Interesting characters guide
|Taken from forum.paradoxplaza.com with generalolaf's permission.|
Basically, what this is a "directory" of characters, with their starting dates and realms and reasons why they're a good game, challenging, fun, easy or whatever. This should serve the purpose of allowing people to get ideas for games without having to post their own thread.
I'll do some entries, but I obviously can't go through playing every polity there is to play (besides the fact I still don't have SoI and can't comment on any Muslim characters at all!). Because of that, I'm going to ask that, as in the EU3 thread, people submit character names/starting dates/realms and some short reasons why people should play them, and I'll try to add them all to the first post (hopefully we don't run out of space!). Hopefully, together we can build a fairly comprehensive and organised list. I've done some framework for the Catholic characters to show how everything will eventually be organised (by top level liege).
Bear in mind most characters available at the Stamford Bridge start (15 September 1066) are also available at the William the Conqueror start on the 25th of December the same year if you prefer.
 Christian Feudal Lords
Anatolia, Kingdom of (inc. independent duchies)
- Roussel de Balieul, Duke of Charsianon, 1072: A Norman mercenary captain in Byzantine armies, who, after Manzikert disaster, for short period of time created an independent Duchy of Charsianon in Anatolia. Try to rewrite history by creating an independent, long living, Catholic Kingdom of Anatolia.
Antioch, Duchy of
- Reynald de Chatillon, Duke of Antioch, 1153-1160: Historically, an opportunist who married for land, tortured bishops for money, and broke treaties for profit. He was one of the major stumbling blocks to peaceful coexistence between the Muslims and the Crusader States. After his capture at the Horns of Hattin, Reynald was berated for his "maleficence and perfidy" and beheaded by Saladin himself. In game, this is a tough spot. Reynald is a Skilled Tactician with four of the seven deadly sins (and Deceitful besides!) and a 0 Diplomacy. He controls two of the three counties in the Duchy of Antioch, with the third being held by the dreaded Assassins. Raynald never swore fealty to the Byzantines, and he proved a fractious vassal of Jerusalem. If you follow that path, be prepared to be dogpiled quickly by Holy Wars.
Aragon, Kingdom of
- Sancho I Jimena, King of Aragon, 15 Sept. 1066: A one county Kingdom in the Pyrenees, your extensive de jure claims over the eastern Iberian Peninsula offer great opportunities for expansion without disturbing the wasps' nest that is the Andalusian Muslim factions to your south. Your likely first wars will be against the weak, small Muslim states of Lleida and Calatayud. Take the rest of the peninsula for yourself, and the world is your oyster.
- Alfonso de Barcelona, King of Aragon, October 16, 1174: At last the quarreling Jimena are contained in what remains of Navarre, but their legacy continues to poison the unity of the Iberian Catholics. Portugal, Castile, and Aragon remain divided even against the united Almohad Caliphate (Sultanate ingame). House de Barcelona is a young house surrounded by greater powers and with few friends. But you are Alfonso the Troubadour. Such a magnificent name demands a demesne to match. Perhaps even Gondar should owe fealty to Aragon...
Barcelona, Duchy of
- Ermengol d'Urgell, Count of Urgell, 15 Sept. 1066: Start your Reconquista from the safest county in Spain - but beware of Jihads targeting your liege. Make sure you have the power to defend against them before they happen.
Brittany, Duchy of
- Konan de Rennes, Duke of Brittany, 15 Sept. 1066: Last legitimate male of his dynasty in 1066. He threatened to invade Normandy as soon as William's army had crossed the Channel, which he promptly did as promised. At the end of the year he donned a pair of poisoned riding gloves and collapsed dead, most probably on William's orders. His premature demise meant the end of the de Rennes dynasty; he was succeeded by his sister and, after her death, his brother-in-law. Your first priority is to marry, have children and continue the de Rennes male line. Start forging claims on Cornwall, Wales and Ireland, then begin your wars of expansion. In many ways, Brittany in 1066 is the ideal tutorial playground.
Castille, Kingdom of
- Sancho II, King of Castille, 15 Sept. or 26 Dec. 1066: Why play as El Cid when you can play as his liege? Use a young Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar to command your army as you plan to bring Iberia under your realm. Your brother is not exactly on good terms with you and the usual Muslim infidels are everywhere. Can you avoid Sancho's historical fate?
Croatia, Kingdom of
- Dmitar Zvonimir, Duke of Slavonia, 15 Sept. 1066 or King of Croatia, 1081: Can you revert history and prevent the extinction of House of Trpimirović, preventing the Hungarians gaining rule over Croatia by succession since his wife is Hungarian princess?
Denmark, Kingdom of
- Svend, King of Denmark, 15 Sept. 1066 - 1074: Historically he feuded with Haldrada and had little success in military affairs and fathered an impressive twenty or more children. To reflect this he starts with many children to secure alliances and inheritance and a claim on England. Whether you attempt to reunite the North Sea Empire, create the Kalmar Union or restore the Danelaw you've got plenty of options open. You can start the baltic crusades early and take your share of the pagan land. You start with a small but stable kingdom and if you're lucky the Holy Roman Empire will neglect to counter your growth in the north allowing you plenty time to become a great northern empire. The Huskarl (housecarl) retinue adds some strong muscle you can put to good use. With reasonable goals and a little luck the north is yours!
Duklja, Duchy of
- Mihaljo I, Duke of Duklja, 15 Sept. 1066: Starts independent - needs one province to create Serbia. Easy right? Well not when both of those provinces are in the ERE. One is owned by your 9th son (that's right 9th) The other by the heir to the ERE not a man you want to get on the wrong side of. Can you form Serbia and go on to unite the Slavic kingdoms?
England, Kingdom of
- Harold Godwinson, King of England, 26 Sept. 1066: Yes, he's at the Stamford Bridge start as usual, but with the most recent patches his odds went from underdog to David versus Goliath. This start a few days later knocks Hardrada out of the war with a victory at Stamford leaving you a decent force to attempt to turn back the Norman tide. Even so expect for William to put up a ferocious fight and never make the mistake of fighting him on open ground - even mighty huscarls don't fare well against the Norman knights.
- Henry I, King of England, 3 Aug. 1100: Last of the de Normandie kings of England. Can you make sure your house doesn't shatter into pieces and honour The Conqueror's legacy? Or is the house of de Normandie destined to die out like it did in reality? (Actually there are 2 other kings who are direct descendants of William the Conqueror, however since they both born to other houses he practically is the last Norman king of England.)
- Henry II Plantagenet, King of England, Jan 1. 1155: Start off the Plantagenet dynasty and the Angevin Empire on the right foot and see if the sons you birth end up any better than the ones Henry spawned historically.Alternative: 1.1.1187 bookmark: The Lion In Winter, CK2 style. Henry had established himself in both England and the continent, but at a high personal cost. He is estranged from his wife and 2 sons, and historically died 2 years after his sons rebelled. Although Richard is the Lionhearted, let the old lion roar one last time in his twilight, and put his house in order before he departs.
- Edward Plantagenet, King of England, Hundred Years' War start: Unfortunately Edward III doesn't have the traits he should, but you do begin with a strong claim on France (via your wife) and a powerful, centralized realm. Your son and heir, the future Black Prince, is a young boy and ready to be tutored to greatness, whilst France will often be divided and thrown into various civil wars—forge marriage alliances with Scotland and Brittany, wait for an opportune moment and then pounce.
- Kadoc, Earl of Cornwall, 15 Sept. 1066: the last Cornish Earl of Cornwall. He's still around in 1066 (both Stamford Bridge and William the Conqueror start) but will disappear in a couple of months, like in history. While he's supposed to be descended from the ancient Kings of Dumnonia, he starts as a guy with just a wife and brother, daughter and some nephews, with a dynasty officially founded by his landless father. Apart from Ralph de Gael (Earl of Norfolk), he's the only ruler in Britain with the Breton culture. You can form the Duchy of Cornwall as soon as you make the money.
- Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, 1225: Leader during the barons' war against King Henry III, he became the de facto leader of England for a short time before his death in battle. Starting off as a simple earl, making Simon's rise match that of history might be a challenge, but one worth a try.
France, Kingdom of
- Philippe I Capet, King of France, 15 Sept. 1066: You are under-age, have a demesne of two, and have several vassals more powerful than you. The Duke of Flanders wants independence, the Duke of Normandy is waging a war for the English throne, your uncle the Duke of Burgundy wants to become King of France himself, and the Dukes of Aquitaine and Toulouse are just way more powerful than yourself. Can you repeat history and survive and prosper against all odds?
- John I, King of France, 15 Nov. 1316: Your dynasty is almost as weak as in 1066, but you don't have giga-vassals. However, you are surrounded by Castille, Aragon and the HRE. If you die and your uncles doesn't manage to have children, you have the hundred year war. If not... there are only a few English counties left in South France and you could have Brittany and Savoy easily. Sadly, the regency preceding his rule has been replaced by him living longer, so by beginning at the above said date, you are not a newborn.
- Guilhem de Poitou, Duke of Aquitaine, 15 Sept. 1066: Form the Kingdom of Aquitaine, if you can break free from France and avoid the dismemberment of your realm from gavelkind.
- Eudes II, Duke of Burgundy, 1153: The former spouse of Louis VII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has helped the English king to inherit the whole of Aquitaine, practically 1/4 of France. Half of the de jure kingdom is now in hands of the Plantagenets, and they also look at Toulouse with greedy eyes. As a loyal vassal of the good, but not so skilled Louis VII, help to defend the remaining French realm and reconquer the lands that rightfully belong to the Capets! Of course, after the French crown and lands are secured, you can stop being (or pretending to be) a loyal servant and take the crown for yourself.
- ???, Duke of Flanders, 15 Sept. 1066: The wealthiest provinces of France with the option to go HRE whenever you wish, one or two counties away from forming Frisia, some fine relatives.
- Guilhelm IV, Duke of Toulouse, 15 Sept. 1066: A very interesting character that allows for very plausible switches into alternate history. IOTL, the counts of Toulouse (Toulouse, IOTL, was a county, not a duchy) and the kings of Aragon were very close until the rise of the Montforts and the Albigensian crusade, when Simon de Montfort defeated the combined forces of Aragon and Toulouse at the battle of Muret. With a closely linked Aragon and Toulouse, you could potentially become the king of Aragon, and end up with a disunited Spain. There could be a Hispanic Portugal and Castile in the far west, and an Occitanian Aragon that spreads along the Mediterranean coast from Provence in the east to Murcia in the west, and stretches from Sicily in the south to Gap or even Vienne in the north.
- Raimond de Toulouse, Duke of Toulouse, 1 Jan. 1187: With the Cathar heresy at full height, you can choose to crush it, or join it.
- Herbert Karling, Count of Vermandois, 15 Sept. 1066: the last living descendent of Charlemagne and a count near Paris.
Galicia, Kingdom of
- Nuno II Vimaranes, Duke of Portucale, 15 Sept. 1066: Defend against Holy Wars and Jihad from the south, then complete the Reconquista and set up your own kingdom in Portugal.
Holy Roman Empire
- Frederich II, Kaiser of Holy Roman Empire, 5 Jul. 1212 - 12 Dec. 1250: One of the most ambitious and powerful of the Holy Roman Emperors, Frederich best embodies the average CK2 player's drive to rule the world. He represented the pinnacle of House Hohenstaufen, and had plots in nearly every corner of the world. He attempted to claim Jerusalem by marriage (and is married to the Queen of Jerusalem in the 1220s), warred against the pope, and very nearly turned the HRE into a proper nation-state.
- Richard of Cornwall, Kaiser of Holy Roman Empire, 28 Jan. 1256 - 2 Apr. 1272: He is King (ingame Kaiser) of the Holy Roman Empire. And English... And of the House of Plantagenet! A very special experience and starting point. He is emperor between 28 January 1256 and 2 April 1272.
- Otto II, Duke of Bavaria, until 1070: create the Kingdom of Bavaria and eventually take over most of eastern Europe. Highly recommended!
- Welf I Welf, Duke of Bavaria, 1 Jan. 1070 and 1079: the bastard son of Duke Alberto II Azzo d'Este of Lombardy, can you resurrect the once old and powerful House of Welf (Guelph)? It's a fun game being an illegitimate bastard with a wife that has a claim on neighboring Swabia. If you can pacify the Bavarian Lords, and consolidate you could potentially become the most powerful man in the Holy Roman Empire. Not to mention the weak claim you will receive when the old man Alberto Azzo II dies, and the impending succession crisis in Lombardy means you can seize your moment and swallow Milan as well. Bringing glory back to the Welfs should be a fun undertaking.
- Vratislav II Premyslid, Duke of Bohemia, 15 Sept. 1066: You have a better inheritance law than the other HRE dukes (Seniority's not as good as Elective, but it beats Gavelkind hands down), the County of Prague has more space for upgrade than most places, and you start the game with everything you need (except the 600 gold and 200 piety, obviously) to create the Duchy of Moravia and then the Kingdom of Bohemia. Also, with a little ruthlessness you can contrive for your son Bretislav to inherit the throne (and royal demesne!) of the Kingdom of Hungary; even if he doesn't hold on to the kingdom he has a decent chance of holding on to the duchies. Be warned that if you don't want to adopt German culture you may well need to make more use of the "spawn random aristocrat" buttons than might otherwise be the case.
- Lothar-Udo, Duke of Brandenburg, 15 Sept. 1066: You know the drill, obtain the black eagle and start rolling.
- Matilda, Duchess of Tuscany, 15 Sept. 1066: A good grip on Italy at the beginning as duchess of Tuscany, and a vassal of the HRE. It offers many possibilities, and allows to learn the game mechanics safely within the HRE while recreating the Kingdom of Italy. May have changed since earlier patches, so the succession is a bit trickier now as she already has sons from a regular marriage (she used to be childless in previous versions).
- Gerhard Chatenois, Duke of Upper Lorraine, 15 Sept. 1066: Just a duchy title away from being able to found the Kingdom of Lotharingia.
- Werner von Habsburg, Count of Aargau, 15 Sept. 1066: rise from one county to rival the historical extent of Emperor Karl V's dominion over Europe.
- Hendrik Reginar, Count of Brabant, 15 Sept. 1066: Beginning under a strong duke, it takes your full attention and resources to break away from your ducal liege. Once you're done, you can work towards creating your own Dutch Kingdom within or outside of the Empire.
- Geraud de Geneve, Count of Geneve, 15 Sept. 1066: The score description is almost taunting. Can you do better by ruling more than your single county?
Hungary, Kingdom of
- Salamon I Árpád, King of Hungary, 15 September 1066: Barely more than a century and a half ago, the Magyars were a nomadic tribe ravaging westwards through the steppes of Asia to flee from their more powerful neighbours. Now, the Kingdom of Hungary is poised to strike back at the Pechenegs and also has good opportunities to expand in Croatia and Poland, as well as Galich to the northeast. With a Princess of the Holy Roman Empire as your wife, you are backed by a mighty ally, just beware of the Byzantine Empire. The historical Árpád dynasty managed to add Croatia to its domains, but then was almost destroyed by the Mongols and only survived thanks to the death of the Great Khan - and due to constant infighting which only became worse after the Mongol invasion subsided, Hungary could barely hold itself together while the dynasty slowly headed towards extinction on the agnatic line, which finally happened in 1301. Can you do better?
