Characters are the most important feature of Crusader Kings II, and what sets it apart from other grand-strategy games. Unlike other Paradox games, Crusader Kings II is not about nations or countries, but it is instead a character-driven strategy game. Much like a role-playing, this game has attributes, good and bad quirks, desires etc. These characteristics allow the game to focus on people, their families and their relationships; the interaction of thousands of characters with their own goals and personalities is the prime mover of the game.
Characters in Crusader Kings II can be easily split in two categories. The first are the player characters: players use them whether in a singleplayer or multiplayer run. There are actions and events in-game that are restricted only for a player character.
The second category are the non-player characters: they are run by the AI and their traits, attributes etc play a major role in how they decide to act in the game. Like player characters, there are actions, events, and especially government types that are exclusive to non-player characters.
Most characters are members of a family - also called a dynasty. When the player starts a playthrough, they choose a character pertaining to a historical dynasty. The player's core objective in CK II is ensuring their chosen dynasty grows strong and powerful, by having children and accumulating lands and titles.
But the game does not end when their first character dies, because the player takes control of their successor, and the following successor, and so on. Whenever the last living member of their dynasty dies or by the start of the year 1453, the game is over.
- Main article: Attributes
A character's attributes or skills are a major factor in determining the success of a character's actions and what they are able to to do:
- Main article: Traits
Traits mainly affect attributes, though they can also give opinion modifiers, prestige, piety etc. They have a major impact on non-player characters as they are used to determine many choices the AI makes. Below are a few categories of traits:
|Education||Given to a character when they turn 16 years-old. It is determined by their upbringing and, generally, one of the largest bonuses to a character's attributes|
|Childhood||Acquired by children during education, if the Conclave DLC is active. Will eventually turn into one of several adult traits|
|Health||Affect a character's health and often lowers other attributes as well, increasing the chance of dying|
|Disease||Affect a character's health, received usually through epidemics|
|Symptoms||Symptoms which can be eventually diagnosed by a court physician as actual diseases, if The Reaper's Due DLC is active.|
- Main article: Government
Government type is the political regime that a character lives under or rules by. It dictates the available succession laws and holding types a character is allowed to control. Each government type has unique mechanics. Tribes and nomads may change their government type to the other, more "settled down" forms:
|Goverment Type||Courtier Portrait||Baron Portrait||Count Portrait||Duke Portrait||King Portrait||Emperor Portrait||Required DLCs to Play|
|Feudal||Non-Christians rulers require either , or|
|Theocracy||Non-player characters only.|
|Tribal||Non-Christians rulers require either , , or|
|Iqta||Muslim rulers require|
|Merchant Republic||Republican rulers require|
|Republic||Non-player characters only.|
|Nomadic||Nomadic rulers require|
|Chinese Imperial||Requires and Han, Jurchen, Khitan or Tangut culture.|
|Confucian Bureaucracy||Non-player characters only.|
|Monastic Feudal||Monastic feudal rulers require either , or |
Must be of a Tibeto-Burman culture and either the Buddhist or Bön religion.
|Holy Order||Non-player characters only.|
- Main article: Religion
|Religion groups||Religions ( Heresies )|
- Main article: Culture
Culture is an abstract representation of ethnicity and traditions of a province or character.
Cultures are divided into culture groups, and cultures are considered closer to others within their group than to cultures outside it. A culture may unlock special buildings, events, specific succession or gender laws, and some of them allow raiding.
|Altaic||Avar, Bolghar, Cuman, Jurchen, Karluk, Khazar, Khitan, Kirghiz, Mongol, Pecheneg, Turkish, Uyghur|
|Arabic||Andalusian, Bedouin, Berber, Egyptian, Levantine|
|Baltic||Lettigallian, Lithuanian, Prussian|
|Byzantine||Alan, Armenian, Assyrian, Georgian, Greek|
|Celtic||Breton, Irish, Pictish, Scottish, Welsh|
|Central Germanic||Frankish, German, Lombard, Suebi|
|Dravidian||Kannada, Tamil, Telugu|
|East African||Ethiopian, Nubian, Somali|
|East Slavic||Illmenian, Russian, Severian, Volhynian|
|Finno-Ugric||Estonian, Finnish, Khanty, Komi, Mordvin, Nenets, Sami|
|Iberian||Basque, Castillian, Catalan, Portuguese, Visigothic|
|Indo-Aryan||Assamese, Bengali, Gujurati, Hindustani, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Panjabi, Rajput, Sindhi, Sinhala|
|Iranian||Afghan, Baloch, Kurdish, Persian, Saka, Sogdian, Tocharian|
|Latin||French, Italian, Norman, Occitan, Roman|
|North Germanic||Danish, Norse, Norwegian, Swedish|
|South Slavic||Bulgarian, Croatian, Serbian, Vlach|
|Tibeto-Burman||Bödpa, Sumpa, Tangut, Zhangzhung|
|West Germanic||Anglo-Saxon, Dutch, English, Frisian, Saxon|
|West Slavic||Bohemian, Polish, Pomeranian|
- Main article: Dynasty
Generally, characters in the game are part of a dynasty. Dynasty is one of the most important aspects in CK II; if a player's dynasty is left without a living character of count rank or above, it is game over.
