I must be insane. It occurred to me to give a SPELL THAT AUTO-KILLS EVERYONE to EVERY WIZARD. And I kind of think it’s a good idea.
Let me explain my thinking. Ever since 1e, one of the fundamental conceits of D&D has been that the PCs wander through a dungeon and run into bite-sized encounters. Even if the dungeon is occupied by, say, a tribe of orcs, the orcs never mass into an army: they run into the PCs in dribs and drabs until they are all slaughtered.
It would be pretty stupid to try to find an in-game explanation for this. But let’s start down that dark path. How can we justify this?
If it was well-known that every wizard had a daily spell that allowed them to effortlessly slaughter armies, it would change the world’s military tactics. You wouldn’t mass into an army as much. If you did, you’d risk losing your entire army to one spell. You’d be better off dividing your army into several units which traveled separately. Suddenly, military forces look a lot more like D&D adventuring parties and their adversaries.
What if an adventuring party invaded your dungeon? You’d have your units widely spread apart, hunkered down in separate rooms. That way, you’d be nullifying the advantage of the wizard’s nuke spell.
OK, that’s my “simulationist” thinking. Here’s my “gamist” thinking.
What would it mean for players if they had the ability to effortlessly win any one encounter? You’d basically be giving the players the option to “skip” one combat prepared by the DM. (Presumably the spell would function in such a way that the players didn’t get XP or treasure for the encounter, either.) It’s functionally similar to allowing the players to flee from an encounter.
If I, as a DM, knew that players had such a spell, it would change my preparation in the following ways:
1) I’d have to prepare one more encounter than usual, just in case the PCs skipped one.
2) If I throw the occasional potentially-overpowered combat at the PCs, I don’t have to worry about it ending the campaign. Therefore, I can stray from the 4e level-appropriate-encounter formula a little more frequently and really challenge the players, knowing they have a panic button they can hit if things get grim.
Of course, you don’t want the PCs skipping the climactic fight against the campaign’s main bad guy. Therefore, this ability shouldn’t be able to kill 4e Solo and Elite enemies, and should probably be of limited use against higher-level enemies.
Does this ability overpower the wizard? On paper, yes. But in practice, this seems more like a party resource: one that happens to be written on the wizard’s character sheet. The spell could be given to every controller, or every spellcaster, if its availability was sufficiently limited.
Here’s how I’d stat it out:
Time Warp (wizard feature)
(standard action, burst 20)
You send every enemy within 20 squares into the immediate future: they disappear and appear again in one hour. Elite enemies, solo enemies, and enemies 4 levels higher than the PCs may choose to ignore the effect of the spell if they wish.
The party has not defeated enemies banished in this way, and so does not get XP for them.
Special: This spell may be used only once per level: a maximum of 30 times during the wizard’s career.