This article is timeless and should be accurate for any version of the game.
Your choice of start date and character have a major influence on the game's feel and difficulty.
This page aims to highlight interesting characters and explain why they're challenging, fun, or easy. Characters with golden names have been used in game of the week (GOTW) challenges, which often suggest special goals for players.
A general recommendation is to steer any historical character to an ahistorical destiny.
Some rulers have been marked by Paradox itself as characters of special interest. These rulers are highlighted in the main menu with a custom description about the character's goals or traits, and are eventually replaced by another character of note after a certain period of time.
These must be played in Bronzeman mode, which is started the same way as Ironman.
Ruler as a child, last of a dynasty, can it be prolonged?
Have the Jimena dynasty as large as 75 living members. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's Dynasty.
Have 75 living members of your dynasty
Have as many kings titles as possible. Any additional king of the Jimena dynasty adds 1 point, regardless of the number of titles they have. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's Dynasty
Have 3 king titles and Jimena kings.
Have 4 king titles and Jimena kings
Have 5 king titles and Jimena kings
Petronilla must have as many children as possible born to the Jimena dynasty! Both live and dead children count. Children conceived out of wedlock do not count - legitimate bastard or not. Feat only accomplishable with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
Develop an Independent Wales and take it further!
Conquer Wales and control these provinces: Anglesey, Rhos, Perfeddwlad, Powys, Ceredigion, Builth, Dyfed, Gwyr, Breconshire, Glywysing, and Gwent. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Control all provinces
Princes of Wales
While holding the Kingdom of Wales, you must have as many vassals as possible be of the same dynasty as yours. Have them retain the title Duke or higher. Bastard members do not count unless legitimized. Your character must be an independent ruler. The ruler and vassal must also be of Welsh culture. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Have 3 vassals of your dynasty
Have 6 vassals of your dynasty
Have 9 vassals of your dynasty
Marry as many of Llywelyn's children to those of English culture. Only the English spouses with titles or claims count toward this feat. The married children and their spouses must be alive to count toward this feat. Feat is only accomplishable with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
Tamari must become Megaloscheme, the highest rank of Saint Basil community. Feat only accomplishable with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
Reach Rank IV in Society
Secure as many marriages with foreign realms as possible using your dynasty's children. The children must be married to a person of King or Emperor tier, or the child of a King or Emperor tier ruler. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's Dynasty.
Have 2 children married to foreigners
Have 4 children married to foreigners
Have 6 children married to foreigners
Have your dynasty acquire as many artifacts as possible! Since you can't have duplicates in your treasury, give them to your family. Only live dynasty members count, no bastards unless legitimized. Alchemy ingredients do not count towards this feat. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's Dynasty.
Become King... just try not to die on the way!
King of Portugal
Form Portugal and become a King! You must also have at least 3 duchies in your realm. Feat only accomplishable with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
Become King of Portugal
Have as many simultaneously prosperous counties as possible. Only directly owned prosperous provinces count towards the feat. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's Dynasty.
Have 2 prosperous counties
Have 4 prosperous counties
Have 6 prosperous counties
Ahead of their time
European colonization brought new diseases to continents, which killed millions of indigenous people. The colonization process didn't begin until centuries later, but can you create and manage "colonies" of your own? Provinces must be disconnected from the capital and a minimum of 400 in distance away. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's Dynasty.
Unite his nations and become the true King of the Slavs!
A Serbian Dream
Ensure that you don't lose the title King of Serbia and that it never falls into the hands of someone who's not of Serbian Culture. Additionally, have a Serbian ruler in at least one of these Kingdoms: Croatia, Hungary or Poland. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's Dynasty and the title holder of Serbia is of Serbian Culture.
With or Without Me?
Have as many Serbian Dukes as possible! Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's Dynasty.
Have 4 Serbian Dukes
Have 8 Serbian Dukes
Have 12 Serbian Dukes
As a Catholic ruler of Serbia, ensure you are on good terms with your Catholic bishops (Opinion at least 60). In addition, if the pope likes you (Opinion 60+), you get 2 points. You must be a Catholic to complete this feat. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's Dynasty
Konan II, Duke of Brittany would find himself in an uphill struggle to ensure his rule over Brittany. Having lost his father as a child, he faced many challenges to his rule from within and outside of his family. His uncle usurped his inheritance, and was later chained and imprisoned for his efforts. After becoming enthroned, he would face threats from William the Conqueror, later dying to suspectedly poisoned gloves while attempting to invade Anjou.
Try to recreate Breton by controlling as many of these provinces as possible: Cornwall, Devon, Anjou, Maine, Mortain, Caen, Léon, Kernev (Cornouaille), Poher, Tregor, Domnoea (Penthievr), Broërec (Vannes), Roazhon (Rennes), Naoned (Nantes), and Retz. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Own 10 of the listed provinces
Own 12 of the listed provinces
Own all of the listed provinces
Gloves Come Off!
Historically, King Konan is said to have died due to poisoned gloves. Ensure that King Konan has a male heir and a few to spare! Non-legitimized sons do not count. May only be accomplished within the featured ruler's lifetime.
Have 2 sons alive
Have 3 sons alive
Have 5 sons alive
Have you and your dynasty kill as many of William de Normandie's dynasty members as possible. Killing William himself gives 2 points! Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
King of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, would unify Wales through great war strategy and diplomacy with the kings of England and the princes of Wales. He had troubles with marcher lords, often finding himself fighting in border disputes, while also forming many alliances with rulers in the Marches. In 1234, he brought peace to Wales which remained until his death in 1240.
Conquer Wales and completely control the following provinces: Anglesey, Rhos, Perfeddwlad, Powys, Ceredigion, Builth, Dyfed, Gwyr, Breconshire, Glywysing, and Gwent. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Own all provinces. This challenge doesn't allow partial completion.
Princes of Wales
While holding the Kingdom of Wales, you must have as many vassals as possible be of your own dynasty. Have them retain the title duke or higher. Bastard members do not count unless legitimized. Your character must be an independent ruler. The ruler and vassal must also be of Welsh culture. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty. (NOTE: even though not specified in game, female vassals do not count for Prince of Wales, even with full status of women and absolute cognatic succession.)
Have 3 qualifying vassals of your dynasty
Have 6 qualifying vassals of your dynasty.
Have 9 qualifying vassals of your dynasty.
Marry as many of Llywelyn's children to those of English culture as you can. Only the English spouses with titles or claims count toward this challenge. The married children and their spouses must be alive to count toward this challenge. This challenge is only accomplish-able with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
During his lifetime, Sa'ad al-Dawla would be the bridge that supported Jewish peace and prosperity in Baghdad. His reputation and knowledge as a physician would give him the chance to cure Arghun Khan of an aliment, forming a great trusting friendship and allowing Sa'ad to secure a safe haven for Jews to live. His position and relationships with Arghun, and the fact that he was Jewish would cause much hatred from Mongolians who wanted to corrupt the flow of finances, and Muslims who did not enjoy the idea of having a Jew in a position of power over them.
One of Us!
While not practising Judaism yourself, have your council consist of openly Jewish people. They must also be capable at their job, with a minimum of 10 in the attribute related to their position. Those practising Judaism in secrecy do not count. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
2 Jewish councillors
3 Jewish councillors
4 Jewish councillors
Be on good terms (60+ opinion) with those of your vassals who are openly worshipping another religion than your own. Secret religions are disregarded for this challenge. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Secret stays with Me
Sa'ad al-Dawla was murdered by his enemies who disagreed with his religion. let's turn the tables! Playing as the featured ruler, continue to practice Judaism in secrecy while pretending to be a Sunni Muslim. Kill as many Muslim (religion) and Mongol (culture) characters as possible: Duel, assassinate, or execute them. Yes, Mongol Muslims are worth two points. Kills where your complicity is hidden is worth another 1 point! Progress for this challenge stops if you should change religion. This challenge is only accomplish-able with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
Konstantinos Angelos was a man of exceeding beauty and bravery, who came from a small aristocratic family. He would marry Theodora Komnene, daughter of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and be granted the title of sebastohypertatos, a high Byzantine dignity. He would start the Angelos dynasty, which would disastrously rule the Byzantine Empire in 1185-1204, crippling the empire and eventually leading to its deconstruction.
Rise from a life of obscure nobility! Have your dynasty obtain as many king titles as possible. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
2 king titles
3 king titles
4 king titles
Change the course of history and ensure the Angelos dynasty becomes a grand one! Acquire the highest game score you can. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Kon Once, Kon Twice...
As Konstantinos, have the largest family you can. Your children must be alive and of your dynasty to count. This challenge is only accomplish-able with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
Louis II of Aquitaine was a ruler famous, and named so, for his physical weaknessess. He was crowned twice, the second time by Pope John VIII, after succeeding his father's rule of West Francia. Three of his sons would become kings of West Francia, the last of which would be known as Charles III the Simple, with a reputation of being straightforward.
Hold the Kingdoms of France and Aquitaine, completely controlling their de jure provinces, and form the Empire of Francia. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Fulfil conditions. This challenge doesn't allow partial completion.
His Unfulfilled Dream
King Louis passed away before he could see through his dream of a northern crusade. Kill as many characters of the Germanic faith as possible! Reformed Germanic pagans also count. Norse characters with ONE OF these traits count as two points: Viking, Ravager, Seaking, Sea queen, Berserker, Shieldmaiden. The challenge is only accomplishable with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
4 kill points
7 kill points
10 kill points
Why Don't You like Me?
Make those vassal dukes like you! Get as many with +65 opinion as possible! The challenge is only accomplishable with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
The second Muslim woman in history to become a monarch. Queen Shajar al-Durr of Egypt would enjoy only a short time as ruler. She would be the first of the Mamluk Sultanate, a realm that would last until 1517. There would be a brutal end to her reign, being captured for her involvement in the murder of Sultan Aybak and later beaten to death by the bondmaids of Al-Mansur Ali.
Make sure your bloodline lives on by expanding your dynasty to a size of 80 members. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Have 80 members of your dynasty. This challenge doesn't allow partial completion.
Kill as many landed characters of other dynasties as possible. The challenge is only accomplishable with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
Don't Stop Me Now!
Hold as many queen titles as possible. Progress continues for as long as you play a female character of the featured ruler's dynasty.
Duke Pavao of Croatia, the most impressive member of the Šubić house conquered Bosnia and declared himself overlord, rulling over Croatia and Dalmatia and parts of Serbia. He declared peace with Venice and his political actions would later see Charles I become the king of Hungary.
Conquerer from Bribir!
Ban of Croatia, lord of all of Bosnia, and uniter of Dalmatia, finish what Paul never could and conquer Serbia as well! Hold the Kingdom of Serbia and duchies of Bosnia, Croatia and Hum and completely control all their de jure provinces. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Control all 4 titles. This challenge doesn't allow partial completion.
Paul appointed his brothers and sons to many positions of power throughout his realm. Continue this tradition and make sure that the dynasty has a strong grasp on the land. The challenge is only accomplishable with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
4 landed dynasty members
6 landed dynasty members
8 landed dynasty members
Paul built multiple monasteries, a church, a fort, and relations with Venice. Can you leave an even grander legacy behind? Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Arwa al-Sulayhi, Sultana of the Sulayhid Sultanate referred to as the Noble Lady, was the first woman to be given the title of hujja, the closest living image of God's will in her lifetime. She reigned over Yemen for 68 years, improving economy, building schools and mosques.
Long Live the Queen!
Under Arwa's rule Yemen prospered. Hold the Sultanate of Yemen and completely control its de jure provinces for 100 years. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Rule the Yemen for 100 years. This challenge doesn't allow partial completion.
God's Will Be Done
Build as many temples in your realm as you can. The challenge is only accomplishable with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
5 temples in realm
8 temples in realm
12 temples in realm
Dawn of a New Da'is!
Convert as many Hindus to Shia as possible. Only characters converted through character interaction count toward the challenge! The challenge is only accomplishable with the featured ruler during their lifetime.
Harald Hårdråde, King of Norway spent a great period of his life fighting battles, joining his first in 1030, the Battle of Stiklestad at the age of 15. Exiled for the loss, he was sent to Kievan Rus where he eventually became captain in the army of Yaroslav the Wise and later commander of the Byzantine Varangian Guard. He would eventually claim England but lose his life in battle of Stamford Bridge, starting the end of the Viking Age.
Harder Than Steel
Hold the kingdoms of Norway & England and completely control their de jure provinces. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Hold the Kingdoms of Norway and England. This challenge doesn't allow partial completion.
Hide the Pain, Harold...
Kill as many members of King Harold II of England's dynasty, the Godwins, as possible. Deaths caused by other members of your dynasty also count! Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Kill 5 members of Godwin dynasty
Kill 10 members of Godwin dynasty
Kill 15 members of Godwin dynasty
With an Iron Fist
Crush as many revolts as possible. Crush those who rise up to oppose your rule! Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
In marrying Isabella of Armenia, Hethum I would become king of Armenia in 1226. He founded the Hethumids, the last native Armenian dynasty. Hethum is famous for his relations with the Mongols in which he travelled great distances to offer gifts in the face of the rapidly expanding Mongol Empire.
A sobriquet of the Kingdom of Armenia at the time was Little Armenia. Can you change that? Double the size of the kingdom! Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Have 8 provinces. This challenge doesn't allow partial completion.
Keep Your Friends Close...
Have good relations with Mongols (60+ opinion). Rulers, their vassals, and their courtiers with Mongol culture count. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
3 Mongols with 60+ opinion
6 Mongols with 60+ opinion
9 Mongols with 60+ opinion
We Will Not Submit
Hethum I decided to submit to Mongol suzerainty as their rapid expansion were of great concern. Can you keep the Armenian kingdom independent? Rule for as many years as possible as an independent kingdom, without becoming a tributary. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Kulin of Bosnia was the man who would lead Bosnia through the Bosnian Age of Peace and Prosperity, responsible for creating a de facto independent state. Often regarded as a hero of Bosnia, his leadership was not without difficulty, with Kulin often having to find political balance between the powers of Hungary, Serbia and the Pope.
Rule an independent Kingdom of Bosnia! You must hold the Kingdom of Bosnia, completely control all its de jure provinces and be independent. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Fulfil conditions. This challenge doesn't allow partial completion.
Have as many courtiers as possible who openly practise a heretical belief. Prisoners don't count. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
6 heretical courtiers
9 heretical courtiers
12 heretical courtiers
Celebrating Our Indepedence Day!
As an independent realm, remain at peace and independence for as long as possible! Progress resets on character death and when entering a war. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Emperor Daozong would be remembered as the emperor who ignored the corruption that would destroy his empire. Rejecting the advice of his wife, Xiao Guanyin, to end the corruption and paying little respect to the role he had as emperor, he would allow his officials to fool him into executing the empress, after being convinced she had written a love poem about an affair. He would also execute the crown prince as well as various other officials following the advice of Yelü Yixin. He would realise his mistakes later, however the corruption in Liao was beyond repair.
Have as many temples in your realm managed by a Buddhist as you can. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
4 temples managed by Buddhists
8 temples managed by Buddhists
12 temples managed by Buddhists
As a nomadic tribe, have as many provinces in your realm as possible! Progress continues tor as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Get along with other clans! Ensure clans have an opinion of you higher than 60. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Basarab I of Wallachia was the first independent ruler of Wallachia, becoming so after becoming disloyal to the Holy Crown of Hungary in 1325. He founded the House of Basarab in 1310 which would later provide a line of princes that would include Vlad III the Impaler.
Voivodes of Wallachia
Basarab was the Voivode of Wallachia before he became an independent ruler of the kingdom. Have as many dukes in your realm of your dynasty as you can! Bastards do not count towards this challenge unless legitimized. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Have 3 vassal dukes of your dynasty
Have 6 vassal dukes of your dynasty
Have 9 vassal dukes of your dynasty
So Much at Stake
With a character that has the impaler trait, kill as many people as you can! Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Have as many castles and royal palaces in your realm as possible! Each stage of a royal palace is worth 3 points. The royal palace must be active to count. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
The only King of Lithuania, King Mindaugas had a history shrouded in mystery. It is believed that he was a young duke that had inherited power, using such power to eventually found the Lithuanian state. He converted to Catholicism, becoming baptised and exchanging some lands for acknowledgment of King by Pope Innocent IV.
A Christian King
Be crowned the King of Lithuania! You must: hold the Kingdom of Lithuania, completely control all of Lithuanias de jure provinces, be Catholic and be crowned by the Pope. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Fulfil conditions. This challenge doesn't allow partial completion.
Convert provinces in your realm to Catholicism. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
4 Catholic provinces
6 Catholic provinces
8 Catholic provinces
While historic records of the only Christian king of Lithuania are scarce, ensure that this isn't the case this time around! Construct a Great Library and fill it with book collections. Progress continues for as long as you play the featured ruler's dynasty.
Matilda d'Avesnes, Princess (in-game Duchess) of Achaia, August 2, 1316: She's 23, but by the time you start, she has been twice widowed. Fun fact: she's from Flanders.
Anatolia, Kingdom of (inc. independent duchies)
Roussel de Bailleul, Duke of Charsianon, August 26, 1071: A Norman mercenary captain in the Byzantine army, who created a short-lived independent principality in Anatolia after the disaster at Manzikert. Try to rewrite history by creating an independent, lasting, Catholic Kingdom of Anatolia.
Reynald de Châtillon, Duke of Antioch, 1153-1160: Historically, an opportunist who married for land, tortured bishops for money, and broke treaties for profit. He was one of the major stumbling blocks to peaceful coexistence between the Muslims and the Crusader States. After his capture at the Horns of Hattin, Reynald was berated for his "maleficence and perfidy" and beheaded by Saladin himself. In-game, this is a tough spot. Reynald is a skilled tactician with four of the seven deadly sins (and deceitful besides!) and 0 Diplomacy. He controls two of the three counties in the Duchy of Antioch, with the third being held by the dreaded Hashshashin. Reynald never swore fealty to the Byzantines, and he proved a fractious vassal of Jerusalem. If you don't swear fealty to someone, expect to be holy warred into oblivion.
Louis II "the Stammerer" Karling, King of Aquitaine, 867: You start surrounded by West Francia to the north, Lotharingia to the east, Italy to your south-east, Muslims just across the mountains to the south, and Asturias needs help to your south-west. As if that wasn't bad enough your dukes are not your biggest fans, and you have gavelkind succession and two sons. Just putting your own house in order and maintaining independence will be tough, but you also stand to inherit the Kingdom of West Francia and finally unite France. Then what direction will you focus on? Turn back the Moors? Try to retroactively outdo Napoleon? Who knows?
Jaume de Barcelona, the Conqueror, King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, Sept 14, 1213 - 1276: The only son of King Pere of Aragon. After his father died defending the Occitan lands from the catholic crusade against the Cathars he inherited as a little child a Kingdom that had just lost its main political sphere of influence. Jaume is forced to focus his attentions to a Reconquista that, after the victory of the Christian faction at Navas de Tolosa in 1212, is an achievable objective as it has never been before. During his more than 60 years of government, married Violant of Hungria and conquered the Kingdoms of Valencia and Mallorca (Duchies, in-game), ending the reconquest of the Kingdom of Aragon and allowing his heirs to expand their sphere of influence to the rest of the Western Mediterranean, mainly Sicily, Napoli and Sardenya, but also Greece.
