RoP: Magic/familiar query

I have a question for all you learned sages.

In a saga I am playing in, my magus is planning on binding a familiar. Nothing unusual in that. The story guide has declared that he is using the rule that familiars do not subtract their might score from their learning/advancement totals.

My query is this:
In RoP:Magic, there is a minor magic quality called 'improved abilities' which grants 50xp which can be spent on any abilities or arts. It costs 10xp to buy. Normally, a magic being needs to consume vis as well to overcome the might penalty, which balances the effects of the quality.
As a familiar, with the rules as gived by my SG, should this quality be banned?
Likewise, mastery points from gaining powers can also be spent as xp, but on a limited range of abilities. One minor magical quality to gain powers costs 10xp, yet can yield 25xp.

What do you all think?


I pointed out serious abuse of this Quality way back: invest 10 experience, get 50. With low Magic Might this is a scary way to pick up experience. I've never seen this not be banned. Improved Power, Lesser Power, and Personal Power, on the other hand, have important non-experience value, so they really can't be banned. Fortunately, the number of Abilities into which those points can be placed is quite limited, and the ratio is half that of the other. So if you retain the experience penalties from Magic Might, it's not really much of a problem.

I think this is why I tend to see the experience penalties only waived for learning from the magus, not waived in general. For example, no penalty when the magus teaches Magic Theory.


With the rule your storyguide has added, I would say no, you shouldn't take Improved Abilities. Taking a new Quality is transforming the essential nature of the being, and I feel the players should always think carefully about how the Quality fits the essential nature of the being before allowing it to manifest. The Improved Abilities Quality is generally for things that the being can do instinctively, the same way many animals have specific scores in Abilities. Spending the points on Magic Theory is thus probably not appropriate. But the Quality is also there so that magi can teach familiars Magic Theory, basically investing them with a specific ability using tranformative magic. I would suggest that if your troupe is going to allow familiars to gain experience without the inherent penalties that they should also not be able to transform further. Perhaps their essential nature is locked and bound by the familiar cords?

IDHMBWM so can somebody tell me what the rules are for a familiar consuming vis to overcome learning penalties for might? Also, I don't know what page in RoP:M it is on, so even if I HMBWM it would be doubtful I could find out :wink:

There is no mention of familiars needing to consume vis, or even having any learning penalties in the basic book. RoP:M does not mention familiars at all. However, RoP:M came out later and, on the basis that subsequent rules often replace/supercede older rules, its rules on magical characters' advancement should apply to familiars as well.

Therefore there are decisions to be made by each troupe.
(There have been a few discussions about this on this forum, too.)
The basic options seem to be:

  1. All the rules in RoP:M apply, so familiars have to subtract their might from any learning total or consume 1 pawn of vis per 2 pts to reduce/eliminate the penalty;
  2. The rules in the basic rulebook apply, making familiars a unique case where the presence of the familiar bond counteracts the penalty;
  3. A fudge, as Erik and Callen have suggested (thanks :smiley: ), whereby different aspects use the options above, to try and keep the results balanced.

My SG reads this site too, so he will see the problem and suggested solutions. Overall, I favour Erik's suggestion of banning that particular Quality and looking carefully at future ones rather than Callen's one of only removing the penalty for directly learning from the magus. (Guess why...)

Are there any further ideas folks, particularly ones which have been seen in action?

It comes from RoP: M, p. 52.
It does not specifically mention familiars, but discuss how magic beings progress - any magic being.
This is the old discussion about familiars and whether they are an exception to the learning rules for being with magic might.
With a nice twist compared to the standard discussion though.

I would clarify, this rule does not apply to familiars in general because there is no need for familiars to have Magic Might. Familiars can be mundane animals with a Supernatural Ability from the Magic Realm, for instance. They could be faeries or spirits of another realm, too.

