This thread served the purpose of giving people ideas for playing countries in the EU3 forum. Since I started playing CK2, I've noticed the lack of a similar single thread here, and so I've decided to make it myself.
Basically, what this is is a 'directory' of characters, with their starting dates and realms and reasons why they're a good game, challenging, fun, easy or whatever. This should serve the purpose of allowing people to get ideas for games without having to post their own thread.
I'll do some entries, but I obviously can't go through playing every polity there is to play (besides the fact I still don't have SoI and can't comment on any Muslim characters at all!). Because of that, I'm going to ask that, as in the EU3 thread, people submit character names/starting dates/realms and some short reasons why people should play them, and I'll try to add them all to the first post (hopefully we don't run out of space!). Hopefully, together we can build a fairly comprehensive and organised list. I've done some framework for the Catholic characters to show how everything will eventually be organised (by top level liege).
NOTE: New characters now (as of 27 July 2013) have links to their submissions instead of descriptions - this should make the task of updating easier on me. Try to include plenty of info in your submissions.
Bear in mind most characters available at the Stamford Bridge start (15 September, 1066) are also available at the William the Conqueror start on the 25th of December the same year if you prefer.
Characters used for Nintz's CK2 Games of the Week or the Characters Thread Challenges have their names in gold, and a link to the relevant challenge in the description.
Links to Characters Thread Challenge Series
30 July - 15 August 2013
Anatolia, Kingdom of (inc. independent duchies)
---Roussel de Balieul, Duke of Charsianon, 1072: A Norman mercenary captain in Byzantine armies, who, after Manzikert disaster, for short period of time created an independent Duchy of Charsianon in Anatolia. Try to rewrite history by creating an independent, long living, Catholic Kingdom of Anatolia.
Antioch, Duchy of
---Reynald de Chatillon, Duke of Antioch, 1153-1160: Historically, an opportunist who married for land, tortured bishops for money, and broke treaties for profit. He was one of the major stumbling blocks to peaceful coexistence between the Muslims and the Crusader States. After his capture at the Horns of Hattin, Reynald was berated for his "maleficence and perfidy" and beheaded by Saladin himself. In game, this is a tough spot. Reynald is a Skilled Tactician with four of the seven deadly sins (and Deceitful besides!) and a 0 Diplomacy. He controls two of the three counties in the Duchy of Antioch, with the third being held by the dreaded Assassins. Raynald never swore fealty to the Byzantines, and he proved a fractious vassal of Jerusalem. If you follow that path, be prepared to be dogpiled quickly by Holy Wars.
Aquitaine, Kingdom of
---Louis (?) Karling, king of Aquitaine, 867
Aragon, Kingdom of
---Sancho I Jimena, King of Aragon, 15 Sept. 1066: A one county Kingdom in the Pyrenees, your extensive de jure claims over the eastern Iberian Peninsula offer great opportunities for expansion without disturbing the wasps' nest that is the Andalusian Muslim factions to your south. Your likely first wars will be against the weak, small Muslim states of Lleida and Calatayud. Take the rest of the peninsula for yourself, and the world is your oyster.
---Alfonso de Barcelona, King of Aragon, October 16, 1174: At last the quarreling Jimena are contained in what remains of Navarre, but their legacy continues to poison the unity of the Iberian Catholics. Portugal, Castile, and Aragon remain divided even against the united Almohad Caliphate (Sultanate ingame). House de Barcelona is a young house surrounded by greater powers and with few friends. But you are Alfonso the Troubadour. Such a magnificent name demands a demesne to match. Perhaps even Gondar should owe fealty to Aragon...
Barcelona, Duchy of
---Ermengol d'Urgell, Count of Urgell, 15 Sept. 1066: Start your Reconquista from the safest county in Spain - but beware of Jihads targeting your liege. Make sure you have the power to defend against them before they happen.
---Guifre, Count of Rossello, 867
Brittany, Duchy of
---Konan de Rennes, Duke of Brittany, 15 Sept. 1066: Last legitimate male of his dynasty in 1066. He threatened to invade Normandy as soon as William's army had crossed the Channel, which he promptly did as promised. At the end of the year he donned a pair of poisoned riding gloves and collapsed dead, most probably on William's orders. His premature demise meant the end of the de Rennes dynasty; he was succeeded by his sister and, after her death, his brother-in-law. Your first priority is to marry, have children and continue the de Rennes male line. Start forging claims on Cornwall, Wales and Ireland, then begin your wars of expansion. In many ways, Brittany in 1066 is the ideal tutorial playground.
