It's finally time to announce the next expansion for Crusader Kings II! You might already know the name: "Sons of Abraham". Some of you were very close in your guesses on what it might be. No, it's not a Zombie DLC! Sons of Abraham focuses on the three Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The idea was to go back to the roots after all the attention given to the heathens, and to flesh out the religious side of the game for the monotheists; Christians in particular.
First and foremost, we wanted to do more with the Pope; how he gets elected, what powers he has and how you can gain his favor. Thus, we added the Cardinal title and the College of Cardinals. For simplicity's sake, there are only nine cardinals, and the Pope is always elected from among their number. Cardinals, however, are not elected; they are picked by the Pope from among his courtiers and the bishops of Europe. The selection is based on many factors; age, piety, opinion, culture (the Pope really likes Italians!), etc.
So, how exactly do you get your man onto the chair of Saint Peter? Well, the Holy See is not a democracy, so this is not a direct process. First, you need at least one of your bishops to get appointed Cardinal by the Holy Father. Fortunately, you do not have to rely entirely on the character of the bishop himself, you can grease the machinery with a bit of lucre by putting money in the campaign fund (similar to how Doges are elected in Merchant Republics). Of course, it is also possible to carefully groom a candidate for a career in the Catholic church before you even make him a bishop.
When the Pope dies, the cardinals in turn elect his successor. This process cannot be directly influenced by the player, but the cardinals will reason much like the Pope does when he picks new cardinals, so it's better to have old, pious men made cardinals than incompetent wastrels whose election you paid for.
Ok, so let us say one of your bishops is eventually made Pope. How does that serve you? Well, Popes that come from your realm will like you - a lot. Of course, that means they will be likely to grant your requests. Want to get divorced? No problem. Want to invade someone? Ok. To make this even more useful, we've given the Pope some new powers as well: he can give you money, plain and simple. He can also approve your candidate for a bishopric under Papal Investiture, or even declare a Crusade on the infidel of your choice. However, each time he does you a favor, he will like you less, so your influence will not last forever. Incidentally, having your antipope installed in Rome will have a similar effect. Oh, and if the Pope should happen to be of your very own dynasty, that will give you a lot of monthly Piety and Prestige.
There are some direct benefits to controlling cardinals as well. You cannot ask to have someone excommunicated or invaded if they control more cardinals than you do.
That's that about the College of Cardinals. Next week I'll talk about holy orders, heresies, and other things...
Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham (official product page)
Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham announced (News article at PC gamer)