Let's get rid of Professions!

As I posted in another thread (that I do not want to derail further), I think that many of the later Ars Magica supplements have seen a proliferation of Craft and Profession abilities, against the letter and spirit of the Corebook: namely, that Craft should deal with "handiwork" (so no Craft:Poetry), and that Profession should cover other jobs not covered by existing abilities (so a fighting grog should not have Profession:Soldier or whatever).

To be fair, the stipulation that Profession should not overlap with existing abilities is never made explicit even in the Corebook, and in fact of the handful of Profession examples a few might indeed violate it. But I think it's a fine stipulation: the portion of being a Factor that is about haggling should be covered by Bargaining, so a character can teach it to someone in another trade, and use it himself if switching to another trade. Only that which is fundamentally "unportable" should have its own Profession. This also means that to be an effective merchant someone should have several abilities rather than relying just on Profession:Merchant, just like to be a well-rounded craftsman you need many more abilities than actual craftsmanship.

And I realized that in this sense there seem to be really few Profession:X abilities, so few that each might deserve its own entry and name. A grand total of three, in fact (perhaps with names different from the ones below), each about as broad as Music.

  1. Farming: you know how to manage land, so as to preserve it and harvest its vegetable resources. You know how to assess and improve the quality of soil, how to till, grow crops, harvest and store them. You also know how to assart. Example pecialties: lumberjack, any one area or crop.

  2. Seamanship: you know how to handle any boat, raft or ship and how to handle yourself on one. You know how to fish using nets and lines. You can perform emergency repairs and navigate using the sun and stars. To use or draw maps or a sextant, and to compute complex routes you also need a score in Artes Liberales, however. Example specialties: fishing, sailing, any one area.

  3. Housekeeping: you know how to manage a household. You can wash, clean, sew, make beds. You know how to store food and serve at a table. You can also keep a simple budget of income and expenses, even though for any complex mathematics (or even simple reading and writing) you need Artes Liberales. Example specialties: washerwoman, thrift.

That's it!
I've tried to think of as many "jobs" as I could, and the associated primary ability (that used in the formula for Labor Points), and they are all covered. Management roles, whether managing a ship, a company, an army or a really large household also require Leadership, as per C&G rules. A modicum of Bargain is required to monetize your skills (again as per C&G rules), Intrigue covers politics as well as "shady" aspects of a job such as smuggling, Artes Liberales covers reading, writing and math etc.

Soldier, Archer, Tourney knight, Warlord: Weapon ability (see Lords of Men)
Merchant, Factor: Bargain
Poet, Storyteller: Language (as per Corebook)
Minstrel: Music
Fisherman, Sailor, Ship Captain: Seamanship
Sheperd, Falconer, Marshal, Stable boy, Teamster: Animal handling
Actor: Guile
Prostitute, Gambler: Carouse
Innkeeper: either Carouse or Housekeeping, depending on the establishment
Courtesan, Bureacrat: Etiquette
Washerwoman, Housewife, Steward, Servant: Housekeeping
Bailiff, Farmer, Lumberjack, Reeve: Farming
Apothecary Physician: Medicine (see A&A)
Barber, Surgeon: Chirurgy
Jongleur, Cutpurse: Legerdemain
Lawyer: Civil or Canon Law
Hunter, Trapper: Hunt
Laborer, Porter, Longshoreman: Athletics
Miner, Charcoaler, Baker, Miller, Smith, Craftsman (including artistic ones such as painters): Craft
Scribe: Artes Liberales; alternatively, you can take Craft: Painting (which covers Illumination too) in which case you can copy texts but you cannot read them. Many texts in the middle ages were copied by monks who could not read them, and replicated letters as one copies a drawing.


Hmm. The only one I wonder about would be for domain management, Profession:(Steward) for estates or Profession(Statecraft) for kingdoms. I mean, Area(Lore) is important but won't cover everything.

The issue is exactly this: one ability should not cover everything. To be a successful tourney knight a weapon skill is not sufficient. To be a successful craftsman, Craft:whatever is not sufficient. Etc. The primary ability should be supported by at least another two (see C&G), but for simplicity labor points are based on a single characteristic+ability total.

I think that the primary ability to manage the typical manor or two (so, a character with the Landed noble Virtue) should be Farming. Sure, a knight might not till the fields himself, but he needs to know when stuff should be done, which serfs are doing a good job, etc. Again, it does not cover everything, but that's the idea. Of course, if your estate is a port (or a village of fishermen) Seamanship is probably more appropriate. Etc.

