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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Midnite Duke

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I have two questions for the learned members of the Þing.
1) How common is the Holmfrid/Helgi situation? We have the murderer listed on the victim's epitaph but the murderer receiving no malus. This is more than getting away with murder (suspicious circumstances) but a blatant I did it, so what. Does the fact that the murderer is a powerful lord (duke equivalent) and the victim is unlanded though a relative of the emperor influence the game (justice can be bought)? In my current game, I had a landed duchess murder the wife of the neighboring duke with no malus. (My character's wife offed his sister. Later their children even married.)
2) If anyone has played with tribes post Holy Fury, how has the change to prestige armies affected play. Prestige can no longer buy an instant army but rather a slow building retinue.
Everyone, thank you for reading and answering.
 
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Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to let you know the AAR is simply slowed down a little during the Northern summer slow period plus CK3 release. And with a major HOI3 mod project I’m doing taking lots of extra time, also working through the other three AARs one by one. And now, our cricket season is just beginning and I’m off on a hopefully COVID-safe tour with my Territory’s (small Australian state equivalent) Veteran’s (over 60s) team for the next five days.

But after that, there will be another play session and AAR update. If I have down time while I’m away, I may try to do comments responses in preparation for that.

Best wishes and take care.

’BF’
 
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Stay safe. Enjoy the cricket. I hope you cause more ducks than you earn, and hit more runs than get hit off you :)
 
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Stay safe. Enjoy the cricket. I hope you cause more ducks than you earn, and hit more runs than get hit off you :)
Thanks my friend. I’ve been told I’m taking the new ball tomorrow, so no pressure ;)
 
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The Third Þing of Styrbjörn’s Reign – March 938

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The Third Þing of Styrbjörn’s Reign – March 938

It’s been a bit of a long break, but I’m back! First some responses to comments not already replied to, then I’ll play and write up the next sesh.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Ch114 Q1: New Building Projects. Thoughts about types of buildings and locations – say, stick to Holmgarðr first, or go for a certain type of building across all four counties, etc – very welcome. My first thought is to go for money-makers, not start any wars and hope for continued peace, but maybe that should be balanced?
My general approach as a feudal Christian, and mostly I have played as feudal Christians, is in my capital duchy to build baronies I will hold myself, and in my other duchy title to build cities for money. And cities, once they get going, largely look after themselves.
Duly noted.
Start with the main county, and other castles in the main duchy. Cities and temples will get new rulers and they can build what they like, and even if you want to build in those holdings do it after giving it to people so that you’ll have the “built a building in my holding” positive modifier with them.
In essence, I think it sounds like an evolution of the approach taken during the tribal period – concentrate on the central demesne and things the ruler wile control and hopefully pass on to an heir.
Q1 & Q3 Build in capital first, your other holdings second, other holdings in capital next. Hospital for capital. Higher quality troops next. Raiding will still be a major revenue source.
Sounds like good advice – I’ll do what I can.
1) Focus on the baronies you keep yourself for a long while. I usually start with money makers, but I tend to play rulers strong enough to not need more troops on shorter time scales, and that don't have raiding as a source of income. When I have money to spare and nothing to build for myself, I like to give my baron vassals money making buildings and tech-increasing buildings.
Useful advice, thanks, and consistent with what others seem to be suggesting.
As Styrbjörn's focus should be on consolidating, I'd go for military first (in order to scare the vassals into submission/any foreigner into not attacking), income second - just keep behaving like a tribal lord in terms of money (raiding) works well enough for the transition phase (and may unlock higher-tier viking traits for Styrbjörn himself).
Interesting: at least I can do the raiding for money for now and I do want to build up troop strength, though will also look for some home-county money making opportunities as well.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Ch114 Q2: Imperial Laws. I know I’ve asked it before, but just confirming: the ‘no count or higher tier vassal of this title’ stipulation related to direct vassals of the Emperor in this case, not to indirect subordinates? Any other broad advice on what I should be aiming for would be welcome.
Q2 The vassal of your vassal is not your vassal. So, vassal of a vassal can have a bad opinion. But a skilled vassal of a vassal can not serve on your council.
Thanks.
2) Correct.
Likewise, thanks.
Yes, only direct vassals matter. As Styrbjörn's young, you should be able to wait for late feudal administration and then choose between primo and ultimo.

If you want a more risky approach (with potentially better payout) then you can always go elective.
I tend to get an allergic reaction when elective is mentioned, having not really enjoyed it much in tribal. :D Others have mentioned seniority too, which I suppose I can also consider.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Ch114 Q3: Military Development. Any guidance on the best general course through these early years of feudalism would be excellent. At present, I’ve got fingers crossed there will be no large military campaign to fight soon, internal or external, especially against tribal foes who can call up those large prestige and piety armies.
This is probably a less helpful kind of advice, but you need to do it all. I’d start with the guard though, then move on with cultural buildings (if possible) or other buildings that increase the good kind of troops (such as barracks that increase heavy infantry and pikemen, stables that increase light and later heavy cavalry; although I prioritize those in different castles so that I can separate heavy cavalry from heavy infantry + pikemen due to the rule of 2, training grounds that increase guard limit etc). For all that, I’d keep on raiding. If possible find a siege specialist general from overseas, keep your men busy at less dangerous places that might give a little less gold but without having to fight.
I’ll definitely look for another siege specialist – Sverker as Marshal is one, I could always send him off and revert him to just a commander (as I want a marshal on the job), but he’s getting old anyway so I will need a new siege master. I’ll try to build a balanced force over time, starting with the retinue and also the levy buildings.
3) I think I only converted once, and fell to a massive civil war immediately after. Probably should have kept playing, recovering from that would make a good game.
I will keep going whether it goes well or blows up in my face, just to see what happens.
Russia's stronger than it's neighbours, so I think building and raiding should be fairly safe. As long as the raiders aren't defeated somewhere, Styrbjörn's personal force can be strong enough to prevent factions to rise up.

Might also be a good idea to disband the mercenaries now. Eilif could afford losing parts of his levy for the mercs, Styrbjörn can use every man.
Will try to dance the light fantastic through this initial phase. Might finally be time to disband the mercs, I guess.

