ArM5 pg. 163 states normal characters get 2 free seasons a year, 3 if they're Wealthy, 1 if they're Poor. Does that apply to Grogs/Companions supported by the Covenant? Is it accounting for leisure time? I'll lay down 2 examples:
There's a shield grog who has no assignments when he's not accompanying magi outside the Covenant. The magi expect him to pretty much only pratice when he's not adventuring, and they support him financially. Does he get 4 seasons in a given year when the magi just do Lab Work?
There's a grog who's a failed apprentice. He's also supported financially by the Covenant. The magi use him as a lab assistant and as a teacher for Magic Theory, and when he's not doing said work, he's studying Tractati on Magic Theory. Would he get 1 season for teaching, 1 season for assisting a lab project and 2 seasons for studying every year?
In 1), the grog gets 4 free seasons for practice, in 2), the grog gets 2 seasons working directly for the magi and 2 free seasons for studying.
I figured the 15xp/year was only for character generation, then they would advance as per Long-Term Events. Otherwise the failed apprentice grog could teach or assist in the lab every season and still gain 15 xp without even having access to tractati, while he should only get 8 xp from exposure during that time. It strikes me as odd that a free virtue such as Covenfolk would result in 4 free seasons, while a major one such as Wealthy brings it from 2 to 3.
I think your rules interpretation is sound, but that you underestimated the work needed on the covenant.
Most covenants, I take it, will need their grogs for guard duties, both at the gates and to escort teamsters to the market town (or similar), and also to maintain and mend their own weapons and armour. It is easy to forget this, because there are no rules to calculate the number of men needed as standing force. The blanket rule of two free seasons per year is just a reasonable approximation, reflecting that there is always some work which needs doing, and the grogs are there to do it.
It should be possible, I think, for a prosperous covenant to assign their staff to dedicated training and/or free time, but that would then be a covenant decision, and it requires spare man power. Elite grogs with four free seasons per year does not sound plausible to me, but three free seasons might if the covenant can afford it. Personally I would stick to the two seasons/year until we have established thorough book keeping of covenant resources and the records clearly show spare manpower, erring on the side of default.
But the main point is. Covenfolk /have/ two free season per year. The covenant can decide to /give/ them more. A wealthy character does not depend on the covenant. He /has/ three free seasons, and even the fourth he manages himself to maintain his income.
Well, it doesn't. In general, a covenant's magi, PCs and NPCs together, decide, who at the covenant has to work and who can learn and train. Sometimes they deputize an autocrat for this. And very often they have provisions in their charter about sharing work. Such a provision can stipulate, that every magus of a well-to-do covenant has one personal servant to his exclusive service, maintained by the covenant. Such a servant - be he apprentice, shield grog, personal secretary or lab companion - could be required to work 4 seasons a year or to train 4 seasons a year at the magus' request. Accordingly, that servant would be envied or commiserated by the other covenfolk.
A wealthy character does not depend on the covenant for his wealth and the management of his time.
Thank you both for the responses, loke and One Shot. Indeed, I am not familiar with Ars Magica yet.
I'm now trying to figure out how much it should cost to support a grog so it gets 4 free seasons/year.
I thought about some points brought up in Covenants, namely Prevailing Loyalty (p. 36 ff.), Points of Inhabitants (p. 63 ff.), Wages (p. 66) and that the work journey for a 4S/Y advancement is 10h/d, 6d/w (standard lab routine, p. 107).
Increasing the Points of Inhabitants increases their wages, their servants, betters their clothing, food, living conditions, etc. I figured increasing them from 1 to 3, supplying expensive equipment (0,3 pounds) in addition to doubling their wages to 2 pence/d, would allow them to have 4 seasons, while increasing loyalty to +2/+4 depending on familiarity with the Gift. I figured a loyal grog who has the free time would be willing to serve 10h/d, 6d/w. That would ammount to 5,3 pounds per year per grog doing the 4 S/Y thing.
According to /Covenants/ the cost of support 1p inhabitant average £1/year + the knock-on effect of extra servants and teamsters, when you add it all up; there may some options in living and equipment standard, if you feel like researching the details. There seems to be no need to count days or hours AFAICS.
But I think you start in the wrong end. Make the calculation for your total staff. Then see how many grogs you need for guard duties and the like. That probably depends on where your covenant is. Then you see if you can spare a grog for training only. If you can't you need to add one. When you recalculate you will see what difference that makes on the total, with the level of detail that you care about.
