Dragon Riders and Fantasy Hermetic Houses

So so so, in the Fantasy Setting topic I was discussing interesting things for changing Ars Magica into a fantasy setting and one of the things I really like in fantasy are dragon riders. Now, taking inspiration from the Inheritance Cycle (Saphira!), HTTYD (Toothless!), Fourth Wing (I forget MC's dragons names), The Rider's Dragon (Nemesis! Beware, R18+), The Dragon Riders of Pern (lots and lots of dragons and stuff), etc., I come to a few conclusions and shared fun-things:

  • Dragons bond with people because it is A) beneficial to them, or B) they were hatched and raised by their rider. Many of these novels have the dragons specifically hatched after sensing the touch of someone they could potentially bond with. Fourth Wing is the opposite example where the dragons use humans to make them both more powerful.
  • Dragons start small and grow to be multiple-story, gargantuan, fire-breathing (or another element) lizards.
  • When a dragon and rider bond it is either A) the rider dies, then so does the dragon, or B) the dragon dies, then so does the rider. Personally, both offer interesting stories to tell, and could easily be introduced to the normal familiar system of ArsM.
  • Dragon riders provide the versatility, while the dragon provides the power. Even if your dragon isn't feeding you pawns of Vis to improve a spell, it is still MUCH more powerful than you at its base level because, once grown, it has AMAZING might scores usually. The magi on the other hand is able to provide spontaneous spells and other useful things like enchanted gear that a dragon really shouldn't be able to produce by themselves.

So what would a house like this be named, and how could the rules be altered to more center upon this bond (if that is needed at all)?


Okie, I've been typing this out for like 3 hours now, refining my ideas, and here is what I've got:

  1. A magi of the house flies down on a village said to have a Gifted child. The magi takes the boy and flies back to his covenant where his dragon and him proceed to train the apprentice.

  2. The master opens their arts giving the child the minor virtues True Friend, Special Circumstances: Near your dragon (like 10 paces maybe?), and minor Magical Focus: Dragons. This also gives them the minor story flaws Magical Being Companion and as part of the process is the both of them either finding a dragon egg to raise, or summoning one. Rarely will an already born dragon suffice unless it is more of a drake by ArsM standards.

  3. The apprentice goes through the first 10 years just learning the theory and such, and in the end they are given the dragon egg which will hatch and begin growing up. At this point I imagine the dragon will probably be of a size around -2, and so binding it will be easy enough as long as the magi has the proper scores (size 0, Might 15 gives the young dragon a needed score of 40 to bind. A 10 in 2 arts which your dragon will take as its main ones, another ten from your focus, magic theory 5, int 2, and aura 3 gets you there).

  4. You finish apprenticeship with a familiar, with the proper calculations done with a size -2 dragon, but using your totals after apprenticeship. The bond is not very strong but it is enough. I would then probs rule that the growth of the dragon wouldn't break the bond at all because any growth it has would probably require taking virtues and qualities.

All together, this method works with the rules with little fudging and grants a great opportunity for roleplay between you and a party member or your DM (your dragon's player). At the same time, it is a little bit limited, and maybe should be handled with specific virtues and flaws MADE for it, or more likely, just having the magical being companion flaw and the two minor virtues related to your specific dragon. Alternatively, a hedge tradition with a Bind art, as well as a Dragon art could be interesting.

Bind could allow you to literally take a dragon's heart and bind it within your chest, granting you control over it if it wishes to live, while also taking other things like borrowing their powers. The dragon part of things would allow you to effect dragons, or apply suitably dragon-like powers and traits to others. Bind Dragon would be used for a modified familiar ritual, or to steal powers from a dragon (dead or alive).

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Very nice! Thanks for sharing.

And I'll check up that book on Nemesis, looks cool.

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Once in my groups we introduced dragons as familiar. They were bound when they very young, freshly hatched (with a low magic might) and grow up inside adventures. Each mage had a dragon, each player also played the dragon of another player, which was very funny.
The players decided, that each grown dragon could change into a human for a while, so we had lot of funny with intermix sessions.

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I would think it would be more balanced in game to have dragon riders as mythic companions.