General
So, finally feudalism is here as well! That’s a great new start for the new ruler, and it’ll take some time to transition and find his footing.
It will be a new aspect for me to play – after having read so many feudal-based AARs over the last few years!
In addition to the stuff that already needs to be done, I suggest (not immediately but for the future, since it’ll bring a lot of money and ships but less levies, and we don’t currently have a vacant place for that) to create a vassal merchant republic. If not for net in game profit but for the mechanics and role playing. I was about to do the same with my game as Despot of Greece in Crete, but my laptop died just around that time. I think once all is in order, a Baltic merchant republic vassal in southern Finland or western Estonia might be a fun (and maybe useful?) thing to have.
That will be interesting if I can swing it, for all the reasons you have mentioned. I’ll try to remember – but know you will give me a nudge down the track if I forget. ;)
More exciting times for the followers of this great AAR! Let’s see what feudalism has in its bag for the Rurikid dynasty.
Thank you – after this post-revolutionary pause, we’ll be back into it! :)
I am with @diskoerekto, go seniority if it becomes available first. Seniority guarantees dynastic without splitting inheritance. The drawback is less ability to groom heir, but you may add territory if heir owns land outside of realm. Next ruler can switch from seniority to primo or ultimo. But I am a newbie, so take everything that I write with a barrel of salt.
I’ll have to take a look at seniority – haven’t done so yet, or recall reading an AAR where its was in force. In terms of games played, I'm probably even more of a newbie!
Now that we have proper castles with moats, how are we filling the moat? Piranhas? Sharks? Gators? Crocs? Polar Bears? Samoyeds? Being licked to death by a smiley dog would be a very undignified way to go!
I think wooden stakes and, er, sewage!? No, not the latter really. More danger to the inhabitants than the occasional attacker. The mots will be frozen for a good part of the year anyway. ;)
Note, the castles don't have moats yet (it you check the descriptions on defensive upgrades, that's one of them). I always envision that this is a process of the ruler's homestead (not even a village) attracting a growing number of warriors who want in on his glory (thus prestige to build many upgrades), with the systems to support them being added in time (money upgrades) and a simple pallisade of some kind. Now he's declared it a capital city, which other fuedal powers would consider just a village, but it'll grow into a proper military city in time. Probably added a motte to the existing bailey, too, but I can't recall the upgrades.
This sounds like a logical way to envision it.
How to build a money factory,:
  1. Be feudal. It unlocks better tax and building options.
  2. Have a large personal domain with lots of potential build slots (the mythical 7 slots are best but a whole domain of 4 or 5 is excellent).
  3. First things first, sieze all the baronies within your domain (castles). This is for two reasons. You need a stable steady income which only your own property can provide. And having lots of fully upgraded castles yourself means you don't need your vassals to provide as many troops. This is important for a later step.
  4. Buy Castle walls and Castle towns for your baronies. These are the best two upgrades for wealth expansion. Cheap, quick and every castle has option for both. Build and upgrade keeps next, and from now on this is the build and upgrade order for your holdings.
  5. Having upgraded your own castles to the tech limit, fill the remaining empty slots in your domain with cities. These are much wealthier and easier to control than any other type of holding.
  6. Once built, upgrade their money facilities too. Town walls and markets again. Later on you can build universities and ports to make your tech spread faster and make your life easier.
  7. Last and least for holding development is the church. They are very temperamental on paying taxes and don't make as much anyway, so buying walls and markets for them isn't a high priority but should be done at least before you start buying specific non-economic upgrades to your other holdings.
  8. It is important to note this advice applies only to your own holdings. The only buildings you should buy elsewhere are ports and, if forced by event or favour, churches.
  9. Having built a money factory in your own domain, making the rest of your vassals pay is simple enough. Go to the tax laws and crank them up as high as you can for everyone. You don't need vassal levies as much as their gold, after all you have your own private army now thats going to be funded by their increased taxes.
  10. This system not only makes the realm more stable (because you as leigelord will be far richer than everyone else and amongst the strongest armies on the map) but makes the game a little more intricate potlcially and economcially, since you can now afford to build wonders and large navies. Poltcially, your vassals are now neutered in peactime but the mallus added to high taxes means that whenever a crisis or invasion does occur, you have to be more cunning about how to handle it, backed by piles of gold of course.
  1. Thanks very much for this, I’ll try to remember /return here for pointers, as I know in your AAR games you are the Goldfinger!
Hope this helps.
I’m sure it will.
The nerve of him!
Helgi went by the "can't win if you don't try" approach. Result: As expected. Otherwise, no news are good news, I guess.
Yes, very cheeky indeed! I might just leave him as Spymaster and let human nature take its course.
In terms of feudalism: I'd just make use of my raiding force to loot the coasts and build. Vassals are going to follow into feudalism and provide both levies and tax soon, so current statistics are somewhat, but not entirely useful.
I’ll do that, for sure, and see how the vassals adjust to the new regime.
I have two questions for the learned members of the Þing.

1) How common is the Holmfrid/Helgi situation? We have the murderer listed on the victim's epitaph but the murderer receiving no malus. This is more than getting away with murder (suspicious circumstances) but a blatant I did it, so what. Does the fact that the murderer is a powerful lord (duke equivalent) and the victim is unlanded though a relative of the emperor influence the game (justice can be bought)? In my current game, I had a landed duchess murder the wife of the neighboring duke with no malus. (My character's wife offed his sister. Later their children even married.)

2) If anyone has played with tribes post Holy Fury, how has the change to prestige armies affected play. Prestige can no longer buy an instant army but rather a slow building retinue.

Everyone, thank you for reading and answering.
Still some time if anyone has any answers for @Midnite Duke .

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Anyway, the cricket tournament went well (we won three from three, all quite close games) and cricket was, of course, the winner! Made the eight hour trip each way worth it. It will take a couple of days at least to play and write up, but the process will start soon. Thanks for all your support, comments and advice.
 
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Thanks very much for this, I’ll try to remember /return here for pointers, as I know in your AAR games you are the Goldfinger!
Still trying to figure it out for ck3. Still don't know where the money comes from in that game.
 
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Midnite Duke

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Congrats on the cricket! Can someone explain the formula for plot power? Is the target's intrigue the most important factor?
 

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Congrats on the cricket! Can someone explain the formula for plot power? Is the target's intrigue the most important factor?
I believe for factions it’s military strength, but not sure how it works for plots. :(
 
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I suppose congratulations are in order for the tournament. Well done :).

And I may as well answer the questions that are still unanswered .

1) How common is the Holmfrid/Helgi situation? We have the murderer listed on the victim's epitaph but the murderer receiving no malus. This is more than getting away with murder (suspicious circumstances) but a blatant I did it, so what. Does the fact that the murderer is a powerful lord (duke equivalent) and the victim is unlanded though a relative of the emperor influence the game (justice can be bought)? In my current game, I had a landed duchess murder the wife of the neighboring duke with no malus. (My character's wife offed his sister. Later their children even married.)
2) If anyone has played with tribes post Holy Fury, how has the change to prestige armies affected play. Prestige can no longer buy an instant army but rather a slow building retinue.
1) As a known murderer, Helgi simply receives an opinion malus towards from everyone else (an an additional decaying "dishonourable" one). Other than that, there's not much one can do, which is a long-time complaint in CK II. Rank doesn't matter, too.
2) Prestige tribal retinues are very powerful. Not as OP as hordes, but not much weaker. You can field huge armies for cheap prestige, raid and wage war so that prestige isn't a problem. As a standing army, you can overrun anyone mustering his levies at the border. You can either add some heavier troops, or overwhelm your enemy in the skirmish phase. The sheer number of your retinue helps in preventing rebellions.
As a result, it's viable to stay tribal all the time, especially if you reform your faith with the agnatic/enatic doctrine to get open succession instead of forced gavelkind.

