Specialists vs. Grogs - why have specialists?

It is called a story hook. :slight_smile:

I admit, I disregarded those.

Seriously, I am pretty sure I have seen the use of external bookbinders and the like in canon books, again, it might not be 5ed.

This is where more elaborate rules in [Cov] would be useful. Unless you take a lot of time to design your covenant in view of story potential rather than rules, you easily end up with a covenant with too many story hooks. The boon/hook system is good, but if you design a mature covenant you will have an automatic poverty hook at no cost, which runs counter to the idea of using boons and hooks to record what kind of stories you want to play.

Yes. Perfectly playable and balanced covenants can be designed within the rules, but how many sagas do you need to wreck before you learn how?

I think the idea is that, by default, you do not have to deal with that, in any season.

That's why the default is that you have a "typical" source of income, which is quite enough to cover your basic grog and specialist needs without going overboard, and have the magi live well if not lavishly. Not having that is a Hook.

You shouldn't (from my experience) need the Wealth Boons unless you really want to go overboard with your specialists ("where's the assistant perfumier?"), including possibly your military forces, or with your lifestyle ("really, how can one live without just a few hundred -- mind me, not even a thousand! -- jewel encrusted silk robes?").

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Moving from Spring to summer means every person at the covenant costs about twice as much, unless you want to forgo the extra health benefit added under "typical summer or autumn covenants." Creating a reasonable fighting force also costs a significant amount of money, as do improved labs, larger library with the necessary staff, improving and manning the covenant buildings and defenses, etc., ignoring for a moment getting that gem or well crafted sword for your talisman (or whatever). In essence, sure 100 MPs is fine for a stagnant covenant but doesn't give much leeway if you have a bad year or two and most forms of improvement cost money either in added maintenance or up front or both. Generally, in my view, a spring covenant's stories should largely be about improving the covenant to make what is likely a tight income into providing the sort of income that can support the magi in the manner in which they may be accustomed. Sure, maybe a group of Criamon mystics is fine to live ascetically in a cave but most magi don't really fit that sort of concept, least as seems to be written in canon.


And, of course, it is perfectly fine to hand-wave a bunch of this if that's the campaign you want but the covenant itself as a "group character" is one of the pieces that interests me about Ars Magica.

Is your experience, maybe, restricted to Spring and Winter covenants?

Not wanting to play a Spring covenant with all the challenges it entails, we decided to start off with Elk's Run in Hibernia with three NPC magi and add five PC magi thereto. Eight magi is 80 pts or £80/year in living costs + £8/year writing materials. They require 16 servants @ £2/year each, and we have reach £120/year. Before adding specialists, companions, or even teamsters, we are already £20/year short.

Of course, eight magi is a little more than the typical covenant. It is not exceptionally big, though. If you take say five PC magi and five PC companions, this is £75 + £4 writing materials + 15 servants £2, for a total of £109/year.

In other words, a typical income source for a Summer/Autumn covenant has to be £250/year, to make it sustainable.

How do you get eight magi to cost 80 MP's per year?

Do you not employ cost savings? you should be able to save anywhere from 50-100% of the expense on provisions. 20-100% of the expenses on buildings etc.

I did the calculation for Triamore, where my own saga is based, and while the expense numbers are high in principle most of them are reduced significantly by various cost savings measures. we are 7 magi in my saga including two NPC's so our economies should look rather similar.

Triamore of course is "in debt" to the local count but by my estimation it would be turning a small but tidy profit every year if not for the fake debts enforced by the count.

One magus in a Summer covenant is 10 pts of inhabitants [Cov:64], and each pt costs £1 when you add up all the categories calculated per pt of inhabitants. I.e. 8 magi ~ 80 pts ~ £80.

I do. A rank and file skilled craftsman with a score of 5 saves the covenant £3/year. The same specialist is 3 pts or £3/year + he requires 3/5 servant added @£2/year, for a total added cost of a little more than £4/year. The net saving is negative! A specialist of a common trade needs a score of at least 8 to actually make a net saving, and even then the saving is less than a pound.

A labourer saves £1 and costs £2. He can save teamsters, so it is not quite as bad, but the net saving is still negative.

Specialists with uncommon trades can save money on laboratories and writing material, but I cannot see any such trade applying to the big cost addressed above comprising consumables, buildings, provisions, and wages.

OK. So what did you do differently?

