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aka: Crusader Kings II

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Many are Called, Few are Chosen.

"I thought I was a moral person. I was wrong."
Steam review of Crusader Kings II
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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, and a demo has also been released. 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.

Paradox has released numerous expansion packs for CKII, each focusing on different aspects:

  • Sword of Islam, released in June 2012, expands the map, introduces new mechanics, and features playable Muslims, with different rules to reflect their different culture.
  • Legacy of Rome, released in October 2012, focuses on the Byzantine Empire and the Eastern Orthodox church.
  • Sunset Invasion, released in November 2012, introduces an Alternate History where the Aztec Empire invades Medieval Europe. In no way intended to be taken seriously.
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  • The Republic, released in January 2013, makes merchant republics playable and adds mechanics to simulate patrician families and republican elections.
  • The Old Gods, released in May 2013, makes Pagans and Zoroastrians playable, gives them unique events and mechanics, and adds another start date in 867 AD.
  • Sons of Abraham, released in November 2013, which focuses on Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, most notably adding the Jewish Khazar dynasty into the campaign map and including the College of Cardinals for papal elections, as well as finally making it possible to take your character on pilgrimage.
  • Rajas of India, released in March 2014, expands the map eastward to include India and much of Central Asia. It adds three new religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism), Jungle terrain, new events and mechanics to account for Indian cultural and religious beliefs, and war elephants. Some additional content for the East African Miaphysite kingdoms that was originally intended to be part of its own expansion are also included, added with the free update to the base game scheduled to come at the same time as the new DLC.
  • Charlemagne, released October 14th 2014, which extends the start date back to 769 with a string of events following Charlemagne's rise to power. And that's just Western and Central Europe. In the Eastern Roman Empire, the Iconoclast controversy had been raging on for some time, and further east, the Abbasid Caliphate was at the zenith of its power. It also introduces a chronicle detailing a dynasty's conquests and actions in the style of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and more customization options for kingdom names and banners.
  • Way of Life, released December 16th 2014, which gives the player more control over the roleplaying aspects of the game by adding the option to select a particular area of life for characters to focus on, as well as additional features such as duels and more player control over certain character interactions (such as seducing new lovers or spying on specific people).
  • Horse Lords, released July 14th 2015, adds unique mechanics for nomadic steppe tribes such as a horde mechanic, clan politics, and the ability to gain income by taking landed nobles as tributaries and through controlling the ancient Silk Road.
  • Conclave, released February 2, 2016, adds additional court intrigue, legal, and diplomatic functionality, which ties with the new council mechanics and favors mechanics, expands education of children, and allows you to rent out your armies as mercenaries.
  • The Reaper's Due, released August 25, 2016, adds more depth to the spread and severity of diseases, allows the player to take steps to mitigate them (such as building Royal Hospitals and sending your court into seclusion), and gives players incentives to focus on peaceful development.
  • Monks and Mystics, released March 7, 2017, adds increased depth to religion mechanics, allows characters to join societies (including monastic orders, cults, and heretical sects), and gives players new jobs to assign their councilors to.
  • Jade Dragon, released November 16, 2017, adds a playable Tibet in the Himalayas and adds China as an offscreen superpower that rulers can negotiate with. China can provide powerful boons to rulers, but it might also decide that the western barbarians need to be civilized through military force. The accompanying patch also expanded Zoroastrian heresies and added new casus belli.
  • Holy Fury, released on November 13, 2018, focuses on religion and adds revamped crusade mechanics, pagan warrior lodge societies, legendary bloodlines, sainthood and coronation events, additional succession laws, and options to play on a randomized and/or shattered map.

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.

For game mods, see FanWorks.Crusader Kings.


This video-game provides examples of:

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    Tropes Present in Multiple Games 
  • 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.
  • Aerith and Bob: A character's given name is determined by their culture, not that of their parents. A character usually inherits his father's culture, but has a small chance of either inheriting his mother's or identifying with that of the home province of the capital. This can lead to such oddities as a Christian crusader kingdom being led by a Catholic "King Muhammad." (Or in one reported case, a "King Honorius" after the Pope inadvertently fathered the King of Andalusia.)
    • The second game takes steps to avert this somewhat, as characters are more likely to inherit names from their ancestors, and the player can now choose whether to override an AI-selected name with something else. Some names are also restricted by religion; only a child of a particular religion will randomly receive that name.
    • The third game enables the naming of children after their father, their mother, their father's parents, their mother's parents, an even more distant ancestor, a name from their father's culture, a name from their mother's culture, or a name from their family's religion.
  • 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 to 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.
  • All Myths Are True: Just about every ruler of dubious historicity and every distant dynastic connection only attested in sources written centuries after the fact is given the benefit of the doubt and represented in the game. For example, ninth-century Lithuania is ruled by the Palemonids, most Irish counts are linked to Conn of the Hundred Battles, the future kings of Sweden are said to be descended from the legendary Viking Ragnar Lodbrok, and the Arpad kings of Hungary are presented as relatives of the Khans of Old Great Bulgaria. Justified by the fact that the lack of sources in most of these cases means that the alternative is just making people up entirely, and that in the eras covered, the people involved did take such claims seriously. Following the Charlemagne DLC, Ragnarr Lodbrok is actually playable.
  • 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.
    • The sequel formerly placed even more emphasis on making good marriages by folding the alliance system into the marriage system, though the 2.5.1 patch concurrent with Conclave altered this: marriage ties are now a bonus to your ability to negotiate with other rulers for an alliance rather than the sole raison d'etre.
  • 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. The one example that takes the cake, however, is the Aztec Empire of the Sunset Invasion DLC, which not only shows up centuries early but also conquers most of the Americas offscreen before suddenly invading the Atlantic coast of Western Europe in the thirteenth century (or thereabouts). Bear in mind that this is meant to be every bit as ridiculous as it sounds and was done to counterbalance the Mongol invasions, which disproportionately affect the eastern side of the map.
