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'''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]].
'''Acquire a coastal duchy'''. The maneuverability of [[Warfare#Ships|ships]] gives you many advantages in warfare. You may even be able to defend
against against larger enemies, by offloading your army into enemy territory just long enough to distract their army from sieges in your realm.
Once you get to the point where you own at least an entire duchy of coastal provinces without conquest modifiers, you are now officially a monster yourself and unlikely to be wiped out (except by disasters such as a Jihad). I will leave this guide at that point, as you are not a small fish any more and should be able to pursue [[Expanding your realm|normal avenues of conquest/expansion]].