I was recently thinking about this, as our peasantry has all been driven off by Cruisaders while the magi were in hiding and it's time to rebuild. So I'd like to expand the question, if I may, to "and where would we get them?"
Could magi (or more specifically a new tame lord recently granted land) just go around from town to town recruiting? Do you have to buy them from other land owners or something?
I've found that putting down bait usually works. It's even easier if you can imitate the cry of the female peasant. Otherwise, well, there's always snares, but that tends to make them angry. Plus it's poaching.
That's pHeasants Fruny, the ancient peasant can be lured by placing a bowl of hot porridge near the empty hovel. Leavy this alone for several days and a peasant infestation is almost garanteed.
Om a more serious note though. I think that many peasants would work your fields if they have to pay less rent/taxes. If you give these people a mean of existing they will work for you. And as long as you don't throw the magic in their face there should not be any big problems.
Not surprisingly, Covenants has rather a lot to say about this. Their suggestions for attracting peasants (extrapolating from the Loyalty rules):
*Have a negative Aging modifier for living conditions (something most Magi will want anyway)
*Provide them with Expensive equipment
*Pay them more than they would make outside the covenant
*Provide a pension to old/retired grogs
*Have them deal exclusively with Gentle Gift magi when possible
*Treat them well
*Heal their wounds (a good rapport is worth a little Vis)
*Develop a positive Reputation for the covenant
Having regained my posture from that poaching, I'd just add that I agree with Fruny - seriously! It is important to remember that besides what ever means you use to persuade whatever peasants to move to your covenant, that if this grows to a larger scale you doubtless also have to deal with the lord of the place they came from. Peasants are not just people, they are an important asset to lords or bishops.
A century and half after the Ars officiel start date, as plague and aggrerian crisis hits Europe this will become ever more clear. It will become a period of lords struggling to tie the peasants ever more to their land and on the other hand peasant rising in open rebelions to assert the added freedoms that a decline in the size of the total population has caused them.
As a sidenote, and a wicked one that is, have you considered making them yourselves? Remember also that the span of childhood quite quickly can be passed with the right Creo spells...
...as long as they can plow the field... it does make for an interesting community, even if you only 'half' the normal time for maturing. And if you can accept that the grown people on your fields have the mentality of 8 year old!
Which doesn't distract from my point - that when threatened with migration lords then to pick up the gauntlet.
The agrarian crisis being a crisis is a bit odd. To most of the peasants -those who didnt succumb- the 'crisis' was mostly a crisis for their lords. As more land became untilled the peasantry became more important and it enabled them to assert themselves... for a time.
I would think that getting peasants to move to your area would actually be pretty difficult, unless their lord is particularly awful.
In an era where a peasant's universe consists almost entirely of his farm and the local village, most people would be really hesitant to leave family and friends for a random promise of a better life. They might not even be able to imagine what that "better" life might possibly be, quite frankly.
That being said, the mages in my covenant in Novgorod recruited peasants by buying pagan slaves at the local market in Germany. The slaves were captured during the current Teutonic Crusade in Finland. We then freed them, and gave them the choice of going home or staying. Since their homes had been destroyed by Crusaders, most decided to stay on our land.
We had lots of good fun learning their language and traditions, and are now trying to convert them to the religion that devastated their former homes. Tough stuff, but there's been some great role-playing.
There are other places throughout Europe with slave markets. In Iberia you've got Muslims enslaving Christians, and Christians enslaving Musilims.
I'd suggest recruiting in areas that have been devastated by disaster. Then the peasants have got nothing to lose.
We have almost the same problem. Besides not having much land we are also under close watch from the Count of Gelre. So our question isn't how to attract peasants but how to attract any grogs at all... How do you suppose this can be done?
BTW since the counts is keeping an eye on us poaching is definately out of the question.
Well , you certainly don't want to be caught interfering with mundanes.
(not unless there are no live witnesses anyway)
How much land do you have , and how many people would it support?
If there are no locals to recruit , how much further afield can you go?
Does your Covenant have any skilled Tradesmen or Professionals?
Maybe you can make a deal with the Count and hire workers from him ,
for either cash or mundane services.
How much of the land near you is not a forest hunting preserve?
Would the Count want more lands cleared for crop-growing?
Hermetic Magic can clear land for cultivation quickly and effectively ,
but not so quickly that it invites scrutiny.
