When you start a new game of Dwarf Fortress, a world is generated. Not just a map, but a world, with its own legends, characters, factions and historical wars. It's one of my favourite openings to any game and gets me far more hyped than any fancy cinematic intro.
Wouldn't it be great if Crusader Kings II [official site] could do something similar, rather than sticking to actual historical beginnings? Thanks to a modder who goes by the name Yemmlie, it can. The CK2 Generator can create alternate histories, simulating the appearance and development of cultures, religions, languages, characters and all the rest. It defaults to the vanilla map but if you want a random world to play on as well, that's supported.
When Yemmlie contacted me to let me know about the generator, I figured it'd just make a random map with factions spread across it. Instead, this is similar to the Dwarf Fortress ideal, using the game's systems to create not only new factions and power struggles, but the historical rationale for their existence. Here's how it works:
"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 (and now optionally an entirely random map!). A random culture and pagan religion is formed (as in completely random, using all the parameters available for religions and cultures in CK2, as well as forming a unique language used to name characters, provinces, kingdoms, gods, religions. 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, and form a completely unique world with absolutely none of the vanilla cultures, religions, provinces, de-jure duchies or anything found in the base game.
"Then it starts generating the history in much greater detail, a simpler simulation than CK2, nevertheless it processes births, deaths, marriages, inheritances, wars and conquests to create full dynasty family trees, title histories, dejure kingdoms and empires, conquered lands, to create a starting point for the player to drop into and start creating their own histories in-game."
That use of "basically" at the beginning of the first paragraph is fantastic, isn't it? "Basically, the tool goes above and beyond what you might expect in just about every way. Basically."
Currently in beta, the generator doesn't seem to be entirely stable, with some reports of first and second attempts failing, and a fair amount of time required for it to complete its task, but I managed to get it working last night and everything seemed to work first time. I haven't actually spent any time playing with my new world though. It exists but hasn't been thoroughly tested.
Instructions for use are over on the subreddit, including a step-by-step guide to using the recently added map generation tool as well as the actual history generator.
Every time a new CK II expansion arrives, I plan to spend a few days playing and never find enough time to scratch beneath the surface (there are still far too many games). This seems far more likely to absorb me than any of the recent official releases though, simply because I'm fascinated by the stories it tells even before a game has started.
Currently, it's only supported on Windows and all of the information and links you need are right here.