Ireland, Kingdom of
- ??? Ua Neill Naoigallaich, Earl of Oriel, 15 Sept. 1066: the starting earl of Oriel is an O'Neill Naoi-Gallach, as in Niall of the Nine Hostages. Fun start to conquer Ireland in his name. (EDIT: You are around 650 years off on this one. This character is not THE Niall Noígíallach aka Niall of the Nine Hostages, who is a semi-mythological figure that supposedly ruled as High King of Ireland in the late 4th century, was chosen to be king by a magical witch turned from a hag into a beautiful woman who was the spirit of Ireland, and was of course a Pagan.)
- John de Courcy, Count of Ulster, Third Crusade start: his capital is the castle of Carrickfergus. He tried for independence from England - going as far as putting his face on coins. The English King put him down; now all that remains of his legacy is a shopping centre in Carrickfergus.John de Courcy was an Anglo-Norman knight who arrived in Ireland in 1176. From then until his expulsion in 1204, he conquered a considerable territory, endowed religious establishments, built abbeys for both the Benedictines and the Cistercians and built strongholds at Dundrum Castle in County Down and Carrickfergus Castle in County Antrim.
The Isles, Duchy of
- Gudrod Crovan, Duke of the Isles, 15 Sept. 1066: You may not be able to form the Kingdom of the Isles in-game, but you can pretend to. The Isles are an interesting start because they're Norwegian and independent but surrounded by Gaelic rulers and provinces. Swear allegiance to Norway before you unpause; this will give you room to expand in both Ireland and Scotland without having to worry as much about being dogpiled by your enemies. This is particularly true in the case of Scotland, which will always attack you over a de jure claim sooner or later. Alternatively, for those wanting a greater challenge, try to do all of this whilst remaining independent.
Jerusalem, Kingdom of
- Godefroy I, King of Jerusalem, 15 Jul. 1099 - 1 Apr. 1100: Godfrey was the first leader of the Kingdom of Jersulem, he actually refused to become king, believing that God was the true king of the kingdom of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, he can be played as the King. You should be able to avoid his untimely death and hopefully with a good deal of skill and luck set up a true lasting Kingdom.
- Baldwin I, Emperor of Latin Empire, 1205: A pious Catholic given an imperial title, you lord over a land of Orthodox Greeks who are, most likely, none too pleased by your rule. Take this artificially constructed empire and take charge of its fate, to turn it into a real presence on the world stage. You control the Imperial province itself and a good half of the Aegean Islands - oh, and a barony in far-off Belgium. In the real world, Baudouin died in a Bulgarian prison after provoking them to invade. Can you avoid this ignominious fate? As a two-province Emperor, you're unable to swear fealty, so it's not easy...
Leon, Kingdom of
- Alfonso Jimena, King of Leon, 15 Sept. 1066: If deception is more your style, this is the Spanish leader you should play as. Alfonso starts with high intrigue and claims on the neighboring Christian kingdoms. If you can have your brother Sancho killed fast enough you'll be King of Leon and Castille and recreating the real Alfonso's rise to power.
- Urraca Jimena, Countess of Zamora, 15 Sept. 1066: Is she interesting? fun? historically meaningful? No, no, and I have no idea. She is, however, the Kizdean Gix (EQ1) of CK2 - annoying beyond all reason, and out of all proportion to her power. I've played Leon a few times and I cannot stand this woman (she's your sister, and so the sister of all the neighboring Kings, so there's no dealing with her). Think Kate Gosselin (without the kids) if her personal assistant drank her cappuccino. She's what the Oubliette was made for.
Lubeck, County of
- Budivoj Nakonid, Count of Lübeck, 15 Sept. 1066: He is a Christian an Pommeranian and the Count of Lübeck. If you play well, you have the chance to create the Kingdom of Pommerania as a Catholic Ruler (note: You still have to convert to a pagan religion to create the kingdom) You can try it as independent Count if you like it hard or you can became part of the Holy Roman Empire or Denmark.
Norway, Kingdom of
Normandy, Duchy of (inc. William and vassals, but not other French vassals in Normandy)
- Robert ('Curthose') de Normandie, 15 Sept. 1066: Begin at Stamford Bridge as a 12 yr old Count, eldest son and heir to William de Normandie. Already with a slew of negative traits, expect miserable diplomatic ability as an adult, and - whatever becomes of the Norman Conquest - you will be constantly battling your two younger brothers, vying to remain the valid heir. Through careful marriage you could form alliances with other families - but of course the risk is choosing someone small enough to not be a threat, but big enough to be a help in any disputes with your brothers. In real life, his long running discord with his brothers and father (three kings, no less!) was possibly the most significant factor in the end to the de Normandie dynasty. He went to war against all three of his closest male relatives, every time his miserable people skills costing him the throne (and general unreliability as he was quite a lazy, entitled sod). Impulsive, begrudging, and proud, but with all the social graces of a chamber pot at high tide, he was eventually imprisoned by one of his brothers and died only a year before his youngest brother (King Henry I), ending the line of de Normandie forever. Robert was a front line warrior, better suited to the battles of arms rather than politics, and his fate showed this.
Navarra, Kingdom of
- Ramiro, Count of Nájera, 15 Sept. 1066: Obviously Stamford Bridge is the most popular start. A lot of folks also like the more difficult start of jumping in as a small dynasty count with one province. Nájera starts in a precarious position - the lone County serving King Antso IV in the middle of the boiling pot. You're a Castillian in a Basque province, which gives you interesting options. Firstly, you can ahistorically attempt to cultivate the Basque culture for their unique bonus of Absolute Cognatic succession. This not only allows daughter heirs over sons, useful if your daughters are better stateswomen, but also allows you to title female courtiers - and clever use of marriage of influential male vassals with bad stats allows you to draw very, very useful stateswomen to your court. Alternatively, you can just attempt to take over with your Castillan culture - it's certainly much more widespread as you expand. While you don't have the King of Aragon's titanic 14 (!!!) de jure claims for possible expansion, you DO have a strong claim for your entire Kingdom! While this seems minor, Navarra has a de jure claim over Viscaya, and you can gobble up some territory against weak Muslim emirates nearby, and possibly claim a duchy to allow you to eventually take over Barcelona. A fun, difficult start with tons of options.
- Giacopo Orsini, Count of Orvieto, 15 Sept. 1066: avoid getting your one county confiscated by your liege the Pope while building up enough land and wealth to revolt and set up your own state.
Poland, Kingdom of
- Boleslaw 'the Bold' Piast, King of Poland, 15 Sept. 1066: can go various ways. His realm has about 20 de jure provinces, made up of five duchies of varying power. You can expand basically anywhere you want.
- Kazimierz III 'the Great', King of Poland, 1333: The only Polish king in history to both receive and keep the 'Great' nickname - can you make him worthy of it? Secure borders to the West against HRE and some Bohemians with claims, possibly fend off the Golden Horde, take on the Lithuanian pagans, and have the option to plot against the Teutonic Order and start a succession crisis that could land you the other half of the de jure Lithuanian kingdom. (Playing as Kaz's father Wlad is also a fun setup; just start on the day of Kaz's birth 30 Apr 1310 to make sure you have that little genius.)
Scotland, Kingdom of
- Malcolm III Dunkeld, King of Scotland, 15 Sept. 1066: Start with just one county (and a Kingdom) and forge the reputation of the great 'Canmore' or 'Long neck' -referring quite personally to his leadership style. He is also considered the progenitor of a branch of the family that ruled Scotland until 1286. Also his wife was the beatified Saint Margaret so be nice (or not)
- Margaret I ('the Maid'), Queen of Scotland, 1287-1290: an interesting character to play, this tragic young girl was the only heir to Alexander III, and her death helped lead the invasion and takeover of Scotland by Edward I, there is much question of her early death despite her royal status on her trip to Scotland. Yet in the game you can change this young girl's fate, and make her into a Queen worth remembering in history.
- Robert I, King of Scotland, 1296: Who doesn't want to play as the great Scottish king, Robert the Bruce, can you too take advantage of Edward II to raise Scotland to new levels, and can you, unlike the Bruce, leave an heir who can continue the dynasty and cement Scotland as a power in Europe?
- Gospatrick Dunbar, Duke of Lothian, 15 Sept. 1066: The only Anglo-Saxon duke outside England, Gospatrick is a vassal of King Malcolm III and his realm straddles the Scottish Lowlands. You have numerous options here, such as backing one of the King's relatives as a pretender, attempting to take the throne yourself (quite possible via elective succession or a strong faction), expanding into Northumberland whilst England is in chaos, or simply remaining loyal to the Dunkelds and hoping to be rewarded for your efforts. You can even choose to stay Saxon or become Scottish. All in all, a very interesting position and perhaps the most unique starting character in Scotland. If you want to notch things up to 'expert' difficulty, fight a successful war for independence and try to remain so.
- Mael Snechtai, Duke of Moray, 15 Sept. 1066: last of the relatives of the infamous Macbeth. Can you retake the Scottish throne through murder and deceit?
- Somerled Somhairle, Earl of Søreyar/Argyll, 1 Jan. 1156: A Scottish vassal to a Norwegian Duke, in 1156 Somerled has taken half the Kingdom of the Isles from his brother-in-law and is poised to root the Norwegians out of Western Scotland. The historical Somerled was slain in the Battle of Renfrew in 1164. Some say he died in battle, others through treachery. Lead this ambitious man to an ahistorical and enduring reign in Scotland.
Sicily, Kingdom of (inc. Apulia, Sicily, Napoli, Capua, Salerno)
- Robert I d'Hauteville, Duke of Apulia, 1066: Not as challenging as many starts, but the family is a popular choice. Croatia offers an expansion opportunity in the north. John Julius Norwich has written a great 2-volume history of the family.
- Albinia d'Hauteville, Countess of Lecce and Taranto, 1205: a 16-year-old widow (tough life, I guess, but he died a "natural death" at 41, so it might be a Nelson Rockefeller thing) if you start in 1205. Can you get the family back its Kingdom of Sicily?
