Crusader Kings 2: The Old Gods in-depth Q&A

T.J. Hafer

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It's less than a month until the longships land to bring us The Old Gods, the pagan-focused expansion for Crusader Kings II. We've been keeping close tabs on new details at our Viking Analysis Desk, and today, we've got some extra meaty details for you. Below you'll find our massive Q&A with project lead Henrik Fåhraeus, covering everything from concubines to pagan sacred kings.

We've tried to mostly sail around previously-discussed info, so check out our previous interview , our analysis of the most recent livestream , and breakdowns of Dev Diary 1 , Dev Diary 2 , and Dev Diary 3 .

PC Gamer: Will all ships be capable of traversing rivers, or will this be limited to a specific ship type?

Henrik Fåhraeus: It is not tied to a specific ship type, but only the Vikings can do it; and only until the adjacent counties become too fortified. That way, as a non-pagan, you can protect against river raiding by fortifying your holdings by the major river mouths (essentially representing fortified bridges, etc.).

About what year do you expect fortification technology to make river raids obsolete?

It should start happening fairly early, around 1000, and the process should basically be complete by 1100 AD.

Do these fortifications block friendly ships, as well? For instance, if I'm king of Holmgard and Koningard, will my fortifications eventually block my own ships from using my own rivers to get to the Mediterranean?

No, if you can hold the river provinces, you will always be able navigate them.

Where does the gold from a raid come from? Is it taken from the defending liege's treasury?

The approach we've taken in Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods is that the gold you plunder basically comes from the local population in the county; monks, burghers, rich farmers, etc. This is represented with a bar in the province view. The richer the total tax value of all the holdings in the county, the more gold can be looted. The bar is decreased while any siege is going on in the county, but you can only gain loot through the raiding mechanics. If the county has taken damage of this kind, the tax income is reduced proportionally until the bar is full again (it grows back slowly).

The fortification level of the holdings also plays an important part here; the higher it is, the more of the loot bar is locked down. If you want to loot past that limit, you need to actually occupy the castles, cities and temples in the county. When a holding is taken by raiders, it risks being permanently damaged (building upgrades are lost) or even completely destroyed... so you really need to chase off or hunt down raiders before that happens.

Can you flag your army for raid when you are at war with someone? Do normal wars affect the loot bar of a province at all?

You can toggle an army as a raider when it's in your realm, and you are always allowed to toggle it off (though rulers you have raided will still be hostile towards you for some time). All sieges damage the loot bar, but only raiding armies actually get money from it.

We know that Norse and Tengri rulers take a prestige penalty for not going to war or raiding for too long. What keeps them from just marking a small retinue as raiders, and parking it in some poor, indefensible, single-county ruler's land indefinitely to get around this?

If the raid is completely ineffective (can't besiege anything, getting no loot), you won't get around the penalty.

Can you raid other vassals of your liege if crown authority is low enough?

No, it's a neat idea, but there is no shortage of other raid targets.

Is the protected loot in a province based on the highest fortification level, the lowest fortification level, or some sort of average across all holdings?

It's a sum of the fort level in the county.

How are the children of concubines treated, in terms of legitimacy? Does this vary at all among pagan religions?

They are all legitimate in terms of inheritance, but like legitimized bastards in the Christian world, they are stuck with a permanent trait that slightly reduces their Diplomacy skill. This is, however, something we might still tweak.

If my Norse raider takes the wife of a Christian king as a concubine, and they have a child, would that child get a claim on the Christian ruler's lands?

No, but if you take a Christian princess as your concubine, your children might get weak claims on her father's lands.

Are provinces beside rivers considered coastal, for Republic/trade post purposes?

No. The republics cannot navigate the rivers and cannot build trade posts there. The major rivers are basically a Viking Era feature only.

What else can you tell us about the pagan reformations we've seen in the dev diaries and livestreams?

