Succession is the distribution of a ruler's titles upon his death based on succession and gender laws of each title.
It is one of the most important concepts in Crusader Kings II, as it controls what character you play as the heir to the primary title. It also affects the opinion your vassals and dynasty have of you.
Upon a ruler's death, his titles will be distributed to other characters based upon what succession law they use. This is not necessarily the same for each title; multiple titles can follow different succession laws. However, it should be noted that only the succession laws of titles on the highest tier you hold matter; everything below that will be given out together with the title it is bound to.
There are several different succession laws in the game, each with different requirements and effects. There is no 'best' succession law; which you'll want depends upon your goals for the campaign. Below is a list of all succession laws. Succession laws consist of a type of succession and a gender law.
At duchy level and lower, a single succession law covers all of a character's titles. However, if a character holds multiple kingdom or empire titles, these will each have their own succession law, which may lead to different heirs for each kingdom title.
Be cautious of succession laws that allow non-dynasty members to inherit, as this can result in Game over. If you are a vassal with your eyes on your liege's title, these succession laws can work in your favor. Expect AI lieges to change their succession laws as soon as a non-dynasty member or a dynasty member with a non-dynastic marriage (e.g. matrilineal if the member is male) stands to inherit. Certain succession types have Crown Authority requirements (without Conclave) or Administration requirements (with Conclave).
Descriptions in italics are quotes from the in-game descriptions of the law, current as of patch version 2.3.5.
|Oldest child||Other child||Youngest child||Dynasty||Vassal|
|Gavelkind||Titles distributed between all children. +30% demesne limit||-5||+15||+5||+5||Not Muslim or tribal pagan|
|Elective gavelkind||Titles distributed between children and primary heir, who is elected from among the members of the ruling dynasty. Primary titles may be created for younger children if enough of their land is held. +30% demesne limit (mix of Tanistry and Gavelkind)||+15||+5||Not Muslim|
(AKA Elective Monarchy)
|The rule and vassals are given votes equal to the number of qualified titles that character holds. A successor is then voted on from among themselves and legitimate children and siblings of the ruler. Electors are happier in this system unless their liege personally holds too many elective titles.
Since non dynastic characters can be eligible nominees, it is possible to lose your top title to a non-dynasty member.
|-15||-5||-5||+10|| Not unreformed pagan.|
|Primogeniture||The oldest child of the ruler inherits all titles. Your successor will like the law, but other members of your dynasty will slightly disapprove.
As long as the marriage preserves the dynasty of the rule (i.e. matrilineal if the ruler is female), the dynasty will retain power of the selected title.
Not Muslim nor unreformed pagan. High Crown Authority (without Conclave) or Late Feudal Administration (with Conclave)
|Ultimogeniture||This succession law is the opposite of the far more common Primogeniture. With Ultimogeniture, the youngest child inherits.||-30||-20||+20||-5||
Not pagan (except Mongol and Zunist) or Muslim. Limited Crown Authority (without Conclave) or Late Feudal Administration (with Conclave)
|Seniority||The oldest member of the dynasty inherits all titles. Your oldest child will greatly disapprove of this law, but all other members of the dynasty will approve.
Guaranteed to retain dynastic control of the title until there are no living members of the dynasty.
|-30||-20||+10||-10||Not Patrician, or Patrician family.|
Patrician family, or else not Muslim, Indian nor unreformed pagan. Medium Crown Authority (without Conclave)
|Open||Child (or grandchild) with best titles inherits||-10||Muslim|
|Tanistry||The ruler and all elector vassals can nominate an heir — the Tanist — from among members of the ruler's dynasty. Vassals will tend to favor older members from other branches of the family, especially claimants
Similar to Feudal elective but with a few significant differences: candidates must be dynastic, more electors
*If you are about to create a kingdom title, it may be advantageous to change succession laws before the creation. So if you're to create Vassal level kings as the Byzantine empire your subject kingdoms will possess the laws the empire has. (Since newly created kingdoms start with the same laws as your duchies, kingdom, or empire).
|Open elective||The courtier with the highest sum of (age + prestige) inherits. Only adult males of the same religion, who are not heir to any other titles, are eligible.
If there are no eligible courtiers with positive election scores, a new character is generated with:
For religious head titles such as The Church of Zun, courtiers are ineligible, and the title always goes to a newly generated character.
|Holy orders, mercenaries, republics, and most theocracies.|
Fallback for independent feudal rulers with no heir and no feudal vassals.
|Patrician elective||Only used by merchant republics, person with most 'respect' is elected||Merchant republic|
|Investiture||If the liege lord has nominated a successor under the free investiture law, the nominee succeeds.
If the liege has bribed the pope to nominate a bishop, the nominee succeeds. Otherwise, the Pope nominates a generated character.
|Appointment||Title reverts to liege.||Vassals of holy orders|
Viceroyalty vassals of empires.