Sancho I Jimena, King of Aragon, 15 Sept. 1066: A one-county Kingdom in the Pyrenees, your extensive de jure claims over the eastern Iberian Peninsula offer great opportunities for expansion without disturbing the wasps' nest that is the Andalusian Muslim factions to your south. You will have to pick your battles carefully, though; the neighbouring Emirate of Zaragoza and Duchy of Barcelona are both stronger than you, but you also have the rest of the Jimena kingdoms watching your back. If you can take the peninsula, the world is your oyster.
Alfonso de Barcelona, King of Aragon, October 16, 1174: At last the quarrelling Jimena are contained in what remains of Navarre, but their legacy continues to poison the unity of the Iberian Catholics. Portugal, Castille, and Aragon remain divided even against the united Almohad Caliphate (Sultanate in-game). The House of Barcelona is surrounded by greater powers and has few friends. But you are Alfonso the Troubadour. Such a magnificent name demands a demesne to match. Perhaps even Gondar should owe fealty to Aragon...
Queen Petronila of Aragon, August 16, 1157: She's the last of the Jimena dynasty. She is 24 and married (to the Count of Barcelona) and has one newborn child at this start. Kill/divorce the husband, remarry matrilineally and switch your succession law (to Elective or Ultimogeniture).
King Rudolf of Arles, 936: Originally the king of Upper-Burgundy, he collected the two halves of Burgundy to form the new Kingdom of Arles. The Italians to the east, led by the industrious Hugues of the Bosonid dynasty, form a threat to the capital of Arles as well as the area around Provence. Besides that, Rudolf is in a good position to ally with most of the rulers around him, though his Kingdom is small enough to be tossed aside by the larger powers at play.
Ermengol d'Urgell, Count of Urgell, 15 Sept. 1066: Start your Reconquista from the safest county in Spain - but beware of Jihads targeting your liege. Make sure you have the power to defend against them before they happen.
Wifredo de Barcelona, Count of Rossello, 867: The founder of the House of Barcelona, son of Sunifred, (earlier Count of Barcelona, Urgell, Cerdanya Girona, Osona, Besalú, etc.) he starts as a Baron in Urgell under Duke Bernard Gellones of Barcelona, so you'll have to land him and reload as him. While he's been reduced to a barony, Wifredo has a strong claim on the Duchy of Barcelona, courtesy of his father. He was historically granted the County of Barcelona (the Duchy, in-game) after siding with Charles and his son Louis against a faction of noble rebels, among them the previous Count of Barcelona, Bernard of Gothia (Bernard Gellones in-game). He's the founding father of the independent Catalan counties and maybe the main hero in Catalan medieval folklore. A legend tells that the Arms of the House of Barcelona (which became the Catalan national flag) were created by Emperor Louis, who gave him a golden shield and blotted it with the blood of his wounded vassal. A hard game if you wish to follow in his footsteps and take over the Catalan counties, as you have a quite powerful Frankish liege and the Carolingian mess can be less tumultuous than in real life.
Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona and Provence, 1113: Through his marriage with Dolça of Provence, Ramon Berenguer III The Great rules not only as Count of Barcelona (Duchy in-game) but also as Count of Provence (Duchy in-game) and his already born son Ramon Berenguer will inherit the County of Gevaudan, making him one of the most powerful Christian lords in the Western Mediterranean. Historically, despite him reconquering Tarragona permanently and Mallorca temporally, his main political focus was centered in the Occitan lands, policies that were continued by his descendants until 1213 with the death at Muret of King Pere of Aragon during the Cathar crusade. Upon his death, he gave Barcelona to his firstborn son Ramon Berenguer IV the Saint (father of King Alfons of Aragon) and Provence to his second son Berenguer Ramon, despite King Alfons reincorporating it when the county passed to Berenguer Ramon's granddaughter (only to give it upon his death to his brother, also called Ramon Berenguer).
Ermengarda de Narbonne, Countess of Narbonne, 1143-1197: Should be unmarried and childless at the beginning of her 54-year reign. A very cultured lady - she especially liked bards. Unfortunately, she was unlucky in marriage.
Konan II de Rennes, Petty King of Brittany, 15 Sept. 1066: Last legitimate male of his dynasty in 1066. He threatened to invade Normandy as soon as William's army had crossed the Channel, when this happened he promptly did as promised. At the end of the year, he donned a pair of poisoned riding gloves and collapsed dead, most probably on William's orders. His premature demise meant the end of the de Rennes dynasty; he was succeeded by his sister and, after her death, his brother-in-law. Your first priority is to marry, have children and continue the de Rennes male line. Start forging claims on Cornwall, Wales and Ireland, then begin your wars of expansion. In many ways, Brittany in 1066 is the ideal tutorial playground. Konan is the central character of "The Monarch's Journey" which is first in a series of scenarios with challenges to overcome in order to earn cosmetic rewards for the upcoming Crusader Kings III game.
Edouarzh de Penthièvre, Count of Penthievre, 1066: A 67-year-old count who founded the youngest branch of the de Rennes and was once duke of Brittany, so you have a strong claim on it. With good luck and health, you can take the duchy back and have a similar good start to your liege and nephew Konan II, except you're much older. But the most interesting thing about this character is that he has not only a daughter, but THIRTEEN sons (half bastards) and SIX grandsons (all legitimate), so it's a wonderful start to learn how to build a new family, marrying duchesses or even princesses to grow the familial lands.
Berenguela, Queen of Castille and Toledo, June-August 1217: This queen had an incredibly short real-life reign; she abdicated in favor of her son Ferdinand III after only two months. Make her reign longer and give Berenguela a chance to prove herself as a ruler.
Sancho II Jimena, King of Castille, 15 Sept. or 26 Dec. 1066: Why play as El Cid when you can play as his liege? Use a young Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar to command your army as you bring Iberia under your control. Your brother is not exactly on good terms with you and the usual Muslim infidels are everywhere. Can you avoid Sancho's historical fate?
Enrique de Trastámara, Count of Asturias de Oviedo, 14 Jan. 1332: The bastard son of Alfonso XI of Castile, he holds a one province minor in the northwest of the country. Historically, he was supported by his father, but after his death, staged many revolts against his brother, Pedro the Cruel. With French and Aragonese support, he overthrew and killed his brother, and went on to become King Henry II. His family would go on to unite Castile and Aragon and lay down the basis for what would become the Kingdom of Spain. Making the move from count to king will be difficult, let alone to become Emperor of all Spain (technically King), especially with only 120 years to do it, but it's a good challenge.
Dmitar-Zvonimir Trpimirovic, Duke of Slavonia, 15 Sept. 1066 or King of Croatia, 1081: Historically, Croatia passed to the King of Hungary after a bloody succession crisis, due to the machinations of Dmitar's widow, Ilona, who was also the King of Hungary's sister, and entered a union with Hungary that lasted until 1918. Can you prevent the extinction of House of Trpimirović and the union with Hungary (or perhaps, see Hungary and Croatia united under your house)?
Ilona, Queen of Croatia, 1090-1091: Dmitar-Zvonimir's widow, an Arpad princess who starts with the King of Hungary (her brother) as an ally. This start should be somewhat easy since she has such an awesome ally and you can build her family as you wish.
Svend II Estrid, King of Denmark, 15 Sept. 1066 - 1074: Historically he feuded with Hardrade, had little success in military affairs, and fathered an impressive twenty or more children, all the better to secure alliances and inheritance. Svend also starts with a claim on England. Whether you attempt to reunite the North Sea Empire, create the Kalmar Union or restore the Danelaw you've got plenty of options open. You can start the Baltic crusades early and take your share of the pagan land. You start with a small but stable kingdom and if you're lucky the Holy Roman Empire will neglect to counter your growth in the north allowing you plenty time to become a great northern empire. The housecarl retinue adds some strong muscle you can put to good use. With reasonable goals and a little luck, the north is yours! There's also an achievement for conquering England as him.
Mihajlo I Dukljanin, Duke of Duklja, 15 Sept. 1066: He starts independent and needs one province to create Serbia. Easy right? Well, not when both of the other Serbian provinces are in the ERE. One is owned by your 9th son (that's right, 9th), the other by the future Emperor Michael VII, not a man you want to get on the wrong side of. Can you form Serbia and go on to unite the Slavic kingdoms?
Baudouin II de Rethel, Duke of Edessa, 1100: Just south of Rum, Edessa formed in 1098 as an independent French Catholic Duchy, surrounded almost completely by Muslim neighbors. The preferred start is 1100 as in 1098 you start as an insignificant member of an established house, while in the 1100 start you get to play as Baudouin, a successful Crusader who inherited Edessa. Historically he ended up as the King of Jerusalem, through unknown relations to King Baudouin I, he surpassed the other claimants and obtained the throne. Install Baudouin II as the King of Jerusalem or simply trying to stay alive as Edessa, your choice. Quite a challenging start probably requires swearing fealty to Jerusalem or the ERE.
Raimbaud de Afranji, Count of Aintab, 1072: Sitting in the county of Aintab is probably one of the most challenging starts in the game. Historically, Raimbaud served Philaretos Brachamios (Vahram Varajnuni) as a mercenary captain in command of 8,000 men. He was given the castle of Afranji ("Franks" in Armenian) and proved quite loyal - he died defending Brachamios' tent during a battle. In-game, it doesn't quite pan out like that for Raimbaud - he has nowhere near 8,000 men under his command; he is a one province Frankish Catholic count, vassal to an Armenian Miaphysite and the next-door neighbour to the mighty Seljuk Turks. Good luck, you'll need it.
Harold Godwinson, King of England, 26 Sept. 1066: Yes, he's at the Stamford Bridge start as usual, but with the most recent patches his odds went from underdog to David versus Goliath. Start a few days later and Hardrade is out of the war after Godwinson's victory at Stamford, leaving you a decent force to attempt to turn back the Norman tide. Even so, expect William to put up a ferocious fight and never make the mistake of fighting him on open ground - even the mighty huscarls don't fare well against the Norman knights.
Henry I de Normandie, King of England, 3 Aug. 1100: Last of the de Normandie kings of England. Can you make sure your house doesn't shatter into pieces and honour The Conqueror's legacy? Or is the House of Normandy destined to die out like it did in reality?
Henry II Plantagenet, King of England, Jan 1. 1155: Start off the Plantagenet dynasty and the Angevin Empire on the right foot and see if the sons you sire end up any better than the ones Henry spawned historically. Alternatively, start as him in 1187; The Lion In Winter, CK2 style. Henry had established himself in both England and the continent but at a high personal cost. He is estranged from his wife and 2 sons and historically died 2 years after his sons rebelled. Although Richard is the Lionheart, let the old lion roar one last time in his twilight, and put his house in order before he departs.
Edward III Plantagenet, King of England, Hundred Years' War start: Unfortunately Edward III doesn't have the traits he should, but you do begin with a strong claim on France (via your mother) and a powerful, centralized realm. Your son and heir, the future Black Prince, is a young boy and ready to be tutored to greatness, and France will often be divided and thrown into various civil wars. Forge marriage alliances with Scotland and Brittany, wait for an opportune moment and pounce.
Remove all Norse territory and religion from the de jure kingdoms of England, Wales and Scotland
Stay Catholic and Anglo-Saxon
Obtain the title 'the Great' on at least one ruler
Oswulf of Bamburgh, Earl of Northumbria, 1066: A native son of the North, you've had your fill of being lorded over by southerners, who, to add insult to injury, have held the Earldom (in-game Duchy) of Northumbria since the murder of your grandfather, Uhtred, 50 years ago. First, arrange a little "accident" for your cousin, Eadwulf, who holds lands just across the border, preferably before he has children. This should give you a foothold to restore Northumbrian rule to Lothian. Once you have Eadwulf's land, you'll need to turn your attention to the Mercian brothers (hopefully neither of them dies childless and leaves the other with both Mercia and Northumbria), from whom you will want to claim the Duchy of Northumbria and perhaps more. After that, the succession crisis in the south represents a golden opportunity, no matter which route you choose. Restore Northumbria as an independent kingdom, perhaps, and avert a millennium in London's shadow? Provide England with a new royal dynasty to stem the endless succession of pretenders from the mainland and the powerful earls who jostle for the crown through the Witenagemot? Or unite the entire island, no, the entire British Isles, for the first time, and see if you can reproduce the success of a united British Empire? Whatever you choose, surely a gruff, hardworking Northerner, if anyone, is up to the task?
William I de Normandie, Duke of Flanders, 3 Feb. 1127: As the grandson of William the Conqueror you just have been given your grandmother's land, the wealthy Duchy of Flanders. Now can you take your grandfather's land too, and become the next king of England, instead of your uncle Henry?
Kadoc Cerneu, Earl of Cornwall, 15 Sept. 1066: the last Cornish Earl of Cornwall. He's still around in 1066 (both Stamford Bridge and William the Conqueror start) but will disappear in a couple of months, like in history. Descended from the ancient Kings of Dumnonia, he starts with a wife, brother, daughter and some nephews. Apart from Ralph de Gael (Earl of Norfolk), he's the only Breton ruler left in Britain. You can't form the Duchy of Cornwall immediately, and although the King always can, he's far more likely to give it to one of his many kinsmen than you, but with luck and patience, you'll have your chance to usurp it sooner or later.
William Marshal, Earl of Dyfed, 1204 scenario or 1197 onwards The greatest knight who ever lived sits on an earl's throne in Wales. Bring him and his fledgeling dynasty greater glory still. Used in GOTW:
Acquire the 'True Christian Knight' modifier (with any player character)
Remain a vassal of the king/queen of England. Rebellion is forbidden.
Acquire 5000 prestige with one ruler
Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, 1225: Leader during the Barons' War against King Henry III, he became the de facto leader of England for a short time before his death in battle. Starting as a simple earl, making Simon's rise match that of history might be a challenge, but one worth a try.
Alan de Penthièvre, Count of York, 1 Jan. 1071: This is Alan Rufus, one of the richest men in history. Sadly, his wealth is not modelled in-game, but he's still an interesting historical figure.
King Æthelstan of England, 936: As the first king of a truly collected England, Æthelstan is very much in the prime of his power. But only a year later, historically speaking, he had to fight the coalition of the Kingdoms of Dublin, Alba and Strathclyde in the Battle of Brunanburh. His victory secured the new frontiers in the north, but if he had lost? Who can say what would have happened with the Isles if that had happened?
Jeanne Capet, Countess of Navarre, 1 January 1327 - Hundred Years' War Bookmark: An unmarried 16-year-old with a strong claim on the Duchy of Champagne and weak claims on the Kingdoms of Navarre and France, you are the second most senior living Capetian - preceded only by your uncle and liege, Charles IV. Denied the throne of France due to her sex and that of Navarre due to her mother's illicit bedchamber adventures, Jeanne's chances of inheriting either are slim. You will have to fight the Prince-Bishop of Reims for Champagne. Historically, after her uncle's death, Jeanne reclaimed Navarre, but never France itself. Play as her immediately after her uncle's death in 1328, and you'll find that she has become Queen of Navarre, and more importantly, remains unmarried. Once you start, there are several ways you can get started reclaiming France itself. One of them is a strategic marriage; several kings would gladly have you as their daughter-in-law, including your Catalan neighbour. If you start any later, you will find yourself with more of a challenge - the Kingdom of Navarre has passed to your husband, once again leaving Jeanne with only the County of Navarre, and depending on how late you start, you'll probably already have children. Whenever you start, be prepared to take advantage of the inevitable Hundred Years' War, one that could be brought on sooner by your masterful intrigue...
Acquire the titles once held by your paternal grandmother: the Kingdom of Navarre and the Duchy of Champagne.
Conquer all counties belonging de jure to Navarre and Champagne.
Press your claim on your paternal grandfather's realm - France itself!
Geoffrey Plantagenet, Duke of Anjou, 2 Jan. 1129: Play as the founder of the Plantagenet Dynasty and try to claim England from your small duchy! You can marry Matilda, the daughter of the still-living Henry I of England. This will give any children born to you a claim on the kingdom of England. If you play your cards right, Henry will die without a male heir, leaving the kingdom to Matilda, who is your wife. This means that your children will inherit England! You may want to consider starting the game on 24 Aug. 1129, Geoffrey's 16th birthday. The widow Princess Matilda is likely to marry someone else before you have a chance if you start the game months too early. Being a bastard is not an issue as far as marrying a widow princess is concerned.
Marie de Blois, Countess of Boulogne, 1160: At first glance, the youthful Marie seems like a minor French noblewoman. No, wait, she is Norman... and a princess! The Anarchy has ended leaving Marie's brothers dispossessed of their father Stephen's English crown, and her brothers have since both died childless. Marie is thus left with her father's county of Mortain, her mother's county of Boulogne, and a weak claim on England. She is 24 and childless but married to the son and heir of her liege, the Duke of Flanders, so arranging a quick end to the marriage is necessary. With Marie's second cousin Henry controlling all of England, a large part of France and most of Aquitaine, claiming your heritage will be very challenging. Very.
Philippe I Capet, King of France, 15 Sept. 1066: You are under-age, have a demesne of two, and have several vassals more powerful than you. The Duke of Flanders wants independence, the Duke of Normandy is waging a war for the English throne, your uncle, the Duke of Burgundy wants to become King of France himself, and the Dukes of Aquitaine and Toulouse are way more powerful than you. Can you repeat history and survive and prosper against all odds?
Jean I Capet, King of France, 15 Nov. 1316: Your dynasty is almost as weak as in 1066, but you don't have giga-vassals. However, you are surrounded by Castille, Aragon and the HRE. If you die and your uncle doesn't manage to have children, you have the Hundred Years' War. If not... there are only a few English counties left in southern France and you could have Brittany and Savoy easily. Sadly, the regency preceding his rule has been replaced by him living longer, so by beginning at the above date, you are not a posthumous newborn.
Guilhem VIII de Poitou, Duke of Aquitaine, 15 Sept. 1066: In 1066 the Duke of Aquitaine is the mightiest of the dukes beneath the King of France. If you can lead a successful campaign against the young King Philippe and free your realm from his vassalage, Aquitaine stands to raise itself to a mighty kingdom. From there, another series of wars with France to reclaim the rich Duchy of Toulouse and the reconquest of the once-Aquitainian Duchy of Barcelona will set you on the road to being one of the mightiest realms of Europe
Guilhem IX de Poitou, Duke of Aquitaine, 25 September 1086: You've played as a great conqueror, or three, and achieved greatness from nothing... so why not look into cultural achievements, instead? Duke Guilhem IX of Aquitaine is, while of some importance as a historical figure, better known for being the first recorded troubadour, with several of his works of bawdy Occitan poetry about love, sex and feudal politics - some of which are still hilarious - surviving to this day. Furthermore, he was a renowned womaniser, significantly involved in struggles for dominance within France in his efforts to take over other duchies, and alternately promoted and defied the Catholic Church. To top it all off, he was also a crusader in 1101, albeit an unsuccessful one - and Eleanor of Aquitaine's grandfather, to boot. History also records that he declined to kill an enemy bishop, quipping "I don't love you enough to send you to paradise!" What more is to be said, other than that his start as a powerful duke is not particularly difficult, and that you are free to take this great, womanising poet wherever you want into the history books. Maybe just try not to be quite as horrible to his wife as he was, this time.
