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The Eastern Vikings
S8tiKUZ.jpg

Chronicles of the Oeselians of Saaremaa
Part One of a Baltic Mega-Campaign

Introduction
Hello everyone! Welcome to my next & newest AAR project -- I've had this idea in my head for quite some time, but have only now taken the step to start writing it. As far back as my short-lived and ill-fated Uyghur AAR, I had entertained the idea of a pagan-centered AAR based somewhere around Scandinavia and the Baltics. I toyed with the idea again before beginning my last project, which ended up being an HIP AAR told in Navarre, which then grew into an EUIV Latin Empire campaign. I wanted to wait for M&M to launch and get a little settled... And now that we have game rules for turning off devil worshipers and secret cults apply to all religions, now feels like the right time to start this!

In looking at and briefly researching the region, I knew I didn't want to do a Norse viking AAR -- there's plenty of them out there, and I wanted to try my hand at something a little different. I very closely studied the Sami culture and religion pondering an AAR in the frozen north of Scandinavia, but I worried that the Sami were located a little too remotely (and a bit too likely to be facerolled by Vikings). I looked at Curonia and at the Old Prussians, but eventually it was the Estonians that caught my eye. They share the sweet Finno-Ugric unit models (why don't the other Balts have a unit pack yet??), are part of the Finnic pagan faith, and are close enough to the Baltic action to be a significant player without running too immediate a risk of being gobbled up by Christians too early.

We are playing for the long-game, though: My plan is to take this from CK2 to EUIV, to Victoria 2, to Hearts of Iron IV, to Stellaris.... If we make it that far! I can't promise it will stay interesting long enough to make that happen, but that's the plan. I took the Lombards through three games, who's to say I can't take the Estonians through 5?

As you'll see when I post the scenario & game rules, I'm attempting to make this run pretty damn hard. My last AAR was fun, but while I enjoyed the storytelling, I never felt particularly challenged or threatened at any point in the game. I want to remedy that with this project, and on top of pursuing good roleplaying, I want the game to punish me a little bit. Difficulty is going to be set to Very Hard in every stage of the campaign, and in CK2 I've chosen some of the more punishing options for game rules -- I want medieval life in this AAR to be brutal, hard, and often short... We'll see how well that works out!

As is almost always the case when I write a CK2 AAR, I don't have an overarching goal in mind. I don't have my eyes set on a particular kingdom, achievement, or anything like that. Maybe I'll reform Finnic paganism and try to make it rival Christianity and Islam, or maybe I'll bend the knee to the conquering crusaders and turn Catholic, forsaking the old ways in exchange for land and gold. I will try, as often as possible, to make character-driven and story-driven decisions, using save hacks and console commands on occasion when necessary to keep things from breaking or going absolutely bonkers.

So before I start working on the background & flavor posts, here is a run-down of the "technical" side of the game setup:

Game: CK2 v. 2.7.1
DLC: All -- Yes, that includes Sunset Invasion!
Mods: CK2+ v. 4.06
Difficulty: Very Hard
Start Date: 769
Character: Sulev Karasi, Chief of Saaremaa (custom character/dynasty, Estonian, vassal of Livonia)

Some Non-Standard Game Rules
Major Epidemics: Dynamic (Plague will appear 200 years in at the earliest, and can reoccur 500 years after game start)
Mongol Invasion / Aztec Invasion: Delayed Random (Random date, but not earlier than 1,000 AD)
Devil Worshipers: Off (Get your fantasy stuff out of here)
Non-Epidemic Diseases: More
Turkic Conquerors: Random
Dynamic De Jure Drift: Restricted (Only happens if titles border each other)
De Jure Assimilation Time: Long (300 years)
De Jure Requirement: Required (Titles eventually destroyed if holder does not have any of its de jure land)
Cultural Conversion: Combination (Melting pots appear faster, culture conversion chance reduced)
Religious Conversion Speed: Slower
Raiding: Unrestricted (I've read plenty about raiding and looting happening well into the feudal area. Why not? More fun.) I should note here -- I also modified the event for the beginning of the Viking age to give boats and shipyard tech to ALL tribals... Because maritime chaos is fun.
Diplomatic Range: Restricted (Because it's a small world with crappy communication. Keep it local!)
Provincial Revolt Strength: Powerful (Provincial revolts have 2x bigger armies)
Dueling: Restricted (Can duel any eligible target without needing a reason)
Vassal Limit: Half (Instability of large kingdoms for the win! Mostly there to prevent over-blobbing and make bigi kingdoms more interesting)
Non-Dynastic Heirs (CK2+): Yes (Just in case my dynasty gets wiped out, but it's a really interesting game and I want to continue as someone else.)

