We had the chance to learn more about Crusader Kings 3: Royal Court during a press event earlier in May, and spoke to Game Director Alexander Oltner about how the expansion itself and its accompanying free update will change the base game which, in case you missed it, happens to be excellent.
expansions aim to evolve the game in new directions while being integrated with its already established features. Ideally, Paradox wants to avoid situations in which players encounter hurdles after a major DLC launches and strives to make it easy for players to jump right in without feeling lost.
The main feature of Crusader Kings 3: Royal Court gives the expansion its title. In-game, the Royal Court will receive its own new hub, where you can see "the fruits of your success," your family, but also courtiers andpaying homage to you. It's, in one sense, a reward for players who climb the ladder of titles, as only Feudal and Clan rulers that ascend to King or Emperor rank have access to it.
You will be able to view the throne room, which acts as a "glorious bridge between the map, on one hand, and the character, on the other," from different angles. It will be stylized to fit four different cultures and allow Kings and Emperors to take petitions from subjects, some petty, others more important for the realm.
Grandeur is a new concept introduced in Crusader Kings 3: Royal Court, and plays into the idea that you have to look and behave like a King if you want people's respect. Rulers who neglect it, focusing too much on war, can lose out on getting Grandeur and suffer penalties.
Grandeur is tracked on a scale from 0 to 100, rather than being a resource you gain and spend. The amount you have can unlock various abilities and modifiers, but there's also an expectation which you can either exceed or fail to meet. This expectation is primarily determined by the size of your realm. As a small ruler you might find value in attempting to greatly exceed it, as this will allow you to "hit above your weight diplomatically."
"The lack of Grandeur or, more specifically, if you do not live up to your expectations, affects people in your court, your guests and your courtiers, but also your vassals, and independent rulers or peer vassals that you might want to interact with," Oltner told us.
You earn Grandeur by spending gold on purchasing Amenities for your court. You'll need to ensure that your courtiers and visitors have food, servants, clothing, and lodging. Seeing to their needs also increases your Court's reputation.
You also increase Grandeur by holding court, inviting vassals and courtiers to petition you with requests and demands. While you can ignore doing so, giving them the cold shoulder for too long won't win you any favors.
"The foundation of holding court is, you always gain some Grandeur for performing the action itself. You invite your vassals and they come and they ask for help. Grandeur is part of the reward. But then, every single event that you get while holding court has its own unique setup and can affect any number of things within your realm," Oltner said.
"There might be movement of development, you might end wars between vassals or create friendships or make someone like you; there are many things and there's quite a large variety in what can happen here to keep things fresh."
Grandeur also grants further incentive to unite and acquire new lands.
"When you're a Count or a Duke, you don't really have that sort of responsibility. In the game, as it stands right now, the difference between a Duke and a King isn't that great; it's primarily who you yourself can have as a vassal," according to Oltner.
"The Grandeur system, or the throne room and everything that comes with it, is a reward for players to actually advance in rank and become Kings or Emperors, to feel a tangible shift in responsibility like there's more to do."
Artifacts and Court Positions
The quality of the characters you attract to court increases with the amount of Grandeur you have, which could see Inspired people paying you a visit. Characters with Inspiration can ask for your sponsorship to find a relic or create a work of art that you can display in your throne room.
Inspired smiths can create weapons that you can bring into combat, while inspired jewelers can create jeweled crowns. These weapons go into your personal inventory, and can also be integrated into your character's 3D portrait. Since they come with you on the battlefield, artifacts can be stolen by the enemy. Original owners do, however, have a claim on them and can get them back by going to war, engaging in a duel, or using a Scheme.
"The artifacts that you place in your court, such as epic artifacts, banners, statues, most of them will have an effect on your Grandeur baseline, which affects the trend of Grandeur. So your Grandeur will slowly trend towards your baseline: if it's above, it will slowly trend down and if it's below it will slowly trend up. But when it's at the baseline, it will stabilize," Oltner explained.
Like all things, artifacts decay over time. You might want to reforge or retire them and keep them as an heirloom. You will need an Antiquarian for the latter, which is one of several new Court Positions joining others like Seneschal, Food Taster, and Court Tutor in the free update accompanying Crusader Kings III: Royal Court.
"One of the reasons we didn't like minor titles and chose not to transfer them with the base game was because they did nothing, really, in Crusader Kings II. They just gave an opinion bonus to whoever held them and we wanted to make sure that Court Positions, as we call them now, actually had tangible effects. Of course, some of them are ceremonial, like Keeper of the Swans, for example. They're also no longer free, have a salary, and give something to whoever holds them. A lot of them have tangible effects and are affected by the skills of whoever holds them," Oltner told us.
Appointing a Seneschal may grant additional control growth which increases based on the skill of the character. This leaves you with a choice: do you hand Court Positions out just to appease a character and gain a small opinion bonus or pick the best person for the job?
On a different note, naming a landed character as your Court Jester, will make them quite angry, while an unlanded character will enjoy the prestige associated with providing entertainment to the King. Court Positions also appear frequently in court events.
The Court Tutor plays a rather important role, as they can help you and courtiers learn new languages, leading to new events and interactions. The act of learning a language plays out as a Scheme. Rivals can attempt to sabotage your efforts, but learning a language can also lead to amorous misunderstandings in your court.
"The way we determine which languages you can learn and know is based on Culture. If you're born into a Culture, you instinctively know its language. You can learn languages by looking towards characters of other Cultures and deciding 'I want to learn the language that they speak' – it might be a vassal or a liege; the reason for this is because we can tie very fun flavor into it when it is character-based," Oltner explains.
"For example, the one you're trying to learn the language from, if they don't like you, might decide to send you literature that isn't very savory, maybe, to fool you. [...] of course, there are also flavor events where you can learn a language from someone. But primarily, you learn it through a Scheme targeting other characters. It's also tied into lifestyles. The Diplomat path in the Diplomacy lifestyle, the Duty path in Stewardship, and the Scholar path in Learning all, in one way or another, affect languages and how you learn them."
Language is "a small part of a wider overhaul of the Culture system", acting as a sub-feature of Cultures themselves. Speaking a foreign language halves a ruler's opinion penalty when interacting with both characters and counties, helping when they inherit land inhabited by a different culture.
"In the old Culture system, the penalty for being a foreigner was quite low, because there was no real way for you to overcome it. For example, in external politics, there was no opinion penalty. If you arranged a marriage with a King of another culture, there was no actual penalty. Now when acceptance is a thing and you can do something like learning a language, this becomes something that you as a player can overcome, through tolerance and effort. Therefore, the penalty with your own vassals and counties of another Culture is much higher by default," Oltner told us.
Characters with a high learning skill will have an easier time learning languages, but that doesn't make them easy to pursue. AI-controlled characters that are Learning-inclined will also seek to reap the benefits of speaking a foreign tongue. There's even some flavor involved, as Catholic priests will try to learn Latin. After conquering the grammar and vocabulary of one new language, learning another one will be even harder.
Cultural Ethoses, Traditions, Pillars
Each Culture will have an Ethos that defines it, such as bellicose, stoic, inventive, spiritual, or courtly. This is a guiding principle of sorts that comes with bonuses of its own – bellicose cultures spawn more mercenary companies – but also determines how easy it is to adopt certain Traditions, which provide "a wide range of niche effects," that will be most relevant to the "day-to-day gameplay experience".
Some Traditions make farms more productive in certain geographical areas, while others can grant military bonuses under some circumstances. Anglo-Saxon and Norse inheritance rules will also become Traditions.
Cultural Pillars lie between Ethoses and Traditions, determining how characters dress, what their names are, or the Culture's architecture. Cultural Heads can add Traditions, provided their Culture still has open slots. Most start with between 2 and 4 slots, but the number can go as high as 6. Doing so costs Prestige, the total amount being determined by a base cost, how well the Tradition fits your Ethos, and how suitable it is for your Culture.
"Let's say you want to adopt a tradition where only really powerful Knights with high Prowess scores are allowed to serve as Knights. Then [...] there must be a ruler that has x amount of Knights that are 'this' powerful, as sort of a foundational requirement. There might be Traditions that might require you to have a certain percent of your land within a certain terrain or have a certain [amount of] development," Oltner explained.
Traditions that don't match your Culture's Ethos and whose prerequisites aren't fulfilled can be "prohibitively expensive", although if you really want to, you can get enough Prestige to adopt them. The AI will, however, lean towards the ones that more naturally fit its culture.
Acceptance will also play a rather important role in the Culture system rework.
"Every Culture has an attitude towards every other Culture. Essentially, it's an acceptance towards two groups of people." Using French and Franconian as examples, "if they have 20% acceptance towards each other, it means that both of them have that amount – one can't have 3% and the other 25%, it's the same. That affects the opinion between characters and counties," Oltner explained.
"If you have a penalty of -30 and an acceptance of 50%, that penalty is only -15. It can be increased and decreased by various sources. Two cultures living in harmony, having a large border between each other will see their acceptance go up, while if there's a lot of warring going on [...], that drops acceptance. You can also choose to have vassals in your realm of the Culture ruling their own lands – that will increase acceptance over time."
One thing to note is that acceptance will not trend upwards, towards the baseline, but will not drop below it. Catholic rulers start with a higher baseline but even if their cultures aren't interacting with each other, there will still be a certain amount of tolerance between them due to their shared faith. War will, naturally, make it drop, but it will not passively decrease.
Cultural Hybridization and Divergence
When ruling over a society that melds aspects of multiple Cultures, you can choose to Hybridize, creating a new Culture that maintains many of the benefits of both. Currently, a Greek ruler governing a Bedouin state can convert to the latter. Hybridization will allow them to retain some of the Greek Culture's bonuses while forging a new Culture altogether. This is done via a Court action.
You can choose the Ethos, Traditions, and Pillars of your Culture, much like you choose the elements of your Religion. Hybridized Cultures can mix and match Traditions that might not otherwise be possible, with the exception of mutually exclusive ones. The AI will also strive to Hybridize, which should give some interesting results. As an example, the Seljuks will be likely to create a Turko-Persian Culture.
But your Culture may not always be suitable for your current situation. That's where Cultural Divergence comes in, allowing you to break away, an option that is especially handy when you're not the Culture Head.
Being a peacefully-minded individual among others thirsting for war is far from ideal. Cultural Divergence essentially lets you replace Traditions that have no gameplay value as history changes around you. A ruler with enough power and vassal pull can also Diverge, having their new Culture spreading across their former Culture's land.
Both Culture Hybridization and Divergence cost Prestige, also coming with the option of renaming and choosing a new color. Cultures won't change a lot on their own, because of the developer's goal of emphasizing characters, although some Divergences may occur organically but "mostly for flavor and to feel that the world is alive without you."
Crusader Kings 3: Royal Court is still in early development, hence the lack of shiny new screenshots throughout our article. There's no release date yet, but more details will be shared over the coming months.
Quotations lightly edited for concision and readability.
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