Why is House Bonisagus so small?

House Bonisagus is supposed to be 81 magi strong, most of those being magi Bonisagi. That's on the smallish end for a House. However, this doesn't seem to mesh with the dual factors of desire and opportunity to take apprentices.

Magi Bonisagi who want an apprentice have one; they just poach the smartest apprentice they can find off another magus (or in Thebes, they take the first pick of the pool) and start teaching. Furthermore, taking and teaching an apprentice is considered essentially a duty for magi of this House, and nearly all magi Bonisagi at least replace their numbers; many produce multiple filii. So what's keeping the House small when magi Bonisagi produce apprentices at a higher rate than magi of other Houses?

My personal theory is that House Bonisagus has a high orbushood rate, because House membership comes with a fair bit of attached obligations and expectations, but I'm wondering if anyone else has a theory.

Lab accidents?

It might just be me, but I think the "boni-snatching" scenario gets blow out of proportions. Most of the NPC bonisagi I recall, would have been to arrogant to actually snatch any but the very best apprentices. Then rather go without one, atleast after the mandatory one.

The right to take another mage's apprentice aside, I don't think most Bonisagus magi are terribly interested in taking apprentices. Apprentices eat time (a quarter of your time for 15 years) and don't contribute much help. So, once you've trained one up you've done your duty to the Order and can get back to investigating or developing or whatever.

In addition to the fact that taking an apprentice is often not a good early move (far better to take a familiar; they last longer), another thing to consider is what identity a late-snatched apprentice has.

If a Bonisagus is simply after a high quality lab assistant for a couple of years, who is to say the apprentice they snatch and Gauntlet is going to remain part of the house they belonged to for two years? It's not hard for a magus to change houses if he has a sponsor from his 'new' house.

The only houses that might not accept a snatched apprentice back are the true lineages; which means Tremere, Guernicus or Mercere. However, in two of those cases the House in question has mechanisms for 'almost-members' anyway (Tremere: Cives, Guernicus: Quaesitor) even if they don't just bend the rules and accept their own back into the fold.

Not to mention that, rights aside, snatching an apprentice from any one of those three houses has political implications that the snatcher might want to consider...

Well, no magus Bonisagus who ever wants to get any mail again will snatch a Mercere apprentice. I would kind of assume that House Mercere has that much influence.

Actually, my usual assumption for apprentice-snatching is one of two things: a Bonisagus taking the smartest of the Tribunal's first or second-year apprentices rather than going to all the effort needed to hunt down their own apprentice, or a very late snatch to get a Gifted lab assistant for a big project or two without spending much time training the kid.

The first of these, IMO, is the way a Bonisagus is "supposed" to do it. Magi Bonisagi get the pick of the litter because they're magi Bonisagi, and the Order as a whole expects that (Thebes even has it systematized, because Thebes has a system for everything). The latter is likely to be considered extremely abusive, particularly by some Houses; I expect that Bjornaer would march to Wizard's War as a House to deal with that kind of move. (In my own headcanon, House Tremere would simply request that the apprentice be returned to their original parens for Gauntlet, and in Transylvania probably has that as part of the accepted Peripheral Code; the term with Bonisagus would be considered a fosterage of sorts. House Tremere is very much on board with a strong Order.)

Anyway. I don't agree that most magi Bonisagi consider apprenticeship to be something they're not interested in beyond their duty. It's an honored duty, training apprentices gets kudos and Acclaim, and quite often they provide more than minimal training through the Fosterage system. So I think that there's a moderately-strong degree of desire among magi Bonisagi to do more than replenish their numbers.

Is it small? House Verditius has 74-79 (Serf's Parma) in canon, and if memory serves, Bjonaer and Criamon both have less.

I said "smallish end." Criamon is larger, actually, though the other Mystery Cults are smaller; the Societates are all larger, as are Guernicus and Tremere. So it's #8 in size; medium-to-small; if split, Bonisagus (52) would be a micro-House and Trianoma (29) would barely qualify as a House at all.

