To people who have played with Jacob Randolph’s Mage playbook, did you find it to be too powerful?

To people who have played with Jacob Randolph’s Mage playbook, did you find it to be too powerful?

To people who have played with Jacob Randolph’s Mage playbook, did you find it to be too powerful? If so, what would you do to fix it? I’m working on an idea, but I want to hear other people’s impressions first.

24 thoughts on “To people who have played with Jacob Randolph’s Mage playbook, did you find it to be too powerful?”

  1. i haven’t played or reviewed that playbook.  So i ought to shut my mouth.  But i have a comment instead on “too powerful”:

    No such thing!  These characters are heroes.  The Wizard can do anything with the ritual starting move.

    When i’m looking at a playbook, instead of looking for balance of power, i look to see if they are balanced for good play:

    * does the Playbook stomp on an existing playbook’s niche?

    * does the Playbook clearly portray and support the intended trope/design elements?

    * does the Playbook leave room for other players (including GM) to make moves and affect the fiction?

    * does the Playbook promote fun, daring, bold, bombastic play, or is it designed to protect the character?

    I want to see characters rise and fall; lean on each other and struggle against one another; win the battle and occasionally blow up into chunky bits.  I want power, because power means bigger, more dramatic impact.  I just don’t want to see “safe” or “glory-hog” built into the Playbook.

  2. I personally loved the openness of it. I know a lot of people think it allows for too much, but I tend to disagree. A good player, and group of players, know how to balance out the game, so allowing a playbook to be open to the needs of the player, in my mind, is a good thing.

    My experiences were watching it being used when I was GMing, so I saw it being used by players rather than using it myself, but it was incredibly entertaining. It did not steal the agency or light from other players in my games. It simply allowed the player to be more of what he wanted and envisioned his character to be able to do, which led to incredibly vivid actions.

  3. Also interested in hearing from folks who have played it.

    It strikes me as potentially a lot of fun, but I’d worry about “when all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” syndrome.  

  4. Jeremy Strandberg exactly

    Damian Jankowski the problem is that is not strictly speaking the player’s responsibility to nerf themselves so that others can shine. It is part of the social contract for a lot of groups but not of the game. You have the GM to handle some of that burden and be a fan of all the characters equally but it still can easily lead to BMX-Bandit&Angel Summoner if not careful. There is not enough protection in the rules or the class against that in my opinion. 

  5. Jeremy Strandberg I think that problem isn’t limited to the Mage, exactly. Lots of people look for ways to “creatively” use their class moves. Rather, the move as written is too broad, it can solve any problem. 

    So, let’s say you wanted to restrict it somehow, to be less universally applicable. What would you do? Would you limit the move to a certain subset of spheres of influence, or would you make the penalty for going outside of your Focus higher?

  6. The Mage also shouldn’t have that Black Magic move to do that much damage as well. Limiting them to a d4 should not be a problem. IF you want to play a Blaster there is the Channeler from Grim World. 

  7. Make failures dangerous as well. High risk, high reward. The problems come out if the reward is so high that any risk you can create is untenable. So either they handle everything with ease or they die. That’s no fun.

  8. The Druid has a similar problem because they can solve most problems with a combination of

    – I turn into an [  ]

    – I command the elements to do [  ]

    And both trigger with WIS. Wizards can solve all problems too but Ritual is inherently self balancing. 

  9. Yes. It also needs time and a place of power and can be interrupted while it is happening. All things that make you do work for your effect. It’s not cheap.

  10. Peter J I don’t think it’s a problem when a move that has limited scope gets applied creatively.  Like when a fighter starts looking for ways to use Bend Bars/Lift Grates to laterally solve problems (e.g. take the enemy by surprise by going all Kool-Aid man on them), that’s freaking awesome.

    I’m more worried about a move that can cover so much ground that it becomes the party’s go-to move.

    Again, I haven’t played it or seen it played, so I can’t say that it’s bad. I’m pretty sure I’d allow it a table if someone really wanted to play it and I trusted them to not be a spotlight hog. 

    As for how I’d fix/limit it… sheesh. I dunno.  Maybe make it more like ritual?  Or have some sort of power/cost system like spells in Freebooters on the Frontier?