You're confusing what was said a lot. I said to ban that Quality from Transformation in general, but that banning the other three Qualities doesn't work with Transformation so the experience penalty should be maintained for Transformation. Erik said to keep that Quality for Transformation but to ban Transformation in general for familiars. Essentially we're both saying that Quality should be banned for familiars and that Transformation shouldn't be so easy for familiars. The difference between our approaches is that I'm stricter with Improved Abilities and he's stricter about Transformation in general for familiars.


Utilizing the RoP:M rules for Familiars is a bit of a headache. It all depends on how you approach the Familiar's role in the game, is it a character under the player? Is it a grog played by anyone? Is it a companion-level character? I think there is a significant amount of (misunderstanding/difference of opinion/abuse) that can be had from different interpretations. My most effective tool has been a good enforcement of the "Essential Virtue" clause.

On Improved Abilities, I would not allow this for a character/familiar after chargen without a specific reason or, as mentioned above, the Abilities being in line with the creature's natural form or capabilities. For example, putting wings on a non-flying magic entity and allowing it to spend Improved Abilities on learning to Fly(Athletics) or something similar. It just provides way too much potential for misuse.

That being said, I really think a separate set of guidelines need to apply to magical familiars. With the abundance of vis available to a familiar, a dedicated magi can boost their magical companion well beyond the usual progression of a magical character. The Transformation of new Virtues and Qualities should be altered otherwise, you can definitely game around the rules. I was playing around with Metacreator and managed to take a magical Crow of Might 5 to a Size 4, flaming bird of prey with an Attack that rivalled a Dragon in about eight years. A magi who is dedicated to improving their familiar does so at the exclusion of other things so it does have some balance. But not when the Familiar is being run as an ad-hoc version of the magus.

IMHO, the main problem with using RoP:M and Familiars is agreeing on the Familiar's role in the Saga. The same rules of advancement for magical creatures, regardless of role (grog, companion, main character) creates the problem. While I am guilty of complaining about overly complex mechanics on numerous occasions, some thought should be put into determining whether a familiar should advance differently depending on its role. Another area that should be looked at is how much input the player should have in it.

Some very good points, Kilgs. (And a useful clarification, ta Callen.)

My magus is still a few game years off being able to bind the familiar he wants (a spirit, played by another player, originally generated as a companion but suffering (in comparison to other companions) because of the difficulties in learning new things.

One magus already has a familiar - but that's the SG's GM PC, who doesn't accompany us on most adventures, and that familiar is more of a grog/adjunct. So I posted this query so we could debate how we are going to approach the problems before we commit ourselves, and hopefully find out if there is a method that makes us go 'Yep, that's how we will do it'.

I personally don't mind any of the suggestions, but it's also up to the SG!

I currently stumbled upon the problem. But reading into it, I guess I'll take it as written: Familars can learn Abilities in the same way as humans (ArM5, p.105). Magical Qualities don't count as Abilities though.

This might also be an incentive for magical creatures to serve as a familiar to a Hermetic magus, given that during his lifetime, they'll have a lot easier time advancing their abilties than they would otherwise.

Regarding familiars, I'm with Toa: that quote from ArM5 has never been specifically replaced by RoP:Magic since it never mention familiars. So I prefer to let it stand and consider familiar a specific case, it saves headaches all around.

On the other hand, it also means that the whole section on Advancement for Magic Beings is to be taken with much caution, and preferably ignored entirely for familiars. They can learn abilities, and the master can enchant the bond with powers: let's not add the whole can of worms of gaining qualities and virtues. But that is purely my House Rules, and it goes against RAW.

Happened in our saga as well. Familiars ignoring ROP:M work better. You can milk the ROP books for V&F ideas, but even their costs should be discussed with the troupe. And in case of (quite usual) conflict default to core book. Book of mundane beasts has been more useful to use in designing familiars than the ROP books. But we are all old fashioned when it comes to familiars: cats, dogs, crows and sea sparrows, so few problems here.