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Basically, I have a wizard as a villain who is ambitious, powerful, and has access to nearly unlimited resources. How can I justify giving him any ninth-level spell but not giving him Wish?

Or, alternately, should I just give him Wish, and if so, how do I keep that under control?

A few details that are specific to my case - He's an illusion wizard, he's one of the primary antagonists but almost certainly won't be the final boss, and he's fairly active in the story, showing up to antagonize the players a la Strahd.

The fact that he isn't designed as a final boss character is a big part of what gives me pause re: giving him Wish, but in terms of flavor I'm really struggling to come up with a reason why he wouldn't have that spell.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by GreySage, KorvinStarmast, Rubiksmoose, Sdjz, NautArch Jun 6 at 17:23

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\$ Is your concern that Wish is too powerful, or is there some other reason you don't want him to have it? \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Jun 6 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ctenochaetus I mean, the same is true for the Wish spell the players presumably have at that point, no? Is there a reason that isn't equally unbalanced? I think we need more information about how you are handling wishes in your campaign, beyond just this one NPC. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Jun 6 at 17:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Don't change the whole question into another question. Only edit to improve a question. It invalidates all answers. Instead, if you need to, ask another question. Moreover, questions have a history so Edit tags aren't needed. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Jun 6 at 17:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've rolled back the question as to not invalidate the answers. For those who have answered, please remember that we aren't here to generate ideas. If you've got ideas, please back them up. We shouldn't upvote idea generation. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 6 at 17:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Generally, changing the meaning of a question after answers have been written and voted on is bad, because it's likely to invalidate existing answers and their votes. Comments are intended for clarification, not gratitude, so things like "good job" are very likely to be deleted, and possibly sooner rather than later. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Jun 6 at 19:17
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He does have Wish, but maybe one of the following either has happened or will happen:

1. He's cast it once, but now he's unable to ever cast it again. From the spell's description:

Finally, there is a 33 percent chance that you are unable to cast wish ever again.

2. The spells fails, anytime he casts it.

The GM has great latitude in ruling what occurs in such an instance; the greater the wish, the greater the likelihood that something goes wrong. This spell might simply fail, the effect you desire might only be partly achieved, or you might suffer some unforeseen consequence as a result of how you worded the wish

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    \$\begingroup\$ What's cool about option 1, for GM purposes, is that it gives the villain a motive to do any arbitrarily crazy thing in a bid to get his phenomenal cosmic power back. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jun 6 at 17:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Option 1 has Wish solve the issue itself using an important and unique feature of Wish, and creates a little backstory to boot. Hard to ask for more than that. \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Olson Jun 6 at 21:48
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Here's a few options

1. Consider giving him Wish

Given your comment clarification being concern about the power of Wish, I'd suggest that there are ways to give a character Wish (as would fit with their ambition) without it being overpowered. Given that it's primary function is flexible spell choice once a day, and all other uses risk losing it permanently, it seems reasonable that someone craving power wouldn't want to incur that risk. At a once a day use against an entire party does add an extra punch, it's by no means encounter breaking.

2. Give him something important to have used his Wish on already

Have him burn through his Wish for the day prior to encountering the party. Perhaps something to tie into his villainous backstory.

3. Give him a strong motivation to take a different spell

Perhaps he loves the power to just declare someone dead with a word (Power Word Kill), or has a need to use Gate on a regular basis, or True Polymorph, or Astral Project. Similar to #2, can tie well into a backstory.

4. Don't give him any level 9 spells

He's powerful and ambitious, so perhaps he's still working his way up. You didn't say what level your party is, but if the Wizard needs to be 17 or higher to be a challenge, having Wish probably isn't a big problem for them.

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Eliminate Wish from access by mortals -- that is, limit it only to very powerful beings, traditionally djinni, angels, and so forth. Obviously, this must apply to PCs as well as your NPC evil wizard.

If anyone wants to make a Wish, they'll have to find a being that can grant it, and convince them it's a good idea to do so -- likely not so simple, especially for those beings who might be inclined not to seek the least little loophole for an opportunity to thwart the seeker.

This will require altering some magic items, obviously, but that's not a terrible task, compared to keeping a campaign viable when the BBG can just wish away his problems (in the form of the player characters).

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Wizards are very egocentric, snooty, and eccentric characters. Maybe he feels that the Wish spell is beneath him and not worth his attention, or maybe he'd prefer to prevail using the spells he's honed and learned over his wizarding career? Plenty of reasons why he wouldn't use the Wish spell that go around the actual mechanics/mechanisms of the spell itself.

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