Eudes II de Bourgogne, Duke of Burgundy, 1153: The former spouse of Louis VII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has helped the English king to inherit all of Aquitaine, practically 1/4 of France. Half of the de jure kingdom is now in the hands of the Plantagenets, and they also look at Toulouse with greed. As a loyal vassal of the good, but not so skilled Louis VII, help to defend the remaining French realm and reconquer the lands that rightfully belong to the Capets! Of course, after the French crown and lands are secured, you can stop being (or pretending to be) a loyal servant and take the crown for yourself.
Boudewijn V, Duke of Flanders, 15 Sept. 1066: The wealthiest provinces of France with the option to go HRE whenever you wish, one or two counties away from forming Frisia, and some fine relatives to boot.
Guilhelm IV de Toulouse, Duke of Toulouse, 15 Sept. 1066: A very interesting character that allows for very plausible switches into alternate history. Historically, the counts of Toulouse and the kings of Aragon were very close until the rise of the Montforts and the Albigensian crusade, when Simon de Montfort defeated the combined forces of Aragon and Toulouse at the battle of Muret. With a closely linked Aragon and Toulouse, you could potentially become the king of Aragon, and end up with a disunited Spain. There could be a Hispanic Portugal and Castile in the far west, and an Occitan Aragon that spreads along the Mediterranean coast from Provence in the east to Murcia in the west, and stretches from Sicily in the south to Gap or even Vienne in the north.
Raimond V de Toulouse, Duke of Toulouse, 1 Jan. 1187: With the Cathar heresy at its zenith, you can choose to crush it, or join it.
Herbert Karling, Count of Vermandois, 15 Sept. 1066: the last living descendant of Charlemagne and a count near Paris. Used in GOTW:
Reclaim the Holy Roman Empire or Francia, with respective De Jure territory based on the title you claim
Put at least 3 Karlings on the throne of the Papacy
Win 2 Papacy-Called Crusades
Have the following combination of traits on at least one of your rulers:
Genius, Quick, or Strong
Brilliant Strategist or Skilled Tactician
Defender, Unyielding, Organizer, or Experimental Leader
3 of the following: Chaste, Temperate, Charitable, Diligent, Patient, Kind, Humble
1 or none of the following: Lustful, Gluttonous, Greedy, Slothful, Wroth, Envious, Proud
Just, Honest, Brave, or Gregarious
No stat beneath 8
Hugues de Vermandois, Count of Vermandois, 1st April 1085: If the last direct male descendant of Charlemagne doesn't appeal to you, play as the husband of his sister and successor, Adèle. A son of the deceased King Henri of France, Hughes is the founder of the Capetian cadet branch of the House of Vermandois, which puts you in a very interesting position; you may be a mere count in northern France but you are the younger brother of the king, Philippe Capet. This, of course, grants you a strong claim on the kingship. With the Normans downstream from Paris, the Duke of Aquitaine controlling half the kingdom, and the house of Burgundy plotting to usurp the throne, will you stand by your Capetian brethren or aid their enemies and put a new dynasty on the throne of France?
Adelaide/Adele, Countess of Vermandois, 1080: She may look innocuous, but she happens to be the last surviving Karling. She's married to the heir to France and has a newborn daughter, so this is a difficult start. Restore the Karlings the hard way!
Eleanor de Poitou, 1140s-1173: Yes, that Eleanor (aka Aliaenor), a masterful political manipulator. You can play her as a minor countess (of Poitiers and Saintonge; you can do this starting in the 1140s). You can also start as her second husband, Henry II of England, in 1155 - give her the Duchy of Aquitaine (which she should have from age 13/15, but doesn't), then reload the world and switch to her. Make sure you annul her regular marriage as soon as you can so your game doesn't end when she dies.
Charles Capet, Count of La Marche and Lusignan, December 1314: Starting in the very first days of Louis X's reign, play as the youngest son of the glorious Philip IV, the Fair, and see how far you can reach. France? Navarre? Aquitaine(Louis will create this title as soon as he can)? Or just the timid county of Artois, which will be passed to your unfaithful wife at the death of the old Mahaut d'Artois? Can you repeat history, becoming Charles IV, or contradict it, keeping the Capets on the throne?
Guillaume, Duke of Toulouse, 769: You start as an 18-year-old duke of one of the best de jure duchies in the game, vassal to Karloman, King of Middle Francia. And your dynasty is named the Nibelunging, with three rings for your CoA (like the legendary Ring of the Nibelung). Your father is the Duke of Burgundy, and he is a very powerful man. When he dies you have a claim on the Duchy.
King Louis IV of West Francia, 936: Louis is among the last kings of the Karling dynasty. He was followed by Lothair, his eldest son, and later his grandson Louis V, which ended up as the final monarch of the dynasty. In our bookmark, King Louis is 15 years old and has recently returned from England to rule his homeland. Under his rule is the strongman Hugues the Great of the Capet dynasty, as well as unruly Occitans in the south and the newly settled Normans to the north. If he can only quell his vassals and their bids for power, West Francia is a strong base for the future of the dynasty.
Fergus of Galloway, Earl of Galloway, 1100: You start on a Scottish peninsula flanked by a strong Scotland and nearly unified England. With only 2 provinces, starting as a kid, with no family or vassals, relying on nothing but an unrelated minor regent with a giant intrigue and a plot to inherit your lands, it truly would be a challenge to not be gobbled into Scotland, or to even retain one's title once within it. Perhaps a suicide game but the relative instability of Scotland could give you a small window to seize power.
Ermesinde de Namur, Countess of Luxembourg, 1197-1247: The last of her dynasty (at least in-game), Ermesinde was 10 in 1197 when she began her rule as Countess of Luxembourg. She tried twice to press her claim on Namur, but failed both times; this claim is absent in the game, however. It also appears that her husband and ally might not be in the game either, so you can have her marry far above her social station and try to conquer some of the surrounding areas - if not more.
Friedrich II von Hohenstaufen, Kaiser of Holy Roman Empire, 5 Jul. 1212 - 12 Dec. 1250: One of the most ambitious and powerful of the Holy Roman Emperors, Friedrich best embodies the average CK2 player's drive to rule the world. He represented the pinnacle of House Hohenstaufen and had plots in nearly every corner of the world. He attempted to claim Jerusalem by marriage (and is married to the Queen of Jerusalem in the 1220s), warred against the pope, and very nearly turned the HRE into a proper nation-state.
Richard of Cornwall, Kaiser of Holy Roman Empire, 28 Jan. 1256 - 2 Apr. 1272: He is King (in-game Kaiser) of the Holy Roman Empire. And English...and a Plantagenet! A very special experience and starting point. He is emperor between 28 January 1256 and 2 April 1272.
Otto II von Nordheim, Duke of Bavaria, until 1070: create the Kingdom of Bavaria and take over eastern Europe.
Welf I Welf, Duke of Bavaria, 1 Jan. 1070 and 1079: the bastard son of Duke Alberto II Azzo d'Este of Lombardy, can you resurrect the old and powerful House of Welf (Guelph)? It's a fun game being an illegitimate bastard with a wife that has a claim on neighbouring Swabia. If you can pacify the Bavarian Lords and consolidate, you could potentially become the most powerful man in the Holy Roman Empire. Not to mention the weak claim you will receive when the old man Alberto Azzo II dies, and the impending succession crisis in Lombardy which means you can seize your moment and swallow Milan as well. Bringing glory back to the Welfs should be a fun undertaking.
Vratislav II Premyslid, Duke of Bohemia, 15 Sept. 1066: You have a better inheritance law than the other HRE dukes (Seniority's not as good as Elective, but it beats Gavelkind hands down), the County of Prague has more space for upgrade than most places, and you start the game with everything you need (except the gold and piety, obviously) to create the Duchy of Moravia and then the Kingdom of Bohemia. Also, with a little ruthlessness, you can connive for your son Bretislav to inherit the throne (and royal demesne!) of the Kingdom of Hungary; even if he doesn't hold on to the kingdom he has a decent chance of holding on to the duchies. Be warned that if you don't want to adopt German culture you may well need to make more use of the "spawn random aristocrat" buttons than might otherwise be the case.
Lothar-Udo II Udonen, Duke of Brandenburg, 15 Sept. 1066: You know the drill, obtain the black eagle and start rolling.
Pierre de Savoie, Duke of Savoy, 15 Sept. 1066: Reclaim the old Kingdom of Burgundy, destroy the HRE from the inside and then take on France in order to gain the Duchy of Burgundy, your rightful inheritance. Used for CK2 GOTW:
Form Burgundy with all de jure land
Reclaim the traditional Duchy of Burgundy, in France
Defeat French or German opponents in at least 8 wars with you as a primary participant.
Independence from the Holy Roman Empire
Add 3 duchies outside of de jure Burgundy to your nation, not counting the Duchy of Burgundy
Matilda di Canossa, Duchess of Tuscany, 15 Sept. 1066: A good grip on Italy at the beginning as the duchess of Tuscany, and a vassal of the HRE. It offers many possibilities and allows to learn the game mechanics safely within the HRE while recreating the Kingdom of Italy. Can you make Matilda the mother of an independent Italy, or will the Italian culture be obliterated by the Germans once and for all?
Gerhard Chatenois, Duke of Upper Lorraine, 15 Sept. 1066: Just a duchy title away from being able to create the Kingdom of Lotharingia.
Werner von Habsburg, Count of Basel, 15 Sept. 1066: rise from one county to rival the historical extent of Emperor Karl V's dominion over Europe.
Hendrik Reginar, Count of Brabant, 15 Sept. 1066: Beginning under a strong duke, it will take your full attention and resources to break away from your ducal liege. Once you're done, you can work towards creating your own Dutch Kingdom within or outside of the Empire.
Geraud de Geneve, Count of Geneve, 15 Sept. 1066: The score description is almost taunting. Can you do better by ruling more than your single county, or even by sticking to one? Moreover, it is an interesting character. He could have a claim on the kingdom of Burgundy through his great-grandfather Konrad III, king of Burgundy. Indeed, when the last independent king of Burgundy, Rudolf III, died childless in 1032, the title became vacant. The Ottonian dynasty, with Henri II, should have inherited the throne, but they became extinct before the kings of Burgundy. Hence, Eudes, count of Blois and Champagne, should have inherited but was defeated by emperor Conrad II who usurped the throne as the successor of Henri II. As the house of Blois has failed and is now too busy with French affairs, maybe it is time for Geraud to step up as the last local male descendant of King Konrad and reclaim what is his and restore the Burgundian nation from within?
Ota 'the Handsome' Premyslid, Count of Olomouc, 15 Sept. 1066: Who is this magnificently handsome man? Well, it's Ota, younger brother to the starting Duke of Bohemia. Sure, you start with one province in the corner of the realm, but with some luck, good assassinations and perhaps a small war or two, you can quickly take control of the Duchy, or Kingdom, of Bohemia! Not to mention, you're handsome!
Ezzelino III da Romano, Count of Verona, early 1200: Considered one of the most ruthless and cruel feudal rulers in all the Middle Ages. At the time, he was said to be the anti-Christ or the spawn of the devil. A crusade was issued against him. He once sentenced 10,000 citizens of Padua to death in a single day. He also enjoyed the mass use of torture, said to feel pleasure at the screams of people walled in alive, and he would often command kids to be blinded for his enjoyment. He was also a supporter of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the war between Guelphs and Ghibellines and married his daughter.
Here's a quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray about him:
"Ezzelin, whose melancholy could be cured only by the spectacle of death, and who had a passion for red blood, as other men have for red wine--the son of the Fiend, as was reported, and one who had cheated his father at dice when gambling with him for his own soul"
That's quite a reputation. Can you match it in true Crusader Kings style? Note: he currently starts as a Lord Mayor, so you'll have to make him playable first, one way or another.
Werner SalianNeeds to be verified in case he's supposed to be Werner V, Count of Pfalz, 867 Try to climb insurmountable odds and establish the Salian Dynasty as masters of the Holy Roman Empire. House Salian provided 4 Holy Roman Emperors, an immense task to be sure!
Ernst von Babenberg, Duke of Austria, 1066: He is in a weak position with a lot of potential; you can go in any direction. Each of the four counties in your duchy is held by a different house: Bavaria has Passau, Bohemia has Znojmo, Carinthia has Steiermark, and you hold only Österreich, the capital. With one or two carefully chosen alliances, you can beat Bavaria and Carinthia, and then, with most of the duchy under your control, maybe even challenge Bohemia—or expand eastwards into Croatia. For longer-term goals, you can form Bavaria, get elected Kaiser, launch an invasion of Hungary, or take Jerusalem in a crusade.
King Otto of Germany, 936: In many ways, Otto is the protagonist of the Iron Century bookmark. Having just been crowned King, Otto has quite the task ahead of himself in trying to put together the Holy Roman Empire and beat back the pagan encroaching from the east (Hungarians) and the north (Norse tribes). To the west, the vassal holding the Stem-Duchy of Lotharingia (Lorraine), Duke Giselbert, recently changed his allegiance to the young King Louis Karling of West Francia. Not to mention the tumultuous kingship of Italy, that will be needed to recreate the Holy Roman Empire.
Duke Boleslav (the Cruel) of Bohemia, 936: The Bohemian rose to the title of Duke through the fratricide of his brother (Good King) Wenceslaus. Though his rise to power was bloody, Boleslav ruled well and was known as an efficient administrator. Early in his rule he ended the tribute to the German king Otto and ended up in conflict with the Germans for the next 15-20 years. Boleslav is a tough start, as he is surrounded by pagans in every direction, be it with the Polish rulers to the north, Hungary to the south or the Kievan Rus to the far east.
Note that with the changes to raiding in 2.4, rulers of Hungarian culture can always raid (as long as they remain Hungarian).
Péter, King of Hungary, 1044-1046: You'll have to edit defines.txt to play as him. But why bother, you ask, aren't there loads of other Arpad kings to play as? Simple: Peter is no Arpad! No, he's Pietro Orseolo, son of Oddone Orseolo, Doge of Venice, who inherited the throne by lineage as Stephen I's nephew. In real life, Velencei Péter (Peter the Venetian, although for some reason, he's Hungarian in-game) was immensely unpopular, overthrown once (in-game his first reign is simply missing), regained the throne thanks to the Kaiser, to whom he swore fealty, before finally being captured and allegedly blinded by his successor, Andrew I. Perhaps you can steer this anomalous Venetian king to a more worthy destiny?
Salamon I Árpád, King of Hungary, 15 September 1066: Barely more than a century and a half ago, the Magyars were a nomadic tribe ravaging westwards through the steppes of Asia to flee from their more powerful neighbours. Now, the Kingdom of Hungary is poised to strike back at the Pechenegs and also has good opportunities to expand in Croatia and Poland, as well as Galich to the northeast. With a Princess of the Holy Roman Empire as your wife, you are backed by a mighty ally, just beware of the Byzantine Empire. The historical Árpád dynasty managed to add Croatia to its domains, but then was almost destroyed by the Mongols and only survived thanks to the death of the Great Khan - and due to constant infighting which only became worse after the Mongol invasion subsided, Hungary could barely hold itself together while the dynasty slowly headed towards extinction on the agnatic line, which finally happened in 1301. Can you do better?
János Báthory, Count of Szekelyföld, 1337: The first son of Briccius, founder of the House of Báthory, which would later become very prominent and influential in Hungarian history. It went on to produce several voivodes and princes of Transylvania, a King of Poland, and the infamous "Blood Countess", Elizabeth Bathory, along with some other top-level Hungarian nobles. A few of its scions were also members of the Order of the Dragon. In 1337 the family is not yet very prominent; claiming that destiny is up to you. It might be more interesting with mods that push the end date forward, at least if you like keeping to history, as the real high point of the family takes place after the Ottoman conquests.
King Árpád Zoltan of Hungary, 936: Not many years has passed since the Magyars descended from the steppes and into the basin, pushing out the Bulgarians and anyone else who stood in their path. However, now they are one of the few pagans left in the area, surrounded by the Germans to the west, Bohemians to the north and the Bulgarian Empire to the south. Led by the Árpád dynasty, it is time to find their destiny, be it as the raiders and conquerors of Europe, or (as they did historically) become one of the defenders of Christianity.
Sigfus, Count of Vestisland, 15 Sept. 1066: Let's face it: Vestisland is not what you would call "profitable". Iceland as a whole kind of lame at this time, made even worse by that old Duke. He sits complacently on the throne of the northernmost landmass in Europe, content while the world passes Iceland by. Though this is the age of Snorri, and the Christianisation of Iceland has been fairly thorough, the old tales boil his young blood. Yet he is limited, especially since Norway is keen to assert itself over his lands. Perhaps if you wrest control of the throne of Iceland from Sigfus' liege you could rekindle the Viking spirit which brought your people to the foreboding, jagged shores of the rime-coated island.
Domnall Ua Neill Naoigallaich, Earl of Oriel, 15 Sept. 1066: the starting earl of Oriel is an O'Neill Naoi-Gallach, descended from the legendary High King of Ireland Niall of the Nine Hostages (and, according to recent DNA studies, the male-line ancestor of around 20% of the population of Ireland today).
Murchad Ua Briain, Petty king of Munster, 15 Sept. 1066: the grandson of Brian Boru, the last High-King of Ireland, or at least, the last one to have controlled most of the island for more than a year. While listening to its funeral march, will you be able to walk the steps of your grandfather and unite Ireland once again to face the threats that are England and Norway to the Celts? And, who knows, it might lead to a Celtic Empire ruling all the British Islands and Brittany?
John de Courcy, Count of Ulster, Third Crusade start: his capital is the castle of Carrickfergus. He tried for independence from England - going as far as putting his face on coins. The English King put him down; now all that remains of his legacy is a shopping centre in Carrickfergus. John de Courcy was an Anglo-Norman knight who arrived in Ireland in 1176. From then until his expulsion in 1204, he conquered a considerable territory, endowed religious establishments, built abbeys for both the Benedictines and the Cistercians and built strongholds at Dundrum Castle in County Down and Carrickfergus Castle in County Antrim.
Gudrod Crovan, Duke of the Isles, 15 Sept. 1066: The advent of custom kingdoms has enabled you to form a Kingdom of the Isles. Can you do it? The Isles are an interesting start because they're Norwegian and independent but surrounded by Gaelic rulers and provinces. Swear allegiance to Scotland before you unpause; this will give you room to expand in both Ireland and Scotland without having to worry as much about being dogpiled by your enemies, otherwise, Scotland will always attack you over a de jure claim sooner or later. Alternatively, for those wanting a greater challenge, try to do all of this whilst remaining independent.
Louis II Karling, King of Italy, 867: As the eldest son of Lothair of Middle Francia (himself the eldest son of Emperor Louis the Pious), Louis II is the rightful successor to the entire Frankish Empire. At the moment, however, he's only the King of Italy: none of the other crowned heads of Europe are likely to let go of their titles without a fight. As a member of the Karling dynasty, you start as heir to at least one kingdom and highly placed on the succession to a number of others, so a few discreet assassinations and well-timed claim wars can eventually make you ruler of a good chunk of Western Europe, from which you can create either the Empire of Francia or the Holy Roman Empire, depending on what route you take. Or you could focus your ambitions southward to a territory outside your family's control and eventually crown yourself Emperor of Italia.
Liutbert von Babenberg, Count of Krain (in Verona), 867: Maybe someone could reverse the fate of the family five-hundred years later?
Lambert Guideschi, Duke of Spoleto, 867: Since the fall of the Roman Empire, Italy has been ruled by a succession of barbarians from the north. Your ancestors may have been among them, but you, at least, have Italianised. You are one of the most powerful of the weak King's vassals, and you have Carolingian blood in your veins, to boot. While the King may be able to call in his powerful family if you rise against him, you can fall back on your Jewish financiers and your colleagues who are just as hostile to their foreign King, including your brother-in-law in Tuscany. Or should you wish to avoid spoiling fair Italy with bloodshed, the King has two daughters almost ready to be wed. Either way, with the right factions at the right time, the king will be toppled easily, and the Lombards to the south will make easy pickings for you. From there, you can expand at your leisure, but you should be ever mindful of the Byzantines. Perhaps you can even demonstrate that the Italian Renaissance needs no input from heretical Greeks.
Godefroy I de Bouillon, King of Jerusalem, 15 Jul. 1099 - 1 Apr. 1100: Godfrey was the first leader of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, he refused to become king, believing that God was the true king of the kingdom of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, he can be played as the King. You should be able to avoid his untimely death and hopefully with a good deal of skill and luck set up a true lasting Kingdom.
Baudouin IV 'the Leper' d'Anjou, King of Jerusalem, 2 January 1177: You have just turned 16, but you are seriously sick and having a son would be a miracle. Even worse, the Kingdom of Jerusalem is surrounded by the most powerful Muslim state it ever struggled with, and the Byzantine Empire is the only local power strong enough to be a useful ally against Saladin. Not having an heir and being a leper will result in lack of support from your vassals (or maybe even rebellions), not to mention you can't let your sisters marry into other dynasties, because they will most likely inherit the throne after you. Try to achieve as much as you can, before your leprosy enters its terminal stage. In real life, Baudouin lasted 11 years as a king and 24 as a man, how long will you last? The historical Baudouin not only lasted as long as he did, but commanded respect from his subjects and Saladin's alike: one Muslim said of him "the leper child knows how to make his authority respected", and his followers have described him as maintaining a regal air, even as he died, horribly deformed. Can you match the greatness of this leper?
Baudouin I van Vlaanderen, Emperor of Latin Empire, 1205: A pious Catholic given an imperial title, you lord over a land of Orthodox Greeks who are, most likely, none too pleased by your rule, not to mention the Nicene (in-game Byzantine) Emperor Theodore Laskaris is much more powerful than you and has claims to all of your titles. Take this artificially constructed empire and turn it into a real presence on the world stage. You control the Imperial province itself and a good half of the Aegean Islands - oh, and a barony in far-off Belgium. In the real world, Baudouin died in a Bulgarian prison after provoking them to invade. Can you avoid this ignominious fate? As an Emperor, you're unable to swear fealty, so it's not going to be easy...
Johanna van Vlaanderen, Duchess of Flanders, 1205: A little girl who's controlling a Dutch duchy in France, she starts as a pretender of the Latin Empire, and if you are competent enough, you can control a Dutch empire if your father fails and you claim his title. She's 10 and you can build her traits as you like.
Theodore Branas, Count of Adrianopolis, 16 May 1204: Historically, Theodoros Branas was a military commander who rose to prominence in the 1190s under the incompetent Angelos dynasty. After Constantinople fell to the Fourth Crusade in May of 1204, he became the most prominent Byzantine noble to serve the Latin Empire. Indeed, in game, he is the only Greek Orthodox vassal of the Latins. The great-nephew of Emperor Manuel Komnenos, he became the lover of Anna (Agnes) Capet, sister of Philip the Great of France, and eventually married her at Latin Emperor Baldwin I's urging. He campaigned extensively against the Bulgarians on the Latin Empire's behalf, eventually disappearing from the historical record in 1219. Although you are not related to the Komnenoi in-game, you are married to Agnes (making Philip the Great your brother-in-law), and you have a strong claim on the duchy of Adrianopolis. You control two counties next to the de jure duchy of Thrace, but since the Nicene Emperor holds all of these titles, you can easily internally expand by gobbling up your single-county neighbors governed by Western impostors. There are more than a few options here: Become independent, swear fealty to the Nicene Empire and help recover the imperial city for the Laskaris dynasty; try to become a vassal of the other Byzantine successor states (Trebizond and Epirus); form your own, indpendent Byzantine successor state (Kingdom of Thrace?); or even try to take control of the Latin Empire from within.
Alfonso Jimena, King of Leon, 15 Sept. 1066: If deception is more your style, this is the Spanish leader you should play as. Alfonso starts with high intrigue and claims on the neighboring Christian kingdoms. If you can have your brother Sancho killed fast enough you'll become King of Leon and Castille and recreate the real Alfonso's rise to power. See León walkthrough.
Urraca Jimena, Countess of Zamora, 15 Sept. 1066: Is she interesting? Fun? No, and no. She is, however, the Kizdean Gix (EQ1) of CK2 - annoying beyond all reason, and is completely disproportionately powerful. If you play as the King of Leon, she's a nuisance you just can't get rid of (she's your sister, and so the sister of all the neighboring kings, there's no dealing with her). She's what the oubliette was made for.
Urraca, Queen of Leon and Castile (and Galicia), 1109-1126: This powerful queen claimed the title Empress of All Spain during her reign.
Mauregato, Count of Astorga, 769: You are the son of a king of Asturias, but also of a Moorish serf. You are consistently passed over for succession by the nobles, who look down at your corrupted breeding. You will be remembered by history as Mauregatus the Usurper, and your legacy will be eagerly swept aside on your death as the succession moves back to a more noble lineage. Can you outdo the real Mauregatus, leading this half-Moorish bastard son of a king to the crown of Asturias, securing his dynasty and bringing glory to your name?
Budivoj Nakonid, Count of Lübeck, 15 Sept. 1066: He is a Pomeranian Christian and the Count of Lübeck. If you play well, you have the chance to create the Kingdom of Pomerania as a Catholic Ruler (note: You still have to convert to a pagan religion to create the kingdom) You can try it as independent Count if you like it hard or you can become part of the Holy Roman Empire or Denmark.
Henrik Nakonid, Count of Lübeck, 1073: Your father Guthskalco was a Christian ruler of the Wends (in-game Duke of Mecklenburg), who was defeated and killed by the pagan chieftain Krutoj. Your half-brother Budivoj tried to reclaim your family's honor but was ambushed and murdered by Krutoj. You and your nephew, both children, are all that is left of the House of Nakonid. You're the only Christian Pomeranian ruler in the world, with access to their Light Cavalry retinues. Even many of your courtiers are pagans. Your county is pagan. Your neighbors are Denmark (who have a de jure claim on you from day 1), the HRE (who have a de jure claim on you as soon as the Duke of Saxony saves up the money to form the Duchy of Holstein), and your arch-enemy Krutoj (who, as pagan duke of Mecklenburg, could launch a conquest CB on you as soon as he has the piety). Your only assets? A strong claim on the Duchy of Mecklenburg (good luck pressing it before someone holy wars them to oblivion), a capital with plenty of empty slots but 0-0-0 tech, and whatever you can beg, steal or borrow. Oh, and the motivation to track down Krutoj and say "My name is Henrik Nakonid. You killed my father (also my brother). Prepare to die!"
Historically, Henrik was able to murder Krutoj with the help of Krutoj's wife, and then established a powerful Christian Wendish state. His sons, in true CK2 style, started fighting each other, and the whole thing fell apart; reverting to paganism and eventually getting hit with the Wendish Crusade. Can you do better?
Ramiro Jimena, Count of Nájera, 15 Sept. 1066: Nájera starts in a precarious position - the lone County serving King Antso IV in the middle of the boiling pot. You're a Castillian in a Basque province, which gives you interesting options. Firstly, you can ahistorically attempt to cultivate the Basque culture for their unique bonus of Absolute Cognatic succession. This not only allows daughter heirs over sons, useful if your daughters are better stateswomen but also allows you to title female courtiers - and clever use of marriage of influential male vassals with bad stats allows you to draw very, very useful stateswomen to your court. Alternatively, you can just attempt to take over with your Castillian culture - it's certainly much more widespread as you expand. While you don't have the King of Aragon's de jure claims for possible expansion, you do have a strong claim for your entire Kingdom! While this seems minor, Navarra has a de jure claim over Viscaya, and you can gobble up some territory against weak Muslim emirates nearby, and possibly claim a duchy to allow you to eventually take over Barcelona. A fun, difficult start with tons of options.
Antso VII "The Strong", King of Navarra, 27 June. 1194: Antso (Sancho) VII was an interesting person historically. Suffering from gigantism, he was a warrior of exceptional repute, being 2.2 meters tall when he passed away. In-game terms, you are merely a "tough soldier" when you start your career. Your realm is small but kingship gives you right of conquest to a large area of Spain. Can you repeat what Antso did historically and help to drive Muslims back to the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula?
Jeanne I de Blois, Queen of Navarre, 1274 or late 1285: She began her reign when she was 1 year old in 1274, and she was married (very young) in late 1285. Play as her when she's a child so you can marry as you wish, or play when she's married to the King of France in 1285 (you may have to seek a divorce).
Ælla/e, King of Northumbria, 867: There's kicking the hornet's nest, and then there's nuking whatever ungodly breeding pit Ragnarr Lodbrok and his sons crawled out of. Having invited the wrath of the Great Heathen Army on not only yourself but the other kingdoms of England too, it'll take a lot more than a snake pit simply to save yourself from being made into a blood eagle. Can you call the bluff of these glorified bandits and throw them back across the sea, or will the hordes of ravening pagans have their vengeance?
King Hakon (the Good) of Norway, 936: Young Hakon is 16 years old as he lands in Norway. Raised by King Æthelstan of England, he has now returned to his take up overlordship of his country. Not long ago his half-brother Erik Bloodaxe killed two of their other brothers and took control of the land, but he has recently been thrown out by the Norwegian Jarls. Still brooding in the north of Scotland with his army, he can still be seen as a threat to Hakon's rule, but he is not the most immediate one. As a Catholic, Hakon is certain to be in trouble as all his vassals follow the old ways, as does his pagan neighbours to the north and east.
Normandy, Duchy of (inc. William and vassals, but not other French vassals in Normandy)
Robert ('Curthose') de Normandie, 15 Sept. 1066: Begin at Stamford Bridge as a 12-year-old Count, eldest son and heir of William de Normandie. Already with a slew of negative traits, expect miserable diplomatic ability as an adult, and - whatever comes of the Norman Conquest - you will be constantly battling your two younger brothers, vying to remain the heir. Through careful marriage, you could form alliances with other families - but of course, the risk is choosing someone small enough to not be a threat, but big enough to be a help in any disputes with your brothers. In real life, his long-running discord with his brothers and father (three kings, no less!) was possibly the most significant factor in ending the de Normandie dynasty. He went to war against all three of his closest male relatives, every time his miserable people skills costing him the throne (and general unreliability as he was quite a lazy, entitled sod). Impulsive, begrudging, and proud, but with all the social graces of a chamber pot at high tide, he was eventually imprisoned by one of his brothers and died only a year before his youngest brother (King Henry I), ending the line of de Normandie forever. Robert was a front line warrior, better suited to the battles of arms than politics, and his fate showed this.
Boleslaw 'the Bold' Piast, King of Poland, 15 Sept. 1066: This start can go various ways. His realm has about 20 de jure provinces, made up of five duchies of varying power. You can expand anywhere you want.
Kazimierz III 'the Great' Piast, King of Poland, 1333: The only Polish king in history to both receive and keep the 'Great' nickname - can you make him worthy of it? Secure the borders to the West against the HRE and some Bohemians with claims, possibly fend off the Golden Horde, take on the Lithuanian pagans, and have the option to plot against the Teutonic Order and start a succession crisis that could land you the other half of the de jure Lithuanian kingdom. (Playing as Kazimierz's father Wladyslaw is also a fun setup; just start on the day of Kazimierz's birth 30 Apr 1310 to make sure you have that little genius.)
Leszek "the White" Piast, King of Poland, 1 Jan. 1206: Leszek 'the White' became King in this year. You can also play as his brother who is a child duke in 1195.
Duke of Polotsk, The Mongols bookmark: You start as a Lithuanian Catholic, with claims on the nearby Duchy of Lithuania. Your uncle holds that, and he's Orthodox. You can form Lithuania fairly easily, and then try to drive out the Germans/hold back the Mongols. Alternatively, swear fealty to the Mongols and destroy them from within.
Dukes of Pomerania, 1122 or 1136: Two start dates with a Pomeranian, Catholic ruler. You are independent, and the entire Pomeranian coast is still occupied by pagans (except your lands). If you are quick, you can grab the rest of the coast before the Germans/Poles/Scandinavians. Much easier now that the Kaiser doesn't have de jure claims.
Malcolm III Dunkeld, King of Scotland, 15 Sept. 1066: Start with just one county (and a Kingdom) and forge the reputation of the great 'Canmore' or 'Longneck' -referring quite personally to his leadership style. He is also considered the progenitor of a branch of the family that ruled Scotland until 1286. His wife was the beatified Saint Margaret so be nice (or not).
Margaret "the Maid" Yngling, Queen of Scotland, 1287-1290: an interesting character to play as, this young girl was the only heir to Alexander III, and as she, unfortunately, died at the age of 7 of sea-sickness on the voyage to Scotland from her native Norway, her death led to complete chaos that culminated in King Edward invading Scotland. In-game you can change this young girl's fate, and make her into a Queen worth remembering.
Robert de Brus, King of Scotland, 1296: Yep, that's him, Robert the Bruce. Can you too take advantage of Edward II to raise Scotland to new heights, and can you, unlike the Bruce, leave an heir who can continue the dynasty and cement Scotland as a power in Europe?
Gospatrick Dunbar, Duke of Lothian, 15 Sept. 1066: Gospatrick is a vassal of King Malcolm III and his realm straddles the Scottish Lowlands. You have numerous options here, such as backing one of the King's relatives as a pretender, attempting to take the throne yourself (quite possible via elective succession or a strong faction), expanding into Northumberland whilst England is in chaos, or simply remaining loyal to the Dunkelds and hoping to be rewarded for your efforts. All in all, a very interesting position. Used in GOTW:
Attain Kingdom of Scotland
Maintain a Celtic (Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Breton) culture.
Add the De Jure Duchies of Orkney and Northumberland to your realm.
Add 2 of the three Celtic De Jure kingdoms other than Scotland to your realm. Ireland, Brittany, Wales.
Ensure that Celts rule the British Isles in their entirety. Conquering England to achieve this goal is allowed.
Claim 3 of the following De Jure duchies: Normandy, Flanders, Slesvig, Sjaelland, Vestlandet, Ostlandet
Malsnectan a Muirebe, Duke of Moray, 15 Sept. 1066: last of the relatives of the infamous Macbeth. Can you retake the Scottish throne through murder and deceit, and can you, unlike Macbeth, keep it?
Somerled Somhairle, Earl of Søreyar/Argyll, 1 Jan. 1156: A Scottish vassal to a Norwegian Duke, in 1156 Somerled has taken half the Kingdom of the Isles from his brother-in-law and is poised to root the Norwegians out of Western Scotland. The historical Somerled was slain in the Battle of Renfrew in 1164. Some say he died in battle, others through treachery. Lead this ambitious man to an ahistorical and enduring reign in Scotland.
Sicily, Kingdom of (inc. Apulia, Sicily, Napoli, Capua, Salerno)
Lando IV di Aquino, Count of Capua, 1092 - Last Lombard prince in Italy. Try to expel the Hautevilles of the Kingdom of Sicily and recover the ancient lands that are under the domain of the Holy Roman Empire.
Constance, Queen of Sicily, 1190s (date?): The last of the old Norman dynasty and mother of Frederick II.
Robert I d'Hauteville, Duke of Apulia, 1066: Not as challenging as many starts, but the family is a popular choice. Croatia offers an expansion opportunity in the north. John Julius Norwich has written a great 2-volume history of the family. See Apulia walkthrough.
Albinia d'Hauteville, Countess of Lecce and Taranto, 1205: a 16-year-old widow (tough life, I guess, but he died a "natural death" at 41, so it might be a Nelson Rockefeller thing) if you start in 1205. Can you reclaim the Kingdom of Sicily for the family?
Bohemond d'Hauteville, ???, c. 1100: Your family are Norman adventurers who conquered southern Italy, and if the Alexiad speaks true, you're a pretty wily, scary man yourself. Your options for expansion are plentiful, you can swear fealty to the HRE if you're threatened, but why would you? Bohemond historically came close to defeating the great Alexios I Komnenos, so why should you achieve anything less? You can turn your minor principality/duchy into a great empire in a relatively short amount of time, you can return to your Viking roots and launch endless brutal naval raids on the Muslim populations of North Africa, or you can go after Byzantium if you want to succeed where the real Bohemond failed. And if you do swear fealty to the HRE, you can assassinate or conquer your way to the unification of Italy (Matilda of Tuscany being an especially appealing opportunity for peaceful expansion), you've got multiple opportunities to make alliances and inherit lands because you have so many eligible children and won't have to wait a generation to breed your way to a sizeable family, you can even follow in Bohemond's footsteps and establish the Principality of Antioch. What's not to like?
Manfred von Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily, 1258 The legitimised bastard son of Frederick II, who has inherited the Kingdom of Sicily from him (and the Papal enmity that comes with it). Playable from at least 1258. Will you establish colonies in Albania/Greece or just live the lush life with the hunting hawks? Will you crush the Italian Guelphs at Montaperti? It's up to you. IRL he was killed in Benevento, Campania in 1266, Charles triumphant.
Corradino (Konrad II) von Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily, 1254-1258, and Duke of Swabia, 1258 onwards: the rightful king of Sicily (1254-1258) until the usurpation of Manfred and the Guelph party, and later Duke of Swabia. He was something of a teenage superstar in Ghibelline Italy but was taken prisoner by Charles after Tagliacozzo in 1268. Will you content yourself with your German possessions and fight in Imperial politics or will you try to take back your rightful titles in Sicily? Or will your days as the 13th century Justin Bieber end as they did historically, on the receiving end of an executioner's axe in Naples?
Stenkil Stenkiling, King of Sweden, 15 Sept. 1066: Your northern vassals remain true to the old ways, while you and your southern vassals have adopted Christianity. Your half-brother Erik, commonly known as 'the Heathen' rivals you in power and ambition, and might make a move for the throne. Will you stay true to the One True Faith, or bow once more to Oðinn?
Lucia de Poitou, Countess of Tripoli, October 19, 1287: The last (Christian) ruler of Tripoli and sister of Bohemond VII. She is married to Narjot of Toucy, a rather useless baron. A hard start since the Mamluks are ready to pounce on the remaining Crusader states.
Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, Count of Valencia, 1 Jan. 1094: Yes, that's him, El Cid, Count of Valencia. With his spectacular martial skill, the nearby Muslim minors are easy prey, but the Almohads (and the Castilians) are dangerous neighbors.
Wales, Kingdom of (inc. Gwynedd, Deheubarth, Glamorgan, Gwent)
Rhodri 'the Great' Aberffraw, Petty King of Gwynedd, 867 Welsh Duke with 6 kids and 1 bastard, 0 prestige and 0 piety. But who knows, maybe you will be able to make him great? Oh. Nope. He already has 'the Great' nickname...maybe you could sire some more kids and place them on the various thrones? Oh. Nope. He's chaste...
Maredudd II Dinefwr, Duke of Deheubarth, 15 Sept. 1066: You and the only other member of the Dinefwr dynasty are both over 50 years old, but once you produce an heir, you can instead concentrate on reclaiming your other de jure lands. From there, unite Wales and then the British Isles through conquest, marriage or both. As of 1.09, your task is easier as you now have a junior branch of the family who can continue the Dinefwr quest for glory.
Bleddyn Mathrafal, Duke of Gwynedd, 15 Sept. 1066: You start with several children, a medium-sized duchy, and the ability to quickly form a kingdom. Unite Wales, defend against the English, and play the marriage game.
Llewellyn II "the Great" Aberffraw, Duke of Gwynedd, 1195: Historically, Llewellyn was the most successful of the Welsh princes who attempted to maintain sovereignty despite the Norman occupation. At the height of his power, he managed to control most of Wales and is one of only two Welsh rulers to ever be called 'Great'. Can you succeed where he did not, by forming a truly independent, Welsh Kingdom?
Llewellyn III "the Last" Aberffraw, Duke of Gwynedd, 1246: An even more difficult start for the Welsh enthusiast is Llewellyn the Last. In 1246, you are a 12-year-old child who has just inherited the Duchy of Gwynedd, surrounded by the English under Henry III. Do you have what it takes to avoid the historical Llewellyn's gruesome fate and embarrassing moniker?
Peter III Dukljanin, King of Bulgaria, 1072: Historically the famous enemy of the ERE, Constantine Bodin, he's a relative of the Serbian and Bulgarian dynasties that reigned over the Balkans before Basil II. You just have two provinces at the start (only one is in your demesne); the rest of your Kingdom is under the control of the ERE which also looks greedily on your lands. The Pechenegs, Hungarians and others will also prove difficult to deal with. In real life, Peter's kingdom survived only for a year before it was disestablished by the ERE. Good luck with uniting the Balkans and raising Bulgaria and Serbia to become world powers!
Kaloyan I Asen, King of Bulgaria, Latin Empire bookmark: He was a man with an axe to grind, and he habitually ground it into the Latin Empire and the Byzantines. This is the man who resurrected the Bulgarian Empire, although the game rightfully calls him king (although he requested an imperial title, Pope Innocent III thought King of Bulgaria and Wallachia was enough). If you wait until they are distracted you can press Kaloyan's claims on the Latin Empire's lands early and you have plenty of directions to expand into (if you don't want to limit yourself to slaying Romans). Kaloyan starts with a strange cultural dynamic as well, his Wallachian territory is ruled by a Tengrist Cuman, presumably to represent his Cuman general who eventually assassinated him. Used in CKII GOTW:
Destroy the Latin and Byzantine Empires
Unite all South Slavic cultured provinces under your banner
Convert to an Orthodox Heresy
Convert all provinces in your kingdom to your religion
Ivajlo Bardokva, King of Bulgaria, 1279: The legendary Ivajlo the Cabbage. He was an illiterate pig-herder who seized the Bulgarian Throne, and, for a brief time at least, held off the Byzantines and the Golden Horde. You start as the sole member of House Bardokva (which roughly translates as 'House Lettuce'). Your stats are poor, and you're surrounded by enemies. But your rank as King opens useful marriage alliances, and you're ideally positioned to capitalize on the woes of a weakening Byzantine Empire. Just make sure you treat your high-born wife a bit better than the real Ivajlo did.
Tsar Peter of the Bulgarian Empire, 936: Son of the first Emperor of Bulgaria, he is the heir to a strong legacy. To the south and east is the Byzantine Empire, the Bulgarians have a long history fraught with conflicts and interactions with them. To the north, the Hungarians have pushed into the Carpathian Basin, and taken huge chunks of land that used to be under Bulgarian rule. As an extra note here, the Bulgarian Empire is actually a DeJure Empire in the 936 start, spanning the Kingdoms of Bulgaria and Wallachia.
Alexios Komnenos, Basileus of the Byzantine Empire, 1081 (Alexiad start): Bring the Empire back from its defeat at the hands of the Seljuks - and who could be better suited to the task than the subject of the famed 'Alexiad'? See also: Roman Empire walkthrough.
Alexios IV Angelos, Basileus of Byzantine Empire, 18 July 1203 The man who destroyed the Eastern Roman Empire and led Constantinople to destruction. After his uncle, Alexios III seized the throne from his father Isaakios II, young Alexios was imprisoned, but later he managed to escape to the Holy Roman Empire. Years later, at the age of 20, he saw his chance - the Fourth Crusade was struggling with financial problems - the crusaders weren't able to pay Venice for ships to transport them to the Holy Land, so they were forced to seize the coastal city of Zara as payment for their debt. Alexios contacted the Doge and the crusaders in 1202 and promised them mountains of gold if they helped him become Emperor. Two years later, the crusaders were encamped near Constantinople's walls and Alexios IV, after completely emptying the treasury, refused to give the Latins any more gold. Deeply unpopular, he was soon deposed and imprisoned but not before that he severely deteriorated relations with the Westerners. In the end, the enraged crusaders looted Constantinople, committing an impressive array of atrocities in the process, and chose their own, Catholic claimant for the mantle of Roman Emperor, and the defeated Byzantine nobility scattered to form their own "Imperial" courts in the Empire's provincial cities. This was a disastrous blow from which the Empire never recovered: will you change the course of history and turn the reign of the worst Emperor Byzantium ever had into a time of peace and prosperity?
Andronikos I Komnenos, Basileus of the Byzantine Empire, 1183-1185 By all accounts a handsome and popular youth who alternately spent his early adulthood in hedonistic pleasure and military service, Andronikos was a lifelong womaniser, and his real-life exploits before finally ascending to the purple in his 50s were almost as outrageous as your average CK2 player's. This guy took as his mistresses first his niece, Eudokia (and was forced to leave Constantinople when her brothers tried to kill him) and later Theodora, the Queen dowager of Jerusalem and niece of his cousin, Emperor Manuel I. Together, Andronikos and Theodora spent much of the next decade gallivanting around the Middle East, running from Manuel's wrath, until Andronikos was finally forced to submit to Manuel and they were separated. After Manuel died, Andronikos sensed the weakness of the regency for Manuel's son, Alexios II, led by his unpopular Catholic mother, Maria of Antioch, and returned to Constantinople with imperial ambitions. His arrival was occasioned by a massacre of Latins which, depending on who you ask, he either failed to stop or instigated himself. He poisoned Alexios II's older half-sister and her husband, and eventually usurped the regency from Maria. Having neutralised all of Alexios' potential supporters, Andronikos then forced the boy to sign his own mother's death warrant, name him co-emperor, and had him strangled shortly after. His reign was marked by increasing paranoia culminating in the seemingly indiscriminate killing of aristocrats and ended with him being tortured and torn apart by an angry mob in the Hippodrome. Can you take this old rascal and turn his reign into the beginning of the next stage of the Komnenian Restoration, rather than its end?
Konstantinos Angelos, Strategos of Samos, 1108 Founder of the infamous Angelos dynasty, whose disastrous rule virtually destroyed the Byzantine Empire. Young commander of the Imperial Fleet from Philadelphia in Asia Minor, Konstantinos was handsome but of lowly origin. He married Theodora Komnenos, daughter of Alexios I Komnenos and had three sons: sebastokrator John, Alexios Angelos, famous for erecting a church in Nerezi, and Andronikos Angelos, whose son Isaakios deposed Andronikos Komnenos in 1185 and was proclaimed the Emperor, thus starting the brief and chaotic rule of the Angelos dynasty. Their calamitous rule between 1185 and 1204 led ultimately to the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, creation of Latin Empire and disintegration of Byzantium into several weak Greek states like the Despotate of Epirus and Empire of Trebizond. Every emperor of the Angelos dynasty was either deposed or killed and their reign is seen by historians today as the death knell of the Byzantine Empire. Will you change history and secure the prosperity of the Byzantium under the rule of Angelos dynasty?
Alusian, Strategos of Armenia, 1066 Son of the last ruler of the First Bulgarian Empire, Ivan Vladislav. Alusian rebelled in 1040 against the Byzantines in Bulgaria, together with his cousin Peter Delyan, but in the end, betrayed his kinsman by blinding him and defecting to the Byzantines. In return for his treachery, he was pardoned by the Emperor and rewarded with the title of magistros. He has a strong claim on the Kingdom of Bulgaria, so you can make it an independent country again. If you survive the Seljuk invasion of course.
Ioannes II Komnenos, Basileus of the Byzantine Empire, August 15, 1118: Son of the great Alexios Komnenos and the greatest of the Komnenoi. His reign saw a virtually non-stop campaign to reclaim what was lost at Manzikert, and along with his brilliant lieutenant John Axouchos, he succeeded, bringing the Komnenian Restoration to its height. Though overshadowed by his father and son, in no small part due to his jealous sister slamming him in the Alexiad, his 25-year reign was the most successful. Perhaps a player can outdo him?
Isaakios Komnenos, Strategos of Antioch, 1066: Try to start the Komnenian restoration before Manzikert.
Nikephoros Melissenos, Strategos of Athens, 1066: Historically, he seized Asia Minor and declared himself emperor before ultimately becoming a loyal servant to Alexios I Komnenos. In-game, he holds the County of Athens, which has some ridiculously high technology.
Leon I Pegonites, Strategos of Cyprus, 15 Sept. 1066: Starts with the duchy of Cyprus, split into the counties of Famagusta and Limassol. There are two or three single county Muslim leaders in nearby Syria and Jerusalem as targets for expansion, but mostly an opportunistic Strategos will be looking for the correct opportunity to strike against the Fatimid Sultanate, which will conquer many lands. You will often lose land without having any say about the matter as the Fatimids formulate claims to your hard-won counties. Your position as an island gives you good protection from any holy wars, and the protection of the Empire should ensure you last for a century at least (provided you're willing to stay loyal). Probably the most interesting thing about this start is that it is very difficult to quickly amass land. To combat the much more powerful leaders in this part of the world, you are forced to find ways to generate massive amounts of income relative to your stature so that you can afford to hire hosts of mercenaries, whilst building up your castles with the view of increasing your own (limited) levy. Good players will quickly find themselves in possession of 4 or 5 counties as the individual Muslim Sheikhs fall to them, but much of what you do will depend on your Emperor's own ability as a ruler. Weak Emperors will lose land very quickly to the Fatimids, which will leave you waiting for internal factionalism (possibly brought on by assassinations *hint hint*) in the Fatimid Sultanate to target weak sheikhs and emirs.
Nikephoros Palaiologos, Strategos of Epirus, 15 Sept. 1066: First playable ruler of the later famous Palaiologos dynasty that ruled the Byzantine Empire from the reconquest of Constantinople in 1261 up until its demise.
Béla Árpád, Strategos of Bosnia, 1165 - Note: Later becomes king of Hungary as Béla III
Radomir Kometopoulos, Count of Dorostotum, 15 Sept. 1066 or 1081: Another descendant of the last Bulgarian kings. He has a claim on the Duchy of Turnovo, is the heir of his brother - the count of Constantia - who has turned Greek, and is also an ally of the Strategos of Armenia. As a grandson of one of the last Bulgarian kings you start in both 1066 Scenario and 1081 with a claim on Turnovo, and brothers who are rulers in Karvuna. The obvious aim is to lead a rebellion against the Empire, as one of the few remaining Bulgarian characters in the game.
Gagik Bagrationi, Count of Lykandos, 15 Sept. 1066: The last Bagrationi king of Armenia, now dethroned and given a "pension" in Armenia Minor to live off for the rest of his days. Historically he and his two sons died because of intrigue and plots, but it is possible to reclaim your ancestral title. Also, your daughter is married to the king of Georgia.
Petros Tornikes, Count of Tortosa, 1066-1068: Other characters are for weaklings who want high stats or easy expansion opportunities. House Tornikes doesn't baby you with such things. It offers you the chance to play as an insignificant count at the utmost extremity of Christianity and the Byzantine Empire. Claw your to greatness with sheer determination for nothing will be given to you. When you finally raise your dynasty to the purple you will know that you earned it, damnit.
Leon Diogenes, Count of Monemvasia, 1086 - Note: Strong claim on Byzantine Empire
Eudokia Makrembolitissa, Basilissa of the Byzantine Empire, June-December 1067: The widow of Konstantinos X, serving as regent for her inept son, Michael VII. She has non-dynastic heirs, and she's 37 (in-game...she was 46 or so in real life) - get a better heir before it's too late!
Leon Phokas, Count of Seleukeia, 867: You are the founder of the Phokas Family and great-grandfather of Emperor Nikephoros II, who was a brilliant military leader and known as "the Pale Death of the Saracens". Starting as a count in Cilicia bordering many minor Muslim principalities, you have much more room for expansion than other Strategoi in the empire. Try to slowly build up your power base in Asia Minor and eventually seize the throne, and have a longer reign than Nikephoros II.
Nikephoros Bryennios, Strategos of Cibyrrhaeot, 1066: Historically, Nikephoros Bryennios was a prominent general who rebelled against Michael VII Doukas in 1077. He almost succeeded by defeating the army of Alexios Komnenos in Battle of Kalavrye, but the betrayal of Pecheneg mercenaries turned the tide of battle and his ambition was crushed at last. Can you change his fate and establish a new dynasty?
Basileus Romanos of the Byzantine Empire, 936: Romanos of the Lekapenos dynasty is the co-emperor of the Byzantine Empire, together with Konstantinos of the Makedon dynasty (he holds Nikomedeia and Herakleia), but he is the elder of the two and functionally the one calling the shots. Though the Byzantine Empire has been through a rough ride lately, they have recently come to a peace agreement with their northern neighbours in Bulgaria, and the Muslims are shattering at their southern and eastern fronts. With the rise of the many Shia and Sunni rulers (the Fatimids, the Buyids, the Sallarids, the Jannabids, the Hamdanids, the Ikhshidids, the Al-Thamalis etc) in the vacuum left by the weakened Abbasid Caliphate, the Byzantine Empire are poised to take back some of their ancient lands as their enemies are busy fighting one another.
Bagrat IV Bagrationi, King of Georgia, 15 Sept. 1066: Sandwiched between the three major powers of the ERE, Cumans and Seljuk Turks, fight your way out, taking opportunities when civil wars consume the larger states to grab land, then brace yourself for the inevitable Mongol invasion.
Tamar (Tamari) "the Great" Bagrationi, Queen of Georgia, 1184: She expanded Georgia, brought on a golden age, and is responsible for the creation of the Empire of Trebizond - try to outdo the real-life queen. Maybe take over...the nearby Seljuks? You may also be able to play as her daughter Rusudan between 1223 and 1245.
Alexander I Rurikovich, Duke of Kiev, 1247: Better known as Alexander Nevsky, Saint Alexander Nevsky. Undoubtedly one of the most important figures of Russian medieval history, Alexander successfully defended Novgorod from both the Swedes and the Teutonic Knights (the latter in the famous Battle of the Ice). Though a vassal to the Mongol invaders, his far-sighted policies and unlikely friendship with Sartaq Khan saw him made Grand Prince of Vladimir which helped create the foundations of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, and later Imperial Russia. Can you match such a great man? Or maybe surpass his deeds by claiming early independence as the ruler of the Rus?
Vaisvilkas, King of Lithuania, 1264: Son of Mindaugas, he truly embraced orthodox faith. Playing a ruler of a pagan realm caught in between the Catholic Teutonic Order and the Tengri Golden Horde, might not wisest of decisions. Would you convert to one of three or would you persist no matter what? In real life, Vaisvilkas couldn't handle the rule, abdicated and went into the monastery, but you can avoid such fate and keep Mindaugas dynasty ruling.
Svarnas, King of Lithuania, 1267: The guy to whom Vaisvilkas has abdicated, and son of Daniil (see below). Not only you are Orthodox king of a pagan realm, but you're also Russian king of Lithuania, and your neighbours are just as scary. However, you, as the son of Daniil, inherited claims on his old domain, and, with a bit of work, can become legitimate king of Ruthenia. Will you free those lands from Mongols ahead of the schedule?
Vseslav ('the Seer'), Duke of Polotsk, 15 Sept. 1066 Real Vseslav was not eligible to rule Kievan Rus, but that didn't stop him from trying. Can you do better and claim the throne when your duchy is not de jure Ruthenia? Used in CKII GOTW:
Remain Orthodox or Orthodox heretic
Form the de jure kingdoms of Lithuania and Ruthenia
Obtain the rank of Emperor. Any Empire-level title fulfils this requirement.
Ensure that an Orthodox or Orthodox heretic member of House Rurikovich other than yourself rules in four of the following kingdoms: Poland, Bohemia, Pomerania, Hungary, Wallachia, Bulgaria, Taurica, Serbia. Note: Unlike some previous challenges, the de jure territory is irrelevant. This challenge is asking for the king titles themselves. Also, these kings may be under you as Emperor.
Add all of the following de jure duchies to your realm: Uppland, Östergötland, Småland, Skåne, Sarkel
Sviatopolk Rurikovich, Count of Zaozerye, 15 Sept. 1066: It's tough to be a bastard. Your dad and uncles rule the lands of Kievan Rus, and you are stuck lording over a bunch of pagans in a county that never existed. To add insult to injury, your liege is your brother. Can you climb from the shores of the Onega to the throne of Kiev? Real Sviatopolk could.
Daniil Rurikovich, Grand Prince of Galich (1211) or Grand Prince of Volhynia (1220): While not reflected in the game, Daniil Rurikovich of Galicia-Volhynia was the first ruler to actually create the title of the Kingdom of Ruthenia (usually referred to as the "Kingdom of Rus" or "Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia"), later inherited by the Polish kings and Muscovite grand dukes. Starting his "rule" as a mere child, with his mother as the regent, Daniil and his brother Vasylko were quickly ousted by the scheming lords, while the realm of Galicia-Volhynia that Roman the Great built was lost. Living in exile in Hungary, it took many years for Rurikovich brothers to get back their rightful titles, with Daniil taking over Galich, while Vasylko remained his brother's vassal prince in Volhynia. Daniil swiftly became the most influential ruler in southern Ruthenia, even establishing control over the capital city of Kiev...only for the Mongols to come down on all Ruthenian principalities. Despite all odds under the Mongol yoke, Daniil balanced between the roles of both a vassal and an enemy of Batu Khan, defeating the hordes of Kuremsa and forging an alliance with the northern principalities, the Teutonic Order, the Hungarians and the Pope, which almost resulted in a full-blown crusade against the Golden Horde. Although never casting off the yoke completely, Daniil's realm still prospered, with the construction of new capital cities like Chelm and Lviv, the boost of trade, protected from the Mongol raiders, the expansion of borders on all fronts - all of that made the Kingdom of Ruthenia/Rus a regional powerhouse.
Remain Orthodox or become Catholic (paradoxically, Daniil embraced both ways of Christianity in his bid for the crown from the Pope, while staying true to the faith of his vassals)
Take control of the duchies of Galich, Lesser Poland, Ungvar, Volhynia, Grodno, Turov, Kiev and Moldau
Form the de jure Kingdom of Ruthenia
Depending on the starting date, either break free from or drive off the Mongols
Establish your dynasty or otherwise tie into one alliance the Kingdoms of Poland, Hungary, Wallachia and Lithuania
Yuriy, Grand Prince of Galich (1323): You are first Piast and the last independent ruler of Galich before it was inherited into Poland due to absence of heirs. With Piast dynasty dying off a couple of years later, can you change the fate and maybe even realize Daniils dreams?
