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The Candle of Invocation exploit is pretty cheesy. Basically, a player uses a candle to gate in an extra-planar being that grants more than one wish per summoning. One wish is used to get another candle, and the other(s) can be used to do whatever you want (after all, they're wishes).

Is there any way, using RAW, to disallow this in D&D 3.5 and/or Pathfinder (where the item also exists in the same form)? If not, is there a setting or something similar in which it won't work?

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Yes: RAW says the DM can change or ignore rules. Done. –  SevenSidedDie May 31 '13 at 14:45
@Dakeyras, Now that I've added an answer, I'm getting around to asking where you've seen the "Candle of Invocation exploit" discussed before. Is there anything you've seen that clarifies that, officially, the Candle of Invocation bypasses the need for 10,000 gp of incense? Also, is there an FAQ or something that says that providing a Wish spell is a simple service from a gated creature? –  Dane May 31 '13 at 18:44
@Dane the candle is a use-activated item, meaning that all the material components (including the costly incense) have been payed by whoever crafted the candle and are included in the item. Ok for the simple service thing. –  Zachiel Jun 1 '13 at 10:02
You are the GM. That means you are the final arbiter of what does or does not go in your campaign. Why is this even a question? –  Shadur Jun 1 '13 at 11:30
@Shadur Because I wanted to check I wasn't missing some RAW that blocks part (or all) of the exploit. –  Dakeyras Jun 1 '13 at 11:42

7 Answers 7

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Just ban it or change it

The Candle of Invocation is a broken item. It should not exist, at least not at that price. The rules as written make it the single fastest way to break a campaign into itty bitty pieces.

So in short, by no, the Candle of Invocation cannot be allowed to work as written without becoming an exploit.

I don't like the retribution angle, either: it just seems like a passive-aggressive ban, particularly if your players expect it to be cost-free, so you'd have to warn them. Which means you might as well just take a stand and ban it rather than hide behind nebulous threats to discourage it. Particularly since creative players will find situations to use it where retribution won't make sense, but will still be exploitive.

The obvious example is gating in efeet: offer the efreet the chance to make the third wish provided it supplies the first two satisfactorily. Efreet really like getting the opportunity to make wishes, and as Lawful Outsiders there is every reason to expect them to uphold and appreciate the bargain

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No, by RAW the Candle of Invocation is irrevocably broken. The rules linking the Candle of Invocation to the Gate spell, and the Gate spell to the unrestricted calling and controlling of creatures, are all clear and written out.

There are ways to combat this abuse without resorting to changing the rules text, such as metagame agreements. I suggest you look through the answers to this recent question on preventing abuse of the Gate spell for ideas on how to do so.

In any case, a solution is going to involve external factors (custom settings, threat of NPC retaliation, et cetera), not a reading of the item's rules text.

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"If not, is there a setting or something similar in which it won't work?"

Sure. Any setting you invent can do this. "Hey, my world has no such candles. And not only that, it has no Gate spell. Nor Wish."

Joking (semi-serious joking) aside, there's a real answer for you, a gothic horror setting that PCs can enter / be drawn into from about any other official world (but to leave it is... very, very hard, to put it mildly):


In Ravenloft 3.5 (an officially licensed publication published by White Wolf, practically), the working of most spells and magic items are altered... to the worse.

Gate (Ravenloft: Player's Handbook, p112), for example, is one-way only. Whatever you call through a Gate, won't be able to leave Ravenloft (also known as The Demiplane of Dread.) Your implicit pact with the summoned creature will be broken by definition, and even the "most good" outsiders won't love you for that in the long run, and chances are you simply won't be able to summon such kind-hearted creatures anyway. (See Conjuration, RPHB, p105) As for evil creatures... they'll be rather pissed, as you might guess.

