Wish: The same spell as found in a Ring of Wishes (DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, MONSTERS & TREASURE, page 33). Using a Wish spell, however, requires so great a conjuration that the user will be unable to do anything further magically for from 2-8 days.Thus spake OD&D Supplement I, Greyhawk, introducing one of the most powerful and flexible spells in the canon of Dungeons & Dragons. In case you don't have Monsters & Treasures handy, this is what it says about the Ring of Wishes:
As with any wishes, the wishes granted by the ring must be of limited power in order to maintain balance in the game. This requires the utmost discretion on the part of the referee. Typically, greedy characters will request more wishes, for example, as one of their wishes. The referee should then put that character into an endless closed time loop, moving him back to the time he first obtained the ring. Again, a wish for some powerful item could be fulfilled without benefit to the one wishing ("I wish for a Mirror of Life Trapping!", and the referee then places the character inside one which is all his own!). Wishes that unfortunate adventures had never happened should be granted. Clues can be given when wishes for powerful items or treasures are made.Each version of wish published in subsequent editions of D&D tended to emphasize the first part of the above description (i.e. game balance) and gave short shrift to the later part (i.e. referee discretion). By the time of Third Edition, there are in fact specific parameters on just how much benefit the spell can bring to a character rather than the looser guidelines of previous editions. Fourth Edition, if I recall, has eliminated the spell entirely, which is no surprise.
I mention all this because I recently had a conversation with two friends of mine, recalling how much I loved wishes in my D&D campaigns of old. Their use was generally through magic items, since I never had a magic-user character in my game who reached high enough level to wield such a spell. I threw out wishes quite often in those days, because I considered them to be great fun -- a temptation that few of my players could resist. The reason was simple: everyone knew that it was my job, as referee, to screw them out of their wishes to the utmost of my ability and I was exceedingly good at doing so. You must remember that I was trained by Jesuits, so casuistry comes easily to me and I took ever so much pleasure in twisting the word of PC wishes against them.
And yet almost all of them succumbed eventually. Shawn, the player of Morgan Just, was one of the few who knew better and avoided wishes like the plague they were. You see, the problem was that I didn't always screw my players over. If their wishes were reasonable or served a good purpose, I usually granted them, perhaps with a small catch, but not enough to make them regret having wished. Enough examples of such "successful" wishes and my players would get bolder and greedier and then they'd be where I wanted them. This was a game-within-a-game for us. We enjoyed trying to get the better of one another and my players, bless them, usually appreciated the warped logic by which I would hoist them by their own petard. There were occasionally hard feelings, but not often. Cruel though I could be, I was also a believer in rewarding perseverance. Players who accepted their fates would almost always be given means to escape them, if they should tenacity. As I've said before, that's part of what D&D was all about for us: a series of unfortunate events visited upon your character by referee whim, cruel fate, or your own stupidity -- the stuff from which great adventures are made!
(As an aside, I'll note that I never looked on my twisting of wishes as "wrong" or inappropriate. From my perspective, magic -- even reality-bending magic -- has rules. One of those rules was not to endanger the multiverse by stretching it too far. Consequently, anyone foolish enough to try and do so was a threat to the multiverse and should be eliminated by the most direct means possible. Thus, the twisting of a wish was magic's way of taking cosmic troublemakers out of commission permanently before they did harm to the fabric of reality)