Keeping Labor Points in check

This is an attempt to slightly modify the Labor Point system from C&G (used in many later books) so as to:
a) encourage "broader" competence in PCs
b) make it harder to achieve really high Labor Point totals (and e.g. ascend from Poor to Wealthy in a few years). This system can easily work with the "Let's get rid of professions!" idea too.

Remember that under the current rules a character generates what I call a Basic Labor Total (BLT) as the sum of characteristic + ability - for example, a tourney knight can generate a BLT=Dex+Great Weapon - which is then multiplied by 2,3, or 6 to yield the yearly Labor Points depending on the wealth of the character. In a nutshell, a character needs a BLT of at least 6 to support himself without having to work extra time; higher BLTs yield resources that can improve the character's lot. This system changes how the BLT is generated, leaving all other details unchanged.

To generate a BLT of X, a character needs at least X abilities that can somehow contribute to the job. The troupe should rank them from the most relevant to the least relevant, though player creativity should be rewarded. The most relevant ability should have a score of at least X, the second a score at least X-1, ..., and the lowest a score at least 1. Specialties improve the effective score of an ability by 1, as usual, and it is common for characters to work within their area of specialty. Relevant positive Reputations can substitute for abilities at the same score. The final BLT is modified by +1 or -1 for a character choosing to live temporarily at an income bracket respectively below or above that character's actual one: it takes more skill to be the best-paid master in town, and less to be just a modest journeyman.

For example, a journeyman smith with Craft: Smith 5, Area Lore 3 (potential clients), Bargain 3, a Reputation Honest 2, and Local Language 5 - ranked in that order by relevance with troupe agreement - generates a BLT of 5, just enough to support the journeyman at an income bracket below that of a "standard" smith (which adds +1 to the BLT, bringing it up to 6).

Characteristics are not added to the total, as different characteristics all tend to be important to the character efforts albeit in different ways: a smith with high Stamina might work longer workdays, one with high Communication might be better at haggling, and one with high Intelligence might organize his work more efficiently.

BLTs generated with this system tend to be markedly lower than those with the current rules. It is extremely difficult to generate a BLT of 10+. Furthermore, for most characters supporting themselves through an occupation (particularly at the higher income brackets), a significant fraction of their experience should revolve around that occupation, albeit spread over a variety of abilities. This is all intended; among other things it makes climbing the social ladder harder and much slower, and Labor points from stories (C&G) a much greater prize.


Looking at your example, a journeyman would not need clients, since he works under a craftsman who owns a shop, and indeed might not properly generate his own labor point total. You might borrow from A&A the idea of abilities which add 1/3 of their level to the total the way artes liberales does for AQ.

I think journeyman is a little ambiguous here. I think @ezzelino may think of a village smith, who is not in any way an outstanding master but yet has his own workshop. In contrast, @silveroak appears to refer to the guild system of a sizeable town, where only masters have their own (work)shop, and journeymen earn their wages from shop owners. IIUC, labour points are for shop owners, and a journeyman may or may not own one.

What I am curious to know, and I don't think I will know until playtesting, is how this will work narratively with PCs who part time adventurers and part time labour point earners.

Honestly I would love to see the labor point system given better clarification and then convert the covenant maintenance requirements to a labor points basis instead of the current system, and allow purchasing labor points from outside the covenant instead of trying to simply assess costs.

That would be neat. If only we could make that system consistent and fair without encouraging the players to detail 230 grogs to get the accounts in balance.

I do that with the current system...
realistically that is how period households worked.

Some of us require a different narrative-to-bookkeeping ratio to enjoy the game.

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for my approach with excel bookkeeping is a trivial activity, even on a mass scale.

Indeed, my bad for not being clearer. That said, I do not really see why the same system could not be used for journeymen employed by someone else, though in that case arguably slightly different abilities might be relevant. In fact, I was toying with another idea, that ties in with silveroak's "covenants based on labor points": everyone other than magi should have labor points, including grogs; if you are running a large-scale operation, your labor points are based on those of your "underlings". More of that later (hopefully).

From a quick shot my troupe is giving at it, combined with the "get rid of professions" idea, it works better than the current system, for 2-3 main reasons.

First, it encourages characters who have a broad set of skills, all somewhat relevant to the job at hand - instead of the current system, that encourages optimization of a single characteristic + ability pair, and then allows a character to spend the majority of his xp on completely unrelated stuff. So, a jongleur who goes adventuring most likely brings to the party high ledgerdemain, a good Charm and Carouse, possibly athletics etc. instead of an anonymous "Profession: jongleur" plus ... Brawl, Chirurgy, and Leadership.

Second, because characteristics do not enter the picture, you won't always see that characterististic at +3 or higher (and because you need lots of abilities, you won't see that many Puissant + Affinity with Profession); meaning a broader palette of characters, particularly grogs.

Third, because earning Labor Points is harder, labor points provided by stories feel a much nicer reward.

I do think characteristics need to remain- that is a core mechanic of the system, and simply speaking would be relevant. However when you can add another ability or two, even at the divided by three level, the impact of the characteristic is much less, and of course assistants (as per current rules in city and guild) could also add 1/2 their ability with no characteristic, so someone with a low characteristic could still make a reasonable assistant. So a craftsman with dex 2 craft 5 and bargain:4 would have a base of 9 labor points, multiplied by wealth factor, while gaining an assistant with craft:4 will gain them another 2 labor points (multiplied as above), but they may need to pay some labor points to the hired craftsman. If what they are paying is low enough then the hired craftsman may need a side job or to work for themselves for a season or two as well...

The fact is that, in my view, multiple characteristics are relevant, even more so than multiple abilities.

