CK3 Dev Diary #5 - Schemes, Secrets and Hooks

CK3 Dev Diary #5 - Schemes, Secrets and Hooks

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Voffvoffhunden

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Greetings, dear would-be kings and queens!

I’m Voffvoffhunden (also known as Petter on the discord or even in private life), one of the game’s content designers. Most people probably haven’t seen me around a lot, since I’ve been working on CK3 in secret since the release of HoI4. It’s been a long journey, but it’s been fun to see the game develop and grow over time, and it’s even more fun now that we get to talk about it to all of you! Today, said talking will be about a handful of new features that together cover some of the most important parts of the Crusader Kings experience. So where better to start than with murder?

We’ve all been there. A united Scandinavia is within your grasp, if only it hadn’t been for your meddling siblings! In CK2, these kinds of problems were handled with the gentle application of the “Murder Plot”, as it was popularly called. That system has been expanded and replaced with our brand new Scheme system!

For Crusader Kings 3, we wanted a system that was slightly easier to predict while keeping it unreliable in its outcome, so that murder remains an… option, rather than a safe bet. We also wanted to reduce the number of agents that you need, to make it more valuable to focus on a few candidates close to the victim, rather than having to send messengers with bags of gold to every single courtier and vassal in the land.

All this is achieved through our new Scheme system, where you can use target a character with a Scheme in accordance with your plans, recruit Agents, build up your Scheme Success Chance, and finally achieve your goal. I’ll try to illustrate how it all works by referring to that most iconic of all Schemes: Murder.

ongoing murder scheme USABLE.PNG



By now, the progress bar might have caught your eye. Each month, a Scheme has a chance of progressing one step, with the odds determined by the Owner’s Scheme Power, and the Target’s Scheme Resistance. These two values are based on the relevant Skill (Intrigue in the case of Murder) but are also affected by Spymasters (in the case of Intrigue-type schemes), various modifiers, and of course - the Owner’s Agents. The closer a Murder Scheme’s Agents are to the Target (and the better their Intrigue), the more Scheme Power they add.

Once the Scheme has progressed 10 steps, it tries to execute. The chance of a successful outcome is determined by the Scheme’s Success Chance (which has a slightly different set of modifiers to Scheme Power), while its Secrecy is used to check whether you are discovered or not when you try to execute.

If you’ve gathered capable agents and you’re lucky enough to not get caught, that inheritance will be as good as yours!

As the Scheme's Owner, you are protected from discovery until you actually attempt to execute your scheme. This protection does not extend to your agents, however! And being discovered as a participant in a murder plot is rarely good for one’s reputation, or for one’s habit of seeing sunlight every day.

It is worth noting that when the existence of a Scheme is discovered in this way, its chance of success drops significantly, as the appointed victim makes every preparation possible to foil your plans.

On the other hand, perhaps you’re just not the murderous type? Thankfully the Scheme system is so flexible that it can be used for all manner of long-term interactions. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Seduction makes a return as a Scheme. Seduce does not use Agents in the way Murder does, and it’s not dangerous in the same way… unless your target happens to be married, that is. Achieving success - determined by things such as your skill at seduction, their sexual preference, and whether you get along whatsoever - can net you a new Lover.
I know where your minds are going at that thought, and yes - it’s a great way of acquiring Agents for your Murder Scheme!

Sway is another returning favourite that’s now a Scheme. Sway also doesn't use Agents but largely relies on your Diplomacy instead. It simply progresses towards its execution and then checks whether you successfully improve their opinion or not. Then it loops around and starts over, building up the target’s opinion of you until you stop it -- or commit some horrible diplomatic faux pas...

To add to the convenience, all characters can run one Hostile Scheme (such as murder) and one Personal Scheme (such as Seduction or Sway) at the same time. Unfortunately, you can only target a given character with a single scheme at a time, so you won’t be able to both murder and seduce the same person, just to see which one pays off sooner. You have to do one after the other.

Now, as I indicated earlier, trying to murder someone is usually illegal. (Fun fact: according to Paradox’s legal department this is also the case in real life.) However, if you’re not discovered when you do it, you’re off the hook, right? Not so! Let me introduce you to something that will change the way you nervously glance over your shoulder forever: Secrets!

hooks and secrets USABLE.PNG



Characters can acquire Secrets when they do something that is frowned upon or outright illegal. You want to keep your own Secrets close to your chest, while it can be of great benefit to uncover the Secrets of others. By sending your Spymaster to… well, spy, it’s possible to find out what is going on with your annoying vassals, your threatening neighbour, or even at your own court!

