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All the weirdest stuff we’ve heard about in Crusader Kings 3

Witches, cannibals, and Henry Cavill look-alikes

A scribe hears a secret whispered in his ear in a piece of in-fiction art from Crusader Kings 3. Image: Paradox Interactive
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Crusader Kings 3 is a complex strategy role-playing game set in the feudal world, one that lets players indulge in high drama on a massive scale. More importantly: Crusader Kings 3 makes some real weird shit happen.

Paradox Interactive’s latest grand strategy game has dozens of interwoven systems that all contribute to the fun. The most integral is a reputation system. Every character in the game world — and there are thousands of them — has an opinion of every other character. But there are also scripted events, which can hijack even the most stable relationships and turn the entire game on its head.

Take the case of a Reddit user named Mackntish. As a regent in Western Africa, their main character was widowed four times in eight years.

“My husbands kept dropping dead,” Mackntish wrote. “There [was] also a long, scripted plot about someone murdering everyone at court; its getting pretty major to the point my vassals literally revolt and had to be put down. It was my twin. All along. Twenty five years of lies. I am literally speechless. Well played CK3, well played.”

The rules of succession in the feudal world were absolute, of course, and Crusader Kings 3 dutifully re-creates that model. That means groups of children can inherit entire kingdoms.

As a result, territories can be split apart by internecine wars waged between minors.

“My petty King became possessed and then died suddenly of a seizure,” wrote Crusader Kings 3 player and Valve artist Jane Ng on Twitter, “leaving his adult ‘Irrational lackey’ son and 5 little kids. It being partial succession means the realm split up so 38yo lackey (aka, me now) INSTANTLY just went to war with all his 5 year old siblings.” Of course, once the wars were won, it came out that her character’s heir was the illegitimate child of his queen and a member of his council. That left her looking for other potential partners to seduce and, somehow, solidify her bloodline.

Stress also plays a big role in the game, and leaders who are really up against it can suffer debilitating breaks with reality. Other outcomes of stress include death, and family tragedies can be particularly stressful. For Reddit user temotodochi, that led to an unfortunate cascade of stress-related mortality.

“I had quite the family of 25 kids,” temotodochi wrote, noting they were mostly all adults. “They all died within a week because one battle where too many of them were commanders went quite badly and they ended up dead. That in turn killed a sibling from stress and the chain reaction began. All of them died. Every single one. Of stress.”

In addition to scripted events and stress mechanics, hidden inside Crusader Kings 3 are a few character traits that seem like Easter eggs. You can be a witch, for instance, and create an entire coven within your family. Or just keep it to yourself.

Create enough witches and you can trigger a Grand Rite event, which will give your character supernatural powers. Notably, the Grand Rite is bugged at the moment. You can currently only get it to trigger in the debug mode or with a mod. But be cautious, because if someone finds out you have witch powers, you’ll likely be burned at the stake.

There’s also cannibalism. Because why not? There’s not all that much benefit to it, but it can help to enhance the role-playing aspect of the game. Reddit user Zak7062, for instance, went on a holy crusade against the Pope ... and then ate him.

Other traits serve to work against the player. It’s almost as if, at times, the characters themselves get to have their own opinion of how things are going.

For instance, Reddit user urmumxddd went on a tear through the game’s Piety ladder. They earned the right to be called a Religious Icon after accumulating 2,500 piety, a feat that likely took dozens of hours across multiple generations. That allowed them the opportunity to consecrate their bloodline, literally making them a divine ruler.

But since their character had the trait called Content, they weren’t able to. Not “content” as in video or written content you might find on the internet. They’re simply ... content. Peaceful. So chill that they just didn’t feel the need to go the extra mile to “perform the final rites” and consecrate their bloodline. They’re just fine, thank you.

Finally, Crusader Kings 3 boasts a sophisticated set of character models. It allows for inherited traits that can boost skills, but also blends together parents’ physical characteristics in their offspring. That can lead to beautiful results, like a mustachioed Henry Cavill look-alike.

But those same mechanisms can also reveal ... let’s call them intimate transgressions.

The next level of puzzles.

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