I think the number of magi was a hold over from previous editions, honestly. I think the second edition source book listed 80-some magi and I didn't veer very far from the older canon in those days. If I had to explain it within the Hermetic paradigm, I'd say that I've always seen Bonisagus magi as being lab rats, and they'd rather spend their days exploring arcane mysteries than expanding the House. I think the opportunity to take another magus' apprentice is because they don't get out much and wouldn't know how to find an apprentice on their own if they had to. I tried to pull them out of the lab by suggesting that many of the Order's Seekers come from House Bonisagus, but I don't think that idea took.

Maybe there aren't so many because each is fairly self-centered, interested in his own pursuits and can't see past his laboratory bench. It was Trianoma that wanted to extend the Order, not Bonisagus. And then there was that thing about rushing his last apprentice and being forced to later kill him that soured the notion of apprentices to Bonisagus. He never took another, so they say, although a mysterious "Last Apprentice of Bonisagus" would be a cool adventure to write. I've always seen taking an apprentice as guaranteeing a magus' immortality, although Iv'e never adequately expressed that idea in writing. A magus' name lives on through his apprentice. In the old Icelandic sagas, which were written around the 12th and 13th centuries, characters know each other's fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers. Each islander's lineage was generally well known. I think Hermetic lineage works the same way, and magi know who each other's parens were. "Oh, an apprentice of Rollo the Damned!"

And really, how big does the House have to be? I think there are too many magi in Mythic Europe as it is, and the game would get a lot more traction with fewer wizards. (Sorry, hard not to add my two cents' worth in at the end.)

Matt Ryan

I'll second that. #6eSuggestions

That's my fault! I'll stop creating new magi!


I wonder in what way you think it would give more traction?
I'm just curious.

Regarding apprentice-snatching, I believe we might depict this practive as far more aggressive than it could be. Since every magus knows it, and every Bonisagus's magus knows that people know, I would see it more as a gentleman agreement with compensation.
Sure, Bonisagi don't have to offer compensation. But it is in the best interest of everybody. Bonisagi have access to the largest hermetic library and books & knowlwedge are probably the most precious currency for magi. So I am sure than in most case, the original master and the Bonisagus can reach an agreeement which will soften the blow. Only the direst case would leave bad blood (some traditions requiring specific gifts/virtues for some Ex miscellanea for example).

And Bonisagi knows that if they abused their privileged, they will end up with so many Wizard's wars (declared for different reasons than the snatching, of course) that it will far outweight the benefit of getting the most promising apprentice.

By the way, if in your saga you consider that any (hermetic) virtue can be initiated during apprenticeship, Boni-snatching should be far and few. Only virtues that cannot be initiated would be looked after by Bonisagus.

My take regarding the size of house Bonisagus is that it is driven by a couple of causes:

  1. Excellence: Bonisagus cannot accept mediocre results. Including in their lineage. So they will take an apprentice only when they feel they can "make" the best apprentice who could potentially leave a legacy and also live according to the expectation of their own lineage. So it is not only about finding the most suitable candidate, but it is also about being confident enough that you can be the best teacher (yes, lots of Ubris for a non-verditius :smiley: ) so that 15 years later, your peers aknowledge the excellent magus you brought to the Order. More than any other House, I believe that Bonisagus are very concerned and take great pride in their apprentice. It could be reasonable that most Bonisagus have a few level in Teaching - they don't need per RAW, but they might feel they need to know a thing or two about teaching. All that takes time and commitment. So although it is their duty to share knowledge and raise apprentice, they will only do that in the best conditions, slowing down significantly the process

  2. Research: Bonisagus are thorough researchers. Very thorough. They might not realise that Ooops ! ten years went by since they started this little project, and Oh boy, my hermetic clock is ticking, let's consider taking an apprentice... Oh, wait, I just need a couple of experiments to finish my paper... then of course, I need to write about it... possibly I should invent a couple of spells to demonstrate the usefullnes of my new invention...

