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Crusader Kings 3 North Korea strategy: How to control your entire realm without vassals

How to be a Korea criminal

What is the North Korea strategy and how do I use it in Crusader Kings 3? The unofficially titled 'North Korea strategy' has returned for Crusader Kings 3, and it lets you completely dominate the world if pulled off correctly. This style of play was already a thing in the previous version of the game, but has been made even stronger and more viable in CK3, remaining an enduring player favourite well into the lifetime of the third release.

Here's how to do the North Korea strategy in Crusader Kings 3 and become supreme leader.

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How to do the North Korea strategy in CK3

There are a few steps you'll have to take to pull off this strategy, and full credit to YouTube channel Reman's Paradox for an excellent video run-through of how it all works.

So what is the 'North Korea' strategy? Basically, you ignore the existence of vassals, titles, and everything the game wants you to care about, instead directly holding everything yourself. The domain limit is a mechanic that tries to discourage this, as it severely penalises you for going over the limit. However, in normal feudalism, gold and levies are split between vassals below you to the point where the top ruler barely sees any of the actual cash, so it's not as severe a penalty as the game would have you believe.

Being over the domain limit can ramp you up to a -90% penalty to both taxes and levies very quickly, but if you have a ludicrous amount of land anyway, this barely even matters. You can also get other benefits such as almost unkillable men-at-arms, allowing you to completely dominate the world without having to worry about uprisings. So, how do you actually pull off this strategy? Follow these steps and we'll have you covered.

  1. Begin by playing as normal, keeping your holdings under the limit for the time being. This way, you'll get 100% of your domain holdings' output at first. Do this until you have 10 times the number of counties in your realm as you have in direct holdings. Basically, start as you usually would - expanding and not being too rash.
  2. Set up your religion. You can set up a new denomination of your faith and choose the tenets under which you run it. You want to have the Clerical Tradition switched to Lay Clergy, as then you'll be able to hold temples directly rather than through the church, giving you extra gold and piety. You'll also want to switch Religious Attitude to Pluralist.
  3. Increase your control gain. Since you're taking over a massive amount of the world, you'll want to do as much as you can to avoid annoying your subjects. If you have some Renown, unlock the first two dynasty legacies in the 'Law' path, as these give you extra Control growth. Also, pick the Authority focus in the martial lifestyle tree, and go down the 'Serve the Crown' perk route. This all adds up to quickly ramp up your level of control when you take over new lands.
  4. Get rid of 'king' tier vassals. In various parts of the world, these may be called despots, sultans, mansas, khans, shahs, maharajas, gyalpo, prince mayors, serene doge, wali-maliks, viceroys, or exarchs. Don't dish out kingdoms willy-nilly, and if you have some big dog vassals, try to revoke these titles with the Limited Crown Authority unlock.
  5. Transition to the North Korea strategy after you've gained an Empire title. This means getting rid of all your vassals. Yup, all of them. You could just revoke all their titles, which would cause a hell of a lot of stress and conflict, or you could do something easier which we'll detail below:
    1. Find a character with 0 intrigue from your court or somewhere. Make them into a Count.
    2. Put the new count in prison.
    3. Grant the new count a kingdom. You shouldn't have any if you did the last step.
    4. Grant every vassal to your imprisoned king/queen until your whole realm is held by this poor fool.

Revoke titles from them, one county at a time. Whenever they lose land, they automatically usurp land from a vassal beneath them. Imprisoned characters can't do anything about this, so you're kind of golden. Keep doing this and you’ll be able to get absolutely every part of the realm without anyone having an issue with it. The entire realm should now be yours, and your domain limit will probably look absolutely ridiculous.

Now is the time to wait. Control will be in a bad place, but since you prepared for this eventuality, it'll tick back up over time. Eventually, your levies, prestige, piety, and tax income should have increased significantly, and you won't have to deal with whiny vassals trying to murder your spouse, and you'll be the only one able to kill your children and heirs.

Invincible men-at-arms

With this strategy, you can use buildings in all the cities you directly hold to gain a ridiculous amount of military power. If you stack buildings that help men-at-arms throughout your enormous empire, you will be able to both increase their damage and make them nigh on invulnerable after a while.

Duchy buildings should also be prioritised - normally you should only be able to reap the benefits of a few at maximum, but after doing the North Korea strategy, you'll have access to far more duchy buildings than you have any business holding. The effects stack, so if you build 50 Military Academies, the -2% Army Maintenance effect will add up to -100%, and you'll have completely free soldiers. As well as this, you'll get absolute stacks of extra knights with a bonus of over +1000% strength.

Build all these to make your army ridiculously overpowered, and you'll be able to take over far more land, whilst crushing peasant revolts or any other disgruntled nuisance who stands in your way.

Be careful with this strategy - it's a straight-up exploit that breaks the game, and once you get to a ridiculous level it'll slow the game's performance down a bit. It's something fun to try out, but check out our beginner's guide to CK3 if you're a newer player - don't just jump in the deep end.

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James Law avatar

James Law

Former Guides Writer

James was part of Rock Paper Shotgun's guides team from 2020-2021, bringing his expert knowledge about FPS games, Hearthstone, Path Of Exile and more from his time at Metabomb. He's also a dab hand at Hitman 3, and making his own jam - things which may or may not be related to one another.