In my D&D game, the spell wish doesn't work after you cast it a certain amount of times.

The relevant portion of the wish description (emphasis mine):

Finally, there is a 33 percent chance that you are unable to cast wish ever again if you suffer this Stress.

Magic 101


Imagine an ocean, infinitely big, that exists above the Material Plane. That ocean is the Weave, and it is full of magic. That ocean has a thousands of little streams of magic, called Souls, that connects every living being to the Weave. The Weave is too far away for any mortal being too use, but the Soul is easily accessible. When a person uses magic, they draw on the power of the Soul. Powerful wizards have essentially widened their Soul by using so much magic it erodes the "riverbank", and as such can use much more magic in their souls.


Essence is what the universe thinks of you; what YOU are. Imagine a paragraph, that describes every facet of who you are. What you think, how you look, everything. Using powerful magic, you can change something's essence. The more you change something's essence, the more Mana it requires.


When you cast a spell, you draw on the power of your Soul in order to change the universe. The larger the change, the more magic it requires, and so people's magical ability is limited by the power of their soul.

How Wish Works

When you cast Wish, you create essentially an incredibly powerful transmitter, which sends a signal to the Weave. This signal tells the Weave what you want it to do, and as such Wish can do incredibly powerful magic.

My question is: Why can't you keep casting Wish

  • $\begingroup$ What is the difference between a wish and "casting a thunderbolt"? I mean, the latter can be conceptually seen as "I wish a thunderbolt will jump from my magic wand and strike the thingy I'm pointing the wand towards". $\endgroup$ Nov 18 '21 at 0:58
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ This is an open ended question that is asking us to do the brainstorming and worldbuilduilding for you. Can you edit this to ask a more scope limited question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 18 '21 at 1:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Entirely opinion based, voted to close. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Nov 18 '21 at 6:10
  • $\begingroup$ It's about a third-party world, so it's hard to determine the boundary between what you invent and what you are just inspiring yourself from, and my reason to vote to close. On WB you could inspire from existing worlds but you clearly need to give the boundaries between existing and there must be clearly your invention and your own creation behind. Just know D&D magic is heavily game oriented, so logical explanations are left in favor of game balancing and, in the case of the Wish spell, heavily Game master-ruled. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Nov 18 '21 at 10:39
  • $\begingroup$ (I agree with others, tough, it's also opinion-based as you don't define precisely what are the relevant magic rules defined; It's impossible therefore to determine the consequences or reasons, as we can just say "because magic works like that") $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Nov 18 '21 at 10:47

The wish alters the Wizard's Essence:

Normally, spells are under control of the wizard casting them. The wish is pure fulfillment of desire, which is shaped not by the wizard, but directly by the weave. It's a massive rush of raw energy (like overclocking). Normally, the soul has a certain amount of flexibility to "expand" to deal with a short-term rush of energy. Repeated flexing expands the capacity of the soul. To handle this massive rush, the wizard's soul has to have it's essence changed. Each time you use a wish, those "eroding banks" of the soul risk being completely washed away. The wish (controlled by the weave), on the fly, adjusts the essence of the soul to preserve the soul. After all, the weave/wish assumes the wizard doesn't want to die or destroy their soul, right?

But remaking the soul to survive the rush of the wish in such a manner permanently alters the essence of the soul to make it less compatible with such surges of power. Each wish is more likely to change the soul to be permanently "fixed" so the wizard can no longer channel that large of an excess of magic out of self preservation. The soul can still flex, but the soul's upper limit of flexing is permanently reduced, and the soul no longer is compatible with further wishes.


The real reason: wish is absolutely powerful and being able to cast it too often and with no risks would give any caster that knows it the power to become borderline divine in terms of power.

The reason as you're asking it: let's picture the act of using magic as a Japanese goldfish scooping game:

Before I continue, just to clarify, the game is essentially about scooping goldfish from a tank into a bowl of water using a scooper with a piece of thin paper that serves as a net, the player must be careful not to rip the paper and must scoop as many goldfish as possible.

With that explained, instead picture the weave not as an ocean, but as the fish tank, filled with various fish of different shapes and sizes. When casting a spell, it's as if the wizard's soul acted as the paper scooper, scooping a fish equivalent to the spell they want to cast. This comparison also explains why wizards can only cast so many spells depending on level, as they level up, it's as if their souls became the equivalent of a better scooper with thicker paper, capable of getting bigger fish and taking more punishment until it rips and you have to stop to fix it, also known as a long rest.