  11. I ran a game with the mage, over about ten sessions. No real complaints about it. Our Mage chose the aspect that forbids loud, overt effects, which pushed a lot of creativity Some things that happened at our table:

    -the mage developed a handful of effects that saw repeated use

    -the Mage never learned “black magic,” saying that the character was more fun to play without a directly damaging attack on the table.

    -The casting was very versatile, and the Mage could think of a magical way out of most problems. BUT, since you choose a drawback even on 10+, magic-gone-awry became a huge forward propellant

    -Late in our campaign, the Mage unlocked further secrets of his power in exchange for removing the “-1 ongoing to cast spells” from the list of possible complications. This meant that every use of magic came with at least one significant fictional drawback, and I think it played better as a result.

  12. I always saw Ritual as the perfect move. I know there was talk about revamping the Mage, perhaps making the move Ritual the main means of performing complex spells is the answer? Place of power could be as simple as a staff or wand. The GM is then able the gauge the spell asking with the task and keep it in check. There are a few things I might alter, but that’s just taste


    For those who haven’t seen the Mage, it too has the move Ritual. Which kinda makes me laugh sense they really don’t need it

  13. Robert Doe ritual’s an advanced move for the Mage, though, right?

    My only issue with ritual is the social discomfort that comes with giving the requirements. It’s a hard line to walk to make the requirements meaningful, but not so severe that they shut down the player’s input.

  14. Yes it’s an advanced move. And as for ‘Payment’ that could be as simple as payment in blood (lose 1d4) or a crippling affect. Not so bad for the team, but can be a quick fix to a problem at the cost to personal risk.

    Or if it’s a simple Ritual like create light, it could cost just a few spoken words and a moment of time

  15. Elemental Mastery is the other move I really liked too. I tried slamming EM with the Mage together and came up with this:

    Choose three elements that you have mastered, and two elements that are banned to you:

    Air, Shadows, Fire, Ice, Light, Metal, Stone, Storms, Water.

    When you summon, banish, or otherwise command a mastered element to help solve a problem, describe how you do it and roll+INT. *On a 10+, you get your desired effect, but choose one. *On a 7-9, choose two:

    The effect won’t last long—you’ll need to hurry to take advantage of it.

    The elements slip from you control, creating side effects.

    You must to put yourself in harm’s way to accomplish your task.

    The elements demand a price from you, the GM will tell you what.

    *On a miss, some catastrophe occurs as a result of your command.

    You can only command an amount of an element with as much volume as your own body. Your powers can never affect a banned element, nor anything made of them or related to them. 

  16. What Tim Franzke said.

    I had one mage in play once, and a character taking the move Cast a spell another. The move is just too good as written, and there’s no reason why the player wouldn’t want to use it to solve almost every problem, except the goodwill towards other player. In practice, to keep things from getting stale, I was doing very hard moves on failed spell rolls.

    As a fix to be done before starting, clear to everybody at the table, one thing could be to create a “don’t meddle with nature” countdown: every failed roll advances it 2 steps, a 7-9 advances it 1 step, plus one if a non focus spell is chosen, a really bad thing happens when the countdown hits 6(or 5 or 7, depending on  taste).

  17. I had a dragon mage in my game. It turned into a headache because he would start every fight with “I turn into a giant dragon” and then we had to figure out how hard he would hit if he squished something or how to work his fire breath. Turned into a lot of house rules to make it work.

    I had the mage available for a few cons, but everyone picked the dragon mage every freaking time, so I can’t comment on the other mage foci.

  18. Paride Papadia : there’s a very good reason a player wouldn’t want to use Cast a Spell to solve every problem. It can’t solve any problem. by itself.

    “When you use magic to help solve a problem…”

    And I realize that sounds like splitting hairs, but it’s important to consider. Okay, magic is helping. What’s it helping? Something is in between magic and the problem and magic is giving it a push from behind. “Let’s you and him fight”, says magic.

    Now, won’t that be fun?

  19. Paul Arezina I’m not a native speaker, so I am not qualified to split hairs in english, but as I understand that’s a set phrase that sounds better than “you use magic to solve a problem”. I may be dead wrong, of course.

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