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Real strategy requires cunning.

Crusader Kings III is a Grand Strategy game developed and published by Paradox Interactive, and the third entry in the Crusader Kings series. The game was revealed at PDX Con 2019 in October, and released on September 1, 2020.

The game follows the mechanical structure of its predecessors, with changes and improvements. Character portraits are now rendered as 3D models that change depending on traits and physical conditions, and several core gameplay systems have been reworked to be more intuitive. The game also features a more detailed map, displaying holdings more clearly and expanding the playable area to Central Africa and more of South and Central Asia. However, there are only two starting dates (January 1st 867, and September 15th 1066), and the start date can no longer be adjusted day by day. In addition, only three government types are playable: Feudal note , Clan note  and Tribal note .

Expansion Packs

  • Royal Court, was released in February 2022 (together with patch 1.5). It adds a fully 3D throne room for Feudal and Clan rulers of sufficient rank (basically kings and emperors), a massive number of new events and interactions that take place at court, a new "grandeur" mechanic that rewards rulers who invest in their court, the return of artifacts (which are now fully modeled when put on display in the throne room) and the ability to reform or diverge one's culture, or hybridize with a completely different culture if the two are successfully integrated within the same realm. The free patch 1.5, among other changes, adds an inventory system for equipping weapons, armor, and regalia, and brings back minor titles from Crusader Kings II as court positions with more gameplay relevance.
  • Tours and Tournaments was released in May 2023. It focuses on travelling and grand activities such as tours, tournaments, and weddings. Patch 1.9, which accompanies Tours and Tournaments, removes the restrictions that a game has to be played in Ironman mode and unmodded in order to secure achievements, although some mod content will still prevent achievements.
  • Roads to Power, to be released in Q3 2024. It adds new administrative mechanics for the Byzantine Empire and makes landless adventurers playable.

Flavor and Event Packs

  • Northern Lords - Released in March 2021 (together with patch 1.3), the first non-cosmetic DLC, it is a small "flavor pack" focused on Norse realms.
  • Fate of Iberia, - The second "flavor pack," which focuses on the vibrant and complex history of medieval Iberia, was released on May 31, 2022, along with patch 1.6. It introduces the "Struggle" mechanic for the Iberian peninsula, which pits the various cultures and religions in the region against each other.
  • In September 2022, Patch 1.7 was released together with the Friends & Foes event pack, which adds in many new events related to relationships, along with the feud mechanic.
  • Wards & Wardens, released in August 2023 along with patch 1.10, an event pack which added events related to children and their guardians.
  • Legacy of Persia, released in November 2023 along with patch 1.11, focusing on the Iranian world in a similar manner to the Iberian peninsula, including improvements for Muslims, Zoroastrians and Clan governments.
  • Legends of the Dead, to be released March 4, 2024, expands plague mechanics, including making the Black Death even deadlier, and allows dynasties to forge legends, with both plagues and legends affecting the new legitimacy mechanic that reflects how others view the rightfulness of one's rule.
  • Wandering Nobles to be released Q4 2024, adds new events and activities related to the travel system.

The game also received console versions for the Xbox One and Playstation 5, a first in the Crusader Kings series.

For game mods, see the Fan Works page.


The game provides examples of:

  • Abdicate the Throne: A claimant faction's demands will allow a character the chance to abdicate peacefully rather than start a Civil War. Willingly abdicating your throne to a chosen heir, meanwhile, is not an option other than by committing suicide or a relatively rare Level 3 Stress Break event.
  • Action Girl: Any culture with a gender-equal or female-dominated martial custom note  can have women as commanders and knights (previously this was decided by faith, which now only determines which gender is allowed to own land or serve as a councilor). Special mention goes to the Norse: their Performative Honor tradition allows rulers to make a close female family member with high enough prowess into a Shieldmaiden, which grants significant combat bonuses and the ability to ignore the restrictions imposed by martial custom. Other cultures can use Shieldmaidens by hybridizing with Norse or establishing the weaker The Right to Prove tradition. Regardless of any other restrictions, female rulers can always pursue a Martial lifestyle and command their own troops, allowing them to participate in war and experience combat-oriented random events.
  • Acrofatic: While being obese imposes a Prowess and health penalty, there's nothing stopping a rotund character from being strong by nature or nurture and putting on great shows of physicality and agility in duels and tournaments the same as a thinner character with the same traits and similar Prowess.
  • Adjustable Censorship: If the appearance of some injuries and diseases are too graphic for you, an option is available to tone them down. You can also turn off nudity.
  • Aerith and Bob: The 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. And then there is the ability to write in a new or made-up name, which the game will then start suggesting for offspring of such character. When hybridizing two particularly disparate cultures, choosing to utilize both parent cultures' naming conventions for the new culture leads to some especially unusual results.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: One of the Legend events has your character, after becoming an Immortality Seeker, meet someone in a dream, stated in the legend to be God or a god they believe in, who looks like an older version of themselves.
  • Albinos Are Freaks: Characters with the Albino trait get penalties to everyone's opinion of them, but get a bonus to their Dread.
  • The Alcoholic: the Drunkard trait, usually gained as a coping mechanism for stress. It's one of the worst coping mechanisms, since it carries a random chance for drinking yourself to death; Your character simply dies out of the blue regardless of age, health or any other factors. Out of all substance abuse traits, drunkards are the furthest away from being Functional Addicts, with a slew of terrible events, including being wasted, hungover or doing something really stupid.
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: The icon for the Desert Warrior trait shows a saguaro cactus, even though the game is entirely set in the Old World.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Unless your ruler has existing close kin blood ties with another ruler, or takes a specific perk from the Diplomacy lifestyle (which only enables a single alliance this way), the only way to form alliances is through marriage of close kin with close kin of your ally, lasting for as long as the current rulers are alive. It's possible to sabotage alliances by murdering one side of the married pair before they have children — with no marriage and no blood ties, the alliance is voided.
  • Always Identical Twins: Inverted. It is near-impossible to get twins that actually look similar to each other, never mind identical. As far as the game code is concerned, all twins are dizygotic (non-identical) by design. note 
  • Amazonian Beauty: Positive traits from the genetic physique line (Hale, Robust, Herculean/Amazonian) come with a hefty Attraction Opinion, half of those that come from the positive beauty traits and apply equally regardless of if a man or woman has the trait. And they can be combined, creating quite a powerful combo.
  • Anachronism Stew: Some of the pagan religions such as Asatru and Ukonusko are named after their neo-pagan revivals rather than what they would've been referred to contemporarily.
  • Ancestor Veneration: Ancestor worship is a possible tenet for multiple pagan faiths. It gives rulers better relations with close family members (thus decreasing their risk of assassination).
  • Ancestral Weapon: All the objects your characters accumulated during their lifetime are passed down to their heirs, and some are even directly tied to your dynasty. This means you can keep using the same sword and armour your great-great-great-grandfather was wearing, especially if they have decent stats. In fact, in the case of weapons and armour, the longer they are in use, the better they get, as there is a tracker for how many victorious battles they were used in, and there is a chance to increase their stats over time based on that.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me:
    • It's perfectly possible to coerce a character into a marriage they wouldn't otherwise agree to if you have a sufficiently strong "hook" on them.
    • Like in Crusader Kings 2, religions with consorts/concubines can turn captured characters into the captor's consort or concubine regardless of their previous marital status. This includes an option to flat-out kidnap a specific person for this goal alone.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: The deaths of rivals (and disliked spouses) reduce your character's stress, potentially preventing a mental break.
    • It's even more pronounced when a Nemesis dies, where your character is so jubilent they smile throughout their funeral as their grieving family passes by. Your character is in such a good mood, they even give a random beggar a month's worth of money even if they have the Greedy trait.
  • Animal Assassin:
    • The announcement trailer has an assassin attempt to kill a baby by placing a venomous snake in the target's cradle.
    • One possible assassination method in-game is to have a deadly spider, scorpion, or snake placed in the target's bed.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The option to simply willingly become celibate was introduced in III due to the amount of complaints players had towards II, where the game made it almost impossible for your character to simply stop bedding their spouse, leading to an excessive number of heirs and an inevitability split of the realm, along with Princeling Rivalry. Celibacy requires that you ignore fairly useful, if minor, feasting mechanics (or at least become celibate before gaining any of the Reveler traits), but at least it's there.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit:
    • There is a limit of 15 for 'legitimate' children per character, at which point the fertility of the character's marriage(s) and ongoing affairs is set to 0. Like in Crusader Kings 2, bastards and event-generated pregnancies are exempt from this.
    • No matter how large and prosperous your realm or your vassals are, you are limited to ten men-at-arms regiments maximum - translating to roughly 17,000 men at that maximum, give or take a couple hundred depending on regiment type and cultural traditions. The rest of your army will be levies and mercenaries.
    • And those mercenaries are equally limited, for you can only ever hire "locally" to your diplomatic range. The number of troops is varied, depending on culture and quality, but the number of merc companies themselves is not - there are only ever up to 3 of them from any given culture and they are on an open market, so someone might already have contracted the company you wanted for yourself. And since mercenary availability is measured in your diplomatic range, it arbitrarily disadvantages the mercenary forces of realms whose capitals are near the edge of the map (since your range is "wasted") or who are in areas with fewer, larger culturesexplanation.
  • Arranged Marriage: Outside of the "Elopement" scheme (Exactly What It Says on the Tin), all marriages will be this by default.
  • Artifact Title: Even moreso than the previous game, Crusader Kings III has expanded far beyond Feudal Christian rulers with a propensity for crusades. Unlike the previous game, every feudal, clan, or tribal ruler on the map is playable without any DLC, said map is even larger, stretching as far south as modern Cameroon and as far east as Mongolia and Burma, plus the 867 start date from II's "The Old Gods" expansion is also part of the base game, meaning about a third of the game's potential playable period is before any crusades can happen in addition to most rulers on the map most likely never interacting with the Catholic Crusades in an offensive or defensive manner and many rulers may barely even interact with the Christian world at all. Furthermore, a particularly successful Muslim or Pagan ruler may be able to prevent there from ever being any kings who go on Crusades by dismantling the Papacy before any can be called.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI isn't too smart in general when it comes to understanding the rules of the game without any sort of cheats to overcome its own incompetence. This is further complicated by the fact it purposely makes even more stupid choices when playing as stupid characters. But there's being unable to properly utilize your own advantages or roleplaying as an idiot... and then there's doing things like researching the Armillary Sphere, an innovation that improves naval travel, as a land-locked steppe nomad tribe. All of this aside:
    • The AI notoriously can't handle land titles and inheritances. The reason why realms keep imploding has less to do with harsh in-game limitations and more to do with the AI simply rolling a die on who gets what upon the death of the current ruler, while also offering titles randomly upon victorious wars. It is also unable to evaluate various holdings, so it will gleefully hand over some of the best bits of the country in exchange for freshly conquered, foreign culture and religion backwaters to stay within the domain limit.
    • Patch 1.9 significantly reworked the game, requiring extensive micromanagement to gain full benefits from various structures in the long term. At the same time, it provided a variety of new time gates for unlocking new options. While intended to create a challenge for human players and give AI some breathing space, the actual result is utterly neutered AI, as it makes ad-hoc decisions here and now, gimping itself into being a complete pushover, offering players massive advantages solely on behalf of how damn incompetent the AI is. Probably best exemplified with Men-At-Arms regiments: AI was already struggling with providing a decent standing army for itself, but with the rework on stacking bonuses to them and limited number of structures, AI-created armies are just laughable Paper Tigers at best, blatant pushovers on average.
    • The general AI incompetence is best seen in mods, particularly those with custom starts at later dates. Not due to the AI inability to play, but because once it has primogeniture and fairly developed land from the start, it is doing more than well for itself. But reaching such a situation on its own is utterly beyond the abilities of the AI, even if it lucks out with a string of competent rulers with good traits, thus removing the role-playing element of deliberately acting dumb.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The game uses a lot of Rule of Fun in its approach to genetics and pregnancy.
    • The children of two parents with a genetic trait will always pass on that trait, and has a chance of upgrading it if it exists on a scale. In real life, while this makes sense for recessive traits like Albinism (as each parent must have two alleles for the trait to display it themselves, and thus only have alleles for that trait to pass down), autosomal dominant traits don't have any such guarantee as either parent only needs one allele to display the trait and thus if both parents are heterozygous, there's a 25% chance of non-inheritance of the trait. Of course, there's also the matter of the gross oversimplification of a genetic bias towards greater intellect, stronger physique, or more pleasing features being treated as a single genetic trait in the first place and not a combination of several genetic factors.
    • Medical dwarfism is a genetic trait that is passed down like any other: While dwarfism has multiple causes in real life, by far the most common genetic reason is due to Achondroplasia, which is a dominant autosomal trait and is lethal when homozygous (in Layman's Terms: Dwarf + normal size = 50/50 dwarf/normal size, dwarf + dwarf = 25/50/25 normal/dwarf/stillbirth).
    • The 'Inbred' trait is an inheritable, genetic trait that covers all forms of congenital inbreeding and basically has two modes: Not Inbred and Charles II of Spain. It can also be inherited across generations, even when outbreeding. There is also a trait called 'Pure-Blooded' which can occur rarely through inbreeding but improves health and fertility and reduces the frequency of inbred children, which is also inheritable and has no real equivalent in real life.
    • Genetics aside, whenever you have a choice to lay with someone, it will always lead to a pregnancy. Apparently, every day is a fertile one. This even includes characters with extremely low (but still positive) fertility, because what fertility really governs is the random pregnancies simply happening on their own, not the ones generated by events. However, this can be very helpful, if you either don't want to have many heirs (picking a deliberately low-fertility wife, then having just one child with her) or when your ruler is near-infertile due to age or traits.
    • There are no premature babies. In fact, all pregnancies last exactly 280 days. Always. In the case of "lay with X" events, you can literally mark a day of birth of the child ahead of time, though you are informed about the pregnancy itself at a random date during the third month of it.
    • Stillborns and Death by Childbirth are predetermined at time of conception. It's directly in the code of the game to lead to a stillborn and/or mother's death the moment conception happened. Unlike the outcome of the pregnancy itself (gender, traits, possible twins etc.), which is determined at birth and therefore can be savescummed, life or death is fixed at conception.
    • Twins are the maximum. Triplets or more simply aren't scripted. Sure, they are rare in real life, but in-game they simply don't exist, while a variety of genetic ailments that are even rarer than multiple births are present. At the same time, all twins are dizygotic (non-identical), both by looks and the code governing their birth and "DNA" script.
    • Menopause always hits immediately on a woman's 46th birthday (delayed 5 years each by the Fecund trait and the Octogenarians dynastic legacy) with no variation other than those two delaying factors.
  • Artistic License – History: Largely averted for the most part and the game sticks closely to the real world history of the Middle Ages, at least within the game's limitations since it is still an abstraction at the end of the day. However, there are a few noticeable slip-ups in regards to certain aspects of the game:
    • French crown is presented as imperial-tier. France didn't declare itself an empire until The Napoleonic Wars. This is largely done to avoid a whole variety of in-game problems of controlling the realm in the size of, well, France, as a "mere" king, since every single other kingdom in the game is maybe quarter the size of France. This is notably contrasted with the in-game decision to unify Iberia under a single crown (emulating the historical formation of Spain), where it is still a kingdom-tier title and doing so dissolves "lesser" kingdoms constituting the realm, while the "Emperor of Iberia" is a separate, higher title, requiring even greater control of the region.
    • The Scottish are labelled a West Germanic culture, with the Gaels being a separate culture from them, and the event for the culture forming stating that they are Anglo-Saxons living in the Scottish lowlands. This is quite incorrect. While Anglo-Saxons living in the Scottish lowlands did eventually become part of the Scottish, the Scottish are a Celtic culture, formed by the merger of the Irish Gaels and the native Brittonic Picts, with their name coming from the Latin name for the Gaels of Ireland (Scoti). They seem to have mixed the Scottish up with the Scots language, a sister language of English, which is a part of the North Sea Germanic language familynote , which wouldn't eclipse Scottish Gaelic until the late Middle Ages, and it wasn't until the reign of David I in 1124 that the any of the nobility favored a foreign language, much less considering themselves a different culture. In fact, the English-speaking areas were more likely to be considered a separate cultural group from the Scottish for the first few centuries after the foundation of the Kingdom of Scotland, rather than the Gaelic areas, and a more accurate term post-merger would be Lowland Scottish.
    • Staying with Scots and Celts, tanistry is back and suffers from the same historical issue as in CK2. It's one of the most desired succession laws since unlike most everything else accessible until the 13th century, it allows you to keep all the titles for one heir, as long as each title is individually given this law note . In-game tanistry removes a whole lot of scheming and potential wars simply by keeping the vassals reasonably happy with you and securing your preferred heir's position in the elections. Which is the exact reverse how the system operated in real life, as tanistry was one of the weaknesses of the traditional Celtic clan organization, leading to countless wars and assassinations to eliminate counter-candidates, while also causing progressive partition and fragmentation of both realm and the clans themselves (each new election meant split of existing clans into sub-units). It was nothing like a modern democracy or the extremely simplified system presented in the game.
    • For a third strike regarding the Scottish, the game assigns the clan of Buchanan as the earls of the Buchan territory. Despite the similar names, the Buchanan clan was never based in Buchan, and the county was ruled by clan Comyn and later clan Stewart. (There is a clan Buchan that hails from the area, but ironically they have never actually been the Earls of the county.)
