Wishes & Miracles

What’s a wish?

The wish spell, and similar spells and powers like miracle and reality revision, are not just powerful spells. They’re also a catch-all for a whole category of effects and phenomena that show up often in fiction and myth: reshaping the world, changing reality, merely by wishing it so.

But there are different kinds of wishes. In fiction, the power of a wish, the scope of its effects, and the risk and nature of bad consequences, can vary greatly. Usually, the kinds of effects that a wish has depend on its source: a wish granted by the queen of the good fairies isn’t like a wish from a monkey’s paw, or a miracle bestowed by an appreciative deity.

So it is in the Worlds of Adventure campaign. All wishes are not created equal. Wishes from some sources are more powerful than others; some sorts of wishes are more likely to go awry than others; wishes from different sources may achieve their results in radically different ways.

Before going into details, a disclaimer: in the Worlds of Adventure campaign, the outcome of a wish is never a punishment, always an opportunity1. Wishes will never be “twisted” in trite or banal ways, used as an excuse for self-indulgent wordplay, or otherwise played for a cheap laugh by the DM. Nor will a wish be used as an excuse to visit gratuitous misfortune upon a character (there is trouble enough in a PC’s life without this). Wishes and miracles are extremely powerful magics, of great and world-shaking significance even in their least incarnations, and the Worlds of Adventure campaign treats them accordingly.

Sources of wish magic

The above notwithstanding, a character would do well to consider the nature of the power which grants them their wish. The following are the types of sources from which wishes and similar magic may come, roughly ordered from most limited to most far-reachingly powerful.

Reality revision (psionic power)

The reality revision psionic power is the most limited but most precise version of wish-type magic. Psions directly modify reality when manifesting reality revision. This generally goes awry only in the sense that the psion himself is unaware of the likely consequences of his alterations; the effect itself, however, is nearly always exactly as described. The downside is that reality revision can only moderately exceed the scope of what a 9th-level spell can do. If a psion attempts to use the power to greater effect, it simply fails.

See the reality revision power description for more information.

Wish (arcane spell)

Wish spells cast by wizards (or sorcerers of the arcane bloodline) are somewhat more powerful, as they involve speaking one’s desire and attempting (via the casting of the spell) to force reality to reshape itself as demanded. A wish spell can achieve greater effects than the reality revision power; it is generally able to make powerful modifications to reality on a local scale.

As the universe is mindless and uncaring, not malevolent, wish spells are never maliciously or creatively perverted; if they have undesirable effects, it is due to unintended consequences of doing exactly as the caster said, or else due to genuinely ambiguous wording or another sort of “logic error”. In general, a wish spell makes manifest the caster’s will as expressed in his words, and does so in the most straightforward manner possible. Wish spells may fail if they have logical contradictions, if the caster makes an impossible demand, or simply if they are worded in convoluted ways. (Attempting to carefully word a long and intricately fool-proof wish spell is pointless; the universe possesses no intelligence and has no legal expertise with which to interpret such a wish.)

“The best wishes are short, unambiguous, related to matters immediately at hand, and usually aimed at a simple (if powerful) task. A wish for a sundered mirror of mental prowess to be made whole or a wish to reveal the identity of the thief of the crown jewels is unlikely to go awry.”2

If you wish for an effect of greater scope, you will likely still get it; see Deferred Wishes and Means of Fulfillment, below. In general, a wish spell attempts deferred fulfillment if you ask for a greater effect but don’t specify when you want it; if you demand the effect immediately, the wish will attempt the most obvious and simple “alternate approach” — and if it can’t easily find one (remember that the universe is mindless and uncaring), will simply fail. (A wish will not concoct a complicated scheme by which the thing you want will come to pass, for instance.)

See the wish spell description for more information.

Magic items

Wishes granted by non-artifact magic items, such as a luck blade or a ring of three wishes, are most often simply the power of a wish spell wrought into a magic item. Such wishes almost always behave exactly as wish spells cast by a wizard.

Miracle (divine spell)

When a cleric or mystic casts miracle, she addresses a request to her deity, who channels great divine power through the caster to work its will upon the world. Miracle spells can achieve great effects indeed, as they are but one step removed from the direct work of the gods; they are also limited by that same property.

A miracle spell is a verbal request addressed directly to a deity or natural force, who is fully capable of understanding and interpreting the caster’s intent. Misinterpretation is effectively impossible, although, of course, a miracle spell may still have unintended consequences. A deity or divine power, however, exercises discretion over what requests to grant, and how. Requests that are antithetical to the god’s alignment or principles are always refused; the god may even punish the caster for so deviating from the tenets of her faith. Requests for miracles that directly and immediately serve the god’s interests are almost always granted, without further ado (examples include saving a temple full of the deity’s worshippers), though the deity may choose the form of the miracle according to its own divine considerations. Other miracles are usually granted as requested, with the deity laying a quest upon the caster as payment for the miracle (such quests usually involve aiding other members of the religion, recovering a holy relic, or other such tasks). A miracle spell that asks for a greater effect than the deity can provide (remember that the spell’s effects must still be channeled through the mortal cleric) may simply fail.

