The Wish Spell as a Tool for Narrative Control Transfer in Dungeons & Dragons
Playing a tabletop roleplaying game (TRPG), such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), is, at its core, an exercise in shared narrative control. The Dungeon Master (DM) describes the scenes, plays the part of every non-player character (NPC), and reacts to the actions of the player characters (PCs). The PCs describe their own actions, and, in interacting with the world around them, elicit more detail about that world from the DM. D&D provides a framework that codifies the sharing and transfer of narrative control between DM and PCs. Every type of collaborative storytelling (improvisational theater, fan fiction, etc) has tools that facilitate a transfer of narrative control from one participant to another. Knowledge of those tools is essential to full participation in a collaborative storytelling event. In this paper, I discuss a specific tool for narrative control in D&D: the Wish spell.
Spell casting in D&D is an especially powerful tool for narrative control. Magic in D&D can alter the narrative in dramatic ways, and no spell exemplifies the narrative tension between the PCs and the DM like Wish. Wish allows the caster to alter the reality of the game setting, a portion of the narrative that usually belongs to the DM. Each edition of D&D handles the Wish spell differently. From its inception in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition to its eventual removal from Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, Wish is a spell remembered by PCs and DMs alike. It is a powerful tool for narrative control, and analysis of its evolution, including its removal from 4th Edition D&D, will provide insight about the tension of narrative control between players and DM in each edition of D&D.
Before Wish itself can be discussed, it has to be established that a session of D&D is actually a narrative event. In The Creation of Narrative in Tabletop Roleplaying Games,...