Pagan Prose: Crusader Kings II – The Old Gods

By Adam Smith on May 22nd, 2013 at 10:00 am.

I’ve played Crusader Kings II’s latest expansion and it’s packed full of exciting things that I’d like to spend at least eighty hours exploring. For pagan characters, who are the focus, there are raids, landless adventurers, river-based assaults, plunder, warbands and human sacrifices. I never found the time to play with previous Republic expansion but I am incapable of ignoring the opportunity to unify every pagan religion beneath Odin’s banner, creating a British empire that clings to the forests and the ancient ways of worship. Paradox are currently running a competition that will include the winner’s historically appropriate event in the game. Rules below.

This will all make more sense if you’ve played Crusader Kings II before. If you haven’t played Crusader Kings II before, I suggest that an event is created whereby you are forced to choose between self-flagellation and a written apology to Baron Hexy MapThoughtful who resides at Castle Strategy.

1. It has to be a simple, one-shot event. No follow-ups, no event series.
2. It can be historical, humorous, serious, or any combination of those – as long as it fits the period.
3. We prefer character events, but you can also create a narrative event if you want to include more text.
4. The event will be restricted to pagans (and Zoroastrians). It’s up to you whether it should be generic enough to be available to all of them, or if it should be limited to Norse Pagans, Zoroastrians, Tengri or another specific group.
5. Unless you have an event picture in mind, we’ll pick an appropriate artwork for the event.
6. The event needs both a trigger and an effect. The trigger can be as simple as being an adult and having a certain religion, or something more restrictive. The effect shouldn’t be too severe or impact the game too much, as this will be more of a flavor event.
7. The event can have multiple options with different effects, or just one. (Having additional options that only show up if the character has a certain trait can be a nice touch, but it isn’t required.)
8. Take care not to write too much, as the text needs to fit inside the event window. If it’s too long, we’ll shorten it as needed if your event is picked as one of the winners.

I’ll have more words on how it all plays when I find the time for a proper play session or two, but for now here are two developer diaries.

To enter the competition, look here. And then write something too.

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29 Comments »

  1. bstard says:

    I never found the time to play in combination with CK2 is just a lame excuse for saying you tried and got owned.

    • Logeres says:

      But he did play CK2, just not the Republic expansion. Seeing how that is by far the easiest way of playing, I don’t think it has anything to do with the difficulty.

      • Lacero says:

        They’ve made it more difficult in a patch since I first played, you have to have a trade post to get the city causus belli now and the owner of the trade post wins the province. Also you can’t mass build trade posts as much, and it’s not trivial to convert a won province from a castle to a city as the main slot .

        It’s still easy (I guess) but the old trick of taking Ireland first has just caused me serious trouble as gotland. I didn’t realise the % manpower in the independence faction was taking account of my mercenaries. Once I dismissed them it jumped from 15% to 80% :(

    • Wednesday says:

      My historical e-peen is bigger than your historical e-peen.

    • sinister agent says:

      Yeah, I’m sure every games journalist can afford to play a monster strategy gamel ike CK2 as much as they’d like to without their work suffering.

      • bstard says:

        Arf why so serious guys, I just stated it’s almost impossible not to have played a part of CK2. /yours sincerely with 1200+ hours on Steam

  2. pakoito says:

    GODDAMNIT CRAIG, PLAY ANY GAMES ALREAD…oh, hello Adam.

  3. Aaax says:

    Can anyone comment about how historicaly accurate is CKII series with respect to institutions and society? I would play it if I could learn something about history from it.

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      Thurgret says:

      It …

      Doesn’t really offer educational stuff in that particular regard? Whenever you start a game up, it will have a largely accurate representation of European, African, Middle Eastern and Russian nobility and their respective holdings at the time (with external links about them, for those interested). As soon as they game starts going, however, it’s all downhill with regard to historical accuracy. The way these characters work is fairly heavily abstracted. Don’t come to the game expecting to discover how a European court actually functioned, that’s for sure.

      • Aaax says:

        Sure, I don’t expect the characters to be accurate as I play, but I’d like to know if constrains, political environment etc… is realistic. For example I know that having title of king around 13th or 14th century was huge deal in Europe for some reason, lands were conquered by marriage often…

        How much of gameplay rules are based on reality and how much is there for gameplay’s sake?

        • DerNebel says:

          The game is sort of historically accurate, conquering by marriage is somethnig you can (and will) do quite a lot, you need legitimate reasons to declare war etc. etc. Titles are a HUGE deal in this game, since most of your actual conquering will be jockeying for titles, getting enough countries in an area to have a legitimate claim for the throne.

          That being said, the game is not at all “accurate”. The biggest part of this is (imo) that you have perfect knowledge. You have the entire map laid out to you with very little chain of command and no delay in information gathering at all. Another big thing is that your characters are obviously hugely abstracted and certain events are just downright unlikely in a historical context.

          CK2 is, as far as I’m concerned, a triumph in blending historical believeablity (not gonna say accuracy here) with brilliant, fluid gameplay. Whereever historical accuracy has been sacrificed, it has been to make a hugely better game out of it in the end. It is an awesome gamification of the era, nto exactly accurate, but still captures the spirit and the themes perfectly. Hope this helps.

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            Bluerps says:

            This says it pretty well, I think. I like to say that the game is more “historically inspired” than “historically accurate”. You can get a good feeling for the historical period, but to actually learn something about it you have to read up on it, in addition to playing to the game.

        • Entitled says:

          CK2 is exactly what you are looking for.

          Huge history nerds can find inaccuracies in it, (and there are mods for that), but generally it’s much more historically based than, say, Rome: Total War, that just divides Rome into three arbitrary sections for the sake of “balance”, and your dynasty has heirs popping up both from your daughters and from your sons’ wives, because other dynastyes are not modelled at all, and basically the whole map is a game board for you to conquer instad of a simulation of the world.

          In CK2, There are Marriage contracts, and inheritance laws, including features like matrilinear marriage, seniority, agnatic-cognatic primogeniture, etc. The largest part of the game is about trying to get a legal claim on others’ lands.

          There is also an element of realpolitics in it, as you can rebel against your liege, or support a weak claim with the strenght of arms, eventually, so you are both using the societal customs and practical adventages as the opportunity comes.

          • Captain Joyless says:

            No, as far as the political institutions go, it is widely inaccurate. The biography at any given game start is accurate, but the way the system works is pretty much bollox, though it makes for a fun game.

            For example, there’s little or no variation between cultures, politics, and institutions. Being the King of France is pretty much identical to being the King of England which is identical to being the King of Aragon. And even the slight variations that might exist (abstractly represented by “crown authority”) will mostly be erased in favor of optimal gameplay, or, in AI kingdoms, will whiplash back and forth. This isn’t even getting into the issue that non-western powers like Muslims essentially play exactly the same from a political perspective: the system of “claims” to specific titles and the way that titles are inherited is the same in every single culture.

            Tax collection is a big beef here. Taxes represented a small fraction of funds raised by your average medieval ruler and were collected on, at best, an infrequent basis for specific purposes. Yet we have this bizarrely anachronistic system in which you automatically take a percentage of your vassals’ income every month. There is some notion of “feudal aids” – taxes collected by the lord on his heir’s marriage, but this is sort of treated as a small bonus in the game, as opposed to a major source of revenues (little as there was).

            The relationship between the Catholic Church and western feudal powers is pretty weakly represented, as well. There’s no college of cardinals and no real possibility for an investiture conflict. Sometimes the Pope makes a couple demands, but there’s very little that changes whether you have Free Investiture or Papal Investiture (this is also one of the things the game gets historically wrong; by the 13th century, everyone in western Europe pretty much had papal investiture of bishops, but for some reason Paradox has forgotten to fix these things.) Actually, the same goes for Sunni Islam, as well; there aren’t really any Islamic scholars in the game, and no representation of their role in Islamic jurisprudence or religious authority. Instead the game just calls the caliph the head of religion, when in reality caliphs hadn’t had any religious authority in Sunni Islam since almost the beginning of Islam, and certainly not after Muhammad’s relatives stopped leading the Islamic community.

            There’s also the minor point that Jews have been completely erased from history. Certain historical figures who were court advisers in courts in Spain and the Middle East have simply been changed to be Orthodox Christian. Even worse, there are a couple rulers who should be Jewish who have been changed to Orthodox Christian (the Duke of Khazars, for example) and in Old Gods it’ll be even worse, with entire kingdoms like Beta Israel and the Khazar Khaganate deleted from history or changed to pagan.

            Ultimately, as well, there’s the problem that the entire structure of the game is not historically accurate, but represents what 17th and 18th century despots would have liked the middle ages to be in order to justify their own centralized control. You might consider reading Fiefs and Vassals by Susan Reynolds, which makes a very convincing case that our notion of feudalism (“you’re my vassal, I protect you and your land and you agree to serve in my military in exchange”) is totally unsupported by historical evidence.

            In the end, the game is a teleological view of history designed to create the circumstances at the beginning of Europa Universalis, but it doesn’t really do it particularly well.

        • Zwebbie says:

          I would argue that CKII’s mechanics are modeled on or inspired by historical processes and concerns, but certainly with the necessary concessions made towards gameplay as well as numerous oversights, errors and things just left out. It’s not much of a learning tool (although it may inspire you to pick up a book), but it’s a world of difference from Total War or Age of Empires where gameplay obviously came first and the game just has a Medieval paint job. Let me put it like this: If you stripped all the Medieval fluff from Medieval: Total War, you’d probably think by its mechanics that it was about some totalitarian robot war or something. If you removed all the references to the Middle Ages from CKII, you could probably still guess by its gameplay mechanics that it’s about that period in time.

  4. Kirjava says:

    There are some brilliant (IMO obv) entries already. There’s your “arrow in the knee” references, there’s a Lord of the Rings reference. More to come I hope XD

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    Bluerps says:

    I think the landless adventurers are a feature that everyone gets, not only the pagans.

  6. MobileAssaultDuck says:

    Unfortunately the game already has a quite good and extensive ode to Garak from Deep Space Nine. I feel anything I did wouldn’t be quite as good.

    For anyone interested in experiencing the event, simply have low Intrigue and choose the ambition to raise your intrigue.

    Eventually you will be lead to conversations with a “simple tailor”.

    • MrLebanon says:

      many events are quite humorous.

      One of my favourites has to be raising the martial ambition with low martial… you end up playing D&D/Warhammer with a bunch of young peasants… show up to their game session with your royal possy… I died laughing

  7. soco says:

    I’ve been meaning to pick up CK2, but with my gaming backlog I just never got around to it.

    I am really interested, but the list of DLC is a bit intimidating. I’d be very grateful if some of the CK2 knowledgeable RPSers would point the right direction for what DLC are really worth getting and which should get passed up.

    I know there are ones that are just music tracks and extra portraits and such, those I would think I could skip safely. But of the big meaty ones like the Aztec invasion and the one where you could play as the Muslims I don’t know much about. And there was a trading one that focused on Italy? Maybe? Are all of them worth purchasing?

    • MrLebanon says:

      The only “key” DLCs are
      - Sword of Islam: Let’s you play as Muslims, very dif style of play than Christian rulers
      - Legacy of Rome: Fleshes out Byzantines & the Orthodox religion and adds many flavour events surrounding them
      - The Republic: Let’s you play as republics, very dif style of play again. It’s not limited to Italy, but I believe there are good starting republics in Italy in the game
      - The Old Gods: Play as Pagans & Zorastrians.

      All of the above are worth purchasing, and I believe the CK2 community would agree with me.
      The Aztec one isn’t hot with a lot of people, but if you think an Aztec invasion of Europe would be a cool thing to see/defend, go for it.

      Everything else is merely unit packs/music packs/portrait packs..

      Personally I just buy new DLC when there’s 75% sales going on, it’s all quite cheap

      • soco says:

        Thanks much for the reply, I will keep an eye out for those and pass on the rest when I pick this up.

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      Bluerps says:

      It’s also good to know that most of the new game mechanics that were introduced with the DLCs are actually available to everyone, not only to people who purchased the DLCs. For example, if you buy the game now (without DLC) and start a new campaign, it will still include the republic mechanics that were introduced with The Republic – what you get for buying the DLC is simply the opportunity to play as a republic. What this means is that you don’t need most of the DLC, if you don’t want to play as the people it focuses on.

      So far, the only exception to that (as far as I know) is the retinue system that came with Legacy of Rome, and which is only available to people who purchased that DLC. It changes the game quite a bit (it’s the only way to create a standing army), but it is not essential, I think.
      Also, some of the systems made for Old Gods will apparently not be generally available (the new rebel types, maybe others).

      And finally, there is the ruler designer DLC, which wasn’t mentioned so far. I like it, but it’s not popular, I think. Normally you can only play as the people who are already on the map at your chosen start date. With the ruler designer you get a charater creation screen which lets you create your own character and coat of arms (who then replaces one of the characters on the map). Since I am a very silly person who likes to play people like “Count Bluerps von Bluerpsenzollern” this appeals to me, but it’s not for everyone.

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    Faldrath says:

    Ugh, I thought the expansion would be released this week, but apparently it’s only on the 28th :(

  9. Captain Joyless says:

    Ugh, Adam, there are already way too many entries and most of them are awful.