In a grand and sprawling strategy like Crusader Kings 3, it's important to have a personal goal along with the never-ending list of general objectives you want to accomplish. For Crusader Kings enthusiast and Reddit member Zak7062, that personal goal came very quickly upon beginning the game.
His goal was to eat the Pope.
When I saw Zak7062's post on Reddit (opens in new tab) stating he had conquered every holy site, defeated three separate Crusades, and reformed the Norse religion to include cannibalism, just so he could eat the Pope... well, I had to know more. So I reached out for comment.
Zak told me via Reddit message he had heard in Crusader Kings 3 you could reform the pagan faiths—one of Zak's favorite features from CK2, which he's played about 800 hours of. Zak began his first game of Crusader Kings 3 in 867 and settled on Norse ruler Halfdan 'Whiteshirt,' Jarl of Jorvik.
"Wanting to see what kind of options I’d have for reforming the faith," Zak told me, "I popped open the faith screen to check out what tenets were available. As I scrolled, an option caught my eye. 'Ritual Cannibalism.' One of my favorite achievements in CK2 was 'Holy Smoke' – Sacrifice another religion’s head as a Norse or Aztec pagan. It was then, before a single day had ticked over, that I knew what I must do. It was my destiny.
"I was going to eat the Pope."
Playing as Halfdan, Zak told me, he conquered Mercia and Wessex, followed by parts of Ireland and all of Scotland. Halfdan died, but Zak took over playing as his son, Ragnarr, who finished unifying the British Isles. The Pope, uneaten at that point, launched a Crusade for England, but due to some strategic alliances—"Marrying every single female in my family to random Pagan leaders," as Zak put it—Ragnarr managed to hold back the Crusade while stocking his dungeon with Catholic prisoners.
Taking over as Ragnarr's son, Bjorn, Zak decided to burn those Catholics, which generated "hundreds and hundreds" of piety points (opens in new tab), thanks to the Human Sacrifice tenet. Bjorn then began conquering holy sites to reform the Norse faith and develop a particular appetite. "I had heard that stress (opens in new tab) can cause people to do… strange things," he said. "So through the power of many, many mental breakdowns and eating because I’m sad, I was given the option to request… 'special' food."
With Bjorn now a cannibal, and after defending against another Crusade, the Norsemen sacked Rome and acquired a very special prisoner with a very large hat. When you've imprisoned someone, you can execute them, and if you're a cannibal, you can both execute and eat them.
As Zak put it: "Pope was back on the menu, boys."
According to Zak, it took him about 100 in-game years and about 15 real-world hours to accomplish his goal of consuming the Pope. As you can see in the screenshot above, beheading and devouring Pope Gregorious VI had a few effects.
Notably, it lowered his stress by 40 points. (Bjorn's, not the Pope's.) I also love the line "As I have a fair reason, no one will think me a Tyrant." I imagine a bunch of citizens hearing the news that Bjorn had decapitated and eaten the Pope, and just sort of nodding. "Yeah, sounds fair."
And finally, eating the Pope comes with a 20% chance of becoming ill. Bjorn did, in fact, get sick after dining on Pope-meat.
"And he almost died," Zak said. "But such is the price for salvation."