Wish: (RPHB, p117, and, consequently, p113) Let me just quote the RAW: "This spell functions only if the Dark Powers allow it to." The Dark Powers are the unknowable, totally enigmatic, yet definitely gothic horror loving entity/entities that practically run Ravenloft, trapping most everyone in their tormented realm, for example. Yes, you're right, The Dark Powers are, in fact, no-one else but the DM. So... what was it exactly you're wishing for?

Combine these spell effects, add all the other dark quirks of Ravenloft, and trying the Candle exploit will be the last thing the players will wish to do. (Pun intended.)

And, again, Ravenloft comes in very handy to stop the exploit in any, already running campaign. Simply have the Mists descend upon the mischievous party and transport them all to Ravenloft, then... see above. ;)

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You don't even need to be semi-joking about it: "It doesn't exist in this universe," is a good serious answer! –  SevenSidedDie May 31 '13 at 17:50

Short answer: Using a Candle of Invocation to Call a creature involves more than just the candle, so there is no broken infinite cycle.

Warning: This answer relies on rules interpretations with which not everyone agrees. Unless proven otherwise, I do not believe that Paizo or Wizards have given authoritative answers that directly contradict these interpretations.

Long answer:

Part One: The candle is not sufficient to call a creature.

The cost of the Candle of Invocation at 8,400 gp is in the neighborhood of what a potion of a 9th-level spell would be (9 x 17 x 50 = 7,650). The difference would be due to the additional benefits of the candle, and the 7,650 gp may be somewhat discounted because of the alignment restriction. This pricing seems to pretty clearly leave out Gate's 10,000 gp material component from Pathfinder or 1000 XP component of D&D (which translates into 5,000 gp). I take this to be a clear indication that the optional XP or costly material component are not included in the item.

A Gate spell can be used either for Planar Travel or for Calling Creatures. Calling Creatures is an optional use of the spell, and the use that requires the extra component. Given my rationale above, the user of a Candle of Invocation to call a creature would have to provide the "10,000 gp in rare incense and offerings" (Pathfinder) or 1000 XP (D&D) in order to use the Gate spell to Call a creature. While I grant that the general rule is that a magic item includes the XP or costly material component, this is an additional cost that is not required if you use Gate for Planar Travel. As such, given the pricing, I think it is reasonable to require the gold or XP from the user of the candle.

Part Two: The creature may require expensive or unusual payment.

I would say that providing wishes is a "more involved form of service," and thus "you must offer some fair trade in return for that service" over and above the incense and offerings.

Some would argue that the timeframe of providing wishes is short enough that you do not need to bargain for them. Pathfinder does not give a precise timeframe for a non-negotiable command, which opens the door up for my interpretation. D&D, sadly, spells out that "other actions that can be accomplished within 1 round per caster level counts as an immediate task; you need not make any agreement or pay any reward for the creature’s help." 17 rounds is 102 seconds. That's actually not a whole lot of time. Saying, "grant me three wishes!" and the actual casting of the spell may only take a single round, but fully explaining what you wish for can take more time.

Regardless of the exact time required (which not everyone would be willing to disregard), I think the precise phrase, "longer or more involved," indicates that a task may require additional compensation even if the task isn't longer, otherwise the clause "or more involved" is pointless.

So, if you grant that, for example, an Efreeti using his only daily opportunity to grant a non-genie three wishes is "more involved" than fighting a battle or playing Minute-to-Win-It, then the user of the candle must also make a deal with the creature as per the Planar Ally spells. This involves additional costs based on the power of the creature and the kind of service to be rendered. I have always understood the "100 gp per HD of the creature called" price to be a guideline for the minimum. Since a Wish spell can create a single non-magical item worth up to 25,000gp, I would assume that the wish-granter would desire something even more valuable than that (either magic, rare, or straight-up more costly).

There is also this great tidbit in the Gate spell: "Some creatures may want their payment in 'livestock' rather than in coin, which could involve complications." I would have to imagine that whatever the creature would want in exchange for a Wish spell would be something that could not be wished into existence. Livestock is actually a great little example, as Wish spells cannot create creatures. Don't Efreet like slaves?

