Perspective on Elemental Mastery
If you read the text that we’ve been using for ‘Elemental Mastery’, you’ll find that the consequences for failure are actually pretty dire. They invoke catastrophe on a critical failure and success is only partial at the best of times.
When you call on the primal spirits of fire, water, earth or air to perform a task for you roll+Wis.
✴On a 10+ choose two.
✴On a 7–9 choose one.
✴On a miss, some catastrophe occurs as a result of your calling.
• The effect you desire comes to pass
• You avoid paying nature’s price
• You retain control
Since its in the GM’s principles to name everyone that we interact with, I decided that I’d co-GM that section of the game by providing the names of the people who I was interacting with. The influence that I wanted to put in was how dangerous and frightening these spirits i was connecting with were. This is how Molek the Immolator, Dred Fen the Crucible, and Urlis the Queen of Hoarfrost and Woe came into being. Other titles like ‘the Mountain Strangler’, ‘the Drowned God’, and ‘the Lightening Hand’ soon followed.
This is also how I shocked, drowned and strangled myself into a gnome stew article on “rainmakers”.
I wrote these names on index cards fate-style, and would usually call them out with my intent. Sometimes I pulled these at random or had others choose their fate, but I always prepared them before I decided to use them, and always decided who I would use before I decided how.
During the exploration of the Airy Peaks, we found that the spirits that I was calling on were actually minor deities at war within their pantheon, and so I was pulling them out of their own squabbles for my petty mortal means. This built up a relationship between the party and these minor gods, either for better, or more likely, worse.
This opened story decisions. I took on the power of one of these lesser gods, giving host to the crucible to save my friends from certain doom. I invited the frost queen into the world, making her our barbarian’s frightening and probably deadly love interest.
Elemental Mastery is one of those moves that gives an immense amount of power to the player and the gm. When you play it right, and as it reads, its the kind of move that will shape and dictate the kind of game your players want to play.