My own feeling here:

The way dragons and their riders typically bond in these sorts of story strikes me as already very similar to the bond between magus and their familiar (in terms of the end state, not the mechanical process). So I would have something like a society devoted to bonding with powerful magical creatures - including but not necessarily limited to dragons*. This gives a young member of such a society (i.e. a new player character) a nice trajectory to pursue - selecting the relevant Arts, getting them to a sufficiently high level to bind such a powerful beast (read: high Might score), actually convincing such a creature to bond with them, and so forth. The pursuit of Magic Lore and potentially insights into Auras and regios would be natural side projects, and members of this society would likely be more inclined than the average magus to pursue odd local legends of dangerous creatures (read: automatic story hooks for your grateful SG).

*Given the way magical beasts in this setting are largely unique creatures rather than individuals of a species as we think of them, I'm not sure there would be enough willing ones to go around even among a rather small society of magi. But your saga may vary!

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There is nothing to prevent a familiar type relationship. minus the lab bonuses and other specific details, from being formed between a non-magus and a magical being, especially one who might want to avoid acclimation. A ritual for a magical companion bond can work just as well, including the need to befriend the entity in question, by which process the young non-magus would transition from being a grog or companion into a Mythic companion.

Part of this is it feels like mages already wear to many hats trying to do everything and keep up their studies.


My first instinct would be to go the way aelred proposes: dragon riders are Hermetic magi who bind dragons as familiars.
I think this would work well as a Dragon Cult within House Flambeau, that teaches (at least):
a) a Minor Magical Focus in Dragons (narrowish ... so perhaps it's Dragons-and-dragonriders, or Dragons-and-those-who-deal-with-them) and
b) a Minor Virtue Dragon Familiar, that in a way similar to Spirit Familiar gives extra perks to the cords, and also allows a magus who binds a young Dragon, of small size and low magic Might, to forever treat its Size and Might as they were when it was first bound (this replaces the advantage of Spirit Familiar of being able to bind a creature you would not otherwise be able to bind).

However, after reading silveroak's comment, I realized that dragonriders would be perfectly handled as companions (not necessarily Mythic Companions) through the rules for Faerie Wizardry. More specifically, every dragonrider needs:
a) a Faerie Sympathy with Dragons-and-dragonriders. This is a Minor Virtue, or part of a Minor Virtue (e.g. re-skinning Faerie Blood - Blood of the Gods). This not only adds to all mundane tasks involving dragonriding (including convincing a dragon to form a bond) but also defines the scope and magnitude of faerie effects achievable by dragonriders.
b) the Major Virtue Faerie Enchantment. Typically used with ... Ride (dragons)!
c) the Minor Virtue Grant, that can grant Dragons and their riders all sort of nifty powers (including other appropriate Faerie Powers, such as Weal, Conjure, and Portage) via Virtues. The possibilities are vast; I think most effects BookofStrangeThings had in mind can be reproduced.
This is a total of just 5 Virtue points.


Ill have to look at that cause it didnt cross my mind.

Has anyone considered the "Arrowsmith" comics?
Magi get mini-dragons while the big ones are still a threat.

Addenda the Matter of France has tales of knights riding hippogriffs, so Arrowsmith might be too low key for you

I respectfully suggest the dragon and the rider should be played by two different players.

This replicates the source material, in which the dragon, while generally on the same page as their rider, often wants to accomplish the goal in a very different way. This results in good natured conflict that’s fun for players at the table. For a certain subset of players, playing a dragon is fulfilling a strongly held fantasy. When the dragon and rider are played by different people, you can balance them against magi separately, instead of together, allowing each to be more competent without blowing balance. And this also solves a table problem, because now when the dragon and rider go off by themselves, you’re keeping two players busy instead of one.


I agree, the dragon should be someone elses "companion" type character, though, honestly, if you don't have the magi as the riders, you could have the dragons as magi-equivalent magic creatures and use companions as the riders, have a reverse familiar bond like in Fourth Wing where if the dragon dies, the rider does, but vice versa isn't true.

The "reverse familiar bond" is possibly best treated as a Major Flaw, perhaps recieved as part of a Mystery Cult initiation for the Dragon Cult mentioned above (as taking it before you have a familiar doesn't make a whole lot of sense). Perhaps something like:

Major Hermetic Flaw: Familiar Life-Bond: if either the magus or familiar dies, so will the other.

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What about House Melnibone? :grinning:


I'm all for "House Drakonis".

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I thought House Adalin or House Adalinda (Adalinda basically meaning dragon, noble dragon, etc). Could definitely have been the name of a kid obsessed with the creatures, OR the name of their dragon companion.