How to play a Bjornaer

Hi all !
We just finished all the character in my troupe. Two of my friends choose to play Bjornaer because they found it fun, but after seeing all the other mage, we hardly found the interest of the hearthbeast, beside the gimmick.
No familiar is a great loss, and hearthbeast is...meh.
Giving that Im usually the advice giver of the troupe but since I dont really know anything about how to make/play a bjornaer, what would you recommand to them to really feel useful ?

Maybe I could pinpoint some part of their mysteries they would like or use to advance ?

Precision :
One of the player (a bear bjornaer) want to be in his bear shape nearly all the time, the other dont really care one way or the other.

Heartbeast is really, really good at some things. They key to making it so great is the Inner Heartbeast. Once they have that, they can refine their Inner Heartbeasts significantly. This will work especially well for the one who wants to be in Heartbeast form all the time. The other one might want to look into some of the alternative Mystery routes.

Sensory Magic is pretty good, especially combined with Mentem magic.

In all honesty, unless you're interested in Clan Politics, or delving into the House's Inner Mysteries, it really doesn't much matter which house you select most of the time.

If you have a copy of HoH: MC I'd recommend having the players give it a quick read as this does have some interesting background on the myriad of ways House Bjornaer differs from the norm such as Clans, the Gathering of Twelve Years and so on, but none of this is strictly necessary.

The Bjornaer Inner Mysteries are:
Secret Name: Severs all existing Arcane Connections to the character and voids all forms of Sympathetic Connections (naturally, new ACs form afterward).
Theriomorphy: Allows the character transform partially into her Heartbeast to gain some benefits of that form - gaining a rabbit's Sharp Ears by growing long fuzzy ears, for instance.
Sensory Magic: Grants access to special Targets allowing the character to affect anyone who can taste, feel, smell, hear, or see her (with quite a few provisos).
Inner Heartbeast: Improves the character's Heartbeast in one of three distinct ways:

  • Epitome: Character's Heartbeast becomes the ideal form of your base creature - a Beast of Virtue
  • Chimera: Character's Heartbeast becomes a hybrid incorporating aspects of a second animal (one of those alpine bunny-falcons, for instance).
  • Anima: Character's Heartbeast takes on a spiritual or elemental substance while retaining its animal form. A bird of wind, a wolf of shadow, etc.

There are also some Clan Initiations, but they generally grant pretty standard stuff like Clear Thinker, or Free Expression that, while very useful, aren't really Bjornaer specific.


This is an incredibly useful abstract of house bjornaer that I didnt even know I needed before you posted it.

Just like Mr. Chevalier-joly I have had a hard time seeing how the trade-off of sacrificing your familiar for the ability to become an animal without a MuCo spell really pans out. Obviously it is thematically very different and there is the essential nature aspect but it feels like that is a very small thing to gain in return for the very big sacrifice of giving up your familiar.

Thank you for your response Gremlin44. Your post really should be transferred to somewhere where it is preserved for posterity so that new players can access it without having to resort to forum necromancy.

Also, Final Twilight turns you into a Great Beast. Meeting your predecessors is a different kind of research goal.

You can play or meet Beorn, of Middle Earth fame.

Bjornaer magi get a personality trait of at +1/2 Heartbeast Ability score.

Also, Bjornaer magi do not treat physical transformations as major magical effects for the purposes of gaining Warping points.

Inscription on the Soul and Great and/or Consummate Talisman may be useful/interesting for Bjornaer magi, maybe moreso if the Heartbeast animal or plant type provides more diverse S/M bonuses for attunement, especially if you have an anima Inner Heartbeast?


Why play a Bjornaer?

I'll always talk mechanics and optimization, so I'll get to that, but first some character-oriented stuff: Being an animal-person is something a player can easily grasp as a theme that can really pull a character together. Bears and ravens and lions are real, and have deep associations to real folklore and mythology in both the modern and medieval world. By contrast, Hermetic Magic (AM style), though interesting, is total fiction and therefore kind of lacks a bit of resonance. Pick an animal, pick a congruous personality, virtues and flaws, and get a grounded character.

As for mechanics and cool stuff, losing access to a familiar definitely sucks. On the other hand, gaining access to the abilities of an animal can make it worthwhile, even before initiation. If you can turn into a bear (a favorite) without need to roll dice even in a cathedral, you have combat covered, at least for your first few years, and can then specialize in any kind of magic you like. If you prefer a more subtle animal, like a bird for flight and awesome perception, or maybe a shark or pike in a saga where water matters, those bring abilities to the table as well.

Even before initiation into Inner Mysteries, you can have the most fatigue in the Order, when in animal form. That pairs nicely with LLSM, putting you among the best spontaneous casters in the game. Alternatively (heck, additionally), if you can cast without words or gestures, then you can cast in animal form, making your magic even less obvious, giving you some fine spying options. (Who is going to blame the horse?)

With initiation, you can not only get an augmented heartbeast, but can spend time augmenting it even further with any animal quality you want (that isn't utterly contrary to your Inner Heartbeast), many virtues and (usually less interesting imo), powers. With Theriomorphy, you can use these qualities in human form. You can also gain access to sensory magic, which can be put to interesting effect.

But if you don't find it cool to play a character close to his animal nature, that's fine too, and Bjornaer is clearly not the right House for you.

EG: Hearbeast(bear), LLSM, Silent+Subtle Magic, Cautious Sorcerer, leaving you up to three virtue points. You can specialize in any Arts, and are well set up to dump all of your Art points into the TeFo of your choice, since you have both LLSM and extra fatigue to power it.



