Zoroastrians

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Zoroastrian.png Zoroastrianism, also called Mazdaism and Magianism, is an ancient Iranian religion and philosophy. It was once the state religion of the Achaemenid Empire and the Sasanian Empire, but by the era covered by Crusader Kings II, it had been mostly supplanted by Islam. Non-nomadic rulers of this religion require Dlc icon the old gods.png The Old Gods DLC to be playable; Jade Dragon.pngJade Dragon DLC only makes Khurmazta rulers playable.

Religious Mechanics[edit]

Zoroastrian holy sites.
  • Zoroastrianism is an Organized Religion in a Religion Group (Mazdan) of its own.
  • Has five Holy Sites, all located in the de jure Persian Empire:
    • Dashtestan: Location of The Great Fire of Ādur Farnbāg (Glory-given). Revered by the priestly estate and the first among the three great fires.
    • Kurdistan: Location of The Great Fire of Ādur Gushnasp (Stallion). Revered by the warrior estate, to which the kings themselves belonged.
    • Nishapur: Location of The Great Fire of Ādur Burzēn-Mihr (Exalted is Mihr). Revered by the farmers and the last among the three great fires.
    • Jabal Qufs: Location of Lake Hāmūn, which is said to be the keeper of Zoroaster's seed. In Zoroastrian eschatology, when the final renovation of the world is near, maidens will enter the lake and then give birth to the Saoshyants.
    • Balkh: Zoroaster, after converting Shah Vishtasp of Bactria, settled permanently in Balkh and made it the centre of his religion.
  • Rulers have access to the Holy War Casus Belli.
  • Starts the game without a Religious Head, but if one is instated, that Head can Grant Invasions and declare Crusades (called Great Holy Wars), and rulers can Request Divorces from him.
  • Missionaries: Like other Organized Religions, Zoroastrians can send out missionaries to Pagan realms.
  • Bishop-type vassals grant their liege Piety over time, similar to Pagan religions.
  • Concubines: Like Pagans, Zoroastrian rulers can be married to only one individual, but males can take up to three Concubines.
  • With Dlc icon sons of abraham.pngSons of Abraham, Zoroastrians are able to receive Jewish courtiers and borrow money from Jewish merchants like Christians/Muslims.
  • Sky Burial: Mazdans may perform Sky Burial to dead relatives (requires Horse Lords.pngHorse Lords DLC)
  • Intermarry: Mazdans may intermarry with following religions: Bön, Buddhist, Nestorian, Tengri & Zunist. Manicheans may also marry with Taoists.
  • Divine marriage: Rulers can marry close relatives, which gives the ruler an opinion bonus (+5) with Zoroastrian vassals.
  • Restore Persian Empire: A Zoroastrian ruler who becomes emperor of Persia has access to two unique decisions: Restore the High Priesthood and become the Saoshyant (requires complete control of the Persian Empire).

With DLC icon Monks and Mystics.pngMonks and Mystics, Mazdan rulers are permitted to join the Hermetic Society.

Restoring the High Priesthood[edit]

A Zoroastrian ruler of the Persian Empire with 300 Piety can re-establish the Zoroastrian priesthood, granting the faith a Religious Head: the Moabadan-Moabad, who resides in Esfahan. The Moabadan-Moabad, like other Religious Heads, can grant Invasions and call Great Holy Wars, and rulers can Request Divorces from him. Unlike most other religions, Zoroastrians do not need to wait until the 1100s to call Great Holy Wars; they may be declared as soon as the priesthood is reestablished. Restoring the Moabadan-Moabad also makes the Zoroastrian holy order, the Immortals, available. The targets for the Great Holy Wars will be Syria, Armenia at first, followed by Ifriqiya, Georgia or Egypt in order to restore the approximate borders of the Sassanid Empire and invade the long-coveted territory of the Roman Empire. As such, Great Holy Wars in Arabia or beyond Transoxania or Sistan are unlikely.

Becoming the Saoshyant[edit]

A Zoroastrian ruler of the Persian Empire with 1500 Piety and control of all holdings in the de jure Persian Empire, regardless of eventual de jure shifts, can become the Saoshyant. The Saoshyant is a messiah figure recognized by Zoroastrians. The ruler will be granted the unique trait Saoshyant , which gives +10 Vassal Opinion and +5 Personal Combat Skill. Descendants of the Saoshyant will receive the trait Saoshyant descendant , which gives +5 Vassal Opinion. Unlike the Sayyid trait recognized by Muslims, the Saoshyant descendant trait is not limited to agnatic descent.

Jashan-e Sadah[edit]

Sadah festival is a religious festival for Zoroastrians (and Khurmazta heresy) which is quite similiar to Pagan festivals but with a a variable decisions for various bonus/penalties depending on rulers traits. It can be held every five years.

Sky Burial[edit]

Sky Burial is available (with Horse Lords DLC) for all Mazdan rulers along with Horse Lords.pngNomadic Dharmic or Tengri rulers. Decision to perform Sky Burial can become available if a close relative of yours dies. You can then take the body to a mountain to be devoured by vultures. The event chain which follows is quite similar to Pilgrimage event chain.

Heresies Zoroastrian Heresy.png[edit]

Manichean holy sites.

The Mazdan religious group has three heresies - Khurmazta, Manichaean and Mazdaki. They differ from the parent faith in the following ways:

  • Other than Khurmazta, other Zoroastrian heresies do not allow the character to become the Saoshyant.
  • Khurmazta: This religion has the Patron Deity mechanic, similar to Hindus. They may not benefit from Divine Marriage or restore the Priesthood but can become Saoshyant.
  • Mazdaki: Mazdaki lack concubines and Divine Marriage mechanics and have access to Summer Fair decision. They do not suffer penalties from female rulers and women may hold temples. They can also be appointed as commanders or Moabad.
  • Manichaeism: Manichaeism is almost a separate religion and is very different from orthodox Zoroastrianism. They lack concubines and may not benefit from Jews or Divine Marriage. They have their religious feast, as well as their own religious head: the Yamag (who, like Christian religious heads, always exists). They may also form a holy order if certain criteria are met and have different holy sites from other Mazdans. Manichean holy sites are in:
    • Khozistan: Where the Prophet Mani has his first revelation and also where he was later martyred by Shah Bahram I.
    • Baghdad: Mani's designated successors, the Patriarch at the head of Manichaeism, was originally seated in Ctesiphon.
    • Samarkand: Due to persecution under the Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad, most Manicheans fled to Samarkand which became their new Patriarchate.
    • Jerusalem: Mani declared himself to be the "apostle of Jesus Christ".
    • Udabhanda: Site of Mani's first learning trip, where he studied Hinduism.
      • Unusually, almost all Manichean holy sites are important Horse Lords.pngJade Dragon.pngSilk Road counties; even Khozistan is next to Basra, another important Silk Road county.

Manichean rulers are available for play in every bookmark while other Mazdans are only present in DLC icon Charlemagne.png769/Dlc icon the old gods.png867 starts.

Playable Zoroastrians[edit]

The Crusader Kings timeline starts after the Muslim conquest of Persia. Therefore, the number of playable Zoroastrians is quite small. To make things even more difficult, most of these rulers are relatively weak and vassals to stronger powers.

DLC icon Charlemagne.pngCharlemagne (769) Start Date[edit]

It has been slightly over a century since Muslims conquered Persia and Zoroastrianism is still followed by a majority of the people living there, meaning that province revolts shouldn't be an issue, provided the player is lucky and acts quickly enough. However, most of Persia and Baluchistan is under the control of the Abbasid Caliphate while two independent tributary Muslim dynasies, the Bajanids & Taids, control Khiva & Khorasan. Only Afghanistan has staved off the Muslim invaders and is still held by Buddhist & Zunist rulers. A large number of Zoroastrians still hold land under the Abbasids & Bajanids, however, in the hands of the AI, they are often quickly converted and/or have their titles revoked.

The strongest of these Zoroastrian vassals and the only duke-level Zoroastrian in 769 is Satrap Sorkhab Bavandid, who also controls Tabaristan and parts of Dihistan, under the Abbasid Caliph. In total Sorkhab controls eight provinces and has three vassal marzobans (counts), though one of these is his son & heir Shervin. Sorkhab is an old man and usually dies within a few years, which may be a good or bad thing, as his and Shervin's traits are both random. It is quite possible to enable creation of kingdom of Daylam with Shorkab if you use Piety focus to get enough Piety as you can create duchy of Gilan and press your claims (unless Caliph gives your de-jure vassals automatically).

The second strongest Zoroastrian is Vandad Hormozd, who holds three provinces as a vassal of Sorkhab. Historically, he urged Shervin Bavandid to start a rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate. At some point Caliph will likely hand duchy of Dihistan to Vandad so if you play as Shervin, it's best to create it yourself so you can still form kingdom of Daylam.

Every other Zoroastrian/Mazdaki marzoban in Persia/Baluchistan rules single provinces either as direct vassals of the Caliph or under Muslim Emirs. Suffice to say, they are all extremely challenging starts. The "strongest" of these outside Sorkhab might be Anushirvan, the Mazdaki marzoban of Esfahan, due to the fact that he occupies one of the richest provinces in Persia.

The situation is much easier in the lands of the Bajanid dynasty where there are four playable Mazdans. The Bajanid ruler is weak and outnumbered by his vassals who mostly hate him due to having a different culture and/or religion. It is also easy to eat up the Bajanids from within by fabricating claims while staying safe from surrounding Muslims. However, bear in mind that the Bajanids are initially a tributary of the Abbasids and can call on their assistance in war.

The only independent Mazdans in this start are steppe nomads. The eastern steppes are held by the powerful Uyghur Empire, whose ruler Tengri Bogu follows Manichaeanism along with most of his vassal Khans. West of the Uyghurs are the Kicphacks, a weaker Manichaean realm. Ruler of Alans has three sons and youngest of these follows Zoroastrianism while Khagan of Burtas has a Manichean vassal. Finally, a single feudal Sogdian can be found as vassal of Karluks in Chach.

In total, there are over twenty initially playable Zoroastrians/Mazdans in this start, although in general, their small size, the presence/suzerainty of powerful Muslims, and lack of event troops make 769 a much harder start date for Mazdans than 867. The Uyghur Empire is a major exception here, of course.

Dlc icon the old gods.pngThe Old Gods (867) Start Date[edit]

The Zoroastrian faith is still followed by a large percentage of the populace in Khiva and northern Persia. There is again, only one duke-level ruler: Vandad Karen, Satrap of Dihistan, although unlike Sorkhab Bavandid in 769, he is independent. Vandad starts the game with no wife, allies or children. He does have a sister, Farrah, in her 30s who can be married off or used for the divine marriage bonus. Vandad starts with a few thousand event troops and five provinces. He also has two vassals, both which control two provinces. Chief Darius of Usturt interestingly controls two tribal realms.

The other independent Zoroastrian within Persia is Wahsudan Justanid, a Kurdish Marzoban of Gilan who also starts with event troops, but his position, bordering the Abbasids, is even more precarious than Vandad's. (If playing as Vandad, Gilan can be allied or may join the defense in holy wars. Finally, two Mazdans in Pamir start as tributary states of the powerful Samanids.

Between Dihistan and Gilan is the Alavid Emirate of Tabaristan, whose ruler just so happens to be the senior living descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. However, the Alavids are vulnerable - as Shia Muslims, they can be holy warred with impunity, as their Sunni neighbours will not help them, and may even declare holy war on the Alavids themselves. Yet more conveniently for Vandad and Wahsudan, the Alavids have two Zoroastrian vassals, one of them being Rostam Bavandid. Rostam has no event troops but as a ruler he usually gets very good traits and high skill scores.

Even if you don't play as him, he will usually prove useful; provided he doesn't cave in to conversion demands from his liege, he will probably rise against him, providing either Vandad or Wahsudan with an opportunity to easily dispatch the distracted Emir. Additionally, if Rostam does become independent - and stays a Zoroastrian - he may agree to become Vandad's vassal instead.

In Khiva, the Samanid Shah has three historically Zoroastrian dynasties as his vassals - the Afshin, Afrighid, Khuda dynasties. Of these, only the Sogdian Khudas of Bukhara, still follow Zoroastrianism, while the other two have converted to Sunni Islam. The Khudas can quite easily expand within the Samanid realm and attempt to control Silk Road trade, though eventually converting back to Zoroastrianism as the Afshin is easier as you can easily take control of Samarkand via conquest casus belli.

Naturally, there are Mazdans outside Persia too. While Uyghur Empire has collapsed, its feudal successor states now hold bulk of the Tarim Basin, split between the states of Qocho & Kumul. Both are Manichaean and of the two, Kutan of Qocho is more powerful and offers one of the more interesting starting locations in the game. In Alania, tribal chief Magkae of Kuma is Zoroastrian though his oldest son & heir is a christian. Itaz Ovseti, ruler of Alania also has two sons and younger of these follows of Mazdaki faith.

Among the nomads, Khagan of Burtas is Manichean while three Manichean Khans can be found as vassals of Karakhanids, Pechenegs & Kirghiz.

'The Iron Century' (936) Start Date[edit]

Daylam, Khorasan & Transoxania still have many Zoroastrian provinces but Persia itself is almost completely Sunni now. Only four playable Zoroastrians and one secretly-Zoroastrian Shiite (Vindad of Arrajan) rulers remain and they are all minor vassals of stronger Muslim powers.

There is one exception however; Vushmgir Ziyarid, Sunni ruler of Tabaristan is the brother of Mardavij Ziyarid, the last Zoroastrian ruler who tried to re-establish Sassanian empire. He can do a special decision to pick-up his brothers legacy of establishing Zoroastrian order over Persia. This decision turns him and his dynasty into Zoroastrian and also grants claims to large areas of Persia.

'Stamford Bridge' (1066) Start Date and later[edit]

Zoroastrianism is still followed by some of the populace of Persia and Zoroastrian courtiers can be found in various courts there. There is also a Zoroastrian province on the western coast of India - Daman - along with several courtiers to simulate the Parsi diaspora but there are no playable Zoroastrians available in or beyond 1066. It is possible for rulers to switch their religion, and the player can use Ruler Designer to create a Zoroastrian character, or the populace of a Zoroastrian county can rebel against their liege. Assuming none of these things happen, though, the faith is, for all intents and purposes, doomed.

However, three historically Zoroastrian dynasties who have now converted to Islam - the Baduspanids, Bavandids and Ziyarids - still hold land in Tabaristan as vassals to the ever-changing rulers of Persia and it is relatively easy to switch religion, especially early on, as the provinces of Tabaristan remain bastions of Zoroastrianism in 1066. Some historical sources also say that Baduspanids might have actually been Crypto-Zoroastrians during this period and to account for this, they (and Ziyarid ruler) start with Sympathy for Zoroastrians trait.

The Ziyarids vanish after 1090 but the Baduspanids & Bavandids (who are both cadet branches of the Sassanid dynasty) are playable until the end of the game.

From 1187 onward, Tabaristan is no longer Zoroastrian and consequentially, resurrecting the faith becomes much harder for either dynasty. The best opportunity to do this is with Rakim Gaubara (Shia) of the Baduspanid dynasty in 1236. He is a Satrap of Tabriz and vassal of the Ilkhanate. He can quite easily secure one of the remaining Zoroastrian provinces and holy sites before converting to Zoroastrianism.

By 1337, only three provinces in Persia will still be Zoroastrian, so if you plan on retaking the Sassanid Empire this late, you'll have to move pretty quickly. However, you may still receive a Mazdan court physician if you are using DLC icon Reaper's Due.pngThe Reaper's Due, so even if all provinces are converted it does not necessarily mean resurrecting the faith becomes impossible.

Likewise, Manichaeanism is still around; north of Samarkand, surrounded by hostile Muslims, Chuy remains as an independent realm. From 1109 onward, the chief is a Nestorian Christian. The Mongols destroy the realm after the 1220 bookmark but interestingly enough, the last Nestorian ruler has a Manichaean son.

North of Chuy, is the Khaganate of Kirghiz whose ruler is also Manichaean. Unlike Chuy, he survives the Mongol onslaught and becomes their vassal, being a playable Mazdan throughout the game period, though by 1337 the Kirghiz are reduced to tribal chiefs.

Tips and Tricks[edit]

  • If you are independent, stay on the offensive! Almost anyone can declare holy war on you, but you can also do the same. Building up your power-base quickly will ensure that rulers think twice about taking your land.
  • Use the terrain to your advantage. Invasions from enemies twice your size can be survived by letting attrition weaken your foes in deserts and then engaging them on river crossings or mountains with more equal numbers. Using excellent commanders also has a great influence over combat performance.
  • You need money. Do not hesitate to borrow money from Jews or expel them if your survival is at stake.
  • With Rajas of India.pngRajas of India, you can switch back to Zoroastrianism if you have to convert due to holy war. You can "hide" from stronger Muslim powers this way and use the opportunity to expand at the expense of smaller realms.
  • In the Old Gods start when playing as Vandad, you can expand into Tarim Basin and replace Buddhist rulers there with Zoroastrians so you have other rulers to ally with or gain assistance from in holy wars.
  • With patch 2.7, you can secretly remain Zoroastrian while trying to garner support for your secret cult, before openly adopting the faith and leading a large-scale rebellion against your liege.

Strategies[edit]

A career as a Zoroastrian ruler is usually quite challenging due to lack of potential allies and hostile neighbors. Careful use of mechanics and cynical political dealings such as temporarily converting to secure alliances can help you rise to the top. Do not be fooled by your initial event troops in Old Gods start as bigger realms can still survive your attacks as their levies replenish and you will soon find yourself outnumbered.

All this means that playing as a Zoroastrian is recommended for more experienced players. The following are some of the strategies on how to succeed as Zoroastrian.

Falsely confessing faith[edit]

With Patch 2.7, by far the easiest tactic to build a secure power base is to use ”Falsely confess faith” decision to appear as Muslim and using Conquest CB to carve yourself a realm within a large Muslim realm. Another good reason to do this is to prevent partition of your demesne due to your Gavelkind succession thanks to the Iqtâ system. The general tactics are the same for the Muslim rulers. Keep your liege happy, stock up on piety and marry your heirs with Muslim vassals outside territories you want for yourself for alliances. You may also attempt to convert others to secretly become Zoroastrian as well. As most strong Zoroastrian rulers are available within de-jure Daylam, securing the kingdom title for yourself should be top priority as it cannot be freely revoked by Iqta government.

The Assassin secret society, available on all start dates, also allows you to take advantage of this strategy even without being a vassal or a target for a holy war, while preserving your Piety. Joining this society will make your ruler convert to the Shi'a faith without the usual 250 Piety cost for changing religion, either openly or in secret. Doing so in secret will prevent your children and relatives to do the same (thus keeping your lineage Zoroastrian), and adopting it openly afterwards will allow for an use of the Conquest Casus Belli without the -2.0 Monthly Piety for attacking another Sunni Muslim, slightly increasing your expansion speed.

