Subjective question of course, but I am curious all the same. Given the various wars, famines, plagues that will occur on or after 1220, what is best area to live in? Consideration given to both future safety and daily quality of life.
I get that the medieval period was time with constant conflict. Crime rate per capita way higher, justice system non existent, coups happened all the time, etc.
My thoughts on this:
The mongols cause real problems in Eastern Europe and Middle East in the 1240s. The plague of 1346-53 goes through all of Europe. France had a lot of famines, so I've read.
All in all, to pick place to live in for a several hundred year period, knowing what we know now, what is the best place to live in?
Several islands in the Mediterranean, especially the ones off Greece, have exceptionally long lifespans through a combination of environment, diet, and genetics. If you are looking for an area with a high Living Condition modifier, they are a good place to start. The islands off the French Riviera share many of those traits, but are also sparsely populated.
Most of them are very good for growing crops, especially things like citrus and garden vegetables. The growing season, thanks to the environment, often allow two harvest of garden crops per year. And they have easy access to a large variety of locally caught seafood and easy means of making salt. Additionally it is easy to import things like grains from Egypt, along with high quality inks and wines from southern France.
They have the advantage of being more resistant to land based invaders and plagues due to the restriction (requires ships) of travel to them. During plagues they can close access to their ports to give them a decent chance of not being hit by the plague. They are also far enough away from Germanic raider cultures like the Norse that they are not a common target. Though you do have the possibility of other pirate groups.
My current group had a similar question and decided to build our Covenant on Levant Island. Several thousand acres, within a day or two travel by ship to several large cities, and mostly uninhabited from 100 BC until the 15th century
(Though Ars Magica positions a monastery there in the 12th/13th century). We purchased Healthy Feature +3 for the environment.
Exactly! The Iles d'Hyères were from 12th to up until 16th century exposed to raids from the Maghreb - so magi settling there might need to defend against this or hide in regios.
We are doing both in our current game. That is, we are hiding in a very large multi-level regio (one of our founders was good at Hermetic Architecture and the Covenant is the magnum opus of his skills) with extremely tight access (only one point or by arcane connection teleportation) and we have built a few pirate hunter ships.
If ship trade was not a major source of our income, we would just hide. In fact if someone razed everything burnable down to the ground outside of the Regio, but did not destroy the portal stones, they would never have a chance of knowing we were there.
My vote would go to Milan - It's a wealthy city with strong trade links, it's people were relatively free, from 1220 until the late 15th century it was relatively peaceful (there are military conflicts, but fewer than a lot of places).
Most importantly it is one of the places least affected by the black death! Not immune, mind you, but a much lower death toll than most of Europe.
Sure, you have to deal with a lot of Guelph vs. Ghibelline political infighting, but so long as you stay out of politics as much as possible it won't be too bad.
Maybe there's somewhere better, but Milan is the best I can think of for the 1220-14xx period.
In Milan around 1250 you will have an ardent inquisitor soon to be canonized: Pietro da Verona. And you have many cathars and other heretics there - being persecuted and fighting back. This might make life difficult for magi in the city.
Vikinging had already ended by 1220, so that really isn't a factor for where to live, though simply harsh weather probably rule out most of the North for the best place to live. Once Fredrick II goes to war with the Pope you can rule out most of Itally, Sicilly, and the Holy Roman empire as healthy environments, and meanwhile Greece and the Levant are both fighting for their freedom from occupying Normans. France is switching from crusades to conquer Provence with the blessings of the church to inquisitions that will spread to Spain while England continues to conquer Ireland. All in all your best bet is probably Scotland/Loch Leglean. If you can stand the cuisine...
Loch Leglean is fine in the 13th century, but come the 14th it's time for the Wars of Scottish Independence that last 20+ years each and generally weren't a good time for anyone.
Is there anywhere in Europe that didn't experience a major conflict between 1220 and ~1400? I'm struggling to think of even one example.
That depends on how far away from cities the "quality of life area" may be. There are lots of hard to reach caves and lakes high in the mountains, which nearly nobody reaches in the middle ages. Some of them have reputations for being magical. All require quite some investment of vis, money and work to make them habitable without giving their location away.
Is there anywhere in the world that has been without war for a consecutive 200 years at any point in time? Kind of a high bar to meet.
The answer is probably highly dependent on what you mean. Take for example the Mediterranean islands in the french riviera mentioned earlier. Did France ever go 200 years without war? probably not. How many of those wars impacted "insert name of specific island here"? probably a lot fewer of those wars.
In other words, like most other posters here I highly doubt that it is possible to find a major geographical area that went without war for significant periods. I do however think that you can find lots of smaller places like villages and valleys, islands etc. that were not directly affected by the wars that occurred in, or with whatever state they happened to be part of at the time.
