Human Familiars Possible?

One of my players, of course it's a Tytalus, has asked it it's possible to make a human his familiar instead of an animal. While my immediate instinct was to say "NO!", I thought I'd float the idea here and see what people think. He's using the Great Library at Duremar as his initial research location (on the principle it's more likely to be there than anywhere else) and the PC magi are on good enough terms with the Bonisagus that he could reasonably expect to gain access to some of the more... esoteric... volumes that may normally be locked away.

I'm considering some serious downsides to the project (should I permit it in the first place), such as requiring the human familiar to consume vis to maintain the bond on the anniversary of the bonding and that the familiar will tend to creatively misinterpret the magus' requirements at all opportunities.

I'm sure there are some huge pitfalls that I'm overlooking should I let this go forwards but I'm intrigued to see what others here come up with.


By default standard hermetic theory only allows Magical Animals to be bonded. A mystery virtue exists that allows you to bind spirits. Also Merinita with the Faerie Magic virtue can bind fairies of all varieties of fay including people who may not have a might score but have become fay by close association with faerie. (Interpret as you will.)

My general belief is that other virtues could exist that allow other inherently magical things to be bound as familiars. But they would have to be either sought out and initiated or created through Research mechanics.

I thougt on a Marriage Bond, firstly like one Research project to make that, and after should be a Minor Virtue like Spirit or Daemon Familiars (and fistly one Item Bond to Magic Items like Elementals), or maybe one minor breakthrough if none special rule to the bond was added.
And of course, if just like the Familiars that Human counts size on Lab total.

Similar to this, my answer would be something like:

"Sure! Probably. Well, you'd need the appropraite minor virtue ofcourse. Have you read the Original Research rules by any chance? You should - you'l need 'em."

I would point out the Original Research rules are kinder for this project then they first look. It is a long, hard slog to integrate this concept into a virtue or, even worse, Magic Theory, but if your player just wants a human familiar, then all he needs is the "Discovery" part of the process. Heck, it's not like you can have more then one familiar, so let some other guy go through the hard part....... He'll want a 6 or 11 Magic Theory score, because you need "Discovery" on the Experimentation chart.

I generally don't let a character get the result they wanted with their first discovery. It should be a series of small steps leading up to an actual attempt to bind a human. That being said if an SG is feeling generous it is a good excuse to give the character what they want and get on with the game. It also avoids dealing with the "Now that we can bind humans what will become of the order?" question.

You can do what you like in your game, but Canon is pretty clear, get the Discovery, get the effect (with chart effects, of course. You can move the number to get the Discovery, but if you rolled an 8, you are going to get Modified Effect as well), if it's possible. I think most OR in Ars Magica would be of this sort, getting the one-off effect you were looking for, and stopping. Stabilization is a lot of work. And it helps explain the Seekers, as well. Collect those notes before that Discovery is lost!

I really don't think that binding humans would be an Order problem. As you pointed out, every familiar example is Magic in some way. The setting has Magic humans, and they are not considered "mundane", and given the true friendship requirement, very difficult to abuse. Now, you might try to OR binding non magic familiars, and familiars you don't like, but I would say that those are hard limits, and the OR would fail. Your incremental method would, I think, be very creepy, given the topic. How would that work? Keep binding and killing your familiars until you finally get your effect? I see a Wizard's March in your future after, maybe, number three. Or maybe you will let the player have perhaps a dozen quasi-familiars until the Discovery? That would seem far more dangerous to the game, both balance and setting. My two cents.

I'm not sure what you mean by Discovery. If you mean get the full discovery points (30/45/whatever) required for the full effect, then sure. That's pretty generous compared to the canonical rate of innovation but it's RAW and very reasonable for a game. If you mean that the player should get the effect he wants on the first attempt to gain discovery points, then no, that's too generous for me. Creating human familiars is IMO a major (45 point) effect and and I wouldn't allow success until the full point total of discoveries is reached.

Read P. 27-28 of True Lineages. Figure out what you want to do, Experiment, modified by the Risk Modifier, and rolling on the Extraordinary results chart. If you get a Discovery (on the Chart) then you get a completed item or spell. "If you do achieve a Discovery during your experimentation then the original research was a success.". You have a working something (item, spell, or maybe familiar). Nothing in the rules says you have to Stabilize the Unknown. You don't have a new virtue, you haven't gained any status, you don't have a shareable lab text, but you do have something not doable in Hermetic Magic, and for many, that will be enough. You can certainly change that in your game, but I think the canon rules have given us a nice way to "bend" the rules within the rules, for those projects that don't quite "fit" the normal box. And, again, controlled by what is "possible" in someone's game.

Depends on how the OR is characterized. If it is a major breakthrough, I wouldn't say the discovery was on how to bind a human as a familiar, further, I wouldn't allow binding a human as a familiar as a first step. Talk about an end run around the rules.

Well technically since it is neither a spell, a charged item, or a lesser enchanted item you can't actually do Original Research experiments by trying to create a familiar bond. You have to do your experiments on related effects whatever you and your SG determine those to be. Those effects seem like they are supposed to be "normal" hermetically as you create them wether or not you roll a discovery.

Like the example gratis given in HoH:Tl. The character is trying to overcome the limit of vis so his SG determines he should experiment on muto vim or intellego spells. He starts by inventing a Wizards Reach spell which has no relation to changing the art vis is associated with beyond it being a MuVi effect. He creates five apparently normal wizard's reach spells until he achieves a discovery on his sixth try. After stabilizing the discovery he is left with one point towards his breakthrough and a perfectly normal wizards reach spell.

