Author Topic: NPC counterspell?  (Read 6391 times)

zmook

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NPC counterspell?
« on: December 03, 2012, 02:00:54 AM »
So, suppose you wanted to create an evil sorcerer in DW and give him a counterspell ability -- say, spend a charge from his staff to flashily disrupt an incoming magical attack.  How would you do this?

I suppose I could give the PC wizard -2 ongoing to target the sorcerer, but this doesn't quite create the effect I'm looking for, in the fiction.  An attack penalty feels to me more like magic resistance than counterspell.  But once the PC rolls, the rules no longer allow an opportunity to change the results of the spell:  on 7+, the spell is cast and affects its target;  on 6- it fails.  At best it looks like I can insert a counterattack to put the wizard in a spot, with a 7-9 result.

Is there a way to do this within the structure of how moves are supposed to work?

snuh

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2012, 03:22:34 AM »
I'm still learning DW and just getting my first campaign off the ground, so I may be waaay off. In addition to a -2 modifier, some other ideas are:

Option 1:
If the fiction says he can counter spells, then he counters spells. Purple worms swallow you whole, basilisks turn you to stone, and ropers catch you unawares. It's just what they do. Counterspelling sorcerers counter spells. The players should preferably have some narrative warning, and the fiction should give them some way to interact with it (disarm the staff, attack the sorcerer so he can't dispel and defend at the same time, multiple spellcasters overwhelm him, etc.).

Option 2:
Use the existing spellcasting rules, don't change the roll, but increase the consequences. Maybe the sorcerer can redirect the spell onto you or your allies, or rechannel the magic to fuel his own spells.

Option 3:
Create a new move called "Magical Duel". When the Wizard attempts to cast a spell, staves and wands shoot different colored flames and negate each other, etc.
Roll +Int
10+: You overpower the sorcerer and may attempt to cast a spell, taking +1 forward to the roll.
7-9: Your battle of wills is grueling. You are successful and may attempt to cast a spell, but it takes a toll. Choose 1:
- You take -1 forward to the roll.
- You take 1d6 damage.
On a 6-: heheheh... Basically the sorcerer gets to make an attack, or losing the duel inflicts a debility on the Wizard, or any other suitable follow-up move.
(Or some such. I'm sure that needs work, but you get the idea.)

My own preference is Option 1.

Aaron Friesen

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2012, 06:41:57 AM »
I'm more preferable to option 3, assuming I've had any time to prep. I mean, I'd write the move different  but the feeling is there. If I'd been taken by surprise and had come up with a sorcerer that was a master at countering spells, I'd just have him turn spells back until the PCs had done something to trip up the sorcerer, but I'd wish that there'd been time to come up with a "when you cast a spell and a spell slinger is countering you" move.

(not that) adam

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2012, 02:51:13 PM »
How I handled counterspelling in the past:

Player: I cast magic missile at the evil sorcerer!
*rolls hit*
GM: well he's fast and he's trying to counter your spell, what do you do? (monster move: "Counter a Spell")

Then, the player's answer will dictate what happens. If his action triggers a move, then roll for it, otherwise, the fiction decides what comes about the spell.

Like, "I concentrate all my power to overcome his defense" -> INT-fying Danger, the danger being the countering of the spell, or maybe the consumption of all of the player's magical power (for a little while, at least).

Or maybe, "We all know he can't use magic if he doesn't stand firmly on the ground, so I quickly shout to Garrett, who's in melee range, to kick him in the buttocks" and so on.
Oh, the things we tell ourselves to feel better about the long, dark nights.

mease19

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2012, 07:07:51 PM »
I'd expect counterspells to be something that happened when you rolled a 6-.  They seem like a good monster move.  It's a miss though, so it's not just that it didn't work.  Maybe they steal your spell for good.  Maybe the magical energy splatters around them, making a protective shell.  Maybe they scoff at your spell and cast one of their own.  Maybe they turn your spell into something less powerful, permanently (magic missile -> magic tinsel; fireball -> flowerball).

Antisinecurist

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2012, 10:21:47 PM »
Here's something I drafted, right now, since it popped into my brain.

Counterspell (Monster Rule)
When the players encounter a creature who can counterspell, if they've just rested, give them 4-hold. Otherwise, give them 1d4 hold. They can spend 1-hold to negate a spell or 2-hold to turn it back on it's caster.

Counterspell (New Wizard Advancement)
When you awaken well-rested, if you prepare your magical counter-wards, roll+int. On a 10+, hold 3+int. On a 7-9, hold 1+int. On a miss, take -1-forward. Spend 1-hold to negate a magical effect that targets you; spend 2-hold to turn it back on it's source.

Not perfect, but, eh, food for thought.
- Alex

skinnyghost

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2012, 10:25:56 PM »
My thought would be that you use your GM moves to establish it in the fiction, and then either the Wizard has to come up with ways to avoid or circumvent it or else it's Defying Danger or just not possible in the presence of an unhindered enemy.

