Crusader Kings 2 [official site] is (somehow) now five years old. Adam raised a glass to its humour and humanity last month in celebration of its half-decade anniversary, so I thought I'd delve into its modding community to mark the occasion too.
Much like the digital empires depicted in-game, many of its mods have risen and fallen since my last visit, however the following list sends the best into battle. Given how involved CK 2 can be at times, I've tried my best to link videos where possible so as to properly showcase each mod's worth. Enjoy!
NB - Note that some mods can only be accessed via Paradox forum accounts. You'll have access assuming you own the game, so remember to sign in.
Let's start with a wild card. A wild card, not in the sense that the CK2 Generator mod is temperamental, but that it's intentionally unpredictable. Last year, Adam rightly compared yemmlie's work to Dwarf Fortress in that instead of portraying the world as we know it against what the history books might tell us, CK2 Generator spawns an entirely new history of humankind from scratch.
In turn, this lets you grow your own entirely fictitious societies and landmasses and watch them procedurally generate before your eyes. Like Dwarf Fortress, you're free to transfer your new creations over into Crusader Kings 2 and watch them take flight further still.
"Basically the tool will generate, from scratch, a completely new history of humanity from its first exodus from Africa as a new mod to be playable in CK2," explains yemmlie. "These cultures will then spread throughout Europe, mutating and changing as they spread, words and language, religions, ethnicity, cultural ideals, laws, looting, river sailing, incest, religious heads, holy sites, wives, concubines and everything, all morphing, mutating and branching off as humans spread through time and land."
By CK2:AGOT Development Team
Sticking with fictional landscapes, CK 2's A Game of Thrones has been going since 2012 and brings the famous book series and television show's bounds to Paradox's historical grand strategy. It expectedly intertwines George R.R. Martin's fantasy drama with the game, however also tweaks its base mechanics so that the realm is less likely to fragment into multiple kingdoms over time - in turn in-keeping with its inspiration, as players vie singularly for the Iron Throne.
At present, the A Game of Thrones team has designed the mod so that players can kick things off up to 300 years before Aegon's Conquest, all the way through to the beginning of The Feast of Crows - Martin's fourth book. The A Game of Thrones mod featured on RPS' list of the best total conversion mods last month.
By Elder Kings Dev Team
From Westeros to Morrowind: the Elder Kings total conversion mod transports the world of Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series to Crusader Kings 2. Set in wider Tamriel, Elder Kings sees players take control of "one of the many fledgling countries of the Interregnum," so reads the mod's description.
While still in development (and probably due an update), Elder Kings boasts two playable scenarios both contained within the series lore's Second Empire. The Interregnum takes place towards the end of this era with Cyrodiil in disrepute following the emporer's murder. The Colovian, the Nibenese, the Bosmer, and the Argonians are but some of the races locking horns here in a bid to conquer Tamriel. The Kamal Invasion, on the other hand, follows on and sees the Kamal Snow Demons invading Tamriel for the first time, and the fallout this incurs from the Akaviris, the Nords, and the rest of the realm. A Fourth Empire scenario - Skyrim's The Stormcloak Rebellion - has been in the works for some time.
NB - as this is a work in progress, its creators warn bugs may be present. It's perhaps worth bearing this in mind before installing.
By CK2: MEP Team
I swear we'll get back to the real world soon. But if Game of Thrones and the Elder Scrolls are a shoe-in for Crusader Kings 2 total conversions, then so too must be Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Featuring bookmarks throughout the Third Age, this 'un's map covers the main areas of Middle-earth as it's known in the books and films.
"Will you play as the descendant of one of the noble families of Rohan or Gondor?" asks the mod's creators. "Will you try to reforge the ancient kingdoms of Elves in Eriador? Or will you try to destroy all the Free Peoples, and claim Middle Earth for Morgoth?"
Whatever you answer above, the Middle Earth Project offers seven races - Humans, Hobbits, Dwarves, Orcs/Goblins, Elves, Nazguls/Sauron, and the Istari - and five scenarios by way of The Last Alliance, The Fall of Arnor, The Kinstrife, The War of the Ring, and The New Shadow. If you're familiar with LotR lore, you can probably guess what some of those entail, however full details of what they're all about can be found in this direction.
Besides being a pretty brilliant and intuitive mod, Crusader Kings Z has a fun story too. After Paradox released a teaser for the fictional Crusader Kings Z as an April Fools' Day joke in 2013, modder Korbah (who is also involved in Elder Kings mentioned above) decided to make it A Real Thing.
The result is something similar to Paradox's own Sunset Invasion DLC as it creates an alternate timeline for it events to unfold within. At some stage after the year 1000 AD an unexplained zombie outbreak occurs in Ethiopia which quickly spreads from Africa to Europe. Enter you, the player, and supposed world saviour as you scramble to form armies strong enough to combat the spreading infection and restore peace and, you know, humanity to the world after ridding the globe of the walking dead. If it feels like zombies are in everything these days, that's because they are. But they're also good fun.
While it could be argued 2017 fits this bill more than any other era to date, Enlil's When The World Stopped Making Sense is a lovely mod which reinterprets the Migration Period at any date between 476 AD - which aligns with the fall of the Western Roman Empire - and 700 AD. From here, players can play through till the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire centuries later in 1453 AD.
This is definitely one for the history buffs and while other Crusader Kings 2 Dark Ages mods tend to follow a typically predictable historically-accurate arc, When The World Stopped Making Sense allows for more player autonomy as you craft yet another alternative timeline. It's still in development, however ten multi-century-spanning bookmarks are planned in total.
By CK2Plus Team
Perhaps the most essential Crusader Kings 2 mod available for those after a challenge - CK2+ changes host of things about the base game with the aim of "deepening the CK2 experience". In practice, this means making the base game more challenging without straying too far from what makes it enjoyable. Historical accuracy somewhat takes a backseat along the way, but the upshot is a more involved game.
For example, one of the most obvious tweaks CK2+ brings with it is the reduction of vassal limits. In turn this means managing larger empires is significantly more difficult, and makes the decision to increase Crown Authority far more important. Retinues are also smaller, thus more difficult to maintain, and the usefulness of technologies has been capped.
Furthermore, more considerations have been applied to factions, meaning they now bore more common interests. "Do they want peace and wealth?" asks the mod's creators. "Do they want a strong ruler with lots of prestige? Do they want a pious ruler who doesn't change from the old ways?" These changes mean there's less chance of players gaining wider personal power, as they become more reliant on vassals.
Speaking of vassals, MonteCristo's No Hassles Vassals is a simple but very effective mod which lets players distribute both county and barony titles with just one click. This is likely one which needs to be experienced in order to appreciate its worth, however NHV uses targeted decisions which in turn means you're no longer required to run with your rule from one county to the next.
I'm actually going to turn you over to YouTube person Arumba here, who does a fine job of talking us through exactly what this one's all about:
While I've enjoyed watching the world burn several times in Ofaloaf's After the End mod, part of me worries it's more prophetic than I've given it credit for. As depicted elsewhere on this list, Crusader Kings 2 is perfect for recreating alternate histories, fantasy or otherwise, however this one opts for an arguably more ominous alternative future. We know that didn't happen in the past, but this could happen in the future, right?
Hopefully not, because after an Extinction Level Event of cataclysmic proportions years prior, the world as we know it in the year 2666 has apparently gone to shit. North America now attempts to rebuild its disconnected societies - which sees a host of new-age cultures on the rise, as players get to grips with over 900 provinces, 25 kingdoms, four republics, one theocracy, five tribes and 14 religions.
"The setting also allows for the introduction of salvaged modern technology in the mostly neo-medieval setting and several invasions and events that change the game-world as time goes by," reads the mod's description. Ominous.
RIP - Realm Intrigue & Politics
While the contents of this list so far has focused on CK 2 total conversions, ManiacTehGreat's RIP targets some of the game's finer details. Well worth your time.
CPRplus - Cultures and Portraits Revamped
Make everyone pretty.
Make everyone not so pretty.
Adds a host of neat historical buildings and monuments to the game.
Inherit your own bloodlines.
And so concludes our battle chest of Crusader King 2 mods, fit for toppling kings, conquering nations and winning wars. But what mods were lost on the field? Herald your own favourites in the comments below.