Sunday, May 25, 2014

Easier Counterspelling in GURPS Magic

Riffing off my ideas from this thread on the SJG Forums, here is an easier version of Counterspell. This makes it a much more useful spell, faster in combat, and allows for more anti-magic magic use.


As per GURPS Magic, p. 121, except you may attempt to counter any spell, even if you don't know it. If you don't know the spell you are countering but it's a commonly known spell or you've used Identify Spell on it, your skill in the Quick Contest is at a -5 penalty. Unknown or new spells, or spell-like powers with the Magical limitation, are countered at -10.

Cost: Same.
Time to Cast: Same as the spell being countered, not counting time reductions due to skill by the caster of the original spell; maximum 5 seconds.
Prerequisites: None.


- Breadth. You can now try to counter anything, known or unknown.

- Prereqs. You don't even need Magery 1 for this; Magery 0 (or nothing in a High Mana Zone) is enough to learn this and cast this. A small change, but there you go.

- Time. Basically if you're countering a 2-second spell by a Skill-20 caster (so he did it in 1 second), it takes you 2 seconds to counter (1, if you've got Counterspell-20). If you're countering a 1-hour to cast spell, it takes you 5 seconds to counter it (3, if you've got Counterspell-20).


You may try to Ward a spell you don't know, or know at a level below 12. However, you are at -5 in the contest. If the spell is completely unknown, or it's a spell-like power (one with Magical as a limitation), you may attempt to Ward it at -10.

Otherwise unchanged.

Another option is the Technique. That is, there is no Counterspell spell. Instead, all spells come with a Counterspell element. In this case, you counter a spell by casting the same spell. You can remove a Create Fire area with Create Fire. Cost is 1/2 of the cost of the spell countered; time to cast is the same as the original spell. Any usage triggers a Quick Contest of Skills. Roll against your own skill at -5. You cannot Countspell against spells you do not know.

Then you'd want a Perk, perhaps like this:

Counterspell Master
For each level of this perk, you roll at a +1 in the Quick Contest of skills. Maximum 5 levels. This works for all spells you know - you're just good at undoing magic.

If my players like this, I may try the first option (you can counter anything) - it's a broad power give to wizards, but it means enemy wizards can take Counterspell and Ward and have it actually matter. Dispel Magic is still a better option for brute-force removal of multiple spells, and it can be left alone IMO. It's kind of funny that the "surgical" option (one spell at a time) is easy and the brute force option (all spells) is hard, but Dispel Magic is cheaper and big, and suffers nothing from your lack of knowledge. Counterspell works best under this option if you stick to what you know, but Dispel Magic works no matter what.

I'd limit Dispel Magic to 6 seconds maximum Time to Cast, too, but that's just me.


  1. I'd add that if you're a magical stylist and the spell is covered by the style, you only have a -2 penalty to cast Ward or Counterspell purposes, even if you don't know it. You also get a +1 bonus to Ward, Counterspell, or Dispel any spell cast by a fellow stylist.

    It makes styles a little more useful.

    For additional flavor, you could give all stylists a +1 bonus to counterspell any spell cast by anyone who isn't a stylist at all.

    1. I don't use magical styles, but I think that's a good approach. You can even restrict the Counterspell Mastery perk to certain styles, if you go the technique route. It doesn't work for the spell route for obvious reasons.

      Thanks for expanding on this!

  2. On the topic of counterspells + magical styles: if I recall correctly, one of the secret spells available to Pentaclists from GURPS Magical Styles: Dungeon Magic is a universal counterspell called "Sovereign Countermagic". I was surprised that it didn't come up in the discussions of counterspells on the forums, as a RAW way to do a universal counterspell.

    It has an interesting and odd mechanic: to dispel any spell, you roll a quick contest between the target spell and the lower of either (a) your Sovereign Countermagic skill or (b) your skill in the target spell or Thaumatology, whichever is higher. Yes, I wrote that correctly - it's an odd mechanic.

    Of course, it doesn't really give the feel many folks seem to be looking for, since with a casting time of 5 seconds, it's no good for rapid mage-vs-mage spell-vs-counterspell duels. But I thought it might be wroth bringing up for comparison.

    1. I didn't read that one (since I don't use styles - it's too late to retroactively apply them to my game). That sounds pretty interesting.

  3. Very nice; if not the answer being sought, an excellent starting point for someone that wants to go further or alternatively not quite as far with it. I'd probably blend the two options; the existing Meta Spells would become generic counters, made more accessible as the Skill penalties involved should be a decent balancing agent. I was thinking of requiring the caster both identify and know the spell, as well as (when not using Ward of Great Ward) having taken a "Wait" Maneuver (or something similar). In game world terms, a mage waits to see what his foe is casting and as they have successfully identified it and realized they know the Spell, is able to then counter it.

    Counter Casting (my terminology for the Technique option) is useful when you're a master of a given Spell... including another Technique (defaulting from the first) to Counter Cast as a Blocking Spell action. The penalty in the article for Couneterspell-as-a-Technique seem just a bit high to me: I was thinking of -4 to Counter Cast a Spell and another -4 to do so as a blocking Spell, for a total of -8.

  4. Up at the top where you have the new version of Counterspell, it says Cost: Same. Is that same as in the original spell or same as in equal to the cost for the original spell being cast.
    I'm pretty sure you mean that the cost to cast is the same as on page 121 in Magic, but I'm just checking.

    1. Same in this context always means, same as in the book.


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