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King of Spades
28 Badges
Jun 24, 2004
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"$20 on Pump 2. And get me a pack of Marlboro Reds."

"You got it."

Just another normal exchange in the gas station and convenience store world. If it was bright day, the haggard looking black man in front of me might be an equally tired white woman with three screaming kids in the car, yelling at Mom for a candy bar. But it's not day. It's those dark, truly dark hours of the night, the slice of time in between the bars closing rush and the sluggish arrival of the dawn. It wouldn't be nearly so quiet were we further south in this barren state, in that schizophrenic city with untold glitzy casinos next to slum neighborhoods.

But here we are, in an unremarkable city. No reason for tourists to come. No reason to live here or do anything at all for that matter. Switch out the desert that encompasses everything for trees, the Mormons for more mainstream Protestants, and we could be Anyoppressedtown, Midwest USA.

I ponder this further as I watch the man shuffle to the door, fingers already fumbling with the strip to unwrap the cigarette pack. I'm sure for some people there's reason to get up, go out, see other people, do things and all that. Not me. I have no friends here and a 35 year old gas station cashier, even one with two failed efforts at masters degrees, doesn't have much in the way of career advancement. No, the only times I leave my apartment are to go to work, and to travel someplace that isn't here.

I guess you could call me a shut-in, a recluse, a hermit, just plain weird. There's a list of girls who will tell you the last for sure. Some days I think about ending it all, just snuffing out this sad life of mine, if you can even call it a life.

But not today. Today, I have a reason to live.

Today is the day I become a Crusader King.

...Well, count, really. And I probably won't crusade. I might not even be Christian, since Paradox, the Crusader Kings producer, now allows you to play Muslims. Maybe I'll even write an AAR about it. Probably not, though. I mean, it isn't like I could compare to the old-time greats of the Crusader Kings I era, like phargle, General_BT, etc. Even that guy Jestor's really odd story about a beautiful girl and a history class was cool. Sure wish I could meet somebody like Melody. I'd even settle for a Becky.

I'd bring my laptop to work and start playing right now, but having a computer in a gas station at night isn't the smartest idea. Hell, working the night shift at a gas station isn't exactly bright, either. But it's all I could find.

Oh, the Nighthawks painting up there? My favorite work of art, ever, and in some ways, the story of my life. But you don't want to hear about me. You want to hear about the game.

After my shift is over.
When your waking hours occupy night time, the day world becomes a scary, intimidating place. The sun's bright heat hurts the eyes, especially out here in the American West desert. Worse still, every time you *do* go out into that other half of the world, you feel as though you've emerged from a cave where time has stood still, into a new age, a new surface world that bears no resemblance to the universe you once knew. Which leads me to believe that Rip Van Winkle wasn't about a guy who fell asleep for a hundred years or whatever; it was about a guy who worked nights and lived in his own fantasy world filled with bowling gnomes and whatnot.

Kind of like how *our* fantasy world, and by fantasy world I mean those of us on Paradox's forums, which I will write my AAR on, if I ever write it, is filled with historical glories and miseries and delight in success and failure both. I wonder sometimes what it would be like to be a character in a story or a novel. Would I still exist as a separate entity outside of my fictional self? What if myself right now isn't really me at all, but rather, what some writer imagines me to be? That's frightening. Because if I'm just a character, then I'm not really real. Or am I real because I exist in the text? And if I do exist as a textual reality, would people actually read me, and in reading me, do I become alive? Or I will be so much dust, so much e-ink, unread and unloved just as I am here in my actual, physical world, whether it's real or not?

I don't know, and I'm scaring myself, so I'll stop that line of thought.

Work's done now. I nod to the grey-haired woman replacing me and hurry home before the sun gets full in the sky. Liminal states of sunlight I can live; the fullness I can't stand.

There's time enough for me to open my tiny mailbox and find the usual junk coupons and other worthless mailings that I immediately toss in the dumpster on the way to my rooms. Nobody ever sends me anything useful, unless it's an eBay auction I've won.

It's nice having two doors to my apartment - greater security, even if it takes longer to get inside. The inner door swings open, and I'm greeted with a mostly visible fake hardwood floor. It needs sweeping and vacuuming, but what does it matter? No one else has been inside this place since the cable guy came to set up my Internet. Even the grocery delivery service I use just stands outside the door and hands me the plastic bags to carry in.