---[b]Edouarzh de Penthičvre, Count of Penthievre, 1066: A 67 year old count who founded the youngest branch of the de Rennes and was once duke of Britannia, so have a strong claim for it. With good luck and health, you can take the duchy back and have a similar good start to your liege and nephew Konan II, except that you're much older. But the biggest interest in this character is that he has a daughter, THIRTEEN sons (half bastards) and SIX grandsons (all legitimate), so it's a wonderful start to learn how to build a new family, marrying duchesses or even princesses to grow the familial lands.
Castille, Kingdom of
---Sancho II, King of Castille, 15 Sept. or 26 Dec. 1066: Why play as El Cid when you can play as his liege? Use a young Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar to command your army as you plan to bring Iberia under your realm. Your brother is not exactly on good terms with you and the usual Muslim infidels are everywhere. Can you avoid Sancho's historical fate?
Croatia, Kingdom of
---Dmitar Zvonimir, Duke of Slavonia, 1066 and King of Croatia, 1081: Can you revert history and prevent the extinction of House of Trpimirović, preventing the Hungarians gaining rule over Croatia by succession since his wife is Hungarian princess?
Denmark, Kingdom of
---Svend, King of Denmark, 15 Sept. 1066 - 1074: Historically he feuded with Haldrada and had little success in military affairs and fathered an impressive twenty or more children. To reflect this he starts with many children to secure alliances and inheritance and a claim on England. Whether you attempt to reunite the North Sea Empire, create the Kalmar Union or restore the Danelaw you've got plenty of options open. You can start the baltic crusades early and take your share of the pagan land. You start with a small but stable kingdom and if you're lucky the Holy Roman Empire will neglect to counter your growth in the north allowing you plenty time to become a great northern empire. The Huskarl (housecarl) retinue adds some strong muscle you can put to good use. With reasonable goals and a little luck the north is yours!
Duklja, Duchy of
---Mihaljo I, Duke of Duklja, 15 Sept. 1066: Starts independent - needs one province to create Serbia. Easy right? Well not when both of those provinces are in the ERE. One is owned by your 9th son (that's right 9th) The other by the heir to the ERE not a man you want to get on the wrong side of. Can you form Serbia and go on to unite the Slavic kingdoms?
Edessa, Duchy of
---Baldwin, Duke of Edessa, 1100: Just south of Rum, in 1098 Edessa forms, as an independent Frankish Catholic Duchy, Surrounded almost completely by good Muslim neighbors. The preferred start is 1100 as the 1098 already starts you in the low end of an established house, while with the 1100 start you assume the role of Baldwin here, a sucessful Crusader who inherited the family lands of Edessa, historically he ends up as the King of Jerusalem, through unknown relations to the King Baldwin I, he passes the other suitors and obtains the throne. Now I'm not sure how it would work in game as in the trees they are not related, but it would be interesting trying to install Baldwin II, as the King of Jerusalem or simply trying to stay alive as Edessa. Quite a challenging start, probably requires quick fealty swearing to Jerusalem.
---Raimbaud de Afranji, Count of Aintab, 1072
England, Kingdom of
---Harold Godwinson, King of England, 26 Sept. 1066: Yes, he's at the Stamford Bridge start as usual, but with the most recent patches his odds went from underdog to David versus Goliath. This start a few days later knocks Hardrada out of the war with a victory at Stamford leaving you a decent force to attempt to turn back the Norman tide. Even so expect for William to put up a ferocious fight and never make the mistake of fighting him on open ground - even mighty huscarls don't fare well against the Norman knights.
---Henry I, King of England, 3 Aug. 1100: Last of the de Normandie kings of England. Can you make sure your house doesn't shatter into pieces and honour The Conqueror's legacy? Or is the house of de Normandie destined to die out like it did in reality? (Actually there are 2 other kings who are direct descendants of William the Conqueror, however since they both born to other houses he practically is the last norman king of England.)
---Henry II Plantagenet, King of England, Jan 1. 1155: Start off the Plantagenet dynasty and the Angevin Empire on the right foot and see if the sons you birth end up any better than the ones Henry spawned historically.Alternative: 1.1.1187 bookmark: The Lion In Winter, CK2 style. Henry had established himself in both England and the continent, but at a high personal cost. He is estranged from his wife and 2 sons, and historically died within 2 years after his sons rebelled. Although Richard is the Lionhearted, let the old lion roar one last time in his twilight, and put his house in order before he departs.
---Edward Plantagenet, King of England, Hundred Years War start: Unfortunately Edward III doesn't have the traits he should, but you do begin with a strong claim on France (via your wife) and a powerful, centralized realm. Your son and heir, the future Black Prince, is a young boy and ready to be tutored to greatness, whilst France will often be divided and thrown into various civil wars -- forge marriage alliances with Scotland and Brittany, wait for an opportune moment and then pounce.
