Friday, July 8, 2011
It sometimes seems like an emphasis on lower-level play is prevalent in the OSR, or old-school play in general. Now, I don't recall a whole lot of extremely high level campaigns back in the 70-80's (which is not to say I don't remember any, there were certainly a couple), but I do seem to remember lots of wishes being thrown around.
Wishes popping up in generally lower level campaigns makes me think this must have been the result of one of two things: monty-haulism, or frequent random treasure generation. Their apparent absence, nowadays, from many of the contemporary campaigns I play in or read about, I'm guessing is caused by one of two things: not-so-frequent random treasure generation, or an infection of the 3x-era ethic of "balance". I could be wrong, these are just my best guesses.
Now, back in "ye awld days" of gaming, wishes served a lot of purposes. They were an excellent way to get your character some sort of "power up", for one thing. A wish could mean an ability score bump, a sweet magic item, a level for your capped-out demi-human PC, an immunity, a special ability, or any number of other "power ups" not readily available through dungeon crawling or the RAW.
Wishes could also be used as the ultimate utility spell when adventuring. Heal the entire party all at once. Teleport everyone to safety all at once. Bring back the dead/diseased/petrified/etc/etc. I mean, they're wishes, so you can do pretty much anything with one, right?
Not necessarily. Wishes came with a pretty heavy risk factor back then. You had to be extremely careful how you worded a wish. I don't remember if it was implied in the rules, or just some sort of mass-DM-consciousness thing, but it seems like DMs were actually encouraged to try and corrupt a wish into something tragic if at all possible.
I am reminded of a time, after losing all of his extremely awesome magical loot, one of our players wished for "all my shit back".
I don't recall whether we actually dug his body out of the pile for revivification or not.
No, when wishes were stumbled across, and typically, if I recall correctly, these came in the form of a ring, wish-granting monster, or a deck of many things, everything stopped. Right then and there. It was time to take a break while everyone very carefully wrote out specifically how they would word their wish! So the DM couldn't screw us. He'd still find a way to, sometimes, though.
Despite all the havoc, I kind of miss all those wishes. I think I'll be dropping a couple of them in my players' laps at next week's session. Just to see what they'll do with them. I'll let you know what happens.
Got some cool wish stories of your own to share?