  • 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.
    • In the second games, 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, not to mention the Charlemagne (769) and Old Gods (867) bookmarks. 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.
    • It is apparently also possible to found settlements that wouldn't exist until the 20th century (f.e. Jewish Moshavim in the Holy Land, complete with Hebrew names).
    • Iceland is inhabited in the second game's 769 start date, despite the fact that Iceland was actually uninhabited at this period in history - the first permanent inhabitants didn't settle there until about a century later. Enforced due to game mechanics not allowing for entirely uninhabited provinces that aren't impassable wastelands or ocean. This was fixed in a later patch where it was changed to a Catholic theocracy- to represent the Papars, a group of Irish monks who are believed to have inhabited the island even before Norse settlement.
    • 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].
    • A downplayed example: Catholic and Orthodox Christianity are always shown as being separate entities, and if you are Orthodox, you can even mend the schism yourself. Even in the 769 bookmark - almost three centuries before the schism occurred in real life. Some extension mods replace this with "Chalcedonian Christianity", but this is debatable, too: while ostensibly the same church, eastern and western Christianity had already developed significant practical differences, which were magnified after the foundation of the Carolingian Empire and Charlemagne's alliance with the Bishop of Rome (the office that became what is now the Catholic Papacy). The problem, in short, is that both portrayals are simplifications of a complex, dynamic, and multifaceted relationship — the question isn't so much "Which one is right?" as "Which one is 'less wrong'?"
      • Some mods do a arguably more accurate version of this: While they have the two Churches start out as a unified Chalcedonian Christianity, each priest of the religion automatically gets a trait indicating which branch (Latin or Greek) they belong to, simulating the fact that they were officially the same church, but that the two branches were already significantly different.
    • The presence of syphilis is in the second game is entirely anachronistic — the disease was first attested more than forty years after the game's end date and is considered most likely to have been brought to Europe from the New World by Columbus's men.
      • In Reaper's Due the game hedges its bets by modelling both theories of syphilis's origins, using two syphilis traits in the game's files, European Great Pox, and the more serious epidemic of Aztec Disease, which occurs if Sunset Invasion is active.
    • 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)
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The map itself can come across as this, depending on your point of view. It can be very unnerving to see religious enemies or the Mongol hordes painting the map as they advance towards you.
  • 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.
  • 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). Still:
    • The 'Open' succession rule (which is the only one available to Muslims in the second game) is based entirely on a succession law employed by the Ottoman Empire in the 14th to 16th centuries (mostly outside the game's timeframe), and has no bearing on any historical succession practices by any other major Muslim realm. Historically speaking, the Caliphate practiced Elective Monarchy for much of its early existence (this is one of the main splits between Sunni and Shia Islam), and independent realms usually practised primogeniture or seniority succession (as did the Ottomans, once the repeated Succession Crisis of Open succession had caused too many civil wars).
    • The Byzantine Empire is depicted as being reliant on feudal levies like the rest of Medieval Europe. In reality, the Byzantine Empire was such an economic powerhouse that they could afford to maintain a huge professional standing army (they did use levies, but to a much lesser extent). Justinian I was in fact able to reconquer most of the Western Roman Empire's lost territories, but the expense made it impossible for his successors to hold them.
  • 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). Still:
    • The game's portrayal of European Christianity in starts before 1066 is the source of arguments over whether it's appropriate to have Catholicism and Orthodoxy be separate denominations before the Great Schism (when the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch excommunicated each other in 1054). Truth is, it's hazy: while in the earliest starts particularly they were officially considered the same church, there were already differences in practice and doctrine such as autocephalous national Orthodox churchesnote  and giving services in the vernacularnote  Of particular note is Orthodox characters' ability to mend the Great Schismnote  at earlier dates than it actually took place.
    • Outside of Christianity, the game conflates Germanic paganism with Norse paganism (they were related but distinct, especially at the early start dates), and provides little flavor to distinguish Shi'a and Ibadi Islam compared to Sunni Islam.
    • The Yazidis are considered a Sunni heresy in game, despite being completely distinct and independent of Islam in real life. The same issue is present for Manichaeism, which is implemented as a heresy of Zoroastrianism rather than a separate faith. To mitigate this somewhat, Yazidism gets its own set of holy sites and unique creation conditions for its equivalent to the caliph. Jade Dragon likewise gives Manichaeism and other Zoroastrian heresies its own mechanics.
    • On the flip side, Bön is implemented as an organized, pagan religion distinct from the Dharmic/eastern religious branch and counts Buddhists as heathens. While real-life Bön do claim the religion is older than Buddhism's arrival in Tibet, in practice there is no evidence of its existence prior to the 11th century and its current-day incarnation is so intertwined with Buddhist rituals and thought so as to make it more of a Buddhist sect than a distinct religion.
    • With Jade Dragon, the absence of Confucianism/Neo-Confucianism is somewhat noticeable, especially as the entire system of Chinese Meritocracy (which is present in-game) is based on its precepts. All Chinese characters are instead Taoist. This is most likely because creating two new religions entirely for the purpose of an off-screen faction (neither really caught on outside China) would be excessive.
    • The portrayal of the Messalians as not only allowing, but encouraging incest, and having Lucifer listed as one of their Good gods. These are based on claims made by people who were denouncing the sect, who also claimed that they would then take any child born of incest and offer it to Satan, after which they would eat it. Modern scholars agree that these accusations are false.
    • African Paganism is the in-game representation of the paganistic native beliefs of several ethnic groups living in modern-day Niger and Chad, including the Mandé, Hausa and Songhai people. Its selection of deities as of Holy Fury includes Anansi and Vodun patrons, which are features of native religions from the Gulf of Guinea some ways away. This geographical distance applied to Europe would mean the Bolghars (early-game Tengri pagans in modern-day Romania and Bulgaria) would be able to worship Odin and Ukko.