---Alfred, Earl of Dorset, 867 (used in Characters Thread Challenge (30 July 2013) here) - Note: Yup, that Alfred.
---William I de Normandie, Duke of Flanders, 3 Feb. 1127: As the grandson of William the Conqueror you just have been given your grandmother's land, the wealthy duchy of Flanders. Now can you take your grandfathers land too, and become the next king of England, instead of your uncle Henry?
---Kadoc, Earl of Cornwall, 15 Sept. 1066: the last Cornish Earl of Cornwall. He's still around in 1066 (both Stamford Bridge and William the Conqueror start) but will disappear in a couple of months, like in history. He's descended from the ancient Kings of Dumnonia, but he's the only ruler in Britain with the Breton culture, which could prove a challenge. You can form the Duchy of Cornwall as soon as you make the money.
---William Marshal, Earl of Dyfed, 1204 scenario or 1197 onwards (used in Characters Thread Challenge (30 July 2013) here): The greatest knight who ever lived sits on an earl's throne in Wales. Bring him and his fledgling dynasty greater glory still.
---Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, 1225: Leader during the barons' war against King Henry III, he became the de facto leader of England for a short time before his death in battle. Starting off as a simple earl, making Simon's rise match that of history might be a challenge, but one worth a try.
---Alan I, Count of York, 1 Jan. 1071: This is Alan Rufus, one of the richest men in history. Sadly, his personal wealth is not modeled in game, but he's still an interesting historical figure.
France, Kingdom of
---Geoffrey Plantagenet, Duke of Anjou, 2 Jan. 1129: Play as the founder of the Plantagenet Dynasty and try to claim England from your small duchy! If his bastard trait is removed, which it should be, since he wasn't illegitimate, you can marry Matilda, the daughter of the still-living Henry I of England. This will give any children born to you a claim on the kingdom of England. If you play your cards right, Henry will die without a male heir, leaving the kingdom to Matilda, who is your new wife. This means that your children will inherit England!
---Philippe I Capet, King of France, 15 Sept. 1066: You are under-age, have a demense of two, and have several vassals more powerful than you. The Duke of Flanders wants independence, the Duke of Normandy is waging a war for the English throne, your uncle the Duke of Burgundy wants to become King of France himself, and the Dukes of Aquitaine and Toulouse are just way more powerful than yourself. Can you repeat history and survive and prosper against all odds?
---John I, King of France, 15 Nov. 1316: Your dynasty is almost as weak as in 1066, but you don't have giga-vassals. However, you are surrounded by Castille, Aragon and the HRE. If you dies and your uncles doesn't manage to have children, you have the hundred year war. If not... there are only a few English counties left in South France and you could have Britanny and Savoy easily. Sadly, the regency preceding his rule has been replaced by him living longer, so by beginning at the above said date, you are not a newborn.
---Guilhem de Poitou, Duke of Aquitaine, 15 Sept. 1066: Form the Kingdom of Aquitaine, if you can break free from France and avoid the dismemberment of your realm from gavelkind.
---Eudes II, Duke of Burgundy, 1153:The former spouse of Louis VII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has helped the English king to inherit the whole of Aquitaine, practically 1/4 of France. Half of the de jure kingdom is now in hands of the Plantagenets, and they also look at Toulouse with greedy eyes. As a loyal vassal of the good, but not so skilled Louis VII, help to defend the remaining French realm and reconquer the lands that rightfully belong to the Capets! Of course, after the French crown and lands are secured, you can stop being (or pretending to be) a loyal servant and take the crown for yourself.
---???, Duke of Flanders, 15 Sept. 1066: The wealthiest provinces of France with the option to go HRE whenever you wish, one or two counties away from forming Frisia, some fine relatives.
---Guilhelm IV, Duke of Toulouse, 15 Sept. 1066: A very interesting character that allows for very plausible switches into alternate history. IOTL, the counts of Toulouse (Toulouse, IOTL, was a county, not a duchy) and the kings of Aragon were very close until the rise of the Montforts and the Albigensian crusade, when Simon de Montfort defeated the combined forces of Aragon and Toulouse at the battle of Muret. With a closely linked Aragon and Toulouse, you could potentially become the king of Aragon, and end up with a disunited Spain. There could be a Hispanic Portugal and Castile in the far west, and a Occitanian Aragon that spreads along the Mediterranean coast from Provence in the east to Murcia in the west, and stretches from Sicily in the south to Gap or even Vienne in the north.
---Raimond de Toulouse, Duke of Toulouse, 1 Jan. 1187: With the Cathar heresy at full height, you can choose to crush it, or join it.
