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Nov 21, 2016
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I commented this on another thread and its mostly copied from there, with a few changes.

Right now you have this:

Wrong-culture/religion counties get angry about not being represented, about being oppressed, etc and so they form a faction and press their demands to the top liege who agrees to surrender the land, with no input or control from the intermediary vassal in question.

This makes little sense because the people shouldn't be going directly to the king or the emperor; they should be going first to the count or duke, whoever is directly ruling over them and only when that doesn't work should they attempt to break away; open conflict is desirable to no one and if you gain concessions in your immediate environment by negotiation then that should be the first option. So instead the scenario should go like this:

Wrong-culture/religion counties get angry about not being ruled by someone of their community so they organise and petition the count ruling over them; not for independence but for some material things - reduced taxes, reduced levy obligations, councillor of their community (lets say aged 30 so they don't die immediately) guaranteed a spot on the council, maybe promise that no conversion will take place (county modifier is applied and if liege attempts to convert it then count should get an option to support, which angers populace, or reject, which angers liege), or some other benefit. The count gets time to build up power and alliances and the people are happy their situation is not as bad. This 'treaty' lasts until ruler death or the ruler can break it at any time if they choose (yes thats a bit unfair but feudalism is built on unfairness). If the count refuses, then the people escalate to the top liege. And at this stage the count has no input since they were assigned to manage the populace there and they failed, plus they chose not to negotiate with the people so whatever the liege decides its ok. In the event that even the top liege refuses, those who stand to lose land when the populace rebels should automatically join the war.

Now one thing to note about this system is that because you are doing things at the county level, discontent can vary wildly from different counties even if they have the same cultural/religious make-up. The count of York might help his people but the count of Sussex might not which means the Sussexians are angry while the Yorkers are not. So there needs to be a formula to calculate how much of the counties of that specific group are present and what proportion are angry, and how much discontent is enough discontent to consider rising up. Should development be considered, with high development high discontent having more weight in the formula compared to low development high discontent counties? I don't know but hopefully someone else can figure that out.

This system can even be tied into the upcoming cultural acceptance mechanic, where if the count accepts the demands the subordinate culture becomes happier with the ruling culture and acceptance increases and if the revolt fires, acceptance decreases.
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Adding on to this, crusader kings/queens (or winners of Great Holy Wars in general) should have a vastly reduced chance of surrendering to populist revolts. I've seen a victorious crusade on Persia in my game and literally 1 in-game year later, the crusader king of the newly created kingdom of Persia surrendered to a populist revolt without a fight, essentially reverting the entire crusade. *sigh*