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The realm tree of the small kingdom of Navarra in 1066

Icon realm hierarchy.png Under feudalism, rulers grant parts of their personal property (their demesne) to vassals in exchange for a cut of their taxes and levies. A vassal's direct ruler is called liege.

In return for his vassals' loyalty, the liege provides protection from external forces. The liege decides his vassals' duties and privileges via demesne laws, investiture law (for Catholics) and crown authority. It is a type of decentralization that makes ruling easier at the expense of personal power. Vassals can in turn distribute lands to vassals of their own, which is called subinfeudation.

A vassal meeting his duties depends entirely on his opinion of his liege. The lower it is, the less taxes and levies he will provide. If relations deteriorate enough, the vassal might plot against his liege or join a faction to work with others to overthrow or undermine him.

Landed titles[edit]

In Crusader Kings II, there are five ranks or tiers of landed titles. Any title can be vassalized to any other at a higher tier but not at the same or a lower tier. Any ruler can also be independent and thus answerable to nobody. Independence also gives rulers a 50% bonus to levies from their capital. If the ruler's rank is a duke or above, independence also grants them a 25% bonus to levies from their capital duchy.

The tiers are as follows from lowest to highest, with their respective portrait and coat of arms frames:

Character Title Description
Baron Feudal.png Baron Barony.png Holding A baron owns a holding (also called barony), the smallest land unit. Baronies can be cities, temples, or castles.

Barons are not playable and their simulation is simplified compared to higher ranks, to improve game performance. They have no councillors and cannot actively rebel against their liege (e.g. they can't start or join factions). Patricians who don't hold any higher titles are also considered barons.

Count Feudal.png Count County.png Province A count rules over a province (also called county), which is the smallest title visible on the map.

A count is simply a baron who holds the capital holding of a province (usually a castle). (S)he is also the de jure (and usually the de facto) liege of the other barons within the same province. A character must at least be a count before (s)he can be granted higher-tier titles.

Duke Feudal.png Duke Duchy.png Duchy A duke rules over a duchy. A duke that owns more than one duchy is called a grand-duke, which grants a slight bonus to their demesne limit.

Dukes and above generate technology points. Vassals have to be at least dukes in order to benefit from the bonus to levies in their capital (+25%).

King Feudal.png King Kingdom.png Kingdom A king rules over a kingdom. Kings and emperors may define crown laws in their realm.
Emperor Feudal.png Emperor Empire.png Empire An emperor rules over an empire and may vassalize kings (usually through force). Proper management of a large empire can be a complex task.

Direct vassal limits[edit]

See also: Distribution of power guide, Kingdoms with special creation requirements, Transfer vassalage

Vassal limit.png Every ruler of the rank of duke and above should recognise that they cannot have too many direct vassals (of at least the rank of count; barons are not counted towards the limit). Having too many direct vassals will incur various penalties, and some vassals may become independent upon succession.

The limit encourages rulers to consolidate their vassals if their realms are large. Empires that expand beyond their de jure territory are likely to require vassal kings.

Tribal vassals don't count towards their non-tribal liege's vassal limit. However, AI vassals will adopt feudalism quickly if they share their liege's religion and culture.

The direct vassal limit is affected by:

  • Ruler rank
    • Bonus for "great dukes" (dukes with multiple duchy titles)
    • The rank bonus is somewhat smaller if Conclave DLC is enabled
  • Diplomacy skill (0.3 × "ruler and spouse diplomacy"?)
  • Laws:


Main article: Economy

If vassals have a positive relation with their liege they will pay taxes but how much of their income they provide is mainly dependent on two factors:

  1. The income from holdings they own (which can be boosted by constructing buildings)
  2. Their liege's tax laws which determines the percentage of income they have to pay. This law can be different for the nobility, clergy and burghers.

Since high tax law deteriorates relations, a balance must be struck between the two.


Main article: Levies

Vassals have a legal obligation to provide a minimum number of troops to their liege based on crown laws and their own manpower. However they might provide more depending on:

  1. The liege's levy laws
  2. Their opinion of their liege

Whichever of crown laws minimums or levy laws is higher will determine the number of levies.

Because relations determine both levy size and a vassal's chance of rebellion, an unpopular liege is in a lot of danger. They risk a situation whereby part of their realm rebels, while the rest of it provides very few troops to counter the rebellion.


Main article: Factions

Vassals will not always like their liege. As described above, this hurts the liege both economically and militarily, but there's one final aspect to the vassal-liege relationship: the vassal attempting to overthrow his liege.

