Let's say you have a high-level magic regio with a nice environment, but nobody lives there. How do you turn that into a functional covenant with a few hundred covenfolk? Where do you get people willing to move into a regio, and how do you even convince them to come along? How do you build a functioning town from nothing?
I'm interested in how you deal with this. Either how you hand-wave it, or how you accomplish it in play.
The question of 'where do covenfolk come from?' is especially bugging me. I mean. How many people realistically are willing to just move in because some Gifted guy wants people to build houses somewhere? So there's got to be a way that the Order gets grogs.
Founding one in an entirely empty place is going to be quite a task. Our PBM is founding one, but over the top of an extant community and where they have effecively bought feudal rights. But don't tell anyone in house Guernicus that
I imagine it depen considerably on your tribunal. In big old, established tribunals like the Rhine y areprobably going to start out as a chapter house of a major covenant.
Alternatively, or in the less civilised places... get sponsors.
The way we started ours was the magi where all fresh, still wet behind the ears. All coming from different covenants and many from different nations. Each came with a small boon of written wisdom and Vis and a servant. Had they been going somewhere empty completely I we would probably just arrive with more servants and a few armed men. So that it doesnt fall flat you probably do want to play through a few stories before they do that if it is a new group so they get a very clear idea of what they are going to need. Assuming someone knows a decent level of teh Aegis spell could spell disaster.
If the site, as ours does, offers some possible discoveries that the whole order would benefit - such as a site of potential mercurian discoveries, or other special place relating to a mystery cult, then older covenants are going to want to be on the 'circulation list' of those discoveries. For an autumn covenant in particular - getting in on someone else's youth might be just what they need to ward off their impending decline. I don't see such covenants minding sending their chap with such offerings as to them it is a pittance. But between 4-6 magi it would be a decent starter library and Vis reserve.
I don't think many covenants are based in towns. More like manorial demesne lands. A small self sustaining usually farly wealthy community. There are loads of ways to get your cash in Covenants - but I don't recall any covs actually being whole towns. Think more like 'a few dozen' rather than 'hundreds'. Grab a casting tablet for the magic tower spell and a big bag of Vis and you are good to go.
Failing that, if you dont want to play through all that business. Just roll time forward. Give everyone 5 years of lab time, watch your companions wither with age (sadly) and deduct a few seasons of work for setting up labs etc... just draw up a low-end spring covenant and say that is how far they have gotten.
For a greenfield site, I would think that normally most of your first cohort of specialist grogs (scribes who have magic theory, stewards, turb captains, etc) are hired from or donated by existing covenants --- which is obviously a good reason to take the Spies or Beholden Covenant Hooks.
Some of the others could be family members, mad, or bad (or all three). Outlaws, lepers, oppressed minorities, people who have visions, stuff like that.
However, bear in mind that much of what we might think of today as inhabited areas were in fact frontier wildernesses in 1220. Lots of nobles and bishops were founding frontier towns at this period. So magi would use all the same tricks that the nobles used to find settlers --- offers of low taxes, cheap housing, rights to tracts of land, freeman status, etc. The magi may be able to offer some of these, or pretend to. For example, if the covenant is in a regio, you might be able to offer settlers much of this without legitimate authorities' noticing. In other cases, perhaps via tame nobles, the covenant could arrange to in fact be the legitimate authority to offer these boons to settlers. Nobles often employed agents to travel around and find settlers, the magi could do the same.
You probably don't need it, but the odd splash of Rego Mentem might be useful too. Or even press-gangs.
I have a few ideas. The killer in all of this is that it takes time, and magi are loathe to use time outside the lab. But, if you need to, you need to.
Grogs are sorta easy. There are always fighter types in trouble, on the lam, etc. You can pay them as a guard and they will probably stay. If not, brain zoogie them so they can't spill their guts about your locations.
The people are harder, but a few well placed "famine", "haunted by ghosts" etc spells can get them to move, albiet their leige lord may not like that so much. You can get blacksmiths and other craftsmen this way.
They are peasants, so while not slaves per se, they can be bought are traded for from a lord.
Slaves are always an option.
Disaffected scholars with now access to a library and work may come with you. Maybe they ran afoul of a more powerful/older/better connected scholar and are now in serious disfavor.
The hardest of all is to get a major domo to run the joint. If they have money/vis they can buy one from another covenant.
I had one campaign where one of the PCs was a gifted Mercere. The house had an interest in installing her in a decent covenant with decent vis rights. So they sponsored the founding of a covenant with some other young magi from other houses with the stipulation that the Mercere PC would get guaranteed irrevocable vis rights outlined in the founding charter. They provided the seed cash and the services of some Harco grogs and a few servants for 5 years. Of course some of those grogs put down roots eventually anyway. There was also a decent amount of comedy dealing with who spoke what language in the beginning, given that all the Harco people were foreigners. (I think they set the covenant in Ireland.)
Each fresh magus brings a grog and perhaps a servant from his home covenant, plus a little vis and books or other resources - in short, a few Build Points worth of stuff. Or else a wealthy covenant or powerful magus or the tribunal arranges for some resources. The main covenant site is erected by magic, with outlying buildings erected by the covenfolk at a more leisurely pace. The sheer wealth and freedom of the covenant attracts men, if only word gets out - anyone from Jews seeking occupational freedoms to failed monks, heretics, women-knights, or just free peasants seeking a more tolerant lord.
In short, I don't think it's a real problem - magi are immensly powerful and covenants can reasonably be considered immensly wealthy by mundane standards, so they can attract many sorts of men and resources. Or, they may have difficulties - whatever works for the saga. I personally prefer to have them attract help fairly easily, but hopefully of a kind that will lead to stories.
Offer the regio as a refuge to one of the heretic or non-Christian groups (which one depends on where on when you are playing). For instance, the Albigensian crusade (Southern France, 1209-1229) should provide plenty of people willing to move into a nice safe regio. And there were plenty of smaller "heresies" popping up here and there. Muslims or Jews are also a possibility.