Can someone explain the formula for plot power? Is the target's intrigue the most important factor?
Intrigue is the determining factor for a person's plot power, as is the office of the conspirator. Spymasters have a large bonus plotting against their lieges, cupbearers have a bonus in murder plots. (Consorts may have, I'm not sure there.)
That said, if your target isn't universally beloved, then a diplomat often has a better chance to plot successfully than a schemer, simply for getting more co-conspirators.
 
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Chapter 115: Travel Broadens the Mind (21 March 938 to 1 February 945)

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Chapter 115: Travel Broadens the Mind (21 March 938 to 1 February 945)

AuthAAR’s Note: As mentioned before, I need to pick up the pace with this story, so this will be a little more of a history book approach and a longer period will be covered. I will take a thematic chapter approach this time to hopefully aid continuity over a big episode covering nearly seven years of events.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Previously, on Blut und Schlacht by March 938 CE, the young Russian Emperor and Fylkir Styrbjörn had led the realm into feudalism. His main concern was to start ‘building upwards’ in his home counties, to develop a strong retinue and levy and (eventually) a larger tax base. The only one of his many vassals that was already feudal at this time was Jarl Bertil II, the powerful leader of Flanders. Until the others began to adopt the same form of government, there would be a degree of political friction with the other vassals, along with two ambitions brothers and their factions and sundry other political troublemakers. A strong personal army would help to deter any violence or, if it came, to have a fair chance to defeat any rebels. And with a busy raiding program envisaged to fund an ambitious building (and bribery) program, a stronger Imperial raiding force would also be useful.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Part 1: Council and Legal Matters

Having taken advice from his counsellors and the Þing, Styrbjörn looked to bring his holdings back into ‘acceptable’ limits, due to the creation of three new temples and four cities in his personal demesne after the conversion to feudalism.

The Dowager Empress (and former Seer) Ingrid took one temple, the Steward Åke (himself an accomplished scholar) another and the third went to the current Seer, Kolbjörn. This meant for now, Styrbjörn held on to the four newly founded cities directly, despite them being ‘the wrong holding type’.
Ch 115 Q1: Holding Cities. Given it will be a while before I can build new baronies in the home counties and province conquests/revocations are also not planned for now, I decided to hold onto these despite them being the ‘wrong type’, despite the 75% (I believe from the Wiki) income penalty. I didn’t know/couldn’t be fussed trying to work out whether this was better or worse than giving them to direct vassals and taxing them instead. But if anyone has any advice on whether I should divest these or wait until something better comes along to fill the demesne, it would be most welcome.
At this time, the Imperial Council was an almost even mix of pragmatists and glory-seekers, but the Emperor was banking on the recent temple grants bring the Steward and Seer into the loyalist camp.


In seven years, just three more vassals would would adopt feudalism: Jarl Barid of Småland in April 938, Chief Falki of Hlymrek in November 940 and then the more powerful Jarl Rikulfr II ‘Ironside’ of Austergautland in February 944.
Ch 115 Q2: Vassals Feudalising. Anything much I can do to encourage them or speed the process up? Other than building stone forts for them? Or do I just wait and expect it to take a lot of time?
In legal matters, Styrbjörn would have to rein for ten years (in each major jurisdiction) before he could even consider options for changing Imperial or Kingdom inheritance laws. This aspect would ultimately be referred to the Þing in 944.

In terms of realm laws, a move to medium centralisation would be desirable in the longer term, but given demesne size was not a pressing problem as yet, the next change would be to increase noble taxes at the expense of levy demands. But that change would need to wait until March 939.

As advised by the recent Þing, the Emperor looked to dissolve the Novgorodian Band in December 938. With only around 6.5 gold per annum being remitted from their Captain, Murad, it was clear the drain on levy strength back in the home counties was simply not worth it. But Styrbjörn discovered he could not do so while he had standing troops raised – which he did at the time, out raiding. It would have to wait for the raiders’ return to Flanders.

March 939 allowed the Emperor to put his law change to the Council – there were no objections and the proposal was passed on 11 April 939.


But an unexpected Council vacancy had come up at this time, while the tax bill was being considered by the Council. Seer Kolbjörn inherited the Chiefdom of Romny from his father, when old Hakon the Repulsive, passed away quietly, but this took him away from the Imperial Court, making him a direct vassal of Jarl Helgi of Belo Ozero.


By then, Kolbjörn had become one of the three pragmatists who had all become loyalists of the Emperor’s faction. Wishing to ensure the loyalists remained strong, especially as his law change was being considered, Styrbjörn appointed the Dowager Empress, Ingrid, as Seeress. It was an interim appointment as she was now of advanced years and suffering from gout, but she did indeed become a loyal Council members to her step-son.


Steward Åke, an equally competent (and loyal) scholar, was made physician. The other candidate was none other than the Emperor’s old childhood captor, Jarl Kezhevat: but Styrbjörn liked him far less than the jarl liked his Emperor. And at that time Kezhevat's resume for the physician’s job was most unimpressive!

Ingrid’s tenure as Seeress did indeed prove fairly short: she died in May 940, to be replaced by another loyal Godi, Seer Hysing of Jamborg.


Council and legal matters would then remain relatively uneventful for the next few years.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Part 2: Factions and Politics

A considerable slice of the Emperor’s attention in these years was devoted to keeping an eye on the many factional power plays that characterised the early years of his reign. Especially after the change of the Empire to feudalism, which as we have seen was slow to catch on with the Jarls and Chiefs of the realm. He intervened regularly in an attempt to keep them from growing (or staying) too powerful.

In March 938, immediately after the adoption of feudalism in Russia, there were two factions considered to be especially dangerous: the Independence faction led by Jarl Bertil II and his half-brother Gorm’s faction promoting him for the Imperial crown itself (even though he wasn’t a member himself). Tolir’s similar faction was led by him, but (unlike the other two) lacked Bertil’s powerful support.


Money and positions were distributed to try to keep these lords in line. Gorm was given a vacant hirdman appointment, just to keep him happy. Tolir's better opinion was easily enough bought off with a little gold, but Bertil’s price was far higher. However, given his power and membership of the two most dangerous factions, it was deemed worth the price.


Bertil soon left Gorm’s faction, rendering it harmless. Though shortly after that, two minor new factions were founded advocating for elective succession in the Empire and in Garðariki. Of these, the powerful and active Jarl Sumarliði of Sarkel was the more significant, but not yet dangerous. And as Styrbjörn’s relative power grew, the threat of the Independence faction gradually receded.