See the miracle spell description for more information.

Wishes granted by outsiders

Some outsiders, such as genies or glabrezu demons, have the power to grant wishes to mortals. Such magic draws on the outsider’s connection to cosmic forces, and thus can have very impressive and far-ranging effects. However, as the magic that implements the wish is wielded by a powerful being with its own unique outlook and interests, the being’s nature determines how the wish may be carried out.

Wishes made in accordance with the outsider’s nature and interests are the most likely to be carried out exactly (or almost exactly) as requested. When dealing with demons and other evil entities, this means that wishes of evil intent will usually be granted without issue. Fiends view the granting of a wish to a mortal as an opportunity to bring evil into the mortal world; they encourage mortals to wish for evil things, by granting such wishes honestly and enthusiastically. The more vile, the more destructive and black-hearted the wish, the less the fiend will feel it necessary to “editorialize” (there is little need to “pervert” a wish which is already a perversion of all that is good and pure). Wishes for good, or merely neutrally selfish, ends, are often still granted, because it is in a demon’s interests to encourage mortals to seek it out and make requests of it, and the knowledge that their wish will almost certainly be granted is enough to tempt many mortals to make deals with fiends; but the means by which the wish’s effects are achieved may be terrible, or the wish may have dire unintended consequences. One saving grace of a wish made to a demon is that precise wording is rarely important; intent matters much more.

Some outsiders, devils most often (but others as well, on occasion) are also known to make bargains with mortals, trading wishes for some service on the mortal’s part. Such a bargain may involve surrender of the mortal’s soul (to be claimed by the devil for eternal damnation after the mortal’s death), but a fiend will not grant a very powerful wish for the soul of a character of low levels or significance. More often, the price for a wish is some service to be performed by the mortal — and the nature of the service is always such that it results in great evil being done, or some vileness being brought into the world (though the personal consequences to the character making the trade may be minimal or nonexistent). Often, such a transaction results in the mortal’s soul being damned in any case. Wishes of this nature are usually granted in a way that closely accords with the desires of the character making the wish; a clever fiend, however, often contrives to have the wish’s consequences lead, somehow, to evil, though this may not be apparent in the short term (or ever).

With genies it is different: such beings usually grant a wish honestly when it is freely bestowed by the genie, as an honor, a reward for the mortal’s service, or a favor exchanged in kind. Accidental misinterpretation is not a problem, as a genie is more than sufficiently intelligent to grasp a mortal’s intent. Depending on its race, a genie granting a mortal’s wish willingly may even explain to the mortal what problems a particular wish might have (djinn are more likely to do this than efreet). If a wish is beyond the genie’s power, the creature will simply say so, although repeated wishes for things it cannot grant may annoy it. A genie is unconcerned with the morality of a wish, and will grant any wish, regardless of whether it is made for good or evil ends.

A genie who is imprisoned or otherwise compelled is a different story. Though such creatures are absolutely bound, by their nature, to grant a mortal’s wish, it is the letter of the wish to which they must adhere, not the spirit. Bound genies can be exceedingly clever and inventive in twisting the words of a mortal’s wish (expect the DM to take some time to consider such a wish). A genie’s race and alignment affects the nature of such trickery: djinn have an innate sense of fairness, and so usually constrain the punitive effects of their wish-magic to things that will have regrettable consequences for the character who makes the wish, while efreet are indiscriminate in their wish-perverting, and think nothing of bringing about effects that harm innocents. Stories abound of clever mortals who, through careful wording and planning, wrest from a genie exactly what they want, while avoiding any bad effects; but it remains true that honestly bargaining with genies is a much safer means of securing effective wishes than forcing these powerful beings to do one’s bidding.

Other types of outsiders may occasionally grant wishes; the properties of such wishes is always closely tied to the being’s nature.

Artifacts

A deck of many things, a talisman of Zagy, and other artifacts have the power to grant wishes. Artifacts are items whose crafting is beyond mortal ken; they are often tied to forces only poorly understood, but of tremendous power. Wishes granted by such objects are among the most powerful effects in existence; they can unweave the strands of reality and shape them anew, having consequences that reach across great distances of time and space. What’s more, most wish-granting artifacts have the power to “see” into a character’s soul, and perceive what the character truly desires in her heart; trivialities of wording or ambiguity almost never matter.

However, the law of unintended consequences lurks around the corner of every such wish. It is no coincidence that wish-granting artifacts are often closely tied to chaos; the greater the scope of a wish, the more likely that it will go awry — not through deliberate perversion of intent, or malicious exploitation of loopholes in wording, but merely because the world is complex, and things are tied together in ways that not even the wise can always perceive. Wishes of local or immediate scope are almost always granted unproblematically; even such things as wishing for a castle, or a powerful magic item, or to gain some specific ability or power, rarely go wrong when an artifact is the wish’s source. Greater wishes, such as wishing to become king, or wishing for victory in a war of planar scale, run the risk of remaking the world in ways the character did not intend and wouldn’t have chosen. But the thing requested by the wish is almost always gotten, whatever that may take.

