Sunday, March 5, 2017

Crossover Combat: Battle of the Genies

There was a stupid joke in an old issue of Dragon magazine that nevertheless made me laugh.

Efreet: Let me get this straight: You want me to RAZE your ability scores?
Naïve Adventurer: Well, yes.

I started playing D&D in the era when the game was still framed as something of a contest between the Dungeon Master and the players. Advice on screwing with your players in such a fashion was not uncommon in those days.

But the smart ones always took precautions

I said once in an early post about Superman that I think “Should you do it?” is a much more interesting question than “Can you do it?” and wishes are an interesting way to explore that question.

Today’s installment of Crossover Combat is The Battle of the Genies.

In this corner, we have Aladdin’s Genie of the Lamp!

Powers: "Phenomenal Cosmic Power!"
Restrictions: “Itty Bitty Living Space!” No wishing for more wishes. No making anyone fall in love. Can’t or won’t bring back the dead.
Weaknesses: Sight gags referencing Arsenio Hall no longer topical.  Compelled to obey the holder of the lamp.
How he would grant the wish of “Make me a ham sandwich”:  For Aladdin, he’d create the biggest, most delicious ham sandwich with all the fixings. For Jafar, he’d make something flavorless and bland, with waxy cheese and stale bread.

Jeannie: Barbera Eden from I Dream of Jeannie.

Powers: Standard genie panoply of wish-granting.
Restrictions: Can't use her powers to get out of an enclosed space, which seems like a weaksauce weakness until you realize that she spent the 2000 years prior to the start of the series stuck in a bottle.
Weaknesses: Kind of stupid. Compelled to obey the holder of the lamp.
How she would grant the wish of “Make me a ham sandwich”: She’s a bit capricious. If she's in a good mood, she'll blink a ham sandwich into existence. If she's in a bad mood, she'll get involved in some sitcom hijinx like joining NASA or putting a bunch of goats in your boss's office.

The Djinn from Wishmaster: I like Wishmaster. The movie is all kinds of B-movie trashy,  it looks like it was made a decade before it actually was, most reviews are a variation of the San Francisco Chronicle's pronouncement of "an extravaganza of bad special effects and worse acting"  and the titular villain constantly mugs for the camera. However, there are parts where it's legitimately very clever and they stuck in as many cameos from horror movie actors as they could. Come on, Tony Todd, Angus Scrimm AND Reggie Bannister? Sure that's worth a few points on Rotten Tomatoes!

Powers: Must reshape reality in accordance with his interpretation of any request he hears.
Restrictions: Must grant the wish as worded even if it's to his detriment. Unable to use his powers without a request from an outside.  (The Djinn: Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to have unlimited power, and only be able to use it when some worm asks you for something? Guard: No, I can't say that I do. I can't say that I give a shit, either.) Can't grant wishes directly relating to himself. ([after Morgana wishes him to go back in the opal] I see you've done your homework. Unfortunately for you, it's not that easy. After all, I am the Wishmaster here. So any wishes pertaining to me are circumscribed by the prophecy.) Oooh, circumscribed! Sounds like somebody spent a wish on a word-a-day calendar.
Weaknesses: The Djinn is the biggest asshole in the world. My friend Frederick maintains that the Djinn is under a compulsion to twist the wording of his wishes, and that would explain a lot.  Like the scorpion in the fable, it’s just his nature. He needs to get the person who freed him to make three wishes (at which point the other Djinn are unleashed upon the world), which shouldn’t be a hard sell. Instead, he twists the first two wishes through some darkly humorous wordplay, making the wisher extremely reluctant to go for a third.
How he would grant the wish of “Make me a ham sandwich”: Do I have to spell this out? It's going to involve some kind of body horror transformation.

Mister Mxyzptlk: Grant Morrison tied Mxyzptlk and other five-dimensional entities to the myth of the djinn, so let’s go with that.

Powers: Unlimited restructuring of reality.
Restrictions: The effects of his magic disappear when he is banished back to the Fifth dimension. The TV version said that he was unable to make Supergirl fall in love with him, stop her from killing herself, or make her drink orange juice. Since these all fall under the umbrella of compelling her to do something, I'll say that he's incapable of such an act.
Weaknesses: Autocorrect. Also, like any character that's been around for several decades, he's been portrayed inconsistently, but he is banished back to the Fifth Dimension if a previously determined condition is met. It's usually tricking him into saying his name backward.
How he would grant the wish of “Make me a ham sandwich”: Unpredictably. Not the baleful polymorph of the Djinn. Maybe dropping a thousand ham sandwiches around the area, maybe putting you in a ham sandwich costume, maybe making the raw ingredients (live pigs, wheat) appear all around you.


Powers: The ability to guess the identity of a character.
Restrictions: Stymied by obscure Star Wars characters.
Weaknesses: Only as good as the data put into it.
How he would grant the wish of “Make me a ham sandwich”: By asking “Does your character wear shoes?” and “Is your character the main character of the work in which he appears?”

So, who wins this frightful battle of the genies?!

It is none other than

King Suleiman! 

If you're playing in a format that allows Suleiman, you're going to find him in some kind of degenerate deck that costs more than my car. And before you can say Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Mox Sapphire, Mox Pearl, Wheel of Fortune, he's killed all your genies. 

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