---Eudes Capet, Count of Chartres, 867
---Herbert Karling, Count of Vermandois, 15 Sept. 1066 (used in CKII GOTW here): the last living descendent of Charlemagne and a count near Paris.
Galicia, Kingdom of
---Nuno II Vimaranes, Duke of Portucale, 15 Sept. 1066 (used in CKII GOTW here): Defend against Holy Wars and Jihad from the south, then complete the Reconquista and set up your own kingdom in Portugal.
Galloway, County of
---Fergus of Galloway, Earl of Galloway, 1100: You start on a Scottish peninsula flanked by a strong Scotland and nearly unified England. With only 2 provinces, starting as a kid, with no family or vassals, relying on nothing but an unrelated minor regent with a giant intrigue and a plot to inherit your lands, it truly would be challenge to not be gobbled into Scotland, or to even retain ones title once within it. Perhaps a suicide game but I'm sure the relative instability of Scotland could give you a small window to seize power.
Holy Roman Empire
---Frederich II, Kaiser of Holy Roman Empire, 5 Jul. 1212 - 12 Dec. 1250: One of the most ambitious and powerful of the Holy Roman Emperors, Frederich best embodies the average CK2 player's drive to rule the world. He represented the pinnacle of House Hohenstaufen, and had plots in nearly every corner of the world. He attempted to claim Jerusalem by marriage (and is married to the Queen of Jerusalem in the 1220s), warred against the pope, and very nearly turned the HRE into a proper nation-state.
---Richard of Cornwall, Kaiser of Holy Roman Empire, 28 Jan. 1256 - 2 Apr. 1272: He is King (ingame Kaiser) of the Holy Roman Empire. And English... And of the House of Plantagenet! A very special experience and starting point. He is emperor between 28th January 1256 and 2th April 1272.
---Johann, King of Bohemia, 1310 - Note: the blind one, although only from 1337 (should now be represented by 'blinded' trait
---Otto II, Duke of Bavaria, until 1070: create the Kingdom of Bavaria and eventually take over most of eastern Europe. Highly recommended!
---Welf I Welf, Duke of Bavaria, 1 Jan. 1070 and 1079: the bastard son of Duke Alberto II Azzo d'Este of Lombardy, can you resurrect the once old and powerful House of Welf (Guelph)? It's a fun game being an illegitimate bastard with a wife that has a claim on neighboring Swabia. If you can pacify the Bavarian Lords, and consolidate you could potentially become the most powerful man in the Holy Roman Empire. Not to mention the weak claim you will receive when the old man Alberto Azzo II dies, and the impending succession crisis in Lombardy means you can seize your moment and swallow Milan as well. Bringing glory back to the Welfs should be a fun undertaking.
---Vratislav II Premyslid, Duke of Bohemia, 15 Sept. 1066: You have a better inheritance law than the other HRE dukes (Seniority's not as good as Elective, but it beats Gavelkind hands down), the County of Prague has more space for upgrade than most places, and you start the game with everything you need (except the 600 gold and 200 piety, obviously) to create the Duchy of Moravia and then the Kingdom of Bohemia. Also, with a little ruthlessness you can contrive for your son Bretislav to inherit the throne (and royal demesne!) of the Kingdom of Hungary; even if he doesn't hold on to the kingdom he has a decent chance of holding on to the duchies. Be warned that if you don't want to adopt German culture you may well need to make more use of the "spawn random aristocrat" buttons than might otherwise be the case.
---Lothar-Udo, Duke of Brandenburg, 15 Sept. 1066: You know the drill, obtain the black eagle and start rolling.
---Pierre de Savoie, Duke of Savoy, 15 Sept. 1066: Reclaim the old Kingdom of Burgundy, destroy the HRE from the inside and then take on France in order to gain the Duchy of Burgundy, your rightful inheritance. Used for CK2 GOTW, 29-Mar-13
---Matilda, Duchess of Tuscany, 15 Sept. 1066: A good grip on Italy at the beginning as duchess of Tuscany, and a vassal of the HRE. It offers many possibilities, and allows to learn the game mechanics safely within the HRE while recreating the Kingdom of Italy. May have changed since earlier patches, so the succession is a bit trickier now as she already has sons from a regular marriage (she used to be childless in previous versions).
---Gerhard Chatenois, Duke of Upper Lorraine, 15 Sept. 1066: Just a duchy title away from being able to found the Kingdom of Lotharingia.
---Werner von Habsburg, Count of Aargau, 15 Sept. 1066: rise from one county to rival the historical extent of Emperor Karl V's dominion over Europe.
---Hendrik Reginar, Count of Brabant, 15 Sept. 1066: Beginning under a strong duke, it takes your full attention and resources to break away from your ducal liege. Once you're done, you can work towards creating your own Dutch Kingdom within or outside of the Empire.
