Distribution of power guide
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This article describes strategies for preventing faction rebellion, with an emphasis on distribution of power within your realm.
- 1 Increasing personal strength
- 2 Keeping your vassals relatively weak
- 3 Keeping your vassals happy
- 4 Managing factions
Increasing personal strength
Building a strong demesne
Settled rulers should focus on a their capital duchy to maximize demesne levies. For construction tips, see Holdings#Strategies. Tribal and nomadic rulers should instead concentrate their demesne in provinces with many empty slots.
Most rulers should try to keep their demesne limited to a small geographical area. This makes it possible to gather armies quickly and avoid having being picked off separately. It also avoids triggering opinion penalties such as "Too many held duchies" or "Desires <your county in my duchy>".
However, the downside of a concentrated demesne that you are putting many eggs in one basket. Be on the alert if you are in the position whereby a holy war (or a war with a similar CB) can be declared on you. A successful holy war could make you lose everything if your capital duchy is the target, severely weakening you or even leading to a game over.
As a King or Emperor, retinues can be a major component of your personal troops. They are especially useful if you have a small or underdeveloped demesne, or if your demesne will split from Gavelkind.
Cheap retinues (e.g. Light Skirmish) can inflate your troop counts and discourage factions from firing. On the other hand, strong retinues (e.g. Defense) are better for winning battles when factions do fire.
Keeping your vassals relatively weak
The other side of the coin is keeping your vassals weak, and reducing their powerbase when possible.
In general, you want enough vassals that a small group can't surprise you with a faction demand, but not so many that you run out of ways to appease them.
Distributing conquered titles
If you expand via conquest, you'll often have titles that you need to give out. You should be quite careful about whom you give these titles to, as it is easy to end up with a single vassal holding many titles, and eventually being able to challenge your power.
The strategy I recommend for giving out counties goes like this: search for characters who are not rulers, are of your religion, are male, are of your culture, and are of your dynasty. You should now find someone who is not heir to anything, and whose heir does not own anything. You then give that person a single county with all its holdings (if applicable). The new count will then soon make the holdings in the county into vassals, and will be of no threat to you. You can also type in trait names into the search bar in order to find particularly desirable traits, such as "Content". For Hindus, there is an additional check needed so that the character's caste allows them to receive the county.
Duchies should generally go to vassals who hold a single county. In the short term, the best count to make duke is the one who likes you best. Another possibility is to grant the duchy to the count who holds its de jure capital; any other duke might try to revoke this county. Alternatively, you can grant the duchy title to the weakest count, so they don't have the power to oppose you or to revoke the duchy capital.
It's also possible to grant duchies to counts who hold no land within the duchy. They might have the advantage of sharing your culture and dynasty, or of being able to raise the duchy's troops in a convenient location. You can even weaken your existing dukes by granting new duchy titles to their vassal counts.
By giving each vassal duke and king a small demesne (with most of the realm held by subvassals), you ensure they cannot raise a large army. Note that the size of the army they provide to you only depends on the buildings in the subrealm, not its internal structure. it is even possible that a vassal will provide you more troops than they can muster for themselves!
Whenever a vassal rebels and you beat them, you should usually revoke their primary title. To do this you will need Limited Crown Authority. You can then follow the strategy described above to give this title to someone else.
Another way to make them rebel without incurring tyranny is imprisoning them with a just cause. If the arrest fails, they'll rebel, and upon crushing their rebellion you'll be able to strip them of a title. If they don't rebel, you can just ransom them, thus taking a bit of money from them and giving it to you, and you'll likely end up with another reason to imprison them later. If they get excommunicated, you can arrest them again and again until they do revolt or the excommunication is lifted.
Finally, you can revoke titles from any vassal who is discovered backing a plot. First, grant and revoke honorary titles multiple times. Second, politely ask them to stop backing the plot. Since they hate you, they will refuse. Since refusing is an act of treachery, you can revoke one title... and then ask again.
Preventing vassal consolidation
Beyond how you distribute county/duchy grants, and stripping of titles, it is very important to attain Medium Crown Authority. This prevents all intra-realm warfare, including faction rebellion by sub-vassals. This will make it near impossible for your vassals to expand via internal conquest, and they're thus much more likely to remain weak. High Crown Authority is not recommended, since it allows vassals to use Primogeniture succession.
If your vassals are not locked to Agnatic succession, pay close attention to their marriages. If a Duke and Duchess marry, their heir will receive both duchies. This can also be a problem if you give land to two brothers and one dies without an heir (or with a young heir who is an easy assassination target). Try to arrange matrilineal marriages to councillors or other people far from succession for your Duchesses, or stick with Agnatic succession.
Keeping your vassals happy
Finally, you should do your best to keep your vassals happy. This makes them both less likely to join factions and inclined to provide more than the minimum levies.
