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Everyone who has played a magic user for any length of time has probably noticed that the counterspelling rules totally suck. Why would you ever spend an action to counterspell, when instead you could spend an action blasting the spellcaster in the face, thus forcing them to make a concentration check that they will certainly fail -- accomplishing the same thing as well as piling more damage on them?
In addition, there's an entire section of the combat mechanics that, while spellcasters have them available to them, they are almost entirely useless outside of specialized builds -- attacks of opportunity. Wouldn't it be nice to fix both of these problems at once? To that end, I suggest the following replacement for the counterspelling rules.
A spellcaster can counter any spell that traces its line of effect through their square. This counterspelling area can be extended to their normal threatened area by using a magic weapon with which they are proficient (wizards commonly use staves for this purpose). To counter a spell, the spellcaster makes an Attack of Opportunity on the spell against an armor class equal to the spell's saving throw DC, or the DC it would have if the spell allowed for a saving throw. If they hit, the spell is successfully dispelled.
Finally, you can use a dispel spell to attempt to counter a spell. This does not require the spell to pass through your threatened area, nor does it use an Attack of Opportunity. Attempting to counter a spell with dispel is an immediate action, and requires making a dispel check as per the original counterspelling rules.
Using this variant has the following effects on the game:
- Spellcasters become better able to shut down other spellcasters.
- Sorcerers become particularly good at shutting down other spellcasters, because they can always have access to a dispel magic.
- Gives the spellcasters a reason to care about their attacks of opportunities and having a magic weapon.
- Can bring the spellcasters to the front, if they want to shield a weak-saving-throw party member from a charm monster.
- Clerics are good at counterspelling -- they're already at the front and often have good reach available to them.
I believe that the above metagame effects are either good or neutral. And remember, the old counterspelling rules -- blast the target in the face -- still apply!