A Great noble most likely bases his "labor" points on Area Lore. In both cases, a healthy score in Leadership is necessary too, and probably Intrigue.

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I feel the accounting and project management aspects of stewardship are sufficiently distinct from other abilities to justify being a profession. edit: you could probably include logistics in here too.

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Professions are certainly stuff for house rules and can go many directions.

When replacing them with just Farming, Seamanship and Housekeeping, I wonder where the handling of finances and money goes, though.

It is not simply Area Lore, because some coins are made to travel far, though their roles change with the place they are in.
While computations and evaluation of metals use Artes Liberales, applying their results requires a practical understanding of economy not yet taught at school or university, but rather in some families, communities or cities. It is not all Bargain, though.


I think you pinned down the right abilities.
The basic ability for "money stuff" is Bargain - whether it's the primary ability of a job such as a merchant, or a support ability (as for Craftsmen, see C&G p.42). After all it's "the know-how to get the greatest return for a service or product, while paying the least" so I assume it includes stuff like loans, currency exchange etc. Again, it does not cover everything a merchant needs, but that's a feature rather than a bug.

What we'd call quantitative finance (or a rather primitive form of it) is covered by Artes Liberales: after all the Greeks held that arithmetics were an invention of Phoenician merchants. Macroeconomics is covered by Area Lore. Other abilities include relevant economic know-how: I'd say everyone with a decent score in Animal Handling knows that sheep are cheaper in the fall than in spring, and anyone with a decent score in farming can assess the productivity of a plot of land and the workforce needed to maximize it, as well as typical agreements like sharecropping.


Hmm, I'd disagree. Project management is Leadership, plus relevant knowledge from the appropriate ability (e.g. planning crops is Farming): see C&G p.42 for the same situation in guild crafts. Accounting is very basic in 1220, and it's easily encompassed by Bargaining (plus Artes Liberales for more sophisticated math). Logistics is a combination of Area Lore and Leadership.


Bargain? ArM5 p.64 only says: "it involves reading the person with whom you haggle, a general knowledge of the value of goods, and presenting yourselves in certain ways." So better tell your troupe that you extend it.

It is certainly not taught that way in the European 13th century. No problem for your saga, of course.

I suggest reviewing the difference between "to involve" and "to be", and reading the rest of Bargain's description :slight_smile: And in any case note that "general knowledge of the value of goods" includes knowledge of the value of coins (currency exchange) and future goods (loans).


Which doesn't add to that summary.

Or do you read "The know-how to get the greatest return for a service or product, while paying the least" as already defining Bargain as: "all the know-how": all the trade routes, all the credit schemes available, all ways to favorably change coins, all the competitors etc.?

Yes, Bargain is all that stuff. Of course, Bargain 1 (or 3 or 6) obviously does not cover it all.
I'll stop derailing my own thread now :slight_smile:

Once again, the crucial issues are:

  1. Occam's razor: abilities should not be multiplied beyond what's necessary.
  2. Every job is a combination of multiple abilities. This is crucial to ensure a good mechanical balance.
  3. Labor points are an extremely simplified model. The "primary ability" used to generate them obviously does not cover all aspects of the job - it certainly does not for existing examples. However, it should cover a meaningful "core" of competence for that type of job. If you think a certain ability covers enough ground compared to "Great Weapon" for someone making a living as a tourney knight, or "Intrigue" for a smuggler, then it's canonically good enough.

In your saga, I reckon. Perhaps you rename it then also into "business acumen" or such, because bargain just doesn't cover that.

How much can a skill roll achieve? What are it's limitations? These questions are always an issue. How far down the rabbit hole should one go?

Does one not get to use their communication skill to add to their bargain if an interpreter is used? Is bargain capped at say double the area lore skill if bargaining away from home?

I think in certain sagas the person who chooses profession "Merchant" wants to use that skill to bypass a realistic need to get area lore 1s and 2s when travelling the world, artes-liberales to write down deals, etc.

Do you want a PC to be able to say "I'm a merchant, I've travelled the world, of course I know this area, I use my +8 merchant skill. A 12+ area lore result, tell me everything; I'm used to using interpreters, I make a deal with my merchant +8 skill, etc.

