It's time for another cycle of developer diaries on Crusader Kings II and I thought I'd begin by talking about the new start date and giving you a broad overview of the upcoming expansion; The Old Gods. Yes, we're pushing back the earliest possible start date to 867 AD. This is a special bookmark that comes with the expansion (and you will not be able to start at dates between 867 and 1066 without modding.)
Europe is a very different place in 867... Many of the familiar countries have not yet come into being. There is no Hungary, no Poland, no Russian principalities and the British Isles and Scandinavia are full of petty kingdoms. The Carolingians still rule the Franks, but the great Empire of Charlemagne has been divided between four of his descendants. In the Byzantine Empire, a new dynasty has just risen - the House of Makedon - destined to restore some of its former glory. The Muslims are in the middle of a drawn-out crisis as the once enormous Abbasid Caliphate has fractured, with a succession of Caliphs being murdered by their own Turkish generals.
Most importantly, however, the North and East are completely dominated by bustling tribes of unrepentant heathens who remain less than impressed with the White Christ. Why debase yourself before a dead man on a cross when you can loot the riches of his fat clergy instead? Just as the fury of the Northmen descends on the undefended shores of Europe, other, equally pagan threats are on the rise in the steppes of Tartaria. Like the Avars before them, the feared Magyar horse lords are pushing into Europe from beyond the Carpathians. Why is all this more important than the affairs of Christians and Muslims? Because with The Old Gods, all these heathens are finally playable! (But you probably knew that already. )
Playing a pagan chieftain is at least as different as playing a Muslim. Not only that, there are significant differences between the various heathen religions. Some are aggressive in nature, like the Norse and Tengri beliefs, and some are more defensive, like the Finno-Ugric faith. For example, the warlike Norse will suffer a prestige loss for being at peace for too long, and will need to wage war or set sail to pillage and loot. The Finns don't have this problem, but on the other hand, their vassals will dislike having their troops raised (like Christians). Some faiths get defensive bonuses and larger garrisons in their homelands, some don't, etc. However, they can all potentially be reformed to withstand the allure of the new religions.
In the coming weeks, I will explain the different religions in detail. I will, of course, also talk about other new features, like traversible rivers, new cultures, Zoroastrians, Adventurers, and much more. Stay tuned, and here are some more screenshots to tease and titillate!