---Geraud de Geneve, Count of Geneve, 15 Sept. 1066: The score description is almost taunting. Can you do better by ruling more than your single county?
---Ota 'the Handsome' Premyslid, Count of Olomouc, 15 Sept. 1066: Who is this magnificently handsome man? Well, it's Ota, younger brother to the starting Duke of Bohemia. Sure, you start out with one province in the corner of the realm, but with some luck, good assassinations and perhaps a small war or two, you can quickly take control of the Duchy, or Kingdom, of Bohemia! Not to mention, you're handsome!
---Ezzelino II da Romano, Count of Verona, early 1200: Considered one of the most ruthless and cruel feudal rulers in all the Middle Ages. At the time, he was said to be the antichrist or the spawn of the devil. A crusade was issued against him. Once he sentenced to death 10.000 citizens of Padua in a single day. He also enjoyed the mass use of torture. He was said to feel pleasure at the screams of people walled in alive, and that he would often command kids to be blinded for his own enjoyment. Supporter of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the war between guelphs and ghibellines, he married his daughter.
Here's a quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray about him:
"Ezzelin, whose melancholy could be cured only by the spectacle of death, and who had a passion for red blood, as other men have for red wine--the son of the Fiend, as was reported, and one who had cheated his father at dice when gambling with him for his own soul"... That's quite some reputation. Can you match it in true Crusader Kings style?
---Werner Salian, Count of Pfalz, 867
Hungary, Kingdom of
---Salamon I Árpád, King of Hungary, 15 September 1066: Barely more than a century and a half ago, the Magyars were a nomadic tribe ravaging westwards through the steppes of Asia to flee from their more powerful neighbours. Now, the Kingdom of Hungary is poised to strike back at the Pechenegs and also has good opportunities to expand in Croatia and Poland, as well as Galich to the northeast. With a Princess of the Holy Roman Empire as your wife, you are backed by a mighty ally, just beware of the Byzantine Empire. The historical Árpád dynasty managed to add Croatia to its domains, but then was almost destroyed by the Mongols and only survived thanks to the death of the Great Khan - and due to constant infighting which only became worse after the Mongol invasion subsided, Hungary could barely hold itself together while the dynasty slowly headed towards extinction on the agnatic line, which finally happened in 1301. Can you do better?
Iceland, Duchy of
---Sigfus, Count of Vestisland, 15 Sept. 1066: Let's face it. Vestisland is not what you would call "profitable". Hell, while we're at it, Iceland as a whole kind of sucks at this period, made even more so by that doddering old fool that calls himself a Duke. Ha! He sits complacently on the throne of the northern most landmass in Europe, far out into the seas, content while the world passes Iceland by. The fool. Though this is the age of Snorri, and Christianisation of Iceland has been fairly thorough, the old tales boil your young blood, made even hotter by the lack of a good woman in your bed. Yet you are limited, especially since Norway is keen to assert itself over your lands. Perhaps if you wrested control of the throne of Iceland from your liege you could rekindle the Viking spirit which brought your people to the foreboding, jagged shores of the rime-coated island...
Ireland, Kingdom of
---??? Ua Neill Naoigallaich, Earl of Oriel, 15 Sept. 1066: the starting earl of Oriel is an O'Neill Naoi-Gallach, as in Niall of the Nine Hostages. Fun start to conquer Ireland in his name.
---John de Courcy, Count of Ulster, Third Crusade start: his capital is the castle of Carrickfergus. He tried for independence from England - going as far as putting his face on coins. The English King put him down; now all that remains of his legacy is a shopping centre in Carrickfergus.John de Courcy was an Anglo-Norman knight who arrived in Ireland in 1176. From then until his expulsion in 1204, he conquered a considerable territory, endowed religious establishments, built abbeys for both the Benedictines and the Cistercians and built strongholds at Dundrum Castle in County Down and Carrickfergus Castle in County Antrim.
The Isles, Duchy of
---Gudrod Crovan, Duke of the Isles, 15 Sept. 1066: You may not be able to form the Kingdom of the Isles in-game, but you can pretend to. The Isles are an interesting start because they're Norwegian and independent but surrounded by Gaelic rulers and provinces. Swear allegiance to Norway before you unpause; this will give you room to expand in both Ireland and Scotland without having to worry as much about being dogpiled by your enemies. This is particularly true in the case of Scotland, which will always attack you over a de jure claim sooner or later. Alternatively, for those wanting a greater challenge, try to do all of this whilst remaining independent.
