I will be playing Novgorod in Deus Vult, 1066 start date, no mods.
-I roleplay to an extent. I have no intention of minmaxing my way to glory.
NO NEED TO RUS
The realm of Novgorod was neither weak nor great, but rather that special kind of mediocre that is always overlooked. Though it lacked the riches of the West, its hardworking people and valiant soldiers would carry it to glory some day.
Or so Prince Mstislav Rurikovich hoped. In truth, it was a poor nation far behind the powerful kingdoms and even some of its neighbors. The Duke himself was little better, as his skills were such that the only noteworthy thing about him was his uncanny resemblance of Stephen Fry.
But he did have powerful connections. As a son of the Rurikovich family his father was Prince of Kiev. His siblings resided in the courts of Kiev, and chances were good he would inherit something from one of them at some point.
Unfortunately, both Kiev and Novgorod practiced Salic Gavelkind, splitting the inheritance between the lord's sons. This complicated things.
Sensing the inevitability of conflict with his family, Mstislav gathered his men and attacked the Sames tribe to the East. He claimed they were evil pagans who would stop at nothing to destroy Novgorod, but really everybody knew he was just building up his realm.
As the war began, Mstislav found an opportunity to enrich himself. A local noble had been taxing his serfs a little more harshly than was usually permitted, and so the Prince took the opportunity to cofiscate the nobleman's lands. It was a small step towards centralizing power in Mstislav's hands, but a step nonetheless.
Seeing Mstislav enriching himself, the Church decided to take its cut. Clergymen approached Mstislav demanding the right to collect a tax on coughing during sermons. Not wanting to anger the Church, Mstislav agreed to this silly idea.
The battles had already been won, and Novgorod's proud armies were sitting around waiting for the barbarian's forts to give out. It was at this time that the foolish Finns decided to attack Novgorod's undefended border. To their surprise, the border wasn't undefended for long, and soon their only province was besieged.
With all the nobles commanding their little armies, Mstislav took advantage of their absence to rewrite the laws of the land. He adopted the European system of a single inheritance to the eldest son, ensuring his house would remain united beyond his death. This triggered some substantial complaint from the nobility, and so he also enacted Feudal law, giving more rights to the nobility and landowners. He also placated his disinherited sons with land.
In 1069 the barbarian tribes finally accepted defeat. Mstislav took one province from the Sames, as his army was already overstretched. Another province was gained from the Finns, signalling the end of the Finn tribes. These lands were distributed among the Rurikovich, and while some nobles commented that the Rurikoviches seemed to be the ones profiting most, they were happy enough with the new feudal laws that they did not push their luck.