    • Oleg (Helgi) the Seer of Novgorod is a bastard son of King Rurik in game. He was Rurik's right-hand man in real life. More precisely, his brother-in-law (Rurik's sister's husband). This is deliberate though, as it would have been complicated to implement the fact that after Rurik's death Helgi was a de-facto ruler as regent for Rurik's son.
    • On the topic of Rurik and his descendants, all post-melting-pot East Slavs are grouped together as the “Russian” culture. This term was not a common endonym until at least the 15th century, and identifies all East Slavs with modern Russian culture. Rus' (endonym) or Ruthenian (exonym) are both more period-accurate. Royal Court DLC made it even worse, as it allows both Rus and Ruthenian variables to emerge when creating new cultures within specific regions of areas populated by East Slavs, while keeping Russian as the baseline. It's as if you could diverge Spanish into Castilian or English into Anglo-Saxon and Mercian.
    • Some House mottos are quite anachronistic, like the Habsburgs', whose earliest record of their motto is nearly 400 years after 1066 start (and referencing a land they don't own yet, given that they only owned Aargau in 1066 start).
    • Numerous counties are named after places that weren't established until the end of the game timeline, and some not even until the 19th century, in the process often ignoring places of historical importance during the medieval period. This is particularly present in Scandinavia and anywhere east of the Oder River. Certain regions of the Sahara and the Horn of Africa are chock-full of justified guesswork, with places that are known to have existed but not sourced accurately enough to give them a definitive location.
    • Untrained, poorly-armed levies make up the bulk of any country's armies. While this was true for some medieval states, in many others, it was common for most military troops to have some training. Additionally, the game doesn't divide levies into different types (as CK2 did), which means there can be no levied archers, pikemen, cavalry, etc. This is the opposite of what was true in many countries, where pikes and (particularly in the case of England) bows were the weapons of choice for the common foot soldier. A later patch acknowledges in flavor text that levies also include soldiers beyond a general lumpen peasantry.
    • The Northern Lords DLC adds shieldmaidens. Shieldmaidens are a topic of quite a lot of historical debate regarding whether they were real or just legends, with the debate being largely unsettled as of the present time.
    • Contrary to what the game mechanics would like you to believe, medieval rulers everywhere did not, in fact, constantly have to deal with onslaughts of fanatical anarcho-nudists. The Adamites were a very minor movement, but because there is an option to convert to Adamite as part of a fairly common event chain, which the AI frequently takes, Adamites pop up in random places with alarming and highly ahistorical frequency. A patch eventually reduced the frequency of the Adamite event chain.
    • Royal Court adds the ability to hold court... but only for kings and emperors. Historically, ducal and county courts were very much a thing and depending on place and period, manorial courts (or equivalent) were also quite common. Unsurprisingly, a mod allowing Dukes to hold court was made the day after the DLC was released.
    • Certain parts of the map are filled with fictitious or historically-dubious rulers. Somewhat justified in that some of these places have no reliable records to rely on, but in other places such as the Iranian world and Guiyi in 867, this is less justifiable and probably more due to lack of time or interest on the developers' part.
    • Much of Sub-Saharan Africa is full of "tribal" holdings despite the fact that some of these places had large, sizable cities in this period.
    • The game follows a rule that every barony must exist on-map even if unfilled, and must belong to a county, which in turn belongs to a duchy. These are often based on a mix of out-of-period settlements, regional tribes, geographic names (that may or may not have been assigned by people who would only later occupy the regions in question - as an example, Tyumen exists as a tribal settlement in 867 and 1066 in the hands of Urgic tribes, even though the city of that name wouldn't be founded until 1586 after at least two cultural changes of ownership, first to the Mongols and Turkic khanates who would found Chimgi-Tura (possibly initially as Chinkidin) there in the 12th century and which was later taken by Russia and refounded as Tyumen), but mostly have some clear basis and are inherently necessary to the game as these levels of organization are immutable in normal gameplay. However, all of these duchies in turn belong to de jure kingdoms and these kingdoms to de jure empires based loosely on either geography or cultural presence in the large portions of the map where no unifying state ever existed (or wouldn't exist until long after the game for the significant portions of the map that would eventually fall under empires like Russia and the Mughals), or where historical kingdoms or empires are simply prohibitively large (again, such as the vast swathes of the map that would eventually wind up under the Russian Empire). These are also less strictly necessary as the game allows for the creation of titular titles (titles with no de jure territory) and for duchies to drift into kingdoms and kingdoms to drift into empires as part of the natural course of gameplay, as well as allowing for special effects on certain types of title creation that add some or all titles to a new de jure kingdom or empire.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: Deliberately so. The game predominately cares about the court language of a given country, rather than the language the local culture speaks, and languages themselves are tied to cultures rather than places. This significantly simplifies the system, which would otherwise have to keep track of every single county separately and burden the CPU.
    • Although "languages" in the game are supposed to be based on language groups and dialect clusters, there are inconsistencies with how broad or narrow those categories are. For example, in Europe you have some very specific languages represented as Dutch, while in other places (mostly outside of Europe), you have entire branches of language families like Cushitic.
    • The Iranian cultures are linguistically divided into Western Iranian cultures speaking "Iranian" and Eastern Iranian cultures speaking "Scythian," even though the Scythian language was only one branch of the Eastern Iranian sub-family.
    • The Mon culture is depicted as speaking Burmese, but in real life, the Mon language is an Austroasiatic language while Burmese is a Sino-Tibetan language - two major language families that have no relation whatsoever to each other. One can assume that the devs did this due to the close geographic proximity of the two cultures, but even so, it would be as ridiculous as making Turkish culture speak Greek, or a Spanish culture speak Arabic as their defaults.
  • Artistic License – Religion:
    • Qarmatian characters in-game were able to take the Hajj, even though the Qarmatians were an Islamic sect that considered the Hajj to be based in superstition and even attacked the pilgrimage routes. This is fixed in 1.1 for both them and Alawites. This was further expanded on in the 1.9 patch by giving them the Forbidden Pilgrimages tenet.
    • "Ash'arism" is the largest and most dominant Sunni Islam faith in-game. It exists in the 867 start date even though it was founded by Abu al-Hasan al-Ashʿari (which the school lends its name from) in the year 936.
      • The Prophet Muhammad and his successors in the game files are all Ash'ari as far back as the 6th century.
    • Catholicism didn't begin actively persecuting witches until the end-date of the game: Official Catholic Canon between the 11th and 15th centuries was that there were no such things as 'witches' or 'magic' and anyone believing in either was a heretic, a pagan, or mentally ill.
    • Insular Christianity is depicted as a separate form of Christianity from Catholicism, and its members do not follow the Pope or any other religious head. While Insular Christianity certainly did have unique traditions and practices not present in the wider Christian world, most historians reject the idea that it was a distinct branch and consider it just a regional variant of Catholicism.
      • Also, the Conversos, Iberian Jews forced to convert to Catholicism, are a distinct Christian faith again separate from Catholicism and again not having the Catholic Pope as their religious head.
      • This was later fixed, with both having the Catholic Pope as their religious head, reflecting their status as a regional variations, and with only a small relationship penalty with mainstream Catholics, who view them as fellow Catholics who have gone somewhat astray, but not far enough to be outright heretical.
    • Advaita Vedanta is considered a separate Hindu religion from the others represented in the game. In real life, it is a different thing altogether. The Smarta/Shakist/Shaivite/Vaishnavite distinction is of which gods are the supreme gods, with Shaktists saying it is the mother goddess, Shaivas saying it is Shiva, Vaishnavas saying it is Vishnu, and Smartas saying it is all of them. The Advaita/Dvaita distinction is whether you believe that there is only one divine spirit that encompasses everything or two divine spirits, one of the celestials and one of the earthly beings. Indeed, Smartism and Shaktism are exclusively Advaita religions, meaning in order to be a Smarta or a Shaktist you must also believe in Advaita.
    • A number of medieval pagan faiths have the names of modern neopagan movements that are based on them but separated by over a thousand years of history and cultural change. Somewhat justified, as many of them never really had names, usually being referred to by outsiders as things like Culture Name paganism.
    • The schism between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy happened in 1054, but the two denominations are already separate in the 867 start date. To be fair, it would be rather polarizing among the player base to assign either the Pope or the Ecumenical Patriarch as the overarching head of faith, as each denomination considers itself to be the original form of Christianity. And although the full formal schism happened in 1054, it was the consequence of an increasing amount of separation between East and West that had been going on for some time before then. In practice, it could be argued that the schism really began when Patriarch Photius I excommunicated Pope Nicolas I for unilaterally declaring a new doctrine. This happened in 867, the year the game begins.
    • The Chinese characters in Guiyi at the 867 start are mostly Taoists. However, in real life, the region was known for being a major center of Buddhist culture. The rulers of Guiyi actively patronized Buddhism, best exemplified through the Mogao Caves which still remain today as one of the most notable examples of Buddhist religious art and religious caves. Buddhist monks and nuns also played a major role in Guiyi society, with several prominent monks serving as envoys for the rulers of Guiyi. Additionally, most elite families in Guiyi had at least a few members who were monks or nuns. As such, the lack of Buddhists in Guiyi is puzzling at best.
    • On the topic of Taoists, Taoism has the monogamous and gender equal doctrines, which does not necessarily reflect the reality of Chinese culture in this period. Concubinage was an important signifier of status for elite men of this period, for example, but most Chinese characters (at least at game start) will not be able to take concubines.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Dualistic faiths. This includes Zoroastrianism, which was a popular religious option in CK2, but generally only played a role if players actively devoted themselves to restoring it, as well as a couple of minor, related Gnostic Christian heresies, of which similar things can be said for the most part. Come this game and, in addition to the aforementioned Christian dualists still existing, there is now a whole new Dualistic religion with half a dozen separate, extremely obscure faiths — the "largest" (actually only followed by very few provinces) of which is Manichaeism, previously erroneously classified as a heresy of Zoroastrianism — as well as another half-dozen new Zoroastrian faiths and an unexpectedly thorough amount of support for playing a Gnostic of any kind, even letting you add Gnosticism as a tenet when creating a new faith (by default, this tenet is used in some minor Christian and Muslim faiths with gnostic elements, like Catharism, Bogomilism, Paulicianism and Druze). Note that most of these religions have been dead for centuries by the time frame of Crusader Kings 3 and that, unless you use the (non-default) very strict historical heresy setting, they can now randomly pop up anywhere.
    • The Yazidis were considered a Sunni heresy, despite being completely distinct and independent of Islam in real life. In CK3 they now have their own religious group formed by three separate faiths.
    • The amount of available heresies and minor faiths sharing a religious group with the big players in general has been greatly expanded, as has their prominence. In the previous game, without player intervention, it was rare to see any of them stick around for more than a few years, much less really take off and replace a country's state religion. In this game, because the Fervor mechanics heavily penalize large religions (such as, for example, Catholicism), it is now very common for heresy to thrive. Unless you do something to stop it, do not be surprised to see by the end of the game things like half of Europe converted to Lollardy, or a Middle East entirely dominated by the Armenian Apostolic Church.
  • Ascended Glitch: There used to be a chance that, if a woman was in a secret lesbian relationship and got pregnant, her female lover would ask if the baby was theirs. This was eventually patched out, unless the lover in question has the Stupid trait, in which case there is still a chance they will ask.
  • Ascended Meme:
    • In Crusader Kings II's base game, the Munster 1066 start was called "Tutorial Island"note  by the fandom, as it was a small, mostly-isolated space where players could get a grasp of the game with a somewhat advantageous start as Petty-King Murchadnote . For many players, it proved to be a much better tutorial for the game's mechanics than the official tutorial, which didn't go nearly into as much depth as Munster 1066 required. Come III, Munster in 1066 is officially the game's tutorial realm and covers all the bases rather than just a few basics.
    • In II, a ruler with the lunatic trait could appoint their horse Glitterhoof as chancellor. This event is absent in III, but a lunatic spouse can suggest some... ''interesting'' names for your newborn. Among them is, yes, "Glitterhoof."
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Indian cultures have access to War Elephants. They have 250 base attack and 50 base defence, counter both skirmishers and heavy infantry (two very common men-at-arms units) and will trample practically everything else in the game as long as you don't try to employ them in mountain warfare. On top of this they gain massive bonuses from the Elephantery buildings, which can be constructed in any Jungle holding. However, they also cost 400 gold for 25 of them, a frankly insane pricepoint (36 times an equal amount of Skirmishers), and since factions only check for your quantity of troops, not quality, it will inflate the potency of any faction opposing you. If you can afford a full stack of War Elephants, you're probably so rich you can hire enough mercenaries to fight all your wars for you anyway.
  • Authority Grants Asskicking:
    • Not necessarily your character, but the characters marked as "knights" (or the cultural equivalent) in your court will rack up a lot more kills than any of your men-at-arms or levies, if they're competent.
    • This can also be Averted: Martial stat is separate from Prowess (which governs personal combat ability), so it's possible to have a character with high Martial but very low prowess. These characters are suited for command but make poor frontline knights. However, when your marshal is assigned to train commanders, they improve both stats indiscriminately, thus the end result is a high-Martial, high-Prowess Frontline General One-Man Army.
  • Baby Factory: Certain religions reduce the role of female characters to producing offspring and securing alliances. Exaggerated when combined with the concubinage marriage doctrine, as only the spouse has legal protections and provides the ruler with stat bonuses, while the entire role of the harem of 1-3 concubines is that of breeding stock and can be set aside at any time for no cost. With custom heresies and reformations, it can also be gender-flipped, with male characters having their role reduced to only their value as fathers and pawns in political marriages, and they may potentially also be forced into consortage or made into a harem of multiple husbands per woman.
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad:
    • The Cainites (a rather weird Gnostic religion) believe this in an unusual way. Because the world and our bodies are sinful, they must be defiled through more sin so that the soul can be freed.
    • Certain tenets like Sacred Lies and Carnal Exaltation can take traits that are far more commonly sins and make them virtues, while making their opposites, commonly virtues, into sins.
    • Similar to religious tenets, some cultural traditions see traits that much of modern society sees as unpleasant as honorable, such as Vengeful, while seeing their opposites, such as Forgiving, as cowardly or dishonorable.
  • Bare Midriffs Are Feminine: Per historically accurate traditional Indian dress, women of the Indian subcontinent wear midriff-exposing saris, but you won't find a man in sight wearing one.
  • Bastard Angst: Under religions with bastardry, bastards cannot inherit and any children they produce will not be members of their house or dynasty. They also gain a hefty opinion penalty from members of their known parents' dynasties. Bastards can be legitimized to restore their inheritance, religious doctrine allowing, but the circumstances of their birth will always stain their image. Averted with religions without bastardry, who gain the (less severe) 'Wild Oat' trait instead.
  • Bastard Bastard: Raise a bastard child to be ambitious, sadistic/callous or at least arrogant and you've got yourself a character that will act like the worst kind of prick and go after his father and family whenever allowed. If they happen to end up with an intrigue education, consider murdering them before your own family starts having weird, often fatal "accidents".
  • Battle Strip: Characters of both sexes wear nothing from the waist up while fighting sword duels. This is actually a case where the developers have Shown Their Work. Many historical people really did duel this way, because while duels weren't always fought to the death, having a bit of clothing shoved into a wound by an enemy's blade would mean near-certain death by infection.
  • Bee Afraid: While bees themselves don't feature in the game, the trait "Irritable" which allows characters to vent their stress by lashing out at others has the symbol of a hornet's nest.
  • Being Good Sucks: Having kind traits, like Honest and Just, basically locks you out of an intrigue playstyle. You can still do it, but the stress gain will be very difficult to manage. Being kind also stresses you out when executing prisoners, even if they are guilty, so you can't even eliminate those who want to do you harm. It's much safer to be a hated but feared ruler than it is to be a kind but weak one. Eventually after a lot of player complains, the devs re-evaluated positive character traits and their Stress gain and, more importantly, loss during random events, heavily downplaying the numerous downsides of those positive traits, while rewarding acting true to them - something that was weirdly absent in the release state of the game. You will still get punished for getting into hostile intrigues, though.
  • Big Fun: Gluttonous characters lose extra stress from throwing and attending feasts, and in religions with the Hedonism tenet gluttony is considered pious and virtuous. Deconstructed in that gluttonous characters usually become obese and suffer from health problems.
  • Birds of a Feather: Most traits have positive same-trait opinion. Sometimes, this just offsets a more general penalty, such as with Albino and Clubfoot (-10 general, +10 same-trait), while in other cases, it's a certain kind of kinship over shared issues (eg. Stutterers get +10 same-trait opinion and -2 diplomacy) or shared interests (eg. Gluttonous characters get +10 same-trait opinion with each other).
  • The Black Death: With the standard setting, the bubonic plague can appear from the 14th century onward. With the Legends of the Dead DLC, all plagues, but the Black Death specifically, are more fleshed out and deadly, possibly killing hundreds of nobles and desolating the realms they spread through.
  • Blackmail: Discovering another character's secrets (for example, if they're having a scandalous affair, or murdered their cousin to take the throne) can give your character a "hook" on them, which can be used to secure titles, marriages, or even assistance in your own nefarious schemes. The hook will be lost if the secret becomes public knowledge, however.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • If you are a tribal vassal, you can adopt a more advanced form of government from your liege. If said liege happens to have clan government, you join the club of Slave to PR. But hey, you can finally build proper holdings and get past Tribal Era innovations, so it's not all bad.
