Covenants: Craftsman/Bookkeeping Question

(Background, skip if bored: I am Primary Storyguide for a Saga taking place in a vaguely stereotypical "abandoned remote covenant ruins" situation. The magi have yet to spend the time developing an income source. As a result, money comes from terram vis via large balls of gold. And, with new agreement to a strict covenant charter due to vis scarcity, there's some pushback about how some magi keep much more opulent laboratories than others (the Bonisagus has a lab with Upkeep +7 in terms of the rules from Covenants, whereas everyone else is 0 or +1), and, therefore, magi should pay the covenant for their laboratory upkeep costs in vis. This led me, the OOC beancounter, to do the math to determine the relative rates of vis charges based on the numbers involved. This led me to try and take into account the cost savings of our Skill 6 Glassblower, which led me to the math below.)

So, by the rules put forth in Covenants, p.63-p.66, Craftsmen can be used to reduce the costs of a covenant. Sounds like it's great to have craftsmen, right? Here's the math, as I can figure it.

Assume a nice, young glassblower, skill 6, in a Summer Covenant. He is 3 "inhabitant points" (hereforth referred to as IP).
2 servants are needed for every 10 IP (there are some exceptions not pertinent to this discussion). Servants are 2 IP each, so our 3 IP craftsman needs .6 servants, or 1.2IP of servants.
The covenant needs teamsters to haul food and goods to this craftsman and his half servant: 1 teamster per 10 IP (again, with some exceptions that do not matter for this portion of the discussion). Teamsters, like servants, are 2 IP each, and we have 4.2 IP of people, so we need .42 teamsters, adding another .84 IP.

Thus, every craftsman added to our covenant has an actual cost of 3 + 1.2 + .84 = 5.04 IP. Because the system assumes you don't have half people running around, you actually end up rounding those numbers in the real world, so let's call it 5 IP.

For these 5IP, the benefit you get from a rare craftsman like a glassblower is a reduction in the cost of that area (in this case, laboratories) equal to his skill (in this case, 6). Thus, he saves us 6 pounds per year.

Now, on to the costs of running a covenant. Each 10 IP costs:
1 pound for buildings
2 pounds consumables
5 pounds provisions
2 pounds wages
Thus, 10IP costs... 10 pounds. And thus, our 5IP costs five pounds. Our craftsman's net savings is: 1 pound. Had he been straight out of apprenticeship, with a skill of 5, he'd've been a waste of space.

Now, that's the rare craftsman. Let's turn our gent here into a blacksmith. The IP cost is the same... you feed normal craftsmen the same as the rare ones (one leg into the trousers at a time just like everyone else, and all that). However, regular craftsman don't save you as much money: they save 1 pound + half their craft skill, round down. Thus, our skill 6 Blacksmith saves us 4 pounds, while costing us 5 pounds between himself and the infrastructure needed to support him. He won't be cost neutral until his skill is 8, and he won't be actually saving money until he's skill 10. And if he's training an apprentice to replace him when he dies, that's another mouth to feed, meaning more servants needed, who also need feeding... and chances are good that apprentice won't start out cost effective when his master dies.

Am I missing a detail somewhere in there? Is there some aspect of the math I'm not getting right? Because I've just been blithely assuming in my campaign so far that having craftsmen is good, and having been doing "what-if" fiddling with Metacreator, but my analysis here suggests to me: "skilled" (per the core rules definition of skill 6) craftsmen just aren't worth it; until you've got 275XP in your craft ability (or 10 build points in your craftsman, to look at it a different way), you're better off just going without according to the RAW.

Or, put a different way: if your covenant decides to stop living like a cheap Spring Covenant and make the place into a nice summer covenant, complete with bonus to living modifiers, kick out your craftsmen, because they have no place in your new utopia. :wink:

That is the thing. I am wondering if the number of servants and teamsters is a little on the high side. You get a lot of servants and a lot of teamsters compared to the productive members of the covenant otherwise. Train a grog or two to drive the wagon and make it part of their duties in rotation. Steady teamster activity seems excessive.

As I read pgs. 63-64 of covenants, you are giving short shrift to the fact that you subtract 2x laborers from the population of craftsmen, servants, etc. before deciding how many teamsters are appropriate. With a sufficient laborer population, there may be no additional teamsters or fewer teamsters. This then puts you at a much greater likelihood of cost savings.

Regardless, this position elevates cost savings as the highest reason for on-site production. This is how 21st Century companies think, with their "just-in-time" inventory processes and outsourcing; this should not be an acceptable way to run a 13th C. covenant.

A covenant's need for glassware and parchment may be such that a Venetian-Genoan war could interrupt supply for a sufficient time to cause a decrease in lab totals as labs cannot maintain their quality. Ditto weapons (it would really stink if the leader of the town which is your major source of swords decided that dealing with you is a mortal sin, or you're allied with his enemy) and parchment.

