Wish Negotiation (3.5e Variant Rule)
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Wish, Limited Wish, Miracle and the like are very versatile and powerful effects. It can be hard for the DM (or the players for that matter) to know how to use them appropriately. This variant adds a framework for more predictable and useful effects, hopefully without limiting their versatility. The unpredictability and risk of these effects are part of the fun, and this framework preserves some of that. It also provides opportunity for more role playing.
Wish Corruption Ideas
Be careful what you wish for! While the DM can't say no outright to a wish, wishing for something beyond the power of a 9th level spell (+XP cost) (or a 7th level spell for limited wish) can have dangerously unpredictable effects! The DM is encouraged to grant a partial fulfillment, or pervert the wisher's intent in such cases. (This site [] has some great ideas on how to corrupt a wish, but you're free to come up with your own ideas.)
The idea, DMs, is to have fun with these. This isn't a contest of players vs. DM, you're just here to facilitate the story. Granting overpowered wishes can unbalance the game enough to ruin the fun, but burning the players every time can be frustrating for them.
Keeping wishes in balance is fairly easy if you keep in mind this one simple rule: Always try to grant them something at least somewhat useful, in line with a 9th (or 7th) level spell effect, even if it's not exactly what they wanted. The Wish negotiation framework below is a good way to do this. It's recommended to use the wish types enumerated on the website to help you come up with the different "interpretations". (Types of wishes are: Wish of Credit; Least Resistance; Contrivance; Malevolence; Benevolence; Limitations; Expiration; Contrariness; Vagueness; Misinterpretation; Unspoken Desire; Overkill; and Half Wish.)
Inspired in part by wishing in Baldur's Gate 2. Wish summons a genie or something who will try to corrupt your wish. You must choose one of the corrupted "interpretations" enumerated by the genie. Roleplay this with the DM. Players aren't limited to talking only about the wish, but the genie doesn't have to be particularly cooperative. (A clever player may gain useful information or figure out how to get a better wish this way.) You negotiate by citing precedent of "safe wishes" or "known effects", using the framework below.
DM should write down any granted wish. These now count as precedent of "known effects", so be careful how you grant wishes! (If you want a known effect precedent to have a more chaotic effect, you must include a die roll or something as part of the effect when you first grant it. The same roll will always have the same effect, however.)
If a wish would be granted by a powerful being instead of a spell, roleplay negotiation with DM as that being. DM should consider the being's motivations in how the wish is negotiated and granted.
Terms of the Negotiation
The wisher may choose to skip this phase entirely by starting phase 2, the wish itself. Wisher can try to set additional terms for the negotiation, but these may have additional costs or risks to maintain power "balance" of the wish spell.
You only get a certain number of negotiations before the genie becomes impatient and you must make your wish. Limited Wisher can negotiate up to one term, and amend up to 2 times. Wisher can negotiate up to 3 terms, and amend up to 6 times.
Step 1: State a Term
Wisher must state a term of negotiation (the term). Terms can be nearly anything about the process of making the wish. (e.g. possible terms could be: retry wish once if you don't like enumerated effects; Genie must enumerate at least 5 effects instead of 3 if it's not a safe wish; challenge genie to a game for a better outcome; use only "wish of least resistance" corruption; Give me 2 more terms allotment; etc.)
You may cite precedent and say what kind of balance you would be willing to accept, but the genie doesn't have to use your suggestion.
Step 2: Appraise the Term
Genie discloses to wisher the balancing cost or risk in line with precedent (the balance). The genie can't say no outright to any term, but can take them more literally than intended and/or make the balancing cost extreme, if precedent allows.
Step 3: Review the Term
Wisher accepts, rejects, or amends the term and balance together as a unit. These can only be done a certain number of times (unless, of course, an accepted term changes that). When wisher is satisfied by the terms, or genie becomes impatient, move on to Phase 2.
On acceptance, or rejection the term and balance either both apply, or both don't apply (respectively) together as a unit. Either way, deduct one "term" from your allotment. Genie states remaining allotment. Go back to step 1 for another term or move on to the next phase.
