Deep Ars Magica mechanical nerdiness follows. If you read the blog for the folklore, see you next time, because this is as crunchy as it gets.
Might it be possible to realign the two experience systems by making the mundane skill system Verb and Noun, and using the triangular scale? My idea is as follows:
Currently in Ars, there are eight Characteristics, which are innate qualities of the body and mind. These are added to a wide variety of skill rolls. Why these eight factors have been chosen is not entirely clear, but there seems a bit of an affinity for the old D&D statistics in them. Strength and Constitution (as Stamina) have direct mapping, with Intelligence, Charisma and Dexterity each divided into two Characteristics (respectively Intelligence and Perception, Communication and Presence, Dexterity and Quickness).
I’ve previously stated that these are just Virtues pretending to be something else, so why not make them something else? Why not combine them into four, and use them as verbs in a verb-noun system? That would allow us to recombine the Art and Ability experience tables.
I’d posit the following four verbs (Techniques, if you like): Know, Convince, Strive, Use. “Strive” is a bit of stretch for a useful word, but it includes all gross motor skills and endurance. “Use” is fine motor skills or tool use. “Know” is all learning and perception. “Convince” is all forms of social conflict. You can now increase your Strength by lifting weights: just advance your Strive. You can now get cleverer by going to University. Increase your Know.
The nouns are the skills. You don’t have the vast slew current in the game, because we don’t try to map every minute you’ve ever lived, only the points where a dice roll might be needed to take control of a scene. No-one cares about your Farming (sheep) 5. Honestly, very few people really care if you Single Weapon (sword) is 7 or 8 in the current game. You do, but the difference is swamped by the dice roll.
Say you are a blacksmith. You choose that as one of your forms. Imagine you have Know 0, C0nvince 1, Strive 3, Use 5, Blackmith 10, that means you are not particularly learned, or much of a haggler, but are good with tools. In your own area of interest, though, you can discuss, haggle and create like the dickens, because your skill checks are d+V+N, which means the huge weight you’ve put in your noun makes it easy to pass those checks. Also, note that it reduces the vast swing in likely outcome due to the die?
Now, the obvious counter-argument is “why not just put points in verbs all the time?” and the answer is the same as “Why not just put points in Techniques all the time?” The experience system makes it easier to improve a low score by a large amount that a high score by a large one.
I don’t see the noun list as being fixed. If you all want to pick “Coppersmithing” or “Herding walruses” then as your storyguide, I should take from that the idea that you really want me to tell stories where your success is dependent on being good at those things. There would be a suggested set, which would look a lot like the current set, I imagine. Note though that faeries already get to just make them up.
In terms of the nouns, I think you’d get a bonus if your noun was the narrower category of the opponent’s. So, say I’m trying to find a poisoner in Naples before my rival does. I have “Know Naples” and she has “Know Italy”. I’d get a bonus on the contested roll. I think we could have some fun with that. You could have a knight NPC quickly made up with “knightly weapons” as his noun, but you’d get a benefit, when fighting him, your master duellist was “rapiers” and he would, in turn be in trouble against a person who had “sword of my forefathers”. Of course, these last two would be in trouble if they didn’t have a rapier, or lost the sword of their forefathers.