Italy, Kingdom of
---Louis II Karling, King of Italy, 867
---??? von Babenberg, Count of ??? (in Verona?), 867
Jerusalem, Kingdom of
---Godefroy I, King of Jerusalem, 15 Jul. 1099 - 1 Apr. 1100: Godfrey was the first leader of the Kingdom of Jersulem, he actually refused to become king, believing that God was the true king of the kingdom of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, he can be played as the King. You should be able to avoid his untimely death and hopefully with a good deal of skill and luck set up a true lasting Kingdom.
---Baudouin IV 'the Leper', King of Jerusalem, 2 January 1177
---Baldwin I, Emperor of Latin Empire, 1205: A pious Catholic given an imperial title, you lord over a land of Orthodox Greeks who are, most likely, none too pleased by your rule. Take this artificially constructed empire and take charge of its fate, to turn it into a real presence on the world stage. You control the Imperial province itself and a good half of the Aegean Islands - oh, and a barony in far-off Belgium. In the real world, Baudouin's nephew spent his years begging around western Europe for money and troops until the Byzantines finally recaptured their capital. Can you avoid this ignominious fate? As a two-province Emperor, you're unable to swear fealty, so it's not easy...
Leon, Kingdom of
---Alfonso Jimena, King of Leon, 15 Sept. 1066: If deception is more your style, this is the Spanish leader you should play as. Alfonso starts with high intrigue and claims on the neighboring Christian kingdoms. If you can have your brother Sancho killed fast enough you'll be King of Leon and Castille and recreating the real Alfonso's rise to power.
---Urraca Jimena, Countess of Zamora, 15 Sept. 1066: Is she interesting? fun? historically meaningful? No, no, and I have no idea. She is, however, the Kizdean Gix (EQ1) of CK2 - annoying beyond all reason, and out of all proportion to her power. I've played Leon a few times and I cannot stand this woman (she's your sister, and so the sister of all the neighboring Kings, so there's no dealing with her). Think Kate Gosselin (without the kids) if her personal assistant drank her cappuccino. She's what the Oubliette was made for.
Lubeck, County of
---Budivoj Nakonid, Count of Lübeck, 15 Sept. 1066: He is a Christian and Pommeranian and the Count of Lübeck. If you play well, you have the chance to create the Kingdom of Pommerania as a Catholic Ruler (note: You still have to convert to a pagan religion to create the kingdom) You can try it as independent Count if you like it hard or you can became part of the Holy Roman Empire or Denmark.
---Henrik Nakonid, Count of Lubeck, 1073: Your father Guthskalco was a Christian ruler of the Wends (in game Duke of Mecklenburg), who was defeated and killed by the pagan chieftain Kruto. Your half-brother Budivoj tried to reclaim your family's honor, but was ambushed and murdered by Kruto. You and your nephew, both children, are all that is left of the House of Nakonid. You're the only Christian Pomeranian ruler in the world, with access to their Light Cavalry Gussar retinues. Even many of your own courtiers are pagans. Your county is pagan. Your neighbors are Denmark (who have a de jure claim on you from day 1), the HRE (who have a de jure claim on you as soon as the Duke of Saxony saves up the money to form the Duchy of Holstein), and your arch-enemy Kruto (who, as pagan duke of Mecklenburg, could launch a conquest CB on you as soon as he had the piety). Your only assets? A strong claim on the Duchy of Mecklenburg (good luck pressing it before someone holy wars them to oblivion), a capital with plenty of empty slots but 0-0-0 tech, and whatever you can beg, steal or borrow. Oh, and the motivation to track down Kruto and say "My name is Henrik Nakonid. You killed my father (also my brother). Prepare to die!"
Historically, Henrik was able to murder Kruto with the help of Kruto's wife, and then established a powerful Christian Wendish state. His sons, in true CK2 style, started fighting each other, and the whole thing fell apart; reverting to paganism and eventually getting hit with the Wendish Crusade. Can you do better?
Norway, Kingdom of
Normandy, Duchy of (inc. William and vassals, but not other French vassals in Normandy)
---Robert ('Curthose') de Normandie, 15 Sept. 1066: Begin at Stamford Bridge as a 12 yr old Count, eldest son and heir to William de Normandie. Already with a slew of negative traits, expect miserable diplomatic ability as an adult, and - whatever becomes of the Norman Conquest - you will be constantly battling your two younger brothers, vying to remain the valid heir. Through careful marriage you could form alliances with other families - but of course the risk is choosing someone small enough to not be a threat, but big enough to be a help in any disputes with your brothers. In real life, his long running discord with his brothers and father (three kings, no less!) was possibly the most significant factor in the end to the de Normandie dynasty. He went to war against all three of his closest male relatives, every time his miserable people skills costing him the throne (and general unreliability as he was quite a lazy, entitled sod). Impulsive, begrudging, and proud, but with all the social graces of a chamber pot at high tide, he was eventually imprisoned by one of his brothers and died only a year before his youngest brother (King Henry I), ending the line of de Normandie forever. Robert was a front line warrior, better suited to the battles of arms rather than politics, and his fate showed this.
