This is a guide to my preferred start, which is almost always as a count or as a small duke in 1066, vassalized or not makes no difference. But if you start out as a vassal your first goal will probably be to take over your liege's lands, so if that's not the direction you want to go, an independent start might be better.
== Day 1 ==
Before you even
unpause, you have a laundry list of things to do .
=== Reign of Tyranny ===
If you are independent, this next step is absolutely vital as it will increase your relative strength from the AI's perspective making you less likely to be the next target in favor of weaker ones. And that step is, quite simply, revoke every single county and barony in your demesne until you own them all. But we are not simply revoking, you do this via imprison/banish which will give you not only all of their holdings but all of their starting cash as well, which you desperately need. You may have to do this anyway if you are within the de jure territory of an existing lord as most of them will not have the CA necessary to revoke. But regardless of whether you can revoke or not you do imprison/banish because this will give you their territory as well as their small starting cash on day 1 which is our goal as the AI scans its neighbors for weakness.
Note that there is a piety cost associated with imprisoning and banishing, both are 10 piety apiece and executing is 20 (so if you have any baron or count vassals you may just want to wait for them to die in prison). You may simply revoke (if this is an option) baronies and there is little chance that they will rebel. You lose out on the small amount of starting cash they get but on the other hand you don' t have to wait sometimes a couple years for another 20 piety. Do this AFTER any count-level vassals are imprisoned so that you don' t take the chance of them rebelling for the imprison attempt. For a quick early boost in piety you can use the papal letter, it's income-based and , as yours is horrible, it will be an extremely cheap 25 piety (1.06 gold in the Iceland test I just did). With that and your starting piety, you should have enough for 2 imprison/banishes, the rest - if there are any - will need to be plain old revokes. Note that this may make Day 1 more like Day 9, but the general concepts remain the same. You can also dodge the imprison penalties by provoking rebellions, but with 2 free imprison/banish after the papal letter it's probably not worth it for 10 piety. Also, you do want to get married on day 1 regardless!
Use your marshal (hopefully you got a halfway decent one) to Suppress Revolts on the county of your target and begin your reign of tyranny . Strip counties/baronies/everything - if you are a single-county count then this will be pretty quick. If not then to switch your marshal to the next county just assign marshal to someone else then back to your best guy ( who you should revoke last if he's landed!) . This will make them hate you but they 're going to anyway before we're done. Remember your initial counts/barons may simply require an execute so you inherit rather than banish which is better so there aren't a lot of claims floating around.
Congratulations, you now have a bunch of annoyingly red holdings along with a friendly reminder up top. You might want to dismiss that for now since you 're going to be hanging onto them for a while.
Tyranny is a modifier only given to people who are your courtiers/vassals when you do the deeds. Now that you've killed/banished the recipients, you have a court full of people who also hate you. You are probably ridiculously over -100 at this point so don't even worry about it, they will hate you forever as far as we're concerned. Three goals here - keep useful generated courtiers and remove the rest, especially the high intrigue ones. If any of them are actually useful then keep them as your courtiers hating you really doesn't matter UNLESS their intrigue is higher than yours - having a spymaster and /or courtiers with high intrigue who despise you is a bad situation if and when some random person decides to start chopping your court up. If your demesne is now over limit , wait until after the 2 sections to do anything about it.
=== Dropping Dead Weight ===
In getting rid of your crappy/high intrigue courtiers who now hate you, you have 2 options - you can matrilineally marry them off, which I like to do with the high intrigue ones since attempting to imprison them may just end up having a high intrigue guy in another court doing nothing but perpetually plotting to kill you, or simply imprison/execute them. With the marriage option their new wife/court couldn't care less about you so it will be more likely they focus on their new surroundings. When matrilineally marrying any courtiers you want to get rid of initially, try and pick landed
females (obviously especially Matilda) - this prevents the AI from getting early inheritances before you even have a dynasty and keeps them independent at least for another generation. They won't thank you for this but when you're not facing Denmitaly in 20 years, you'll thank yourself.
As far as who to keep, basically any courtier who you cannot replace with a higher stat. Generally 15+ is my 'ok I'm keeping this guy' breakpoint. Obviously this does not apply to spymaster as a -100 spymaster is just begging anyone who has even the slightest reason - or even none at all - to murder you to have a guaranteed win via plot. Also remember to get rid of any
females who hate you - the high intrigue ones will contribute to plots against you. Usually family members and females don't care about tyranny but sometimes they do - I'm not sure the exact qualifications as I haven't tracked it down, anyway just marry them off if they do - we're going to try to get superfemales asap so go ahead and get rid of the crappy ones too while we're at it. As with matrilineals, I try to marry them to the highest rank landed male I can find - by taking some random girl from my court this prevents them from gaining alliances/inheritances. It's a small thing but so are you.
Marriage === We'll go for this first though it's interchangeable with the next. You want to find a wife on day 1 because most of the AI are also unmarried and will very quickly start snatching up the best wives. Quite simply, you want a wife that is Midas Touched/Genius/Strong/Lustful. Unfortunately you probably won't get this so we will get whatever we can. More than likely,you are a terrible ruler with awful stats and your wife will be tutoring your heir(s), therefore it's vital she not be as awful as you.
You can use the marriage rings to try to find a high stewardship wife, if you can find one that is same religion/culture then even better. But don't worry too much about religion as it 's fairly simple to get her converted. Marriage is the only time you can consider different religions so use it as best you can. Go to your character finder and just look for unmarried women, sort by stewardship. The nice thing about genius is due to its stat bonuses they will tend to be at the top anyway. Pick one that hopefully is at least Quick or Strong. Don't worry too much about them despising you for religion e.g. Zealous/Muslim as we'll deal with that.