Now, smaller and slower fish (spells) are easy to catch and put little stress on the wizard's scooper (or soul power) even at low levels, and thus can often be cast without risk. Now things like wish,those aren't as easy. Wish is a 9th level spell, a type of spell so powerful it can bend reality itself to a much larger degree than, say, summoning magic missiles from thin air. If a 1st level spell is a small goldfish and a 9th level spell is almost the size of a sardine, wish is almost like trying to get a catfish with that same scooper of yours. It's tough, it takes a lot of effort just to pull it off and chances are that if you're not careful and try to get a fish that's too big (aka try to create a larger effect through the spell, say get a perfect duplicate of the wand of Orcus completely loyal to you and just as powerful), you risk permanently damaging your "scooper", and unlike the paper net, the scooper can't be replaced or fixed through resting, no matter for how long. It still works for the smaller fish and sardines, but for the heavy wish? It just can't, your subconscious prevents you from doing so, as even attempting to cast it again would require your soul to use more power than it can actually deliver, or in your own example, you'd leave your transmitter broken beyond repair, which would at best cause you to die and at worst could destroy your very soul as it twists itself apart like a muscle torn from flexing beyond what it could ever handle.


Musicians disease

There is a little known and rare phenomenon that can start with people practicing again and again. They are often in the top of their fields and often in music. Then one day, seemingly out if the blue, they can't. Their muscles lock up because all their neural pathways suddenly only generate garbage.

Why this happens is unknown. The best guess is that the neural pathways for this particular activity are improved to such extent with myelin and the like that something goes wrong. Maybe it's a bit like stress and these particular neurons suffer a burn out. It is still undecided.

What we do know is that they can't do it anymore. Your magic can be the same. A wish takes practice and power. Even in a short time it can take so much of a person, there's an average chance of 33% that someone just loses their ability to draw the power. Like a burn out, the stress is too much on the magic pathways. Their improvements to the magic channels too much, so something goes wrong. Or in your own vernacular: the riverbank has eroded too much. This damage has caused it to now flow differently, leading to the loss of magic. Like a river suddenly finding a path around a lake, as it eroded a hill to a different valley.


You're using your own lore in combination with a mechanical feature. Sure, the Weave exists as lore in d&d, but you've got your own spin on it. Nothing wrong with that. But very simply, the answer is that you can do whatever you want, since you're making the rules. Anything answered here is merely suggestion and/or brainstorming.

The easiest explanation is that Wish, fundamentally, is the most raw form of magic, using your will to cause any change. As such, you're putting your will ("soul", or otherwise) "on the line", attempting to bend the Weave with it. However, the strain has the potential to be too great, causing your will to be what bends (or even breaks). Not so much that your soul is destroyed, but it's "fractured". Similar to being unable to use a broken limb: you technically could use the limb (for minor functionality, perhaps), but it simply can't function past a certain point without suffering greater damage or destruction.

Another way to think of it would be trying to use wood to warp metal. Depending on the degree/strength of the metal, the wood could possibly do it. But if the wood (the caster) tries to bend metal beyond its ability (the strain of Wish is too great), the wood could crack, being unable to attempt to bend any metal without risk of snapping entirely.

Other options similarly exist. If it's more in line with your world's lore, Wish need not have that caveat; it could be that people have no risk of being unable to ever cast Wish again. It would have implications, for sure, but any ruling is valid if the GM and players accept it. (Note: rules as written, Wish doesn't carry the aforementioned risk at all if being used to replicate an 8th level spell or lower. Only wishing for something outside the bounds of a spell carries such risk of being unable to cast it again)

Ultimately, it's up to you as to how you handle the situation. If I had the lore you stated and decided to keep Wish ruled as written, my previous idea is what I'd personally go with.


Soul is yours. Weave is not yours.

Your soul is going to do magic for you. It is an organ like your kidney. The kidney is going to make pee for you. The soul is going to do magic for you.

The Weave though is something else. It is not you, or yours. It is like a huge gentle dog that you have never met. This huge dog likes people and usually it will go along with requests even from strangers. But you can piss it off if you bug it and bug it. It will start to wonder "who the heck is this, bugging me so much?" Then it will not go along. It might decide it does not like you. That can mean trouble from a huge dog. The Weave is much, much bigger than that.


It started with a noble cause

"Wishing" is an abomination, replacing organic reality with synthetic artificial plot. Magic is full of abominations, from truth-sayers to oath-enforcing gadgets to undead things and automatons. A better world might have abolished it altogether.

In yours, there was a small rebel group of mages (that is, two mages) who wanted to help the environment. The first wished that wishes would never come true and vanished in a puff of logic. After failing to wish the first one back, the second wished that half of wishes wouldn't come true, but his wish didn't come true. So he wished that in a third of the cases, any given person's wishes would never come true. Maybe he could have worded it better, but he was unlucky on the first draw with that one and that's what you're stuck with.


It's purely meta and for game balance, but there's one property that would be violated in universe just as much as outside. That's coherence.

At some point, if wishes are unlimited, the universe gets incoherent. Maybe there's directly contradictory wishes, maybe there's 100 that all need to be balanced.

The Weave either developed, or survived due to having to begin with, or intrinsically has as a Platonic object, or was given by the Overfather, defences against too many wishes. That's necessary both in universe, and outside, where some poor DM actually wants the game to have a comprehensible plot.


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