This is the problem of professions which have other viable skill options. Skills should be very comprehensive in their area, however, professions risk covering too wide an area. This enables characters being very driven to get a ridiculously high profession skill as that's all they need, which isn't really the intent.


I agree with 90% of your conclusion, and that, I suppose, is as close to full agreement that one could ever expect on a forum.

However, I do agree with @OneShot . Bargain is a social skill. Then there is a clerical, administrative skill of accounting/bureaucracy/paperwork/planning, which is distinctly separate. This, I think, is the bulk of knowledge of both Steward and Merchant, and much more important to the steward than housekeeping is. Lumping this complex subject into the bargaining skill, possessed by many shield grogs only to broker Gifted guests into a mundane inn, is pushing limits.

Language, as a skill for the masses, should not cover specialist disciplines like poetry and storyteller. A good storyteller is a very different character concept than a fluent. It could be as broad as a Profession: entertainer.

Labourer and servant, I view as unskilled workers, but I suppose they will acquire some housekeeping and athletics skills nevertheless.

Scribe, I think, has to be retained if we use the Covenants book quality rules, but I am all in favour of scrapping those. If they are justified, the relevant skill is very different from the academic thinking of AL. OTOH Craft: Scribing makes a lot more sense to me than Prof: Scribe.

So to conclude, it is good work to prune that list, but I do not think the elimination of Profession: Entertainer or Storyteller and Profession: Administrator are well justified.. I also think that it is important to keep the opening for custom skills, and making a categorical list is not helpful.

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There are certainly options, but I'm struggling.

Cap the secondary skill to the level of the profession skill for that use: Would work, but difficult to adjudicate. If I am a merchant, I cap bargain at my prof when selling things, but otherwise?

Increase the secondary skill if the profession is greater: Easier, but leads to... when you easily overpower someone. Yet it would work, also

Crap. Going home, I'm dead.

There is a very good reason why some profession skills become wide. They are non-adventuring skills.

The adventuring skill set has been developed to manage such concerns as game balance, stage time, flavour, problem solving challenges (IC), etc. It is important that story challenges require more than one skill to allow different characters to shine, and hence skills cannot be too broad.

There are some profession skills that are likely to come up as adventuring skills. Sailor and Storyteller are the most obvious ones, at least in stories that I have told. But most of these profession skills excel downtime.

Scribe copies book. Steward/chamberlain affect covenant loyalty (if you bother with that ruleset). And finally merchants and apothecaries manage their own businesses (to earn labour points). While these professions really need umpteen skills, in different combinations depending on their precise situation, we could not as players be bothered with deciding which skills are important in what way. Profession skills are there to give a simple downtime mechanics.

It is an advantage (not necessarily one to trump all disadvantages, but yet an advantage) that the downtime skill is not also an adventuring skill. It certainly biases the narrative if the merchant is also the master negotiator, because his need to master accounting, valuation, market intrigues, etc. made them specialise in bargain simply because bargain was chosen as the one skill for downtime management. Having one downtime skill for the purpose would make a more balanced narrative.

I do not see a single on-stage application of Profession: Merchant. Its only mechanical purpose is to earn labour points, and I think that works. A plausible merchant should have bargain and probably area lore, and many would have leadership, intrigue, AL, law, etc. out of necessity, but not all of them need the same skill profile overall. It works.

Boating is probably an oversight which should have been in the game as a non-profession.


It seems in this sense that the basic idea is: no (non-Profession) skill covers a) accounting and b) "project management"/planning, so these should be retained as a Profession:Administrator or something. Here's why I disagree.

As for project management/planning - is there any job that does not require that? It's necessary for the humblest farmer. It's necessary for the army general. It's necessary for the guild craftsman. It's necessary for the housewife. It's necessary for the smuggler. Etc. It's so universal to doing a job well (and, before modern times, so fundamentally "shaped" by the job at hand) that I do not think it belongs to a specific job, but it's "embedded" in essentially any job. So no specific skill for it.

As for accounting, I spent some time getting a sense of what cutting-edge accounting is in 1220-1500 is. And I would say that wikipedia does a fair job at summarizing it. I don't want to quote individual passages because I don't want to distort the message. But it seems to me that at least 95% of what accounting is in 1220 is covered by Bargaining + Artes Liberales (the role of the latter is greater than I imagined). In this sense I suggest having a look at what is considered the
"first bookkeeping manuscript and trade manual"(in Europe, at least).

