From Project: Redcap
All magi (with the notable exception of Bjornaer magi) can bind a familiar. Familiars constitute a significant ally, that can significantly boost the power of the magus. Since small familiars are easy to enchant for even a beginning specialist, and large and powerful ones offer little advantages over small ones, a magus would be wise to bind a familiar early on in his career.
A familiar is very effective even if seen as merely a magic item, if the magus wants to invest effects that affect himself (such as protective spells, augmenting and enhancing effects, spells granting him magical senses, and so on). A major advantage of familiar invested powers is that they don't need to penetrate Magic Resistance to affect the magus, and an equally important advantage is that these effects cause no Warping, so can be safely applied on a regular basis (see ArM5 p. 168). Investing these powers is also cheaper (in both raw vis and time) than investing them into an invested device, since the bond need not be opened with raw vis.
Familiars can, however, also offer several other mechanical benefits. The gold cord, in particular, can be very valuable in reducing the danger of botches.
Familiars can serve well as laboratory assistants, and often will for experienced magi. It is wise to bind a familiar with a positive (and, ideally, large) intelligence for this reason, although CrMe rituals can be used to increase the familiar's intelligence (at considerable cost). Notice that there are two, conflicting, notes about the familiar's Abilities - he can learn Abilities like other characters on the one hand, but is also said to come to posess his master's Abilities in time. Troupes that want to ease up on book-keeping may rule that the latter takes precedence as a simplifying heuristic, and simply have the familiar's Magic Theory (and other Abilities) equal to the magus'. Other troupes may wish to disregard the second option as mere flavor text, and simulate the familiar's learning in detail. In this case, the familiar's Magic Theory can reach very respectable levels, plausibly surpassing the magus' score in many cases.
The familiar can also serve as an ally on adventures, but this is risky. Investing lots of powers into the familiar bond only to have the familiar killed in action is a rather severe setback. Familiars also tend to be forgotten unless they are played by another player.
The Three Cords
Magi are connected to their familiars by the Golden Cord, which involves magical abilities; by the Silver Cord, that connects minds; and by the Bronze Cord, which connects bodies.
- Ars Magica Fifth Edition, core Rulebook, "Chapter Eight: Laboratory", "Familiars", pp. 103-106
- The Three Cords are discussed in p. 104
- Merinita magi may bind Faerie Familiars, and use non-standard (Faerie) Familiar cords (see HoHMC 88-91).
- It is possible to bind spirit familiars through the Spirit Familiar mystery, or even bind a daimonic spirit as a familiar through the Theurgic Spirit Familiar mystery. These spirit familiars again offer unique advantages (and disadvantages), but are generally only accessible to initiates of specific mystery cults.
- A magus that somehow learned the Summoning Goetic Art can bind a spirit as a familiar. There is no indication that this spirit-familiar follows the rules for the spirit familiar mystery, and it appears most likely that it follows the usual rules for familiars except that it is, well, a spirit.
The history of this page before August 6, 2010 is archived at Legacy:familiar