Assassin mechanics will also allow you to:

  • Get favours from your liege or neighbours, which could then be used to force a non-aggression pact with them through marriage, for instance.
  • Get temporary but precious stat boons while consuming hashish, useful to boost your levy size or diplomatic skills at the beginning
  • Levy armies and fleets (if Grandmaster), which may be a critical edge over your opponents in war
  • Assassinate more easily your rivals and threatening neighbours, in order to weaken their realm by setting up a regency or incompetent rulers.
  • Get an opinion boost (+5/+10/+20/+30 with other members if you have the same-rank or below them/if you're 1 rank above/if you're 2 ranks above/if you're 3 ranks above), useful when other powerful neighbours or vassals joined the society

Be mindful however that Holy Wars and religious title revocation (if you're a vassal) may be used against you by all your immediate neighbours if you're Shi'a, so think carefully before your conversion.

Strongest rulers for this strategy are Sorkhab Bavandid (769), Vandad Karen (867) and Washudan Justanid (867). In all cases it is also very possible to get enough land for kingdom without ever falsely confessing faith at all. For example, Bavandids in 769 can acquire enough de-jure claims to form the kingdom right from the start. After Daylam, your next priorities should be to acquire a holy site or two if you plan to slow down Zoroastrian conversion to Islam, or to take advantage of your kingly rank (if you're still a vassal under the Abbasids) to slowly incorporate neighbouring vassals in your realm and to become the most powerful ruler in Persia and fear none once you'll become independent.

Hiding under Samanids[edit]

This is a variant for those who want to stay Zoroastrian all the time. Start the game as Vandad Karen, attempt to invite heir to Bukhara to your court and then swear fealty to the Samanids. You can use your event troops to seize Tabaristan, Azerbaijan or Derbent before swearing fealty if you want as this gives you extra holdings to land claimants.

Note that Samanid ruler might attack you before swearing fealty if you decide to attack other realms but with mercenaries and event troops you have good chance to win the war and force the Shah to pay you heavy reparations.

After swearing fealty, give Bukhara claimant some land and press his claim on Bukhara and it becomes part of your realm. The goal now is to keep Samanid realm weak while building up your own realm, bribing council to stop passing laws which hinder you and fabricating claims. It will take a while for Samanid ruler to hand out titles but in couple of decades you should have some claimants for various provinces in the realm who you can get to join your court with favors. You can land these people and press their claim and get them as your vassal. After all this, they should only be happy to embrace Ahura Mazda upon your request.

After you have spent years as Samanid vassal, you can form a faction for independence or with some luck, fabricate a claim on Khiva and seize crown this way. Another (If using Conclave) alternative is to form "Overthrow ruler" faction which will cause realm, even if liege is Muslim, to switch to elective succession. This makes securing the throne much easier.

In any case, with Khiva secure under your rule, you can focus on taking rest of Persia.

Khorasan Gambit[edit]

This is a starting tactic where you take advantage of the Saffarid war with the Tahirids.

Start as Vandad Karen in the Old Gods start. Assign councilors, borrow money, etc. Start moving your event troops towards Dashowuz where Samanid event troops are. When your troops are in Khiva, declare war on Tahirids for Khorasan. Samanids will join them in defense, but as you have far more event troops, Samanid troops will be crushed. Keep running around Samanid lands to kill their troops and to tick up the warscore.

Meanwhile, your normal troops and mercenaries should split themselves around Khorasan to secure provinces as Saffarid troops will help with sieges and most of Tahirid troops will be handled by Saffarids too.

If everything goes according to the plan, you should end up with majority of Khorasan for yourself (enabling usurpation of duchy). After this you have one of the most valuable duchies of Persia under your control.

Afterwards you can swear fealty to Samanids and wreck them from within or you can grab one more duchy title for custom kingdom and then either swear fealty to Abbasids or stay as independent king of Khorasan.

If you invited claimant to Bukhara to your court, you now also have plenty of land where to land him and push his claim. At some stage Samanids will go to war against Nomads or Kabulistan and that is a good time to hit them.

Alternative way to take advantage of this war is the fact that Saffarids invade for Persia and after the war, Tahirids are left with rump state in Khorasan, which is easily seized with a single holy war. It is best to wait for Samanids and/or Saffarids to be busy with other wars.