  • 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.
    • In the second game, creating an empire as a feudal king is surprisingly this. II features a mechanic knows as "de jure shift", which when successful increases the amount of levies you can raise from a vassal whose capital lies in the region which your primary title has just assimilated. However, a kingdom may only assimlate duchies, while an empire may only assimilate kingdoms. Since kingdoms are often larger than duchies, you have to spend more effort conquering in order to secure a kingdom vs a duchy. Also, the bonus from being in the same de jure empire (which assimilated kingdoms count as) is smaller than the bonus from being in the same kingdom (which assimilated duchies count as).
  • 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 (Charlemagne himself does), and the huge mother-to-child relationship bonus is very beneficial here. Muslim rulers can appoint one of their secondary wives as well. Conclave takes it further by allowing you to enact laws granting expanded rights to women, including allowing them to take council posts other than spymaster.
    • Inverted for any Pagan faith with the Enatic Clans doctrine, which limits inheritance to female-only or female-preference, bans men from the council, disallows granting landed titles to men who don't already hold land, restricts most gender-limited minor titles, such as commanders to women, and allows ruling women to take men as consorts, similar to the concubinage practiced by most Pagan faiths and tribal and nomadic realms. At this point, men have little role in society other than providing genetic material to produce offspring and giving a small stat boost to their wives.
  • 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:
    • In the first game 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.
    • In the second game, bastards cannot inherit unless a parent legitimizes them (the AI rarely does this, as it makes legitimate children and spouses very angry), but do inherit claims to parents' titles (particularly if the father is known) which may lead them to try to overthrow ruling half-siblings by faction or adventure.
  • 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.
    • The plot mechanic introduced in the sequel means everyone is plotting against everyone. That includes heirs, wives and brothers-in-law all attempting to stab you in the back simultaneously. If you're not the plotting type, your poor king can sometimes come across as the Only Sane Man in a cast of psychopaths.
    • The Sword of Islam expansion compounds on this by allowing up to four marriages for Muslim rulers (and punishing powerful rulers who have less than four marriages), all of which can produce legitimate children. This means a lot of plotting by wives trying to maneuver their own child into becoming heirs. Another notable addition is the decadence mechanic for Muslim dynasties, which can potentially cause problems for dynasties with unlanded males. The only things worse than plotting family members are plotting family members with land and armies...and family members who disgrace their family name by sitting around the palace drinking and chasing servant girls.
    • The Old Gods expansion makes Zoroastrians playable - not only are sibling and parent-child marriages among them permitted, but arehighly encouraged, netting a nice piety and vassal opinion boost if your ruler enters such a marriage. Unlike other faiths, children of incestuous Zoroastrian unions are five times less likely to have the "Inbred" trait, but five times more likely to have the "Lunatic" trait.
  • 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. The sequel extends the map farther south and adds the Duchy of Axum and Kingdom of Abyssinia, which are only slightly less doomed: Axum/Semien has the added problem of being a Jewish state surrounded by heavily armed Christians.
  • 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!"
    • As noted below, a patch for the sequel added the "Divine Blood" parameter specifically to model this for the benefit of modders and for characters worshipping Zoroastrianism.
    • The second game's DLC expansion Way of Life finally allows players of all faiths to pick the Seduction focus and try and woo any character they desire - including their siblings (and marry them if you're a Zoroastrian). Mind you, it's a lot harder to pull off, and your sibling *will* call you out on it if you fail. If you are successful, though, you will be able to marry your sibling/lover and nobody will object. The Power of Love, maybe?
    • With Sons of Abraham, Messalianism, an obscure Gnostic Christian heresy, gets the same Divine Blood mechanic that Zoroastrians get, but they don't get concubines unless they're tribal, meaning even higher odds of inbred heirs.
    • With Holy Fury, any Pagan faith can gain the Divine Blood mechanics on reformation, and Zunism gets a special version that combines it with polygamy.
  • 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.
    • In a nod to the historical Caligula, rulers with the "Lunatic" trait in the sequel can, among other things, appoint their horse to important council positions.
    • Taken even further with a particularly rare event chain added in Reaper's Due, which allows you to end up meeting Caligula's actual horse, Incitatus (and yes, that would make him extremely old he is immortal)
  • 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. In the second game, if you were in love with your spouse and s/he dies, you may get an event allowing you to either swear off sex in her memory (granting the trait "Celibate"), or go out partying and try to forget her (granting the overall much better trait "Lustful").
  • Challenging the Chief: Attacking a coreligionist in either game most often requires some kind of claim on their title. In the second game, there's an alternative method in the factions system, which allows vassals to band together against their liege over all manner of grievances.
  • 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 implicitely 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.
    • Not as bad in the sequel, where underage or otherwise incapable-to-rule leaders will be appointed a regent to rule in their stead. However, this introduces new problems.
    • Averted with the merchant republics and nomads in the second game. While children may become heads of their patrician houses or clans, a child can never be elected Doge or become Khagan.
    • A specific example from the second game would be the "Rise of The Shia" event, which triggers if the Shia Caliphate does not exist. It spawns a large doomstack of Shi'ite rebels against a random Sunni ruler, lead by a very young Sayyid who claims to be the Shi'ite Caliph.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: In Crusader Kings, 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. In Crusader Kings II, vassals with the "Ambitious" trait have distinct tendencies this way.
  • 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). Crusader Kings II has them appear as (effectively) mercenaries, whom you hire with Piety instead of Gold and who are only available when fighting infidels. They refuse to attack co-religionists.
    • With the new Sons of Abraham expansion for the sequel, they are once again independent states, and can be a lot more important. Donating money to them gives piety, but you can take a loan as well. Occasionally they make requests for courtiers to join their orders or the rights to build castles in your territory, and its hard to refuse if you haven't paid the debt. If they get too powerful, banishment is an option, but does NOT reflect well on your character's reputation.
  • 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.
