In Crusader Kings you can play as men and women of fantastic birth and dynasty; from William the Conqueror to the Sultans of Arabia. However the game goes much deeper than these kings and emperors. Every lord, count and baron is playable, and it’s often these smaller lords that are the toughest to play as.
I’ll be attempting to raise up one of these lowly men to become something more than themselves. Since Crusader Kings is about your family, rather than your character, it might take a few generations… Hopefully the family I choose will go down in the ages.
It requires a special set of skills to rise from lowly count to kingship, and these are certainly not the skills that Count Waltheof has. Count Waltheof is the Count of Northampton, a small county located in East Anglia, England. In 1066 he’s a minor lord with a few holdings and only a special relationship to the deceased King Harold keeping him at all relevant: he has the dead king’s daughters and sons in his court.
This somewhat makes Waltheof a target for the new King William, who is already looking to quash any sign of rebellion. These are troubling times but times that can seized upon to drag men like Waltheof (we’ll call him Walt) up the ladder and into the history books.
Count Waltheof of Northampton – 1066-1080
Walt begins the game with the small holding of Northampton, the city of Cambridge and the Bishopric of Crowland under his name. Though he owns small lands, it’s by no means a poor start. Unmarried, I immediately look to get Walt a new bride. Walt’s not blessed with any special talents and has a rating of 5-8 in diplomacy, warfare, stewardship, learning and intrigue - hopefully a good wife can help him.
Born in 1050, he’s only 16, and so has a lot of potential for growth. King William, perhaps understandably, does not like Walt – all the debuffs for conquest and foreign languages mean they have a mutual distrust. Will’s here to stay, though, so Walt should work on impressing him as soon as possible. The mayor of Cambridge and the bishop of Crowland both like Walt well enough, so that is always a good start – having vassals hating you is never a good sign.
I check Walt’s personality traits. As a young man he can still develop and lose traits as well as add to those he has already, but in 1066-1067 I discover he’s deceitful, wrathful, gluttonous and craven. Bugger. Not the best set of traits but we’ll have to see if the right wife won’t set him right.
There are plenty of eligible women on offer as well as a few younger girls with some excellent family names attached to them. Among Walt’s choice of wife are the daughters of the Kings of France, Navarra, Castile and Hungary. Though this would give him a boost in reputation, most of these girls are under age and would take years to mature to marriageable age – we want Walt making babies straight away!
I choose Princess Sigrid of Denmark. She’s a legitimised bastard, so her father has no qualms accepting the match. Unsurprisingly Sigrid isn’t too happy about it – Walt is fat, cowardly and a liar to boot – but hopefully she can change him.
With the marriage over, Walt turns his attentions to matters of state. It’s already plain that the lords of the formerly Anglo-Saxon England are not happy with William. Factions opposing the Norman ruler are springing up all over the land. For the moment I decide that Walt needs to keep his head low. He should pop out a few children first and then start thinking about war, that’s the way to go! I set Walt to start martial training in an attempt to boost his wartime prowess in the meantime.
July 1067 rolls around and a letter arrives urgently from William – a dispute over the control of Cumberland has escalated into full scale war with Scotland! Walt grabs his armour, spends the afternoon trying to fit into it, and then begins the long march to the mustering fields. Hopefully a taste of battle will steel his nerves (and help him lose a few pounds). Unfortunately this leaves Sigrid at home in Northampton with nothing to do but pine for her homeland where skinnier and less craven men live…
The war lasts until November, when Walt returns to find that Sigrid is pregnant (hopefully with his child). The road to a dynasty of little Walts is already beginning to take shape. In September 1068 the baby is born: it turns out to be a girl, who, as his firstborn, gets the honour of the name “Waltilda”. Somehow little Waltilda is born with the trait “attractive” – definitely from her mother’s side.
War breaks out again with the Scots in 1069 and Walt is given the honour of riding in the vanguard. At the battle of Gowrie, Walt manages to distinguish himself, losing his “craven” trait and gaining a specialism in winter warfare. What use that will be in the South of England remains to be seen but it’s a good sign that Walt is growing out of his old habits.
More happy years are spent with his daughter and less-begrudging wife at Northampton, where Walt even loses weight and gains the “trusting” trait. War breaks out again in 1071, this time against France. Walt straps his (now looser) armour on and heads out again, his newly polished martial skills ready to be tested.
Somehow while out on campaign he finds time to tend to a rosebush and some shrubs and gains the “gardening” trait too. All these traits have increased his stats and met his ambitions to become a better man. Met ambitions mean more renown and more prestige. Walt makes use of his new found diplomacy skills, too, and sets up a betrothal between Waltilda and a Danish prince named Niels. At least this way Sigrid will have someone to chat to.
The war against France is won quickly and Walt spends more time in Northampton, attending to the occasional feast and spending time hunting. It’s only been a short amount of time but I have to say I have grown quite fond of him (and not only because he lords over my home county). Walt, in 10 years, has gone from a fat, greedy coward to a kind, trusting and diplomatic young man with the beginnings of a family.
Sigrid becomes pregnant again in 1079, rather conspicuously following my decision to gift her some gold. She gives birth to another girl, who I decide to name Sigrid after her mother. Unfortunately for Sigrid II she’s not “attractive” like her 12 year old sister. I sense some tension in the future…
In 1080 King William the Conqueror dies of natural causes, leaving his son Robert to inherit the throne. Robert, upon a check of his traits, is gluttonous, cruel, craven, wrathful, envious, has a lisp and is an arbitrary judge of men. Oh, and he hates Walt. Things are about to get interesting.