In May 938, Chancellor Grimr was sent to Brabant to ply his considerable diplomatic talents on Bertil, who Styrbjörn definitely wanted inside his tent. This would prove the beginning of a long and ultimately fruitful mission. May also saw Chief Kalle of Ingria join the elective faction for Garðariki [now up to about 25% strength], but it remained a fairly low level threat, which the Emperor continued to watch but ignore.

After a period of political calmness over the summer, August and September 938 brought a flurry of factional moves. Gorm joined the Independence faction on 8 August, making it temporarily very dangerous again. He was bribed on 9 August and had left the faction again by 7 September! Sumarliði, both a member of the Independence faction and leader (sole member) of the Russian Elective group was sent a small remittance on 7 September, which at least induced him to disband the elective faction a week later. But soon after, Bodil of Lithuania decided Sviþjod should have elective succession – she was a powerful player, but without other members it was another group that could be ignored for now.


Jarl Barid revived the Russian elective faction in January 939, but it was also too weak [10.3%] to worry about. By February 939, the Independence Faction still had three members, including Jarl Bertil, but its relative support was waning [down to 76.2%]. Then on 27 February, Grimr reported he had improved relations with Bertil [now up to +55 opinion] and would continue to work on him.

By 31 May, the factional situation was well under control. After a bribe on 27 March, Falki had left as Independence leader by 6 April. Bertil was briefly in charge, but he also left on 25 April. Sumarliði of Sarkel was the last out the door on 31 May: all the financial and diplomatic work of the last year had proved quite effective.


Grimr would have further diplomatic success with Jarl Bertil on 17 July 939 and then 19 March 941, by which time he had become one of Styrbjörn’s most loyal vassals. On 23 January 941, Tolir had left his own faction, which now only had Jarl Rikulfr a member and leader [only 6.4% power]. Gorm’s faction remained the strongest at that time [78.3% power].

More moves in January and February of that year saw another shift, when a surprise succession in Sviþjod saw the fearsome Jarl Bragi replaced by his brother, the new Jarl Totil. As will be discussed briefly later, Bragi had been fighting an internal claim war against Jarl Rikulfr II, but was slain by him in personal combat on 15 February 941. Totil was initially pushy and immediately joined Tolir’s Russia faction.


But he was appointed to his Bragi’s vacated Council Advisor and hirdman positions, which soon had him feeling much happier. Rikulfr himself was now leader of both Gorm’s and Tolir’s factions – so he too was offered a cash gift in early February.


Then Tolir was appointed to the vacant Lawspeaker position on 18 February and Rikulfr left both his faction head positions between 19 February and 17 March, the latter causing Tolir’s faction to disband. But Styrbjörn’s brother must have felt put out by this, as he re-founded it himself less than a week later! The Independence faction seemed to just have a couple of nobodies in it – their influence wasn’t even enough to register.

Factional politics then settled down somewhat, with little changing over the next few years. By early 944, most of the factions had only minor support, with the strongest – 'Jarl Tolir for Russia' – still with only Tolir himself as a member.


Even though Jarl Sumarliði of Sarkel re-joined the Independence faction in September 944, it still posed no immediate threat [35.4%].

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Part 3: Vassal Wars

No formal wars were declared by or on Styrbjörn from March 938 to February 945, though he actively raided. But, as had been the case in the past, his more powerful vassals were active, sometimes fighting external countries for territorial gain, sometimes each other or subordinates over competing claims. Styrbjörn was happy enough for all these activities to go on: if they were fighting others, they weren’t fighting him. In many cases, they brought allies into the fight, but those details are not critical and largely lost to history, so with a few exceptions are not detailed below.

High Chieftess Bodil of Lithuania, while a powerful lord, continued to pick difficult targets for her ambitions. She lost an existing conquest war against Poland for Zemgale on 20 April 938. She tried again for Oleshye against Khan Yerneslu the Liberator of Khazaria, starting on 21 May 941. But despite Jarl Helgi joining her effort a month later, she was ultimately forced to concede defeat after more than three years of fighting, on 29 August 944.

Similarly, on 16 June 938 the ever-ambitious Jarl Bertil II ‘the Devil’ of Brabant (Flanders) had launched a war to conquer Holland from Count Philipp of Kleve. The effort had failed less than a year later, Bertil giving up his attempt on 12 May 940. He would make no further forays during the period.

Another of the many wars started by Styrbjörn’s vassals in 938 was by Jarl Oddr II ‘the Young’ of Vestergautland, when on 13 July he declared a Holy War for Mari on Khan Kopti of Cumania. His quest was ultimately successful, gaining Mari for himself and the Empire on 15 September 942.

Jarl Sumarliði of Sarkel had acquired the county of the same name by conquest in early 938. He was ready to fight again by 8 September 938, this time seeking to conquer Tana (where the Don River flows into the Azov Sea) from the Child Queen Rosa of Bulgaria. He was successful on 1 October 941, immediately setting up a trade post on this western terminus of the Silk Road. Sumarliði sought to extend his demesne further on 19 April 944 with a Holy War for Don-Portage against its Chief, Kalojan. But he was late to the game, with one of Jarl Tryggve’s Chiefs, Örvar of Khopyor, beating him to the prize on 20 September that same year. Either way, two more southern counties on the Don River had been added to the Empire.

Not to be outdone, Jarl Tryggve of Ryazan (the unready de Normandie brother) declared a conquest of the Azov Sea coastal county of Tmutarakan from King Shota the Frail of Georgia on 26 October 939. He had won this war less than two years later, incorporating it into his Jarldom and the Empire on 29 May 941. This now gave Russia two ports on the Azov (and thus the Black) Sea. This would prove very handy not too long afterwards.

Quickly following his war against Georgia was Tryggve’s attempt to revoke Kolomna from his own vassal Chief Urho, which started on 24 July 941. But this time, Tryggve’s brother and frequent opponent Jarl Refil (the drunken de Normandie) took advantage, hoping to recover some lost territory by declaring a claim war for Ryazan, Vladimir and Moramar on 19 August 941. Unfortunately for Refil, Tryggve eventually conceded defeat to Urho on his failed revocation bid on 5 September 942, allowing him to concentrate on his brother. Refil’s latest bid for revenge ended in defeat on 13 October 943.

Earlier, the Emperor’s half-brother Jarl Gorm had launched a Holy War on Queen Iva of Bulgaria (another child queen) for Galich on 3 April 940. He was making progress, but the Bulgarian Revolt which had been making his task easier eventually thwarted him, when Prince Antal of Bulgaria won on 6 April 942, deposing the Queen and voiding the casus belli, leading to an inconclusive result. The next year, Gorm chanced his hand against Khan Kopti the Conqueror of Cumania on 3 July 943 in a Holy War for the remainder of Ugra (Zyriane and Kerzhenets). By February 945, Gorm was on top, having occupied both those counties [war score +27%]. If he could win, it would link his isolated eastern ‘Bulgarian’ territories with the rest of the Empire.