It' s worth taking a significant hit in stats for a similar culture wife with at least a good genetic trait if you are playing in vanilla as the accidental conversion of your heir to Maghreb for example would have weird consequences. Luckily as a small guy you could recover from it but if you can avoid it by taking a hit in overall stats with the promise of a decent genetic trait then go for it.
Rebuilding Your Court ===By now you have every barony (or a couple rebelling vassals we will deal with after we unpause if not) and dropped, one way or the other, everyone who hated you that wasn't incredibly useful in some way. If you are over your demesne limit you will need to create some vassals. This may also, if you are lucky, save you some time in finding new courtiers to fill your now desolate court. More than likely though they will be just as crappy as the last ones. These new ones will not only not know that they are plucking the keys to their new barony out of the corpse of their predecessors but also have a +20 from granted baronies. While we're here, it's time to pick your capital - it should be in this preference order: any province you have with more than 1 castle, any province with more than 3 holdings, or the highest legalism progress you have. If you have a province that has a whole level or 2 of legalism higher than it may take precedence over the others. Theodosia in the Crimea area for example starts with +2 legalism which is incredibly good compared to the surrounding areas. Also account for your future wife's stewardship bonus before determining if you need to drop baronies.
in this case (and in general as you expand hopefully), should be done in the following order:
# Temples outside your capital
Muslim rulers will have other considerations: mosques don't have an income penalty and give piety; Jizya significantly increases income, especially in cities (decreasing the penalty); some cities in Muslim regions are significantly developed. It is harder to make a definite order, so use your own judgement and compare income and future potential.
If you are lucky
then some of these auto-created vassals will fill a slot or two of your council. Probably not, either way it's time to do probably the most tedious work which is to fill your council with some talent. This will become much, much easier later on when claims are a dime a dozen as claims will help a ton in getting random courtiers to come work for you. Initially, however, you are completely at the mercy of the RNG. Open up the character finder, men/my religion /not ruler (doesn't work to filter out baron-level rulers as of 1.06 but hopefully will some day)/unmarried (helps in finding younger/unattached courtiers). Sort by the stat you want, work your way down.
What you need to be able to invite a random courtier is for them to be at least -1 with their liege (preferably more), and at least 50+ with you. The actual number you must hit are roughly their opinion of you - 75 (no reason to move, base reluctance for all diplomacy, other) > their opinion of liege. It is ridiculously difficult early on to invite someone who hates their liege and loves you and have them accept, and it is one of my pet peeves with this game. Later on the 'unable to press my claims' modifier will make it a ton easier to find people to invite but right now you are out of luck.
If you have decent diplomacy use some of that blood money to gift them but only if you 're sure it will tip them since your income is probably horrendous despite having a bit of cash . Hopefully you can come out of it with at least a 15+ in whatever stat, going straight down the list. If they're positive at all with their liege don't even bother looking whether they'll come as they won't. Hopefully you find that charitable great steward with the cruel greedy arbitrary liege rather quickly, but be warned this will be tedious.
== Day 2-20 == Your courtier invites/marriage proposal are now flying through the air via the magic medieval post office. You may also be putting down a rebellion or two if you messed up imprisoning. Luckily though the imprisonment caused tyranny, those who witnessed it are gone and by the time you put it down you now have a free revoke. If you can' t revoke due to Crown Authority then you may end up killing/banishing again but for only one or two with any new vassals starting with +20 it isn't as big of a deal. The following sections are in no particular order:
= Marry your Council === As your new, and hopefully highly talented, council members arrive and you assign them their new jobs immediately marry them to a highly talented wife similar to the way you did for yourself on day 1. I tend to marry them to their respective stats e.g. a super grey eminence wife for my chancellor. The reason you do this is twofold: your court is now deserted and those wives will be used to tutor future actually useful courtiers and sometimes even wives. Don't worry about religion as you did with your wife.
Conversion of Superwives === More than likely some of the new superwives are Muslim or some other faith than yours, or maybe your council members are Orthodox while you are Catholic - if you got lucky and aren't an awful person who everyone hates naturally then feel free to Demand Religious Conversion, you only need +25 for them to agree as a courtier. However , don't gift them or waste too much time on it unless you feel it's vital as the Court Chaplain's Inquisition job can just be set on your capital and has a pretty good mtth for converting subjects.
=== Council tasks ===
The main reason you kept the baronies in your capital is for your
now-at-least-somewhat-useful marshal /steward to apply their magic. If you own a city, you get -75% to income. However, if you got a decent steward and he applies a +50% it's only -25%. If you have Trade Practices 2 then it's only -5%. With much higher income cities you will quickly notice your capital city outstripping any castle you have (including the capital with +50%). Temples remain negligibly useful with sub-castle income but I keep them in the capital until I have something better simply for the levies, which brings me to the fact that the marshal job will also increase levies for all your holdings in a county, so the 300 to 375 troops with just the castle becomes a 700 to a respectable 1k-ish combat group. Just so you know, even if you get it to the point where you have no penalty it will always be annoyingly red with the icon up top .
The spymaster I tend to set to Steal Technology on Alexandria regardless (dunno why but it works) while the chancellor generally does the diplomacy mission somewhere since we couldn' t afford a claim at this point even if successful, either my capital if I actually have vassals or my scariest neighbor. This is less because the diplomacy mission is secretly useful and more because it has no chance of dying and keeps him from leading troops. The chaplain is probably busy converting but after that just put him on Culture research for Legalism (never unfocused).
Day 20+ ==
'''Start upgrading your holdings''', beginning with your capital's castle. If you expect to stay in your location for a while, start with economic buildings, so you can upgrade military buildings faster in the future. If you stay put for a ''long'' time, it may be worthwhile to also upgrade your city and then your church, even though you only get some of their income. See [[Holdings#Strategies]].