Archive for Crusader Kings Series 5

Crusader Kings Series 5, Excluded

The Scots Crusade, Part Seven

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four, Part Five, and Part Six.


Last time, things were going pretty well in Northumbria, with my Viking enemies crippled and the realm greatly expanded.

But!  No rest for the wicked.  It’s time to work on the succession.

First of all, that means having a male heir, ideally a single male heir.  I’ve got an illegitimate son, Brynjólfr, so I’m probably okay on that front.  But even better would be to have a single kingdom-level title, so that at least my secondary heirs would end up as vassals of my primary heir.

Unfortunately, I’m unlikely to be able to seize the nearby de jure kingdoms in Hlothere’s lifetime.  Scotland is firmly controlled by the Gaelic Albans, while England is just too big to claim all the land I need.  So we have to look at founding our own kingdom!  On the plus side, this requires control of several duchies, which I already have, so the only hurdles are a bunch of money and piety.  We can work with that!

I also need a bunch of new vassals to hold the territory around York, so I find my most competent courtiers and promote them to counts.  Another benefit of holding a kingdom will be the ability to have dukes as vassals.

My daughter may be a thief, but she’s an honest thief.  Or at least a humble one.

Another priority is to pick off more territory held by minor rulers, especially those in between the two halves of my realm.  The Norse counties are easy, since I can get them via holy war, but it does drain piety I need for later.

Drifa, my not-very-secret lover, has had another daughter.  No real harm in acknowledging her now since everyone knows about our affair.

Okay, have we considered the possibility that the girl is just a kleptomaniac?

Also, the most important lesson here is don’t steal from Conan.  You’re lucky to be alive!

One primary lesson of Crusader Kings is that you should always debase the currency.  It’s particularly a no-brainer here, because Hlothere’s stewardship is so high that he will absolutely get away with it.

Westmorland falls easily.  Who’s laughing now, Jarl Tyke the Humorless?

I send my bastard son to be educated by Bishop Brice, making sure to turn him properly Scots in the process.

Thanks to currency manipulation, I have the money I need to found my kingdom, but I’m still missing piety.  To fix that, it’s time to visit the holy sites!

Just to Cologne, though, let’s not go crazy with it.  A bunch of dad’s friends tried going to the Holy Land and look how that worked out for THEM.

Apparently a ranting doomsayer reduces my stress?

But shouting him down gives me enough piety to found the kingdom!  Unfortunately I can’t turn around and go home yet.  Surely nothing bad will happen though …?


Whew.  Okay.

GATHER THE REALM!  Yes the whole thing.

Henceforth, instead of merely King of Northumbria, I shall be King of Northumbria!

This helps a lot though.  Now my older daughter is heir to the Kingdom of Northumbria, while my younger daughter will inherit the Petty Kingdom of Northumbria and thus be her sister’s vassal.

Okay, this is confusing.  I change the title of the overall kingdom to Great Northumbria to help tell them apart.

Also, I can now let other people have Duke-level titles instead of holding them all for myself, which makes them dislike me.  My first choice for the Duke of Regular Northumbria is, of course, Conan.

In the de jure view, Northumbria now sits neatly between England and Alba.  Unfortunately this doesn’t help me claim territory, because the Scots have yet to master the cultural art of claiming that land belongs to you by some kind of historical imperative.

Since my wife is getting old, I probably won’t have any more children.  Time to legitimize Brynjólfr — as the only male heir, he’ll inherit all my titles, which is perfect.

Why yes, my loyal Duke Conan, I do think I will press your claim.

Uh … hrm.  At 43, eh?  That’s unexpected.

Well, another girl wouldn’t make things complicated …

Of course.

Well.  Now I have two male heirs who will split my available titles.  Hooray.

I am really starting to wonder at some of Hlothere’s parenting choices.  The girls are thieves and murderers, basically, though I choose not to make this one a sadist.

Victory!  My realm is contiguous once again.

Unfortunately, that weird exclave is held by Alba, and they’re too strong for me to take it easily.

I’ve spent a lot of prestige lately, so I call a hunt to get some back and lose some stress.

Bishop down!

Leave him, the hunt must go on.

Rejoice, peasants, for your king has murdered a pig!

I put out a call for knights, and this guy turns up.  First of all, just look at him.  Dude’s crazy.  Second of all, his prowess is nuts.  Third of all, his name is Mungo.  Definitely someone we want on the team.  I hire him and betroth him to my youngest daughter for good measure.

In addition to his martial prowess, Mungo is the founder and head of the Abernathy dynasty, of which he is the only member.  And the motto of this dynasty is “Remember the Death of Mungo,” referring to himself.  I can only assume he had some sort of psychic vision of his own death, and has now devoted his life to establishing a dynasty so it will be remembered forever.

Slightly terrified by this, I give him the barony of Bolton to rule.  It seems appropriate.

Impotent, am I?

That’s what I thought.

All right, visitors are just going to have to start locking their doors in my castle, new rule.

Speaking of my children.  Brynjólfr has developed into the jock bully from a midde-grade movie, and his stats aren’t particularly great.

His half-brother Indulf is a better steward, and he’s five.

I continue scooping up the divided counties to the south.  Meanwhile, my wife Agnes murders my lover Drifa.  Honestly I’m just glad they worked it out somehow, but it stresses me the heck out.

Brynjólfr is no better at stewardship two years on, but he has decided that he’s into boys.

That’s … not great.  It’s fine in general, obviously, but not great from a “continuing the royal line” sort of perspective.

Also he’s now the bully from a young adult movie.

Meanwhile we’re trying this again, huh.  Things are reasonably peaceful in Northumbria, so I guess I can help.

Come on, guys!  We’re going on a journey!

Crap crap crap.  Turn the boat around, guys!

Year: 922 AD
Mood: Regal

Crusader Kings Series 5, Excluded

The Scots Crusade, Part Six

Part OnePart TwoPart Three, Part Four, and Part Five.


When we last left Northumbria, things were relatively peaceful, with at least one of my Viking opponents in Suðreyjar being swallowed up by the Gaelic kingdom of Alba.  And Jarl Halfdan, in the south, seems to be making nice.

BUT!  There is something rotten in the state of Northumbria!

Somehow I feel like I’ve seen this one before.

With Suðreyjar gone, the next thing for me to do is pick off the remaining counties of Strathclyde before someone else does.  Summon the clergy!

Bishop Brice fulfills his primary ecclesiastical function of falsifying documents.

Wait, it’s my wife who is planning to kill Macbeth?  What a twist!

Also, Mom is still serving as spymaster after all these years.  She’s so good at it!

I get to work taking over Strathclyde, which isn’t too hard.  My marshal Æthelsige is killed, though, which means I’m in need of some new knights.  I recruit a promising lad named Rory Scoine who will have an illustrious career.

The war progresses nicely, and my wife is pregnant again!  Still no sons, so this is a good step.

Or possibly not.  Poor Muirgel never even got to murder Macbeth like she always wanted.

Still.  The kingdom needs a male heir, so I recruit a new wife who is frankly amazing.  Hopefully my children will inherit her intelligence.

But speaking of children, we now come to my oldest nemesis in Crusader Kings — god-damned gavelkind.  Now called “confederate partition”, this is the default inheritance scheme of the early medieval era, where property is split up among all eligible heirs.

Note that of my two top-level domains, Muriel is heir to Northumbria while Isabel is heir to Lothian.  That means when Hlothere dies, the kingdom will break in two.

Unfortunately (but accurately) you can’t change this succession method until much later on.  (Early in CK2’s history, you could ahistorically switch to seniority or primogeniture fairly quickly, but the new tech system in CK3 doesn’t allow it.)  So there’s a few possibilities for mitigating the problem.  You can try to have only one valid heir — a son takes precedence over all daughters, so if I have a son now he’ll get everything.  Ultimately, though, that’s very hard to control, so my goal is to eventually have only one top-level title — either by destroying all but one of my duchies, or creating a kingdom-level title.  That way, while your personal demense will be split up (which is a pain) at least all the new king’s siblings will be his vassals.

Anyway, Agnes gets started on the problem by getting pregnant almost immediately.

There’s happenings in the south, though!  Jarl Halfdan, my secret admirer, has finally died.  His first son died in my dungeons, and now his second son has also died.

As a result, Jórvik has split off Lancaster, which makes them look less threatening.

And with an eight-year-old as the new Jarl, I might actually have half a chance against them.

Agnes comes through with a son!

Possibly too soon to celebrate though.

I take the plunge and declare war on Jórvik for my claim on the county of Northumberland, which my father lost to them back in the beginning.  I need to hire some mercenaries to fight them, but fortunately Pope One-Eye comes through with the cash.

Meanwhile, I forge a claim on the last remnants of Strathclyde.  I will conquer Aeron and secure their overpriced office chairs!

This guy comes to me to narc on my spymaster who is also my Mom.  Dude, just stop.

As I keep fighting a drawn-out war against the Vikings, the king of Alba also dies.  His son is an adult, but is looking temptingly weak compared to his father.  Hmm.

Finally I manage to get Jórvik into a decisive battle.  Go Provost Thomas!

Noooooo Provost Thomas!

Finally.  Even as kids these Vikings are no pushovers.  But I have regained my ancestral homeland and namesake!

Uh.  I’m pretty sure we don’t believe in that.

Ah.  The problem is that Northumberland has gone pagan.  I send Bishop Brice down there to sort them out.

I’m ready to press my totally real claim to Aeron, but unfortunately they’re in the middle of being conquered by Vikings.  Dangit.

While I’m waiting, I recruit some new knights.  This guy is great, except he’s a pagan.

Fortunately, he’s willing to work on that!  And he’s soon joined by …

CONAN!  The Well-Statted.  With 20 prowess and the Strong trait, this is a guy I need on-side.

First I make him a knight …

Then I marry him matrilineally to my daughter.  (Since he’s my knight, he doesn’t get to say no.)  If I don’t end up with any living sons, then Muriel will be my heir, so she needs a good husband.

By now Aeron has fallen to the Vikings, but they’re not strong enough to beat me, either.  I declare war on the new Earl.

In his first battle Conan manages to kill two or three guys and wound the enemy ruler.

Unfortunately the Jarldom of Essex gets involved in the war, and I have to march across the country to meet their army at the beaches.  Thanks a lot, Jarl Dan.

And poor sickly Ælla dies.  Things are getting stressful here.

At 30, Hlothere isn’t much of a fighter, but his stewardship is spectacular.  Combined with his wife’s abilities, I’ve got plenty of gold and I can hold a ton of land in my personal demense, which helps a lot.  Still just the two daughters, unfortunately.

Make that three daughters.  Since I’m going to have to marry them matrilineally to be safe, my dynasty will get a lot bigger.

I finally win the war for Aeron, which we apparently call Ayrshire.  This puts me at eight counties, one above my demense limit, the amount of land I can personally hold.  That means I need to start creating vassals to hold land on my behalf.

I know who my first draft pick is.  CONAN!

I actually get a little overexcited and give him two counties instead of one.  Oops.

This isn’t just my love of his prowess, though.  In the event that Hlothere dies without a son, Conan will be my husband, so his lands will be useful.

But Northumbria is actually looking pretty coherent!

Hlothere is getting increasingly stressed though.

To add insult to injury, Gryth’s son is already plotting against me!

So, let’s see what we can do here.  First we hold a feast to reduce Hlothere’s stress level!

Then we try to seduce Drifa, hoping to have an illegitimate son to reduce my stress level.

Mother fluffer.  Not now, Irish, I’m trying to cut down on stress!

No wine!  This is serious.

My options are to pay for the extra wine myself, or take a collection and make a profit.  I do the latter since I need the money to hire mercenaries to fend off the angry Irishmen.

The war is a mess, but at least Drifa likes me!

As is so often the case when the numbers are close, we end up in mutual sieges.  But I manage to win mine first and capture the Ulsterian heir!

This isn’t quite enough to get me all the way to victory, but the indemnity is probably less than fighting out the war would cost, so I accept a white peace.

Always pick Beowulf.  Chicks dig Beowulf.

Mom is … up to something?  She’s the spymaster, she’s kind of up to something by definition.  I think I won’t pry.

Aww, she was literally planning a surprise party for me!

“Surprise, my king!  Oh and also, someone is plotting to kill the Bishop.”

Oooooh.  My chancellor has managed to get me out of my peace treaty with Jórvik!  Their Jarl is still a kid, and I have mercenaries with a year or two left on their contracts.  It may finally be time to end this.

First things first, though.  We have important business to attend to.  *saxophone music*

Goddamn it, guys, you are ruining the mood.

As usual, the way to stop these Viking invasions is to be there when they first stagger off their boats.  That’s what you get for being buzzkills.

Okay.  With that dealt with, it’s go time.  I launch a holy war against Jórvik for the duchy that makes up most of their territory.  They’re still pretty weak, so it’s mostly a matter of burning down some castles.

Once again, “I never thought it would come to this” in the sense of “this was precisely my objective.”

Did you say “son”?  Yes, I’ll take credit for that!  Sorry Agnes.

Jarl YA-Love-Interest surrenders at last.

Finally.  Jórvik is reduced to a few rump states, its power broken forever.  With Suðreyjar swallowed up by Alba, both my original antagonists are down for the count.  Southern England is divided into tons of petty kingdoms that look ripe for conquest, and Hlothere has a bastard son to legitimize if he needs one.  So far, so good!  Time to clean up those borders…

Year: 908 AD
Mood: Triumphal

Crusader Kings Series 5, Excluded

The Scots Crusade, Part Five

Part OnePart Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

Last time, Hlothere became king at the tender age of 14, and we’re off to the Crusades!

Some business to take care of first.  Hlothere needs a wife.

My first choice seems strong but she turns out to be a sadist which, among other things, allows her to murder her own children.  No thanks.

I settle on Muirgel.  She’s a bit paranoid but that’s appropriate for the wife of a king surrounded by Vikings, and she has great stewardship.  She’s also ambitious and temperate.

Good old Bishop Gamall has forged a deed to some land held by Strathclyde.  But that’s going to have to wait until Hlothere comes of age.  It’s actually great he waited until after Ælla died, since forged claims are initially “unpressed” and you lose them if you don’t declare war sometime during your lifetime.

In the meantime, we’re got a Crusade to fight!  The armies of Christendom and Islam are marching around the Holy Land.  My pathetic little contingent finds a castle to besiege, in hopes of securing some loot.

I have a front-row seat as the proud armies of Christendom stumble idiotically into a meeting engagement with the entire Muslim army, the contingents arriving one by one so they can be defeated in detail.  Great job guys, great job.

Afterward, a giant Muslim host descends on my poor little army and slaughters everyone.  Sooooo that was a fun Crusade.

Guys, we’re gonna need some more soldiers.  Just … go and and find some idiots.  Tell them that I promise not to get them slaughtered in the Holy Land this time.

Given that Northumbria’s military strength is currently down to Hlothere, his dog, and a one-legged leper, it’s no surprise that our old friends in Suðreyjar immediately decide it’s time to come after Lanarkshire again.  They’re relatively weak, but they have some strong allies, so this is quite bad.

In the midst of this disaster, Hlothere reaches his majority.  Apparently what he’s most interested in about ruling the kingdom is friendship.  He has, however, had an excellent education, and wound up with Midas Touched, the best possible stewardship result.  Gold is going to be rolling in.

First step: wedding!  Which gives me a chance to collect a bunch of gold that I will definitely use on a fantastic buffet and not to, say, hire mercenaries to defend the realm from Vikings.

Pope Badass Eyepatch just looks so sad about it.  I want to cuddle him and tell him to cheer up.

Anyway.  War.  The initial wave of Vikings is too big to try conclusions with, so they end up besieging Lothian while I head over to their capital.  They’ve got more troops on the way from allies in the south, though, so things are looking bad.

However, Alba has launched its own war of conquest against Suðreyjar.  So what I really need to do is convince Yngvild she has bigger problems than me, while not wasting my strength fighting the Alban armies.

Hlothere is quick off the block in more ways than one.

Eventually, I capture the Viking capital, while they capture Lothian.  But since Lothian isn’t the war target, I start getting ticks in my favor for holding Lanarkshire.  Just as a big contingent of southerners arrives from Ireland, I persuade Yngvild to call the whole thing off and leave her to alone and fight it out with the Albans.

Literally as the ink is drying on the treaty, though, here come these guys.  Hlothere is having a hell of a first year as king!

Fortunately a handful of peasants, no matter how infuriated, are considerably less dangerous than several nations of Vikings.

Hlothere’s first-born is a girl, which is not ideal.  Now that I have control, I can manage the danger presented by daughters in non-matrilineal marriages, but it makes things a little harder.  Since any son of Muriel’s would be my heir, she has to have a matrilineal marriage, as do any other daughters who come before the first son.  Matrilineal marriages are safe but usually have to be to vassals or low-status husbands, so are less useful for alliance-building.

The perfect set of children would be exactly one son and a bunch of daughters, for a single heir and lots of alliances, but even then you’d have to be careful lest your son die unexpectedly.

So, for the moment, we’re at peace.  To the south, Jarl Halfdan is aging but still formidable, much too dangerous to attack without a lot of mercenary support.

To the north, Suðreyjar is losing badly to the Albans.  That could be negative in the long run if it means a powerful Alba I might have to fight.

Strathclyde is the only likely opponent, and I have a claim on some of their land.  But I’m going to need to build up a little before I can take them.

What do you think, Pope Badass Eyepatch?  Spread the wealth a little?

Nice!  I feel less pious but considerably wealthier.  I spend the money building up my military infrastructure and hiring some more knights for my court.

Huh.  This guy sounds familiar somehow.

With my levies recruited back up to strength, it’s time to press my totally ancient claim to Galwyddel.  Who’s a “content paragon” now, Dyfnwal?

I have a mercenary company still hired for a few months, leftover from the war with the Vikings.  I manage to fight and win a battle against Strathclyde’s army before they pack up and go home, so my remaining army is enough to besiege Galwyddel.

Down in Jórvik, Halfdan’s eldest son Sigfrið — who has spent much of his life in my dungeons — finally dies.  I guess Hlothere saw him as a rival?  This is unfortunate, because I now have no hostage to protect me against Halfdan’s ambitions.

No sooner has Sigfrið died then Halfdan is getting in my face about how Dad’s old friend Earl Gryth killed his niece.  Given my current state of war, I pay him off immediately.  Happy Vikings!  Happy, happy Vikings.

Hlothere, who is temperate and honest, is basically the polar opposite of his conniving, deceitful father.  It helps me win over the clergy, but it does mean that it’s harder to be an arbitrary tyrant without accumulating stress in cases like this.  Fortunately some quick cash is always useful.

Hooray, more Vikings!  At least these ones are being polite about their extortion.  Sure, let’s ‘trade’.

The war with Strathclyde goes on a lot longer than I’d hoped, but I finally pull off a tight battle when they try to retake Galwyddel, and they’re forced to surrender.  This is my first piece of land outside the original Northumbria — after a long fight, the realm is growing again!

Muriel is briefly captured by raiders, but it doesn’t stop her from asking questions.  I really don’t think “in the dungeon” is a good time for the sex talk though…

I track the raiders down and get her back, but I feel like she’s learned some bad habits from hanging around with Vikings.

Old Bishop Gamall finally dies, but the new bishop already likes me!  As I said, there’s some payoffs to being humble and temperate.

Alba is still fighting Suðreyjar but the Vikings are definitely losing.  I start forging another claim on Strathclyde since I’d like to gobble them up before Alba looks my way.  I also start trying to make nice with the Alban king, since the last thing I need is a war on that front.

And there we go.  Suðreyjar, my inveterate opponent, is finally swallowed up by Alba.  One less thing to worry about?

And here comes that bastard Jarl Halfdan again!  He’s … publicly dedicating heartfelt poetry to me?

Has Halfdan just been super into Hlothere all this time?

Cautiously, I tell him I liked it.

Halfdan: “Well, he is a devil-spawned Catholic, but he liked my poem!


Year: 895 AD
Mood: Flattered

Crusader Kings Series 5, Excluded

The Scots Crusade, Part Four

Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

Last time, we finally became Scots!  Also, Ælla had a son to inherit, who had survived his childhood brush with typhus.  And he was plotting to kill his rival to the northwest, Sigfroþ, in the hopes of finally winning a war against literally anyone.

So let’s get on with that, shall we?  Come on, spider!

Yes!  Gaining the Murderer trait reminds me for all his scheming, Ælla has so far only managed attempted murder.  Good to finally go the distance.

Apparently “he died cursing my name” is enough for everyone to decide I’m guilty.  Viking courts are pretty basic.  “How do you know he’s the killer?”  “Well, the victim said ‘Screw that guy’ before dying, so it’s pretty black and white.”

So it’s time to look into declaring war on Suðreyjar and taking back Lanarkshire.  You’d think this would be straightforward, since their Jarl is now in my custody, but there’s a few obstacles.  For some reason you aren’t actually allowed to declare war on someone when they’re in your dungeons!  Honestly it kind of seems like the ideal time.

The other thing is I don’t seem to have a claim to Lanarkshire.  I’m not sure why this is, usually you get claims on land that gets taken from you.  Maybe because it was a Viking conquest?  Not sure.  Anyway, I need to “acquire” a claim to the land via “blatant forgery” first.  For some reason this is the province of the clergy, so I send my Bishop Gamall.  He probably has some spare time in between preaching and raising my son.

Meanwhile, events are afoot in the wider world. Someone must have done something over in the Holy Land, because this rather badass-looking Pope is pissed off.

“Not now, son, His Holiness is ranting!”

So we’re doing this, huh.  The pope wants either my gold or my soldiers, but I kind of need those for, you know.  All the Vikings.  I put him off with vague promises for the moment.

Speaking of Vikings, the Jarl who captured my wife eventually gives her back free of charge, possibly because he doesn’t like her any more than I do.

“See, honey?  I told you that if we waited long enough, we wouldn’t have to pay the ransom!” may be the ultimate Dad move.

Besides, I need that cash for bribery!  Everyone will be totally convinced that I am lord.  Well, everyone except the Vikings.

I honestly have no idea who this guy is but apparently I’m glad he’s dead!

Then things take a rather abrupt turn for the worse.  A band of 700 or so Viking raiders turns up and lays siege to my capital.  I only have about 500 soldiers of my own, so I hire a mercenary company to help dislodge them, but it takes a while to get the troops together.  Before we can, they’ve taken the castle and captured my son.  My army jumps them and wins the battle, but they get away with Hlothere.  Dammit.

Step one is to ransom the prince, which costs a hundred gold, leaving me close to bankrupt.  But I’ve got these mercenaries on the payroll for three more years, so it seems like it would be a good idea to get my war started before then.

Step two is to ransom Yngvild.  Then, about the time she gets back to her court …

Bam!  Step three.

“Welcome back, Jarl!  You’ve got mail!”

Step four is to use the money she paid for the ransom to hire a second mercenary company, giving me a comfortable superiority of numbers.  I lay siege to Lanark while chasing the enemy out of my land.

But suddenly Ælla is under the weather!  Save me, Doctor Lesbian!

“Just put on a sweater over your filthy nightshirt, sire.”

“That’s the treatment?”

“That’s literally it.”

“Seems dubious.”

*sigh*  “Okay.  Wear a sweater while … um … a golden-voiced child sings to balance your humors.”


The Vikings try to sneak back to their castle, but I follow them and send them packing.

“Guys, we finally won one!  I know!  I can’t believe it either.”

More than just getting a single county back (up to five again!) the destruction of their remaining event troops has broken the power of Suðreyjar for good.  I’m now quite a bit stronger than them, even without my mercenary buddies.

Ælla is feeling better, too.  All that boy-singing!

Even his own courtiers kind of hate him though.  In addition to his garbage diplomacy, he’s also arbitrary, ambitious, arrogant, and openly a murderer, liar, and adulterer.  That’s quite a record!

Hlothere, on the other hand, is turning out quite well.  He’s got generally decent stats and a pretty good stewardship even without finishing his education.  It’s getting close to time to find him a wife.

My neighbors in Strathclyde, while they have strong allies, are pretty weak themselves.  I start forging a claim on a chunk of adjacent land, in hopes of being able to expand a little further.

“The peasants are revolting, sire!”

“I know, but we don’t say it to their faces.”

Meanwhile the Crusade is going … actually kind of well?  It’s going to take a while to forge my claim, and I have a truce against Suðreyjar, while Alba in the north and Jórvik in the south are too strong to attack.

So I send my army off to the Holy Land in hopes of securing a little loot and glory!  What could go wrong?

(Everything.  Everything could go wrong.)

My disinherited daughter has died, apparently.  This increases my stress, although it’s actually good news as far as succession is concerned…

My brave little army (including my remaining mercenaries) heads south, past a France that seems to be pretty divided.  Nice colors though!

A gift, you say?  From my mortal enemy Jarl Halfdan?  Why, bring it in and let me get a good sniff!

Hmm.  I’m no Doctor Lesbian, but this sounds bad.

Well, crap.  I guess the old saying is true: “Live by the poisonous spider in the bedroom, die by the suspiciously scented gift basket.”

The chronicler notes Ælla died of old age, so I guess I failed to gasp out Halfdan’s name.  The stuff about treachery and adultery seems pretty on the money, though.

The king is dead, long live the king!  Hlothere has two years until his majority, and his army is still en route to the Holy Land.  I’m sure nothing bad will happen!  (Spoiler alert bad things will absolutely happen.)

Year: 887 AD
Mood: Naïvely optimistic

Crusader Kings Series 5, Excluded

The Scots Crusade, Part Three

Part One and Part Two.

When we last left our “hero” Ælla Oswulfson, he had just been informed that the bastard son he had bred and legitimized at some expense had contracted typhus.  So things are going great.  Someone get me a doctor!

“Okay, sire, we have two possibilities for a doctor.  First we have this guy, who is a deceitful, wrathful schemer and also quite dumb.


“Or we have this lady, who is industrious, learned, and actually a doctor.”

“…I feel like this is not a hard choice.”

Burgflæd sets about trying to cure my son of typhus.  I contemplate seducing her, since I could use a backup son, but she’s a lesbian — unlike in CK2 you can’t overcome that just by stacking up more modifiers.  People are no longer “gay until the dude is just that hot” I guess.

While that’s underway, I take another stab at dealing with my friends in Suðreyjar.  My old enemy Jarl Ivar is dead, and his son’s heir is the teenage Freydis.  Since having the Jarl’s son in custody has kept Jórvik off my back, I try for an abduction.

…Dyflinn is in Ireland so these must be sea brigands?

Curses, foiled again!  And Freydis is super pissed.

Why are you asking me?  That’s what I pay you for!

That was fast.  Did she just wash off his eyeliner?

The war between the Vikings and Alba is going badly for Alba, though the fact that it’s dragged on this long is encouraging.  Use up those event troops, guys.

Curses, yet another foiling!  I’m starting to feel like a Saturday morning cartoon villain.

Even though my local Vikings are busy elsewhere, we still have to deal with other unrelated Vikings, who turn up and start setting stuff on fire.  In this case “stuff” means “my castle”, where they kill my Chancellor and Marshal and abduct my wife.

“When I said ‘Take my wife.  Please!’ I didn’t mean it literally!  My stand-up career has ended in disaster.”

Ælla bounces back quickly though, and is always ready to help out his wayward daughter, especially since she’s married to a damned Viking.  Also, I should absolutely not “focus on my own marriage” right now since my wife is in a Viking prison and also I cheated on her and then legitimized the bastard.

I mean, who wouldn’t like … this guy.  With that beard he has!  Classic.

Ælla screws up everything but still congratulates himself.

Also this guy is my chancellor, so this is “TFW your Dad tries to set you up with one of his work friends who is 20 years older than you and also you’re already married to his sworn enemy”.

Meanwhile, Freydis has died, so I’m now trying to kidnap her younger sister Yngvild.  Maybe I’ll have more success abduct a literal toddler.

Ahaha!  You’re no match for my cunning intellect, baby.

Although, let’s be honest.  If you let your four-year-old walk into town by themselves, maybe the kid is safer with me.

Anyway, I’ve now got the heirs to both neighboring Viking realms in my dungeon, so hopefully that will keep them out of my hair while I finish grooming my heir.  Eh?  Eh?

If Sigfrið has been in prison for nine years, where did he get that stylish hat?

With things a little calmer, I settle in to try to make some money.  The only way I’m going to be able to expand is by hiring mercenaries to jump my neighbors in a moment of weakness, and that takes cash.  Ælla switches his lifestyle focus to “money-grubbing.”

Luckily, my only significant vassal, Earl Gryth, is willing to help!  What a loyal fellow.

The Vikings who have got my wife are apparently sick of her, because they’re willing to ransom her for well below the going rate.  But I a) need that money to save up for some heavily armed thugs, and b) my wife is still pretty pissed at me for the whole “bastard son” thing, soooooo sorry honey!

Said son, Hlothere, is now starting his schooling.  I give him to Gamall (the Bishop who replaced the one I poisoned) because he’s pretty smart and I want him to like me.

Suðreyjar is now tantalizingly close to the range where I could actually win a war against them, with only 800 event troops left out of their original 5,000.  And Earl Gryth has gathered a massive tax windfall!  You are my bro forever Gryth.

I can almost afford to hire a company of 700 or so mercs, which would at least put me into the same weight class as the Vikings.  Getting there.

Earl Gryth is calling in his favor with me to cut his taxes.  I thought we were bros, man!

I guess he is having trouble with Vikings, but he wants me to pay for that, too.  You gotta keep on top of these Vikings, bro.  (Says the guy whose wife is still in prison.)

Jarl Halfdan, kept at bay all these years because I’m holding his son hostage, has turned to demanding single combats.  Fortunately Ælla is a back-stabbing coward and has no trouble turning this down, because he completely sucks at it.

Everyone wants to help me with my stewardship!  Are you sure about this, Reeve Æthelwine?  You are pretty dumb, after all.

Dammit!  Who could have predicted that distributing jobs to incompetents with political power so they’ll like me would have negative consequences?

Since his heir is actually currently in my dungeon, I’m back to trying to murder Jarl Sigfroþ.  Giving him carpet sounds like a good first step.  Mwahahaha!

And my lover/spymaster Eadhburh is running around accusing random priests.

Eh, honestly, she’s the spymaster.  She probably knows best.  And I’m pretty far below water in the piety department as it is.

Ælla abruptly decides that he wants to be a whaler.  Unfortunately this uses Prowess, the same stat as fighting, which he is absolutely crap in.  We’ll let some minions take care of it.

And, finally, I get to become Scottish!  First goal of the game achieved — I’m still alive (barely) and north of the border, so all the Anglo-Saxons in my realm turn into Scots.  I get to take this decision because I’m Culture Head, mostly by default since there’s so few of us left.

My scheme to kill Sigfroþ is making progress, too.  If I can off him, with his heir captive and underage, then maybe I can finally win a war…

Year: 881 AD
Mood: Less screwed, more Scots

Crusader Kings Series 5, Excluded

The Scots Crusade, Part Two

Part One.

When we last left Northumbria, Petty King Ælla Oswulfson was facing the classic problem: no son to inherit.  Kinging is hard, guys.

Just because that’s a looming problem doesn’t mean we don’t have other problems, though.  We’re still surrounded on two sides by hostile Vikings.  The northern realm, Suðreyjar, is a little weaker now, but Jórvik still has over 4,000 event troops plus overseas allies.  Espionage is about the only area where I have the advantage.  But my attempt to murder Jarl Halfdan was a failure, and trying again would be counterproductive — if he dies, then the truce that’s protecting me is over.

However!  Intrigue is good for more than just murder.  Halfdan will be much less likely to declare war on me if I have his son in my dungeons, so I get to work trying to kidnap him.

Success!  That was surprisingly easy thanks to Ælla’s monstrous intrigue and everyone at Halfdan’s court hating his son Sigfrið.  So one flank is hopefully secure, plus I can ransom him for some quick cash if I need it, Halfdan has plenty.

Meanwhile, you know what else is covered by intrigue?  Seduction.  I look around the court and settle on my spymaster Eadhburh, who really likes me and is of childbearing age.  It’ll take a little while, but Ælla is a fantastic lady’s man so my chances are good.

In fact, Ælla is so good at this that he has an “automatic success” option on these seduction challenges.

Meanwhile, for balance, I’m going to get back at Jarl Ivar in the pettiest way imaginable.  Take that, martial harmony!

I can understand why this decreases my stress — in CK3, you lose stress for acting in character, and Ælla is a scheming asshole — but why does it increase my prestige?  Did I tell everybody about it?

The Vikings want to ransom Sigfrið, but I’m keeping him hostage to ensure his dad’s good behavior.

This girl is totally into you, Ælla.  You don’t need to go full Romeo and climb up to her balcony with a rose between your teeth.  Just ask her out.

Or … ask her to join you in the stinking privy, that works too I guess?  Gross.  You’re a master of intrigue and also king, is this really the best you could come up with?

Oh well.  You have the “continuing relationship” option and the “love ’em and leave ’em option”, and I take the former, since my goal is to have some bastard children.  Also, she’s my spymaster, so I’d probably stay on her good side.

This is real bad, though.  I guess we’ll find out how much that hostage is actually worth.

Tostig is trying for a “puppy hoping to avoid getting smacked with the newspaper” expression here?  While Halfdan is apparently checking him out.

In the interval, some weird shit is going down with the clergy.  In CK3, your head bishop has to endorse you, which means having a positive opinion, otherwise you don’t get clerical taxes and levies.  Bishops mostly hate me because I’m, you know, a horrible sinner with negative piety, but I’ve been working on getting on Wulfgar’s good side.

Ælla then decides the best thing to do is to use him as a test subject for his poisons.  Needless to say this makes Wulfgar unhappy.  I pick the second, riskier option because a) it gives better poisons and b) frankly I’m thinking repairing relations with Wulfgar may be a lost cause at this point…

So, did we poison the Bishop to death?  Yes, yes we did.  But the good news is the new bishop is a coward who doesn’t have the balls to stand up to me.  Although he still withholds his approval, so Ælla works on becoming his friend.  I’m starting to imagine this is kind of a creepy process.  “Yes, why don’t I show you my … collections …”

Meanwhile, operation Have A Son continues, and I switch my life goal to “get laid a lot” for the increased fertility.

Since the hostage thing is going well with Halfdan, I try to take Jarl Ivar’s son captive as well.  Unfortunately he’s better-liked, and someone spills the beans, so that isn’t going to fly.

Fortunately, Jarl Ivar doesn’t currently share a border with me.  Unfortunately, he’s working on rectifying that by grabbing a county off King Rhun of Strathclyde.  Assuming he wins, and he probably will, I’ll have to worry about him again.

But Operation Have A Son is, um, bearing fruit!  Now just to wait for that 50/50 die roll.

“I never thought it would come to this”?  Like, has no one given Ælla the sex talk?  “See, when a man and a woman given in to their naked lust in a filthy privy, sometimes…”

Jarl Ivar has won his war against Strathclyde and is on my border again, so I get back to trying to kill him.  Unfortunately his son is on guard against abduction now.

Son acquired!  Oh, I’ll tell you what will become of him…

That little bastard is going to be king.  Assuming he survives of course.  The clergy don’t like that I’ve admitted to adultery, but if they bother me I’ll just poison the lot of them.

My wife is understandably a little upset, but my lover is happy, and of the two it’s Eadhburh who is in charge of my private death-squads so I call that a win.  Baby Hlothere loves me just that bit more, too.

Yaaaaass.  The threat of my daughter with her non-dynastic children is lifted, at least as long as Hlothere stays alive.  That’s one problem tenatively fixed.

Aaaaaand here comes the other problem again.  How dare these Northmen just take people’s land, instead of following the time-honored tradition of forging documents asserting a claim to it?

My scheme has come to fruition, though, so we have at least a chance of taking the Jarl out before things get started…

…but no dice.  Mobs, am I right?

None of my clever tricks are getting me out of this one, even trying to distract him by burning his capital down.  These animals have learned something.

The only advantage is that rather than half the kingdom, the war is over a single county.  Still, that leaves me with only four, which is not promising.

Is this irony?  Pretty sure this is irony.

The new Jarl, while still way stronger than me, has immediately gotten in a war with the Kingdom of Alba to the north.  I hope they at least kill off some more of his event troops.  As long as no more disasters turn up…

“Bad news, sire.  Your son has gone goth.”

Oh, dear…

Year: 875 AD
Mood: Still probably screwed


Crusader Kings Series 5, Excluded

The Scots Crusade, Part One

Crusader Kings III is out!  Actually it’s been out for a while, the first expansion was just released, but I’ve been a little busy.  Now that I’ve finally gotten a chance to dig into it and lose a few times while I get the hang of some of the new mechanics, we can have a game for public consumption!

If you haven’t read any of my previous CK stuff, here’s an overview.  Crusader Kings is a dynasty simulator set mostly in Europe, covering 867 AD to 1453 AD.  You choose a start date and a character to play as from among the ruling nobility, and govern your realm as best you can.  When your character dies, if you have an heir who still controls some land, you play as them and keep going.  If your dynasty dies out or you lose all power, it’s game over.  It’s a game that really encourages you to get into the mindset of a medieval baron — claims, religion, and succession are incredibly important, and inevitably you end paying off your bishop to force your failure of a son into a monastic order or similar amusing shenanigans.

There isn’t really a goal per se, though you get a score based on your dynasty’s power and prestige.  I like to start each playthrough with a vague direction I intend to take the game, although sometimes I get derailed along the way.  In past games, I’ve rebuilt the nation of Israel, become a fearless Viking, and re-established the Roman Empire.  This time I’m going to recreate a game I tried in CK2 with only moderate success and try to create a Scots crusader state.

So rough goals are:

  • Become and remain Scots
  • Go on Crusade and create a crusader state in the Holy Land ruled by my dynasty
  • Probably conquer England and Ireland and whatnot, IDK

Before we get started, as usual, I offer the following caveat: the game refers to various historical people, places, religions, etc and I write these with a bit of a roleplaying flair, so please don’t take any references to e.g. setting Christians on fire at all literally.

Okay!  First things first.  How do we go about being Scots?

Well, the first problem is that in 867 AD there are no Scots, as CK defines them.  Scots is a culture, a sub-group of Anglo-Saxon, which comes into existence randomly sometime before 1000 AD if there are any Anglo-Saxons within the borders of Scotland.  So step one is to pick an Anglo-Saxon ruler in the north of Britain!

Well, it turns out we don’t have a ton of choice.  Ælla Oswulfson of Northumbria is a Petty King (in CK-world, a Duke-level title) and he’s surrounded by non-Anglo-Saxons.  Alba is still Gaelic, Strathclyde is Welsh, and Jórvik and Suðreyjar are Norse Viking states.  So Ælla it is!

People who know a lot of British history are wincing.  It turns out that Ælla was a real person back in 867, and is most famous for, um, getting horribly killed by the sons of Ragnar Loðbrók.  In fairness he had supposedly chucked their dad into a pit of snakes, which would make anyone up for some invading.  So we’re going to be trying to change the course of history here right away.

And man, is it not easy.

The Vikings have what in technical military terms we might call a ****ing gigantic army.  See, in CK realms generate troops according to the buildings and such that are constructed in them, so my smallish realm of Northumbria can muster only 717 brave men.  To represent unusual invasions, the game generates special “event” armies that just appear out of nowhere so historical conquerors can do their thing.  Since the start date is right when the Vikings attack Northumbria, we literally start the game with 10,000 angry Norsemen immediately marching into my territory to burn things down.  This seems bad.

So, what have we got to work with?  Not enough money to hire even the cheapest mercenary army.  Not enough piety to ask the Pope for help.  No likely allies. 

All I really have in my favor is that Ælla is sneaky as hell.  (Also deceitful, paranoid, and arbitrary.)  10 is a decent stat — my intrigue is a whopping 29, while have 2 stewardship and 0 diplomacy and personal prowess.  I can stab people in the back but definitely not in the front.

On the other side, I have Jarl Halfdan Whiteshirt from the south and Jarl Ivar the Boneless from the north, each claiming half my kingdom, each with an event army of 5,000 plus their usual troops.  So my first trick is to try to murder one of them — I pick Halfdan because it’s more likely to succeed.  Murder schemes take a while, though, so my castles are rapidly falling …

Well, crap.  So close and yet so far.  And the disasters keep coming.

My son has been “murdered” in the sense of “died fighting a gigantic horde of Vikings because I forgot to prevent him from personally joining the army.”  I guess if anyone is the murderer it’s me.  This is quite bad, but there’s a lot on my mind at the moment.

In a tactic that will no doubt be a mainstay of this playthrough, I go with “let’s distract the bad guys”.  While the Vikings are busy burning down my castles, my little army gets aboard ships and sails over to Suðreyjar and starts besieging their castles.  This tends to cause the Viking armies to hurry back to stop me, at which point I run away.  In CK2, this tactic was effective bordering on broken because of how quick and easy it was to take ship and escape, but CK3 has made it more fair — boarding ships costs gold and takes a long time.  So I end up losing a battle to the Vikings (in which my son dies) but I keep them off me for a while.

This turns out to make all the difference.  The two Viking armies were working together in the south of Northumbria, and I managed to distract Jarl Ivar’s forces, until the length of the war and the fact that he hadn’t taken any of his targets in the north half of my kingdom meant he was willing to call a truce.  Jarl Halfdan seizes the southern half of Northumbria, but I manage to hang on to five counties around Lothian.  So … that’s something.

At least my newly shrunken realm will be easy to keep track of?  I now have a ten-year truce with the two Vikings, but that’s not long at all, and they still have most of their giant event armies.  I have to hope they go to war with other people and use those up.  My goal at this point is just to survive until those event troops die off and the Viking impetus is spent, and then try and get off the back foot.  First, though, I have another problem.

Ælla started with an adult son (who had no children) and a daughter.  With my son dead, Blæja here is my heir.  Unfortunately, Blæja was married before the game started and has three children.  You can marry your daughters off “matrilineally”, a somewhat ahistorical concept that means their children will be part of the mother’s dynasty instead of the father’s, but I didn’t have the chance to do that.  So when Ælla dies, I’ll play as Blæja.  But when she dies all my titles will pass to her children, who are not members of my dynasty, which means game over.

I have to fix this now, because as Blæja I won’t have the chance — any further children I have will be younger and farther down the line of succession.  Fortunately, we’re on bad old patriarchal agnatic-cognatic succession, which means that boys always come before girls, so I have a chance.  Basically Ælla needs to have another son or I’m screwed…


Year: 868 AD
Mood: Probably screwed