snakes to turn back into sticks

    This is what you’re saying, but I suggest that this clarification obviates the need to consider duration. If you cast the reverse, the effect lasts for the specified period; if you counter, then the current effect is immediately aborted.

    • Kilgore says:

      Well, cure light wounds has an instant and permanent effect. So you cure POOF! and heal. Then I cause light wounds POOF! and hurt. No foop.

      I chose sticks to snakes because I see the normal casting as POOF! Take that! I just turned sticks into snakes! and then you POOF! I just turned snakes (which happened to be sticks until you turned them into snakes) into sticks! So there! I don’t think the reversal *undoes* the original, it just *does the opposite* of the original.

      If my spell lasts longer than yours, I think the sticks turn back into the snakes I made until my original duration runs out. If yours lasts longer, they are sticks until yours runs out, then they are still sticks because they’re no longer enchanted.

      I say continual darkness effectively undoes continual light because that’s what the spell description says, but if it didn’t say that specifically I’d rule casting continual darkness on a continual light made it dark, not normal. I can see how others may play it differently, though, with other reversed spells undoing/countering the normal casting.

      I guess I accept the continual light/dark thing because they’re permanent spells.

    • Kilgore says:

      The duration is only considered for using the Reversed spell, not the counterspell of the normal spell. FWIW, there would be a counterspell of the reversed spell, also.

      [Kilgore > Going to look for aspirin]

  4. Erin says:

    Hehe…so could someone reverse your reversal? What if someone counters the reverse of an existing spell? I’ve just blown my own mind.

    I see what you’re saying, but dealing with duration makes it a bit too cumbersome for my tastes. I think this one of those things that would be well informed with extensive playtesting–basically to see what permutations work and which ones cause problems.

    But, I do agree with your light/dark example. Countering light makes it normal. Casting darkness makes it dark. If you’re using counterspell in your campaign, I’d ignore the provision in the spell description that says darkness undoes light.

    • Kilgore says:

      IN TURN 1:

      GANDALF >>>>>> Turns a stick into a snake for 5 turns

      MERLIN >>>>>>> Turns that snake into a stick for 3 turns

      BELGARATH >>>> Turns that stick into a snake for 4 turns

      HARRY POTTER > Turns that snake into a stick for 2 turns

      IN TURN 2 >>>> It’s still Harry’s stick

      IN TURN 3 >>>> The stick turns back into Belgarath’s snake when Harry’s spell expires

      IN TURN 4 >>>> It’s still Belgarath’s snake, Merlin’s spell expires

      IN TURN 5 >>>> Belgarath’s snake turns into Gandalf’s snake when Belgarath’s spell expires

      IN TURN 6 >>>> The snake turns back into the original stick when Gandalf’s spell expires

      and of course

      IN TURN 7 >>>> They all start throwing daggers at each other because that’s what magic-users do 🙂

  5. […] on a long drive yesterday, my son and I spent some time discussing counterspells, which I plan to include in our homebrew game Magic & Monsters. During the explanations, […]