After Crusader Kings 3's fun but focused Northern Lords DLC (opens in new tab), we're now getting the first big expansion, which comes with things most nobles should be able to enjoy, even if they aren't of the Viking persuasion.
Royal Court, announced during PDXCon, leans even more into the fantasy of being a medieval ruler by giving you a physical throne room, a visual representation of your power and legacy. To get one, though, you'll have to be a full-blown monarch. No dukes or even petty kings and queens allowed.
There are cosmetic flourishes, so you can expect a nicer looking throne room if you improve your court's quality of life, and you'll also be able to commission artists and boffins to work on projects for you, which you'll be able to display. But this is also your home office—where a lot of work is going to get done.
Vassals and other members of your court will come to your throne room with their troubles, hoping the big cheese will be able to solve them. These might be important matters that will help shape the realm, but you'll also have to pass judgement on petty personal squabbles.
Having a flashy throne room is connected to the work of being a monarch through a new system: grandeur. You've got to throw your coin purse around to make waves, increasing your personal grandeur to show how powerful and affluent you are, which in turn can serve as clout that will come in very handy during diplomacy.
You'll find food tasters, entertainers, antiquarians and all sorts of people in your court, as well as a court tutor who will teach you new languages, in turn reducing the foreign penalty when dealing with other cultures—very helpful if you find yourself ruling over a foreign land full of people who, probably rightly, think you suck. Learning a language is a scheme, which naturally leads to twists and turns as rivals try to sabotage your efforts, or they go off in random directions.
Language is just the tip of the iceberg that is the enhanced culture system, which now has a bit more in common with customisable religions. Every culture has an ethos reflecting its overall values, like being spiritual, which then make it easier or harder to adopt new traditions. Your culture will end up having lots of traditions, which all come with special effects that flesh out your people, like being able to farm in harsh conditions or being great at fighting in the desert. Some of them exist already, but are hidden bonuses. As traditions, they are clearer, and you can choose which ones you actually want. Then there are the cultural pillars, like language and cultural dress, which have both aesthetic and gameplay ramifications, especially when it comes to diplomacy.
Because it's a core system, the culture overhaul will be a free update that arrives alongside Royal Court, but there are specific features, like hybrid cultures and cultural divergence, that you'll need to shell out for. Hybrid cultures reflect two cultures coming together, in the way that the Normans stared as Vikings but then adopted French culture and language. Alternatively, some cultures can split. Maybe you're not the head of your culture, so you can abandon your traditions and create a new one where you're the boss. Both can happen dynamically, or you can aim for them.
There's no word on a release date yet, but Paradox says the team will be showing off more over the next few months.