- Sergios Spartenos, Count of Napoli, 15 Sept. 1066: The sheer turbidity of the region in general! You are a small middle aged, single Greek orthodox count swimming in a sea of Normans, Genoans and Muslims with the pope being your next door neighbor! But you know what? You can beat them because THIS IS SPARTENOS. The easy way out is of course swearing to Apulia, the HRE or the ERE, but why should you? - There is immense satisfaction in becoming an independent Despot against all the odds. An overview of threats and potential playstyles
Sweden, Kingdom of
- Stenkil I af Stenkil, King of Sweden, 15 Sept. 1066: Your northern vassals remain true to the old ways, while you and your southron vassals have adopted Christianity. Your brother Erik, commonly known as 'the Heathen' rivals you in power and ambition, and might make a move for the throne. Will you stay true to the One True Faith, or bow to Oðinn?
- Birger (Birger Jarl), Duke of Ostergotland, 16 May 1214: said to have built Stockholm and led the Second Swedish Crusade into Finland.
Valencia, County of
- Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, Count of Valencia, 1 Jan. 1094: yes -that- El Cid, he is count of Valencia in Spain, word of warning this is a very difficult start but is a famous character in history worth mentioning.
Wales, Kingdom of (inc. Gwynedd, Deheubarth, Glamorgan, Gwent)
- Maredudd II Dinefwr, Duke of Deheubarth, 15 Sept. 1066: You and the only other member of the Dinefwr dynasty are both over 50 years old, but once you produce an heir, you can instead concentrate on reclaiming your other two de jure claims in southern Wales. From there, unite Wales and then the British Isles through, conquest, marriage or both. As of 1.09, your task is now easier as you now have a junior branch of the family who can continue the Dinefwr quest for glory.
- Bleddyn Mathrafal, Duke of Gwynedd, 15 Sept. 1066: You start with several children, a medium-sized duchy, and the ability to quickly form a kingdom. Unite Wales, Defend against the English, and play the marriage game.
 Catholic Heresies
Bulgaria, Kingdom of
- Peter III Dukljanin, King of Bulgaria, 1072: historically the famous ERE enemy Constantine Bodin, a relative of Serbian and Bulgarian dynasties that used to reign over the Balkans before Basil II. You just have two provinces at start (only one is in your demesne); the rest of your Kingdom is under ERE's control which also looks greedily on your lands. The Pechenegs, Hungarians and others will also prove difficult to deal with, and you cannot swear fealty - you're a KING, even if you are weak. In real life Peter's Kingdom survived only 1 year, disestablished by the ERE. Good luck with uniting the Balkans and raising Bulgaria and Serbia to become superior powers!
- Kaloyan I, King of Bulgaria, Latin Empire bookmark: This is a man with an axe to grind, and he habitually ground it into the Latin Empire and the Byzantines. This is the man that resurrected the Bulgarian Empire, although the game rightfully calls him king (although he requested an imperial title, Pope Innocent III thought king of Bulgaria and Wallachia was enough). If you wait till they are distracted you can press Kaloyan's claims on the Latin Empire lands early and you have plenty of directions to expand (if you don't want to limit yourself to slaying romans). You start with a strange cultural dynamic as well, your Wallachian territory is ruled by your Tengrist Cuman vassals.
- Alexios Komnenos, Basileus of Byzantine Empire, 1081 (Alexiad start): Bring the Empire back from its defeat at the hands of the Seljuks - and who could be better suited to the task than the subject of the famed 'Alexiad'?
- Isaakios Komnenos, Doux of Antioch, ????: get started on your Komnenian restoration before Manzikert!
- Nikephoros Melissenos, Doux of Athenai, 1066: Historically, he seized Asia Minor and declared himself emperor before ultimately becoming a loyal servant to Alexios I Komnenos. In-game, he holds the county of Athens, which has some ridiculously high technology (I haven't found a province with higher legalism at the start). As an added bonus, he's the only member of the dynasty (there aren't even any dead ones!), so you can truly feel like the founder of a great dynasty when you've finished your conquests.
- Nikephoros I Palaiologos, Doux of Epirus, 15 Sept. 1066: of the later famous Palaiologos dynasty that ruled the Byzantine Empire from the aftermath of the 4th crusade up until its demise.
- Radomir Kometopuli, Count of Dorostrum, 15 Sept. 1066 or 1081: The last Bulgarian noble to preserve his culture and descendant of the last Bulgarian kings. Has a claim on the duchy of Turnovo, is the heir of his brother - the count of Constansa - who turned Greek. Also an ally of the Duke of Armenia. As a Grandson of one of the last Bulgarian Kings you start both 1066 Scenario and 1081 with a Claim on Turnovo, and brothers who are lords of Karvuna. Obvious aim is to lead a rebellion against the Empire, as one of the few remaining Bulgarian characters in the game.
- Gagik Bagrationi, Count of Lykandos, 15 Sept. 1066: The last Bagrationi king of Armenia, now dethroned and given a "pension" in Armenia Minor off of which to live the rest of his days. Historically he and his two sons died because of intrigue and plots, but it is possible to reclaim your ancestral title. Also, your daughter is married to the king of Georgia.
- Petros Tournikes, 1066-1068: Other characters are for weaklings who want high stats or easy expansion opportunities. House Tournikes doesn't baby you with such things. It offers you the chance to play an insignificant count at the utmost extremity of Christianity and the Roman empire. Claw your to greatness with sheer bloodyminded determination for nothing will be given to you. When you finally raise your dynasty to the purple you will know that you earned it, dammit.
Georgia, Kingdom of
- Bagrat IV Bagrationi, King of Georgia, 15 Sept. 1066: Sandwiched between the three major powers of the ERE, Cumans and Seljuk Turks, fight your way out, taking opportunities when civil wars consume the larger states to grab land, then brace yourself for the inevitable Mongol invasion.
Novgorod, Duchy of
- Sviatopolk, Count of Zaozerye, 15 Sept. 1066: It's tough to be a bastard. Your dad and uncles rule the lands of Kievan Rus, and you are stuck lording over a bunch of pagans in a county that has never existed. To add insult to injury, your liege is your own brother. Can you climb from the shores of Onega to the throne of Kiev, sucker? Real Sviatopolk could.
Polotsk, Duchy of
- Vseslav ('the Seer'), Duke of Polotsk, 15 Sept. 1066: Real Vseslav was not eligible to rule Kievan Rus, but that didn't stop him from trying. Can you do better and claim the throne when your duchy is not de jure Ruthenia?
Serbia, Kingdom of
- Uros IV 'the Strong', King of Serbia, 1337: Roflstomp anything in sight (with the weakest Christian Balkan country at game start), gain enough powerbase in Thessalia, Bulgaria and Albania to snatch Croatia from Hungary, conquer Tsargrad and then you'll have the Serbian Byzantine successor state his son couldn't keep.
 Orthodox Heresies
- Sartag, Khagan of Golden Horde, 2 Jan. 1255 (Nestorian): It is January 2, 1255 and you are the great-grandson of Genghis Khan. You are the one true believer in a sea of heretics, pagans, and schismatics. You are the one scholar and theologian in a family of warriors. The real Khagan Sartag lasted barely a year. Good luck.
Armenia, Kingdom of (incx. independent duchies and counties)
- Levon I, King of Armenia, Hundred Years' War scenario: Continuing what seems to be a proud Armenian tradition (see Duke Levon II), your heir is your mediocre sister. But this time you're a 41 years old married inept, who has obtained the crown by killing his very same kin. You directly control all the land in the "kingdom" (a 3-county glorified duchy) and have de jure claims on half of Anatolia... which is mostly occupied by weak Turkish Beyliks, but also by the strong Ottoman and Eretnid dynasties. Can you form a huge Anatolian kingdom and replace the Byzantine Empire as the main Christian force in Asia Minor? Or will the Egyptians conquer your lands as in real life (they will also call a holy war on you on day one and your only ally is the Catholic Trinacria)?
- Levon II, Duke of Armenia, Third Crusade scenario: You start with good stats, but that's it. You have a four-county duchy with two vassals, which are luckily both Armenian and Miaphysite, and are de jure part of the Byzantine Empire which WILL attempt to vassalize you. Your other neighbour is an unusually strong Sultanate of Rum which, guess what, desires your land and holds the majority of the Kingdom of Armenia de jure territory, which at this point has been almost completely resettled with Turks. To add insult to injury, the remaining half of the De Jure kingdom of Armenia is divided between Saladin and Tamari the Great of Georgia, a country that is living its apogee. And even if you manage to grow, the Mongols will be at your door soon. Your character is not married and you should do this as soon as possible, seeing how your heir is your inept sister and you're already 37. The weak county of Antioch could prove a good starting point for expansion (should the Turks not decide to assimilate you on day one) and you can destroy the Hashashins before the Mongols come. The objective? Unite all the Armenians, including the ones living in Jerusalem, before 1453.
 Miaphysite Heresies
 Muslim Characters
Africa, Sultanate of (Zirid Sultanate)
- Tamim Zirid, Sultan of Africa, 1066: Ifriqiya was the Zirids, the prize of conversion to Sunni Islam and rebellion against the Fatimids. But it is theirs no longer. The Bedouin have carved your domain into a series of Emirates each larger than the sliver of land that has remained under your rightful rule. To regain your birthright with take wise statesmanship, ruthless strategy, and a great will. Succeed, and perhaps an entire continent will bear your name.
Egypt, Sultanate of
- Baibars, Sultan of Egypt, 24 Oct. 1260 - 30 Jun. 1277: The Turk who became a slave, the slave who became a general, the general who became a sultan, the sultan who brought down the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Baibars, thought to be a fair-skinned, blue-eyed Turk in life (though he is a typical dark Egyptian in game) was the Mamluke general who won the Battle of Ain Jalut, turning back the Mongol tide and showing, once and for all, that the Khans could be beaten. He then ascended to the Sultanate and continued his conquests against Armenia and the Crusader states, effectively ending the Catholic occupation of the Holy Land. In-game, Egypt is a powerhouse, headed by a Strong, Ambitious Brilliant Strategist in the latter half of the prime of his life. It's an easy game, but a fun romp. And dominating the map as Baibars makes a little more sense than doing so as the Fatimids.