    • With Tours and Tournaments, all Islamic faiths force you to take Hajj as your first pilgrimage. Not bad if you are in the Middle East, absolutely horrible if you are in Iberia or Mauretania. Sure, you can visit various sites on your way to Mecca, but you must go there.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Invoked Trope. Faiths with the "Aniconism" tenet make it against the faith's teachings to build graven images, but in return, building temples and their upgrades become quicker and cheaper.
    • The steward councilor as a whole. His default job is to simply provide you with higher income. Alternatively, he can improve your land's development... which mostly provides higher income. Additionally they can convince neighboring de jure counties to join your realm without the need for a war.
    • Feudalism, when compared with other forms of government. It trades off all sort of gimmicks related with opinion, fame or piety and simply delivers a set tax and levy as decided by a vassal contract, which is impossible to dodge but can be renegotiated by either liege or vassal once per vassal's lifetime, to trade off one privilege for another (lower taxes in exchange for higher military obligations, for example). It might not be the best thing early on, but its boring reliability is far more practical than potential benefits of other governments.
    • Siege weapons of any kind. They don't contribute to battles at all, but even a token force of them can significantly speed up sieges, turning months into weeks. As war progress is decided predominately by occupied territory taken through sieges, it's often more effective to have a couple extra regiments of siege weapons rather than a new type of soldier regiment. That being said, recruiting a healthy number of battle-ready men at arms is still necessary to protect the siege weapons from enemy attacks.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: During the event from the “Release Your Anger” decision, the player character will insult several people. The button reads, “And you! Don't think I don't see you!” Since no one else is being insulted (the button does nothing but close the event), one could be forgiven for thinking the character is talking directly to them.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy:
    • Any character that's good at their job, but also comes with Lazy trait. This plays big role in event options, too.
    • And then there is the other side of things, with good intelligence traits. If character is Quick, Intelligent or Genius, they receive respectively +1, +3 or +5 to all their primary stats and a bunch of hidden, positive rolls for variety of events and gameplay outcomes. Thus an underachieving genius can by large still outdo a character with four-star education and 30 points in any given stats, as far as the game mechanics are concerned.
  • Burn the Witch!: Most organized religions in-game consider "witchcraft" to be a criminal act. One of the Stewardship lifestyle events has a mob of peasants attempting to perform one, and you have the chance to intervene to spare the accused, or let them burn to pacify the commoners.
  • Bury Your Gays: As an actual, beneficial game mechanic. In faiths that consider same-sex relations to be a crime, you can lawfully imprison both parties and then execute them. This means you can get rid of a troublesome vassal, with no tyranny penalty, and gain Dread from said execution that helps intimidate the rest of your subjects to stay in line.
  • But Not Too Foreign: In earlier versions, the game had a really... weird way of handling appearance when mixed ancestry gets involved. The main deciding factor weren't which genes were passed (the game does keep track of that, mind you), but rather the culture of the offspring, which at birth is decided by the culture of the "dominant" parent (the father for patrilineal marriages, the mother for matrilineal ones). This means you could have an Irish man given land in Ghana, married to a local Sonike wife and end up with an Irish-culture white child with red hair and green eyes. Should the Irishman then decide to convert to the local culture, and his next, Sonike culture child will be black. The first child, after deciding to convert to Sonike culture too, and then returning to Ireland, would be considered a complete foreigner with weird, exotic looks when in the Emerald Isle, despite, you know, being a pale-skinned ginger. His kids would be Ambiguously Brown, too. And the second kid, who was born and raised Sonike and looks the part, upon visiting Ireland and staying there, switches to the Irish culture of his father. His children would all be pale-skinned gingers.
  • But Thou Must!: A couple of random events don't give the player any option but to act like a complete jerk, regardless of their personality:
    • A common event occurs when a powerful council member starts getting a bit uppity, and the player can undermine them in various ways such as constantly talking over them in meetings, stealing their ideas or overworking them until they crack. But there is no option to simply drop the petty feud, even if the player is compassionate, honest, forgiving, trusting or any combination thereof.
    • The infamous "Royal Footstool" event from the Royal Court DLC sees an ally of the player instantly deposed and taken refuge in your court (regardless of how much sense that makes.) Again, the player can only choose to send them packing or humiliate them, no matter how many "nice" traits they have.
  • Cannon Fodder: Levies. Unlike the previous game, they are a nondescript mass of levied peasants rather than distinct types of troops, and their main role is to provide a meat shield for the actually combat-proficient men-at-arms. They are somewhat decent in the Tribal Era, when they are able to Zerg Rush with sheer numbers, but as time and technology progress, they start dying in droves to the increasingly powerful professional soldiers.
  • Cast Full of Gay: One of the game rules can make the majority of characters homosexual. There are also options to make bisexuality or asexuality the dominant sexualities, or to make heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality all equally common.
  • Celibate Hero: The Medicine branch of the Learning skill tree has an early perk that allows rulers to become Celibate, making them unable to sire children or have affairs, and in some religions granting a Piety bonus (religions with the 'Carnal Exaltation' tenet, meanwhile, makes Celibacy a sin). This can be incredibly useful for controlling inheritance.
  • Challenging the Chief: Tribals have access to a Hostile Scheme for claimants to challenge the current holder of a higher-tier title for it (a duke can challenge their king for kingship, but not vice versa). It results in an opposed Prowess challenge with the winner taking (or holding) the title in question.
  • Character Tics: The way characters carry themselves in their portraits is influenced by their personality type. For example, villainous and cunning characters are more likely to look Obviously Evil by doing things like Finger-Tenting.
  • Choose a Handicap:
    • Educating a child gives you events that will determine their core personality traits as an adult. If the kid is in your direct line of succession so they're likely to be your Player Character eventually, you may be stuck choosing between traits you'd rather not deal with, or the slightly better version of taking on stress to choose an alternative to the event's bad favored option.
    • Experiencing a stress break generally gives a choice between two coping mechanisms (most of which are negative in nature and indulging even the few positive ones tends to come with penalties) or bottling it up, incurring even more stress and putting off the next break for a few years but not forcing the acquisition of a coping mechanism.
  • Church Militant: Rulers can become the patrons of holy orders. They have access to powerful men-at-arms and will serve their patron for free, but you can only hire them if you're at war with a heathen.
  • Civil War: What your realm will be perpetually stuck in without at least High Crown Authority Law (unlocked in the Early Medieval Era). At any lower Crown Authority, vassals are allowed to fight each other and aside from asking them to stop (which they can refuse), there is nothing to prevent that. This is particularly dangerous when your heir is a landed character, since there is a risk of him getting tangled up in such conflicts or outright targeted by your scheming vassals.
  • The Clan: Clan-based government is the dominant government form in Muslim realms. Unlike Feudal rulers, Clan rulers provide levies and taxes based on their opinion of their ruler and not the Crown Authority. Clan vassals do not have feudal contracts (for good or ill), and will suffer a hefty opinion penalty with their liege if they're not allied to said liege: The massive extended families Muslims commonly accrue due to polygamy means marriage alliances between liege and vassal clans are vital to keep your realm stable.
  • Combat Sadomasochist: When dueling, Deviant characters may be able to select the "Fueled by Pain" combat move, which is moderately effective in boosting both odds of victory and not progressing towards a loss and gives duel edge (temporary prowess) equal to the prowess penalty from their current level of injury.
  • Comeback Mechanic: The Great Holy War casus belli unlocks as a reaction to various losses and serves to allow a faith to reclaim lands it considers rightfully its own.
    • As in Crusader Kings 2, taking certain core Catholic or Islamic lands can trigger Crusaders or Jihads early, allowing them to organize under a shared banner and wage holy war for entire kingdoms. This also comes with immediately spawning holy orders for the religion in question, giving several thousand high-quality troops to them with which to wage these wars.
    • Even the regular Crusades have an element of this, though they're "coming back" from a setback that has already happened at both start dates. If Jerusalem is already in Christian hands, the Byzantine Empire is in decent shape, and continental Western Europe is secure, Crusades won't activate until the generic Great Holy War triggers are hit (head of faith is not in jail, at least 35 counties follow the faith, Fervor is at least 65%, year is at least 1100, and at least one other faith has unlocked their own Great Holy War casus belli.
    • Islamic Jihads are likewise structured as a comeback of sorts, only triggering if Muslims do not control Jerusalem or if Christians have enabled their Crusades and any holy site of an Islamic faith with the Struggle and Submission tenet is not under the control of any Islamic faith.
    • Generically, any faith can trigger their Great Holy War casus belli if they have a tenet that allows it, they're an organized faith, and either at least two of its holy sites are held by another religion or both Crusades and Jihads are enabled and at least one holy site is under a faith that is considered hostile or evil.
  • Comfort Food: A possible coping mechanism characters may develop is to overindulge in food when stressed. May also be Inverted by the inappetitic coping mechanism, in which the character loses their appetite and can actively refuse food to relieve stress.
  • The Confidant:
    • Finding a trusted confidant is a rare but highly effective coping mechanism - it comes with no stat penalties but reduces vassals' opinion of the player character. Presumably because they’re jealous.
    • One of the roles on the council is that of the Confidant, whose main role is to improve the ruler's skills. It's normally filled by the ruler's (primary) spouse, but clan governments can instead appoint the vizier into this role.
  • Cool Chair: Thrones, of course. There are several models for different regions, modelled in the royal court, and a ruler can also sponsor the creation of a throne or have an adventurer retrieve one.
  • Cool Crown: There are a lot, including the gem-encrusted Reichskrone of the Holy Roman Empire, the Papal Tiara, and the non-artifact crowns of Aragon that feature a solid gold víbria dragon. You can even make your own via the artifact crafting system.
  • Cool, but Inefficient:
    • On paper, the more counties you control directly, the better, as you get almost entire income they generate and gaining holding- and county-tier bonuses for yourself. However, this means that you have a large demesne, but only a single steward, marshal and chaplain to manage all of it, leaving said counties underdeveloped, while keeping county foreign cultures and/or religions for much longer and with slower gain of control post-conquest. Conversely, sharing the burden with your count vassals, while leaving them with some of the income, generates far more money in the long run, simply because they can develop their own fiefs, as each of them has their own councilors doing their jobs locally. On the flip side, this also means that you have to look out for powerful vassals, especially those who consolidate power via inheritance or warfare.
    • The "Unite the Spanish Thrones" decision for Catholic kings in Spain instantly bumps Crown Authority one tier up, regardless of year or innovations. However, depending on your situation, you might be better off without it, as the highest tier, Absolute Crown Authority, incurs heavy opinion penalties with your vassals and makes them unable to wage war outside your realm. Since those wars aren't technically yours, vassals can expand your realm on their own when allowed, while you save money keeping your soldiers on standby and without making or breaking truces. On top of that, the decision merges all the kingdom-tier titles you have under the primary one - which robs you of the prestige you'd generate from holding those titles individually, for a measly one-time payout of 750 prestige. The primary reason to take the decision is to prevent your realm from splitting between multiple kingdom-rank heirs upon inheritance, but once you manage to unite 80% of the Iberian Peninsula you can simply create the Empire of Hispania and keep everything united under that title anyway, so merging the kingdoms is often irrelevant, if not actively harmful.
      • Downplayed with the Fate of Iberia DLC active, however, as the decision to form the Empire of Hispania is locked until after you resolve the Iberian struggle, meaning that consolidating your realm and preventing it from splitting up until you're in a position to end it is a strategically sound move.
    • Dynasty legacies provide relatively minor bonuses, except for the Blood and Kin lines, and are extremely expensive on your Renown, a resource that is often better spent on interactions such as disinheriting unworthy children or giving yourself claims on a dynasty member's title. Post-1.3 rebalances made the Renown cost far, far more prominent than previously. Each unlocked legacy increases the price of the next one, so otherwise handy low-tier legacies can become prohibitively expensive if not picked early on, significantly decreasing the value of the bonuses they provide. And if picked early on, they will make other important legacies more expensive. Any legacy after the 11th will be ultimately more expensivenote  than picking two full lines of legacies in the old system and starting a 3rd onenote .
  • Cope by Creating: One of the possible three rare positive coping mechanisms is Journaller, where the character writes down the thoughts that plague them in order to make them more easily manageable. This causes them to lose Stress in exchange for a temporary malus in Diplomacy.
  • Country Matters: One of the possible randomly generated Danish dynasty names is "Kusse", which is Danish for "Cunt".
  • Creator Provincialism: In the release state of the game, Nordic countries already started with extra attention to details and a few extra special buildings, especially within the kingdom of Sweden. The very first DLC focused on the region, too, particularly in the Viking flavour (going as far as being accused by players of heavy bias, as Norse culture comes with a massive edge and easily countered "weaknesses") and next DLCs and gameplay changes still kept adding more stuff to it, regardless of the main theme of that specific DLC. Paradox is a Swedish company.
  • Crutch Character: Tribal rulers, bordering on Disc-One Nuke if played well. Tribals hire men-at-arms, create titles and construct buildings very cheaply (notably, men-at-arms are hired and almost entirely maintained with Prestige instead of Gold), have access to raiding (which gains you both Prestige and Gold), usually have unique local innovations (like the Khazar/Turkic Horse Archer or the Norse longships) and incredibly cheap casus belli to expand rapidly, but lack access to all innovations past the tribal era and therefore can never access stronger men-at-arms, advanced technologies and more convenient succession laws. Whether they fall into the former or latter categories depends a lot upon whether you can snowball into a gigantic empire before your feudal neighbors can access (and afford) the higher-tier men-at-arms armies needed to repulse your overwhelming number of levies.
  • Cuckold Horns: The icon for the Adulterer trait is a Heart Symbol with horns.
  • Culture Chop Suey: Royal Court allows both players and AI to create hybrid cultures derived from a foreign ruling class integrating with the native population.
  • Cunning Linguist:
    • During a feast, a character may make this Double Entendre on accident and you can either let it slide or find it funny and press the matter to see if they share your sense of humor.
    • One of the perks in the seduction tree also leans into the Double Entendre, even without actually making it, as the Smooth Operator perk both directly increases the success chance for seduction schemes and allows the character to learn another foreign language.
    • Even aside from this, a character with the right stats and perks can learn many foreign languages. Especially in the Middle East, it's not impossible to learn every language spoken in your entire diplomatic range due to the ubiquity of Arabic to the south, Greek to the west, East and West Iranian to the east, and Shaz Turkic to the north. After those five, there's only a relative handful of other languages in the region to pick up like Armenian and Georgian.
  • Cursed with Awesome:
    • Characters with the Possessed trait and high Learning can explain away their behavior as signs from their faith's god(s). This can earn them piety and approval from clergy and courtiers of their faith.
    • Likewise, Lunatic characters can get events that are very benefical to them, including one that allows them to build a special building that increases tax revenue & development growth.
    • Albinism, due to Albinos Are Freaks. Any albino character has a small opinion penalty... and +15 Natural Dread, which not only helps intimidate vassals into compliance, but also synergizes very well with certain Diplomacy and Intrigue perks and comes without any stat penalties. Invoked in-game, since with the "Blood" line of dynastic legacies albinism can become a common trait in people born within the same house.
    • Holdings built in hills, mountains and wetlands, especially in the 1066 start, and especially hills. Thanks to later-era economic buildings, they provide a variety of bonuses that are not only on par with more flat and economically fruitful areas, but their unique bonuses completely overcome their counterparts. Since the development of the whole county is based on its capital, the rest of the holdings can be built in the harshest environments possible without any ill effects.
  • Cute Kitten/Precious Puppy: It's possible through a few events for a character to get a pet cat or dog to whom the player can give a custom name. Having either one gives the character a decision to pet it to lose stress, and sometimes the pet will bring its owner coins, a parchment containing someone's blackmail secret, or even an unpressed claim on a random title.
  • Cycle of Hurting: Being behind the curve in innovations, especially as a tribal or a nomad. The biggest impact on "research" comes from the average development of all provinces within your culture. Development runs on Diminishing Returns for Balance, on top of being innovation-locked at certain max levels. To get innovations, you need to develop your land. To develop your land, you need better innovations. And you suck at both at the beginning of the game. Tribals can't build holdings, so they can't benefit from the development bonus cities provide. Exaggerated if you are playing as a widespread culture group, because the sheer number of provinces with that culture will keep your average development low for centuries.
  • Cycle of Revenge: The trailers tell the story of two rival dynasties, associated with emblems of Foxes and Bears, and their endless, bloody feud:
    • In the announcement trailer, the infant firstborn prince of the Fox dynasty is murdered in his crib by an agent of the Bear dynasty. In the story trailer, his brother (who was better defended) grows to become king, and declares war against the Bear dynasty to avenge his brother. Unfortunately, the release trailer reveals that the Fox king was killed during his vainglorious attack on the Bears, and his wife steps in to take charge.
    • In the Royal Court trailer, the queen of the dead Fox king takes her revenge — arranging a marriage between her son and a princess of the Bears, she lures the Bear royal family into her court to have them all butchered. Now the pregnant Bear princess is a captive of the Fox court, married to the son of the woman who murdered her father, and she quietly promises revenge.
    • In the Tours & Tournaments trailers, the Bear princess takes her own revenge — seducing a knight of the Foxes to her side, she has the Fox royal caravan ambushed on the road after a jousting tournament, killing everyone present (including the Fox queen, personally stabbed in the back by the Bear princess) before abducting her son. However, the badly injured Fox prince crawls to his feet as they leave him behind, swearing revenge against his treacherous wife.
