Mar 27, 2017

CKII: Go feudal or go home

In the day that thy walls are to be built, in that day shall the decree be far removed.
- Micah 7:11

My previous post chronicled the rise of the Hämäläinen dynasty from chiefs of Häme and Uusimaa to kings of Finland, all the way to the fateful decision to convert to feudalism. I should stress that since I've never tried this before, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Like I explained in my previous post, converting to feudalism has several benefits. Your income goes up a lot, you get castle holdings you can improve, and your levies are no longer a horde of light infantry but rather a more balanced force. The downside is that without access to event troops from decisions and drastically reduced levies, until you build up your strength, you're suddenly very vulnerable. If there's a unified aggressive realm next to you, a badly timed decision to feudalize can well mean game over.

What you need is basically money, more or less pacific vassals and money. Because they can make use of the county conquest casus belli to expand, pagan rulers will find it easier to install members of their dynasty throughout the realm, which makes for (slightly!) less truculent vassals. Also, raiding is a great way to produce money. If you pick the right time and prepare properly, you too can succesfully feudalize your realm!

In my case, we made it and didn't even lose any territory! Barely. Luckily, as you feudalize, so will many of your vassals, which means factions aren't immediately murderously dangerous. But basically everybody near you who isn't in a non-aggression pact will pretty much invade at some point. Even previously marginal tribal rulers are suddenly dangerous, because they can convert prestige into stacks of 2500 troops and you can't, plus unless you have exceptionally high military organization, you're going to suffer horrible attrition in their territory! We had to fight off not just Norse and Lithuanian invaders, but also at least one rebellion and several invasions by minor tribal rulers to the southeast. With enough money to hire a proper stack of mercenaries, plus a little luck, this can be done. Once you survive the initial onslaught, you can also expect to be incessantly raided by the neighboring pagans, which is mostly a nuisance but can actually be very costly if your levies are busy elsewhere.

While all this was going on, the head of our faith decided to try this newfangled holy war thing, and declared a Great Holy War on the Orthodox kingdom of Ruthenia to our south. When we got a moment's peace, we decided to participate because why the hell not?

Unfortunately, it didn't exactly work out for us. The religious heads don't always use their best judgement when figuring out when to start a holy war; for whatever reason, mine always seems to wait until I'm fighting a war on the exact opposite end of my realm from where they've decided to strike next. So far, there's only been one succesful Suomenusko great holy war, when the kingdom of Lithuania converted to Catholicism. I think we've lost every other one. At times, they've been such hopeless projects that I didn't even take part.

Meanwhile, some men with horses showed up.


In my previous post, I talked about the issues with gavelkind succession, where the titles held by a ruler are distributed to their heirs. As long as the realm is expanding and you only hold a single high-level title, this isn't actually a bad system, as long as you make sure there's enough stuff for everyone to inherit without breaking up the demesne. Very early into my feudal reign, a fairly large faction of nobles demanded we switch to feudal elective succession, which I actually agreed to, because why not? The beauty of expanding at the expense of infidels is that you never vassalize them but rather kick out the old rulers completely, basically allowing you to fill up all the appropriate vacant holdings with members of your own dynasty. This means all the eligible candidates for king will tend to be from your dynasty, meaning that feudal elective succession can actually be a very strong way to avoid game over. Since electors tend to want a strong king, they won't pick children, avoiding the trouble of a long regency, and you can usually manage to get characters with strong traits elected.

This is all well and good until you want to hold multiple titles. In my case, King Soini III was king of Suomi, but I also wanted to form the kingdoms of Rus and Sápmi. Under gavelkind succession, they'd have been split among his heirs; under feudal elective succession, each kingdom would have chosen its own king. Therefore, we needed the last piece in the feudal puzzle: primogeniture. Finally, King Soini III managed to raise our crown authority high enough to enact primogeniture.

This way, I could create the kingdoms of Sápmi and Rus, knowing that they would pass to his son Susi.

Meanwhile, there was time to study the stars:

Studying astronomy gets you tech points, boosts your character's Learning (which gets you more tech points) and lets you build an observatory for an achievement. Starting as a tribal count means being quite a bit behind in technology, so this is a sound investment if there's nothing more pressing to do.


The only problem with primogeniture was that by the time he gained the throne, Susi was mad. Playing a lunatic character is challenging, because his madness gives a pretty stiff penalty to all interactions, but it's also brilliant because he's mad. During his unreasonably long reign, King Susi decreed that the only lawful currency of the realm shall be turnips, fought Cthulhu and appointed his horse Glitterhoof chancellor. A battle wound gave him the sobriquet Lame, which couldn't have been more wrong because that he definitely wasn't.

As if all this wasn't enough, when King Susi succeeded to the throne, I was hit with what I assume must be a bug: suddenly my demesne levies all dropped to zero. There was no reason why they should have done so, but drop they did, which led to every faction in the realm deciding that now would be a good time to demand whatever it was they wanted to demand from me. King Susi's reign was basically one civil war after another, but with enough money to hire mercenaries, we got through it.


So, against all odds or at the very least my expectations, the kingdom of Suomi is now a feudal realm. Next time, we aim higher.

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