Navarra, Kingdom of
---Ramiro, Count of Nájera, 15 Sept. 1066: Obviously Stamford Bridge is the most popular start. A lot of folks also like the more difficult start of jumping in as a small dynasty count with one province. Nájera starts in a precarious position - the lone County serving King Antso IV in the middle of the boiling pot. You're a Castillian in a Basque province, which gives you interesting options. Firstly, you can ahistorically attempt to cultivate the Basque culture for their unique bonus of Absolute Cognatic succession. This not only allows daughter heirs over sons, useful if your daughters are better stateswomen, but also allows you to title female courtiers - and clever use of marriage of influential male vassals with bad stats allows you to draw very, very useful stateswomen to your court. Alternatively, you can just attempt to take over with your Castillan culture - it's certainly much more widespread as you expand. While you don't have the King of Aragon's titanic 14 (!!!) de jure claims for possible expansion, you DO have a strong claim for your entire Kingdom! While this seems minor, Navarra has a de jure claim over Viscaya, and you can gobble up some territory against weak Muslim emirates nearby, and possibly claim a duchy to allow you to eventually take over Barcelona. A fun, difficult start with tons of options.
---Giacopo Orsini, Count of Orvieto, 15 Sept. 1066: avoid getting your one county confiscated by your liege the Pope while building up enough land and wealth to revolt and set up your own state.
Poland, Kingdom of
---Boleslaw 'the Bold' Piast, King of Poland, 15 Sept. 1066: can go various ways. His realm has about 20 de jure provinces, made up of five duchies of varying power. You can expand basically anywhere you want.
---Kazimierz III 'the Great', King of Poland, 1333: The only Polish king in history to both receive and keep the 'Great' nickname - can you make him worthy of it?
---[b]Leszek 'the White', King of Poland, 1 Jan. 1206: Leszek 'the White' becomes King in this year. You can also play as his brother who is a child duke in 1195.
Polotsk, Duchy of
---Duke of Polotsk, The Mongols bookmark: You start as a Lithuanian Catholic, with claims on the nearby duchy of Lithuania. Your uncle holds that, and he's Orthodox. You can form Lithuania fairly easily, and then try to drive out the Germans/hold back the Mongols. Alternatively, swear fealty to the Mongols and destroy them from within.
Pomerania, Duchy of
---Dukes of Pomerania, 1122 or 1136: Two start dates with a Pomeranian, Catholic ruler. You are independent, and the entire Pomeranian coast is still occupied by pagans (except your lands). If you are quick, you can grab the rest of the coast before the Germans/Polish/Scandinavians. One of the few starts with a playable, independent, Pomeranian ruler. Much easier now that the Kaiser doesn't have dejure claims anymore.
Provence, Duchy of
---Charles d'Anjou, Count of Anjou, 1246 - Note: invades K_Sicily in 1266
Scotland, Kingdom of
---Malcolm III Dunkeld, King of Scotland, 15 Sept. 1066: Start with just one county (and a Kingdom) and forge the reputation of the great 'Canmore' or 'Long neck' -referring quite personally to his leadership style. He is also considered the progenitor of a branch of the family that ruled Scotland until 1286. Also his wife was the beatified Saint Margaret so be nice (or not )
---Margaret I ('the Maid'), Queen of Scotland, 1287-1290: an interesting character to play, this tragic young girl was the only heir to Alexander III, and her death helped lead the invasion and takeover of Scotland by Edward I, there is much question of her early death despite her royal status on her trip to Scotland. Yet in the game you can change this young girl's fate, and make her into a Queen worth remembering in history.
---Robert I, King of Scotland, 1296: Who doesn't want to play as the great Scottish king, Robert the Bruce, can you too take advantage of Edward II to raise Scotland to new levels, and can you, unlike the Bruce, leave an heir who can continue the dynasty and cement Scotland as a power in Europe?
---Gospatrick Dunbar, Duke of Lothian, 15 Sept. 1066 (used in CKII GOTW here): Gospatrick is a vassal of King Malcolm III and his realm straddles the Scottish Lowlands. You have numerous options here, such as backing one of the King's relatives as a pretender, attempting to take the throne yourself (quite possible via elective succession or a strong faction), expanding into Northumberland whilst England is in chaos, or simply remaining loyal to the Dunkelds and hoping to be rewarded for your efforts. All in all, a very interesting position and perhaps the most unique starting character in Scotland. If you want to notch things up to 'expert' difficulty, fight a successful war for independence and try to remain so. Note: was Saxon in previous patches, but not any more
---Mael Snechtai, Duke of Moray, 15 Sept. 1066: last of the relatives of the infamous Macbeth. Can you retake the Scottish throne through murder and deceit?
