Introduced in the Three Kingdoms campaign.
Born to an aristocratic family under the Han dynasty, Cao Cao is a talented administrator and military leader who rose through the ranks during the Yellow Turban rebellion. As the Emperor is overthrown by the tyrannical general Dong Zhuo, Cao Cao joins his childhood friend Yuan Shao on a mission to restore the imperial throne, a path that would turn him into the chancellor of the Han dynasty and one of the most powerful warlords in all of China.
- Badass Crew: More than anyone else in the era, Cao Cao is renowned for his uncanny ability to surround himself with competent relatives and subordinates.
- Benevolent Boss: One who never fails to inspire Undying Loyalty among his subordinates.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: For all his strengths and personal virtues, loyalty isn't one of them — and he'd tell that to your face. Players dealing with Cao Cao will soon know well that you can never, never truly trust AI Cao Cao to uphold his bargains. He will backstab, change sides, vassalize himself and just do anything to get ahead.
- Cultured Badass: A skilled battlefield commander, civil administrator, lawmaker and politician, and one of the most renowned writers of his era to boot.
- Evil Chancellor: Whether he's this or The Good Chancellor depends on whether or not you're playing on his side. His position as the Chancellor gives him access to the bulk of the Han empire's remaining military might.
- Honor Before Reason: After finding the imperial capital of Luoyang burned to the ground by Dong Zhuo's retreating army, he rashly pursues them with his unprepared army, leading to his defeat at the Battle of Xingyang. Yuan Shao's refusal to aid him leads to their falling out.
- Reason Before Honor: After this incident, this trope became his schtick. He doesn't care what people say, what people think. They call him dishonest, brutal, lost, and all of that doesn't matter. Cao Cao still wins again and again against people who are considered honorable and just, and that is what matters, because it allows him to feed the peasants and rebuild the realm.
- Smart People Play Chess: We see him playing weiqi with Yuan Shao.
- The Strategist: One of the greatest in the land, and certainly one of the greatest in China's history.
- Unscrupulous Hero : Despite having Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, Manipulative Bastard tendencies, and being very ruthless, Cao Cao is still one of the more heroic characters in the game, and is genuine in his desire to bring peace to China.
- Warrior Poet: A rather special example. One of his historical poems was actually used in the game's trailer, almost 2000 years after it was written.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: This will largely depend on whether or not the player opposes him or if they choose to play him as manipulating allies and enemies, backstabbing others, and crossing every line imaginable, all in the name of peace.
- We Used to Be Friends: He grew up as close friends with Yuan Shao, and they fought alongside each other against Dong Zhuo's coup. They fell out with Yuan Shao's refusal to aid him at Xingyang, and their rivalry eventually turned into an all-out war.
Xiahou Dun joined Cao Cao's army as an officer at the beginning of the campaign against Dong Zhuo, rising through the ranks and eventually becoming one of his most trusted generals.
- Arch-Enemy: Seems to have developed this relationship with Dong Zhuo's Dragon, Lü Bu.
- Bash Brothers: With his cousin Xiahou Yuan.
- Eyepatch of Power: One of the most famous examples in history. After getting hit in the eye by an arrow in a battle against Lü Bu, he yanks out the arrowhead and eats the eye in front of his men.
- Handicapped Badass
- Hot-Blooded: Show disrespect to anyone he holds in high regard and he will destroy you.
- The Lancer: Literally. He's Cao Cao's right-hand man, and fights with a spear on horseback.
- Undying Loyalty: To Cao Cao.
- Bash Brothers: With Xiahou Dun.
- Easy Logistics: His special campaign ability, reflecting his historical role as Cao Cao's logistics officer.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: In terms of operational prowess rather than raw combat power.
- Lightning Bruiser: Has access to combat abilities that boost his speed, also reflecting his real-life prowess in moving his troops across vast distances.
- Undying Loyalty: To Cao Cao, just like his cousin.
- Dual Wielding: Wields a pair of shortened ji halberds. Truth in Television, as attested by Records of the Three Kingdoms.
- Made of Iron: He's able to tank a massive amount of damage on the battlefield. This ability was inspired by a historical episode where he wore two layers of armour as he prepared to defend Cao Cao from an onslaught of enemy troops.
- Undying Loyalty: As with the rest of Cao Cao's retinue. In real life, he notably died while covering his lord's retreat from Zhang Xiu's forces.
- Carry a Big Stick: Starts with an ginormous mace as his weapon.
A strategist of renown, Sima Yi sells his services and strategies to those that earn his respect — as well as stoke his equally impressive ego.
- Founder of the Kingdom: He plays this role posthumously in Eight Princes, where his descendants rule over the Jin dynasty.
- I Fight for the Strongest Side: Unlike his counterpart Zhuge Liang, Sima Yi does not immediately end up in the roster of any one warlord — even Cao Cao has to hire him first. Should he be left to wander, he may very well end up in your court, especially if you're high up on the power rankings.
- It's All About Me: He is infamously difficult to keep satisfied, requiring a high ranking position in court so as not to leave in a huff when he does not think he is being given his due.
- An Axe to Grind: His default weapon is a legendary axe.
- Defector from Decadence: He starts the game as a general for the Han Empire, but holds little loyalty to them. It's fairly easy to convince him to come to your side should you capture him, making him an excellent early game target.
With the young Emperor his puppet, Dong Zhuo rules the Han through cruelty and fear. He took control by taking advantage of the chaos engulfing the Han dynasty after the death of the previous Emperor, solidifying his rule through the massacre of the Eunuchs. Raging with the fire of past indignities, the tyrant will stop at nothing to scour away all those traitors to his cause. His will and ambition to rule are matched only by the power of his armies and the strength of his adopted son and greatest commander, Lü Bu. It is through them that Dong Zhuo would see the entire land subjugated and at his feet, and only the coalition formed by the other warlords has any chance of stopping him.