If a vassal is pushed too far, or they're simply too ambitious, he will rise in rebellion against his liege, and forcefully attempt to gain what they want. To do this, vassals join Factions which pursue goals ranging from independence to lowering crown authority to pushing a pretender's claim or instituting a new succession law. As disaffected vassals join a faction, the power of the faction (measured in their army size/liege's army size) rises. When it gets powerful enough, the faction leader has a decision to send their liege a letter with the faction's demands. If the liege does not comply, war breaks out, with all members of the faction joining the revolt against the liege.

Because vassals can only rebel against their direct liege, rulers need not be worried about the opinions of vassals under their direct vassals. If a direct vassal's vassals win a war of independence, they become vassals of the original liege instead. E.g., if a count rebels against a duke who has a king over them, success will result in the count becoming a direct vassal of the king.

The faction a vassal will seek to join depends on a number of factors. Characters of the same culture and religion holding de jure territory make the most loyal vassals.

Estates of the realm[edit]

The estates of the realm were the social orders during the Middle Ages in Christian Europe. They are distinguished as the three estates:

  • the clergy (First Estate)
  • the nobility (Second Estate)
  • the commoners (Third Estate)

Though the clergy and the burghers may hold titles above baronies, in CKII only the nobles above baron rank are playable. Controlling any other type will result in instant game over. The only exception is a specific type of burgher: burghers of duke rank or above with a coastal capital, who are Doges of merchant republics, with four other Patrician families as their vassals (and contesting the title of Doge).

The actual titles of the landed characters may have many different names, though it grants the same privileges no matter the name. The alternative names depend on (in the following priority order):

  1. Religion group
  2. Religion
  3. Culture group
  4. Culture.

If no specific type is found then the default is used. Note that cultural and religious-based titles are based on the top liege's culture and religion, not the vassal's.


Main article: Nobles

Nobles normally rule over castle holdings. They are characters of feudal type. In the feudal system, most rulers of count or higher level were members of the nobility.

Distinction Key Baron Count Duke King Emperor
Default Baron / Baroness Count / Countess Duke / Duchess King / Queen Emperor / Empress
Culture group Altaic Khan / Khanum Khagan / Khatun
Culture group Arabic Wâli / Wâlia Sheikh / Shaykhah Emir / Emira Sultan / Sultana Badshah
Culture group Dravidian / Indo-Aryan Damapati / Damapatni Thakur / Thakurani Raja / Rani Maharaja / Maharani Samrat / Samrajni
Culture group Iranian Argbadh / Wâlia Marzoban / Shaykhah Satrap / Emira Shah / Banebshen Shahanshah
Culture group West African Wâli Farin / Farina Farbas / Farba Mansa / Sultana
Culture English / Saxon / Irish / Pictish / Scottish Earl
Culture German Kaiser / Kaiserin
Culture Greek Doux Despot Basileus / Basilissa
Culture Mongol Taishi Chief High Chief / High Chieftess
Culture Nahuatl Teuctli / Teuctli Calpixqui / Calpixqui Huecalpixqui / Huecalpixqui Tlatoani / Tlatoani Huetlatoani / Huetlatoani
Culture Norse Þegn Jarl
Culture Russian Grand Prince / Grand Princess Tsar / Tsaritsa
Culture Turkish Timariot / Timariota Bey / Bayan Beylerbey / Beylerbayan Sultan / Sultana Padishah
Government Tribal Chief High Chief / High Chieftess
Religion group Pagan Hetman Chief / Chieftess
Religion (Reformed) Baltic High Chief / High Chieftess
Religion (Reformed) Germanic Þegn
Religion (Reformed) Slavic High Chief / High Chieftess
Religion (Reformed) Suomenusko High Chief / High Chieftess
Religion (Reformed) Tengri High Chief / High Chieftess
Status Viceroyalty Baron Viceroy / Baron Vicereine Count Viceroy / Count Vicereine Minor Viceroy / Minor Vicereine Viceroy / Vicereine Grand Viceroy / Grand Vicereine
Status, Culture Greek, Viceroyalty Strategos / Strategitissa Exarch / Exarchessa Grand Exarch

The primary spouse of a ruler gets a minor title of "ruler consort", allowing them to use the gender-appropriate form of their spouse's title. For example, the wife of a Sultan is called a Sultana. Similarly, "Queen Mother" and variants are available to the wives of deceased kings and emperors.

Independent dukes of North Germanic, Celtic, East African, or Anglo-Saxon cultures are referred to as "petty kings".