Take a blacksmith with his own shop. Intelligence is certainly relevant towards better organization and planning. Perception is crucial for spotting problems before they occur, and to correctly evaluate stuff bought and people hired. Strength is the staple of blacksmiths! Stamina allows you to work a bit longer. Dexterity means fewer accidents. Quickness allows you to do more work in the same time. Presence will "seep" into people you interact with, so your shop will get a better name; plus it helps with hirelings. Communication is central to haggling, both when buying and when selling. So a high score here will tend to compensate a low score there.

Sure, characteristics are not necessarily all equally important (Strength is not that useful for a merchant I guess); and the proposed system does not differentiate between someone who has all above-average characteristics and someone who has all below-average ones. But I think it's much better than basing everything on a single characteristic. Also, it makes the system a little simpler, which is a good thing.

I had toyed with the following idea: total the relevant Virtue & Flaw points for the character: e.g. a poet with a Weakness for drink (-1), Poor Characteristics (-1), who's Obese (irrelevant), and has Free Expression (+1), a Light Touch (irrelevant) and a Piercing Gaze (irrelevant) would get a V&F total of -1-1+1. Then, modify the BLT as follows:
V&F=-4 or less -> -2 to BLT
V&F=-3 or -2 -> -1 to BLT
V&F=2 or 3-> +1 to BLT
V&F=+4 or more-> +2 to BLT
This would be more accurate: a poet with Free Expression and above-average characteristics ends up better at his job. But it creates problems with V&Fs that directly modify abilities (do you "double-count" them?), it is not always simple to adjudicate (would Luck help? Venus Blessing? Premonitions?), it adds complexity and potential for abuse ... so again, I decided to leave everything but the abilities out of the equation.

They may all be relevant, but I do not believe they will all be significantly relevant, and at some point that has to be at issue to prevent the rules from becoming unworkable. After all their skill with language is also relevant, and artes liberales to track funds ad infinitum.

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Labour points assume that the character is able to save and invest the surplus when they do a good job. The surplus generated by an employee is very often the property of the employer. Of course, terms may vary, and with an alternative narrative interpretation of the labour points, lots of things could work.

I would point out that if you can generate a higher BLT, you can also work less (and have more free time) while meeting your 36 labor points/year. A number of the uses of "surplus" labor points in C&G are also quite compatible with an employee pouring them into an activity other than his employer's benefit.

In general, I think that negotiating better terms with hirelings, or hiring better hirelings for affordable wages, should already be captured by the employer's labor points (remember that in the proposed system, you need a fairly broad base of abilities; Bargain and Leadership can certainly be two of them for someone employing hirelings). So, if as a journeyman you generate many labor points (probably because both your job skil and your Bargain skill are high), they should be yours to keep and use.

Sure, but is it compatible with the medieval paradigm?

Sure. In fact, I think that what deviates from the medieval paradigm is the tendency to view "labor points" with a very 19th-20th century attitude, Marx- or Ford-style :slight_smile:

Labor points are a very abstract way to represent how much value to the character accrues from his efforts. If they are above the 36 "basic" ones, they might mean more free time, better pay, a side project, etc. It's all quite fitting with the medieval paradigm. A journeyman might, for example, agree with his master not to a set number of hours worked, but to a certain amount of work done (this was actually common for several jobs). If he finishes earlier either because he's good, or because he bargained well, he has more time. Alternatively, he might work so well, that his master enthusiastically gives him a little extra money, perhaps as a share of the workshop's earnings. Again, this was recorded in a number of instances. He might put super-extra care and dedication in the job assigned to him that his master took from the local Church - if it gets known that the job was given to him, the result is an improved reputation for him. Etc.

I would also stress that labor points should not be considered a zero-sum game between employer and employee - a fixed quantity proportional to the employee's main work skill, so that the more one gets, the fewer the other gets. A significant part of getting a high labor point total either as an employee or as an employer is to find synergies with the other. For example, if both employer and employee generate high totals - with the employee translating them into more free time, and the employer into more money ... perhaps the employee happily spends that extra hour or two during frenzied days, in return for proportionately more time when business is soft (time that he uses to practice some skill unrelated to his work), and the employer still benefits by managing to absorb work spikes he'd otherwise have to give up on.

My impression is that journeymen did not negotiate for either hours or set jobs but rather for a term of employment during which he was committed to working as many hours as were necessary, limited in most cases to daylight hours.

It varied a lot from job to job, from place to place, as well as from person to person actually. But the type of contract you describe is exactly one where a good journeyman can then obtain better terms, so that mechanically the extra labor points he provides accrue to him: the master cannot terminate the contract early, but the journeyman churn out very very average work (after demonstrating he can do better) until his master provides that little extra incentive :slight_smile:

I think you are assuming a more modern economy than actually existed. There were cases of journeymen who left town without fulfilling their contractual commitment for service (typically a 6 month contract) who were criminally prosecuted for doing so. Workers rights were non existent. In fact if a journeyman is earning labor points they should be required to put any overage into their advancement to become a master- though really it seems to me that journeymen are in the same situation as covenant laborers, so this all needs to be resolved together in terms of how it will work and what it means...

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another thing to consider in all of this is relative value of labor points- as things are currently written a journeyman has a trivial income (10 MP/yr) which comes to (depending on wealth level) .41 MP to .069 MP per labor point (with wealthier characters having less valuable labor points...) while a master for a standard craft has an income of 20 MP per year, with twice the value (again depending on wealth level) per labor point. So if a journeyman adds ability/2 labor points to a master's labor point total that has the same hypothetical economic value as the flat ability bonus for the journeyman.
also to keep in mind the same work can in this situation bring benefit to both people- the journeyman is putting his overage into his status within the guild while the master is using it to improve his income.