So I don't care about the little mounds dirty clothes, or the empty bottles of juice that dot the floor here and there. It's still better than my bedroom, which is piled high with clothes that need washing, but it's too much effort and energy to do more than a load or two a week and my closet space is too small to hold it all, anyway.

I don't feel like trying to do anything remotely resembling cooking, so I preheat the oven for a pizza and go to my laptop to start up CKII while I wait.


...So many choices. It's overwhelming. I have no idea where to go or who to take first.
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Count of Dal! :p House Galta shall rule over all Scandinavia some day...;)
PineconeKing and Prince of Savoy: There certainly seems to be a Scandinavian theme developing here. :D Kind of funny since it'd be my first time going back to that area, dynasty-wise at least, since the Agder days.
Funny thing: In my game the Galtas are kings of Sweden...

The awesomeness that is the elective monarchy. ;)

But yeah, Dal has literally 1 holding total and sandwiched by Norway and Sweden. So it can be a fun game for starving for land and constantly trying to get established. ;)
Funny thing: In my game the Galtas are kings of Sweden...

In my game, the Normans won the conquest, got deposed by a Godwin, who died familyless leaving a Knytling to the throne, who also died heirless and thus the of Hwicces seized the throne.
For some reason, I don't know why, I'm being drawn to Scandinavia. There's no particular impetus I can think of. I'm German-American by ancestry, so one would think I'd muck about the Holy Roman Empire. I've always had an odd liking for France, too, but no desire to go there in this game. If I do trundle up to the cold, frozen North, so much like my home state, that means Norway, Sweden, or Denmark. Limited to Catholics, because Paradox still hasn't unleashed the pagans.

No to Norway. I don't want to be embroiled in the squabble over England.

Sweden offers options to go pagan munching, but why hurt the heathens? They're already in miserable territory, in a domain as dark and dreary as my life. Whoops, be right back. Oven's done preheating.

Another 17 minutes and pizza itself will be done.

What about Denmark? No Kynghtlyngs of course. Too phargled.

Fyn! Yes, Fyn is perfect, for like Finn Hudson, all my greatest moments and triumphs are left far behind. They weren't even so much in high school, or even in real life. They were... oh, right. Game. 13 minutes until pizza's done.


My starting situation

...I'm sad. I don't want to be able to buy a Duke title outright. But then I notice it will cost me almost 200 gold to get it, and guess who owns the other half of the Duchy? Yeah - King Svend II himself, who owns most of Denmark, so he'll be able to purchase the Dukedom first. I'm happy now.

But then I find out something even worse.


I'm already married. There's nothing more offensive to a recluse gamer than to have one's initial character already wed. It's cheating. Happily, I'm an underhanded, paranoid, arbitrary rogue, so I can quite cheerfully kill my wife and not break character. If I *were* actually Count Skjalm, I'd imagine things would go something like this...


What possessed me to marry myself to such a common person? Her father holds no titles and while she herself is in the first blush of youth at sixteen, she looks more a boy than anything one might call womanly. So she is skilled with the coin? What of it? She can not be my chief steward, so she is ultimately useless to me in every conceivable way. No, I must have done with her, one way or another.

Unfortunately, I lack the funds to purchase a professional outright, so I needs find collaborators, fellow conspirators, who agree she is a blight upon this noble person and house. Fortunately, my spymaster and my chancellor, the latter after being named cupbearer, quite agreed with my viewpoint. Alas and alack, when I tried to convince her lady-in-waiting, Helene, to join, using such inducements as the prestigious rank of High Almoner, and a princely 20 florin outlay, the ungrateful hussy still refused to partake in our schemes.

Helene shall be the next to die, I declare. I do not enjoy being made the fool, most particular when I lavish half the county treasure on that lowborn strumpet.


I do wish it wasn't so difficult to murder useless wives in this game. One would think the introduction of two high council members would be enough to ensure she'd be offed, but that damned 16 year old commoner is cockblocking me.

...Crap. The oven went off and there's smoke in the air.

To discard charred pizza I go.
The burnt remains of the pizza have been chucked into the free-standing, kitchen style garbage bag sitting inside by my front door. There was no proper garbage can when I moved in, so I just decided to use what i had left over from the moving bags. It's simply too exhausting to walk to Target or Walmart, both 20 minutes away on foot, buy a can, and walk it home. This town is too small to have a worthwhile bus system, and an inner ear balance problem prevents me from utilizing a bike. Not that a respectable garbage can could fit in a bike basket anyway, even if I had one.

