Any ideas for reigning in the Mage class?

Any ideas for reigning in the Mage class?

Any ideas for reigning in the Mage class? Thinking about offering it to some new players in a new group but the sentiment I get online is that it’s almost too powerful.

I really love the idea of the class (especially the foci/look part), and I know there have been some separate classes made of the different foci archetypes but those seem to play quite differently.

Overwhelming versatility is one of the fears of the class being too strong, and as-written the mage can do pretty much anything except “opposed” magic. Would restricting them to operating within (or at least only close to) aligned elements help with that or be too harsh?

Have there been any mages in your games and how did they function? Did they completely take over the game, or were there cool moments to be had? Maybe offer the class with some caveats about what their magic can do? There are some super cool ideas in here but after reading a bunch about it, a lot of people seem wary! (even the creator! From what I understand he started working on the “foci specific” mages classes as an alternative to the Mage?)

7 thoughts on “Any ideas for reigning in the Mage class?”

  1. This got long, so here’s the short version: in my opinion, the class isn’t fixable without rewriting enough of it to basically be a different class entirely.

    Long version:

    I’ve played Mages, and run games for Mages, and they are every bit as bad as their reputation makes them out to be (honestly, when even the creator brings out an entire line of playbooks to try and address the original’s issues, that’s a pretty good tip off).

    I don’t think that restricting the Mage to only casting spells within their focus really fixes the issue, either, because the underlying problems with the Cast A Spell move will still exist. The broad fictional trigger (try to solve a problem covers literally any situation) and the basic mechanics of the move (e.g., you never have full control of the outcome even on a 10+, so the move disrupts the fiction and requires more spotlight time from the GM every time it gets triggered) will still be there, and they’re the core of the problem. “Do whatever with fire” is not substantively different from “do whatever, with a penalty if it’s not fire”, see what I mean?

    And that’s not even getting into the other issues, like the human move which gives you carte blanche to parley with anybody at any time or Black Magic and its upgrades which make your low damage dice irrelevant and give you ridonkulous combat flexibility since you can assign tags on the fly.

    I wanted to like the class too, and I did before I got the play experience to know better, but it really is broken. There are enough playbooks out there that are similar in concept and better in execution that I recommend looking at them instead.

  2. I’ve been having a lot of fun with a Mage in one of my campaigns. The trick, for me, has been to make the side effects serious enough that you need to think twice (or more) before you risk casting a spell. Because their magic pretty much always has side effects. These can be pretty fun to play with, though it helps that I have a player who’s willing to embrace the downsides and make it part of his character.

    Basically it’s worked out for us that the Mage ‘controls’ a very wild magic and a lot of his character development surrounds dealing with that instability and the fact that he’s hurt or even nearly killed his friends so many times as a result of it. It creates some interesting moments.

    It is challenging to GM for, though, as you often need to come up with side effects even on successes. I also try to make the misses particularly spectacular. I know I’m on the right track because when he offers to solve a problem with magic, the entire party generally starts chiming in with alternate suggestions. 🙂

  3. If I was going to tweak anything, I’d probably nerf Black Magic a bit. My player is pretty good about not abusing it too much, but, as-written, it’s an extremely versatile combat tool that you never forget, plus you never have to give up ‘utility’ spell slots to keep combat spells memorized. You can still make misses painful here, but the 7-9 options lack teeth (particularly the remove a tag and -1 damage.)

  4. the creator brings out an entire line of playbooks to try and address the original’s issues

    Could someone point these out to me? I haven’t really played enough to run into this issue…

  5. Noah Doyle The revised mage playbooks can all be found here:

    If you’re instead asking the issues to be pointed out, in Jacob Randolph’s own words, “The Mage is one of the most popular playbooks I have ever written, but it has its flaws – the class is too open ended, and is generally capable of solving problems on a larger scope than any other class can really confront. My solution was to pare down the class into multiple different classes, each built around a single Spell Focus.”

    Admirable; on the other hand, the first one he made was centered around time travel and has a background move that makes you immune to making mistakes, so, mission not always accomplished. I own them all, and they’re very hit and miss; you can check the previews and make your own judgments.

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