Last year I played a multi-generational game of grand strategy Crusader Kings 2 using the A Game of Thrones mod, which transforms the historical medieval setting of CK2 into the continent of Westeros from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels (and the HBO series). My goal was to play as the most minor of lords and experience the conflict and drama of Westeros from the ground floor. Game of Checkers will run on Sundays for ten weeks.
Ravens fly into my tiny tower on the island of Pebble, bearing some sad news. Catelyn Tully, wife of the late Ned Stark, has died at age 70, followed by Jon Overton “Snow”, bastard son of Ned Stark, at age 51. They're natural deaths, and those are respectable ages to reach in such a dangerous world, but it's still sad, since I hate to see characters from the fiction depart my little game, even though our stories don't exactly overlap.
Not all deaths are terribly sad, however. Another raven has arrived, so let us all remove our caps and mourn the passing of my neighbor Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. He died in bed, surrounded by loved ones who probably didn’t actually like him very much. On the other hand, he knew just how much they didn't like him, because that dude was, like, good at knowing stuff. He was 67.
But with each death comes a new life. A son is born to Rosie and whatever her husband’s name is. It’s hard to be thrilled. Maybe it’s just a knee-jerk reaction but all I can think about is that when I die and take over the life of my firstborn, my second child will no longer be my child but my sibling, and as we’ve seen recently, siblings are always trying to babystab your baby. I name my son and future brother Neejerk. I’m feeling very pessimistic.
Then I notice the freshly-born baby Neejerk is now my heir instead of my firstborn, Daisy. Ohh, right. He’s a boy and my firstborn is not. Our gender laws are such that a daughter can inherit, but only if there aren't any eligible males, and now there is. As much as I’d like, I can’t change the gender laws: they would have to be changed from the very top of the ladder, and I’m basically only on the second rung.
Still, I may have a way to sidestep this unfortunate situation. I can’t change the gender laws, but I can change the succession laws to reflect an elective monarchy. That means the heir is voted for. Since I have no vassals, I’ll be the only one voting, and I can pick my daughter, Daisy. I’m not really doing this just to hurt Neejerk, I just think Daisy should inherit. Also, I just don’t really want to play as a guy named Neejerk. I change the law and appoint Daisy as heir. Crisis weirdly averted.
This is probably a terrible idea, but since Lothar the Lame (backer of plots to kill both my baby daughter and my Master of Whispers) is still hanging around at court, and since my Master of Coin just died, I hire Lothar back as my tax collector. He’s got the best Stewardship rating of anyone at court, and no one comparable will accept my invitation. Suspiciously, my Master of Whispers dies shortly after, though she was 67 so it’s not really that suspicious.
My new Master of Whispers proves to be as adept as my former one, thankfully. Another plot comes to my attention. Uncle Nerdrick’s wife, Rosamund (Tyrion’s daughter), wants to assassinate my Castellan, Roggo. In this plot with her, among others, are my grandmother Dana Whent, my aunt Nanndrick, and both of my sisters. This is all getting pretty dire. I'm surrounded by scheming, hateful family members who do nothing with their time but plot to kill my children and employees. I give everyone involved a stern lecture, and they back off their plot.
Amazingly, despite being involved in two plots to kill members of my council, Aunt Nanndrick starts bugging me because she wants me to find her a husband. Annoyed, I look through my Big Book of Possible Husbands for a suitable spouse, and I perk up when I spot the perfect match: Chief Orell of Hardhome. That’s north. North of The North, in fact. North of The Wall. Orell is a Wildling.
That. Will. Work.
I send Nann packing to her new husband. So long! Enjoy the haunted forest! I have to pay a dowry, but it’s worth it to have that schemer far away from my walls. As an added bonus, she and Orell appear to take an instant loathing to each other. Sometimes, this game just gives you a perfect little satisfying moment.
Then, my sister Ruby’s husband dies. Great! I mean, you know, that’s sad. But also great. I can get rid of her, too. I search through the book again, finding Magnar Cregan of Upper Frostfangs. That’s even further north than the place I sent Aunt Nanndrick. It’s so far North it’s almost off the map! I marry them and send her packing. Cregan, another Wildling, is so happy to receive my scheming sister that he actually becomes my ally.
I'm feeling better. Two of my biggest enemies are now gone from my castle, freezing their butts off and married to stinky, ragged wildlings. Then, I get word that doesn't make me feel better at all. Nanndrick actually seems to be doing well north of the wall: her husband just made her Spymaster.
For all I know, Nanndrick is back here in Wycliffe, right now, building a plot against me.