Separately, there are several craftsmen who likely are at the covenant because any covenant-sized community needs them:* You need a blacksmith. Do you have horses? Agricultural equipment? Construction? Blacksmith. If you try to get around this, and you're at all attempting to actually live the 13th Century as opposed to a very abstracted fantasy time (and if so, why bother with the cost rules at all?), your storyguide should penalize you like crazy.

  • You probably need a mason. Covenants tend to spend a lot of time building and maintaining stone edifices.
  • According to Covenants, your covenant will have at least one scribe, because few magi have the skill or the desire to turn their notes into books.
    Yes, magi can get around this somewhat with Rego magic, but since many of these jobs take whole seasons, this is essentially condemning magi to get Exposure experience in Rego instead of studying or adventuring. Which, I assume, magi would rather spend many pounds of silver to avoid.

Cost savings are an extra benefit to having these craftsmen, not the reason for having them in the first place. A largish covenant is its own little medieval town, and as such you'll get a lot of teamsters and to some extent a lot of labor inefficiency.

I made an Excel calculation sheet for covenant costs that tells you how many people you need. You can find it on the spell wiki site.

Specificxally, on this page

And thanks, Jean :slight_smile:

You hinted at it, but it should be stressed that you are working from the "typical Summer or Autumn covenant", where all the covenfolk have a Living Conditions modifier of +1 (i.e. they live a comfortable life). If you work from a "typical Spring or Winter covenant" (Living Conditions modifier 0), which sounds more like your covenant situation, then a craftsman costs 2 pounds per year (or 2.6 pounds if you add on the servants and teamsters).

If you give the covenfolk a Living Conditions modifier of +1, then they all become considerably more expensive, not just the craftsmen! By definition then, you are no longer strictly interested in cost saving, since you are willing to spend a great deal more on the welfare of your inhabitants than a typical landowner does. In other words, a far more effective cost saving measure would be to stop feeding the covenfolk meat and wine, and move them out of their comfy rooms into dormitories.

I did indeed ignore this, because laborers are also cost inefficient at the summer level. They save you one pound each directly, plus saving 1/5 of a teamster. However, as I showed above, 1IP=1 pound of total costs. Since everyone is at least 2IP in a summer covenant, each laborer costs 2 pounds, and the fact that they save you, in essence, 1.4 pounds isn't much solace. :wink:

Oh, I quite agree that from a practical, real-world perspective, most covenants tend to be at least village-sized, and therefore should have at least village-sized infrastructure, with even more infrastructure the farther they get from the rest of the world. My argument is that, according to the RAW, producing goods on-site is more expensive than having them shipped from off-site, because the cost of keeping a blacksmith is greater than the savings he provides by being on-site.

At which point, I'd argue that in practice, almost no covenant is actually a "typical summer/autumn covenant", because once every member of a covenant is cost inefficient, I just can't imagine a covenant having sufficient income sources (which then need more manpower to work, one would think) to make the math work. Much less a longer-term covenant when inflation starts to kick in. Especially in those tribunals where the creation of money magically is strictly regulated.

Three things:

First, your covenant's size is only marginally related to income.

For resource-based sources of income (agriculture, mining, fishing), the income is basically related to how bounteous the land is. It takes a certain number of peasants to run a farm or mine at optimal levels; if the land is fertile and the mine full of ore, it's a lot more lucrative than if there's a drought or if the mine has thin veins of ore. You can of course have more farms or mines, which would require more people, but the additional value by each is based on the bounty of the land. In the Medieval mind, the value of a resource is set by the Divine; however, magi can, depending on the particular resource, increase the output.

For craftsmen, increased skill is the best way to increase income. The more Good to Exceptional quality items made, the more money - the medieval world is not ready for, nor would appreciate, Wal*Mart; churning out dozens of crummy items will not increase your income level.

For sources of income from services, like banking or trading or hospitality, there's nearly no connection to how many people are working the business. It depends on your business's marketing and service skills. You may need only one banker, for example. Or if you sell magical items, you need no additional employees.

Second, you really, really need those craftsmen regardless, those cost savings are not the point.

If you have a certain number of armed grogs, you'll want an armorer. It just makes no sense to depend on some other source for repairing armor or making arrows, especially if the covenant could be under siege.

There's a point where you'll need a parchment maker because there just isn't enough parchment for the books you're writing. Same with scribes.

Third, if you increase the living modifier, you must, by ArM's philosophical position, be doing better than the mundane world - probably through magic.

The "0" living condition is how mundanes generally live in ArM's 13th century. To exceed that, one needs an atypical level of wealth. I would presume that, without exceptional mundane efforts or divine/magical intervention, that atypical level of wealth cannot be achieved.

Ergo, the summer covenant, by its definition, must be doing something exceptional to make the money. Makes sense - it's a summer covenant.