Yes by RAW Failed Apprentice apparently allows a character to serve as a Lab Assistant if they have magic theory. Never quite liked the poorly explained exception it creates. (Well that and the tendency of some players to try to write up a troop of Grog level Failed Apprentices to serve as lab monkey's for their covenants)
Someone at school today related an amusing anecdote that actually sheds a perfect light on why a Failed Apprentice can still serve as a lab assistant without a gift.
This kid was explaining that his grandfather recently had to give up driving because his eyes where going. Unfortunate, but it seems the old guy has a pretty good sense of humor about it.
When someone commented that as blind as he was it was amazing he made it as long as he did and never had an accident.
In response the man half kiddingly said "Well seeing is really only necessary when your learning to drive. Once you get the hang of it you can just use your instincts"
So maybe that's it. The gift is really only necessary to get the hang of assisting in the lab. After you've done it once or twice you can just cruise on habit and instincts.
I have to agree, I really, really dislike that aspect of Failed Apprentice. Even when the troupe does not create them in droves, Failed Apprentices always end up as (usually highly pampered) Lab assistants.
Or,rather, ended up. We have house-ruled that no Gift= no Lab assistant, the only exception being a magus' familiar. Failed apprentices count as Servants, as per Covenant rules (with the added limit that a Servant's Intelligence is capped by his Magic Theory, so a Servant with Int +3 and MT 2 is treated as having Int +2).
All I can say is, wow, what kind of horrible games are you guys stuck in. I have never once had to deal with such horrible muchkin players are you all seem to cursed with. On the one hand, I count myself extremely fortunate. One the other hand, I really wish the forum would stop treating this kind of crap as normal.
I like this... though I'd actually flip it on it's head. For me, The Gift is the instinctive understanding of magic, without which magical activity is impossible. The Failed Apprentice, then, is one who had this instinct and learned the technical skills to go with it, but either never had enough or lost what they had and are left with only the technical knowledge. The little bit of instinct they had is enough to let them apply their technical understanding to lab work but not enough to actually work with the fluid vis of the world.
IMS, I would never allow a troupe to have a mess of grogs with the Faield Apprentice virtue. I think such a character is important enough to be created as a companion, only. This character will be catered to by magi, and they will all compete to get his/her assistance in the lab. Further, such a character, IMO should be given some kind of supernatural virtue to explain why they are a failed apprentice. The supernatural virtue may have been mistaken as the Gift by their former master, or their Gift was destroyed by an inept opening of the Arts, or something.
The only Failed Apprentice in my saga is a companion-level former Jerbiton student turned-librarian. He's a very proud (and peculiar) fellow who will not just work for any magus. In this case, we are talking of someone who was destined to be a powerful magus, who finds it hard to watch (or help) others do what he dreamed he could do some day...
I hope the character also has Affinity w/ Magic Theory and Puissant Magic Theory. And for a hoot, giving him the highest Magic Theory in the covenant, when he goes into the lab to assist, he tells the Magi that they are "doing it wrong."
It's even worse. In his free time he's a painter (he loves painting, he's got Free Expression), so the rest of the covenant's magi have to wait for him to finish his nth "master piece" before he even considers helping them...
Actually, I think my game is quite cool, thank you One of the things I like of our troupe, that is apparently missing from many others (at least from comments like the the one I'm quoting) is logical consistency. It's pretty obvious that a Failed Apprentice character will almostalways* end up as a constant Lab assistant.
Why? Because he is so immensely useful to magi this way that they'll try to give him every incentive to work as a Lab assistant. Wealth? A standard of living comparable to a human noble? Sure, no problem, what's wealth compared to magic? A longevity potion? Absolutely, the older he gets, the more useful he gets. And if he is disinclined to work as a Lab assistant because he wants to be a painter or a joungleur or a friar ... well, he's not protected by Parma nor the Code, and a little Mentem magic can go a looong way...
THere has never been more than once fail apprentice in any saga that I have played in and that one has always been a companion, not grog. Between specialized labs, familiars and good apprentices, why keep a failed apprentice. You can only have helpers in lab equal to your leadership score after all.
Sure, if you treat him as a bunch of numbers that add to another bunch of numbers for the express purpose of having the biggest imaginary stick in the game. OTOH, if you treat him as a character or, better yet, a person with emotions, values, needs and goals then it works out a little differently.