Main article: Clergy

Clerics are members of the clergy and normally rule over church holdings. Note that due to the melded status of church and state within the Muslim world, any Muslim holding a temple title while being of count-tier or higher will simply be referred to as his feudal counterpart. As such, while the terms Mullah, Ayatollah, Grand Ayatollah and Grand Mufti are defined in the files, they will never appear in the game. Also note that since Sword of Islam, the Caliph is no longer an emperor- or king-tier title, as described, but a duke-tier title.

Distinction Key Baron Count Duke King Emperor
Religion (Reformed) Aztec Shaman
Religion (Reformed) Baltic Shaman Witch-King / Witch-Queen
Religion Buddhist Bhikkhu Bhikkhu Bhikkhu Bhikkhu
Religion Christian Bishop Prince-Bishop Prince-Archbishop King-Bishop Emperor-Bishop
Religion (Reformed) Germanic Godi / Gydja Seidsman / Vala Fylkir (Reformed only, unique)
Religion Hellenic Priest / Priestess
Religion Hindu Pujari Pujari Pujari Pujari
Religion Jain Nirgrantha Nirgrantha Nirgrantha Nirgrantha
Religion group Jewish Rabbi Kohen Rabban Nasi
Religion Manichean / Mazdaki Vahram
Religion group Muslim Caliph (post-Sword of Islam) Caliph (pre-Sword of Islam)
Religion Orthodox Metropolitan Prince-Archbishop King-Bishop
Religion group Pagan Priest / Priestess High Priest Archpriest / Archpriestess King-Priest / Queen-Priestess Emperor (both sexes)
Religion Shia Mullah Ayatollah Grand Ayatollah
Religion Slavic (unreformed only) Witch-King
Religion (Reformed) Slavic Shaman
Religion Sunni Mufti Sheikh Grand Mufti
Religion (Reformed) Suomenusko Shaman Witch-King
Religion (Reformed) Tengri Shaman
Religion (Reformed) West African Priest / Priestess
Religion Zoroastrian Herbad
Religion (Reformed) Zunist Sun Guardian


Burghers are commoners and normally rule over city holdings.

Burghers are responsible for a large part of the world's economy, as they control the largest source of money in the game, the cities. Beyond that, they usually don't have much of an effect upon the world, as unlike nobles they don't push claims, and are relatively isolationist.

Burgher titles alternate names
Distinction Key Baron Count Duke King Emperor
Default Mayor Lord Mayor Grand Mayor Prince Mayor Grand Prince
Culture group Latin, Byzantine Doge Serene Doge
Religion group Muslim Wali Wali-Emir Wali-Malik

The respective states are called:

  • Barony: City
  • County: Grand City
  • Duchy: Republic
  • Kingdom: Most Serene Republic
    • German culture: Merchant League
  • Empire: Principality

Non-feudal governments[edit]

It is possible for a county to be owned by someone who is not a noble. This can benefit the ruler's liege considerably, as he or she will be able to charge different tax rates than he would with a noble. While noble taxes default to 0%, city taxes default to 25% and church taxes to 35%. Even at 10 or 20% noble tax, you'll be getting more from having a burgher or bishop as the ruler of a county. Also, if the land is coastal and you grant a ducal or higher title to a burgher, a vassal merchant republic will form, leading to yet more boosts in tax income as the patricians construct trade posts, extend the trade zone, and otherwise build their own incomes up.

However, doing so is not entirely without penalties. Any ruler at count level or above will get -20 opinion with his liege if his liege is not of the same character type. So if you as a noble have a bishop ruling one of your counties, you'll get -20 opinion with him which could impact both tax and levies.

Second, bishops (if you're Catholic) will only pay you taxes and provide you with levies if they like you more than the Pope. If they like the Pope more than you, you'll lose out on tax and levies entirely.

You can also appoint burghers or bishops as dukes, once again giving great tax benefits. However, they'll be getting -20 opinion with every vassal they have unless the vassals are the same character type, which is likely to reduce the tax trickling up to you. Even taking this into account, you'll still probably get more tax from a bishop or burgher than you would from a noble. However, due to the -20 opinion, you'll end up getting less levies from that bishop/burgher's sub-realm.

Another major drawback is that bishop and burgher succession is generally much less predictable than noble succession. If you've got free investiture you can of course appoint every bishop, and thus control the succession entirely. However, if you've got papal investiture, or you're not Catholic, you have no control whatsoever over who rules the county/duchy after the first ruler dies. With cities, you've got similar problems as cities are generally Open Elective, meaning anyone in the burgher's court can succeed.