Wars tend to spill over the areas we think of as being directly involved. For example The crusade against the Cathars was primarily between Toulouse and Paris, but by the end of it Avignon, which belonged to the Holy Roman Empire in the Germanies had been placed under siege and forced to level its walls. Wars between Fredrick II and the Pope tended to cause conflicts in Tuscany between pro-Fredric and pro-papacy cities that were not directly involved in the war itself and could have safely sat the whole thing out.
Islands in which your Covenant is the primary or only power, located a reasonable distance away from cities, and especially if you have some means of bringing in goods from far afield are a great defense against wars.
Few armies are going to try to gather the ships necessary to invade a small "Trading Post" located on an island miles out to sea that is not attempting to bring in goods a city they are engaged with. And if they do, wiping them out with a sudden storm or group of water spouts is self defense.
The reason I suggested islands in the Med (specifically the Greek Islands, though I did also suggest the islands in the French Riviera) is because they are in the goldie locks climate range. Compared to places like Scotland which tend to colder, though that can be handled by magic.
Depending on how close you are sticking to the actual events of reconquista, the islands off the coast of Spain are probably a safer bet. Or North Central Africa, but that would require a different culture than normal for Ars Magica. For that matter Greenland was pretty peaceful with the civil war in Norway leaving them alone for the most part, but it's greenland, which is not good climatically speaking.
My point however remains, even though something may be outside teh nominal zone for conflict or an illogical choice to attack doesn't make it safe. there was no reason for the anti-Cathar crusaders to attack Avignon, but they did, and not every battle makes the history books. Sometimes it is about something completely different than the nominal reason for the war, like Zader and the 4th crusade.
For safety from invading armies, Greenland would be one of the best choices. The environment can also be surprisingly good (and warm) if you pick the right area. However you are way off from contact with the rest of the Order without portal magic. That might be a good or bad thing, depending on how much the players wish to engage in politics during play.
Islands off the coast of Africa run into the problem of being even closer to the pirate strongholds. The Magi are also, as you pointed out, dealing with a completely different culture and you are pushing into an area that by RAW should not have any OoH presence until 1225. Again this is highly dependent on the type of game the players want.
The reason I am pointing out islands is that while an Army can attack a city for "no known reason", attacking an island requires much more logistical support. You can send your army through the countryside and have them "requisition" what they need nearly everywhere you go in Europe. This means an army can fairly easily engage targets which they would normally have "no known reason" to because it is a target of opportunity.
However getting ships for an island assault normally requires use of your ships, since the ones you might hope to capture from taking a city will often flee before you can capture them. Those ships will be mostly merchant ships, since the time of AM is at a point where most nations did not have much of a warship navy.
The real danger in being an island is that so much oceanic warfare was conducted as piracy, so even if you are not the target your supply lines can be cut off. Simultaneously someone from either side might decide they need you port, land people on a different part of your island and conduct their siege and invasion by land while cutting off your oceanic supply lines.
If you are big enough to have a port nations/armies consider valuable enough to them to take. Most islands that Magi are taking over will not have such a port. Independent pirates rather than nation pirates are you largest threat.
What it boils down to is that unless you have a reputation for being fabulously wealthy, your small community on an island is not worth the trouble for the gains an army would have to go through to attack you. Pirates on the other hand, will go after your ships unless you develop a reputation for killing them. They will normally lack the forces to siege and take your trading post if you have halfway decent defenses.
Also landing a force unseen is difficult on most islands that a Covenant will be the sole power. For example, on Levant (which is a pretty darn big island) a single watch tower in the middle of the island is within roughly 3 miles or less of any point. That 3 mile distance is only if they land on the eastern or western tips, the opposite side of the island puts them within half a mile. How far can a lookout see out over water? Roughly 7 miles with the naked eye and 12 miles with a glass?
At sea level a 6ft tall person has a horizon of 3 miles. At 100ft (tall tower) it's something around 13 miles.
Less tall tower, but on the highest point of the island so it is actually higher than 100'. Numbers I was giving were from what I remember for a crows nest lookout, which was something around 6 or 7 miles.
So yes, at 13 miles they would have to cover 10+ miles of open water to sneak land on the island. And that is if you only have one tower, with no other lookout points.
actually at sea level a 5' tall person has a 5 mile horizon. However all of these number are during the day and with an unobstructed view. Tall trees, mountainous terrain or hills, etc. can severely impair one's view of the far side of the island, especially at night. Also of question is the size of the island. If it is 10 miles from one end to the other then not a lot of cover is necessary, outside of powerful magic you won't hit anything from that distance, and even with powerful magic hitting a man sized target is nearly impossible if they are taking cover.