It's Tuesday and time for another dev diary on the latest expansion for Crusader Kings II; Sons of Abraham. The topics of the day are pilgrimages, Judaism and religious events. First off though, for those who read last week's diary, we've changed how the Ash'ari and Mu'tazilite traits are handled a bit. They are now much more significant, because an Ash'ari no longer gives decadence to his dynasty, and the Learning bonus for Mutazilites is correspondingly higher (currently +5).
Right, so, on the subject of Islam, one thing we were quite happy with in Sword of Islam was the addition of the decision to go on the Hajj, with the little adventure and the special trait you got at the end. Naturally, a lot of people thought we should add a similar thing for Christians, so that is exactly what we have done in Sons of Abraham. Christians get to choose between several different holy places. For example, Catholics can go to Canterbury, Santiago, Cologne, Rome or Jerusalem. During the journey, a regent will be appointed for pilgrim rulers and various adventures will unfold. Going on a pilgrimage costs a bit of money, and there are of course risks, but successful pilgrims will enjoy monthly piety and respect from their brothers and sisters of the faith for the rest of their lives. There could also be some unexpected benefits...
In the same vein, we have added tons of events dealing with religious life, for Christians especially. Some are complex event chains (for example, there is one inspired by Joan of Arc) and others are simple (e.g. monks cure your illness.) There are events about relics, immoral priests (of most religions), the crusades, etc.
However, the feature in Sons of Abraham that appears to have garnered the most attention is probably the addition of the Jewish religion. Prior to the addition of the 867 start date in The Old Gods, adding Judaism to the game seemed relatively pointless due to the lack of significant Jewish rulers. In 867 though, there is indeed a powerful Jewish state; the Turkic Khazar Khaganate, which we previously represented as being of the Tengri faith, but which was historically well into the process of converting to Judaism at the time. (I think it is plausible enough that they did this in order to counteract foreign interference justified by Muslim and Christian proselytizing. Furthermore, it can be very beneficial for an empire to have a religion of its own as a vehicle for cultural cohesion and dominance.) Now, playing as the Khazars is not easy even in 867, due mostly to their powerful and aggressive neighbors, like the Pechenegs and the Cumans, but there is also a real risk of religious internal strife. In other words, it's a worthy challenge, like playing as the Zoroastrian House of Karen.
Of course, there is an even tougher challenge available, even for those who do not have The Old Gods; one last Jewish Khazar duke is still clinging on in the Saray region in 1066, vassal to the Cumans. Now, Jewish players have similar goals to strive for as the Zoroastrians; you can try to restore the ancient united kingdom of Israel and Judah, restore the High Priesthood under the Kohen Gadol, and even rebuild the Temple.
Apart from the Khazar Jews, there are also the Ashkenazim and Sephardim, in the form of learned men and courtiers who can show up in your court. If you run out of money as a non-Jewish ruler, you can also choose to borrow money from Jewish merchants. If you do not want to pay them back, you can actually expel the Jews from the realm (similar to what you can do with the Holy Orders.) You will, however, stop getting the benefits of having remarkably skilled Jewish courtiers to serve in your council, and you and your descendants cannot borrow any more money from their community. Obviously, this is a pretty terrible thing to do, but it does, unfortunately, have several historical precedents.
I believe that about sums up the features of this little expansion. Next week I'll go through all the stuff we're giving you for free!