Economics and Cities & Guilds

I understand that Ars is not intended to be an economic simulation, and the economics are therefore somewhat fuzzy. That makes sense.

But I am confused about the relationship between the base book and C&G, and some items within C&G.

As far as I can tell from the base book, one penny per days is roughly the same as 1 mythic pound per year. Thus a mythic pound is somewhere between 200 and 250 pennies. And one penny a day is the base peasant wage-equivalent.

But then I look at C&G. The "Customs of Lorris" box on page 12 says that 6 pence a year is a the rent from a townsman, and that this is a significant sum of money. That does not seem to add up.

Things get even more confused when on the same page the main text says that the typical rental total for a town of several hundred burgesses is 40 mythic pounds per year. Assuming that several hundred can be estimated at 400, that is .1 mythic pounds per year per burgess, or about 20 to 25 pence per year. That is 3 times the box rental, and even seems pretty low.

Am I missing something in the conversion between the core book and C&G? Is the factor of three between the two parts of page 12 just the variation in economics to be expected here. I can play with that much variation, even though it seems awfully large. But even a rent of 1/10 of an unskilled wage per year seems very low.

City and Guild is a very messy, very poor product.

For anything on a scale magi want to deal with, I'd exclusively use Mythic Pounds, or fractions of same (unless you've just finished watching Spice and Wolf and want to make an Ars Magica game about currency exchanges). Details like this, on workman's rents and wages, are best taken as off-the-cuff statements and not as actual fact.


Although I think that C&G could have been better (especially with a smaller font and more pages of stuff), I do like the fluff very much. The economy rules are problematic. Then again, so are the economy rules in Covenants.

Maybe the root of the problem begins in the core rulebook. Not much about economy here, but the Wealthy virtue has an unexpected benefit: It doesn't provide more money, only extra time. Leaving "time is money" aside, wealth within a world is represented by gold, land and stuff. But the currency among AM players is seasons, which provide xps, lab research, etc.



The figures in that part were based on actual money based on real period documents, give or take a hundred years. Tying it back to Mythic Pounds is very messy. So, I wouldn't stress too much, it's just ball-park figures.

Also, note that the total rent for the town is not necessarily paid evenly. Not everyone occupies identical sized houses (or however the rent is evaluated).

Everything is too expensive when you're giving ten percent of everything to the church. Just saying.

My big problem is getting something like consistency in my head for understanding C&G alongside core and covenants. (I realize that not everyone in the town pays the same rental. If anything, that makes it worse, because the low end burgess probably pays less than 0.1 pounds per year, while he earns way more than 1 pound per year. My comprehension difficulty is arguably just around the text that says that the rent is a significant cost for a burgess.

Oh well, if it is messy, so be it.

My first reply seems to have been eaten, so:

An actual physical penny varies so much in Mythic Europe that it's possible to sell a gold Egyptian penny (which they don't make any more, but are still in circulation) for about 3 400 Spanish pennies (because they are full of copper). In response, players use a unit of account, which is the Mythic Pound, which contains 240 Mythic Pennies. Also, note that the value of a physical penny is strongly seasonal in Mythic Europe: it loses value as the surplus food is consumed, only to rise again at the next harvest.

As to the costs you are looking at: a Mythic penny a day is a good rule of thumb wage for a labourer, although he would not be paid that in coins. In strongly feudal areas, only soldiers, the Church, and nobles were regularly paid in coins.

How did townsmen pay a rent of sixpence a year? I'm guessing they own their houses and that rent is what we'd call a "rate" in this country, but I'm not sure. That wasn't my bit and I'm not familiar with the case enough for it to have stuck in my mind.

Sources of covenant income are the covenant's "net valuable goods" from the source. So a covenant which farms (that is, has the right to tax) a village gets 40L after paying all its people, facilities, tithes, feudal dues, house of its fake mayor, city guards or whatever. It's not the money everyone personally pays: it's the profit at the end of the process for the covenant, after all of the costs, middle men, church and so on have all taken their cut. The sources of covenant income are, yes, quite artificial.

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Per City and Guild, a typical village craftsman or laborer earns 10 MP per year (page 37). So yeah, C&G is not reliable when talking exact figures.

On questions of economics C&G is not consistent within itself. A typical armorer simply cannot make goods equivalent to their annual income when you compare the goods produced table with the typical incomes from the first chapter. I wrote Atlas about this as a possible errata and they informed me it was not errata because players simply didn't care about that level of detail.

That being said, matters of economics in the middle ages were very non-standardized, and regulations were spotty at best. For example the existence of the existence of an annuity came about as a way to circumvent rules of usury- instead of making a loan with a given interest rate (which is a sin) one purchased a financial product which provided a steady income in the future. The fact that the total amount paid back over time was larger than the purchase price was fine as long as no mention was made of an interest rate. Similarly goods were supposed to have a fixed value, so speculative investment was frowned upon. Instead merchants would discuss such things in terms of storage fees and transportation fees which tended to be highly variable to account for any profits which were actually made.
So realistically shadowy dealings and nobody being completely certain what was going on in economics was pretty much par for the course.

Two related questions:

On page 69, the text says "Guild craftsmen are usually proficient enough to regularly make superior items, helped by their work force to increase their reputations and annual incomes." But there is no explanation of how much more money the craftsman makes.

On a related note, Guild Masters are a higher income level than Journey. By the book, this means that you have to spend 1080 accumulated labor points after being wealthy (so, from normal Journeyman, that is 1440 labor points). Unless the character is interested in being a miser, even an absurd Journeyman (Affinity, Puissqnce, maximum skill, giving 9 skill and a 3 characteristic) earns only an excess of 36 points per year. Even with skill increases, this would take nearly 35 years to get to Master, which is much longer than the rules indicate it ought to take.