There are some significant downsides to being an unreformed pagan in Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods; your religion lacks organization and its faithful are vulnerable to conversion by the monotheistic religions. You cannot wage holy wars, but at least your homelands are very hostile to non-pagan troops (very low supply limit). However, even this advantage will evaporate when the Abrahamic rulers gain the requisite technology. So, unless you want to take a cold bath and eat a tasteless wafer, you might need to reform the old ways.

All religions now have five holy sites. If a single rulers controls at least three of them and has enough Piety, he can reform the religion. The various types of reformed pagans will either have Pope-like religious head (vassal to the reformer), or more like a Caliph, who is both secular ruler and head of the religion. Once you reform, you lose the home attrition bonus, but you can convert others (and resist conversion) as efficiently as the Abrahamics, you can start waging holy wars and pagan "Crusades", etc. Not everyone of your religion will choose to embrace the reformed faith; they will become a kind of heretics, but most will eventually convert given time.

Is the attrition bonus for unreformed pagans lost when the ruler converts, or when the population converts?

You only suffer the special attrition [when attacking] if both the county and ruler are pagan, unreformed, and outside your own realm. You can also prevent it if your tech is high enough. Lastly, Tengri pagans do not enjoy this advantage; they have a very powerful Tribal Invasion casus belli instead.

How plausible is it to maintain a pagan kingdom without reformation all the way to the 15th Century?

It's definitely possible, if you can grow so powerful that your Christian and Muslim neighbors fear attacking you. However, you will likely get Crusades coming your way, and being stuck with Gavelkind and the [higher than normal] short reign opinion penalty of unreformed pagans makes ruling a large realm difficult in the long run.

On the next page: The Norse pagan sacred kingship and the quest for Vinland.

Which reformed pagans will have a Pope-like head of religion, and which ones will have a Caliph-like one? How did you make this decision?

Only the Norse have a Caliph-like mechanic. The rest are like the Pope or, more accurately, like the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch who is vassal to a secular ruler. The reason that the Norse are different is basically the ancient Germanic tradition of the sacred kingship, where royal bloodlines were often claimed to be descended from gods. For example, according to the sagas, the Yngling dynasty originated with the god Frey (Yngvi-Frey). Kings were even expected to perform priestly duties and sacrifice at the blot (something the early Christian kings had immense problems with). So, the reformed Norse faith has the "Fylkir"—the King of the People—who resembles a Caliph.

When you reform your pagan religion, do you still retain all of the unique CBs (such as Prepared/Horde invasions, the Muslim-style border conquests, and subjugation through "become King" ambitions)?

You completely lose the Subjugation CB, but not the others. However, the Prepared Invasion CB essentially stops being an option once you've become powerful enough; it's only allowed for small to mid-sized realms. Instead of the Subjugation CB, reformed pagans get the Holy War CB.

Does subjugation only work on independent rulers, or could you subjugate a rival king-wannabe's vassals?

It only works on independent rulers.

In the Old Gods livestream, the Reformation of the Norse Faith event seemed to fire when nobody was anywhere close to holding the five holy sites. Was that just something that was scripted to happen for the stream, or is there an alternate way for that to happen?

You only need three of the five sites, provided you have enough piety. However, in our beta builds, it's been too easy, so we've moved many holy sites to more difficult positions. We are still actively testing and balancing this.

With something ahistorical like pagan reformations, is this something we will see happening pretty uniformly in the 867 start, or will it be a bit less likely to see the AI go for it?

You should almost never see the AI attain this. The AI will tend to convert to an Abrahamic faith long before it can take three Holy Sites and get enough Piety.

Will any of the reformed pagans function like Orthodox Christianity, where realms might have an autocephalous regional High Priest?

No, there is only one High Priest and no autocephalous ones, or pentarchs.

Who rules Iceland in 867, considering there... weren't any humans there at that point? How did you make that choice?

Well, truth to be told, we cheated a bit and gave Iceland to independent Norse rulers, though it's at least a decade early. It's not a huge stretch and the island is even poorer and more peripheral than it is in 1066.

