Wish is the worst spell in Dungeons and Dragons

– An Opinion

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The Wish spell is the worst spell in Dungeons and Dragons. I said it. There, cards on the table and cats out of the bag. I find the wish spell to be the most overrated, and frankly over-represented spell in Dungeons and Dragons. It has a long and storied history, appearing as early as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. The Wish spell has often been the plague of Dungeon Masters and Players alike. Its power is either incredibly specific or wildly out of bounds, depending on who is running the game.

Time to play rules lawyer

No matter the intention of a wish, the player making it, or Dungeon Master overseeing it, the wish spell is just one giant ball of crap just waiting to explode. If you want to use it for one of the listed possibilities, like duplicating an 8th level spell, no problem! If you want to do something outside the bounds of the written umbrella of safety, prepare for a headache.

Obviously, this is the point of the wish spell – to allow you to bend reality beyond what any mortal can normally do, and just like Peter Parker learned from Uncle Ben: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” The thing that makes this spell truly awful is that this works both ways for the player and the DM.

Everyone has a story about how they wished for a castle and received a small castle statue, or how they wished for a powerful artifact, only to end up in the deep abyss of hell staring down a demon lord currently in possession of the said item. No matter how you want to push players to not misuse the spell, someone will always wish for some nonsense that will leave you no choice but to work out a reasonable consequence.

This has never been something that players or DMs enjoy. I do not want to banish my players to another realm or summon an all-powerful Lich ready to remove their souls. I also don’t want to ruin a players dream or idea by saying no, but oftentimes, it is the only reasonable choice without ruining the game for others.

Finding the appropriate balance

Without wanting to outright ban the spell at my table, I often take steps necessary to communicate with my players about what a wish spell can do, cannot do, and could do, if the player is willing to accept the consequences. Any of the effects as written in the handbook will have no negative effects. Increasing those limitations slightly will incur the penalties as written. Pushing the spell beyond this will have unintended consequences, except in the case of a natural 20 roll.

I also state explicitly that I reserve the right consider a wish beyond the power of a mortal, or in some cases, beyond the power of a god. For example, summoning a Tarrasque fully under the control of a player. This is something that is so far beyond the power of general spellcaster, probably even a deity, that a player shouldn’t consider this a possibility, but they will. I would argue that the spell resistance of the Tarrasque alone would negate this, but an argument will generally ensue.

Another example would be to banish a creature, player, or other major NPC. I would argue that there are spells specifically for this, and all of them have limitations. If you want to use a wish spell to case maze, an 8th level spell, then sure, this fits. Otherwise, you would incur the DM’s discretion or wrath. I often read about players at a low level getting a wish spell and wishing a powerful creature out of existence just like that. No major issues, no serious complications. I find this kind of Deus Ex Machina makes for lazy players and lazy storytelling.

Dungeons and Dragons for me has always been about persevering and finding creative ways of overcoming challenges, not just wishing my problems away. Clearly, some of these failures in storytelling fall squarely at the feet of a DM. Who gives a level 5 party a wish spell or access to a Deck of Many Things? A crazy one, that’s for sure.

Wish is not without incredible potential

As much as I hate the spell wish, I also love it for its potential. When used in a way that is important to the story (Critical Role anyone?) it can be the lynchpin of entire campaigns. It can be the one moment that defines hundreds of hours of gameplay, culminating in a final desperate act to finish a fight and save the world. It can save the world and it should be these climactic circumstances when a wish spell is used to its full effect.

Referencing my earlier point on the Tarrasque, a creature so immensely powerful that a wish spell is required to even kill the damn thing is a great example. You can add this feature to any of your big bads and boom, now you have a wish spell with the real oomph that isn’t just a faster, cheaper way to cast a high-level spell or a way to solve a problem out of hand.

A wish spell is something so special and so powerful that it should only be allowed or used with great responsibility. If you want a powerful item, make your own. Do you want to banish a foe? Destroy them and trap their soul. Dungeons and Dragons is nothing if not the perfect stage to get creative and flex your problem-solving muscles, both literally and metaphorically.

The wish spell – a pox on the game, but oh so incredible when used to complement a story beat.

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The Skree

The Skree

Background unknown - it's a secret!

I am The Skree – One of the most visionary wizards in Vathis! Also, the drunkest. I have been called “A serious threat to people of Average Intelligence” by the authorities from Osept to Leyathar. A man of many talents, most of which are magic. Except for the one involving -EXPLETIVES DELETED- which is always popular.

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