odd thought on failed apprentices

I was reviewing the failed apprentice virtue regarding the question of a failed apprentice who then goes on to do something else with their life that would involve a different social status, and something struck me. In the description it states "perhaps your gift was incomplete", which got me thinking- if a magus went looking for an apprentice, and found someone with magical air whom they did not check for the Gift, and attempted to open their gift, would this result if a failed apprentice? If so it implies that anyone can be transformed into a potential lab assistant with a single season of initiation...

I don't know the answer, but I'm sure it's worth a decade or two of experimentation for a magus to find out!

Interesting question. A thought I had was that the potential Apprentice had a combination of Magical Air and Latent Magical Ability, which the parens mistook for The Gift. They tried to open the Arts, but as The Gift wasn't present, no Arts were opened. No Arts = no magic...yet. That Latent Magical Ability might yet manifest itself at some point.

Again, just a thought. And as with Ovarwa, I definitely don't know the answer. Perhaps it's something that each individual saga would have to investigate?

You can even go one step further: what if a mage discovered "Opening of the flawed Gift", an initiation opening the Gift, but crippling it to the point of preventing the use and learning of Arts ? The mage has a permanent lab assistant who can learn MT, but will never graduate and leave him.
The apprentice is still grateful to the mage because: 1) the mage will pretend that his gift was flawed and too weak 2) however, since he is a smart and gifted boy, he will have food, shelter and a good job for the rest of his life, still much better than working the land...
Considering that he cannot learn Arts, this assistant will reach rather high level of MT, becoming very valuable, since he has a form of Gift, he can still enjoy Longevity Potion, giving him even more time to learn MT... until through his studies he discover what his "Benevolent" master really did.

And the worse is that legally, the mage did not break the Code. Depriving a mage of power does not apply to an apprentice... Other mages might decide to wage a wizard's war, but the Code will be powerless to punish him.

Why even bother with the charade? MT can be learned by anyone after character creation, so have the grogs find smart grogs and offer them the job?

Sure, but if they don't have the Gift (at least a damaged version), they can't function as lab assistants. :slight_smile:
EDIT: ArM5, p. 103, first column.

Hmm, I just re-read "Failed Apprentice" and "Help in the Lab" at first glance they appear to contradict each other.
Maybe to help in the lab, you just need a connection to magic, the same as for Longevity Rituals. As long as you have a supernatural virtue or two you can function as a lab-assistant.

No, Failed Apprentice is an explicit exception, you state that you just re-read "Failed Apprentice", so presumably you noticed:

Thus the Failed Apprentice is an Explicit Exception. The reference to Supernatural Abilities is a seperate sentence, grammatically indicated as a seperate matter.
Perhaps it's because a failed apprentice had the Gift and said Gift was opened to Hermetic Magic?

The curious thing here is that the ability to learn Magic Theory is stated explicitly, even though earlier in the text we have that

So that part is rather superfluous.

And to reinforce what Tellus said, in HoH:MC, the section about Verditius Forge-companion (p113), said that they "often have Supernatural Virtues", however they only "add +1 per 5 levels of Craft ability...". So they cannot contribute otherwise to the labtot of the mage, despite their potential connection with the magical realm through their Supernatural virtue.

Cannon is quite specific, but you can HR that to any degree you want:

  • Having a magic- aligned virtue and some MT si enough -> there will be trade of those very skilled servants, or House Mercere who already has non-gifted members would have two Chapters: the RedCaps and the Black Gloves. House Guernicus will be running paranoid as that many lab assistants increases the likelyhood of secrets being leaked to the mundanes. Leadership score will be as important as MT every mage, except the most secretive (investing 30 xp to from 5 to 6 in MT to get a +1, versus 30 XP to have a +3 in leadership thus 3 assistants adding each +5 or more...)
  • Allowing the ability to add Supernatural skill level to labtot as long as it is relevant to the activity (for example Animal Ken for Animalem enchantments, Dousing for some Intellego spell...). It will lead to a situation similar to the first case however since it is much more specialised, those helpers won't likely stay with the same master but be hired on an adhoc basis.

As a side note, having more assistants, thus achieving higher labtot will not make mages much more powerful - they will be able to proceed faster in their research and invent high level spell/effects faster, but it won't increase their Arts score and their ability to perform magic with higher penetration. Powerful magical item will be more prevalent though and since they are more or less indestructible through normal means, expect more of them, making the Reforging Mystery quite interesting.