By 23 January 941, an internal war between Jarl Bragi ‘the Oppressor’ of Sviþjod and Jarl Rikulfr II ‘Ironside’ of Vestergautland had been in progress for some time. Jarl Bragi was comfortably winning his de-jure war against Rikulfr for Medelpad [62%]. Along with Jarl Bertil, he was also aiding Jarl Oddr’s ultimately successful Holy War for Mari (discussed above). At this point, Styrbjörn’s brother, who now had holdings in Sweden and styled himself Jarl Tolir ‘the Chaste’ of Bergslagen, began his own de jure war over Vestmannaland against Jarl Bragi.

As we saw earlier, disaster struck the hitherto invincible Bragi when he fell in personal combat against Rikulfr less than a month later, on 15 February 941. But Tolir’s war continued against Bragi’s brother and successor Jarl Totil (who, bizarrely, briefly joined the Tolir for Russia faction the day his brother fell, leaving it four days later). As did the Sviþjod war for Medelpad, but that was lost to Rikulfr on 28 January 944, another three bloody years later. In February 945, Tolir’s war against Totil for Vestmannaland still dragged on, with Tolir on top [+75% war score]. The fortunes of the Jarldom of Sviþjod had taken a surprising turn, with its star seemingly now on the wane.

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Part 4: Family and Personal Affairs

The period was an active one for Emperor Styrbjörn and the Rurikid dynasty. From May 938 onwards, the Rurikid scroll trove began recording the Emperor’s poetry, which was apparently quite in demand in following years. At home, the Emperor’s focus on family values was clear, developing a close relationship with his children, especially young Crown Prince Eilif.


Styrbjörn’s own ambitions were reviewed in early 939, when he celebrated five years of peace and prosperity for the Empire. Hopefully, this would lead to incrementally increased general prosperity throughout the Empire. With few choices to hand, he looked to build a large treasury, though the voracious demands of his post-feudalisation building program (more below) would probably preclude its fulfilment for some years to come. Perhaps he might try for it seriously when there were enough taxes being collected to make the war taxes on achievement worthwhile.


Empress Ulfhildr ‘the Unfaithful’ had, as far as Styrbjörn knew, been true since her previous indiscretion. There were no suspicions voiced when her pregnancy was confirmed on 28 January 940. On 28 August, the Emperor’s second daughter, Ingfrid, was born and would be educated in the ways of thrift.

The personal diary of the Empress noted how devoted the heir Crown Prince Eilif and his younger brother (the ‘spare’) Prince Sigurðr were to each other. It boded well for a better relationship than some previous (and current) Rurikid siblings had with each other!


More worrying for the Emperor was a bout of sickness he suffered in mid-941. It started with a headache – but these things could rapidly worsen into something nastier. He had only recently appointed the new court physician, Godi (and trusted Steward) Åke to the position. And he was certainly glad of it: the whole episode was expertly treated and resolved satisfactorily within a couple of weeks.


As a father, Styrbjörn took an active interest in the education of his children. His eldest child Aleta came of age on 28 June 941. She finished as a passable schemer, though her strongest suit was in martial skills. Her father was in no hurry as yet to arrange a marriage.


And when his second son Prince Sigurðr turned twelve in August 944, it was decided he should apply himself to philosophical and religious learning.

Empress Ulfhildr became pregnant on 28 December 941 – but in the coming months, the Emperor’s personal life would prove to be rather more complicated than before. Just a month later, the notorious and aptly named Chief Sörkver the Lewd was discovered attempting to seduce the Emperor’s teen-aged daughter. Styrbjörn believed he had headed things off before they went any further, but was furious at the filthy old lecher – who was over 50 years her elder! The randy old swine.


Better news came in June 942, when the Emperor’s (as yet only) concubine Beata af Vitebsk became pregnant with what would be their first child together. Styrbjörn had periodically made searches for another concubine, but suitable and well-credentialled women or girls were hard to find, no matter how wide he cast his net.

It was in July 942, just a few weeks before their next child was due, that things started to get really difficult in the Imperial Household. Physician Åke would be a busy man for the next month and a half, when first the Empress fell ill and then their new daughter Ulfhildr (named after her mother) was born sickly and in danger of dying. But she survived, even though the Empress’ diagnosis was a grim one.


Straight after this tumultuous period, a somewhat controversial incident (among later Rurikid scholars – it was hushed up at the time) occurred. Many later thought Styrbjörn should have acted on his grievances against Jarl Kezhevat ‘the Fat’ and challenged him to holmgang when the opportunity arose. But with the Jarl a little crazy, the odds even and the Empire and his family’s welfare at stake, his diary recorded that he decided to let nature (or the grog) take Kezhevat’s life instead. Even though he was tempted: but his previous captor was ‘just not worth it’, he wrote. Whether this was prudent or lily-livered would be regularly debated by subsequent Rurikid historians.


Beata gave birth to Styrbjörn’s third son, Ingólfr, on an auspicious day: 1 January 943, ‘Foundation Day’ of the original Rurikid realm of Holmgarðr back in 867 CE. He would be raised in the ways of struggle. The Emperor’s other children were growing up: Crown Prince Eilif turned 12 on 29 May 943 and the wilful young man was directed to focus on the study of strategy and war.

Having not learned his lessons (he was no doubt incapable of doing so) in April 944 Sörkver the Lewd was next discovered trying to seduce the Emperor’s half-sister Hafrid. Perhaps I should have started marrying them off after all, noted Styrbjörn in his diary. But he was generally wary of allowing other rulers the opportunity to pursue an Imperial claim and had no pressing alliance ventures in mind.

Sörkver kept chasing Hafrid, and they were discovered by the Emperor himself in flagrante delicto some months later. Not long after Sörkver had sired a daughter on another of the Emperor’s relatives (his bastard half-sister Beata) in mid-May! Not wanting another public scandal involving his family, but not wanting the old lecher (now 70 years old) to get off scot free, Styrbjörn extorted the old goat instead. The small amount of coin was worth more to Styrbjörn than its face value. Even if Sörkver did call him a ‘soft pirate’ and make gruesome (or perhaps perverted) threats! He will be called to the underworld soon enough, surely! was the Emperor’s diary note on the matter.


As the year 945 began, the Emperor had a growing family, a sick but still living wife, a healthy concubine and a chequered private life, haunted by an ex-captor and an old womaniser trying to single-handedly ravish a good number of his close female relatives!

