How do people handle advancement for the different levels of characters? The book is clear that Magi have 4 free seasons. But they indicate everyone else has only two seasons. The Wealthy and Noble virtues make it possible to have more free seasons as well.
But what about Companions and Grogs? How are people advancing them in their games? I was considering the following baseline:
Companions: 3 free seasons, 1 working for covenant (exposure and story xp only)
Grogs: 1 free season, 3 seasons working for covenant (exposure and story xp only)
I allow all Magi and most any Companion 4 seasons unless a Flaw (or story line) specifically limits that, as most any Companion is supported by the Covenant and acts IC accordingly. Often that means just "hanging out", but sometimes they actually do some sort of productive work. And often as not adventure or some other festivity gives them an ample Source Quality so that "study" is not an issue, regardless of their off-camera activities. They're Player Characters, they buck the system and get away with it if they want to.
(A Covenant is charged for supporting the character - food and a roof, and a few pennies a season. (What more do they need?) So the Covenant dictates how much time they have of their own.)
Grogs - not so much, or at least not usually. Even if they have time off, they usually have no money or influence to hire a teacher/trainer, and they can't read - so they're SOL. Otoh, quite often the Covenant or a single mage puts them into a combat training program, so they're good to go and getting paid (a pittance) for it. Bonus!
(And remember- peasant-ish characters (usually) don't actually work one season and not the next - it's (usually) an approximation of the spare time they have over a year. Just in case anyone was confused on that.)
Free Social Status Virtue : Covenfolk and a few others that are not compatible with Wealthy or Poor. For those you may have 4 seasons free, but you may want a Companion that is not supported by the Covenant.
Since we don't care about grogs, they get 15 xp per year.
This is the system we use. The general rule is that a character has (the equivalent of) two free seasons/year, modified by Virtues and Flaws such as Wealthy or Poor.
Thus "covenfolk" -- both grogs and companions -- whose seasonal activities a) are necessary to the functioning of the covenant and b) we are not tracking explicitly, get two free seasons/year -- three if the covenant is maintaining them at a wealthy level (as per the rules in Covenants, otherwise assume this is true for Autumn covenants) or one is the covenant is scrimping every penny (again, one can generally assume this is the case for early Spring and late Winter covenants). Examples would be cooks, weavers, sheperds, and "warrior" grogs who carry out regular duties such as standing sentry, escorting the covenant's supplies etc.
Alternatively, the covenant can declare it is supporting a character without "generic" duties, and dictate what the character will or may do. The typical example are Magi, although scribes and dedicated trainers also sometimes fall into this template. Keep in mind that most characters will resent not having two "free" seasons per year, unless the situation is exceptional or the covenant is extremely poor. So you can't really have your scribe copy books four seasons/year -- unless e.g. you have designed him with some Obsession, or you promise him some extra boon in exchange for a (single!) year of slavish work.
So far, in both my sagas, the assumption has always been that companions and grogs do work around the covenant, and so 2 seasons exposure + 2 free seasons/year. (We haven't had any wealthy/poor yet, but we'd modify accordingly.)
For Shield grogs and the like, these seasons of work are usually guard duty and such. For craftsmen, it's crafting. For the turb captain, it's training and such.
No, it's not "houseruling". The rules explicitly say that if the covenant is supporting you, then the covenant decides how much you get to work. This applies not only to magi, but to covenfolk as well.
I am saying you're wrong. I don't see anything of the sort in the rules. The Covenfolk and Custos virtues both state that characters with those virtues cannot also take Wealthy or Poor and that their standard of living is determined by the wealth of the covenant. That is not the same thing as saying that Covenfolk and Custos get a free pass on seasonal activities.
We try to focus on the "what's going on in the campaign" and less on bookeeping.
Each mage have 4 seasons per year, as usual. But all other characters gets 15 XP per year (at the beginning of the winter season).
After years of playing with the "RAW" (if there is such a thing in this matter), we have come to the conclusion that assigning seasons for non-mage was a useless hassle.
We have banned all (consequences of) merits and flaw that tweak the XP progression of a character. Replaced them by other rule as necessary.
We do more or less the same, except that we advance the characters 2 years at a time. We give them 20 XP per year, though, since a summer or better covenant is assumed to have training programs and good teachers hanging around. Since a grog receiving arms trainign would get a fair ammount of XP per year, and a scribe being taught actively would get them as well, we prefer to be generous here. Time, the great balancer, will eventually take them down anyway.
This dicussion has lead me to wonder if experience points / free seasons ought perhaps to be something decided in terms of the games overall power level, much like annual vis income. As Xavi pointed out, I can see a case for a Summer and especially an autumn covenant being able to provide better training or more leasure to its covenfolk.
Rather then have experience / free seasons determined by personal virtues, simply declare a "wealthy saga" where all the covenfolk get 20 exp per year/ 3 free seasons... or conversly an "average" or even "poor" saga.