Boni-snatching an apprentice: nature vs. nuture

OK, so in a previous post, I mentioned that my character (St. Avery) is planning on getting an apprentice. Now, part of his reason is to show his own paren how a REAL magi takes an apprentice - which basically means "sending them to private tutors for 5 years, then Open the ways, then having a reasonable apprenticeship/secondary education for another 5 years, then letting them read the Roots and Branches for five years. Oh, and if they're slow, use that Cr Me ritual to boost their intelligence."

He's a Breakthrough researcher, and within his own bailiwick (Re Vi wards), he actually doesn't NEED an apprentice to add to his lab total (Plus, he just got a Familiar, so he's teaching his pet dragon how to be a lab assistant). So really this is all about showing his paren who the better teacher is.

However, I got to thinking - in going down this path (and in pressing his Hermetic virtues onto a susceptible apprentice), he's going to make some fantastic proto-bonisaguses. And if a Bonisagus sees any of them, they will be ripe for getting Boni-snatched.

HOWEVER - the reason they would be boni-snatched is because St. Avery set up a strong educational curriculum, and Apprenticed them once a season (His own Magic Theory is 11 - so they're earning 14 xp/season while in the lab with him. Every year, for 15 years.), and pressed his own Better-Than-Bonisagus virtues onto their magical skills.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the apprentice's own innate abilities - As such, ANY apprentice trained by St. Avery is ripe for snatching - which hardly seems fair: they would be snatching the results of St. Avery's hard work, rather than anything special about the child that needs to be groomed.

So my question is this - if his apprentice got snatched, could St. Avery bring a complaint to Tribunal, and have a reasonable chance at winning? Along with the documentation of the tutors and the training schedule and any Cr Me ritual expenditure, of course. Because if the Bonisagus are snagging apprentices because they couldn't be bothered to properly educate their own (which doesn't sound right - if anything, the Bonisagus should be out-educating everyone else), that's a MASSIVE dis-incentive to groom quality apprentices for anyone else in the Order.

EDIT - my thought is that Bonisagus don't just look for "good apprentices" - otherwise, as described above, they'd be snagging apprentices from magi that had the gall to educate their charges. Instead, they're looking for children that naturally have a high Intelligence, Creative Genius, Pussiant Magic Theory, and Affinity (Magic Theory). And they'd specifically be looking for that in the first few years of training - after that, it's as much the original paren's instruction as it is anything else.

Afaik the right to snatch an aprentice is beyond justification of training. Its a right itself in compensation of the total sharing of knowledge from the house Bonisagus. An arbitrage shall help your cause, with your arguments got an advantage. Anyway wizards war is allways a sollution ( if it worths).

I'll point out that the apprentice so trained can be snatched by anyone in the first 5 years of his "apprenticeship." From a Code of Hermes perspective, he's not an apprentice until his Arts have been opened.

And while training in Magic Theory appears to be legit, I'd lump Magic Theory into Hermetic Arts, and say it can't be trained, but that's purely me. At best, though, you can't train it in every season. It can be argued that the magus isn't earning a living with his Magic Theory, or using only or primarily just his Magic Theory in a season. If the master is using only Magic Theory in a season, I might allow it, but that only happens when one is refining their lab. In other seasons, it's part of a lab total.

I think that the threat of Boni-snatching may well be the reason why the "average" apprentice does not receive that much instruction. By hyper-training your apprentice, you actually sharply increase the chance of losing him. I totally agree with Messor:

And with, at least when he says:

As for training Magic Theory, you certainly can train it. But that has to be the magus' primary activity that season; if he is doing labwork (researching spells, creating magic items etc.) any assistant only gains exposure experience (ArM5, p.103, last paragraph of the "Help in the laboratory" section). Still, if your magus has a Magic Theory score of 11 and a lowish Com+Teaching total (less than 5), training can be more effective than teaching at imparting knowledge.

With regards to Tribunal, I suspect you'd be laughed at from the moment you presented your motion. You took an Oath to concede your apprentice to Bonisagus (and my extension, his House) regardless of any consequences or costs. The precedent it would set to overturn that Oath would be too much for an Quaesitor to touch with a very long stick...