Cultural and religious unity
Having all your vassals of the same religion is especially simple, as at Medium Crown Authority, you can revoke any title held by a Heretic or Infidel without incurring tyranny. Alternatively, you can induce them to convert to your religion. This is especially useful for Zealous heretics or infidels. (To do such conversions, discover them plotting (and/or any other methods of just imprisonment), and force them to convert when they are imprisoned). Note that nomads and unreformed pagans cannot demand religious conversion.
For culture, you should simply make sure to never give titles to people of a different culture unless you have a very good reason to, for example so as to push their claim on some other title. You can also like described above, deliberately make them rebel so that you can give their titles to someone else.
Bribes and such
Unless you actually want someone to rebel, it is usually better to pay them off than to have to crush their rebellion. Monetary bribes should generally be used for vassals with high troop/income ratios and high gift effectiveness (ai_greed).
You have a limited number of fixed opinion modifiers, which should generally go to powerful vassals:
- Honorary titles, especially if old (so the title can be granted again)
- Council positions, especially if competent
- Transferring a count can both remove a troublesome count and please a duke, but should be avoided if the duke is (still) likely to join factions.
Education of vassals
Without Conclave, vassals are most likely to be happy/loyal if educated by a guardian who is Content , Humble , and Kind (see Evaluation of guardian traits). You may be able to marry such women into your court. If vassals other cultures do not like you enough to accept a guardian of your culture, you can still offer a guardian who shares their culture and has these traits.
Education with the Conclave DLC requires more attention to each child's personality, and gives you less control of children who are not your courtiers. Vassal children who happen to be your courtiers should be educated with the Humility focus. Vassal children educated by your courtiers can be switched to the Heritage focus, if their liege picked something dangerous like Pride or Struggle. In late adolescence, a guardian with 12+ diplomacy has a one-third chance of encouraging the child to become Honest , which halves faction inclination.
Grooming your heir
A few good traits can significantly improve vassal opinion, lowering the chance of rebellion and increasing the troops provided by your remaining vassals.
Without Conclave, you should groom your heir yourself, letting you make important choices throughout their childhood. Aim for personality traits that increase vassal opinion: Diligent , Kind , Just , Brave , and Gregarious .
Depending on your means of selecting your heir, you may have too many potential successors to educate them all personally. In this case, without Conclave, the best guardian traits are Diligent , Kind , Temperate , Proud , and Just .
Once your heir is an adult, you may have an opportunity to get them the the Crusader or Mujahid trait.
Even if you follow the advice above, you may get dangerous factions, especially in the aftermath of succession. You can take additional steps specifically to suppress factions.
Make vassals unable to join factions
Even with low opinion, there are several ways to make your vassals ineligible to join factions:
- Send your spymaster to Scheme.
- Grant them independence, especially to vassals outside your capital empire (who barely provide any troops even when opinion is high).
- Transfer them under a vassal of higher rank.
- With Way of Life, you can use the intrigue focus to imprison them or discourage them from joining factions.
- With Way of Life, you can use the seduction focus to have many children, and use their marriages to form non-aggression pacts with many vassals.
- With Conclave, you can give powerful vassals council positions (or make your competent vassals powerful). They will not be able to join factions while the council is content and able to vote on war declarations (unless you are tribal).
Watch for vassals who are in factions despite high opinion. They might have been coerced into the faction by the leader; you can confirm this suspicion by checking the member's opinion of the leader. You can solve this by removing the leader from the faction in any way.
Scatter the demands
If your faction members cannot unite behind a single claimant or other demand, they will be unable to issue a strong ultimatum.
If you have multiple kingdoms or empires, vassals might be unable to agree on which title should have lowered crown authority or elective succession.
Multicultural empires can benefit from having claimants of each culture. Vassals who could in theory support a claimant of their culture+religion, against a liege who isn't, will never join most other factions. The claimant doesn't need any actual support and can even be ineligible for the title. (For independence factions, this does not apply to king vassals. The claimed title must be de jure liege or above of the vassal's primary title.)
Avoid providing an opportunity
Faction leaders cannot issue ultimatums while they are direct participants in war. If they're busy, try to keep them busy.
For factions other than independence, AI will not issue an ultimatum if the liege is defending against an Overthrow Ruler war (failed imprisonment or refused revocation). Furthermore, they will not issue these ultimatums if the liege is attacking in an invasion, claim war, or holy war (other than Pagan or Buddhist). By prolonging or chaining these wars, you can make AI rulers believe that never is a good time to issue their ultimatum.
Independence factions have different rules: no ultimatums if the liege is defending in certain types of religious wars, or same religion as liege who is attacking an infidel.
Consider giving into minor demands
Sometimes vassals will demand something that you don't really mind giving them.
|Demand||Likely to repeat?||Other benefits for ruler|
|Elective succession||Impossible|| High opinion from non-dynastic vassals.|
Lets you more or less select your heir, with moderate risk.
|Lower crown authority||Lower priority at each step||Higher opinion|
|Increased council power||Lower priority past voting on wars||With voting on wars, council members cannot join factions|