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.
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.