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Any attack roll that comes up a natural 1 is an automatic miss regardless of bonuses. I'm playing a wizard and I like my touch-attack spells, and now I have access to wish.

Can a wish be used to eliminate this auto-miss rule?

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8 Answers 8

up vote 29 down vote accepted

Yes, you can wish for it, but you probably won't get it.

A wish can automatically do any of the following:

  • duplicate other spells (with max spell level depending on whether it's a wizard/sorceror spell and whether the spell's school is prohibited to you)
  • undo otherwise permanent spells such as geas or insanity
  • create a nonmagical item worth no more than 25kgp
  • create a magic item, or improve an existing magic item
  • give a +1 inherent bonus to one ability score
  • remove any one kind of affliction from a group of creatures
  • revive the dead as with resurrection
  • teleport a creature to a location of your choice on any plane
  • force a re-roll of any 1 roll made in the last round

You are allowed to wish for things not on this list, but the DM is not only allowed but encouraged to twist your wish into something you didn't really want.

Honestly, if I was a DM and someone wished for this, they would auto-miss on 20s instead of on 1s, and be unable to crit unless they had an expanded crit range.

Alternately, when your character plays D&D, the meta-D&D in the game's setting will not have that rule.

Remember, Wish is something your character uses, and your character is (probably) not aware of the mechanical rules the D&D system uses.

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Old School Approach

Wishes should be worded, or at least able to be worded, in character voice. Since your character is ignorant of the mechanics of his universe, he's unable to voice that wish to affect the mechanics.

As a GM, if a character wished for that, Sure, the character never misses by rolling a natural 1 - in whatever dice games the character plays.

The player still misses on a natural 1.

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Couldn't the wish be formulated by the character as something on the line of "I wish never to miss my opponents with my sword?" –  Matteo Tassinari Aug 23 '12 at 12:27
@MatteoTassinari A D&D miss doesn't mean the character failed to hit - it means he failed to penetrate. Again, such a wording would have NO mechanical effect - just a narrative one. He'd still find himself not penetrating, and thus not doing any damage. –  aramis Aug 24 '12 at 0:48
I see. Thanks for the insight =) I've been a D&D player for many years now, though I must admit I never faced myself with a similar wish. –  Matteo Tassinari Aug 24 '12 at 6:49
To be clear, it CAN mean that he failed to hit, OR that he hit but failed to penetrate. That's why both dexterity and armor contribute to armor class - a creature can either jump out of the way (a clean miss) or put on more armor to absorb the weapon's force before it gets to the squishy bits. If you wished to never miss, it might improve your fighting marginally - removing the chance to miss and leaving only the option of not penetrating armor. As a DM, though, I could easily twist that wish by causing you to never be able to STOP hitting an enemy - even in rest and diplomatic situations. –  ilinamorato Jul 8 '14 at 13:13
Given that the OP is specifically interested in touch attacks, where you don't have to 'penetrate', what a miss means is fairly clear. –  the dark wanderer Nov 15 '14 at 0:24

Deities can have a trait that lets them automatically roll a 20 whenever they want. You can wish to be a god.

Otherwise, you're not supposed to ask things that are part of the mechanics, just things your character, with his knowledge, could ask.

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+1. It's a role-playing game, not a mechanics leverage game. Too many forget that –  LitheOhm Aug 20 '12 at 19:34
@LitheOhm true, but frankly, this ruleset doesn't exactly help. –  Lohoris Jul 8 '14 at 13:13

In the original, pre-edited question, the OP tried to couch the out-of-character mechanics (rolling a 1 5% of the time) with in-character observations ("I summon a bunch of skeletons and cast at them, noticing that despite my superior skill, I still miss ~5% of the time).

The problem with that is that while the miss-on-a-1 rule is a relatively clear-cut and arbitrary "cosmic rule" for the player, it isn't so for the character. It's meant to represent (though not necessarily simulate) the vagaries of the encounter. So even if the wizard keeps a list of 1,000,000 attacks and analyzes precisely why he missed 50,000 times, he will see that those misses were because the skeleton had surprisingly held back for a second, or that he himself had slipped and missed the second between casting or touching, or any number of understandable, realistic and unsurprising in-universe explanations. I don't think you can wish for "none of my enemies will ever move in an unexpected fashion and also that I never miscalculate the distance between us while being fired upon".

