Skills and Characteristics
All of the characters in the game (all 6,200 of them) are set up in the same way. What makes each character unique are the variations in their characteristics and skills. Each character has from three to ten skills. Skills modify the effects of your personal characteristics (Age, Language, Guile, Leadership, Management, Protection , Endurance , Attack, Stature, Tournament rating, Outlawed status, Excommunicated status, Army Morale, Virility , Health, and Loyalty.) These characteristics (usually between two and five of them) are used to calculate how successful you will be at an action in the game. These characteristics have values of 1 to 9 and the ones involved are averaged. For example, an action calling for use of Management , Leadership  and Guile  would have the indicated values averaged [(5+7+2)/3=4.7] and then the skill would be applied to that average.
The skills are applied as a percentage increase or decrease in the average. These skill modifiers range from -80% to +200%, although most of them are in the +40% to -20% range. As each skill can have a level of 1 to 9, these levels reduce the full percentage effect of the skill. A skill level of 9 would allow the full effect of that skill to be used while a skill level of one would only allow 10% of the skill modifier to be used. Thus if a skill had a maximum 50% effect and the current skill level of a character was 1, then that skill would only have a 5% effect. The skill effects are added together before being applies, thus skill effects (12%, 15%, -15%, 20%) on a "personal characteristic" average of 5 would be 32%. The 5 would become a 6.6.
As you can see from the above, the cumulative effect of skills can be decisive. In several cases, the basic "personal characteristics" value can be doubled or tripled. Keep in mind, however, that negative skills can mar an otherwise flawless character. A character with superb command skills will be hobbled if he also rates high as a drunk and lecher. But then, that's life...
Skills are listed by their name and their abbreviation (which you may encounter in the game from time to time. The format is: Skill name/Abbreviation.
The items after the "+" are those that have their probability in your favor increased (the top item the most, the following items less so). The items following the "-" reduce your probability in each area. The ones that hurt you the least is at the top of the list, with the one that hurts you the most at the bottom. Depending on the function, an increase or decrease may help or hurt you. For example, under the Accountancy skills, both of the "+" items helps you (one increases your success in lawsuits, the second gives you some extra days each season). The "-" items are also all helpful, as they reduce expenses or losses (graft) and your sharp administration lowers the probability of a fief rebelling. Under abrasiveness, a "+" drives up your family expenses and increases your chance of dying ("Type A" personality and all that).
The skills represent very real human characteristics. Even when you see two seemingly contradictory skills in the same character, if you think about it, you can probably remember someone you know who possess similar contrary aspects to their personality