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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 and Sassanid Empires, but by the era covered by Crusader Kings II, it had been mostly supplanted by Islam. This religion requires the Old Gods DLC to be 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: Nishapur, Sistan, Fars, Oromieh and Balkh.
  • 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 Sons 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 DLC)
  • Mazdans may intermarry with Zunist pagans, though this is only relevant in Charlemagne start.
  • Divine Blood: Rulers can marry close relatives, which gives the ruler an opinion bonus (+5) with Zoroastrian vassals.
  • Restore Persian Empire: Zoroastrian ruler who becomes emperor of Persia has access to two unique decisions: Restore the High Priesthood and become the Saoshyant.

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

Divine blood[edit]

Divine blood is a mechanic that allows and encourages Zoroastrian & Messalian (Nestorian heresy) rulers to marry close relatives Dynasty close relative.png, including brother to sister and parents to children marriages, for a piety and opinion boost.

At the moment of a divine blood marriage, the ruler gains Piety: 50 for Counts, 100 for Dukes, 200 for Kings and 300 for Emperors.

Some permanent opinion modifiers apply:

Name Source Target Value
Divine Marriage Zoroastrian vassal Liege +5
Divine Marriage Zoroastrian priest vassal Liege +15
Profane Marriage Vassal Liege -10

To limit the effects of inbreeding, children born from a Zoroastrian incestuous marriages have:

  • 5 times less chances than normal to get the inbred  trait.
  • but 5 times more chances than normal to get the lunatic  trait

The risk of your dynasty dying out due to bad congenital traits (characters being inapt to rule, having less children and dying younger) is quite serious after a few generations. To prevent this you may:

  • Take concubines to produce heirs with more genetic diversity and traits. Note, Messalians are not allowed to have concubines (unless tribal), making inbreeding more likely.
  • Marry dynasty members past child-bearing age
  • Land dynasty members frequently to increase the pool of characters you can marry in the long term (unlanded characters are limited on number of children)
  • Use feudal elective succession to skip inept heirs
  • If using Ruler Designer, consider giving your starting ruler the positive genetic traits Genius  or Quick , Strong  and Attractive . This does not reduce the risk of Inbred , but does improve the pool of potential spouses for your heir.

Even if you convert to a different faith, your Zoroastrian vassals still approve of this kind of marriage and you retain the +5 relation bonus.

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.

Becoming the Saoshyant[edit]

A ruler of the Persian Empire with 1500 Piety and control of all holdings in the de jure Persian Empire 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. Descendants of the Saoshyant will receive a 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.

Sky Burial[edit]

Sky Burial is available (with Horse Lords DLC) for all Mazdan rulers along with Nomadic 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]

The Mazdan religious group has two heresies - Manichaean and Mazdaki. These faiths have Concubines, Sky Burial and use of Jewish courtiers & merchants. Neither heresy has Divine blood or ability to restore high priesthood but they can become Saoshyant. Manichean rulers are available for play in every bookmark while Mazdakis are only present in Charlemagne bookmark. Only Manicheanism is really a worthwhile heresy due to presence of some strong Manichean realms in the map which can help you in holy wars and can accept alliances relatively easily. In CM/ToG starts, Manichean realms are also out of immediate harms way as they do not border large Muslim realms.

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.

'Charlemagne' (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 (although strangely and perhaps mercifully, he holds the Duchy of Tabriz, which he controls very little of, providing at least some de-jure claims off the bat), under the Abbasid Caliph. In total Sorkhab controls six 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.

The second strongest Zoroastrian is Vandad Hormozd, who holds two provinces as a vassal of Sorkhab. Historically, he urged Shervin Bavandid to start a rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate.

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 five 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 Pechenegs, a weaker Manichaean realm. Finally, the Tengri ruler of Alans has three sons and youngest of these follows Zoroastrianism.

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.

'The 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, five provinces and two vassal marzobans. One of them, Chief Ashkadaya of Usturt, rules a tribal holding.

The only other independent Zoroastrian 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.