A portion of dynastic prestige of the father and mother are given to a child when they're born. Dynastic prestige also affects the chance for character's to accept marriage proposals. Characters without a dynasty are called lowborn.
The icon above a character's portrait designates their level of kinship toward the player character:
|You||The current character controlled by the player|
|Heir(ess)||The player character's immediate successor to their primary title.|
|Close relatives||Siblings and half-siblings, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces. |
If the player character's spouse belongs to the same dynasty, (s)he also has this icon
|Other dynastic members||Cousins and distant relatives|
|Bastard children||Recognized but not legitimized children|
- Main article: Bloodline
Similar to, but distinct from the dynasty, are bloodlines. Bloodlines are inheritable modifiers, inherited from a single individual, which can grant prestige, piety, opinion modifiers, or special abilities. At game start, some bloodlines begin with the head of a dynasty, but these will diverge as the game passes. Bloodlines cannot normally be removed from a character (although they will gain them after the fact if a progenitor earns one).
Within the game, bloodline lineages are inherited in a more complicated manner than dynasties. They can be either patrilineal (father-inherited) or matrilineal (mother-inherited) in nature, and may or may not be inheritable through bastard characters and matrilineal marriages. Bloodlines fall into three categories: Historical Bloodlines, tied to specific characters born before or during the timeframe of Crusader Kings II, Saintly Bloodlines, derived from your ancestors being recognized for their piety, tied to Christians or reformed pagans with the ancestor veneration doctrine, and Created Bloodlines, which are tied to ambitions, decisions, or actions of a character.
There are several different objectives in the game, which are goals a character can attempt to achieve:
|Ambition||A character's specific personal desire|
|Focus||A character's 5-year self improvement goal. Unlocks special events to enhance attributes or acquire lifestyle traits.
Requires the Way of Life DLC
|Faction||An organized party of vassals united against their liege for a common purpose|
|Plot||A conspiracy designed by a plotter and their backers to achieve a specific goal|
- Main article: Realm
An independent realm in Crusader Kings II is the highest political structure a character is part of. Every realm is ruled by a single independent ruler, also called top liege, and a group of vassals. The independent liege is typically the most powerful character within their realm.
If any character outside a realm has a Casus Belli (a "motive for war") upon any character within that realm, the claimant is forced to declare war upon the independent ruler. However, depending on the realm's law, a character within it can wage war upon independent rulers outside the attacker's realm, while other rulers of the claimant's realm will not interfere.
A sub-realm refers to all titles a character holds, and their vassals. For instance, the Duke of Essex who lives in the Kingdom of England, is the ruler (liege) of a sub-realm consisting of his duchy and all counts and barons below him.
- Main article: Levies
Demesne levies are levies mustered from a character's personal holdings. Their size depends mostly on the holding type, buildings, and the character's martial skill. While they are raised, the character pays a monthly maintenance cost and they reinforce more slowly.
- Main article: Economy
The primary source of income for a character is usually all personal holdings within their demesne, though courtiers and rulers may also gain wealth through minor titles or by having a seat on their liege's council.
Stewardship skill plays a large role in a character's demesne income. Personal and spouse stewardship influence a ruler's demesne limit, while the skill of a character's steward improves income in a province if they are assigned there the job to Raise taxes. The total state stewardship gives a boost to all demesne income.
The following buildings increase the tax income of holdings:
- Castle Walls, Town Walls, Church Walls
- Castle Towns, Church Towns
- City economic buildings and City Ports
- Tribal Markets
- Nomadic Castle Pens, Sheep, Felt Crafter, Harbor and Minter
- Patrician Family Palace and the Vault upgrade.
- Main article: Prestige
Winning battles and sieges earns significant prestige, divided primarily among the flank leaders, but also among the unit owners. Wars fought under most Casus Belli ("motives for war") give a significant prestige boost to the winner and major participants, whereas they decrease the loser's prestige.
|Name||Creation||Destruction||Usurp||Hold Directly||Vassal Holds|
|Barony||50||N/A||N/A||+0.025 /month||+0.025 /month|
|County||N/A||N/A||N/A||+0.1 /mo.||+0.1 /mo.|
|Duchy||200||-200||50||+0.2 /mo.||+0.2 /mo.|
|Kingdom||400||-400||100||+0.8 /mo.||+0.8 /mo.|
- Main article: Piety