True Feeling and Familiars

ArM5, p.80, tells us about the Limit of True Feeling:

A few humans have a love, friendship or faith that Hermetic magic cannot affect in any way. (In game terms, this is indicated by a Virtue or Flaw.)

Then at the very beginning of p.105 it tells us that Hermetic magic, and specifically the familiar binding, can in fact create such a feeling:

The familiar binding gives both the magus and the familiar the Minor Virtue True Friend, relating to the other half of the partnership.

This seems contradictory, at least at first sight. I seem to recall this was discussed at length a long time ago, but can no longer find the relevant pointers. Could someone help me out (or just chime in)?


A familiar bond its not a bond between 2 humans. Maybe its because of that? :open_mouth: Maybe the lack of soul from one of the parts allows to make that special feeling bond.

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So you are saying that Hermetic magic can't inspire True Friendship towards another human, but it can inspire True Friendship towards a cat? Somehow it does not feel so convincing.
(Note that True Friend is mechanically the same as True Love, without the romantic aspects).

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Love its a human feeling, a cat cannot love (at least, what we humans understand by love). But it can be your best True Friend, ofc.

That seems to go right out the window when we’re talking about animals that had or immediately gain human sort of intelligence.

@ezzelino , while hermetic spells and whatnot can’t inspire that there is something wholly different and almost non-hermetic about the process of binding a familiar and I have no qualms about this aspect of Hermetic magic being somewhat different and something of a carve-out of that Hermetic Limit.

Human Intelligence =/= Human Emotions
An animal with human intelligence its still being an animal and as such it has an Essential Personality Trait.
And still doesn't have a soul too.


contains the transitive verb affect. That is, once such feelings are there, Hermetic magic cannot change them.

So ArM5 p.80 does not prevent certain magical operations to create the conditions to raise a relation between magus and animal up to such a level. Standard binding of a familiar does so, but requires that already before "you most genuinely admire or even love the animal in question, and it must trust you freely, under no coercion, magical or mundane".

HoH:TM p.75 Cutting the Cords is tricky, though. By cutting the Bond it mangles, scars and perverts the existing True Friend Virtue between mage and familiar, thereby demonstrating that with the Bond also the Virtue is affected.

This might allow some theologians to argue, that the relation between mage and familiar is not between True Friends and Divinely sponsored. And it might cast a dark shadow on Cutting the Cords in significant parts of the Order.


Familiars are a non-Hermetic magical effect that's been reverse engineered into Hermetic Magic, so it gets to break a few of the rules. Like Parma Magica or Aegis of the Hearth or Enchantment of the Scrying Pool.


Seconding John. Familiar bonds aren't fully integrated into Hermetic theory. You can't modify any part of the functioning or targeting of a familiar bond (except through a Mystery Virtue), use the different components of the bond individually as guidelines in spells or enchantments, anything like that. Thus they provide an extremely narrow instance of violating a Limit that isn't applicable to any other part of the magical framework.

You might, with SG consideration, be able to use Familiar Bonds as an insight source when working on a Breakthrough to bypass the Limit of True Feeling.


another aspect of this is that you ar supposed to form a friendship with a familiar before binding with it. As such the true Friendship may be something which developed as a relationship rather than being imposed by hermetic rituals.


I thought so too. But the text on p.105 seems to explicitly say otherwise:

The familiar binding gives both the magus and the familiar the Minor Virtue True Friend.

Also, let me add that by my book vanilla familiars bindings are fully Hermetic, just like Certamen is fully Hermetic, and Talismans are fully Hermetic. Saying otherwise creates all sorts of potential pitfalls.

Finally, though OneShot's legalistic view that magic cannot affect a True Feeling, but can create one mostly does solve the problem on paper, it does feel fundamentally wrong. It feels more "right" that magic might somehow warp, reduce etc. a True Feeling than it might create it or destroy it outright.

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Given some of the other issues which have been raised previously perhaps the wording should be submitted for errata rather than tying our brains into pretzels working it out.

It's a 1 paragraph explanation. I think it's fair to say familiars are a special exception. To go a bit more in depth, instead of pretty much saying "get over it".....

Hermetic magic can change essential nature in rare circumstances, however, it's generally a story event. For example, if a character or NPC survived a coat of flames spell, an SG could reasonably give the flaw disfigured.

I consider a familiar, especially as it is a seasonal activity not a spell, is sort of a codified story event. RAW specifies the familiar isn't just a mechanism to get cool bonuses, it's a companion and friend, which is why I consider it a codified story event.

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Me with OneShot.

Magic can perfect things of this world. Note core book discussion of realms and wolves thereof.

Anyone who thinks true love and loyalty are beyond animal ken must be a cat person.


(animal) Ken

Doesn't every dog have two virtues points devoted to Exceptional personality trait, so they can get loyalty to +5?

I would point out that trying to apply logic to how love works is a very medieval world view. They also tried to determine how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
True Love was something troubadours sang about. It didn’t exist in most marriages, or other sexual contexts. Hermetic magic can affect trust, lust, anger, sympathy, and a host of other emotions. There is a carve out for True Love/True Friendship. If this doesn’t make sense at your table, that is what house rules are for.
It is a possibility that you could use a season long enchanting process to bind two people together. They would have to have all of the elements necessary for a familiar bond. That would make a fantastic basis for a breakthrough. I would suggest it would be a very Merinita thing to attempt.

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I think we should consider the rule that "hermetic magic cannot affect true emotions" to be more of a rule about what spells one can design, using the rules for spell design.
We know explicitly that the limits on hermetic (and other magic) arent necessarily laws of nature as much as they reflect the current state of affairs. Thus we should expect magic to be able to break these things on certain occasions or under special circumstances.

There are lots of examples of hermetic magic sort of skirting these rules in all sorts of weird ways.

I consider the "True friend" virtue gained by binding a familiar to be one of these special circumstances. There are of course numerous ways to think about it. I agree also that there is a reasonable argument to be made that the rules as presented could equally as well mean that the process goes like this:

  1. Magus finds an animal with which they bond to a sufficient degree that it qualifies for the "True friend" virtue
  2. It is possible for the magus and the animal to perform the ritual of familiar binding.
    In this interpretation the statement that binding a familiar gives the "True friend" virtue is treated as simply a game mechanical abstraction. I dont think it is the most reasonable reading of the text, but it is a possible reading.

I haven't thought about this much, apart from I always thought that the Familiar Bond mystically conjoins the two, so that a part of the Mage is in the Familiar, and part of the Familiar is in the Mage. Basically you are True Friend with the part of you that is in the other.

You are not creating a new feeling, but instead sharing your love of self along the Familiar Bond.

I would not have thought that a Magus so full of self-loathing that they couldn't be True Friend with themself would not be capable of engendering trust and acceptance with a would-be Familiar.

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That looks like a solid approach.

If a magus does already "most genuinely admire or even love the animal in question, and it" already trusts him "freely, under no coercion, magical or mundane", the Bond provides just the magical logistics to overcome the barrier between magus and animal: not creating a True Friendship, but allowing the mutual admiration, love and trust to manifest as such.


JUst for the fun of it
If maga already has a True Friend can she bind a familiar? if so, what happens? She has 2 true Friends?