Covenant Maturity

In your own sagas have any of you developed "benchmarks" to judge your Covenant's progress from one Season to the next? Does it usually come down to an accounting of assets, or more to story/saga goals met/overcome?

I'm the type of gamer I'd like to have a standard along the line of 'well, we have X and Y now, we still need Z before we can really count ourselves a Summer covenant" or "A vis income of 30 pawns per season equals an Autumn covenant". Has it ever been that cut and dried for any of your sagas?

When we did our game, it was basically at the time that we could pay the Summer prices rather than the Spring prices (Covenants, p. 63). This is basically being able to buy better clothes, more food, etc, resulting in the improvement of living conditions.

1 Like

The material wealth is available as long as you can produce the silver. If you have an income source to pay for better living conditions (craft magic, inheritance, whatever), you can take it from day 1. Long before you have the political clout to have the robustness of a Summer or Autumn covenant.

Interestingly, the BP system in [Cov] does not refer to power levels in terms of seasons at all.

IMO, season depends primarily on political stability, which is almost impossible to measure mechanically. If you live under a constant external threat of annihilation, you are Spring. If the threat of annihilation is internal, you are Winter. The distinction between Summer and Autumn is a bit more subtle though.


I would say the largest distinction between Summer and Autumn is growing vs harvesting. During Summer you are still more focused on expanding and increasing resources (wealth, vis, political power) while during Autumn you are more focused on reaping the benefits of the resources you have rather than expansion. That switch from Summer to Autumn happens when the Covenant focus shifts from gaining/expanding resources to using them towards goals beyond survival.

Spring: Working to develop the resources needed to survive and function stably. Often has some external limitation, such as needing to gain approval from the local nobility. Goals being striven towards are mostly survival related, with some Covenant related. "Surviving"

Summer: Has resources needed to survive, expanding resources to meet desires and goals beyond just survival. Goals being striven towards are primarily Covenant related, with individual goals beginning to become more prevalent as time goes on. "Expanding"

Autumn: Has resources needed to survive and meet desires/goals. Actively pursuing those goals. The focus of the goals is becoming more and more focused on individual desires, though there is enough focus on Covenant goals to keep supply stable. "Stable"

Winter: Focus has shifted so far towards desires/goals that maintaining resources is being ignored. Goals are almost entirely individually driven, with little to no Covenant focused goals. Because of this focus, Covenant resources are declining. "Decline"

Although it might seem like a Covenant must go through the seasons in order, that is not actually the case. They can flow in ether direction. It can even skip to the opposite season with a large enough cause.

A Summer Covenant which decides that they have enough resources can result in all the Magi focusing on their own projects and goals. None of them pay attention to maintaining Covenant growth/stability, trusting that the other Magi or Covenfolk will do it. But the Covenfolk leadership changes, is corrupt, etc. They will slide from the growth of Summer to the decay of Winter, without much stable time that would be called Autumn.


I agree. I still think it is subtle, because growing and harvesting are not mutually exclusive.

But then, I suppose, the four-season model was never intended to have clear boundaries between the season. Gradual transition is not a problem for the model as narrated, but it becomes a problem for those who request a neat mechanics to define the boundaries.

1 Like

Yes it is often very subtle. Both a Summer and Autumn Covenant are doing both. At some point enough of the focus has shifted from one to the other that the Covenant can be said to have changed from one to the other. That can include moving from Autumn to Summer if the focus has shifted back to expanding and growing the Covenant.

I mostly agree with some posters, but I do think that there are some specific criteria that can be listed. But be aware they are more like a list of symptoms, i.e. if one or more of the following apply then you might be in this or that season:

  • To be considered no longer a spring covenant a covenant needs at least sufficient income of Vim vis to cast its Aegis of the Hearth.

  • A Spring covenant is limited in its political clout by economic uncertainty at home. (I use economic here also to include mundane threats to the covenant).

  • A Spring covenant can be threatened on its existence by relatively weak mundane forces, e.g. nearby Landed Noble or small Abbey/Priory/Nunnery.

  • A Spring covenant spends most of its available resources trying to mitigate threats and problems in its immediate vicinity (its proverbial backyard).

  • A Spring covenant is beholden to an external group within the order, e.g. another covenant, magi or group of such.

  • A Summer covenant generally has an atmosphere of cooperation and initiative among its magi, that gives it greater political clout than what would be normal for a covenant of its size and resources.

  • A Summer covenant is no longer threatened on its existence by local mundane forces.

  • A Summer covenant is a significant player in local mundane politics. (While Autumn covenant have generally been such and outgrown the need to be).

  • A Summer covenant has enough resources to cover the immediate needs of its magi, but is hungry for more. Its magi remember the days when every pawn had to be carefully budgeted and haggled over.

  • A Summer covenant is generally a place with a lot of apprentices, as its magi are just reaching the maturity to pass on their knowledge to a new generation.

  • A Summer covenant is generally populated by the founders of said covenant and as such its members tend to be friends and to care deeply about the fate of the covenant.

  • A Summer covenant consistently sees growth in its access to resources, which along with the previous point gives the covenant an atmosphere of cooperation and leads to a lack of conflict as its members are experienced in resolving conflicts over resources and tend to feel like it is not worth it, as next year will always bring in more.

  • An Autumn covenant has the potential to either dominate or be among the dominant covenants in its tribunal, if its magi can cooperate. (Note that I consider Summer covenants to be generally more internally cooperative than Autumn ones).

  • An Autumn covenant brings in enough resources, both magical and mundane, that is members almost never lack for such resources (although their covenfolk may lack them). This includes the ability to trade one of type vis for another desired type etc. Thus it is not required to e.g. have an income of each type of vis.

  • An Autumn covenant tends to think of resources worthy of conflict on a grander scale, e.g. the redefinition of the entire tribunal's peripheral code, access to powerful non-hermetic magic (for integration or destruction), etc.

  • An Autumn covenant cannot be threatened directly by mundane forces without significant warning ahead of time. i.e. It has already dealt with all the available power players that have the resources to threaten it directly, in some fashion (including being somehow unfindable or other stealth solutions).

  • An Autumn covenant is engaged in client-patron type relationships, in the role as the patron, within the order of Hermes. e.g. by sponsoring the foundation of new covenants that are sympathetic to its viewpoints or simply owe it favors, or by sending its newly gauntleted apprentices to other (weaker) covenants in the tribunal.

  • Just an Autumn covenant is deeply entrenched in its power, so are its enemies. An Autumn covenant often finds itself thwarted by equally powerful actors or prevented from applying its full potential by ancient agreements or simple politics.

  • Both Autumn and Winter covenants are storied places, where potentially generations of magi have spent significant portions of their lives either as apprentices or in their early careers, and it has a special place in their hearts (positive or negative).

  • A Winter covenant is limited not so much by available internal resources but by inefficient distribution of such (this applies both to its political clout and the individual careers of its magi).

  • A Winter covenant could be destroyed at any moment by a massive threat that it somehow failed to deal with, even though in better times it could have.

As stated above none of these are absolute requirements, and the list is by no means exhaustive. But I would argue that it is probably rare to find a covenant in each category that does not at least fulfill one or a few of the criteria (including the (probably many) criteria that I have failed to include but that still exist). For many reasons covenants can fail live up to specific individual criteria and that is fine. E.g. an Autumn covenant that has achieved immunity from mundane politics by settling in a gigantic regio with plentiful resources has to have been a spring covenant at some point, and thus likely always had that immunity, for a good example of a non-autumn covenant that fits this criteria take a look at Semita Errabunda.

Clever storytellers often break a few of these rules, and the way that they are broken is often what defines a covenant and gives it a unique identity.


Thank you all for your input on this! Though nobody was able to give me the X or Y numbers my mind would like to have to quantify Covenant Seasons, every reply has helped me understand how it is perhaps better that the Seasons aren't quite that cut and dried. I also appreciate your list of "symptoms" @Euphemism for the additional insights those inspire.

1 Like

The four seasons are qualitative rather than quantitative descriptors, hard and fast numbers would not make sense. Imagine the party being told "I'm sorry, while you fulfil every requirement to be a summer Covenant, you need to produce two more pawns of vis/year, DENIED"


Maybe we should mention the 4ed covenant rules. I can't remember the details, but they seemed to go your way in their rudimentary way.