Familiars, learning, and RoP:Magic

Familiars in my games have been using the standard rules for learning since fourth edition.

Realms of power magic says that magic creatures suffer a penalty to advancement totals equal to their might

How do familiars learn magic theory? How do they learn Artes liberales? How do they learn Alertness and brawl and all of the other things that I've had my Familiars doing? (Admittedly I've started up a new game recently and none of the PC's have familiars yet, even so it is worrying to my NPC's).

My first thought is to break with the magic book here and throw in a house rule that becomming a familiar eliminates the learning block (or at least makes it say, 10 lower).

Are things not as bad as I think they are? Am I missing something? Is there another alternative?

By now, I do not own RoP Magic. But for long I have distingushed between two tzpes of magic creatures.
1.) Creature of legend. How they came into being is unknown but since then they exist rather unchanged due to their magic nature. Examples are ghosts, dragons, giants. They can learn rather slowly.

2.) Creatures born by other creatures and use all rules as do other characters. Examples include hrools and familiars.

I'd suggest you continue to do what you were doing before if the saga predates RoP:Magic. No sense in changing everything while the story is moving, right?

Yep. It's one of the factors necessary for game balance so that players can play a magic character with other non-magic characters.

If you can justify them picking up some of this before they became magical, or before they became a familiar, you can spend their starting experience points on them. For example, maybe the character lived in a covenant and picked up some things over time.

Otherwise, you pretty much have to impart them with magic, using the Improved Abilities Quality. As a storyguide, I'd be willing to treat a magus teaching his familiar Abilities as if he possessed the Improved Abilities Quality for the purposes of granting experience in the Quality that would give those Abilities to his familiar, though probably not to raise them higher than his own scores. Or of course there's practice and adventure, though the character is unlikely to get enough experience to gain a new Quality without taking an Inferiority too.

The only problem I see with that is that these familiars will probably wind up much more powerful than other companion or grog characters. If that doesn't seem like much of a problem for your saga, I'd say go for it.

I don't see what your worry is, I'm afraid. They can learn Abilities, it's just not as easy for them as it is for mortals. If they aren't very powerful, like they have very low Might Scores, they have a little less difficulty, but ultimately it's the way the Magic realm balances characters becoming more like an ideal, they lose the potential to grow in other ways.

Magi have vis, don't they? Are they not willing to spend it on their dear, dear friend?

I'm sure they are. But the rules seem to be introducing a new need for the magus to spend time and vis on his familiar for something previously "free". And this is essentially done for no reason other than to make creatures of magic available as potential PCs.

practice has a source quality of 4 it could only work for the weakest of creatures. Assuming a might from5-10 adventures will often provide no experience at all on average less than half as much experience as they did prior to the book

My worries are
Consistency, in the past familiars have, as they aged, inevitably as a result of their activities become knowledgeable characters. They've become great teachers and powerful theoreticians. Now, without houseruleing, they're not going to be and if they do become so it will be because of magic ritual and resources rather than study and self improvement. Familiars move away from being characters towards being objects in that they become less "human".

Value to players: A familiar that needs to eat vis even to learn the basics of hermetic magic theory isn't going to be of one tenth the use as a laboratory assistant to the character. If the familiar can not learn to teach or to read or to scribe Not as many players will take them. The game will be poorer because if it. (yes that's speculation)

Value in the development of the character's "numbers" Familiars change from being a true companion that grows with the magus and interacts with the magus to being yet one more project that the magus needs to funnel their resources into. Familiars loose their mechaical independence they become immobile mechanically unless the resources are spent to push them. They loose their ability to grow with the magus.

Basically you've taken the fourth character type (after grogs, companions and magi) and said "these characters can not be played any longer - we've replaced them with a different type of character".

You do realize that in the manner the game is actually played this is a gargantuan change. Think of every familiar in play in every game. Now each season that passes in each game each familiar will act completely differently with regards to their seasonal activity. Every one of these characters has just had their off-screen behavior completely altered.

Have you ever had a familiar with a magus for more than five years? A familiar that's been around for twenty years will not look like a familiar that came from RoP: Magic. They're as different as night and day.


What sort of response are you looking for from me? Magic characters' advancement works differently than that for mortal characters, according to the rules in RoP:Magic. Or rather, they have greater difficulty retaining what they learn the more magical they are, just like other characters with Magic Might that have appeared so far in the Fifth Edition books. Of course I am interested to hear how this plays out for you in your saga, as I imagine the other authors are too, but if you don't think you'll like it, by all means do it differently. I won't be offended. :slight_smile:

I suggest when making a magical animal for a familiar that you plan to take Improved Abilities and ensure that he learns to teach and read and practice Magic Theory. You can justify that as part of the ritual that unlocks the familiar's intelligence; perhaps it picks up some of the magus's knowledge somehow. I don't imagine familiars are aware that they have difficulty retaining knowledge, either, so I don't see why they should behave differently. But needing vis to study or adventure experience will possibly lure them out of the lab and into more stories, which in turn may lure their magi out as well.

There is no fourth character type, though. The rules are pretty clear that all characters are either grogs, companions, or magi, at least in power level and importance to the story. I'm curious how you were playing familiars before. Who played them, and when? Familiars with Magic Might of greater than 15, which are the ones that start running into problems with retaining knowledge, are basically like playing another magus or a Mythic Companion, aren't they? Would you be willing to share some of your familiars' stats? I'd love to see what these characters looked like after so many years of development.

My thought is to really just houserule it and say that the Cords allow familiars to learn as per the Ars book. Perhaps this is one of the reasons magical animals accept the option of being a familiar - it gives them new insight into the world and those who live in it.

An alternative would be to compromise. Instead of the familiar's Might being the quality penalty, use the "magnitude" of its Might. (might/5)

As Vrylakos suggests, I think that I would houserule and say that the process of creating the familiar cords allows familiars to ignore the learning block and learn like a mundane character. In much the same way that the ritual of Opening the Arts means that a magus can learn the Arts. Probably this ability should expire if the magus expires.

I don't see any problems with this, and it means that existing familiars work fine. It even gives magic characters a motivation for becoming familiars.

I wasn't looking for a response. I responding to your statement "I don't see what your worry is" the worry is, that the rules were changed making existing characters illegal, that what I've been playing is no longer compatible with the unmodified complete set of rules, and that I strongly suspect what I've been doing is more fun than the new arrangement.

I'll post a familiar later

I think he may have a great point here, Erik. A lot of people have played familiars as companion characters or DNPCs since I got on the byus with 2nd edition, and for them, not getting XP as part of the magus's seasonal progression is a really big change. Calling familiars the 4th character type's a shorthand with some venerableness to it, IMO, although I do agree that what we actually meant was that when you were designing your suite of characters, you designed your magus, companion, grogs and then later your familiar, and that itr scaled as a companion or grog.

I'm interested to see some hard numbers from the other Erik about how it alters his play experience, but I do see his point here: this really is a far bigger change than I noticed while we were writing.

Cross posted from the house rules discussion.

The odd thing about familiars is that page 105 of the core book says that "The familiar will not die of old age as long as the magus is alive and it only suffers ill effects from from aging when the magus does"

While page 104 says "The first step in getting a familiar is finding and animal with inherent magic. With inherent magic the beast is likely to have a Magic Might score."

The core was written before the relationship between immortality and might became established.

Please don't let my worries with respect to a particular issue lead you to the erroneous conclusion that I do not like the book.

I don't understand what your point is? Is there something in the core book or RoP: Magic that says all familiars must have a Might Score? I don't recall any such requirement. If a familiar doesn't have a Might Score, page 105 applies.

I think a quick and easy fix is a one point Virtue or Flaw, "Familiar."

The familiar with Might is no longer immortal and dies when his master dies. This is the trade off for the ability to learn without the normal hinderances for having Might.

Of course, if the magus becomes immortal, the familiar should have the normal penalties to learning for his Might. I seem to recall that some of the paths to immortality for magi call for the loss of the familiar or are otherwise foreclosed by having a familiar, but I have to invoke serf's parma on that one.

And, at a stroke, the number of potential familiars decreases by an order of magnitude. For a low Might creature, Acclimation is easy to avoid, whereas inevitable death is, well, inevitable. Save for a spirit of despair, no sentient magical creature would ever agree to that.

The number of potential familiars is whatever the story guide and troupe decides. What makes you think intelligent creatures with Might are running all over the place? They should be rare. Most animals with Might should have Cunning, being Intelligent is not very animal-like.

Entirely true. Nevertheless, the familiar bond requires deep and trusting affection between the two involved, and even Cunning is enough to understand certain death, if not precisely the manner thereof. Whilst I can see a suicidal marmoset being a very cool familiar for a Perdo specialist, it'd be a bit wearing for anyone else. Since a familiar automatically gains Intelligence upon forming the bond, I can see a hell of a lot of very, very unhappy familiars, and a destructive relationship being inevitable.

Frankly, I think the whole idea that immortal characters can't learn for game balance reasons is deeply flawed anyway. Magi and humans in their early lives learn because they have to, and because they want to. Why would an old dragon bother to learn more about brawling? After all, he's defeated all comers to far. Likewise, he can ruminate on philosophy until he gets bored, which he inevitably will. The whole argument is based around the supposition that every creature in the world has the same monomaniacal drives as a PC and is thus terribly flawed. A faerie king will never gain more Leadership and Guile than ruling his court requires because there's no need to expend the effort and no realistic source of XP. If anything, the flaw exists in the XP rules. Why, for instance, would a sprite slumbering in a tree somewhere for three centuries acquire any XP at all? They're not exposed to anything new, are they?

I have two points, and I'll try to keep them brief.

  1. The learning rules in RoP: Magic are written so that players can play characters with Might, thus they need to prevent abuses because many players are monomanical. You state they're broken, but your examples are such that show why Might-having characters shouldn't even bother with learning. This is the effect of the current rules. You create a creature with Might, and it more or less stays the same after you create it. If you want to change something after creation, it's hard to do.

  2. I disagree with the assumption that all familiars have Might before they are bound to their magi. I don't think it's supported by the RAW. To use the counter to your same argument though, you're assuming that being immortal is all important to Might-having creatures. Just because mortals are frightened by inevitable death, doesn't mean that Magical creatures fear it in the same way. Maybe being immortal and unchanging is boring as hell and familiars would jump at the chance to learn, change, grow, become intelligent, etc. "The flame that burns twice as bright, burns half as long."