I've heard that in fictional magic systems, what's most important is not a character's power(s), but its limitations. That's an issue I'm running into with one of my novel's main characters, who has the ability of person-specific clairvoyance; i.e the ability to peer into individuals' futures. I want to avoid this ability being a deus ex machina. I need to figure out the limitations to this ability so that it makes sense for the character to not use the power in every single conflict of the story---for if they could, then why wouldn't they? However, I also need to balance these limitations with the power still being useful; otherwise, the ability just sucks. I've devised the following possible limitations:
- He sees all possible futures of a person, not their "fate," so informational overload is a consistent obstacle
- Of all possible futures, he must use the information available to him to discern what futures are most likely
- Viewing the future is like one's life flashing before one's eyes; rapid-fire visions that he must write down in a frenzy to get the most important "scenes"
- (Above) means that he more sees summaries rather than a specific outline of a person's future
- Excessive amounts of information are derived from this ability, but he's bedridden for days after using it, so he can only use it about once a month, generally
Does this still render the character a bit overpowered, or does it make the power useless? And would these limitations make it realistic for him to overlook/miss an important event in one's future? Is there a way to better write the limitations of this ability so that it doesn't solve every conflict in the story?