The 9th-Level Spell that Breaks D&D (It’s Not Wish)

When Magic the Gathering players talk about broken cards, they mean ones powerful enough to dominate games so that every competitive deck either includes the card or focuses on countering it. These cards break the game by destroying the options that make playing fun. D&D includes some spells that suck fun from the game, but nothing that ruins it.

Still, foresight breaks D&D. I don’t mean that it’s over-overpowered; 9th level spells should deliver wahoo powers that feel a bit overpowered. In the words of lead designer Jeremy Crawford, “High-level spells are often just whack-a-doo on purpose.” (I’ll bet he didn’t expect to be quoted on that one.)

By broken, I mean that foresight makes D&D dull, and a 9th-level spell should always add excitement. Even if the spell’s power wrecks an encounter, the magic should feel game breaking and thrilling. Foresight just feels game breaking and boring.

For 8 hours, the target of foresight “can’t be surprised and has advantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws. Additionally, other creatures have disadvantage on attack rolls against the target for the duration.”

Fifth edition’s rules for advantage and disadvantage streamline the game by eliminating the fiddly pluses and minuses that older editions imposed on attacks and checks. While the old modifiers added realism, they slowed play and seldom made a difference.

To gain even more quick simplicity, multiple sources of advantage and disadvantage don’t stack. At most they offset, leading to a straight roll. Usually that works because multiple advantages and disadvantages come infrequently. (For instances where this rule creates illogical situations, see numbers 12 and 10 of the 13 of the Craziest Quirks in the Dungeons & Dragons Rules.)

The simple approach falters when some ongoing factor adds advantage or disadvantage to every roll. Suddenly other circumstances stop affecting the odds. D&D’s designers recognized this when they opted to have cover impose a minus to attacks rather than disadvantage. They wanted a factor as common as cover to stack with all the other situations that can create advantage and disadvantage in a fight.

During my D&D weekend, when two level-20 wizards benefited from the 8-hour duration of foresight and spent an entire adventure with advantage, I realized how much less interesting the game became. Foresight eliminates all motivations to seek an edge. By erasing fifth-edition’s foundation of advantage/disadvantage, foresight nullifies the effect of too many decisions, tactics and character traits.

Incidentally, the 3rd-edition version of foresight gave just a +2 bonus to AC and Reflex saves—at 9th level! Instead of a broken spell that sucked the fun from D&D, the spell just sucked.

11 thoughts on “The 9th-Level Spell that Breaks D&D (It’s Not Wish)

  1. TRay

    I agree Foresight is broken in 5e, but it was fine in 2e (where it first appears) as long as you understand its intent. Foresight is not a combat spell, it’s an infiltration spell. Its power comes not from its bonuses, but from its literal name: it grants foresight against all bad outcomes. So this is the spell you use to break into the enemy citadel and AVOID as much combat as possible. That sounds pretty exciting to me, so long as you like solving problems beyond just swinging a sword.

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  2. LordLucide

    I have two experiences with Foresight, both used in the context of the WotC module, Dungeon of the Mad Mage, where I played a rogue from 5-20.
    The first time, it was used against us. There wad an archdruid with it, and God was that a hard fight. I couldn’t get sneak attack, so I had to resort to trying to trip/knock her prone, and using potions to get up an ally or two. We eventually won but we had almost ran away or TPKed. That felt like a hard fought fight because of foresight, it wouldn’t have been as engaging otherwise.
    The second time, I had it on me when we were level 20 on the bottom floor. Our druid had cast the spell on me and I felt unstoppable. I was proficient with 4 saves, had evasion, had that rogue creature that prevented any creature from having advantage on you so it was all disadvantage, felt great. I never failed a save, bu at the level we were at though, even with disadvantage I was hit a lot with attacks, and eventually the Mad Mage spent his action dispelling it. I dont know if that was DM frustration or a tactical decision, but the battle ended soon after.
    I’m not saying that all spells are balanced because dispel magic and counterspell exist, but had we been prepared we could’ve dispelled the druids and later mine was dispelled, and I FEEL the spell made both encounters more memorable and engaging.

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  3. Clickbait Is Bad.

    What the fuck were you thinking with that actual bullshit clickbait title?!

    You mean boring, say boring! Don’t make me click an article in not interested in using misdirection. What a shitty thing to do. You acknowledged that it is shitty and did it anyway.

    The best time to change the title of this article was before you posted it, the second time is right now.

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  4. George Dorn

    Seems like the foresight pendulum swung too far from 3.5e to 5e.

    3.5e had an interesting mechanic where you don’t actually confer foresight to the target, but get foresight yourself about the target.

    5e just hands the whole thing to the target, so casting it on the party rogue/barbarian optimized sniper is just absurdly over-the-top in a boring, mechanical way.

    If 5e had retained the ‘you have to tell the target what you see’ component of the spell, that could be far more interesting, though it’d require a lot of work from the DM to make it so.

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  5. Ayeeee

    Meh. Dispel magic, antimagic field, any removal/lockdown spell against a non proficient save and it becomes a wasted 9th. 9th circle spells are most effective when used for utility, control, reality bending, or army breaking. If you are looking for a mechanical advantage glue yourself to a Paladin and a cleric who will probably have AOE buffs/debuffs up that perform just as well at that level for less or no cost.

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    1. Moe

      I’d prefer to go with the older Version and giving +3 or +4 on all Rolls so it wuld still Stack with Advantage/ Disadvantage but I like to have more Numbers to ad for example Giving my Players the ability to take “aim” as Action (+3to hit) to counter the Advantage of cover without canceling (dis-)advantage

      It’s all personal Playstyle

      Reply
  6. Mia

    I agree that Foresight is a questionable spell, but the only time I saw it in action was in campaign 1 of Critical Role when [SPOILER] Vox Machina goes against Vecna for the first time. I feel like the negative effects on game paly really depend on 1)how the party and GM play together normally and 2)how the story/gameplay flow naturally. In the critical role example, it made sense for Vax to get that spell placed on him. And it didn’t feel like he was overpowered because 1)the way he played didn’t make it seem like a big deal and 2)their enemy was really REALLY OP as well. I think by the time your spellcasters reach level 9 spells, their enemies or encounters should somewhat reflect that. But yeah the time frame should be adjusted. 8 hours is a lot.

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  7. Tara Williams

    excuse me, how many 9th level spell slots do you have that you can waste them on foresight and not wish or something like that

    Reply

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