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Part 5: Raids and Other Military Developments

5A: Russian Maritime Raids – 938 to 943 CE

Styrbjörn actively raided throughout the period, always looking for more money to fuel the growth of his recently feudalised home demesne. The latest raid began on 21 March 938, with old Sverker the Siege Master being brought in to run that aspect for the raids (none being available from other realms), while Barid took over as Marshal. Around 2,700 men set out from Zeeland in Flanders, while five ships were sent back to Ingria to pick up the 500 newest members of the Imperial Guard (retinue) who were now at full strength. The new target would be the riches of Tunis, currently held by King Luigi ‘the Just’ of Sardinia and Corsica.

[Note: the various maritime raiding routes taken in this period are summarised at the end of this sub-section.]

On 7 May, the two new Guard companies (a total of 200 heavy infantry, 200 light cavalry, 50 archers and 50 heavy cavalry) embarked from Ingria and set out on the long voyage to Tunis.

The raid of Tunis began on 3 August 938 with a siege of the barony of Tunis. The 500 Guard reinforcements arrived on 24 October 938, increasing the raiders’ strength to 3,200. They would reduce the castle of Tunis, city of Sousse, bishopric of Ariana, barony of Carthage, city of Zaghouan and barony of Ben Arous in succession. Around 600 Sardinian troops eventually watched them go about their business, but never intervened. By the time the raiders left on 18 September 939, they had lost almost 500 men (in net terms) during the five sieges, while the fleet contained almost 390 gold in loot.

The next stop was Sardinia itself, where no opposition was expected. The plan was to raid the countryside until the fleet was full to capacity then head back to Zeeland. This they did after losing around 230 more men in Sardinia, as they plundered the countryside of Ogliastra and Arboréa.


After their return to Zeeland, the remaining Imperial demesne levies (now only around 150 men in total) were dismissed so that the Novgorodian Band could finally be dissolved, which it was on 11 April 940. Old Emperor Eilif’s first command as a young man and ‘spare heir’ of Rurik was finally no more. Styrbjörn took the opportunity to raise two new Guard companies – back in Holmgarðr. Once recruiting was finished, another 400 Heavy infantry and 100 archers (two shock companies) would be added to the Imperial Guard. Again, a small fleet was sent back to pick them up.

It was decided, while waiting for them, that a small raid would be risked nearby. With just 1,700 men (the Guard and some Brabantian vassal levies still under arms from previous raids started under Eilif) sailing to the old target of Breizh. They set out on 4 May 940 and had landed in Kernev on 18 June. But when they did, they got a very nasty surprise. They discovered a sizable Breizhan army was already closing in on them from Domnonia and would arrive before they could either get back onto the ships or have their morale recover from the voyage. Outnumbered on all flanks, the raiders fled the battle as soon as they could, but by the time the pursuit to the ships was over, they had lost 144 men for only 7 gold. Not a complete bloodbath, but inglorious nonetheless.


Tails between their legs, they slunk back into Zeeland on 10 August. Meanwhile, back home, Styrbjörn had discovered his kinder side, making him a more respected diplomat, at least. When up to full strength, the Guard retinue would number 1,700 seasoned warriors in a reasonably well-balanced force. But they were still well under that target, given new recruiting and recent losses.


After a few months, it was decided that the remaining vassal levies in Flanders would be released (Bertil was starting to get a little impatient under the new feudal administration) and the rest of the Guard return to the Motherland: they set out out 9 October 940. A larger raiding force was needed for the next adventure. The raiders made it to Kexholm on 30 November. A border conquest on one of the Finnish counties – preferably Uusimaa, the ‘missing link’ between the Swedish and Russian territories – was hoped for, but by early 941 the two defensive pacts against Styrbjörn remained almost watertight, except for Poland and in the east.


After waiting a few more months for an opportunity that never arose, Styrbjörn’s main personal levies (just over 2,000 men in total) were called out on 19 May 941. They and the Guard would once more invoke the sacred raiding toggle and boarded ship for their next raiding adventure in the Gulf of Finland on 18 July with 3,400 men.

In the interim, old Sverker had disappeared (perhaps died quietly or was disabled – no record could be found of his end) and a new Siege Master was found – another Sverker, this time a 38-year-old commander from Sviþjod. He joined the court on 6 August 941 and would duly assist the raiders in their siege duties when the time came.

The raiders had hoped to strike Morocco – a rich area, but in this case too well defended for it to be worthwhile. With consumption rife in southern Italy, the raiders made for Sardinia once more. But this time, when they arrived offshore in December 941, they discovered King Luigi had hired over 7,500 mercenaries to help in some wars he was fighting at the time. This risk was therefore also avoided.

But Cismonte in northern Corsica, part of Karling King Gacco’s much reduced Kingdom of Italy, looked ripe for the picking. The raid leader, Velmayka, landed in Cismonte on 1 January 942. The holding of Ajaccio fell on 28 May, Bastia on 28 July and Bonifacio on 15 September. By 5 November 942 the last treasure had been gouged out of the county: Velmayka then set off to Rome, which was still just clear of the consumption ravaging southern Italy.


The raiders kept a wary eye on a large force two provinces to the north under King Klas of Latium. They should have time enough to scourge the countryside and reduce the first holding of Rome itself and would have warning of any approach by the enemy. It wasn’t until 6 January 943 that Klas was spotted heading their way. Rome was successfully sacked on 9 January, adding another 84 gold to the treasure trove on the fleet, which now amounted to 371 of its 440 gold capacity. The raiders headed for the ships with 3,325 men still under arms – siege losses in Cismonte and Rome had been light.

The raiders next made for Crete to top up the haul in the Byzantine county of Gortyn, which they had done by 14 September without any further losses, heading home to the southern port of Tmutarakan, on the Sea of Azov, acquired by Jarl Tryggve in 941.


5a: Land-based Raids – 942 to 944 CE

As the maritime raid of Cismonte and Rome was going on, Karelian raiders once again infested Russian lands, striking the Imperial demesne county of Ladoga. Most other raids on Russian vassals were ignored by the central government, but this endangered the Emperor’s own holdings. With the Imperial Guard and levy off raiding, the nearest large vassal levy available for call-up was a regiment of around 350 men from Jarl Helgi’s demesne, who mustered in Zaozerye on 30 November 942. They set off straight away to attack the 325 Karelian raiders.
In my haste to get them to Ladoga before the main holding fell and distracted with the main raid, what I didn’t register at the time was their 0% morale on mustering – this would prove a problem given the relatively short march to Ladoga gave them little time to prepare.
Despite a small advantage in numbers, the Belo Ozeran levies were not yet fully ready for combat when they attacked the Karelians on 14 January 943. By 3 February they had been defeated, losing 59 men against only 19 raiders. That day, as the Belo Ozerans fled east, a little over 500 more vassal levies from Smaleskja and Ryazan were called to gather in Holmgarðr – revenge would be administered. But the sacking of Ladoga’s tribal hold could not be prevented, which fell on 25 March. The Karelians moved onto Zaozerye next.