Fallback for feudal vassals with no heir.
|Papal succession||The College of Cardinals elects the new Pope.||Only for the Papacy|
|Agnatic||Only males can inherit|
|Agnatic-Cognatic||Women can only inherit if there are no eligible males
Women with sons have priority over women without sons
|Enables matrilineal marriage (if not already enabled)||
Enacting at least Notable Status of Women overrides the last bullet (but there are still issues for patricians).
|Absolute Cognatic||Women inherit on equal terms with men||May grant titles to women||
Enacting Full Status of Women overrides the last two bullets.
|Enatic-Cognatic||Males can only inherit if there are no eligible women||Unavailable by default, can be modded in, but basic code support exists|
|Enatic||Only women can inherit||Unavailable by default, can be modded in, but basic code support exists|
Changing succession law
Succession laws can only be changed once in a lifetime per kingdom/empire, by a ruler who:
- is at peace
- is not in a regency
- has ruled in the current capacity for 10 years. A count who has ruled for fifteen years before creating, inheriting or being granted a dukedom (or simply changing primary title) will need to wait ten more years after getting the new primary title before being allowed to change succession law.
- has no direct vassals (for counts and dukes) or direct vassals of count rank or higher (for kings and emperors) in the territory affected by the change who with non-positive opinion. Since this only applies to direct vassals, a particularly troublesome vassal can sometimes be dealt with by transferring that vassal to a higher-ranked subordinate.
- does not have two or more direct vassals who are at war with each other. This can be difficult in sprawling empires. Medium crown authority helps, but does not prevent rebellions or attacks by some vassal kings. You can intervene in a prolonged war between vassals by granting one side more land. You can also stop a war immediately by revoking all counties from one combatant, or by forcing them to rebel against you.
A ruler cannot change both the succession type and the gender law.
All direct vassals and direct family members will have a large penalty or moderate bonus temporary but long-lasting opinion modifier as a reaction to a succession change, whether it be gender or succession method itself. This appears to be hardcoded (unmoddable) and largely arbitrary, as for example female family members will be outraged at a change to true cognatic even if it makes them the new heir, and includes baron-level vassals who in theory should have little if any opinion about it.
Note that Muslims can only use Agnatic Open (Turkish) succession (Muslim patricians follow the succession used in merchant republics), while tribes can only use elective gavelkind, and unreformed Pagans can only use Gavelkind (except Mongols, who can also use Ultimogeniture).
Characters cannot inherit any titles if they are:
|Clergy (except Pagans and Muslims)||Granting a bishopric, or through investiture|
|Monk or nun||Order to take the vows, or by event.|
|Members of holy orders||Order to take the vows, or by event (for men with 5+ martial skill). Requires SoA.|
|Bastard||Born out of wedlock and not legitimized|
|Eunuch||Castrate prisoner or by event|
|Blinded (if Byzantine)||Blind prisoner or by event|
Furthermore, there are restrictions on inheritance between merchant republic titles and feudal titles. Feudal titles cannot be inherited by patricians, while family palaces cannot be inherited by external feudal rulers(?). The Designated Heir honorary title can be granted to landed characters however it does not actually make them your heir due to issues with the game. The oldest son of your current character will inherit instead.
As of 2.4, a courtier who is potential heir to conflicting titles (such as a merchant republic and a feudal duchy) will choose one or the other, rather than inheriting the title whose holder dies first. Restarting the game, and thus recalculating succession for *all* characters, may change these choices.
High crown authority disqualifies foreign rulers, regardless of rank.
Born in the Purple
Succession in the Byzantine Empire is further influenced by the Born in the Purple trait and the Despot honorary title. Characters who have either of these attributes are considered higher in the succession line than those without.
Special Horde Title Inheritance
As of 188.8.131.52, some titles of Hordes are locked in a specific inheritance type which overwrite all other conditions and cannot be changed. Emperor of Mongol Empire is always Agnatic Gavelkind if Horse Lord DLC is not active even when he is Muslim or Republic. Emperor of Aztec Empire is always Agnatic Gavelkind even when he is Muslim.
When a character is already landed but inherits a new title, a conflict could occur that is indicated in the game as an alert Vassal inheritance warning.
For example, if an English count inherits a French title from his mother upon her death, either the French or the English realm will expand as the game does not allow a character to be vassal to two different lieges.
If Crown Authority is not high enough to play a role, these conflicts are resolved as follows:
- The vassal contract that goes with the primary title stays intact. So if an English count (vassal to the King of England) inherits a French duchy (vassal to the King of France), this ducal title will be his primary title. He will become a French duke and his county will become part of France.
- Note that the inherited title cannot be the primary title if it is of equal or lower rank, because the heir simply never had the time to change it. Therefore, if an English count (vassal to the King of England) inherits a French county (vassal to the King of France), his English county will stay his primary title and his county in France will become part of England.
You can take advantage of inheritance conflicts by arranging for your vassals to inherit foreign territory.
Fallbacks for feudal rulers with no heir
A sequence of contingency plans is used until one finds a qualified heir:
- (The ruler's succession law)
- Liege (as if succession type were Appointment)
- Feudal vassal (highest rank, with ties broken by order in landed_titles.txt ??)
- Open Elective
You may be able to take advantage of #3 to inherit your vassals' titles, or #4 to inherit the title of an independent liege.