What we did differently is most likely that you gave your non-spring covenant a single typical source of income which is intended to cover the expenses of 4-5 magi, which means that not only have you got an income of a typical spring covenant with the magi living at a standard of a summer or autumn covenant you have also roughly doubled the amount of magi pr. money which means that you have also approximately doubled the drain on available surplus.. twice, one doubling for the amount of magi and one for their standard of living. With no adjustment in the income.

I know it is not stated explicitly in Covenants but a typical source of income in my opinion should not be considered sufficient for a summer or autumn covenant nor for a covenant with lots of magi.

The income and people supporting it effectively exists to generate a surplus for the magi to live on and the system is not calibrated for 8 magi to live off of 100 mythic pounds. My write-up of Triamore also assumes significantly more income per year.

The standard assumption in Covenants (p.56) is six magi. With fewer or more magi, the "Typical" Source of income should be adjusted up or down by 15 pounds per magus. Other sources should be adjusted proportionally (e.g. a Lesser Source should be adjusted by 6 pounds per magus).

Also, when I say that magi live well, but not lavishly, I did mean with the Life Conditions modifier of +1 (and 0 for everyone else) that is the "standard" for Spring and Winter; though even that can be pushed with a well-organized covenant adopting optimal cost-saving measures.

15 pounds pr magus of adjustment seems about right to me.

After having a good nights sleep on the problem I have some further considerations to add. A good way too look at the effects of having more magi to a source of income is to consider the amount of money per magus.

4 magi = 25 pounds pr. magus
5 magi = 20 pounds pr. magus
6 magi = 16.67 pounds pr. magus
7 magi = 14.29 pounds pr. magus
8 magi = 12.5 pounds pr. magus

however this number is actually misleading as each magus in a summer or autumn covenant costs 11 pounds before cost savings.I have used a summer or autumn covenant because that is what loke used in his example. Subtracting the price of a magus from the amount of money per magus gives us the amount of money available to hire people to support the magi and their source of income. As we will see this gives a very different picture.

4 magi = 14 pounds pr. magus
5 magi = 9 pounds pr. magus
6 magi = 5.67 pounds pr. magus
7 magi = 3.29 pounds pr. magus
8 magi = 1.5 pounds pr. magus

This money is the amount of money that you have available to hire specialists and laborers to save on costs so that each magus will cost less than the full 11 pounds that they cost with no cost-savings. As can be seen from the calculations above the shift from 7 to 8 magi actually cuts the available money in half. I think you might have unknowingly crossed some sort of tipping point in the math when setting up your summer covenant loke.

1.5 pounds is just enough for the covenant to employ 2 laborers pr. 3 magi after figuring in the cost savings of having them. This is effectively a destitute covenant. I would not be shy about having a greater source of income for a summer covenant like what you describe loke. that gives you 250 pounds to play around with. or 31.25 pounds pr magus (20.25 after the unmodified cost of a magus). That gives you plenty room to pay for fortifications, specialists, craftspeople, laborers, servants and guards, maybe even a little bit extra here or there. For a summer covenant it is only fitting that you have access to a few rare and useful money-costing features that is not available to the ordinary covenant.

Another thing to consider with summer/autumn covenants is that they should have much better cost-savings measures in place. The most obvious one here is magic items that save labor and aid in work. Magic items provide quite drastic cost reductions and they have an effectively unlimited lifespan and a covenant in summer/autumn should have a number of such items available, after all the point of being a summer/autumn covenant is that you have had longer to accumulate resources. Specialists in my opinion should also be more skilled and available in larger numbers and diversity. A summer/autumn covenant has had longer to recruit and train its own people and has more resources to acquire exotic specialists with. In my view it is not only fair, but the entire point of playing in a well established covenant that you have greater resources available, both human and magical. You want to play a jeweler-magus, have a gemcutter in the covenants employ! If you wanted to spend precious play time questing to find one you'd have played a spring covenant. By virtue of their greater resources older and more established covenants can fit more into the same budget if they take the time to magic their problems away.

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I absolutely love that this thread has morphed into a discussion of Covenant balance sheets. :grinning:

Thanks for all this, it has really helped me think through how to handle this in our campaign.