  • Corrupt Church: Potentially.
    • The "Black Bishop" achievement for the second game encourages players to install their own corrupt pope. This might not be the wisest course of action as far as moral authority is concerned.
  • 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).
  • Deadly 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.
    • One of the DLCs for the second game, Sword Of Islam, actually turns this trope into a game mechanic - each Muslim dynasty has a decadence score, and having males of your dynasty sitting in your palace being idle, boozing and whoring (and thus having the Decadent trait) makes your entire family look bad and invites more righteous dynasties to overthrow you.
  • Death by Childbirth: Can happen occasionally in the first game. The newborn usually dies along with her.
    • As of Sons of Abraham and Patch 2.0, the second game also has this.
  • 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.
  • Decapitated Army:
    • Played straight by peasant revolts and adventurer invasions; kill or capture the leader, it's curtains for the rebel scum. Also, in the second game capturing the enemy ruler automatically gives you 100% warscore, allowing you to demand he surrender and accede to your demands in exchange for his freedom.
    • 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.
    • The second game kills "vassal flipping" stone dead; you can't seize a vassal's territory by force without defeating their liege. However, with the Old Gods DLC, if you play as a pagan, you can choose an ambition to become king of X. You can then use the subjugation casus belli to conquer Kingdom X without the time penalty. Every count you defeat gets a +75 opinion modifier for basically having the crap beaten out of them.
    • Also in the second game, crushing a major revolt against your rule gives a (brief) relationship boost to all of your vassals, as they are suitably impressed or cowed into submission.
  • 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 demoniacally 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.
    • The introduction of artifacts in the second game swings it towards the Magic side, as owning the Seal of Solomon will prevent a character from becoming possessed. Of course, that could just be the placebo effect.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The addition of baronies and several preset courtiers in the sequel introduces even more famous families: the Romanovs begin as High Chiefs of the Samoyeds, the Hohenzollerns begin as the barons of Zollern and the Trastamaras (one of the royal families of Spain before the Habsburgs inherited the lot) begin as lowly courtiers in Galicia. Heck, even the Pushkins appear with a child courtier in Rostov.
  • 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. CKII does, however, come with a decent tutorial to at least edge you into the game somewhat.
  • 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. In the sequel, the developers added a distance penalty around the time the Rajas of India DLC came out to prevent characters from most of Europe from interacting directly with Africans or Indians. On the other hand, the king of Poland can still reign in Krakow, marry the Queen of France (residing in Paris) and impregnate her while he's technically leading a Crusade in Jerusalem.
  • 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.
    • Played straight by the Mongols, who never take attrition damage. This is a big part of why they're considered Demonic Spiders.
    • Crusader Kings II adds opinion penalties for having vassal levies raised too long.
    • With the 1.10 patch, low-tech pagan lands have very low supply. Therefore, a catholic army of 7000 can get reduced to 2000 or less in less than a year because the supply for the land is 800 with a castle garrison of 1200.
  • Elective Monarchy: Elective inheritance, along the lines of the Holy Roman Empire, is one option for succession in both games. In the sequel, it's a good way of keeping your vassals happy, but can be troublesome to have your chosen successor actually be the chosen successor. The 1.09 patch added Tanistry, an alternative style of elective inheritance for Celtic cultures which limits the candidates to the sovereign's dynasty, but greatly expands the criteria for who can vote.
  • 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.
    • There's also the Fatimid Caliphate and Seljuk Sultanate/Abbasid Caliphate which are comparable in power on the Muslim side.
    • With the release of Legacy of Rome, it's now possible for the Byzantine Empire to reform the original Roman Empire.
    • As of The Old Gods, you can now take direct control over the Mongols, whose leader on their historical appearance holds an Emperor-level title.
    • You can technically establish an empire at any time as long as you control a 80% of its de jure territories and have the money and piety to pay for the title. There are even some "hypothetical" empires like Carpathia (Hungary, Wallachia, & Bulgaria) and the Wendish Empire (Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, parts of Russia) that represent things that did not exist, but could, in theory, have.
    • As of Charlemagne, players with enough holdings can create a custom empire from scratch.
    • Although many Empires may rise and fall over the course of a playthrough, which of them are really The Empire trope with its evil connotations to the player entirely depends on their situation. An Iberian Catholic in an early start might fear the seemingly unstoppable Umayyads, for example, despite the fact that in our history they quickly splintered in the face of the Reconquista.
    • In a more abstract sense, certain religions can start gaining steam and end up completely dominating the map, leading to a hegemonic spiritual authority, even if they aren't necessarily politically united. This most often happens with Catholicism, which already dominates almost all of Europe and has the opportunity to grab tons of land from the Muslims in Crusades.
  • The Emperor: "Emperor" is the highest-level title possible in the second game and is able to hold "mere" kings as vassals. Most of the empires listed above are led by such a figure, including the co-Trope Naming Byzantines and Holy Romans. Exactly what flavour of Emperor a character is depends on their stats and traits.
  • 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. It's that kind of game, really.
    • This tends to happen a lot more often in the sequel - if your ruler gives his heir a title, the heir will occasionally attempt to quicken his ascension. If a ruler has two sons and only one can inherit, expect a lot of murders to happen as both princes try to out-evil each other.
    • This becomes an even bigger problem in Sword of Islam - Before the decadence mechanic was reworked later on, Muslim rulers need to make sure all their male relatives have lots of lands and armies or risk their dynasty appearing corrupt and decadent, which also means gives them much more ammunition for potential throne-stealing shenanigans. After the reworking, male relatives no longer automatically generate decadence (only doing so if they have the Decadent trait).
  • Explosive Breeder: Any character who practices polygamy. Also 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. And if you have the Way of Life addition in the second game, the master seducer lifestyle will give a dedicated philanderer a shot at topping Ramses II and his 156 children even with the soft cap that kicks in after the first 30 or so kids.