    • In gameplay, cultures with the Eye for an Eye tradition see this as normal and just and the vengeful trait is considered proper behavior for an upstanding member of the culture, while being forgiving is seen as a sign of weakness. Likewise, this also applies to the Germanic Pagan faith and any faith with the Sacred Murders (Fedayeen if Muslim) tenet, as they too see vengeful behavior as pious and Germanics see being forgiving or cowardly as sinful, while those who practice Sacred Murders see cowardice but not forgiveness as sinful.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: It takes a while for players of II to remember that in III, only clan vassals and realm priests (for faiths with the Theocracy clerical tradition doctrine) provide taxes and levies based on opinion. Cue puzzlement when tribal, theocratic, or feudal vassals who like their liege having low contributions due to low levels of fame, devotion, or contract requirements respectively.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • CK3 is the first Paradox game to be rated M for "Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Use of Drugs and Violence". However, it's not because the game is more brutal than its predecessors, but more because of the inclusion of "nudist" religions that leads to full-frontal nudity for your characters, which lead to the ESRB re-evaluating other gameplay elements and ultimately slapping an "M" on it.
    • Inevitably will happen with total conversion mods that are not themselves based on Darker and Edgier (or historical) settings. Crusader Kings 3 is great for recreating just about any character-based setting or story, but there will be a lot more incest, murder, backstabbing and scheming than in the original, especially in settings like, say, The Lord of the Rings, where the good guys normally are relatively clear cut and maintain relatively good relations with each other.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Unlike the horrifying Hollywood Satanists of the previous game, witches in Crusader Kings III are generally harmless eccentrics with no real magical powers.note  Doesn't stop many faiths from taking them dead serious, though.
  • Death of the Old Gods: A theme throughout the game is the death of disorganized, mostly polytheistic religions in the face of more organized, mostly monotheistic religions, and those that don't still fade into obscurity as gameplay mechanics leave them stuck with tribal governments and unable to advance to the higher Technology Levels that allow greater consolidation, stronger militaries and economies, and greater stability. Even if the gods themselves aren't dying, belief in them certainly is. Reforming the faith into an organized religion can avert this and is generally a difficult process, but notably the Tibetan Bön faith has already done this and formed a syncretic faith with Buddhism to the point that it's hard to tell where exactly one ends and the other begins. Between the start dates, this hits Germanic, Magyar, and Slavic paganism particularly hard, with Germanic Paganism being reduced from all of Scandinavia and a foothold in the British Isles to barely hanging on in northern Scandinavia as most of its followers have converted to Catholicism, Magyar Paganism completely dying out after the Magyars migrate to Carpathia and convert en masse to Catholicism, and Slavic Paganism going from nearly all of Eastern Europe and a large chunk of the Balkans to just a small remnant in Pomerania. Other pagan faiths have also had bites taken out of them, such as the Sunni and Nestorian footholds in the steppe in 1066 and Islam pushing further south into Africa and further consolidating its position in Persia while the older Zoroastrian faith has declined considerably.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The infant prince William is given a grand speech about the power and responsibility he'll have as king, before being assassinated via snake in the announcement trailer. His unnamed brother is next in the line of succession and takes over as ruler in the story trailer. Thanks to increased guard presence, the brother actually manages to survive to adulthood and become king... but in the release trailer, he is killed in battle against the dynasty who murdered his brother, and his wife takes over as both the trailer's narrator and the ruler who is holding the realm together. This forms the beginning of a Cycle of Revenge, the true overall plot of the trailers.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Merchant Republics are the only government types that were playable in CK2 that are no longer playable, due to Paradox being unsatisfied with their mechanics. Paradox has said that they may make them playable once more through DLC.
    • The Nomad government type is also gone, with historically nomadic lands given Tribal government.
    • There are no Zunist or Yazidi rulers or counties, or Taoist counties note  in either start date, although these faiths can be revived at a very steep piety cost.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • Like in CK2, the Prophet Muhammad has a character profile in the history files, but uses a custom symbolic model rather than being portrayed with a human portrait due to religious taboo against such a portrayal.
    • The list of faiths includes completely dead religions like Hellenism and Zunism.
    • There are splinter Khanates for the collapse of the Mongol Empire not just in the Steppe, Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Tibet, but also for Western Europe, Africa, and Northern Europe.
    • There are a staggering array of hybrid cultures for European characters ruling over the Holy Land. Not just Outremer (Frankish + Arabic in the Syria region), but also among many others, Coigríche (Gouidelic + Arabic), Külföldi (Magyar + Arabic), and Hierosolyman (any Germanic + Arabic).
    • Great Holy War target weights and localizations exist for every religion in the game, even those like Jainism, Taoism, and Buddhism which aren't known for their religious warfare, and in the case of Jainism, are famous for their strict pacifism. Just in case a player makes a splinter faith that does engage in such warfare or a Buddhist or Jain enacts the "Become Chakravati" decision after uniting India and adds the "Rightful Rulers of the World" special doctrine to their faith (provided their particular faith has a religious head).
  • Devious Daggers: The icon of the intrigue skill, used for nefarious plotting and espionage of all kinds, is a dagger (possibly a Lethal Letter Opener) laying atop an envelope with a wax seal. On the council screen, your spymaster will be shown wielding a dagger, while councilor actions have dagger-themed icons. Children who received an Intrigue-based education will also be depicted wielding a dagger on their "your child is now an adult"-popup message.
    • One of the artifact types added by the Royal Court expansion are daggers, which increase a character's intrigue skill in addition to their combat skill.
  • Dice Roll Death: Implemented several times, such as the rates to die in battle or once your health gets low enough, but at most chance-based in the Harm system. After a foreshadowing event, your character has an 80% chance to die or be brain-damaged to the point of being unable to rule effectively, purely down to luck of the draw unless your character happens to have a specific perk. Players who don't want to lose characters purely to bad luck can reduce the frequency or turn off harm events without disabling achievements like many other difficulty options do. Patch 1.11 improved the odds of survival and changed the default game rule so that harm events can only affect AI characters unless the player chooses otherwise before starting a campaign.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Equal gender law, coming either from culture or religion. Before single-heir inheritance becomes available, this can be a complete disaster, since children of both genders inherit and thus split your realm like crazy - doubly so if combined with concubinage. It can turn into a complete nightmare in the 867 start, where the only form of inheritance is Confederate Partition, with each heir potentially splitting off to form their own independent realm. All of this obviously makes it also impossible to save-scum the gender of your offspring to avoid partitions, since they all inherit anyway. On the flip-side, you can always utilize the most skilled people as vassals, councilors, and knights regardless of gender, and the risk of failing to produce an heir of the socially dominant gender is irrelevant. Once you have single-heir inheritance (either via House Seniority, Elective Monarchy or simple Primogeniture), the main weakness of gender equality ceases to exist, leaving only benefits.
  • Diminishing Returns for Balance: Development, especially when actively improved by your steward. When calculating progress, the game always compares current value with both existing development and your innovation-locked limit. The higher you go and the closer you get to the innovation limit, the bigger the push-back - eventually halting further growth completely.
  • Disinherited Child: Your children can be disinherited to instantly remove them from the line of succession for all of your titles, at the cost of some prestige and dynasty renown. This allows you to avoid an Inadequate Inheritor, or prevent a messy realm partition between siblings, without resorting to killing anyone.
  • Domestic Abuser: If your spouse has the sadistic trait then there may be an event where you realize they enjoy seeing you suffer.
  • Driven to Suicide: A ruler who is sufficiently miserable (possessing any of a number of negative traits like Cancer or Melancholic, has suffered the death of a beloved friend, soulmate or offspring, or has reached stress level 3) may "Attempt Suicide" as a special decision. It has a 50% chance to work, as it may be Bungled or Interrupted, and if successful, their dynasty loses one level of splendor.
    • Rulers following a religion with the Ritual Suicide/Consolamentum (for Christian faiths) tenet can also perform suicide (or 'Initiate Endura') whilst infirm, old enough, or ill enough. Unlike with normal suicides, they do not drop a dynasty's splendor, and in fact they posthumously increase the piety rank of the character by one.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Characters may turn to alcoholism as a method of coping with stress, which carries significant statistical penalties and minor health penalties.
  • Dumb Muscle: With patch 1.5 introducing cultural traditions, a variety of martial traditions provide a debuff toward innovations, frown upon Learning education, make it harder to get good results out of intellectual pursuits or any combination of the three. Notably, the inverse isn't present and Learning-aligned traditions have zero issues with having good physique. Scholarly cultures often also come packaged with other traditions that lead to Badass Bookworm.
  • Dump Stat: With the Technology system from the previous game completely revamped into cultural innovations, the Learning stat is now virtually superfluous for anyone who isn't either a realm priest or Culture Head (upon whose Learning depends the rate of their culture's innovation development). And due to changes in priest-related mechanics, you don't need more than 15 Learning to have a really successful religious councilor. Despite the limited value of the stat, the perks from the Learning lifestyle are generally considered to be at least above-average, from Medicine's improved health and lifespan to the ability to purchase claims with Piety from a Scholarship perk.
  • Easter Egg: If a stat is raised to a value of 69, not typically possible during standard play, instead of being classified as "Excellent", it will instead be classified as "Nice". It's only for that specific value, too; a stat of 70 or higher will return to being called "Excellent".
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. Want to move your gigantic army seven thousand men strong halfway across the European continent, through two mountain ranges? You're going to lose hundreds of them to starvation and attrition, as the local regions can't provide enough supplies and forage for an army of that size. For this reason, you'll have to either split your giant army into smaller ones and reform them later, which runs the risk of the smaller ones getting picked off by your enemies, or try to delicately chart a path through the landscape that avoids as much attrition as possible.
  • Elective Monarchy: Certain cultures and religions have access to various modes of electing new rulers. They suffer from liberal amounts of Artistic License – History (or Rule of Fun), being presented as a very simplistic voting system, along with being flat-out superior to any other political system prior to primogeniture (and can even render primogeniture itself pointless in certain cases).
  • Elite Army: Building your army into a professional force of men-at-arms and knights becomes more crucial and feasible as the game progresses. Early on in the game when gold to fund men-at-arms is hard to come by, your armies will be best off using levies to Zerg Rush the enemy, but as you progress further, buildings that increase the power of your men-at-arms will become more common, as will the gold to fund them, and a force of mostly or only professional soldiers can easily defeat a larger army deriving their much of their strength from massed levies.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous:
    • Once a dynasty unlocks the entire Warfare line of legacies, it gains access to House Guards men-at-arms. Compared with regular Armored Footmen, they have better stats all over the board (and gain additional high Screen stats that regular footmen lack). Only a single regiment of those can be maintained and it's limited to a a maximum size of 5 (500 men).
    • Cultural and regional men-at-arms are this, being a regional flavor of the regular unit type with improved stats, the ability to counter additional types of enemy retinues, and/or terrain specialties related with their place of origin. To get them, your culture must either have specific cultural traditions and reach the correct era or you have to control a sufficient number of counties in a specific region of the map and then research the necessary innovation. Every default culture has an associated men-at-arms tradition, though divergent cultures may drop the tradition or hybrid cultures can inherit such traditions from both parent cultures. However, not every region has an associated regional men-at-arms innovation.
  • Elopement: Exists in-game as a personal scheme that can target your Soulmate, provided you're not already married to each other. Success in the scheme will lead to the happy couple running away to the landed party's court and getting married, to the consternation of the church, their parents, and their respective spouse(s) if any.
  • Emasculated Cuckold: Any situation where adultery is revealed makes the cuckolded party take an opinion hit toward their spouse and lover. This even includes religions that consider adultery perfectly acceptable, suggesting that the cuckold feels personally angered by the betrayal, even in a society that sees nothing wrong with infidelity.
  • Enlightened Self-Interest: Could be argued to be the whole point of the game, as whatever you do will be done ultimately for your own benefit, or at least that of your heirs. In the process of your primary objective of maintaining your dynasty's power, you can also improve the quality of life for the common people by developing the land, reward the deserving with titles and power of their own, punish wrongdoers, and reform your religion and culture into being remarkably peaceful and tolerant by medieval or even modern standards.
    • Claimant wars, especially if the claimant is just some random person, rather than a distant relative, that just happens to be visiting your court. You can install a puppet emperor married to your daughter matrilineally, so your dynasty at first gains renown through that marriage and then full control of that empire after a generation.
    • Due to a rework of how holdings operate and the more strictly limited number of slots for them, it's in your best interest as a liege to invest into your vassals' lands first, your own later. The reason is very simple: holdings can be built only once, so it is in your interest that they are temples or cities, instead of the countless castles your vassals prefer to build. Meanwhile structures within holdings you don't directly control can't be switched to something elsenote , so again, it's your best interest to build fields and pastures in those, rather than useless levy-generating buildingsnote . Until all slots within a given county and all its holdings are filled, you should be pumping money into your vassals. This is probably most important in coastal areas, where the AI routinely ignores the option to build the highly useful tradeport buildings.
  • Eurabia:
    • While not as common as it was in the previous game as a natural occurance in AI hands, CK3 instead makes it far easier to achieve for a human player, along with bunch of special decisions making it even easier, like "Avenge the Battle of Tours"explanation or "Dismantle the Papacy"explanation. Andalusian AARs are virtually all about people sharing their experience with pulling this off.
    • Inverted by the Crusades, the Empire of Outremer, and a wide array of scripted hybrid cultures for nearly every culture group that had significant Catholic populations. The Crusades establish European kingdoms in the Middle East and the hybrid cultures like Outremer and Jerusaleman making European rule easier by adopting some local traditions and promoting some of their own amongst their new subjects. Furthermore, such a culture is automatically created by the "Form the Outremer Empire" decisionnote , bypassing the normal cultural acceptance requirements for creating a hybrid culture and giving 35% odds that each controlled county and Muslim subject converts to Catholicism and 50% odds that each vassal with the same cultural heritage as the ruler adopts the new culture.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Sending gifts of gold to other characters boosts their opinion of you, which considering how much opinion matters in character interactions, gives you a better chance to arrange a crucial marriage or coax a wavering vassal out of a dangerous faction, among other things. When you're plotting a scheme against someone, greasing the palms of potential agents for their cooperation in the scheme can make the difference between a murder attempt succeeding or not.
  • Everyone Is Related: Encouraged in Clan government realms, where Altar Diplomacy is a vital part of keeping the various Clans of the realm in good standing with each other. There is a heavy opinion penalty for a liege (of any government type) not marrying into a Clan vassal's family, especially powerful vassals.
  • Evil Chancellor: A potential issue in any kind of power sharing, especially if the diarch is self-interested, as the scales of power can tip too far towards the diarch, and they may refuse to let go of their powers. Clan governments have it even worse, as you're encouraged to tip the scales of power towards the vizier, so as to improve their ability to collect taxes.
  • Evolving Title Screen: When first booting up the game, the main menu features William of Normandy (formerly Alfonso of Leon), Matilda of Tuscany, and Yahya of the Dhunnunid Emirate. This changes to display your character, spouse, and heir from your most recently played save file.
  • Explosive Breeder:
    • The Fecund trait, which is genetic and inheritable, providing a +50% increase to fertility, the most one can get from a single trait. Additionally, it increases life expectancy by five years, which also delays menopause for women by the same five years, meaning women with the Fecund trait not only get pregnant more easily with their spouse(s)/consorts, but can keep doing so later in life. It is aptly represented by a rabbit icon. And it goes up to eleven if your ruler happens to be Muslim, having a royal harem. Filling up the soft cap of 15 legitimate children per father will usually happen in less than a decade. Even with the slower reproductive pace of a female ruler or a strictly monogamous male ruler, the fifteen child soft cap can easily be hit in under twenty years, often under fifteen.
    • A combination of certain traits and lifestyles, like Lustful, Seducer, and Whole of Body massively increase fertility when stacked with each other.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Being one-eyed makes a character more intimidating, and is a virtuous trait in the Norse Asatru religion due to the association with Odin.
  • Fake–Real Turn: Various court items are obvious fakes, like relics of saints or the blatantly fake "Excalibur" sword (which is outright listed as a fake to brag around). However, via random events and various interactions, such objects can progressively gain additional stats and even increase in quality, eventually making them on par with the real deal over the centuries, or at least highly-regarded symbols.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: Religions are far more customizable in Crusader Kings 3 than previous games, with tenets and doctrines being alterable. This can lead to some wild interpretations of virtuous behavior: you can make a religion in which lying and scheming is seen as a virtue, cannibalism is a sacred ritual, and marriage between close relatives emulates the divine. Downplayed in that you can't just create a new religion overnight; you need a lot of piety and clout to make it stick, and the more you deviate from your parent faith's core beliefs the harder it will be to sell it to your subjects and the world at large. Also downplayed in that you can't just attach any tenet to any faith as some require the new faith either be part of or not be part of certain other religions or religion groups - for example, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths can never adopt human sacrifice, while pagan and eastern faiths can't embrace iconoclasm like Abrahamic faiths can.
  • Fat Bastard: In religions which see gluttony as a vice, the trait causes a character to lose one piety every month. While a character can technically be gluttonous without becoming fat or fat without being gluttonous, the glutton trait is the single largest contributor to weight gain in the game and tends to lead to coping mechanisms and lifestyle traits that further increase a character's weight like alcoholism, stress eating, and the reveler lifestyle and associated frequent feasts.
