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Alert nominate heir.png An heir is the first character in the line of succession.

Title heir[edit]

The heir of a given title is determined via succession laws of each titles.

In case the heir is already vassal to another realm liege, the title will leave the realm. This can be prevented with High crown authority, which excludes foreign rulers from the line of succession.

Dynastic heir[edit]

Your Dynasty heir.png dynastic heir is the character you will play once your current character dies. He/she is the heir of your primary title, if that character is of your dynasty. Otherwise it will be another character who will be landed after your death, preferably one of your dynasty.

If your dynastic heir is not of your dynasty, or he/she is unplayable (e.g. he or she rules a theocracy or is of a religion or government type that you lack the required DLC for), this is game over.

Selecting your heir[edit]

Depending on your government and religion, you may have several methods available to influence who becomes your heir, even without changing your succession law.

By designation[edit]

Ruler Can designate Method
Patrician Any male relative Designated Heir honorary title
Byzantine Emperor An older character who is not Born in the purple 
Great with Seniority!
Despot honorary title, which counts as born in the purple
Buddhist or Jain A gender-allowed child of the ruler.
Great with Ultimogeniture!
Designate Heir button
(above child's portrait)
Muslim A son or grandson Give him the best titles (see open succession)
Nomadic A son or brother Ensure high prestige, e.g. by having him lead a mercenary band
Adulterer A child among bastards Legitimize by decision (or at birth)
Adulteress A child among bastards Legitimize by decision (requires that the father does not legitimize on birth)

By election[edit]

Under Feudal elective, valid candidates are your children, claimants, and vassals with elector titles. Definitely give your genius third cousin an elector title if you can. Vassals who like you will usually vote for your chosen candidate. Having many vassals of your dynasty makes this succession type safer, but also reduces opinion (dynastic vassals would prefer a more dynastic succession law).

Under Elective gavelkind and Tanistry, valid candidates are dynasts. You have less control over the outcome of these elections, but no risk of the title falling out of your dynasty.

Educating your favorite heir(s) to be likable (as lieges) can help get them elected. This is especially important under Elective Gavelkind, where opinion also affects whether junior heirs opt to remain vassals or become independent. Vassal opinion is increased by:

  • Diplomacy skill
  • +5 each from Diligent , Kind , Brave , Just , Gregarious 

Simultaneously, you can educate your less-preferred heirs to be worse candidates:

  • Bad traits.
  • Foreign culture. If they somehow win the election, hope they can handle the realm until they have enough prestige to convert back (500 prestige to convert to capital culture or 200 prestige to convert to liege culture).
  • A heresy. Assuming they lose the election, medium crown authority gives the winner a chance to revoke their titles, which is useful under gavelkind. If the heretic somehow wins, they can revert as long as not zealous, or they can run with it and revoke the entire realm.

Dukes can rig an election by having fewer than 2 count vassals.

By disqualifying other heirs[edit]

See also: Succession#Disqualification
Ruler Method Can disqualify Risks
Byzantine culture group Castration Eunuch.png Men or boys in your prison Opinion
May gain Cruel  trait
Blinding Blinded.png Characters in your prison with Byzantine culture group
Christian Make monk  or nun 

Your courtiers who are unmarried adults, and either:

  • Not heir to any titles
  • In any prison.
Pagan ruler is slightly annoyed by your missionary
Not Pagan or Muslim Grant temple Adult
Not your primary heir
Courtier or vassal's courtier
Gender allowed by religion
May have to revoke a temple
Claimant faction could turn the realm into a theocracy
Catholic Investiture Men of your court May have to murder a bishop
Claimant faction could turn the realm into a theocracy
Mainstream religion Allow to join holy order Men with 5+ martial skill
More likely if Zealous 
Caliph Educate with other religion Minors

The Christian methods work better a generation ahead: you can more easily make a grandson a bishop/monk than a son. These methods also work well for Byzantine emperors, who can temporarily grant the "despot" title to an older son, disqualify the oldest born-in-the-purple sons, and then revoke the honorary title.

