Breaking History: A Crusader Kings II Journal – Part One

Let’s Play Crusader Kings II [official site]. Or rather, let’s watch Crusader Kings II play itself.

Partly inspired by the ongoing Civ V AI Battle Royale and partly by my own longstanding interest in the interplay of game mechanics without player intervention, I’ve decided to run a Crusader Kings II campaign, beginning at the earliest possible start date. I’ll be running the game in observer mode – that is to say, there will be no human player – and I’ve drawn up a set of rules to govern which parts of the world I’ll be observing most closely. Empires will rise, Kingdoms will fall. The mighty will end up rotting beneath carparks in Leicester.

Here’s how this will work:

1) The write-ups will run fortnightly, giving me plenty of time to run the game and write up some interesting stories around the events. That also means I’ll be able to write about other games in my Supporter posts rather than dedicating them all to a single game.

2) I’ll be embellishing events. When I play CK II I tend to roleplay and this will be an excuse to turn that roleplaying into a series of interconnected short stories.
3) Rather than trying to tell the story of the world, I’ll be focusing on individuals. To that end, there will be a player character of sorts, even though I won’t actually be playing. Think of the main character as the star of the story. He or she might be a protagonist or the antagonist. There’s no way of knowing.

4) Our first character is Earl Osbald of Westmorland. In 769, when our tale begins, he’s as close as we’ll get to a bona fide King of Manchester. He’s also nineteen years old and lumbered with some rubbish traits. We’ll learn a little about Osbald as we follow him through the delights and dangers of Early Medieval Westmorland and Lancaster. Prior experience tells me that he’s unlikely to expand his territories and will either be consumed (not literally) by Vikings or by King Offa, who is stroking his moustache in the mostly unified south.

5) We won’t spend all of our time watching Osbald and his descendants. There’s a whole world to see! But there are rules to govern our journeys around the world. In short, our current character’s position in the world determines our focus. Osbald rules in Appleby, the county capital of Westmorland. If he moves to a new territory, we’ll follow him. If he goes to war, we’ll follow the army he leads or is integrated with. If he’s captured and thrown into a dungeon, we’ll learn a little about that dungeon and the people who threw away the key.

6) If Osbald loses control of Westmorland – or whichever territory he has moved his seat of (very little) power to, we’ll switch our focus to the character who takes control of it. That doesn’t mean we’ll be stuck in Westmorland forever though because chances are the occupier won’t rule FROM Westmorland. We’ll move to their own seat of power. So if a viking invader were to capture Westmorland, we might find ourselves heading to Scandinavia.

7) I’ll try to sprinkle in some historical fact and/or conjecture among all the alternate history shenanigans. I don’t have a great deal to say about Appleby and Osbald just now. The town’s Grade I listed church and extant castle were built after Osbald’s time and the only key feature the county capital possesses when the game begins is a stable. We can pretend that’s linked to the annual Horse Fair, which has apparently been in operation since the town was granted a charter in 1179. Could Osbald’s humble stable be the origin of a tradition that lasts for more than a thousand years (no).

8) Appleby is only a short train journey from my home town. If Osbald manages to survive as ruler of Westmorland for at least a decade, I’ll jump on a train and go and take some photographs to include in a future update.

I’m playing with every piece of DLC installed and the CK2+ mod. All the details of the changes and additions the latter brings to the table are listed at the CK2 wiki.

This could take a while and it should be an interesting journey. Along the way, I’ll be telling stories, learning about the history we’re almost certainly going to deviate from, and analysing the believability of the AI.

My favourite CK2 story involves an AI character capturing Jerusalem and becoming the King of Jerusalem. He continued to reside in his hometown of Dublin while running his affairs in distant lands with an iron fist. I’m hoping this experiment will lead to a new favourite anecdote. Whatever happens, there will be no shortage of interesting characters and without the popup messages that guide players through events, there’ll be plenty of space to speculate about their evil deeds.

Next Time:

A brief history of Westmorland in which invaders are repelled and Earl Osbald manages to find true love even though he sleeps in a stable.

This article was first published as part of, and thanks to, The RPS Supporter Program.


  1. Thurgret says:

    Looking forward to this! When you say all the DLC, though, I really hope that doesn’t mean Sunset Invasion — in my mind, a piece that actively detracts from the game as a whole.

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      Ah! Correct assumption. Sunset Invasion is not included.

    • DonJefe says:

      My neck hurts from agreeing so much.

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  2. Dunbine says:

    Awesome. Every four months or so, CK2 springs out of nowhere and absorbs dozens of hours of my time. I occasionally make fun of my wife for her guilty pleasure television shows, but is CK2 really any different? Of course it is, its history… ish!

    Now, I’ll just let it absorb dozens of hours of your time, and reap the benefits (although Paradox forum’s AAR section is quite good for that, too).

  3. Andy_Panthro says:

    Hopefully this will last a little longer than previous diaries…

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      I’ve got a big stack of updates in the bag already and have already added more this week!

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        Yay! It’s almost enough to make me start playing CK2 again, but I have ongoing games of PES, Xenonauts, KQ5, GTAV, Torchlight 2, Dishonored (Brigmore Witches) and M&B: Warband to finish…

  4. drewski says:

    Stables need Earls too.

    If RPS doesn’t keep logging me out once a week I’m going to enjoy following this. Although if Adam’s anything like the last handful of AARs I read he’ll get bored/distracted by something shiny/forgetful after about 5 updates.

    I won’t judge you if that happens, Adam.

  5. April March says:

    After you’re done, will you import the save and continue with EUIV?

    (Disclaimer: I know nothing about either game, I’m just fascinated with the save import feature.)

    • tonka_92 says:

      I think it’s still broken from when they added a few hundred provinces to the relevant areas in euiv :/

  6. egattocs says:

    I’ve yet to play this game, but I am looking forward to this journal! They’re always entertaining.

  7. greywulf says:

    *grabs popcorn*

    I love me some CK2. More of the same, please :)

  8. derbefrier says:

    Nice i always enjoy reading ck2 diaries. Havent booted it up in a while myself. I think i will do that once i finish pillars of eternity

  9. celticdr says:

    Awesome! Love it!

    Thank you Adam Smith, you truly are the Father of Modern Economics :P

  10. Zmobie says:

    My favorite story from CKII that I myself experienced had me as the king of a unified Ireland. The only sneakylike character of my court was my uncle and his son, with the father still besting his son in that regard. I promptly made my uncle into my spymaster and sent him off to Konstantinople to glean the secrets of the mighty byzantines. The emperor didn’t take kindly to my spy when caught, and I got my poor uncle home with his eyes gouged out. Not to worry though, I thought, the son can take the fathers place, so I made my cousin into my spymaster and sent him off to Konstantinople. The emperor was not amused.

    So even with both my uncle and his son blinded, they were still the sneakiest in my court, the father still besting the son. I reluctantly made my uncle into my spymaster, doubdting the skills of a blind man, and sent him once again off to Konstantinople, where he performed his duties splendidly until he died of old age.

    • celticdr says:

      Huh, if the internet had a jinx moment our posts would almost be one.

  11. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    I just had to: link to
    Very highbro.

  12. celticdr says:

    As an anecdote my favourite (by way of being my one and only) CK2 story revolves around my conquest of Ireland as the duke of Munster (where some of my ancestors originate from).

    I stopped playing CK2 because it was too much of a time-sink but where I left it I was waiting for my 89 year old king to die so his heir, a bastard son (who was also a brilliant tactician hated by his older half brother who was imprisoned for fomenting insurrection against) could take the reins and create the Kingdom of Ireland (which my first king couldn’t do because the randy bastard didn’t have enough piety).

    I would play this game of CK2 pleading with the screen for my king to “die already, please!”… good times.

  13. Catchcart says:

    Looking forward to it!

    I tried my hand at CK2 AAR writing about two months ago. It’s a lot of fun and the game really lends itself to inserting narrative and evocative scenes. The difficult bit was deciding on style and content: Do you jump from homely scenes involving your protagonist to epic developments on the map? Do you encompass the absurd comedy inherent in the game as well as the serious strategizing? Is it screenshots with text or the other way around? I never really settled on anything and so the thing just kinda died.

    There are some real gems of the genre buried on the Paradox forums, though. The attempt to conquer all provinces in alphabetical order is one of my all time favourites.

  14. Arkay Walker says:

    How much do I love this? This much: it just got me to move from being a long-time lurker to being a registered supporter.

    CK2 and playing games in god mode are probably two of my favorite things in the entire world. (Don’t get me started about my current 119-nation holiday Football Manager save.) Anyway, I’ll obviously be reading with great interest!

  15. DonJefe says:

    Yay! Fantastic reading! I hope this diary lasts an age.

  16. heretic says:

    orz can’t believe I missed this initially, supporter RSS please!!!

  17. aseth says:

    Ever since Way of Life came out, it’s actually possible to be literally consumed by a Viking. (Though I think the Cannibalism event requires you to be in the same Court.)

    • Hawkseraph says:

      Would being imprisoned count? I don’t think I ever saw a court event with imprisoned people (except the obvious ones)

      • aseth says:

        So, it seems it’s actually one of the events tied to parties from the Carousing focus; Requirements: Host or guest is lunatic, possessed, or impaler.

  18. Scifibookguy says:

    This sounds really interesting. I look forward to reading the journal.

  19. varangian says:

    Cheers for this. I was about to post that you probably wouldn’t get that far as I’d left my last game hanging a few months back due to persistent CTD problems. But before I started shooting my mouth off I thought I’d fire up Steam to check the state of play and a new update has arrived fixing a CTD problems. Took them long enough, must have been a tricky bug. Also I will no longer feel bad about having a romantic relationship with my spouse, so that’s good. Look forward to seeing how your hands-off world gets on, in the meantime I shall return to mine and try to remember who was next on my regime change list.

  20. The7 says:

    So can I only read the second part of this story, when I’m an rpsSupporter?

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      No – it’ll be published for everyone, with a slight delay. Might make a few chapters available all at once next weekend!

      • The7 says:

        So it would be an amazing weekend to release it right..? Right? *stares at screen*

  21. Catchcart says:

    A month later… How’s it coming along, Adam? :-)

    • melnificent says:

      I just came in to say the same thing.

      RPS and diary are not things that go together. It’s like watching a TV show that gets cancelled after half a season/cliffhanger ending, accept that it’ll never be finished and move on.