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 a relatively powerful Zoroastrian vassal, 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, Kurush Yoishta, the Turkish Khan of Aral is a vassal of the Yabguid Khagan and the only true Zoroastrian on the steppes (and only ”king” level Zoroastrian ruler in game). Three Manichean Khans can also be found as vassals of Karakhanids, Pechenegs & Kirghiz.

'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 The 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.
  • You need money. Do not hesitate to borrow money from Jews or expel them if your survival is at stake.
  • With Rajas 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.


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. The general tactics are the same for these rulers. Keep your liege happy, stock up on piety and marry your heirs with Muslim vassals outside territories you want for yourself for alliances. There are few rulers who deserve a mention besides just starting in good position like Bavandids in 769 start.

Vandad Karen, Satrap of Dihistan 867

Vandad is very easy to play with as you start with half-sister whom you can marry for 100 piety. This enables you to immediately falsely confess faith after you swear fealty to Samanid shah. Use money you received from marriage to give some for charity and go to Hajj. You now have enough piety to start your wars and with your ample stack of event troops, nobody can stop you. In fact, if you manage to make majority Khiva as your personal vassals, you can simply declare independence, usurp the kingdom and then swap back to Zoroastrianism, all with your initial ruler.

Washudan Justanid, Marzoban of Gilan 867

Washudan starts with a large amount of event troops and his position next to the Caliphate offers couple of tactics. You can either secure yourself a kingdom title (as Iqta government cannot revoke it freely) by conquering your way to Alania or becoming a satrap by conquering either Azerbaijan or Tabaristan for yourself. You should now have plenty of piety for false confession and with your event troops, you can start worming your way into Mesopotamia and become its Shah. Bear in mind taking Baghdad will trigger Jihads. It is also quite easy to become Messalian (if you like to think it as variant of Zoroastrianism) by expanding into Mesopotamian plains.

Keikavus Ziyarid, Bey of Daillam 1066

Mardavij, the founder of the Ziyarid dynasty, was the last Zoroastrian ruler of note in Persia after Muslim conquests. Dynasty achieved success rapidly but also lost it equally rapidly and disappeared from history around 1090. However, in 1066/1081 starts the house is still in position to make a comeback if you want "Zoroastrian" start at this stage. As you are Sunni who controls most of de-jure Tabaristan and Seljuk Shah is in process of handing out titles, he will give satrapy of Tabaristan to you, freeing you from your current vassal relation and becoming Shah's direct vassal.

Whether you revoke your vassals titles or murder them is up to you. You already control a Zoroastrian province where you can change your religion and you should have some Zoroastrian courtiers as well. With Conclave, you no longer need landed Zoroastrians to trigger religion chance if the person educated has Heritage focus. It might still be wise to grant a barony to a Zoroastrian to make sure you have them around.

After doing Hajj, giving charity and Ramadan, you will have piety to launch conquest wars and Tabriz is a logical choice due to holy site and valuable provinces while Azerbaijan is independent and weak realm that you can easily conquer. However, it is hard to predict which provinces you can eventually spread out as Seljuk hands them to his relatives quite randomly. Hashashins appear to Alamut in latter stage of 1080's and you can use county war them and since their holding starts without upgrades, you win the war immediately as long as you blitz through it's meager garrison. This gives you free mosque, further improving your realm.

Assuming you get Tabriz/Azerbaijan for yourself, along with any other valuable provinces like Rayy or Nishapur, you will be in good position when you get independence from Seljuks as you are able to create your own custom kingdom immediately. Road to Persia should be open and you can finish your ancestor Mardavij's revenge.

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 your as you have way more event troops, Samanid event 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. This stops Saffarids from forming Persia and stealing this valuable duchy keeps them weaker. As an added bonus, you now control one of the Zoroastrian holy sites.

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.

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

For players with the Rajas 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 into same religion that your capital county has.

In Old 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 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 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 an heritage focus and let a Zoroastrian to train him but you probably have harder time converting your vassals without the benefit of long reign bonuses and accumulated prestige.

Unique concepts
Religion groups
ChristiansMuslimsZoroastriansPagansJudaismIndian religions