This is the first post in a four-part (I, IIa, IIb, III, IV) series examining the historical assumptions of Crusader Kings III, a historical grand strategy game by Paradox Interactive set during the Middle Ages and covering Europe, North Africa and both West and Central Asia. This is also the continuation of a larger series on Paradox’s historical grand strategy games, where we have already discussed Europa Universalis IV and Victoria II.
This first part is going to focus on the way that Crusader Kings understands rule and rulers. This in particular is a fascinating place to start because unlike all of the other Paradox grand strategy titles, Crusader Kings III doesn’t actually feature any states in the narrow sense of the word; none of these rulers have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. This is an enormous difference between CK3 and its sibling games and well worth diving into.
I should note ahead of time for the purposes of disclosure that I made a paid appearance at Paradox’s annual convention (PDXCON), met quite a few of Paradox’s developers and so have something of a formal relationship with the folks that work on this title. I also did not yet have the Friends & Foes DLC when PDXCON attendees (including me) were given Paradox’s entire back catalog as conference swag. That is not to say I am going to shy away from criticism here (although most of that will be in the third part of the series), but I thought disclosure here would be appropriate.
Since these games tend to feature continuous development, it is also worth noting that I am writing this as Friends & Foes has just dropped and I have played that and all the DLC through its launch, so this discussion is going to reflect the game as it exists in September, 2022. Finally, the Crusader Kings map stretches all the way through central and southern Asia, but my comments here will mostly be focused on the broader Mediterranean because that is where my knowledge of the history is best and also where I tend to choose to play in the game.
But first, as always, if you like what you are reading here, please share it; if you really like it, you can support me on Patreon. And if you want updates whenever a new post appears, you can click below for email updates or follow me on twitter (@BretDevereaux) for updates as to new posts as well as my occasional ancient history, foreign policy or military history musings.
In our last two series looking at Paradox games, we discussed how the way those games approached diplomacy and conflict between states expressed a theory of history. Europa Universalis IV, in particular, I argued, adopted a ‘Neo-realist’ international relations framework. In that game, as in much neo-realist IR analysis, states function as unitary actors with consistent interests. States aim to make themselves more secure by amassing power, but since the most viable way of amassing power is by seizing territory (and its resources, including people) from their neighbors, everything a state does to make itself more secure makes everyone else less secure, leading to a devil-take-the-hindmost beggar-thy-neighbor race for military power. That in turn leads to a theory of history: history is the story of states competing for power.
Victoria II complicated that narrative in two ways. First, it made states less unitary, more pressured by internal actors who might want to direct resources to things other than military activity. Second, it reflected a period of history where the ‘returns to warfare’ were falling while the ‘returns to investment’ were rising, meaning that by the end of the game returns to successful warfare might be negative making peace rather than war the best strategy. Nevertheless the game’s international relations were still fundamentally predicated on a neo-realist framework; it never quite crosses over into liberal institutionalism (sometimes termed ‘neo-liberalism’ though that word has other meanings and uses) because the player is never given the option to actually set up effective international institutions. Instead it shows how changing material realities produce changing strategies in a neo-realist framework (or in game terms, how tweaking balance factors can change player strategies).
I want to unpack some of the assumptions that inform this neo-realist model in a bit more detail so that we can see more clearly how Crusader Kings III deviates from them. In it simplest form, neo-realist international relations theory treats states as both unitary (that is, they act with a single will and a single set of interests) and rational (that is, they identify their interests and pursue them strategically). Of course more sophisticated Neo-realist thinkers will be quick to caveat that often neither of these things are true and that the broader theory recognizes this (at least in principle), but the foundations of the theory and much of its typical application assume they are true enough and often enough to be useful frameworks.1 Moreover, neo-realist theory generally assumes that states are relatively unconstrained by outside factors; most states are sovereign in that there is no authority above them which can restrain or judge their actions, just other peer states with whom they compete.
Now when I discussed EUIV, I noted that if Paradox only presented its vision of history – that history is the story of states competing in a neo-realist framework of interstate anarchy – if that was all Paradox did, it would be terribly incomplete. But the neat thing about the whole collection of Paradox games is that they challenge and complicate each other. And so Crusader Kings III rejects both Europa Universalis’ neo-realist framework and its vision for history. Where that framework prefers to think of states as mostly unitary, polities in Crusader Kings are fragmented; where it wants states to be rational, CKIII makes them personalistic; where it sees them as unconstrained, CKIII shackles them with religious and cultural norms. The end result, to spoil my conclusion, is that Crusader Kings III embraces a vision of history-as-biography, with a particular emphasis on the cultural conditions that inform those biographies.
