Thursday, May 17, 2012

On Wish

I’m (slowly, very slowly... actually almost tectonically-slowly) reading the Inner Sea World Guide and I’m quite enjoying it. One of the entries that I read last week was about the undead nation of Geb and of how its ghostly monarch used potent “wish-magic” to wage war against its nemesis, the archwizard Nex. This got me thinking on Wish and high level magic.

Wish, theoretically, is the magical pinnacle of Pathfinder (and before it D&D) for most characters. It represents the kind of power sought by any wizard or sorcerer – the ability to change reality to the caster’s desires. And it is something incredibly bland and non-epic in my opinion.

How can we make Wish more epic and interesting without changing its basic rules and mechanics? Here’s a small suggestion that expands the idea of Wish to encompass our good Geb’s “wish-magic” stuff.

Basically, the idea is to divide the Wish spell into three different things. When you cast a Wish, you can choose which option you’re using. [I came up with three names for each type of Wish; they’re just the first things that I though and sound batter than just “Option A, B or C.]

The first, most secure and hence common use of Wish is called spell channeling. This is the official uses of a Wish and allows a spellcaster to freely duplicate almost any type of spell. Quoting from the SRD:

  • Duplicate any sorcerer/wizard spell of 8th level or lower, provided the spell does not belong to one of your opposition schools.
  • Duplicate any non-sorcerer/wizard spell of 7th level or lower, provided the spell does not belong to one of your opposition schools.
  • Duplicate any sorcerer/wizard spell of 7th level or lower, even if it belongs to one of your opposition schools.
  • Duplicate any non-sorcerer/wizard spell of 6th level or lower, even if it belongs to one of your opposition schools.
  • Undo the harmful effects of many other spells, such as geas/quest or insanity.
  • Grant a creature a +1 inherent bonus to an ability score. Two to five wish spells cast in immediate succession can grant a creature a +2 to +5 inherent bonus to an ability score (two wishes for a +2 inherent bonus, three wishes for a +3 inherent bonus, and so on). Inherent bonuses are instantaneous, so they cannot be dispelled. Note: An inherent bonus may not exceed +5 for a single ability score, and inherent bonuses to a particular ability score do not stack, so only the best one applies.
  • Remove injuries and afflictions. A single wish can aid one creature per caster level, and all subjects are cured of the same kind of affliction. For example, you could heal all the damage you and your companions have taken, or remove all poison effects from everyone in the party, but not do both with the same wish.
  • Revive the dead. A wish can bring a dead creature back to life by duplicating a resurrection spell. A wish can revive a dead creature whose body has been destroyed, but the task takes two wishes: one to recreate the body and another to infuse the body with life again. A wish cannot prevent a character who was brought back to life from gaining a permanent negative level.
  • Transport travelers. A wish can lift one creature per caster level from anywhere on any plane and place those creatures anywhere else on any plane regardless of local conditions. An unwilling target gets a Will save to negate the effect, and spell resistance (if any) applies.
  • Undo misfortune. A wish can undo a single recent event. The wish forces a reroll of any roll made within the last round (including your last turn). Reality reshapes itself to accommodate the new result. For example, a wish could undo an opponent's successful save, a foe's successful critical hit (either the attack roll or the critical roll), a friend's failed save, and so on. The re-roll, however, may be as bad as or worse than the original roll. An unwilling target gets a Will save to negate the effect, and Spell Resistance (if any) applies.

The second version of Wish is called true wish and it is responsible for legendary and tragic effects that made this spell (in)famous. This is also quoted by the SRD in the following paragraph:

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, at the GM's discretion.)

The catch is that now true wish requires an additional and special component: an outsider’s true name, body part or relic. And not only from any outside but from a special and unique creature like: solars, agathion leaders, infernal dukes and archdukes (and archdevils), balor lords or demon lords, titans, Eldest/fey lords, asura ranas, pleromas, rakshasa immortals, olethrodaemon paragons (or even one of Four Horsemen), kami lords, akvan princes, yamarajs, noble genies, empyreal lords, kyton demagogues, elemental princes etc. (Anything below a true deity, including a few unique outsiders, legendary figures – like Baba Yaga – and quasi-deities).

A true wish allows a caster to reach higher levels of power, but at greater risk. Things like true immortality, potent powers, access to unique artifacts or dimensions etc. are the province of such creatures. Meta-gamely speaking, this new requirements will make these types of Wish more memorable and hard to get, besides granting all types of hooks, quests and adventure-material for your campaign (even if the party is of a lower level, a true wish is the perfect opportunity for an archwizard to hire the service of adventurers). Finally, using a Wish through the lens of a particular outsider gives the Gamemaster excellent guidelines to properly adapt (and corrupt) the wisher’s interpretation.

Finally, beyond spell channeling and true wish, lies the potent (and dangerous) field of the true dweomers. This is what Geb was doing when he transformed Nex’s borders into a wasteland. A true dweomer is a potent spell, with can only be used once and in particular time and/or circumstance; almost like a ritual. I doesn’t possess level requirement besides lots of casting of Wish, rare components, specific locations, unearthly knowledge requisites etc. In other words, I’m totally stealing from Swords & Wizardry’s advice – treat truly epic magic (of the type that create flying islands and destroy mountains) as a magic item research. Make each true dweomer unique, very specific and hard to get. Also don’t forget that – when the true dweomer is finally finished, lock and loaded – that it’s something extremely potent. You don’t need a Epic Level Handbook or extremely complex magic systems, just good hooks and challenging quests.

Hope this idea can help your campaigns.