All right then: I have some concerns about the Mage playbook (linked below).

All right then: I have some concerns about the Mage playbook (linked below).

All right then: I have some concerns about the Mage playbook (linked below). I like the basic idea, but I have a couple of problems with it. If I’m wrong about this, I’d like to know. If I’m right, I assume others will want to know.

I like the idea of a spellcaster who’s not tied to a spell list. And the basic “cast a spell” move is quite good, I think. My trouble is twofold: with the basic black magic (damaging magic) move, and with the Battle Mage and War Mage advanced moves.

First problem: When a mage uses the “Cast a Spell” move, there’s a price to be paid even on a 10+. This is a key part of the how the class is designed, it seems: you gain a lot of versatility, but casting a spell always brings complications. However, when you do Black Magic, to do damage with your spell (1d8 damage, no less), a 10+ carries no limit, and the 7-9 limits are a little less interesting than the full list on “cast a spell.”

This means that it is EASIER to use damaging magic than regular magic. It also means that there’s basically no situation where a Mage would use a melee weapon instead of a spell. 

Second problem: Black Magic gets even more overpowering with the Battle Mage and War Mage advanced moves. In general these give you devastating attack magic that can fit most any situation, and I think that’s still problematic. But worse is that each includes a variation of the Messy tag that increases damage. (For a War Mage, choosing this tag gives you a base damage of 2d8.) Again, there’s little to no restriction on using this magic, so there’s no reason ever not to use it. 

Which means a level 6 Mage has attack power well out of proportion with any other class, as far as I can see–and super-versatile attack power, at that. And generally speaking, DW doesn’t really level up your damage that way. (Sure, some Wizard spells do more damage, but they have more inherent limits built in.)

So I’m worried that these flaws make the class unbalanced. Again, if I’m wrong, or if people have figured out good solutions to this, I’d like to hear it. If I’m right, maybe the creator will want to address these concerns.

14 thoughts on “All right then: I have some concerns about the Mage playbook (linked below).”

  1. For your second problem, are you assuming that the Messy tag can be applied more than once? I think this is probably not the case, meaning a War Mage can only do 2d8 damage, which is not out of proportion at all.

  2. I’ve played a few sessions with a World Mage.  It was super gonzo.  

    He had trouble killing one foe, but did handily wipe out a combined army of Goblins and Goliaths.  During the final confrontation, he attempted to spontaneously ignite a few Goliaths.  He failed  and wound up igniting nearly everyone in an entire city (assaulting Goliaths included).  The home city of the Paladin burned to rubble, all of its inhabitants turned to torches.

    The Paladin wrote a new bond with him. “Blackmage will pay for what he has done.”  🙂  Awesome session.  Reminiscent of male Channelers in Wheel of Time.

    We totally forgot about the Black Magic moves, but he usually didn’t go for damage; he went for crazy killing fiction.

  3. To me, 2d8 is a lot of damage when you can do it all the time, at any range, and with some other tags applied to it as well.

    I can’t think of another class that can approach that.

  4. At level 6 a Fighter can do 1d10+1d8 by taking two moves, while a level 7 Fighter can potentially do 1d10+2d8+2 damage if everything comes together right. A Level 6 Thief can do 2d8 with a backstab, and a level 3 Wizard can do 2d6 damage all the time with rules similar to Black Magic (and with Empowered Magic at level 6 can get up to 24 points of damage). The 7-9 options for Black Magic are also (potentially) more consequential than the 7-9 results for Hack and Slash and Volley.

  5. It looks like The Mage 2.0 is the latest version, however Black Magic seems to have the Elemental tag from the Witch, referencing an Element from a focus, where most Mage foci don’t have an Element attached to them.  Jacob Randolph 

  6. One major balancing factor of the Mage is it’s low HP. If you use black magic to get into a fight and don’t choose a range tag to keep some distance, it’s pretty easy to get yourself in a very dangerous situation. Consequences in combat can quickly end in a very dead Mage within 2 to 3 bad rolls.

    I’m playing a Mage in an online game at the moment, and while I’ve triggered black magic once, I find I trigger cast a spell a lot more – even in combat. A key thing to keep in mind here is that when dealing damage is just one trick in your book when you have another move fuelled on your imagination, you gravitate to the more fictionally powerful move even though it has more consequences.

    Black magic’s trigger is much more fictionally narrow, so as such, it carries less consequences. It’s still a move you can easily get yourself into trouble with though.

    That said, if you find black magic to be overpowered, there are two steps you could take to bring it more in line with cast a spell. 1: reduce the damage in BM to D6. 2: change 10+ to choose 1 and 7-9 to choose 2 from the existing list.

    One of the advanced moves may increase BM’s damage to D8 and the other could reduce consequences by 1, or simply remove consequences on 10+.

  7. I’d just remove the 1d8 damage stipulation from Black Magic entirely. This means early-on, the mage is doing very little damage with it, but you can specialise into dealing damage via Battle Mage/War Mage.

    Just because Black Magic is an offensive move doesn’t mean it needs to deal damage on par with classes that are focuses around fighting enemies; the Mage has Cast A Spell for a reason.

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