I think there is a problem with your math, since adjusting income by 15 pounds per magus would put a limit as the number of magus approach infinity of 15lbs per magus, s values which are less than that must be incorrect. Essentially basic income is 10lbs+15lbsxnumber of magi.
when you take into account required servants and teamsters the cost per point of inhabitants is 1.32 lbs per point of inhabitants. For a spring or winter covenant this means each magi, before lab costs and writing costs, costs 6.6 lbs per year, with writing costs coming in at an extra pound, which a summer or autumn covenant they cost 13.2 lbs plus the one pound for writing material.
Now some specialist (mostly craftspeople) will bring a net reduction in costs, provided their abilities match the needs of the covenant and are of high enough level. The two premiere examples for this are carpenters (who can save money in both buildings and supplies) and vintners (who save a number of pounds in provisions equal to their craft level. In a spring covenant either of these will cost 2 inhabitant points, meaning 2.64 pounds of silver a year. Carpenters save 1+craft ability/2 pounds per year, meaning at ability of 4 they save a net .36 pounds/year each. Vintners at an ability of 4 save 4 pounds per year for a net savings of 1.36 pounds/yr. At a summer or autumn covenant they are worth 3 inhabitant points, meaning both cost 3.96 pounds per year. the vintner retains a cost savings of .04 lbs of silver per year, while common craftsmen become a drag on the covenant economy if their ability is under 6..

Would you care to share the numbers? Not that I am much into this kind of thing myself (I play fast and loose here) bit since we ar rising the covenant in the bonfire of tradition PbP I would like to see them. Thx.

they are simple math from what is in the book- a covenant of 6 magi is 100 pounds/yr, adjust by 15 pounds per magus- 6 time 15 is 90, so 10 pounds base at 0 magi
inhabitants require servants equal to 1/5 the base inhabitant points, and teamsters equal to 1/10 the inhabitants including servants, which means 1.32 total inhabitant points per regular (non servant or teamster) inhabitant- I was actually of before as this leads to 1.68 inhabitant points per regular inhabitant in a summer or autumn covenant as the servants and teamsters are worth 2 points each.
Every final point of inhabitants before special consideration (writing costs, labs, armory) takes .1 pound in building costs, .2 pounds in consumables, .5 pounds in provisions and .2 pounds in wages, meaning a final cost of 1 pound per final point of inhabitants.
on the savings side a 'standard' craftsperson can save 1 pound per year plus 1/2 their ability score, while a 'rare' craftsperson can save 1 pound per year per level of their ability. craftsmen cost 2 inhabitant points for spring or winter, 3 for summer or autumn, which multiples to 2.64 pounds for spring and winter or 5.04 pounds for summer or autumn.

I was looking forward to see his selection of boons and hooks as well

We do not allow the same specialist to contribute to two categories (more precisely, we do, but he has to "split" his contribution between the two, he cannot "double" it). Also... I am not sure why you allow vintners to reduce provisions cost by their entire craft level. Is it because you assume it's a rare skill?

Let me add just one comment to what was said. If your covenant inhabitants live at the "standard" level for spring or winter, a typical source of income is easily enough. Semita errabunda is one such example. If your magi & selected companions/specialits live the "summer/autumn" lifestyle, it can still be done as long as cost savings are carefully arranged. What can break the finances is if you start having all the servants & laborers etc. live at the higher lifestyle level. Unless you achieve cost savings through magic, that is -- then a few BP invested in "domestic magic" allow a covenant to break even on a Typical source (and make sense for a Summer/Autumn covenant, who's had time to accumulate such gadgets and has the BP to pay for them).

I would require a split as well, but in lower budget covenants that can be signifigant to avoid hitting the upper limit of contribution.
I do assume that Vintner is a rare category ability- without looking I had thought it was one of the examples, but if I had said glassblower instead the point would be more evident, since that is a stated example. (FYI I do not consider brewer to be a rare ability, just vintner)
You can also manage a summer/autumn covenant by having highly skilled rare craftspeople- any ability of 6 for a rare craftsperson or 9 from a common craftsperson will still present a net savings. It is up to the troupe/storyguide if workshop rules or other rules can be used to boost a craftsman's savings total.
Also note that in city and guild a typical income for an independent craftsperson is 10 mythic pounds per year for inexpensive and standard good- having a craftsman of this type who contributes labor points to the covenant may wind up saving more money than the rules in covenants, considering the craftsperson in covenant "saves" 1+ability/2 pounds of silver in covenants with a wage of .4 to .6 lbs of silver per year, where a typical C&G craftsperson has an income of 10 pounds per year generating (ability+statistic)*6 labor points per year where each labor point is equivalent of 1/36 of 10 lbs craft value, but where only 36 points can be traded for actual income (the rest can be invested in the workshop, or be charitable contributions, etc), so a workperson contributing between 8 and 10 labor points per year is having the same net effect on covenant resources, and can be self sufficient if they generate 36 more labor points than what they contribute.
Which always makes it a question of why craftspeople would choose to work at a covenant instead of with a guild...

