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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: If you completely wipe out the Aztec Invasion in Sunset Invasion, then you will get a message stating that one day the nations of Europe will follow the Aztecs back to the Americas and repay them with interest. This implies that the upcoming decimation of the Aztec Civilizations in the Age of Discovery was a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Author's Saving Throw: Conclave was controversial at best, though less for what was in the DLC and more for what was in the 2.5 rules patch: namely defensive pacts against expanding empires and mandatory calls-to-arms from allies, and to a lesser extent not being automatically allied with foreign rulers of the same dynasty. 2.6, released with The Reaper's Due, reverted calls-to-arms to an improved version of the old voluntary system (you can now betray the alliance again, but with stiff penalties) and added a game settings panel with the option to disable defensive pacts, as well as adding practical reasons to stay in peacetime for longer periods and wait out defensive pacts. A later patch even made it so disabling pacts doesn't even turn off achievements anymore.
    • To counter the accusation that Germanic pagans note  got all the attention while other pagans got shafted, Holy Fury added Eldership succession to African and Romuva followersnote , and a warrior lodge society to all pagan religions (except Aztecs). Also, Holy buffed all pagans by revamping the pagan reformation system, allowing the reformer to customise the reformed pagan faith.
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    • When Legacy of Rome was initially launched, it allowed realms with more advanced governments to employ retinues as an alternate source of military power. However, the balancing was off and retinue warfare became standard until Paradox nerfed retinues. With the nerf, many players felt that the expansion had become useless. note  The saving throw comes with the patch accompanying Holy Fury, where players with Legacy and playing as tribal characters are allowed to hire retinues which cost Prestige. note 
  • Awesome Music: Plenty, but in particular:
  • Best Known for the Fanservice:
    • The Zoroastrian religion. A unique religion of a fallen empire, with fire-worshiping priests and the ability to bring its priesthood Back from the Brink and become a prophesied Messiah? No, as far as the fandom's concerned, it's the religion with the incest.
    • And with Rajas of India, we have an entirely new continent, new cultures, new Indian events and a potential for the early establishment of Hindustan. What does the fandom care about? The new Messalian heresy, which has incest and the worship of Lucifer as a god figure. To wit.
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    • The most loved addition of Way of Life is not the new Focus system, nor the addition of new events specifically for roleplayers, but the ability for any character to seduce their sister. This was even mentioned specifically as a feature on the DLC release trailer.
    • This came full circle in Monks and Mystics, where Paradox intentionally shot for this trope by making approximately 60% of the DLC's new content about the Satanist secret society while the actual historical societies (like Order of Saint Benedict and the Hermetic Order) received almost no content by comparison.
    • A preview video for Crusader Kings 3 showed, incidentally, that nudist characters (e.g. Adamites, certain Jains) would not be Nipple and Dimednote . It was never explicitly mentioned in the preview, merely seen in a video, and the character seen naked was an elderly woman with an unremarkable physique appropriate for her age. Many of the top comments, second only to complaints about the new naval system, were variations on, "boobs!"
  • Broken Base:
    • The concept of adding new content via DLC system itself is probably the biggest issue in the grand picture of things, spreading to other Paradox games, but it started with CKII. Before the game, any sort of new content was added by overhaul patches, which meant every player had access to the exact same content and it wasn't hidden behind extra paywall. Money aside, this lead to much higher stability of games, since there was just one existing iteration and all gameplay mechanics were always in interaction, making both achieving stability and debugging easier and faster. With DLC system, all of that goes to a bin, since DLCs are disjoined from each other and their content exists in a bubble. With just few initial DLCs crunch time spiked, as there were numerous iterations of the game and combinations of DLC content to test, check and work with. It also made modding needlessly complex, as modders faced the exact same issue, while not being a game studio with money and manpower for longer crunch time. All in all, this drastically increased the time for delivering each new change into Paradox games.
      • And then there is still the issue of the paywall. Pretty much entire older section of the fanbase has nothing but disdain toward the DLC model, as it charges utterly ridiculous sums to unlock the whole game. Not helping matters is how often changes brought by new pack are cosmetic or add just some minor gameplay changes or UI help (like a new button to do something automatically, rather than file-editing), with that one, single important change that's still fundamental. On the other hand, nobody is forcing anyone to get all DLCs, but that means missing a lot of content. And the less is said about things that were once paid DLC and then became free content for everyone a year or two later, the better, since it's an equivalent of jet fuel for flame wars.
    • Sunset Invasion, a not-entirely-serious DLC focused on an Alternate History where the Aztecs invade Europe. Some loathe the concept, some like the idea of western Europe having an equivalent of the Mongols, others appreciate it as a potential countermeasure against the Moors, and some are content to buy the DLC and just deactivate it for certain campaigns.
    • It also happens with the some of the more recent Portraits DLC. The artist changed, and a big part of the community thinks the art comes off in poorer quality than before. Some people (keeping up with the recent fad in the forums of making petitions for everything) are petitioning the mods to redo the facepacks. The issue often descends into a Flame War.