So in this series we’re going to explore those differences and the different vision of history this lead to. In this post, we’re going to look at the way that CKIII presents governance and leadership as fundamentally personalistic, rather than either institutional or rational and we’ll look at the fragmented nature of the polities that creates. Next week we’ll look at the fragmented nature of polities in CKIII and then after that at the way that rulers and their polities are constrained by religious and cultural norms.
Polities Are People Too
First we need to sketch out the way that CK3 imagines a large polity.2 The map itself is broken into ‘holdings,’ which represent a territory and its population; the population isn’t simulated but rather each holding produces a set amount of revenue and levies, along with some other minor bonuses. Each holding has a title (these are all ‘baron’ tier titles, though their names vary by type and culture), held by its direct ruler. A group of holdings (anywhere from 1 to 7) is then grouped together into a county, which has its own title (the ‘count’ tier titles). A group of counties is (anywhere from 1 to 10) is then grouped into a duchy, which has its attached title. Duchies are then grouped into kingdoms and kingdoms into empires.
Now here is where things get exciting: the higher tier titles don’t actually come with any land or power; barons always hold their holding and the count always holds the capital holding of their county but titles higher than that do not. Instead the game distinguishes at the ducal, royal and imperial levels between de jure control of territory (which is very limited in its utility except as an excuse to go to war) and de facto control; the two may have little or no relation to each other and indeed at any point in the game few kingdoms are likely to fully control their de jure customary borders. It is in fact entirely possible for a ‘king’ to hold no part of his de jure customary kingdom and yet remain a king over what lands he does hold. We’ll actually come back to that notion of customary borders in the future, but right now I just want to focus on how titles above the count-tier are actually disconnected from any territorial rule.
Instead the base unit of governance in Crusader Kings III is counts; not counties, counts. These rulers are the lowest level that are playable and fully simulated. But because of the distinction between de facto and de jure control, it is not the county title or some abstract entity which governs, but the count who does so and it is possible (though usually rare) to end up with counts not effectively holding baronies within their county.3 Meanwhile titles above the count-tier don’t even exist except in as much as they are held by a person; such ‘uncreated’ titles can be seen on the map but do functionally nothing unless ‘created’ (which is the act of assigning them to a person). Whereas situations where counts lack control over baronies in their county are rare, situations where dukes lack control over counties in their duchy are very common; yet more common still kingdoms which do not control all duchies in their kingdom and so on.
(As an aside, you may ask if counts are the base unit of politics in CKIII, why have barons? I think the answer here is that a fundamental part of CKIII gameplay is managing vassals. The baron-tier ensures that during normal play the player will always have vassals to manage, even when starting as a count. We’ll talk more about vassals next week.)
Instead the game understands a polity – the thing you can do diplomacy with and declare war on – to consist of a person, whose area of control is defined by the baronies they control directly (including the capital barony of a county which automatically comes with the county title) and their collection of de facto vassals who may or may not be de jure vassals. Crucially those vassals are also not vassals to a title but to a person; a duke with two ducal titles who is deprived of one loses no vassals because they do not belong to the title, but rather to the duke.4 This is such an enormous, fundamental difference between the way CK3 works compared to other strategy games that I really want to spell it out again: CK3‘s political world consists of rulers not of kingdoms or lands or countries.
That in turn means that in actual gameplay the structure of a polity is not consistent generation to generation; one could even argue that every time a ruler dies their polity dies with them and a new one is created for their heir – or heirs. That process is most visible early in the game with partitive succession (especially confederate partition) where the physical shape of a polity on the map can change radically upon succession as its constituent elements break apart. The early-game pictures here in my House al-Yiliqi playthrough actually illustrate this well – both the radical reconfiguration of ‘my’ territory (for different generations of ‘my character’) but also the sudden radical reconfiguration of the whole kingdom on succession because the kingdom was never really the polity, the king was and he died. His sons then became the new polity (polities, in this case); the kingdom isn’t real, only the king is.
As those of you who have read the other Teaching Paradox series can no doubt tell, this is a radical departure in design for a Paradox grand strategy game. Those games were about the states and states were the primary actors in their vision of history. But for all intents and purposes Crusader Kings doesn’t have states at all, in the sense of an institution that reaches beyond an individual and exercises a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Instead it has a web of individual rulers whose power is fundamentally personal in nature and whose governing institutions, including the polity itself, do not exist beyond them. Not states pursuing their interests but individuals acting out their personalities.
