Bonisagus-snatched apprentices

The Hermetic Oath allows Bonisagus magi to take promising apprentices from other magi, with the exchange that all the Bonisagus magi must share their discoveries (hopefully the snatched apprentice contributes to this) with the other magi of the Order.

A couple of questions:

  1. Being a True Lineage, does the Apprentice have to serve 15 years as a Bonisagus apprentices, ignoring any time served under the previous magus?
  2. Can the snatched apprentice avoid being sworn in as a member of House Bonisagus on passing Gauntlet?

The second question has a few wrinkles that I am not certain I have fully thought through.
Does loyalty to the first magus get forgotten/overridden while in service to the Bonisagus? Can the apprentice flee and try to rejoin their first parens House? (something like House Tremere is Father and Mother..., or some sort of Mystery loyalty to Criamon, Merinita, or Verditus, etc)
The "Join or Die" traditional clause comes into effect as soon as a magus passes Gauntlet and is no longer an apprentice, but how many new magi (outside of Guernicus) will realise they have 1 year to find a House to join.
The apprentice is probably showed a group of select magi in order to swear the Oath (a Q, a Redcap, and I expect mostly Bonisagi and friendly magi, that is unlikely to include the previous parens) and immediately asked to Join House Bonisagus. Or is it so assumed and they are automatically added to the House rolls?

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The boni-snatched apprentice does not have to start his apprenticeship all over again.
He will do his gauntlet when his master thinks he is ready - as normal.
Since magi bonisagi would usually boni-snatch unusually bright apprentices this means that normally the apprenticeship won't be more than the customary 15 years in total.

When the apprentice has passed his gauntlet and is sworn in as a full mage he does so as a member of House Bonisagus. From a strictly legal point of view it is irrelevant that he was first apprenticed to someone else - the Bonisagus mage is his master (later parens) and that is all that matters.
Since he is already a legal apprentice no other mage can accept him as their apprentice without his master's permission. (Boni-snatching excepted, but I don't think that happens between magi Bonisagi)

What the apprentice does once he is no longer an apprentice but a full mage is another matter. At that point he can of course renounce his membership in House Bonisagus and seek membership in some other House if he so wishes, just like any other mage.

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First, the promising apprentice must display some « interesting or promising » abilities. When can the Bonisagus gage that? Either the master is proudly flaunting the abilities of his pupil – ill-advised since he must be aware of the risk of having his pupil taken away, or a sodales of the master is advertising said abilities. But he is also aware of this risk, so either he does it on purpose or let it slip accidentally. Then the news must reach a Bonisagus looking for a pupil.

So, unless the mage is in Theban Tribunal where apprentices are « auctioned », there is the aspect of being aware of a promising student. Unless he has a Supernatural ability that is well-developed, it is unlikely that a mage will be able to gage that his pupil is gifted until several years within apprenticeship when he will be involving his apprentice in « real labwork ». One can only notice Inventive genius while working on new spells or enchantment, focus can only be spotted when the apprentice is learning or casting relevant spell, etc… There might be some signs or tells that a mage with experience can decipher, but IMHO, there is quite some room for misinterpretation, so an "interesting" virtue will only be discovered at least a few years after training begun..

Which can lead to some interesting stories in itself: what if a mage was trying to trick a Bonisagus into snatching an apprentice that is not so brilliant?

What if a Bonisagus wants to frustrate mage by stealing his apprentice? He would have to walk a fine line between depriving him of power and « honest » Boni-snatching – see HoH:TL for what is acceptable practice.

High intelligence (+3 or above) is likely the attribute that can be spotted the most easily: the student should be able to grasp quickly concept and learn faster – but bear in mind that there is nothing in the rule that translate well to show his superiority.

Mechanically, if I had to design a truly gifted apprentice, he would be one that has some virtues without counterbalancing flaws, or more than 10 points of virtues, with most virtues being hermetic, supernatural or boosting relevant attributes, and flaws being rather mundane, not hampering significantly his magical abilities.

Based on that, one can assume that in most case, the apprentice is already several years into his apprenticeship: he knows latin, basic magic theory, Artes Liberales (so he can read/write), his Arts are opened, possibly knows already a few simple spells.

That’s as many years shaven off that the Bonisagus does not need to cover again.