I see no problems in having a craftsperson contribute savings to costs in more than one category. I can understand where you are coming from with your statement but I dont agree with it. For me the ability of certain skills to lower costs in more than one area reflects that some crafts are simply more useful than others. I am fine with some crafts being more useful than others and in fact I think it makes a lot of sense that e.g. a carpenter can contribute much more to a covenant than a candlemaker.

Also of note is that a mundane craftsman can save money limited either by his/her ability or by a percentage of the total.

For my covenant of 7 magi we actually end up saving more money on the blacksmith than on the lapidarius(precious stone/earth procurer). because the blacksmith is limited to 20% of the consumables expenses whereas the lapidarius is limited to 20% of the laboratory expenses which are considerably lower. we have 7 magi, 5 of whom have standard laboratories and 2 of which have more expensive ones and we just pay 9.5 pounds for labs, which limits the savings to 1.9 pounds.

An interesting implication of this very high ceiling for savings on the larger expense groups is that my covenant could easily employ more carpenters, blacksmiths, etc. because there is plenty of ceiling to fill. Presumably the covenant buys lots of manufactured goods from outside even though these goods could just as well be produced locally by a craftsman.

It is also worthy noting that a covenant can save lots of money by using magic items. Again based on my calculations of Triamore it would be possible to save big sums of money by employing magic items. Since my group currently have no magic items we could probably save somewhere along the lines 20 pounds/year if we all crafted magic items within our specialities and we could keep that up for probably a year before we would be having problems finding new categories of expenses to reduce.

It is hardly surprising that the lapidarius does not save you a lot of money. I have no doubt that he has a lot of idle time on his hands.

I would not be surprised to see the candlemaker idle either (in most typically sized covenants).

When the carpenter and blacksmith are the most useful specialist, it could just mean that there is always enough work to keep them busy. That is certainly useful enough. I think 1+skill/2 is a reasonable saving for a fully occupied craftsperson.

Or rather, I am not convinced that high-skill craftsmen save you so much more money than moderately skilled craftsmen, but that's another discussion.

I agree that it is reasonable that the lapidarius spends a lot of time twiddling his thumbs and that is fine. The point I was trying to make is that a person with a rare skill (=one that saves 1 pound pr level) is only useful if in the proper category, in my case the problem is that consumable expenses is usually a much higher number than laboratory expenses so savings applied to laboratory expenses quickly cap out. a skill 5 lapidarius can save 5 pounds pr. year or 20% of laboratory expenses whichever is lower. Thus a lapidarius of skill 5 is capped out only when labs cost 25 pounds or more.

The candlemaker actually has the same money-saving capacity as the blacksmith.
The blacksmith and candlemaker can both save 20% on consumables. It is the carpenter who is special because he can save 50% on building expenses and 20% on consumables. I agree however that it is a little weird that in terms of cost saving potential blacksmithing and candlemaking are equally useful because the message here is essentially that candles and blacksmithing goods are equally useful and in roughly equal measure. Something that I am not sure I can support.

What I mean when I say that the carpenter and the blacksmith both save 3,5 pounds if they have a skill of 5. However I will focus on the blacksmith here because in the blacksmiths case there is no ambiguity about what category the savings apply to and how. the 3.5 pounds are usually not equal to 20% of the expenses on consumables. In the case of Semita errabunda consumables cost 32 pounds, which limits the savings for a blacksmith to 6.4, which means that adding a second skill 5 blacksmith wastes 0.6 pounds, or Semita errabunda has almost enough available for to employ two full time blacksmiths.

For buildings however a carpenter of skill 5 can save you 3.5 pounds or 50% of the expenses for buildings, whichever is lower. Semita errabunda spends 16 pounds on buildings every year so the cap is 8 pounds. meaning that you could comfortably employ two carpenters at Semita errabunda. If they had just 5 more pounds of expenses they could employ a second carpenter and still not waste any potential savings. 5 pounds is conveniently equal to the amount their spendings would increase if they had a castle. Meaning that most covenants that are based in castles and have normal economies can comfortably employ 3 carpenters. Whereas as we saw above a covenant needs considerably more than 7 magi (= 9.5 pounds in lab expenses) to support 1 specialist when it comes to reducing laboratory costs.