It wasn’t until 9 August that a unified Russian force – including the now rallied Belo Ozerans – confronted the Karelians in Zaozerye. Victory was won on 26 August, the Russians (commanded by Jarl Gorm) losing just 12 of their 847 men, while the Karelians suffered 67 out of 308 killed. Their raid was over – but Styrbjörn had more pain in store for the impudent Finns.

The Russians gathered a few more men in Zaozerye and on 4 October 943 invoked the sacred raiding toggle themselves. They began the march north to nearby Ååninen, from where the latest raiders had emerged. They were undisturbed and took the tribal fort on 13 April 944. While only 7.5 gold was taken, it produced a trove of hostages – 12 women and children in all, seven of whom were ransomed back to Chief Tuure over coming weeks and months for a total of another 86 gold.

When the third maritime raid finished in Tmutarakan in late October 943, a nearby opportunity was spotted – the bordering coastal county of Abkhazia was controlled at that time by the Georgian Revolt. They had an army of 1,142 men nearby, fighting the Georgian King, but by that time the Russian raiding party had rested and grown back to 3,410 in strength. They marched off on 2 December to begin a border raid, where the money could be sent back home directly.

On 25 December, a small troop of defenders was given a ‘Viking Christmas present’ by Velmayka, who had killed all 42 of them by 1 January 944, settling in to loot the countryside and besiege the local holdings. Abaatha was taken after a lengthy siege on 28 June, yielding 73 gold, followed by Tskoumi on 29 August for 87 gold. Pitsunda was overcome on 28 October, for another 64.5 gold, after which the raiders returned to Tmutarakan for some rest and recovery, having lost some 585 troops during the Abkhazian sieges. They were ready to sail again on 1 February 945 with 3,236 troops and began boarding the ships – for a destination yet to be determined.


Russian maritime raiding voyages, March 938 to October 943.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Part 6: Buildings and the Economy

The new buildings purchased from March 938 to February 945 are summarised on the map below. All purchases were for the capital castles in each of the four Imperial demesne counties. As yet, the newly formed cities in each had no improvements made. An initial program of four new buildings was started straight after feudalisation on 21 March 938. Around this time, the cost of founding a new barony was 613 gold in Holmgarðr, which for now was considered a little too expensive. Existing holdings would be improved first. More buildings were begun intermittently in following years, with some larger scale programs when a major raid treasure fleet docked, such as in November 943 after the third maritime raid returned.

In May 939, the tax collectors of Ladoga reported its economy was now flourishing. The following year, Styrbjörn decided to let the Empress, who (as we have seen) seemed to have been faithful since her earlier unfortunate scandal. This resulted in higher tax takes for the next five years and a lasting feeling of contentment for the Emperor.


In mid-941, a suggestion from Jarl Helgi and a small investment in messenger stations made the capital province a little more efficient and prosperous.




New and current building projects in Russia, March 938 to February 945. In this time, a total of 1,588.8 gold was spent on new buildings for the four baronies in the Imperial demesne. * indicates the Steward was present, speeding construction.


Imperial demesne castle infrastructure as at 1 February 945.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Part 7: Religion

The seven or so years following the adoption of feudalism by the Imperial government of Russia saw a continued steady spread of Germanicism throughout its lands. ‘Spontaneous’ local conversions took place in Pronsk (May 938), Wolgast (October 939), Connacht (May 942), Sarkel (January 943), Chortitza (February 943) and Gorodez (February 944). Styrbjörn’s successive Imperial Seers also actively proselytised throughout this time, with Kolbjörn converting Kexholm in November 938, Ingrid doing the same in Vitebsk in March 939 and Hysing bringing Bryansk into Odin’s light in October 940.

By February 945, Germanicism dominated the Russian heartland.



ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Part 8: Council of 1 February 945

As another raid set out into the Black Sea at the start of February 945 CE, Emperor Styrbjörn, Fylkir of the Germanic Faith, had stabilised his reign and begun to build his key holdings into a true stronghold amid the primitive Russian heartland. His troop holdings were once more strong and the quality of those troops improved, with a greater proportion of heavy infantry and cavalry now deployed, and not just in the Imperial Guard. He had over 450 gold to spend and his prestige had never been higher.


His income was growing, but this was only a beginning. With only four vassals following feudalism so far, most of the realm remained poor. Raiding would remain a mainstay for some time yet.

“My first question for the Þing relates to finances,” the Emperor said that evening as he addressed a special Imperial Council meeting. “I’d like their advice on whether I should keep some or all of the new cities and whether I should now begin to develop them given the realm seems reasonably secure.”
Ch 115 Q3: Economics. The earlier question on keeping some, all or none of the cities is now due. And should I plough money into them, keep spending it on the existing baronies, or save a bit more to create a new one? Given economics is now a key part of Russia’s next phase as a feudal realm – and noting advice already received at the last Þing – any advice on timings and priorities at this stage would be very welcome.
“I also wish to revisit the matter of potential legal reform,” continued Styrbjörn as the Council took notes. “Grimr has explained the technicalities to me, building on advice from previous Þings. Of the three principal realms – the Empire and the kingdoms of Garðariki and Sviþjod – Garðariki is the only one where I have current options to change the law.”


“Of the changes available, I’m not really keen on going back to elective gavelkind or adopting either seniority or elective monarchy succession. I can’t see how they improve on our current gavelkind. I wonder whether primogeniture inheritance would be especially good for Sviþjod when it can be managed, as well as for the Empire itself, to keep my demesne titles concentrated under a single heir. Especially if I can add a few new ones later. Also, is there anything we can do now - other than deploying you to spy on Constantinople, Helgi - to boost learning in the realm, to bring advances on legalism and therefore administration more quickly?”
Ch 115 Q4: Realm Succession Laws, Learning. Much value in considering subordinate kingdom law changes? I’m thinking not yet. For tech, I see monastic schools for temples and universities for cities can be built, though the latter are very expensive indeed and will take a very long time to build.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Questions

Ch 115 Q1: Holding Cities. Given it will be a while before I can build new baronies in the home counties and province conquests/revocations are also not planned for now, I decided to hold onto these despite them being the ‘wrong type’, despite the 75% (I believe) income penalty. I didn’t know/couldn’t be fussed trying to work out whether this was better or worse than giving them to direct vassals and taxing them instead. But if anyone has any advice on whether I should divest these or wait until something better comes along to fill the demesne, it would be most welcome.

Ch 115 Q2: Vassals Feudalising. Anything much I can do to encourage them or speed the process up? Other than building stone forts for them? Or do I just wait and expect it to take a lot of time?

Ch 115 Q3: Economics. The earlier question on keeping some, all or none of the cities is now due. And should I plough money into them, keep spending it on the existing baronies, or save a bit more to create a new one? Given economics is now a key part of Russia’s next phase as a feudal realm – and noting advice already received at the last Þing – any advice on timings and priorities at this stage would be very welcome.