Apprentice, until they are Gauntleted, have no legal rights. They are a property of their master. That’s a cold-blooded fact. So no, an apprentice cannot avoid being sworn, because he is not yet a full-fledged mage, so he does not have a say. He can botch his Gauntlet by failing his magic theory exam, to further embarrass his master, but what would it be good to him? His master could literally kill him in front of his peers and legally nothing would happen. It is a Very Bad Idea, he can wait a few minutes after being Gauntleted to embarass his master.

However, as soon as Gauntleted he can renounce his House, it would be a huge slap in the face of his master. However, since he is a mage, he can be targeted immediately by a Wizard’s war by his own pater – but at least, he cannot be slayed immediately (slight improvement from the previous case). Before doing so, the apprentice must have thought carefully of his next move, and must have look for allies to protect him, a covenant that could offer him protection, Aegis and ideally another House that would be willing to accept him (although he has a year to do so – this is no secret, so any apprentice that is considering renouncing his House should be aware of that after just a tiny bit of research).

Regarding loyalty, it is really a matter of pater-filius relationship. What was the relation with the initial master? How was he treated by the new master? If the initial master had a strong relationship with his apprentice, was he allowed to visit him, give him advice, or exceptionally taught a few seasons on a topic the Bonisagus master was not well-versed (a supernatural ability for example) – that could account for Good Parens virtue and Mentor flaw.

There is - usually - no powerful Mentem spells used to enforce/erase loyalty. In fact, day-to-day brainwashing – if it is the goal – is a lot more efficient, especially considering that we are talking about kid/teenager raised in a peculiar environment – no real parents, no usual family, little to no friends of their age due to the gift effect…

[Edit: Levant replaced by Theban]

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I think the wizard war is more an issue of the Bonisagus mage, than the apprentice.

The right to take an apprentice, I would think is seen as an anachronism of the early days of the order. A magi would have every right to be severely annoyed if they had an apprentice taken from them. Apprentice taking should be reserved for negligent teachers.

If the Bonisagus tries the "Your oath gives me every right to take an apprentice" the logical response is "The oath we swore is what gives you a month to make me change my mind about killing you, instead of me killing you right now."

The magi with the appropriated apprentice is going to find an easy time finding allies, as no magi wants their apprentice taken from them, so wiping out an apprentice stealer is good for everyone.

Because Wizard's war can be declared without any justification, I believe that either the Bonisagus has a strong support and know it is unlikely to materialize as a real threat - which is possible considering that they usually have support from the "traditional" house (Guernicus, Tremere) and they are established in relatively strong covenant (they need a lot of resources to support their excellent quality lab).
The alternative is that the Bonisagus try to sweeten the deal with the initial master - and they can trade interesting labtext, tractatus, virtus, etc.
I find it unlikely that a Bonisagus would outright take an apprentice without at least trying to mollify the original owner. That's how revenge and resentment build up, and will come to bite you later. All in all, material for interesting stories.

Obviously it does not, because Bonisagus never swore to give up their apprentices to Bonisagus. Bonisnatching works because every other house swears that it is ok.

I agree that this is what we should expect when the apprentice is treated fair and square, and consistent with char generation rules. Bonisagus also take their apprentices young [HoH:TL], so we can probably assume that they have not had a long time with their former master. However, it is not clear what happens if a Bonisagus magus wants to keep their apprentice for longer. I cannot find any canon phrase to say that the quaesitoris would step in if a rare case had ten years with one master and the Bonisagus master is now pushing on beyond another ten. It might be uncharted territory, and something that could lead to legal story for those who want to play it.

This is the critical point. Everybody swearing the Oath has a parens or sponsor and are sworn into their house. For the typical Bonisagus apprentice snatched young, it is also very unlikely that they have a strong bond with their previous magus.

However, there are a lot of things which could happen in special cases with special people involved. In the case of Bjornar, it is essentially a question of whether they were snatched before or after the ritual of twelve years. After it, they are already members of Bjornar, and would have dual house membership as far as Bjornar is conserned. Before, it would probably be too late to make the ritual after gauntlet.

I imagine, also, that when Bonisagus snatch an apprentice late in apprenticeship, they may offer fosterage, returning them to their original master just before gauntlet. If they are going to join the house, it makes sense to keep them for 10-15 years to learn the culture.

But I do not think there are enough Bonisagus to establish general principles other than for the most stereotypical examples.