Alternately, custom moves like "when you attempt to break the counter-spell" or whatever totally fit too.

zmook

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2012, 11:04:13 PM »
A bunch of good ideas, thanks all.

I like this:
My thought would be that you use your GM moves to establish it in the fiction, and then either the Wizard has to come up with ways to avoid or circumvent it or else it's Defying Danger or just not possible in the presence of an unhindered enemy.

... but I have to wonder, it may not always be possible to establish in the fiction before someone actually tries to cast the first spell at the counterspelling sorcerer.  It would be sort of weird if your chance of success casting at Zygon depends on whether someone happens to have mentioned previously that Zygon is good at counterspell! 

So I'm going to interpret that on occasion it's okay to tell a player that, even though you just got a success on a roll, what you were trying to do doesn't happen the way you wanted, because of {x} you didn't know about.  The Cast a Spell (and Hack and Slash) move rules don't really allow for that possibility, but it's sort of required to be able to "exploit your prep", right?

Aaron Friesen

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2012, 12:28:49 AM »

So I'm going to interpret that on occasion it's okay to tell a player that, even though you just got a success on a roll, what you were trying to do doesn't happen the way you wanted, because of {x} you didn't know about.  The Cast a Spell (and Hack and Slash) move rules don't really allow for that possibility, but it's sort of required to be able to "exploit your prep", right?


Why would you jump to the roll if it's foregone that the roll doesn't matter? Instead, say what honesty and your prep demands, and when Uri says "I start casting magic missile," the second she sees Zygon, tell her the consequences and ask, "hey, this master sorcerer Zygon stats waving his hands as you start casting and you can feel your magical energies fall apart. Do you keep casting, defying his counterspell?" Much like instead of letting the fighter roll pointlessly and say "so, those inch thick metal scales aren't going to give way to your axe, you got a back up plan here?" you say what you have to to be honest and a fan.

zmook

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2012, 01:15:43 AM »
Why would you jump to the roll if it's foregone that the roll doesn't matter?

Well, it might not be foregone that it doesn't matter -- conceivably the counterspell is not automatic.  But more importantly, I think sometimes a character has to put herself in harm's way to learn some things, and just skipping the roll feels to me like it short-circuits that.  All kinds of things can happen when you roll, right?

I really like the dramatic moment when characters learn they're gonna need a Plan B.

skinnyghost

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2012, 04:16:14 AM »

... but I have to wonder, it may not always be possible to establish in the fiction before someone actually tries to cast the first spell at the counterspelling sorcerer.  It would be sort of weird if your chance of success casting at Zygon depends on whether someone happens to have mentioned previously that Zygon is good at counterspell! 


Teach them through hearsay.  Think offscreen.  Let them learn in stages;

1) magic can be countered
2) only some magicians can do this
3) zygon is a badass magician

and let them put it together.  You're allowed to be subtle.  If they don't put the pieces together and Zygon puts the kibosh on their magic missile action, well, tough cookies.

Tim Ralphs

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2012, 11:04:34 AM »
Wow, this got dangerous! Personally, I think that if we've let people roll dice, we've agreed that the move is happening.

It's like Aaron says, if a Fighter decides to stab a dragon and we roll Hack and Slash, I'd feel like it was a really cheap shot if I rolled a 10+ and was then told that the roll didn't matter. On the other hand, if I was told not to roll, then I think I'd be far happier with things. Question of psychology, maybe.

In game terms, if the wizard is says they're trying to cast a spell and they've done it near an evil mage who can counterspell then that sounds like they've given you an opportunity on a plate. I'd be asking for the defy danger roll before we made the casting roll. I totally agree that "All kinds of things can happen when you roll, right?", it just seems like we should all know what we're rolling for before the dice hit the table.

Slow Dog

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2012, 12:51:13 PM »
Wow, this got dangerous! Personally, I think that if we've let people roll dice, we've agreed that the move is happening.
The move is "Cast a spell", though, not "Hit a target with Magic Missiles", even if the latter is what they expect. Or is that cruel and heartless?

I'd go for the counterspeller being hit (though narratively trying to counter) on the Wizard's 10+, deflecting/absorbing harmlessly a 7-9, and reflecting on a 6-

samuraiko

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2012, 05:40:56 PM »
Or, you could let the fiction take over and preempt their rolling entirely. The move follows from the fiction, so if the evil sorcerer with counterspell is ready for them, then as soon as the wizard states, in game fiction, that they're casting a spell you respond with something like "and your bolt of magic begins to take shape, but the enemy releases arcane energy with a word and your spell dissolves into the ether."
This way they've never rolled, but you've made it very clear that this is possible. They ignored the danger in casting spells at someone who can counter them, not that they knew at the time, and you responded with a Move: Reveal and Unwelcome Truth.
"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)" -- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

saintandsinner

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Re: NPC counterspell?
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2012, 05:59:41 AM »
Be honest. 

If they can't cast a spell on the NPC without defying danger or some custom move then they just can't.  Its just like attacking that dragon without a magic weapon or some such.