I think this is a good candidate for having a canonical dupe target.
My approach here is going to be to review the evidence that motivates having a canonical question, then propose a question and answer to workshop.
Exhibit A: Volume of essentially identical questions with essentially identical answers.
We have numerous questions about wish that all follow the same basic formula:
Q: Can wish do this thing?
A: Yes, but the spell description says its entirely up to the DM how it works out, if at all. [And sometimes these answers include a list of ways the DM can twist the wording].
These questions follow this basic formula:
It seems to me that most of these questions would be obvious candidates for closure as duplicates of a canonical question.
Exhibit B: Questions with this formula can attract bad answers/noise, and the good answers are essentially the same.
Next I will annotate each of the Q&As above with the protection status, number of deleted answers, and the number of unsupported answers. Obviously, your mileage may vary on what counts as unsupported, so the number given will be based on my interpretation of our "support your answer" guidance. I will use "Unprotected" to denote a question was unprotected during the mass unprotection event of 2020. No mention of protection will indicate that the question has never been protected before.
From this list, we had four questions that were protected, then unprotected during the mass unprotection event, and two of them have since been re-protected. That said most of the noise came from two of the questions representing 13 of the 16 deleted answers from this list.
So there is some noise here, but if you look through the good answers to these questions, they all follow the basic pattern outlined in Exhibit A:
Yes, but the spell description says its entirely up to the DM how it works out, if at all. [And sometimes these answers include a list of ways the DM can twist the wording].
There's my motivation for this proposal. Now I would like to propose and question and answer to serve as the canonical Q&A for this topic. This is not the final form, and should always be open for community input. I would like us to workshop this Q&A together, so that we get some community agreement on what a good canonical Q&A for wish looks like.
Can the Wish spell be DM-proofed?
The spell wish is notorious for having DMs twist wishes into undesirable outcomes. Aside from duplicating an 8th level or lower spell, and the listed examples, wish also states:
You might be able to achieve something beyond the scope of the above examples. State your wish to the GM as precisely as possible.
Is it even possible to word a wish so that the DM must, according to the rules, grant the wish as the caster intended?
The spell description gives the DM liberty to rule however they want, even up to ruling that the spell simply fails.
When making a wish for something outside the scope of the given examples, the spell description gives the DM total freedom to rule however they like:
The GM has great latitude in ruling what occurs in such an instance; the greater the wish, the greater the likelihood that something goes wrong. This spell might simply fail, the effect you desire might only be partly achieved, or you might suffer some unforeseen consequence as a result of how you worded the wish.
So even if you studied contract law and worded your wish in such a way to be technically free from any linguistic loop holes, the spell description gives the DM explicit liberty to simply say: "Your wish fails."
Access to wish should trigger a series of conversations between the players and the DM.
D&D 5e is decisively not a "players vs. DM" game. Working together to create a fun and enjoyable social space is the player-DM relationship described in the game rules, as presented in the introduction to the Dungeon Master's Guide:
The D&D rules help you and the other players have a good time, but the rules aren’t in charge. You’re the DM, and you are in charge of the game. That said, your goal isn’t to slaughter the adventurers but to create a campaign world that revolves around their actions and decisions, and to keep your players coming back for more! If you’re lucky, the events of your campaign will echo in the memories of your players long after the final game session is concluded.
The success of a D&D game hinges on your ability to entertain the other players at the game table. Whereas their role is to create characters (the protagonists of the campaign), breathe life into them, and help steer the campaign through their characters’ actions, your role is to keep the players (and yourself) interested and immersed in the world you’ve created, and to let their characters do awesome things.
Knowing what your players enjoy most about the D&D game helps you create and run adventures that they will enjoy and remember. Once you know which of the following activities each player in your group enjoys the most, you can tailor adventures that satisfy your players’ preferences as much as possible, thus keeping them engaged.
What we often see with wish is DMs twisting the wording of the wish into undesirable outcomes, and being aware of this possible, we see this endless cycle of linguistic one-upmanship where players try to word their wishes as precisely as possible and DMs try to find the loophole.
Let's break the cycle.
I have had great success with wish, both as a player and a DM, and this success depends on one thing: communication out of game between the player and the DM. As a player, when you get access to the wish spell, it is time to have a conversation about how the table wants to handle the spell. As a DM, this is the first of many conversations I will have about the spell. When a player gets access to a wish, I like to talk about what my personal limitations are as a DM and my philosophy for its use. Much like Genie from Aladdin, I like to establish three things:
- Wishes should be worded as non-meta as possible, though I will be flexible about this, so let's talk about it.
- Wishes that make changes to the game rules are probably just not going to happen, but let's talk about it.
- If you are cool with me twisting wishes, I'll twist them while trying to keep things fun, if you aren't cool with twisting wishes, I'll tell you beforehand if it will work as intended.
We're going to talk a lot about wish once it is available, and if you aren't into wishes being twisted, we're going to talk about it some more every time you cast it. At my tables, I have had great success with telling my players what the outcome of the wish will be before we set it in stone. Let's be real, everyone wants to use wish to make something cool happen. And as a DM, I am 100% on board with making this happen. So when a player wants to cast wish, we workshop together what it's going to look like.
I use wish as an opportunity to let my players participate in world building.
After all, this is the entire premise of the spell:
you can alter the very foundations of reality in accord with your desires.
Rather than viewing wish as a player vs. DM pedantry contest, view wish as a tool for letting your players shape the world with the power of their voices. And as always, commmunication is key. Talk about these things, workshop these ideas together.
Now, in the spirit of my philosophy of wish, let's workshop this Q&A into a useful canonical Q&A for questions of the form:
Can wish do this thing?
It is worth mentioning that I trialed the answer above on a main site question and it is now the highest scoring answer
in the wish tag, and is currently tied for the highest scoring answer written in 2021. When this meta discussion was originally had, there was no good candidate for a canonical question. This is no longer the case.