- 0% Approval Rating: He rules through fear and intimidation rather than love and generosity, but his actions have brought about a key point that Machiavelli himself warned against: a ruler must, above all, avoid being hated. Dong Zhuo is certainly hated.
- Ambition Is Evil: In his own words, none can match his ambition. Likewise, none can really match his villainy.
- Arch-Enemy: He's this to the members of the coalition, who all joined together specifically to stop him.
- Beard of Evil: A big, shaggy beard — with curled mustachios to boot! — to complement his evilness.
- Big Bad: Will serve as this at least in the early stages of the game, where he is the main antagonist to the forces of the coalition.
- Character Tic: Tends to stand, or walk, with his fists on his hips, communicating both his power as well as his arrogance.
- Despotism Justifies the Means: He has no thought for the suffering of the people or a desire for peace (unlike the leaders of the coalition) or even a special grudge against the Han power structure (unlike Zheng Jiang). He just wants power, and is unhesitant to crush anyone in his way to get it.
- Evil Laugh: Lets out a hearty one at the end of his trailer, revelling in his power and the certainty of his victory.
- Evil Sounds Deep: The Tyrant has an impressive baritone.
- Fallen Hero: Surprising though it may be, his Total War bio states: "Dong Zhuo was a chivalrous youth with a talent for horseback archery who spent his earlier years travelling the Qiang region and befriending many great men of valour." Suffice to say, he's no longer the man he once was.
- Fat Bastard: As is traditional, he is depicted with a massive gut. Pity the horse that has to carry him.
- Faux Affably Evil: Gives a courtier a 'friendly' smile in his trailer, while his narration firmly cements him as a tyrannical, unrepentant despot.
- I Control My Minions Through...: Fear. This is an in-game mechanic called "Intimidation", the purpose of which is to bully his subjects through fear-based tactics to keep them in line.
- Might Makes Right: See his page quote. His trailer's narration makes abundantly clear that the only things that matter in his mind are power and strength, while morality is at best irrelevant.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: He and his faction dress primarily in red and black, and he's easily the least sympathetic character of the game.
- Regent for Life: With the young puppet Emperor effectively his prisoner, he's well on his way to becoming this at the start of the game.
- Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: In his own words: "Only power brings victory. Only strength can rule. Only fools think otherwise."
- Smug Snake: He is absolutely certain of his victory and considers the coalition opposing him naive fools, even comparing himself to a tiger and his enemies to dogs. His overconfidence is evident just in his posture and body language. Anyone who has read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms — or the history of the Three Kingdoms period — knows that this overconfidence is going to bite him hard.
- "The Villain Sucks" Song: His character trailer features the recitation of a passage from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, basically saying that Dong Zhuo is a tyrant who will ruin the Han dynasty and keeps the imperial court in line through fear.
- Too Dumb to Live: As in the books, Dong Zhuo retains Lü Bu as his personal bodyguard (a man whose character is the Chinese archetype for "opportunistic treachery") even after they start feuding over a woman. If the player sticks to the script, it proves just as fatal.
- Tin Tyrant: Wears an impressive and ornate suit of full armour at all times. He began to do this after a failed assassination attempt by Cao Cao made him justifiably paranoid.
- Unlockable Content: In a Call-Back to earlier Total War games, he is this: The player can unlock him and his faction by defeating his army in battle or achieving the rank of Emperor in a campaign.
- Villainous Glutton: He certainly didn't get that belly by exercising and eating right.
One of the mightiest warriors under the heavens, if not the mightiest. Lü Bu serves Dong Zhuo as both the commander of his armies, his greatest champion, and his adopted son. An expert combatant, he has proven himself multiple times and is an imposing presence on the battlefield. While none can question his ferocity, Lü Bu is also unpredictable and is prone to betrayal and murder — he killed his previous "father" and general, Ding Yuan, to serve Dong Zhuo. Only time will tell whether his loyalty to the Tyrant will hold, or if it will instead be proved that none can truly call themselves master of Lü Bu!
Lü Bu starts with the traits Formidable, Feared, and Disloyal.
- The Ace: In a World of Badass, he's still legendary. In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, many believed that among warriors, no-one was Lü Bu's equal.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Does it ever. Even though almost every named character in the game fits this trope, none do so quite as well as Lü Bu.
- Blade on a Stick: Wields the famous Trident Halberd Fangtian Huaji with deadly grace.
- Berserk Button: Lü Bu's melee power is 59 in normal circumstances. But if Dong Zhuo dies in battle, it instantly jumps to 100 which means the enemy army is about to get decimated.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: His Total War bio states he is prone to betrayal and murder. He backstabbed and killed his previous adoptive father and commander, Ding Yuan, and in both Real Life and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, did the same to Dong Zhuo. It remains to be seen if this will also occur in the game.note
- Cool Horse: Red Hare, presumably visible as Lü Bu's steed in the Dong Zhuo trailer. Historically, it was given to him by Dong Zhuo to make him betray Ding Yuan.
- The Dragon: At the start of the game, he will be this to Dong Zhuo, being the most important commander of his armies.
- Evil Is Bigger: The Three Kingdoms cinematic trailer — and the Dong Zhuo trailer — depict him as towering a head taller than ordinary soldiers. Given his status as a general, it can also be seen as an example of Large and in Charge.
- Foe-Tossing Charge: Is fond of doing these in both the cinematic trailers where he's been prominently featured.