The first five years aren't real training so anyone can take the apprentice. Other than that, one way to minimize the chance of the apprentice getting nabbed is don't let him leave the sanctum. There is no reason to snatch your apprentice if no one knows he is a wiz-kid.

I think if your going to allow magic theory to be "trained" it would be reasonable to allow the Magus to engage in seasonal lab work while they do it. Generally when a craftsman trains an apprentice they do it while doing their normal seasonal work they just don't get the benefit of the apprentice's labor. For me it breaks down to three choices.

Spend a season "Teaching" taking up both yours and your apprentice's season.

Spend a season working in the lab plus your apprentice spends the season "Training" under you.

Spend your season working in your lab and your apprentice spends their season as a lab assistant providing you with a bonus and getting exposure experience.

I can see your point - but I disagree, on three grounds. First, one of game balance and potential abuse: it becomes very "cheap" for a magus to provide instruction. Second, one of strict reading of the RAW: spending a season earning a living thorugh use of an ability is different from spending a season in research. Third, the spirit of the rule, that seems designed for craftsmen and other characters who have to earn a living (accumulating labor points according to C&G) and thus get only two (one if Poor, three if Wealthy) free seasons/year.

Hey - thanks for the replies, all.

  1. Yep, the whole "5 years before opening" was mainly a historical artifact from his own paren, who was doing Experimental breakthrough research on the Subtle Opening virtue, and had another set of apprentices "ahead" of St. Avery. As such, the paren needed the time to finish up that batch (2 killed, one crippled, one success) before taking on another. St. Avery's "generation" was more successful - 2 success, 2 crippled. (Then the quaesators caught up with the paren, and he's been "wanted for questioning" ever since. Hence the "has paren issues" plot point.)

EDIT - the other reason for the gap is that he doesn't have 5's in all his arts yet - he needs at least a year with the Roots to get the remaining 4 that he needs, plus setting up the Teaching lab, plus getting the books and tutors together... etc.

  1. Yeah, my original plan was simply to hide them in the back of the covenant, where no one could see them. Making a larger Sanctum would work, too - however, he plans on taking 4 apprentices (he's an overachiever - plus, the only one almost-qualified in the covenant to Open the Ways), so having them all inside the sanctum at once may not work. But then I was wondering if that was all necessary, and one of the other players was talking about story ideas. His contribution was "the inevitable Bonisagus comes along and says 'training high-quality apprentices? Thanks!'" idea. Hence this post.

  2. Good point about the Apprenticeship rules - there is at least one other "pure" Magic Theory roll, however - the seasonal Breakthrough roll for partially-integrated material. (It's Int + Magic Theory + Creative Genius vs. 18.) But yes, I was only planning on having him teach one season per year.

15 years without ever leaving the sanctum of one's parens? That's a pretty nasty thing to do to one's apprentice - he's certainly not going to have any love left for his parens at the end of apprenticeship.

However, it's true that many magi in our sagas tend to be mildly secretive about their apprentices (both to avoid snatching, and because an apprentice is a weak link in a magus' defenses). Generally not enough to hide them from covenant sodales (though one maga in our saga did use Imaginem to hide her apprentice from the local Bonisagus, disguising him as a shield grog) but enough to hide them from anyone else, including passing Redcaps. Of course, this is not possible in all tribunals - the Theban tribunal for example keeps track of all apprentices and how they are treated.

I'm wondering how most people play this. Do your magi keep their apprentices hidden?

Although it might make sense for the magus to train his apprentice in Magic Theory while himself doing something in the lab, I would say that it counts as a distraction (as per ArM5 p.165) -- the magus is spending a significant amount of time (I,d say a third) answering questions and giving advice to his apprentice.

Can't have your cake and eat it too.