The idea of making something else felt too exhausting to even begin to contemplate, so I ate three spoonfuls of peanut butter out of a jar and called it a supper. I wish I knew why these circles keep appearing on my spoons after I wash them. Soap and water isn't enough to do the trick, I suppose.

It's starting to get earnestly daytime outside, but happily, my balcony is enclosed on three sides, recessed to give it the feeling of a cavern, and so, when I grab my pack of Parliament 100s and go out to smoke, the sunlight isn't too invasive. I light and inhale, listening to the sound of a car honking to summon one of my complex mates while I stare at the trees that look kind of like palm trees, but aren't, across the street.

What to do next, in the game, I wonder? Set an ambition, of course. But the wife?

And just as I ash onto the pile of cigarette corpses crowded in the crack of my balcony's cement floor, it hits me.

Make her my prison bitch, then kill her.

I finish my smoke and hurry back inside to my screen.

My vassals, a mayor and a bishop, both have 49 opinion of me. Perfect.


Sadly, I'm not holy enough in thought to kill her outright, but I'll just wait for her to slowly die the agonizing death associated with medieval prison life, even the non-Turkish variety.

My half-brother is my heir and he needs to be married, the game nags. But he isn't my direct line, so no wedding bells for him. Halfsies don't count.

Ambition? Let's go with raising my martial ability to at least be competent. I'm paranoid and arbitrary, so war will be my route to success.

Ho-hum, I suppose I should do something with my courtiers, so the usual train troops and get taxes for marshal and steward, neither of whom matter to me right now. My spymaster's shipped off to Spain to study useful technology improvements.

Then begins the long, slow wait for something to happen. Mid-November my chancellor tells me my king has a child that needs a mentor, so in hopes of being awesome, I send off a letter, only to be laughed at and rejected. Game imitating life.

That thought reminds me to look at my cellphone. As usual, no calls or text messages. I get maybe one every month from my mother. In fact, the only times my phone ever really makes noise at me is when I turn it on or off, or when it's screaming at me to charge it, which is often. Terrible, terrible battery life. Still a better life than mine.

Oh, and then the stupid Facebook game notifications I keep getting from the 107 friends of mine. No, I don't want to farm. No, I don't wish to play slots. No, I don't want to be a superhero, at least not that way. The worst part of it all? Of those Facebook friends, 57 are relatives, and the other 50 are people I went to high school with. I never cared about the first group, and as for the second? They ignored me, and now, all of a sudden, it's ZOMG WE WERE BEST FRIENDS!! PLEASE LOOK AT PICTURES OF MY BABIES AND MY TRIPS AND SEE HOW HAPPY I AM WITH LIFE, LOSER!!! ...Okay, so the last word isn't what they say, or maybe even consciously think, but it's implicit in their requests and their postings.

Me? I don't post anything, other than my own albums of vacations, in which case I bombard them with 30 albums of 100+ pictures each trip. Yeah, take that, you contended bastards.

Back to the game.

My steward dies of natural causes at 25. My half-brother would make a better steward, but screw him. I go with someone a tick below. Brosef complains; I tell him to get bent.

That slattern Helena, the one who kept me from murdering the wife I hate, dies at 17 of illness. I'm disappointed I'm not the one who caused her demise, but karma is karma, I suppose.

Then, in the summer of 1067, King Svend II gets a mass case of heatstroke, evidenced by his naming me Chancellor and getting involved in not one, but two wars. At the same time.


Yep, old Svend II gets himself involved in the very English mess I was hoping to avoid, and on top of it, interferes in Swedish politics. I'm just like, hello, oh mighty dumbassed redheaded liege, we're a tiny island nation. Stop trying to act like you're all that and a bag of chips, when you're none of that and a sack of shit.

Time passes. By May of 1068, I've pissed off everyone by refusing to let the Hedge Knights in, my half-brother even more so by refusing to find a wife for him and by making him Spymaster after my old one dies and punting him down to Spain. The war over England is still going on.

An awesome new financial wizard by the name of Hans av Nyborg or some such thing comes wandering in. I name him Steward, marry him off to some court doxie when he wants the old ball and chain, and invite him to join the plot to kill that irritating wife of mine. He accepts, but since my spymaster died, there's nothing doing with that.

Until July, 1070. Finally, after an ungodly amount of Sundays in church, I finally am considered holy enough to execute my imprisoned wife, which I promptly do.


At last, there will be something for me to do. But now the sun's starting to penetrate my living room, which means it's time for me to go to bed before my usual night shift at ye olde station.
The war with England's going nicely at 99%, I see. Maybe he's not such a dumbass.
The war with England's going nicely at 99%, I see. Maybe he's not such a dumbass.

The problem is, he's not going to see any benefit out of it. If it does indeed turn out in the Scandinavian alliance's favor, Norway will get England and Denmark gets nothing.
The problem is, he's not going to see any benefit out of it. If it does indeed turn out in the Scandinavian alliance's favor, Norway will get England and Denmark gets nothing.

Oh noez! But seriously, that would never happen in real life... I mean, the king of Denmark has his own claim to the English throne, and he's backing up NORWAY's claim? Strange...
Such effort to gain nothing at England at least for now .... I think but Nevertheless well done .You are welcome here I did not see a minor lord from the North recently
Great to see you back, Jestor :)

Loving the idea of a story that's just as much about the player as it is about the game. You always did have a knack for making the framing story just as entertaining as the AAR itself.
PineconeKing: Indeed. I don't pretend to know the reason why, either. Perhaps the Danish king doesn't consider himself strong enough to fight everyone else off for his claim? Hard telling.

mike the knight: Thanks. So far I haven't really accomplished anything in game, though. Just wasted money and killed a wife who was actually just fine as far as they go in the CK world.

Specialist290: Great to see you back as well. I was wondering where the old crowd had gone. Paradoxically enough, I'm using this as a break from working on my creative thesis, hence why it is likely to be a herky-jerky update schedule. I also tried a few times to get one started and yeah, I wanted a framing story, until finally I said to hell with it, I'll go with a mixed narrative/gameplay AAR to see how that works.

Hannibal X: I figured this may have been tried before. I'll confess I read very few dynasties. Between teaching, writing, helping moderate another computer game's company forums and my multi-player sim basketball leagues, one of which I co-commish and run the college portion of, I just don't have the time. Haven't read the one you mention, either.
Life is a B-movie; it's stupid and it's strange
A directionless story and the dialogue is lame
But in the he-said, she-said sometimes there's some poetry
If you turn your back long enough and let it happen naturally
Oh yeah
Oh hell yeah

...Yes, my cellphone's alarm ringtone is Ani DiFranco. There's a perverse, yet scrumptious irony in a straight man waking up every day/night to a darling of the lesbian set.

It's even more rich when you consider I hate lesbian culture. I've never understood why so many guys like it. To quote the great Stifler, "Good luck breaking through that force field." I suppose there's the whole fantasy of turning them bi and having rollicking three ways, but it's fantasy for a reason. I hate it even more because my name's Gerhard, which, in addition to sounding like it belongs in a porno, has the same first syllable as Gertrude Stein, who herself was staunchly sapphic and full of herself from the one friend I had back in the day when I still got out once in a while told me.

Jake and I used to meet a couple times a week late at night for coffee and cigarettes. He smoked menthols and dated 16 year olds until he turned 26, because at that point, according to him, as much as he enjoyed reliving the Sweet 16 thing over and over again, dating a girl a whole decade younger was too creepy. Anyway, he used to rant on how Stein and Steinese was the worst thing ever to happen to American literature, even moreso than Flannery O'Connor, Anne Rice, and Stephanie Meyer put together, because as awful as -those- writers were, at least they made some sense. Stein, on the other hand, was pretentious word vomit that tried to pass as advant-garde, but was simply bad, especially Tender Buttons and Three Lives, the latter of which was the most mind-numbing repetitive piece of junk ever to deface the printed page in his estimation.

"What's worse is, poets absolutely love her and go on and on about her," he said one night. "I just look at them, shake my head, and tell them if they want to read great poetry from the modernist era to go back to Eliot. Now *there* was a man who knew his stuff. It's just a god damned shamed nobody's stuff has been worth reading since he died."