Stefan Nemanjic, King of Serbia, 1196: First king of Serbia. There is a really interesting family dynamic. Because your father abdicated, he is still hanging around. You older brother wants to claim your title (historically, Stefan I gave the title to Stefan II rather than going by primogeniture, thus causing some drama). Also, Bulgaria is big, but the Byzantine Empire is falling apart to the south. There are a lot of internal and external vulnerabilities.
Uros IV "the Strong" Nemanjic, King of Serbia, 1337: Roflstomp anything in sight (with the weakest Christian Balkan country at game start), create a power-base in Thessaly, Bulgaria and Albania to snatch Croatia from Hungary, conquer Tsargrad and unlike the real Uros, raise a son who can keep your Serbian Empire.
Gregorios/Sergios Spartenos, Count of Neapolis, 867/15 Sept. 1066: You are an aging Greek Orthodox one-province count. In 867, you've got Lombards, Franks and Muslims to deal with, most of them more powerful than you, to say nothing of the fact that most of your sons are celibate. In 1066, it's Normans, the Pisans, the Genoese and Muslims. In both starts, the Pope (and Rome) is just two provinces away! But you know what? You can beat them all because THIS IS SPARTENOS! The easy way out, of course, is to swear fealty the ERE or whatever other powerful neighbors you can find, but why should you? There is immense satisfaction in becoming an independent Despot against all the odds.
Alexios Komnenos, Despot of Trebizond, 1 January 1205 - He and his brother David survived the coup that killed their grandfather, Emperor Andronikos I, by escaping to the court of Queen Tamari of Georgia, their aunt. Tamari helped them invade the Black Sea coast to create a buffer state for Georgia against the Sultanate of Rum, and for the brothers to use as a springboard to retake the Byzantine throne. Historically, Alexios and David were never able to definitively defeat their rivals.
Can you change history and make him the Emperor? And maybe start a second "Alexiad"? Or as a third option, you could create a stronger state than the old Byzantine Empire.
Alexios II Komnenos, Despot of Trebizond, 1321: Struggling to recreate that feeling of relentless existential dread that EU4 Trebizond provides? Look no further than 1321 Trebizond in CK2! Alexios "The Horribly Doomed" Komnenos has abysmal stats, no allies, resentful children, a capital that borders the Ilkhanate (which is at the height of its power), and 2 other provinces which border the Golden Horde (also near the height of its power); but don't worry, Trebizond is bordered by many hostile minor powers that will probably kill you first. Failure awaits!
Basileios Komnenos, Despot of Trebizond, 1332-1337: You're in a precarious position, to put it mildly. I'm not even talking about all the Muslims surrounding you, although obviously, you're going to want to deal with them, too. Trebizond has seen a lot of dynastic struggles lately, and they don't look likely to end just yet. You've got a bunch of illegitimate children, a resentful spurned wife from Constantinople (who is widely believed to have historically poisoned you in revenge and usurped Trebizond for a time), an uncle with a claim and a cousin to inherit it from him, and your only other legitimate relatives are your unmarried sisters. So many people with claims, your spymaster's going to be busy. And so many possible paths to take just within your lifetime. Will you divorce that jealous Palaiologos viper, marry your true love and legitimise her children? Try and please your wife instead, and father legitimate heirs? Or let your sister Anna inherit, and see if you can do better than this reluctant nun-queen did historically? If Anna does inherit, there's an ideal, if old, husband waiting for her in Montferrat: Demetrios, uncle of the Byzantine Emperor and a claimant in his own right. Something to keep in mind.
Theodora Komnenos, Queen of Trebizond, 1 January 1284: In history, she usurped the throne from her brother with the help of her uncle, David of Georgia. After a year, her brother once again seized power and locked her up in a monastery. Can you reverse history and place her on the throne of Constantinople that had been lost by her ancestors?
Ninoslav Kulinic, Duke of Bosnia, 1232: Ninoslav is a Bogomilist ruling other Bogomilists as a vassal of the Catholic king of Hungary and Croatia. The king will be eager to bring both Ninoslav and Bosnia into the fold, all the while underestimating his Croatian vassals' desire to break free from him. But the Catholic king is all that stands between Ninoslav and his aggressive Orthodox neighbours, Serbia and Bulgaria, who are even more keen to put an end to Bogomilism...and Bosnia. In real life, Ninoslav's decision to stand with his people and their faith meant that he faced a full-fledged crusade. Which of the two evils will you choose - loyalty to an untrustworthy Catholic liege or bitter war against Orthodox neighbours?
Sartag Borjigin, Khagan of the Golden Horde, 2 Jan. 1255: You are the one true believer in a sea of heretics, pagans, and schismatics. You are the one scholar and theologian in a family of warriors. The real Khagan Sartag lasted barely a year. Good luck.
Abaga Borjigin, Khagan of the Ilkhanate, 1 Jan. 1279: Starting in 1279 you can play as a Nestorian Ilkhanate khagan who has a surprising number of Nestorian vassals as well. Familial problems do, however, persist, and your son stays true to the Old Ways. With a large number of pissed off vassals, an ageing ruler, and a son who doesn't follow his religion, it'll make for an interesting playthrough.
Kitbuqa Noyan, High Chief of Aleppo, 1 Jan. 1260: You are left in charge of much of Northern Syria by your liege. Now, what path will you follow? Will you stay Nestorian or will you convert to your liege's religion? And then will you finish the Mamluks - or will they finish you?
Denha Yaballahah, Emir of Socotra, 867 - Unfortunately, keeping Nestorian Socotra independent for as long as the real Socotrans did will be difficult, to say the least. In-game, your duchy is titular, and Socotra itself is part of the Duchy of Sanaa, meaning the Muslims over on the peninsula don't just have a CB against you, they have a choice of CBs against you. Everyone on the mainland has a bigger demesne then you, so you'll have to pick your target carefully and stay on the offensive. If you can survive and grow in the early years, Socotra is effectively the crossroads of the East in CK2, so you can expand wherever you want, Africa, Arabia, India, Persia, all of the above...not to mention Nestorianism has possibly the most fun Christian religion as its heresy.
Emir Pakhom of Damietta 769: You control the only Coptic (Miaphysite) landed character in Egypt, You start with 2 counties, however to your right in the Sinai Peninsula none of the Sheiks (or Emir when the title is given) will be strong enough to repel your armies and is easy for the taking early game. The thing is, you start as a Christian character under the Abbasid Empire, and the only Christian landed character under the Sultanate of Egypt, this means that you’ll have virtually no allies and no aggression pacts with any of your neighbors at all early game since a Muslim won’t consider offers from infidels, that combined with the fact that the Sultan can revoke your titles at any point with no penalties makes this one of the hardest starts to the game. However as the descendant of the great native people of Egypt and as the only Miaphysite and Coptic Culture ruler around its practically your duty to restore the Egyptian Empire of oof and liberate your people from the Abbasids. From there it’s your playground to do with as you please, Retake the Middle Eastern And Sudanese land that Egypt controlled at its height, Or unite all the Miaphysite territories in Armenia and Nubia and Abyssinia and establish Miaphysitism as the true Christianity the possibilities are limitless!
King Zakharias of Makuria, 867: You rule what is easily the most powerful realm in Nubia, with lots of small counties and chiefdoms just waiting to be conquered, with good traits and a young son to match. If you can buy the Tulunids off long enough to take some of Nubia's coastal provinces, you might just be able to declare yourself a true king of all Nubia. From there, the world is your oyster. Reestablish Miaphysite power by invading Egypt? Form the Empire of Abyssinia? You can do anything from here. And all it takes is some money, cunning, and a little bit of luck!
Armenia, Kingdom of (inc. independent duchies and counties)
Nerseh, Duke of Derbent & Count Stepanos of Albania, 769: Your dynasty are descendants of the Arsacids and Sassanids, mighty dynasties which ruled the great antique empires of Persia. Now you are a vassal of a Bedouin Muslim in the mountains of Armenia. You are much stronger than him, and can gain independence easily, but can you survive when everywhere around you, there are hostile nations?
Levon II Rubenid, Duke of Armenia, Third Crusade scenario: You start with good stats, but that's it. You have a four-county duchy with two vassals, which are luckily both Armenian and Miaphysite, and are de jure part of the Byzantine Empire which will attempt to vassalize you. Your other neighbour is an unusually strong Sultanate of Rum which, guess what, desires your land and holds the majority of Armenia's de jure territory, which at this point has been almost completely resettled with Turks. To add insult to injury, the remaining half of Armenia is divided between Saladin and Tamari the Great, both rulers of countries at their apogee. And even if you manage to grow, the Mongols will be at your door soon. Your character is not married and you should remedy this as soon as possible, seeing how your heir is your inept sister and you're already 37. The weak county of Antioch could prove a good starting point for expansion (should the Turks not decide to assimilate you on day one) and you can destroy the Hashshashin before the Mongols come. The objective? Unite all the Armenians, including the ones living in Jerusalem, before 1453.
Levon IV Hetoumi, King of Armenia, Hundred Years' War scenario: Continuing what seems to be a proud Armenian tradition (see Duke Levon II), your heir is your mediocre sister. But this time you're 41 years old, married and inept, and you obtained the crown by killing your kin. You directly control all the land in the "kingdom" (a 3-county glorified duchy) and have de jure claims on everything from Anatolia to Azerbaijan...which is mostly occupied by weak Turkish Beyliks, but also by the strong Eretnid dynasty. Can you make a kingdom to rival the Armenian kingdoms of antiquity and replace the Byzantine Empire as the main Christian force in Asia Minor? Or will the Egyptians conquer your lands as in real life? They'll certainly try, as they'll often holy war you immediately, so don't be afraid to call on Catholic Trinacria, a fellow one-duchy kingdom and your only ally.
Queen Zabel (aka Isabella) of Armenia, 1219-1252: It's probably best to play this one while she's a child to avoid playing through either of her two lousy marriages.
Vahram Varajnuni, Duke of Antioch, 26 Aug. 1071: Another one of those fortune-seekers after the battle of Manzikert, known to the Byzantines as Philaretos Brachamios. You are an independent Armenian duke of Antioch. The Seljuks are to your east and north, that makes 3 counts to your south and 2 dukes to your west your only expansion options early on. You can alternatively play him before Manzikert when he is the Strategos of Mesopotamia under the ERE.
Grigor Pahlavuni, Count of Vaspurakan, 1066: If Byzantium survives the Seljuk invasion successfully (which is luck of the draw and in your position, you can't do much to influence it), the fun starts! Try to expand within the Empire and when you are ready, wait for an opportunity and then break free to establish the independent Kingdom of Armenia under the Miaphysite faith. Try to do so before Armenia is culturally and religiously assimilated into the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire! It will not be easy - it is hard to find allies as an Armenian Miaphysite, and if the Emperor doesn't like you, he can start revoking any ducal titles you may have without penalty.
Tamim Zirid, Sultan of Africa, 1066: Ifriqiya was the Zirids, the prize of their conversion to Sunni Islam and rebellion against the Fatimids. But it is theirs no longer. The Fatimids have bribed the Banu Hilal Bedouin tribes to invade your lands, and have succeeded in carving your domain into a series of Emirates each larger than the sliver of land that has remained under your rightful rule. To regain your birthright will take wise statesmanship, ruthless strategy, and an indomitable spirit. Succeed, and perhaps an entire continent will bear your name.
Anatolia, Kingdom of (including all independent states in area)
Umur I, Sultan of Aydin, 1336: You start with a single county on the western coast of Anatolia, with other Turkish rulers surrounding you, and the Christians to the west. Attempt to forge your realm in the Aegean Sea with holy wars against stronger Christian realms, to rival the nearby Ottomans in strength.
Al-Mu'tazz, Badshah of Abbasid (Arabian) Empire & Sunni Caliph, 867 Theoretically, Al-Mu'tazz should be the most powerful man in the Islamic world. But the youngest Caliph since the establishment of the institution is an indulgent wastrel; cruel, cynical, arbitrary, lustful and envious. He is beset by powerful vassals, ready to rebel, including his half-brothers Al-Muwaffak and Al-Mu'tamid. Historically, he was one of the Caliphs who ruled during the "Anarchy at Samarra" and his reign (and the reigns of his two predecessors) were marked by a tremendous loss of power by the Caliphs to regional emirs. Can you turn around the historical decline of the Caliphate? Alternatively, you can play as one of Al-Mu'tazz's arguably more deserving brothers, Al-Muwaffak or Al-Mu'tamid, and try to overthrow your corrupt ruler and claim the Caliphate for yourself. Note: May not be as easy as it looks.
Aarif Dofharid, Chief of Dhofar, 867 You start as an independent tribal chief on the shore of the Indian Ocean, and your neighbours, the tribe of Mahra, are ripe for conquest. That’s enough to form Hadrawmut and put you on a path to become the only merchant republic south of the Sinai, but beware: you’ll have to contend with the Abbasids, the Abyssinians, and potentially even the Pratiharans.
Caliph Ar-Radi of the Abbasid Caliphate, 936: In the two earliest bookmarks, the Abbasid Caliphate is an impenetrable powerhouse, but in 936 they have fallen apart to infighting and lost almost all their importance. As they are barely holding on to their old core lands around Baghdad, they are surrounded by threats who want to take control of the Caliphate and its lands. Ar-Radi is often seen as the last of the real Caliphs, but even his rule was cut short at the age of 31 in the year 940.
Ahmad ibn Umar ibn Shuayb ibn Umar al-Balluti, Emir of Crete, 936 Crete was conquered by exiles from Andalusia in 826, resulting in the Hafsid Emirate, until its reconquest by the Byzantine Empire in 961. During that time, it was a haven for Barbary pirates throughout the Mediterranean. The emirate mainly controlled the coast and the stronghold of Chandax (present-day Heraklion), so even though the ruling family is Berber and Sunni, the people are still Greek and Orthodox. At this date, you begin with extra event troops and ships to help you start. Can you keep the Byzantines at bay and establish a great pirate kingdom in some of the richest waters on the map?
Shajar al-Durr, Sultana of Egypt, 1 Jan. 1250: One of the few female Muslim rulers in the game, who is Armenian, for some reason. She is the widow of the last Ayyubid Sultan and she later married the first Mamluk Sultan. Since Muslims are not allowed to marry matrilineally, the most important thing to do is to somehow continue your bloodline, which will require conversion to some other religion, with Miaphysitism being the easiest option in Egypt.
Baibars, Sultan of Egypt, 24 Oct. 1260 - 30 Jun. 1277: The Turk who became a slave, the slave who became a general, the general who became a Sultan, the Sultan who brought down the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Baibars, thought to be a fair-skinned, blue-eyed Turk in life, was the Mamluk general who won the Battle of Ain Jalut, turning back the Mongol tide and showing, once and for all, that the Khans could be beaten. He then ascended to the Sultanate and continued his conquests against Armenia and the Crusader states, effectively ending the Catholic occupation of the Holy Land. In-game, Egypt is a powerhouse, headed by a strong, ambitious, brilliant strategist in the latter half of the prime of his life. It's an easy game, but a fun romp. And dominating the map as Baibars makes a little more sense than doing so as the Fatimids.
Saladin, Emir of Alexandria, 18 Jan. 1169: The famed Kurdish general and leader of Egyptian forces during the Third Crusade.
Al-Ikhshid of the Ikhshidid Dynasty, 936: In the Iron Century bookmark, Al-Ikhshid has recently been granted the governorship of Egypt. He is a Sunni Sultan holding Egypt and huge parts of Syria, with tributaries to his north, south-east and south. He is bordering the Fatimids in the west, and the Jannabid Qarmatians to the east. In many ways, Al-Ikhshid and his dynasty is one of the powerhouses in at this start date, and will most likely play an important role. Historically speaking the Ikhshidid dynasty held Egypt for about 35 years, until they were invaded by the Fatimids who made it the capital of their newly founded Caliphate.
Anushtegin, 1 Jan. 1077: A founder of Khwarazmian Empire, you are a vassal of mighty Seljuk, starting with 2 de jure claim at north Turkestan. As Historically your power should grow even more powerful than your liege, Sultan of the Great Seljuk.
Ala ad-Din, 1 Mar. 1172: Anushtegin's descendants of the Khwarazmian Empire. Khwarazmid is now independent with the declining of the Seljuk Empire.
Mansa Musa, Mansa of Mali, 1 Jan. 1312: Considered by many to be the wealthiest person ever. Before death, Musa amassed an estimated $400 billion from Mali's status as the producer of half of the world's gold and salt. He has nowhere near that sum in-game, but what's to stop you from making up the difference for him?
Tunka Cisse, Emir of Ghana, 1066: Neither you nor your family has great stats or a great starting position. However, you are easily in the best position to form the kingdom of Mali, and if you can slowly dismantle the Almoravids to the north, you may yet become a presence on the world stage. Not to mention that they are the only neighbor you have, meaning that if you keep good relations, you can build in peace.
Yusuf I Almoravid, Emir of Marrakech, 15 Sept. 1066: El Cid's Moorish arch-enemy from many Reconquista stories. You start with all the riches of the Almoravid Sultanate in your hands, can easily acquire the crown by plotting, and have claims on all your Maghrebi neighbours. You can then expand North into al-Andalus, as Yusuf did historically. With the Almoravids' resources, completing the conquest of Spain or even breaching into Europe proper isn't much of a challenge, but he is a good choice of a character for less experienced players.
Sultan of Ottomans, 1299 or HYW bookmark: they show up in 1299 in Ankara but the 100 years war bookmark gives them better odds since the Byzantines are in a shambles. Can you conquer Anatolia, Greece, and most importantly the Imperial city before the game ends in 1453?
Satrap Vushmgir Ziyarid of Tabaristan, 936: your brother was the last Zoroastrian ruler of note in Persia, who was determined to crush the Abbasid Caliphate and restore Sassanid Empire. His successful reign ended when his Turkish slaves murdered him. Now Persia is fractured, with different dynasties competing for the rulership of Eranshar. Will you continue your brothers legacy and attempt to restore Persia to its original faith?
Raziyya Ghulam, Khatun of Rajasthan, 20 Nov. 1236: For the hat-trick of female Muslim rulers, why not try the one and only Muslim woman to rule in India? In real-life Raziyya Sultan (she insisted on the masculine title and generally dressed and ruled as a man) was the chosen heir of her father, but had to defend her Sultanate of Delhi against first her brother, then a childhood friend, then another brother. In-game, the only real hurdle is distributing the 50 holdings she starts with and how unwilling you are to allow her incompetent brothers to inherit after her. Survive the early years, and all of India is your oyster.
Ertugrul Ghazi, Bey of Ankara, 1266: the father of Osman Ghazi (founder of the Ottoman dynasty) lives as a vassal of Rum in 1266, he is the Bey of Ankara.
Chaka, Emir of Smyrna, 1081-91: one of the quasi-independent (a vassal of Rum in-game) Turkish rulers that gained land in Asia Minor after the battle of Manzikert and the Turkish invasion of Anatolia. He was one of the most interesting Turkish characters during that time. Before 1081 he was raised in Constantinople, after being captured as a war prisoner by the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates during some Byzantine campaign against the Turks in Asia Minor. He was even granted the title of protonobilissimos and served as one of the soldiers under Byzantine command. When Alexios I Komnenos took the Imperial throne, Chaka was stripped of all of his titles. Then he left the ERE and travelled back to Asia Minor, where he managed to take control of Smyrna, and conquer a sizeable territory, mostly on the west coast of Asia Minor. He was the first Turk to create a navy and engage in naval warfare (building ships in the ports of Smyrna and Ephesos, with the help of the Christians of those cities) and became a threat to Byzantine islands and offshore provinces. For the first time in many years, the Aegean Sea wasn't safe for the Byzantines.
Kayqubad I, Sultan of Rum, 01 Jan 1220: Play as Kayqubad the Great, as weakened Seljuk dynasty can you control Anatolia, and hold incoming the Mongol horde?
Kilij Arslan III, Sultan of Rum, 16 May 1204: The Byzantine Empire has just shattered into numerous successor-states following the Fourth Crusade. Can you maneuver through the newly emerged political situation to complete the Turkish conquest of Anatolia? Or perhaps, more ambitiously, enact the full Ottoman conquests a good century before the Ottomans?
Aba-al-Mu'min Almohad, Emir of Tlemcen, 1 Jan. 1145: Two decades of Almohad revolt, at last, begin to bear fruit. You are the chosen successor of El-Mahdi; destined to a Caliphate but an Emir for now. The Almoravid Sultans in the west continue to cling to power they do not deserve. Take advantage of the divided and weak Emirs to your east or take the fight directly to the murderers of Ibn Tumart, but move quickly. The end is coming.
Fariburz Kesranid, Satrap of Shirvan, 1066: The Kesranids controlled their small and culturally prosperous Shahdom (Satrapy in-game) in what is now Azerbaijan for the duration of CK2, outliving the Seljuks and only being annexed by the Safavids 100 years into the timeframe of EUIV. They are available as the Yazidids in the Old Gods and Charlemagne bookmarks but are most interesting after 1066, by which time the Bedouin governors of Shirvan have become Persianised and started to glorify the pre-Islamic Persian past, tying it to their dynasty. The immediate goal is to be as much as a survivor as the real Kesranids and cling on against Seljuk and Christian onslaughts, but the long-term ambition is for this originally Arabian dynasty to supplant the Seljuks and create a truly Persian Persian Empire in its place.
Sharaf al-Din, Chief of Sinjar, 1 Jan. 1254: The sole Yazidi ruler under the Ilkhanate. Religious tolerance under the Khans have allowed you to establish a place for your people, but the same cannot be expected from your fellow vassals. At least you have a tough soldier's education. Your dynasty will hold Sinjar until 1283, with the last scion of your name Atabeg surviving as a courter until 1289. Can you cast off your timidity and secure a more resilient place in the world for the Yazidi Kurds?
Caliph al-Qaim, 936: Only two years have passed since al-Qaim took up the position of Caliph after the death of his father, the legendary al-Mahdi who carved out a nation at the shores of North Africa. With the weak Abbasid Caliphate having been shattered these last decades, the Fatimids are trying to take on their rightful positions as overlords of the Muslim world, but not all their vassals are as fond of them as they might think. Only a few years after our start Abu Yazid would start a revolt that would plunge the newly founded Caliphate into a crisis that almost broke it apart. And in the east, a new threat arises in the form of Al-Ikhshid, the newly appointed governor of Egypt who is ready to support the Abbasids.
Hussayn ibn Ahmed Fatimid, Emir of Damascus, 1 Jan. 867: It is not safe being an adherent of the Shi'at Ali (Party of Ali) at this time. You are currently a vassal under the Sunni Caliph Al- Mu'tazz, and also surrounded by other Sunni powers. Hussayn claims direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad himself, through the line of the Prophet's daughter Fatima and Ali ibn Abu Talib. The blood of the great Shia martyr Husayn ibn Ali flows through your veins as distant kin. How long will you let Al-Mu'tazz and the other pretenders usurp the Muslim community? It is time to unite the people once more under the family of the Prophet.
Safi-ad-din Safavid, Count of Gilan, 1325: Centuries from now, your dynasty is destined to rise as the leaders of a reborn Persia, destined to claim much of its former glory. For now, though, you are the ruler of a small territory under the heavy rule of the Mongol invaders. Can you move carefully enough to build your power under the nose of the Khan and eventually claim your rightful place as the ruler of Persia?
Dodo Soomra, Maharaja of Soomra, 01 Jan. 1068: was a ruler of Sindh. He was of Soomro Rajput origin. The Soomra dynasty ruled out the province of Sindh from 1024 to 1351. Their 1st ruler is named Al Khafif.
Muhammed Nabhanid, Emir of Oman, 1 Jan. 1154: Sixty-four is rather old for a Bedouin rebel. Perhaps it is good that you no longer are one. The Seljuks have at last surrendered all of Oman to you, but with a lone son still not of age you might not be able to make too much of it. Should your line survive the attentions of the equally large Emirates on either side of you, the Sultanate of Arabia is a natural goal. Even then the Sunnis surrounding you should make for a tense and eventful game.
Qarin Bavandid, Bey of Tabaristan, 15 Sept. 1066: One of the few landed Persians at the start of the game, and a member of the Bavandid dynasty, a cadet branch of the Sassanids of old. Try to usurp the Shahdom of Persia and convert it to Shia a few centuries early, or go for a long-overdue restoration of Zoroastrianism. His descendants hold Tabaristan until the end of the game, so you can go with any of them.
Muhammad Kalbid, Emir of Sicily, 15 Sept. 1066: You're surrounded by infidels, but if you fend off the Sunni and conquer the Catholics then you can establish your Sultanate of Sicily right on the pope's doorstep.
Ishaq Ishaqid, Sheikh of Baalbek, 15 Sept. 1066: The northernmost vassalize of the Fatimid caliphate, and adherent of the Druze heresy (and one of the few rulers that is a Muslim heretic), playing him would be interesting, to say the least...
Abu Tahir Al Jannabi, Emir of the Jannabid Empire, 7, Aug. 936: A new addition in the Iron Century Update, an adherent of the Qarmatian Heresy, (Shiite with Zoroastrian Elements) in Bahrayn (Eastern Arabia), in 930 he notoriously led the sacking of Mecca, desecrating Islam's most sacred sites and stealing the Black Stone. He died a normal death in 944, and his Empire would remain a great power in Arabia until their defeat by the Abbasids in 976. The Qarmatians would last until 1067 when they'd finally collapsed.
Emir Aflah Rustamid, 867. You are the Emir of Tlemcen and Alger, a Berber ruling over castles that don't even have a proper wall, let alone buildings, over a people half catholic and half heretic. You are an adherent of a Muslim sect that predates the Shia-Sunni schism, and represent the group of them that fled to North Africa. Your neighbours are the Sunni Aghlabid sultans of Africa to the East, the Shia Idrisid sultans of Mauretania, and to the North just across the sea, the Umayyads and Catholic Aquitaine. All of the above are more powerful than you, and they can all declare Holy War on you...
In the hands of the AI, this is usually the first realm and religion to die. Can you do better? Can you claim Mecca and Medina for your creed and establish your Caliphate?
Chief Tilankan Massufa, 1066 and 1081. Starting as a ruler of kharijite berberan tribe in Sahara you are the only kharijite ruler in the whole world. In 1066 start, even ibady rulers are absent. Your family possesions are Araouane and Taghaza tribe provinces, and your liege is extremely powerful Almoravid ruler of Maghreb who considers you tribal heretic, and so can take away all your titles without penalties. Funny picture, right? It usually ends the same: loss of titles and game over. But as a player you can change this all!
At the 1066 start you have 2 important boons. Control over trade post in Taghaza will give your tribe extra money and money means mercenaries. Also your sister is wife of Almoravid sultan Abu Bakr, so while she or he are alive you have Non-Aggression pact with your suzerain. But it don't last long, Yusuf Almoravid - your liege's cousin is extremely powerful, and ussualy he take the Maghreban throne. But you have some time to prevent your future problems: you can enter into betrothal with Yusuf's family, and thas prolong your Non-Aggression pact with Almoravid ruler, or you can try to kill Yusuf, and so keep the throne for your sister and her family, and also, you can change your primary title from Araouane to Taghaza. Taghaza is de-jure posession of emirate of Sijilmasa, and soon Almoravid ruler will make you a vassal of more less poverful suzerain, which is really possible to defeat on the battlefield.
Suppose that you secure your possessions. Then kharijite leader of Sahara have two main perspectives. You can move on the North, collecting and consolidating your demesne in attempt to overthrow Almoravid rule in Maghreb, and establish a truly righteous kharijite power in the region.
Or you can move on the South, there pagan tribes awaiting their conversion to the true faith, and gold mines of Mali are waiting for its real owner. So the capture of the trans-Sahara trade ways and creating powerful kharijite base on the South can also be a solution. Gold mines are able to give extraordinary wealth to its owner and open the way to the broadest conquests.
You also can go both of this ways, but be careful. Almoravids will not calmly watch how you push them away from power and resources.
And do not forget about the importance of alliances. Conqest of the South by ally forces is pleasant and very convenient. Whichever way you choose, bring the kharijites to triumph and perhaps one day you will be able to lead the Caliphate, as do I in my game.
Dyre "the Stranger", Petty King of Konugarðr (Kiev), 1st January 867: As a Norse petty king, your targets for raiding are limited as you have no ports for your 30 event-spawned ships to head into, however when you do get a port, Crete, Cherson and Cyprus will make easy pickings. You have a son, a wife with high intrigue and you are a genius. But the vast lands of Russia and the Crimea (especially after the Magyars settle) are open for conquest, and there are many paths you could take.
Hrodulfr Akra, Count of Ostfriesland, 867: You are the only Pagan vassal in the kingdom of Lotharingia. Your uncle, Hrorekr is, as the Duke of Holland, your liege. Hrorekr has betrayed The Old Gods already and is Catholic. They call you the black sheep of the family. Can you show them what you are worth?
Rurik, Petty King of Holmgarðr (Novgorod), 1st January 867: Play the famed Varangian chieftain Rurik, and begin your journey to unite the Slavic lands of Rus under your dynasty. As a grounded Norse, your targets for raiding are hopelessly limited, and your son and heir has fallen sway to the Perun worshippers. But the vast lands of Russia and the Baltic are open for conquest, and there are many paths you could take. Will your dynasty stay true to your Nordic roots and unite your homeland, or will you or your descendants fall sway to the preachings of the Perun worshippers or even the Christ-God of Miklagarðr?
Erik III "the Heathen" af Munsö, Jarl of Uppsala, 15 Sept. 1066: Starts with a claim on the Swedish throne and about half the kingdom as his vassals, so can usurp the throne with a little luck. Can you reconquer Scandinavia for Odin and Thor, or will you succumb to the Christian tides?
Rikulfr Ulfing, Chief of Austergautland, 867 - Note: Not Beowulf's dynasty, but a member of a dynasty who makes an appearance in the saga. Still, one of the only two Geatish dynasties in the game (along with House Gautske).
Arnfast Frille, Chief of Västerbotten, 1 Jan. 1270: You're a small Germanic Chief ruling over Catholics and flanked by Swedes in the south, and Suomenusko Finns in the North. You also happen to be the last Germanic ruler on the planet, can you restore the old gods to Scandinavia?
Haraldr Fairhair, Jarl of Ostlandet, 1st January 867: Play as Harald Fairhair Jarl of Ostlandet, he is considered to be the man who unified the Kingdoms of Norway into one. Take the challenge yourself and see if you can follow the sagas of the Norse king who would not shave his hair until he ruled over Norway.
Mindaugas Gediminaitis, High Chief of Lithuania (Duchy), 1 May 1241 (Rise of the Hansa bookmark) Note: Frequent religion switcher, but Romuva in this bookmark. The first king of Lithuania. Murdered by his kinsman. Can you survive with enemies all around you?
In-game, he's quite possibly the strongest Romuva character until Lithuania becomes a kingdom. Ownership of five provinces is nothing to laugh at when you have warrior cult, and neighboring Pomeralia is ripe for the taking. On the other hand, you have a dangerous neighbor in the Holy Roman Empire and will likely border Denmark and Poland too before long, and if you get too big the Pope might call a crusade. Can you survive long enough to unify the pagans and their enormous warrior cults, form Pomerania (or Wends in CK2+) and resist the Northern Crusades?
Piast, High Chief of Greater Poland, 867: The semi-legendary founder of the Polish state. Consolidate the Polish and Pomeranian tribes and then take the battle to the Romuva Balts to the east to form the Wendish Empire. Will you Christianize your people, or unite all the Slavs under a reformed pagan faith?
Dobrova Turov, High Chieftess of Kiev, 769: This character wasn't historical, but she is a pretty hard start, although she can marry matrilineally. Any expansion will probably be tough, as your levies are smaller than virtually all of your neighbors'. As a side note, her chancellor begins as a Strong Beautiful Genius and is unmarried, making him a prime target for marriage even though he is Lowborn.
Krutoj Wizlawid, High Chief of Mecklenburg, 1066: Usurped the throne after the last king (who starts in Lubeck) converted to Christianity. Historically avoided Christianity for his 27-year rule, until he was assassinated, and his state itself went back and forth between Christianity and paganism for nearly a century until being firmly Christianized and vassalized by larger realms. In-game, the ruler of Mecklenburg and Lubeck can form the Hansa and play as a merchant republic, the only Feudal ruler to normally be able to do so.
Swietopelk II Gryfita, High Chief of Pomerania, 1106: A ruler who is both a first and a last: the first ruler of the Gryfita dynasty (aka Gryf or the "House of Griffins"), a dynasty in real life that'd rule Pomerania for the rest of the Middle Ages and go on to have the first king of the Kalmar Union. He is also, however, the last Slavic pagan ruler of the Duchy of Pomerania, and in 1106 one of only two playable Slavic pagan rulers left in the world. You have a paltry three counties, and three sons ready to split that realm amongst themselves. To the east are the Lithuanian tribes, to the south a powerful and unified Catholic Poland, the north the Baltic Sea (and more Catholic kingdoms), and to the west you have the only other surviving Slavic ruler (the three-county Chief of Dymin), the now Christian Tribe of Obotrites, and most terrifyingly of all the Holy Roman Empire. Do you follow history and accept Christ, and perhaps seek the HRE's protection against the large, hungry states that surround you? Or do you defy the Christians on the doorstep of their most powerful empire and fan the last smouldering embers of Slavic paganism?
Nalka Läänemaa, High Chief of Livonia, 867: Might be cool. Have a solid plan to consolidate your power or you'll be soon forced to contend with stronger rivals both to the East and South and even to the West across the sea. Will you unite the lands of Finland and become the true King of the North? Or will you find yourself lured into the endless power-struggles of the Norse-ruled East and make a bid for dominance? Will you perhaps subjugate the potentially rich coast of the Baltic and eradicate the false-pagans of Lithuania? Or are you going to carry out the Will of God and save your people from eternal damnation and join the Kaiser and his Schwertbrüder in His noble quest to bring Light to these darkest reaches of the World? Or perhaps the promise of bountiful gold instead of naive ideals will bring you to control the trade of the Western Sea and beyond? As Livonia stands at the crossroads between East and West on the edge of the North, so will you have many paths to walk down and claim your destiny from. Choose wisely and don't forget to bang your attractive genius cousin on the way to glory.
Chief Varaka Kask, Chief of Saaremaa, 1066: A difficult start. You start with no one in your family except you. A great start for those that like to establish their unique dynasty. Your first objective is to seize control of the High Chiefdom of Livonia. From there you can decide between two paths. You can push upwards and conquer your de jure lands that make up the Kingdom of Finland, or you can push south and bend the Romuvans, Russians, and Khans to their knees so that you establish an Estonian Russia. Either way, there are many difficulties you shall face. If you choose Finland, be warned that the Christian Norse Kingdoms shall not be pleased with your expansion. If you decide you wish to stay Suomenusko, you will face many Holy Wars for your land. Stay vigilant and bring House Kask to glory!
Vechkas Meshcheravid, High Chief of Meshchera, 867: Leader of the dwindling and displaced Meshchera people, your title is actually the High Chiefdom of Ryazan, the traditional homeland of your tribe, but by now they have been completely displaced northwards by Slavic Russians, as the titular High Chiefdom of Pronsk. Your Mordvin neighbors are the Merya and Murom tribes, natural allies, but are they? Otherwise, you are sandwiched between Pronsk and the much larger High Chiefdom of Polotsk, also Slavic and Russian. Your lands are four counties, none of them in your de jure land. One is in de jure Murom, two in de jure Vladimir, and the last is Moscow itself. Typically the game will begin with Pronsk declaring a subjugation war against Murom, who will most definitely lose without assistance (but perhaps it is better them than you?) Pronsk is a tributary of Khazaria, so attacking them directly might cause rampaging hordes to appear on your doorstep. Can you prevent the historical extinction and assimilation of your people? Can you keep Moscow out of Russian hands?
Tatva Kolguyevid, Chief of Kolguyev, 1337: The most isolated of the Suomenusko remnants, Tatva's poverty issue is twofold. Firstly, his single holding island is just about the poorest location on the map, making advacement without conquest impossible. Secondly, the island's fleet levy is way bigger than required, the upkeep cost of the fleet far outstripping the loot that can be hauled back. Nevermind that his neighbours are far stronger than he is. But the irascible tribesfolk of Novgorod have a good chance of overthrowing the yoke of their Russian masters, and Tatva has a good chance of taking their newly independent lands from under their war weary feet.
Baghatur Khunzakhal, High Chief of Pest, 867 Your lands are the last remnant of the Avar Khaganate, the most feared power in the region some 200 years earlier. Reduced to a mere vassal of the Christian Bulgars, you can take advantage of the Magyar invasion to secure your independence. Then outrace and outfight the new invaders to dominate the Pannonian Basin and reform the Khaganate.
Krum Dulo, High Chief of Karvuna, 769 You are a Tengri vassal of your kinsman, the khan of Bulgaria. It is said that in 811, the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros I was slain in battle by Krum, who lined his skull with silver and used it as a drinking cup. Nikephoros was succeeded by his son, who was forced to abdicate by Krum after a very short reign. The next emperor, Michael I, was the third Byzantine emperor forced to abdicate or killed by Krum in three years: he invaded Bulgaria but was defeated in a battle. You are in a good position to gain independence from your liege, and you have a good opportunity to expand north, as the high chief of Bolghar is a member of your dynasty. You also have great stats, especially your military score.
Khagan Buriberdi Zmbalani of Alania, 769 You are an Alan, a subgroup of Sarmatians, and the last of the Scythians, once the rulers of the vast majority of the Eurasian steppe. Scythians and other Iranian steppe peoples have long been pushed backwards by Turkic and Mongol tribes. You are now one of the smallest tribes on the steppes and a tributary of the Khazars. Will you continue running, or change the tides, and push the Turko-Mongol invaders back into East Asia?
Genghis, Khagan of Golden Horde, 1 Jan. 1218: The greatest conqueror who ever lived. By this point, he's already unified the Mongols and conquered lands not on the map, along with much of Khwarezm and Aktobe. Starts with four attrition-free tumans (40,000 men) and a free invasion CB on everyone. 26 military score and his other stats aren't bad either. Easiest game to expand as, but matching the amazing conquests he and his successors pulled off historically before the horde settles down can be quite a challenge, as is holding such a vast empire together with Ultimogeniture succession. If you truly want to replicate his conquests from the beginning, he begins as a Khan in Mongolia, beginning in 1194.