My thoughts on how to pre-emptively deal with this issue are as follows:

  1. Take the apprentices to Duremar (It's only an hour or so away by flying cart), and present them to the Primi (He's had enough Breakthrough research in the past 2 years that he's got some credit with them), and pretty much lay out his entire plan - with the qualifier of "Hey, if you want to take them into your house after I've gauntleted them, that's their choice. I'm sure they will be flattered and probably take you up on it. And if you plan on taking them NOW, let me know, and I'll hand them over to you. But if you or one of yours interrupts what I'm doing to give these children a sub-standard education, I just won't bother. And that's not to the benefit of the Order. So, can you please issue a moratorium on any of your folks taking my apprentices to do I was planning on doing anyway?"

  2. Alternately, if any Bonisagus shows up, before they say anything, take them down to the teaching lab, where all the apprentices are sleeping inside a circle, with a giant boulder hovering over them, and say "Hi. Unless the next words out of your mouth are "I swear a Wizards Oath that I will not takes these apprentices as my own, or through inaction allow these apprentices to be taken by my House", then I will drop this boulder on these children who are not currently your apprentices."

In fact, the "apprentices" are simply temporary Creo Corpus effects supplied by the resident necromancer, while the real apprentices are somewhere else in the castle - the whole episode may get him called up at Tribunal, but hey - that's in a few years. And for it to work, he'd have to build up his reputation as "crazy hedge wizard guy", but it'd be worth it to keep his apprentices out of the Boni's hands.

The other technique I was thinking of using to teach four apprentices simultaneously is the "group study" rules that Jewish and university students use, as described in RoP:D. So, every year, St. Avery would snag a nice tractus that he hadn't read, and lead the study group in a reading session. Assuming it was a decent tractus (12 or so xp), everyone would gain (5*12)/(5+1) = 10 xp, and St. Avery would have his requirement to teach that year done.

There's a Magister in Aribus in the covenant, and St. Avery was apprenticed by a Kaballah practicioner, so there's precedent for knowing that study technique.

Yup all good reasons to think twice about allowing it. Although I'm not sure how cheap this sort of instruction really would be. I haven't done the math but most Magi will still be able to provide better instruction teaching MT as apposed to training it. So if the goal is to get a good lab assistant as fast as possible then it still seems more efficient to teach then exploit over train longer and get no benefit. Granted as long as your MT is close to your teaching + com it is probably a better choice if you don't want an assistant ASAFP. It also means that relying on training means you can short yourself on the teaching ability. So it is certainly open to some abuse, but probably less so then employing teachers.

One way to allow it but still limit it would be to add a bit of peripheral code saying that a season of training does not count as teaching. After all it is "Obviously inferior to proven Hermetic Methods" So Magi who try to abuse it would run the risk of having their apprentices taken away.

I believe the assumption with training is that the time a master spends teaching an apprentice is balanced out by the work the apprentice does. Again this makes sense for craftspeople I myself am not completely sure training is compatible with lab work.

I like some of the flavor it would bring to the game. The young apprentice who is not yet good enough to "really" help out in the lab spends a few years doing scutt work until he actually contributes. It makes sense if not all gifted children have very high intelligence when they are first brought on as apprentices. You figure a very bright seven year old still has a -1 intelligence. (+3 base -4 for being seven).

This was the other reason I was having St. Avery wait a couple of years before "formal" apprenticeship started - I was calling it the "Why Bother?" rule. (Yes, to prevent them from being snatched by other magi.) For the first five years of their apprenticeships, they really can't contribute. Better to use that time to get them broadly trained in the fundamentals (Artes Liberales, Philosophae, Magic Theory, Latin, Hermetic Lore/Law) by specialists who can do that better than he can, and THEN start in on the specifics of the Arts.

Were I your storyguide, I would warm you that your overall plan may have some unintended consequences, on multiple levels. Simply put, to borrow from Newton: "To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction."

First, by trying so hard to prevent a Bonisagus from claiming the would-be apprentice, you are going so far that an offended Bonisagus might decide to file charge against you for violating your Oath. The exact sentence of the Oath is: "I concede the right of Bonisagus (and by extension all members of House Bonisagus) the right to take from me any apprentice he may find helpful in his studies." You are basically attempting to go back on your Oath, and deny all of House Bonisagus the right to take the apprentice. You have to realize, as a player, that "apprentice snatching" will only happen if you make an issue of it, and your storyguide (or troupe) decide is should happen -- this is story potential, after all.

