The year is 867.
An unprepossessing chap in his late 50's, whose only saving grace is a high diplomatic skill, has recently been elected as the Doge of the county of Amalfi. He has a hunchback son, who is not a bad soldier, but is pretty much rubbish at everything else - oh and there is another pronlem. Merinos - the father - is a Catholic, his son Polkarios Polkarios (so good they named him twice) is Orthdox.
And as Merinos counts his 200 or 300 gold coins and looks out at the world, he sees a tough election race with the other families, Muslims controlling Sicily, and Apulia, the Duke of Salerno to the south that has a de jure claim on Amalfi, the Byzantine Empire that has a de jure claim on Amalfi, the states of Naples and Capua to the north, and beyond that Rome. But perhaps most importantly, beyond that the Karling controlled Kingdom of Italy, who if need be - and the inter family rivalry is not pulling them apart can summon half of Western Europe to the gates of this tiny Italian city.
In short the prospect is not exactly great.
There are however a couple of chinks of light.
The count of Capua is in his 60's, and his heir is a baby. If a claim can be fabricated against his land, and an attack made during a regency, there is a strong possibility that it would be successful - meaning that if everything goes tits up, at least there will be a second county from which to continue fighting.
And there is enough money to build a trading posts in Amalfi and Naples and to pay the 300 or 400 gold to win the election by 5 or 600 votes/respect points. And if the steward gets his act together and overseas the construction of the trade posts, we could be in business by the end of the year.
At which point I should say something about the other families in your republic - they are pigs, they are farm animals, they should be treated as such and farmed accordingly.
Look I am not saying I am proud of having a two year with leprosy thrown off the castle walls - some of the kids in the face packs DLC's are cute looking kids - but I had a 1 in 4 chance of getting the trading post in Padua, or where ever, that I needed to control that particular region of sea.
I mention this because one of the how to videos I watched went on about how play politics with the other families to get what you want. Which was all very nice, but if you really need to bribe someone to get their vote, a 2 year old asks for a lot less and likes you a lot more than a forty year old - plus he has no respect so is irrelevant when it comes to the election of the new Duke.
Basically each patrician gets one child and then it is off to the abattoir.
Cruel I know... but that is the game....
And when the child racks up enough trade posts through the various murders, then it goes the way of it's father.... work right to left... and when the last one has four or more, one of them will come to you...
Cruel I know.... but that is the game....
Oh and if you can kill of a family, then a new family spawns, and if you kill them quick enough you will get the 300 gold they start with - due to the mechanic of a liege inheriting the title and wealth of an unheired vassal.
I used to do a similar thing when playing as a Desmond. If I needed money, I would find a major or a bishop with money, arrest them and banish them - though they have changed the way banishment works, so I think you might have to kill them and their family now to get the dosh - not a probem with bishops - ok ypu rack up the tyranny points, but if you spend the money wisely and wait long enough it all works out in the end....
At which point I hear you cry but what about that patrician with the level 20 intrigue skill? That I just can't kill....
Which brings me to the Max Miller joke about the master builder whose son wanted a brother or a sister, and when he told him that it wasn't that easy, the son told him to put more men on the job.
My solution to this problem was to have a spymaster, and three other's at court who could be spymasters, and then to find five or six soldiers with decent (10 plus intrigue). Marry them to women with 10 plus intrgue - and the necessary fertility scores... bingo.... suddenly you have a pack of wolves running the streets....
Add to this an utterly cynical approach to being caught redhanded in the act of murder.... if the justified imprisonment pops up - arrest them, send them a gift and release them.... if they run off to Pisa or where ever, good luck to them, just find some to take their place and away we go again.
Ok, now I will admit that after a spate of 10 or 15 murders over the space of 2 years, when all of my towns - by this point I held Amafi, Capua and Naples - where engulfed in disease fumes, I did back off a bit, thinking that this might be paradox's way of telling you that it was not how they intended the game to be played... and perhaps it is not. But frankly if you prefer contested elections, units of 250 archers wandering from post to post - and worse units of 250 archers commanded by your character on the whim of a gigging 14 year old patrician - and sticking firmly you trade post cap, and paying the family tax, then good luck to you.
I prefer having my doge's backside firmly sat in the CEO's chair, and a trade post income from 30 trade posts, when I have a limit of 5, and not shelling out money for some hippy looking character to loaf about my court.
And as I mentioned above if you can get 3 families killed down to children, and then keep bumping off the new guy.... well let's put it this way.... when you are earning 300 a year, you feel rich..... heck when I was playing as the Earl of Desmond, 300 was my target to start a war... 5 or 6 trade posts will give you 300.... five or six murders will give you 2000.... and in the early game 2000 builds you a mansion.... it upgrades your trade posts.... and most important of all it buys you mercenaries....
Because let's not forget.....
Poor old Marinos, sitting there in Amalfi, looking out over the city walls and the comforting mountain of Salerno.... that seems to hide his tiny state from the vengeful eyes of the King of Ilaty and the Byzantine Empire.... not to mention whoever those thousands of Muslims in Apulia and Sicily belong to.... poor old Marinos has got barely 1500 men.... he's in hock to the Jews... all his neighbours - Salerno, Baples, Capua, Taranto, Beunvento (sic), Foggia are all as strong as him. He is stuck unless he can get the money together to pay for mercenaries... he certainly isn't going to solve the military imbalance with forming alliances, because he can't afford the bride price.
Which brings me back to the question of religion.
Having played as a Catholic before, I know the score... I know how to get a divorce... I know what upsets and what pleases the pope.... and perhaps most importantly I see there is one pope and I know he is in Rome. When I look at the Orthadox faith there is more than one head, I don't understand the rules... can I be excommunicated? do they have crusades? what happens if I am excommunicated? can a crusade be called against me?
I could go and find the answers.
But it is far more simple and less hassles, given the threats that already exist, to just make my hunchback son Polkarios Polkarios (so good they named him twice, I love it) convert.
And so the second choice was made - we are going to farm the merchant familes, and we are going to be strictly, and I mean strictly, orthadox Catholics (with a large C). If the Pope says jump, we are already in the sky....
Ok... ok.... I now know that the Pope can't call a crusade on Orthadox Christians...
Or maybe he can...
All I know is I am 350 in the hole to the Jews.... I have two trade posts, when I need three to control the Bay of Naples.... and the king of Italy is sending an army 4 times the size of the force I can raise in a holy war for Apulia, and the Byzantines have set an army 6 times the six times the size of mine to contest Sicily with a Muslim army five times the size of mine.
Oh and if I am going to have anywhere to run, I need to find the 5 or 600 gold to fabricate the claim on Capua.... and then find the money to pay to mercenaries needed to ensure we can take the place.
And all the while my chancellor is shuttling between Salerno and Rome, in an effort to placate them both.