- Four-Star Badass: Yeah. All the characters are this to some extent, but Lü Bu always stands out in any adaptation of the Three Kingdoms, and this game looks like it will be no exception.
- Foreshadowing: When he salutes Dong Zhuo from afar, he can be seen giving the Tyrant one hell of a Death Glare, alluding to his eventual Starscream role in Romance of the Three Kingdoms and in Real Life.
- Frontline General: All the characters in the game can be this, but Lü Bu is consistently shown in trailers to hurl himself head-first into the thickest part of the fighting.
- Glass Cannon: Lü Bu isn't invincible, and is actually fairly vulnerable against other heroes: his damage output is phenomenal but his evasion and hitpoints are only so-so. When up against an opponent with high evasion, even the mighty Lü Bu will struggle.
- Lightning Bruiser: Not only is he a big guy, the trailers depict him as terrifyingly fast on his feet.
- One-Man Army: He's possibly the greatest warrior in the land. In the Dong Zhuo trailer, he effortlessly carves his way through coalition soldiers without breaking a sweat. In the cinematic trailer, he comfortably holds his own in a two-on-one fight against Bash Brothers Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. *
- Perpetual Frowner: His v-shaped eyebrows give him this expression.
- World's Best Warrior: Lü Bu is without a doubt this at the start of the campaign. note He is also this at a meta level: When Creative Assembly revealed some meta-stats for the first month of Three Kingdoms they revealed Lü Bu to be the single deadliest unit in the game with an average of 363 kills per battle (by contrast, the deadliest generic unit was the Trebuchet with 142 kills per battle).
A childhood friend of Liu Bei, Gongsun Zan earned a reputation as a fierce warrior, defending the empire against foreign foes beyond the border. Gongsun Zan rules his lands with the same martial mindset with which he governs his forces on the dangerous fringes of the empire, military precision in all things must be observed.
- Horse Archer: His unique units are horse archers from the northern steppes.
Zhao Yun has a steadfast sense of moral duty and will always do what he thinks is right, no matter how dangerous. As a charismatic and skilled warrior, Zhao Yun fights for justice, and will follow none but the most righteous of warlords.
Kong Rong starts with the Traits Sincere, Nice and Cunning.
- Artistic License History: Kong Rong is a descendant of Confucius, who was famously against trade and the merchant class. However, nowhere in-game implies that his increased trade influence is in any way his doing, merely implying that merchants from his lands have increased business aptitudes.
- Badass Bureaucrat: Like any of the Legendary Characters, Kong Rong is quite the badass. The fact that he's largely a non-combat character renowned for his intelligence, education and skills at commerce doesn't change that.
- Cultured Badass: Kong Rong has access to an unique building chain called "Public Education", and much of his character is based on his well-educated, pleasant personality.
- Deadpan Snarker: Infamously so. His sharp tongue got him executed.
- Famous Ancestor: Is the 20th descendant of Confucius. It comes as no surprise that the most scholarly character in the game is descended from the most influential scholar in Chinese history.
- Genre Savvy: As a lover of history, Kong Rong knows all too well what a civil war means for China — death, destruction and chaos. Instead, he emphasizes education and population growth for the people, which he believes will lead to greater stability for the nation in the future. The civil war will pass eventually, and when the people yearn for peace, they need the means and knowledge to do so; permanently, hopefully.''The empire, long united, most divide; long divided, must unite."
- Honest Corporate Executive: Kong Rong is the resident trade-focused leader, and also starts the game with the "Nice" and "Sincere" traits.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Kong Rong has no desire to take control over China and considers himself loyal to the Han. Downplayed since he will attempt to take over China after the Emperor abdicates... Though it's mostly to enforce peace and productivity.
- Smug Snake: Averted; he isn't one, but his portrait and smile make him look like one.
- Pacifist: Known for his dedication to peace and prosperity. Enforced by his main mechanic which becomes less powerful by having many armies.
Liu Bei was born in 161CE in Zhuo County (Zhuo Commandery). He grew up poor, yet he was a descendant of Liu Zhen, a son of Liu Sheng and a grandson of Emperor Jing. Empathetic with the common folk, he easily gained the peoples trust and support. This particular trait made him a feared adversary to his enemy Cao Cao. For Liu Bei, Dong Zhuo represents chaos, and he wants nothing more than to see corruption uprooted and the Han dynasty restored. There are even those who urge Liu Bei to save China from madness and restore the collapsing dynasty. To this end he has sworn an oath in the Peach Garden to save China.
Liu Bei starts with the traits Humble, Kind and Fraternal.
- Arch-Enemy: He is this to Cao Cao; where Cao Cao is ruthless, he is kind. Where he is respected for his undoubted talents, Liu Bei inspires loyalty through good rule. Their rivalry is even kick-started in the game by way of Liu Bei's first dilemma.
- Blue Blood: Liu Bei claimed to be the descendant of Liu Sheng, Prince of Zhongshan, son of Emperor Jing and brother to Emperor Wu. However, Liu Sheng was a figure from 300 years prior to Liu Bei's birth, and was notorious for his hedonistic lifestyle that led to him siring at least 120 sons. No wonder Liu Bei would claim to be a descendant of Liu Sheng, because that lineage was impossible to verify.
- Badass Crew: He literally has two sworn brothers who start out with the best interpersonal relations in the game, all of whom are ready to kick some ass.
- Bash Brothers: With his two sworn brothers Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei after the Peach Garden Oath. They also start with the highest affinity together and therefore the best supporting stats in battle.
- Big Good: Just looking down his trait list ('Kind', 'Humble') and his title 'Leader of the People' clearly sets him up for this. And at least in this game, where the above character description comes from, he is meant to be this.
- Benevolent Boss: His traits and history paint him as someone who is consistently merciful and kind. One of this special abilities in battle is to essentially cheer on his troops and inspire Undying Loyalty among them because of this.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Even if he is meant to be The Hero, he sure knows how to drive the knife in deep to most of the other warlords he meets.
- Designated Hero: He has wonderful traits in the game and a heroic backstory, but the player may choose differently, and in the Romance he often stabbed people in the back as he went along.
- Dual Wielding: The few times he's described fighting in the Romance, he uses dual jians.
- Font Anachronism: He is the only warlord whose name is written in simplified Chinese (刘备) instead of its proper form in traditional Chinese (劉備), possibly to differentiate from Liu Biao (劉表) below since both of them belong to the royal Liu family. However, this happens only in promotional posters and the correct character is written on Liu Bei army's banners.
- Founder of the Kingdom: Founder of the Kingdom of Shu Han, despite not always winning his battles in the Romances. One of the most powerful players on the board as a result by the time the Three Kingdoms period starts. note
- The Hero: He is supposed to be this in the Romance, though obviously many of the characters are sympathetic and can challenge this. In the game, his traits and the trailers set him up in this way. See Designated Hero above.
- Magnetic Hero: His schtick. Competent, virtuous people flock to his banner. His playstyle is even described as based on "Companions".
- Modest Royalty: One of his defining traits.
Guan Yu starts with the traits Intimidating, Stoic and Fraternal.
- Blade on a Stick: Wields the famous Jade Dragon Crecent Blade, a type of halberd which would come to be named after him — Guan Dao.
- God of War: After his death, he was very literally defied across China for his prowess as a warrior and duelist.
- Good Fortune from God: For some reason, he is also worshipped in many Chinese small businesses hoping for riches and good fortune. note
- Hero Killer: To his enemies. His duelling skills can easily lead to Guan Yu slicing his way through many enemy characters, sometimes all in the same battle.
- One-Man Army: He's perhaps the only warrior that can compete with Lu Bu in this regard. However, in-game Guan Yu seems to be the better duelist, while Lu Bu is the better overall fighter.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The stoic Blue Oni to Zhang Fei's loud and boisterous Red Oni.
- The Stoic: Guan Yu rarely emotes, even while in battle.
Zhang Fei starts with the traits Fiery, Intimidating and Fraternal.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Natch. "I AM ZHANG YIDE, COME AND MEET YOUR DOOM!"
- Disc-One Nuke: Zhang Fei starts off as what appears at first glance to be an above-average vanguard. However, his true power is only apparent if you send him charging into the enemy ranks alone. Zhang Fei's unique armor gives him and his retinue fatigue immunity, which means Zhang Fei, through charging the enemy ranks over and over all by his lonesome, will kill near half the enemy army before having to retreat from accumulated damage from regular soldiers.
- Drunken Master: Zhang Fei's love for wine was played up in the Romance, to the point where enough of it would make him enter an unstoppable rage.
- Genius Bruiser: While he certainly looks the part of the mindless warrior, Zhang Fei actually composed most of the cunning tactics of the Peach Garden Brothers' career in history. Even in the Romance, he uses his image as a mindless brawler to obfuscate his strategic abilities.
- Red Is Violent: As a Vanguard, Zhang Fei thrives when he is murdering infantry-men by the hundreds.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Red Oni to calm and collected Blue Oni Guan Yu.
The esteemed academic Liu Biao is known as one of the Eight Geniuses of Jiangxia: a group of scholars during the later Han era. Governor of Jing Province, hes a smart and charismatic man with an appreciation of etiquette, nobility, and the finer things in life. An accomplished administrator, and ever the traditionalist, Liu Biao wishes to preserve the status quo, earnestly hoping that the chaos will abate and reason will prevail.
- Arch-Enemy: To Sun Jian, if you follow the story. Of course, if you play either, you can just ignore their feud over the Imperial Seal and deal with more pressing issues — Yuan Shu for Liu Biao, the very weak Han Empire holdings in the south for Sun Jian. In fact, *not* following this tends to make both sides considerably stronger.
- Older and Wiser: He comes across as this due to his preference for peaceful alternatives to conflicts — Sun Jian's absconding with the Imperial Seal and Yuan Shu's bid for emperorship notwithstanding.
- The Patriarch: Of the Liu family, of which Liu Bei happens to also be a part of. If Liu Biao ever passes away, most of his territory will even pass to his relatives who belong to other factions.
- Undying Loyalty: To the Han.
Huang Zhong may be elderly, but he has a youthful air and is still in strong health. He is known for being a brave and fierce warrior, and is a skilled archer who has a reputation for never missing.
- Cool Old Guy: He's scripted to be long-lived, meaning that you'll often see him kicking ass at the ripe old age of 90.
Although the exact details of Ma Tengs birth are up for debate, many believe he was born in 156CE in Maoling County (Fufeng Commandery). His father was an esteemed officer of the Han Empire, but he was dismissed from his post after a mysterious dispute. Though his early life was one of great poverty, Ma Teng grew up to be an accomplished warrior, and was eventually granted the title of officer in the Han Empire. Now, as the storm of chaos rolls and thunders over Luoyang, he remains loyal to the Han, prosecuting the enemies of the Emperor above all else and aiding Dong Zhuo against the coalition formed against him.
- Adaptational Deviation: In the Romance, Ma Teng is one the eighteen lords in Yuan Shao's coalition to overthrow Dong Zhuo. Here, he is in league with the tyrant.
- Badass Bureaucrat: According to his Total War bio, his greatest skill lies in his understanding of the importance of military logistics. Many of his abilities will be centred on gaining bonuses to supplies and foraging.
- The Cameo: Appears in the Zheng Jiang trailer, emphasizing to a skeptical officer just how dangerous the Bandit Queen is.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: In the game, Ma Teng is a governor loyal to the Han. The real life Ma Teng joined force with Han Sui in open rebellion against the central government.
- I Am Not My Father: His bio states that the shame of his father's disgraceful removal still hangs heavy over his head, and he refuses to meet the same fate. Sadly, this has led to him aligning with Dong Zhuo (see below).
- In-Series Nickname: His official nickname is 'Protector of the West'. The Total War bio additionally calls him 'The Loyalist'.
- Meaningful Name: His surname (馬) means "horse", and he commands a cavalry-oriented faction with ties to the neighbouring steppe nomads.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Although not an evil man, he owes everything in his life to his service to the Han Dynasty and is keen not to see it crumble. Hence, his loyalty lies with the young Emperor and Dong Zhuo.
- Noble Top Enforcer: Is loyal to the Han Dynasty and, by extension, Dong Zhuo. However, his bio states he's not great personal terms with the Tyrant, and treats his friends well.
- Pelts of the Barbarian: Wears furs as part of his armour, giving him a more rugged, yet still dignified, appearance in comparison to the other warlords.
- Rags to Riches: The son of a disgraced Han officer and a Qiang woman, Ma Teng grew up in poverty, having to sell firewood in his youth to make ends meet. However, his skill as a warrior and dedication to the Han have resulted in him becoming the protector of Liang province.
- The Rival: Ma Teng begins play directly next to the Yellow Turban leader Gong Du, and the pair will inevitably target each other first.
- Undying Loyalty: To the Han.
Claiming descent from the legendary Sun Zi, Sun Jian made his name fighting pirates on the Yangzi River before leading the army of Wu into victory against the Yellow Turban rebels, during which he became further known for his personal heroics. He later joined the alliance against Dong Zhuo, winning battle after battle and drawing the envy of his fellow generals. As the coalition forces march into the charred ruins of Luoyang, he discovers an invaluable treasure: the Imperial Seal that bestows the throne's authority to its bearer.
- Animal Motifs: He's nicknamed the Tiger of Jiangdong, and wears a tiger's pelt.
- Badass Family: At the end of his trailer, we see him leading an army with his children by his side. This scene is a symbolic bit of Alternate History, since the real Sun Jian died before his younger children reached adulthood.
- Father Neptune: Shows shades of this as he builds his power base in the wilderness of the Yangzi River delta. His son Sun Quan would go further by recruiting notorious pirates as admirals and building a full-fledged navy.
- MacGuffin: Subverted. The Imperial Seal is supposed to give him the Mandate of Heaven and authority over the imperial throne. Too bad that his rivals rightly recognise that a block of jade means nothing without actual military power to back it up.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: His impassioned emphasis on personal heroics contrasts sharply with Cao Cao's cool, calculating attitude as a commander.
- Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: He starts the campaign deep inside Liu Biao's territory in Jing province (modern day Hubei), with an ultimatum to surrender the Imperial Seal or else. You can give it up or choose to fight your way back home.
Sun Jian's firstborn son and (temporary) heir. A hothead with a knack for personally leading cavalry charges, but also looked up to by his people for the short time he ruled. He was slain by an assassin shortly after his brother, Sun Quan, came of age. However, this does not need to happen in your story...
- Bash Brothers: He and Zhou Yu, despite their disparate personalities, still managed a strong friendship that they can take to the battlefield.
- Blood Knight: Even moreso than his father, Sun Ce loved to fight. All the time.
- Embarrassing Nickname: No matter how old he gets or how much he accomplishes, he will always be known as "The Little Conqueror" due to him being stuck in his father's shadow. He seems to enjoy it... though he usually leaves the "Little" part out when referring to himself. note
- Mama's Boy: He and his mother, Lady Wu, have a very strong bond together.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Red to Zhou Yu's Blue, and possibly his brother's Blue as well. He embodies his father's philosophy on personal heroics more than anyone else in the family, and his Vanguard class lets him prove it.
Sun Jian's second son and eventual heir.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Grows this tendency throughout his rule, playing off rival warlords against one another.
- Founder of the Kingdom: Founder of Eastern Wu and its capital, Nanjing. His reign sees the wilderness of southern China transformed into a bustling economic centre.
- Pragmatic Hero: He tends to deploy his forces conservatively, preferring to conserve the resources he inherited and supporting the other two kingdoms as benefits his own.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Notorious for going off the deep end towards the end of his reign.
- You Are in Command Now: Historically, his father died when he was nine, and his older brother Sun Ce was assassinated just as he came of age, leaving him to found the kingdom of Eastern Wu. You could play it out differently in the game, of course.
Lady Sun (often known by her courtesy name Shangxiang) is the only daughter of Sun Jian. Learning to fight alongside her brothers as she grew up, she remains a mysterious historical persona mostly noted for her politically-motivated marriage to Liu Bei.
- Action Girl: A dramatised portrayal of her real-life self, who was trained in combat and travelled with a retinue of female warriors.
- Bow and Sword, in Accord: She even comes with a bow when she comes of age, and an incredibly good one at that.
- Friendly Sniper: Outgoing, eager, and generally very approachable.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Her special ability, Heart Seeker, allows her to fire an arrow at an enemy's weak point for massive damage.
- Lady of War: One of the few female Vanguards in the game, making her basically an army unto herself.
Born to an aristocratic clan from Lujiang Commandery, Zhou Yu becomes fast friends with the teenage Sun Ce while the latter's father is on campaign against the tyrant Dong Zhuo. He grows up to be a brilliant strategist, a capable statesman, and one of the most important figures in the Kingdom of Wu.
- Badass Bookworm: Unlike most Strategists in the game, Zhou Yu is a very capable fighter, though the class mechanic prevents him from duelling enemy heroes.
- Bash Brothers: With Sun Ce. note
- Bishounen: Was recorded to be handsome.
- Cultured Badass: He's also a dedicated musician on the side. note
- Four-Star Badass: Historically, he ends up as the Grand Commandant of the Wu military.
- Mechanically Unusual Class: He's a vanguard, with all that that entails — strong charges, focus on cavalry, and is himself a One-Man Army. However, he also has the extremely rare ability Hail of Arrows, which is only useful when he commands a large contingent of archers, meaning that is actually considerably underutilized if surrounded with shock cavalry as one normally would with a vanguard.
As the Han's loyal defender, Yuan Shao stormed Luoyang to liberate the emperor and personally slaughtered the treacherous eunuchs. He rose to power due to his outstanding reputation, wealth, and prestige. Though he lacks in substance, his ostentatious style is beyond doubt.
- Adaptational Badass: Although truly talented at getting warlords to join his coalition, Yuan Shao cannot turn that coalition into his own personal vassal empire in the Romance. The warlords who follow him are still prone to infighting and can break off at any time rather than the stable coalition shown in the game.
- Sibling Rivalry: With his half-brother Yuan Shu.
Originally known for his courage and valour, Yuan Shu was a great hunter and falconer in his youth, climbing through several government ranks including General of the Household Rapid as a Tiger. The prestigious name of the Yuan clan weighs heavily upon his shoulders, as does the blustering of his half-brother, Yuan Shao. Only by demonstrating his legitimacy can he prove his right to rule.
- Sibling Rivalry: With his half-brother Yuan Shao.
To Zheng Jiang, dynasties and nobilities mean nothing: she prefers to seize glory in her own way, and is resolved to earn fame and prestige for herself through her merciless fury and unrelenting strength. As the Han dynasty burns, she sees the crumbling of the institution she despises and relishes the opportunity to rise to power and put her old oppressors under her boot and give them a taste of their own medicine.
- Action Girl: The only female playable lord, but she's one of the most fearsome warlords in the game.
- Adaptational Badass: She was a female bandit in the original Records of the Three Kingdoms who only got a single line. Here, she is a dual-axe wielding warlord and guerrilla leader, as well as a destructive force in her own right, out to sweep away the remnants of the Han Dynasty.
- An Axe to Grind: She uses a pair of unique axes called 'The Red Sisters' in battle.
- Animal Motifs: Her trailer associates her with wolves. They feature prominently at the beginning, she is never seen without her army (her pack), she appears to favour ambush tactics and surprise night attacks, and she wears what looks like a wolf pelt as part of her clothing. She's also none-too-squeamish about going after defenseless prey.
- Ascended Extra: She goes from a female bandit who is only mentioned in a single line in Records of the Three Kingdoms to a fully-fledged playable lord in the game.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Warlord, guerilla leader, raider, and as her trailer shows, no slouch in combat.
- Ax-Crazy: Her ruthlessness, aversion of Would Not Shoot a Civilian, and plain enjoyment of battle don't exactly paint her as the most stable individual...
- Blood Knight: If the carnage, destruction, and the smirk she gives in her trailer are any indication, Zheng Jiang relishes battle.
- Canon Foreigner: Outside of the single mention she got in Records, she is effectively an original character that Creative Assembly introduced to diversify the gameplay.
- Combat Pragmatist: Potentially. Her trailer shows her forces as being considerably more lightly-armoured and less professional than the Han armies she faces. So she makes use of ambushes, surprise attacks, and raids on undefended food-producing villages.
- The Dreaded: Dialogue in her trailer indicates that those who are aware of her, and her activities, are very justifiably scared of her, and urge others not to take her lightly at all.
- Dual Wielding: She wields a pair of axes, one in each hand, and is frighteningly effective with them.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Once a mere peasant, toiling like millions of others under the rule of the Han. Now, well...
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Her debut trailer and artwork shows she has a number of scars on her face, and she is presented as an utterly ruthless warlord and raider.
- Not So Different: To her Arch-Enemy, the Han. Her Total War bio makes clear that the more she battles to bring down the Han, the more she will slowly come to resemble them, as she finds herself having to leave Han power structures intact left and right in order to rule what is essentially her new state. May overlap with Full-Circle Revolution.
- Plot-Irrelevant Villain: In a sense. She doesn't appear to really be involved in the main struggle between the coalition and Dong Zhuo. Instead, she operates more as an independent force, out to destroy the Han as a whole.
- Psychotic Smirk: She gives one of these at the end of her trailer, underlining her Blood Knight tendencies.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Her forces sack and burn down an undefended peasant village in her trailer, killing many while taking supplies and prisoners. Depending on how one views her actions, it could be an example of The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Her Total War bio describes her primary motivation, at least at the start of the game, as taking power away from the corrupt Han and giving it back to the people, and she bucks tradition by having children in her faction take their mother's name, rather than their father's. She is also merciless against her enemies, whether civilian or soldier.
- The Unfettered: Her goal is nothing less than the destruction of the Han Dynasty, and her trailer shows there is no line she won't cross to achieve that.
- Visionary Villain: Her bio mentions that, unlike other bandit leaders, Zheng Jiang is driven by a true political agenda, and will stop at nothing to ensure her rise to power.
Between the light of the civilised Han, and the chaos of opportunistic banditry, Zhang Yan straddles the twilight he sees the carnage wrought by Dong Zhuo and wonder how this can be turned to his advantage. To attack the Black Mountain bandits is to invite deception and ambush, as they have mastered the art of war unseen. Yet all the same, Zhang Yan will form alliances and friendships with any who will serve his interests be they high-born or mud-stained
Although not very learned, He Yi is a charismatic and fanatical leader who has devoted himself to doing good and ending the suffering of the people.
Compassionate and courageous, He Yi places the wellbeing of others above all else.
- All Asians Wear Conical Straw Hats: He wears a large straw hat, even in battle. Several of the unique Yellow Turban troops he can recruit do as well, such as the People's Warband.
- Blade on a Stick: His starting weapon is a spear.
- Church Militant: Is a leader of the taoist Yellow Turban Rebellion, and his description explains that he believes he must 'purify the land of evil'.
- Cool Hat: He wears a conical straw hat decorated with beads and ribbons.
- Foil: He's essentially Liu Bei, if Liu Bei was born a peasant. He Yi's note on Liu Bei lampshades this, pointing out that Liu Bei would have made a fine ally if he had forsaken the Han.
- The Fundamentalist: He Yi is fanatical even by the standards of the Yellow Turbans. Other non-Yellow Turban generals may taunt him by questioning if his zeal is waning.
- Glass Cannon: As a Healer He Yi wears close to no armour whatsoever and his defenses are awful, but his high Instinct and Resolve means he can deal a lot of damage, and in Records Mode has a huge bodyguard.
- Good Is Not Soft: As he embodies the Taoist virtue of Compassion, He Yi cares about nothing more than ending the suffering of China's people, and is unquestionably compassionate, but he is also a fearsome fighter and rebel leader who is willing to spill as much blood as he needs to.
- Rebel Leader: As one of the leaders of the remaining Yellow Turban Rebels.
- The Men First: He Yi's unique mechanic allows makes him attend to the wounded following an occupation, minimizing population loss and boosting his own replenishment.
- Warrior Monk: A fanatical religious rebel who can hold his own in duels and melee.
- We Have Reserves: He Yi's playstyle revolves around this. His unique building bolsters population growth, his armies get cheaper the higher his population is, and his faction has a huge bonus towards replenishment. He can fight battle and be back to full strength in half the normal time.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Views himself as an instrument to purge evil and bring about the Yellow Sky Mandate, whatever the costs.
He ManA scholar and unique hero who follows He Yi at the beginning of the game. Known as "The Most Powerful".
- Ascended Extra: His only role in the Romance is to make a Badass Boast and promptly get killed. Here, he is upgraded to one of He Yi's most potent assets by being a powerful melee lord.
- Bow and Sword, in Accord: Like most Scholars, He Man is a good duelist, especially against opponents with slow-striking but high-damage weapons, and he begins play in Romance Mode with a bow and the 'scattershot' ability that deals area-of-effect damage through a Rain of Arrows.
- Shout-Out: His title is one to Masters of the Universe.
Not really driven by the religious reasons that made many of his peers take up arms, Gong Du is instead focused on redistributing the wealth of the corrupt elite to more deserving individuals as well as eliminating those who get in the way of him establishing a new order that places talented individuals like himself firmly at the top.
- Carry a Big Stick: His starting weapon is a massive two-handed mace.
- Just Like Robin Hood: His bio describes him as "focused on redistributing the wealth of the corrupt elite to more deserving individuals"
- The Fundamentalist: Downplayed. While he shares the same zealous beliefs as his fellow Yellow Turbans, Gong Du is focused on more practical matters.
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: His playstyle revolves around this. His unique building chain increases the amount of supplies and post-battle loot he receives, his faction abilities gives his armies a bonus to movement range and his special Liberate stance seizes the supplies of his opponents and adds them to that of his own army.
- La Résistance: His playstyle revolves around hit-and-run tactics and has a stance called "liberate".
- Pragmatic Hero: Gong Du embodies the Taoist virtue of Frugality and is more concerned with the day-to-day minutia of actually managing a revolution than his fellow Yellow Turbans, boosting his armies' access to supplies.
- Plunder: Gong Du has access to the "raid" stance from earlier Total War games, renamed "liberate" and involving overthrowing local nobles and freeing all their serfs. As long as they are in "liberate" stance Gong Du's armies cannot lose supplies and inflict massive Public Order penalties in enemy regions as the newly-freed serfs arm themselves and join the Rebellion.
- The Rival: Gong Du and Ma Teng are set up as each others' initial challenge: If you play as one of the two the other will inevitably be your first major foe.
Zhang KaiA veteran who follows Gong Du at the beginning of the game. He is known as the "Slayer of Tyrants".
- Adaptational Heroism: In the Romance he's mentioned as being part of the men who killed Cao Cao's family, a role he is not much in a position to fill in-game.
- Stone Wall: Zhang Kai's beginning traits and equipment gives him a close to 70% armour and he has access to a skill that boosts his melee evasion temporarily much like a Sentinel.
Huang Shao is an adherent of the Way of Great Peace, which states that harmony between Man and Heaven can only be achieved when all evil is exorcised. For Huang Shao, there can be no compromise in his beliefs. There is only the way of the Yellow Sky — and all those who oppose it will be rent asunder.
- Cultured Warrior: His playstyle revolves around enlightenment, giving him bonuses to research and character experience.
- Dual Wielding: His starting weapon is a pair of swords.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: He starts with a pair of swords.
- Humble Hero: Huang Shao embodies the Taoist virtue of Humility, and considers himself an emissary of Zhang Jue's original teachings.
- Master Swordsman: Excels in dueling opposing generals.
- Mechanically Unusual Class: In contrast to most Scholars, who tend to have duel- and melee infantry-focused skills, Huang Shao's skills excels in buffing archers. He grants tremendous missile block chance and increased ranged damage to nearby units, and can make his units temporarily invisible to sneak up on enemy ranged units. In Records Mode he has an uniquely high Cunning, allowing him to make good use of his Masters of Archery.
- The Rival: Huang Shao starts out next to Kong Rong and Liu Bei, and will inevitably come to blows with them during the early game.
- Warrior Monk: A Taoist monk who studied under the original founders of the Yellow Turban rebellion.
A veteran who follows Huang Shao at the beginning of the game. He is known as the "Virtous Outrider".
- Gradual Grinder: His Romance Mode skills are designed to kill heroes, allowing him to remove an opponent's armour and evasion while temporarily buffing his own to make him unhittable.
Introduced in the Eight Princes campaign.
Tropes as a whole
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: Of the titular eight princes, two were Sima Yi's sons, four were his great-grandsons, and two were grandsons of his brothers. Not only that, there were other princes who took part in the civil war, but were not counted as part of the eight (another two grandsons of Sima Yi's brothers).
- Deadly Decadent Court: What made this dynasty so infamous, their focus on intrigues and power plays instead of properly running the country ultimately lead to the "Uprising of the Five Barbarians" and the loss of Northern China. In all fairness though, their behaviour was also shared by the nobility and statesmen of the period, the Sima were simply the most notorious and influential about it.
- Family Business: Deconstructed during the "Eight Princes" campaign in two manners:
- First, the motive: Their rise to the Imperial Throne had been the product of political intrigue and favours between them and the other noble families, as a result, their grip on power was tenious from the start. This in turn led to the Sima family appointing members of their kin in executive positions as they feared the lack of loyalty from the nobles could end up in secessions or uprisings. The result was that the princes of the Imperial family, who had never been given administrative positions during the previous dynasties note , were given command of armies and land under the assumption that they would put the interests of the family first before their own. This is reflected in the change of the public order mechanic, as it's no longer tracking the people but the opinion of the nobility.
- Second, the execution: While indeed the grant of power to members of the Sima family was what allowed them to oust Jia Nanfeng, because the Imperial succession was left in disarray the other princes were able to claim the position of regent or the throne itself so long as they had the power to back their claim. Ultimately, their struggle lead to the "Uprising of the Five Barbarians", which saw the loss of Northern China and their loss of power as the infighting had cast doubt on the Jin's ability to run the country.
- Good Colors, Evil Colors: Of the Eight Princes, the ones who are portrayed in an unambiguous positive light are Sima Ai and Sima Liang, who wear green; Sima Ying, who is also given a positive portrayal to a lesser degree, wears blue.
- Paper Tiger: Despite their position as the Imperial clan, the power the Sima can exert is limited by the very nobility that helped them rise to the throne, this is reflected in the new mechanic "Noble Support", which supplants the original public order.
The third son of Sima Yi, and one of his father's two sons to be involved in the civil war.
- Elder Abuse: By 291 CE, Liang was advanced in age. note An old man being dragged into a civil war definitely counts as this.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Attempted, at any rate. After conspiring with the empress dowager and Sima Wei to overthrow the emperor, they turned on him and called for his arrest, stripping him of political influence and leading to him starting with a diplomatic penalty with all other factions.
Sima WeiA great-grandson of Sima Yi, and Emperor Wu's fifth son.
- Artistic License History: The scenario depicted Wei and Ai as rivals, giving them a relations penalty with each other. Historically, Ai joined Wei in his war to get rid of their great-uncle, Liang. After Wei was executed, Ai was demoted in rank as punishment. They also had the same mother.
- Blood Knight: His mechanic, Fury, functions similarly to Sun Jian's Heroism and Zheng Jiang's Infamy, encouraging the player to play offensively and giving bonuses for winning battles.
Sima LunThe ninth and youngest son of Sima Yi, and one of his father's two sons to be involved in the civil war.
- Control Freak: His mechanic, Control, encourages as small a court as you can manage, as Jiong micromanages his government.
Sima YingA great-grandson of Sima Yi, and Emperor Wu's 16th son.
- Brainless Beauty: Noted to be handsome but only barely smarter then his developmentally disabled brother Emperor Hui. Despite this, he is still a Strategist.
- Hyper-Competent Sidekick: His playstyle emphasises this, giving faction wide bonuses from all characters in ministerial positions in his court.
Sima AiA great-grandson of Sima Yi, and Emperor Wu's sixth son.
- Artistic License History: The scenario depicted Ai and Wei as rivals, giving them a relations penalty with each other. Historically, Ai joined Wei in his war to get rid of their great-uncle, Liang. After Wei was executed, Ai was demoted in rank as punishment. They also had the same mother.
- Man on Fire: After being handed over to Zhang Fang, a general serving Sima Yong, by Sima Yue, Ai was burnt to death. His historical death is alluded to in the trailer when a fireball comes flying straight at him, courtesy of Sima Yong.
- Only Sane Man: Historically, Ai was possibly the only one of the Eight Princes (other than Liang, arguably innocent) who had little role in the destabilisation of the Jin Dynasty and legitimately attempted to improve the situation. He is viewed fondly by historians, then and now, as compared to the remaining seven princes.
Sima YueA cousin of Emperor Wu and the last of the Eight Princes to be involved in the war.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Historically Sima Yue "won" the War of the Eight Princes. By then he was overseeing a crumbling empire and a few years later died of anger and stress trying to quell the Uprising of the Five Barbarians, an event that eventually led to the loss of Northern China.