Human familiars being pretty complicated an sg might say any experiments using Muto, Rego, or Intellego in some combination with Corpus, Mentem, or Vim could generate breakthrough points.

You might be thinking of Integration Research. In that you can get a "partially non-hermetic result" because your integrating inspiration you got from studying some non-hermetic method. But the character doesn't get to choose the nature of the experiment. Effect, target, range, method ect is all set by whatever the troupe or sg say the inspiration provides. You'd have to create a hedge tradition that provides such an insight though. (Honestly I was getting the two confused a bit because I prefer and usually deal with the latter)

Any of the "Special" cases (Familiar, Longevity Ritual, Talisman) are going to have to be done on a case by case basis. You might mix and match the OR and Integration rules. You, after all, only get one shot at a Familiar, and it's very publicly possible. As to your second point, I think it is written loose. It does not state anywhere that you do not bend Hermetic Magic until the actual Breakthrough. In some games, that will be the case. In others, not so much. I, for one, like the thought of weird magic items in a lost Covenant that cannot be duplicated by Hermetic Magic. And for players, like the guy whose player started the thread, who don't want to go the whole Breakthrough route, they just want to do something a little different, this works well (Sunny with a chance of KaBoom!). I mean, how hard to you make a player crawl through mud for what is really just flavor? Is a magic human familiar who can change into a cat more unbalancing then a magic cat familiar who can change into a person (which is a canon example of a thing you can enchant your familiar to do.)?

I agree, it's hard to see much difference between these in game mechanic terms. Although there might be a considerable in-character, social distinction between the two cases.

In any case, if I was in the troupe/storyguide, I would think: will better stories result from the character trying to achieve this and failing, or will better stories result from the character trying to achieve this and succeeding. Also, if the interesting stories result from success, consider whether the stories around the "trying" (i.e. research bit) are interesting --- if not, then just handwave the success bit, and move onto the fun stories.

Oddly, if I remember the Canon Magic Humans correctly, the cat who turns into a Human will fit into society better then a Magic Human who turns into a cat. One thing though, I would point out that sometimes it's not about the stories. Sometimes you just have a vision of how you want your character to be. It's funny, it's happened to me, and I have had StoreTellers tell me what I wanted to do wasn't possible, even though it was really just flavor, and I was going to have to spend more time and money doing it my way......

Does he have a specific human in mind?

The roadmap for special cases was laid out very clearly in Magi of Hermes with Aurulentus of Jerbiton. In OR when you roll a discovery, you find something that allows you to continue research towards your ultimate goal. If this were in a saga I'm in, a player experimenting on a human would never achieve their desired result with a single discovery result. The Discovery in this case would be something similar to what magi and familiars already posess, but not all of it.

I would counter with the same book, which had a mage who had turned a living tree into a Magic Item/Talisman (as memory serves). In Canon, the only legal example of living things being Magic Items/Talisman would be mages, using the Major(?) virtue, Inscription of the Soul, a virtue the mage in question did not have, let alone a new Major Virtue, Inscription on the Other's Soul. Now, I geeked the heck out of that guy when the book came out, and I don't remember his timeline having any block of the thirty or forty years that OR of that level would require. Did I miss the block of time, or did all the guys would worked so hard to get Inscription of the Soul get played by the cult, paying so much for "Dumbo's feather"? And heck, living magic items are a lot more unbalancing then magic human familiars. Mind, it would explain all the European buildings covered with ivy.......

This living magic item is essentially inanimate, except when its invested powers are activated. I think the text hints at a form of sentience, and that the magus wants to eventually awaken his talisman to make it fully self-aware, but, IMO, that would require significant original research and probably combine the talisman and familiar into one item, which isn't a great idea. The example here is it was adopted as a sapling and grew into a full sized tree. There's little preventing a magus from building a lab around a tree, investing it with vis and attuning it as a talisman now. Yeah, so a tree in the middle of a forest is a talisman. In any event, I have a lot of problems with Magi of Hermes, some of the magi I wouldn't allow to do the things they've done. Some of the spells are not correctly constructed. Gwidion doesn't seem to be one of them at first blush. Gwidion could easily have done the same thing to an oak tree of suitable size. Be that as it may, the example you provided, while interesting, doesn't address the underlying issue, getting a human familiar should probably be OR. OR is complete only when all the research is complete (i.e. all the breakthrough points accumulated). A discovery roll does not mean you've hit the Eureka moment, it means you've discovered something that allows you to keep researching along that particular research line, which could lead you to your end result. So, if you're starting your research by trying to bind a human as a familiar, that discovery, in my opinion, might allow you to invest vis into a human, somehow, someway, with unexpected and possibly undesirable results.

Also, since much of the power of a magus is derived from time spent in the lab, a talisman actually adds very little to this power over time, unlike a familiar. Talismans can only be used in play, and can't really be leveraged to make you more powerful later on, unlike a familiar.

All of these things go down to the stories they create. I'd only be interested in allowing a player to have a human familiar if it were to create interesting stories, without causing an undue rush by other players to do the same thing. And, of course, I'd still require some kind of research to make it happen.

Weirdly, yes. He has his eye on a set of twins. Which is only making my headache worse!

And as for this thread... I think I've started a monster! Brilliant suggestions regarding OR and Integration rules as a way to look at the project. I'm not planning on it being either easy or fast.


According to your profile, you joined almost 1 year ago. So you're not really new here. :smiley:
The monster is always here, just waiting to be poked or prodded.