  • 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. In a meta-example for the second game, the Karlings (the family of Charlemagne, who exists in the 769 start) are so hated by players that Paradox Interactive used to sell a promotional t-shirt depicting a player wiping out their family tree.
  • 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.
    • This becomes especially noticable the earlier you start a game. It's not uncommon to start the game in the Charlemagne date and reach 1453 and see the Abbasid empire ruling over the entire Middle East, Western Europe divided between West and East Francia and Russia ruled by Finns.
  • 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.
    • The 867 start date introduced by The Old Gods splits up England, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, among many others, and includes historical kingdom-founders Alfred the Great of England and Haraldr Fairhair of Norway.
    • The Charlemagne DLC for the second game allows both players and the computer to create custom kingdoms and empires by holding enough duchies or kingdoms and having enough money and prestige. So there's nothing stopping you from forming the Kingdom of Badassia by grabbing pieces of Germany, France and Lotharingia. In terms of historical founders, it also allows you to play as the title character and try to replicate his feat of founding what would eventually become the Holy Roman Empire.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: While challenging, you can choose to start (or, through unkind events, end up as) some nobody vassal sevring several tiers of surperior lords, and through clever politics and favors, work your way up to top dog.
  • 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.
    • Similarly to adventurers, Viking invaders can state a conquest goal. Afterwards, soldiers and Viking heroes will join their cause over the next two years. They can attack at any time they want, but since their main targets are powerful Christian and Muslim kingdoms, they should better wait the full two years.
    • The army size of nomads is dependent on their clan's population, which in turn is depending on the size of their territory. So a clan that just conquered a large kingdom will have to wait a couple of years so their population can grow so they can make use of their new land.
    • 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.
  • 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. Some of the more popular ones include:
  • 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.
    • In the second game, if a ruler has the kind and just traits, he might be known as "the Good"
  • 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.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: You get a lot of prestige for every Duchy, Kingdom, and Empire title created and inherited, so there's an incentive to collect as many as possible. However, your vassals start to hate you if you have too many high-tier titles, especially Duchy titles.
  • 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 in the original, but Crusader Kings II allows you to loosen the restriction a little and even (if your characters belong to the Basque, Sumpa, or Zhangzhung cultures or Cathar, Messalian, or Mazdaki heresies) adopt full gender equality in the succession. Also, the addition of matrilineal marriages means that a woman can inherit a title and pass it on to her children which count as a part of her own dynasty rather then the father's.
    • Even Crusader Kings II, it remains strictly enforced for merchant republics and nomads, which can only ever have strictly agnatic (male-only) succession for both the realm as a whole, and the heads of the houses/clans, no matter what their religion, laws, or bloodline would make possible for realms with other governments.
    • Conclave introduced new realm realm laws that allow you to defy this trope by increasing the legal status of the women, up to point where agnatic-cognatic (male-preference, rather than male-only) and absolute cognatic (no gender preference) succession can be instituted in realms that would not normally be allowed to institute those laws for religious or cultural reasons, and passing these laws allows even religions that cannot normally have matrilineal marriages, such as Islam, to form them. Alternatively, the laws can be lowered to enforce the Heir Club for Men or as close to it as the culture and religion of the realm allow.
    • Holy Fury introduces bloodlines, one of which, the 'Blood of Bayajidda and Magajiva' (carried by the Hausa rulers of central Africa), allows enatic-cognatic (female-preference) succession to be instituted, thus inverting the trope.
    • Defied by the Equality and Harmonious (Bön only) Pagan reformation doctrines, which strictly enforces absolute cognatic succession and a maximized legal status of women.
    • Inverted by the Enatic Clans reformation doctrine, which enforces either female-only or female-preference succession.
    • III allows the global aversion or inversion with global game rules that can set all faiths to enforce gender equality or make every faith that would normally be male dominated instead be female dominated, which in turn affects the available succession laws. These gender dominance doctrines can also be set when creating a new heresy or reforming a pagan faith.
  • 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. Crusader Kings II allows you to deliberately legitimize your bastards even if they aren't particularly noteworthy.
  • The Heretic:
    • Can crop up sometimes in the first game, although they don't really affect the game much.
    • The second vastly expands on it, allowing you to convert all of Europe to Catharism (or any heresy, really) if you're up to the task.
    • Sons of Abraham further expands on heresies, both by providing unique game-mechanics (for instance, Catharism can have female bishops, while a Fraticelli Pope is a less-powerful duke-tier ruler which means he can be more easily vassalized) and by allowing a heresy to become the mainstream (turning the old orthodoxy into a heresy) if it becomes dominant enough over the 'parent' — meaning that after a while the 'convert all of Europe to Catharism' game would turn from Cathar heresy spreading in the face of Catholic orthodoxy to Cathar orthodoxy spreading in the face of Catholic heresy...
    • There's even an option to reverse the Great Schism (the split between the Roman Catholic [Western] and Orthodox [Eastern] churches that ended with the Pope and the Byzantine Ecumenical Patriarch excommunicating each other) if you play as an Orthodox ruler and reconquer major holy sites including Rome. This makes all versions of Catholicism into Orthodox heresies.
  • 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.
  • The Horde: The three Mongol hordes, plus the Seljuk Turks.
  • Hordes from the East: See also The Horde; all of these factions 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.
  • 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. Muslims in the second game need to avoid this so that their family doesn't look corrupt and decadent. If you don't have enough duties for all your relatives, there are other options.
  • 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.
    • The Zoroastrian rulers, enabled in "The Old Gods", are allowed to marry sisters, daughters, mothers and such, and in fact get a relation bonus to all their Zoroastrian vassals and 100 piety if they do so. Thankfully, they are allowed to keep concubines, to produce non-inbred inheritors.
    • Outright encouraged by the "Family First" achievement, which is earned by, as any religion with the Divine Marriage mechanic (Zoroastrianism, Messalianism, or any reformed Pagan faith with the Divine Blood or Dawnbreakers doctrine), having your sibling, parent, and child all as spouses or consorts.
