So I've been looking at various questions about the spell "Wish" on this site, and I'm seeing a lot of people respond with the list of things wish can do reliably from the player's handbook, and saying that anything else is able to be twisted by the DM.

But the player's handbook specifically says that the DM can twist wishes if they request something GREATER than the listed things. So what if something is almost definitely around the power level of these things or less, but not very similar to them?

I've seen people say that if a request is very similar to an existing spell, it's reasonable. But what if it's not? Yet is still the right power level? Can the DM still twist this kind of wish?

Also, in the case where these types of things are allowed as safe uses of wish, I have a follow-up question:

How can I tell if something's power level is in the right territory? Especially if it's not similar to an existing spell. When I look at the list of spells of a certain level, it doesn't give me a great idea of what degree of power that level represents.

I should clarify that I am asking this as a somewhat new GM. I have never run a campaign that went long enough for PCs to get to higher levels. I think there is a possibility that my current campaign will get that far (and potentially much further), so I want to be prepared on how to handle this spell.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Why would it matter whether the asker is a GM or a player? The full extent of knowledge of what is the expected scope of a spell seems equally helpful to either. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 15:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @vicky_molokh Yes, but an explanation of their role's limits is inherently part of a good subjective (and this is a subjective question) answer. Answering to a player would be "expect this, this, that, and ask your GM" whereas answering to a GM is more like "expect this, this, that, and keep these other things in consideration, and this and that happened when I had it come up" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso exactly why I asked, thanks for explaining it better than I had patience to. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 15:47

5 Answers 5


Just for clarity, the 9th-level Sor/Wiz spell wish [univ] (Player's Handbook 302–3), in part, says, "A wish can produce any one of the following effects[, and y]ou may try to use a wish to produce greater effects than these, but doing so is dangerous" (302). The wish spell's list of safe effects include duplicating the effect of up to an 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell that isn't of a school prohibited to the caster (or up to 7th-level if it is), and duplicating the effect of up to a 6th-level spell of another kind of caster besides sorcerer or wizard that isn't of a school prohibited to the caster (or up to 5th-level if it is).

"Can the DM pervert a wish spell that's used to duplicate a spell that's not been printed but that seems to be the correct power level for safe duplication?"

To get it out of the way, a DM can do anything, and the players can walk away. Gaming should be pleasurable, though, so both DM and players should work together to have a good time.

That said, this DM would not pervert a wish spell that's used to emulate a spell that's not been printed but that seems to be of the appropriate power. This DM assumes somewhere in his campaign's cosmology that someone has discovered or invented every spell that he'd allow into the campaign—even the ones the DM hasn't thought of yet—, and the wish spell reaches through space, time, and dimensions to find that spell so the wish spell can emulate it. In other words, the spell that's just been emulated by the wish spell—no matter how kooky or niche—already exists in the campaign's cosmology somewhere, and the wish spell has just caused it to exist here.

This reader can imagine a campaign that's much stricter with its wish spells. For example, if PCs are only aware of the spells in the core rules until they encounter new noncore spells during the campaign, the DM may rule that their safe wishes are likewise limited. Seriously, though, I've no idea how this would play out—I've never been in or run a campaign like that.

"How can the DM determine that the power of a spell that's never been printed is accurate?"

The Dungeon Master's Guide contains brief (and, some argue, useless) rules for Researching Original Spells (198), and those rules are expanded in Tome and Blood (81–3). The latter includes guidelines for estimating the spell level of an original spell. However, those rules recommend the DM do exactly what you don't want to do: compare an original spell to existing spells to determine the original spell's efficacy. (Also see this answer.) While you may not find such guidelines much help, that's consistently the game's advice with any new material (e.g. new monsters, new magic items).

Fortunately or unfortunately, that's just how the game rolls. There's simply no shortcut that allows the DM to determine precisely a new spell's level (or, for that matter, a magic item's market price or a monster's challenge rating).


We have good answers explaining what the DM can do, strong arguments in favor of various things they should do, and helpful pointers to what (little) advice the rules actually offer for how you would do. This answer is a little different, a little meta, and maybe should have been a comment but I wasn’t sure about that.