But here's a twist: to take the normal course of events in real-life, ignore the regular and observable cause-and-effect and instead infer some sort of cosmic game takes a special mindset. The main problem with that is that if that's the case, then the wish spell is just as part of that cosmic game. It's possible that the gods themselves are, too. A powerful wizard who had gone down that particular rabbit-hole would have no choice, I believe, but to embark on an existential quest to discover what really makes the world tick.

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I disagree. Even if there are "understandable, realistic and unsurprising in-universe explanations", a fixed number is still a fixed number. The pattern would be noticed (this reminds me very much of Mistborn). –  Lohoris Jul 8 '14 at 13:15
The basic assumption in most games is that this pattern exists in the mechanics, not the story. We might bundle a bunch of stuff under "miss", but for the wizard, you have fizzles, and misses, and it-hit-but-the-guy-shook-it-off, and any number of distinctly different scenarios. –  lisardggY Jul 8 '14 at 14:46
And, if you count them all, you'll still match the pattern. –  Lohoris Jul 9 '14 at 8:14
But you'll have to make the entirely out-of-play decision to group these exact events as a miss, as opposed to (say) rolling 1 on the damage die, which is a hit, but with almost the same in-world effect as a miss. –  lisardggY Jul 9 '14 at 8:20
This is a good point, that however doesn't apply in case the monster has less HP of the minimum amount of damage you can do. –  Lohoris Jul 9 '14 at 9:09

One of my characters made this wish, only she phrased it "I wish that my weapon will always strike true." I dig her flavor text. Copied it down, with the location and how much gold (put in a wishing well for fun sake).

Since I'm DM - I'm thinking she'll get what she asked for. Her weapon won't miss. But the specifics - that's the fun stuff. It could hit her or her allies some of the time, too. Maybe even most of the time, if it's the only one she ever uses. Check out some of the example "cursed weapons," for things such as this. The wish spell encourages the DM to be spiteful because they want to emphasize the "be careful what you wish for." It's just like a character making a deal with an arch-devil - it goes in their favor until the fiend wishes otherwise.

Striving for mechanics, I would make that run badly 100% of the time because it unravels the fantasy feel of the game. If they worded it to 'never accidentally hit their friends,' or 'never drop my weapon' as often happens with a botch, sure they could probably have it. But to tear at the edges of imagination by rule grinding, definite no.

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Mechanics-wise, I don't think that wish is unreasonable. I personally try to houserule away the "1 always misses on attacks" rules whenever I get the chance, as I feel that having a 5% chance to automatically miss, no matter your skill, feels kind of crappy. If the player phrases the wish in a way that makes some sense in-game (for example, "I wish that my spells would never fizzle."), then I'd probably give it to them. I mean, the ability to hit 5% more (which is the most that this wish can get you, barring alternate critical miss rules) is absolutely on par with getting 15000gp worth of stuff, or getting +1 to a stat permanently.

While this is most definitely outside of the standard list of wishes, I don't think that a player getting this wish would be that bad.

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There are better ways to house-rule away the automatic hit/miss than allowing a Wizard's Wish to break the 4th wall and alter something which doesn't even exist within his universe. For instance, one common rule is to have a roll of 1 count as a -5 (spectacular blunder), and a 20 count as a 25 (exceptional success) with no automatic success/failure. The result is a Kobold will never be able to automatically hit The Knight Who Is Pretty Much Invincible, and the Legendary Wizard of Ultimate Facemelting will always be able to facemelt a kobold even with the worst luck. –  doppelgreener Aug 21 '12 at 2:52
@SevenSidedDie: Maybe something like, "I wish that my spells would never fizzle.", while explaining out of game what mechanical effect he's going for. Honestly though, half of what would make me okay with it is the player coming up with an interesting wording that I haven't thought of. –  DuckTapeAl Aug 22 '12 at 0:17
@JonathanHobbs: I absolutely agree, but if I'm not using a houserule like that, and the player could come up with a wording that was creative and got the point across, I'd be totally on board with a wish like this. –  DuckTapeAl Aug 22 '12 at 0:19
@Vatine It doesn't say you have to screw the player over in the rules, and I prefer to give my players more than they expect, rather than subvert their intention. The rule you're probably thinking of is "You may try to use a wish to produce greater effects than these, but doing so is dangerous. (The wish may pervert your intent into a literal but undesirable fulfillment or only a partial fulfillment, at the GM's discretion.)" The GM is sort of encouraged to subvert the wish, but the words "may" and "GM's discretion" are used, so subversion is not required. –  DuckTapeAl Aug 29 '12 at 2:30

Can you? Sure. The mechanics of the wish spell, and even limited wish, allow you to wish for whatever you want. But there is some strangeness in the spell descriptions that you should be aware of.