It's pretty obvious to me that a Fail Apprentice will almostalways* remove himself entirely from the Order, refusing to ever be around a Lab or the magical world again rather than suffer through the constant pain of being surrounded by reminders of what he has lost.
Sure. However, you have at most one familiar. Most of the times, you also have at most one apprentice, who both "costs" you time (1 season / 3 seasons of service) and generally provides a low bonus (because once he starts learning the ropes, he becomes a magus). Only very, very rarely, does a magus get help from a second apprentice or from another magus. Thus, Leadership is rarely an issue and a Failed Apprentice is virtually never out of work.
I completely disagree. Consider this. In real life, there are many people who in their teens look as if they could become a famous professional athlete (or musician or whatever). However most of them burn out, and do not turn out to be nearly as good as they would have hoped to be. What do they end up doing? The majority of people I know in this situation end up working in the field anyways, e.g. teaching kids.
The ones who do not, generally change only because there are better opportunities in other fields; but in the case of a failed Apprentice, becoming a "professional Lab assistant" is by far the most well-paying, pampered, high-benefit occupation he'll find. And if he's willing to change anyways... well, I'm sure some magus will try and use a little Mentem magic.
Well, I don't know. Just like a normal craftman, he could work one, two, three or four seasons/year. I guess it would depend a lot on the magi of the covenant. But, yes, generally I view such a character spending two seasons/year working as a Lab assistant, one season/year improving his Magic Theory, and the last season pursuing other interests.
If teaching is your example, then it's a very poor match to the perpetual lab assistant. Teaching is fulfilling for a multitude of reasons. Doing someone else's grunt work in a lab isn't the most exciting thing on my mind.
I agree that failed apprentices will be pampered, but they rarely accrue any of the benefits of their work, or do they, in your saga?
I don't see the motivation for them to improve Magic Theory. You can certainly make it a character motivation, but just as much as you can make a character that goes that way, they can go the other way. I see such a valuable character getting catered to. That involves time, money, luxuries, offer of a Longevity Ritual? Why do they want it? They don't need your magus' pity! Thankyouverymuch! And covenants should be getting 4 seasons of work out of their craftsmen, it should be about two, as has been discussed previously.
Again, I disagree. Many people who teach do find teaching unfulfilling, and would rather practice their craft. On the other hand, nothing says that being a Lab assistant is just doing unfulfilling "grunt work". From my experience, most Ph.D. students who have to pay for a semester's tuition would rather do so being a Research Assistant for some project, than being a Teaching Assistant for some course.
But one can find many other examples. Suppose you were really talented in math as a kid. You won a fellowship to attend graduate school at a prestigious university. But in the course of your Ph.D., you just discover you'll never win a Field medal; you'll be a mediocre mathematician at best. So mediocre, in fact, that once you graduate you can't find an academic appointment in mathematics even in the lowest rank colleges. BUT! A firm in Wall street offers you 1 million dollars/year to do some number crunching for them. Nothing that will win you a Field medal, nothing even that difficult for you. Do you accept, or do you become an apprentice woodcarver because mathematics has broken your heart?
I'm not sure what you mean. Sure, they do not get the magical items they help create, or the spells they help invent. But in my sagas, they are the most well treated mundanes in the covenant as long as they choose to help in the lab. They get the same standard of living as the magi, including servants, books etc. They get longevity potions. And if they need a little magical help (e.g. to sway the heart of a pretty maiden), the magi are always more than willing to provide it.
Because the higher their Magic Theory, the more useful they are going to be to the magi. If magi are nice, a lab assistant with a higher MT score can bargain for more in exchange for his (better) services. If magi are not nice, they'll just make sure he studies up
It's not pity. Honestly, they are getting paid for providing (in)valuable help. See the Wall Street example above.
This is generally true. However, a covenant generally keeps its servants working for two seasons because if it needs the work of two washerwomen it's easier to hire two than to force one to work doubletime. But you can't just hire Failed Apprentices. They are scarce, in fact scarcer than normal apprentices! So there is some incentive for covenants to "push them a little harder". Though I agree that a lab assistant forced to work more than two seasons/year would tend to be somewhat unhappy, and would need some special incentive to do so.