The personal nature of rule in CKIII is further driven home by the way the AI is structured: while the AI is still programmed to expand its land and titles and generally achieve some security, how it goes about doing that is heavily influenced by the character and personality of each specific character, governing both what they attempt and their likelihood of success. This isn’t entirely new, EUIV has some modifications to state strategy based on ruler personality but it is all quite abstract and the player has little influence over those systems.
By contrast, CKIII doesn’t have eternal polities making long-term multi-generational strategic plans, it has individuals who make choices largely according to their personalities. All other things being equal characters still seek to hold or gain lands and titles, expanding their power, but what is different is that things in CKIII are almost never equal. Instead each non-player character has an AI personality made up of ratings in nine attributes, which not only encourage specific kinds of behaviors but also the rate at which characters themselves act (that is, characters with low ‘energy’ and sociability will move forward their plans an actions slower, with much longer intervals between actions; they will not presumably start weekly history blogs). These attributes are in turn determined by the sum of each character’s traits, which reflect the dominant elements of those character’s…well, character. These traits (three per character) form during childhood in the game (if the player is either the child or their educator they have some limited influence on this process) and then remain mostly (but not entirely) static for the rest of a character’s life.
And the player is going to notice this almost immediately; having a powerful vassal who was calm, just and humble (or just lazy) be replaced by his ambitious, diligent and brave son knows they are in for trouble. Even though it might have been in the interest of the former to undermine the player’s rule (through factions and other interactions discussed below), the AI personality they have is going to mean that they never really act on that interest and indeed may end up taking actions (because of their personality) that strengthen the player’s rule. By contrast the son, the new vassal, is a potential terror; his traits will push him to act very often and take relatively large risks, like claiming and seizing other vassal’s lands or fomenting rebellious factions (and the chunky skill benefits of those skills means he’s likely to succeed at a lot of these things, more on that in a moment). That will be true of course not just for your vassals, but your liege and equal neighbors; it may be in the interest of your neighbor to attack you when you are weak, but if they have the content and just traits the AI will often let the opportunity slide.
To which must be added one more mechanical layer: the stress system. Every character, including the player’s character, has a ‘stress‘ statistic ranging from 0 (perfectly unstressed) to 400 (very stressed). So long as the character is above 100 stress, they’ll suffer a ‘mental break’ every five years; the higher their stress the more severe the break with the more negative consequences. The most common outcome of a ‘mental break’ is the character adopting a ‘coping mechanism,’ most of which have net-negative side effects (sometimes dramatically so) and the options the player is given on the mental break get worse as the stress level increases. Even outside of these breaks, high stress lowers a character’s fertility and health. Consequently players quickly realize that stress is generally to be avoided where possible; the consequences aren’t so negative to make it ‘avoid at all costs,’ but negative enough to weight decisions away from stressful options.
Now a number of stress-sources are fairly standard life events: the death of a close family member or friend causes stress (the death of a rival or nemesis relieves it). These have mechanical purposes we’ll come back to, but the main source of stress is actually not personal tragedy, but instead that a character gains stress when they act – or are forced to act – against their character traits. Just characters gain stress from breaking the laws and customs of their society (by, say, revoking titles without cause), ambitious characters by suppressing their ambition (by, say, granting titles), forgiving characters by holding a grudge (executing someone whose wronged them) and vengeful characters by forgiving a grudge (releasing a character whose wronged them).
Meanwhile, characters mostly lose stress through the standard elite recreational activities of the period: feasting and hunting, which in turn cost money. Beyond this, each of the ‘coping mechanisms’ introduces a decision allowing the character to indulge in it, which also relieves stress but usually at some additional cost. It is a little strange that turning to religion for stress relief is mostly expressed through negative coping mechanisms: flagellant, contrite, inappetetic, reclusive and improvident all open the opportunity to relieve stress through acts which were at the time viewed as expressions of religious devotion. Unlike feasting and hunting, which are expensive but generally positive stress relievers, there is no matching ‘turn to God’ action (perhaps ‘commission prayers from the local monastery’ might fit the bill for an expensive but personally touching spiritual activity?). Feasting is also particularly valuable as an activity for rulers for reasons we’ll come back to next time.
