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The succession screen

Alert succession.png 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 more 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.

Succession Law[edit]

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.

Succession Types[edit]


Law Effect Opinion Requirements
Oldest child Other child Youngest child Dynasty Vassal
Gavelkind Titles distributed between all children. +30% demesne limit -10 +30 +10 +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 +25 +10 Tribal, non-Muslim
Feudal elective Every major ruler in the realm votes for the heir -30 -10 -5 +20 Not Muslim, Indian nor unreformed pagan.
Ultimogeniture Youngest child inherits -30 -20 +20 -5 Low Crown Authority or higher*

Not pagan (except Mongol and Zunist) or Muslim.

Seniority Oldest dynasty member inherits -30 -20 +10 -10 Medium Crown Authority or higher*, or Patrician family.

Patrician family, or else not Muslim, Indian nor unreformed pagan.

Primogeniture Oldest child inherits +20 -20 -5 High Crown Authority or higher*

Not Muslim nor unreformed pagan

Open Child (or grandchild) with best titles inherits -10 Muslim
Tanistry Like Feudal elective but all titleholders in realm can vote, and they must select a dynasty member. Electors prefer collateral relatives to direct ones. -40 -20 +10 +5 Low Crown Authority or higher*

Celtic culture
Not Muslim

*Not required for independent counts and dukes under non-existing de jure kingdom (see No crown authority law). Therefore if you are about to create a kingdom title, since newly created kingdoms start with the same laws as your duchy it may be advantageous to change succession laws beforehand in order to avoid the crown authority requirement.


Law Effect Requirements
Open elective If there are eligible people in court, one of them inherits (selection factors are unknown)

Otherwise a generated character inherits, having:

  • the religion of his top liege,
  • either the culture of his province or of his direct liege (50% chance each).
Holy orders, mercenaries, burghers or religious landed title.

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, he succeeds.

Otherwise, the Pope nominates a generated character.

Catholic bishopric
Appointment Title reverts to liege. Vassals of holy orders

Viceroyalty vassals of empires.

Fallback for feudal vassals with no heir.
Papal succession College of Cardinals elects the new Pope. Only for the Papacy

Gender Laws[edit]

Effect Relations Requirements
Agnatic Only males can inherit -10 female dynasty members N/A
Agnatic-Cognatic Women can only inherit if there are no eligible males N/A Not Muslim, Tengri, or patrician
Absolute Cognatic Women inherit on equal terms with men -10 male dynasty members Basque culture and non-Muslim, or either Cathar or Messalian religion
Enatic-Cognatic Males can only inherit if there are no eligible women N/A Unavailable by default, can be modded in, but basic code support exists
Enatic Only women can inherit N/A Unavailable by default, can be modded in, but basic code support exists

Changing succession law[edit]

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.
  • all direct vassals (for counts and dukes) or all direct vassals of count rank or higher (for kings and emperors) in the territory affected by the change must have a non-negative opinion of the ruler.
  • all direct vassals must not be at war with each other. 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.

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, 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:

Disqualification Method
Clergy (except Pagans and Muslims) Granting a bishopric, or through investiture
Monk Monk.png or nun Nun.png Order to take the vows or by event.
Members of holy orders By event for men with 5+ martial skill. Requires SoA.
Bastard Bastard.png Born out of wedlock and not legitimized Legitimized bastard.png
Eunuch Eunuch.png Castrate 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(?).

High crown authority disqualifies foreign rulers, regardless of rank.

Born in the Purple[edit]

Succession in the Byzantine Empire is further influenced by the Born in the purple.png 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.

Inheritance Conflict[edit]

Alert vassal inheritance.png 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 will inherit 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 plays no 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[edit]

A sequence of contingency plans is used until one finds a qualified heir:

  1. (The ruler's succession law)
  2. Primogeniture
  3. Appointment
  4. Vassal (highest rank, with ties broken by order in landed_titles.txt ??)
  5. 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.

Personal attributes