Granting titles to bishops has the added benefit of giving you piety. You get 25 piety from granting a non-capital temple holding, 100 for a county, 200 for a duchy, 800 for a kingdom, and 6400 for an empire. Thus, giving a few counties to bishops can be a great way to get piety which greatly facilitates getting the Invasion Casus Belli. Additionally, granting higher titles to Catholic or Fraticelli bishops in particular also has the benefit of increasing their cardinal score in papal succession elections, making them more likely to become cardinals and then the Pope.


Proper management of vassals is crucial for any ruler whose realm is too large to own personally. A ruler's vassals must be powerful enough to defend against foreign invasion, yet weak enough that they can not rebel and depose their liege.

Keeping nobles happy[edit]

One way to keep nobles happy is by bribing them. Gifting them gold through the diplomacy screen will increase their opinion for five years, the bonus depending on the gifter's diplomacy attribute. This method is not ideal, but sometimes this can make the difference between surviving a succession or not, or between winning a war and suffering defeat. Faction members are likely to rebel, so gifting them gold is wise.

Granting honorary titles is another way of improving opinion. In Catholic realms, there are two honorary titles which increase opinion by 15, and four titles which increase opinion by 10, two of which can be granted to both genders. Honorary titles and their opinion modifier persist until death. However, do note that one of the +15 titles (Cupbearer) should be given to vassals who are already pretty loyal; disloyal Cupbearers can poison their lieges.

Handing out landed titles to a vassal is a good way to make them happy very quickly; it increases opinion by 20 to 100 per title, depending on its tier, and the effect will persist for 10 years. However, vassals become more powerful in the process, making them that much more dangerous if they (or their descendants) rebel.

Another option is transferring one of your direct vassals. This gives a +20 opinion bonus. Obviously, it also makes the vassal more powerful, but not by as much since he'll only get a portion of the money and levies, rather than all of them. Importantly, though, if you have a vassal who holds titles in another vassal's de jure territory - e.g. a city in one of his demesne counties, or a county in his duchy - he gives you a -25 opinion penalty ("Desires Control of the County of X"). Transferring the vassal removes this penalty as well, for a total opinion swing of +45. Be careful when doing this that you don't transfer more land than you intended - check that the vassal to be transferred doesn't have any titles outside the de jure territory you want to transfer him to.

Finally, if you have a closely related child in your court who needs educating, you can arrange for someone in the noble's court to educate him or her, which provides a +20 bonus ("Entrusted Ward") as long as the child is being educated there (up to 10 years).

If you have the opportunity to take part in a crusade, jihad, or great holy war, take it. Send an army to the wargoal led by you and anyone whose opinion of you you want to improve. When you arrive, you both get a trait (e.g. Crusader , Kanai , or Ukko's Hammer ) which improves the opinion of all clergy of your religion and anyone else who has that trait. For this purpose, it doesn't matter if the army is very small and gets destroyed immediately, as long as there are enough regiments for everyone you want to improve relations with to lead one.

Distributing power[edit]

Main article: Distribution of power guide

The larger a realm becomes, the more titles need to be distributed, and the less significant the liege's individual strength becomes. It is critical that a liege hands out titles in such a way that vassals stay loyal and any rebellions can be crushed.

Rulers derive their power primarily from their vassals; a king whose dukes rebel against him is king in name only. It is even possible for a single duke to be more powerful than the king, because they have a wealthier demesne—a good example of this would be the relationship between the King of France and the Duke of Aquitaine in 1066, where the duke of Aquitaine has massive personal holdings and a larger power base than his liege.

First and foremost, titles should only be granted to people who share the liege's religion, and preferably their culture. Together, these avoid the "Foreigner", "Infidel", and "Heretic" opinion penalties. However, if you're confident of inducing an infidel or heretic vassal to convert to your religion, go ahead. Trait compatibility is also important - if you're lustful and your vassal is chaste or you're proud and he's humble, he'll despise you. However, there's no guarantee your heirs will have the same traits. Another key factor is Content /Ambitious : content vassals almost never stir up trouble with their lieges while ambitious vassals will hate a liege who keeps them from advancing.

It is also important to keep vassals weak. As a general rule, vassals should not control more than one duchy and the counties inside it. Particularly large duchies should not be held completely by single vassals, especially if they are rebellious, but 2-4 counties can generally be held directly. When distributing land like this, it is important to keep inheritance in mind; granting a duchy each to a husband and wife may lead to the heir controlling both duchies when they inherit.