    • The current trend of DLC expansions has players divided on how Paradox is treating previously implemented content, and if favorites are being played. The Old Gods was one such example, as discussion of favoritism being given towards the Norse due to the far greater degree of content and lack of pre-patch balance, with other pagan religions showing a far thinner amount of content. Critics have also argued the lack of post-expansion attention to various mechanics, despite players demanding attention, such as the Decadence system that was implemented with the Sword of Islam expansion.
      • The Horse Lords Content Pack deserves special mention, as it lumps together content of different natures (unit looks, portraits and music), and the individual components are not sold separately. This raises the ire of buyers who resent having to buy the whole package when they really only want one or two individual components. This forced sale continues with Jade Dragon; players who wish to use the Tibetan and Chinese portraits in their games have to buy and activate the new mechanics.
      • The above point is itself part of another debate on the best way to handle DLC: One side prefers smaller DLC with tighter focus since it gives them the freedom to selectively purchase and activate content with precision, while the other side prefers the "content pack" format since they tend to cost less on a per-unit basis than a collection of smaller DLCs with similar content. Both sides tend to accuse Paradox of being out to make a naked cash-grab when they don't follow their favored model.
    • Rajas of India breaks the base even further. The patch containing free content disrupted multiplayer capabilities, while the expansion of the map to include India meant that lower end computers who could play the game previously now struggle to do so, and Paradox's attempt to compress portraits to free up memory resulted in bugged portraits. These problems persisted for over three months after RoI's release.
    • Charlemagne continues the base breaking tradition. Several features in the DLC itself didn't work as planned, while the patch containing free content introduced new bugs. In addition, the fanbase is divided over the inclusion of "Zunist" pagans. It's either a fun exploration of a fascinating pre-Islamic faith in Afghanistan, or overly obscure add-on that no-one asked for, ignoring fan interest in adding content to existing religions and heresies such as Hellenismnote  or Yazidism. The earlier start date has also proven controversial, with detractors saying that the feudal system as present in the game did not exist that far back.
    • Hellenism is also a major source of feuding, including arguments over whether it was still practiced at all combining with the desire of a certain portion of the playerbase to play Hellenic anyway, and a Vocal Minority repeatedly demanding that the developers provide support for it (and triggering a Creator Backlash over the whole issue). When Paradox decided to add the option to revive Hellenism in Holy Fury, they added a game rule to allow players to disable the events that can revive the religion (and made them difficult enough that the AI has little chance in succeeding in them) because of the strife the issue has brought in the fandom.
    • Way of Life introduced focuses, some of which (especially seduction for the adultery and business for the "free money" event) are viewed by a very vocal group of players as gamebreakers. The expansion essentially became mandatory with the release of Holy Fury, as Holy introduces Warrior Lodges for pagan and nomadic characters, making the War focus a must-have if players want to get anywhere as a lodge member.
    • A more subtle example is high quality player mods. Some players praised the developers of such mods for great improvements to the base game, and doing it essentially for free. Others think that Paradox has "gotten lazy" due to such mods, and are leaving bug fixes to such mod developers. To be fair, many modders have clearly indicated that there are some areas of the code which cannot be modified at the user's end, and thus require Paradox's attention to get things thrashed out. The counter point is that Paradox is opening up more parts of the code with each expansion.
    • One argument that is purely theoretical is whether there should be an expansion to add China and even Japan to the game. While the historical records on which the starting scenarios are based are unusually complete for China (in contrast to many rulers at early dates being completely fictitious and/or lacking families due to shortages in historical information), history buffs question whether the core dynastic feudalism mechanics can accurately model the Chinese meritocracy. note  Others point to the performance hit for having to model the additional characters on the lower-end computers many players use for the game (due to its theoretically low hardware requirements). The second one has its roots in complaints about the Rajas of India map expansion that reached the point that when The Reaper's Due added a menu of game settings, people asked for an option to disable India entirely.
    • Monks and Mystics received flak for its official content: While the mechanics for societies (secret or otherwise) and family heirlooms were looked forward to with great interest for use in mods like Warhammer Geheimnisnacht and Crusader Kings II: Game of Thrones Mod (especially as the mod tools were released with the expansion pack for immediate use), the actual content included in the base game was considered lacking. What was there was mostly focused on the Satanists, and ignored a lot of actual historical societies (amongst them the entire Sufism movement whose societies majorly influenced Islam for much of the game's timeline).
      • Specifically, the Satanists' content was accused of pandering to the Crosses the Line Twice sects of the fanbase and for having blatantly overpowered capabilities that were ridiculously easy to game, while the monastic societies, secret religious cults, and Hermeticists were Obvious Betas, missing a number of promised features. A patch toned down the Satanists and added missing features to the other societies, but had the side effect of causing secret cults to run wild across the world, sparking Zoroastrian revolutions in Byzantium and making the Holy Roman Empire Jewish. A further patch fixed this, thankfully.