Sicily, Kingdom of (inc. Apulia, Sicily, Napoli, Capua, Salerno)
---Robert I d'Hauteville, Duke of Apulia, 1066: Not as challenging as many starts, but the family is a popular choice. Croatia offers an expansion opportunity in the north. John Julius Norwich has written a great 2-volume history of the family.
---Albinia d'Hauteville, Countess of Lecce and Taranto, 1205: a 16-year-old widow (tough life, I guess, but he died a "natural death" at 41, so it might be a Nelson Rockefeller thing) if you start in 1205. Can you get the family back its Kingdom of Sicily?
---Sergios Spartenos, Count of Napoli, 15 Sept. 1066: The sheer turbidity of the region in general! You are a small middle aged, single greek orthodox count swimming in a sea of Normans, Genoans and muslims with the pope being your next door neighbor! But you know what? You can beat them because THIS IS SPARTENOS.
The easy way out is of course swearing to Apulia, the HRE or the ERE, but why should you? - There is immense satisfaction in becoming an independent Despot against all the odds. An overview of threats and potential playstyles
---Bohemond ???, ???, c. 1100: You're Norman adventurers who conquered southern Italy, your options for expansion are plentiful, you can swear fealty to the HRE if you're threatened, you can turn your minor principality/duchy into a great empire in a relatively short amount of time, you can return to your Viking roots and launch endless brutal naval raids on the Muslim populations of North Africa, you can go after Byzantium if you give yourself claims on the empire (which is something the de'Hautville family did try historically, so don't feel bad about cheating to get it in the game, they should have a special casus belli by default), if you do swear fealty to the HRE, you can assassinate or conquer your way to the conquest and unification of Italy (the duchess of Tuscany being an especially appealing opportunity for peaceful expansion), you've got multiple opportunities to make alliances and inherit lands because you have so many eligible children and won't have to wait a generation to breed your way to a sizable family, you can go on a Crusade and be an actual Crusader King. What's not to like?
---Manfred, King of Sicily, 1258
---Corradino, King of Sicily, 1254-1258, and Duke of Swabia, 1258 onwards
Sweden, Kingdom of
---Stenkil I af Stenkil, King of Sweden, 15 Sept. 1066: Your northern vassals remain true to the old ways, while you and your southron vassals have adopted Christianity. Your brother Erik, commonly known as 'the Heathen' rivals you in power and ambition, and might make a move for the throne. Will you stay true to the One True Faith, or bow to Ođinn?
---Birger (Birger Jarl), Duke of Ostergotland, 16 May 1214: said to have built Stockholm and led the Second Swedish Crusade into Finland.
Valencia, County of
---Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, Count of Valencia, 1 Jan. 1094: yes -that- El Cid, he is count of Valencia in Spain, word of warning this is a very difficult start but is a famous character in history worth mentioning.
Wales, Kingdom of (inc. Gwynedd, Deheubarth, Glamorgan, Gwent)
---Rhodri 'the Great' Aberffraw, Petty King of Gwynedd, 867
---Maredudd II Dinefwr, Petty King of Deheubarth, 15 Sept. 1066: You and the only other member of the Dinefwr dynasty are both over 50 years old, but once you produce an heir, you can instead concentrate on reclaiming your other two de jure claims in southern Wales. From there, unite Wales and then the British Isles through, conquest, marriage or both. As of 1.09, your task is now easier as you now have a junior branch of the family who can continue the Dinefwr quest for glory.
---Bleddyn Mathrafal, Petty King of Gwynedd, 15 Sept. 1066: You start with several children, a medium-sized duchy, and the ability to quickly form a kingdom. Unite Wales, Defend against the English, and play the marriage game.
---Llewelyn 'the Great', Duke of Gwynedd, 1195: Historically, Llywelyn was the most successful of the Welsh princes who attempted to maintain their sovereignty despite the Norman occupation. At the height of his power, he managed to control most of Wales and is one of only two Welsh rulers to ever be called 'Great'. Can you succeed where he did not, by forming a truly independent Welsh Kingdom?
---Llewelyn 'the Last', Duke of Gwynedd, 1246: An even more difficult start for the Welsh enthusiast is Llywelyn the Last. In 1246, you are a 12 year old child who has just inherited the Duchy of Gwynedd, surrounded by the English under Henry III. Do you have what it takes to avoid the historical Llywelyn's gruesome fate and embarrassing moniker?