Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wizards' Duels And Countering Spells

One of the great voids in Dungeons and Dragons is the absence of a spell-countering or wizard-dueling mechanic.

The current magical combat system is rolled in with the martial combat system, which is derived from the wargames antecedent to D&D.

Using that mechanic, spells are cast during that player's combat turn, and the effects are applied shortly thereafter (unless a saving throw negates the spell effect).

Saving throws, as a way of countering spells, is a free (to the defender) and adequate mechanic, for those spells that affect a character, but what of those spells for which no saving throw is permitted, or for spells that do not affect a member directly? Currently, there is no way to counter those spells within moments of their casting. One must wait until the next round to attempt some kind of response to the previously-cast spell. Unfortunately, at that point, it is often too late to actually counter the effects of the first spell.

Here's an alternative. Any time a spell-caster invokes a spell, any other spell-caster can use their turn (assuming they have not already taken their action) to counter the invoked spell.

In order to do so, the second spell-caster must either have memorized the same spell, or have a memorized spell sufficiently similar (or opposite) in effect that it can be used to counter the effect of the first spell cast by the attacker.

Since the second caster is reacting, in real time, to the initial spell, there is a chance that her spell-countering will fail. Rolling 2d6, the second caster must roll an 8+ to successfully counter the first spell, but that is modified (to the defender's benefit) by the number of levels the defender is above the attacker's level, and by the level of the spell being expended in that defence. I say to her benefit, because if the defender is a lower level, or uses an inferior spell, she still gets the minimum 8+ chance to counter. Call it the Harry Potter effect.

For example, the attacker, a 3rd level MU, casts darkness, a 1st level spell. The defender, a 6th level MU, uses her turn to cast a 2nd level spell, continual light, to counter. Since the defender is 3 levels higher than the attacker, and is casting a spell 1 level higher, the defender gets to add 4 (3+1) to her roll to successfully counter.

Whether or not the defender is successful, that memorized spell used for countering is gone from her memory, and she has used her turn for that round.

But what of situations where the defending MU have already taken her turn or wishes to counter multiple spells? In those cases, some alternative spell-casting cost could be imposed (for example, the MU takes d6 of fatigue damage for each additional spell she wishes to counter, should she have already taken her turn).

23 comments:

Austin said...

In my 3.x games I've more-or-less houseruled that a caster can expend their AoO in order to attempt a counterspell as normal. The spell doesn't have to target them specifically, nor does it have to provoke an AoO, but the caster gives up the ability to make an AoO for that turn. Basically, any caster threatens anyone attempting to cast a spell within a certain range (60 feet is what I go with) but can only attempt to counterspell them. I've played with a few different variations on it, but this is the one I'm most satisfied with.

They still have to identify the spell being cast and have a suitable means to counter it, but there's no additional cost. The upsides to this variation are that you don't have to mess with Initiative order or delaying turns in order to counterspell, plus counterspelling can become a legitimately solid build for some parties.

Some might argue it's a little overpowered, but then again, as DM I can also make use of the modified counterspell rules.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Austin said...
counterspelling can become a legitimately solid build for some parties.

I was thinking the same thing. Now, not only do you need to figure out what spells you want to cast, but what spells do you need to memorize in order to counter the spells of others.

Roger the GS said...

In AD&D, your "counterspell" is "initiative + Magic Missile" and your ultimate counterspell is "Silence 15'" ;)

Captcha word: impalin!

A Paladin In Citadel said...

:D

retrorpg said...

Wizards duels can be nasty.
Stay far away, unless you are in the fray!

Working out spell times and initiative, etc. is difficult. Thanks for your view of wizard duels. It will be helpful for me in the future, I am certain.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

My suggestion above simplifies the process, so you can keep the action moving.

James said...

@ Roger - Yeah, that's why I use casting times, for those rare occasions when Wiz vs. Wiz duels happen. Adds some tactics to the duel. There's also the old Volley spell from UA. :)

Jeff Rients said...

FYI I did a little article on wizard duels and counter spells for Fight On! Issue #1, I think. The duel between Mako and the that other guy in the second Conan flick was my primary inspiration.

JB said...

@ Pal: I've long considered the saving throw versus magic to be a character's attempt at "counter-spelling." Magic-users are the best at it (thus having the best save) and a high wisdom gives one the quickness to figure out the proper "anti-hex."

That being said, for purposes of dueling magicians I think you can make your rules even simpler:

A magic-user targeted by a spell may ALWAYS make a saving throw, even for spells that have none. If the save is successful the spell is countered, dissipating harmlessly .

No half damage or anything...throwing a fireball at a wizard might result in your spell being crushed by his counter-spell.

