The Golden State: Let's Play Crusader Kings 2

What’s this?

This is a let’s play of one of my favorite games, Crusader Kings 2, with one of my favorite mods, After the End. I’ll be playing as the King of the Valley, in the Empire of California.

Whoah, slow down hoss! What does any of that mean?

Crusader Kings 2 is a game by Paradox Interactive, where you play as a dynasty in Medieval Europe (or Asia, India, the Middle East, or Africa, if you have the right expansions). Your goal is simple: keep your dynasty going for the entire game and try to one up some of history’s greatest rulers, like the Hapsburgs or the Carolingians. Typically, games start in 1066 (earlier with some expansions) and go until about the 1400s or till you get sick of it.

After the End is a mod for CK2 that imagines a post-apocalyptic North and South America following some sort of world changing Event (its never specified, and is largely left up to the player to determine). The Americas are divided into numerous competing empires, kingdoms, and duchies with a truly staggering amount of religions thrown in to keep things interesting.

Of all the possible places to be playing, I’ll be starting off as King Pollock I of the Valley, one of the five Californian kings that pay lip service to a kinda sorta divine Emperor of California, who is largely confined to the Imperial Palace in Sacramento; think of it a bit like the Warring States period of China or the Sengoku period of Japan.

What’s California’s deal?

California is a bit unique in AtE: it follows a weird syncretic religion known as Ceticism (coming from the word ascetic), which was founded by the first emperor of California, Elton the Lawgiver. More of a lifestyle than an actual religion, Ceticism reveres Old World religious figures, such as Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha, as well as Old World authors such as L. Ron Hubbard and Ursula LeGuin, and consider their teachings and writings to have come from the same divine source, each with their own insights into how best to lead a holy and devout life. On top of all this, there’s the Emperor of California who, from time to time, is expected to release new teachings as well as interpret old works to provide new insights for the people of California; in this way, the Emperor acts as both a holy figure and ruler for all of California.

Followers of Ceticism also have access to a unique form of government, called Californian bureaucracy. Basically, its a bureaucratic state headed up by the Emperor, which rewards rulers for having high stewardship and learning scores, usually in the form of an absolutely insane amount of monthly gold. Rulers with low stewardship and learning scores can find themselves quickly turned into puppets manipulated by their council or other characters, who usually use them for their own gains.

Is this going to be a mega-lp?

I don’t really know; while I do have the skills to convert the game over to Europa Universalis 4, I don’t know if I’ll be inclined to. We’ll just have to see how I feel at the end of playing 400 years of CK2!

For those of you not in the know, Paradox Interactive has released a series of grand strategy games that start with CK2 and have the potential of taking a player right up to the 1950s, allowing you to play a single nation for hundreds of in game years; mega-lps typically go from CK2 all the way up to the furthest end date, but given the nature of this particular let’s play (it starts in 2666 for one thing!) I don’t know if I’ll be continuing the game into the next game in the line, EU4. If I don’t continue the game into EU4, I’ll end it in AtE’s end date, which I believe is 3053; that’s still a whole lotta game!

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: An Empire Divided
Chapter 2: The Shepherd and the Ram
Chapter 3: The Young King
Chapter 4: The Children of Zion
Chapter 5: This Year in Sacramento
Chapter 6: Courtly Intrigues
Chapter 7: The Golden War
Chapter 8: The Peaceful Years
Chapter 9: The Imamite War
Chapter 10: The Great Reform
Chapter 11: Interesting Times
Chapter 12: 2706 State of the World
Chapter 13: End of a Legend
Chapter 14: The Lecher
Chapter 15: A Bad End
Chapter 16: A Repayment of Debts
Chapter 17: The Baja Reclamation

Chapter 1 - An Empire Divided

The year is 2666, and all that remains of the United States is ruins and rumors. Sometime in the distant past, something happened and ended the world as we knew it and from its ashes rose a new one, struggling to reclaim its past glories. This is the story of the Golden State, a shining example of equality and learning in an otherwise dark and cruel world.

The Empire of California was founded in 2421 by Elton “the Lawgiver” Yudkow, a genius politician and religious leader, who’s writings are the basis of Ceticism, the Empire’s official religion. Made up of five kingdoms, the Empire stretches from Cascadia to Baja and is a paragon of enlightenment and philosophy.

Unfortunately, the current Emperor is a fool. Under Elton IV, the five kingdoms of California have left the direct control of the Emperor, and instead the once great Empire of California is more of a loose confederation of like-minded rulers who pay lip service to the weak Elton IV, who is confined to his palace in Sacramento, penning numerous religious texts and philosophical treaties.

To the north is the Kingdom of Jefferson, led by King Stanford I. A lazy man, he would much rather socialize and administer his realm that fight to expand the influence of the Emperor, who desperately wants to reclaim the lost Cascadian lands once ruled by California.

The coast is controlled by Gran Francisco, which is ruled by King Cullen I, who is a kind and shy man, who is somewhat skeptical of the Emperor’s supposed divinity. Made rich by coastal trade, Gran Francisco is secure in its place within the Empire.

To the south of Gran Francisco is the Kingdom of Socal, supposedly ruled over by King Ronald I, but really ruled by the rich merchant families of Los Angeles; a proud, honest man, King Ronald I desperately wants to assert his power over the Los Angeles families, but must first deal with the Imamite heresy that threatens to tear his kingdom apart.

The most distant kingdom of California is Baja; ruled over by the would-be conqueror King Gastón I, it is not a particularly rich land, but it produces some of the finest soldiers, as they must constantly defend themselves from raiders and the murderous Mexican kingdoms. If he had his way, King Gastón I would be ruling a united California from Sacramento.

While not one of the five recognized kingdoms of California, the tribal kingdom of Death Valley, under High Chief Nolan I, have recently converted to Ceticism, in an effort to gain allies against the Mormons of Deseret. His efforts have paid off, as Socal and Jefferson have pledged to protect them from the Children of Zion.

Finally, there is the Kingdom of the Valley, ruled over by King Pollock I, a cruel and proud man, who is still known for his skill and ability in running his realm, so much so that the Emperor has appointed him his Governatus (the Emperor’s right hand man, who administers the Imperial Court and bureaucracy) of California. Known for his schemes, King Pollock I soon began chipping away at the Emperor’s remaining power, weakening the Emperor and claiming the power for himself; as a result, the two are bitter rivals, constantly carrying out court intrigues to tip the balance of power in their favor.

In July of 2666, King Pollock I leaves his castle to return to Sacramento to carry out his duties as Governatus, leaving his half-brother, Prefect Graham of the Central Valley, to administer the Valley. A capable ruler in his own right, Prefect Graham manages to greatly increase the bureaucratic efficiency of the kingdom, partly through the removal of several redundant laws, partly by transferring vassalage of a minor noble from King Pollock I to himself.

King Pollock I arrives in Sacramento, only to be barred from entering his offices in the Imperial Palace and he soon finds out why: Emperor Elton IV, in a fit of insanity, has declared war on the Valley, with the express purpose of removing him from the throne.

Apparently, the Emperor is convinced that all of California will rise up against his Governatus; instead, only a small group of dissatisfied peasants rise up, only to be swiftly crushed by Valley troops.

While his generals plan the war against the Emperor, King Pollock I works to convince the other Kings of California that the Emperor is not well and that he should have more control of the Imperial Court. This is not a hard sell, as Emperor Elton IV is actually quite insane.

As he prepares for war, King Pollock I’s wife informs him that she is pregnant; King Pollock I resolves to finish his feud with the Emperor as quickly as possible, so that he may be with Kyra during her pregnancy.

Word of California’s internal struggles reaches the Mormons and their President declares a new age for their people: the age of great holy wars against the heathens of the West.

Battle is joined just outside of Sacramento, with victory going to the Valley; King Pollock I’s troops manage to capture a nephew of the Emperor during the battle, a young man named Reuben. The king takes custody of him and returns with him to Tuolumne to negotiate peace with Emperor Elton IV.

He returns just in time to witness the birth of his daughter, who he names after his wife.

While working on a peace deal to present the Emperor, King Pollock I catches his half-brother skulking around the castle. Intrigued, he follows him, only to find him whispering with a shadowy figure about their plans for subordinating the Valley to the Emperor. King Pollock I makes a quick retreat, shaken by the fact his brother would plot against him. Still, with the war still ongoing, he can’t spare the troops to arrest his brother and his co-conspirators. He returns his focus to the war, but he continues to look over his shoulder, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Skirmishes continue between Imperial and Valleyan forces, but it is quickly becoming apparent that the Emperor has no hope of winning against the superior Valleyan troops.

In February of 2668, King Pollock I’s daughter Skylar comes of age, and is quickly betrothed to Prince Stanford of Jefferson. The hope is to foster stronger ties between the two kingdoms, for King Pollock I’s eventual bid for the Imperial Throne.

When word reaches the Emperor of the marital alliance between the Valley and Jefferson, he loses his will to fight, and peace is declared not long after in March of that year. King Pollock I marches into Sacramento at the head of the Valleyan army and immediately starts distributing grain to the citizens, winning their admiration and love, which only further weakens Imperial authority.

King Pollock I returns home for good, having secured his place as the power behind the Imperial Throne. His son, Prince Thao, is shaping up to be a worthy heir, much to the king’s relief. He puts plans into motion to name the prince as the next Governatus of California.

For the first time, King Pollock I is content with his life. So, of course, terrible news reaches him: King Ronald I of Socal has been overthrown by an Imamite, backed by the trading families of Los Angeles. To make matters worse, the Mormons have declared a great holy Expedition to reclaim Socal, which has driven the Imam Zakariyya II to seek the support of Emperor Elton IV; in exchange for his vassalage and blessing to rule, the Emperor calls upon all the Kings of California to defend Socal from the Mormons.

Suddenly, King Pollock I’s position looks much less secure than it did just a few weeks ago.

2 Likes

Super excited to see this in action and am curious to see how bad a bad ruler can get when run by a player. I know you’re an expert at CK2 but usually everyone has at least one garbage ruler during a full game, and I’d like to see the AI take advantage of that at least once!

Basically, you’re stuck in a regency but you’re an adult with very few options for getting out of it. Its the absolute worst, while still being extremely fun.

Do they have the “you (instead of the actual top level liege) decides who gets land” mini-mod in AtE? because they should really add that for Ceticism if they haven’t already.

I don’t think they do; instead your regent gets to decide who you go to war with, who you give titles to, and who you get to marry. On top of that, you’re slapped with a fun trait that makes everyone hate you, gives you worse taxes, reinforcement rates, morale, and troop levels.

1 Like

I’ve dabbled in After The End but not a whole lot, so it’ll be good to see what secrets the mod holds.

1 Like

I know you only mentioned it off-handedly, but what is the state of the Mega-Campaign right now? I know there’s official support for CKII to EUIV, but I can’t even remember if the fan project for EUIV to Vicky II got anywhere, and I have no idea if Vicky II converts to HOI3 or HOI4. I think the only officially supported Mega-Campaign was CK -> EUII -> Vicky -> HOI 2.

Anyways, always nice to see a Paradox LP! I can’t wait to see what kind of nonsense you’ll get up to.

Ah, well that sounds almost exactly what I was thinking of!

There’s an official converter for CK2 to EU4 (its some DLC you can grab from Steam), otherwise you have to do the actual conversion by hand; thankfully, its fairly easy to actually mod every Paradox game, since all you need is Notepad++ and a working knowledge of their scripting language (which is extensively documented on their various wikis) to create custom events and the like.

2 Likes

Chapter 2 - The Shepherd and the Ram

Inspired by the threat the Mormons present to the Empire, Prefect Graham arrives in Tuolumne to plead for King Pollock I to stop his petty squabbles with Emperor Elton IV and to bend knee to Imperial authority; the not so veiled threat is that, should the king not do so, then the prefect and his allies will rise up against him and force him to at the point of the sword. King Pollock I, of course, refuses.

Predictably, Prefect Graham gathers his supporters and declares war; King Pollock I is forced to choose between defending California or defending his throne. He makes the only sensible choice: he goes all in on defeating his half-brother.

In November of 2668, Emperor Elton IV publishes his first religious work in over a decade; it is a parable of a shepherd with a rebellious and contentious ram, who refuses to follow the kindly shepherd’s directives, only to be consumed by a pack of wolves. While King Pollock I is not directly named in the Wayward Ram, it is abundantly clear who the Emperor was writing about. King Pollock I destroys the copy the Emperor sends to him and bans the work from the Valley; this only causes more people to read it, making it into an underground hit with Valleyans.

A day before the start of the New Year, the Valleyan army clashes with Prefect Graham’s rebels, scoring their first victory against them, starting 2669 off on a happy note for the king.

This happiness doesn’t last long, as in February a group of peasants, under a zealous shepherd named Keith, rise up in Glenn; inspired by the Wayward Ram, they seek to remove King Pollock I from the throne and install Prefect Graham, his half-brother, as the new King of the Valley.

With the Valleyan army distracted by the Shepherd’s Rebellion, Prefect Graham’s forces manage to penetrate deep into royal lands and lay siege to Tuolumne. As soon as word reached King Pollock I, he turns his army around and quickly marches to break the siege. The resulting battle sees the death of General Herbert of the Central Valley, Prefect Graham’s most competent commander, and the injury of the king, who slips into a coma.

Teacher Khais, the man who slew General Herbert, is named the king’s regent. Not long after, Queen Kyra tells the court that she is pregnant; the court rumor mill goes into overdrive, claiming that the queen has found comfort in the arms of Khais.

The war against the prefect continues with another victory and soon peace negotiations are under way. In the end, Prefect Graham pledges his allegiance to King Pollock I and quits any claims on his throne; in exchange, he is allowed to keep his prefecture and remain out of prison. Nothing has been resolved, and tension still simmers between the Imperial Court and the Valley.

Not long after the war with Prefect Graham is over, the Shepherd’s Rebellion loses momentum and comes to an end with the capture of Keith in July of 2669. The Valley is at peace, once again.

In November of 2669, a son is born to Queen Kyra named Ansel; the royal court continues to whisper about the supposed affair between the queen and the regent, though there is still no proof.

December, usually a time of celebration in preparation for the New Year, is a somber time for the royal court, as King Pollock I’s condition continues to worsen. Finally, on December 7th, the king passes away in his bed. His son is crowned King Thao, but, as a boy of 15, is not yet fit to rule his inherited kingdom; Queen-Mother Kyra is made his regent, to rule in his stead until he reaches majority.

King Pollock I, commonly known as King Pollock the Ram, is remembered for his work in weakening Imperial Authority and his life long feud with Emperor Elton IV; a deeply cynical man, his influence in court would be felt for decades to come.

4 Likes

Chapter 3 - The Young King

King Thao I was deeply influenced by his late father, King Pollock I; he grew up on stories of his father’s court intrigues at Sacramento and learned at an early age that the Emperor is not to be trusted. As a result, he’s developed into a deeply cynical young man, with the ability to boldly lie to get what he wants.

Barely a month after his ascension to the throne, Emperor Elton IV demands that the Valley join in the defense of Socal; his council, composed of his mother, his uncle Graham, and Khais, prepare to force King Thao I to approve entering the war, but to their surprise, the king is only too happy to give his approval for joining the war.

King Thao I uses his support of the war to convince his council to accept his proposed betrothal to Princess Opal of Jefferson; once again, the Valley and Jefferson are in a marital alliance.

Indeed, King Thao I presents himself as the perfect puppet king and, when he comes to age in March of 2670, his council is sure that they will be able to control him without any effort. King Thao I quickly proves them wrong.

Where his father was a fairly competent spymaster, King Thao I is truly a mastermind; to the public he is a soft spoken, zealous man who follows the Emperor’s missives to the letter, but behind closed doors, he is a spider and the entire Valley is his web. He almost overnight turns his council against itself and regains control over his kingdom.

The only thing stopping him from truly ruling the Valley is the fact that he has not been to Sacramento and been tested to prove his ability to rule; without test results, his council still holds significant sway within the kingdom. Unfortunately, with the war against the Mormons still ongoing, the governance tests are on hold.

To help counter balance this lack of testing, King Thao I throws himself into administration, focusing on running the Valley and proving his worthiness of his title to the people.

In April of 2671, Emperor Elton IV passes away and his brother, Mickey, takes the throne. Immediately, he attempts to foster closer ties between Sacramento and the Valley by marrying his mother, Queen-Mother Kyra, to his son and heir, Prince Terpen. King Thao I declines, as he has no wish to become closer to the Emperor.

King Thao I begins to reform the bureaucracy of the Valley, with a focus on removing anyone still allied with his council from positions of power. He provides a moderate budget for this reformation and leaves his bureaucrats to do their work.

The Valleyan army finally arrives in Socal and immediately engages the Mormon invaders at Moreno; victory against the Children of Zion is swift and brutal, as several key Mormon generals are caught in the ensuing retreat.

The Valleyan army then marches to Pendelton County, which had fallen to the Mormons the previous year. With their help, the Cetic followers of Vista, Oceanside, and Escondido are freed from the repressive Mormon governor installed by by their conquerors. King Thao I is painted by a true Cetic hero by the populace of Pendelton, in the same league as Elton the Lawgiver.

The results of his reform bear fruit in October, as a number of contentious bureaucrats have been “persuaded” to retire or re-align themselves with the king. There is, of course, still more work to be done before King Thao I is fully has control of the Valley.

In February of 2672 the peasants of Dorado drag a so-called witch into his court, demanding that she be burnt at the stake for “crimes against the Emperor.” Instead, King Thao I berates the peasants for their superstition and invites the woman, named Lea, to stay at his court. She agrees and the Valley experiences a minor renaissance, as she publishes several works on governing. King Thao I is quick to adopt Lea’s theories on governance, which greatly improve his ability to run his realm.

Not everyone is happy with how well King Thao I is running the Valley; one such person is his uncle Graham, who has seen much of his power at court diminished by the king’s reforms. The same month that Lea arrives at his court, Prefect Graham attempts to kill his nephew using explosives; his plan fails, as the king sees through it and forces the prefect’s co-conspirators to provide him with proof of his uncle’s treason. King Thao I holds on to this evidence, for when he can make the most use of it.

Prefect Graham, to his credit, continues his function as the king’s Upholder of Ceremonies and, in April, finds evidence that Sacramento was originally part of the Valley, before being given over to the Emperor by a foolish Valleyan king. King Thao I makes no attempt to hide this newly discovered claim and, when Emperor Mickey demands he give up all claims upon the Imperial capital, the king tells him he will not relinquish his long forgotten birth right.

The final death knell for the Mormon Expedition comes at Las Vegas, where the Valleyan and Socal armies work together to repel them from the city. With the only safe route into Socal finally taken back and fully reinforced with two Californian armies, the Mormon President is forced to admit that any dream of a Mormon California is dead - at least for now.

With the Mormon menace finally defeated, Emperor Mickey begins styling himself as “the Holy” and as a return to the strong emperors of old. This is largely propaganda, as the Imperial Throne is the weakest it has been since its creation; King Pollock I’s work at destabilizing the Imperial Court has created an environment of extreme disconnect between the bureaucrats and nobles of the court, and frequently promising initiatives are killed by red tape and infighting. To further this general chaos, Emperor Mickey’s pick of Governatus is Prefect Graham, King Thao I’s uncle; the Emperor’s hope was to find an ally within the Valley’s royal court, but due to the king’s work at removing his uncle’s influence from his council, Emperor Mickey has been left with an incompetent and weak Governatus who cannot handle Imperial politics.

The Imperial exam centers in Sacramento finally re-open in April of 2673 and King Thao I prepares to prove his administrative competence. He decides to focus on Californian history during his studies, as his understanding of the past is hazy at best.

A month later, King Thao I travels to Sacramento for testing; crowds line the city’s streets and the Emperor officially opens up the examination center at noon, allowing for testing for the first time in four years.

King Thao I immediately notices that the chief examiner seems to be more attention to him than the other testers; it soon becomes clear that the Emperor has instructed him to keep an eye on the king, in hopes of catching him cheating. King Thao I refuses to give him the satisfaction, and does what no one expects: he takes the test straight, without even trying to cheat (though he is sorely tempted to). He leaves the examination center hopeful that he will pass.

A week later, he receives his test results: he is awarded the third rank of competence, the Valley Quail. While not as good as he would’ve hoped for, it is firmly within the acceptable ability for Cetic rulers to have. He proudly displays his test results in his throne room, making sure everyone knows that even the Emperor has been forced to admit that he is a capable ruler.

In celebration for his success on the Imperial Exams, King Thao I spends a day touring Tuolumne, taking in the fresh air. It is during this tour of the capital that he sees several peasants playing a game of strikeball against a neighboring team. What starts as polite interest quickly becomes genuine enthusiasm, as he joins in with the rabble to cheer on the Tuolumne Tigers. Though his team ultimately loses, the people of Tuolumne soon hear of his enthusiastic support for “their boys” and begin to see the king as one of them.

Completely taken in by strikeball, King Thao I turns his royal builders to designing a proper field for the Tigers to practice and play upon. Within a few months, the Tuolumne Tigers are playing their games on Thao Field, much to the pleasure of the city’s fans and the king’s delight.

The fun of the summer soon gives way to the somber fall and, in September of 2763, with the Emperor’s blessing, the King of Socal declares war on the Valley, with the goal of claiming the entire kingdom for himself. When the news reaches King Thao I, he is said to be almost relieved, claiming the Emperor had finally shown his hand and that he found it lacking. War was here, and King Thao I was ready for it.

4 Likes

The Idea of the Emperor being called Mickey here is killing me

1 Like

The fact that I frequently thought “god Mickey you’re such an asshole” while playing the game makes me laugh, tbh.

1 Like

Aren’t there people in Florida who have Disneyland as a holy site?

Not quite; there’s a small Americanist tribe called the Tribe of the Mouse, who are squatting in Disneyland and see it as a symbol of the Old World. They almost always get eaten by the HCC.

Chapter 4 - The Children of Zion

With war once again looming on the Valley’s horizon, King Thao I approaches local moneylenders in an effort to secure a small loan to fund the war. Backed by promises of quickly paying them back once the war is over, he manages to get 200 gold from them, which allows him to hire a band of mercenaries to help shore up the Valleyan army, which is still recovering from the Mormon War.

Just as the Valleyan army is gearing up for the war, King Thao I receives an interesting letter from a mercenary captain known as Cooper; apparently, his band of men was hired by Socal months ago, but they have yet to be paid for their services. Captain Cooper proposes that King Thao I hire him and his group instead; promises of a deep discount and knowledge of Socal tactics and plans is enough to entice the king and he agrees to the captain’s proposal.

Word of the Charger’s betrayal reaches the king of Socal and they are forced to quickly flee into the Valley; while many Chargers die, Captain Cooper manages to reach friendly lines and provide the information he promised the king. Apparently, the Socal army plans to quickly march into the Central Valley and propose an alliance between themselves and Prefect Graham, allowing for a swift conquest of the Valley. King Thao I issues orders for his bureaucrats to watch his uncle, dons his armor, and heads off to battle; he cannot allow the Imamites to reach the Central Valley, for he is sure that Graham will eagerly join them.

In March of 2674, the King of Jefferson finally comes of age; King Thao I’s sister Skylar is quickly married off to him, further cementing the ties between the two kingdoms. While King Stanford II cannot become directly involved in the war, he sends a small gift of gold to King Thao I and his best wishes for a quick resolution to the fighting.

The Valleyan army engages the Imamites at Tehachapi, hoping to cut off the main force before it has a chance to enter the Valley proper. The Chargers prove themselves during the battle and the following siege, where they are key in the capture of city.

The victory celebrations are cut short when news arrives that the main Imamite force used the Battle of Tehachapi as a distraction, so that they could slip past the Valleyan army and make their way via Ventura. At Bakersfield, a small Valleyan rearguard is defeated by the Imamites, before the main Valleyan force can reinforce them.