Not forming ducal titles and holding individual counts as direct vassals is possible but more difficult to manage. In general, forming and distributing duchy titles is a good idea because it increases prestige (which increases opinion), makes raising levies much quicker, and reduces micromanagement due to having lots of vassals (vassals of vassals can't rebel against you, so you need only care about your direct vassals' opinion). Holding only counts as vassals is a safe but more difficult option. With the introduction of direct vassal limits, this strategy may not be practical for very large realms.

When distributing titles, keeping them inside the dynasty increases dynastic prestige. As dynasty members also get a +5 opinion bonus, they are also somewhat more loyal.

Keeping the de jure structure in mind is important. Vassals are much less likely to rebel if they are vassals to their de jure liege, and vassals get opinion penalties with their liege if their liege holds titles that (de jure) belong to that vassal. Hence, it is good to use "Transfer vassal" in the diplomacy screen so that all direct vassals have their de jure vassals under them, keeping them happy. However, it is also useful to transfer indirect vassals to direct vassals who are not their de jure controller, as this reduces their opinion of the other direct vassal instead of the liege (making them less likely to join that vassal's factions).

Finally, whenever someone rebels and fails, their liege can revoke a single title from them without incurring an opinion penalty with vassals. This can be used to strip a disloyal vassal of their power, and to keep power distributed across many different vassals. If there is no threat from abroad, intentionally provoking certain vassals into rebellion can be used as a means to gain and redistribute their titles.

Personal Strength[edit]

Finally, a liege can keep the peace by maximizing his own personal military power. Vassals and factions judge their strength against their liege's strength. A liege who can call 5000 troops from his own demesne and supplement that with a large retinue will have an advantage in that power-weighing. Additionally, if a liege can successfully wage his wars or handle his rebels with his own troops instead of depending on the troops of his vassals, he won't accumulate raised levy penalties. The risk of doing so, however, is that if a liege's personal levies are depleted, the factions gain more relative power. Also, the liege will have to pay his levies out from his own pocket when they are raised.

Marry your vassals[edit]

Marrying within the realm can be a good way to control vassals. Since patch 2.5, marriage ties automatically create a non-aggression pact between the participants, and a vassal who is in a non-aggression pact with his liege cannot join factions against him. Such pacts can be also renewed with succeeding rulers as long as they remain closely related. Muslim polygamy mechanics give them an advantage here, as Muslim rulers form pacts through their secondary wives as well as their chief wife and typically have lots of children as well.

The downside of this strategy is that, depending on the circumstances of the marriage, it can give a vassal's descendants claims on liege titles. You should also be careful not to marry closely related families too often, as it increases the chances of becoming Inbred . While in a pact with a vassal, the liege is also blocked from attempting to revoke any of the vassal's titles and cannot start the "Revoke Title" plot, even in the event of revolt through non-faction means (e.g. failed imprisonment).


Keeping vassals happy and powerless keeps the liege powerful. Letting them get too strong and unhappy is a recipe for disaster. In short, to maintain a stable realm:

  • Bribe powerful and unhappy vassals
  • Give out honorary titles to powerful and unhappy vassals
  • Give out landed titles as a last resort
  • Avoid giving titles to infidels and heretics. If you do so, do it with the intention of inducing them to convert to your religion.
  • Avoid giving titles to those of a different culture
  • Avoid giving vassals more than one duchy and a few counties in it
  • Try to keep titles within the dynasty
  • Don't put crown authority too high.
  • Hold all de jure titles for your realm.
  • Form and distribute dukedoms. This is more crucial for larger realms.
  • Revoke titles whenever it doesn't incur tyranny

By appointing a burgher or bishop as the ruler of a county or duchy, you could reap major tax rewards. However, you'd likely end up with fewer levies, a higher risk of rebellion, and reduced control over succession. If you think these drawbacks are worth it, it is recommended to experiment with this tactic and see if you like it. Summarized tips are as follows:

  • Don't hold onto cities (if non-patrician) or bishoprics (if non-Muslim) if you've got baronies you can fill your demesne with instead.
  • If you appoint a burgher or bishop as ruler of a county or duchy, you'll generally get much more tax from them.
  • Burgher/bishop counts and dukes will generally give less levies.
  • Burgher/bishop counts and dukes are more likely to rebel.
  • Burgher/bishop counts and dukes are more likely to get deposed by their vassals.
  • Catholic bishop counts and dukes could end up paying all their taxes to the Pope rather than you.
  • If you don't have Free Investiture, you cannot control bishop succession at all.
  • Burgher succession is extremely unpredictable.
  • If you need piety, grant titles to bishops.

Playing as a vassal[edit]

Please see the playing as a vassal guide.

Landed titles