    • An entire event chain is added with Seducer focuses, both for targeting and being the target of a close relative's seduction. You can be disgusted by it, unimpressed but not repulsed, or weirdly into it because it's taboo.
  • 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.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Schizophrenic and crazed characters are... really dangerous.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Crusader Kings II replaces friends and the loyalty meter with an unilateral (you can like someone who hates the very soil on which you stand) relationship meter. Romantic love remains as a separate modifier applied to the relationship.
  • Karma Houdini:
  • 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.
    • This was nerfed in the sequel; a genetic system still exists but there's a greater element of randomisation with regards to congenital/inheritable traits. Still, a eugenics-minded player can implement large-scale extensive breeding projects to produce the perfect heir.
    • Until the 2.5.2 patch, educating children in the Conclave DLC could lead to them developing positive traits like 'strong' or 'genius', or negative ones like 'slow' or 'imbecile', which are inheritable. The patch added a set of non-inheritable equivalent traits to stand in for the congenital ones.
    • Still possible. The new traits are just different levels on the Stupid to Intelligent scale. The event can, based on the intelligence of the educator, potentially raise or lower the ward's innate intelligence, developing Quick or even Genius if they've already got some int boosting traits (like Shrewd or Erudite), though typically only by 1 step. So nothing to Quick, or Quick to Genius. Or getting rid of negative intelligence traits like dull. Of course if the educator has a low intelligence is also possible to downgrade the ward's intelligence.
  • 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; absent in the second until the 'Sons Of Abraham' expansion.
  • 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.
  • 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."
    • The Reaper's Due for the second game adds a little bit of flavor to executions, with the method varying according to culture and circumstances; for instance, Indian rulers can sentence their victims to be crushed to death by elephants and Norse rulers can have their victims made into a blood eagle. The public patch that was released alongside it also overhauls the succession screen to include a small epitaph for your late ruler based on their traits and achievements.
    • A later patch for the second game added new "death screams" and other sound effects that play when a character dies, tailored to fit their specific end.
  • 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).
  • 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.
    • In the sequel, "May" Muslim rulers (always male) can reap considerable benefits by having such relationships. By having 1 or 2 wives (out of 4) in the "December" age group, young Muslim rulers can reduce the number of sons they have, which help with issues of succession and rivalries come the next generation.
    • Also in the sequel, characters with the Seduction focus can attempt to seduce other characters who are significantly older or younger than themselves. Getting caught in the act gives a slightly greater general opinion hit than other forms of adultery, as the age gap makes the relationship extra-scandalous (though not quite as much as that from seducing a close family member).
  • 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 almost all of the three major divisions all the way up to the generally-accepted end date of 1453. Only the fifth through the middle eighth centuries AD aren't represented at present.
  • 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: While love affairs are possible for Christians, concubines are common and expected among Pagan, tribal, nomadic, Dharmic, and Zoroastrian rulers.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • For CKII, currently the converter only allows for CKII save games to be ported forward to Europa Universalis IV. However, considering the expanded gameplay of CKII and the earlier bookmark starts in The Old Gods and Charlemagne DLCs, this leads to over 1,000 years worth of gameplay, edging out over the above by about 50 years or so.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 for anyone other than merchant republics, 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 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.
  • Power Creep: Christianity was originally probably the most latently powerful religion in the game, making up for its offensive disadvantage compared to Muslims and Pagans with an impressive edge in defensive game and remarkable stability in peacetime, while its evangelical nature meant it would often spread all on its own across the rest of Europe even in 789 and 867 starting dates. Various updates, however, have buffed Muslims to the point that they're no longer noticeably more susceptible to self-laceration than Christians are, while Pagans received enough of an upgrade that even offensive pagans are no longer a Glass Cannon, while defensive pagans would, when left on their own, often conquer most of Europe. The most recent expansion, Holy Fury is a good example: While Reformation of any pagan religion has become a downright Game-Breaker, Catholics received instead the Baptism mechanic, which would often cause Catholic kings and Emperors to bankrupt themselves in an effort to get all their children baptized by the pope, and the coronation mechanic, which negated realm stability further, because getting a decent coronation is surprisingly difficult, while the Byzantine Empire, formerly one of the most formidable power blocks in the center of the map, lost much of its territory to newly created pagans.
    • This applies even more to feudal government (including Iqta). Originally desirable for everybody for its defensive advantages and offering the only chance of a self-sustaining economy, recent updates have buffed Tribalism and Nomadic Government (in terms of military might in particular) to the point that they're actually arguably stronger than plain old feudalism.
  • 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. Muslims and pagans aren't restricted in this manner, though Muslims lose piety if fighting someone of the same denomination. However, with the exception of the Invasion casus belli, unlike other Paradox games, wars are actually fought exclusively over the wargoal, and the aggressor is at no direct territorial risk (though they bare the indirect risk of becoming more vulnerable to retaliatory or third-party wars).
    • Averted by Pagans and Muslims, who may wage wars for single bordering counties (and any coastal county in diplomatic range for Germanic Pagans once the Viking Age has begun) without any sort of formal casus belli and with only minimal restrictions (Muslims must pay a small amount of piety to use their county conquest, while Pagans cannot use county conquest against co-religionists).
    • With Jade Dragon, rulers who cannot wage a county conquest war against a target can also avert this with the 'Border Dispute' "casus belli", which is an unjust conquest of a single county, which costs prestige for Pagans and money and piety for everyone else.
  • 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).
    • It's also possible to press the claim of a dynasty member on a neighbouring country, since it takes several years to pacify the conquered regions the family member will then be almost completely dependent on you for support and the +100 relationship bonus means that the ruler will usually be an ally for life.
    • It is also possible to establish more conventional, if less formal puppet states as tributaries, which are not bound by their overlord's laws like vassals and are not called to arms or inherited upon the death of either ruler, but have to pay high tax rates and receive protection.
  • 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.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Armies will almost universally loot and plunder besieged enemy holdings in wartime. There are two particular examples in the second game that stand out, though: Pagans and tribal rulers can raid their neighbors and sack settlements for extra loot even without declaring war, and steppe hordes can raze settled holdings they own to the ground to convert them into pasture for their herds.
  • Real-Time with Pause
  • 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. In Crusader Kings II, these were scrapped, and now every single character has a relationship value with every other character that is affected by a bewildering array of factors. Managing those scores is vital to both victory and survival.
    • 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, agressive 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.)
    • In the second game, merchant republics are this to each other by default, their leaders having a hefty opinion penalty to each other.
  • 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. In the second game, Zoroastrians and Messalians have all restrictions to marriage with close kin wiped away, and get bonuses to vassal relations and piety for incestuous marriages. To keep Zoroastrian families from descending into inbred messes, their men are allowed to keep three concubines for non-inbred but legitimate children, and the game code discreetly cheats by making inbred traits 75% less likely for children of Zoroastrian marriages (at the cost of making lunacy more likely for incestuous Zoroastrian marriages).
  • 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. It's especially important for Muslim rulers to actually do something, or else they risk looking weak and decadent.
  • 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. By becoming a seductress via the Seduction focus, a strong, attractive queen can have +90 opinion with all straight men and lesbian women, which is practically a "get out of jail free" card for all kinds of tyranny and borders on carte blanche to pass whatever laws you like, conscript nearly anyone into any plot you like, and successfully nominate whoever you wish as heir under Elective, Imperial, Tanistry, Eldership, or Elective Gavelkind succession.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Kind of a given since the game is a Wide Open Sandbox with no set victory conditions. Among them is trying to recreate certain actual historical occurrences, trying to convert all of Europe to some minor spin-off of Catholicism such as Catharism, and simply choosing to play as a very weak country.
  • 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. But the effects in CKII tend to make about half the sins into Cursed With Awesome (though this is arguably balanced out by the fact that (except Lustful) the corresponding virtues are still better traits to have than them):
    • 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).
    • Crusader Kings II explicitly flags the deadly sins and heavenly virtues with numbered icons in red and green respectively. With the reworking of the Decadence mechanic, Muslim males having any of the deadly sins has an increased chance of getting the Decadent trait.
  • 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 bonus piety is very useful to Muslims (who have enough wives to make up the difference and need piety to expand and control their dynasty) and 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. Again, very useful for Muslims who need every point they can get. Also useful in vassals, as long as you don't make them raise your children.
  • She Is the King:
    • While a secular female noble will have normal feminine titles, a female who holds a county or duchy while having the theocratic government (must receive the religious title first and requires Absolute Cognatic succession) will have the title of Prince-Bishop/Prince-Archbishop. If you then make her an Antipope or she otherwise gains a kingdom or even somehow becomes the Pope for real, she'll become King-Bishop. If she makes it all the way to the empire tier, she'll hold the title Emperor-Bishop.
    • If a female Pagan with a theocratic government ever holds an empire-tier title, she will use the title of Emperor.
  • Shout-Out(subpage)
  • 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.
    • Legacy Of Rome in the sequel makes it more severe: disloyal vassals will now form massive alliance chains with the sole objective of deposing you.
  • 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...
    • Speaking of the Mongols, this is how they're kept in check. Mongols have all sorts of bonuses such as no demesne limit, no attrition, and the incredibly powerful horse archer unit, which allow them to rampage through Europe with impunity. The only thing stopping them is that when the Khan kicks the bucket, his enormous realm is divided among his male children (which tend to be a lot), who promptly start fighting amongst themselves, making them much more manageable. There's a much-hated random event that forces the player to institute a similar system of succession or take severe penalties. (And don't think you can cheat and immediately change it back; you can only change your succession laws every 25 years...)
    • The Imperial and Succession Laws of each Kingdom you rule in the sequel are tracked separately, leading to much potential succession trouble if you don't make their laws similar. There's also the Elective, Gavelkind, and Open succession laws, which are just asking for future wars.
    • Played straight in the sequel, where heirs that are second and third in line gain claims on the throne and become pretenders. If these pretenders are powerful and well-connected landholders, the realm can quickly dissolve into civil war. The myriad of alliances created through marriages can even drag powerful foreign realms into the crisis, creating a full-scale succession war, the likes of which become the stuff of history textbooks.
    • 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.
  • Suddenly Sexuality: There is an event that causes characters to fall in love with members of the same sex, with the accompanying option to tolerate it or have the character banished.
    • In Crusader Kings II, even happily married 40-year-olds with children can discover strange urges when attending a tournament.
      • There's even an event in Crusader Kings II where a demonic creature (implied to be the Devil) can appear in the night and turn you gay.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. And that's just for Christians; Muslims add polygamy into the mix, pagans can take concubines whose children may be heirs to titles from anywhere at all, and Zoroastrians can not only take concubines, but there's that whole incest thing to mix everything up.
  • 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. The Norse Fylkir is notable for also being the head of state of the founding nation as well as the head of religion, making that state a good example of this trope and closer to the Islamic caliph than the Catholic pope (unless he decides that he wants more than Rome), whereas the high priests of other reformed pagan faiths are distinct from the state.
    • Averted by Muslims with the Iqta government (all non-republic, non-tribal, non-nomadic Muslims) and Tibetan Buddhists and Bön Pagans who adopt the Monastic Feudal form of government, which blends secular and spiritual power such that there is no distinct theocratic rule and allows holding both castle and temple holdings without penalty and is playable even if the character only holds temples.
  • Thicker Than Water: Rulers who are members of the same dynasty are automatically allies (until CKII's 2.5 patch), 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.
