10
\$\begingroup\$

Is it in any way gamebreaking, if I let a player use his wish to change a function of the green flame blade cantrip?

As a group of long year friends, we ruled that we always speak about the things the DM rules and talk about if it was right or acceptable for the players. I would never let the player speak his wish and then surprise him with an unforeseen bad consequence. We ruled that we talk about the wish and what would probably happen, if someone wishes that.

I just don't know if it's gamebreaking, if we allow it.

For example the green flame blade. The player wishes that the damage for the second target can also be dealt to the first target without the need of a second target in the first place. That means double damage output for a single target. But in the end the damage stays the same, except that it hits one instead of 2 targets.

In summary, I want to implement a house rule where a player can use green flame blade with a single available opponent, applying the complete damage to that opponent. Would this be gamebreaking if the player has to use a wish spell to enable the change?

He could word it like: I wish that all the power of my green blade spell directs only to a single target. But like I said I always talk with the player and listen to their view on this subject. So I don't care about the wording. We allow it or we don't.

\$\endgroup\$
6
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jan 2 at 14:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ How often does the situation of a single target being the priority occur in your games? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Jan 2 at 15:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Serious Wouldn't that occur any time enemies aren't adjacent? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jan 2 at 15:44
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 yes, and how often this occurs is pretty important. If all fights are against a single higher CR enemy this ability becomes far more important than if they commonly fight against multiple enemies. I know mostly it is a bit of one and a bit of another, but figured it was worth checking. This might be a player who took an AoE they have never had a good chance of using and are frustrated, so trying to make it fit how the game is working. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Jan 2 at 15:46
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a reason you wouldn't apply the change to all casts of green flame blade? That seems the easiest way to 'balance' it; enemies and allies alike would also benefit from the change. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Jan 2 at 16:09
22
\$\begingroup\$

Let's look at what you're asking here:

In summary, I want to implement a house rule where a player can use green flame blade with a single available opponent, applying the complete damage to that opponent. Would this be gamebreaking if the player has to use a wish spell to enable the change?

It seems like you have 2 possible approaches: simply implementing this change as a house rule, or allowing a player to use the wish spell to change the rules.

What if you implement this change as a house rule?

If you look here you can find where someone has calculated the average damage for a wide variety of melee attacks & cantrips. Against a single target the green flame blade cantrip is slightly better than just hitting with a martial weapon. Against two or more targets the green flame blade is almost as good as a pure fighter with all their extra attacks. Your player is essentially asking to do almost as much damage with their attacks a pure fighter in all (melee-range) situations, plus keep all of their other spells and class abilities that a fighter doesn't get.

That's a very strong option, and if you have another player with a fighter character then you should expect them to be jealous. But even if you're OK with that aspect of the change, another aspect to consider is the distorting effect it has on other classes. Any class that wants to hit targets in melee but does not get extra attacks (most notable rogues, but also some other classes & archetypes), almost has to pick up this cantrip; it just offers too much single-target damage to not be using it instead of a regular attack.

In short, this won't be game-breaking, but it will definitely be game-distorting. Proceed at your own risk.

What if a player implements this change via the wish spell?

First, most of the above concerns apply. If the change is only for the caster of wish then that's a straight-up permanent buff to that character that nobody else receives. If the change is to everyone then it has the additional distorting changes mentioned above. The real issue, though, is the precedent set by allowing a player to use the wish spell to change the mechanics of the game.

While the books for D&D don't really delve into this very much, one broad approach for understanding roleplaying games in general is to separate play into two "layers": the "fiction" layer is the world that the GM & players are collectively describing, while the "game" layer is the set of rules the game system provides for determining the outcome of uncertain events in the "fiction" layer. When Anna describes her orc barbarian, Grogak, striking a goblin with his greataxe, that description is in the fiction. It is then translated down into the game rules as an attack. Anna rolls the attack, hits, rolls damage, and Bob the GM tells her that the goblin has been reduced to zero hit points. That result is then translated back up into the fiction layer to a description of Grogak striking the hapless goblin and cleaving it in two in a shower of blood & entrails.