Let me stress that Bargaining is not just a "social" skill. A lot of people who don't do professional deals easily think it's just fast-talking others. In my experience, mostly it's not, particularly at the higher levels. Instead, it's mostly an ability to "cut correctly" what one party has to offer with what the other needs to acquire. Even just understanding what each party needs and can offer is a crucial part. If one party needs the money/goods now and the other not so much, that can create value for both. If one party is shielded from some risks and the other is not, having the first party shoulder them creates value for both. A good part of the deal is providing guarantees that both parties will adhere to it, especially through incentives and by eliminating conflicts of interest. Etc.

Again, this is a discussion we've had elsewhere, but I would offer a brief counterpoint. First, Language does explicitly cover poetry and storytelling ability in the ArM5 corebook. Second, it's obvious that it's central to poetry and storytelling: have you ever tried telling a story in a language you have a score of 2 in (from my personal experience, it feels like playing soccer with your feet tied together)? And finally, note that while it's true that someone can in theory have a perfect mastery of the language but be a poor storyteller (or a great storyteller and an abysmal poet) that's part and parcel of the "broad" skills in ArM5, and something that specialties try to address somewhat. For example, in theory, you could be a great lute player and a terrible singer or viceversa, but Music encompasses both. You could be a great astronomer and a terrible rethor or viceversa, but Artes Liberales encompasses both. You could be great at disguises but a terrible liar or viceversa, but Guile encompasses both. So there's nothing particularly "inconsistent" with Language covering both poetry and storytelling.

Ah, the myth of the unskilled worker! Skill is servants is crucial! I mean, have you ever been at a restaurant with really terrible waiters, or have you ever seen a house devasted by a terrible maid? That is true for most laborers too. My bad for writing "laborer" as a job though - it's too generic.

Yes, Scribe was the last thing that came to my mind and gave me a bit of pause. I wholeheartedly agree that it should, if anything be a Craft. The issue however is: can scribes read and write - with the latter I mean write their own words or those heard from someone else? Because if they can, reading and writing in the sense of "trasmuting" sounds into symbols on a page and viceversa is covered by Artes Liberales (in a very explicit way: if your AL score is X, you know X symbol sets). If, on the other hand, it's the ability to copy symbols from one page to the other (a copyist rather than a scribe) then sure, that's a Craft, but I think it's part of the broader Craft of "painting/drawing".


I'm not seeing anything in the description of leadership ("getting people to obey your orders and to follow you.") that would suggest it covers project management. Project management is about understanding complex systems, planning, and problem solving - most of the effective project managers I know would be terrible leaders because those skills are not connected to leadership. To your point about every role requiring this, I think that's missing the sense of scale; by analogy any possible job that involves talking to people involves all the social skills to some extent - that doesn't mean they should all be rolled up into the relevant profession.

Quite! Think of Richard the Lionheart or Bohemund for well known examples of lack of judgement and understanding of complex systems, paired with extraordinary Leadership.
Indeed, all over the middle ages you find stewards, justiciars and administrators explaining the functioning of the world to their lords.

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That's a very good point!

From the description, it looks Leadership is how good you are at inspiring others (or pushing them around). However, throughout the rest of the line, Leadership tends to be used as a measure of how good you are at coordinating teams of people towards a common objective: for example, in Hermetic laboratories (ArM5 p,103), in Craft workshops (C&G p.73), in agencies (HoH:S p,140). So I've always assumed it covers the "at a scale" aspect of doing a job, when you need to coordinate multiple people on a task that's too large for a single person to do or sometimes even know in all its details. I do agree that really does not come out from the corebook description; but then, if "team management" were covered by some other skill, that out to be used in place of Leadership in all the formulas I mentioned.

As for planning and problem solving, I really do not think any one job can reasonably claim to be the job where that is the relevant skill. If you are a simple farmer running your little farm, you'll end up planning and problem solving as much as a a large estate administrator. The only difference is that you'll think about how and when to get a fence in better repair, and whether it's worth the cost; how to coordinate with your neighbouring farmer for the use of a pair of oxen or to bring sheep to market; etc. While the administrator will think about how and when to get a certain manor house in better repair, and whether it's worth the cost, how to coordinate with the neighbouring baron for the use of the river's water or to set up a sheep market etc.

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