Crusader Kings 3 - Release Date, Gameplay Features, Trailer and more!

By Edward Mass 15 Jan 2020 1

The original Crusader Kings was a novelty experience in the Grand Strategy genre. Focusing on blood rather than states, it represented a truly interpersonal and quirky character-based setting that pulled all that was messy and fun about the medieval world into focus.

Crusader Kings II took this concept and turned it up to 11, creating one of the most immersive character-and-dynasty-driven experiences outside of dedicated roleplaying games. The subsequent DLCs (most of them at least) continued to deliver innovation after innovation that cracked open the primordial egg of the original game and truly allowed it to fly.

Now Paradox Development Studio is set to give us another quantum leap in one of the most unique and entertaining strategy games in computer gaming. Even with the excitement around Crusader Kings III, it's hard to imagine how they could remake the wheel, but they're going to give it their best shot. Here's everything we know so far about this upcoming release...

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Crusader Kings 3 Release Date

As of PDXCon 2019, the game is feature complete, it just needs polishing and more content added. We can say for certain that Crusader Kings 3 will be released in 2020 as Henrik has confirmed this more than once. Recent rumours have suggested the latter half of 2020, to narrow it down further.

We don’t have any more specific date though, so expect to find out a more specific Crusader Kings 3 release date sometime next year.

Crusader Kings 3 Trailer

Crusader Kings 3 Game Features

Below is a breakdown of what we know of various game features. Most of this has come from our initial preview/interviews, but as time goes on the development team will be expanding on all of this and more in regular dev diaries. If you want to see what they team have to say on specific topics, you can read the diaries here.

Crusader Kings 3 December Update


The subject of the very first Dev Diary on CKIII is, of course, the revamped Dynasties. Now Dynasties are no longer monolithic entities but organic collections of different Houses each having their own relative autonomy and agenda but, hopefully, working together towards some glorious end—or, of course, competing with the kind of infighting you see in medieval Europe.

After the founding House, blood relations further and further from the original founders will be able to create their own cadet branch of the Dynasty with their own house name, words, coat of arms, etc.

crusader kings 3 henrik as king

Each House has their own 'House Head' who can do actions in the House including legitimizing bastards, calling members to war, demand conversions which can cause splitting into cadet branches if refused. House leadership follows succession rules.

The 'Dynast' is the paramount leader of the Dynasty and has authority over all the members. He or she is always “the most powerful House Head”, according to the Dev Diary and succession occurs at their death. The Dynast can do everything a House Head can do but can also disinherit or restore inheritances, denounce or forgive members of the Dynasty, claim titles held by members, and enforce peace between members. You gain prestige for a large dynasty but you must also use a new resource Renown for the various actions.

Renown and Splendor

Renown is accumulated by a Dynasty through every ruler of the Dynasty that isn't subject to another member of the Dynasty with tier affecting overall rating. Renown is counted towards a Dynasty's Splendor level and calculates into prestige, marriage chance, opinion, etc. Cosmetic changes such as coat of arms will also be affected by Splendor. You can spend Renown to execute actions listed above but you can also save them to unlock Dynasty Legacies

Dynasty Legacies

Similar to the traditions or ideas systems used in other Paradox games, Legacies are dynasty-wide modifiers that you can purchase with Renown. Similar to their other games, these Legacies are set in trees that you can purchase one step at a time.

One featured Legacy so far is the 'Blood' track which allows you to better dictate the biological and evolutionary chances of your bloodline such as the reinforcement of certain genetic traits throughout the generations. Only the Dynast can choose which Legacies to unlock.

Crusader Kings 3 dynastic legacy screen

More Character Customization

Getting down to the level of characters, there are now greater chances to truly flesh out and roleplay as a given character. This new focus on personality rather than numbers means that actions and random events in the game are no longer unrelated but one's actions as a character will and does affect future events.

This is partly made possible by a new Lifestyle mechanic which, like a better version of the Focus mechanic in CKII, allows the character to work on a particular vocation. This time, however, there is a progression 'tree' similar to Legacies that the character himself can unlock. Going through these trees can unlock other events or bonuses such as becoming a Knight if one goes down the Gallantry tree.

crusader kings 3 lifestyle tree

Focusing on different aspects of life not just create events for your character but also for others and vice versa. A character in a neighbouring land who is focusing on his Diplomacy will sometimes trigger carousing events for your home character.

As of now, we know of five Lifestyles and three skill trees within each Lifestyle. One example is the Martial Lifestyle which has the Strategist, Overseer, and Gallant trees.

Contained within these Lifestyle paths are also interesting mechanics. Fore example, a seducer can acquire the trait to suppress their own latent “normal” desire in favour of seducing someone of the unpreferred sex. Strategy Focus can allow light infantry to build siege walls. Diplomats can forge alliances without marriage. Stewardship Focus can extort peasants, vassals, or passing visitors. Finally, we also know that Gallant allows someone to win a war at 90% rather than 100%. You can also create bad poetry in the Seduction department.

Based on all of these customizations, your character is also assigned two word descriptions which will surely add a bit of flavour to the whole thing.


Characters are not the only things getting a makeover this time around. One can now completely customize a whole new religion or modify an existing one to branch out. Religions/Faiths are crafted through Doctrines and Tenets: There are three tenets that define any given faith in a unique combination that provide game benefits and/or mechanics. If that combination changes even slightly it's no longer considered the same faith.

Doctrines are a series of concepts that every religion has an opinion on, such as vices, rules on divorce, cannibalism, ordination, etc.

crusader kings 3 event example

Speaking of Religion, religious holdings will now follow a hierarchy and your interaction with the clergy of your land will focus on higher ranking clerics such as an Archbishop who represents his suffragan bishops below him. This is in line with Paradox's push towards more Qualitative rather than Quantitative interactions.

All of the major religions and faiths present at the time period have been recreated within Crusader Kings 3 using this system, and barring one or two exceptions all are playable. As mentioned you if you don’t want to stick to the faith you are a part of, you can change it. You can even customize the religious head's title for those of you that are bored of PONTIFEX MAXIMUS.

If you gather enough piety you can create your own faith within a Religion. Christianity is a Religion, Catholicism is a faith within that, and then you could then create your own version of Catholicism if you wanted - this is the new way Heresies are formed. It all has gameplay effects and you can tailor your faith to your playstyle.

Players won’t be doing this all the time, however. They must build up to it. You also have to be powerful - the moment you create a heresy everyone from the original faith gets angry with you and will have special casus belli again you.


Levies are still the primary unit type in CK3, appropriate for the period. Retinues have been replaced with Men-at-Arms, which are the far smaller 'professional' troops you can recruit to do most of the serious fighting. They come in different types, some generic, while others depending on culture or location. Many Men-at-Arms can counter others, and planning sounds like it's going to be key. An army with fewer Men-of-Arms can beat a larger army if you bring an effective counter to your opponents composition. Siege weapons are also a Men-of-Arm types that can be recruited.

Crusader Kings 3 Siege Weapons

The number of Men-at-Arms you can maintain at one time is limited so your composition choices will need to be carefully thought out. There is now Knighthood and Knights, which can be conferred onto individuals with high Prowess and these characters can participate and influence the battle, although you can only field a limited number. Each army also has a commander as well.

There is plenty more detail on how battles actually work through the various phases, as well as sieges, and supply mechanics, which you can read about here.

Stress & Dread

Perhaps channeling their own hard work and love into this game, a new metric known as Stress will be introduced giving some currency to the psychological pressures visited upon one's character. The effects of this should be rather intuitive—who in the modern world has not experienced this mechanic, after all.

From the dour to the interesting, Dread is a mechanic that turns your character's reputation for being a tyrant into something useful. This is the missing mechanic in CKII where people may hate you but might be too afraid of you to do anything about it. Just be careful since the negative opinion will pass onto your heir which might not yet be psychopathic enough to cancel it out with his or her own Dread.

Schemes & Plots

The new 'Scheme' system is largely replacing how plotting worked in CK2. Once more doubling down on the interpersonal rather than numerical trend, plots are now about rounding up key conspirators in key positions rather than getting everyone and the kitchen maid to want to assassinate the poor sod. This allows plots and intrigues to be more narrative rather than mechanic. Each Scheme you embark on has a progress bar, which has a chance of ticking up every month based on the pwner's Scheme Power vs. the Target's Scheme Resistance.

The owner of the scheme is protected from being discovered until they try and execute the plot (which can only be done when the progress bar is full), however any agents that you recruit are vulnerable to discovery at all times. The goals you can achieve through scheming is incredibly flexible, and can range from 'Hostile' schemes such as Murder, to 'Personal' scehems such as Sway or Seduction. A character can have one of each type running at the same time. 

Crusader Kings 3 Schemes

When Characters do something illegal or generally frowned upon, they generate 'Secrets', which Spymasters can try to discover. If you do discover a secret about someone, you get a 'Hook that you can use to blackmail them into doing what you want. This is an evolution of CK2's Favor system, and can include other things not tied to scheming. Hooks are 'Strong' or 'Weak' depending on the source of the hook. Weak ones are one-use, where-as Strong hooks can be used indefinitely to get someone to do what you want, but there's a cool-down between uses. As a Scheme, you can also fabricate hooks.

There are also wanderers who shift from court to court asking for help with their claims or have some other business that you can take advantage of. Chaucer, apparently, is one of these wanderers.

County Management

Baronies are now physically represented on the map, and constructing buildings is still down per-Barony. There are 'capital' building you can build in the lead Barony of a De Jure Duchy you control yourself. There are also special buildings that can be built based on known historical structures.

Crusader Kigns 3 County Screen

The only two 'County'-level elements are 'Development' and 'Control'. Development is a slowly improving stat through-out the game, which can be influenced by near-by high-development areas and council actions, but it's not something you can rush. It effects taxes and the size of the levy you can raise. Control represents how much influence you exert over the county, and can effect the area's opinion of your ruler.

Not everything is siegable but if something is fortified it needs sieging down. Castles are more meaningful and key holdings will need to be dealt with. You can get more attrition if you don't take the castle in the area you're moving through.


Technology will be era-based with innovations unlocking at specific points. These techs should have gameplay effects, rather than percentile stat boosts. The team are trying to make it harder for players to blob too early. The technology system is not something you interact much with. But it paces the content through-out the game. You get access to more powerful wars, better succession laws etc… as time goes on.

Accessibility Features

There will now be a Stellaris style Tutorial which will help new players as well as reorient veterans.

Tooltips are now on almost everything allowing information to be readily available instead of the esoteric knowledge Paradox veterans are used to divining from the arcane symbols of the UI. There are even 'tooltips-within-tooltips’, a design Henrik mentioned he took inspiration from Jon Schafer’s At the Gates.

Crusader Kings 3 Government Types

So far the dev team have only given minor/vague details on the government types available in Crusader Kings 3. Merchant Republics and Nomadic tribes will not be returning from CK3 (at least initially). Henrick doesn’t feel these are core to what types of administrations dominated the era. Two government types that have been mentioned so far are:

Feudal Government

The quintessential medieval form of rule, this has changed from how it works in CK2. Feudal governments revolve around the idea that there is a contract between Liege and Vassal - the terms of that contract (like in modern day) are fixed and can’t really be broken by either side. For example you HAVE to give supporting troops to your liege in CK3, where-as in CK2 the amount you got was based on how much they liked/supported you.

This will apparently open up a whole different layer of intrigue within this specific relationship, as for example a vassal can try and get dirt on their liege, and blackmail them into changing the terms of the Feudal contract between them.

crusader kings 3 small holdings

Clan Government

Less was said about this government type, other than it’s the primary for Muslim factions of this era. Henrik mentioned that Clans behave a lot like the original ‘Feudal’ government type of CK2, so you can look to that for ideas on what it will look like in CK3.

Crusader Kings 2 vs. Crusader Kings 3

  • The Inventory System from Monks & Mystics has been cut for the interim, but it may return. Henrik recognised it is an important role-playing feature but for CK2 it was often abused to facilitate modifier inflation via items in a way the game couldn’t account for.
  • The Old Gods (867) start date will still be usable. Same End Date expected of 1453.
  • Crusader Kings 3 will launch with roughly “half” of CK2 + Expansions in terms of features, and roughly “two-thirds” of CK2 + Expansions in terms of written content.
  • You won’t be able to have a Horse Pope at launch. Generally, the team are taking a more ‘serious’ approach to the game for the initial release, and there will be Hearts of Iron 4-style Game Rules that can turn off/on supernatural content.

On re-releasing older content from CK2:

We’ve thought a lot about that. I don’t think we want to replicate the same expansions CK2 had. I think some of the features will come back. We have to think about how we package that, whether they’ll be paid or free, and of course I’m leaning towards if a feature is returning it should probably be free and we should charge money for completely new stuff. That’s the general philosophy - there might be exceptions with a returning feature that’s partially paid-for, but in general I don’t want to retread the same territory in the same way.

Crusader Kings 3 Map, Visuals & UI

  • The map promises to be more “realistically rendered”. It will also be four times as “large” than the current CKII resolution. This would put it on par as the map in Imperator: Rome.
  • The map extends eastwards a bit to cover all of Tibet, as well as extending south-wards towards the Nigerian coast in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The general region density has increased, with new counties and duchies added.
  • Character models are now 3D rendered. Their expressions also change according to their personality.
  • Instead of the hanging chads notifying the player of unused actions in other Paradox games, the studio has promised a more “goal oriented” notification system that reminds players of possible routes towards their ultimate destinies.
  • Perhaps this is the perfect time to mention that there's a procedurally generated sex-scene generator. What this might be like we currently have no idea—or perhaps we don't really want to find out.
  • The top bar is currently not in the game - leaving more room for the map. It’s a radical departure from the UI of previous PDS titles.
  • The CK3 Map covers the same area.

Crusader Kings III is still being hammered out so we will definitely keep you all in the loop as more details come out or change.



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