The goal of this system overall is to get the player to inhabit each individual character in their dynasty and to encourage players to ‘roleplay’ – to enjoy the things this character enjoys and dislike the things this character dislikes. The importance of the random and unexpected stressors (like the deaths of family members) is that it prevents players from carefully gaming the system, ‘budgeting’ stress to always stay below 100. In practice, most stress events cause between 30 and 60 stress (so two-to-three stressers to produce a break), so a player that chooses to play it ‘chill’ can ensure they’re almost never at risk of a break except as the result of some tremendous family catastrophe; by contrast a player can opt to be a bit ‘high strung’ and take some stress-inducing decisions (for the benefits they give) but now risks unexpectedly getting pushed over the stress line by family events. The system seems calibrated so that the ‘drains’ (hunting and feasting) are expensive enough to not want to be doing constantly but also regular enough that a player who generally avoids acting against their nature (with a few exceptions here or there) can avoid mental breaks for an entire reign…but of course that comes with some severe limits on what actions can be taken. All of which reinforces the notion that a person’s character defines their rule even more than the trans-generational strategies the player might be enacting.
But for the whole thing to come together we need just one more system: skills.
While character traits influence the actions a character will take (via the AI-coding for AI-controlled characters and via the stress-system for player-controlled characters) they are also a substantial determinant of a character’s skills. The game gives each character a numerical skill rating in six skills: diplomacy, martial, stewardship, intrigue, learning and prowess.5 High skills are good, low skills are bad. The impact of these skills is pervasive, as they both have constant passive effects but also impact the success chance of various actions. Diplomacy, for instance, acts as a global opinion modifier, which can enormously helpful in dealing with a realm that has a lot of vassals. Martial directly modifies the size of levies a character can raise (reflecting a better military organizer being able to get more men into an army), while stewardship does the same for domain taxes (the core of just about every character’s revenue).
The impact of these skills can be substantial; the difference between a terrible commander (skill 0) and an excellent one (skill 18) is a stunning 36% levy-size and reinforcement rate, which can absolutely shift the balance of strength in a war, for instance. High intrigue likewise opens up opportunities for plots and underhanded scheming that simply aren’t available to low intrigue characters (whose success chance would be too low), while also defending against intrigue efforts by other characters. The player has some control over skills, both in the raising of their children (and thus future characters) but also using the ‘lifestyle‘ system to boost one skill (or modifiers related to it) at a time, which can also result (if kept long enough) in getting permanent new traits to raise that skill by virtue of long practice.
At the same time this dovetails with the stress system because the traits that give broad positives to skills are, unsurprisingly, the sort of traits we associate with good leaders: being just, temperate, generous, forgiving and so on. These traits often come both with strong positive skills but also with built-in opinion bonuses for vassals or your liege which are also extremely helpful, but they also tend to be the very traits which impose stress-penalties for taking self-serving, power-consolidating actions like, say, murdering your brothers out of the line of succession or tyrannically revoking your vassal’s titles in order to consolidate royal power. That said a lot of these traits are tradeoffs: a craven, paranoid and deceitful character won’t be well thought of and has severe penalties to diplomacy, but will be very good at intrigue. From my own experience, when running a large realm (which is how I tend to play) the traditionally positive traits are generally beneficial even as they limit your freedom of action because they help keep vassals in line. When trying to obtain a large realm, on the other hand, intrigue is often more useful than diplomacy and an amoral schemer can get quite a bit done.
Consequently the whole system together, stress and skills derived from traits and education, encourages players to reevaluate their strategy in every generation, trying to find a good ‘fit’ in terms of approach for the skills and predilection of the character they have. Pushing against each character’s traits not only will leave them terribly stressed, but they’re also not likely to be particularly good at the sort of strategies the player is directing them to employ. And the game leans into this narratively as well; I tend to focus in these discussions on mechanics because Paradox games are broadly mechanics driven but the sound and visual design of CKIII from the ominous music that plays when your stress gets high to the character interaction text that invites you to participate in your character’s emotional response all encourage players to ‘roleplay’ as their character.
Rulers are People Too
Alright, that was a lot of game mechanics, but you may now be asking if this approach suggests a theory of history. And I think it does! Indeed, one of the oldest branches of history is what we might call history-as-biography, historical narratives focused on the impact and experiences of particular individuals.
In its older forms, this is sometimes expressed as the ‘Great Man’ theory of history: that history is really just the biography of great figures (almost always elite males) who move events through their personality and virtues. And indeed this sort of history is one of the oldest forms. A great deal of early historical writing was intended to have a didactic (that is, teaching) purpose, to instruct elites on the sort of values and character they were supposed to have (and the vices to avoid) by using ‘great’ figures as examples. Plutarch’s Parallel Lives (early second century AD) is perhaps the purest form of this approach, with 23 matching pairs of biographies each focused on how the character of ‘great men’ (Plutarch’s subjects are all men) influenced their careers, for better or for worse.