If you combine these two reasons, it is quite likely that a Bonisagus will take his first apprentice 30-40 years out of gauntelet (time to prove that he can be a worthy master and also a capable Bonisagus magi in some field) and the next one could be 80 years out of gauntlet (leaving a good 20-30 years between two apprentice to follow personnal projects and establish an excellent reputation). He might never get a third one.

My take on Bonisagus apprectice claiming is profoundly different than most opinions I've seen here, but I suspect there are at least some magi who regard Bonisagus magi as creepy lurkers, waiting around corners to snatch away their apprentices. We're in the middle of a tribunal right now, and there will be at least one Tytalus mage who'll have a paranoid aggressive fit over the mere presence of a Bonisagus mage near his apprentice. I'm looking forward to it. (The two magi in question are far too young to take apprentices.)

There are only a few magi of Bonisagus, and they have them if they want them; Bonisagus are hardly a major threat to "snatch" away apprentices most of the time. Be more worried about faeries.

Nah, the Wizard's War is declared in direct response to the snatching. A Bonisagus who wants to take an apprentice he can't defend has it coming.

But yeah. Like I said above, usually Boni-snatches are done within proper bounds and mostly to save the would-be parens the trouble of hunting an apprentice down. They get the best and the brightest, but stealing advanced apprentices as lab assistants goes against the spirit of the Order and will eventually cause the magus in question to be dealt with by the magi he's pissed off.

Abuses happen, of course; this is the Order of Hermes we're talking about.

Sorry, where did this concept that Wizard Wars need a justification to anyone come from? "I want to smash his face in" is a PERFECTLY valid and legal reason for a wizards war. The main reason it doesn't devolve into that more often is the fact most magi recognise that there's someone above them in the pecking order that would love to have the 'excuse' to be uncivilised to them, and those powerful enough to not have to worry about that are either too busy with their work, or senile enough to not remember whom it is they hate anymore :wink:

My mistake. I was under the impression that a reason had to be provided for a Wizard's war to be declared, but you are right, there is no need for it. I think my confusion was coming from the fact that we always played it that way.

Nah, Wizard's War is a near-absolute right and trumps everything, unless someone accuses you of Endangering the Order. And since you can Wizard's War anyone who prosecutes you, even that's kind of weak if you're Flambeau enough.

Although there are canon examples of repeatedly declaring WW with little reason is a bit of a problem.

Yeah, but that's where I said the "except."

But killing a Bonisagus who snatched your apprentice or a Quaesitor who's trying to prosecute you, if you're powerful and ruthless enough to pull it off, is likely to be accepted until you push your luck one step too far. Insert my usual horrified amusement at the Rhine here.

IMO Bonisagi magi take apprentices from other magi for three reasons:

1.) The apprentice is AMAZING. An apprentice with +4 or +5 Intelligence and/or Affinity with Magic Theory sort of deserves to be a Bonisagus so that he can push Magic Theory further.
2.) They need a Lab Total bump desperately. They're doing something on the edges of their ability and 4-5 points of Lab Total may well save them years of work (for example, doing a level 75 project with a lab total of 80). Spending 4-5 years training an apprentice to that point is counter-productive, so you take one from someone else.
3.) An apprentice is obviously being abused/neglected. Probably a quaesitor told you about it. Snatch and re-distribute.

Situation #1 is uncommon enough that most magi need not worry about it. If you find a super-brainy lad, turn him over to House Bonisagus for brownie points (Reputation) or don't brag about him at tribunal.

Situation #2 is the hardest to avoid. Bonisagi magi do these sorts of things. Prepare to negotiate. If the Bonisagus needs a lab booster for a short period, offer a loan of the apprentice ('fostering') for a year or two. That looks good on you and the Bonisagus isn't on the hook for finishing the apprentice's education. If that doesn't work, you either need to accept it or start sharpening the knives.

Situation #3, you deserve to lose your apprentice.