If you need to imprison a character, the Intrigue focus can give you excuses to arrest or opportunities to abduct. When arresting a character, you might want to take steps to ensure they do not flee your realm. Your marshal can increase arrest chance with the "Suppress Revolts" job. Or you can grant a title to prevent flight. If you transfer that title under another vassal, a failed arrest will depose them rather than starting a rebellion, giving you a second chance at arrest.

By killing other heirs[edit]

You cannot plot to assassinate your own children, but you might be able to arrange their death another way. Many of these methods mark you as a kinslayer, but at least kinslayer doesn't stack...

Method Potential victims Issues
Battle Adults eligible to be commanders Risk of imprisonment by enemy if a battle is lost
Could be injured without being killed: wounded, maimed, or even made incapable
Duel Rivals, etc Kinslayer , merciless, ruthless
Risk of injury or death
Risk that seducing your son's wife does not start a rivalry and/or causes complications
Cannibalism while carousing Party guest (or host) Kinslayer , Cannibal
You must be Lunatic , Possessed , or impaler 
Becoming a Cannibal through parties alone requires luck or persistence. A faster way is to seclude your court when threatened by an epidemic, and start running out of food.
Cannibalism of prisoner Your prisoners age 12+ Kinslayer , Lunatic , Crazy Cannibal (-50 general opinion), likely Food poisoning 
Requires The Reaper's Due DLC and already being a Cannibal.
Execution Your prisoners Kinslayer , tyrant
Sacrifice Your prisoners You must be Aztec 
Judged by the Sun Your vassal prisoners You must be Zunist . Not guaranteed to kill.
Oubliette Your prisoners Slow if character has high base health
Dark Sacrifice Your prisoners You must be a demon worshiper. Gain 10 dark power but 5 points of visibility. May become more arbitrary, more cruel, more deceitful, or possessed.
Absorb Lifeforce Your minor children You must be a demon worshiper level 4. Spend 500 dark power. Gain health for 10 years.

By disease[edit]

Arranging for unwanted heirs to contract diseases will eventually kill them off. However, there is a risk that the unwanted heir inherits while sick, and rules just long enough to see the realm disintegrate.

Method Potential victims Issues
Send to epidemic location Children, by education
Unmarried adults, by marriage
Adults eligible to be commander
Adults eligible to be spymaster
If the same disease reaches your capital province, and the character is still alive and in your court, seclusion will be ineffective.
Scurvy  Adults eligible to be commander Only with The Reaper's Due: after several years at sea, commanders are likely to get Scurvy.
This is one of the safer methods: if you inherit with Scurvy, it will go away within 4 months of being back on land.
Killing women this way requires Full Status of Women or making them Shieldmaiden 
Sabotage their seclusion Rulers Before they enter seclusion, marry characters with any epidemic disease into their court
Sabotage their health care Remove their Court Physician through invitation, marriage, or title grant. Or have them in your court while you don't have a court physician, or have a zealous infidel as court physician. Or make them a baron-level ruler who cannot employ a court physician.
Great Pox Syphilitic.png Unmarried adults Only without The Reaper's Due: a primary spouse with Great Pox increases the chance of getting it, especially if also leading armies.

Preparing your heir[edit]

Educate heir yourself: by tutoring your heir by yourself, you can ensure picking good traits (or removing bad traits) on education events, and that his culture and religion remain the same as yours. Also he will gain a positive opinion modifier for having been his tutor.

Keep heir at your court: by keeping your heir unlanded, he (and his family) remains under your control:

  • you can choose who he and his children should marry
  • you can fulfill his council ambition (for +1 skill), then switch back to someone more skilled, without having angered a landed vassal
  • if Christian, you can easily disqualify your heir's worst children by ordering them to take the vows. Catholics can also use investiture. (This is important because your heir may be restricted from taking these actions once he is a ruler.)
  • He avoids some bad ruler events (such as getting stressed) and opportunities to make bad decisions (up to and including getting himself killed).

The downside is that:

  • he will not get much prestige before he inherits.
  • he cannot improve his skills by taking a focus (or, without WoL, an ambition to improve skills below 8)
  • if your succession is not Gavelkind or Elective Gavelkind, you get a prestige penalty for having unlanded sons. Exceptions are government types with only one succession law, namely
    • Muslims
    • Patricians in merchant republics
    • Nomads