Historians today tend to be very skeptical about this kind of history, because it is tremendously reductive. In its worst forms, great man history presents the individual virtue of elites as the sole cause for important events, crowding out the influence of deeper structures like culture, climate or economics and at the same time papering over the agency of all of the non-elites in the story also making their own decisions and trying to direct their own lives. Indeed, a close investigation of the lives of the greatest of the ‘great men’ – figures like Alexander or Chinggis Khan – reveals a whole web of causes leading to their exceptional lives; often these figures were exceptional people but perhaps more important ones that happened to arrive at the right place in the right moment (a moment created by all sorts of other factors).
But that doesn’t mean historians have abandoned a biographical approach to history or refuse to see its value. For one, biographical history can help us understand not merely what happened historically and why but the equally important question of what it was like to live through those events. And questions about the experience of the past are important too; asking “how did it feel to live through X?” both encourages us to develop a useful measure of empathy and common humanity but also to think about what it would feel like for us to live through similar developments, which can often be a valuable and sobering enterprise. Historical events which may seem ‘cool’ in the telling often become terrifying when one asks that important question, “what was it like to live through this?”
And CKIII makes an effort to tackle that question too. More than any of Paradox’s games, CKIII is interested in the quotidian elements of daily life, with the additional content since launch often heavily focused on these sorts of activities. I don’t want to get too far into this because vassals, diplomacy and elite interaction is next week‘s topic but I do want to flag the emphasis the game puts on the actual lived experience of these characters.
Meanwhile the idea that individuals (elite or otherwise) can shape history by their choices is hardly gone from historical thinking. Instead modern historians tend to discuss this kind of personal contingency – where the event depends on the people involved – through the key concept of agency, the control that individuals exert over their own lives and decisions. The advantage of agency as a framework over ‘great man’ history is that, of course, everyone has agency. But we still grapple with the questions of ‘do you get this outcome without this person motivating it?” CKIII embraces this view, as we’ll see later in the series: not merely the player-character (as hero ruler) but all of the other simulated elites have agency and indeed while not directly simulated even the common folks can (through events) initiate their own actions to which the player must respond; the peasantry and the burghers in CKIII are not merely clay ready to be molded, but rather have their own interests and desires (albeit ones that the player-character, by virtue of their position as a high noble, rarely has to care about).
In that sense, CKIII‘s focus on personal rule makes it a game about historical agency: the player’s plans are a product of their character’s individual decision-making. As we’ll see next week, these elites operate with only very limited bureaucracy or institutions, so the decisions being made here are expressions of personal agency. And the player’s neighbors and indeed the members of their own kingdom do not merely react to those choices but initiate their own plans and have their own goals shaped not only by their interests but also by their own needs and character.
This history-as-biography approach focused on the historical agency of individuals is also really quite fitting for the period. On the one hand this was a period where rule was very personalistic, where the temperament and decisions of individual elites mattered a lot in the absence of many institutional structures for collective decision-making. At the same time it is striking for CKIII that this kind of history-as-elite-biography was the most common sort in the Middle Ages, where chroniclers tended to represent royal success as a consequence of personal virtue (or divine intervention as a result of the presence or lack of personal piety). In turn this also produced a robust genre of ‘mirrors for princes’ (like Dhuoda’s Liber Manualis, but also including works like the Secretum Secretorum which likely had its origins in the Muslim world in the 10th century but was influential in Europe in the Middle Ages), which tended generally to stress the importance of personal character in a ruler’s effectiveness.6 An emphasis on personal rulership thus doesn’t merely fit the Middle Ages as an era, but also fits the literature and culture of the period which tended to take this view.
Political science (the home of international relations theories like neo-realism) have been slower to embrace personalistic factors of causation, in part because much of the promise of political science as a field is the discovery of general rules of politics that are applicable across a broad array of circumstances. A large space for individual agency cuts against this very goal because it threatens to make every political event sui generis to the particular actors involved (indeed, this is a common argument historians make in response – that the particular contingency of who can overwhelm structural factors). Of course the world is not all of one or all of the other; actual events are moved both by impersonal and personal causes and so both approaches have value in understanding why events take the course they do.
