Distribution of power guide
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 Pleasing individual vassals
- 5 Managing factions
Increasing personal strength
Building a strong demesne
Settled rulers should focus on 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 them 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 may be 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. 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.
Imperial Administration allows revoking ducal viceroy titles, while Iqta government allows revoking any duchy without penalty. Since kingdoms can't be revoked this way, players with access to duchy revocation may prefer to avoid having vassal kings, e.g. by instead creating megadukes who do not control 51% of any de jure kingdom.
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
Keep an eye on wars between your vassals. Consider prohibiting them entirely, using medium crown authority (without Conclave) or vassal war laws (with Conclave). However, it might be better to intervene with strategic use of the realm peace action (also Conclave) or demand peace interactions (The Reaper's Due).
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. Try to help your duchesses find husbands who aren't rulers or heirs.
Encouraging vassals to use gavelkind
- Without Conclave, vassals can only switch to primogeniture if you have high crown authority, so stick with medium.
- With The Reaper's Due, you can use the demand gavelkind interaction.
- With Charlemagne, keep in mind that granting a viceroyalty can force the vassal to switch to primogeniture.
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 (without Conclave) or Religious Control Mandate (with Conclave), 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.
Participate in crusades
If you have the opportunity to take part in a crusade, jihad, or great holy war, take it. Send an army to the wargoal led by you and anyone whose opinion of you you want to improve. When you arrive, you both get a trait (e.g. Crusader , Kanai , or Ukko's Hammer ) which improves the opinion of all clergy of your religion and anyone else who has that trait. For this purpose, it doesn't matter if the army is very small and gets destroyed immediately, as long as there are enough regiments for everyone you want to improve relations with to lead one.
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 adolescence, three interventions reduce factionalism directly: Timid to Content , Conscientious to Just , and Idolizer to Kind . Additionally, two interventions avoid bad traits: Playful to Cruel (avoiding ⅓ Deceitful), and Willful to Proud (avoiding ⅓ Ambitious). 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 a crusader trait.
Pleasing individual vassals
Monetary bribes are unique in that the cost scales with the recipient's income. Therefore, bribes should not go to the most powerful vassals, but instead the vassals with the highest power/income ratios.
Characters with high
ai_greed respond better to gifts. Look for vassals with traits such as greedy .
You have a limited number of honorary titles. These should generally go to powerful vassals. However, some honorary titles have special mechanics worth considering:
- Your Cupbearer or Food Taster may be able to poison you if they have negative opinion and any of (15 diplomacy, 15 intrigue, deceitful, or envious).
- Your Designated Regent gets a huge opinion boost, but it is crucial they be both competent and loyal (to both you and your heir). If your heir is an adult, you may want them to be designated regent for the monthly prestige alone.
- Your Court Physician should be competent and loyal if you wish to live a long life.
The minor title of Commander only gives +5 opinion, but unlike honorary titles, it can be reassigned without angering anyone.
If there's a vassal you don't want dying in combat, you can dismiss them from whatever army flank they are leading, or temporarily make them not be a commander at all.
Letting a vassal serve on your council adds +10 opinion. It also switches them from seeing your "state diplomacy" to seeing your "personal diplomacy", which can be a huge boost to opinion if your personal diplomacy skill is high.
Assigning council positions becomes especially important with the Conclave DLC. Your most powerful vassals expect a seat on the council and have -40 opinion if they are eligible but not serving. Depending on your laws, councilors may be prohibited from joining factions. However, Conclave also makes it important that your councilors not only be competent but that they also vote the way you want them to.
Transferring a count can please a duke. This is recommended in several cases:
- The count is a faction member. Even if the duke is also a member, you've reduced the total power of the faction: the count could raise his entire demesne levy but the duke can only raise a portion.
- The count is a de jure vassal of the duke. This permanently removes the duke's "-25 Desires control of <County>" opinion toward you, in addition to adding the temporary "+10 Vassal transfer" opinion.
- You are over your vassal limit.
Sending a child or grandchild to be educated by a vassal (or by their courtier) increases the vassal's opinion by +10 for 11 years.
There is no direct danger in giving a vassal control over your child, but you may want to keep an eye on whether epidemic diseases threaten their location.
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.
Marry your vassals
Marrying within the realm can create non-aggression pacts with vassals, preventing them from joining factions. In particular, arranging a marriage or betrothal automatically creates a NAP as long as each spouse is closely related to the interacting rulers. These NAPs can be voluntarily renewed in subsequent generations as long as the new rulers are still close relatives of the married/betrothed couple.
Rulers with large families (e.g. from concubines or seduction) will be able to form more pacts. Muslims have an advantage in that polygamy lets them form pacts through their secondary wives directly, as well as through their many children.
There are several downsides to this strategy. Depending on the circumstances of the marriage, it can give a vassal's successors claims on liege titles. Repeated intermarriage risks Inbred . You cannot revoke titles from vassals you have a NAP with, even if they become traitors (e.g. if they rebel due to failed imprisonment).
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 prevent factions.
- 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 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).
- Excommunicate and imprison
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 demand, they will be unable to issue a strong ultimatum.
- A diverse set of vassals may be unable to agree on a single claimant.
- If you have multiple kingdoms or empires, vassals might be unable to agree on which title should have lowered crown authority, a new succession law, or a new ruler.
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.
Furthermore, depending on the type of faction, AI vassals will not issue an ultimatum if their liege is already fighting in certain types of wars. By prolonging or chaining these wars, you can make AI rulers believe that never is a good time to issue their ultimatum.
For most factions: AI vassals will not issue an ultimatum if the liege is the primary defender in any war (except for Overthrow Ruler, e.g. from failed imprisonment or refused revocation). Furthermore, they will not issue an ultimatum if the liege is the primary attacker in certain wars that would be sure to strengthen the liege: any invasion, holy war (other than Pagan or Buddhist), or personal claim (so including "claim all" but not "claim for other").
For claimant factions: ???
For independence factions: no ultimatums if the liege is defending in certain types of religious wars, or same religion as liege who is attacking an infidel.
Keep vassals busy
If your vassals are fighting each other, they may collectively be too weak to challenge your rule. Furthermore, the faction leader must be at peace to issue an ultimatum.
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|
|Gavelkind succession||Impossible|| +5 opinion from all vassals.|
+30% demesne limit.
|Elective succession||Impossible|| +10 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 at each step||With voting on wars, council members cannot join factions|