As you can see -- I'm aiming to decrease stability, increase difficulty, keep major events & invasions unpredictable, and majorly up the body count for various gruesome, medieval deaths. I'd rather fight like heck for a three-province minor county than steamroll my way to a Baltic Empire!

The AAR will begin with a few posts on background, history, my custom character & dynasty, and so on, to set the stage before gameplay posts begin. I am going to try to change things up at times when it comes to writing -- I know I've developed my own go-to style of posting in my last few AARs, but I want to try and sprinkle a few different styles in occasionally. A little written narrative, a little history book / scholarly writing kind of stuff, some straight up chronicling of events, who knows? I'm hoping to avoid using the same "standard" format and style for every post. As always, I will also try to include periodic updates of what is happening in the larger world -- since I plan on making this a long campaign, I need to be taking some good notes anyway.

Thank you in advance to anyone who comes by, reads and follows, and keeps me company on this (hopefully long and awesome) journey!!
 
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TheAnguishedOne

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So many handicaps... I think you can pull it off, but I don't see you being the sole major power by the time EU4 arrives.
 
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stnylan

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Very happy to get on board this one at the start.
 
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RedTemplar

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I though you were going to rest a little from this job hehehe... glad you did not
 
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RedTemplar

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I though you were going to rest a little from this job hehehe... glad you did not

Nah... I always like to have something going! Outside of Heroes of the Storm, Paradox are the main games I play. And I enjoy them WAY more when I have something to write about... I don't usually get too much out of a Crusader Kings run that I don't narrate.
 
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Idhrendur

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Oooh, this ought to be fun!
 
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Narvait

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Following too! Burn Sigtuna down!
 
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Subbed!
 
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Subbed!
 
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I'm always ready to follow one of your excellent AARs. I'm kind of hoping the Teutonic Order makes an appearance and becomes your local rival. :p
 
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TheAnguishedOne

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I'm always ready to follow one of your excellent AARs. I'm kind of hoping the Teutonic Order makes an appearance and becomes your local rival. :p

It's practically a tradition.
 
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RedTemplar

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I'm always ready to follow one of your excellent AARs. I'm kind of hoping the Teutonic Order makes an appearance and becomes your local rival. :p

Watch, this will be the one time they finally appear in their proper historical location, and faceroll me.
 
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Nikolai

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So. Many. Restrictions.:eek:

Also, lol'ed a little of Aztecs being on, and then you say "Devil Worshipers: Off (Get your fantasy stuff out of here)" :D
 
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So. Many. Restrictions.:eek:

Also, lol'ed a little of Aztecs being on, and then you say "Devil Worshipers: Off (Get your fantasy stuff out of here)" :D

Yes, lot's of restrictions... I want this to be a bloody, violent, difficult medieval world :)

The Aztecs are more of a "bizarre alternate history" thing -- at least they don't use magic Satan mojo to summon familiars and stuff.
 
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The Setting - Europe, 769 AD
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The Baltic in the Dark Ages
In 769 AD, western Europe was dominated by large, expansive, and powerful kingdoms. In Iberia, the Umayyad dynasty had subjugated most of the peinsula into the Sultanate of Al-Andalus; the Lombards controlled all but a few portions of the Italian peninsula under one banner; and the Carolingians were just steps away from uniting their territory into a massive European empire. Eastern Europe, however, was a much different place. Past the Vistula, Scandinavia and Europe were divided into a multitude of small pagan tribal territories. Seemingly trapped between the great kingdoms of the west and the nomadic horse lords of the far east, these local tribes often lacked the size, power, and organization of their neighbors.