So what do you do when you discover a Secret? One possible course of action is to expose it for the world to see, of course! This will apply various effects depending on how serious the Secret is. Being the King’s secret lover will cause a scandal, being a Secret Deviant will leave you with the Deviant trait, while being exposed as a secret murderer is exactly the excuse your Liege has been waiting for to throw you in the dungeon. Not to mention those horrible Kinslaying penalties (“Hey, they’re my family, and I choose what to do with them, okay?”).

The other possible course of action ties into our new evolution of CK2’s Favors. This is now a generalised system called “Hooks”, which come in various flavours. Favors is one of these, while another might represent the loyalty that a House member owes to the House Head.

A Hook is used to force characters to do what you want them to, such as accepting marriage offers, changing your Feudal Contract, or forcing them to join your Scheme as an Agent…

forcing prince bishop to accept USABLE.png



There are Weak and Strong Hooks, where weak Hooks are used up once expended, while Strong Hooks only get a cooldown, ready to be used again later. The source of a Hook determines its strength, and the strongest Hooks come from Blackmailing someone over their most horrible secrets…

blackmail over incest USABLE.PNG



You might want to keep hold of a Hook once you have it, though, rather than spending it. Having a Hook on someone can prevent them from taking hostile actions towards you -- particularly useful when dealing with pesky vassals. Be warned, however. While having a strong Blackmail Hook on someone really gives you the upper hand, it will be lost if the Secret you are blackmailing over is exposed.

There are many types of Schemes, Secrets and Hooks in the game, and while it would be entirely possible to list them all, I think it would be way more fun for you to gradually discover them through future dev diaries or once the game is released.

Hopefully, it’s clear by now how everything I have talked about hangs together. Maybe you want to murder someone, so you need some Agents. However, no one wants to join, so you dig for Secrets that can be converted into Blackmail Hooks. Meanwhile, you’re running a Personal Scheme (such as Sway) to increase another potential Agent’s opinion of you, so that you can convince them that -- yes, their Liege really is that bad.

But what if everyone hates you (on account of all the murderin’) and you’re unable to find a single blackmail-worthy speck of dirt on anyone?

Well, in Crusader Kings 3 there might be something you can do about that…

Fabricate Hook teaser USABLE.PNG
 

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Mindel

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Is there any particular reason why a murder plot leader should be protected from discovery before attempting to execute an attempt? It doesn't seem realistic to be so safe just because you are still laying the trap.

I hope there will be a larger range of assassination attempt choices and outcomes, such as choosing when and how to do it, as well as having a chance of murdering the wrong target, etc.

It would be nice to be able to get personal retainers experienced in ``handling this business'' that you can send to foreign courts to carry out the attempt personally.
 
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Kingsleydale

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Haha just as I went to look as well, published a minute ago. Thanks.

Edit: Also this looks like a really good system.
 
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Mindel

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Can anyone attempt to seduce anyone, or do you have to be a homo/hetero match with the target?
 

Voigt

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Can you go public with a secret you have willingly, so other people loose their hook on you?
You just said, the hook will be lost, if the secret is exposed, but not if you can willing expose the secret ourself.

Also as another question: You said you can't seduce an murder the same person at once, but you would have it to in sequence... could we "seduce" a murdered person? A bit of Nekrophilia?
 

Mindel

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We need a torture session mechanic/event chain to use on plot supporters that you catch in your court post-murder, to find out the ringleader.
 

Hapchazzard

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This is amazing! Will secrets have reduced chances of being discovered if they were undiscovered for a long time after their origin/most of the original agents are dead or abroad? I'd argue it would make sense for a murder that was committed a year ago to have vastly higher chances of getting uncovered than a murder committed 30 years ago.

Also, I really hope Byz characters get some kind of palace coup plot. It seems it would work great with the new agent system.
 

Voffvoffhunden

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Can anyone attempt to seduce anyone, or do you have to be a homo/hetero match with the target?
The target has to have the possibility of being attracted to the Seducer for there being any chance of success. By default you can also only Seduce characters you could be attracted to.