Good post, man. Cheers!

A Paladin In Citadel said...

James said...
@ Roger - Yeah, that's why I use casting times, for those rare occasions when Wiz vs. Wiz duels happen. Adds some tactics to the duel. There's also the old Volley spell from UA. :)

In terms of chosing during which segment to cast a spell, or in selecting a spell with a faster casting time?

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Jeff Rients said...
FYI I did a little article on wizard duels and counter spells for Fight On! Issue #1, I think. The duel between Mako and the that other guy in the second Conan flick was my primary inspiration.

I was thinking of Sword In The Stone and some of the Harry Potter films. I must admit (rather guiltily) that I have not picked up any Fight On! magazines. My pathetic excuse is that I dislike pdfs and the shipping costs charged by Lulu to Canadian addresses border on the criminal.

Lame, but that's my excuse and i'm sticking to it.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

JB said...
@ Pal: I've long considered the saving throw versus magic to be a character's attempt at "counter-spelling." Magic-users are the best at it (thus having the best save) and a high wisdom gives one the quickness to figure out the proper "anti-hex."

That being said, for purposes of dueling magicians I think you can make your rules even simpler:

A magic-user targeted by a spell may ALWAYS make a saving throw, even for spells that have none. If the save is successful the spell is countered, dissipating harmlessly .

Good post, man. Cheers!


Thanks for the positive feedback.

I was thinking of those instances where the spell effect has no saves, because it is not a direct attack on the other MU or her party.

For example, one MU casts summon monster, but the other MU casts summon monster as a counter spell (banish monster) thus nullifying the first spell.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

The Saving Throw mechanic is a passive defence ... the players don't need to do anything to invoke it, other than be hit by a spell that permits a saving throw.

Spell-countering seems more interesting to me, because the defenders need to take action, and be creative in their counter-spell selection.

Zzarchov said...

This always bugged me too. When I began writing "Piecemeal" counter-spells were a big aspect of wizards.

Wizards who know the same spell as there opponent can fairly easily (nigh instantly) counter it. This is more of a "denied" counterspell system.

The idea also being a reason wizards hoard there spells alone in a tower rather than massive free to browse libraries..if someone knows your spells you are powerless against them!

Lazarus Lupin said...

A nice suggestion. I like your system. It does make the Magic User a more defensive player.

Lazarus Lupin
http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/
art and review

ChicagoWiz said...

I've had a counterspelling mechanic in my AD&D campaign since the get-go in 2009:

http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AQiMsojGKI2KZGNtc2g4NHRfNTVmajhrMno0Zg&hl=en#Magic_Counterspells_7151829188

http://oldguyrpg.blogspot.com/2008/12/from-chainmail-to-od-counterspells.html

It's based off of the Chainmail Fantasy combat counterspelling. My players love/hate it. I've recently expanded it so that clerics can counter clerics (each side trying to raise their faith more than the other), druids can counter druids, illusionists can counter other illusionists (or mages casting illusion-similar spells that cross over).

Carter Soles said...

Brillianst, simple system. Consider this horked!

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Zzarchov said...
Wizards who know the same spell as there opponent can fairly easily (nigh instantly) counter it. This is more of a "denied" counterspell system.

The idea also being a reason wizards hoard there spells alone in a tower rather than massive free to browse libraries..if someone knows your spells you are powerless against them!


Exactly, that's why I would allow someone with the same spell to counter it, like my summon monster spell being cancelled by an opposing MU's summon monster spell. If you know the spell you also know the way to interrupt it.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Lazarus Lupin said...
A nice suggestion. I like your system. It does make the Magic User a more defensive player.

Yes, it gives the MU more options, which is always a good thing!

A Paladin In Citadel said...

ChicagoWiz said...
I've had a counterspelling mechanic in my AD&D campaign since the get-go in 2009:

very cool, and very similar to the one I proposed, although I still think a weaker wizard should have an 8+ chance of countering a spell, while a more powerful wizard is almost certain too counter the weaker wizards spells. It emulates the "weaker MU ultimately prevails over the evil wizard" trope, by allowing the weaker wizard to stay in the battle longer.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Carter Soles said...
Brillianst, simple system. Consider this horked!

Glad you liked!

Havard: said...

Interesting topic! I like your take, but rather than requiring the defending mage to have memorized the exact or similar spell, I think sacrificing a spell of similar level (and then making the roll) should be sufficient. If the mage has already acted in the round, I wouldnt allow him to counter the spell personally. Great image btw, that is exactly the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about wizard duels as well :)

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Fair enough, although I like the idea that you can only counter a spell if you know what it is, and that might mean hhaving it in your repertoire.

Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated!