Interesting characters guide
Your choice of start date and character have a major influence on the game's feel and difficulty.
This page aims to highlight interesting characters and explain why they're challenging, fun, or easy. Characters with golden names have been used in game of the week (GOTW) challenges, which often suggest special goals for players.
- 1 Christian feudal lords
- 2 Muslim characters
- 3 Pagan characters
- 4 Zoroastrian characters
- 5 Jewish characters
- 6 Indian characters
- 7 Burghers (republics)
- 8 Unlanded characters
- 9 General recommendations
- 10 References
Christian feudal lords
Anatolia, Kingdom of (inc. independent duchies)
- Roussel de Bailleul, 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 Châtillon, 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.
Aquitaine, Kingdom of
- Louis II "the Stammerer" Karling, King of Aquitaine, 867: You start surrounded by two hungry Frankish kingdoms to the north, the greedy Kingdom of Italy to your east, and Muslims just across the mountains to the south, and Asturias needs help to your west. As if that wasn't bad enough your dukes are not your biggest fans. and you have gavelkind government and two sons. Just putting your own house in order and maintaining independence will be tough enough, but what direction will you focus on? Form an alliance to turn back the Moors? Unite France under your control? Who knows?
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.
- Guifre (Wifredo) de Barcelona, Count of Rossello, 867: The founder of the House of Barcelona, son of Sunifred, (earlier Count of Barcelona, Urgell, Cerdanya Girona, Osona, Besalú, etc.) he starts as a vassal of Duke Bernard Gellones of Barcelona and Count of Narbonne. He's the only historical Catalan feudal lord in this bookmark (the Balearic ones aren't real) and has a Strong claim on the Duchy of Barcelona. He was granted the County of Barcelona (the Duchy, in-game) after siding with Charles and his son Louis against a faction of Noble rebels, among them the Count of Barcelona at the time, Bernard of Gothia (Bernard Gellones in-game). He's the founding father of the de facto independent Catalan counties and maybe the main Warrior-Hero in Catalan medieval folklore . A legend tells that the Arms of the House of Barcelona (which became the Catalan national flag) were created by Emperor Lois, who gave him a golden shield and blotted it with the blood of his wounded vassal. A hard game if you wish to reenact his steps and take over the Catalan counties, as you have a quite powerful Frankish liege and the Carolingian mess can be less tumultuous than in real life.
P.S.: Now he is a baron in Urgell, with visigothic culture.
Brittany, Duchy of
- Konan II de Rennes, Petty King 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.
- Edouarzh de Penthièvre, Count of Penthievre, 1066: A 67 year old count who founded the youngest branch of the de Rennes and was once duke of Britannia, so have a strong claim for it. With good luck and health, you can take the duchy back and have a similar good start to your liege and nephew Konan II, except that you're much older. But the biggest interest in this character is that he has a daughter, THIRTEEN sons (half bastards) and SIX grandsons (all legitimate), so it's a wonderful start to learn how to build a new family, marrying duchesses or even princesses to grow the familial lands.
Castille, Kingdom of
- Sancho II Jimena, 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 Trpimirovic, 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 II Estrid, 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! There's an achievement for conquering England as him.
Duklja, Duchy of
- Mihaljo I Dukljanin, 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?
Edessa, Duchy of
- Baldouin II de Rethel, Duke of Edessa, 1100: Just south of Rum, in 1098 Edessa forms, as an independent Frankish Catholic Duchy, Surrounded almost completely by Muslim neighbors. The preferred start is 1100 as the 1098 already starts you in the low end of an established house, while with the 1100 start you assume the role of Baldwin here, a successful Crusader who inherited the family lands of Edessa, historically he ends up as the King of Jerusalem, through unknown relations to the King Baldouin I, he passes the other suitors and obtains the throne. Now I'm not sure how it would work in game as in the trees they are not related, but it would be interesting trying to install Baldouin II, as the King of Jerusalem or simply trying to stay alive as Edessa. Quite a challenging start, probably requires quick fealty swearing to Jerusalem.
- Raimbaud de Afranji, Count of Aintab, 1072: Sitting in the county of Aintab is probably one of the most challenging starts in the game. Driven by greed and brought to one of the worst situations possible, Raimbaud de Afranji is a one province Frankish Catholic count, vassal to an Miaphysite Armenian and the next door neighbour to the mighty Seljuk Turks. Real life Raimbaud didn't last long in this situation, think you can do better?
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 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. See England walkthrough.
- Henry I de Normandie, 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 mother) 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.
- Alfred of Wessex, Earl of Dorset, 867 Note: Yup, that Alfred. Used GOTW:
- Become King of England
- Remove all Norse territory and religion from the de jure kingdoms of England, Wales and Scotland
- Stay Catholic and Anglo-Saxon
- Obtain the title 'the Great' on at least one ruler
- William I de Normandie, Duke of Flanders, 3 Feb. 1127: As the grandson of William the Conqueror you just have been given your grandmother's land, the wealthy duchy of Flanders. Now can you take your grandfather's land too, and become the next king of England, instead of your uncle Henry?
- Kadoc Cerneu, 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.
- William Marshal, Earl of Dyfed, 1204 scenario or 1197 onwards The greatest knight who ever lived sits on an earl's throne in Wales. Bring him and his fledgling dynasty greater glory still. Used in GOTW:
- Acquire the 'True Christian Knight' modifier (with any player character)
- Remain a vassal of the king/queen of England. Rebellion is forbidden.
- Acquire 5000 prestige with one ruler
- 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.
- Alan de Penthièvre, Count of York, 1 Jan. 1071: This is Alan Rufus, one of the richest men in history. Sadly, his personal wealth is not modeled in game, but he's still an interesting historical figure.
France, Kingdom of
- Jeanne Capet, Countess of Navarre, 1 January 1327: An unmarried 16-year-old with a strong claim on the Duchy of Champagne and hereditary weak claims on the Kingdoms of Navarre and France, you are the second most senior living Capetian - preceded only by your uncle and liege, Charles IV. Denied the throne of France due to her sex and that of Navarre due to her mother's illicit bedchamber adventures, Jeanne's chances of inheriting either are slim. Your uncle will make you Duchess Jeanne II of Navarre immediately, but you will have to fight the Prince-Bishop of Reims for Champagne. Historically and in the Hundred Years' War start, Jeanne reclaimed her patrimony. There are several venues to achieving this in game. One of them is a wise marriage, and several kings would gladly have you as their daughter-in-law, including your Catalan neighbour. Be prepared to take full advantage of the inevitable Hundred Years' War, one that could be brought on sooner by your masterful intrigue...
- Acquire all titles once held by your paternal grandmother: the Kingdom of Navarre, the Duchy of Navarre and the Duchy of Champagne.
- Conquer all counties belonging de jure to Navarre and Champagne.
- Stay Frankish.
- Press your claim on your paternal grandfather's realm - France itself!
- Geoffrey Plantagenet, Duke of Anjou, 2 Jan. 1129: Play as the founder of the Plantagenet Dynasty and try to claim England from your small duchy! If his bastard trait is removed, which it should be, since he wasn't illegitimate, you can marry Matilda, the daughter of the still-living Henry I of England. This will give any children born to you a claim on the kingdom of England. If you play your cards right, Henry will die without a male heir, leaving the kingdom to Matilda, who is your new wife. This means that your children will inherit England!
- Marie de Blois, Countess of Boulogne, 1160: At first glance, the youthful Marie seems like a minor French noblewoman. No, wait, she is Norman... and a princess! The Anarchy has ended leaving Marie's brothers dispossessed of their father Stephen's English crown, and her brothers have since both died childless. Marie is thus left with her father's county of Mortain, her mother's county of Boulogne, and a weak claim but hereditary on England. She is 24 and childless but married to the son and heir of her liege, the duke of Flanders, so arranging a quick end to the marriage is necessary. With Marie's second cousin Henry controlling all of England, large part of France and most of Aquitaine, claiming your heritage will be very challenging. Very.
- 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?
- Jean I Capet, 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 Years' 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 VIII 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.
- Guilhem IX de Poitou, Duke of Aquitaine, 25 September 1086: You've played as a great conqueror, or three, and achieved greatness from nothing... so why not look into cultural achievements, instead? Duke Guilhem IX of Aquitaine is, while of some importance as a historical figure, better known for being the first recorded troubadour, with several of his works of bawdy Occitan poetry about love, sex and feudal politics - some of which are still hilarious - surviving to this day. Furthermore, he was an extremely renowned womaniser for his day, significantly involved in struggles for dominance within France in his efforts to take over other duchies, and alternately promoted and went against the Catholic Church. To top it all, he was also a Crusader in 1101, even though an unsuccessful one - and Eleanor of Aquitaine's grandfather, to boot. History also records that he declined to kill an enemy bishop, quipping that "I don't love you enough to send you to paradise!". What more is to be said, other than that his start as a powerful duke is not particularly difficult, and that you are free to take this great, womanising poet wherever you want into the history books. Maybe just try not to be quite as horrible to his wife as he was, this time.
- Eudes II de Bourgogne, 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.
- Boudewijn V, 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 de Toulouse, 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 V de Toulouse, Duke of Toulouse, 1 Jan. 1187: With the Cathar heresy at full height, you can choose to crush it, or join it.
- Eudes Capet, Count of Chartres, 867
- Herbert Karling, Count of Vermandois, 15 Sept. 1066: the last living descendant of Charlemagne and a count near Paris. Used in GOTW:
- Reclaim the Holy Roman Empire or Francia, with respective De Jure territory based on the title you claim
- Put at least 3 Karlings on the throne of the Papacy
- Win 2 Papacy-Called Crusades
- Have the following combination of traits on at least one of your rulers:
- Genius, Quick, or Strong
- Brilliant Strategist or Skilled Tactician
- Defender, Unyielding, Organizer, or Experimental Leader
- 3 of the following: Chaste, Temperate, Charitable, Diligent, Patient, Kind, Humble
- 1 or none of the following: Lustful, Gluttonous, Greedy, Slothful, Wroth, Envious, Proud
- Just, Honest, Brave, or Gregarious
- No stat beneath 8
- Hugues de Vermandois, Count of Vermandois, 1st April 1085: If the last direct male descendant of Charlemagne doesn't appeal to you, play as the husband of his sister and successor, Adèle. A son of the deceased King Henri of France, Hughes is the founder of the Capetian cadet branch of the House of Vermandois, which puts you in a very interesting position; you may be a mere count in northern France but you are the younger brother of the king, Philippe Capet. This, of course, grants you a strong claim on the kingship. With the Normans downstream from Paris, the Duke of Aquitaine controlling half the kingdom, and the house of Burgundy plotting to usurp the throne, will you stand by your Capetian brethren or aid their enemies and put a new dynasty on the throne of France?
- Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1140s-1173: Yes, that Eleanor (aka Aliaenor), a masterful political manipulator. You can play her as a minor countess (of Poitiers and Saintonge; you can do this starting in the 1140s). You can also start as her second husband, Henry II of England, in 1155 - give her the Duchy of Aquitaine (which she should have from age 13/15, but doesn't), then reload the world and switch to her. Make sure you annul her regular marriage as soon as you can so your game doesn't end when she dies.
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. Used in GOTW:
- Maintain Potuguese culture
- Remain Christian in some way. Converting to Orthodox or a Heresy allowed.
- Form Kingdom of Portugal with all De Jure territory
- Add the De Jure territory of Galicia, Leon, and Andalusia to your empire. Kingdom titles themselves optional.
- Place a member of your dynasty (other than yourself) on 3 foreign kingdom-level thrones. At least 1 of these kingdoms must border the Mediterra
Galloway, County of
- Fergus of Galloway, Earl of Galloway, 1100: You start on a Scottish peninsula flanked by a strong Scotland and nearly unified England. With only 2 provinces, starting as a kid, with no family or vassals, relying on nothing but an unrelated minor regent with a giant intrigue and a plot to inherit your lands, it truly would be challenge to not be gobbled into Scotland, or to even retain ones title once within it. Perhaps a suicide game but I'm sure the relative instability of Scotland could give you a small window to seize power.
Holy Roman Empire
- Frederich II von Hohenstaufen, 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 (in-game 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.
- Johann de Luxembourg, King of Bohemia, 1310 - Note: the blind one, although only from 1337 (should now be represented by 'blinded' trait
- 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 II Udonen, Duke of Brandenburg, 15 Sept. 1066: You know the drill, obtain the black eagle and start rolling.
- Pierre de Savoie, Duke of Savoy, 15 Sept. 1066: Reclaim the old Kingdom of Burgundy, destroy the HRE from the inside and then take on France in order to gain the Duchy of Burgundy, your rightful inheritance. Used for CK2 GOTW:
- Form Burgundy with all De Jure land
- Reclaim the traditional Duchy of Burgundy, in France
- Defeat French or German opponents in at least 8 wars with you as a primary participant.
- Independence from the Holy Roman Empire
- Add 3 duchies outside of De Jure Burgundy to your nation, not counting the Duchy of Burgundy
- Matilda di Canossa, 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?
- Ota 'the Handsome' Premyslid, Count of Olomouc, 15 Sept. 1066: Who is this magnificently handsome man? Well, it's Ota, younger brother to the starting Duke of Bohemia. Sure, you start out with one province in the corner of the realm, but with some luck, good assassinations and perhaps a small war or two, you can quickly take control of the Duchy, or Kingdom, of Bohemia! Not to mention, you're handsome!
- Ezzelino II da Romano, Count of Verona, early 1200: Considered one of the most ruthless and cruel feudal rulers in all the Middle Ages. At the time, he was said to be the anti-Christ or the spawn of the devil. A crusade was issued against him. Once he sentenced to death 10.000 citizens of Padua in a single day. He also enjoyed the mass use of torture. He was said to feel pleasure at the screams of people walled in alive, and that he would often command kids to be blinded for his own enjoyment. Supporter of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the war between Guelphs and Ghibellines, he married his daughter.
Here's a quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray about him: "Ezzelin, whose melancholy could be cured only by the spectacle of death, and who had a passion for red blood, as other men have for red wine--the son of the Fiend, as was reported, and one who had cheated his father at dice when gambling with him for his own soul"... That's quite some reputation. Can you match it in true Crusader Kings style?
- Werner Salian, Count of Pfalz, 867 Try to climb insurmountable odds and establish the Salian Dynasty as masters of the Holy Roman Empire. House Salian provided 4 Holy Roman Emperors, an immense task to be sure!
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?
Iceland, Duchy of
- Sigfus, Count of Vestisland, 15 Sept. 1066: Let's face it. Vestisland is not what you would call "profitable". Hell, while we're at it, Iceland as a whole kind of sucks at this period, made even more so by that doddering old fool that calls himself a Duke. Ha! He sits complacently on the throne of the northern most landmass in Europe, far out into the seas, content while the world passes Iceland by. The fool. Though this is the age of Snorri, and Christianisation of Iceland has been fairly thorough, the old tales boil your young blood, made even hotter by the lack of a good woman in your bed. Yet you are limited, especially since Norway is keen to assert itself over your lands. Perhaps if you wrested control of the throne of Iceland from your liege you could rekindle the Viking spirit which brought your people to the foreboding, jagged shores of the rime-coated island...
Ireland, Kingdom of
- Domnall Ua Neill Naoigallaich, Earl of Oriel, 15 Sept. 1066: the starting earl of Oriel is an O'Neill Naoi-Gallach, descended from the legendary High King of Ireland Niall of the Nine Hostages (and, according to recent DNA studies, the male-line ancestor to around 20% of the population of Ireland today).
- 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.
Italy, Kingdom of
- Louis II Karling, King of Italy, 867: As the eldest son of Lothair of Middle Francia (himself the eldest son of Emperor Louis the Pious), Louis II is the rightful successor to the entire Frankish Empire. At the moment, however, he's only the King of Italy, and none of the other crowned heads of Europe are likely to let go of their titles without a fight. As a member of the Karling dynasty, you start out as heir to at least one kingdom and highly placed on the succession to a number of others, so a few discreet assassinations and well-timed claim wars can eventually make you ruler of a good chunk of Western Europe, from which you can create either the Empire of Francia or the Holy Roman Empire, depending on what route you take. Or you could focus your ambitions southward to territory outside your family's control and eventually crown yourself Emperor of Italia.
- Liutbert von Babenberg, Count of Krain (in Verona), 867: Maybe someone could reverse the fate of the family five-hundred years later?
Jerusalem, Kingdom of
- Godefroy I, King of Jerusalem, 15 Jul. 1099 - 1 Apr. 1100: Godfrey was the first leader of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, 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.
- Baudouin IV 'the Leper' d'Anjou, King of Jerusalem, 2 January 1177: You have just turned 16, but you are seriously sick and having a son would be a miracle. Even worse, Kingdom of Jerusalem is surrounded by the most powerful Muslim state it ever struggled with, and in the neighbourhood only The Byzantine Empire is strong enough to be a useful ally against Saladin. Not having an heir and being a leper will result in lack of support from your vassals (or maybe even rebellions), not to mention you can't let your sisters marry to other dynasties, because they will most likely inherit the throne after you. Try to achieve as much as you can, before leprosy will enter its terminal stage. Baudouin from real life lasted 11 years as a king and 24 as a man, how long will you last?
- Baldwin I van Vlaanderen, 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...
- Johanna van Vlaanderen, Duchess of Flanders, 1205: A little girl who's controlling an Dutch duchy in France, she starts as a pretender of the Latin Empire, and if you are competent enough, you can control an Dutch empire if your father fails and you claim his title. She's 10 and you can build her traits as you like.
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. See León walkthrough.
- 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.
- Henrik Nakonid, Count of Lubeck, 1073: Your father Guthskalco was a Christian ruler of the Wends (in game Duke of Mecklenburg), who was defeated and killed by the pagan chieftain Kruto. Your half-brother Budivoj tried to reclaim your family's honor, but was ambushed and murdered by Kruto. You and your nephew, both children, are all that is left of the House of Nakonid. You're the only Christian Pomeranian ruler in the world, with access to their Light Cavalry Gussar retinues. Even many of your own courtiers are pagans. Your county is pagan. Your neighbors are Denmark (who have a de jure claim on you from day 1), the HRE (who have a de jure claim on you as soon as the Duke of Saxony saves up the money to form the Duchy of Holstein), and your arch-enemy Kruto (who, as pagan duke of Mecklenburg, could launch a conquest CB on you as soon as he had the piety). Your only assets? A strong claim on the Duchy of Mecklenburg (good luck pressing it before someone holy wars them to oblivion), a capital with plenty of empty slots but 0-0-0 tech, and whatever you can beg, steal or borrow. Oh, and the motivation to track down Kruto and say "My name is Henrik Nakonid. You killed my father (also my brother). Prepare to die!"
Historically, Henrik was able to murder Kruto with the help of Kruto's wife, and then established a powerful Christian Wendish state. His sons, in true CK2 style, started fighting each other, and the whole thing fell apart; reverting to paganism and eventually getting hit with the Wendish Crusade. Can you do better?
Norway, Kingdom of
See Norway walkthrough.
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 Jimena, 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.
- Antso VII "The Strong", King of Navarra, 27 June. 1194: Antso VII (Sancho VII) was an interesting person historically. Suffering from gigantism, he was a warrior of exceptional repute, being 2m 23cm tall when he passed away. In game terms, you are merely a "tough soldier" when you start your career. Your realm is small but kingship gives you right of conquest to large area of Spain. Can you repeat what Sancho did historically and help to drive Muslims back to the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula?
- 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' Piast, 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.)
- Leszek "the White" Piast, King of Poland, 1 Jan. 1206: Leszek 'the White' becomes King in this year. You can also play as his brother who is a child duke in 1195.
Polotsk, Duchy of
- Duke of Polotsk, The Mongols bookmark: You start as a Lithuanian Catholic, with claims on the nearby duchy of Lithuania. Your uncle holds that, and he's Orthodox. You can form Lithuania fairly easily, and then try to drive out the Germans/hold back the Mongols. Alternatively, swear fealty to the Mongols and destroy them from within.
Pomerania, Duchy of
- Dukes of Pomerania, 1122 or 1136: Two start dates with a Pomeranian, Catholic ruler. You are independent, and the entire Pomeranian coast is still occupied by pagans (except your lands). If you are quick, you can grab the rest of the coast before the Germans/Polish/Scandinavians. One of the few starts with a playable, independent, Pomeranian ruler. Much easier now that the Kaiser doesn't have dejure claims anymore.
Provence, Duchy of
- Charles d'Anjou, Count of Anjou, 1246 - Note: invades K_Sicily in 1266
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" Yngling, 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 de Brus, 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. Used in GOTW:
- Attain Kingdom of Scotland
- Maintain a Celtic (Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Breton) culture.
- Add the De Jure Duchies of Orkney and Northumberland to your realm.
- Add 2 of the three Celtic De Jure kingdoms other than Scotland to your realm. Ireland, Brittany, Wales.
- Ensure that Celts rule the British Isles in their entirety. Conquering England to achieve this goal is allowed.
- Claim 3 of the following De Jure duchies: Normandy, Flanders, Slesvig, Sjaelland, Vestlandent, Ostlandent
- 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)
- Lando IV di Aquino, Count of Capua, 1092 - Last lombard prince in Italy. Try to expel the Hauteville of the Kingdom of Sicily and recover the ancient lands that are under the domain of the Holy Roman Empire.
- 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. See Apulia walkthrough.
- 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 play-styles
- Bohemond ???, ???, c. 1100: You're Norman adventurers who conquered southern Italy, your options for expansion are plentiful, you can swear fealty to the HRE if you're threatened, you can turn your minor principality/duchy into a great empire in a relatively short amount of time, you can return to your Viking roots and launch endless brutal naval raids on the Muslim populations of North Africa, you can go after Byzantium if you give yourself claims on the empire (which is something the de'Hautville family did try historically, so don't feel bad about cheating to get it in the game, they should have a special causus belli by default), if you do swear fealty to the HRE, you can assassinate or conquer your way to the conquest and unification of Italy (the duchess of Tuscany being an especially appealing opportunity for peaceful expansion), you've got multiple opportunities to make alliances and inherit lands because you have so many eligible children and won't have to wait a generation to breed your way to a sizable family, you can go on a Crusade and be an actual Crusader King. What's not to like?
- Manfred von Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily, 1258 The legitimised bastard son of Frederick II, who has inherited the kingdom of Sicily from him (and the papal hatred accordingly). Playable from at least 1258. Will you establish colonies in Albania/Greece or just live the lush life with the hunting hawks? Will you crush the Italian Guelphs at Montaperti? It's up to you. IRL he was killed in Benevento, Campania in 1266, Charles triumphant.
- Corradino (Konrad II) von Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily, 1254-1258, and Duke of Swabia, 1258 onwards: the rightful king of Sicily (1254-1258) until the successful faction ultimatum / usurpation (in game terms) of Manfred and the Guelph party. The duke of Schwabia (1254-). Later he is a teenage superstar in Ghibelline Italy but is taken prisoner by Charles after Tagliacozzo(L'Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy) in 1268 (in game terms he would probably have been captured in battle). Will you be happy with your German possessions and fight in the imperial politics or will you try to take back what is "rightfully yours" in Sicily? Or will your days as the 13th century Justin Bieber end miserably by the executioner's axe at the Piazza del Mercato of Naples in 1268?
Sweden, Kingdom of
- Stenkil Stenkiling, 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 af Bjälbo (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. With his spectacular martial skill the nearby Muslim minors are easy prey, but the Almohads (and the Castillians) are dangerous neighbors.
Wales, Kingdom of (inc. Gwynedd, Deheubarth, Glamorgan, Gwent)
- Rhodri 'the Great' Aberffraw, Petty King of Gwynedd, 867 Welsh Duke furthes to the north. And 6 kids and 1 bastard... and 0 prestige and 0 piety the start. But who knows maybe you will be able to make him the great? Oh. Nope. He already have 'the great' nickname.. Maybe you could sire some more kids and place them on the various thrones. Oh. Nope. He already have 'chaste' trait, ach wife with -10% to fertility...
- 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.
- Llewelyn II "the Great" Aberffraw, Duke of Gwynedd, 1195: Historically, Llywelyn was the most successful of the Welsh princes who attempted to maintain their sovereignty despite the Norman occupation. At the height of his power, he managed to control most of Wales and is one of only two Welsh rulers to ever be called 'Great'. Can you succeed where he did not, by forming a truly independent Welsh Kingdom?
- Llewelyn III "the Last" Aberffraw, Duke of Gwynedd, 1246: An even more difficult start for the Welsh enthusiast is Llywelyn the Last. In 1246, you are a 12 year old child who has just inherited the Duchy of Gwynedd, surrounded by the English under Henry III. Do you have what it takes to avoid the historical Llywelyn's gruesome fate and embarrassing moniker?
Antioch, Duchy of
- Vahram Varajnuni, Duke of Antioch, 28 Jun. 1071: Another one of those fortune-seekers after the battle of Manzikert. You are an independent Armenian duke of Antioch and Edessa. The Turks and other Muslims are all around you, try to survive and re-establish the glory of the kingdom of Armenia.
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 Asen, 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. Used in CKII GOTW:
- Destroy the Latin and Byzantine Empires
- Unite all South Slavic cultured provinces under your banner
- Convert to an Orthodox Heresy
- Convert all provinces in your kingdom to your religion
- Convert Constantinople
- Ivajlo Bardokva, King of Bulgaria, 1279: The legendary Ivajlo the Cabbage. The illiterate pig-herder who seized the Bulgarian Throne and, for a brief time at least, held off the Byzantines and the Golden Horde. You start as the sole member of House Bardokva (which roughly translates as 'House Lettuce'). Your stats are poor (which should be fixed for martial, he was a good soldier if nothing else), and you're surrounded by enemies. But your rank as King opens useful marriage alliances, and you're ideally positioned to capitalize on the woes of a weakening Byzantine Empire.
- 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'? Also see Roman Empire walkthrough.
- Alexios IV Angelos, Basileus of Byzantine Empire, 18 July 1203 The man who destroyed the Eastern Roman Empire and let the Constantinople to destruction. After his uncle, Alexios III Angelos, seized the throne young Alexios was imprisoned, but later he managed to escape to Holy Roman Empire. Years later, in the age of 20, he saw his chance - the IV crusade was struggling with financial problems - crusaders weren't able to pay the Venice for the ships prepared to transport them to the Holy Land, so they were forced to seize the coastal city of Zaraz in order to pay their debt. Alexios contacted them in 1202 and the Serene Doge Dandolo and promised them mountains of gold if they help him become Emperor. Two years later the crusaders camp near the Constantinople's walls and Alexios IV, after completely emptying the treasury, refused to give the Latins any more gold. Deeply unpopular, he was soon deposed and imprisoned but before that he managed to severely deteriorate relations with the Westerners. In the end, enraged crusaders stormed the Queen of Cities, looted the Constantinople and in the burning ruins of the Second Rome proclaimed the birth of a Latin state. This was a disastrous blow after which the Empire never recovered: will you change the course of history and turn the reign of the worst Emperor Byzantium ever had into time of peace and prosperity?
- Konstantinos Angelos, Doux of Samos, 1108 Founder of the infamous Angelos dynasty, which disastrous rules virtually destroyed the Byzantine Empire. Young commander of the Imperial Fleet from Philadelphia in Asia Minor, Konstantinos was handomse but of lowly origin. He married Theodora Komnenos, daughter of Alexios I Komnenos and had three sons: sebastokrator John, Alexios Angelos, famous for erecting a church in Nerezi, and Andronikos Angelos, who's son Isaac in 1185 deposed Andronikos Komennos and was proclaimed the Emperor, thus starting the period when Angeloi controlled the throne. Calamitous rules in 1185 – 1204 period led ultimately to the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, creation of Latin Empire and disintegration of Byzantium into several weak Greek states like Despotate of Epirus or Trebizond. Every emperor of Angeloi dynasty was either deposed or killed and their reign is seen by historians today as the death knell of the Byzantine Empire. Will you change the history and secure the prosperity of the Byzantium under the rule of Angelos dynasty?
- Alusian, Doux of Armenia, 1066 Son of last ruler of Second Empire of Bulgarians Ivan Vladislav of Bulgaria. Alusian in 1040 rebelled against ERE reign in Bulgaria, together with his cousin Peter Delyan, but in the end betrayed his kinsman by blinding him and turning sides to Byzantines. In return for his treachery he was pardoned by Greek emperor and rewarded with magistros title. He has a strong claim on Kingdom of Bulgaria, so, u can make it an indepentent country again 100 years earlier compared to history. If u survive Seljuck invasion of course
- Ionnes II Komnenos, Basileus of the Byzantine Empire, August 15, 1118: Son of the great Alexios Komnenos and the greatest of the Komnenos. His reign saw a virtually non-stop campaign to reclaim what was lost at Manzikert, and along with his brilliant lieutenant John Auxoch, he succeeded, bringing the Komnenian Restoration to its height. Though overshadowed by his father and son, in no small part due to a jealous sister's writing, his 25 year reign was the most successful. Perhaps a player could make it a more memorable one?
- 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.
- Leon I Pegonites, Doux of Cyprus, 15 Sept. 1066: Starts with the duchy of Cyprus, split into the counties of Famagusta and Limassol. There are two or three single county Muslim leaders landed in nearby Syria and Jerusalem as targets for expansion, but mostly an opportunistic Doux will be looking for the correct opportunity to strike against the Fatimid Sultanate, who quickly gobble up land all the way to Syria in defiance of the Byzantine Empire who swear to protect you. You will often lose land without having any say on the matter as the Fatimids lay claim to your hard-won counties, so the best tip for expansion is to revoke the city titles from your barons in order to generate quick income and focus on infrastructure improvement whilst simultaneously attempting to fabricate claims on the lands of weaker Muslim leaders on the mainland. Your position as an island gives you good protection from any holy wars that may be declared on your de jure Duchy, and the protection of the Empire should ensure you last for a century at least (provided you're willing to stay loyal). Probably the most interesting thing about this start is that it is very difficult to quickly amass land, which has led to the stagnation of more than one save of mine. In order to combat with the much more powerful leaders in this part of the world, you are forced to find ways to generate massive amounts of income relative to your stature so that you can afford to hire hosts of mercenaries, whilst building up your castles with the view of increasing your own (limited) levy. Good players will quickly find themselves in possession of 4 or 5 counties as the individual Muslim Sheikhs fall to them, but much of what you do will depend on your Emperor's own ability as a ruler. Weak Emperors will lose land very quickly to the Fatimids, which will leave you waiting for internal factionalism (possibly brought on by assassinations *hint hint*) in the Fatimid Sultanate in order to target weak sheikhs and emirs.
- Nikephoros 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.
- Béla Árpád, Doux of Bosnia, 1165 - Note: Later becomes king of Hungary as Béla III
- 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 bloody-minded 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.
- Leon Diogenes, Count of Monemvasia, 1086 - Note: Strong claim on Byzantine Empire
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.
- Alexander I Rurikovich, Duke of Kiev, 1247: Better known as Alexander Nevsky, Saint Alexander Nevsky. Undoubtedly one of the most important figures of Russian medieval history, Alexander successfully defended Novgorod from both the Swedes and the Teutonic knights (the later in the famous battle of the ice). Tough a vassal to the Mongol invaders, his far sighted politics and an unlikely friendship with Sartaq Khan made him grand prince of Vladimir which helped create the foundations of the Grand Duchy Of Moscow, and later Imperial Russia. Can you match the life of such great man? Or maybe surpass his deeds by claiming and early independence as the ruler of the Rus?
Rus, Kingdom of/Ruthenia, Kingdom 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? Used in CKII GOTW:
- Remain Orthodox or Orthodox heretic
- Form the De Jure kingdoms of Lithuania and Ruthenia
- Obtain the rank of Emperor. Any Empire-level title fulfills this requirement.
- Ensure that an Orthodox or Orthodox heretic member of House Rurikovich other than yourself rules in four of the following kingdoms: Poland, Bohemia, Pomerania, Hungary, Wallachia, Bulgaria, Taurica, Serbia. Note: Unlike some previous challenges, the De Jure territory is irrelevant. This challenge is asking for the king titles themselves. Also, these kings may be under you as Emperor.
- Add all of the following De Jure duchies to your realm: Uppland, Östergötland, Småland, Skåne, Sarkel
- Sviatopolk Rurikovich, 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.
- Daniil Rurikovich, Grand Prince of Galich (1211) or Grand Prince of Volhynia (1220), while not reflected in the code of the game proper, Daniil Romanovich of Galicia-Volhynia was the first ruler to actually create the title of the Kingdom of Ruthenia (usually referred to as "Kingdom of Rus" or "Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia"), later inherited by the Polish kings and Muscovite grand dukes. Starting his "rule" as a mere child, with his mother as the regent, Daniil and his brother Vasylko were quickly ousted by the scheming lords, while the realm of Galicia-Volhynia that Roman the Great built was lost. Living in exile in Hungary, it took many years for Romanovich brothers to get back their rightful titles, with Daniil taking over Galich, while Vasylko remained his brother's vassal prince in Volhynia. Daniil swiftly became the most influential ruler in southern Ruthenia, even establishing control over the capital city of Kyiv... Only for the Mongols to come down on all Ruthenian principalities. Despite all odds under the Mongol yoke, Daniil balanced between the roles of both a vassal and an enemy of Batu-Khan himself, defeating the hordes of Kuremsa and forging an alliance with the northern principalities, the Teutonic Order, the Hungarians and the Pope, which almost resulted in a full-blown crusade against the Golden Horde. Although never casting off the yoke completely, Daniil's realm still prospered, with the construction of new capital cities like Chelm and Lviv, the boost of trade, protected from the Mongol raiders, the expansion of borders on all fronts, - all of that made the Kingdom of Ruthenia/Rus a regional powerhouse.
- Remain Orthodox or become Catholic (paradoxically, Daniil embraced both ways of Christianity in his bid for the crown from the Pope, while staying true to the faith of his vassals)
- Take control of the duchies of Galich, Little Poland, Ungvar, Volhynia, Grodno, Turov, Kiev and Moldau
- Form the De Jure kingdom of Ruthenia
- Depending on the starting date, either break free from or drive off the Mongols
- Establish your dynasty or otherwise tie into one alliance the Kingdoms of Poland, Hungary, Wallachia and Lithuania
Serbia, Kingdom of
- Stefan Nemanjic, King of Serbia, 1196: First king of Serbia. There is a really interesting family dynamic. Because your father abdicated, he is still hanging around. You older brother wants to claim your title (historically, Stefan I gave the title to Stefan II rather than going by primogeniture, thus causing some drama). Also, Bulgaria is really big, but the Byzantine empire is falling apart to the south. There are a lot of internal and external vulnerabilities.
- Uros IV "the Strong" Nemanjic, King of Serbia, 1337: Roflstomp anything in sight (with the weakest Christian Balkan country at game start), gain enough power-base 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.
Sicily, Kingdom of
- Gregorios Spartenos, Count of Napoli, 867: Can become the emperor of Italy ?
Trebizond, Empire of (Despotate in game)
- Alexios Komnenos, Emperor (Despot in game) of Trebizond, 1 January 1205 - It is unknown how he and his brother David have survived the coup that killed the Emperor Andronikos I. What it says is that they were sent to Georgia, to the court of Queen Tamari, his supposed aunt. The Queen of Georgia helped them invade the region of Trebizond for them to create a kingdom that would serve as a shield against the Sultanate of Rum and the brothers tried to retake the Byzantine throne. Historically, Alexios and David were never able to definitively defeat their rivals.
Can you change history and make him the Emperor? And maybe start a second "Alexiad"? Or as a third option, you could create a stronger state than the old Byzantine Empire.
- Alexios II Komnenos, Despot of Trebizond, 1321: Struggling to recreate that feeling of relentless existential dread that EU4 Trebizond provides? Look no further than 1321 Trebizond in CK2! Alexios "The Horribly Doomed" Komnenos has abysmal stats, no allies, hateful children, a capital province that borders the Ilkhanate (which is at the height of its power), and 2 other provinces which border the Golden Horde (also near the height of its power); but, don't worry, Trebizond is bordered by many hateful minor powers that will probably kill you, first. Failure awaits!
- Ninoslav Kulinic, Duke of Bosnia, 1232: Ninoslav is a Bogomilist ruling a land of Bogomilists as a vassal of the Catholic king of Hungary and Croatia. The king will be eager to bring both Ninoslav and Bosnia under the Fold, all the while underestimating his Croatian vassals' desire to break free from him. But the Catholic king is all that stands between Ninoslav and his aggressive Orthodox neighbours, Serbia and Bulgaria, who are even more keen to put an end to Bogomilism... and Bosnia. In real life, Ninoslav's decision to stand with his people, loyal to their faith, meant that he faced a full-fledged crusade. Which of the two evils will you choose - loyalty to Catholic liege or bitter war against Orthodox neighbours?
- Sartag Borjigin, Khagan of Golden Horde, 2 Jan.1255: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.
- Abaga Borjigin, Khagan of Ilkhanate, 1 Jan. 1279: Starting in 1279 you can play as a Nestorian Ilkhanate who has a surprising number of Nestorian vassals as well. Though familial problems do persist, and your son stays true to the Old Ways. With a large number of pissed off vassals, an aging ruler, and a son who doesn't follow his religion, it'd make for an interesting playthrough.