One thing that hasn't really been addressed is the runaway bonisagus. While apprentices are not allowed to run away under the code, they are still capable of doing so. They are still legally considered the property of the Bonisagus, but their old parens may decide to take the risk of harboring them or may return them after a season delay.
It is up to the Bonisagus to recover his apprentice and if the old master is found to be harboring the apprentice they can be charged with depriving the Bonisagus of magical power. On the other hand if the apprentice times their flight or stays away long enough that the Bonisagus has not provided a season of teaching for a year the old master could certainly bring a case for abuse of the apprentice and seek to have them returned (although they would almost certainly be investigated for potentially harboring the apprentice as a result). If an apprentice runs away often enough the Bonisagus is likely to not consider the issue worth their time and may simply inform the old master that they are returning the apprentice to them in absentia and finding the apprentice is their problem now. I would expect that if the Bonisagus cannot find and retrieve the apprentice it would be treated much the same as an abandoned apprentice, who could then be claimed by another parens, including their original.

Where do you get this from? Or are you confusing with the sortition of apprentice that is in the Theban Tribunal? Which isn't quite an auction, even if there are bids.

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My mistake! Sorry, good catch. Too many books to go through - lame excuse :wink:


The Bjornaer chapter in HoH:MC suggests that bonisnatching an apprentice after the ritual of twelve years is very likely to have the bonisagus be the target of several wizard's wars. So very ill advised.


People who leave House Bjornaer don't live long. They have a group of magi making sure of that.

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I specifically avoided mentioning Bjornaer bacause of the House tradition that that going through ritual at the Gathering of 12 Years is the official Bjornaer gauntlet to full magushood

Yes and no.
Once an apprentice has gone through the Ritual of Twelve Years, House Bjornaer treats them as a full member of their house.
As far as the rest of the Order are concerned he is still an apprentice though, and will be until he has gone through the normal 15 years of apprenticeship and sworn the Oath of Hermes.

So they become full-fledged Bjornaer long before they become magi.

But yes, @Red-Shadow-Claws is probably right. The Bonisagus who takes a Bjornar apprentice is not only offending another master but an entire house, many of whose members are battle worthy. It takes some guts to risk the Wizard's War.

The Wizard's War can do some damage to House Bjornaer too though. There may be more to it than a simple bonismashing, depending on the tribunal and local war customs. A story worth telling, to be told differently each time depending on the world and culture that one wants to create.

Here's the question I have- the ritual of 12 years is every 12 years, obviously, apprenticeship is 15 years. So many apprentices will be at two rituals of 12 years during their apprenticeships do they initiate the heartbeast (joining the house) at the first or second?
If the first then it means a Bonisagus could be facing conflict the same year an apprentice is taken. If the second then it means the first three years would always be safe.
Finally it brings up the possibility of dual housed bonisagus/bjorners who are considered members of house bjorner before being snatched and are now officially bonisagus (with the ability to snatch apprentices) who would also be taking their apprentices to the ritual of 12 years.
In fairness the possibility of that outcome might be as much of a disincentive for bonisnatching bjorners as any fear of retribution.

The Ritual of Twelve Years can technically be done at any point during the apprenticeship.
It is typically done during the Gathering of Twelve Years (which indeed happens every 12 years), but does not have to be done then and there.
I presume the initation won't happen until at least a year or two of the apprenticeship has passed, so his teachers have had a good chance of getting to know the apprentice and guess the temperament of his heartbeast (so appropriate people can be present as witnesses).

Only Bjornaer and applicants will be allowed at the Gathering of Twelve Years, so the first time an apprentice attends the Gathering of Twelve Years they will have to undergo the Ritual of Twelve Years if they have not already done so.

Neither House Bjornaer or House Bonisagus accepts or acknowledges dual-housing. Only House Tytalus does.

They may less recognize dual housing as feel the magi is officially Bonisagus in terms of rights within the order but really Bjornaer. House Bonisagus would probably be apoplexic in general and as I indicated would likely be further dis-incentivized to Bonisnatch Bjoarnaer to avoid the situation from even occuring.

Does anyone have an in-play case of a mage of Bonisagus exercising that right?

Why would there be a rule of House Bjornaer about this corner case at all? And even if there were for some mystic reason, why would the Order at large or even just a few curious Bonisagi know of it?

I haven't yet been in a game where my magus got an apprentice. But the bonisagus who tried to pull that on my Bjornaer magus had better be extra careful, because that one is hot headed, and will likely declare a wizard's war even if the apprentice hasn't underwent the ritual of twelve years.