Second, if you cloister up the would-be apprentice with mundanes for 5 years to learn "the fundamentals" (as you call them), Bad Things Will Happen[sup]TM[/sup]. We are talking about a youth, that has demonstrated in some way that he has The Gift. Said Gift is untrained and emerging. And you are going to leave that Gift unattended? To me, that is a recipe for his Gift to develop by itself, and manifest itself in gradually more potent and possibly chaotic ways. He may end up damaging himself, his tutors, or his surroundings -- willingly or unwillingly. And who will discipline him? Who will risk generating frustration and anger, when that anger may trigger his magical powers? Five years is also a long time for a developing Gift, so that by the time your magus is ready to open his Gift to Hermetic Magic, he may realize that his apprentice has developped Supernatural Abilities on his own, and that those abilities interfere with the opening. So that the apprentice ends up with some undesired Hermetic Flaw (or Virtue), perhaps even fail altogether.

Finally, optimization of a human child's learning is fraught with risks from a psychological standpoint. Just think of what too often happens nowadays. So the apprentice may end up hating your magus' guts once he finishes his apprenticeship. If he completes it at all. Pushing too hard for a continuous stream of academic study... well, let's just say that it may not be what the child is suited for. The child may run away (to be brought back by the magus), refuse to study, etc. Again, many potential stories there, but some of them might have a tragic end. :frowning:

I'm having a hard time reconciling this as a player and SG discussion. If a player says to me, I really don't want to have a story about my apprentice being swiped, I'm not going to do it, unless that's what the player playing the apprentice wants (if he's just basically a lab total bonus, then that doesn't happen).

From a character, story perspective, I can't imagine anyone going to the Prima Bonisagus and asking her to not let any other Bonisagus steal my apprentices. You say the character has made several breakthroughs, perhaps, the Prima thinks, if we steal your apprentice at the proper time, we can invigorate our House. You've made him appealing merely by being who you are.

What it comes down to, is a discussion between the player(s) and the SG and finding a middle ground that will make everyone happy. When a player starts to make excessive plans as an endrun around what I'm doing as SG, I have a tendency to get annoyed, and also, stop things and just have a discussion about what's really desired here.

Within the Order, your proposed system doesn't prevent the apprentice from being snatched, it just makes the snatching all the more painful to your character. But your "apprenticeship" is probably too short, and is likely to achieve similar results to what the Founder, Bonisagus had to do to his very last apprentice, March him. The first 5 years is not part of apprenticeship, so you're really gauntleting a magus in 10 years of Hermetic training. The first 5 years is very similar to what is described in the Tytalus section of HoH:Societas and how they handle apprentices, because they like them a bit older. The middle 5, seems normal. The last 5, if all he does is read, is technically a violation of the Code, because a magus must provide one-on-one instruction to their apprentice(s) one season per year. The violation is considered a low crime in most Tribunals, but leaves a lot of wiggle room for how it can be played out.

I agree with Mr Link. While you might get a plot about a Boni trying to take your apprentice I would hope your SG makes it a good story and not just an attack on your character. A Bonisagus mage comes and tries to take your apprentice and you have to find a way to convince him not to is a pretty good story. A Bonisagus comes and takes your apprentice and there is nothing you can do about it is a pretty crappy story. On the other hand if it's been hinted that all the effort your putting into teaching might result in a bonisnatch it may also be a message that your overdoing it in your SG's eyes.

Interestingly enough with what you've said about your character I could see him taking it as a compliment. Albeit a somewhat annoying compliment. After all he is mostly only raising an apprentice to prove his methods better then his parens.

"Hey Pater I'm such a good teacher I've had three apprentices stolen by Bonisaguses. Suck it"

Now, that's a word that really should make into ArM5 slang :laughing: