This article describes strategies for preventing faction rebellion, with an emphasis on distribution of power within your realm.
Increasing personal strength
Building a strong demesne
Settled rulers should focus on their capital and capital duchy to maximize demesne levies. For construction tips, see Holdings#Strategies. Tribal and nomadic rulers should instead concentrate their demesne in provinces with many empty slots.
Most rulers should try to keep their demesne limited to a small geographical area. This makes it possible to gather armies quickly and avoid having them picked off separately. It also avoids triggering opinion penalties such as "Too many held duchies" or "Desires <your county in my duchy>".
However, the downside of a concentrated demesne may be that you are putting many eggs in one basket. Be on the alert if you are in the position whereby a holy war (or a war with a similar CB) can be declared on you. A successful holy war could make you lose everything if your capital duchy is the target, severely weakening you or even leading to a game over.
As a King or Emperor, retinues can be a major component of your personal troops. They are especially useful if you have a small or underdeveloped demesne, or if your demesne will split from Gavelkind.
Cheap retinues (e.g. Light Skirmish) can inflate your troop counts and discourage factions from firing. On the other hand, strong retinues (e.g. Defense) are better for winning battles when factions do fire.
Maximizing levies from vassals
When your empire is large enough that you need multi-kings, try to set them up in such a way that the vassal's capital is in the same de jure empire as your capital. Also, occupy entire kingdoms so that they de jure shift into your empire.
Kings have the advantage in that duchy shifts are often easier to initiate and the change to de jure modifier is greater for assimilation into kingdoms.
Distributing titles to avoid landlocked vassals
When creating large vassals such as multi-kings, try to ensure that each vassal can provide enough ships to carry the troops they provide. Often, this can be accomplished by distributing land and sea proportionally. For example, combining Anatolia (very coastal) with Armenia (inland) as a double-king vassal allows troops raised from both kingdoms to be raised on Anatolia's coast with enough ships to carry them all.
Troops that can be immediately loaded into ships can contribute to the war much sooner than troops that must start an overland trek with 0% morale. (Raise vassal troops and ships from the province view so you can control where they appear; raising levies using the military view means relying on your vassal's choice of capital.)
Keeping your vassals relatively weak
The other side of the coin is keeping your vassals weak, and reducing their powerbase when possible.
In general, you want enough vassals that a small group can't surprise you with a faction demand, but not so many that you run out of ways to appease them.
Distributing conquered titles
If you expand via conquest, you'll often have titles that you need to give out. You should be quite careful about whom you give these titles to, as it is easy to end up with a single vassal holding many titles, and eventually being able to challenge your power.
The strategy generally recommended for distributing counties goes like this: search for characters who are not rulers, are of your religion, are male, are of your culture, and are of your dynasty. You should now find someone who is not heir to anything, and whose heir does not own anything. You then give that person a single county with all its holdings (if applicable). The new count will then soon make the holdings in the county into vassals, and will be of no threat to you. You can also type in trait names into the search bar in order to find particularly desirable traits, such as "Content". For Hindus, there is an additional check needed so that the character's caste allows them to receive the county.
Duchies should generally go to vassals who hold a single county. In the short term, the best count to make duke is the one who likes you best. Another possibility is to grant the duchy to the count who holds its de jure capital; any other duke might try to revoke this county. Alternatively, you can grant the duchy title to the weakest count, so they don't have the power to oppose you or to revoke the duchy capital.
It's also possible to grant duchies to counts who hold no land within the duchy. They might have the advantage of sharing your culture and dynasty, or of being able to raise the duchy's troops in a convenient location. You can even weaken your existing dukes by granting new duchy titles to their vassal counts.
By giving each vassal duke and king a small demesne (with most of the realm held by subvassals), you ensure they cannot raise a large army. Note that the size of the army they provide to you only depends on the buildings in the subrealm, not its internal structure; it is even possible that a vassal will provide you more troops than they can muster for themselves!
Whenever a vassal rebels and you beat them, you should usually revoke their primary title. You can then follow the strategy described above to give this title to someone else.
