Ars Magica Wiki

A hermetic familiar is a magical animal bound with a magus. This is a voluntary bond on the part of both the magus and the animal. Though the bond brings benefits and powers to both magus and familiar, it involves a much deeper connection. Except for possibly a spouse, a familiar by its nature becomes the closest companion a magus will ever have.


The hermetic method of bonding with a familiar dates back to the origin of the order itself. Though the founder Merinita did not share much with Bonisagus that he did not already know himself or from other founders, she did show him the method to bind with a familiar. Even so, she indicated that there could further means of connecting with a familiar than the three cords incorporated into hermetic magic.

Sourcebooks and other references[]

In the present 5th edition, the basic rules for familiars, comprising mostly mechanics with some role playing information, can be found in the Ars Magica Fifth Edition Core Rulebook at pp. 103-106, with how the familiar bond may affect other activities on pp. 84 and 108. A short description of Merinita's demonstration and instruction of the familiar bond can be found at p. 76 of Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults. That book also contains mysteries that allow a magus to bound with a faerie familiar, as well as a mystery that empowers the cords to provide social benefits with magical and faerie being and mundane animal at pp. 88-92. Realms of Power: Magic provides a large amount of material on magical beings, including animals, that can be used to flesh out a familiar. Chapter III deals with magical beings as characters in general, and gives a very good story and mechanical incentive for some animals to accept the familiar bond. Chapter V devotes over 25 pages to magical animals. Treatment of familiars under the Code of Hermes is touched upon in the Guernicus section of Houses of Hermes: True Lineages.

Atlas Games presents the beliefs on beasts of virtue as coming from Pliny in his Natural History, the original written 77-79 AD. An English translation, circa 1601 by Philemon Holland, can be found here. Links to Latin transcripts on the web can also be found in the link to the Wikipedia article on Natural History provided. From this work you can devise your own beasts of virtue for any role, including familiar. Heavy research troupes and storytellers should keep in mind that the 17th century translation may or may not match the copies available to most scholars in the 13th century. Commentaries from other periods would be appreciated and should be linked here when found.

Expansive considerations[]

This section includes topics that expand upon concepts and facets of familiars in game play. Though not canon, these are topics that troupes, storytellers, and player may want to consider. Any ideas that are wholly variant from the published material should go in the next section

Familiarity with humanity[]


Language comprehension[]

The core rule book merely states that the familiar gains scores in all languages known equal to its magus' score. This doesn't mean that the familiar necessarily understands the language in the same way as its magus.

Though there must be a true connection between the two in order to bond in the first place, magus and familiar can have very different backgrounds and natures in a number of areas. Though magically bondable, a familiar with a roguish or thieving nature may bond to magus who is far from roguish or thieving, but who's inquisitive nature matches the familiar's. Or perhaps the magus' roguishness is more narrow, limited to a certain class of people, and the familiar's is either broader or inclined toward a different class. A Jerbiton magus who is a rogue among nobles and educated people may bond with a familiar with a more common touch. In this case, the familiar may know or come to know language that common thieves use that would perplex the magus.

For magical concepts, the familiar will either likely understand or shortly come to understand the same concepts as the magus. Even here there may be variation, though it is more likely to be a different perspective the familiar has gained in its own individual life before the bond.

Invested powers[]

If you have a spell like effect that is only meant for use as an invested power in the familiar bond, please add it here instead of as its own article. As the list is created and grows, a new stub article will be created with a link added here.

On Silent Wings The familiar makes no noise through it's movements, but may still cry out if it chooses. The name refers to an avian familiar, but the mechanics can work for any familiar. Destroying the familiar’s ability to affect hearing is a base level 4, with one magnitude added to allow the familiar to move for base level of 5. Add one magnitude each for touch range and concentration (maintained by the bond) duration. Allowing the familiar to be able to cry out requires a part target (an individual target silences the individual completely, but part can leave the vocal cords unaffected), so add one more magnitude for that. If the power is only used once a day, the final level is 20.
Venture/Come Forth Depending on the level instilled, the familiar and magus can send each other to any location to which they have an arcane connection or can sense that is within range. Forms used are corpus and animal, accordingly. Requisites may be needed as well. With a touch range, base levels are 30 to move the target 1 league, 35 to move the target 7 leagues, or 40 to transport the target anywhere the magus or familiar has an arcane connection. As the magus and familiar are arcane connections to each other, one can always summon the other to his or her current location, so long as they are in range. Levels should be increased accordingly to allow transportation more than once a day or to allow transportation from or to areas with divine or infernal auras or other areas of resistance, such as areas under an Aegis of the Hearth. Though no magus should ever bond with a familiar for status, any magus and familiar who are known to have this instilled power will certainly have a great deal of status given the high level and great utility.

Variant rules[]

Currently empty. If you have varaint rules appropriate for this topic, please add a subsection here.