While some people probably enjoy having complete fleshed out character sheets for their entire covenants, I kind of want to see if I can math/abstract the numbers on how good covenfolk will be at any particular skill or task, without requiring a character sheet for each character. My first idea was just to use crafters whose skills were based on the 'starting character maximum', but I thought that didn't give them any advice for secondary skills. With that in mind, I'm looking at the 15xp per year metric as standard. I peeked through my recently-acquired Grogs book for some ideas, but they mostly gave me ideas that weren't in the book! Here's what I came up with, and I'd like input or advice on hammering this down:
There are a few different ways a covenfolk or grog could spend their xp each year; The Grogs book suggests a 7/4/2/2 split for seasons. Realistically, their exposure XP is going to be in their profession/craft/specialty for most covenfolk. They can also 'learn' their skill with their study season, or practice it with their practice season. Theoretically, an obsessed craftsman could actually dump all 15xp into Craft: Stonemason, at the ignorance of all other study, but this feels unrealistic. They could focus on it, and Study it, while leaving their practice season to carouse or build social or other skills, giving them 11xp a year in their chosen profession. Instead, they could pratice it to advance their trade, and study other things in their free time, giving them 8 xp a season. Or, we could just do something more abstract....since the average covenfolk crafters actually don't care about seasonal shifts for their work schedule.
First, I'm going to use a craftsman as my baseline, and just extrapolate from their for other characters. I'm assuming they have no Puissant or Affinity. The metric I finally decided on was that an 'average' covenfolk would spend 6 xp of the year on their primary task; Of their remaining xp, they spend 3xp each on two different interests or secondary skills, and the last 3 xp on other life skills. At the end of the day, this gives every person one primary skill (profession or whatever), two secondary interests, and a bunch of skills at 1-3 based on age. I assume that any character will be apprenticed to a crafts-master at age 7, as it feels like a good standard to assume. This means if they graduate to journeyman status at 14 with a skill of 3, or at 16 a skill of 4. This... feels about right? They become a skilled master of their craft at 25, with a skill of 6, and a skill of 9 by age 42.
So, using the 6/3/3 xp metric for Primary and Secondary skills:
Age 7 / Skills 0
Age 12 / Skills 3 / 2
Age 25 / Skills 6 / 4
Age 45 / Skills 9 / 6
Age 72 / Skills 12 / 8
By comparison, if we assume 8 xp in a primary and 3 in a single secondary, we get:
Age 7 / Skills 0
Age 11 / Skills 3 / 1
Age 21 / Skills 6 / 3
Age 36 / Skills 9 / 5 (and so on)
I feel it gives about the right feel, while letting everyone have more than a single skill. My spreadsheet for math is linked here. This means that at the end of the day, my covenfolk are really just going to be:
If our covenfolk get any simpler they won't be able to feed themselves.
Most of our covenfolk are a job. A few are a name and a job. Fewer still are a name, job, and a score or two. Fewer than five have a personality trait. The grogs are fleshed out, but that's about it. We could (and have in the past) fill out the covenfolk more, but not at the moment.
Yeah, most of my covenfolk are just a name, a job, and an age. Still, the troupe and myself really enjoy interacting with our minions and servants for roleplaying; We've had a magus accidentally agree to find a bride for every single man in the covenant; My room mate refers to our Ars Magica game as 'Peasant Breeding Simulator'. And I want a metric by which new craftsmen can have their skill increased over decades without actually requiring a real character sheet. This is the idea I came up with, and I figured I could use some more educated feedback.
Nasty. A master craftsman has a score of 5. Reaching that at the age of 25 might be ok, but reaching it before should be exceptional beyond the scope of grogs. Going beyond should not be something most professionals do, not even by the age of 40 I think.
I would be concerned about turning the covenant into an improbable collection of superhuman specialist professionals. Real people in a real, or even mythic, world, would spend far more time learning tertiary skills than you assume. Everybody wants area lore, foreign languages, and social skills. An extra craft or two would not go amiss, since many jobs require more than one craft. While the covenant may want their specialists to focus on getting a skill at 9, real people would rather learn to play music for the long Winter nights.
I may be biased by players being somewhat optimized in design. For some reason, I always thought a master of a craft would be at 6.
I vaguely remember reading that masters when training apprentices at a craft would train them in a bunch of related craft skills (armorsmiths would get weaponsmith and blacksmithing probably, with bargain and profession as a possibility as well). Perhaps before returning to this project I should dedicate some time to figuring out what the numbers mean a bit more.
I may be exaggerating a little bit, and I may be influenced by other games and ArM3. Abilities at 7+ seem to be more common in ArM5 supplements than in previous editions. However, C&G p 48 has master at score 5+. Surprisingly, it also requires a journeyman to have 5+; I would have put that at 3. I should stress that I do not think of a master with craft 5 as exceptional, it is just the minimum level to be certified by a guild (when guilds appear). An exceptional master of some repute should have a higher skill, but exceptional masters should be ... exceptional
The ability caps for starting characters can serve as a guideline. In fact, we can make it simpler than you suggest. Let the unnamed covenfolk have one skill at the starting max and one skill at max -1, two at max -2, or something along those lines. Save the trouble of thinking in xp. It would make the covenfolk somewhat more specialised than I would think realistic, but within reason.
This last idea was rather similar to what my initial idea was. It also felt a little limiting at first, but looking back over my numbers, I did have a lot of xp going to primary task. While dumping training and practice into the primary trade of choice makes logical sense for a player who wants to optimize his life, reasonably a covenfolk wouldn't spend time on it unless they were very dedicated to their craft. Reasonably, we can expect 8 to 11 xp being put into the craft during their apprenticeship years and 4xp per after that.