Another way to make them rebel without incurring tyranny is imprisoning them with a just cause. If the arrest fails, they'll rebel, and upon crushing their rebellion you'll be able to strip them of two titles. If they don't rebel, you can either ransom them (earning money and possibly having another chance to arrest them) or leave them safely in house arrest (where they can't cause trouble).
Imperial Administration allows revoking ducal viceroy titles, while Iqta government allows revoking any duchy without penalty. Since kingdoms can't be revoked this way, players with access to duchy revocation may prefer to avoid having vassal kings, e.g. by instead creating megadukes who do not control 51% of any de jure kingdom. Alternatively, hand out kingdom titles that have only 1 or 2 de jure duchies; such kings usually have weak armies.
Finally, you can revoke titles from any vassal who is discovered backing a plot. First, grant and revoke honorary titles multiple times. Second, politely ask them to stop backing the plot. Since they hate you, they will refuse. Since refusing is an act of treachery, you can revoke one title... and then ask again.
If you are playing with Conclave DLC active, be sure to keep the right to revoke titles away from the council for as long as you can. However, even if you lost the right to unilaterally revoke titles, don't despair: as long as the right to imprison is still in the ruler's hands, it is feasible to lock rebels in the dungeon and throw away the key. Work on relations with their heirs and the situation will improve once the heirs take over. This strategy is even better if the imprisoned vassal is a "powerful" one, as you can then have a replacement on the council who's more likely to vote with you.
Preventing vassal consolidation
Keep an eye on wars between your vassals. Consider prohibiting them entirely, using medium crown authority (without Conclave) or vassal war laws (with Conclave). However, it might be better to intervene with strategic use of the realm peace action (also Conclave) or demand peace interactions (The Reaper's Due).
If your vassals are not locked to Agnatic succession, pay close attention to their marriages. If a Duke and Duchess marry, their heir will receive both duchies. Try to help your duchesses find husbands who aren't rulers or heirs (or you or your heir, if you want their titles).
Encouraging vassals to use gavelkind
- Without Conclave, vassals can only switch to primogeniture if you have high crown authority, so stick with medium.
- With The Reaper's Due, you can use the demand gavelkind interaction.
- With Charlemagne, keep in mind that granting a viceroyalty can force the vassal to switch to primogeniture.
Keeping your vassals happy
Finally, you should do your best to keep your vassals happy. This makes them both less likely to join factions and inclined to provide more than the minimum levies.
Cultural and religious unity
Having all your vassals of the same religion is especially simple, as at Medium Crown Authority (without Conclave) or Religious Control Mandate (with Conclave), you can revoke any title held by a Heretic or Infidel without incurring tyranny; this law is more important if the game rules allow secret cults to form, as cultists who have openly declared their secret religion cannot be forced to convert. Alternatively, you can induce them to convert to your religion. This is especially useful for heretics or infidels. (To do such conversions, discover them plotting (and/or any other methods of just imprisonment), and force them to convert when they are imprisoned). Note that nomads and unreformed pagans cannot demand religious conversion.
For culture, you should simply make sure to never give titles to people of a different culture unless you have a very good reason to, for example so as to push their claim on some other title. You can also (as described above) deliberately make them rebel so that you can give their titles to someone else.
Participate in crusades
If you have the opportunity to take part in a crusade, jihad, or great holy war, take it. Send an army to the wargoal led by you and anyone whose opinion of you you want to improve. When you arrive, you both get a trait (e.g. , , or ) which improves the opinion of all clergy of your religion and anyone else who has that trait. For this purpose, it doesn't matter if the army is very small and gets destroyed immediately, as long as there are enough regiments for everyone you want to improve relations with to lead one.
Education of vassals
Without Conclave, vassals are most likely to be happy/loyal if educated by a guardian who is , , and (see Evaluation of guardian traits). You may be able to marry such women into your court. If vassals of other cultures do not like you enough to accept a guardian of your culture, you can still offer a guardian who shares their culture and has these traits.
Education with the Conclave DLC requires more attention to each child's personality, and gives you less control of children who are not your courtiers. Vassal children who happen to be your courtiers should be educated with the Humility focus. Vassal children educated by your courtiers can be switched to the Heritage focus, if their liege picked something dangerous like Pride or Struggle.
In adolescence, three interventions reduce factionalism directly: to , to , and to . Additionally, two interventions avoid bad traits: to (avoiding ⅓ Deceitful), and to (avoiding ⅓ Ambitious). In late adolescence, a guardian with 12+ diplomacy has a one-third chance of encouraging the child to become , which halves faction inclination.
Grooming your heir
A few good traits can significantly improve vassal opinion, lowering the chance of rebellion and increasing the troops provided by your remaining vassals.
Without Conclave, you should groom your heir yourself, letting you make important choices throughout their childhood. Aim for personality traits that increase vassal opinion: , , , , and . On the flip-side, avoid bad traits like , which decrease vassal opinion.
Once your heir is an adult, you may have an opportunity to get them a crusader trait.
Using de jure drift
Try to enable de jure drift of neighbouring duchies to your kingdom, or assimilate kingdoms into your empire. While this requires a long time to see results, it can greatly increase the levies you can raise from vassals while simultaneously decreasing vassal inclination to faction for independence.
However, assimilation increases the number of electors under feudal elective and may make elections harder to control. Consider changing the succession law or landing your dynasty so that they control many elector titles.
Duchies drifting into kingdoms held by vassals also empowers the vassals. This is more dangerous if your vassal already has a large de jure kingdom to begin with.
Pleasing individual vassals
Since monetary bribes scale in cost with the recipient's income, they are best used for vassals with high power/income ratios.
Characters with high
ai_greed respond better to gifts. Look for vassals with traits such as .
You have a limited number of honorary titles. These should generally go to powerful vassals. However, some honorary titles have special mechanics worth considering:
- Your Cupbearer or Food Taster may be able to poison you if they have negative opinion and any of (15 diplomacy, 15 intrigue, , or ).
- Your Designated Regent gets a huge opinion boost, but it is crucial they be both competent and loyal (to both you and your heir). If your heir is an adult, you may want them to be designated regent for the monthly prestige alone.
- Your Court Physician should be competent and loyal if you wish to live a long life.
The minor title of Commander only gives +5 opinion, but unlike honorary titles, it can be reassigned without angering anyone.
If there's a vassal you don't want dying in combat, you can dismiss them from whatever army flank they are leading, or temporarily make them not be a commander at all.
Letting a vassal serve on your council adds +10 opinion. It also switches them from seeing your "state diplomacy" to seeing your "personal diplomacy", which can be a huge boost to opinion if your personal diplomacy skill is high.
Assigning council positions becomes especially important with the Conclave DLC. Your most powerful vassals expect a seat on the council and have -40 opinion if they are eligible but not serving. Depending on your laws, councilors may be prohibited from joining factions. However, Conclave also makes it important that your councilors not only be competent but that they also vote the way you want them to.
Transferring a count can please a duke. This is recommended in several cases:
- The count is a faction member. Even if the duke is also a member, you've reduced the total power of the faction: the count could raise his entire demesne levy but the duke can only raise a portion.
- The count is a de jure vassal of the duke. This permanently removes the duke's "-25 Desires control of <County>" opinion toward you, in addition to adding the temporary "+10 Vassal transfer" opinion.
- You are over your vassal limit.
Sending a child or grandchild to be educated by a vassal (or by their courtier) increases the vassal's opinion by +10 for 11 years.
There is no direct danger in giving a vassal control over your child, but you may want to keep an eye on whether epidemic diseases threaten their location.
Even if you follow the advice above, you may get dangerous factions, especially in the aftermath of succession. You can take additional steps specifically to suppress factions.
Marry your vassals
Marrying within the realm can create non-aggression pacts with vassals, preventing them from joining factions. In particular, arranging a marriage or betrothal automatically creates a NAP as long as each spouse is closely related to the interacting rulers. These NAPs can be voluntarily renewed in subsequent generations as long as the new rulers are still close relatives of the married/betrothed couple.
Rulers with large families (e.g. from concubines or seduction) will be able to form more pacts. Muslims have an advantage in that polygamy lets them form pacts through their secondary wives directly, as well as through their many children.
There are several downsides to this strategy.
- Depending on the circumstances of the marriage, it can give a vassal's successors claims on liege titles.
- Repeated intermarriage risks .
- You cannot revoke titles from vassals you have a NAP with, even if they become traitors (e.g. if they rebel due to failed imprisonment).This can be mitigated by an indefinite stay in the dungeon, forcing a regency until the vassal's heir inherits.
Make vassals unable to join factions
Even with low opinion, there are several ways to make your vassals ineligible to join factions:
- Send your spymaster to prevent factions.
- Grant independence, especially to vassals outside your capital empire (who barely provide any troops even when opinion is high). Of course, if your aim is to achieve de jure shift, this option is not attractive.
- Transfer them under a vassal of higher rank.
- Arrest individual vassals. There are many ways to justify arrest, including catching the vassal leading a plot or refusing to stop backing a plot. If a vassal esapes arrest, they will rebel, but this can be useful as it allows you to revoke a title safely and without angering other vassals.
- With Way of Life, you can use the intrigue focus to fabricate arrest reasons, imprison them directly, or discourage them from joining factions.
- With Conclave, you can give powerful vassals council positions (or make your competent vassals powerful). They will not be able to join factions while the council is content and able to vote on war declarations (unless you are tribal or nomadic).
Watch for vassals who are in factions despite high opinion. They might have been coerced into the faction by the leader; you can confirm this suspicion by checking their opinion of the leader. You can solve this by removing the leader from the faction in any way.
Scatter the demands
If your faction members cannot unite behind a single demand, they will be unable to issue a strong ultimatum.
- A diverse set of vassals may be unable to agree on a single claimant.
- If you have multiple kingdoms or empires, vassals might be unable to agree on which title should have lowered crown authority, a new succession law, or a new ruler. However, multiple titles prevent de jure shifts and causes vassals to desire the extra titles, resulting in reduced opinion.
Avoid providing an opportunity by keeping vassals busy
Faction leaders cannot issue ultimatums while they are direct participants in war. If they're busy, try to keep them busy.
Furthermore, depending on the type of faction, AI vassals will not issue an ultimatum if their liege is already fighting in certain types of wars. By prolonging or chaining these wars, you can make AI faction leaders believe that never is a good time to issue their ultimatum.
For most factions: AI vassals will not issue an ultimatum if the liege is the primary defender in any war (except for Overthrow Ruler, e.g. from failed imprisonment or refused revocation). Furthermore, they will not issue an ultimatum if the liege is the primary attacker in certain wars that would be sure to strengthen the liege: any invasion, holy war (other than Pagan holy war or Buddhist minor holy war), or personal claim (so including "claim all" but not "claim for other").
For claimant factions: ???
For independence factions: no ultimatums if the liege is defending in certain types of religious wars, or same religion as liege who is attacking an infidel.
Consider giving into minor demands
Sometimes, vassals will demand something that you don't really mind giving them.
|Demand||Likely to repeat?||Other benefits for ruler||Concerns|
|Gavelkind succession||Impossible||+5 opinion from all vassals.
+30% demesne limit.
|Weakening of demesne; potential succession wars|
|Elective succession||Impossible||+10 from non-dynastic vassals.
Lets you more or less select your heir, with moderate risk.
|Risk of dynasty losing primary title|
|Lower crown authority (Without Conclave)||Lower priority at each step||Higher opinion||Loss of privileges and lowered minimum levies from vassals.|
|Increased council power (With Conclave)||Lower priority at each step||With voting on wars, non-nomadic, non-tribal council members cannot join factions||Less freedom in dealing with rebellions and aftermath; no control over which two laws will be passed beyond the first two.|
Reasons to create duke-tier vassals
As a king or emperor, there are several additional but less obvious benefits to creating and giving away duke-tier titles with counts below them, rather than just trying to directly rule over as many "powerless" counts as possible:
- Your vassal's AI vassals cannot plot an assassination against you unless they are heir or pretender to one of your titles, if you are their rival, or in a few other rare instances. All else being equal, it is also a lot harder for a few dukes to successfully pull off an existing assassination plot compared to many individual counts, simply because fewer characters contribute less overall plot power, which gives you ample time to discover and punish the plotters.
- You gain monthly prestige not just based on your directly held titles, but also for all the titles which your vassals hold.
- Dukes generate technology points while counts don't. This means that in the long term, your realm will fall behind in technology compared to other realms, if you don't let dukes generate their own tech points, especially since feudal realms depend on technology for their construction.
- When trying to convert provinces to your religion, each character tier can task their own chaplain with the proselytize mission. Imagine you had one county in your empire that has a different religion. It belongs to a count of your religion who is vassal to a duke of your religion who is vassal to a king of your religion who is vassal to you. You and each character tier below you may tell their chaplain to convert that province, making the conversion event much more likely to fire.
- Your vassal's vassal opinion of you doesn't matter with regards to how many levies you can get, only your direct vassal's opinion along with the corresponding laws.
Benefits of having as many individual rulers as possible in the hierarchy under you
Apart from just retaining more relative power in comparison to your direct vassals, there are additional benefits:
- Your realm grows richer faster since two counts in two counties can build more buildings faster than one person with two counties could due to events and mechanics that generate wealth "out of thin air" for each individual ruler (like for example the "collect taxes" mission for stewards).
- It vastly increases the number of individual courts in your realm, which increases the pool of potentially useful people you can draw from for your own purposes by either inviting them or marrying them, or by granting them titles in newly conquered realms.
- If you revoke the duchy title from a duke with several counts under him, you can just grant the duchy to one of his counts instead, making the troublesome former duke your vassal's vassal. This neutralizes him as a threat, while simultaneously making the new duke happy about their newly-gained title.
Disadvantages of splitting the realm down to counts (rogue edit)
In my experience the above might actually NOT be a good advice.
- AI is notoriously bad at managing money. While in theory two counts in two counties can build faster, in practice they do the opposite. Did you ever notice how even an AI that is richer that the player often has a less developed demesne than the player? That is because AI often wastes money, and the more of them there are the more money they'll waste.
- While levies calculations are weird, taxes calculations are pretty straightforward. Barons pay to counts, counts pay to dukes, dukes pay to kings and kings pay to emperors and every vassal in that chain takes a cut. Let's assume, for simplicity's sake, that all taxes are set to 50% (which is a rather generous assumption). If your direct vassal is a duke that holds all the 5 counties in his duchy himself then you'll get: 25% of the income of all baron tier vassals under him (let's assume it's 5 temples and 5 cities) and 50% of the income of all his holdings (5 castles). If however he only holds one county and the rest are held by counts under him you would get 12.5% of the baron tier vassals in that land (4 temples 4 cities), and 25% of all the holdings held by those counts ( 4 castles), 25% from the barons directly under the duke (1 temple, 1 city) and 50% of his holdings (1 castle). Essentially your "cut" of the profits from those lands dropped by 40% of what it was. Now, theoretically, those cuts don't vanish and should still head towards improving the land, but in practice they'll go towards buying ego-boosting paintings, and bribing nobodies to decrease council authority of a county (what's the count even going to do with that authority of his? revoke a city?). Wherever else it goes, it will certainly NOT go towards improvement of YOUR demesne.
- Having many courts in your realm isn't even remotely as useful as it sounds. It's nice for conversions (every court has a council), but other than that all it gets you is a flood of mostly useless characters and their shenanigans. Expect more secret religions and devil worshippers to deal with and more migrants when those courts fall apart (which is, generally, NOT good for your court).
- One of the four sources of technology spreading is demesne spread. No demesne means no demesne spread. While in theory all those separated counts could go and steal tech, and as a result give your realm one heck of a tech advancement speed, in practice they don't. Tech from your dukes will still spread, but it would spread faster if your dukes held their duchies.
- While it's tempting to get rid of a troublesome duke by making one of his former subjects the next duke, doing so would switch the tech "engine" of the duchy from a county that lead to the county that was being lead essentially wasting progress.
For most of the above mentioned concerns splitting the realm to the single-handedly held single duchies is the optimal solution. Such dukes generate tech points, accelerate their demesne catching up, consolidate the right amount of money (large enough to actually build something, not large enough to start throwing mercs around left and right), and are not big enough to pose a serious threat without many of them "ganging up" on you, which should not happen unless you are disliked by the realm in general (which is not a situation in which you can afford to be for long regardless of how powerless your vassals are).