Part Three: Pick one.

Regardless of the price you put on the Wish spells from the called creature, or the optional component for the candle, as long as the price is something that cannot be paid trivially by using the second of three Wish spells, you do not have an infinite cycle. Honestly, I'm not sure that a Wish spell can even generate 10,000 gp in rare incense and offerings, unless a single giant block of incense meets the need of the spell.

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Incorrect RAW abounds in this answer. Gate or wish cost more than the amount listed due to XP components. The "more involved" clause directly follows a description of a certain type of action taking place in a certain period of time: it has to be "more involved" than that, which the use of a single Standard-action SLA is not. Using gate to get an SLA wish does not invoke any of the negotiation or barter rules, which basically eliminates this entire answer. –  KRyan May 31 '13 at 22:42
Citation please. I can, of course, clarify that the lack of XP is specific to the Pathfinder version of Gate: d20pfsrd.com/magic/all-spells/g/gate –  Dane May 31 '13 at 23:15
Also, actually, the XP requirement for Calling a creature with Gate puts a nice little cap on the Candle of Invocation cycle, since those 1000 XP are neither built into the candle, nor wishable. –  Dane May 31 '13 at 23:16
Yes, they are, by 3.5's rules of XP components. Pathfinder removed XP components and replaced them with expensive material components (10,000 gp in the case of gate used to call another creature), and Pathfinder also maintains the rules of items that replicate spells: costly components are paid for by the crafter, not the user. So you need to add 10,000 gp to the cost of casting a 9th-level spell to get the cost of getting a casting of gate. –  KRyan May 31 '13 at 23:18
Pathfinder Magic Item Gold Piece Value, note the "Spell has material component cost: Add directly into price of item per charge" entry at the bottom of the table. By those rules, a single-use, use-activated wondrous item (such as Candle of Invocation) to cast a 9th-level spell at CL 17 with a 10,000 gp material component (such as gate) is supposed to cost 17*9*50+10,000=17,650: almost 10,000 gp more than it does, and 10,000 more than you think. And let's not forget that the Candle has another (potent) use. –  KRyan May 31 '13 at 23:24

The way I deal with rule-exploiting, and that was wonderfully summed up by someone else here is:

"If you can break it, NPCs can break it better than you."

If players start using this exploit, give a Candle of Invocation to every NPC. Have them meet clerics with hordes of undead, each carrying a lit on Candle of Invocation.

Or play with what PCs love even more than exploits:

"With great power comes a great price tag."

Merchants realizing the potential - and the demand! - of the object might increase the price dramatically. Or more RAW oriented, argue that the standard cost of the object is for a single use 9th spell: using it to cast at will a 9th spell with a 25000 material component... would require you to reevaluate the price.

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This doesn't seem to address the original question, which is about in-manual rules that would limit the item's power. Can you cite a rule source for either of these options? –  BESW May 31 '13 at 14:55
RAW, the item has a price: changing the price is changing the RAW. Not that I think the Candle is balanced at any price. As for NPCs using it, that almost doesn't matter: unless you're up for a game set in the Tippyverse or a Frank&K-style game, where wishes are assumed to be infinite, having both sides use Candles just breaks the campaign more. –  KRyan May 31 '13 at 16:12
@KRyan Wow, WotC put market prices on magic items? I had to go check my books because I frankly didn't believe it when I read your comment. Good gods and little fishes, no wonder the game is broken! I never noticed that, since I just kept using the guidance from 2e: the gp value on a magic item listing is not a "market price", and is only there as a reference of relative value, with actual market price being set by the DM (if it's purchasable at all) according to availability. There are so many headaches could have been saved by keeping TSR's design in that detail... –  SevenSidedDie May 31 '13 at 18:04
@SevenSidedDie It's not especially different in that regard since as you noted in your comment, the DM can always change it. It's just that the question asked if there was a way to balance the item without doing so, and in this case WotC priced the item (whether we take that as set in stone or as a suggestion relative to the value of other items) wildly inaccurately. –  KRyan May 31 '13 at 23:12
@KRyan I just can't believe they made market prices RAW. That was a mistake. –  SevenSidedDie May 31 '13 at 23:55

Using RAW, the creature who just granted you wishes and/or a bunch of its close relatives, visit(s) you again, some time later, and wish(es) something bad happen to you...