    • Perhaps the most divisive announcement yet is the fact that China will finally be added to the game, but as an off-map character. It's drawn ire and praise from both sides of the argument: proponents claim that it will model the effect of China on medieval Europe without adding lag to the game, while detractors cry Golden Mean Fallacy and argue that it misses the main reason people wanted East Asia added, that of total Eurasian conquest.
    • An issue consistently raised since the Old Gods DLC is the pointed absence of the Great Schism between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, despite occurring within the expanded timeline of the game and being hugely relevant to the game's mechanics. This has been justified by developers as representing the already existing differences between the Eastern and Western branches of the church pre-schism, but as more and more "questionably historical" elements are added to the game, like Satanic Cults and Hellenic revivals, its absence is increasingly felt.
    • A new naval system in Crusader Kings 3, that does away with naval levies and lets land units automatically embark upon moving to a sea province. Streamlining an obnoxious mechanic, or dumbing down? Especially since the same system, used in Civilization VI, was the subject of a Take That! in Europa Universalis IV.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome: Averted insofar as you might think that most players only pick powerful rulers or make their rulers powerful; many players actually enjoy playing as a relatively weak realm, partially because these can actually, depending on the location, be easier to manage, partially because Underdogs Never Lose. However, what you'll see incredibly rarely, is somebody playing as someone who is a vassal to an AI ruler, at least permanently, because the AI is often suicidally reckless, both in goals and the means to achieve them, not to mention, occasionally an Ungrateful Bastard, even if you loyally support them.
    • However, when playing as a weak feudal ruler, what is considered standard operating procedure to strengthen your rule is to first conquer the counties in the duchy your capital county belongs to, and then hold said ducal title.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Due to the Video Game Cruelty Potential and Video Game Perversity Potential in Crusader Kings, horrifically villainous player antics invariably elicit hysterical laughter. One player discovered that he could farm money by finding rich landless men, matrilineally marrying them to his daughter, then excommunicating, imprisoning, and executing them. The forum collectively lol'd, and one guy even made a sweet fake tabloid cover of it.
    Kurblius: I used my daughter to entrap 6 old men, collecting over 6K. She is just 17 and she's been a widow 5 times.
  • Demonic Spiders:
    • The Mongol Hordes. Huge numbers, with little or no attrition to speak of.
    • Also, the other scripted event that makes its first appearance on the east edge of the map, the Bubonic plague. Unlike the Mongols, there's no way to hide from or resist them, and at best, you can try to slow it down with high-level hospitals, which gets incredibly expensive (high level sick wards cost over 2000 gold for the last two levels, an absolutely staggering sum of money for even the richest realms, especially when their effects are provincial, and thus, many advanced hospitals are needed to even semi-reliably control epidemics). Even if you can avoid having your court (or worse, your family) being wiped out by it, it'll kill your economy and, with it, your ambitions stone dead.
  • Ending Fatigue: It's entirely possible for a player who knows what they're doing to achieve their goals — up to and including World Conquest — well before the game ends. The rest of the game then becomes about protecting what you've already gained from being conquered or breaking under its own weight, which is usually not quite as compelling as the initial goal.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • The d'Hauteville family, the Norman rulers of southern Italy and later the kingdom of Sicily before their country was inherited by the Hohenstaufens, are a very popular choice among players. Reasons for this include a very convenient geographic position in the middle of the Mediterranean, proximity to both several small and easily conquerable nations of various religions which make it easy to expand your territory, an interesting diplomatic partner in the neighboring Papacy, the absence of a Muslim superpower that tries to curb-stomp you from the get-go, and a huge number of (mostly male) family members convenient for both political marriages and diminishing the risk of interfamilial rivalry. They basically have lots of exploitable options in every aspect and don't start overpowered enough to make your achievements seem ordinary. The fact that it is reasonably easy to trump their real-life achievements certainly helps.
    • Haesteinn of Nantes is a very popular start character because of his good starting stats and event troops and his unique position (a Germanic pagan in France, and one of the few feudal pagans in any start date) that can take him almost anywhere on the map in a single generation. He's especially beloved by Achievement hunters.
    • Pick an Irish count, any Irish count. Everybody on the island begins with relatively equal strength, and nobody off the island has any claims to its territories, so the only real foreign danger is from Viking marauders. In earlier dates Ireland is also tribal (one of only two Christian tribal regions in the game, the other being Scotland at that date), allowing you to raid and to choose between feudalism and merchant republic.
    • The Catharist and Messalian heresies. Both quite obscure heresies normally of note only to theologians and specialist historians, they are actively sought after by the Crusader Kings fandom for both the challenge of overthrowing the mainstream of Christendom with them, and their special traits. Both allow for significantly expanded women's rights, allowing early access to cognatic inheritance (where men and women inherit on equal terms) and the ability to grant talented women positions of power directly. In addition, the Messalians allow incestuous marriages; tying together Tangled Family Trees that would make the Targaryens balk is a Running Gag for the fandom.
    • Zoroastrians. A minor religion with only a couple of lords in the earliest eras, but it allows for an even messier pile of incest than the Messalians (due to concubines, which allow the king to bed all his sisters and daughters), has a bunch of challenging starts for surviving against the Muslims, and a reconquered Persia is well on its way to a World Conquest with the aid of the Immortals and Great Holy Wars. Mostly the incest, of course.
  • Friendly Fandoms: With the Rimworld and Dwarf Fortress fandoms, due to the sort of incredibly horrific antics that players of these sort of sandbox games can get up to.
    • The Crusader Kings fanbase are also in good terms with the Age of Empires II fanbase since both are strategy games that focuses around the medieval time period.
  • Game-Breaker: Enough to them have their own page.
  • Genius Bonus: The blue-clad blond knight featured on the game's box art isn't some generic crusader, but Walter Scott's Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe himself.
  • Goddamned Bats:
    • The Old Gods adds raiders who will plunder your territory, then flee back onto their longboats before your army can get to them.
    • The Karlings largely owe their status as The Scrappy to being this in the 867 start. They aren't necessarily a threat, but they take up huge swathes of Europe and are very difficult to dislodge.
    • Unlanded raiders, such as adventurers, nomadic clans that no longer hold land, and sons of nomads sent off to quest are even more irritating than their landed counterparts, as they can't be meaningfully contained by defeating them in combat like their landed counterparts. If you're anywhere near tribal rulers, pagans, or worse, nomads, they'll be a constant nuisance and can only really be stopped by the "settle raiders" decision, which bribes them with a tract of land of their choosing, meaning you may have to take a substantial tyranny hit to give them a vassal's lands instead of something like a freshly conquered duchy you might prefer to hand off, but doing so buys you ten years of absolute immunity to raiders, or to go beat down the nomads, settle their lands, and build up buffer kingdoms, quite possibly at great initial expense.
  • Good Bad Bugs:
    • The demo for the sequel restricted play to only four characters. However, almost imminently players found out they could play whichever character they wanted by picking a character from the demo list, then quickly clicking on a province on the map before the game loads - and play as the ruler of said province.
    • They also found out that the demo doesn't end twenty years later but specifically in 1086 and that if you set the start date at 0AD you could get 1086 years of playtime out of the demo. However, this screws up the triggers.
    • A bug in the release version of Rajas of India allowed men to become pregnant from homosexual couplings. There was much laughter. The eventual fix to this bug included checks to ensure the potential parent is actually female... though another overlooked loophole means that the "father" can also sometimes be female, so it's not entirely fixed yet.
    • A very particular bug with Greek characters had them continuously looking to see who they could blind and castrate in the world, leading to some very odd issues where left unchecked, Byzantine Emperors might go to war just so they could castrate somebody. This was also one of the main things leading to slowdowns, and has since been fixed.
    • The Conclave expansion added the ability for Insane characters to add, like Caligula before them, a horse (named Glitterhoof) to their council. This makes the horse an actual character. This isn't the bug, but players quickly found myriad ways to break the game with horses, and Paradox has said that players are on their own as far as horse-related bugs go.
      • Using the Seduction focus from Way of Life, you can impregnate the horse and force it to give birth. Using this, you can make yourself a dynasty of horses (since they follow the horse's culture, which is appropriately "Horse"). And play as them. Never has the "Different Culture" opinion modifier made more sense.
      • The horse character spawns with a special Horse trait that makes them infertile, normally preventing this. However, a workaround exists for religions that can nominate heirs to bishoprics (i.e. just Catholics in an unmodded game). Nominating the horse as the heir to a county bishopric will cause a bunch of horse courtiers to spawn when the horse inherits the title. These newly generated horse characters do not have the Horse trait, and can be married/seduced and used to conceive horse children. This allows for such strangeness as a female horse Viking restoring the Roman Empire. For religions without priest investiture, you can educate a child with the horse and Heritage focus until he converts culture, then land the child to cause horse courtiers to appear.
      • Players have also observed Glitterhoof (or his Reaper's Due counterpart Horse M.D.) taking part in murder plots, winning jousting tournaments, being captured and forced into concubinage.
    • Due to a programming oversight, the Mad Libs Dialogue that creates the Flavor Text for Great Works sometimes outputs unintentionally hilarious lines like "The Hidden Gates are considered quite the attraction".
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: CKII has a decision and achievement for mending the Great Schism between the Orthodox and Catholic branches of Christianity. Though in the game you can only do this as an Orthodox ruler, it would appear Pope Francis is trying to win it.
  • Less Disturbing in Context: Due to this game's cruelty and perversity potential, rather strange topics and questions can pop up on the game's subreddit and forums, such that posts asking about "How do I murder my retarded inbred heir so that his attractive strong genius brother can inherit?", "How do I destroy the Vikings? They're annoying me", and "Should I divorce my sister-wife to marry our daughter?" are not seen as unusual at all.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "DEUS VULT." Latin for "God wills it", it was a common Western Christian motto and appears frequently in the games (up to and including having the expansion pack for the first game named for it).
      • Also sometimes gets mutated by the fanbase, for example "Dievas vult" being used as a joke reference to Dievas, the supreme god in Romuva (Baltic paganism).
      • The response when Hellenic was confirmed as a religion? ZEUS VULT.
      • Eventually, a Steam achievement was named exactly that. note 
    • This dev diary for Monks and Mystics included a shot of a new trait, "Secretly Sunni" (for somebody who outwardly followed a different faith, but secretly was a Sunni Muslim). The Alliterative Name quickly got the players coming up with names for corresponding traits such as "Reclusively Romuvan", "Surreptitious Suomenusko", and "Covertly Cathar".
    • China confirmed! note 
    • Crusade for Orissa.note 
    • With the importance of the Crusades in-game, CK also inherited the "Remove kebab" meme spawned by Polandball. However, due to the fact that it originally referred to the ethnic cleansing of Muslim Bosniaks during The Yugoslav Wars, Paradox does not allow it on their official forum.
    • Any technical question about the game may be answered, "Seduce your sister".
    • "Gavelkind - not even once"note 
    • A screenshot for Crusader Kings 3 featured a female character with an uncanny resemblance to Princess Fiona from Shrek, which prompted many memes and jokes.
  • Memetic Psychopath: In an actual Crusaders King II game, the most successful characters are typically exemplars of Pragmatic Villainy. The memetic version of the successful Crusader King character, however, and by extension the player base, is bloodthirsty, sadistic, treacherous, and incestuous.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Given the ammount of cruelty potential across the games, it’s entirely possible to cross the Moral Event Horizon AND Cross the line twice at the same time, to the point where there is an entire CK 2 subreddit dedicated to cataloging player “feats” as the most sadistic and horrible rulers in existence. Where the line is crossed varies from player to player, but most of them agree that castrating a child or rendering them blind (Or both at the same time) for no reason other than fun is pretty horrifying. Or taking a royal family as prisioners and forcing the wife to become your concubine while throwing the husband into the oubliette. And that’s without taking into account the mods...
  • Narm: Most of the time it is averted, but the extremely Purple Prose other rulers will convey their messages in to you is solidly this:
    Random ruler: To the vile scatterbrain XXX: Your low character is the subject of Greek plays. / Tales of your misdeeds are told from Ireland to Cathay.note  I accept your peace offer.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • Being thrown in a oubliette. Trapped in a dark pit with no way out... it almost makes a regular dungeon look cozy.
    • Sunset Invasion has plenty of this, courtesy of the invading Aztecs. Gigantic armies arriving from across the Atlantic, horrible diseases Old World people have little resistance to, mass human sacrifice of captives, and more horrors are all things people playing using this expansion should expect.
    • The Satanic Outing events for Lucifer's Own were designed to inspire Even Evil Has Standards in a fandom that is amused by murdering children, incest in myriad forms, making concubines from prisoners, and Human Sacrifices offered variously to Odin, Kali, or Xipe Totec. General consensus is one event chain entirely succeeded.
    • The death sounds, added in Reaper's Due, which include the sounds of impaling, burning alive and other nasty things. There is a reason that Paradox added the option to mute this sounds.
    • Related to the previous example, everytime you as a child ruler get killed in a plot you not only get one of the aforementioned death sounds (the sound of a baby choking to death, which is nerve-chilling in itself), but also a frighteningly chilly first person experience of the events leading up to the character's death. Examples include stuff like getting pushed off the branch while playing in a tree, and getting taken out in the middle of the woods and then left to fend for themselves, practically guaranteeing that they'll get eaten up by local wildlife in the process. And the game doesn't shy away from making the soon to be dead child you're playing as scared as any child would be in any such situation. Adult Fear, indeed.
    • Crusader Kings III can now show diseases in horrific detail, including the nasty effects of smallpox, syphilis, tuberculosis and bubonic plague. These can get so bad that the devs added the option to turn them off if players find them too nauseating.
  • Paranoia Fuel:
    • From time to time, you'll encounter interesting unlanded individuals, lowborn or from minor families, who offer unique and potentially useful event chains. Sometimes they're also assassins or The Grim Reaperit's not always clear which.
    • Lucifer's Own for non-members. Without Monks and Mystics, the player knew that anyone brought before them as an alleged witch was innocent; unlike the people of the time, players knew witches didn't exist. With it? That bout of dynestry threatening to kill a previously healthy character of twenty-four might actually be a witch's curse, your right-hand man's sudden insanity could really be the result of demonic possession, all those folks disappearing without a trace may have been sacrificed to Satan, and that scheming, sinful vassal eying your throne could very well have dangerous friends on the other side. So one might as well Burn the Witch!, and if a few innocents get roasted along the way, so be it.
  • The Scrappy:
    • The Karling dynastynote  in The Old Gods 867 start, who start with the powerful and prosperous kingdoms of East and West Francia,note  Italy, and Lotharingia (among others) within their realm. Due to the way alliance and title mechanics work in the game, they often hold onto their thrones much longer than they historically did, and any attempt to unseat one of them (or half the wars they get involved in at all, really) ends up dragging literally half of Europe into the fray. Charlemagne didn't improve matters, as certain deaths can result in a Karling blob of either the Empire of Francia or a Holy Roman Empire that includes France. Fortunately, the alliance system was changed in the patch for Conclave to be a diplomatic option that has to be initiated instead of something automatic. Non-aggression pacts, which are a pre-requisite for alliances, are still automatic, but only for your in-laws and close relatives.
    • The Abbasids in the Charlemagne DLC's 769 start (and to a lesser degree in 867, where even the AI can easily restore their 769 borders). They start out owning a good sixth of the map as-is (Arabia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and Syria/Jerusalem) and Empires in-game tend to be much more stable than in real life, so most games started in that year end up with the 'Abbasid blob' locking down the entire Middle East for the rest of the game unless the player intentionally starts antagonising them. Unlike its historical counterparts, the Abbasids will laugh off the Seljuks and even halt the Mongols' advance into Europe.
      • Ditto the Umayyads in 769, who start out with solid control of Andalusia, and unlike real life will invariably conquer the entirety of Spain and then push for southern France without player intervention. If no intervention is made, it is very likely the Umayyads won't stop before reaching the Loire river.
    • Egypt also used to be this for a long time. Although not large, it was always a united kingdom, extremely wealthy and wedged in an easily defensible position, making it difficult to conquer. Also, except for 769, where it is part of the Abbasid Empire, the Sultan has the Mamluks mercenary company as a vassal, making it easy for him to win wars that would otherwise much more difficult. The real problem was though that unlike their Real Life counterparts, Egypt would immediately turn its attention to the militarily outclassed Christian Nubian petty kingdoms and counties to the south and afterwards swallow Abyssinia even further to the south-east whole, essentially conquering the entirety of eastern Africa about 40 years into the game (and thus locking down the entire region for the rest of the game). The successful wars waged in the process would also prevent a decadence revolt from taking place. This has since been fixed by making the closest Nubian states tributaries of whoever controls Egypt at the time, but Egypt is still extremely powerful in AI, to say nothing of player hands.
    • The Byzantine Empire's Doukas Dynasty. The first Doukas emperor, Constantine X Doukas is clubfooted and inept with money. His heir, Michael VII is just as inept with money, and usually ends up lazy and craven. In real life, Michael VII ended up giving his throne (and his wife) to Nikephoros III Botaneiates after realizing that he could not get anyone's support anymore - plus, he was very lazy and spent his reign giving all his power and responsibilities to his mother and his councilors. They were so inept that many walkthroughs for the forming of the Roman Empire recommend against starting as him.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • The Decadence system, which, while not necessarily a bad idea, means that in practice, Muslim players can see their entire dynasty collapse because they have one drunken second cousin, whose existence somehow brings enough shame on their house to trigger an invasion by fundamentalist desert tribesmen. Eventually, Decadence was reworked such that only male relatives with the Decadent trait will actually add to the dynasty's decadence rating. Also, relatives with the trait who are imprisoned or not living in the realm do not contribute to the rating. Players can (and should) devise ways to throw such relatives into the dungeons or exile them.
    • The game also automates guardianship contracts for female Muslim characters, operating, apparently, under the assumption that anybody who plays as a Muslim won't care who mentors their daughter. Not only can this destroy one's immersion in the game (it's hard to stay in character, when the game decides your worst enemy would make a dandy mentor for your daughter and assigns her accordingly), but it can actually become a serious problem when the computer decides that it would like to reassign her to a new mentor, and, in the process, earns you a massive -30 "Lost a Ward" penalty with the old one. Worse yet, the game can then decide that this pattern worked out so well statistically, that it is going to repeat it exactly, earning you ever increasing negative penalties with her previous mentors. Finally, it only gives Muslim players access to one kind of succession, which aside from being historically inaccurate (not all Muslims are the Ottoman Empire), pretty much ensures a civil war after your heir takes the throne.
      • Again, with the decadence mechanic being reworked as noted above, it is entirely possible to land only one son, although landing male relatives with any title will reduce their chances of getting the Decadent trait. In addition, the automated guardianship process for Muslim girls has been fixed. The devs probably noted that assigning guardians for girls can raise the guardian's opinion towards the father-ruler.
    • Adventurers, introduced in the Old Gods DLC, randomly lets characters gather a host to assault a realm they have a claim on, or which follows a heathen religion. Adventurers automatically scale with the realm they assault, no matter how little sense that would make, making it perfectly possible for a pre-christianised Finland to produce a 50,000 man army out of nowhere to attack your Frankish Empire or for one of your courtiers to go adventurer and form a 20,000 man expedition to take your kingdom... from inside your own capital. Worse yet is that adventurers are treated as non-rebellious and saddle you with tyranny, dishonourable or kinslayer penalties for dealing with them (clearly, arresting your son-in-law for openly declaring the overthrow of your realm from inside your own court is the mark of a tyrant) and leave you at the mercy of the RNG.note  Removing the "diplomatic assassinate" option just made this mechanic even more annoying. Fortunately, this was later tweaked, so that adventurers always leave your court, while the scaling was reduced somewhat.
    • Due to the way how alliances and feudal support works in the game, it violates one of the basic "rules" of it: the vassal of my vassal is not my vassal. In CKII, any stage of vassalage is transferred to the top liege. So, if you want to conquer any given province that's controlled by a minor, weakling lord, but who also happens to be a vassal of a vassal of a vassal to some large empire, it won't be just his direct liege declaring war on you. EVERYONE in said empire will go to war with you. Automatically. With no option for negotiations, backing down or simply flipping out. This is especially annoying in terms of Holy Roman Empire and any larger Islamic empires, because it leads to ridiculous, ahistorical situations where feuding minor lords bring entire imperial might into the fray. note 
    • The tribal transition to feudalism or republicanism is a real thorn in the side of pagan players. Reforming a tribe into a more advanced form of government is expensive and time-consuming at the best of times, but pagans can't reform their government without first reforming their faith. The AI almost never does this on its own. This means that pagan players have to conquer essentially an empire-sized realm first, since it's impossible to reform pagan religions without controlling at least three holy sites. Pagans by design have great difficulty holding a large realm together, and given that the realm is militarily gutted immediately after the transition, it leaves the fledgling kingdom defenseless before surrounding states who would ''really'' like to get back at you for a few decades of continual raiding — which, incidentally, is the only way tribal states can support their economy.
      • This transition got so painful that Paradox eventually streamlined it; you now only need a single fully decked-out holding in your capital to turn your entire demesne feudal/republican, and your vassals can switch governments for free note (and usually will very quickly, as long as they like you and are not following an unreformed pagan faith). While this makes the process much quicker and cheaper than before, it's still painful for pagans and leaves your realm vulnerable. Patch 3.0 made it easier for players with the Legacy of Rome DLC, by allowing tribal rulers to hire retinues which cost Prestige. These retinues are retained after the transition, allowing the player to retain some measure of power.
      • The transition by itself means your potential (or actual) empire goes from a powerhouse to a complete wimp, on the principle that vanilla feudalism is by far the weakest of all forms of government the game has to offer, even when compared to tribal pagans. note It takes another lengthy advance in administrative technology to reach anything resembling functional government and regain control over your own territory you had as a tribal pagan. Meanwhile, merchant republics are restricted heavily in size, so your massive conquest becomes a liability, rather than any sort of benefit. And should you be unlucky, your dynasty will be kicked out of the office of the doge right after your current ruler dies.
    • Gavelkind inheritance. For the uninitiated, this inheritance law means that your senior heir gets the current ruler's primary title and capital holding on succession, while they compete with their brothers and / or sisters (depending on gender inheritance laws) to parcel out the remainder amongst themselves. Despite gavelkind being present from the earliest versions of the game, no one has managed to work out what sort of logic the game uses to parcel out the titles (and Paradox has so far refused to release the code governing succession mechanics), which typically happens in such a way as to ensure very fragmented, disjointed, and aesthetically unappealing territorial splits. While it's moderately effective at keeping AI realms split, most players hate it for the chaotic results it produces and try to switch to something else at the first available opportunity.
      • The trick to managing gavelkind succession is something of a Violation of Common Sense. You must be willing to parcel out titles to your junior heirs voluntarily, as opposed to the arbitrary distribution done by the AI. On top of that, you should aim to have only 1 title at the highest tier (e.g. not holding multiple kingdoms as a king or multiple empires as an emperor), which does reduce the amount of prestige you get from such titles. However, it would ensure that your heirs will not become independent of the primary one. Elective gavelkind further complicates this by forming same-tier titles whenever you control enough de jure land of said title, giving them to your heirs, and making them independent (e.g. if you are the king of Sweden and also control the de jure land of the kingdom of Denmark, even if you have not created the title, one of your heirs will become an independent king of Denmark). Also, all junior heirs have the option of going independent peacefully during succession.
    • The Seduction Focus. Not so much that you have the option of extramarital affairs, but rather that all the AI characters do and have no rhyme, reason or discretion in using it. AI seducers tend to eat up processing power and your patience jumping everything in sight including your spouses, your siblings, your children and your siblings' children's spouses and spreading STDs and bastards with your character having no way to stop it. The focus has been nerfed at least twice, and even then the only thing it's done is to make Chaste or even Homosexual the most valuable traits to look for in a spouse. It's bad enough that Paradox has actually added the option to remove the AI's ability to use the seduction focus.
    • Patch 2.5 and Conclave-related:
      • The Coalition system was extremely contentious upon release. Not only was it very ahistorical for the time period (the closest thing to coalitions in the medieval era were the Crusades, who are already modelled in-game), but a flawed implementation where a character could be saddled with 200% infamy for defeating his own rebellious vassals in a civil war or the Pope would freely join an Orthodox war for the Holy Land on the side of the Muslims caused Paradox to slightly modify the whole thing in Conclave's first patch. People still complain about it though: with sufficiently large armies the pacts aren't even effective at their intended purpose of retarding map-painting, because the AI is terrible at coordinating allied armies and you can simply assault all the target holdings before the enemy can even work its way out to fight you. The ahistorical "features" like having the Sunni and Shi'a caliphs joining with the Orthodox Byzantines and various Catholic powers to stop a Catholic holy war against pagans in the Baltic also haven't been altered. In 2.6 (The Reaper's Due), Paradox made the entire mechanic completely optional with the new "game rules" system, and by 2.6.3, disabling it doesn't even affect achievements.
      • The "Increase Council Power" faction added in Conclave generally just makes managing one's vassals even more difficult than it was before. The council also seems not to have been tested thoroughly, as strange problems can develop with nomadic realms and secondary titles that used to be held by a vassal: you can easily wind up in a Catch-22 Dilemma where the council doesn't want you to pass out titles because they dislike you for holding too many titles.
      • The automatic call to arms for an allied ruler going to war was mostly disliked. While it eliminated the problem of allies abandoning each other, it also made doing things that require peacetime (such as changing succession laws) very difficult if you had a large network of alliances. Players also commented they didn't need Byzantium bringing their whole doomstack to help deal with a single rebellious vassal or independent count. Paradox eliminated it in 2.6 in favor of a modified version of the old manual call-to-war system, with penalties for refusal greatly increased to make AI allies more reliable.
    • Secret religious cults in 2.7.2. Originally, it was incredibly hard to induct people into the cult, which made trying to use the feature extremely difficult as a player. 2.7.2 buffed them to make inducting other characters easier, and added additional cults for religions that did not have them (such as unreformed pagans and heretics.) However, the AI creates them and joins them with no discretion whatsoever. Adding to the problem is the fact that they are incredibly difficult to root out, as the AI recruits any character it can at a rate faster than the "Hunt Apostates" Court Chaplain job can keep up with. Even worse, it is perfectly possible that the cults will be for something as petty as an Orthodox cult in a Catholic realm.
    • The Chess with Death event from Reaper's Due is rare, will only fire once per character and requires that you play with Supernatural Events on. If it fires, however, you find yourself in a Luck-Based Mission which is extremely unintuitive, has a close to 80% failure rate, and will kill your character instantly with no escape if you fail. And there is no way to back out or escape it once it fires. note 
  • Shocking Moments: If "From Holy Kingdom to Unholy Nightmare" is any indication, Sons of Abraham does this for the second game. Having your children and heirs to your realms be the spawn of Satan (complete with insanely high stats) will do that for anyone.
  • SNK Boss: Basically the entire point of the Mongols, particularly in the first game. An absurd amount of free event troops (who suffer no attrition damage) plus the ability to invade anybody at any time and, in the first game, no demesne limit are just the ways in which they cheat. The Aztecs in Sunset Invasion follow a similar model, though given their emphasis on infantry as opposed to horse archers, they're somewhat easier opponents if you have a cavalry-heavy army.
  • Spiritual Licensee: A Rock Paper Shotgun review of the second game calls it "the best Game of Thrones game you will probably ever play." Unsurprisingly both games feature A Song of Ice and Fire mods.
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: The original game, while it had its fans, was definitely a flawed game, with a Troubled Production and quite a lot of bugs. Crusader Kings II, on the other hand, has received by far the smoothest launch of any Paradox game to date, and received almost universal acclaim from the fans. Expansions like Sword of Islam, Legacy of Rome and The Old Gods have only served to make it even better.
  • Tear Jerker: A steady diet of Deliberate Values Dissonance, Black Comedy, and Pragmatic Villainy makes Crusader Kings players a thick-skinned bunch, but the text for your character deciding to commit suicide added in The Reaper's Due struck chillingly close to home for a lot of players.
  • That One Achievement: The Steam release currently features 161 achievements. Some are very easy, some require a little patience, others a little ingenuity, a specifically parahistorical or ahistorical playing style, but some are just plain absurd:
    • "Who needs Vasco da Gama" for example requires you to hold 5 Silk road trade posts in India... as a European trade republic.
    • "A servant no more" requires you to build an empire as a specific Muslim duke who is subservient to the Abbasid empire... who is a eunuch and thus can't found a dynasty, meaning you have to do so in his lifetime.
    • "Smash the Patriarchy" finally requires you to play as a female ruler of a religion that allows female clergy (Catharism, Bogomilism or Messalianism), with the temples of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem also all held by female bishops. Either of those three parts (female ruler, holding five of the most contested counties in the game, playing as an obscure heresy) is already hard enough on its own, but on top of that, randomly generated bishops have a 50% chance of still being male, so you need to hold all those counties directly and nominate the female bishops yourself.
  • Win Back the Crowd: After the mixed reception of Conclave and its patch, The Reaper's Due is regarded as a much-appreciated return to form, especially with the removal of automatic calls-to-arms. It also added some more flavor to non-Germanic pagans. The crowd would truly be won back with the release of Holy Fury, as the expansion allows tailoring of reformed pagan faiths to players' playstyles.

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