Can you go public with a secret you have willingly, so other people loose their hook on you?
You just said, the hook will be lost, if the secret is exposed, but not if you can willing expose the secret ourself.

Also as another question: You said you can't seduce an murder the same person at once, but you would have it to in sequence... could we "seduce" a murdered person? A bit of Nekrophilia?
You can refuse Blackmail, at which point your secret will be exposed. As for the second question... It's, uh, impossible to seduce dead people.
 

Voffvoffhunden

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This is amazing! Will secrets have reduced chances of being discovered if they were undiscovered for a long time after their origin/most of the original agents are dead or abroad? I'd argue it would make sense for a murder that was committed a year ago to have vastly higher chances of getting uncovered than a murder committed 30 years ago.
There's no difference to discovery at the moment, but it's possible for certain secrets to "get lost" if the people involved in them dies. Of course, to speed that up you'd have to get an entirely *new* murder secret. There's just no rest for the wicked.
 

randomgamer71

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Does this mean that if an agent if found the others are still secret? That would be a great step up over CK2.
 

SuperBearNut

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Do the plotters get secret on all people that participated in the murder plot?

I.e.
With the help of Alice, we succeeded in murdering Bob. Can I use the fact that Alice helped me kill him to get her to kill Steve too?

(and other way around)
 

Rysz

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This looks like a very nice system, I see so many possibilities how different game elements can be tied together.
With the announcement info I was already speculating about the sexuel preferences and how they could be used in scheming, and nice to see that some of the speculations we had are indeed confirmed here in the screenshot of the "Secrets known to me" .

But also we had an idea regarding the stress, especially if this part of your personality is something you as the player doesn't know yet.
Suppose your character is gay, but this is something you don't know yet. But then you get for example the event in CK2 where you could chose to pursue a boy or a girl. You might not know you're gay, so you follow the event to pursue the girl. This might cause stress then. But it could also be that you have an earlier event which might point to you discovering you're gay. Then you might still choose to conform to society (inducing stress), or follow your heart's desire (but this will give the possibilities for other to gain hooks on you).
 

Xain

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Some questions though: how is the "closeness" of Agents assessed?

And I suppose secrecy increases or decreases according to the number and the loyalty of the agents? And it also determines the possibilities of the plans being discovered before it is executed?

Also: you said that a plot discovered before its exécution won't be traced back at you. Is this a hard "won't in every case", or is there a loyalty factor related to your relation with the agent?

That could be a deterrent to stacking agents just to increase the plot power...

Last question: will agents hold a secret against you?

EDIT: A general comment: I like the amorality of CK, but murder should not be made too simple and murder plots should not be undertaken lightly. That's why I love the new "hooks/blackmailing" system - do you want to kill your halfwit brother who ascended on the throne that will be yours? Prepare yourself for a tour de force of micromanaging agents, ansuring they're always loyal before and after the deed, and know that the plan can backfire on many, many ways!
 
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Ethereld

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Is there any particular reason why a murder plot leader should be protected from discovery before attempting to execute an attempt? It doesn't seem realistic to be so safe just because you are still laying the trap.
Because the ones acting are the agents while the Plot Leader coordinates everything. But they said that agents can be caught before the plan is enacted and they can reveal the plot leader so he is not really protected
 

Pied-Noir

Peking Pied
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Sep 6, 2011
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Wonderful diary @Voffvoffhunden - well-written, informative and nicely presented. Thank you. :)

I have a small off-topic request: in CK III, can you please make it so that handing out cities and temples is less tiresome? Often if I have get them - for example, a load after a Holy War - I have to pause the game, recruit a load of random courtiers via decision, and then hand them cities and temples. I sometimes give temples to younger sons or brothers from historical dynasties, but there aren't always people at hand. In MP games it's annoying to have to pause and do this after every Holy War, but I always do.

Something you guys could do to really help with this often tedious process would be to add a little check button to give a non-feudal title (i.e. not a barony) to a random courtier that the game generates specifically for handing out that title. It would be a nice QoL change I feel.

I hope this is possible and something you could do. It would then allow the player to skip the process of having to manually recruit courtiers and grant them cities and temples before deciding whether to keep the actual counties.