Mundane Familiars

A player in my saga has posited finding a non-magical Familiar. Which, at first blush, seems okay (if a little scrawny, after a fashion). The player also mentioned that the non-Magical Familiar would be unaffected by an Aegis.

But then I reread the Familiar section of the main rulebook (in the Laboratories chapter, p. 104), which starts off by saying the familiar starts off as "an animal with inherent magic. With inherent
magic, the beast is likely to have a Magic Might score". So, it seems that, technically, a prospective Familiar doesn't need a Might Score (which jives with the "Aegis? Hah! What Aegis" theory).

But if so, what constitutes an "animal with inherent magic"? Would it be an otherwise mundane eagle (for example) with at least one Supernatural or Hermetic Virtue or Flaw?

And is he correct that a Familiar with Magic Might would be unimpaired by Aegides? Or would the process of bonding with his Human somehow make him magical enough to be affected in some way?

I'd say only virtues should count.

And if it has access to hermetic virtues (has the gift) it may not like the idea of being a mere familiar, rather than becoming a Magus itself :stuck_out_tongue:

Magi are pretty magical, but they can walk straight through an aegis. An aegis only blocks things with magic might, and the familiar bond doesn't grant that.

Of course any supernatural abilities the familiar might have would be dampened by the aegis, just as normal.

I would suggest that there is not reason there has to be a minimum level of inherent magic. Nearly being "touched" by magic would be enough.

I have always thought animals created by Cr An would be ideal familiars, if a little bland.

This was discussed a few weeks back - turns out Hooks has a familiar that doesn't have magic might, either - so, congrats! Your player is canon!

I have allowed as a familiar a dog (animal companion) which had eaten a pawn of Vis.
It doesn't have to be a strong association with magic.

It's perfectly valid, though being able to bypass an Aegis is counterbalanced by being unable to bypass Circle of Beast Warding (which is a really handy spell for keeping critters out of stuff). It will still get to use it's master's Form Magic Resistance, but that usually won't be enough. Also, it will generally be pretty dumb, defaulting to the -3 Intelligence, where a lot of Magical Animals have Intelligence and can even speak sometimes. I would also expect a certain amount of derision in tribunals with highly status conscious magi (Rhine, Greater Alps, Provencal); hedge magicians bind ordinary animals, magi of Hermes bind Magical Beasts!


Interestingly enough, low-powered, Mightless familiars were once the norm, in the Way Back When. Might and cool familiar powers in previous editions cut into bond strength and cool familiar benefits. Having a powerful familiar probably granted status benefits for "look what I've got" coolness yet was probably not the norm and was certainly not optimal.

I think AM5's generic bond enchantment rules are elegant, yet I do miss the familiar benefits. I think that keeping the ability to add enchantments to the Bond, making Bond Strength be equal to the difference between the Bonding Lab Total and adjustments for Might and Size, but also allowing a player to choose from AM2-style benefits up to the Bond Strength would be a very good change. A magus could then bind a powerful familiar at a cost; a Might 40 familiar is not necessarily better than going Mightless.



Bonding a familiar in previous editions also took an entire year (at least in 4th it did). It was a huge roadblock to taking a familiar, given that it took your magus 'out of the game' basically for an entire year. Creatures were ill defined so taking a relatively mundane critter and giving it a whole stack of abilities via the bond was the easiest way to define thing.

Now in 5th, there are solid rules for building magical creatures (mostly solid, anyways). A creature with Might has powers, and more might means more powers and better powers. Front loading all of it into the bond isn't necessary anymore, as they'll come with a few powers to begin with. Previous editions also assumed they would come with powers and thus penalized the bond score (fewer new powers), current edition just makes binding stronger creatures more difficult (higher score required) and lets you build powers into the bond over time.

Familiars are pretty much always worth doing, though in our sagas they weren't really appreciated. Bond scores are a huge benefit (fewer botch dice on magic, more soak, less aging) for a single season investment. Warping free enchantments in the familiar bond are just icing on the cake, and if you're truly ruthless, familiars are ablative legal armor, given how 'loss of familiar' seems to be a popular punishment at tribunals (short of death and/or huge vis fines). :mrgreen:


Although CrMe rituals to boast it up to 0 are reasonably cheap/doable; and are worthwhile so that the familiar becomes a better lab assistant.


