The party comes across a magic amulet. This amulet will give each user two wishes, but the wishes almost seem to have a mind of their own.
The encounter here is each of the wishes themselves. Each wish is a puzzle. In order to get your wish granted, you must make a declaration with the words "I Wish" in it. If you make one by accident, it still comes true and the wish is wasted (or worse, the wish is harmful).
Even more importantly, a wish must be contained within a single sentence, and wishes with too many clauses in them, can be arbitrarily shortened at a reasonable point (where a sentence might naturally end). For example: "I Wish I had a sword wreathed in cold, that freezes my enemies when it hits them" might get reduced to "I Wish I had a sword wreathed in cold".
The trick is to keep it short but specific. "I wish that I could hover" is too ambiguous. "I wish that I could fly with the maneuverability of a humming bird", is both short (notice that there are no commas) and clear. Also, it should be obvious, but metagame terminology just won't work here. Players can't wish for a +5 sword. They also can't wish to gain a level, or gain an ability (at least not in those words).
What the user doesn't know, is that there is a cap to how powerful a wish can be. Wishes that are too powerful will get shortened, misinterpreted, or just plain fail.
For example "I Wish I was a god" could cause all of the pebbles within a mile to gain sentience (but not animation) and worship him as a deity. "I wish for a Ruby the size of a mountain" might get shortened into "I wish for a Ruby". As a GM, it is important to set this cap before the session starts.
The goal with this encounter is not to try to skew everything out of context. A player wishing for a sword could have that sword appear lodged in the player's heart. They could also get a sword that is very very small, but either would defeat the purpose of the encounter, and ruin any fun for the players.
With that said, there is a certain amount of free license that is expected. Creativity is a big part of the scenario, and pouncing on particularly bad phrasing is part of the encounter. Not all bad wishes have to go spectacularly wrong though, and a wasted wish can still produce a good effect. For example, a player who wishes for a stone, (meaning to wish for a gemstone) could have the unexpected surprise of having a rock that follows them around (rolling magically after them).
Expanding the scenario
1) Only one wish per player.
GM's who want to be hard on players can give them only the one shot with the amulet. Preferable for larger parties.
2) The players don't know the item grants wishes.
Any wishful thinking on a players part comes true. It's up to them to determine why weird stuff keeps happening.
3) The Amulet needs coaxing.
The Amulet is sentient, and will be particularly difficult about interpreting wishes unless the players befriend it first. Befriending it may involve simply taking care of it for a while (keeping it polished) or completing some kind of quest.
The Amulet may also start off liking or disliking certain characters. The fighter may have a hard time getting the amulet to like him, while the thief may have a particularly easy time.
4) The wishes favor certain requests.
Certain types of wishes are favored over others. Wishes that are selfish in nature may be very difficult, while wishes that help others go surprisingly well.
Favored wishes may even add benefits that weren't wished for.
5) Wishes have a random clause.
Wishes all have an additional random clause added to them that changes the intent of the wish. "I wish for a sword wreathed in flame" might turn into "I wish for a sword wreathed in flame, between the sheets". Everybody will be surprised when the player's pants catch on fire.
Some examples are:
"Between the sheets"
"Like a good bra"
"Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman"
"Built for a giant"
"Like a Rock"
6) The Amulet doesn't always remember how the wish was phrased.
The Amulet is fallible like a person is. Each time a player makes a wish, another player has to repeat what was wished for, without help of any kind. The paraphrased wish is used in place of the first one.
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? Responses (15)
That would be great fun in a game.
A nice article and a good treatment of wishes.
Actually, I'm running this exact scenario right now. It is based on another scenario where I decided to see what happened if I gave one of the players a set of armor that is WAAAAAAAAAAY out of their league. It basically turns them into a semi-divine being. Part of it was the ability to make three wishes every day, but because the character isn't in tune with the armor, they have to be careful with the wording.
I'm taking the armor away next session when a few high level clerics own the group and take the armor, along with any outrageous wealth that they may have gotten. Until then, it has been lots of fun.
I wish I had one of those... :)
I didnt love the idea as I started reading, but then it grew on me! Nice take on the the ol' wishing theme, Nobody!
5 is funny.
Have to add one of my favorite wish 'gotchas'
The monkeys's paw wish. You get what you wish for, though very evil means.
The thing about the Monkey's Paw wish is that it honestly wasn't evil, per se. It was just a very literal interpretation of the wish, much like this amulet would do. In that case, though, the paw wasn't at fault, the man was, for his ambiguous wish of, "I want my son back." He forgot that his son had been run through a meat-grinder, but the monkey's paw certainly gave him his wish. This could certainly be adapted for this plot, spawning a subplot of minor horror, depending on how you interpret things, and what wishes were made.
Thats a matter of interperation - a literal interpretation would be simply for the inanimate mouldering corpse to fall down in front of him. For it to be unnaturally alive in my opinion was a level of malignancy above a simple misinterpretation.
From the opposite direction, one could have his son newly reborn and dropped off by a stork, but then that would not have been as good a story :)
An interesting plot, albeit one that needs to be done carefully, and most likely avoided by newer GMs who aren't as good at improvising.
The twisted wish is nothing new, but the details written up here make it a worthy read.
(As a completely random aside, the "I wish that I could hover" wish made me think of the hover CSS attribute... so in some weird modern fantasy campaign, you would get the answer: "You already can hover - your mouse over a website". Sorry, there are surely better ways to piss off your players. :-> )
The possibilities are hilarious. I'll definitely use it in a future adventure.
I think the part that got me was imagining a player trying to coax a wish out of the Amulet, telling it that it was prettier than the jewel necklace the PC already had, and that the amulet was more than just a magical wish in a box for said character to use when they wanted.
man this sub is waaaay good, im definatley gonna use it in my next campaign, ill finally have a new toy i can get the players fooling around with for a bit, nice 1 man
One other possibility, although perhaps more long-term in its effects, is that the amulet has a strongly chaotic bent, and is semi-sentient. It 'listens' to any wish made around it (basically anything beginning with the words 'I wish...') and already comes with a number of 'stored' wishes. Then, whenever someone wishes for something nearby, the amulet 'stores' that wish and in exchange it fulfills one of the wishes it already had stored. So for instance if the amulet stored 'I wish I had a million gold pieces', 'I wish I could sing like a nightingale' and 'I wish I knew what is going on', and it comes into the possession of a character who at some point expresses a wish such as 'I wish I could fly', the amulet would fulfill one of the three previous wishes instead, 'delete' it from its memory and replace it with the wish to fly. This would make it even more complicated to figure out what is going on, because there would be no clear link between the wish a character just made and the weird event that follows... although it would require the GM to keep track of wishes spoken around the amulet, and possibly to create a few that come with the amulet when it is first found.
A nice concept with good humour value.