An heir is the first character in the line of succession.
The heir of a given title is determined via succession laws of each titles.
If the heir is already vassal to another liege, whether the inherited title will leave the realm depends on the rank of the title:
- The inherited title will leave the realm if the title is the same (or lower) rank as the heir's current primary title.
- If the inherited title is higher-ranked, the heir will remove titles from the other realm.
Your dynastic heir is the character you will play as once your current character dies. He/she is the heir of your primary title, if that character is of your dynasty. Otherwise, it will be another character who is (or will be) landed after your current character's death.
If your dynastic heir is not of your dynasty, or he/she is unplayable (e.g. he or she rules a theocracy or is of a government type that you lack the required DLC for), this is game over.
Selecting your heir
Depending on your government and religion, you may have several methods available to influence who becomes your heir, even without changing your succession law.
|Patrician||A man at court||Designated Heir honorary title|
|Nomad||A son or brother of the same culture||Ensure high prestige, e.g. by having him lead a mercenary band|
|Buddhist , Jain , Taoist , or
reformed pagan faith with Meritocracy doctrine
|A child of the ruler (overriding age but not gender preference)
|| Designate Heir button|
(above child's portrait)
|Open Succession||A child or grandchild||Give them the best titles|
|Adulterer||A child among bastards||Legitimize by decision (or at birth)|
|Adulteress||A child among bastards||Legitimize by decision (requires that the father does not legitimize on birth)|
With a succession law that features succession voting, such as Feudal elective, you can nominate your favorite dynasty member to succeed you. If your vassals trust your judgment and think your nominee will be a good ruler, they will likely vote for your candidate.
You have full control over elections if you are:
- a Count with Elective gavelkind succession
- a Duke with Feudal elective succession and at most one Count vassal
- a King with Feudal elective succession and at most one Duke vassal
By disqualifying other heirs
|Byzantine culture group
Chinese culture group
Latin Empire bloodline
|Castration||Men or boys in your prison||Opinion|
May gain Cruel trait
|Byzantine culture group||Blinding||Characters in your prison|
|Monastic religion||Order to take the vows||
Your courtiers who are adults, and either:
|Monastic religion+||Grant temple||Adult
Not your primary heir
Courtier or vassal's courtier
Gender allowed by religion
|May have to revoke a temple|
|Catholic||Investiture||Men of your court||May have to murder a bishop|
|Mainstream Christian religion||Send to holy order||Men||Depending on traits, may have a chance to flee instead of joining the holy order|
|Mainstream religion||Allow to join holy order||Men with 5+ martial skill
More likely if Zealous
|Religious head||Educate with other religion||Minors|
The Christian methods work better a generation ahead: you can more easily make a grandson a bishop/monk than a son. With mutilation, Byzantine emperors can permanently disqualify any character from the imperial title.
If you need to imprison a character, the Intrigue focus can give you excuses to arrest or opportunities to abduct. When arresting a character, you might want to take steps to ensure they do not flee your realm. Your marshal can increase arrest chance with the "Suppress Revolts" job. Or you can grant a title to prevent flight. If you transfer that title under another vassal, a failed arrest will depose them rather than starting a rebellion, giving you a second chance at arrest.
By killing other heirs
You cannot plot to assassinate your own children, but you might be able to arrange their death another way. Many of these methods mark you as a kinslayer if you are playing as a non-Muslim character, but at least kinslayer doesn't stack...
|Battle||Adults eligible to be commanders||Risk of imprisonment by enemy if a battle is lost|
Could be injured without being killed: wounded, maimed, or even made incapable
|Duel||Rivals, etc||Kinslayer , merciless, ruthless|
Risk of injury or death
Risk that seducing your son's wife does not start a rivalry and/or causes complications
|Cannibalism while carousing||Party guest (or host)||Kinslayer , Cannibal |
You must be Lunatic , Possessed , or Impaler
Becoming a Cannibal through parties alone requires luck or persistence. A faster way is to seclude your court when threatened by an epidemic, and start running out of food.
|Cannibalism of prisoner||Your prisoners age 12+||Kinslayer , Lunatic , Crazy Cannibal (-50 general opinion), likely Food poisoning |
Requires The Reaper's Due DLC and already being a Cannibal .
|Execution||Your prisoners||Kinslayer , tyrant|
|Sacrifice||Your prisoners||You must be Aztec|
|Judged by the Sun||Your vassal prisoners||You must be Zunist . Not guaranteed to kill.|
|Oubliette||Your prisoners||Slow if character has high base health|
|Dark Sacrifice||Your prisoners||You must be a demon worshiper. Gain 10 dark power but 5 points of visibility. May become more arbitrary , cruel , deceitful , or possessed .|
|Absorb Lifeforce||Your minor children||You must be a demon worshiper level 4. Spend 500 dark power. Gain health for 10 years.|
Arranging for unwanted heirs to contract diseases will eventually kill them off. However, there is a risk that the unwanted heir inherits while sick, and rules just long enough to see the realm disintegrate.
|Send to epidemic location||Children, by education
Unmarried adults, by marriage
Adults eligible to be commander
Adults eligible to be spymaster
|If the same disease reaches your capital province, and the character is still alive and in your court, seclusion will be ineffective.|
|Scurvy||Adults eligible to be commander||Only with The Reaper's Due: after several years at sea, commanders are likely to get Scurvy.|
This is one of the safer methods: if you inherit with Scurvy, it will go away within 4 months of being back on land.
Killing women this way requires Full Status of Women or making them Shieldmaiden
|Sabotage their seclusion||Rulers||Before they enter seclusion, marry characters with any epidemic disease into their court|
|Sabotage their health care||Remove their Court Physician through invitation, marriage, or title grant. Or have them in your court while you don't have a court physician, or have a zealous infidel as court physician. Or make them a baron-level ruler who cannot employ a court physician.|
|Great Pox||Unmarried adults||Only without The Reaper's Due: a primary spouse with Great Pox increases the chance of getting it, especially if also leading armies.|
Preparing your heir
Educate heir yourself: by tutoring your heir yourself, you can ensure picking good traits (or removing bad traits) on education events, and that his culture and religion remain the same as yours. (If your heir has a different culture, all cultural buildings in your castles and tribes which are incompatible with the new culture will become inactive upon succession.) Also, you will gain a positive opinion modifier for having been his tutor.
Keep heir at your court: by keeping your heir unlanded, he (and his family) remains under your control.
- You can choose who he and his children should marry, without the 10-year limit imposed by the "Restrict Marriage" checkbox
- You can fulfill his council ambition (for +1 skill), then switch back to someone more skilled, without having angered a landed vassal
- If Christian, you can easily disqualify your heir's worst children by ordering them to take the vows. Catholics can also use investiture. (This is important because your heir may be restricted from taking these actions once he is a ruler.)
- He avoids some bad ruler events (such as getting stressed ) and opportunities to make bad decisions (up to and including getting himself killed).
- Note that becoming a councillor may cause stress issues for your heir.
The downside is that:
- he will not get much prestige before he inherits. This can be mitigated somewhat by giving him honorary titles such as Designated Regent, or marrying him to a spouse from a prestigious dynasty and/or relative of a high title-tier ruler.
- he cannot improve his skills by taking a focus (or, without WoL, an ambition to improve skills below 8)
- if your succession is not Gavelkind or Elective Gavelkind, you get a prestige penalty for having unlanded sons. Exceptions are government types with only one succession law, namely
- Patricians in merchant republics
- Your heir can still practise a secret religion while remaining in your court, and even join the corresponding secret society. The worst case scenario is that the heir openly adopts the secret faith, making it impossible for you to demand conversion. Ways to convert when playing as the heir include converting to the capital's religion (requires Rajas of India DLC and 500/1000 prestige) and secretly adapting the faith (requires 250 piety) before open adoption.