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In particular, the Baltic region was divided among a number of Baltic and Finnnic ethnic groups; our focus will be on the Estonians, and specifically, the inhabitants of the island of Saaremaa.

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Saaremaa is the largest island in the West Estonian Archipelago, and the heavily-forested island is believed to have been inhabited since at least 5,000 BC. Saaremaa and its smaller neighbors, such as Hiiumaa and Muhumaa, are situated where the Gulf of Riga leads into the Baltic Sea, flowing out from the Daugava River to the south. With over 40% of its surface covered in forests and with several steep cliffs near its shorelines, the terrain of Saaremaa could be a challenge to traverse in large numbers -- a characteristic that helped make the island defensible against hostile armies and raiders.

The people of Saaremaa were ethnically Estonian, but have often historically been viewed as a particular subdivision of the Estonian people. Referred to as Saarlased in Estonian, and alternately as Oeselians and Ests in other languages, and are known to have been fierce fighters and skilled sailors. References to "Eastern Vikings" and "Vikings From Estonia" persist in several written sagas and histories from the Viking Age, owing to documented sea raids by their ships throughout Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

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The Kaali Crater, a holy site venerated by the Saarlased and many other Finnic pagans.

The Saarlased worshipped as their chief deity the god Tharapita or Taara, who is said to have flown from Vironia to Saaremaa in ancient times. This mythological origin is thought to be connected to the meteorite impact at the Kaali crater on Saaremaa, which created a group of 9 craters during an impact event somewhere between 6,400 - 400 BC. The largest of these craters, six meters deep, was considered an important holy site to the Estonians and other Finnic pagans, and was often the site of prayers and sacrifices to Taara. It was, then, a critical duty of the rulers of Saaremaa to guard this holy site and protect its priests from looting and desecration.

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The island was ruled by Vaino Saaremaa from 763 until 769, when he died unmarried and childless. The tribal and religious leaders of Saarlased gathered that year to choose a new leader, and elected Sulev Karasi to succeed Vaino's rule. Sulev, himself young and unmarried, is regarded in his family chronicles as an exceptional paragon of his people, though it is unclear how much of this is an accurate portrayal of his talent and how much is the embellishment given to the founding patriarch of the family dynasty.

According to these chronicles, Sulev was said to have been both intelligent and attractive, superior in the dueling circle and the desire of many Estonian women. He was extremely zealous for his people's faith, keeping with him at all times a small vial of water taken from the sacred lake at Kaali, and is said to have run two men through with his spear when they behaved improperly during a ritual there. He commanded respect among his people, and his election was met with satisfaction by the inhabitants of the island.

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Sulev and the Saarlased were under the rule of Ihanus Ridala, High Chief of Liivimaa (Livonia), whose territory was situated along the banks of the Gulf of Riga, Lake Peipus, and the Daugava River. To the north, Livonia bordered the High Chiefdom of Estonia, ruled by Kaupo Harjumaa; to the south, across the Daugava, was the land of the Curonians ruled by the Lettigallian Balt, High Chief Ankad Penikis; and to the east, the small Chiefdom of Latgale ruled by Pukuveras Ugandi, and the large and powerful High Chiefdom of Ilmen, the territory of the Ilmenian Slav, Rodislav Slovensky.

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Livonia, then, was situated at an interesting cultural crossroad, where the the Finnic, Baltic, and Slavic religions came to a border with one another. With a short water crossing to Curonia and with the Baltic Sea providing access to much of inner Scandinavia, Saaremaa itself was located in such a way as to provide a wide variety of opportunities for its rulers. The Early Medieval Period would see these various tribes and religions fight to become the dominant regional power of Eastern Europe, and with so many different tribes, peoples, and rulers, the possibilities for the development of the region were many. Sulev Karasi was just one chief among many in Livonia, but he had great aspirations for his family's future.
 
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