Reign of tyranny

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A reign of tyranny, also known as North Korea Mode, is a strategy of tyrannically seizing all of your vassals' counties. It is often used as a starting duke, or as a king who does not have the crown authority needed to revoke titles.

Some reigns of tyranny only last long enough to acquire a solid demesne. Others continue indefinitely, as players choose to rule a large realm with an iron fist.


If you have time and means, acquire a skilled marshal and spymaster. The marshal can increase arrest chance using the "suppress revolts" mission. The spymaster passively increases arrest chance by increasing your state intrigue.

Ensure you have enough piety and prestige for the actions you plan:

  • Imprisonment costs 10 piety per attempt
  • Banishment costs 10 piety
  • Execution costs 20 piety, but only if the victim shares your religion
  • Title revocation costs prestige scaling with the title, for each title taken.
    • The cost of title revocation is waived if you have a justification, but you still need enough prestige

Decide whether you are seizing all baronies or only counties.

Pause the game.

Imprisoning all vassals[edit]

Have your marshal "suppress revolts" in each province as needed. To move your marshal between provinces, you can fire and re-hire him (without Conclave) or swap him with another councilor and back.

Since vassals of vassals cannot rebel against you, and instead abdicate to their heir on failed imprisonment, two strategies are possible. If they have an heir, it makes sense to force abdication until you imprison one. If they lack an heir and instead have your direct vassal as their fallback heir, it may be preferable to have your direct vassal imprisoned first.

For your direct vassals, if you are concerned about rebellion, imprison their spymaster and execute their spouse first; this will destroy your vassal's state intrigue (may require reloading), making their arrest more likely to succeed. However, keep in mind that imprisonment success rate drops as opinion falls, so it may be best to start with the imprisonments where success is the most important.

Seizing land from vassals[edit]

For each imprisoned vassal, there are three methods you can use to seize their titles:

Method Tyranny Cost Best when...
Action execute.png Execution 10 Piety.png 20*
  • You are the heir, and:
    • You want to minimize the amount of tyranny.
    • The vassal is duke rank or higher. This allows you to inherit your vassal's technology points.
    • The vassal has a different religion. (*This removes the piety cost of execution.)
Action banish.png Banishment Per title Piety.png 10
  • You are the heir, and:
    • You want their cash.
    • Crown authority does not let you revoke titles.
Revoke title.png Title revocation None Icon prestige.png Per title
  • You do not want to anger courtiers, vassals of vassals, etc.
  • You are out of piety, but have prestige to spare.
  • Can be done without imprisonment, if you can wait for a reply. Rebellion chance depends on relative power

Preventing plots against yourself[edit]

An angry court makes it easy for characters to plot against you. The danger is highest when someone has a reason to murder you.

You should replace any high-intrigue councilors, especially your spymaster, with newly invited characters. But keep your old chancellor for long enough to keep invitees coming and bribes working.

Empty your court of witnesses as much as possible. Remove unmarried courtiers by getting them married outside your court (matrilineally for men), or with The Reaper's Due, simply asking them to leave. Ideally, get your courtiers married to nearby landowners, making it less likely that two nearby realms will combine through inheritance.

If you've already decided which counties you are getting rid of, consider granting the churches in those counties to your courtiers. You will gain 25 piety from each church grant, and as soon as you give away the counties, they will not be your direct vassals. The downside is your new counts will have fewer "+20 granted a barony" modifiers because you didn't give the temples to them.

Dealing with your demesne limit[edit]

If your demesne limit is small and you're only slightly over it, don't worry about the limit. The penalties to income and levies start out at only 20% per holding over the limit. Try to get a spouse or heir with higher stewardship.

If you're significantly over your demesne limit, you may:

  • Ignore the effects of demesne limits while holding all counties yourself.
    • This is known as North Korea Mode.
    • You can even hold all baronies yourself, although this has additional "wrong holding type" penalties for income/levies.
  • Keep all count vassals imprisoned, so they cannot join factions or plot against you.
    • This is known as Guantanamo Bay Mode.
  • End your reign of tyranny by granting land to new vassals who did not witness your actions.
    • These non-witnesses can come from invitations or from decisions that generate new courtiers.
    • Another possibility is to land a small number of counts, wait for them to generate courtiers, and then land those courtiers.
    • Or, you can use "create new vassal" on a minor barony and then grant the county to that baron. (For cities/temples, this will change the county type, and cannot be done if it will cause more than 10% of your realm to be under that type of government.)