  • Freudian Excuse: When educating a child, an AI guardian will encourage their own, or similar traits, to develop in the kid. Since rulers also prefer to educate their own heirs, starting with a screwup dynasty head can lead to generations following a similar personality type, continuing the family tradition of being a no-good. The Abbasid Caliphate in the 867 start are probably the best example, since Al-Mu'tazz is a horrible ruler (most famous in real life for bringing an abrupt end to the Abbasid golden age) and his sons usually grow up to be just as incompetent - eventually becoming powerless lackeys in their own empire.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Inverted with Norse culture and the Ásatrú faith. It starts very strong in 867, with a plethora of special gameplay elements, along with religion and cultural innovations tailor-made for fearsome raiders. But as time goes on, viking raids go from "pretty challenging" to "annoying nuisance", and eventually become completely ignoreable. On their own, the Norse will eventually either split into Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, go native with the locals they've conquered or get completely sidelined on the fringes of the map. Most notably, to prevent the ever-increasing power-disparity, Norse rulers must either reform Ásatrú religion (a daunting task) or simply adopt any of the organised faiths - either of which will disable raiding, on which Norse gameplay revolves, but at least allows to escape the Tribal Era tech restictions. Tellingly, in the 1066 start, Norse is effectively a dead culture, limited to remnants on Iceland and the Orkeys (both of which are Catholic), while Ásatrú is similarly almost a dead faith, only practiced by a handful of relatively weak tribes and counts in northern Norway and Sweden, with the strongest being Jarl Erik "the Heathen", the only real duke-or-higher level follower of the faith.
  • Forced Out of the Closet: If two characters are in a same-sex relationship and their religion doesn't accept homosexuality, their relationship is a secret which, if discovered, can be either be used as a blackmail hook or exposed to the public to hurt their reputations.
  • Forever War: While skillful players can keep their realms at peace for decades easily, expect the AI to obsess over pointlessly revoking some random county in Buttfuck, Nowhere, all the time, thus constantly pulling half the realm into civil wars for no net gain. Even if you create the most well-managed, prosperous world-spanning empire, it will not know peace any longer the moment you switch to Observer Mode and leave it to the AI.
  • Four Is Death: While a character can potentially survive up to three levels of temporary injury, taking a fourth before recovering will cause them to die instantly.
  • Functional Addict: One of the many coping mechanisms characters may develop over a lifetime of stress is a hashish dependency, which while carrying some statistical penalties, isn't particularly more disadvantageous than other coping mechanisms and is generally less debilitating than alcoholism.
  • Gender Is No Object:
    • As far as the game mechanics are concerned, there is no difference what gender your councilor or knight is. All they need to do their job is a high value of the related stat, which is unrelated to gender. The society they live under can, however, entirely bar them from these jobs on the basis of sex.
    • Religions and cultures with equal views on gender offer this for followers by default. This is a double-edged sword, since depending on your situation, it can either save your inheritance or lead to extra partitions and claimant wars.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: When you pull off a seduction or romance scheme, one of the events that might unfold is your lover being attacked by a giant wolf while out on a hunting trip. Should the scheme be successful, your character will slay the wolf and the two will enthusiastically, ahem, celebrate on the spot.
  • Gonk: Characters with negative attraction traits (Homely, Ugly, or Hideous) have exaggerated facial features that are intended to make them look ugly.
  • Going Native: Three distinctive strains of it.
    • The "adopt local culture" decision is simply the character deciding to fit better into their realm (capital county culture), using the local language and following local fashion. Depending how far away from home they are, this might be a cosmetic change or result in Black Viking.
    • When characters from certain cultures rule over a specific region, a slow-going process of switching local culture will happen. This is most prominent in the case of historical invasions, leading to things like Norman, Andalusian or Outremernote  cultures. Notably, the new culture will still be foreign to the ruling class, which might try to either stick to their own ways or adopt to the new, emerging culture.
    • As part of the Royal Court DLC, characters can now 'hybridize' their culture with one present in the lands they rule- similar to how Norman and Anglo-Saxon become English. Players can choose how intermingled they are- naming schemes, what CoA style gets used, even how they dress, and most prominently, which language they speak. The dev diary featuring this showed things like Anglo-Norse, and Mashriqi-Swedish (caused by Swedish characters ruling Jerusalem for a few generations.)
  • The Good Chancellor: If you're lucky enough so as to have a selfless diarch, they will never abuse their power, and will be happy to end the power sharing if you ask them to step down.
  • Good Feels Good: One of the benefits to having "good" character traits is that, after an update, they can reduce stress by simply being good people, as opposed to picking up deleterious methods of stress relief.
  • The Good King: The opportunity to become this is always available, especially if your character has traits like Just, Honest, Compassionate, Temperate, etc. In general, having a high Stewardship score so that you can run your domain effeciently and being on good terms with your vassals to keep them from forming factions against you means that your character's reign will hopefully be a long one of peace and prosperity. You may even be lucky enough to get a nickname signifying just how much the realm appreciates you, such as "The Gracious" or "The Kind".
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Stress may cause a character to become perpetually irritable. Especially for an already impatient and wrathful character, this can make them a ticking time bomb of violence waiting to be unleashed on friends, family, courtiers, guests, vassals, and anyone else unfortunate enough to be nearby.
  • Handicapped Badass: Missing a leg gives a surprisingly low -4 to one's Prowess score, which allows for an experienced fighter to have a successful dueling and/or tournament career without much trouble. Subverted by blindness, which has a large but surmountable -10 Prowess penalty, but acts as a hard block in engaging in most martial activities like dueling, hunting, and martial (but not social or intellectual) tournament contests.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: The Deviant trait represents when a character has an "unconventional" sexual preference. While the game never gives specific details, depending on the event the character will express interest in incest, bestiality, and masochism. There are some examples in-game like a Deviant father having a threesome with his son and granddaughter (the son's daughter), after discovering the son and granddaughter are already in a romantic relationship.
  • The Hedonist: You can have religions with this hat. "Hedonism" can be a religious tenant, it makes Gluttony a virtue and gives piety for holding feasts, while the "Carnal Exaltation" tenet makes sexual pleasure divinely inspired and Lustful a virtue. The only religions that follow those tenets are Cainitism (an extinct Dualist sect, which can be revived) and Messalianism (a Christian heresy).
  • Heir Club for Men: Most cultures are patriarchal by default, with either male preference or male only succession law, and female rulers suffer a mild opinion penalty. Male children inherit, while female children exist to be wedded off to secure alliances or further the dynasty — with male preference succession, a woman will only inherit if there are no eligible men available. Cultures with the "equal inheritance" tradition can avert this trope by having gender-equal succession law, while a culture with "Matriarchy" can invert it by enacting female preference or female only succession.
  • Henotheistic Society: Just like in the previous game, followers of polytheistic religions can select their "patron" deity, paying them far more attention than the rest of the pantheon.
  • Heroic Lineage:
    • Dynasties use a resource called Renown, which indicates how well-known and appreciated a character's lineage will be to the world. As Renown increases the dynasty unlocks "legacy" perks, which benefit all members of their dynasty. Some historically famous lineages (like the Karlings, Abbasids and the Sons of Ragnar Lothbrok in the 867 start, and the Capets, Salians and Jimenez in 1066) start out with higher levels of Renown.
    • Like in the second game, patrilineal descendants of the Prophet Muhammad's family have the "Sayyid" trait, which grants a small opinion bonus with Muslims.
    • The Saoshyant trait will create a lineage trait called "Saoshyant Descendant", which functions in the same way as "Sayyid" but for Zoroastrians. Most religions can also do something similar, creating a "Divine Blood" trait.
    • The "Strengthen Lineage" decision gives your family a boost to getting good traits and a minus to bad traits. The Blood line of dynasty abilities also gives your lineage some nifty gifts.
  • Hidden Backup Prince: Very distant relatives can serve this role, when your dynasty is facing extinction. Usually such person will be an unlanded courtier or wanderer, too.
  • Hidden Mechanic: The weight of characters. As in - their poundage. It's not stated anywhere in the UI or as a value readily accessible to players, but it does affect your character and the game does act on the save-stored values to determine health, Prowess modifiers and a few other, minor elements. Excessive feasting, especially with lavish food from the court settings, is a great way to reduce the life expectancy of characters.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: When reaching maximum stress, there is a chance the character will suffer a heart attack and perish instantly, with the description describing them feeling a sharp pain in chest and left arm and subsequently collapsing on the floor.
  • Homophobic Hate Crime: In religions that shun same-sex relationships, couples who are Forced Out of the Closet face harassment from their peers and diminished social status. In religions where it is criminal, those couples can be imprisoned by their liege.
  • Horny Vikings: They are playable in the 867 start date. The Northern Lords DLC adds new mechanics and features for Viking factions such as the inclusion of shieldmaidens. No (ahistorical) horned helmets in sight, though.
  • Hunting "Accident": As always, this is a popular means of assassination, especially with the patch alongside Tours & Tournaments, as you can now elaborately plan an entire hunting trip for the sole purpose of arranging said unfortunate accident. Of course, there are plenty of genuine hunting mishaps as well.
  • I Control My Minions Through...: A large aspect of the game is deciding how to command the respect and subservience of your vassals to stop them from becoming unruly and rising up against you. You can do this through myriad methods; you can use fear to keep them perpetually terrified of your wrath, you can manipulate them through blackmail and play them against each other, and you can even genuinely listen and follow up on their requests and win their adoration through your benevolence.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Characters' clothing depends on the rank of their title (if they have any) or that of their spouse's. Landless nobles with no land-owning immediate relative will dress the same as lowborn commoners, implying this trope.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Characters can normally only attempt to seduce or romance characters who are attracted to them, though events can result in seduction or romance schemes targeted at characters who would not actually be attracted to them and have a significant penalty to trying to seduce or romance characters that the schemer isn't attracted to without going down the seduction intrigue tree (and even with the perk, the AI will never try to start a seduction scheme against a character that the schemer is not attracted to). Also as might be expected, characters only get attraction opinion modifiers to characters whose gender is compatible with their orientation. However, orientation incompatibility will not prevent a married couple from producing offspring so long as both partners are biologically capable and have not chosen a life of celibacy.
  • Ignorance Is Bliss: If you have a well-running court with good relationships with your councilors and spouse, along with direct vassals, you are better off never setting your spymaster to search for schemes within your court. You are going to find out insignificant "crimes" like an affair or finding someone is a bastard or how your archbishop is an atheist. Worse, you can end up with random event chains, like learning The Secret of Long Pork Pies served by your court cook. Secrets like that don't affect the game until they are discovered, and in the process can easily ruin your perfect court for zero gain. Sometimes knowing less is better.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Averted unlike prior games - postive attraction traits (Comely, Pretty/Handsome, and Beautiful) alter a character's face to be more symmetrical and better made-up with cosmetics.
  • Informed Deformity:
    • Much like Informed Attractiveness, averted unlike prior games. Negative attraction traits (Homely, Ugly, and Hideous) pick a a few facial features and exaggerate them with the aim of looking odd and unattractive. Similarly, Scaly gives the character's skin a scaly texture and spindly makes them oddly thin. Dwarfism and Gigantism have affects on appearance beyond just height and reflect other common physical traits of people with those conditions. Even a clubfoot or a peg-leg, which isn't normally shown on the portrait slightly alters how the character stands to reflect the deformity or disability.
    • However, one physical deformity remains an Informed Attribute - a hunchback. Characters with the Hunchback trait have no alterations to their portrait relative to those who don't have it. Additionally, some deformities like a cleft pallete simply are not present even though they were in previous games.
  • Interface Spoiler: All characters' sexual orientations are displayed to the player, even though the other characters obviously can't see it, which makes finding secrets about them easier. Otherwise averted, though, as most secret-based traits are only visible if they're public, either through being revealed or if they're acceptable in the character's religion and culture.
  • In-Universe Catharsis: A character with a coping mechanism may indulge one or more of their coping mechanisms every few years to reduce their stress at the cost of some penalty (eg. Self-flagellating wounds you and aggravates your injuries further if you're already wounded, eventually killing you if you already have the highest tier of the wounded trait. Engaging in sex for solace at the local brothel can be expensive and is a good way to pick up venereal diseases. Going on a big exercise binge leaves you sweaty and smelly enough that you get a general opinion debuff). In general, indulging coping mechanisms with greater penalties to yourself, such as whipping yourself bloody, burns off more stress than those with smaller penalties like going on a shopping spree, which is just a monetary cost.
  • Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality: As a rule of thumb, commander traits that provide utility bonuses are strictly superior to the ones related with combat advantage and the Aggressive Attacker trait (+25% fatal casualties) is the most useless of them all.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: Due to the way how the game handles feudal hierarchy, wars usually aren't against the top liege, but one of his sub-vassals and for the titles they hold, simply dragging the rest of the realm into the conflict when an independent landed character is attacking. Can easily lead to a situation where you are fighting with a vassal that is your personal rival but declared war on your best friend, the top liege of said vassal.
  • Just Following Orders: Since most vassal types don't pay taxes or contribute levies based on their opinion of you, it is very likely that vassals who still dutifully cough up their contributions hate your guts personally; the most extreme example are republican rulers (who contribute a fixed amount no matter what). Vassals who contribute based on their opinion of you include clan vassals and (for faiths with the Theocracy clerical tradition doctrine) your realm priest.
  • The Lady's Favour: A participant in a tournament can gain it as a minor trinket with just as minor stats in one of the events related to preparing for the competition. Curiously enough, they can be later gifted to others, and if maintained long enough, they can even become more potent artefacts (even if they are still kind of crap).
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Angry peasants will revolt, regardless of their strength compared to yours. Other rebellious factions will consider whether they can possibly win before trying anything.
  • Leonine Contract: It's quite possible to gain one of these by taking prisoners in war and then releasing them in exchange for a "hook" you can use to manipulate the released prisoner later. Likewise, if you're captured in war or rebellion, this can happen to you too.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: Pay attention to what's going around - because the AI sure will. Neighboring country in a state of war(s) and all their troops are assigned to the other side of the realm? Good time to press your own claim. Your unruly, but powerful vassal getting mobbed by other vassals in a civil war? Demand he surrenders to their demands before he can fight them off. Your terrible heir gets sick? Order your court physician not to give treatment, increasing the odds that your heir dies and the more competent Spare to the Throne can pick up.
  • Lifesaving Misfortune:
    • If you gain any sort of health problem and consult your court physician for treatment, there is a chance to gain a massive health bonus for few years, up to a decade. Once the original problem is gone (which the treatment might even remove instantly), you keep the health modifier, along with its duration. This becomes handy for old characters (health declines with age, eventually leading to death), artificially extending their life.
    • Depending on your situation and inheritance law, it might be a good thing for your heir (or even heirs) to die to disease, combat, or assassination. In fact, it might even save your realm from a civil war.
  • Locked Away in a Monastery: The "order to take the vows" decision, available to religions with the Monasticism tenet. This disinherits a character without spending valuable renown, and might be either a very good way to prevent a succession crisis, or an utter disaster if your preferred heir meets an untimely end. Unlike disinheritance, however, this action requires an agreement from the targeted character, and characters who are ambitous or slated to inherit your primary titles are especially likely to refuse even with the aid of a hook.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: It is possible for a character to be born with the "Impotent" trait which reduces their fertility by 50 percent.
  • LOL, 69: If a character has a stat at 69, the corresponding description of skill level will say "Nice", instead of "Excellent" which is normally the description given for high values — should the stat go up to 70, the description will revert back to "Excellent".
  • Long Game: Any given plan is usually stretched for three generations, rarely wrapping up in just two. That's about five hours of gameplay at max speed or a day at normal. And certain aspects of CK3 are deliberately something to keep track of for the whole duration of it, making dynastic management the longest master plan you can have.
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: Played With: the Dread mechanic allows you to rule by fear rather than lovenote . However, when they die and their heir takes over, most of the negative opinion of their prior ruler will be applied to the heir, and since Dread is not inherited, those people might use that as an excuse to topple the heir.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • Feudal government. It starts as the weakest government form and is outright detrimental to your performance during the tribal era, but as you advance in innovations it slowly but surely turns into the best government form. Unlike Tribals, Feudals can research many more innovations and maintain large empires through stronger succession laws. Unlike Clans, they do not have to maintain great opinion ratings just to get money and troops from their vassals. The feudal contract mechanic can eventually be abused for obscene income. It's just getting there that takes anywhere between 150 to 300 years.
    • The Warfare dynasty legacy path. Even after it was significantly buffed with the 1.3 patch, it's still four tiers of pure crap... and then, at the final tier, it gives +1 to the max number of men-at-arms regiments. To every dynasty member.
    • Similarly, the Customs dynasty legacy from Royal Court. It's potentially the worst legacy path of them all... except for tier 3 offering a 15% cultural fascination bonus and a free hook on characters from different cultures when granting them landnote . Getting there requires taking two underwhelming legacies and raising the price tag of other legacies.
    • Camelry buildings. The provide a handful of cavalry-focused military bonuses, and each of them adds to your knight cap, ending up at +4 at tier 7 building. Each of them. Build ten and even at the very first tier you have 10 extra knights. Even a knight with terrible Prowess is equal to having an extra regiment of heavy cavalry with zero maintenance cost. All the better if you can fill those extra slots with actually competent fighters. Tier 5, offering +3 knights, can be reached as early as 1100 AD and by then, you will have potentially more knight slots than suitable characters in your court. Plus, of course, substantial bonuses to your cavalry regiments, too. Eventually it got nerfed when buildings got overhauled in patch 1.9, removing the knight limit bonus, making the building line virtualy useless.