A higher lab total definitely makes magi more powerful, granting the following:

  • More powerful familiar and higher Cord Scores
  • Free seasons, since it takes less time to develop big effects
  • Extra penetration for magic items, including the ever-popular single-use Hand Grenades of Doom (for some reason, Flambeau dug this style of magic "The School of Antioch")
  • Better Longevity Rituals

Failed Apprentice is neither a contradiction nor an exception. That section on help in the lab lists the combination of the Gift and a score in Magic Theory as a sufficient condition, not a necessary one. There are two other sufficient conditions listed in the core book: being a Familiar and being a Failed Apprentice. HoH:MC brings in another sufficient condition, being a faerie via Becoming. As not a single one of these is listed as a necessary condition, none of them are exceptions to the rule. It would be just as correct (or, more technically, incorrect) to say the rule is you must be a Familiar and that having the Gift is an exception to that. The issue is that there is no clear rule, just a list of examples of who can help.

Note: I'm not considering the differences between the Gift, Gifted, the False Gift, and the version of the Gift granted by homunculi to be notably different here.

Note: Although Althea (BCoC) is listed as a "laboratory assistant," it seems to suggest she just helped around the lab in the way of what Covenants calls a "servant." So I'm not including anything about her in the sufficient conditions list.

That is similar but much broader than my best proposal. I've suggested the rule behind the scenes may well be that you have to be intimately connected to the Gift, meaning you have it (the Gift, Gifted, etc.), had it (Failed Apprentice, Becoming), or are bound to it (Familiar).

As others have noted, yes, people and beings can potentially provide a little bonus to certain lab totals without being a technical assistant. Ignoring Guard, we have Menagerie, Slaves, Servant, Infested, Greater/Lesser Guardian, Greater/Lesser Horde, Gremlins, Haunted, and Inhabitants in Covenants and Forge-Companions in HoH:MC. There way well be others.

Yes, I would agree with everything Ovarwa just said about the power of a higher lab total.

I'm almost willing to accept this, though I do note that the "had it" cases also include having had your Gift Opened to Hermetic Magic, something which could be argued to have left a permanent mark on you.
I would also not that, strictly speaking, the Transforming the Spirit part of the Becomming mystery only state that you can perform lab activities, not that you can assist in them, though I do agree that permitting assistance would probably be fair.

Hard to argue against any of that I'd say.

I stand corrected. I agree with callen's idea about what makes a viable lab-assistant.

Off the top of my head I can't think of any scenarios where it might be different.

Yes. I would go a step further and point out a few things about Becoming and assisting:

  1. Assisting is "help[ing] to perform."
  2. Virtues to that say they only apply to "you" "inventing," etc. (not specifically others and not "assist") are explicitly allowed, and the language of what this Virtue grants you is even closer to the language of those since it says "perform."

Where does it say you have to get Failed Apprentice from Hermetic magic? Why couldn't you be a Failed Apprentice of a different tradition?

That's actually a really good question. I hadn't thought that thought before.

Because Hermetic magi screw up more spectacularly and take bigger risks?

Because Hermetic magi often don't have useful mystery initiations for people with ruined gifts - a Folk Witch whose apprentice lost their gift could still be initiated into a Supernatural ability or two and become a practitioner that way. The same applies to Elementalists, gruagachan, learned magi and Solomonic Magi. The Soqotrans don't experiment (all teaching done by spirits or following the ancient ways of your tribe) and the Muspellia are educated in a few years by a giant.

EDIT: Oh, and the obvious answer is "Because failed Hermetic apprentices have skills useful to Hermetic magi, so fit into a Hermetic covenant". You could try having a failed apprentice of another tradition, but they'd only really fit into sagas featuring that tradition in depth. The bit in the core book of "Magi have compassion for you" and "you are familiar with the lives of magi" only makes sense if your failed apprentice matches the chief magical tradition in play in your saga, which for most will be The Order of Hermes.

an interesting thought on this- failed apprentice is a social, not supernatural advantage.
Which means in theory one could fake their way into being a failed apprentice the same way someone could fake their way into being the long lost nephew of the queen...