My remembrances are interrupted by the Facebook chat noise on my laptop. Of course, it's my mother. Sorry, Mom. Not going to deal with you right now. It's showertime.

Then it's off to work, where nothing interesting happens as per usual.

Back home, straight to the computer and bride hunting, the first truly monumental choice I get to make in this damn game.

If I'm ever going to get out from King Svend II the Stupid's thumb, I should marry a girl who can give me or my sons land, and preferably as close to Fyn as feasible. A solution is quickly found.


Score! Two years until I can start to get something of a real RoI on this one, but alliance with a powerful Duke, marrying his eldest daughter, nay ELDEST CHILD! *and* a prestige bump? OH, HELL YEAH!


...Shit. The second war he's in? Even worse. Evidently the King of Poland decided to live to his national stereotype and take on the pagans to the north, and my father-in-law-to-be decided it was a great idea to join in. That's a -66 war right now.

I'm doomed to forever be linked with stupid people and even stupider kings. Sigh. And you wonder why I'm a recluse.

A week or two later, the fait accompli occurs.


Hmm. William the Bas- hey wait! That fatass king of mine made a Duchy title! Give me that, you fathead!

What do you mean you don't like me well enough for me to even demand it?! DAMN IT!

I snarl at the screen and flip Svend off with both fingers, then wait out the results of the Bastard/Norway fight and the expected beatdowns of FIL, whose name I should memorize, I suppose. But who cares? I just want him to live long enough that he marries his daughter off to me, she pops out a kid, and I get a claim on that title, if not outright inherit it.

Oh, Svend has a white beard now. Hopefully that means he dies soon.

Towards the end of November, scrubby count me gets stressed out because I keep hearing a freaking arrow whistling in my direction, but everybody pretends not to know anything about it, and I'm scared I'm going to take an arrow to the knee. *Then* what would I do?

Unfortunately, this results in me becoming a coward a few months later, and I faint at the sight of hog's blood at the next hunt, causing people to laugh at me. Awesome.

Is there any hope to my so-called noble life?


Well, my new wife is kinda hot, and she's 16. Take that, Jakemeister!


...We need to pop out a kid soon, I think. I don't want my UIL inheriting all that. We'll never beat him in a war otherwise.

Speaking of war...


Hooray. Old Man Svend II *finally* stars a war where he'll get something when he wins.

Too bad for him mini-stacks of pagan doom start popping up and mowing down the combined Danish/Swedish armies.


But then that merry figure of fun, the King of Norway-England jumps in and from then it's only a matter of time before that fairly far-off pagan country flies the Danish flag.

Meanwhile, I *still* have nothing and am going nowhere.

Forget it. This game is too much like my life. I'm saving and going to bed.
I don't know your previous works well enough, so it's hard to separate fact from fiction - I was worried for the first few updates that I would have to call the Suicide Helpline (wait, that doesn't sound right...) on your behalf. :p

Anyway, I'm enjoying your intertwined tale of mediocrity. Considering nothing has really happened yet, that's somewhat unexpected. :) Nice knack you have for giving your narrator a voice (mentioning a 'creative writing thesis' should've tipped me off, I admit).

And in a similar vein to Gerhard's ringtone, here's the opening lines of Pulp's TV Movie, if he ever needs to slightly adjust the theme:

Without you my life has become a hangover without end.
A movie made for TV: bad dialogue,
bad acting, no interest.
Too long with no story & no sex.

Looking forward to more.
I don't know your previous works well enough, so it's hard to separate fact from fiction - I was worried for the first few updates that I would have to call the Suicide Helpline (wait, that doesn't sound right...) on your behalf. :p

No worries. The same thing happened with The Beautiful Girl and the History Class, where people thought it was a mispost that belonged in OT at first.

Anyway, I'm enjoying your intertwined tale of mediocrity. Considering nothing has really happened yet, that's somewhat unexpected. :) Nice knack you have for giving your narrator a voice (mentioning a 'creative writing thesis' should've tipped me off, I admit).

Eventually something *will* happen in both cases. This isn't a French novel or film, after all. :D I have a few ideas for each, but I'm going to let them slow-play in my head and in the text for a while, most likely.

And in a similar vein to Gerhard's ringtone, here's the opening lines of Pulp's TV Movie, if he ever needs to slightly adjust the theme:

Looking forward to more.

Thanks. :) And lyrics could indeed be fitting.