- Kitbuqa Noyan, High Chief of Aleppo, 1 Jan. 1260: You are left in charge of much of Northern Syria by your liege.Now what path will you follow ? Will you stay Nestorian or will you convert to your liege's religion? And then will you finish the Mamluks - or will they finish you?
Emirate of Socotra
- Denha Yaballahah, Emir of Socotra, Jan.1st 867.
Armenia, Kingdom of (incx. independent duchies and counties)
- Nerseh, Duke of Derbent & Count Stepanos of Albania, 769: Your dynasty are descendants of Arsacid and Sassanids, mighty dynasties which ruled the great empires of Persia. Now you are a vassal to Bedouin Muslim in mountains of Armenia. You are strong and can seek your independence easily but can you survive when everywhere around you, there are hostile nations?
- Levon IV Hetoumi, 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 Rubenid, 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.
- Grigor Pahlavuni, Count of Vaspurakan, 1066: If Byzantium survives the Seljuk invasion successfully (which is luck of the draw and you can't really influence it other than raising your paltry levies), the fun starts! Try to expand within the Empire and when you are ready, wait for an opportunity and then break free to establish an independent Kingdom of Armenia under the Miaphysite faith. Try to do so before Armenia is culturally and religiously assimilated into the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire! It will not be easy - it is hard to find allies as an Armenian Miaphysite, and if the Emperor doesn't like you, he can start revoking any ducal titles you may have without penalty. I recommend attempting this under the newest version CK2+, where an enhanced faction system prevents imperial authority from climbing too high and where cultural assimilation has been slowed down massively.
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.
Anatolia, Kingdom of (including all independent states in area)
- Umur I, Bey of Aydin, 1336: you start with a single county on the western coast of Anatolia, with other Turkish rulers surrounding you, and the Christians to the west. Attempt to forge your own realm in the Aegean sea with holy wars against stronger Christian realms, to rival the nearby Ottomans in strength.
- Al-Mu'tazz, Badshah of Abbasid (Arabian) Empire & Sunni Caliph, 867 Theoretically, Al-Mu'tazz should be the most powerful man in the Islamic world. But the youngest Caliph since the establishment of the institution is an Indulgent Wastrel; Cruel, Cynical, Arbitrary, Lustful and Envious. He is beset by powerful vassals, ready to rebel, including his half-brothers Al-Muwaffak and Al-Mu'tamid. Historically, he was one of the Caliphs who ruled during the "Anarchy at Samarra" and his reign (and the reigns of his two predecessors) were marked by a tremendous loss of power by the Caliphs to regional emirs. Can you turn around the historical decline of the Caliphate? Alternately, you can play as one of Al-Mu'tazz's arguably more deserving brothers, Al-Muwaffak or Al-Mu'tamid, and try to overthrow your corrupt ruler and claim the Caliphate for yourself. Note: May not be as easy as it looks
Egypt, Sultanate of
- Shajar al-Durr, Sultana of Egypt, 1 Jan. 1250: Maybe the only female Muslim ruler in the game (I haven't found another yet). She is the widow of the last Ayyubid Sultan and later she is to marry the first Mamuluk Sultan. In game she is a low born (which she historically is) so you can't play as her directly, but it's easy to start as someone else, save the game and load the game controlling her (she would be assigned a dynasty then). Since Muslims are not allowed to marry matrilineally, the most important thing to do is to somehow continue your blood line. The only way I can think of currently is to be converted to Miaphysitism...
- 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.
Erserum, Beylik of
- Mämäm Khätun, 1 Jan. 1191: Another one of those rare, female Muslim rulers. Can you survive amongst all those men?
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?
Rajastan, Khaganate of (Ghulam Khaganate)
- Raziyya Ghulam, Khatun of Rajastan, 20 Nov. 1236: For the hat trick of female Muslim rulers, why not try the one and only Muslim woman to rule in India? In real-life Razia Sultan (she insisted on the masculine title and generally dressed and ruled as a man) was the chosen heir of her father, but had to defend her title of Sultan of Delhi against first her brother, then a childhood friend, then yet another brother. In-game, the only real hurdle is distributing the 50(!!!) holdings she starts with and how unwilling you are to allow her incompetent brothers to inherit after her. Survive the early years, and all of India is your oyster.
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.
- Chaka I, Emir of Smyrna, 1081-91: one of quasi - independent (a vassal of Rum in-game) Turkish rulers that gained land in Asia Minor after the battle of Manzikert and the Turkish invasion of Anatolia. He was one of the most interesting Turkish characters during that time. Before 1081 he was raised in Constantinople, after being captured as a war prisoner by the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates during some Byzantine campaign against Turks in Asia Minor. He was even granted the title of protonobilissimus and served as one of soldiers under Byzantine command. When Alexios I Komnenos took the imperial throne, Chaka was stripped of all of his titles. Then he left the ERE and travelled back to Asia Minor, where he managed to take control of Smyrna, and conquer a sizeable territory, mostly on the west coast of Asia Minor. He was the first Turk who created a navy fleet (in ports of Smyrna and Ephesus, with the help of Christian citizens of those cities) and became a dangerous threat to Byzantine islands and offshore provinces. For the first time in many years, the Aegean Sea wasn't a safe area for Byzantines and their cities.
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.
Damascus, Emirate of (Fatimid Emirate)
- Hussayn ibn Ahmed Fatimid, Emir of Damascus, 1 Jan. 867: It is not safe being an adherent of the Shi'atul Ali (Party of Ali) at this time. You are currently a vassal under the Sunni Caliph Al- Mu'tazz, and also surrounded by other Sunni powers. Hussayn claims direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad himself, through the line of the Prophet's daughter Fatima and Ali ibn Abu Talib. The blood of the great Shia martyr Husayn ibn Ali flows through your veins as distant kin. How long will you let Al-Mu'tazz and the other pretenders usurp the Muslim community? It is time to unite the people once more under the family of the Prophet.
- Safi-ad-din Safavid, Count of Gilan, 1325: Centuries from now, your dynasty is destined to rise as the leaders of a reborn Persia, destined to claim much of its former glory. For now tough, you are the ruler of a small territory under the heavy rule of the Mongol invaders. Can you move carefully enough to build your power under the nose of the Khan and eventually claim your rightful place as the ruler of Persia?
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.
Persia, Sultanate of (Seljuk Sultanate)
- Qarin Bavandid, Bey of Tabaristan, 15 Sept. 1066: One of the few landed Persians at the start of the game, also Shia instead of Sunni. Try to usurp the Shahdom of Persia and convert it to Shia a few centuries early. Will work for most of the start dates before Mongols as well.
Persia, Sultanate of (Seljuk Sultanate)
- Bey Unsur al-ma'ali Ziyarid of Dailam, 1066/1081 : The founder of your dynasty was the last Zoroastrian ruler of note in Persia, who was determined to crush the Abbasid caliphate and restore Sassanian Empire. His successful reign ended when Turkish slaves murdered him. Now Persia itself has fallen to rule of Turks. You control two provinces of your ancestral lands as vassal to Kurdish Satrap. Can you succeed where your ancestor failed and restore Sassanian empire?
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.
Syria, Kngdom of
- Emir Hisn ad-Dawlah Haydar Yousifid, Emir of Damascus, 1066: used in CKII GOTW
- Maintain Levantine culture
- Become independent from the Egyptian Caliph
- Form the Kingdom of Syria with all De Jure territory
- Form the Kingdom of Jerusalem with all De Jure territory
- Add 4 of the following De Jure (all provinces) duchies to your nation: Sinai, Arabia, Baghdad, Mosul, Edessa, Armenia Minor, Cyprus
Konugardr (Kiev), Petty Kingdom of
- Dyre "the Stranger", Petty King of Konugardr (Kiev), 1st January 867: As a Norse petty king, your targets for raiding are limited as you have no ports for you 30 event spawned ships to head into port, however when you do get a port, Crete and Cyprus make easy pickings. you have 1 son, a wife with high intrigue and you are somewhat of an ambitious, genius, who is not afraid of conversation (gregarious) or battle (brave), however you shouldn't let your greed and cynicism get the better of you. But the vast lands of Russia and the Crimea (especially after the Magyars are nomads no-more) are open for conquest, and many paths you could take.
Brittany, Duchy of
- Haesteinn, Chief of Nantes, 867: used in CKII GOTW
- Unite Brittany under the Nordic banner
- Add 3 of the following duchies to your realm: Cornwall, Somerset, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou
- Add any 3 duchies from the De Jure Kingdom of Ireland
- Add any two duchies from the De Jure Empire of Hispania
- The Norse Faith must be Reformed
- All 5 Norse holy sites must be controlled by the religion
- Amass 25k in Gold
Denmark, Kingdom of
- Holmger Hammer, Chief of Bornholm (Burgundaholmr), 867 Note: officially has the best dynasty name in the game
Iceland, Duchy of
- Garðar Svavarsson, Chief of Austisland, 867 Note: Can one man (literally) build an empire?
Isles, The, Duchy of (Sudreyjar)
- Olafr Yngling, Chief of Dublin, 867
- Ketill Flatnefr, Chief of Mann, 867
Lotharingia, Kingdom of
- Hrodulfr Akra, Count of Ostfriesland, 867: You are the only Pagan vassal in the kingdom of Lotharingia. Your uncle, Hrorek is as the duke of Holland your liege. Hrorek has betrayed The Old Gods already and is Catholic. They call you the black sheep of te family. Can you show them what you are really worth?
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?
Sweden, Kingdom of
- Erik III "the Heathen" af Munsö, 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? You have to cheat to play him (either with the character select or putting playable = yes in the religions file for pagans - or playing a mod that has playable pagans). But it's certainly an exciting experience. Note: With the release of TOG, this start may play out quite differently.
- Rikulfr Ulfing, Chief of Austergautland, 867 - Note: Not Beowulf's dynasty, but a member of a dynasty who make appearances in the saga. Still, one of the only two Geatish dynasties in the game (along with House Gautske).
Lithuania, Kingdom of
- Mindaugas Gediminaitis, High Chief of Lithuania (Duchy), 1 May 1241 (Rise of the Hansa bookmark) Note: Frequent religion switcher, but Romuva in this bookmark. First and the only king of Lithuania. Murdered by his own kinsman. Can you survive with enemies all around you?
Greater Poland, Duchy of
- Piast, High Chief of Greater Poland: The semi-legendary founder of the Polish state. Consolidate the Polish and Pomeranian tribes and then take the battle to the Romuva Balts to the east to form the Wendish Empire. Follow history and Christianize your people, or defy it and unite all the Slavs under a reformed pagan faith.
Mecklenburg, Duchy of
- Krutoj Wizlawid, High Chief of Mecklenburg, 1066 : Usurped the throne after the last king (who starts out in Lubeck) converted to Christianity. Historically avoided Christianity for his 27-year rule, until he was assassinated, and his state itself went back and forth between Christianity and paganism nearly a century until being firmly Christianized and vassalized by larger realms. Note: Is now Slavic with TOG, and has the added option of forming the Wendish Empire
Pomerania, Duchy of
- Swietopelk II Gryfita, High Chief of Pomerania, 1106: A ruler who is both a first and a last: the first ruler of the Gryfita dynasty (aka Gryf or the "House of Griffins"), a dynasty in real life that'd rule Pomerania for the rest of the Middle Ages and go on to have the first king of the Kalmar Union. He is also, however, the last Slavic pagan ruler of the Duchy of Pomerania, and in 1106 one of only two playable Slavic pagan rulers left in the world. You have a paltry three counties, and three sons ready to split that realm amongst themselves. To the east are the Lithuanian tribes, to the south a powerful and unified Catholic Poland, the north the Baltic Sea (and more Catholic kingdoms), and to the west you have the only other surviving Slavic ruler (the three county Chief of Dymin), the now Christian Tribe of Obotrites, and most terrifyingly of all the Holy Roman Empire. Do you follow history and accept Christ, and perhaps seek the HRE's protection against the large, hungry states that surround you? Or do you defy the Christians on the doorstep of their most powerful empire and fan the last smouldering embers of Slavic paganism?
Livonia, Duchy of
- Nalka Lääenemaa, High Chief of Livonia, 867: Mite be cool. Have a solid plan to consolidate your power or you'll be soon forced to contend with stronger rivals both to the East and South and even to the West across the sea. Will you unite the wild lands of Finland and become the true King of the North? Or will you find yourself lured into the endless lands and power-struggles of the Norse-ruled East and make a bid for dominance? Will you perhaps subjugate the potentially rich coast of the Baltic and eradicate the false-pagans of Lithuania? Or are you going to carry out the Will of God and save your people from eternal damnation and join the Kaiser and his Schwertbrüder in His noble quest to bring Light to these darkest reaches of the World? Or perhaps the promise of bountiful gold instead of naive ideals will bring you to control the trade of the Western Sea and beyond? As Livionia stands at the crossroads between East and West on the edge of the North, so will you have many paths to walk down and claim your destiny from. Choose wisely and don't forget to bang your attractive genius cousin on the way to glory.
High Chiefdom of Pest
- Baghatur Khunzankhal, High Chief of Pest, 867 Your lands are the last remnant of the Avar Khaganate, the most feared power in the region some 200 years earlier. Reduced to a mere vassal of the Christian Bulgars, you can take advantage of the Magyar invasion to secure your own independence. Then outrace and outfight the new invaders to dominate the Pannonian Basin and reform the Khaganate.
- Genghis, Khagan of Golden Horde, 1 Jan. 1218: The greatest conqueror who ever lived. By this point he's already unified the Mongols and conquered lots of areas not on the map, along with much of Khwarizm and Aktobe. Starts with four attrition-free tumans (40,000 men) and a free invasion CB on everyone. 26 military score and his other stats aren't bad either. Easiest game to expand as, but matching the amazing conquests he and his successors pulled off historically before the horde settles down can be quite a challenge, as is holding such a vast empire together with Ultimogeniture succession.
- Chaka Borjigin, King of Bulgaria, 1297-8: Only Mongolian ruler of Bulgaria and descended from Genghis Khan.
Arabian Empire (Abbasid Caliphate)
- Sorkhab Bavandid, Satrap of Tabriz, 769 Your family are descendants of shahanshah Kavadh I. After Dabuyid dynasty was defeated, you inherited their lands, last independent remnant of Sassanid Empire. You are an old man so it's important to act quickly, for the Muslim Caliph is also nearing the end of his life. Soon Mohammedans will fight each other for the right to lead the "faithful". Secure enough territory for your family and your heir could well become king of Tabaristan, eclipsing the achievements of Farrukhan the Great and Dabuyids. After that, it is time for the rightful heirs of Sassanid dynasty to reclaim their empire.