  • Turbulent Priest: See The Missionary; this is what those characters become if you're one of the pagan rulers in question and you decide you're not going to tolerate them spreading their venomous lies. Within your own realm, Priests can be generally Turbulent in much the same way your secular vassals are.
    • In the second game, Catholic bishops are Turbulent as long as they like the Pope more than their secular liege. This, by paying taxes to the Pope and withholding levies from their liege.
  • 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.
    • Tends to be averted (for both Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire) in the sequel. A large part of this in the case of the HRE is the abolition of the Realm Duress mechanic (which used to result in the Kingdom of Germany routinely suffering complete implosion in the 1080s).
    • 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.
    • It is absolutely amazing how much murder, imprisonment, and disinheriting one can find themselves doing in the sequel when trying to get a female successor.
    • The Legacy Of Rome expansion allows Byzantine nobles to have their opponents blinded and castrated in order to remove them from the succession.
      "You have the boy castrated and turned into a eunuch. You're a real piece of work, aren't you?".
    • The Old Gods allow you to perform human sacrifices, steal spouses to become your concubine, and in general Rape, Pillage, and Burn villages.
    • Rajas of India is a lot less bloodthirsty, except for one factor. As a patron of Kali, you get to perform a Human Sacrifice during the Kali Puja festival if you're Cruel. Later updates also allow Hindus the same raiding rights as pagans.
    • Enacting dynastic extinction. Bonus points if you hum "The Rains of Castamere" while you're at it.
    • With the Ways of Life DLC, a female ruler can choose a seduction focus and immediately seduce any and every single male in her vicinity despite being already married. Put your husband into hiding due to being the target of assassinations by your numerous flings and let him watch helplessly as you go out and pile on more and more lovers.
    • Horse Lords added nomadic mechanics, making the steppe nomads as fearsome as they were in Real Life (if not more). The accompanying patch also loosened the restrictions on raiding. Yes, the nomads can raid too. And yes, you can sack temples (either belonging to other religions or your own), even potentially burning them to the ground.
    • Monks and Mystics adds the ability to convert to Satanism. And convert other people to Satanism. And perform human sacrifices in order to curse your enemies with Black Magic.
    • Jade Dragon allows you to send certain male courtiers to China as eunuchs. If they aren't eunuchs already, you castrate them. Furthermore, Han culture characters may castrate (but not blind) prisoners like characters in the Byzantine culture group.
    • Holy Fury expands on the options in The Old Gods, allowing for even greater degrees of Human Sacrifice, with Pagan Warrior Lodges allowing members to sacrifice prisoners for fortune in battle, either when taken prisoner, or as part of an elaborate lodge ritual wherein the prisoner is set loose and several lodge members hunt them down and tear them apart as if they were a pack of wolves, Haruspicy allowing for various sacrifices (up to and including human sacrifices) as part of scrying rituals, and the Bloodthisty Gods doctrine allowing any Pagan faith to become as bloodthirsty as the Aztecs, with options for mass sacrifice of prisoners and traits for sacrificing large numbers of people. Furthermore, women can get in on the spouse-stealing as members of the Bön or African faith or with the Equality or Enatic Clans doctrines, and combining the Sea-Bound and Daring doctrines allows non-Germanic Pagans to also become infamous coastal raiders and terrors of the seas.
  • 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.
    • Sacking temples of your religion while raiding will lower your religion's moral authority. While not a direct punishment to the ruler, this can have negative consequences: lower moral authority means religious conversion of provinces and characters is harder, and with particularly with the Abrahamic faiths increases the odds of heresies appearing. A province converting to a heresy ups its revolt risk by 23% initially, though it will reduce if you can survive long enough without one happening. (Of non-Abrahamic faiths, only Zoroastrianism has heresies, barring pagan reformation.)
  • 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.
  • A Villain Named Khan: The Altaic (steppe) cultures all use "khan" where Europeans use "king", so given the game's Video Game Cruelty Potential and realpolitik this is true more often than not. The games also feature event invasions by the Mongol hordes, up to and including Temujin, Genghis Khan, himself. (A Mongol Player Character can even declare themselves Genghis Khan in the second game.)
  • 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.
    • In Crusader Kings II, vassals can now found factions, demanding stuff like independence, lower Crown Authority, Elective Succession or something similar. It is not uncommon for a large realm to have a dozen different factions, which, however, only have one or two members each and thus do not revolt yet.
  • 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 Mongols in the sequel both subvert this trope and force the player to use it: Mongols do not suffer attrition, but can't reinforce their units. Therefore, the only way to beat them is to basically send every soldier you have against them until there aren't any Mongols left.
  • 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.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: Out of the four eras covered by Paradox (this game, Europa Universalis, Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun and Hearts of Iron) the first game is the easiest game for conquering the entire map; with a decent start (England, say) you can do it in two generations. It is also the game where revolutions are the most dangerous; you can easily lose the entire thing as vassals rebel against you in vast quantities during a Succession Crisis or realm duress event. Even if you have claimed the entire map, holding it and trying to build a stable, united super-kingdom is a game in and of itself. Equally, in the second game you can easily win a war, ignoring some small civil disturbance down south, and then march back home to deal with it only to gaze in horror as that tiny rebellion has flourished into a multi-duke plot against your throne, and your exhausted army has no means of dealing with it...
  • Zerg Rush: The AI's method of fighting a war is basically "mobilize every last soldier available and send them against the enemy until there isn't anybody left".

    Crusader Kings I 
  • Artificial Stupidity: The game has no clue how to deal with the movement paths of armies, which make for some interesting detours.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Disability Superpower: While carrying hefty martial and lesser stewardship and health penalties, blind characters get a bonus to their diplomacy and intrigue.
  • 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.
  • Game-Favored Gender: 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.
  • Hypocrite: Legitimizing a bastard? It will make all your kids hate you for a few years - even the other legitimised bastards among them will hate you for it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: Played straight in that there are only so many individual portraits for each culture.

Alternative Title(s): Crusader Kings II

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