Last week I told you about the College of Cardinals and the new papal powers (though I believe I forgot to mention that the Pope can also grant you claims on counties and duchies!) Today I'll go through the rest of the new Christian mechanics in Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham, as well as the new Muslim stuff. Let's start with the Holy Orders!
We have given each non-heretic religion in the game at least one Holy Order. This includes the various pagan religions, though most of their Holy Orders are rather fanciful. The Catholics also get two more in addition to the old ones; the Knights of Calatrava and the Knights of Santiago, both of which are mostly active in Hispania. Holy Orders are no longer activated at a certain date, many will start showing up once the Crusades/Jihads kick off (which is also more dynamic now), or when certain conditions are met. For example, the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre (an Orthodox Holy Order) becomes active if Antioch and Jerusalem are Orthodox and held by Orthodox rulers. Holy Orders are now much more active in world politics, and both their internal and external mechanics have been altered. You can now borrow money from certain Holy Orders (like the Knights Templar), or donate money for Piety. They, in turn, will make various requests (and if you owe them money, it is hard to refuse.) For example, they can ask that one of your sons join them, or that you give them the right to build a castle in an empty holding slot in one of your counties. Internally, Grandmasters are no longer randomly generated characters, but chosen from among vassals and courtiers, many of which will now be important members of European nobility. Having a Grandmaster of your dynasty will give you a monthly amount of prestige. Castle holdings under the Grandmaster are no longer hereditary, but appointed to a "Commander" for life. We have also added some minor rules and decisions, like if you happen to be the king of Jerusalem, you now have the option to vassalize the Templars and the Knights of St John. Lastly, if you think that an Order has grown too powerful in your realm, you can expel it forever, seizing its castles (a very impious act.)
Somewhat related to the Holy Orders, you now have the ability to order any courtier to take the vows and become a monk or nun. The character will then either become a regular monk or nun (traits), or go off to join one of the martial orders. Either way, he or she will be disinherited. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to do this against characters who stand to inherit titles (like younger sons under Gavelkind); unless you imprison them first!
As I mentioned earlier, the Crusades will no longer necessarily kick off after a certain year; it now depends on the actual situation in Europe. For example, if Constantinople or Rome have fallen or the Moors are pushing into France. Similar conditions now apply for the Muslims. The Pagans - if they can have Great Holy Wars - will get them after the Crusades and Jihads are both active.
We have also improved on the heresies; most of them are now more distinctive and some of them even have their own heads of religion. For example, the Cathars can appoint female bishops and the Ibadi can now have their own Caliph, etc. The events that control the spread of heresies are different if you have Sons of Abraham; heresies tend to be more localized and it is also possible for minority view non-heretics among your courtiers to spread their faith (i.e. an Orthodox courtier among Catholics, etc.) Perhaps the most drastic change to heresies though, is that they can now take over as the new orthodoxy if they hold more provinces than the current mainstream form of the religion. If, say, more counties are Waldensian than Catholic, Catholicism will become the heresy and its Holy Orders will join the Waldensians. Oh, and we also decided to add "regular" religious rebels who are not trying to spread a heresy, just to gain freedom from the religious oppression of their overlords (e.g. Sunni rebels in a Catholic realm.)
Catholicism may have received the most attention in Sons of Abraham, but we have not forgotten the Muslims. They get a choice between two rival schools of theology and the conflicts that arise out of taking a stance. On one side, you have the Mu'tazili school, which espouses reason and rational thought inspired by the ancient Greek philosophers. Opposing them are the Ash'ari, who belive in the eternal, uncreated word of Allah. Historically, the Mutazilites lost out after some fairly brutal conflicts and draconian measures like the Mihna , arguably bringing to an end the Islamic Golden Age. In game terms, Mutazilites get a Learning bonus for research, whereas the Ash'ari gain Piety, and members of opposing schools tend to loathe each other.
I think that will do for now. Next week, I'll speak of pilgrimages, religious events and Judaism!