Friday, January 16, 2015

If You Wish Upon a Star - You Better Word the Wish Right

Wishes in Dungeons & Dragons are one of the most special yet feared parts of the game. They can save the party from certain death, or bring certain death to the greedy with a mis-worded casting of the wish spell.

From my perspective as a DM, the less greedy the player is with their wish the less likely it will screw them on some level.

It's like the commercial where the guy wishes for "a million bucks" only to be surrounded by a numberless amount of deer - if he weren't being so greedy, he wouldn't have gotten the worse interpretation of his wish.

We talk about wishes (and Sal brings up an amazing legalize "wish contract") in the latest episode of the Brainstorm Podcast. If it isn't one of our best episodes it certainly is one of the most entertaining to listen to.

How do you handle wishes in your campaigns? How far do you go in following the literal interpretation of the wish? How often do wishes show up in your campaigns?


  1. How much of a literalist or hardass I am regarding a Wish depends on how much the player is trying to abuse the Wish. Want to use a Wish to allow the party to escape a deadly situation or revive a dead ally? That's fine.

    Want to use that Wish to get millions of gold pieces, a treasure room full of artifacts, and a twenty more levels? Want to use that Wish to become a God? Go right ahead, but you better word it perfectly and know for a fact that I'm looking for a way to hose you because you're being a greedy bastard in a fashion that goes above and beyond the greedy bastardry inherent to being a tomb-robbing adventurer.

    In short, when a Wish enhances the enjoyment of the game without breaking the themes, tenants, purposes and point of the campaign then I turn into an asshole. Because you're destroying not only game balance, but you're potentially damaging the longevity of the campaign and enjoyment others might be experiencing.

    The big reason Wish gets talked about so much is because it has an impact on the game, not just as the characters - but also as the players experience it. If a player sits down with me and works with me with their Wish, they're going to get something cool out of it that enhances the game as a whole. If they say "Screw it, I'mma do what I want," well that's going to come with a cost.

    With great power comes great responsibility.

  2. "And ix-nay on the wishing for more wishes..."

  3. I don't generally run games of high enough level to ever worry about wish spells, I don't use decks of many things, or wishing rings either so I simply choose to avoid wishes entirely. Though, I do like 3e's wish or miracle can copy any other spell so, if I had a campaign get that far I think I'd allow that use.

  4. The _wish_ spell was problematic enough back in the day that I basically got rid of it.

    Instead, _anyspell_ did a lot of the work, all the bits about working as another spell, including the cross-class bits (and I had different versions for different levels; _anyspell II_ was useless for a wizard trying to get cleric effects IIRC). Expensive way to get whatever spell you needed _right now_, but generally deemed worth it when you _needed_ a spell _right now_.

    'Creature-granted wishes' were a different thing. _Any_ creature could grant a wish, but it was limited by their own ability. A wish from a brownie might not be worth very much because they are relatively limited creatures -- unless the wish was for something they could do. A wish from an genie or demon lord, OTOH, who has a lot more resources behind it, could do some much more impressive things.

    This is where the weirdness comes in. It's not necessarily a deliberate effort to pervert the wish, but if it's too hard to satisfy the intent of the wish it may be easier to satisfy the letter of the wish.

    Wishing for something that couldn't be easily done likely led to unintended results (wish perversion or increased enmity from the wish granter). Wishing for something that _couldn't_ be done negated the wish (though I usually allowed a 'retry' to ask for something reasonable).

  5. I'm reminded of the episode of X-Files where Mulder finds a genie and gets three wishes. He immediately wishes for "world peace," and then promptly has to use his second wish to undo the first. Whoever wrote that episode must have played D&D as a kid. :)


  6. I run wishes depending on who grants them - casting your own wish spell? It'll work as intended. Magically granted wish? Depends on the source - malign sources are dangerous, good sources are not. Forced wishes out of a genie? Expect to be hosed if the genie can twist your words.

    It's very source-dependent.

  7. I haven't had wishes come up in my game, but in my brother's game one player got wished from a Deck of Many Things and wished for the best inn in all the world. I don't know the exact wording of the wish, but it is along the lines of whenever there is an inn built that has some better feature, like a painting, tableware, furniture, etc. It switches places with this inn. At some point someone will visit this inn who owns one of the others and things will get interesting.
    My brother's game also had a luck blade in possession of different players and his son's character ended up with it. No one ever figured it out, other than being magical, until they were fighting some creature from the nether regions that he couldn't hit, so when he said he wished that he could hit this thing, it became a sword with enough pluses to hit the creature. I love hearing the stories from my brother's game, wish I could have witnessed them.
    The way he plays wishes, they are interpreted literally and depending on the circumstances, you have a limited amount of time to phrase your wish, the simpler the better.

  8. I only had one situation where my players had access to a wish -- they found a ring with one wish left. They were so freaked out they handed it over to an NPC ruler to use, figuring I'd mess with them no matter what they wished for. They also encountered some efreets once and might have finagled a wish or two from them but I'd absolutely make any jinn wish be a Gygaxina screwjob.

  9. Wishes are not spells in Basic Fantasy RPG for the specific reason that making them spells applies limitations to them.

    But I do advise GMs that the effect of a wish depends a lot on who you got it from...


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition