This guide is a summed up and at the same time expanded version of my how to play Crusader Kings 3 guide. If you are new to the game, I suggest you take a look at that page first and then come back to this one. Also play the game’s tutorial since it does a nice job of introducing you to the basic mechanics of the game. We’ll structure this guide in a few different sections and without much game concept explaining, we’ll just dive into the tips and tricks instead.
Bookmark this page if you need it as a reference later on. 🙂
Economy & Gold
When playing feudal, gold is always the most important resource. Get a good steward on your council (more on that later) and have him collect taxes for short term benefits. Extra taxes and events are a nice positive side-effect from having a high skilled steward. Have him develop your capital county (where your realm capital is) when you already have enough gold and want to increase long-term gains for your future rulers.
Do not spend gold hiring people coming to your court such as potential knights for your army, council members or even court physicians. I’ll explain how to get those for free down below. And not only get them for free but actually show you how to get the best ones.
Save up your gold for creating a higher ranking title. If you’re a count, your primary goal is to become a duke. Then a king and then finally an emperor. This comes with many benefits, including who can become a vassal of yours.
Go into the stewardship lifestyle even if your ruler doesn’t have any great predispositions towards it. It will help you gain perks such as demanding payments for hooks, extorting subjects etc.
Ransom prisoners of war and go on raids if your ruler has access to it. Raids are a great way of weakening a potential enemy in a war. This lowers their county control and therefore taxes and levies, and at the same time allows you to collect nice sums of gold to expand your armies or simply have more in reserve during war time. Gold is inherited by your next ruler so it’s always a great idea to have lots of it.
Build temples in your lands (later when you have more gold) and have a positive relationship with your bishop to maximize taxes and levies you get from those temples.
If your bishop becomes rich, you can try to imprison him and banish from the realm to seize his assets (all of his gold) at the cost of some negative opinion with your head of faith and a loss of a level of devotion.
This can be useful when you get invaded by a large empire and you have no ways of defending yourself. You can try to make an extra alliance or two and hire a bunch of mercenaries with that gold. It happened to me in one campaign and this is what bailed me out.
Focus on increasing your domain limit and overall stewardship skill.
Early on this is the best way to make more gold because when you’re a small count, you cannot have other counts as your vassals and everyone who actually is a vassal of yours, will be within your personal domain. This means barons, mayors, your bishop etc.
Get a spouse with high stewardship (and maybe a good physical trait for your children) and put her on the manage domain task on your council.
Do not organize many feasts and hunts unless you really need to improve people’s opinions and gain more prestige. Prestige is typically needed for declaring wars, calling allies to wars (offensively) and instituting voting laws for managing your succession easier.
Be very careful who you go to war with and always have a strong alliance in reserve in case someone larger than you decides to attack you. This is especially important if there’s a large empire or kingdom that’s of a hostile or evil faith close to you. You can always convert to their faith in that case to invalidate the war, but sometimes you might not want to.
Do not change vassal feudal contracts if they’re providing you with extremely small amounts of taxes. The percentage increase won’t often even give you anything extra but you’ll reduce their opinion of you. Focus on vassals and vassal income from taxes later when you’re a kingdom or an empire.
Early on, your personal domain holdings and church holdings are the most important things for making more gold. And of course having a good spouse and a steward really helps as well.
Alliances & War
Alliances are THE most important thing when you first load into a campaign and you’re a small ruler. When you have no alliances, you are at the mercy of larger rulers and they will often have no qualms walking over you if there’s something they can take from you.
In the beginning, ideally you won’t be married and you can now make your first alliance via your spouse.
This is also the best way to expand early when you’re trying to conquer someone larger than yourself. Use your ally to win you that war. Just make sure they’re not too far away or you might lose that war before they even get there. 🙂
Once there’s children involved, it becomes easier to get more alliances, but you can also go into diplomacy lifestyle to get the perk that allows you to propose one alliance without marriage.
Later, when you have more family members ruling certain lands, you will have alliances with them too (if they’re either your house or dynasty members), but avoid spending renown for dynasty allies, just focus on house members being rulers instead. I would only call dynasty members to wars if I absolutely require their assistance.
Also, when you’re declaring wars, pay attention to the overall military and economic situation.
How many allies a certain ruler has, what kind of military is involved, whether he, or those allies are at war with someone right now? Are they winning or losing those wars, are they in debt and can’t reinforce their men-at-arms etc.
These are all factors that I quickly consider if it’s a war against someone who is quite strong militarily.
I know this can be a bit tiring when you’re new to the game, but later you will learn to pay attention to these details automatically to determine whether going to war is a good idea or not. And it’s what makes the game beautiful and complex.
You also need to keep in mind that there might be someone who will declare a war on you once you’re off to somewhere else. 🙂
Heirs & Succession
Managing succession is very important. There might come a time when you simply want to stop having children and if your wife is still young, this might be a problem. You can assassinate her, try to get a divorce or just try to get her to dislike you a lot to decrease the chance of her going into bed with you. 🙂
The best way to manage succession early on is to stock up on prestige and institute voting laws for your lands. Exception being realm capital, that always goes to your heir, or the person the game considers your heir.
However, this way, if you control all counties in a duchy, only you get to vote. And the only candidates are your own eligible children.
And this is how you can pick a son that’s further down the line to inherit both of your duchies and all counties inside them, plus the realm capital. Since that son stands to inherit the majority of your lands, he is now considered your primary heir. This can be a daughter too.
If you can’t do this, or you’re struggling with a kingdom/empire title, then the best way is to just go with the flow and try to leave everything to the son that the game kind of pushes you to go with.
If I have 4 sons and I want my 3rd son to be the one I play with and leave all lands to him, but I have a kingdom and an empire title that go to 1st and 2nd son respectively, then I can try to get those guys killed in battle (send them off alone to fight some army), or disinherit them, or ask them to take vows and use a hook if necessary etc. Same for the 4th son.
But once all options are exhausted, it might be easier to just pick a different son.
Duchies and counties are very easy to leave to your preferred child via voting laws. But higher ranking titles can be a bit of a problem until you can designate your heir via absolute crown authority or change succession laws later on.
I also tend to enable voting laws for my kindgom titles and typically I’ll be able to pass those on as well.
Empires are a bit different because there many more people that can vote, and while you can influence it to tip the scales, it often takes a lot of work getting hooks, forcing them to vote like you etc.
Another tip to remember, if none of this is available to you, go try to conquer more lands and give them to your sons in advance until the succession tab shows what you want it to show.
For example, if you have 3 sons and 2 duchies and 1 kingdom, then get another duchy to give to the 2nd son effectively removing him from the line of succession, then another to the 3rd and now you’ve got both of your original duchies and a kingdom title going to your primary heir, including the realm capital county.
If some county title is lost on succession, conquer one more county to give to that son that would claim the one you want to leave to your primary heir. There’s only one rule here. You cannot give away titles to someone who doesn’t stand to inherit them. But you can change who stands to inherit what by getting more land. 🙂
The game tries to divide everything equally by default until you can change the laws. Counties aren’t that important when there’s duchies and kingdoms involved.
Your goal here is to leave your best developed lands to your primary heir.
Council Members & Skilled Labor
Never pay gold for knights and/or council members showing up in your court. Instead, marry existing courtiers to other people and have them join your court. This is how you can find skilled labor as well as strong knights (sort the filter by prowess) for your army. If you need more courtiers, just recruit the cheapest people you can and then marry them. Or the ones you capture in wars etc.
Also make sure when marrying a female courtier to check matrilineal or she will leave your court if the other character is landed in someone else’s court permanently. If he’s a wanderer or a guest, he’ll come to your court anyway.
For example, if you’re looking for a new martial, select a female courtier and find her a spouse then sort by martial skill. Make sure it’s not someone who’s too old, in bad health or just has a super negative opinion of you. Take a good look at that person’s character tab and if all looks good, you’ve got yourself a new martial for your council.
Find skilled council members, army commanders, knights and potential content trait vassals this way. 🙂
Lifestyles & Focuses
All lifestyles are useful and can be taken advantage of at any time. However, if your ruler doesn’t really have any great predispositions towards a specific one, do not be afraid to mix and match and change your focus every 5 years.
Typically, you should be able to unlock 2 perks during this time from any skill tree.
You can choose your focuses depending on what you need the most at the time. Need more piety? Go into learning, theology. Need more prestige? Majesty focus in diplomacy etc.
Of course, the best way to take advantage of perks is to maximize them. Try to introduce that genius physical trait into your family, as well as unlock the legacy which gives your children better education traits (and also carefully assign skilled guardians of course).
If you’re not sure what focus to go into and you aren’t really specialized for anything, go into whatever seems the most fun to you.
I’d probably go into either learning or stewardship since early in the game, having a higher domain limit or researching things faster and having a good religious relationship with the clergy is important. But diplomacy is always a good choice as well.
Intrigue is fun and exotic and can set you up for some serious inheritance if you make some strategic marriage decisions (and then go on a killing spree).
For example, you can marry your daughter to a ruler’s 2nd or 3rd son matrilineally, assassinate the first in line and now all children from that marriage will be of your dynasty and ruling those lands once that guy is gone.
When there’s some kids in that marriage, you can help speed that up as well of course. 🙂
Research & Innovations
To research innovations faster, you need to raise your learning skill. The best way of doing this is to go into the learning lifestyle and get a spouse with very high learning to then put on the patronage task on your council.
There is also the scientific perk that will improve the rate at which you research cultural fascinations. This is a must have perk and fortunately you can unlock it right away.
You can become fascinated with a cultural innovation yourself too if you want to unlock that specific one extra fast.
Prioritize innovations that benefit you the most. Avoid innovations such as levy reinforcement rates, naval speed etc. These are all nice to have but there are better ones.
I tend to focus on innovations that will either grant me new realm laws or raise my domain limit, or unlock specific buildings that I want to construct etc. Casus Belli innovations are fine for consolidating your lands as well.
Which innovations you go for is up to you, but those are some basic tips I can give you.
Dynasty & Legacies
The best advice that I can give you here, once you know how to manage your succession, is to have a bunch of family members (kids). They will then greatly expand your dynasty over time.
When you have a lot of dynasty members, you will be making more renown.
The idea here is that you can keep marrying your children to other rulers or people who will become rulers. This is hands down the best way to make a lot of renown, apart from making family members independent rulers. I’m not a big fan of that but it helps with certain decisions such as dynasty of many crowns.
Daughters are prime candidates because there are many more single male rulers in the world than female ones. Every time you successfully marry a daughter to another male ruler, you will start making more renown.
Renown is the hardest currency to get and it’s used to either disinherit someone from the line of succession, or more importantly, unlock dynasty legacies.
Which legacies you go for is up to you. They are all good and useful and the game is fairly well balanced. Arguments can be made for all of them, but you can either mix and match or try to specialize and progress all the way for maximum results.