  • The Magnificent: Fulfilling certain criteria by making decisions can lead to your character gaining a nickname/epithet, ranging from impressive and boastful-sounding ones like "The Strong" or "The Brave" to more sinister or insulting ones like "The Impaler" or "The Spherical".
  • Make an Example of Them: With the Dread mechanic, you can do this by executing prisoners or choosing actions in events that increase your dread. This can be especially useful for newly ascended heirs (especially those where their predecessor had a lot of vassals with negative opinion of them) who, as their first act on the throne, executes several prisoners to quickly gain enough dread to forestall rebellion. Preferably if they're characters who've been exposed as criminals, lest the new heir be seen as too tyrannical, but their predecessor might have the foresight to keep people locked up for the purpose of their heir securing their legacy.
    • Much less effective after 1.5, as executing random courtiers and commoners will no longer generate any Dread. Rulers and their children are now the only ones who will generate any Dread, which can be counterproductive if the hatred their family feels for your actions outweighs the fear.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • Few of the better murder plots operate under this premise, as they are far less direct and harder to pin down as actual murders - but also harder to pull off in the first place.
    • Tournament and hunt participants have to set their personal goal during the entire event. One of them is murdering someone by "accident", with things like killing them during a mock battle or ambushing them in a forest. To make them even better, if the plan succeeds early on, it is possible to switch to some other goal and focus on other activities.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Downplayed. On the one hand, sometimes Mom has a bit on the side and the resulting child is a little bit outcrossed, and the "Disputed Heritage" trait occurs when a child's father is in question. On the other hand, the mother always knows who her baby's father is, even if she's got a harem and lovers on the side. And if it's a male concubine, the child will still be considered a Child of a Concubine.
  • Marriage Before Romance: It is perfectly possible for a character to seduce or romance their own spouse, which increases the marriage's fertility and the opinion of the spouse (usually to the maximum of +100). It is even possible for a married couple to become soulmates this way, though unlike in Crusader Kings 2 it does not automatically lead to a Seduction-Proof Marriage.
  • Masking the Deformity: Disfigured characters will wear a reflective metal mask to hide their horrid facial scarring.
  • Master of None: Thanks to changes in legacy mechanics from patch 1.3 onward, it is paramount to focus on important things or just sticking to a single tree. The price of new legacies increases with each unlocked one. As a result, picking up legacies from multiple trees can completely block a dynasty from getting high-tier legacies, as they will eventually cost absurd amounts of Renown.
  • Matriarchy: Unlike previous two games, it is finally possible with the right set of culture and/or religious values without the game punishing you for doing so - and some regions already start there.
  • Medieval Morons: Either played straight or subverted for the characters we see (who are mostly nobles). Selecting a good educator for your heirs (usually someone who is bright and well-educated themselves) or paying the hefty price to send your child to university can make them a much more effective ruler. And then, well, there are still some characters who are just drooling imbeciles from birth to death.
  • Medieval Stasis: Enforced by the game rules on two levels:
    • Periphery regions of the map like East Africa, West Africa, Central Asia, the Himalayas, Northern Europe, and the Eurasian taiga and steppe see little to no development or innovation gain between the 867 and 1066 start dates, while the core regions see significant advances and has mostly moved on to the Early Feudal Era. Said periphery regions are further locked in the lowest of Technology Levels, as they are likely to be under tribal government and thus prevented from advancing to the next level and under unreformed pagan faiths preventing advancing to feudal or clan governments to advance to the Early Feudal Era.
    • The game uses Technology Levels, and each of those levels, known as eras, has a scripted starting date. Even if a culture manages to blitz through an era (which is likely in 867 starts, even in the aforementioned periphery), it is locked from further research until the game reaches the mandated minimal year to unlock the next era. In the most extreme cases, it is entirely possible to sit for almost a century without progressing the tech one bit. And if one changes or removes the minimal date or simply cheat, the in-game tech still ends with the Late Medieval inventions.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: As a Compassionate character, you face Stress penalties for executing, torturing or imprisoning individual characters. You face no penalties whatsoever if that same Compassionate character is a warmonger whose conquests cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
  • Multiple Endings: Each Struggle has multiple end states.
    • The Iberian Struggle, the focus of the Fate of Iberia flavor pack, can come to an end in one of four ways.
      • Domination: One monarch dominates the peninsula when the Struggle is in the Hostility phase, and decides whether they want to champion their faith, promote their culture, or both, pissing off any ruler of other faiths or cultures (respectively); in any case, they can now move on to form the Empire of Hispania. This is essentially the historical outcome, albeit beyond the timeframe of the game.
      • Status Quo: Something of a Nonindicative Name, Iberia's identity as more than a geographical construct is more-or-less banjaxed, and the various kingdoms establish their own national identities. Within the peninsula itself, an uneasy truce prevails and it's harder to make war. This can happen if, in the Compromise phase, there's a ruler strong enough to decree it, peace on the peninsula, and if the leader either has close relations with all remaining rulers or if a quarter of the peninsula is held by outsiders.
      • Detente: The Struggle ends in peace, tolerance and cultural exchange. All involved cultures renounce holy war against each other, Iberia's national identity is defined by multiculturalism and religious pluralism, and a loose defensive alliance prevails among the Iberian kingdoms. An Empire of Hispania can be formed later. To make this happen, a glorious leader must be allied with all independent Iberian rulers while the conflict is trending toward conciliation, and while they do not dominate the peninsula.
      • The Iberian Foothold: Something of an inverse of the Status Quo ending. An outside power controlling the majority of Iberia during the Opportunity or Hostility phases can chuck the entire Iberian Struggle in the trash can, allowing the possible creation of the Empire of Hispania afterward.
    • The Iranian Intermezzo from Legacy of Persia has five endings.
      • Abbasid Humiliation: Found a New Caliphate: The Persian conflict leads to a new dynasty throwing down the failing Abbasids, rejecting their faith and establishing a Persian-based Caliphate in its place. This requires both a weakened Abbasid Empire and a strong opponent with significant religious street cred.
      • Abbasid Humiliation: Dominate the Caliph: If the Caliph is beaten badly enough, a stronger adversary dominating Iraq can turn the Abbasid Caliphate into a vassal and take over their empire.
      • Renewed Caliphate: If the opposition to the Caliphate is completely beaten down and a faithful ally of the Caliph arranges it, the Caliphate will re-absorb Persia completely and be seen as the rightful head of all Muslims.
      • Iranian Resurgence: Persia is dominated by native Iranian dynasties, and one such dynasty re-establishes the Persian Empire, independent of the Caliphate. All Iranian rulers become independent of foreign control, and the Emperor's faith (whatever it may be) becomes the dominant religion in Persia.
      • Concession: The conflict just sputters out, due to a combination of a weak caliph, raiders from the steppes, and friendships across pro/anti Caliphate lines.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Upon reforming their government to Feudal or Clan, AI-controlled tribal rulers automatically generate holdings - and buildings - within their domain, so they have at least one of each type of holding and the castle comes with some basic infrastructure. Upon doing the same, human-controlled tribal rulers get squat - their new castle holding is bare and all the building slots are empty. Unless you saved up a massive amount of gold before reformingnote , this can make newly reformed feudal rules pathetically weak and highly vulnerable to being overthrown by foreign neighbors or their own vassals.
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: Which character is a better fighter can be determined by which has the more muscular portrait as the sole determinant of how buff a character is is their pre-equipment Prowess score.
  • Naked People Are Funny: There are many events which involve naked people, most of them are Played for Laughs. The Adamite Christians are usually seen as slightly silly and wacky.
  • Nasty Party: Sometimes, if a ruler's rival is invited to their feast, they may choose to burn the place down, killing everyone they did not warn.
  • Nepotism: The game as a whole is about running a dynasty, so it's a given. And it's actually beneficial to keep important jobs (and titles) within the family, as that allows better loyalty and in the case of councilors, you can carefully groom them into specific roles if you plan to use the children(s) of your current ruler for those jobs, rather than hoping for the best when using outsiders. And sufficiently "famous" dynasties will offer superior choices of candidates for various jobs anyway.
  • Nerf:
    • From II, de jure drift and "all count vassals" were nerfed. Now, de jure drift has an additional requirement of close proximity (e.g. sharing a land border) before the drift can begin. Also, with the "Rightful liege" mechanic, count vassals now give you reduced taxes and levies if you are a king or emperor and not holding the duchy title directly above them.
    • Levies are no longer a random smattering of units of specific types like in II, but instead just an armed rabble, offering close to zero use in battles (not even as Cannon Fodder). This not only renders any structures and policies increasing their number useless, but also affects your dealings with your vassals. Since they are only offering a percentage of their nigh-useless levies and not their far more valuable knights and men-at-arms, there is no real point or reason to maintain a high level of their military participation, or to keep their troops standing.
    • Germanic Paganism's holy sites were adjusted so that only two are in Scandinavia proper, as it was considered to be previously too easy to reform the faith without pushing into new lands or uniting large amounts of geographically disparate co-religionists as most other pagan faiths have to in order to reform. At the same time, it's also a buff for Rurik and Ivar the Boneless as they have starting point to reform the faith from Gardariki (Novogorod) and Jorvik (York), which are now holy sites. As such, it's gone from one of the easiest Pagan faiths to reform to one of the harder ones.
    • Camelry building started as one of the most broken, if time consuming structures to set up. Patch 1.9 removed their main selling point - increase of knight limit - rendering them virtually useless.
    • Various lifepaths from the previous game and their related events became significantly weaker. This hit Learning especially hard, as the events related to it offer meaningless bonuses, while Stewardship went from free estates and gold to incredibly chancey outcomes that might easily put the player in net loss. On top of it all, the game removed picking "wrong" lifepaths as a way for characters to catch-up (say, a low Martial character learning the skill), and made it incredibly slow to go through a life path not aligned with the education traits, while also making low-tier traits just as bad as not having a related one.
    • In early versions, man-at-arms boosting buildings applied a flat increase to relevant man-at-arms stats based on their level and stacking across all such buildings. Approving realm priests in realms whose religion has theocratic religious holding ownership would also pass these bonuses on to their employer, which made a wide holding strategy with as many temples as possible under the county capital incredibly strong and unit types with smaller regiment sizes much weaker than larger ones, as this flat bonus could eclipse any base stats. This was initially nerfed to a small percentage boost from the same buildings, still stacking and passed on by realm priests, but at least making elephantry and heavy cavalry more valuable. Additionally, elephantry, camelry, and horse archers were eventually split off as entirely distinct unit types (having been initially considered variant heavy cavalry, light cavalry, and skirmishers, respectively), reducing stacking bonuses for their unit types being used for non-intended unit types. But this still heavily favored wide realms with lots and lots of temples. Eventually, this was also resolved at the cost of micromanagement by tying men-at-arms bonuses to a specific holding in which they'd be stationed and allowing a taller strategy focusing on personally holding multiple baronies in the same county to be more competitive, while also weakening the realm priest and making theocratic clergy less dominant over lay clergy.
  • No Nudity Taboo: Adamite Christians and Yapaniya Jains, as well as any other faith with the Natural Primitivism tenet practice universal nudism, if you did not disable the option to show it. Additionally, Digambara Jains (the most mainstream Jain faith) have the special Naked Priests doctrine, in which nudism isn't expected of all practitioners, but priests and zealous characters reject clothing.
  • Not Completely Useless: Becoming a Lunatic is generally bad. However, it's the only way to build a greenhouse, or "glass monument", a special building providing substantial income and development benefits. So if your ruler happens to be in his 70s and goes wacko via old age events, you can still benefit from it in the long run, while his insanity won't hurt the realm that hard due to said age.
  • Not the Intended Use:
    • Faiths with the Monogamous marriage doctrine get to choose between a gold or prestige bonus upon getting married. Very early in the game's lifespan, this meant that for a minor piety cost, it was possible to repeatedly divorce and remarry, even the same person, to rapidly generate enormous amounts of gold/prestige. This was fixed in the very first patch, causing the gold/prestige event to only trigger upon a Monogamous character's first marriage.
    • The Chivalry tradition is predominately about being a Knight in Shining Armor... but also offers 50 Renown to your dynasty upon a successful romance attempt, regardless who is the target. That's basically peanuts when compared with prices of dynasty legacies, but is more than sufficient to romance your way out of an entire slew of unwanted heirs, given disinheriting one costs 150 Renown, a rather steep price early on. You can also sire a bunch of bastards in the process, which might be useful courtiers or pawns for marriage alliances. This might be particularly useful if you groom one of your daughters into being The Vamp - she will do all the romancing on her own, while staying outside of succession and maybe even cause trouble to someone else once she's married off.
    • Mercenary companies are tied to cultures, with a minimum of three companies per culture - even if it exists just in a single county. This allows to abuse regions with a multitude of cultures in them (like Iberia or Italy) as prime merc hiring grounds and, more importantly, abuse this feature by landing your foreign knights in mismatched counties. They will either go native, which is good by itself, or, far more likely, create a new culture, providing their liege with an additional swarm of soldiers to hire. Since mercs are significantly more useful than the feudal levies vassals provide, this pays off in the long term.
  • Oh, Crap!: After a successful battle or a siege, you might capture prisoners. Prisoners are always treated as part of your court, even if they are rotting in a dungeon. And there is nothing preventing you from capturing prisoners that happen to, say, carry the bubonic plague...
    • Given the overall complexity of the game, there are dozens of situations that might lead to this for the player. Examples include a neighboring superpower declaring war while your troops are away, a newborn heir completely screwing succession plans, your character blabbing about committing murder at a feast, and of course, the Mongols.
  • The Old Gods: The majority of the early-game map starts with a whole lot of religions that went extinct under the pressure of either Christianity or Islam, many during the period covered by the game. This is especially pronounced in the 867 start, since everything east of the Elbe River is various pagan religions, while Islam hasn't reached the Asian steppes yet and holdouts of Zoroastrianism and Bön are present in Persia and Tibet, respectively.
  • Old Master: Characters whose dynasty has completed the Kin legacy path no longer suffer a penalty to their combat prowess with old age, meaning that they'll be every bit as deadly a knight at age 70 as they were at 20.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Being a bastard in religions that allow for bastardry, especially in Catholic realms, is something that will stick with a character for their entire life. Your inheritance was restored by your parent? Too bad; you're still marked for life as a "legitimized bastard". Managed to get a landed title, rise up the ranks and start your own dynasty from nothing? Still marked as a "bastard founder". All of those traits incur opinion and diplomacy penalties and there is just no way to remove them.
  • Once Killed a Man with a Noodle Implement: If an assassination plot fails, the description of the failure can mention the target brutally murdering the assassin with an artifact. This can include such items as sandals, a sponge on a stick, or a lily.
  • One-Man Army: Skilled knights can individually kill dozens of enemies every battle. It's possible for ten good knights to rack up kills in the hundreds as long as they're supported by levies who can die in their stead. This can be taken to a parodic excess by certain cultures (primarily Indian ones), by stacking buildings that improve your knights' Prowess stats, leading to characters with close to 100 Prowess who will, literally, kill entire armies on their own. Eventually it was pointed out how laughably absurd it was to have single knights/champions mowing down thousands of soldiers by themselves and their description was updated to note that each knight unit includes a group of retainers, bodyguards, etc. that fight alongside them on the battlefield.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: It's perfectly possible and normal for a child to die before their parent, but it gets to near-Game Over territory if your octogenarian ruler outlives his 50-something heir who only managed to sire daughters. Spare to the Throne is especially necessary for Muslims, who completely exclude females from inheritance.
  • Paper Tiger: The AI does not understand how to create half-decent Men-At-Arms, does not understand how to utilise military-oriented buildings and does not take into account the terrain it is operating in. As a result, unless it has some cultural advantage (and chances are it will try to shake it off via culture mechanics), it will create just hordes of units that are complete pushovers, or outright squander all effort to simply amass levies - a whole lot of troops to kill, but offering absolutely zero resistance in battles. Patch 1.9 made the issue a few magnitudes worse, as the AI also does not understand the new synergies from matching the right structures and just gleefully ignores them, making its armies weaker by accident.
  • Patient Childhood Love Interest: Child characters sometimes get an event where they develop a crush on another child. If the player gets this event as a child, and they have compatible orientations, then it's possible to romance the childhood crush once both characters are adults.
  • Path of Inspiration: With the adjustable system for religions, reforms and sects, it's perfectly possible to intentionally craft a religious system that would serve the ruler or a specific goal, often in a very blatant way. Doubly so when reforming an unorganized pagan faith, because that's the whole point of doing it In-Universe, even if not altering any of its tenets or doctrines.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: While marriages are usually arranged long before the participants reach the age of majority, it is possible for the parties involved to have very compatible personalities and skills due to their education, leading to the pair having a very good opinion of each other from the get-go. It is even possible (but vanishingly rare) for a pair of childhood crushes to be paired up in marriage. On top of that, love can blossom even between two complete strangers that got wedded for political reasons, either naturally or thanks to either side of such marriage spending extra time with their spouse.
  • Pilgrimage: The game allows you to go to one of the holy cities of your faith, which gives you piety.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Your military can punch well above its weight depending on the number and size of your men-at-arms regiments. Those are completely divorced from the size of your realm, only tied with your rank and innovations known to your culture. A few thousand levies will melt when facing a small but professional army. Just keep in mind that the AI doesn't understand that nor take it into account when making decisions, only checking the number of troops, rather than their type or quality.