Also many familiars who had Might would presumably look down on the Mightless ones. Mightless familiars are the familiar equivalent of hedge wizards.

That's what, 21 pawns of vis (CrMe35, 3 times)? Ouch.

On the other hand, your familiar won't be penalized by its Might Score when learning Abilities, so teaching it Magic Theory will be much easier.

This is actually the reason I see these as fairly popular - depending on how you read the rules for teaching familiars, obviously.*

  • Some troupes argue that since familiars are taught abilities in the same way as humans (ArM5, p. 105), there is no penalty for a familiar based on Might score. A weighty reason to become a familiar, for sure!

Yes, but you don't need to do it all at once. 21 pawns in three batches of seven spread out over a decade, may not be a big investment (depending on vis availability, of course). You're probably planning on keeping your familiar for decades.

If it's only to gain 3 points of lab total, there are cheaper alternatives. There are other benefits, of course, but that logic applies to the magus too - that vis could make him smarter as well!

Yes, but the magus is (probably) not at INT -3, which means that you need a more expensive ritual, which is much harder to invent and cast. The low INT is what makes it much more viable.

I had forgotten! It took one season to find and 3 to bind, I think. The AM5 rule of 1 season is better, definitely!

I'm less certain about how solid the rules are for building familiars. It is definitely great to have rules for this, yet I have noticed 2 things:

  1. Critters with magic might used to have strange and interesting powers. This no longer happens, or is much rarer, because the build rules are designed to be vaguely balanced against Hermetic Magi. So there are very few "that's a neat and atmospheric power that I have no idea how they came up with that" and lots of "ah, I know how to build that" powers that seem more bland. Of course, a GM can create one-off crittters as he might, but still. (BTW, am I the only one who used to consider the canonical magic wolf of this and previous edition to have been able to self-divide into multiple wolves that were NOT magical media? The current RoP:M rules have made it clear that the wolves can be resisted by Parma....)

  2. It is very, very easy to create critters that adhere to the rules yet are ban-bait at most tables.

I agree that familiars are great. The AM5 rules also improve matters, I think, by making them available for any favored TeFo lab total. (The possibility of an awesome binding total is one of varous good (imnsho) reasons why I recommend starting characters to strongly consider ignoring all Arts other than one strong TeFo pair.) Bjornaer's inability to have a familiar is a real loss.

OTOH, I am not comfortable with the way a magus can enchant a bond with constant Warp-free effects. But it does make familiars that more awesome.



Folk Witches favor Familiars without Might. A simple Virtue &/or Flaw would count. Or maybe Warping.

Interestingly, I have been working on a project in that vein. Started the idea years ago and revised it many times, but I have as yet to finish it or use it in game to experiment with it.
But feel free to check out my project on Expanded Familiar Rules

Since the wolves are copies of the original wolf we consifered them to be the same wolf, so their mundane attacks would not be resisted. Works well enough from a story point of view for us.

Yes, that's how I used to read it too. But now, the power is based on CrAn guidelines so is resisted..... Note that a Bjornaer with Inner Heartbeast would love to self-initiate this power, were it not resisted!

A lot to absorb on your page. I did notice that you consider binding a familiar as creating a bond akin to marriage, a union of equals, and I suspect that many magi would not see it so:

  • In ME, marriage is often considered a union of not-quite-equals.
  • Some magi might love and cherish their familiars, yet see them as subordinates. Magi who believe in hierarchies - such as Tremere - and even familiars themselves - such as wolves! - would consider this obvious and right.
  • A magus who binds a very powerful familiar might see himself as an equal, or even a subordinate or supplicant! Magi who bind Aspects of powerful, even primordial, daemons might fall into this category, as might magi with draconic or demonic familiars.
  • A Merinita binding a Faerie familiar might see the relationship as among equals, yes, but as a precisely negotiated business transaction!

I think there is much to be gained by concentrating on what the rules are rather than on what they mean, to allow wild divergence of meaning across the Order... and to allow conflict among magi with different perspectives. (Think of what a Tremere would think of a magus who worshiped his familiar, or what a Tytalus would think of a Tremere who enslaved his familiar, etc...)