Crusader Kings III – Guide to Dealing with Factions

The biggest hassle in CK3 by far, and your biggest obstacle to success, is when it comes to dealing with factions.

The faction system in CK3 is extremely complex and multi-faceted. Factions form for any ruler from a count to an emperor, and learning how to deal with them is crucial to keeping your power. This guide seeks to teach you how to deal with factions.

The Three Stats that Matter: Relations, Tyranny and Dread

The three main factors that influence whether your factions will form a faction are: relations, tyranny and dread, which are all various ways in which your vassals perceive you.

Relations

Relations, quite simply, are how much or little your vassals like you. You gain relations from countless ways, but some of the most reliable methods include using the “Sway” interaction, the “Send Gift” interaction, having your chancellor improve relations with your vassals, giving vassals positions on your council or in your court, or donating holdings to them.

Tyranny

Having high tyranny makes it more likely for factions to form against you.

You gain tyranny from performing illegal acts, like imprisoning innocent vassals, illegally revoking their titles or executing them without cause.

Tyranny also gives rise to a unique type of faction, a faction against a ruler’s tyranny. The only situation in which you should risk gaining tyranny is if you are particularly desperate.

Dread

Your amount of dread determines how much your vassals fear you. You can have a maximum of 100 dread.

Different vassals will have different amounts of fear of you based on their personal traits.

As the CK3 wiki states: “Each character has a hidden boldness attribute, which is decided by the character’s traits. A character becomes intimidated by characters whose dread is 20 above their own boldness and terrified by characters whose dread is 45 above their own boldness.”

Vassals need to have above a certain opinion, usually about 50 or so if not intimidated, and 20 or so if intimidated—but depending on certain things like their military power in comparison to yours, as well as your tyranny—to leave a faction. Your dread also deteriorates over time unless you have the “Forever Infamous” skill in the Intrigue tree.

The easiest way to get dread is to execute your prisoners. Not all prisoners give you dread for executing them, though. Executing certain prisoners may give you dread, but also tyranny if you are executing that prisoner illegally (they are a non-criminal vassal of yours, for example).

You can also get dread from performing various illegal actions, but this will also raise your tyranny at the same time, so this only recommended if you have various access to various modifiers that quickly reduce tyranny.

The “Torturer” branch of the Intrigue tree is very effective and maintaining dread.

The “Torturer” branch also almost always quickly gives rise to the “Forest of Bodies” random event. This will immediately kill all of your current prisoners and give you 30 dread. This is extremely effective for quickly gaining a huge amount of dread, enough to dissuade manyfactions from forming.

The “Malice Implicit” skill makes dread gain go in hand with the amount of tyranny you have,

The “Hard Rule” skill in the “Overseer” tree and the “Authority” focus in Martial also grants dread and dread gain, respectively.

Dealing With Factions

Donating Holdings

Donating holdings to your vassals is one of the most reliable ways to increase relations and disband factions. Giving a vassal a kingdom will improve relations more than giving them a duchy, and a duchy more than a county, etc.

For numerous reasons beyond just improving the relations of your vassals, you should donate your holdings until you are below or at the holding limit, and only donate these holdings to those who might form factions against you in order to keep them happy. With only occasional exceptions, you should not donate holdings to vassals that already like you a lot.

The Council

Your council is a very important part of the puzzle when it comes to dealing with factions. You can have a max total of 5 powerful vassals in your realm, and you should almost always have your most powerful vassals all as members of your council.

Putting powerful vassals on councils is one of the most obvious and straightforward ways to keep them happy.

The only case in which you should not have a powerful vassal on your counciil is when their relations with you are so positive or their dread of you is so high that they will not rebel even when not on the council, and when that vassal has way worse stats for being a council-member than a non-powerful vassal.

It’s also important to prevent non-powerful vassals from getting hooks on you. The reason is that if a lower-ranked vassal uses their hook to secure a place on your council, a higher-ranked vassal who believes they are entitled to be on the council will become disgruntled.

Gaining Hooks

Hooks can be used to help prevent vassals from joining factions, or too make them leave.

The most reliable way to gain hooks is to put your spymaster in a county and have them spy on that county. Preferably you would want to do this to your most powerful vassals so that you can keep them controlled.

If you get a hook on a rebelling ruler in the middle of a war, they will, at least sometimes, end that war. This happened to me the one time I ever did gain a hook against a rebelling ruler so maybe it’s not a consistent thing, though.

Forming Alliances

Forming alliances is an extremely effective way to deal with a faction. This is because an alliance with a larger military power will drastically increase your military power, making the faction less likely to revolt. And even if they do revolt, you will still have allies to help you in battle.

Granting Vassals

One particularly sneaky way to deal with a faction if you’re desperate is to grant a vassal to another vassal if both are in a faction. People that are not your direct vassals cannot rebel against you. Preferably you would make the vassal with more troops the vassal of the smaller vassal so the faction would lose as much power as possible, but this is of course only possible if the vassal with more troops is at the same rank or lower than the vassal with less troops.

Be wary of granting too many vassals to others, though. That can make your other vassals extremely powerful. You want to make sure to keep those vassals on your good side with extremely positive relations or at least extremely high dread.

Imprisoning or Murdering Faction Members

Contrary to what one might think, imprisoning or murdering people in factions is often very, very difficult unless you have very high intrigue. It is rarely an effective choice, because if that person has not committed a criminal activity, you will gain tyranny if you imprison them or are caught murdering them, which will likely make more vassals join factions against you. It is best to try to imprison or murder a disgruntled vassal before they join a faction rather than once they do so, but again this works best only if you have very high intrigue.

Factions and your heir

All new rulers get a ‘short reign’ modifier which significantly hurts relations with vassals. The longer your ruler rules, the less of an impact the ‘short reign’ penalty will have.

Your heir’s relation with vassals will be heavily influenced by the relation the previous ruler had with their vassals. This is why ruling with dread can sometimes not be as effective in the long term as ruling with respect, as higher relations will make it easier for you heir.

When you die and your heir comes to power, expect for as many as 6 or 7 factions to form in opposition to you if you don’t prepare, and at least a couple if you do. T

If you need more time to prepare for your heir to come to power but your ruler is about to die, you can go to the skill tree, go to learning and pick the “Medicine” focus to get a small health boost. This can potentially buy you enough time to ensure your heir won’t have too hard of a time dealing with factions themselves.

If It Comes to War

So you’ve perfectly followed all of my great advice and somehow still managed to have a faction revolt? It is unwise to almost ever accept a faction’s demands given that you will lose dread for doing so. So if in the worse case scenario you end up at war with a faction, what do you do?

The best way to destroy a faction if it comes to war is to create your military’s spawn point right next to the capital of one of the vassals with your army already mustered, so that when they declare war you can ambush the enemy army as they’re still mustering and without having to deal with the armies of other vassals as well.

Defeating a faction in battle will give you +20 dread, so if you are certain you can beat a faction and need that dread to dissuade vassals in a potentially bigger and more threatening facftion from revolting, than that is also a last ditch option.

Be aware, however, that reducing your military power in other wars will make it easier for a faction to revolt. You definitely also want to focus on keeping vassals with very high commander ability out of factions, as they will make fearsome enemies on the battlefield if you don’t.

Dealing with imprisoned vassals

You can execute imprisoned vassals for the dread and to get rid of a threat, but this will make the heirs of that vassal hate you and also likely to revolt unless those heirs have bad relations with the person executed.

You can also simply revoke their titles to reduce their power. You can revoke more than one title if that vassal also happened to be a criminal. Or you can revoke a title and then execute that vassal. I believe that you can revoke one title for each criminal act a vassal has committed.

Do not ever release any prisoners under any circumstance without some kind of catch, or else you will lose dread.

Miscellaneous Thoughts About Factions

  • If you’re extremely desperate, you can grant independence to a single vassal if it means getting below the revolt threshold for the rest of the faction.
  • Sometimes destroying one faction can make supporters of that faction who still have bad relations with you go to a different faction, making it strong enough to revolt. Be cautious of this when dealing with factions and realize that defeating one faction can sometimes just make things worse.

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