  • Planet of Hats: Cultures have an Ethos and multiple Traditions that provide modifiers and special abilities to characters of that culture, predisposing them to excel in different areas. For example, the French are the heartland of chivalry and something of a Warrior Poet culture, while Sephardic Israelites are a culture of merchants and diplomats. To a lesser extent, the Tenets of a faith give it its own hat; a follower of the Norse gods will be inclined toward bloody-handed warfare and human sacrifice, while Mahayana Buddhists tend towards pacifism and ascetism. Both culture and religion can be customized by player action, and cultures can blend with each other, allowing for you to tailor your dynasty's particular hat to your playstyle.
  • Player-Exclusive Mechanic: Inverted by knighthood. Human-controlled characters can never be knights, either in their own army or their liege's army. While this is likely a matter of shielding the player from the potentially unfun scenario of randomly getting slaughtered in a battle, which is an all-too-common fate for knights, it also greatly reduces the value of the prowess stat for player characters. note 
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: If you are trying to sway or befriend someone while you have someone they're connected to held prisoner, then your target may ask you to release the prisoner. Agreeing to do this helps your diplomatic efforts.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: A recurring situation with all twins. First of all, they don't necessarily share any congenital traits. Then, each of them rolls a separate childhood trait, which affects their upbring and thus traits gained during it. The end result is two characters that, aside from the "Twin" trait and date of birth have nothing in common and might very likely end up as direct opposites.
  • Politically Correct Villain: It is theoretically possible to play as a warmongering tyrant while doing things like adopting gender-equal inheritance laws and reforming a religion to give women equal rights with men, end the stigma against same-sex relationships and encourage tolerance towards people of different faiths. And most of those are pretty profitable for variety of power-plays.
  • Post-Stress Overeating:
    • A character with the Comfort Eater coping mechanism may indulge in food to burn off a lump sum of stress (at the cost of gold).
    • More generally, for most characters, holding a feast is a way to lose some stress, and the indulgeance in food and drink at a feast ratchets up their target weight, resulting in long-term weight gain.
  • Power Creep:
    • The Struggle for Iberia DLC causes this. Within the featured region, various gameplay options and abilities normally locked behind perks in the skill tree are suddenly available for free, turning Iberian characters into powerhouses compared to the rest of the world.
    • An identical thing happened with the Legacy of Persia DLC, which made Iranian cultures even stronger than the Iberian ones, even without going for the memetic stuff regarding restoring Zoroastrianism.
  • The Power of Friendship: Having friends, especially with perks from the Family lifestyle tree, has many benefits. Among the perk benefits are additional stat points for each friend (up to five) and reduced stress gain. A character with enough friends can nigh-ignore the stress system.
  • Preserve Your Gays: While most faiths (as well as the most common faiths) either shun or criminalize homosexuality, a handful like Catharism, Messalianism, Adamitism, Muwalladism, Qarmatianism, Cainitism, Khurramism, Mozarabism, Hausa, Yoruba, Kordofan, Greco-Roman and all sects of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, and Tibetan pagan faiths accept homosexuality and put no stigma on it. When creating a new faith or reforming a pagan faith, this degree of acceptance can be chosen even when starting with a faith that does not normally accept homosexuality, though same-sex marriage is still out of the question unless activated in the settings.
  • Princeling Rivalry: A common result of partition upon the death of a ruler is a war between his heirs, since they all have claims on each others' territories. In particularly nasty situations, the siblings won't go to war... but a generation later, the resulting cousins will, since that's the last opportunity to press their weakening claims.
  • Proud Warrior Race:
    • Tribal vassals' obligations depend on the liege's level of fame. Gold is very much a secondary method of income, as most things are purchased partially or entirely with prestige instead. Gameplay is focused on organizing raids (which provides gold and prestige in equal quantities) and waging many wars by spending prestige to rapidly expand, with heavy undertones of Bling of War.
    • The Bellicose cultural ethos emphasizes violence as an essential part of life, boosts the Prowess of everyone with such a culture, makes man-at-arms maintenance cheaper, spawns more mercenary companies for the culture, and enables the Warlike and Intrigue style courts.
    • Most pagan religions (except Slavic, Mundhumism, Tanism, Hsexje, Tibetan, Kordofan, and Mandé) consider bravery to be a virtue, meaning a virtuous follower of those religions is expected to be willing to face physical danger such as combat. Germanic Paganism takes this further by also having Vengeful and Wrathful as virtues. While no tenets add Brave or Wrathful as virtues, Sacred Murder allows any faith to add Vengeful as a virtue and Craven as a sin, though it otherwise is more along the lines of being Proud Assassin Religion.
    • Any culture with the Ting-Meet tradition gives rulers a popular opinion bonus for being brave and/or a blade master.
  • Quantity vs. Quality:
    • Optimal play leans heavily on the quality side of things: better development, controlling key counties, advanced technologies and infrastructure, along with maintaining a small, but powerful, professional army. Meanwhile AI scripts and behavior focus on quantity: producing more untrained peasant levies, building more castles within a single county, taking over and holding counties seemingly at random while trying to reach the highest possible domain size, zero synergy between buildings and sizing up opponents by comparing total troop counts, regardless of any other factors.
    • By the late game, due to a combination of infrastructure, innovations and development, a tiny duchy can have more income than an early game empire, particularly one from the 867 start.
    • The 867 start gives tribal rulers an edge in the form of fielding massive levies with ease. Sure, they are crap, but feudal and clan rulers don't have access to anything better at this point, allowing Tribals to simply throw at them thrice as many troops. It can also be played on the quality side of things, as tribals pay for their retinues with prestige, rather than gold, making it easier to field maxed-out retinue, all while numerous tribal cultures get access to regional variants of units that aren't unlocked yet (particularly heavy infantry), meaning they have access to both more and better troops, or ignoring levies and just throwing the retinue at their enemies. When a stack of 600 Varangian Veterans lands in Sicily, a 800-troops strong defending levy will be wiped out before the first phase of battle is over.
  • Raised by Grandparents: A very common occurrence in the game is for the current player character to raise their grandkids, grooming them into perfect rulers. Oftentimes, it leads to the situation where the direct heir to the current character is a worse successor (due to being controlled by AI and screwing around for a few decades on their own) than the grandchild that barely hits maturity before the elderly PC finally dies, which might lead to some... creative ways of handling the inheritance.
  • Really Gets Around:
    • The seduction tree of intrigue perks encourages this, making it easier to seduce other characters by doing things like, being unable to critical fail (getting permanently or temporarily blocked from seducing another character), overcoming your own discomfort trying to seduce someone you're not attracted to (though it won't do anything about them not being attracted to you), increasing your attractiveness to characters who are attracted to your sex, as well as giving bonuses like that lovers may die to protect you from an assassination scheme.
    • The double standards in the trope are governed by faiths having separate views on male and female adultery. Most faiths have the same view on both, but most Christian faiths, Khazar Judaism, and Siberian paganism are more permissive of male adultery than female adultery, and in full keeping with the double standard inherent in the trope, none that are more permissive of female adultery than male adultery. Though you can make a faith that is.
  • Regent for Life: If a regency becomes entrenched, and the scales of power tip too far towards the regent, it's possible for the ruler to end up in a situation where they can't end the power sharing, and every action of theirs costs a lot of prestige, effectively paralysing their rule.
  • Religion of Evil: The religion system allows you to found custom faiths that view scheming and cannibalism as virtuous.
    • Norse religion, by default, has "wrathful" and "vengeful" considered virtues, making it the only religion in the game that has such traditionally negative traits as such. The package also includes Human Sacrifice, but few other religions share that trait.
  • Repressive, but Efficient: Dread allows you to have far better control over your realm and vassals, including keeping them in check by simply terrifying them with your reputation. And there are perks that make it an even more powerful political tool. The majority of dread is gained via being oppressive and brutal (up to a point), and can make men-at-arms cheaper to maintain, force vassals to contribute more money and troops, or prevent factions and murder plots from forming against you. The trick is to be brutal enough to instill fear without being so tyrannical that you're excessively hated.
  • Rescue Romance: One possible event when trying to romance somebody is saving them from a knife-wielding intruder. Needless to say, the character you saved will be extremely grateful. May double as an example of Rescue Sex if you choose to lay with them.
  • Retail Therapy: Among the coping mechanisms a character may adopt is compulsively going to stores and spending beyond their means. A Profligate character both reduces their tax income due to spending so much money on frivolous purchases on the regular, and can go on a periodic shopping spree, turning a significant amount of money into stress reduction.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: A possible coping mechanism characters may develop is compulsive donation to charities far beyond what is financially sound. This is even more financially deleterious than taking up compulsive shopping.
  • Robbing the Dead: Implied result of the Pillage legacy line. One of its perks grants (scalable) 5 gold per each 100 fatal casualties in battle. That's 0.1 for each 2 random soldiers slain. The very same perk offers a 10% increase of fatal casualties.
    • Outright the case with the Battlefield Looters tradition, which grants scalable gold per 100 fatal casualities at the cost of far reducing the prestige gained in battles.
  • Royal Bastard: Bastardy is governed by a religious doctrine rule: a faith may automatically consider children born outside wedlock as legitimate as any other child (such children gain the "Wild Oat" trait), allow legitimization, or outlaw it. Illegitimate bastards are disliked by their dynasty and, as in II, found a new one if they gain a title, and cannot inherit but do get claims on their parents' titles.
  • Rugged Scar: Suffering injuries may result in a character gaining a scar, which grants them a minor bonus to attraction opinion (so long as it remains light) and monthly prestige. Excessively heavy scarring will also increase the character's Dread gain.
  • Sabotutor:
    • Offer to educate the heir of another ruler. Proceed to deliberately give him or her bad traits in education events and pick a completely unfitting education focus. My, my, what a disaster to watch once they inherit!
    • Your daughter was born with some genetic defect. No sweat, mistreat her for her entire childhood over it, making sure she grows up rotten and unloved. Even better, get some incompetent idiot from your court to look after her. The moment she's of legal age, marry her to a foreign court. Watch as she raises the heir of the other dynasty into a dysfunctional wreck, while in the same time passing down her own birth defects.
  • Sanity Meter: The Stress meter, which is primarily affected by how well your character's behavior fits with their personality note . Taking decisions that give you lots of benefits is great, but your character may disagree with the action and become stressed from having to take it (for example: executing your treacherous cousin plotting to take your throne makes perfect sense, but a kind-hearted character will still be broken up inside by having to do such a thing.) Too much stress can lead to a mental breakdown, with effects such as drunkenness, gluttony, sexual deviancy and depression. note 
  • Save Scumming: Events too close to a save date will always play out the same, but further out they become random again, making reloading and trying again a useful tactic. Copious reloading can be the best way of dealing with the "wrong" outcome of pregnancy prior to primogeniture. Another boy? Reload. Princess without any congenital traits? Reload. Inbred pair of male twins? Reload. An Amazonian Genius princess to keep your dynastic eugenics going? How marvelous!
  • Scars Are Forever: Whether as a result of participating in battle or other causes, characters who gain large scars keep them for the rest of their life. This can be limited to some superficial scars that don't have any impact beyond cosmetic "showing of character", all the way to a person who's lost An Arm and a Leg or even more serious and debilitating maiming.
  • Scars Are Ugly: While minor levels of scarring are considered attractive, heavier levels will actually reduce your attraction opinion, along with making children dislike you.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Having the Arbitrary trait encourages you to throw the weight of your crown's power around, as well as rewarding you with Stress relief for taking actions which involve laying down the law and generally being the ultimate source of authority in your realm.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: The main advantage of playing as a female character is how much you can get away with when you have a pretty face. Since the vast majority of your vassals and foreign rulers will be male and heterosexual, they will all be affected by Attraction opinion bonuses. Have a female ruler that's beautiful, strong or respectable (or even all three) and you can get away with all sort of things, because your attractiveness counteracts the opinion penalties.
  • Screw Your Ultimatum!: When another character tries to blackmail the player character for a hook, the player can just refuse to be hooked at the cost of the secret being exposed.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies:
    • There is one possible event where your character, after some snooping in the kitchen, discovers that their chef is feeding them children. You can choose either to punish the chef, or to let it go since it was just so delicious, netting you a slight health boost and the "cannibal" secret.
    • A rare event during a feast if the host is both a lunatic and a cannibal involves them serving part of themselves as a meal, with another character either growing suspicious or enjoying the food.
  • Self-Harm: A coping mechanism characters may adopt is self-flagellation, which carries a significant health penalty and actively indulging it inflicts the Wounded trait on the character or advances it to the next level of injury if they're already injured.
  • Sentenced Without Trial: Rulers can punish their vassals without any trial but will get tyranny points.
  • Serial Escalation: The original game was somewhat jokingly referred as "Eugenics Simulator" - the game script simply slightly increased stats of children from where average of parents were. By the point of CK3, literal eugenics with LEGO Genetics are half of the gameplay, with actual rules and mechanics for it. A significant amount of forum discussions regarding the game feel more like talking about animal husbandry than anything even remotely related with playing a game about medieval kingdoms.
  • Sex for Solace: Among the many coping mechanisms a character may develop is frequent sexual intercourse, especially at brothels. While one of the less directly-unpleasant coping mechanisms to play with, it's a great way to pick up sexually-transmitted diseases and can be very expensive to indulge.
  • Sexy Flaw: Minor levels of scarring will improve a character's attraction opinion, giving them a slightly easier time with those of appropriate sexual orientation. Averted with heavier levels of scarring, however, as they won't improve opinion, and the last level will actively worsen it.
  • The Shut-In: Characters may come to cope with their stress by routinely locking themselves in their room, often to the neglect of their duties.
  • Silver Fox: In full force for men and downplayed for women with positive attractiveness traits under normal circumstances - positive sex appeal modifiers stop applying after a certain age (50 for womennote , 65 for men), which allows characters to remain attractive to others into middle age, and even old age for men. However, the Dynastic Bloodline legacy and Fecund trait can reinforce this, as the Fecund trait and the final perk in the Bloodline legacy each extend a character's life expectancy by five years, which also extends how long they're fertile, how rapidly their portrait visibly ages, and how long sexual attractiveness traits apply for them, extending to as old as 60 for women and 75 for men.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Downplayed with the Charitable and Brave traits, which grant minor attraction opinion, and thus make it slightly easier to engage in seduction and romance. It can also be gender-inverted, as these same bonuses also apply to women who have the traits, and will also affect gay characters.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis: Rivals can be deadly foes who try to get you killed at every turn... but they can also be this, engaging in petty jerkassery just to mess with you. For instance, if you're Diligent, they might rip up your notes while you're learning a language.
  • Sketchy Successor: If your well-groomed successor suddenly dies, you might end up with an inferior replacement. And if you happen to have a particularly good ruler with a combination of rare and hard-to-obtain traits, any successor will be inferior due to how high the bar is set.
    • This becomes particularly bad if the previous ruler kept vassals in check predominately by fear and terror. Without cheesing the situation, the heir won't have the advantage of high Dread, so on top of possible worse stats and traits, he will also have disloyal vassals and lower income, along with bigger expenditures due to nobody being intimidated by him.
    • After the 1.5 patch rework, cultures with the Hereditary Hierarchy tradition provide a debuff to opinion of any character with a level 1 education trait (regardless of what trait it is), which means an already poorly-educated successor will suffer additional difficulties.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: It is possible to Seduce your Rival, which leads to a lovemaking scene involving this (following a courtship presumably full of Belligerent Sexual Tension).
  • Slave to PR:
    • Rulers in a Clan government must maintain good relationship with their subjects. While a feudal liege can simply impose a contract on his vassals, clan vassals provide their taxes and levies based solely on how much they like their liege.
    • To much lesser degree is your relationship with your court chaplain. First, they don't provide any taxes or levies from your domain's temple holdings at all if they don't endorse you - which requires an opinion of at least +1. Second, the percentage of their tax and levies is tied with their opinion. However, it's just a single person to placate and +50 opinion will max-out their obligations, which is very easy to achieve.
  • So Last Season:
    • Tribals start significantly stronger than feudal or clan rulers, particularly in the earlier start dates. However, tribals cannot research innovations beyond the earliest era - not a big deal at the game start, a serious problem around 1000 and a deathwish at any date past 1050.
    • Due to the way how eras and related innovations work, everything from the previous era is always overshadowed by the new stuff. You will always get better military, more efficient governance and significantly improved infrastructure by focusing on the new tech, often providing substantial edge. Even more so if there is a region- or culture-specific military unit-unlocking innovation in an early era and a similar generic unit unlocks in a later era, such as standard High Medieval era crossbowmen having a much better statblock than Chinese Tribal era Chu-Ko-Nu repeating crossbowmen.
    • Various cultures can access special succession laws that are strictly superior to the generic ones available to everybody, either due to having early access to High Partitionnote , House Senioritynote  or various elective systems note . That superiority lasts until the Late Medieval era, when the generic Primogeniture law can be discovered and enforced, making the primary heir the sole inheritor of all titles and thus rendering the previously superior cultural laws obsolete.
    • Levies in general are moderately useful in 867 (and more broadly in conflict with tribes) due to their raw numerical bulk and the comparatively low performance of Tribal Era men-at-arms. However, as technology advances and feudal/clan governments are established with castles and the like and their additional levels of men-at-arms boosting buildings, men-at-arms open a much wider gap between their performance and that of levies, and knights similarly accumulate greater bonuses to their own effectiveness. Meanwhile, levies never improve their own effectiveness from the equivalent of 10 damage and 10 toughness (which actually rivals some lower-end unboosted men-at-arms like skirmishers). As such, by 1200, even a small stack of men-at-arms can cut through far, far larger numbers of levies. Even their use as general siege stacks wanes as fort levels get higher and sieging without dedicated siege engines starts becoming incredibly time-consuming.
