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Cheating in Crusader Kings 3 is surprisingly easy

Take over the feudal world with just your mouse button

A mounted archer attacks a fortification in Crusader Kings 3 key art. 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 an amazing experience, but also an incredible time sink. The complex strategy role-playing game will eat up as much of your gaming life as you’re willing to feed it. But, sometimes you mess things up so badly that there’s simply no going back. Did you accidentally murder the wrong sibling 15 hours ago? Are you extremely broke after a poorly conceived (yet weirdly successful) march on Rome? It could happen to anyone. That’s why developer Paradox Interactive programmed in dozens of very specific cheat codes.

They don’t call them cheat codes, though. They call them “debug codes,” which speaks to their origins as the workarounds used to test the game before it was released. Some testers played the game for thousands of hours to make sure the elaborate simulation of the medieval world held together for consumers. You can find an exhaustive list of them all on the game’s official wiki.

But, turns out you don’t actually need to use any of them. Once the debug mode is active, you can get your budding empire back on track with just a few simple mouse clicks.

Debug mode for Steam

First, you’ll need to activate the debug mode. If you’re playing on Steam, right-click on Crusader Kings 3 in your game library and select Properties. Then, under the General tab’s Set Launch Options, add “-debug_mode” (without the quotation marks) in the field and press OK. You can do the same trick, with or without Steam, by finding the game’s executable, creating a shortcut, and adding “-debug_mode” to the end of the target.

Debug mode for Microsoft Store/Xbox Game Pass

If you’re using Xbox Game Pass, or have otherwise downloaded the game from the Microsoft digital marketplace, you’ll need to be a bit more invasive. Open Notepad and make a new text file as follows:

start shell:AppsFolder\ParadoxInteractive.ProjectTitus_zfnrdv2de78ny!App -debug_mode

Save the text file to your desktop, and then change that .txt file to a .bat file. Double clicking it will launch Crusader Kings 3 with debug mode turned on.

The debug console

Next, you’ll need to open the debug console itself. While in a non-Ironman game you can use the `/~ key to open it. Type in the command listed below, and hit enter. To close the debug window use `/~.

A new menu on the interface includes options to imprison, make hate, make love, or take the title from a person on the map. Image: Paradox Interactive via Polygon

Once the debug mode is open, just click around the map to find the person, place, or thing you’d like to interact with. Then right-click on it to bring up a handful of cheat options — including options to make someone like you, hate you, kill that person, or take all their titles and vassals.

Do you need some more gold? There’s a button right there on the left side that adds 5,000 coins to your coffers. Same goes with Piety and the game’s other currencies. Just hover your mouse over each one, and read them carefully before committing.

If you need to be more surgical, there’s additional options at the official wiki, but you’ll need to enter in the targets by hand. Title and character identification numbers will show up along with all the usual information in the UI when you click on them.

Understand, however, that Crusader Kings 3 is a remarkably complex set of systems. Mess around enough and you’ll likely break something quite badly, ruining your saved game. In fact, while noodling around with the command line for this story, I completely unhooked several key duchies in my region from … anyone. They now belong to someone called the Duchess of Duchey — a strange, anonymous character that lives deep within the bowels of the game engine itself.

Also? I can’t seem to get rid of her. Now that I’ve summoned her, it’s wholly unclear what her intentions are. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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