Nevertheless, political scientists don’t fully ignore individual agency either and indeed in more recent scholarship the notion that an individual’s emotional response (and thus potentially their individual character) might matter as much or more than a rational calculation of interests has gained recognition. Robin Markwica’s Emotional Choices: How the Logic of Affect Shapes Coercive Diplomacy (2018) is particularly interesting in this context, presenting a model of ’emotional choice theory’ where the leaders of states, rather than always rationally pursuing their interests respond to incentives based on how those decisions make them feel, which can lead to unpredictable or difficult to understand responses. In particular, Markwica works to understand why leaders refused to yield to coercion by much stronger states when that was the rational response and concludes that what is at work here is the ‘logic of affect’ whereby emotions (and the ability or inability of leaders to control them) heavily influence decision-making. That in turn can lead leaders to make decisions apparently against their interest because the emotional cost of capitulating is too high. And I will be honest, this is an emerging area of political science work I hope to see grow; humans are not calculators and we mostly make our decisions based on how they make us feel more than on a rational cost-benefit analysis.
CKIII‘s stress system maps so well on to Markwica’s model for how leaders respond to emotional stimuli, including both the impact of the emotions but also the ability of (some) leaders to control that impact, that I find myself wondering if the folks over at Paradox were aware of her work. That said, while Markwica’s formulation is new (and particularly new in the physiological approach Markwica takes to try to understand the affective effect7 of strong emotions in decision-making is new and very exciting), the general idea that emotion contests with reason in political decision-making is an old one.
Indeed, I wouldn’t be a good historian if I didn’t note the long history of the idea, going back all the way to (arguably) the first historian, Thucydides and the Melian Dialogue (5.84-116). In that exchange, as the Athenians prepare to attack tiny and weak Melos, they try to convince the Melians to surrender. The Athenians argue from rational self-interest (“a question of self-preservation and of not resisting those who are far stronger than you”) while the Melians argue from a sense of outraged justice and moral sentiment (“it would surely be great baseness and cowardice in us who are still free not to try everything that can be tried, before submitting to your yoke”).8 In the end the Melians refused to submit and Athens destroyed the city, effectively the worst-case outcome for everyone, both for the Melians who were killed but also for the Melians who warned quite rightly that transgressing norms of violence was dangerous for the Athenians “as your fall would be a signal for the heaviest vengeance and an example for the world to meditate on.”
And so if Europa Universalis IV was a game about states, dominated by the impersonal rational calculations states make in the name of their security, and Victoria II was a game about the impersonal impact of technology and mass movements, Crusader Kings III is at its heart a game about agency and the way that history is shaped by individual decisions and individual character.
Of course just as no one truly lives as an island, so too the rulers both great and petty in Crusader Kings III neither rule alone nor live alone. Rather the game is filled with relationships, both political and personal and it is to that we will turn next.
- You can actually see these assumptions expressed in phrases like “Washington pursues its interest in X” which not only imply that rational, strategic approach motivated by interests but also by synecdoche compresses the complex government of a large country with all of its competing interests to a single agent (here ‘Washington’ for ‘the government of the United States with three competing branches and two competing parties representing an unruly mass of a few hundred million voters’ cf. the reduction of the Ottoman government to ‘the Porte’). Again, I am not rubbishing neo-realism as a framework – I think it has a lot of explanatory power – but we should also recognize its limits.
- I am going to keep using the word ‘polity’ here because I do not think these are ‘states’ (as below) and that’s actually really interesting. A ‘polity’ is a broader category than state which can include large non-state political organizations like tribes, chiefdoms and ‘feudal’ kingdoms.
- Again, these instances are kept fairly rare at this level, but you can end up with ‘leased holdings’ in your countries which while technically part of your realm in practice do not contribute levies or taxes to you. The most common example of these are church holdings in some religions, but also the bases of holy orders.
- The exception here is that rulers cannot have vassals of the same or higher tier than their own highest tier title; consequently if that same duke lost his last ducal title and thus became a count, all of his count-level vassals would stop being his vassals.
- For those wondering how ‘martial’ and ‘prowess’ differ, the former is a character’s skill at organizing and leading armies, the latter their skill at personally fighting.
- Whereas one may usefully contrast, I think, the ancient historians who waver between favoring personal causation (Plutarch being the extreme example) and impersonal causes (Polybius perhaps occupying the opposite pole). Polybian-style histories are, I am led to understand, particularly rare in the medieval corpus of the Latin West, but more common in the Islamic world in the works of figures like Ibn Khaldun.
- Why yes, I did just use both of those words right in a sentence. Truly an achievement worthy of an entry on my Twitter-bio.
- Trans. R. Crawley with minor modifications.