Specifically, I wanted to address this:

I'm seeing a lot of people respond with the list of things wish can do reliably from the player's handbook, and saying that anything else is able to be twisted by the DM.

This kind of gets at the heart of how rules questions are answered here in a game like D&D where Rule 0 says the DM can change anything. With that being the case, anything we say you can or cannot do is somewhat suspect, and maybe everything we say should have little asterisks or parentheticals attached, but that would be tedious and get in the way of just reading the answer.

So instead, we, and the internet more broadly, try to stick to the things that the books themselves tell us—a DM can certainly still change those, but they’re less likely to and hopefully if they are, they tell you about it up-front. In short, the ultimate authority at your table is your DM—and we are not that. We (mostly) aren’t at your table at all, and so have no authority. So the only way to offer even semi-authoritative answers for rules questions is to rely on the rules.

(And even there we hedge ourselves when the rules get wonky.)

Thus with wish. The rules say that certain uses are definitively safe, and other uses may or may not be safe at the DM’s decision. Since we can’t make a decision for the DM, it would be wrong of us to suggest that you definitely can do something not listed in wish safely—a given DM might not agree with our own definitions of what is a “greater” wish. Without the rules’ authority, we don’t have the authority to make that claim. Hence sticking to the explicitly-listed bits.

Also, just from a question-answering perspective, wish is a rare, high-level, costly spell, and it also could solve everything. In many cases, it makes for a trivial, but not useful, answer, so it isn’t really worth getting into the details of. Of course wish might apply, wish always might apply, but that’s not our call and often not terribly helpful, so it doesn’t make its way into answers.


First, I want to say I agree with answer by Hey I Can Chan: the only rules in the rulebooks about gauging new spells require comparing them to existing effects.

That said, it is not always feasible. Thus, I was using, and I am using, the following method to gauge new spells and spell-equivalent effects:

If I can come up with any spell + metamagic combination to give similar effect, it is easy.

If effect is dissimilar enough, then I try to figure out two things:

  • At what level would I allow a Wizard (or Sorcerer, Cleric, Druid etc) to cast it as a spell?
  • How many times per day he should cast it now?

Then, answer will give you level like this:

  • "Maybe 9th character level and now he should be able to use it like 5+ times a day" then it is a power level of 5th level spell.
  • If answers are inconsistent, like "maybe 9th character level, but still only rarely now", it represents a spell with costly components, or XP components.
  • I'm yet to see effect I'd allow to use often but only on high character levels. I guess I would compare them to things that works for hours per level, instead of things that you can use multiple times.

Results above will not be universally true, but they should be good enough for this particular campaign, this particular gaming group, and should be in line with their expectations.

Deciding spell lists is quite easy. Just imagine a fairy-tale and see who can make such effect in it, without feeling weird. Would old scholar be able to? Wizard. Devoted priest? Cleric. Wise hermit in the woods? Druid.

Similarly with the schools of magic, their descriptions are so generic you shouldn't have problem to assign them to effects.

Last thoughts:

Wish burns a lot of XP. Player will not use it lightly. When something irrecoverable like this happens, it is a good idea that served me well to ask "do you think it is a good/safe use of [XP burning feature]?" and "Why?". If player believed it is safe and you decide it is not, give him an option to do something else than Wish instead. After all, his character should knew it.

In borderline cases, I try to twist the wish only a bit, to give character most of what he paid so much XP for, but to bring Wish down to power level I feel comfortable with, or to give a "punishment" that is an interesting story and fun roleplay more than any real mechanical penalty.


"No matter where you go, there you are...."

In order to understand the Wish spell, one needs to understand the roots and origin.


Limited Wish

7th Level Magic User

A spell which alters reality past, present, or future, but only within limited bounds. It cannot create or bring any form of treasure, for example, and only a portion of a wish might actually occur. (See DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, MONSTERS & TREASURE, page 33, Three Wishes.)


9th Level Magic User

The same spell as found in a Ring of Wishes (DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, MONSTERS & TREASURE, page 33). Using a Wish Spell, however, requires so great a conjuration that the user will be unable to do anything further magically for 2-8 days.

Ring of Three Wishes (DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, MONSTERS & TREASURE): As with any wishes, the wishes granted by the ring must be of limited power in order to maintain balance in the game. This requires the utmost discretion on the part of the referee. Typically, greedy characters will request more wishes, for example, as one of their wishes. The referee should then put that character into an endless closed time loop, moving him back to the time he first obtained the wish ring. Again, a wish for some powerful item could be fulfilled without benefit to the one wishing (“I wish for a Mirror of Life Trapping!”, and the referee then places the character inside one which is all his own!). Wishes that unfortunate adventures had never happened should be granted. Clues can be given when wishes for powerful items or great treasure are made.

Most of the spell instructs the DM on how to screw with overly greedy players, possibly a result of the kinds of players Gygax typically played with, considering how often that sort of advice is given throughout the game.

Note the debilitating effects of casting the spell.

We skip ahead to 2nd ed for our next historical pit stop:

Wish (Conjuration/Summoning)

Range: Unlimited

Components: V

Duration: Special

Casting Time: Special

Area of Effect: Special

Saving Throw: Special

The Wish spell is a more potent version of a limited wish. If it is used to alter reality with respect to damage sustained by a party, to bring a dead creature to life, or to escape from a difficult situation by lifting the spellcaster (and his party) from one place to another, it will not cause the wizard any disability. Other forms of wishes, however, cause the spellcaster to weaken (-3 on Strength) and require 2d4 days of bed rest due to the stresses the wish places upon time, space, and his body. Regardless of what is wished for, the exact terminology of the wish spell is likely to be carried out. Casting a wish spell ages the caster five years. This discretionary power of the DM is necessary in order to maintain game balance. As wishing another creature dead would be grossly unfair, for example, your DM might well advance the spellcaster to a future period in which the creature is no longer alive, effectively putting the wishing character out of the campaign.

Note again the penalties for casting the spell, and the monkey's paw advice to the DM.

Implicit in these descriptions are the implication that anything can be wished for... but the DM is supposed to make your wish not unfairly affect the campaign at the expense of the player character.

In 3rd ed, a list of safe options is given, and then one unsafe option, even though it does not have a bullet point:

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.)

In other words, even in 3rd ed you can wish for literally anything... but expect to suffer if you actually try it. Note the "Danger Will Robinson" clause.

Thus the scope of the Wish spell in 3rd ed is basically anything the player is willing to risk suffering the consequences for having wished for it.

It is interesting to note that in 4th ed wish is not a spell players can cast at all, and in 5th ed, some of the penalties for casting the spell are back.


Wish enumerates a list of things that it can do and then goes on to say:

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.)

Greater is the comparative of great. So the things that are listed are 'great' and this part only kicks in when the player tries to do something 'more great' but not when they try something 'as great' or 'less great'.

So, for example, a perfect turkey sandwich on rye is 'greater' than all of these, but one where the turkey is a little dry isn't. Seriously, you approach this the way you approach any lame-ass idea your players come up with (and they are all lame-ass ideas - if they had good ideas they'd be DMs).

  • Is this clearly 'greater' than anything on this list? If yes, the clause comes into play.
  • Is this clearly 'lesser' or about the same as everything on this list? If yes, the clause doesn't come into play.
  • If the clause does come into play or might come into play or can come into play if I want it to, am I the type of DM who will screw the players over just for a few yuks? This is a personal call but I always lean towards "yes".
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    \$\begingroup\$ First off, how exactly is creating a perfect turkey sandwich a greater effect than the standard effects for wish? And if you don't mean that literally, then I'm not sure what you are trying to say. You've answered a small part of by question by clarifying that effects that are not on the list but not greater than anything on it are fine wishes to not be twisted. Other than that, you haven't really said much that a basic reading of the description of wish wouldn't tell me. Lastly, I could do without the condescending description of the meaning of the word "greater." \$\endgroup\$
    – RothX
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 2:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RothX RE: "[H]ow exactly is creating a perfect turkey sandwich a greater effect than the standard effects for wish?" Neither minor creation nor major creation allows the creation of animal matter (the former only vegetable, the latter mineral and vegetable). That makes the path of least resistance the 8th-level spell true creation… and, even then, only if the DM agrees that the caster can create the turkey sandwich's constituent parts with a lone casting of the spell; it's this last point that possibly makes the turkey sandwich beyond a wish's scope. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 12:57

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