Chaka Borjigin, King of Bulgaria, 1297-8: Only Mongolian ruler of Bulgaria and a descendant of Genghis Khan. Historically he was deposed and murdered in prison. Can you do better?
Satrap Jimofuta, Zunbil Satrapy, 769 Wedged in between the Abbasid Blob to the south-west, Abbasid tributaries to the west, just south of nomad hordes, and with Hindu nations on the rise to your east, as the only Zunist realm you just know it's going to be an interesting game! At least there are some weak Buddhist realms you can conquer if they don't call in their holy order.
Sorkhab Bavandid, Satrap of Tabaristan, 769 Your family are descendants of Shahanshah Kavadh I. After the Dabuyid dynasty was defeated, you inherited their lands, the last independent remnant of the Sassanid Empire. You are an old man so it's important to act quickly, for the Muslim Caliph is also nearing the end of his life. Soon the Mohammedans will fight each other for the right to lead the "faithful". Secure enough territory for your family and your heir could well become shah, eclipsing the achievements of Farrakhan the Great and the Dabuyids. After that, it is time for the rightful heirs of the Sassanid dynasty to reclaim their empire.
Vandad Karen, Satrap of Dihistan, 867: Your family claims lineage dating back to the Parthian Empire of old, but those glory days are long gone. Your family has been driven to the fringe of Persia, and the Muslim rulers to the south grow more entrenched with every passing day. However, you possess some powerful tools to turn the tide and rekindle the flames once more. The Karen bloodline occasionally brings Great Warriors to your court, and you start with a few thousand event troops. You'll need every one of those troops too, as you're surrounded by unfriendly Muslim realms who will not hesitate to invade if you look like a soft enough target. Will you stay on the offensive and become the one who bring benefit, or will you be holy warred into oblivion?
Kanakk Khuda, Marzoban of Bukhara, 867: Your family has held the glorious town of Bukhara for centuries, resisting Muslim onslaught and keeping the flame of Zoroaster alive. Now you are ruled by Samanids of Khiva who want to seize your lands. Can you avoid your fate and reclaim Transoxania for Zoroaster?
Rostam Bavandid, Marzoban of Tabaristan, 867 A Zoroastrian count that starts as a vassal of a Shia ruler in the mountainous region of northern Persia. Rostam starts with two counties in his demesne, which makes him twice as big as the neighboring Justanids, but sadly he is lacking any event army. Even if he can overthrow his liege, he is stuck between the regional Muslim powers. Can you make him rise to power, drive out the Mohammedans and lead the Persian Empire to a new golden age?
Wahsudan Justanid, Marzoban of Gilan, 867 Starts right next to the Caliphate, so even with his meagre event troops, survival will be a struggle. Still, the weak Alavids are right next door, and you can always try to swear fealty to the Caliphate and destroy it from within. According to legend, it was Wahsudan who built the future Hashshashin stronghold of Alamut.
Kingdom of Transoxania (Emirate of Samarkand)
Hashem Muqannid, Marzoban of Khuttal, 769: Al-Muqanna was a self-declared prophet who created a new religion mixing Zoroastrianism & Islam and then rebelled against the Abbasid caliphate. What's more, he was a chemist who blew half of his face off and thus went around veiled, adding to his mysterious nature. While real Muqanna was defeated and took his own life, perhaps you can fare better against the Muslim armies?
Keykhosraw Daroot, Marzoban of Pamir, 867: The only independent Khurmazta ruler in the game you have a single province high in the mountains as a tributary of the Samanids which offers you a degree of protection. However, this will not help you against your most immediate threat your fellow Samanid tributary the Banijurid's to whom you are the only available target for expansion. Surviving a war against them will require a lot of luck and good timing, hopefully, you will be in a good enough position to return the favor once you have defended yourself. Once you have done that Kashmir and the world is your oyster, do you push west and restore the Persian Empire or do you stay in the mountains and expand eastward.
Saad Mordechai, High Chief of Baghdad, 1 Jan. 1291: Court physician and steward in the court of Arghun Khan, Khagan of the Ilkhanate. Starting as a secret Jew, see how far you can go whether you choose to embrace Judaism or not.
Kallar Shahi, Satrap of Kabulistan, 867: Bordered by Muslim nations it could become difficult quickly enough. It’s an interesting character to play Indian, but outside of India. The Shahis are possibly also descendants of the Hephthalites.
Ramagupta Gupta, Thakur of Simaramapura and Mithila, 769: Can you re-establish the Gupta dynasty as the dominant power of India? You have a claim to a kingdom title held by your liege and road is hard but you can do it!
Harihara Sangama, Samrat of Deccan Empire, 1337: The founder of the Vijayanagara Empire, an empire that originated as a direct response to the aggression of the Tughluqs. Only two decades after the foundation of the Empire, he managed to get control over a big part of South India and fend off the Tughluqs until the empire disintegrated after 1388. In-game, you start very small with a big Tughluq Sultanate to the North of you.
Rudrama Devi Kakatiya, 1259: Yep, she's playable! But you need to start as her dad, who will die soon afterwards and has no other heirs. This is because, after 1259, Rudrama Devi has a non-dynastic son.
Jayapida Karkota, Maharaja of Punjab, 769: Not long before the 769 start date his ancestors controlled much of northern India but in 769 he's just in control of the northern province of Kasmira and a few much stronger vassals in Punjab. From this position, the historical Jayapida managed to reclaim much of the old empire, including the great prize of the imperial city of Kannauj before it was all lost again.
Toramana Hunas, Thakur of Mohadavasaka, 769: You are the last remnant of the White Huns also known as the Hephthalite Empire, a nomadic confederation that helped in the collapsing of the Gupta Empire. You hold the southern tip of what was once the Empire's land, under a powerful liege whose culture is foreign to you. Can you grow from your meagre start into a force to be reckoned with and re-establish the old empire?
Prithviraj Chauhan, Maharaja of Rajputana, 1177: An important character in Indian folklore, until this day. He managed to forge a legendary alliance and fended off the Islamic general Ghori in 1191 during the first battle of Tarain. The second battle of Tarain in 1192, however, was lost by Chauhan, which led to his execution.
Nihaal Kaikanite, Mazorban of Kalat, 769: A small and almost lonely afghan Buddhist country, surrounded by Abbasids, Zunists and not-so-weak Sunni states. Against all odds, could you survive and become the Shah? Or maybe the first ruler of united India will be of house Kaikanite?
Liao Hongji (Yelu Hongji), Khagan of Liao, 1066: the Emperor Daozong of the Khitan Liao Dynasty of Northern China. However, his "last name" should be Yelu. Since the late 10th century the Khitan hordes have relentlessly expanded in all directions before settling down and Sinicizing, their realm stretching from the Tarim basin to near modern Korea. Such is their ferocity and might, that centuries later with the advent of the Mongol hordes, their names still exist in Slavic records as the legendary... Cathay! Historically, the waning of the Khitans began with Hongji's ill-fated yet long reign, whose senility included oppressive measures to vassal clans, murdering his respected Crown Prince and all that jazz... Of course, eventually he repented and installed his 2-year old grandson as heir, but alas, it was too late. A lack of proper education for the heir and continued policies eventually caused the much-oppressed vassal Jurchen Wanyan clan to rise in rebellion and shattered the Liao Empire under his grandson's reign. The legacy of the once glorious Liao only exists in the exodus embarked by the Khara-Khitans...
Yet however, you, have the power to prevent all of this. Manage your vassal relations (especially with the Wanyan), educate your heir, and conquer, conquer and conquer! There will be no Jurchen uprising, there will be no Mongol yoke, there will be no need for the Khara-Khitans...There will only be the one and only Khagan of Cathay! Let the Empire of Liao truly spread their villainous name from Ireland to Cathay!
You are Zenji Jigme, an almost totally unremarkable person, but you have a great legacy behind you, Bhutan is a realm that has never relinquished its sovereignty (Historians are somewhat split over whether Bhutan was subject to the Tibetan Empire, paradox take the view that they were), 230 years ago, all of Bhutan was under your dynasty, but now, you only hold the eastern half of the country, can you keep Bhutan independent, surrounded by larger neighbours a Buddhist realm with a constant de jure claim on your lands, and a Hindu kingdom, thought with monastic feudalism as a government type, this daunting task is less of a tall order, for a challenge, try converting to Nestorianism by marrying into the family of the count of Charkliq, and establish a Christian outpost in a sea of heretics.
Kuchlug Naiman, Khagan of Transoxiana, 1211: The last ruler of the Kara-Khitai, Kuchlug was a prince of the Naiman tribe that fled westward after the absorption of the clan by Genghis Khan. Despite finding favour in the court of Yelü Zhilugu, to the extent of converting to Buddhism and marrying his daughter, he conspired with the neighbouring Khwarezmids to usurp the throne. His relationship with the Khwarezmids eventually soured, and by 1218 he was beheaded by the Mongols.
But at this point in history there remains hope to challenge your fate. Sandwiched between the ascendant Mongol Empire and the consolidated Khwarezmids lies an opportunity to play one against the other. Embrace your pragmatism and play the role of the obsequious vassal, or seek other lands and wait out the clash of titans. You are begin as Nomadic but personally hold baronies, which enable settling down as a feudal. Expand with you strong nomadic CBs or settle down and swear fealty to the great powers of Central Asia.
Kara-Khitai Ketuyu, of the Kara-Khitai High Chiefdom, 1211: Ahistorical son of Yelü-Zhilugu, last Khitan ruler of Kara-Khitai. A member of the Qara Khitai nobility that were given important posts in by the Khwarezmids after their capture, he rose to the position of commander of Isfahan (Kerman). Ketuyu would eventually convert to Islam and be granted the title of Qutlugh Sultan, adopting the name Buraq Hajib. The Khitans would flee and settle in Kerman after the destruction of Kara-Khitai under the usurper Naiman prince at the hands of Genghis Khan, eventually swearing fealty to the Great Khan after his conquest of the Khwarezmids.
Ketuyu is listed ahistorically as the son Yelü Zhilugu, and thus will inherit claims to the defunct Kingdom of Transoxiana. Rather than assimilate as you did historically, stick to your Buddhist traditions and fight to reclaim your birthright from Khagan Kuchlug. Alternatively, start in 1196 and assasinate Kuchlug before his usurpation, or in 1213, after your adoption of Islam and a dynastic change. Ketuyu starts with two non-dynastic sons in 1211, but can easily pass Late Administration and Ultimogeniture to solve the issue.
Weiming Liangzuo, King of Xia, 1066: Historically, Liangzuo (Emperor Yizhong) came of age amid a bloody internal struggle between pro-Chinese courtiers and courtiers who favored a more militaristic steppe society. His abrupt death in 1067, leaving only his young son Bingchang, immediately returned Xi Xia to another one. As de jure King of Xia, you start only controlling the Duchy of Jiuquan. Jiuquan is very rich (the game's way of representing the off-map half of the historical Xi Xia kingdom), but you will need to accumulate prestige rapidly to press your claims on the Tangut duchies to the south. U-Tsang will expand north rapidly and shares a dynasty with Guge, so your short-term goal should be to prevent their union by any means necessary while taking enough territory to block anyone else from forming the Tibetan Empire. By keeping your dynasty stable (and hopefully passing on your Quick trait), your holdings can be developed enough to invade China or even reverse the historical fall of Xi Xia and snuff the Mongolian invasions in their infancy.
Amoghavarsha Rashtrakuta, Maharaja of Rashtrakuta, 867: the 6th and greatest ruler of the Rashtrakuta dynasty, a scholar and a poet who devoted himself to the pacifistic nature of his religion. Already an old man will you continue his legacy as his successors of a cultural powerhouse expanding only through marriage or will you form a lasting Jain empire across all of India by the sword?
Kumarapala Solanki, Maharaja of Solanki, 1160: Considered to be the last great royal patron of the Jain religion by later Jain scholars he was a warlike Hindu in his youth who conquered many surrounding realms but by 1160 in-game he has converted to Jainism and given up much of his earlier conquests. Legends have it that the Jain Gods preserved his rule against would-be conquerors who thought they could exploit his pacifism The rest of his family is Hindu but all the provinces of his realm are Jain and most of his subjects will like him enough to convert if asked and bribed with gold. Will you preserve Jain in an age where the subcontinent is increasingly divided between Hinduism and Islam and show would-be invaders that pacifism does not make you weak? He is available from 1143 but does not convert to Jain until January 1 1160, if you want to start as him at the height of his power in 1159 he still controls much of a neighboring Malwa. He rules until his death in 1172.
Zhou Ding, count of Jiuguan/Anxi, 769: Zhou lost control of Hexi Corridor to Tibetans, which severed Western Protectorate from mainland China. This is simulated by multiple claims on Tibetan territory. However, as you are wedged between two powerful realms, restoring what you lost seems almost impossible.
Zhang Yichao, duke of Jiuguan, 867: Zhang led his forces to recapture Hexi Corridor and restore the area to Tang dynasty. Your duchy is wealthy but your expansion is blocked by several powerful realms. Still, with enough ambition you can restore entire Tarim under your control, expanding the reach of China ever onwards.
Botstain af Stenkyrka, Grand Mayor of Visby, 1066: This titular republic is based on the island of Gotland, off the coast of Sweden. This is easily one of the more profitable positions on the map. While expanding in Finland may be relatively pointless, the rich fields of Germany, Frisia, France and England all beckon. With the nearest competition in Genoa, you certainly have the upper hand. But be warned! Should Erik "the Heathen" take control of Sweden, you will very quickly be eliminated, or forced to convert, which would undoubtedly be fun. Also, watch out for the other patrician families as they haven't taken kindly to such a young man being elected Grand Mayor.
Enrico Dandolo, Serene Doge of Venice, 1192 - 1205: The nonagenarian, blind Doge that diverted the Fourth Crusade to Constantinople, and refused the crown of the Latin Empire as it would violate Venice's constitution. You can do no such thing in-game, but you can still feel free to be a sneaky, profit-minded jerk while wearing your "Crusader" trait proudly, and of course, there's nothing to stop you from founding the Latin Republic. That blind ninety-year-old man fought at the sack of Constantinople. And won. Eat your heart out, John the Blind.
This titular republic operates from the grand city of Amalfi in Sicily. It is a vassal of the Byzantine Empire in 751, independent in 839, and destroyed in 1060. It has the easiest access to Africa of the Italian republics. It is also one of the most vulnerable, as its only county is a de jure vassal of the Duke of Salerno.
Load up as their top-level liege, land them, save and switch characters when re-loading.
Johan Andersson, Courtier in Järnbäraland, 15 Sept. 1066: Landless courtier in Sweden, like most of Paradox's staff. Always a Grey Eminence, so you can usually see him as a chancellor to Chief Tjudmund. He's only available on the original earliest possible start date (1066), like all of the Paradox staff.
Gruffydd Aberffraw, Courtier in Dublin, 15 Sept. 1066: 11-year-old prince-in-exile in the county of Dublin. Start as the count, build your base until you can restore the boy's claim in Wales, then play on as the Aberffraw clan.
Tostig of Godwin, Courtier in Norway, 15 Sept. 1066: The brother of Harold Godwinson, and the one who convinced Hardrade to invade England even as William of Normandy planned to do so as well. He, according to legend, won over the court of Harald Hardrade, and even lead the Vikings against the Saxons at the battle of Stamford Bridge where he died. Why not land him? I hear that Faroyar is nice this time of year... Keep the Godwinsons going strong, even if England falls to the Ynglings or de Normandies!
Siechiech Topor, Courtier in Mazovia, 1066-1094: Historically he managed to gain influence by exiling king Boleslaw the Bold (and poisoning his son Mieszko) and taking advantage of his liege Wladyslaw I Herman (who is "Infirm" in the game), even becoming his queen's lover. He was considered the de facto ruler of Poland and continuously tried to gain the throne through intrigue. he is also credited with conquering Pomeralia. Eventually, he was defeated in a civil war, exiled and blinded by the sons of Wladyslaw in 1100.
Eadgar of Wessex, Courtier in England, 15 Sept. 1066: You thought Harold was hard? Try playing as the rightful king. This unlucky teenager is the last male member of the English royal family, whose rightful throne is contested by not one, not two, but three different usurpers, all of them far more powerful than he could hope to be. All you have to work with is 2 unmarried sisters and a strong claim on England. Can you restore the house of Wessex to its rightful throne? Alternatively, play from the court of the Byzantine Basileus in 1099. With the HIP mod, Eadgar starts as ealdorman of Oxford from 1066; his historical compensation for losing the throne to Harold Godwinson.
Aelfwine Knytling, Courtier in Toulouse, 1066: You are the last surviving descendant of Canute the Great, who ruled over Denmark, Norway and England. Quite the legacy for a lowly Saxon courtier deep in the middle of southern France. You start with a strong claim on the throne of England but with no realistic way to press it, you must be patient. Start by giving Aelfwine a county in your area of choice and take it from there. Can you restore your house to the throne of England? Or maybe even restore your ancestor's great realm?
Pedro de Bourgogne, Courtier in (Prince of) Portugal, Hundred Years' War start: You are the heir to the throne of Portugal, but that is not why history will remember you. Pedro fell in love with Inês de Castro, the bastard daughter of the duke of Galicia and hardly a suitable match for the heir of a kingdom. Still, the two could not be kept apart, which forced his father, King Afonso IV, to have the young woman murdered. This action was enough to cause Pedro to declare war on his father and while defeated, the timely death of the king still gave the crown to Pedro, who settled for hunting down the murderers, torturing them to death (which involved Pedro ripping their hearts out with his bare hands) and as a (somewhat legendary) final act of defiance, having the body of his beloved dug up and forcing the whole court to swear fealty to Inês as queen of Portugal. Can you right this historical wrong, unite these two love birds and lead their descendants to even greater glory?
Omar Khayyam, Courtier in Hashimid Emirate, 1066: Historical Omar Khayyam, even though his stats are somewhat mediocre, created a dynasty of hedonistic mathematician-poets.
Hrolfr de Normandie, Courtier in Tröndelag, 867: A famous Viking warrior and the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror. Historically, he settled in Normandy and founded the dynasty that would one day take the throne of England. The character Rollo in the History Channel television show Vikings is based on Hrolfr. Start as Hrörekr of Holland, give Hrolfr some land, play on as him and see if you can re-create history! Alternatively, start as Harald Fairhair in Akershus, Ostlandet and invite him to court (gift necessary) to establish an in-game relationship between Hrolfr and Harald as happened historically.
Dadhmihr Khursidzade, 769: Appearing in random court in 769, you are descendant of last independent Zoroastrian ruler in Persia and oldest member of Dabuyid dynasty. While you have been educated as Sunni, your sympathies are still with Zoroastrians who suffer under the yoke of Mohammettans. Can you restore your dynasty to glory and as a true heir to Sassanid dynasty, take back that what rightfully belongs to you?
Theodoric of Merohingi, 769: Appearing in the court of the Count of Rouen, you are the last living Merovingian. After your father Childeric III was deposed by the Caroligians, you've been forced to become a monk an abbey in Normandy. Land him a city or a bishopric to remove its monk trait before landing him a county. Or press his claim on the throne with a powerful Duke, it will remove it as well (and make him king). Will you be able to get rid of those perfidious Karlings and make the Merovingian dynasty last a thousand years?
Werner Salian, 769: Starts in the court of Carcassonne as the son of Lambert Guideshi. Land him early and start the Salian Dynasty hundreds of years before their historic rise to power.