Mod of the Week: Elder Kings, for Crusader Kings II
Last week we brought Dishonored into Skyrim, so this week let’s bring The Elder Scrolls into Crusader Kings II. The Elder Kings mod beautifully transforms medieval Europe into Tamriel, a place I'm much more familiar with than medieval Europe because I play games instead of reading books. The mod introduces elements like birth signs, racial traits, spells, Dark Brotherhood assassins, and problematic monsters, plus new buildings, new council members, and a host of new decisions. Stick around long enough and a new Dragonborn might even pop up somewhere.
The entire continent of Tamriel is lovingly recreated, and all the familiar races are present to play: the beasties like Argonians and the Khajiit, elves such as Altmer, Bosmer, and Maormer, as well as humans like Imperials, Bretons, and Nords. Each race comes with its own attribute bonuses and penalties based on The Elder Scrolls lore. For instance, Nords get a bonus to their Martial ability (they're good at war) and a slight takeaway from their Learning (like me, they're not big on reading), whereas playing a Dunmer means you have a lifespan that could last hundreds of years but you take a hit to diplomacy, since the Dark Elves are mistrusted in Tamriel. As in The Elder Scrolls, your birth sign will also give you small bonuses to your attributes.
If you’re a terrible ruler like myself, there’s more to worry about than just angry peasants and cranky vassals. Become a slothful ruler or foster a poor stewardship rating, and the result will be a weakening of your holdings, meaning vampires, giants, trolls, goblins, or even plain old boring human bandits will begin encroaching on your lands, negatively affecting your economy and increasing the chances that peasants will revolt. Though I haven’t had it happen to one of my characters yet, there’s apparently even a chance of becoming infected with vampirism yourself if you're in an area where the bloodsuckers are present.
Luckily, even crummy rulers like me have help from our councils, and they've got some appropriately Elder Scrolls-y tasks they can be assigned to. Your High Priest can be sent to cure sickness and boost disease resistance in a province, chase cabals and local necromancers from their disgusting caves, or dabble in magic to add spells to your spellbook. Your Steward, in addition to collecting taxes and researching economy technology, can survey your own province in hopes of discovering treasure-filled Ayleid or Dwemer ruins or valuable deposits of minerals like ebony, orichalum, or other precious metals to boost your economy.
Other activities from The Elder Scrolls are available as well. If you’re a Nord, you can go on a pilgrimage to High Hrothgar and climb the 1,000 steps, encountering various obstacles and decisions along the way. If assassination is your thing (and I think it is because any game with a button marked "Assassinate" pretty much makes it impossible not to assassinate someone), you no longer have to leave it up to some faceless plotter. You can summon the Dark Brotherhood (for a hefty fee) and have them dispatch your personal or political enemies with a higher chance of success.
Unlike the Game of Thrones mod Rich recently played, Technology is in full swing in Elder Kings, and you can invest in things like Magical Infrastructure, which allows you to create new types of buildings, such as labs for Destruction, Alteration, and Restoration, plus enchanted armories and apothecaries. You can also send your Spymaster to other realms to sabotage your enemy's research into the arcane.
Plus, you might even spot The Dragonborn, and whichever lucky NPC it is will get a hefty boost to their stats. Is there someone in your dungeon awaiting execution? Because that's generally how the most special people in Tamriel are discovered, right? In fact, I tried to execute a prisoner just to see if a remarkable series of events would allow him to escape to a grander destiny. Uh, no. He just totally got executed.
Along with everything I've mentioned, there's all sorts Elder Scrolls flavor added, like a pilgrimage to Vvardenfell, a visit to the Imperial City arena, and an optional music mod to give you some familiar Elder Scrolls tunes. I even wound up neighbors with M'aiq the Liar, and later went to war with him. Even later, I lost that war. I tried to assassinate him as well, but he's pretty slippery.
The mod is still largely a work in progress. Not every feature is complete, and there are some placeholder graphics and temporary portraits, but it's still quite playable and enjoyable. There are even submods in the works, such as one aimed at letting you play as a Draugr! This is going to be a great mod to watch as it develops further. Check out their forums here.
Installation: The download contains a self-installing .exe file. Fus-roh-done.