If you're playing as the Mongols or the Magyars, will you get events to spawn the sorts of doomstacks we've seen the AI using when you elect to invade a kingdom?

Well, yes. There is a new bookmark where you can play the Mongols just after they've arrived at the edge of the map. The Magyars in 867 also start with a fairly large force, although nowhere close to the hordes of the late game Mongols.

Are pagan warrior cults still in the game at this point?

No, they have been removed completely. Instead, a similar bonus derives directly from the religion of the county. And unreformed pagans have a hard time converting other religions.

We haven't heard much about the Norse fracturing event, which creates the Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian cultures yet. What can you tell us about it? When does it fire, what are the conditions, is it inevitable, etc?

It tends to happen after 1050 or so; counties start flipping culture as a national identity starts to develop and dialects diverge. The rulers can then choose to embrace the process or not. It is hard to stop, but a stubborn player can remain Norse and the provinces can then start flipping back in the late game.

So say I'm a Norse ruler who just happened to conquer part of Tunisia at some point. How does the game decide which of the three fractured cultures I now belong to, with no historical basis for such a thing?

Independent Norse rulers outside Scandinavia will remain Norse, since the process only occurs within the de jure kingdoms of [Norway, Denmark, and Sweden]. However, Norse vassals to, say, a Danish king, will tend to become Danish. This is not so strange considering that, arguably, remote Iceland remains Norse to this day (despite having been part of Norway or Denmark for most of its history).

Does the split happen all at once, or will people slowly start to filter into the three, new cultures?

It's a slow, gradual process.

How does the event that makes the Magyars become Hungarian trigger? Does this still happen if I, as a player, decide to take over... say, Poland, instead of Bulgaria?

This is a very special event that can only fire once. It requires a Hungarian culture ruler to hold enough of the de jure kingdom of Hungary.

When the Magyars invade Bulgaria, what happens to their old homelands? How do you model the "leave the neighborhood" aspect of nomadic cultures?

The event that forms Hungary changes the culture in many of the conquered provinces to Hungarian, and removes that culture from their eastern counties, but they do get to keep control of them. The idea is that the Pechenegs or another tribe will, in turn, take that from them.

If I'm a pagan ruler with holdings in Norway and Sweden, could I adopt the King of Norway ambition, conquer it, move my capital, then pick up the King of Sweden ambition and keep conquering?

It is possible, but once you create one of the kingdoms, you can't take the ambition again. If you don't create a kingdom and you die early, your conquered duchies risk getting split between your sons through Gavelkind. But yes, with some work, it can be done.

What will cause East and West Francia to change to their 1066-appropriate names?

Those names are tied to the Carolingian (Karling) dynasty. If another dynasty manages to claim the throne in either title, it will change name to Germany or France forever.

How does Asturias become Castille? We've seen Leon and Galicia break off from it, but not how the name of the core realm will change.

Asturias actually becomes Leon, specifically (as it did in real history). This is essentially just a renaming that happens if the capital is moved to Leon.

How does sending missionaries to pagans work, for the Christian rulers? I assume it's different from the normal Court Chaplain province conversion process.

Actually, you just park them in the capital of an independent, unreformed pagan realm. Many factors will determine their success; the year, the traits of the target, etc. Mind you, pagan rulers may also convert to an attacker's faith if they are about to lose a Holy War. They can also be convinced to convert by a spouse or concubine.

You mentioned in the stream that naval mercenaries have been removed. Will these re-form as time goes on?

They have not actually been removed, but you cannot hire them until around 1066.

Are there any plans for future bookmarks between 867 and 1066, or would the team prefer to focus on post-1066?

We have no plans for that, no.

Will there be any events surrounding the Norse discovery of off-map areas like Greenland and Vinland?

There are events concerning that, but only for flavor and immersion.

We'd like to heartily thank Henrik for fielding our berserker barrage of questions. Keep an eye to the horizon for Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods, releasing on May 28. I'm also going to just leave this link to my first Crusader Kings Chronicle here. Not that I'm trying to hint at anything.

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