Allowing a player to use the wish spell to change the fiction layer is fine; that's what the wish spell is for, making changes to the fictional world. Allowing a player to use the wish spell to change the rules layer, however, is deeply dangerous. Allowing a player to do so, regardless of how tame the wish, sets a precedent that this sort of thing is allowed. While your player has chosen a relatively mild rules change (though not one without consequences, as described above), there are other much more dramatic rules changes that could be wished for (and some players have wished for, as can be seen on this site), and if you allowed the small change then players will argue that you should also allow larger changes, and then still-larger changes, and so on. If you give a mouse a cookie...

The text of the wish spell explicitly encourages GMs to twist wishes that don't draw from the set list of reliable effects (and I think we can all agree that what your player is asking for is much stronger than anything on that list). In general I would recommend simply not allowing wishes to change the rules layer, but if you do choose to allow it then you should strongly consider twisting the change so that it has a downside that discourages players from making such changes. In cases where players are asking for even more powerful changes, you might even twist it such that result of their wish is entirely bad (though I feel that would be overkill in your current case).

In this case you might modify the spell so that when the character deals the second damage to the same target as the first damage, the character also takes the second damage. The player thus has that ability to focus the spell's damage on a single target as an option, but it's not an option they'll be choosing when they don't really need it. You might even describe it as reality twisting to punish them for making such an ambitious wish (after all, in the fiction layer they've effectively wished for a change in how magic itself works).

\$\endgroup\$
7
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank for this detailed answer. I will consider everything you mentioned. The drawback with the option do focus the damage on one creature and hurt myself in this progress sounds really good. \$\endgroup\$ – Nawal Jan 2 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even suffering wish stress (and the risk of never being able to cast it again) is a pretty strong negative on its own. As you say, this wish doesn't need a big negative, so that along could be sufficient. (No mechanical effect, with a narrative description like "plucking at the weave of the multiverse, but it snaps back" for efforts to try to rewrite rules). \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jan 3 at 9:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting idea to have it also damage you. In that case the magical "engineering" explanation could be that you discover a way to channel the damage out through your weapon (if you choose to have it jump to you) since you're still casting the spell. "Feedback loop" might enter into the description for why you can't avoid having it damage you, if you choose to have it jump to yourself. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jan 3 at 9:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your proposed "twist" (applying aversge 18,5 damage to the PC) sounds like something, which amounts to just saying "no, you can't wish for this", or at least I as a player would not do it then. If it was "free" to enable this, then sure, but the chance of never being able to cast a Wish again for an almost unusable feature. Maybe it'd work with less damage to self, but not that much. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Jan 3 at 9:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ One might, perhaps, allow the player to wish for an item that grants the effect they want, which then also provides a hook for a wide variety of caveats and limitations, such as limited uses per day, requiring attunement, or carrying a malus of some kind. As an item, it would of course be pilferable / destructable, which would provide an avenue to back out if it turns out not to work well. The item could have a story hook, too, such as being desperately desired by Big Bad Evil Guy. \$\endgroup\$ – John Bollinger Jan 3 at 16:42
-3
\$\begingroup\$

Broadly speaking, it's not game breaking, because you're not increasing the overall damage dealt.

Concentrating damage onto one opponent could be useful for reducing enemy numbers or killing an enemy who threatens your space, but routinely damaging two opponents on your turn can also be useful. This sounds to me like a creative, but not game-breaking use of the Wish spell. It's also very easy to adjust for as a DM, because multiple lower CR enemies could still be a challenge.

\$\endgroup\$
3
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I’ve removed the additional commentary that wasn’t relevant to this answer. You should leave it as a comment on the question instead. The full text can be recovered through the revision history. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jan 2 at 17:30
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Concentrated damage to take a target down before it gets more turns has a large value given how short 5e combats often are. Splash damage is nice if it's free, or a lot more total damage than you can do to 1 target, but unless you expect your primary target to be dead before their next turn from your and other party attacks, you would normally choose to focus damage. (There can be exceptions for various mechanics like breaking concentration, but I think you're underestimating the value of single-target damage, and just how much this is total with one cantrip.) \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jan 3 at 10:01
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Consider two targets with 29 HP, and an attack that deals 15 damage. If you deal it twice to a target, you only get attacked once on the following turn. If you deal it once to both of them, however, you get attacked twice (which is remarkably different). \$\endgroup\$ – AnalysisStudent0414 Jan 3 at 13:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.