Favors from the gods

Very, very rarely — so infrequently that most characters will never see such an event in their lifetime — a deity grants a favor to a mortal: the chance to ask for anything that is within the deity’s considerable power, and have that wish be granted. Such wishes are among the most powerful that a mortal will ever have access to, although the limits of their scope and power depend on the god’s divine stature. A demigod may be able to grant requests only as impressive as a miracle spell; a lesser deity’s power may be comparable to a wish granted by a genie or a demon; the effects of an intermediate deity’s favor may compare to those of a wish from a deck of many things; and the favor of a greater god is more powerful than any other effect here described.

Deities grant such favors rarely because they are usually loathe to directly take a hand in the affairs of mortals. Gods exist in a balance of power, and reckless meddling in the mortal world, the direct application of their powers, threatens to destabilize that balance. When a god does choose to grant a wish to a mortal, it is usually because the mortal has earned that favor, by actions that serve the interests of the god — actions of heroic scale, deeds worthy of legend. Such wishes are never perverted, exploited, or otherwise undermined. Whatever the mortal asks, she receives. Stories even tell of mortals who ask a god for something that is antithetical to the god’s nature, and receive it; although such wishes may earn the god’s enmity forever after.

One particular category of divine favors is those granted by trickster gods. Every mortal culture speaks of such figures, who may sometimes grant wishes to mortals, whether for their own amusement, or in the service of some contest with another deity, or for other inscrutable ends. Stories about such figures are cautionary tales, but they also tell of mortals who, through cleverness and trickery of their own, manage to come out the winner from encounters with trickster figures, who are often said to be bound by strange rules and restrictions; a mortal who learns or deduces this, and manages to exploit it, may end up the recipient of a mighty divine boon, and not suffer any consequences for it.

Other considerations

Defined effects of wish and miracle spells

The concretely defined effects of these spells (duplicating lower-level spells, granting an inherent bonus to ability scores, etc.) are strict definitions. They never go awry in unforeseen ways.

Means of fulfillment

Suppose you cast a wish spell and wish for a million gold coins to appear before you. Conjuring the gold from thin air is well beyond the power of the spell. But the wish might result in gold coins being transported to your location — first from nearby treasure hoards, then from increasingly distant sources — banks or treasuries, people’s personal savings, the royal mint, etc. People will notice. Great economic and social chaos will ensue; the authorities will scramble to uncover the cause of this strange phenomenon; divinations will reveal you as the source. Agents of law and order will come after you; you’ll be instantly wanted for theft on a grand scale. You might even attract the attention of divine agents.

If you want a million gold pieces, better to either word your wish less ambitiously — wish for the opportunity and means to acquire a million gold, perhaps — or use a higher-order wish, such as perhaps an artifact or a genie’s wish (but you will have to offer the genie one heck of a service, in exchange). In that case, you may get your gold (perhaps not a million, but a lot; the exact number will probably be determined randomly), simply by having it appear; but when word gets out about your windfall, you may have to deal with greedy rivals and others who envy your wealth and wish to steal it, or even crowds of the poor, egged on by priests and rabble-rousers who demand you donate your gold to the less fortunate.

Deferred wishes

“Rather than denying a particularly powerful wish, such as for the throne of a kingdom, the wish can be granted over an extended period. The wish subtly reshapes reality, guiding the wisher through seeming coincidence, good fortune, and the timely appearance of helpful NPCs. Success is not assured unless the PC takes advantage of her opportunities.”3

A wish for a greater effect than a wish of that class can generally produce may still be granted, in this sort of deferred way. The more powerful the class of wish (along the progression described above), the greater the scope of effect that the wish can produce immediately, rather than in a deferred fashion. Conversely, the more a wish exceeds the normal scope of effect that a wish of that class can grant, the greater the remove at which the wish might be granted.

If you specify that you want something immediately, then you won’t get a deferred fulfillment — the wish will be granted immediately, or not at all.

Cursed items

Some wish-granting artifacts, such as the infamous monkey’s paw, grant wishes, but at a terrible price. The effects of such items are always detrimental to the individual who uses them, no matter his alignment or intentions. They do still fulfill a user’s wish, but never without a cost that’s greater than the effects of the wish itself.

 

1 And I don’t mean that as in “the opportunity for roleplay, as you heart-wrenchingly portray your character’s tragic downfall, wrought by a wish gone bad”—although that can also be arranged, if it’s wished for.

2 Pathfinder Roleplaying Game GameMastery Guide, p. 116.

3 ibid.

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Wishes & Miracles