Familiar Bonding bonus

Recently my troupe encountered "Varkos the firedrake" from RoP:M p75, and Varkos hit it off and bonded with our Flambeau mage, rather than getting harvested. So much so, the Flambeau player wants to make Varkos his character's Familiar.

But the entire troupe has crunched the numbers, and the Flambeau mage's Lab Total is about 3 below the required minimum, with no obvious way to get extra study books for a while.
Some of the ideas they threw about to get those last 3 points are rather interesting (I am not allowing the expenditure of a Confidence Point for a Season long activity), but there is one that I would like the forum to adjudicate.

The troupe has asked if they can somehow use a Ruby or an Emerald in the Opening of the Familiar Bond and gain the Shape/Form bonus.
I am only about 95% certain the answer is "No", as there could be an obscure rule in an odd place that I am not aware of, and the player magi rolled high on the Magic Theory roll.

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I'm pretty sure it is no, but the rule of cool could be employed...

Can they not get help in the lab from another magus, or is their leadership too low?

So in the ritual, they have to crunch a ruby to make a potion for the bonding ritual, and to maintain the bond over time, they need to make the potion every year. It may not take more than a day to make, but the ruby cost at least a pound of silver. If the entire troupe agrees, I wouldn't spoil the fun.

Well, there is zero Leadership.

Also, I was under impression that making a Talisman and forging a Familiar Bond is too personal to allow for Lab assistants, but I can't seem to find a rule supporting this. If such a rule is in my imagination, then this thread is already helping.

I have never seen such a rule. Too personal to delegate, but not too personal to accept help.


Did your troupe check Covenants p,107ff Non-Standard Lab Routines? Overtime for the Bonding season would just provide the +3 at a small price in the mage's Living Condition modifier for this year.

Bonding is a lab activity generating a Lab Total, but indeed falls not under Magical Enchantments, where Shape and Material would have an influence.


Thank you, no-one has looked in Covenants yet
Though I wonder if this may have role-playing issues, as Varkos has a personality trait of Vain +3 and may not accept the drop in Living condition :slight_smile:

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That is Varkos' and the Flambeau's business. If the Flambeau has the Ruby of the OP, donating it to Varkos for that slight inconvenience of an Overtime season might convince the firedrake, and set a precedent of future Overtime work with the help of the familiar. :nerd_face: :wink:


The answer is indeed no - as OneShot correctly points out, it's a Lab activity, not an enchantment.
There are other possibilities though.

Even if the mage's Leadership is zero, he can receive help from one assistant; and yes, you can receive help in the Lab when binding a Familiar. The assistant can be a fellow mage ... or maybe now it's a good time to get an apprentice?

He can also experiment. Risky, but being a Flambeau is all about risk :slight_smile: Also, if something unwanted happens, reversing/correcting it might be a good source of stories.

He can improve the Laboratory, as per Covenant''s rules (starting on p.109). Not the quickest route, but something that provides a lasting bonus for future activities.

He can overwork himself, as OneShot noted - see Covenants pp.107-109. However, if he is not yet 35, most options ("routines") providing a Lab bonus force not just a Living Condition penalty, but an aging roll too. I think that's not really worth the price. Early riser is an exception, and while it does provide some other drawbacks and just a +1 Lab bonus, it might be worth taking if combined with some other option (e.g. Lab Improvement).


Even with 0 Leadership, you can have one assistant. That’s the fastest way without risk, though they may owe a fellow mage a big favor.


It depends, frankly. If you already have your longevity ritual, an extra aging roll while you're young shouldn't be a problem - it doesn't actually make you lose one year of gameplay and if your check is under control there is no drawback. I'm more cautious with the warping points myself, but some players may not care.

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I'm assuming he is not willing to experiment? Add a +2 risk modifier and he will succeed even if he rolls a 1 on the simple die.

If per chance he rolls a Disaster or a Complete Failure resulting in the destruction of the familiar, consider changing it to a high stakes Special or Story Event: "you failed and your atempt hurt Varkos, now you have X time to fix things before he dies."

Or just outright killing him. Some things are not meant to be. :pensive:

The best would be an assistant, as some have already said. But since Varkos is Vain he might not accept the Flambeau needing help with the initial bond.

Good point about him being vain.

How about 1 season of work on the lab to get Lesser Feature/Focus? Then you can use Early Riser (routine) the following season to be at +3 above where you are with minimal downsides.


Agreed; the issue is that very few magi - save perhaps the really vain ones - start using a longevity ritual before they turn 35 (or whatever age they'd start making aging rolls anyway). That's what I meant when I said "if he is not yet 35".


Can also rent a specialized lab in familiar bonding and/or that has a better aura.

I see alliances being specialized in familiar bonding offering that as a service


That's a cool idea. There are a lot of times you might want a really good lab for just one task, like a Familiar or a Longevity Ritual. I could see a magus setting up some really specialized laboratories with no Refinement and planned for visiting magi. That same magus might do something like a flying ship to move other magi and their stuff about quickly. Then they can be a landlord of temporary labs. Maybe I should try that some time.

It takes normally one season to get used to a new lab. But it can be worth the time just to complete this special task.

That's not quite right. If the Refinement is 0 or lower or if it's designed for transient use, you can move in and start working right away. I'd actually suggested both Refinement 0 and designed for transient use, so overkill since only one of those is needed. Anyone designing a lab for such transient use is clearly designing it for transient use and so actually doesn't even need to worry about positive Refinement. I personally find positive Refinement and transient use a strange thing and just avoid it.

Sorry, I thought the Magic Aura would also boost Varkos" effective Magic Might, as well as the lab total. Hence cancelling out.

You are not the only one who avoids it. All the groups I have played with that built transient labs have treated that 'or' as an 'and'. Refinement feels like it would be the opposite of something setup as transient.