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So I know that Wish is meant to be a really powerful spell, but some of my players from my group (I am the DM) seem to have spent some time into getting around the limitations of Wish. Now, I know that in order for no adverse (other than a mishap) you must replicate a spell of 8th level or lower, with anything else becoming a probability for you to never cast a wish spell again. You could wish for a magical weapon but that would be likely to transport you someplace where the weapon currently resides. I know that the Wish, if making something, must remain within three hundred cubic feet, or you could completely heal 20 creatures, or any number of weird stuff.

Some of my players spent a large amount of time trying to create some wishes so that I cannot twist nor corrupt their wish. Now, I also know that they cannot just wish for something like 45 points of Dexterity, but they are legitimate wishes. One of them ran along the lines of "I wish for the immediate and complete obliteration of all (insert monster here, in this case it was the Tarrasque) in this plane of existence with absolutely no adverse side effects whatsoever.

How would a DM handle such a wish? Furthermore, if players are putting that much time into such a wish, would that even be considered abusing that power?

I realize that they might never cast that spell again due to the 33% chance of never being able to cast it again, but I honestly believe telling them that their spell fails is an absolute last resort. I would prefer if the answers came from experience and not conjuncture.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by doppelgreener Mar 31 at 22:25

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you looking for a rule that governs such wishes, or for a way to communicate to players that wish may be only partially fulfilled? \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 31 at 21:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Reminder: Our citation guidelines for subjective answers are that solutions should be tried and tested, and answers should be backed up with experience (your own or someone else's) of how it works out in actual practice. Untested solutions of "here, try this, I haven't tried it at all but I'm sure it will work" are not what we're looking for and may be removed. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 31 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've closed this because "how would you handle this?" and "is this an abuse of power?" are both opinion-soliciting questions that don't have a best or correct answer or solution available; any answer would be equally valid. If you want to achieve a specific outcome or goal we can help you do that, but it needs to be stated. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 31 at 22:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Folks, comments aren't for answers or partial answers to the question, even if it's closed. Comments deleted. See meta: rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6533/… \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 1 at 13:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I wish for the immediate and complete obliteration of all (insert monster here) in this plane of existence with absolutely no adverse side effects whatsoever." Adverse for whom? I don't see how this can be accomplished without adverse side effects for the named monster type, or any half-breeds thereof (at the very least, they lose a parent.) On that note, are you familiar with The Order of the Stick? They had a plotline in this vein. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve-O Apr 5 at 13:00
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The wish spell says that, if you wish for too much:

the spell might simply fail, the effect you desire might only be partly achieved, or you might suffer some unforeseen consequence...

If someone says they want their wish "with absolutely no adverse side effects whatsoever", three obvious solutions are:

  • to rule that the spell simply fails
  • to rule that the wish is only partially granted (for example to rule that the Tarrasque was injured but not killed)
  • to rule that the wish is only partially granted and the part that is not granted is the "with absolutely no adverse side effects whatsoever" part, and then make up some appropriate adverse side effects

You still want to give the character something in exchange for their wish, so my approach is generally to decide how much of of a benefit their wish is worth, and then give them that much benefit, regardless of how much they asked or didn't ask for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's unclear to me. Can a Wish partially fail? For instance could the "kill all tarrasques" [partially] succeed but the "no consequences whatsoever" fail? \$\endgroup\$ – Harper Apr 1 at 0:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Of course. The person listening could've just stopped listening after the first part. I do that to my wife plenty of times... \$\endgroup\$ – Nelson Apr 1 at 1:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I wish for the immediate and complete obliteration..." clicks fingers "Thy wish is granted" \$\endgroup\$ – svavil Apr 1 at 2:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ The spell says: "the effect you desire might only be partially achieved". I don't think it gets more clear than that. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Apr 1 at 3:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ No adverse side effects makes me think of the movie The Butterfly Effect where the protagonist tried getting just that. \$\endgroup\$ – Ling Apr 1 at 7:27
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You could use worldbuilding to inflict an unforseen consequence on the players that is nothing to do with the wish itself.

For example: It turns out that there is a greater-power level lawful neutral organization in the multiverse of your setting that are dedicated to preventing and punishing the genocidal use of magic against any creature. They target your PCs for death and eternal afterlife imprisonment in a lawful neutral prison plane as retribution for crimes against reality itself. Set the CR of attacks from that organization above what a Tarrasque would have been. Continue to escalate and just wreck everything the players have achieved.

Or have it be the case that some greater evil power was trapped in a mountain prison on that plane of existence, and the prison was guarded by Tarrasques. Because the guards were eliminated, the servants of the great evil were able to unleash their master from the prison. Chaos and mayhem ensue. Continue to escalate and just wreck everything the players have achieved.

Or do both. Or do something else completely, the Tarrasques all get sent to the abyss, get converted into demons. This allows the demons to overpower the forces of hell and break out into the Prime Material, and now all of reality is under threat by the armies of abyssal Tarrasques under the command of Demogorgon. Whatever. Get creative.

Give the players an out in that the only way they can fix things is to acquire a macguffin and take it to the place of power to rewrite the timeline, undo the wish, and bring back the monsters they destroyed through the misuse of god-level magic.

It checks out because this isn't an adverse side effect of the wish itself. The wish isn't misfiring and causing an adverse effect, so the wish works as described. The world itself just turns out to have an unexpected consequence built in that the players didn't know about.

You're letting the spell through, but using the consequences of that in the world to incentivize the players to undo the effects of the spell.

Only thing I'd consider in terms of overriding the "with absolutely no adverse side effects whatsoever" part would be to take the 33% chance of losing access to the wish spell and just setting that to 100% for a usage of that magnitude, but give it back after they reset the timeline, which seems fair.

I'd also set the wish in such a way that it can't be undone by another wish spell if another party member tries to dig everyone out of trouble that way.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried this at your table? How did it work out? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 31 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm really confused by what you are saying when you say that the PC is "misusing" magic. If magic is not for eliminating but huge threats to the players and the world, what is it for? Would the shadowy organizations come after the PC for killing the tarasque with fireball or true polymorph? What is considered proper use of the wish spell by your definition (and how do you support that judgement)? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 31 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not at an epic level: I've only GM'd twice with 5th edition, and three times back in the 3.5 days. None of the groups lasted long enough to get to 9th level spells. I've had this happen at an epic level to me as a player: A member of the party (Wizard) tried to steal Mystra's divine portfolio. GM decided to let it happen, and the player became the new god of magic: But then magic itself started to break down and the whole multiverse began to unravel. We had to reset the timeline to bring Mystra back and set the universe to rights. Was fun and epic stuff, the whole party loved it. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Schealler Mar 31 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a meta-gaming question, I think it's a 'misuse' in the sense that I think that it's too powerful a use of the spell. As an in-game question, I think it's a 'misuse' in the sense that it's genocide. On both fronts, I think that blocking it is acceptable, but boring and reduces player agency. On the other hand, letting them do it but then having in-world consequences that incentivize the players to undo it feels both more interesting while using player agency to fix the problem of player agency. I like it, and that's how I'd deal with it if I had a high-level table try to do this. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Schealler Mar 31 at 22:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ OP's use of wish has similitudes with oots's Familicide spell ; even though not your own experience, it may be a be a good example to support your answer, as the narrative includes unforseen consequences (spoilers here, but you should start here instead if you don't know the comic - and have plenty of time to read it.) \$\endgroup\$ – Bash Apr 1 at 8:42

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