On amendment, at the choice of the wisher either:
(a) Change the balance. The genie must come up with a different, equivalent balance;
or (b) Adjust the term. Wisher may modify the power level of, but not completely alter the term (or it counts as a rejection instead).
Either way, deduct one "amendment" from your allotment. Genie states remaining allotment. Continue from step 2 to re-appraise for a new balance.
Make the Actual Wish
Wisher makes the wish, citing precedent for a more favorable outcome. Move on to Phase 3.
Depending on how you phrased your wish, there are three possible outcomes:
If power of wish is in line with established precedent, it is safe and granted as intended.
Reversing all the effects of a wish gone wrong is usually considered a safe wish. The reversed wish still happened, however, so long-term indirect consequences may still remain after the direct effects of the wish have been reversed.
If the phrasing of any Limited Wish or a non-safe Wish would lead to a particularly comical effect, just grant that effect instead. It still becomes a precedent of "known effects", so make sure it's not unbalanced.
Choose Your Poison
If the power level of the wish is not in line with precedent, negotiate additional costs: DM/genie will enumerate (3 + the Wis modifier of wisher) number of interpretations (minimum 1), which may include partial fulfillment, side-effects/costs in line with precedent, and wisher chooses from them. The wisher must choose one of them, even if they are all bad! (Unless, of course, previously negotiated additional terms allow some other way out...)
Try to include as many different wish types as possible in this list. Wish types are: Wish of Credit; Least Resistance; Contrivance; Malevolence; Benevolence; Limitations; Expiration; Contrariness; Vagueness; Misinterpretation; Unspoken Desire; Overkill; and Half Wish. (See the wish corruption ideas section for an explaination of wish types.) The Wish of Limitations; Expiration; Vagueness; and Half Wish (and perhaps even Least Resistance) are particularly appropriate for Limited Wishes. A Wish of Credit should be worth about 20,000 GP, and a Limited Wish of Credit should be worth about 900 GP, though you could add some kind of die roll to randomize this. Consider granting a 1% chance of a Wish of Ultra-Potence when rolling a randomized Wish of Credit from the 9th level spell. Wishes of Credit from different sources may have different values. For even more fun, you can try occasionally combining multiple wish types into one wish effect.
Negotiation of Terms
A wizard casts Wish. The genie appears with an ominous laugh, and says "State your wish, mortal."
"A genie!" The wizard replies, "Where did you come from?"
"From the Plane of Air, of course!" responds the genie, "You've just summoned me here to enact your wish. Shall we begin the negotiations?"
"Negotiations?" replies the wizard, "What does that have to do with my wish?"
"These are vast cosmic forces you are toying with, mortal! Do not take them lightly." responds the genie, impatiently. He continues with a sigh, "The common tongue you speak is far too imprecise to direct them reliably. You need me to create the precise magical interpretation."
"So I just ask you for a certain outcome?" asks the wizard.
"Well, yes. For well-known 'safe' effects, it really is that simple," responds the genie.
"And for the other effects?"
"Ah," replies the genie, "That is where the negotiations really come into play. Your job is to make your wish, as precisely as you possibly can in your inferior tongue, while my job is to use my vastly superior intellect to make the possible interpretations as (ahem) interesting...as possible. Some wishers are willing to pay a little more to hedge against interpretations that don't agree with them, but we must agree on these terms before you actually make the wish. Be warned, once I enumerate the interpretations, the wish is spent, and you must choose one of them."
"But what if I don't like any of your 'interpretations'?" asks the wizard.
"Then, I suggest you choose the interpretation you dislike the least," replies the genie with a grin, "The spell has already been cast. You can't not make a wish. If you are willing to pay a little more though, we could negotiate terms for a hedge against unexpected...problems."
"How do we negotiate terms then?" asks the wizard.
"It's quite simple, really," replies the genie. "You ask for a term, I tell you what it costs, then you can accept it, reject it, or amend it. I don't have all day though, so you may only ask for three terms and six amendments."
(Note that up til now the wizard has just been talking to the genie. Phase 1 begins below.)