  • Space-Filling Empire:
    • The Holy Roman Empire in 1066, an even more annoying entity than it was in the previous installments. Unlike previous games, it quickly starts spreading out, so by the 1100's, it's very easy to add all of the southern Baltic shore, Poland, Bohemia, all of Italy and half of France to it. Notably, the HRE is for the most part pathetically weak and dysfunctional under AI control, but it's still a huge alliance to face, making any wars against its members instantly a war against everyone inside of it. note 
    • In a broader sense, every barony (city/temple/castle) belongs to a county, every county belongs to a duchy, every duchy belongs to a kingdom, and every kingdom belongs to an empire, regardless of the historical existence of any or all of those levels of political organization in the area in question, with a great many de jure kingdoms and empires literally existing just to fill space and with borders defined more by game balance and loose adherence to geographic regions than any particular historical basis. This is most visible with imperial titles, as vast majority of them has zero historical basis, existing solely to consolidate land in places like Eastern Europe, the Great Steppe and Central Asia and lacking a historical basis, often have generic, regional names like "Volga-Ural", "Deccan Empire", and "West Salvia".
  • Spare to the Throne: This is first and foremost a dynastic game. You are better off having a "spare" heir just in case than risking a situation where the primary heir dies prematurely or for any given reason there are no males left in the dynasty. Of course, the game balances this precaution of having partition inheritance law for the majority of the game, meaning your "spare" will cause division of titles if he won't be needed, unless disinherited (which costs Renown and returns you to the original problem of not having a spare) or in the case of monastic faiths, asking him to become a priest or a monk (which can and often is refused).
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: Legends of the Dead added a map mode which shows regions beset by or at risk from a disease.
  • Staged Shooting: A random event generates a completely innocent person that the peasants declare a "witch" and demand to burn them. That character is usually carrying traits like Genius, Herbalist or at the very least Mystic and have pretty high stats. One of the options in the event, if you have enough Intrigue, is to stage an execution to placate the mob, and recruit the accused to work at your court. For obvious reasons, they will be very grateful for being saved.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Gender roles in game can be broadly divided into three categories - "dominant" gender (who is allowed or at least favored to rule), clerical gender (who is allowed to be a priest), and martial gender (who is allowed to fight). The first two are determined by faith and the latter is determined by a cultural pillar, and dominant gender and martial gender may be overridden by cultural traditions. However, the vast majority of the map is under male dominated faiths with an all-male clergy and follows cultures in which only men are allowed to fight and exceptions are rare and nearly always single-categorical equality, such as Basque equal succession, though a few African cultures have a tradition of female succession in place. However, when establishing a new faith (or reforming a pagan faith) and reforming a culture, these can be made equal or even all turned on their head, creating a religion and culture in which women form the clergy, are expected to rule, and are the only ones allowed to seek martial glory, or any combination of these categories.
  • STD Immunity: Generally averted; sleep with anyone who has Lover's Pox or Great Pox (Herpes and Syphilis, respectively) and you stand a good chance of catching the disease yourself. There are no asymptomatic carriers in the game however, meaning anyone who does not have either trait cannot pass on the disease and making sleeping around relatively safe.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: It is possible to befriend a character that you kidnapped or gained through raid or siege. Or even romance them. The cultural tradition Recognition of Talent makes it even easier, granting a massive bonus to the opinion of a released prisoner, easily making them part of your court and adoring you.
  • The Stoner: Using hashish is a coping mechanism. As one may expect, in addition to making a character less stressed, it has the side effects of reducing AI characters' vengefulness and energy, along with lowering the Stewardship and Learning stats.
  • Story-Driven Invulnerability: The Papacy has a slightly downplayed version of this, though not individual Popes. Unless the Great Schism is mended or you control the entire region of Italia as a Muslim or certain types of Pagan and choose to dismantle it, there will always be a Pope, and even if you conquer and convert the Eternal City as another religion but not the entire peninsula, the Pope is staying right there undermining you. This is in stark contrast to real life, where the actual Papacy moved to Avignon as soon as Rome started to decline (later moving back).
  • Stronger with Age: Completing the Kin Dynastic Legacy tree can allows you to become this, since the final perk allows you to gain stats via aging after 30. It also allows you to become an effective Old Soldier since the perk stops prowess loss from aging.
  • Stubborn Mule: The "Stubborn" trait is represented by a picture of a donkey.
  • Taking the Veil: If your ruler belongs to a religion with the "Monastic" tradition, they can persuade - or even blackmail - some of their children to become monks or nuns so that they can't inherit.
  • Take That Us: One of the loading screen tips is "If you find the game too difficult, try the Total War series."
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Averted in duels. Several combat moves like Mocking Boast, Disheartening Speech, and In Command use a full turn to berate your enemy, debuffing their Prowess. In certain situations this "attack" can actually be the final blow that wins the duel.
  • Technology Levels: The technologies, or innovations, are grouped into four "eras": tribal, early medieval, high medieval and late medieval. This is a big deal for tribal government realms, because they are locked to the tribal era until they switch to another government type.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Feudal government, in practice. The higher a vassal's feudal contract obligations the bigger negative impact on opinion... but opinion does not affect paid obligations, no matter how much they love or hate their liege. This decoupling of personal opinion and economic/military contribution to the top liege is the main reason why eventually Feudals gain a substantial advantage over Clans and Tribals.
  • This Means War!: Sacrificing a religious head puts a huge target on your head to be their next great holy war target, second only to the weight placed on reclaiming core religious territories.
  • Too Unhappy to Be Hungry: A stressed character may become inappetitic, and may even further shun food than normal. Inappetitic characters suffer loss of muscle mass (reflected as reduced prowess) and going beyond their normal poor appetite significantly worsens their health.
  • Troll: A perfectly valid gameplay strategy is to park your spymaster in an enemy's court, then instantly expose whatever secrets he finds. This can disrupt affected characters and realms more severely than a bloody war - or even cause one.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Due to the game not checking for age in some events, it is possible that child rulers - as young as newborn in extreme cases - can become cannibals or perverts if they are exposed to such behaviour from their courtiers.
  • True Love: The Romance scheme can be used to make a character your soulmate, an even stronger variant of lover. Unlike with lovers, you can only ever have one soulmate and trying to romance another character will fail unless you break up with your existing one first.
  • Turbulent Priest: Downplayed as compared to II. Faiths with the Theocratic doctrine will have a Realm Priest which leases all temples in their liege's demesne; the worst that can happen is them not paying taxes or providing levies. However, at +50 opinion, they'll provide 50% taxes and 100% levies to their liege, far higher than any other obligations in the game.
  • Unstable Equilibrium:
    • If one knows what to do (and isn't squeamish about occasional murder), it's perfectly possible to start gaining dynasty renown at a pace of between 10 to 15 per month and then for the short overlap of generations, up to 22-30 for about a decade or so. The game is balanced around the gain of 5, maybe 6 as maximum. This allows you to rapidly unlock dynasty legacies one after another, despite the game assuming you'll only ever manage to complete one legacy path if starting in 1066. And once cadet branches of your dynasty get established, this goes into overdrive. The trick is to do what the game at first glance discourages - have as many children as physically possible.
    • Low development, poor terrain, and tribal government makes it extremely difficult to gain development and thus unlock innovations, while having higher development makes it easier to gain more development, unlock more innovations, and raise the development soft cap. Especially starting in 1066, bringing a tribal culture like the Igbo, Sami, or Ostyaks up to par with even relatively undeveloped feudal cultures that start in the early medieval era and generally start on terrain with few development penalties like the Irish (to say nothing of Andalusians, Greeks, or Punjabis) is extremely difficult. This situation is less severe if starting in 867 as everyone starts in the tribal era, but starting with lower development still makes it an uphill battle for cultures in the Siberian and Central Asian steppes and deserts, the Eurasian far north, and Subsaharan Africa (unless one plays in or around the Mali region).
    • Low control in counties causes county corruptions to spawn, most of which hurt control growth. Additionally, events that can cost control are more common at these lower control values. The only way to quickly remove these corruptions is to park your marshall on each county to boost control, which takes a long time as he can only handle one county at once. Without this, the corruption debuffs can persist for many years. Meanwhile, counties under full control are rarely any trouble and do not periodically spawn such debuffs.
    • Constantly going to tournaments, as often as feasible, even if just for the participation. Winning tournaments requires a decent Prowess stat and high Martial or Diplomacy (depending on the type of competition), but the more you try, the better your Hastiluder trait gets, and if you win even once, you will get the prize, which can then be equipped, increasing your Prowess and thus making further attempts easier. Oh, and if tournaments are held close enough to each other, you will still have the 5-year bonus from participation or victory, making it easier to score another victory and keep going. And your heir is going to get your equipment, giving him a better chance.
  • Unwanted Harem:
    • Any faith with the 'Polygamy' doctrine requires you to have at least one spouse per rank, (one for counts, two for dukes, etc.), or suffer a Piety debuff for "insufficient wives". On the flip side, having a "sufficient" number means you have to deal with your ruler turning into an Explosive Breeder, leaving you with a lot of claimants and potential splitting of your domain. Much like historical Muslims, marrying infertile women (i.e. old women) is a good way to circumvent this for male characters.
    • Any faith with the 'Consorts and Concubines' doctrine similarly requires you to have one concubine for each rank of Duke or above or suffer a Prestige penalty for being insufficiently virile (on the flipside, having additional ones grants you a Prestige bonus). Unlike with Polygamy, your concubines must be fertile to count (if you are a man).
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • At lower authority levels, vassals can fight their own wars, both offensive and within the realm. With the right pre-set and properly arranged marriages for your subjects, this allows you to significantly expand your borders, without getting into a war yourself. Or to take powerful and unruly vassals down a peg by manipulating them into fighting amongst themselves. There are also characters that pick the Skullduggery lifestyle and start revealing secrets left and right, along with fabricating fake ones, which as long as it doesn't involve your current character and heir, is usually beneficial (especially if your religion considers the related secret a crime), freeing up your own spymaster for other jobs.
    • Claimants, especially unlanded ones. Since all they have to their name is their claim, they will agree to anything you offer them, including a cross-religion matrilineal marriage, regardless of what their claim is for. Then you press their claim. As a result, you can go as far as installing a new emperor to a throne, while his heir is of your dynasty. The poor schmuck you used is given a lifetime of power, but once he dies, your dynasty takes over. And nothing says that a "lifetime" has to be any longer than it takes to produce an heir.
  • Uriah Gambit: The best way to get rid of a specific man from your court without outright murder is to make him a knight. The worse his Prowess stat, the better. You don't even have to be subtle. Declare war against someone, make an "army" consisting of him alone and send him charging into the enemy. If he survives, just rinse and repeat. And the best part is the game doesn't account for this strategy, meaning nobody takes issue with you doing this. This even covers "excess" heirs, where besides a small stress penalty for outliving your child, nothing bad happens, and you've prevented the realm from splitting due to heir partitions. If you are able to raid, you don't even need to be at war to do this.
  • Useless Useful Spell:
    • A few Tribal and Early Medieval Era innovations exist solely to gate you from advancing to the next era. Tribal ones in particular tend to "unlock" things you can already do without them, like wars for individual counties or the Confederate Partition succession law. If you are playing as a particularly unlucky culture, you might start with literally useless innovations, while having to spend considerable time to get the important stuff.
    • When your goal is to intentionally play as a duchy or a very small kingdom (or simply keep your domain small and restrained to handful of cherry-picked counties), the variety of innovations increasing your domain limit is pretty much useless. They only start to be important if you absolutely must hold more than 10 counties. And even if you need those, each innovation is a measly +1, topping off at +4. Eventually acknowledged by the devs and the innovations got reworked to instead unlock additional building slots.
    • If your religion allows human sacrifices, a few of the perks from the Torturer lifestyle become useless, as you aren't penalized for executing prisoners and you'll always have endless opportunities to keep your Dread maxed out. You'll still need to unlock those perks if you want the ones further down the tree.
    • Regimental Grounds. They provide a massive increase of levies and in theory, a big bonus to heavy cavalry. Not only are levies the most useless type of troops, you can only build the structure on very rare terrain types: Floodplains and Farmlands. Those are far better used for economic buildings rather than an expensive and slow to construct increase of your Cannon Fodder counter. However, the AI absolutely loves them, so expect every single conquered holding of the correct type to have Regimental Grounds built - even in a city.
    • Certain cultural traditions provide completely useless bonuses and/or abilities. To make things weirder, some of them are heavily restricted to specific cultures. One of the most notable examples is the Cornish culture's ability to build quarries (normally accessible only in mountains) in hills. Cornwall not only has exactly one holding with hills, but the rest of it is forests and more importantly, quarries are only viable in hill provinces that can't build tradeports, further diminishing their application in the predominately flat and coastal British islesnote .
    • Prior to patch 1.12, Sky Burials was a religious tenet and gave a small health bonus and enabled a decision, which isn't nothing, but was borderline useless compared to nearly all other tenets available. Patch 1.12 added the Funerary Tradition doctrine category and moved Sky Burials to one of the options for this doctrine and added a new tenet to those faiths that previously had Sky Burials as a tenet.
    • All Muslim faiths by default disable any form of female inheritance or rulership, enforcing Male Only. This in turn makes variety of cultural traditions regarding inheritance utterly useless, unless you plan to reform specific faith. Probably the most obvious are the unique Visigothic Codesnote  of the north-eastern Iberia cultures, that, should rulers of those cultures convert to Islam, get disabled - and in both starting dates they directly border Muslim realms that will try to conquer and convert them.
  • Vestigial Empire: The AI has no clue how to handle partition or titles above count rank, leading to a few distinctive flavors of this trope:
    • Any given empire-tier realm that isn't well-entrenched at the game start will collapse with the death of its current ruler. Sometimes even earlier if said ruler controls too many titles and starts handing them out randomly.
      • Special mention should be given to the Umayyads in the 867 start. Under human control, it's just a matter of properly handling duchy titles and continously pushing north to fully conquer the Iberian Peninsula. Under the AI, this is a Feet of Clay scenario, where the whole empire will collapse into itself within the first decade, through a combination of random partition and civil wars, potentially before making a single attempt to take Visigothic north.
    • Any empire built via conquest within the lifetime of a single ruler, especially by tribals, will be strong and reasonably stable until the death of the conqueror. Then comes a crippling realm partition, followed by claimant wars. Extra points if the conqueror follows a religion with concubines or polygamy, because there will be 15+ kids to split the realm among.
    • The AI sees nothing wrong with Princeling Rivalry, in the most counter-productive way imaginable. Having a claim for the single county of Bumfuck, Nowhere, currently held by a brother? You can bet the AI will declare war over it, dragging their entire realm and all their allies into it, killing a ton of people on both sides and generally achieving nothing in particular.
  • The Vamp: The Seduction lifestyle tree culminates with the Seductor/Seductress trait, providing a huge +40 attraction opinion modifiernote . The opinion is near-useless for males... but reaches game-breaking potential for female rulers. By just existing, a Seductress can easily do whatever she wants, since nobody will mind - the bonus alone can negate unlawful revocation of two titles as if nothing happened. And that's without the fact that she's irresistible in-game, as all the perks needed to even reach the Seductress perk make seduction schemes near-impossible to fail and allow you to ensnare everyone who shows any interest in your sex, regardless of your character's own sexuality. Oh, and the trait itself offers +3 Intrigue, so all types of backstabbing and scheming are even easier.
  • Video Game Perversity Potential: The game allows you to make custom faiths with mix-and-match faith traits, including Natural Primitivism, Divine Marriage, Polyamory and Carnal Exaltation. The system also allows the legalization or criminalization of various sexual behaviors (such as homosexuality and adultery) and the permitted number of spouses and degrees of consanguinity for lawful marriage. Inevitably, much discussion of this system revolves around making sex cults.
  • Violation of Common Sense: One way to mitigate partition mechanics is to divide your realm between your heirs while your current ruler is still alive, trading off a few years of income before their death in exchange for being able to control which of your kids gets which pieces of your domain. This still won't prevent heirs under Confederate Partition from becoming independent, though.
  • We Will Have Euthanasia in the Future: The 'Ritual Suicide' tenet allows followers of that religion to commit suicide with no penalty or intervention. In-game it is most commonly seen in the Cathar heresy of Catholicism (the only other faith to feature it by default is the Kushite remnants of old Egyptian mythology), where it is called 'Consolamentum'.
  • Working Out Their Emotions: One of the rare coping mechanisms with purely positive passive effects is for a character to channel their stress into exercise. The only drawback is that actively indulging it with a particularly heavy exercise session leaves the character sweaty and smelly enough to incur a general opinion debuff.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Callous, sadistic, and a few other traits make characters either eager to hurt children or at least have no objections against doing so, making them significantly easier to bring to a scheme against an underage.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Most characters will be more reluctant to join a scheme against a child than they would be against an adult. By default, you can't attempt to murder your own children at all, unless your character is Sadistic.
  • Zerg Rush: Downplayed from previous entries; while it is still possible to overwhelm your opponent with a massive doomstack, far more emphasis is placed on the composition of your armies, the skill of your commander, prowess of your knights and the suitability of your men-at-arms to the terrain. A high quality but small army can easily curb-stomp a huge army consisting of nothing but levies (who are a mix of hastily-armed peasants and various low-skilled and low-ranking soldiers.)

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