- Saladin, Emir of Alexandria, 18 Jan. 1169: The famed Saracen general and leader of Egyptian forces during the 3rd Crusade.
Mali, Sultanate of
- Mansa Musa, Mansa of Mali, 1 Jan. 1312: Considered by many to be the wealthiest person ever. Before death Musa amassed an estimated $400 billion from Mali status as the producer of HALF the world's gold and salt. More cool stuff about Mansa Musa.
- Tunka Cisse, Emir of Ghana, 1066: Neither you nor your family has great stats or starting position. However, you are easily in the best position to form the kingdom of Mali, and if you are able to slowly dismantle the Almoravids to the north, you may yet become a presence on the world stage. Not to mention that they are the only neighbor there, meaning that if you keep good relations, you can build in peace.
Mauretania, Sultanate of (Almoravid Sultanate)
- Yusuf I Almoravid, Emir of Marrakech, 15 Sept. 1066: You start with all the riches of the Almoravid sultanate in your hands, can easily acquire the crown by plotting, and have claims on all your Maghrebi neighbours.
'Ottomans, Sultanate of'
- Sultan of Ottomans, 1299 or HYW bookmark: they show up in 1299 near Nicea but the 100 years war bookmark gives them better odds since the Byzantines are in shambles. Can you conquer Anatolia, Greece, and most importantly the Imperial city before the game ends in 1453?
Rum, Sultanate of
- Ertugrul Ghazi, Bey of Ancyra, 1266: the father of Osman Ghazi(founder of the Ottoman dynasty) lives as a vassal of Rum in 1266, he is the Bey of Ancyra.
Tlemcen, Emirate of
- Aba-al-Mu'min Almohad, Emir of Tlemcen, 1 Jan. 1145: Two decades of Almohad revolt at last begin to bear fruit. You are the chosen successor of El-Mahdi; destined to a Caliphate but an Emir for now. The Almoravid Sultans in the west continue to cling to power they do not deserve. Take advantage of the divided and weak Emirs to your east or take the fight directly to the murderers of Ibn Tumart, but move quickly. The end is coming.
 Sunni Heresies
Oman, Emirate of (Nabhanid Emirate)
- Muhammed Nabhanid, Emir of Oman, 1 Jan. 1154: Sixty-four is rather old for a Bedouin rebel. Perhaps it is good that you are one no longer. The Seljuks have at last surrendered all of Oman to you, but with a lone son still not of age you might not be able to make too much of it. Should your line survive the attentions of the equally large Emirates on either side of you, the Sultanate of Arabia is a natural goal. Even then the Sunnis surrounding you should make for a tense and eventful game.
Sicily, Emirate of (Kalbid Emirate)
- Muhammad Kalbid, Emir of Sicily, 15 Sept. 1066: You're surrounded by infidels, but if you fend off the Sunni and conquer the Catholics then you can establish your own Sultanate of Sicily right on the pope's doorstep.
 Shia Heresies
 Pagan Characters
Sweden, Kingdom of
- Erik the Heathen, Jarl of Uppsala, 15 Sept. 1066: Starts with a claim on the Swedish throne and about half the kingdom as his vassals, so can usurp the throne with a little luck. Is also a Norse Pagan. Can you reconquer Scandinavia for Odin and Thor, or will you succumb to the Christian tides?
Rus, Kingdom of
- Rurik, Petty King of Holmgarðr (Novgorod), 1st January 867: Play the famed Varangian chieftain Rurik, and begin your journey to unite the Slavic lands of Rus under your dynasty. As a grounded Norse, your targets for raiding is hopelessly limited, and your son and heir has fallen sway to the Perun worshippers. But the vast lands of Russia and the Baltic are open for conquest, and many paths you could take. Will your dynasty stay true to your Nordic roots and unite your homeland, or will you or your descendants fall sway to the preachings of the Perun worshippers, or even the Christ-God of Miklagarðr?
 Burghers (Republics)
Genoa, Most Serene Republic of
Gotland, Republic of
Pisa, Most Serene Republic of
Venice, Most Serene Republic of
Unlanded Characters (load up as their top level liege and land them)
- Johan Andersson, Courtier in Järnbäraland, 15 Sept. 1066: Landless courtier in Sweden, like most of Paradox's staff. Always a Grey Eminence, so you can usually see him as a Chancellor to Chief Tjudmund. He's only available on the earliest possible start date, like all of the Paradox staff.
- Gruffydd Aberffraw,Courtier in Dublin, 15 Sept. 1066: 11-year-old prince-in-exile in County Dublin. Start as the count, build your base until you can restore the boy's claim in Wales, then play on as the Aberffraw clan.
Republic of Wales, start from December 1066, William the Conquer, play it out and give the mayor of cornwall the cuchy of cornwall, or otherwise any mayor a duchy, thus republic is made.
 General Recommendations
Steering any historical character to an ahistorical destiny. Play 3rd Crusade start (also 3rd bookmark, I believe.) In short, my Henry II of England died relatively early, and the Lionhearted became King. Never went on a crusade... - yezhanquan