Familiars from the start

From playing 5th Ed, I'm getting the feeling that they should have added familiar play from the start of play.

It could have been a rite of passage of some sort. I can see merits / flaws where the bond would be stronger or weaker depending on your masters teachings / your affinities.

I would even as far as stating that not having a familiar as a magus would be a story flaw or a magical flaw ( cannot / difficult binding / animal repulsion )

I mean, since you can rework your bond later on, I see no reasons why a young magus would not get his friend from the start.

I know, there is nothing that prevents a magus from having a familiar from the start but if it would have been intergrated into the caracter creation, it would have been a nice addition I think.

hmmm 6th ed I guess...

I think that not every character needs a familiar.

I like the setting element that the Bjoraer can't have familiars. I like the possibility of mystery initiations to aquire unusual familiars. I think that most verditius will spend a good deal of time working on their talisman that they love with a disturbing intesity and find it a more profitable expenditure of resources than a familiar (they might reconsider when their sodalis have familiars acting as lab assitants).

You probably differ on this subject or you wouldn't have posted.

The character creation process is tightly wedded to the long term events chapter and the laboratory chapter. If you choose to have all of the new magi in your game start with familiars you will probably want to make apprenticship a year longer or give fewer experience points for the apprenticeship portion of character creation in order to keep internal consistancy (or you might decide that inernal consistancy is overrated).

You would want to give mentors a motivation to see their students aquire familiars during apprenticship. In the present setting this is time that the student could be working as a laboratory assistant instead and I don't see the elder magi givng up their assistants at the when they are the most valuable. (This motivation could be as simple as tradition but I'd be tempted to whip up some sort of cool story that fit into the story arc of my game.)

There are indeed a lot of lab activities in ArM5 which make sense for a newly gauntleted maga - and among those bonding with a familiar provides perhaps the most colour and character definition.

I would still not redefine the culture of the Order of Hermes to such a degree as to make bonding a familiar into a rite of passage, though.

I would rather recommend to start campaigns with magus characters not fresh from apprenticeship, but who have already lived one or two years as a magus and with access to some vis and a standard lab like that from ArM5 p.32. This allows them to bind a familiar agreed upon with storyguide and/or troupe, if they so desire. And it also allows the storyguide to define Virtues giving access to certain types of familiar already during this time.

If desired, a troupe could make a 'year of grace' with lab and Vis into a regional custom among wealthier covenants, where other older magi but the Parens can watch a newbie at work and form an opinion on her mettle.

Kind regards,


This is the best alternative with the current written rules but it would be nice the the caracter creation rules would cover all that.

Right not there is a two part creation process.

1- Create caracter with virtues and flaws
2- Create convenant with virtues and flaws

I would create a 1.5 that would make the link inbetween the two where you would find virtues and flaws like:

Having a good starting lab,
Vis source,
Entourage, etc

Most campains start right not where the caracters are created, convenant is created seperately & the first few games are about chasing the best lab.

Adding the step 1.5 would allow to start the game in a balanced way. It may remove the fun part of batteling for the labs so I would have it as an optionnal step in setting up the campaign.

Meaby there will be something similar in the Convenant book...

I'm not sure i would like things like familiars to be standard for starting characters. But it would be nice to have it quantified in the form of virues and flaws.
An other thing in the same neigbourhood is longevity rituals. I see some have written them inn as a story element in their characters background. That their master made it for them. And that is just too big an advantage to just write inn like this I think.
The same with familiars.
How do you feel about the flaw magical animal companion, later ending up being bonded as familiars, by the way?

As it is a minor story flaw can't see a huge problem.
The Companion as Familiar can still provide the same plot hooks you used previously.
If you feel you absolutely need to ,
you could always apply another minor story flaw to replace it.

Starting characters could take Favours (Major, Story Flaw) without balancing it against a virtue as a way to justify services performed by their parens in their character background.

The parens is gambling guaranteed services now against a greater, anticipated favour, when their filius has become more accomplished.

What do you think?

i would allow this. And it could be a pretty good longevity ritual aswell, but then I would use the flaw for all it was worth. The parens would be a real pain in the behind...

The trick with Magical Animal Companion is that it's a Story Flaw. You can only have one. So while you gain both an advantage and a responsibility from it, it also limits your ability to take the really juicy Major Story Flaw. Seems a fair trade to me.

So you see the story flaws as advantages?
I can sort of see the logic, as a story flaw, if the gm is to pick it up and use it, that is a story that is garantied to be about your cahracter, putting you in the center of things.
The problem I'm having with this is that it's rewarding the player for doing something that is to his benefit. "Here, if you eat this choclate, I'll give you a dollar." Hmmmm... strange.

Story "Flaws" aren't "Flaws" in the sense that they have a negative impact on the character. They are just ways to involve a character in a story, frankly, they are pretty much insignificant in terms of "flawing" a character since they will not come up all that often, compared to a flaw that is always there...missing a hand say. Nor are all of them exactly "bad."

