Here are a few questions about familiars for this saga that I think we need to address:

1.) Will all familiars be base MIght 15?

2.) Is there any base Int for a familiar?

3.) Are there any Virtues, Flaws, Qualities, Inferiorities, or powers that familiars should or should not have?

4.) Are familiars static creatures, or will they be able to advance? If so, how will they advance?

5.) Should we assume that we each can acquire the token necessary for binding a familiar?

6.) Will the default rule be that it takes a season to find a familiar and then a season to bind it?

My thoughts:

META: Ars Magica is largely a game about optimization. Characters must pick and choose where they will be skilled, and others where they will remain undeveloped. A familiar is a way to improve some capacity of the magus. As such, familiars that complement that maga in question are ok. However, excessive min-maxing isn't OK to me. I'd like to see some coherent theme: a wise creature that can be really helpful in the lab, or a strong predator with combat powers. Something that can do both seems too convenient.

  1. I'm not sure that a limit of 15 is a good idea. Powerful magi could well have a very powerful familiar. For me, 20 is OK, 25 is a maybe, 30 is flat-out no. I invite discussion on the topic. I believe we also agreed that familiars need to be Spring or Summer creatures.
  2. Int starts at the base of whatever create it derives from - see HoH:MC, or RoP:M. If not specified, it starts Int -3. You can take Improved Characteristics as a Quality to improve it.
  3. I'm quite dubious of Grant Major Virtue: Flawless Magic. Powers should fit the animal, and help it be an exemplar of the animal. I'd need to have a very convincing argument for a familiar to grant a Hermetic Virtue. Granting a Major Virtue could happen - I could accept a raven who can provide your Death Prophecy.
  4. ArM5, p. 105: "Familiars can learn Abilities in the same way as humans."
  5. Yes
  6. That sounds good to me. Further enchantments on the bond follow normal enchanting rules.

So here are some of my further thoughts:

1.) Might

I'm good with whatever Might we decide is an appropriate value. I'd just recommend that we all have our familiars in roughly the same range of Mights. Too much of an outlier (high or low) could upset play balance.

2.) Base Int

It starts to get a bit less clear when you start with creatures of virtue, which range in Int/Cun from -2 to +2. That's quite a range.

3.) Virtues, Flaws, Qualities, Inferiorities, or powers

I agree that granting Hermetic Virtues is a bit of a stretch. And they're typically so good that once you let one magus get a Hermetic Virtue, how can you forbid the rest of the magi from designing their familiars in a similar fashion? I'd be happy with a rule that says no granting Hermetic Virtues on the part of familiars.

4.) Growth of Familiars

The obvious follow up question is how will familiars advance? The simplest way is for your magus to teach the familiar. But should they instead get a flat amount as per a grog? Should they advance just like a magus or companion? If so, how should they advance pre-game after binding?

I would be happy saying that they get a fixed amount of xp/year from binding until the saga starts (I'm open to how much this should be), but that they then advance as companions.

5.) Tokens

I agree with you.

6.) Find and Train

I agree with you on this as well. Clearly someone with a magical animal companion who binds them as a familiar will be able to avoid the season of finding, but otherwise it should be just like a normal familiar binding.

1.) Will all familiars be base MIght 15?
Natural my magus would prefer to bind a might 25 or 30 ghost but the limit to 15 is fine with me

2.) Is there any base Int for a familiar?
because I pick a ghost that was previous a human (possible because I have the mystery virtue Spirit Familiar) I think Int 2 should be no issue but for a normal animal based familiar I would say Int 0 is the upper limit before virtues are applied.

3.) Are there any Virtues, Flaws, Qualities, Inferiorities, or powers that familiars should or should not have?
yes a familiar should at last have one of the Magic Animal, Magic Human, Magic Spirit and Magic Thing free virtue (all RoP:M 45)
I personal think we should avoid to give ritual powers (yes including any grant virtue power) and thematic complete unrelated powers for the type of familiar.

4.) Are familiars static creatures, or will they be able to advance? If so, how will they advance?
The magus should be able to teach the familiar without penalty from might and the normal qualities but the penalty for already learned supernatural ability should still apply.
Outside of the magus teaching the familiar I think familiar should be static pre game.
Past game I agree on advancing them like a companion.

5.) Should we assume that we each can acquire the token necessary for binding a familiar?
Pre game yes, just taking a season with no exp. to find one is enough but in game we should keep the Tribunal procedures with token.
(Otherwise we would have to find rules how we hand out token pre game and that slow us down even more given that one of the 5 starting player already stopped to post here despite still active in the forum. Sure we could balance the pre apprentice spend years with giving the same number of token then 3 past apprentice spend season but I don't think its worth it.)

6.) Will the default rule be that it takes a season to find a familiar and then a season to bind it?
yes as said in 5

I add my own question:

7.) With not allowing to full use the lab total are we changing the rule that the Lab Total is responsible for the vis cost? According the official rule for someone with i.e. a lab total of 60 a might 5 mouse familiar cost 12 vis, the same as a horse with might 30!
My suggestion is that we use the Familiar Bonding Level (see ArM 104) for the vis cost instead of the lab total.

If you wish to bond at a lower level than your max, say a level 40 ritual instead of 60, I don't see any reason why you couldn't do it, and pay only 8 vis. Note, that having a lower level ritual will mean smaller cords than you might otherwise have. Having good Bronze and Gold cord scores can make aging and botch rolls much less unpleasant.

As for your other comments, I want to wait until other players have responded.

@thompsja the rules for binding a familiar specific say that the vis cost to bind the familiar is the lab total / 5 rounded up, its the only place I know where it specific say you have to pay Vis for the full lab total instead of just for the needed effect.
So we need a houserule if we want to overwrite it.

The house rule seems perfectly reasonable to me.

There is no cost in tokens to bind a familiar, unless, I suppose, one is purchasing a bred magical beast. Also those with magical animal companion will be limited to a base might of 10-size (if they use said companion) but this is a trade off for not having to spend a season searching.
Considering Thebes is supposed to be chock full of powerful magical entities I see no problem with allowing a familiar of any given might, or at least no problems with up to 60, at which point discussion may be necessary, since I don't see herds of might 80 creatures showing an interest in being a familiar...

Just noticed this. Alas, I plan on using the Caladrius as Poenitens' familiar, which has a ritual power. I must disagree - having a ritual power is part of the rules, and broadens the scope of abilities.

The reason why I don't like Ritual powers is:

what means that the creature pay with a permanent might drain each time they use this power. If we don't like the permanent drain we need to come up how we want to handle the recovery so that there is no difference between the SG.
(unless someone can point us to a place where this recovery is ruled official in a more clear manner)

Of course, the average Int of a human is 0, not 2. "But I'd pick an intelligent ghost for my familiar," I hear you cry. Well, that's true for magi picking animal familiars too. Just like there are smart and dumb people, there are smart and dumb magical animals. One can assume that a given magus will pick a smart magical animal, just as Paulos will pick a smart human ghost.

I would be opposed to limiting Int to 0 for magical animals. Really, whether human ghost or animal, the characteristics should balance out to have a cost of 7 + 3/improved characteristic Virtue anyway. So I'm not sure it will matter in the end.

I agree with that.

I think a familiar should be thematic, and shouldn't have powers that make no sense. But I wouldn't rule out ritual powers altogether.

I'm not sure what you mean by the penalty for already learned supernatural abilities. There's a penalty for learning new supernatural abilities, but not for learning normal abilities.

But that's logically inconsistent. If familiars can advance post-binding, then they should advance post-binding. It's an arbitrary line to say that pre-game-start they can't advance, but post-game-start they can. Even with allowing pre-game-start, the familiar would likely take a huge hit, getting a fixed amount rather than advancing like a companion. We can set the value for pre-game-start advancement where we like (5 xp/season would be half what a magus gets), but I think it should exist.

I have no problem allowing a magus to use a lower lab total to bind a familiar if they wish.

I tend to think anything over 25-30 Might is a little unreasonable for a familiar.

Just looking at dragons as an example, a 31-40 Might would be a "typical dragon," a 41-50 would be a "powerful dragon," and a 51-74 would be "a dragon of might and legend." I don't see even a typical dragon becoming a familiar, much less a dragon of might and legend. Extending this to other creatures, I don't see Might 31+ creatures in general wanting to be familiars.

Actually, the creature can grant the Virtue temporarily and only suffer a temporary Might loss that can be recovered when the Virtue is withdrawn. It's only if the creature grants the Virtue permanently that there is permanent Might loss. And I think that's appropriate.

I mean this normal learning penalty for learn a new Supernatural ability after you already have points in others, sorry for be unclear.

Ok but I think we should then go with the normal 15 exp/ year pre game instead of inventing something new for the familiar. Unless you say Companion als get the 5 exp/ season thing ... what would us then have to work out new effect for Wealthy and Poor.

That makes perfect sense to me. The fewer exceptions we have to make, the better.

For might it sound like Togodor and thompsja agree on a 25 or 30 might maximum. Despite I more or less abstained at this question I agree 30 might is already very powerful and can steal even a magus the show as 30 might is the equivalent of 10 free major virtue in addition to the normal virtue and flaw.

You forget that a animal before it becomes a creature with might have only cunning what is from my knowledge no matter how high it is always below a Int of -3

I do not forget. Some magical animals have Int. Seven specific examples given are: Black Boar of the Bog, Black Dog of the Moor, Pentele, a Lion of Virtue, Raven of Virtue, Great Stallion of the Camargue, White Stag of the Woods, and Wise Owl of the Forest. (And that's not counting birds of Nephelococcygia, magical cats, and dragons, all of which can have Int.) In fact of the twelve creatures of virtue detailed in RoP:M, over 50% of them have Int. GIven that there are 7+ examples given of magical animals with Int, it stands to reason that there are more out there. (In fact, the writeup for magical cats specifically notes that Intelligence is a free choice for magical animals - RoP:M, p. 70.) One imagines that these intelligent magical animals would be sought out after as familiars for just that reason.

The fact is that there are rules for creating animals - If I recall without double checking they are in HOH:MC. then there are further rules for making them as characters, which are mostly in ROP:magic, and then there are qualities which can be used... and of course cunning converts to int with a free virtue available to magical animals... as well as rules in Grogs, and both the rules in Grogs and ROP:M refer to the rules in mystery cults with little definition of how these rules inter-relate...
from what I can understand you should first look up or create a regular animal from Mystery cults, then modify this as if making a regular human character with the restrictions listed in Grogs, then add magical traits from ROP:magic...
though many of the magical animals in ROP:Magic seem to ignore limitations inherent in HOH:MC as well as Grogs with no explanation given as to methodology...

In my opinion if you want to have a familiar for the lab instead of a spy or way of transport you actual should go with a drake or dragon who from begin have Int instead of cunning.
Just to have a familiar that actual is created like a grog and not some animal I had to initiated into a minor mystery, have the familiar by default the magical air flaw and had to do a lvl 45 bound enchantment (needed me 3 season).
Yes, despite that in theory I also could bind to a living ghost, the aspect of a daimon or probably even our saint protector before spending magic qualities I'm still limited to the 360 xp we set what is a grog of age 21.
But if we allow animal to have high int then I maybe better go with a divine ghost who have the powers of a Holy Tradition with ceremony instead or in addition to be a toolmaker.
(I wanted to avoid a divine ghost because its in my opinion difficult to explain why such a being still is here but in my opinion the difficulty to explain also go for animal based magic might creatures with int higher then 0)

beside all Magic animal in RoP:M with Magical Master where never designed to be picked as familiar and even Magical Companion are out if we decide the base design before applying the change for a creature of might must be at grog level

@silveroak the problem of the example magic animal might also come from the point that according to RoP:M some are in the might level of a companion or even magus with the difference in what can be taken as normal virtue and flaw. Also creatures of might can take magic qualities, and so virtues, past their might without limits als long the points are covered with Inferiorities.

If we limit us to grog instead of companion creation for familiar shouldn't the limit to just minor virtues and flaws also apply for the magic qualities and inferiorities? (Yes this means no Ritual Powers)
Edit:To put it blunt if we not limit the qualities and inferiorities then there is no reason to go with grog creation instead of a companion creation as the virtue and flaw could then be picked as magic qualities and inferiorities.

Having a dragon familiar may not be appropriate for every character, nor may it even be appropriate for the saga. I would certainly never assume that I could have a dragon or a drake as a familiar. That's why I generally go for a lesser magical animal. And there's nothing saying that another kind of magical animal besides a drake or a dragon wouldn't be a good lab assistant, if that's the primary goal of you having a familiar. (Though I would argue that the story aspects of having a familiar should always be there.)

You didn't have to initiate into Spirit Familiar. You chose to do that. You could just as easily have picked a magical animal familiar. And I disagree with the assertion that all magical animals must look identical to some arbitrary template. We're trying to make interesting stories with interesting characters. Why can't you have a stag who's more intelligent or an owl who's quicker, or a dog who's less perceptive? It makes for a better story when we can make our familiars into real characters instead of cookie-cutter copies of what was printed in a book somewhere.

I doubt very much you could bind to a saint. Saints are strongly connected to the Divine and not easily manipulated by hermetic magic. In fact, the boon Meddlesome Saint, which defines our patron, notes that "[a] meddlesome saint is far worse than a meddlesome person, because saints are all but beyond Hermetic power."

I don't think it's fair to equate having a higher Int with having powers of a Holy Tradition.

As I've said, there are plenty of examples of magical animals with Int scores. Presumably these Int scores vary for individuals in the type, averaging around the value given in the books. One imagines that magi seek out the more intellifent magical animals as companions. That doesn't seem all that difficult to explain to me. For example, the exemplar Raven of Virtue has an Int of +1. It doesn't seem too out of keeping that there might be a Raven of Virtue out there with a +2 or a +3 Int. Yes, it would be smart for a raven of virtue. But then, so would a human with an Int of +3 be smart for a human.

Just out of curiosity, what is the Int of your ghost familiar?

Okay, that takes 2 out of the 7+ magical animals I identified in RoP:M that have Int instead of Cun (Pentele, a Lion of Virtue and White Stag of the Woods). That leaves 5+ remaining, which I still think makes a very strong showing that some magical animals with the potential to be familiars have Int.

I'm not entirely certain what your point is here.

Again, I'm not certain of your point. We've said that magical animals should be made using the rules for making magical animals. I'm not certain what's unclear about that.