Persia, Kingdom of
- Rostam Bavandid, Marzoban of Tabaristan, 867 A Zoroastrian count that starts as vassal of a Shia ruler in the mountainous region of northern Persia. Rostam starts with two counties in his demesne, which makes him twice as big as the neighboring Justanids, but sadly he is lacking any event army. Even if he can overthrow his liege, he is stuck between the regional Muslim powers. Can you make him rise to power, drive out the Mohammedans and lead the Persian Empire to a new golden age?
Turkestan, Kingdom of
- Kurush Yoishta, Bey of Aral, 867: A Zoroastrian vassal to the Tengriist Yabguids, you are the only follower of your ancient faith among the Turks. You are at the very edge of civilization and in a dangerous part of the world, following a faith that is close to death. Can you bring the other Turks round to the true faith? Can you unite the Zorostrian faith and retake the Persian Empire? You have a weak start and you are an outsider to all, but outsiders are often the driving force of history.
- Wakhushakk Sogdian, Marzoban of Chach, 769: You represent Sogdians, independent and warlike people whose life centered around Silk Road trade. Sogdians were never truly unified and soon it might be too late. Can you expand beyond your meager domain and carve out a kingdom worthy of the name Sogdiana from the lands of Turkestan and northern Persia?
High Chiefdom of Kirghiz
- Qutlugh Uyghurid, High Chief of Kirghiz, 769: Manichaeism once competed against Christianity for dominance. It's influence spread from Rome to China. Right now, it's on its way to extinction. You represent what remains of Uyghur Khaganate, the only state in history which adopted Manicheanism as it's official religion. Route to the east is gone but perhaps western steppe and Persia could become a new home for "Religion of Light".
Arabian Empire (Abbasid Caliphate)
- Anushirvan Rawandi, Marzoban of Esfahan, 769: You rule the nominal capital of Persian empire and were named after it's greatest ruler. You follow heretical teachings of a prophet who, according to some sources, was used as an archery target by bodyguards of Shahanshah Kavadh I. On top of this all, you are vassal to a man who hates your guts and viceversa. Odds could not be more stacked against you, therefore fate has surely meant you for greatness!
Abyssinia, Kingdom of
- Dawit I Gideon, Duke of Semien, 867
- Dawit II Gideon, Duke of Axum, 1066
Cumania, Khanate of
- Isaac Doganin, Count of Itil, 1066
Khazaria, Khanate of
- Manasseh II Bulanid, Khan of Khazaria, 867
Bihar, Kingdom of
- Ramagupta Gupta, thakur of Simaramapura and Mithala, 769: Can you re-establish the Gupta dynasty as the dominant power of India? You have claim to a kingdom title held by your liege and road is hard but you can do it!
Genoa, Most Serene Republic of
Gotland, Republic of
- Botstain I af Stenkyrka, Grand Mayor of Gotland, 1066: As Grand Mayor of the island of Gotland, you are easily in one of the more profitable positions on the map. While expanding in Finland may be relatively pointless, the rich fields of Germany, Frisia, France and England all beckon. With the nearest competition in Genoa, you certainly have the upper hand. But be warned! Should Erik "the Heathen" take control of Sweden, you will very quickly be eliminated. Also, watch out for the other patrician families as they haven't taken kindly to such a young man being elected Grand Mayor.
Pisa, Most Serene Republic of
- Gerardo I Visconti, Serene Doge of Pisa, 1081: used in GOTW
- Eliminate all Republics in the Mediterranean other than yourself
- Claim 2 of the following with all De Jure territory: Mallorca, Kabyllia, Tunis, Tripolitania
- Add the De Jure duchies of Sicily, Calabria, Achaia, and Krete to your nation.
- Form the Latin Empire.
- Drives the Turks out of the De Jure Kingdoms of Greece and Anatolia.
Venice, Most Serene Republic of
- Enrico Dandolo, Serene Doge of Venice, 1192 - 1205: The fantastically old (in his 90s!), blind (the result of a, possibly Byzantine-administered, blow to the head) Doge that diverted the 4th Crusade to Constantinople. You can do no such thing in game, but you can still feel free to be a sneaky, profit-minded jerk while wearing your "Crusader" trait proudly. That blind ninety year old man fought at the sack of Constantinople. And won. Eat your heart out, John the Blind.
Load up as their top level liege, land them, save and switch characters when re-loading.
- 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 the county of 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.
- Tostig of Godwin, Courtier in Norway, 15 Sept. 1066: The brother of Harold Godwinson, and the one who, apparently, convinced the Hardrade to invade England even as William of Normandy planned to do so as well. He, according to legend, won over the court of Harald Hardrade, and even lead the Vikings against the Saxons at the battle of Stamford Bridge where he died. Why not land him? I hear that Faroyar is nice this time of year... Keep the Godwinsons going strong, even if England falls to the Ynglings or de Normandies!
- Siechiech Topor, Courtier in Mazovia, 1066-1094: Historically he managed to gain influence by exiling king Boleslaw the Bold (and poisoning his son Mieszko) and taking advantage of his liege Wladyslaw I Herman (who is "Infirm" in the game), even becoming his queen's lover. He was considered the de facto ruler of Poland and continuously tried to gain the throne through intrigue. he is also credited with conquering Pomeralia. Eventually he was defeated in a civil war, exiled and blinded by the sons of Wladyslaw in 1100.
- Eadgar of Wessex, Courtier in England, 15 Sept. 1066: You thought Harold was hard? Try playing as the rightful king. This unlucky teenager is the last male member of the English royal family, whose rightful throne is contested by not one, not two, but three different usurpers, all of them far more powerful than he could hope to be. All you have to work with is an unmarried sister and a strong claim on England. Can you restore the house of Wessex to its rightful throne? Alternatively, play from the court of the Byzantine Basileus in 1099.
- Aelfwine Knytling, Courtier in Toulouse, 1066: You are the last surviving descendant of Canute the Great, who ruled over Denmark, Norway and England. Quite the legacy for a lowly Saxon courtier deep in the middle of southern France. You start with a strong claim on the throne of England but with no realistic way to press it, you must be patient. Start by giving Aelfwine a county in your area of choice and take it from there. Can you restore your house to the throne of England? Or maybe even restore your ancestor's great realm?
- Pedro de Bourgogne, Courtier in (Prince of) Portugal, Hundred Years' War start: You are the heir to the throne of Portugal, but that is not why history will remember you. Pedro fell in love with Inês de Castro, the bastard daughter of the duke of Galicia and hardly a suitable match for the heir of a kingdom. Still, the two could not be kept apart, which forced his father, King Afonso IV, to have the young woman murdered. This action was enough to cause Pedro to declare war on his own father and while defeated, the timely death of the king still gave the crown to Pedro, who settled for hunting down the murderers, torturing them to death (which involved Pedro ripping their own hearts out with his bare hands) and as a (somewhat legendary) final act of defiance, having the body of his beloved dug up and forcing the whole court to swear fealty to Inês as queen of Portugal. Can you right this historical wrong, unite these two love birds and lead their descendants to even greater glory?
- Omar Khayyam, Courtier in Hashimid Emirate, 1066: Historical Omar Khayyam, even though his stats are somewhat mediocre, created a dynasty of hedonistic mathematician-poets.
- Hrolfr de Normandie, Courtier in Tröndelag, 867: A famous Viking warrior and the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror. Historically, he settled in Normandy and founded the dynasty that would one day take the throne of England. Start as Hrörekr of Holland, give Hrolfr some land, play on as him and see if you can re-create history!
- Republic of Wales: Start from December 1066 as William the Conqueror, play it out and give the mayor of Cornwall the duchy of Cornwall, or otherwise any mayor a duchy, thus republic is made.
Steering any historical character to an ahistorical destiny.
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