I’ve been running Band of Blades for a few evenings now and we’re all pretty much hooked - great system, great world, we love it :).
However, a question has come up regarding the special abilities of the Heavy playbook, namely Weaponmaster and War Machine. Weaponmaster grants potency in melee combat when pushing yourself. War Machine allows you to reduce the threat of all opponents you are facing by one (and also allows you superhuman feats of strength outside of combat).
From our understanding of the rules, reducing the threat of an opponent is strictly better than gaining potency for any opponent of at least 2 threat, because it has all the same effects (threat difference grants effect levels, potency does as well) and also reduces the level of harm you are taking, which potency does not.
If we leave aside any factors in the fiction (like the fact that a weaponmaster may also have some notoriety outside of the legion that helps in social situations, or the fact that in some situations the superhuman strength of the War Machine does not actually help as much as the fine control of a weapon a Weaponmaster would have), this would make War Machine strictly superior to Weaponmaster in a bog-standard engagement, e.g. a 1v1 against a Horror. This seems incorrect, so we must be fundamentally misunderstanding something here.
If someone could clear up what we are missing, I’d be very grateful.
I think your reading of the rules is factually correct, so I would be interested too in other opinions.
I would say that I don’t think I’ve seen people take Weaponmaster yet, because other abilities are more fun.
I would suggest two possible (?) explanations:
Weaponmaster is maybe weaker in itself, but it can lead to stronger abilities, see page 440 “Weaponmaster forms”.
It’s not explicitly written as such, but I would very much accept, as the GM, the benefit of Weaponmaster lasting a whole combat scene, while the benefit from War machine would only last a single roll/provide a single feat of strength, since it’s probably very exhausting.
Also: you write “and also allows you superhuman feats of strength outside of combat”. That’s not exactly right, since the superhuman feat of strength can very much serve in combat, see the long example of play around page 240.
Hey @malexmave did you realize you can have … wait for it… both of them?
Also, remember also that this is not a game where mechanics are not tied to fiction. Position and effect are tied to things like damage. The players control difficulty (how many dice they roll) the GM determines consequence (how risky and effective is the action).
I am a war machine. I’m fighting 1v5 with my sword and shield, about to be surrounded. Sounds like a desperate action. I’m taking 3 levels of harm before we look at anything else.
Oh I’m a weaponmaster? I’m in someone’s yard? Maybe I take this chain off the fence and use it smoothly like a weapon I’ve been practicing with all my life. I keep my enemies at bay, and maybe can fight way more defensively using it’s length, weight, and reach. Is this now a desperate action? Probably not. Did I just reduce the damage I’m taking on a 4/5 without using war machine? Sure did.
How effective the powers are depends on the imagination of your players. Players control difficulty (which skill are you using) but the GM sets the consequences. Always use the fiction to your advantage wherever you can. What does potency actually mean? How are you at an advantage because of your skill? What tricks can you pull off others might not be able to?
What does it mean to be a weaponmaster? Is there a cool pin you get? Do you get a nice sword with a master’s mark or something? Talk about it. There’s a ton of fiction of being a wandering swordmaster, and there’s a ton of fiction of being a seven foot giant who can break chains. Pick what sounds fun, you can probably find ways to use both ^_~ I promise neither is a useless or “always better” power. I think War Machine is probably just more obvious.
Heck. I’ve seen players get undead to agree to duels with a famous weaponmaster to let some humans go. I know Render would definitely go for something like that (he def thinks he’s a badass Swordmaster, and I’m sure there’s many he’s converted… especially among the black oak knights… who would go for such bait).
“If we leave aside any factors in the fiction” is a very bad phrase to use in this game ^_~