When the Valleyan army arrives at Bakersfield, ready to fight, they instead find that they have missed the Imamite army yet again; while they were marching double time to break the siege of Bakersfield, the Imamites once again slipped past them and liberated Tehachapi.

This game of cat and mouse does not anger King Thao I, but rather fills him with a general sense of malaise; he is not eager for yet another prolonged war in Socal that forces him to put his plans on hold. His court physician, Ricardo, claims that the king is suffering from Slow Fever and issues a rigorous schedule of nature walks to “clear the lungs of the smells of civilization.” This does nothing to help the king feel better.

The king’s health continues to worsen and Ricardo’s treatments become more and more bizarre; this culminates in throwing King Thao I into a room full of angry bees and allowing him to be stung several times. The strange thing is, these treatments work, and the king begins to feel better.

King Thao I’s health recovers just in time for the latest philosophical work from the Emperor, a great tome that is a dialogue between a hermit and a king; by the end of it, the king has given up all his worldly possessions, including his throne, to the much more capable hermit. While the Hermit King is extremely popular, it does not take King Thao I to realize that Emperor Mickey’s latest work is simply all about how he should surrender to the Imamites, abandon his throne, and live a simple, peaceful life in the hills. He very carefully throws the book into a well, without reading it beyond the third chapter.

Word reaches California in October of the fall of the Caribbean Empire; the parallels between it and California are apparent, as the last Empress of the Caribbean was weak and surrounded by infighting. A dark cloud seems to pass over the Empire, as people feel they are in the end days of the once great Golden State.

Suddenly, in December of 2675, the Imamites sue for peace, giving up their claim on the Valley. While no one can prove it, rumors swirl that King Thao I’s spies had a hand in the sudden change of priorities for the Imamites; the sudden rising of several Cetic rebels within Socal cannot be tied back to the Valley, but it is true that the Valley’s coffers are lighter than they were a few months ago. Whether true or not, people begin to refer to King Thao I as “the Shadow,” but usually in a whisper.

Peace returns to the Valley and with it comes more reforms. King Thao I continues to remove supporters of his old council and replacing them with competent and loyal bureaucrats.

The royal court also celebrates the marriage of the king’s brother and heir, Prince Khais; his bride is the daughter of the Prefect of Kern. While nothing special, the marriage provides the Valley with much needed stability and revenue.

The New Year brings excellent news: Ricardo is confident that King Thao I is on the mend, and gives him a clean bill of health.

Now that he is well, King Thao I travels to Sacramento to expand his influence over the Imperial Court. Bucking tradition, he does not name Prefect Graham as his regent, but rather his new father-in-law, the Prefect of Kern. Prefect Tubrog continues to oversee the king’s bureaucratic reforms, which are now in full swing.

While in Sacramento, King Thao I works to project an image of a model Cetic king in defiance of the rumors about him and his family. When offered a second helping during a meal with the Emperor, the king declines, which contributes to the image of him as a temperate and moderate ruler.

Tuolumne continues to be seen as a center of learning, equality, and higher learning; again the people of Dorado bring forward a suspected witch and, in line with the king’s previous decision, Prefect Tubrog demands they release the woman and invites her to stay in the court as a respected scholar. People begin to speak of King Thao I’s ambition to collect all knowledge and prove himself as a worthy successor to House Yudkow.

In August, King Thao I returns home from Sacramento, having secured his position in court. He immediately begins work on a book, which is rumored to be a refutation of the Hermit King; thanks to his open door policy regarding philosophers and scholars, it promises to be a great work. More and more, it appears as though Sacramento is not the center of the Empire, but rather Tuolumne.

The Valley enjoys nearly a year of peace and prosperity, which comes to an end in April of 2677, when a pandemic begins to sweep through Tuolumne; the people of the city immediately blame the spread of the disease on the local cat population. Wishing to come to some sort of consensus, King Thao I sends out the royal doctors and scholars to study and examine the cats of Tuolumne. They ultimately come to the conclusion that the cats are not to blame, though the king orders them to keep a few of the beasts around for further study.

One month later, Prince Khais has his first child, a girl who he names Fine. King Thao I is overjoyed at his new niece, as he still does not have a child of his own.

Perhaps longing for his own child, King Thao I begins spending more and more time with the cats he obtained for examination and becomes more and more attached to a small cat he named Mittens. Soon, the two are inseparable and King Thao I’s mood improves significantly. When a mob shows up at the castle demanding that all cats in the city be driven out and killed, the king picks the meanest looking cat and publicly executes it, claiming it is the source of the disease in Tuolumne. Not long after, the pandemic dies down and life returns to normal.

In October, King Thao I uses his connections in the Imperial Court to force his uncle to name him as the next Governatus of California. Forced by court politics well beyond his ability to control, Prefect Graham names the king as the next Governatus during an impressive ceremony in Sacramento.

While on the surface, Governatus Graham, Emperor Mickey, and King Thao I are all pulling together to protect all of California, underneath it all is a shadowy war for control over the future of the Empire. With his position as Governatus heir secure, the king puts into motion a plan long in the making: the untimely death of his beloved uncle.

King Thao I receives a strange message from Gran Francisco in March; apparently the current king, Walter the Wise, has fallen in love with one of his courtiers and is requesting the king’s permission to marry his lady love. While it does not result in a formal alliance, King Thao I agrees to King Walter’s request; he figures that having the richest of the five kingdoms predisposed to liking him isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

March is the month of weddings it seems, as Princess Opal finally comes of age and her and the king finally marry. The royal court is hopeful that this marriage will produce a heir.

In June, Prefect Graham, perhaps sensing the vultures preparing to dine, invites his nephew to his court for a feast, hoping to mend fences. King Thao I surprises everyone by accepting his uncle’s invitation, if only because he is curious about the gesture.

During the feast, the prefect invites the king to join him in playing an Old American board game known as “Monopoly.” The gaming session is intense, but with some creative cheating, the king is able to win. The joy of beating his uncle fills King Thao I with a love of all things related to gaming, and he leaves the feast with a new passion.

On the New Year, the king’s loan comes due. King Thao I tells the moneylenders to leave him alone and banishes them from his castle. While he doesn’t have to pay his loan, his public image takes a noticeable hit.

But, this black mark on his honor is soon forgotten, as he takes the money he would’ve had to give to the moneylenders and instead invests it back into improving Tuolumne; he improves the castle’s walls and opens up a new public hospital, which is staffed with some of the greatest doctors in California.

The royal court’s culture of philosophy, learning, and debate continues to flourish under King Thao I’s gentle care, but unlike many rulers, the king also joins in the frequent debates and discussions. When the topic of the American Dream comes up, King Thao I makes it known that, to him, the American Dream is not one of learning or of living a simple life, but rather one of conquering all your enemies and driving them before you. He says this while looking at Prefect Graham; not long after, the prefect packs up his office in the capital and returns home to the Central Valley.

In April of 2680, Emperor Mickey the Holy dies and is succeeded by his brother, who is crowned Emperor Reuben II. Emperor Reuben II is a much more vital man, who has strong opinions about what the Emperor’s job is and exactly where the five kings fit within that picture. His first action is to force the Regulated Inheritance Act of 2680 on to the five kingdoms; essentially, the five kingdoms cannot inherit lands from each other, and that the five crowns will never be united under a single king.

As a message to the Kings of California, it is clear: the days of the weak Emperors are over and that the authority of the Imperial Throne is absolute. But where the other kings worry about this new age of Imperial oversight, King Thao I sees the chance he has always been waiting for; with the Kings unhappy about Imperial overreach, he is confident that, should he make his move now, the Emperor will find himself without allies. And so, the king beings to put his plans into motion.

4 Likes

I’m legitimately surprised that they were able to mod something like this in. Does it work on events?

I dunno, but it resets when there’s a new emperor from a new dynasty.

Isn’t it just a natural application of the base game’s mechanics? Imperial laws apply to everyone in its de jure territory but since the kingdoms are all technically independent realms their titles can’t pass between each other.