There is a bit of strangeness of wording in the spell descriptions, however. As @thedarkwanderer pointed out in a comment on my original answer, limited wish actually buries the very thing you're asking for in its spell description, though only for one attack per casting. It doesn't get a bullet point of its own in the list of "safe" wishes, but it is explicitly called out in the entry for "any other effect whose power level is in line with the above effects" as an example. At the time of this edit, every answer on this page seems to have overlooked it; I'm only just correcting mine now.

But there is room for some rules-lawyering here, because the description of wish doesn't list it as a safe effect, nor does it explicitly state that it can do anything limited wish can do. I would argue that it would be very, very strange that something would be safe for limited wish but not for wish, particularly since the one-line description of wish in the Sor/Wiz spell list is "As limited wish, but with fewer limits". Even if one were to rule that the effect is not directly safe for wish, you could get it by duplicating limited wish, since the latter is a Sor/Wiz7 spell.

Is it safe to ask for this forever using a wish? Probably not. Since at least 3.0 (and one can argue that this existed in a lesser form in previous editions as well), the description of wish has come with a list of "safe" effects that you can wish for without having to worry about side-effects. If you go outside those bounds, then the DM is free to apply "creative interpretation" or partial effects, or even deny the wish outright, and changing this rule is out-of-bounds on both spell descriptions. @thedarkwanderer mentions the possibility of getting limited wish at will, but I'd be forced to argue that getting a 7th-level spell as an at-will spell-like ability is definitely unsafe, and for that spell to be limited wish would be even more broken.

That said, there are safe ways to reduce the risk of missing. If you've got the resources, for example, you can safely wish to reroll a missed attack: you'll still miss if you roll a second natural 1, but the odds of that happening are only 5%. If you could pay enough XP to cover the cost, you could even wish for a ring that let you reroll an attack 1/day (the psionic power Second Chance has potential as a model for this).

Incidentally, in the interest of game balance, if someone were to try this, I would argue that making an attack automatically hit means that an attack roll is never made. You can't miss, but you can't crit either, unless you're trying to perform a coup de grace (which explicitly auto-hits and auto-crits).

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...Except Limited Wish includes "automatically hit no matter what" as an option, so you'd just grab that at-will/continually instead of Wish 1/day. –  the dark wanderer Aug 15 at 7:18
@thedarkwanderer: Ah; I see where it says that now. It's easy to miss, since it doesn't get its own bullet point in the list of safe effects, but is explicitly listed as an example of "any other effect whose power level is in line with the above effects". But you are right. I do find it odd that wish doesn't have this in the description, but I think it's reasonable to rule that anything safe for limited wish is also safe for wish (or at least that it would be very strange to not rule this way). Good catch. –  The Spooniest Aug 17 at 11:51

When it comes to things like this I prefer to deny the character his wish and then explain outside of the game why: if I gave it to him that it would make him the perfect swordsman, and perfect does not exist, for if you have nothing to strive for then why take up the sword at all?

However I do not deny the wish entirely and meet the character halfway. For instance, I would suggest to the player they wish for the ability to cast True Strike, and give them the ability to cast it a number of times equal to their INT modifier or some such adaption. Cruel but fair.

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True strike has exactly zero benefit in the specific situation he is seeking to improve: if you already only miss on a 1, then with a +20 additional bonus, you'll still only miss on a 1. –  Matthew Najmon Jul 20 '14 at 7:08
It was a suggestion of Compromise. –  Novian Jul 20 '14 at 20:17
A compromise would be giving him a lesser version of what he's asking for, not giving him something completely unrelated to what he's asking for. The nature of the original request, and the explanation accompanying it, strongly imply that this character would gain virtually no benefit at all from the True Strike ability you propose. On top of that, he already has "the ability to cast True Strike", as a wizard of at least 17th level, so having him wish for that ability (a) is just silly, and (b) should probably just add it to his spellbook. –  Matthew Najmon Jul 21 '14 at 10:42

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