My thoughts go along this line: If you have a character who is part of your covenant, and you want them to have four honestly free seasons a year, to do whatever they like, their cost should probably be the same as a magus, because they're getting the same free-time benefits of a magus. Cost them as a magus. To be honest though, such a character is not someone I would call a 'grog'. That character feels like a special, powerful exception to the regular expectations of the world. They sound like a character whose time is important enough that they get supported to the same level as a magus, and s/he should probably be considered a companion character instead. Although as a player, having a grog/companion/etc who is free to build xp and increase his personal power (and potential to give more xp to everyone else) sounds pretty sweet, to the common covenfolk, this man's special status is probably infuriating, as he is basically a deadbeat who never has to do any real work in order to get his livelihood. Even truly decadent wealthy nobles have to spend enough time to lose one season a year in maintaining their position, playing the social games nobles need, writing letters, making autocratic decisions, etc.
I guess that's a fair path. The tough part is there are no rules on the standing force required, as you mentioned, but I guess some things need to be decided by the troupe.
That's what I did, actually, though not directly. Magi cost 5 Points of Inhabitants. However, magi have some luxuries, they lead a noble's life, while such a character does not necessarily need to.
Agreed, even though the character would be created like a grog, it would be played as a companion. It's only fair to just go ahead and make him a companion already.
I get what you're saying, but I believe that such a character would not be working from a XP point of view only (i.e. he would be working in the eyes of the rest of the covenfolk). The failed apprentice grog (2) would effectively be working in the lab and teaching for 2 seasons a year, while having the other 2 seasons free for study. I concede the soldier grog's case might indeed be infuriating if all he ever does is practice by himself, but it should look a lot a better if he trains other grogs and accompanies the magi on dangerous assignments on occasion, even if it's not that frequent. Perhaps if those grogs did not get special treatment regarding living conditions it would help bridge the gap between the common covenfolk and them.
It is worh noting that the rules are not consistent in the terminology.
City and Guild makes it clear that the difference between a companion and a grog is purely OOC, in there narrative role.
However, Covenants assign different costs based on IC logic.
The term «grog» is similarly used both about a member of the covenant's armed force, and about character with supportive role in the narration.
Not that I see this as a problem, but illustrates the fact that ArM should never be read like a mathematical or axiomatic text. It is packed with ambiguities, and needs to be interpreted in relation to the saga you want to play, and appropriated thereto.
It may boil down to telling the story about how this particular grog rose to the status he has and how he interacts with the rest of the covenant.
It raises another issue which is worth a thought, too. A grog given four free seasons to practice is more likely to spend two of them to learn playing the flute or exchanging stories about journey to strange lands. Practicing a few martial abilities all year round for years on end is an assignment. I guess I imply some doubt in the entire advancement rules which assume that free seasons are used for study. City and Guild suggest quite other things that real characters would do in their so-called free seasons, which according to same book are not at all that free. It is just another ambiguity one needs to embrace and adapt. Whatever makes your story followable,
The failed apprentice grog who spends 2 seasons a year working in the lab and teaching, and 2 seasons of free study... doesn't sound like they actually have 4 free seasons at all. It sounds like they spend 2 seasons working for the covenant (teaching and labbing) and 2 seasons free. Just like the basket-weaver spends 2 (non-seasonal) seasons making baskets and 2 seasons doing their own interests. having 4 free seasons, as a Magi would, is something that would allow them to spend 4 seasons a year reading in the library, going on adventures, writing books, seducing gullible young men, et cetera. I suppose if you have a failed apprentice and no lab work is done for an entire year, they may effectively have 4 seasons a year, but I would assume they instead are given other tasks to keep them busy (even if it's lighter work) refilling vials of rare herbs for the labs, fetching components, cleaning the labs because they have enough knowledge not to break everything...
I recommend to not micromanage grogs.
Grogs work as standard for 2 seasons each year, giving them only exposure exp, plus 2 free seasons where they can practice , read, receive teaching or training.
Don’t give them more free seasons just because there was no story they accompanied the magi on, they just gave other seasons.
If on a story they should be given story exp instead of just exposure for a duty season. Yes, this will be more, but they risk injury and may be recovering for an entire season.
In my saga we rarely grant the grogs seasonal exp, once in while we give them one of the Training Packages from Grogs. I can’t even recall if we give them Story Exp. I’m the SG a lot, and if not I play a magus, and grogs are a secondary thing.