Any Church influence in the area?
Offer to build a small local Church and use the land to support a Parish Priest.
The Count may be more willing to lend aid in this circumstance.
Even if the Covenant is not very religious , the appearance of a certain amount of Piety is important.
This assumes the Count is not secretly an Infernalist or has only perfunctory interest in the Church.
No need for peasants! A few well done corpus spells and you have all the loyal labor you need. If you dont like the idea of creo, a quick stop at a graveyard/battle field and some rego work will solve all your problems. No need to feed, house, or give them breaks. A moon duration to prevent decay and keep them moving. For those with annoying neighbors a imaginum spell or two may be required to hide the fact the dead are working your fields.
They would probably offer insight and assistance. According to Middle Age legends, devils have great expertise in assisting with all kinds of renovation projects (dames, bridges, city walls, cathedrals, etc.) for a reasonable price.
Remember that peasants weren't nearly as sophisticated as we often think- they often didn't care about politics, or anything other than putting food in their bellies, and making it thru another winter. If that meant going to Church, and tugging on their forelocks when someone rode by on a horse, then fine, whatever! Beyond that, one lord is much like another so long as the taxes aren't changing...
Depending on the period (and this is a gross generalization across cultures, century and national laws, but a valid simplification), peasants "belonged" to one lord or another. They often couldn't leave of their own will, nor could they be "stolen" except as an act of war. However, in later periods Guilds often gave a craftsman (and his family) the right to travel to follow work, but only for that purpose. Often hard to nail down the letter of the law vs practice.
However, neither would it be easy to trace peasants if they were whisked away, except by rumours of "a bunch of strangers" showing up elsewhere.
That said, some of the solutions I've thought about include:
Steal a village:
Simply relocating an entire village population, to one extent or another, and using magic to help hide their new location. You get a 99% intact infrastructure and skill set (as much as it had been), folk who are not likely to leave each other, and who will be relatively happy with their neighbors. Language may be a problem, but that's not unusual with Latin-speaking magi. Especially a remote village, their absence might not be noticed for days or weeks, or months if in Winter, and then explained away by fostering certain superstitions...
Prisons and Slaves-
An easier target, in that they may not be missed as much. They could be "bought" (with magical money?), officially or by bribing their keepers, and screened ahead of time to keep out any true undesirables. Laws were harsh, and it was easy to break them, or be accused of such. Many imprisoned were only unluckier than their neighbors, not less trustworthy.
Truly dedicated magi might even spirit them away just before their execution, replacing them with a listless body to appease the law...
Border wars are not uncommon. As an army ploughs thru a populated area, they often leave great chaos and little food, and a general poor prospect for the locals to survive - a few score peasants disappearing for greener pastures would never be missed, (and might well have died of starvation anyway, relieving the stress on others). Small clashes could be orchestrated for these purposes...
Bought or traded as a commodity:
Any savvy lord might be convinced to actually sell/trade a few marginalized and unproductive peasants for something more desirable. If not too close to a covenant, and not too overtly magical in nature, there would be nothing to ever alert the Quasitores that anything amiss had ever occurred.
Recruit at a crossroads-
This is, perhaps, the least attractive on one level, yet the most "honest" way of doing so. Occasionally peasants would be cast out of their homes for one reason or another (see "war refugees", above), or would wander by- a standing offer of hearth and home might draw quite a few, depending on variables.
The Guild idea is a good one with regards to the Masonry Guild.
IIRC the workers of that guild are migratory, and tend to set up villages near large projects. These villages often become permanent settlements due to the scope of some catherdral projects, etc.
So kill two birds with one stone. Build something like a really big stone bridge ... make a noble happy by splitting the toll with him. Then have your mason's village ready made. The masons will go off to work on the bridge, but other people in the family can do village things. Offer all the incentives that were talked about. Offer families incentives to have babies, to have relatives with freedom of movement to move here. Give them houses, everything. Plus if you are building something like a big bridge people will move to the area of their own accord. Get the town a charter by mundane means, but then run various instituions in the town.
In a few decades you can have a thriving community near your covenant by any number of strategies like those above. You might even have nobles and church folk on your side by having pre-constructed churches and what not. You can also position this village for least impact on your aura ... i.e. so that the church bells cannot be heard, the steeple cannot be seen, and your vis sources, aura etc. stays out of the dominion aura.