Ch 115 Q4: Realm Succession Laws, Learning. Much value in considering subordinate kingdom law changes? I’m thinking not yet. For tech, I see monastic schools for temples and universities for cities can be built, though the latter are very expensive indeed and will take a very long time to build.
 
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All in all a fairly relaxed few years, despite the somewhat irritating romantic shenanigans going on. Reminds me a little of Gilles the Lecher from Before Plantagenet
 
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Love the faster pace history book style!!! Love the thematic groupings!! Styrbjörn's 0 intrigue terrifies me. Well-handled faction busting! Did anyone give you the chance to use attempt arrest - crush revolt - revoke title? Does the 4 of 42 refer to only 4 direct vassals (county or greater) or 4 feudal direct vassals? With money in short supply, I would give the towns to others and let them use their money to develop them. Change all inheritance laws at same time. Thank you for writing and please be safe.
 
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Ah, its good to see the ck2 UI again. I will miss this game not being in the spotlight I think.
 
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All in all a fairly relaxed few years, despite the somewhat irritating romantic shenanigans going on. Reminds me a little of Gilles the Lecher from Before Plantagenet
Yes, for the first time in the realm’s history, the insistent drumbeat of geographical expansion for a specific kingdom or empire building aim has been muted. And while I would like to tidy up the slightly border gory bits in Finland, the pagan pact stayed very solid during this time. And elsewhere, in the south and east, as before the Jarls did a little border expansion of their own. So raiding, building, and wearing down the early-reign, post-feudal factions became the big priorities.

And yes, I too was reminded of some of the arch-lechers of Before Plantagenet when Sorkver’s exploits became so obviously notorious! :D
Love the faster pace history book style!!! Love the thematic groupings!!
Glad you do! I think it works better than a diary approach when tackling a longer period with such well-defined themes of gameplay.
Styrbjörn's 0 intrigue terrifies me.
It‘s a bit of a worry, but no-one seems to be plotting against him directly... :oops:
Well-handled faction busting! Did anyone give you the chance to use attempt arrest - crush revolt - revoke title?
Thanks. No, none at all. It was all factions, not plots, so I couldn’t directly ask any of them to stop. The great majority of the plotters started with a positive (even if only slightly in some cases) opinion of Styrbjorn. And at that time, I was actively avoiding anything that might provoke a rebellion or conflict with the vassals. Relative strengths are becoming more favourable now, though, so some opportunities may arise. Especially if it looks like I can get close to primo succession, so any gains made can be held onto by an heir.
Does the 4 of 42 refer to only 4 direct vassals (county or greater) or 4 feudal direct vassals?
Four direct vassals, out of a maximum allowable total of 42. Iirc, he currently has 24 direct vassals.
With money in short supply, I would give the towns to others and let them use their money to develop them. Change all inheritance laws at same time. Thank you for writing and please be safe.
Thanks - you stay safe too. I’ll hold responses to the formal questions in the summary ‘Thing Post’. :)
Ah, its good to see the ck2 UI again. I will miss this game not being in the spotlight I think.
I suspect there will be a fair few ‘legacy’ or retro CK2 AARs going for a while yet. And yes, it doesn’t have the dark dungeon-chic vibe of the new CK3 UI.
 
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suspect there will be a fair few ‘legacy’ or retro CK2 AARs going for a while yet. And yes, it doesn’t have the dark dungeon-chic vibe of the new CK3 UI.
I have lancaster to get back to after the end of reviewing CK3, and I'll probably love it quite a bit. Looking at reading stats though, CK3 seems to be my ballpark, at least for now. So should probably do some more there. It certainly seems, as odd as it sounds, that I'll run out the game clock for my first ck3 game, something I've never accomplished in ck2 ever.
 
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It looks like Styrbjörn will manage a very successful feudalization, thanks to the raiding income keeping his vassals happy and his demesne improving. Looks like that content man is just what Russia needed - unlike some other people who shall not be named.

Even Hakon's death was annoying for the empire. The man was truly a thorn in the main line's side.

Ch 115 Q1: Holding Cities. Given it will be a while before I can build new baronies in the home counties and province conquests/revocations are also not planned for now, I decided to hold onto these despite them being the ‘wrong type’, despite the 75% (I believe) income penalty. I didn’t know/couldn’t be fussed trying to work out whether this was better or worse than giving them to direct vassals and taxing them instead. But if anyone has any advice on whether I should divest these or wait until something better comes along to fill the demesne, it would be most welcome.
Ch 115 Q3: Economics. The earlier question on keeping some, all or none of the cities is now due. And should I plough money into them, keep spending it on the existing baronies, or save a bit more to create a new one? Given economics is now a key part of Russia’s next phase as a feudal realm – and noting advice already received at the last Þing – any advice on timings and priorities at this stage would be very welcome.
Personally, I always give wrong holdings away. Not because I did the math, but to get rid of the alert. :p
Styrbjörn holding on to them slows down their development as the mayors won't improve the cities themselves, but I can't say if the little additional income is worth it. Intuitively, I'd say no, as you can raid.

As a bonus information, if you wish to assign a new mayor, you can right-click the holding and simply give it to a random character. And speaking of cities and income, it is definitely worth it to create a pet merchant republic - if you conquer a coastal duchy at some point, giving it to a mayor. The prince mayor will dislike you most of the time, but offers plenty of tax.

Ch 115 Q2: Vassals Feudalising. Anything much I can do to encourage them or speed the process up? Other than building stone forts for them? Or do I just wait and expect it to take a lot of time?
It is fairly fast as long as their capitals share their religion and have stone forts, so focusing the proselytizing on these counties (though that doesn't look like being a problem) and building forts is all you can do.

Ch 115 Q4: Realm Succession Laws, Learning. Much value in considering subordinate kingdom law changes? I’m thinking not yet. For tech, I see monastic schools for temples and universities for cities can be built, though the latter are very expensive indeed and will take a very long time to build.
It may be an idea to also give Sviþjod to a loyal vassal and centralize the power. The benefit is that you'd have a powerful vassal. The problem is that you'd have a powerful vassal. But at least that powerful vassal won't have a claim on your titles, as Styrbjörn's secondary successor would have under gavelkind.
Garðariki, as your primary kingdom, doesn't actually need any law change. IIRC, it should go to your primary heir (as long as he's the firstborn), just as the screen indicates.

As for tech, there's mainly the good old CK II method of buying a residence in Constantinople for your spymaster, in use for many, many generations; there's the title bonus and your learning skill, small advances from buildings, random events, and - most useful - the scholar focus.
Not only does it improve your learning - build an observatory, go for something strange out there, buy the book. There may be side effects.
 
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THE BOOK is scary! It makes Dracula a child's bedtime story! But, everybody should own THE BOOK once.
 
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Stargazing did work quite well for Rurik. It was the torture in Italy (the Nutcracker Suite) that sent him mad o_O
 
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