Also p. 74 discusses a craftsman's reputation- every season they have a workshop total of 6 or more over the craft level for standard goods (normally standard goods are produced with a craft level of 6) they earn an experience point towards reputation. Of course stories can also contribute labor points, and more skilled craftsmen will gain them faster.
Journeymen can gain extra labor points based on their contract negotiation (p.46) and after a long time of doing well at this (and the roll improves with age) they can certainly save the points to become guild masters. Also note that 5 is the minimum level of the ability, and that after age 25 they can rise to level 6- if they plan to go beyond guild master they will need a level 7 eventually.
Finally, not every journeyman will make guild master. Some will leave to set up shop somewhere with no guild, some will simply remain journeymen their whole lives.
Keep in mind a starting journeyman with an ability of 5 and a stat of 1 will be gaining exposure experience as well as labor points- so if they roll well and get an extra 1 experience per season then at average wealth it would take 180 years by simple math (don't forget to subtract the 36 labor points a year maintenance) to simply become wealthy. So he keeps making his 10 pounds a year as a journeyman, but also gains 4 points a year in exposure experience, assuming he doesn't spend any of his free seasons improving his craft. If he puts all 4 into his craft ability he will reach 6 in 7 1/2 years, at which point he will also have 15 labor points. From that point onwards even with a normal negotiating roll he is earning 6 surplus labor points in a year, and still 4 exposure experience. in another 9 years his craft should rise to 7 and he will have 69 labor points accrued...

also keep in mind that when a character has more than one reputation, reputation points can be spent to decrease the weaker one instead of boosting the stronger if they do not directly advance the weaker. So if you have a reputation as a fine craftsman, which is greater than your reputation as a miser, then every season your shop produces items of superior or better quality you could reduce your reputation as a miser instead. So if you are of average wealth and spend 1 extra season a year at work, but produce superior good consistently, then you can balance your gains as a miser and still gain 1 point of reputation a year for your shop, while boosting your labor point production by 50%

SilverOak, I was actually assuming an absurdly good Journeyman in the evaluation of moving to Master.
Start at age 20 with skill 7 from affinity, with +2 from Puissance. Assume relevant characteristic of 3.
He is earning 72 labor points for each two seasons of work. Assume no miserliness.
(I think your point about reputation was that he could work an extra season sometimes, and spend reputation points to offset it. )

So he is earning 36 labor points excess per year. After 8 years, this goes up to 42 excess. After another 2 years, he is wealth. If he continues working, and continues improving his skill, after about another 15 years he can accumulate enough points to move up to Master. That is age 45.
I understand that not every Journeyman becomes master. But those who do achieve that usually do so rather younger than age 45.
And by that time he is at effective skill 11.

As written, it is supposed to be possible for this to be a Grog. Characteristic 3, with Affinity and Puissance makes him as good as you can get. And he gets to Master 9 years later than the book says (there is a reference that if you start with Master you should be 36.)

Taking a normal character, even a companion grade character, who has a skill of 5 (no puissance nor affinity), with a characteristic of 3, would mean that he would have to work 3 seasons a year every year (which the book seems to indicate the guilds frown on) just to make the same level of advancement. He would pick up a little bit due to the extra work at lower levels, but not much. And slowing it down to an extra season every other year would slow both the labor points and the skill improvement.

Just confused.

Any pointers on the extra income for higher quality goods?

There are also rules for investing money into a business. For example, if you have a trivial income (such as a journeyman) and can live off of 2.5 lbs (which is more than what a covenant craftsman makes) you can invest the remainder into your business as 36 labor points extra per year (p.40). This would greatly accelerate the rate at which you could advance, especially for your optimized grog who can now contribute 72 labor points per year towards his advancement and can make it to wealthy in 5 years and to the next income level (guild master, 20 lbs/year) at the poor level in another 15 before advancement...
I will also point out that this is before stories, improvements in skill, and the text states a minimum age of 25, not a typical age of 25. Upwards mobility was not a widespread concept in the middle ages.

I had not realized that a craftsman could invest your money back in as labor points. Yes, that makes things much more tractable.

Also when you reach wealthy you do not get a bad reputation for working 2 seasons a year, which can accelerate things dramatically...

A Wealthy craftsman or merchant can work 2 seasons a year for full labor points and no bad reputation? For craftsmen, are there typically guild limits on that?

Sure! 2 seasons a year is what an honest man should do.
Doing less than that is not necessarily bad per se, but one may not afford it.
Doing more is a sign of avarice, unless the person who does is it is very clearly in dire need.

Keep in mind that your income (cash) will not go up by doing so, just your labor points. It's not that you don't make more money- it's that you have to spend the extra to maintain your reputation as not being a miser.
Which means your family will be living a more lavish lifestyle as a result. (not you of course, you are stuck at work- your lifestyle is simply more elegant, not more lavish)

That's for senior masters, not masters. A starting master can be as young as 25

Also, becoming a master is not a matter of skill and isn't something you buy with labor points; it's a matter of politics and it takes stories. Once you are accepted as a master, you have a right to set up your own shop, which moves you into the higher income bracket.

I think the limit you're looking at is the one where a Wealthy individual saves money and lives as an Average person, which isn't the same thing as working two seasons.

Anyway, I notice the book is conspicuously lacking in rules for how magic can be used in place of a professional skill. The Eye of the North will probably need that soon...