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No, this is not true. (Edit: I'm wrong, and the next sentence has a caveat added.) The Heartbeast and Inner Heartbeast will not warp you, but other physical transformations sure can over time. Even using Theriomorphy to pull those Heartbeast and Inner Heartbeast Qualities into your human form can warp you.

I totally agree where Ovarwa headed with this. It also works well with either Life Boost or Imbued with the Spirit of (Form), which can make for a great healer or similar. But it's not really true that you can have the most Fatigue in the Order before the Inner Mysteries. Others can match you until you get to those Inner Mysteries. At that point it's extraordinarily hard, but not impossible, for others to match you, and they will have used a huge number of Virtue points to get there.

5ed Core book, page 92.

Bjornaer magi do not treat physical transformations as major magical effects for the purposes
of gaining Warping Points. However, a magical transformation which is maintained over time will grant one Warping Point per year, as it is still a continuing mystical effect.

Looks like I'm totally wrong on that one. Sorry. Surprised I missed that for so many years. I suppose that's connected to being able to shrug off such transformations with Heartbeast. I'm not sure how much use it would be, but it is a tiny benefit.


Sure. A Shapeshifter can do the same fatigue trick as a Bjornaer. But it's an expensive virtue that is not so great for magi. Magic Blood (RoPM) can grab an animal quality, in this case Tireless. But it won't be permitted in some sagas.

OTOH, a bear Bjornaer is about as mainstream as it gets.

Imbued with the Spirit of (Form) might prove especially useful for Bjornaer who enhance their Inner Heartbeast a lot. Once you have enough fatigue, you can reduce the vis cost to nothing (or to one, to satisfy the basic script)! Get all the Animal Qualities, all the virtues! Ok, most.

EDIT: This might not count as an appropriate activity for the virtue. Oh, well.



How about MuCo(An) to become a bear and cast spells in that form? That's even cheaper than Heartbeast and it's pretty mainstream. There is even a spell in the core book that will turn you into a wolf, which gets you 2 Fatigue levels. Or going with a boar or a mongoose for 3 Fatigue levels instead. Sure, Magic Blood could do it. You could also do it with Skinchanger, which is cheaper than Shapeshifter. Alternatively, you could take Lycanthrope and Theriomorph. These options are more expensive than the spell, but they're no more expensive than Heartbeast.

As I said, though, they cannot be scaled up nearly so easily as Heartbeast. You could, though, start with Theriomorph a couple times, and with appropriate choices you could start with an extra 4-5 Fatigue levels.

There are some cases where it should be an appropriate activity, but generally it probably wouldn't qualify. Regardless, all those different refinements require different types of vis. For example, it's Animal for Qualities and Vim for Virtues.

A far better option if you want to try this is to take Cautious with House Bjornaer Lore along with whatever you want to boost House Bjornaer lore so you can alter the script each time to remove the vis cost.


For a beginning character, that's a fine choice for a magus investing in Muto. Magi wanting to do something else, or wanting to use their animal form to attack without regard for MR, or wanting to hang out in animal form without incurring WP will find this expensive in other ways.

But fair point, I was ignoring the avenue open to any magus.

RAW, you canno, since a virtue can only be taken once unless specified. But it's not a bad way to grab an animal quality... if this virtue intended for hedge wizards is allowed in your saga at all and allowed for magi.

Not sure it ever qualifies. It's not casting a spell. It's not a laboratory activity. So IwtSoF probably doesn't work for this, RAW.

That is a better option! Saves on Warping Points too. Any Bjornaer serious about loading up with Inner Heartbeast stuff will want a high Bjornaer Lore anyway. That's not the only shenanigan that can be done. Want to acquire Tireless in human form or Outer Heartbeast too? Raise Pre arbitrarily high? Argue with your group about whether the specialty from the Leadership(own species) 5 you get from Pack Leader applies to humans when you're in human form? Vary or remove that requirement...



On the other hand, note that changng into heartbeast form (or out of it) is a magical effect, but remaining in heartbeast form is not. So, no warping from it. The same, incidentally, applies to Shapeshifter, but neither to Skinchanger nor to Hermetic MuCo(An). (HoH:MC, p.22, Ringng the Changes insert).

Ah, you're right. I just went back to reread it. Acquiring it more than once is possible, just not at creation.

Ya. I wasn't sure about adding powers since I haven't taken time to reread that part.

Exactly. That's my Bjornaer approach.

I had thought of two interesting Bjornaer concepts:

  1. A three-beast chimera via Magic Blood and Mystery of the Chimera.

  2. A delusional magus with True Faith and Holy Magic who constantly keeps Theromorphy going and thinks he's an angel.


I don't think that's true. It would take a generous reading of page 37 to decide that you can break this after character creation, and, say, take Cautious Sorcerer twice.

But if it is true, it make a character I've wanted to do possible: Take Magic Blood at character creation, take Cult Upbringing and declare that you have one or more scripts for this virtue, and then self-initiate many, many times.



Well, these would take a similar reading, right?

A Virtue or Flaw may be taken more than once only if the description explicitly allows it.

You may take up to 10 points of Flaws, and an equal number of Virtues
You may not have more than 5 Minor Flaws
You may not have more than one Major Hermetic Virtue

But we can break all these via initiations.

As for Cautious Sorcerer, duplicating it might do nothing. At least in this case we're looking at a Virtue that has many variants, each distinct from the others.

Thanks to you all for your answers. I was able to guide a little better my friends.
The bear Bjornaer will look into the book for interesting initiations, and the other chose to change his house for Meritina, more appropriate.
They are not that keen on scoregaming the game by using original script to initiate anything, so i will leave this part for another time when they will know the game better !