Return to the Old Ways[edit]

"With me is the Derafsh Kaviani, through which I hope to rule the nations." - Ya'qub ibn al-Layth al-Saffar, to Caliph al-Mutazz

For players with the Rajas of India.pngRajas of India DLC, the easiest way to quickly build a large Zoroastrian kingdom in the Greater Persian area is to take advantage of an intrigue decision to convert to the same religion that your capital county has.

In Dlc icon the old gods.pngOld Gods, start as the Saffarids or Samanids. Your capital is in a Zoroastrian province (in case of Samanids) or you can move it to one (in case of Saffarids) and you need a large amount of prestige to activate the decision to convert to Zoroastrianism. Thankfully, as a Muslim, you get plenty of decisions that increase prestige/piety and your vassals likely love you after so many Ramadans and charity work, so demanding conversion from them should be simple. Congratulations! You now control an enormous chunk of the Persian Empire along with free event troops you received at the start of the game.

You can also use this strategy in other start dates with any of the Bedouin/Turkish/Mongol ruler who controls areas in Persia. Naturally, you can also set your heir a heritage focus and let a Zoroastrian educate him, but you probably have harder time converting your vassals without the benefit of long reign bonuses and accumulated prestige.

The Karakhanid Kindler[edit]

It is very much possible to become the Saoshyant starting as the Karakhanid Khagan in 1066. Rajas of India is highly recommended for this strategy as it allows the decision to convert to local religion (Zoroastrian), or you can convert through a secret religion or education - though you will want to remain Sunni for a long time. You will start with much of the Northern de jure territory (Transoxiana and part of Daylam) and, with the passage of some time, be in a prime position to take the rest. Focus on building up your strength through maximising your manpower, population and wealth (especially on buildings that increase max population) and spend the derived manpower entirely on light cavalry and heavy cavalry horde troops in order to build a powerful horde that can effectively utilise the invasion CB.

Once the invasion CB is unlocked, it's time for action. It is better to invade the Ghaznavid Sultanate first as it is usually far weaker than the Seljuq Sultanate. You can directly hold the counties you take in the war, provided they have at least 2 buildings (as this means the county isn't a nomadic county and thus you can hold it freely without any negative clan penalties). This will further increase your gold, allowing for more heavy cavalry and levy troops. Once the Eastern flank of the Persian Empire is secure and your horde is even more powerful, it's time to invade the Seljuqs. Use the invasion CB to take as much de jure Persian land as possible. Once this is done, you should be nigh unstoppable.

After this, convert to Zoroastrianism and, if desired, move your capital to somewhere within the de jure Kingdom of Persia (for RP purposes, Esfahan is the best option - it is also a major point on the silk road). Settle down as feudal and give out as many vassal titles as needed while keeping the most desirable provinces for yourself (promote commander is useful here as it will auto-generate high martial characters of your religion and culture). You should find yourself either in ownership of 80% of de jure Persian Empire land or in a position close to it and very able to take the remaining land. Take it, form the Persian Empire and once 1,500 piety has been acquired you can take the decision to become the Saoshyant.

Should you have trouble accruing piety then consider secretly converting, founding a religious cult and then openly adopting the faith. This will grant you a character modifier giving +2 diplomacy and +2 monthly piety at the expense of a mere 250 prestige and piety.

The Fury of the Clans[edit]

With their powerful CBs and military potential, nomads can easily build up a power base while slowly conquering the Persian Empire. This is particularly so in DLC icon Charlemagne.png769; a Tengri nomad can easily seize land from pagan tribals. Just be sure to have a holy site in your demesne, and you can spend piety to adopt Zoroastrianism as a secret religion before open declaration. After the High Priesthood is restored, granting a temple to the High Priest will increase MA. The High Priest can then declare Great Holy Wars, allowing you to expand without triggering defensive pacts.

Manichaeism Triumphant[edit]

As a Manichean nomad, if your realm thrives, Manichaeism can easily replace Zoroastrianism as the orthodox Mazdan religion.