I have to admit that I am of two minds on the whole virtues and flaws thing anyway especially since a mage can soak up the flaws without trying very hard via hermetic flaws while a companion often has to scramble if they want the full 10 virtues.

But this is a personal view and I am sure others will not see things this way.

That was the logic as handed down to me from on high during the playtest. And it makes sense in that you gain an advantage yet lose an entire category from which to take a major flaw. This is particularly painful for companions, as they have no Hermetic Major Flaws from which to choose. So I can agree with it as far as it goes, especially for companions.

Still, it does strike me as a bit of reward for doing something you'd do anyway. Sure, your magical animal companion MAY be endangered, but you still get a point for something that would happen anyway, AND it saves you the trouble of having to find a magical animal to bind as a familiar.

But hey, I'm new, and I love the game, so even if it's a little hinky, it doesn't really bother me too much. Too many other wonderful things to play with that I'm not gonna get too fashed about it.

It doesn't really bother me either, just on a theoretical level. And I've having trouble defending it to my indygamer/forge friends.
But at least it benefits all players equally.

Here are my theoretical justifications.

First, Major Story Flaws help the person running the game by providing story hooks that at least one player wants to have his character follow. This is a really big help to the SG, particularly in Ars Magica where magi are more likely to want to stay in the lab, so the player deserves some bonus. Also, it means that power-gamers will always add a story hook to their characters, something they probably wouldn't bother with otherwise. That makes it easier to hook their characters into the game.

Minor Story Flaws serve all the same functions, but also provide a benefit. Because of the benefit, you don't get quite as much of a bonus for helping out the SG.

From a game-design perspective, both kinds of Story Flaw are designed to enlist desires for mechanical optimisation into supporting co-operative story creation, by ensuring that players who do build such things into their characters are not penalised, and that players who would just want the 'best' character build them in.

Personality Flaws serve a similar purpose, from a slightly different direction.

Look at it like this. Story flaws remove the choice of participating (or delaying!) in an adventure. THis is not such a big deal early on, but by the time your magus reaches 60-70+ years old he is likely to be working on long-time projects, have apprentices that he has a responsibility to teach, have apprentices he wants to use while he can, have political meetings/tribunals that he needs to attend for various reasons etc etc. Basically there aren't enough hours in a day, days in a month, months in a season or seasons in a year to do everything he wants and everything he must. Now chuck in being 'forced' to interrupt his busy schedule to go adventuring...

A classic example is the magus working on a breakthrough He has just made a discovery and needs to consolidate it immediately. Just as he starts the consolidation season he gets word that his dependent is in dire trouble in the south of Spain and desperately needs his assistance. Arrgh the timing! What to do, consolidate that precious discovery or go save his dependent? Many older magi gradually get crotchety-er and more selfish etc etc as they get more involved in their work. They, and especially players who have even less empathy with their social ties, may in fact choose to cut said ties as they withdraw into their labs closely involved with their work.

Story flaws give an SG the excuse to force a character out so to speak. That may mean that he can continue an otherwise difficult to resolve story arc or just make sure that other characters aren't forced to struggle because one character is kind of withdrawing. Whatever the reason, it gives him a tool - one that is fair to the character as well if he has used such a flaw, especially one with a benefit.


Hehe, this is cool!
Ok, the assumtion I'm working out from is that allthough Ars Magica is a "different" rpg, with focus on labwork, covenants etc. it is roleplaying, and it is a shared creation of a story. As you say: "co-operative story creation".
In Ars Magica you can have enjoyment from playing more than just one character, you can give life to grogs, companions and developing the covenant etc.
But when you are playing a character, the more the story consentrates on your character, the more you get out of the game, the more you get to be in the spotlight, the more intense the game can be for you. Story Flaws are elements that gives your charcter the spotlight, so you get rewarded for doing something that is essentially selfserving.

But when that is said, let me just emphasise thet I absolutely love Story Flaws as a way for the players to comunicate to the gm what they want to play, and as a gm I love story hooks.
And maybe Ars Magica is a kind of hybrid between "traditional roleplaying" and indy/forge games. Or that you try to cater to both "power gamers" and "story focused players".
Btw. have you tried any Forge games David? Sorceror, Dogs in the Vinyard, Prime Time Adventures, Universalis....?

It's a game, not a moral discipline. That is, I don't see anything wrong with rewarding players for self-serving behaviour, where that self-serving behaviour also serves the enjoyment of everyone else.

That, incidentally, is the fundamental reason for the 'one Story Flaw' limit; more than one would result in one character getting an unfair share of the spotlight, which reduces everyone else's enjoyment.

Ars Magica should be able to accommodate both types comfortably. It's rather hard for a magus to avoid becoming powerful, after all.

Not yet. They're a bit tricky to get hold of in Japan, and I failed to pick Sorcerer up when I was at GenCon a couple of years back. (That was probably a mistake.) I've looked at the free download versions, though. There are some very good ideas in those games, so I'm planning to bite the bullet and just pay the postage. :open_mouth: