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Many are Called, Few are Chosen.
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Crusader Kings is a historical grand Turn-Based Strategy / Real-Time Strategy 4X game produced and published by Paradox Interactive. It's set chronologically before its sister series, Europa Universalis, and uses a variant of the Europa Universalis II engine.

The game was originally developed by Snowball, who abandoned it in a very unfinished state, forcing Paradox to do some last-minute fixes before release; this makes the game exceedingly buggy and all but unplayable in its post-release state. Some furious activity both by the community (via modding) and Paradox Interactive itself (via both patching and the Deus Vult expansion) has rendered the game significantly more stable and fixed many of the gameplay mechanics.

The gameplay itself is somewhat original in concept: Rather than playing a particular nation you play as a dynasty (with direct control being vested in the head of said dynasty) in medieval Europe starting in 1066 and ending in the early 1400's. While you can raise armies, form alliances and so forth the most important aspect of the game is management of your family and estates: The amount of land you can directly control is limited by certain factors, and thus you have to parcel out land to your vassals. The vassals have their own personality traits and ideas (some of which make them butt heads with you, or each other). The focus on individual characters and the dynamics within your dynasty gives the game a quality that is almost The Sims-like. It's also notable for being one of the first Paradox Interactive games to rely on Random Events with complicated triggers rather than chains of Scripted Events to drive the game, which would go on to become the staple of the company's later games.

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A sequel, Crusader Kings II, was released on February 14th 2012; the base game is now free to play on Steam. Amongst other gameplay changes, the sequel introduces character ambitions, an expanded plotting and intrigue mechanic, a revamp of the holy order and mercenary system and the sub-division of provinces into baronies, bishoprics and cities, all ruled by vassals. Over the years, Paradox has released numerous expansion packs for CKII, each focusing on different aspects of the game and greatly expanding the scope of the game, its map size (adding the whole Indian subcontinent and Asian steppes), time period covered and adding or refining various mechanics, turning an initially rather skeletal design into a sprawling game.

The third game, Crusader Kings III was released on September 1, 2020. In addition to having 3D character models that are affected by traits, CK3 reworks several of the core gameplay systems to be more intuitive and expands the map to Central Africa and more of South Asia.

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For game mods, see FanWorks.Crusader Kings.


Tropes present in Crusader Kings I

  • Abusive Parents: If your character chooses to raise his heirs himself, he may be given the option to beat them in various character-defining events. Sometimes it's the best (or only) way to get rid of a potentially negative trait.
  • Affably Evil: The game gives bonuses for virtuous traits, such as being kind, humble, or charitable. However, having these traits does nothing to stop you from ordering the murder of children or amassing territory through brutal conquest. The trait-modelling system itself can occasionally cough up a charitable, soft-spoken young man whose chief hobby is impaling people on stakes. Crusader Kings III changes traits in an attempt to remove these oddities; a truly kind character will balk at executing people, and doing so will cause them stress, and might cause a mental breakdown if done enough. However, there are ways to relieve stress, and a just ruler can avoid mental breakdowns over murdering children by journalling, talking to a confidant, or, if lustful, seducing someone at every opportunity.
  • Altar Diplomacy: A huge part of the games is marrying off your children to the right people (while arranging a few deaths on the way) so that your heirs can inherit. A variety of systems of inheritance makes this a bit more complicated than it might seem.
  • Alternate History Wank: While the start scenarios are quite historically accurate, the AI characters don't care much about what their real-life counterparts did. The games are driven almost entirely by random events and dynastic politics which means that every game will quickly divert from real-world history, even in regions where the player isn't meddling at all.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The "Cadaver Synod" global event that pops up whenever a Pope with the "Wicked Priest" trait dies, in which his successor digs up his corpse and puts him on trial for his crimes posthumously, is sometimes assumed to be yet another of Paradox's tongue-in-cheek gags by new players — but the inspiration is entirely historical.
  • Anachronism Stew: Mostly averted except for when game mechanics require the use of anachronistic terms. The most obvious example is the cultures mechanic, which, for example, differentiates between "Castillian" and "Portuguese" cultures. Such distinctions were not so obvious during the game's timeframe (even after the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal as a separate entity from Spanish Castille and Leon) and cultural-linguistic similarities between the two cultures exist in Galicia until this very day. The fact that the game covers seven centuries, significant portions of three continents, and multiple culture groups means that many things are simplified out of necessity compared to how they worked in the real world.
    • The images for holdings, such as castles and cities, varies only based on culture, not time period or geography. So you have stone castles for Italian rulers in 769 and Norse and Russian rulers still using wooden forts in 1400, as well as Persian castles on desert in the plains of England, Malian castles in a jungle in the Central Asian steppes, and Tibetan mountain castles in the middle of the Sahara if the right culture flips happen.
    • There's an event for yourself as a child that depicts you reading the Bible under a tree. Before the printing press was invented, bibles were extremely rare, and copies had to be made by hand. Usually, they were kept in monasteries, rarely translated into the vernacular language, and even if you were wealthy enough to buy a copy, having one could bring down the wrath of the clergy.
    • Also, Coats of Arms appeared among the noble families of Western Europe during the 12th century; seeing every noble houses in the game (even pagan ones) having their own in 1066 is a bit early. There are specific questionable examples here, too:
      • The symbol representing Sunni Islam is the crescent moon and star, which was actually derived from the flag of the Ottoman Empire which didn't exist until the tail end of the game's timeline. However, this makes sense as an interface element as it is a symbol that most modern audiences would associate with Islam (more so than more traditional symbols based on Arabic calligraphy).
      • The coat of arms for the Kingdom of England, three lions rampant, is actually the heraldry of The House of Plantagenet, which didn't take over England until 1154 (over halfway through the playable timeline). Conventionally the symbol of England is St. George's Cross, although that didn't really come into use until Edward I (three generations, four kings, and one century later).
    • The Irish culture's unique unit, Gallowglass heavy infantry, are available to any non-tribal Irish ruler (tribals only being blocked by their low retinue cap). In real life the term Gallowglass (from Irish gall óglaigh, "foreign warriors") originally referred to Scots-Norse aristocrats who emigrated to Ireland after being unlanded for being on the losing side of the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 1200s, offering their services as mercenaries to local rulers.
    • A good one are some of the mercenary companies available in the second game such as the Swiss Band or the Swiss Company; The region today contained in Switzerland wouldn't start exporting armed men as mercenaries until the late 15th century (i.e. the end of the covered timeline), and it would take another three or so centuries before the term "Swiss" would be officially adopted in any way.
    • The manure explosions are a more egregious example than the others- methane explosions like the ones in game happen only on modern pigfarms, and other areas with enormous amounts of fecal waste. They wouldn't have been possible with Medieval tech [1].
    • When playing as a child, upon coming of age and completing your education, you'll say a line related to the education focus and your level of proficiency. Almost all of the lines are quotes, but several are anachronistic:
      • "Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment." (Diplomacy level 2 - The Godfather Part III, 1990)
      • "Speak softly and carry a big stick." (Diplomacy level 3 - Theodore Roosevelt, 1858-1919)
      • "The best way to keep one's word is not to give it." (Diplomacy level 4 - Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769-1821)
      • "Learning never exhausts the mind." (Learning level 3 - Leonardo Da Vinci, 1452-1519)
      • "Events which cannot be prevented must be directed." (Intrigue level 4 - Klemens von Metternich, 1773-1859)
      • "War is a continuation of politics." (Martial level 4 - Carl von Clausewitz, 1780-1831)
  • Anti-Climax: Get a famous historical figure like Charlemagne or Ragnar Loddbrok, or a character with a really good trait like Genius? Be ready to see them either die young, die in their first battle, or catch some kind of deadly disease like cancer.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The title history for unstable kingdoms can come off as this, with the title going from legitimate king to powerful duke to pretender and back again over the course of a few years.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: One of the events that fires as a Lunatic ruler has you choose between several new laws to enact in the realm. These are "The Turnip Act," which declares turnips the currency of the realm instead of precious metals; "The Pants Act," which forbids the wearing of pants; "The Hole In The Wall Act," which mandates two man-sized holes be placed in every building to ensure the flow of fresh air; and "The Cessation of Violence Act," which... makes it illegal to torture or execute infidels and foreigners.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The game has no clue how to deal with the movement paths of armies, which make for some interesting detours.
  • Artistic License – History: Leaving aside the Alternate History Wank caused by the game's reliance on random events and gameplay options that quickly causes history to leave the 'normal' course, the game is overall pretty good at accurate portrayal of starting dates and rulers (aside from areas where we have little data, such as basically anywhere where literacy and genealogy wasn't a big hit yet).
  • Artistic License – Religion: Leaving aside the Alternate History Wank caused by the game's reliance on random events and gameplay options such as pagan reformations and the Jews retaking the holy land, the game is overall pretty good at accurate portrayal of religion (aside from faiths where we have little data, such as Eastern European pagan beliefs).
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Some inheritance rules (based on either Salic or Semi-Salic Consanguinity) favour the son with the highest martial score rather then the eldest (Primogeniture).
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Establishing a fief in the Holy Land, even if it is the Kingdom of Jerusalem itself. Not only does it usually require a costly war several thousands of miles from your home province, but the area is throughout history the epicenter of attention from several political and military superpowers with different religions to your own (Egypt, the Byzantine Empire, the Seljuks, and the Mongol Hordes, to name a few), but the conquered provinces need to be converted religiously and defending yourself in case you're attacked is annoyingly difficult because the provinces are relatively sparsely inhabited and not particularly wealthy (which makes raising a sizable army next to impossible). This is even more pronounced in the first game where every province far and wide counts as Desert Terrain and makes establishing a solid infrastructure mechanically impossible unless it already exists.
  • Ax-Crazy: Beware keeping "Schizophrenic" or "Crazed" characters in your court for very long. "Possessed" characters frequently plot assassinations that don't benefit them in any obvious way.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Not losing the game literally depends on your character procreating.
  • Baby Factory: Surprisingly subverted. Women don't normally get priority in inheritance or lead armies (though female rulers can). However, they can still be given certain titles, and it's particularly common for a ruler to name his wife the realm's spymaster. Naming one's wife as spymaster can be dangerous, usually only worth it if the wife has incredible intrigue and/or is in love, ensuring the loyalty needed in a spymaster. A ruler can also appoint his mother as the spymaster, and the huge mother-to-child relationship bonus is very beneficial here.
  • Badass Moustache/Badass Beard: Depending on culture and traits, these can be grown by male characters. Whether or not the character lives up to their hair's reputation is another thing entirely...
  • Badass Preacher: Like other rulers, holders of religious holdings can lead troops into combat.
  • Bastard Bastard: There's a sequence of events by which a bastard son of your ruler might try to take his revenge for not being part of the inheritance. This stands a good chance of killing or at least maiming the victim.
  • Beauty Is Best: In the game if you play as a ruler who is Just, Kind and Diligent (some of the most popular character traits) you are still not as well liked as if you play as a young queen who is simply Attractive. (The young queen herself falling under Attractiveness Discrimination).
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Due to the nature of the gameplay, you'll almost certainly end up like this.
  • Black Comedy: Event and trait descriptions can be pretty tongue in cheek. Even without those, though, the sheer amount of backstabbing and craziness that your Big, Screwed-Up Family will go through Crosses the Line Twice. In fact, many a After-Action Report uses this as a staple of humour.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The Kingdom of Nubia is playable in the first game, an Orthodox one-province kingdom on the borders of the Fatimid Caliphate. It is incredibly doomed.
  • Bros Before Hoes: The friendship modifier between two characters gives a massive +100 relationship bonus, more than any other relationship bonus in the game and significantly more than the Lover bonus (+40).
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • The "You have fallen in love with X character" event does not check if said character is a family member...
    • A popular Game Mod adds a code that does, with the comment "Ick!"
  • Buy Them Off: Sometimes, the Pope will offer forgiveness of certain sins in exchange for a substantial cash donation to the Catholic Church. In a more general sense, you can buy indulgences to provide small boosts to your character's piety. You can also do this if the Pope demands that you switch to Papal Investiture without angering him further.
  • Cain and Abel: Really, it's more a question of which brothers won't try to kill you for the inheritance.
  • The Caligula: It's perfectly possible to have one of these leading your dynasty, sometimes at your discretion and sometimes... not.
  • Cardboard Prison: You can transfer prisoner to house arrest but they'll have a very high chance to escape.
  • Celibate Hero: Possible. It will significantly increase your piety, but be careful if you're pressed for offspring.
  • Challenging the Chief: Attacking a coreligionist in either game most often requires some kind of claim on their title.
  • The Chessmaster: What truly good players need to be. Nudging a people or two the right way can result in a plan going flawlessly or not. Characters with high Intrigue are also implicitly this.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Any character who is twelve years old (four years before they count as adults) can fall in love, usually with another minor at the same court. Whether they end up as a Victorious Childhood Friend or not, is another question.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Especially if the heir of the realm is under 16. Larger realms will feel the pressure especially for younger leaders, as they have low stats (which do grow as the ruler gets older).
    • Furthermore, being subject to an underage ruler is cause for yet another loyalty hit for one's vassals.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Characters with the "Rebellious" trait. Possibly the player as well, whether it's to advance your power or just because this game provides fertile ground for such behavior.
  • Church Militant: Crusader Kings has the crusading Holy Orders appear as states after Catholics take control of provinces in their particular areas of concern (they demand a province from whoever gets there first).
  • Churchgoing Villain: Any character who has the Zealous trait on top of any number of interesting combinations of decidedly non-virtuous traits can be this, regardless of what faith they belong to.
  • Civil War: Get used to this happening.
  • The Clan: One key difference between these games and other grand strategy games is that, rather than managing a country or political faction, the player essentially manages a dynasty and its estates. You can lose almost everything you own and be forced to swear allegiance to another overlord, but as long as you have one county and a suitable heir to pass it along to, you're still in the game and still capable of recovering your lost realm — or forging a new one entirely — one way or another.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Uses hues of the same colour to indicate ownership of different realms.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Computer factions never go into debt, so they're able to keep their armies fully mobilised at all times, and are always able to pay the transport fee over bodies of water, leading to interesting things like the Sultanate of Oslo and the Emirate of Wessex.
  • Corrupt Church: Potentially, it all depends on the Random Number God.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Played straight. Even when Muslims were made playable with the Deus Vult expansion, there wasn't really much difference between them and the Christians, mechanically speaking.
  • The Coup: Unruly vassals can create or back factions to depose their current liege and install another.
  • Crippling Castration: Rulers who belong to the Byzantine culture group (including, naturally, the Byzantine emperors themselves) have the option of castrating rebels, traitors, and other prisoners held in their dungeons. Aside from the obvious effects this has on a character's ability to procreate, eunuchs are also incapable of receiving lands and titles.
  • Dangerous 16th Birthday: Sixteen is the age at which characters become adults. This makes them available for marriage proposals, government positions, and (in the case of males) leadership of armies, as well as when rulers (are supposed to) begin to rule in their own right as opposed to through a regency council.
  • Dark Messiah: Schizophrenic characters can become convinced that they are Christ Returned, which leads to them getting labelled as heretics. Heretics tend to get excommunicated one way or another; if they happen to be rulers, this allows other rulers to claim their titles much easier. This (and the inevitable loyalty hit the vassals get) often develops into an ever-worsening cycle of civil war, violence and general mayhem that only ends with the death of the Messiah-King (sometimes).
  • Death by Childbirth: Can happen occasionally. The newborn usually dies along with her.
  • Death of a Child: A child has a disproportionately higher chance of coming to death (one way or another), because they do not have yet the developed health or intrigue score to ward off illnesses or assassinations respectively. No doubt Truth in Television.
  • Decadent Court: There are events for your courtiers, many of which tend to consist of them bickering about how one of them is more suited for some post than the current holder. You will also likely get complaints from untitled offspring and offers from your Spymaster to "remove" inconvenient bastards. And finally, there's the one courtier who inevitably goes off the deep end and starts either trying to rebuild the Tower of Babel or murdering the rest of your court.
  • Decapitated Army:
    • Played straight by peasant revolts and adventurer invasions; kill or capture the leader, it's curtains for the rebel scum.
    • Subverted with noble rebellions. If the faction leader or the claimant to the throne is killed, the rebellion indeed ends, but the situation returns to the status quo ante bellum, and the lords who joined the rebellion still have their armies and the ability to rebel again (which often takes less than a year). By contrast, if the rebellion is defeated or forced to white peace, the defeated lords are unlikely to try again (and can be freely imprisoned if they start forming factions again).
  • Defeat Means Friendship: In the first game, you can beat someone around, disable them permanently, kill off their family, and invade their country, yet they tend to agree to your offers to join your army after being defeated. Flipping vassals is one of the principle means of destroying a rival kingdom.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: These games certainly don't shy away from depicting the more... questionable aspects of the medieval era.
    • Female rulers suffer from opinion penalties with most characters, unless they're part of certain cultures or follow certain religions.
    • Homosexuality is frowned upon, even if the homosexual in question does their dynastic duty.
  • Demonic Possession: Characters in both games can become demonically possessed, which isn't a very good thing if they happen to be in charge. Of course, it could be some form of mental illness that medieval science doesn't recognize yet. Probably.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Sultan" is both a Muslim ruler title and a possible first name for Magrebi Arabs, certain cultures restyle the title name to match the dynasty name under an Islamic ruler, and randomly-generated Muslim dynasties take the name of their founder... which can result in Sultan Sultan I leading the Sultan Sultanate.
  • Disability Superpower: While carrying hefty martial and lesser stewardship and health penalties, blind characters get a bonus to their diplomacy and intrigue.
  • Disease by Any Other Name: Crusader Kings II uses the period names for various diseases. Two of the more commonly seen are "lover's pox" for herpes and "great pox" for syphilis, as well as "camp fever" for epidemic typhus.
  • Disney Villain Death: A couple possible resolutions of plots to kill people have them to fall (or be pushed) off of tall places.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Did the next count over look at you funny during the last banquet? Claim his titles, go to war, and strip him of everything he loves!
  • Driven to Madness: As with "Driven to Suicide" below, stressed characters have a chance of thoroughly cracking, becoming either Schizophrenic or just plain Mad. Sometimes this is funny, sometimes it's tragic. And yes, it can happen to your ruler.
  • Driven to Suicide: Pushing your kids too hard can make them stressed. Which can often worsen into depression. Depression often leads to suicide.Note that there are situations where you might want your kids to die.
    • If you have the depressed trait, than you can invoke this and kill yourself.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Characters will sometimes retire or join a monastery; the game treats them for all purposes as though they'd died.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Several of Europe's later historical dynasties are present in the 1066 start, but are unimportant to the point of irrelevance. For example the Habsburgs start out as Counts of a backwater Swiss province. Recreating their rise to power is... difficult.
  • Early Game Hell: In terms of player skill. When you first boot up the game you will be utterly lost in terms of figuring out all the stuff that the game has to offer, and a lot of the difficulty curve is finding out certain actions even exist.
  • Easy Communication: Zig-Zagged. Characters in the original game had no problem communicating from two different sides of Europe, though the game did have a slight delay between the time certain messages were sent and the time they arrived to their destination.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted - Armies are EXPENSIVE, and you're strongly advised not to keep them mobilized when you're not at war. Large armies can also suffer attritional losses which can make entire stacks disappear if you don't manage them well.
  • Elective Monarchy: Elective inheritance, along the lines of the Holy Roman Empire, is one option for succession in both games.
  • Elite Army / Zerg Rush: Both and somewhere in between. The time frame covered means that your levies are all conscripts and not professional soldiers (that'd be the mercenaries you can hire). Also comes into play with the Hordes as they can show up with close to a quarter million soldiers (with reinforcements on their heels). The second game allows wealthier and more powerful rulers to create "retinues", professional standing army units.
  • Emergent Narrative: Both games simulate hundreds of artificially intelligent characters (mostly nobles and royals) across many generations, with heirs being procedurally generated based on which dynastic marriages occurred, with or without the player's intervention. They also simulate a vast number of environment factors, from geography to religion, ensuring that every playthrough has literal centuries of fresh dynastic drama.
  • The Empire: Some empires already exist at certain start dates, such as the Holy Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire. But how much they truly live up to this trope can differ from game to game. It's not at all uncommon to see other realms rise to become The Empire over time, either.
  • Enemy Civil War: In addition to revolts potentially screwing with existing war efforts, one of the best times to declare war on somebody is when they're already at war with someone else. In fact, one possible condition under which a weak claim can be pressed (they normally can't be pressed at all) is if the title is already being contested in a claim or succession war. (The other conditions are if the claimant is second or third in line to the title, the title is in a regency, or if the current holder is female.)
  • Enemy Mine: Even if you aren't formally allied to another ruler, you can offer to join rulers of the same religion in most types of wars. They'll rarely refuse even if the two of you would otherwise be mortal enemies, though don't expect to become Fire-Forged Friends in the long run.
  • Enfant Terrible: A character is never too young to start gaining some very negative traits. The "Child of Satan" event chain takes the cake, though: they'll get huge stats, start murdering their way to the top, and get advice from three mythical witches.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Combined with Once Done, Never Forgotten - a character with the Kinslayer trait will never be liked by anybody else ever.
  • Every Man Has His Price: You can send "gifts" of gold to other rulers (and, in the sequel, to any character) to temporarily boost your relationship with them. As the success or failure in certain interactions is heavily dependent on other characters' opinions of you, placing discreet gifts in the right hands (or failure to do so) can often make or break your latest scheme.
  • Evil Chancellor: A definite possibility, especially in the sequel, where they can easily be plotting to kill you and steal your title. If it's the Spymaster, who's responsible for finding out such plots, Heaven help you.
  • Evil Laugh: When a character goes insane, the confirm button on the pop-up reads "Muahahaha!"
  • Evil Old Folks: A common player tactic is to wait until the current character is quite old to take all kinds of tyrannical but useful actions. With any luck, the character will die and be replaced before the vassals can get up in arms.
  • The Evil Prince: Almost certainly the player if he gets passed over for succession. It's that kind of game, really.
  • Explosive Breeder: Characters with the Lustful trait (especially if they're married to another character with the Lustful trait), but even a normal couple can under the right circumstances have from ten children upwards.
  • Facial Horror: One of the possible consequences of a severe injury is disfigurement, which forces the victim to wear a mask due to the extent of the damage. The icon for the trait depicts a man who has had his lower jaw torn off.
  • Family Extermination: Possible to accomplish by assassinations.
  • Family Values Villain: A given for many characters, considering that half of the villainous things you'll do in a game will be to ensure your family prospers and stays in power.
  • Feudal Overlord: You and most of the characters you interact with. How closely any given character adheres to the negative stereotype is up to your own actions and those of the game engine.
  • For Want of a Nail: Crusader Kings I was Paradox's first game to really embrace a Wide Open Sandbox approach, as opposed to the more deterministic design philosophy of their earlier games. Crusader Kings II is built on the Europa Universalis III engine, and thus has this design philosophy built into its foundations.
  • Founder of the Kingdom: Some historical kingdoms (Portugal, Finland, Ireland and Rus, for example) start the game fragmented into several independent duchies and counties or occupied by foreigners. Liberating enough provinces lets a character found their own kingdom.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: While challenging, you can choose to start (or, through unkind events, end up as) some nobody vassal serving several tiers of superior lords, and through clever politics and favors, work your way up to top dog.
  • Game-Favored Gender: Unless you change it in the game rules, only men can ever inherit – women can only gain titles by being directly granted them, and are primarily useful for marrying off or supporting your rulers. This actually isn't Truth in Television for the period, but most people probably think it is.
  • Gambit Pileup: Taken to its logical extreme; everybody is plotting against everybody! Playing Xanatos Speed Chess against the entire world (or at least your corner of it) is one of the many artforms in this game.
  • Game Mod: Like most Paradox games, both games have active modding communities, and CKII even has Steam Workshop support. These range from tweaks to outright total conversions.
  • Gathering Steam:
    • Adventurers need a year to gather armies and ships, after they stated their conquest goals. Only afterwards can they launch the attack, so a smart ruler will try to assassinate them before they can do so.
    • In some way this applies to all conquests in the game. Getting a full duchy through a holy war is nice, but it will be utterly useless for the first few years, as the peasants will simply refuse to pay taxes or train as soldiers.
  • Genghis Gambit: If a state is being attacked in a Holy War, Invasion, Crusade or Jihad, its ruler gets a +30 "defending against infidels" relation bonus to all their vassals. Sometimes a well-timed defensive war can really bring quarrelling subjects under a single banner. Also, if a foreign ruler starts a war to claim Vassal X's title to his own realm, Vassal X will get a +100 "defending my title" bonus to his own liege for as long as the war lasts, which more or less ensures they will forsake all their rebellious intentions for that period. This also applies to foreign rulers, who will take a prestige hit for declaring war on a ruler fending off infidels.
  • The Good King: Taking actions that generally give piety, being fair and just, etc.
  • Good Shepherd / Sinister Minister: Depending on appointment policies, your bishops can be either, or somewhere in between.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Spouses with "good" traits like each other and accordingly will produce more offspring.
  • Handicapped Badass:
    • Getting maimed only reduces a general's Martial stat by 2, meaning that your best general will still remain a great asskicker even if they lose a limb or two. This will affect his future health, though.
    • In addition, while losing a limb gives a severe penalty to personal combat skill, a character with many traits that boost personal combat skill won't be too badly affected by this loss, and the penalties for losing an arm or leg can be offset by acquiring a prosthesis like a peg leg or iron hand.
    • Averted in the case of blindness. Characters hoping to be a Blind Weaponmaster will have to contend with a devastating -100 personal combat skill. While it's possible to be a competent fighter with such a penalty with everything else going your way, being a master duelist is pretty much out of the question.
  • Heir Club for Men: Enforced by the game rules.
  • The Heretic: Can crop up sometimes in the first game, although they don't really affect the game much.
  • Heroic Bastard: If a bastard son receives his own fiefdom and doesn't end up trying to kill his father, he may sometimes end up being legitimized on the strength of his rule.
  • Hilarity Ensues: The vast majority of event options that aren't either practical or malicious tend to be this. Sometimes, the game comes up with rather hilarious juxtapositions of the former, too (such as the "Ruler Commits an Act of Cruelty" event triggering at the same time that one of your provinces discovers a new weapon... or goats).
  • Historical Domain Character: Many, obviously. In addition to the actual playable characters, random events include others such as Thomas the Rhymer and Robin Hood.
  • Hordes from the East: The three Mongol hordes, plus the Seljuk Turks, first appear at the eastern edge of the map.
  • Hot Consort: Your spouse can have the "attractive" trait. The actual appearance of the character can sometimes subvert this—they might appear to be very beautiful or handsome, but various traits they possess will make them repulsive to everyone.
  • Hypocrite: Legitimizing a bastard? It will make all your kids hate you for a few years - even the other legitimized bastards among them will hate you for it.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Several cultures in the game use patronymic names. For example, the son of an Irishman will likely be <given name> mac <father's name>, while an Anglo-Saxon will be <given name> <father's name>sson. This can have bizarre results when different cultures intermarry, or if applied to characters who get regnal names.
  • Idle Rich: Pretty much any courtier with no real duties qualifies.
  • Incest Is Relative: Only Brother–Sister Incest and Parental Incest are explicitly forbidden by the game mechanics, and then only for marriage; the falling in love event doesn't check to see if the lover is a family member. Also, only blood relations are forbidden; a stepson can marry his mother. The "Inbred" trait that sometimes results from these unions is a large drop to all that character's stats, including fertility and health, so they're not likely to breed any further.
    • Some of the mechanics can still imply, for example, that your wife is having an affair with your son.
    • Justified to a degree; the middle ages wasn't as bothered by anything beyond incest between direct family members. Marriage within royal houses was a common tactic to consolidate feudal land.
  • Insane = Violent: Schizophrenic and crazed characters are... really dangerous.
  • In Spite of a Nail: There aren't many fixed historical events, but those that are tend to happen no matter what else occurs. For instance, The Teutonic Knights will be eventually formed even if the Crusades fail and the Baltic is already converted.
  • Inter Service Rivalry:
    • If one of your idle courtiers has better stats than one of your councilors expect him/her to come forth and demand to be given the position in question. This will happen on a regular basis as young courtiers tend to have all-around better stats than characters of the previous generation.
    • Also a good way (arguably the only one) to keep landed vassals in check. Players have tried various ways of facilitating dealing with disloyal vassals including, but not limited to not having any vassals and holding all counties themselves (despite the penalties this gives), keeping all vassals imprisoned at all time, or ensuring that all vassals are minors. The best way is arguably still giving out holdings cleverly in a way that they will desire each others' titles and not cooperate with each other while keeping Crown authority high enough that they can't wage war to acquire them.
  • In the Blood: Characters will pass onto their offspring a tendency to have similar stats. This was strong enough in earlier versions that a form of Darwinian evolution could be observed, where since characters with higher stats were more likely to survive and to succeed as rulers and pass their traits on, everyone in the late game had insanely high stats.
  • It's Been Done: Bad luck could result in a province making a discovery, while the rest of the world has already moved on to better things.
  • Just Friends: Averted in the first game. The game assumes that any two characters of the opposite sex who are friends are actually lovers.
  • Karma Houdini: A successful (villainous) player character will often be this, especially from a modern perspective. You can smother infants in their cribs to steal their titles, murder trusting friends for power and land, have children with a wife who hates you to the core because you killed her father for the throne and still die peacefully in your bed, wealthy, powerful and esteemed by your peers.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: The most reliable way to win a war is to Zerg Rush the enemy while it is weak (ruled by an underage child/tied down in another war or in a rebellion (preferably with their armies far away). Of course, your realm will experience periods of weakness, too, so be careful.
  • Knight Templar: Anyone with the "Zealous" trait. The trope namers also make an appearance.
  • Lamarck Was Right: See also "In the Blood" above. In the original game, characters inherited a small portion of their parents' base stat scores, meaning that the children of parents who excelled in a given area (Intrigue, Diplomacy, etc.) tended to have good stats in those areas themselves.
  • Life Simulation Game: The series focuses on individual characters as the driving force of gameplay. While there's still a fair degree of wiggle room for player input, your ruler's own stats, traits, beliefs, and random impulses will affect which options are available and how effective they are. Uniquely, the game doesn't necessarily end with the death of your first character, as you'll immediately take control of his or her heir so long as the successor is an eligible member of your dynasty.
  • Life Will Kill You: Even the most skilled and beloved of characters can drop dead at literally any time for almost any reason; not everyone gets a glorious death in battle or poisoned by a rival to advance some plot. Given the scope of the game, it's almost certain that your first character and everyone in his generation will be dead by the game's end. Unless you find a way to make your protagonist immortal — but even then, they're only immune to aging and disease, not mayhem...
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: There are literally thousands of characters alive at any given moment, most of them are randomly generated, many of them are historical. Depending on how long you last, you can go through multiple generations of people. But every single one of them is an AI actor who actively pursues individual personal objectives and has an opinion about every single other character.
  • Locked Away in a Monastery / Taking the Veil: Played straight for the first game as a way to dispose of surplus heirs.
  • Locked in the Dungeon: The fate of prisoners of war, unsuccessful rebels, and miscellaneous miscreants. Sufficiently noble prisoners may petition your ruler to be transferred to a Luxury Prison Suite or be put under house arrest; you can grant their request, ignore them, or lock them in the oubliette for their insolence.
  • Loved I Not Honor More: Practically enforced. Spouses are nice and all (and necessary if you want to survive to the next generation), but there's a limit to which you'll let them interfere with family politics.
  • Loyal to the Position: Even if they got their title by literally stabbing the guy in the back, your character usually inherits their benefactor's court along with their fiefdom.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Male rulers can choose to disavow any knowledge of their bastards, which effectively leaves said bastard fatherless (and possibly resentful).
  • The Many Deaths of You: There are many, many ways your characters can die. One of the more recent patches introduced a "cause of death" mechanic, and these tend to be strangely generic. Suicide is "Death by Depression", heart attacks are "Death by Stress", Death by Sex is "Died in an Accident", and so on. Deaths caused by plotting can be anything from simple poisoning to driving carriages over cliffs to vorpal pillows to something that can only be described as "death by exploding manure pile."
  • Mandatory Motherhood: Enforced; continuing the game means that someone has to bear your ruler's children, whether they want to or not.
  • Marriage Before Romance: As most marriages are for political convenience rather than love, it's fairly common for couples to fall in love with one another only after they've been married for some time.
  • Marital Rape License: No, marital rape was not recognized as rape until the 20th century, and yes, you can father heirs on a woman who hates your guts. This also applies the other way - a ruling queen whose husband hates her, she can still force him to father children with her. On the other hand, if either party to the marriage has the 'celibate' trait, that's it for any chance of children from that marriage.
  • Massively Numbered Siblings: It's quite possible for a fertile ruler to end up with upwards of ten children, legitimate or not. It can be a pretty great asset in that it gives you lots of sons and daughters to marry for political gain, and little chance to run out of heirs in case of accident, but it you happen to be one amongst these children... Well, things can get nasty.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: A number of events in both games are seen by the characters as explicitly supernatural or miraculous, but could have more plausible explanations. Justified from an RP standpoint by the time period: people were MUCH more inclined to believe in the supernatural back then.
  • May–December Romance: Incredibly common. Most of the time, it's a ruler in his forties or so deciding he could use some more heirs (or hoping that he could get a son finally) and marries that sixteen-year-old daughter of his neighbor.
  • Meddling Parents: Chances are that you will sooner or later play as one of these yourself, because children are amongst the most easily controllable characters in the game and also of paramount importance for your family's survival. Children that are left to themselves (especially if you give them land to rule) have an annoying tendency to marry spouses that are statistically awful, hostile to you or worse, infertile or murder their siblings. While you do lose prestige over time if you don't grant your adult sons any land, it is still better to keep them under check at your court.
  • Mêlée à Trois: Multiple wars for the same realm can occur, and nations with conflicting casus belli automatically become hostile to one another. This can sometimes result in a continent-spanning morass of fighting. Even stranger things can sometimes happen: if multiple wars are being waged against a single kingdom but the casus belli don't conflict, all the wars may end up becoming completely gridlocked for years because nobody can gain enough warscore (the measurement of who's winning a given war) to bring an end to it.
  • The Middle Ages: Covers most of The High Middle Ages and The Late Middle Ages, all the way up to the generally-accepted end date of 1453.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The game mechanics practically encourage this. Keeping your vassals' troops on the field starts to accumulate relationship penalties with them, while getting their armies slaughtered has no negative effects other than having to wait for more troops to be conscripted. Thus, once you get a big enough army to storm castles rather than waiting outside besieging them, you'll want to throw away a few thousand lives to save time.
  • The Missionary: Court chaplains can minister to heathen or heretic provinces within your realm, as well as to pagan courts in far lands, with a small chance of converting them to the faithful.
  • The Mistress: Love affairs are possible for Christians, and can be quite scandalous to your reign.
  • Moral Myopia: In order to attack a coreligionist, even if you're a king and he's a count, you need to have a claim on at least one of his titles. There's no such limitations for attacking heathens, though.
  • Mother Makes You King: Even with male-only inheritance laws, daughters get a claim on their father's titles, which they can pass on to their sons to press.
  • Nintendo Hard: Playing certain factions or families with the highest difficulty penalties count as this by default. Though even running the most powerful realm in the Old World can prove a daunting task if you're not paying attention.
  • Non-Entity General: Sort of. You play as the current head of the Dynasty. If your King is overthrown and killed, you may get booted to your very distant cousin, who is a count of a backwater province, but your game WILL continue. The only way for the game to end is to have your dynasty die out in the male line. However, each individual character has his or her own traits and stats, which does affect available responses and events.
    • In the sequel, you can have female heirs as a non-Muslim dynasty (the current head is not-Muslim) - if no males are eligible as heirs. You can, if you wish, choose to exclude females from being heirs, which may or may not be handy. But you can also give females equal rights to being heirs (only for Basques or Cathars by default, though the Conclave DLC allows you to grant inheritance rights to women). With this option, as long as any one in your dynasty is alive, you can continue... though on the flip side, due to this being an era of Arranged Marriages, keeping females in the family without losing prestige can be... challenging.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Every patch seems to alter gameplay in the direction posters on the Paradox Forums complain the most about. Such changes include having smaller peasant revolts, making it harder for counts to marry into ducal titles and Nerfing the Byzantines.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: Failing to convert/assimilate a newly conquered foreign land or cozy up with the local nobles fast enough is a guaranteed way of creating incessant independence movements and a throng of bitter rivals.
  • Offing the Offspring: If your heir is an Inadequate Inheritor, or has failed to produce a son with the ageing Duke of Norfolk's daughter and only child, or just isn't in line for all the nifty titles your second son by another wife is, this is always an option.
    • It is a bit more trouble than your average murder, however, as you can't directly plot to murder your own kid unless you have particular traits like Sadistic. You can, however, try to get rid of them in other ways, like sending them out at the head of a massively-outnumbered army or even paying another player to kill them in multiplayer.
  • Old Save Bonus: For CKI, the conversion allows the save to be carried over to EU III, then Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, and thereafter Hearts Of Iron III.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Invoked, but Subverted most of the time. Even acquiring thousands of points of tyranny gets forgotten after ten years or so. There are a few exceptions: Blinding, Castrating, Kinslaying and revoking titles.
    • Also, publishing your heliocentric research (Way of Life scholarship focus) invokes a permanent -10 penalty to relations with clergy. The church never forgets...
    • Played straight with nicknames though. While a character can lose bad traits or replace them with good traits, nicknames can almost never be lost (founding a bloodline, restoring the Roman or Persian Empire, and winning a war you started with the 'Invasion' casus belli are some of the very few actions that can change a nickname). This means that a character who becomes known as "the Cruel" will be known by that name forever, even after pulling a Heel–Face Turn.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Stewardship. Martial skill is only useful if you like fighting wars (which are long and tedious and tend to bleed out your country economically), Diplomacy only matters if you have lots of vassals and Intrigue is virtually useless because the only NPC's who ever plot assassinations (unless it's out of revenge for a murder plot you ordered yourself) are Bastards and having somebody assassinated on your own behalf is always a coin's flip of a chance of succeeding or lose a large amount of prestige and piety and losing a huge pile of gold either way. Gold and land on the other hand is something everybody can use at any time.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Due to Contrived Coincidence, most long-time plots tend to be less successful than one might wish for. The best way to increase your share of the cake really is to just go along with any good opportunity that presents itself.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: As a counterpart to the above, if you don't keep at least some of your heirs alive, the game ends when your dynasty is extinguished. Watching one of the offspring you want to keep alive get killed through disease, accidental injury, malice, or simply a sudden, unexplained death can hurt like a punch in the gut.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Traditionally, the Mongol Golden Horde and Ilkhanate have always filled this role, steam-rolling most of the Eastern Europe and Persia after they show up before they lose momentum. Just in case, Western European players thought world conquest and dynastic dominance was too easy without the incentive of imminent invasion, the minor DLC Sunset Invasion for the second game adds a hypothetical super-powerful Aztec Empire to the mix as well.
  • Out with a Bang: Possible with ageing characters.
  • Parental Favoritism: Practically a necessity, up to and including murdering The Unfavorite.
  • The Patriarch: Kings of large realms who have ruled their kingdom for a long time usually become this eventually. They usually have so much prestige, money in their pockets and loyal vassals that they can claim entire kingdom titles and decide wars simply by virtue of siding with one or another faction.
  • The Pennyfarthing Effect: While the game was well regarded in its time, it tried to shoehorn in a number of character interactions into traits and random events that proved to work out much better as their own mechanics in the sequel. The most obvious example would be the child education system; rather than allowing you to assign specific wards to look after them, the game fired an event to let you choose whether to educate them yourself or to choose a selection of "generic" educators that were marked as a trait on their character portrait.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Despite the title, it's entirely possible to play the entire game without participating in a single Crusade. In fact, it is even possible to nominally join a Crusade but never launch a single ship towards Jerusalem. It's also possible for your character to be considered a "Crusader" without ever fighting a single proper battle, as you get credit for simply leading an army that is standing in the target kingdom of the crusade — ain't no rule that says you have to stay.
  • Political Strategy Game: CK is a political strategy of a very different mold than the typical examples: instead of a simulating republican politics, it mostly concerns Medieval feudal and dynastic power struggles.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The concept of "feudalism" as depicted in the game is a simplified version of the pyramid model taught in schools. In Real Life, not only did the system of governance differ from region to region (even among peoples who nominally follow the same religion), it may even differ depending on the era you're looking at. The various systems of governance in the game are a compromise at best.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The key to succeeding at this game. For varying values of "winning."
  • Pretext for War: Like other Paradox games you're not allowed to just invade for no clear reason if you're Christian, but fortunately finding or creating casus belli isn't hard: Either via fabricated documents or actual de jure territorial disputes. Succession disputes can also occur.
  • Princeling Rivalry: When a king passes on, the new king's brothers usually inherit some sort of claim of their own on the throne, guaranteeing there will be strife if the eldest isn't really cut out for the job. Even princes who are fairly far down in the line of succession may petition their ruler to grant them holdings of their own from time to time, so that they'll at least get something to leave to their own children.
  • Properly Paranoid: The Paranoid trait grants a bonus to the Intrigue stat, meaning Paranoid characters are that much harder to assassinate if you actually are out to get them. This intrigue bonus is greater than the diplomacy penalty the trait gives, meaning that Paranoid is overall a beneficial trait.
  • Puppet King: Rulers who have powerful vassals under them may find themselves becoming this. Generally, if the player is the ruler, the goal is to avoid becoming the trope; if as the vassal, to encourage and exploit the trope. There is even an achievement for reaching this state of affairs with the Conclave mechanics (requires that every member of the council as well as the king all owe you a favour)
  • Puppet State: Very strong element. The player is able to create vassals by giving the aristocrats in his court titles. Assuming relations are good enough he can force these vassals to raise troops for him and even force to them to surrender their title and land (though this is very likely to result in rebellion instead).
  • Raising Sim: Both games give you the option of tutoring your heirs directly (or entrusting them to others, but doing it yourself is a somewhat more reliable way to mold them into the sort of character you want). The second game extends this to cover any children, meaning that you can become the mentor and guardian of characters outside your own family as well.
  • Random Event: Unlike most other Paradox Interactive games, this game relies almost entirely on random events, with only a few historical occurrences (the arrival of the Mongols, plagues, founding of Holy Orders) having scripted events. This design philosophy would later influence the next generation of Paradox games (EU3, HoI3, V2) and would carry over with a vengeance in the sequel.
  • Real-Time with Pause: It would have to be Turn-Based otherwise.
  • Realpolitik: This is Realpolitik: The Video Game, even though the term wouldn't be invented for another thousand years from the earliest start date. Every nation, every dynasty, every character is constantly looking to gain an advantage over everyone else, and you can be simultaneously in a marriage alliance with a neighboring realm while trying to assassinate its rightful king so that your grandson from the daughter you married into it will inherit the throne.
  • Relationship Values: A significant part of the gameplay, especially in the sequel. The first game had diplomatic relation scores between rulers, as well as a loyalty score between vassals and their lieges, the latter being essentially binary in practice.
    • Level-Up at Intimacy 5: If your vassals like you a lot, they'll provide you with far more troops and pay you far more in taxes than they're legally required to, be more likely to approve any legal reforms you want to push, and can even occasionally be persuaded to give up some of their lands to the crown, or even convert to your religion.
    • You Lose at Zero Trust: If your vassals hate you, on the other hand, you're one conspiracy away from the collapse of everything you've worked for. Especially bad if it's a family member or your spy master.
  • Removing the Rival: Really, this is the central trope to understanding how the game works. Every single character has his or her own agenda, and plans clash more often than not. You likely have to flatter, bribe, threaten, or murder an awful lot of people in order to get what you want and keep others from getting their hands on your stuff.
  • Repressive, but Efficient: Ruling anything bigger than character's own demesne requires some truly draconian measures and constant, aggressive plotting to just stay afloat. It's also the only way to make your holdings rich and prosperous in early stages of the game.
  • The Resenter:
    • Bastards tend to end up like this if not legitimized, though your legitimate offspring may become this if you legitimize a lot of bastards.
    • Anyone who loses their place in the line of succession is likely to become a resenter when you change your succession law.
    • Firstborn children tend to be resentful of succession laws that don't give them the highest priority in succession and all of your children will dislike you for instituting seniority or tanistry.
  • Revolving Door Revolution: Since new rulers always get a relationship penalty with their vassals (that gradually wears off as they maintain their hold on the throne), turnover time between rulers can be quite short indeed in kingdoms where no one ruler has enough power to hold out against a large enough faction (until someone eventually does or the kingdom itself splinters).
  • Rightful King Returns: Deposed rulers typically retain claims on their former thrones, which means that, just like any other claim holder, they can usurp it right back if they beat the current holder in a war. Alternately, if your kingdom gets invaded and you get killed, your dynasty may fall to an heir who just happens to be out of the kingdom at the moment (probably leading an army somewhere), or even a remote relative on the other side of the continent. In either case, they'll hold a claim for the recently-seized throne, and may not have the political or military clout to take it back right away - resulting in this trope when they (or their descendants) finally DO return to claim the ancestral lands...
  • "Risk"-Style Map: It's a Paradox Interactive game.
  • Risking the King: Your ruler is also the commander of his personal levy. While risky by default, it may turn into even bigger liability when he's also inept with martial skills.
  • The Rival: Via random events characters may acquire rivals, with appropriate relationship penalties depending on your political relationship to each other. If one of your vassals is a rival of you, always be prepared for them turning on you, whatever their other traits or their loyalty. (They also get a nasty -3 to loyalty per month, meaning even quite loyal vassals can start sliding towards rebelllion.)
  • Royal Brat: Negative character traits tend to first show up during childhood.
  • Royal Inbreeding: Many players practice this as an eugenics program, to get positive genetic traits into their dynasty. Though it has a high chance of introducing negative traits, particularly "inbred".
  • Royally Screwed Up: This can happen, and when it does things get very interesting. And by interesting, we mean civil wars and the attention of opportunistic neighbours.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Most rulers generally lead, or at least fight with, their own armies.
  • Ruling Couple: Can happen when one character has a spouse who is also a ruler in their own right.
  • Running Gag: One of the events that a character trying to improve his learning might get involves sighting a comet. "So it's not an ill omen."
  • Sanity Slippage: If a character stays Stressed for too long, watch out...
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: Even if you're the most powerful ruler in Europe in theory, the power that you actually wield pretty much correlates to how much your vassals like and respect you. A massive, map-spanning empire can crumble away in less than a decade when the underlings decide to take the throne for themselves or jump ship altogether.
  • Schrödinger's Question: Basically any event in the first game where different traits can be gained qualifies: The reason for you taking a certain action is determined correlated to your response to it and ultimately decided by the RNG. Thus you refusing to start a rivalry with a neighboring ruler could be because you're very forgiving of insults towards your person... or it could be because you're a spineless coward. The second game features this to a lesser, but still existing extent.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: The "attractive" trait gives a pretty big opinion bonus for any character who's sexually attracted to your gender. A beautiful queen can get away with a surprising amount of shit.
  • Settling the Frontier: The Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar will ask for permission to found a couple of Cult Colonies in the Levant, if the area is owned by a catholic ruler. Do not discount them, they will be invaluable in defending the area from Muslim counterattacks. The Teutonic Knights will also do something similar in the Baltic.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: They have traits for all of them, as well as for the Seven Heavenly Virtues, and characters with these opposing traits will have negative opinions of each other:
    • Lust: Overall good. The trait "Lustful" gives +1 Intrigue and a 20% Fertility bonus, in exchange for minor penalties to piety per month and the opinion of Christian clergy.
    • Gluttony: Bad. "Gluttonous" gives -2 Stewardship, -10 clergy opinion.
    • Greed: Good. "Greedy" costs -1 Diplomacy, a minor penalty, in exchange for a 10% bonus to tax income across your realm (without the increase in revolt risk you'd think would result from this).
    • Sloth: Very bad. "Slothful" gives -1 to all stats, -5 to personal combat skill, and -10 vassal opinion, which is much more important than general church opinion. It does make a character less likely to become Stressed however.
    • Wroth: Decent. "Wroth" costs -1 to Diplomacy and Intrigue but grants +3 Martial, +3 to personal combat skill, and, if possessed by a Mook Commander, allows an all-or-nothing charge tactic in battle.
    • Envy: Situational. "Envious" gives -1 Diplomacy, +2 Intrigue, and +3 to personal combat skill, but if held by a vassal they have a -15 opinion of their liege.
    • Pride: Good. "Proud" gives half a point of free Prestige per month with no downsides. Players have also discovered that AI characters with the Proud trait tend to make excellent tutors for children, much better ones than humble characters (which makes sense, from a certain perspective).
  • Seven Heavenly Virtues: Present alongside the sins, being mutually exclusive. They tend to be a less mixed bag than the sins, being (almost) exclusively positive.
    • Chastity: Situational. -15% fertility is a problem, +1 learning is meh, but a chaste spouse gives you a Seduction-Proof Marriage.
    • Temperate: Good. +2 Stewardship and +5 religious vassal opinion. Its only downside is that it prevents you from splurging at feasts, which may make your guests complain about the food.
    • Charitable: Good. +3 Diplomacy and +5 religious vassal opinion is a solid bonus for the small downside of -3 personal combat skill, and it's almost as good as Content in a vassal.
    • Diligent: Very good. +1 to all stats and a +5 vassal opinion makes this hands-down one of the best traits in the game.
    • Patient: Very good. +1 to all stats except Martial, +20% defence bonus when leading troops, and +5 to personal combat skill. Ironically, much better trait for a general or duelist than its opposing sin.
    • Kind: Decent. +2 Diplomacy and +5 vassal opinion bonus in return for -2 intrigue and -5 personal combat skill. Also one of the easiest trait in the game to lose.
    • Humble: Good. Where "Proud" gives free Prestige, "Humble" gives free Piety. Also useful in vassals, as long as you don't make them raise your children.
  • Shoot the Dog: The Duke of Wessex may be a charitable churchgoing eighteen year old with a happy marriage and a heart of gold, but there will be times when assassinating him is the only way to prevent that dangerously powerful faction from declaring a civil war to install him as the new king. If killing one person prevents a civil war (which would result in the death of tens or even hundreds of thousands), then it doesn't make you a monster.
  • Simulation Game: The focus on dynastic politics means that you'll spend a lot of time tracking personal relationships and trying to groom your heirs to be good leaders.
  • Sketchy Successor: Another big threat. Having a poor leader who nonetheless can keep things stable isn't a big deal. Having a great king who was able to keep everyone in line, and then having him suddenly replaced by some blithering moron who seems to go out of his way to piss off his vassals and neighbors, can swiftly reduce a great empire to a series of warring duchies.
  • Spare to the Throne: A valid choice for those who don't wish to place all of their eggs in one heir-shaped basket, considering both games' high mortality rates. If the spare does not inherit, you can probably expect them to turn into The Evil Prince if their older brother does inherit, and possibly into an Evil Uncle as they see the throne get further and further away from their own branch of the family.
  • The Spymaster: You can appoint a vassal or courtier to serve as one, and a skilled one is an asset. You had better make damned sure they stay loyal to you, though, or they might become...
  • The Starscream: Disloyal vassals (particularly those with the Ambitious trait) are a bigger threat than almost anything outside your kingdom. Also, if the player character is anything less than a king, chances are the player themselves will be this. Characters with the "Realm Duress" trait will have all their vassals turn into The Starscream. Hilarity inevitably ensues.
  • Storming the Beaches: Amphibious assaults, whether from boats or across straits, are possible but extremely risky: Your troops will take serious terrain penalties in battle if enemy troops are present when they land, compounded in the second game by the Morale Mechanic (the morale of each flank is capped at 50% during sea voyages). However, the terrain penalty doesn't apply to troops landed in a friendly or occupied harbor, making it one of the more effective ways to deal with Viking raiders (who have a tendency to run for the longships if approached overland).
  • Storming the Castle: An extremely deadly strategy once you gained a numerical advantage (generally around 10-15 times greater than the garrison) which can melt down the garrison in days. Not so much if you do not have said advantage.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Male characters in both games have a tendency to bear more than a passing resemblance to their father while females look suspiciously like their mothers, but both are disproportionately likely to inherit their ethnicity from the party of the marriage whose dynasty is being passed on (father in a normal marriage, mother in a matrilineal marriage). Characters will (almost) never look exactly like their parent, but the similarity is always there.
  • Succession Crisis: This and disloyal vassals are probably your greatest threats. Other kingdoms are a distant second, unless you're in the path of the Mongols...
    • If nothing else, your vassals will often decide to revolt as soon as the new king is crowned, mostly because of the "short reign" relationship penalty, particularly if said ruler is a child/woman/both.
  • Stupid Evil: You can raise your children to be cruel, slothful, envious, wrothful, greedy sons-of-bitches, but your vassals will dislike such a ruler and several of the 'sinful' traits are rather bad stats-wise as compared to their virtuous counterparts.note  Also, there are several events where you can, for example, choose to torture some of your prisoners, but there's no actual benefit to that (unless you want someone dead or maimed) except For the Evulz.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: The AI tends to more or less automatically have someone declare independence and war on a liege if the loyalty score of a vassal falls below 5%, even if said liege can afford armies about ten times their own size.
  • Super Breeding Program: The combination of your child being able to get upgraded version inherited trait if both parents have that inheritable trait and the addition of Pure-Blooded traitnote  means that with enough incest, it's possible to get a child with some extremely good traits who are not that likely to be inbred either.
  • Surprise Incest: You've denounced the girl your mistress gave birth to because you don't want the stigma of having a bastard. Fast forward sixteen years, long after you've forgotten the incident, and your son married one of the courtiers. He's only a third son so you're not too upset ... at least not until the son he fathers has the "inbred" trait.
  • Take a Third Option: A character with sufficiently high stats or the right traits may have a choice during a random event that wouldn't be available otherwise. Usually these are ways out of events that would otherwise hit you with a penalty no matter what you choose.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Any dynasty that doesn't ruthlessly purge its heirs can start looking like this, as the sons and daughters start their own families that link with other families, creating webs of family connections.
  • The Theocracy: Any holding administrated by a bishop or other religious figure counts on the small scale, though they're often vassals to another, higher-ranked secular ruler. Popes, caliphs, ecumenical patriarchs, and religious leaders of the reformed pagan faiths are the more obvious high-ranking ones, and are often (but not always) independent.
  • Thicker Than Water: Rulers who are members of the same dynasty are automatically allies, and they will frequently come to one another's aid when circumstances allow. Of course, this won't always stop them from trying to kill one another when one stands a chance of inheriting the other's titles, but then no family can be perfect.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: You can murder your spouse (or imprison and execute them on trumped-up charges) if you so choose, usually to ensure a beneficial inheritance or open the way for a (hopefully) more fertile pairing.
  • Treacherous Advisor: If someone both holds a court position under you and doesn't like you very much, that's an almost-guaranteed recipe for trouble, as they'll be much more willing to join Plots against you and have quite a bit of Plot Power. If one of them is your Spymaster, you're basically just hanging a "Please Kill Me Quickly" sign around your neck.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Especially in the case of traits like "Possessed", which might just as well describe an entirely mundane character trait or condition in modern times.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Because of the way alliance and marriage mechanics work, it's entirely possible to end up with a spouse who, while not exactly unwanted, doesn't really bring much to the table as a person. Fortunately, there are ways to terminate the marriage contract once the desired alliance stops being beneficial - if you feel so inclined, of course.
    • If you land your children or others in your court, they can marry people on their own initiative. These do not come with alliances, and the woman in question may be a dribbling idiot or a raving lunatic with many undesirable traits.
  • Uriah Gambit:
    • A perfectly valid (if unreliable) way of getting rid of uppity vassals, possible claimants to your titles and love rivals is to send them in battles where they may be wounded, slain or taken as prisoners. If they get captured by the enemy side, you can refuse to pay the ransom for their release, since they are unable to plan against you while imprisoned. There are no diplomatic penalties for doing these things, except the prestige malus you get if you actually lose battles in the attempt.
    • Alternatively, making them your lord spiritual and sending them to proselytize in hostile pagan realms, making them spymaster and sending them off to study technology, making them steward and having them collect taxes, making them marshal and having them train troops, or making them chancellor and having them forge claims, can have similar results, as all of which can result in either imprisonment by foreign rulers (studying technology, proselyting, or fabricating claims), or death/injury by event (collecting taxes or training troops).
    • As another way to get rid of people without blame, but with rather low consistency, is to send them to lead troops or perform a council job in any county with an ongoing epidemic, which significantly increases their odds of catching that disease.
  • The Usurper: Usurping titles by pressing claims on them (typically forged by your chancellor) is the single most common way you will expand your realm. Titles of duke tier or above can also be usurped peacefully as long as you control at least 51% of their de jure territory. In the second game, toppling your liege in this manner (or having your claim pressed by your liege) will even trigger an event where you become known as "Player Character the Usurper" for the rest of your life.
  • Vestigial Empire:
    • Say goodbye to the Empire of Byzantium note  (Unless it stops being vestigial.)
    • To a lesser extent, the Holy Roman Empire Kingdom of Germany as well.
    • More generally, you don't lose a title until it's taken by a rival claimant, usurped by whoever already holds most of its de jure lands, or you lose all of your lands. Even if the Byzantine Empire is reduced to Constantinople and surrounded by hostile Turks, so long as no one else has enough Byzantine land to declare itself Basileus, then Byzantium will remain an empire.
  • Vicariously Ambitious: An important part of the game is setting up plots and plans that may not directly benefit your characters in the short term but can be exploited easily by their heirs.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Much, much more difficult than the alternative.
    • Rebellious vassals mean that you are forced either to tyrannically crush dissidents or face part of your realm breaking away, and opportunistic states are a constant danger, meaning keeping the peace while maintaining order is on its own difficult. However, it is there.
    • Keeping low taxes on your peasants and burghers, stubbornly sticking through thick and thin to popular law, gifting your vassals the money they need to develop their lands, establish high-level hospitals, even at great personal expense, (and even giving money to nobles outside your kingdom if you have provided all that your developing kingdom needs) caring and nurturing your offspring and ensuring they are provided for, and even vassalising a state which has been attacked by a larger one and paying for its preservation via tribute to the attacker, it's possible to be nice. It's just not easy.
    • Entirely possible. Marry your daughter to the poor courtier whom she fell in love with instead of the sixty-year old duke who has been widowed twice, show compassion to your underlings, etc. You will usually see whether you wound up living up to your environment's expectations if you gain the Canonized trait upon passing on.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Pretty intensive. You start playing and then after a few hours of gameplay you realize you've been spending most of your time and effort assassinating six-year-olds so that your literally idiotic inbred nephew can inherit the throne of Bavaria, among other things. This game is essentially to 4X games what Dwarf Fortress is to city management sims, both in complexity and cruelty potential.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Going overboard with said cruelty, however, can result in serious setbacks, either by directly provoking a revolt against you, by giving your character certain traits that grant significant relationship penalties to all characters (like Kinslayer), or by applying a "Tyranny" vassal relationship penalty.
  • Video Game Historical Revisionism: Inevitable, and as usual for Paradox the extent to which it applies is a topic of debate. One major deviation, however, falls under Acceptable Breaks from Reality since it would be something of a Game-Breaker. When a Mongol Great Khan died, all other Mongol military activity was to cease and the leaders were obliged to return with their armies to Mongolia to see the "election" of the successor. Historically, this was the only thing saving Western Europe from annihilation when Ogedei Khan died in 1241. This rule does not apply to the Mongols in either Crusader Kings.
    • In particular, the fact that some of Yemen's rulers in earlier start dates are completely fictional has attracted controversy.
  • Villain Protagonist: We call them "successful rulers."
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Well-loved rulers can sometimes get away with blatant acts of tyranny if the penalties the acts would incur are outweighed enough by relationship bonuses from other areas. The effects are cumulative, though, so it's still not a good idea to go overboard.
  • Voluntary Vassal: It's possible for a holder of a lower-tier title (i.e. Count or Duke) to swear fealty to a holder of a higher-tier title (i.e. Duke or King, respectively) without outside prompting. The opposite is also possible: a higher-tier ruler can offer to peacefully vassalize lower-level rulers who are de jure part of his realm. It's rare for it to happen outside of player control, however.
  • Warrior Prince: See Royals Who Actually Do Something above. Those with high Martial scores and the right set of traits or acquired skills tend to be particularly good at it, though. The Way of Life DLC in the sequel additionally allows your character to pick the War focus, which basically means that your character orients his (or, rarely, her) lifestyle around becoming one.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Vassals can band together in an alliance against their liege for various petty reasons. However, vassals will do this even if they are being invaded by a larger outside threat, such as the Mongols.
  • We Have Reserves: The AI for some reason thinks its funny to send soldiers that just spent a month marching and retreating back into battle, no matter how many times they have already been smacked down.
    • It does this because there is always a chance that if you are besieging a province, an attacking army will manage to interrupt the siege and set it right back to square one. If you're defending or have beaten off an invading AI opponent they will hang back and let mounting debt and attrition, the first of which they don't suffer from, weaken the player instead.
  • The Wise Prince: Entirely possible. Make sure to train you heirs with enough positive virtues and choose the relatively non-evil options and you're set. Choosing the "Rulership" focus in the sequel (with Way of Life active) also helps if you're out to craft your character into a wise and well-respected ruler.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: Played straight in that there are only so many individual portraits for each culture.

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