"For my first term," says the wizard after some thought. "I must be able to cancel my wish if I don't like your interpretations." (This is step 1, stating a term)
"Very well," replies the genie, "reversing a wish, usually takes another wish, so this wish will instead drain twice the normal amount of experience should you wish to cancel. That's fair, you don't even have to prepare another Wish spell, you see? I am being generous!" (This is step 2, the appraisal. The genie cited precedent, a second wish to reverse a bad wish, to come up with the cost of 5,000 XP for this term, but only if used.)
"That is not fair!", replies the wizard in consternation, "here I would pay double the cost, but get no benefit at all! Why is it so difficult to 'not make a wish'? Can't wishes have weak effects as easily as powerful ones? Come up with a more reasonable cost!" (This is step 3, the review. The wizard didn't ask for a new term, but rejected the balancing cost, citing precedent that wishes could have weak effects for a more favorable outcome. Since the wizard asked the genie for a different cost, this counts as an 'amendment' rather than a rejection.)
"Ah, that is true," replies the genie, "You have two terms and five amendments remaining. I suppose that the net effect of almost nothing would tend to balance the cosmic forces out. I could build in a weak alternate effect of almost nothing to all of my interpretations for a very small cost. You could choose that effect instead to effectively cancel the wish. Since you seem unwilling to expend extra experience, I could take the small extra cost out of you physically, temporarily. You would be fatigued until you get a full night's rest, regardless if you choose to cancel or not. You already expended some experience when you first cast this spell, and I cannot give that back." (This is a repeat of step 2, to re-appraise on amendment.)
"That is acceptable." concedes the wizard.(This is step 3, and the wisher accepted, so the term and balance will apply/)
"Done," replies the genie, "do have another term?"
"No," responds the wizard.
"Then make your wish!" (Advance to Phase 2)
A wizard casts Wish. The genie appears with a ominous laugh, and says "State your wish, mortal." The wizard says "Who in Hades are you?!" The genie responds, "Nay, mortal. I hail from the Elemental Plane of Air! I don't much care for the lower planes."
"Right, but who are you?" the wizard presses.
"Why, I am the embodiment of your wish," the genie replies. "The common tongue you mortals speak is far too imprecise to adequately control the powerful forces you are manipulating. That is why you need an interpreter such as I."
"I see, so how does this work? How do I get my wish?" inquires the wizard.
"Well, essentially you ask me for it." replies the genie, "for well-known effects, it is just that simple. I already know the exact magical interpretation, so your wish simply happens as you say."
"And what are these well-known effects?"
The genie reads the effects from the SRD:Wish description. "Also anything I've granted to you before is a known effect."
"Creating a magic item is a known effect, right?" says the wizard, "Can you create a minimum-level wand of fireballs with all 50 charges as a known effect?"
"Of course! But remember, wishes creating magical items take more out of you than normal. Is that your wish?"
Choose Your Poison
A wizard casts Wish. The genie appears with a nefarious laugh, and says "State your wish, mortal." The wizard says "I wish to gain increased physical strength!" (Thus skipping phase 1 again). "Very well!" says the genie, "I can interpret your wish in the following ways:"
The genie must enumerate interpretations because the wizard didn't specify a known safe effect, but the wish wasn't particularly comical either. This particular wizard has a Wis score of 10 (Wis modifier of 0), so she gets the standard 3 interpretations. A wizard would be wise to cast SRD:Owl's Wisdom on himself before making an untested wish, so he can get more interpretations to choose from.
The genie continues, "A. I cast SRD:Bull's Strength on you, granting you increased physical strength for the duration of the spell." (Casting a lower level spell is a known safe effect. It's still somewhat useful, if weak for a 9th level spell effect.)
"B. I grant you slight but permanent inherent bonus to your strength." (A +1 inherent bonus to an ability score is a known safe effect.)
"C. I cast SRD:Iron Body on you, granting you increased physical strength for the duration." (This is a bit of a misinterpretation corruption, it does increase strength, but has other effects as well. An 8th level spell effect is a known safe effect. This is very much in line with what a wish spell should be able to grant.)