The Unbalanced to let Bjornaer magi have familiars? topic reminded me an idea I'd been considering for a while now: removing Familiars.
Before you all start screaming "but what about my lab bonuses!", this all comes because there are some milestones in the life of a magus: his Gauntlet, his Talisman, his Familiar and his Apprentices(s). I'm totally in for three of them, but to me the mythical sorcerer concept doesn't come attached to a magical pet, and when he does, the wizard is really not so mighty for Ars Magica.
Rephrasing it: this whole thing of having animal friends attached to every magi (besides Bjornaer) seems odd to me, and not only that, but I think it makes the Talisman quite redundant and superfluous, so I'm trying to see a way to get Familiars our (except maybe for some House and/or the True Merinitae).
The first solution, of course, would be to just don't have them and ignoring all their rules, but what I don't like are the animals, not the things you can do with them.
So the second solution is make them part of Talismans: so after opening your Talisman you can spend a season "awaking" it, as you would do to bond to a familiar. The result would be that your Talisman becomes a Magical Being that acts as your Familiar, which then can provide lab bonuses, chords, putting effects in them (which was an odd thing to do with your Familiar but not with your Talisman anyway) and all of that.
A third option would be option two, and also having a quite public Mystery Cult of pet-loving magi, which initiate a Virtue (Familiar?) that allows magi to have usual Familiars, at the cost of down-powering their Talismans (so they go back to regular RAW talismans).
An unexpected consequence, then, would be that maybe Bjornaer magi would become unbalanced, but they have issues on their own with Talismans anyway (it's hard to carry and use a magical staff in animal form, after all).
What do you think? Would anything else be really broken? Do you all really love familiars that much? Or does anyone remembers where do they come from, why so many magi have one and why should I keep them?