So, while by RAW the effect is still going to be technically allowed by DM, it's not necessarily allowed by those in the game.


If you choose to exact a longer or more involved form of service from a called creature, you must offer some fair trade in return for that service. The service exacted must be reasonable with respect to the promised favor or reward; see the lesser planar ally spell for appropriate rewards. (Some creatures may want their payment in “livestock” rather than in coin, which could involve complications.) Immediately upon completion of the service, the being is transported to your vicinity, and you must then and there turn over the promised reward. After this is done, the creature is instantly freed to return to its own plane.

Failure to fulfill the promise to the letter results in your being subjected to service by the creature or by its liege and master, at the very least. At worst, the creature or its kin may attack you.

(as per SRD)

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Excellent point about using in-game systems to punish players who abuse the rules. –  Dakeyras May 31 '13 at 13:44
Bad idea, IMO. It's kind of passive-aggressive, and hardly fool-proof anyway: players can still exploit it under those conditions. –  KRyan May 31 '13 at 14:09
@KRyan whatever your opinion about the idea, it's there in RAW –  Eugene Ryabtsev May 31 '13 at 15:10
Oh, I didn't mean it was invalid, I just meant I don't think it's effective. –  KRyan May 31 '13 at 15:53
I dunno about not being effective. "Don't put your hand in a fire, you'll get burned" seems pretty effective. If a player just wants to godmode (i.e., have no consequences for their actions other than "winning") through a roleplaying game, nothing requires a DM to cooperate. –  SevenSidedDie May 31 '13 at 18:28

Wish cannot be used to create magic items in Pathfinder, so that part is a non-issue in the system.

Also, in Pathfinder, the candle of invocation actually violates the RAW. A magical item that replicates a spell with expensive material components is supposed to have its cost increased accordingly:

In addition, some items cast or replicate spells with costly material components. For these items, the market price equals the base price plus an extra price for the spell component costs. The cost to create these items is the magic supplies cost plus the costs for the components. Descriptions of these items include an entry that gives the total cost of creating the item.

However, the candle of invocation does not take this into account, and it does not specifically note that it is an exception to the rule. This is, of course, because gate did not have a cost in 3.5, and they forgot to update the price of the candle. It would be very much within the spirit of the rules to increase the cost of the candle by 10000gp. Or, better yet, just remove the ability that the price doesn't take into account.

As others have noted, the ultimate issue is more with Gate being too powerful; a scroll of it is cheaper than a scroll of wish. When something is just clearly, self-evidently broken, you shouldn't feel you need "permission" from the RAW to fix it. It is absolutely a valid goal to stick to the rules as closely as possible, but this is exactly the sort of issue where you draw the line. If there's a player in your group who would actually object to you banning infinite wish loops, that's a whole other issue. :)

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Defined items don't need to state that they are exceptions to the magic-item-pricing guidelines. The fact that the Candle of Invocation is poorly-priced is relevant, but that doesn't suddenly make the RAW unusable or incorrect. –  KRyan Jun 1 '13 at 16:25
@KRyan You're misinterpreting what I'm saying -- I'm not saying it's unusable, but that it's clear evidence of an error. If there was a typo in the rules that referred to your clerk level instead of cleric level, there wouldn't really be an ambiguity. Same thing here -- no one will look at the facts and conclude that they deliberately kept the price of a candle low. –  starwed Jun 1 '13 at 16:29
Ah, ok, yes. I agree with that. But the word "violates" seems to me to be a mischaracterization. –  KRyan Jun 1 '13 at 16:41

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