The Vaguely Interesting Chronicles of Count Martinos (and his Spawn) – Part 1

Since getting married and changing my name to “Dad”, I’ve watched my time, ability, and even interest for gaming plummet like Jeb Bush’s approval ratings. Fortunately, my wife understands my occasional dalliances in gaming – a random hour here or there on a weeknight or while the little one is napping. I’ve had a few instances where I’ve sat down at my computer, ready to play something out of the near 100 games in my Steam library, couldn’t decide on anything, and left my computer thirty minutes later more frustrated than I was when I sat down. This partially might be because I’ve got too many options to choose from, but it has also been a long time since I’ve gamed, so my interest to play something particular isn’t there. I’ve got plenty of games I’ve never played always the way through and even a few I’ve never started – they were just too good to pass up on one of the annual Steam sales. So I decided to try something different: focus on one or two games (depending on my mood) and play them to completion. As such, I’ve decided to (a) finish Bioshock Infinite and (b) become more familiar with Crusader Kings II.

Crusader Kings II is a massive strategy game designed by Paradox Interactive set in the middle ages of Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia. You take on the role of a historical character with peerage (e.g. King/Queen, Duke/Duchess, Count/Countess, etc.) where your goal is to bring your family to prominence over the course of several centuries through political manipulations, intrigue, and war. You have to plan everything with thought and care: who you marry, what council you keep, what alliances you forge or break, how your children inherit your titles/land, what technologies you develop, etc. And while you’re trying to just keep track of your own demesne, the entire world continues on around you, constantly changing the political landscape. I’ve played the game with moderate success, but I usually end up overreaching myself after a generation or two. So I’ve decided to sit down and try to really understand the game’s mechanics as best I can and make an honest shot at smartly growing a family over time without getting everyone slaughtered.

To encourage me on and hold me accountable for the decisions I make, I’ve decided to post a chronology of events my unsuspecting pawns experience. Depending on how things go, this could be a very short or quite long series – but hopefully entertaining nonetheless. Using the random selection feature available in the game, I took the second family offered to me (the first was located in Iceland, with no ships – seriously?). So without further ado, I present to you: THE VAGUELY INTERESTING CHRONICLES OF SIR DIGBY CHICKEN CAESAR COUNT MARTINOS (AND HIS SPAWN)!

January 769 AD: It’s good to be the Count. Here I am: twenty-three years old, unmarried, without an heir, look like Christopher Columbus, and in charge of the Province of Drepanon (modern day Trapani) in Sicily. After some pretty honest self-reflection, I can safely say I am a horrible leader. I have very little skill in the way of diplomacy or stewardship. I can barely tell when someone is lying to my face. And if you put a sword in my hand, I’d probably drop it and cut off my leg. About the only positive thing I can say for myself is I’m able to read a MAD comic, but the subtleties are lost on me. Thankfully, I have a fairly competent council to keep the province from spontaneously combusting due to my ineptitude.

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To help secure my position, ensure the continuation of my line, and bolster my own competency, I’ve decided to wed. Searching the realm, I’ve found a suitable wife: Paulina, a courtier in Krete. She’s a certified Greek genius – competent in all the arts of governance. She’s ambitious, which could prove dangerous to my health should she decide she wants to be more than a Countess (for now), but honest as well. So if she’s going to “off me”, she’ll probably at least tell me about it. She does not come from nobility either, which will seriously impact how others perceive the marriage (and me), but there are more important things than my prestige to consider at this point. Besides… she got them THANGS! (Plus, we’ll need a son to ensure someone carries on the lineage. Minor stuff, I know…)

October 769 AD: To improve my standing in the religious community, I’ve decided to visit Antioch. My new wife will get her first taste of being a Countess since she will serve as my regent while I am away. Hopefully, everything is still standing when I get back (but how can she do any worse than I already have?)

November 769 AD: While on pilgrimage, I came across a bridge badly in need of repair. The troll that had lived under it told me he had been constructively evicted from his home and was suing the town’s mayor for damages… something about goats – I was too distracted by his teeth. To ensure my own safety and to demonstrate my charitableness, I offered to have a new stone bridge erected. (Hehe – erected…) It only cost me a bit more than half of Drepanon’s treasury. A good investment, right?

March 770 AD: Paulina is pregnant. Huzzah! Clearly, I’m not that incompetent. As a push gift, I’ll tell her about the bridge in a land I’ve already forgotten the name of that I’ll name after her. That’ll work, right?

October 770 AD: Our daughter, Simonis, is born. Wishful thinking on the name, right? But all the parts are in the right places, so Paulina and I have bucked the trend of inbreeding among the upper class.

February 772 AD: After years of being banished to vacationing in the nearby Province of Panarmos, my Chancellor has fabricated a claim on the territory. Yes, it’s a sneaky, underhanded thing to do, but how else are we going to keep up with the Joneses? We need more beachfront property. And who wants to live in Agrigenton? Northside! Immediately, I’ve sent my Chancellor on to Syrakousa to butter up the Duke. He’ll taste delicious after a few hours in the oven…

August 772 AD: Some random monks stopped by my villa to trade wares with me. While I was able to get a few nice bottles of wine off them, I was also able to hone my skills as a competent steward and negotiate a somewhat decent price. They were nice enough to give me my wallet back after they were done.

September 772 AD: My Chancellor has spread word of my pragmatic nature and lovely wife to the Duke, who actually acknowledged me by Count “Assling” as opposed to just “Assling” at the last council meeting. Clearly, downplaying my ineptitude has worked in my favor. To reward my Chancellor, I have found him a lovely wife to keep him happy… until I reminded him of jus primae noctis.

October 772 AD: My wife wants to be my Spymaster. Don’t get me wrong, she’s more than competent to hold the role. But… come on! She’s a woman. There, there sweetie – you can go back to crocheting after you make me a sandwich. And leave off that “special salt” you put on it last time.

November 772 AD: Just call me “Mr. Matchmaker” – to reward some of my council members, I’ve found them wives. Why should I be the only one experiencing all the happiness that comes with marriage? You get a wife! You get a wife! You get a wife! Everybody gets a wife!

April 773 AD: Our current bishop has passed on. He is no more. He has ceased to be. He’s expired and gone to meet his maker. He’s an ex-bishop. Thankfully, I have another one, Sergios, waiting in the wing who knows a little more about this “God” person everyone keeps talking about. I like Sergios. He uses puppets.

February 776 AD: In an effort to keep the riffraff out of my city, I’ve decided to construct a giant wall. The first two attempts failed – apparently, twigs and cow patties a wall does not make. I’ve been assured one made of stone will fair much better, even in the rain. As if.

April 776 AD: My wife is pregnant – again! She figured five years was long enough to make me wait.

November 776 AD: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… and he will be called Symeon. Because I like monkeys. Eeek! Eeek! My advisors are relieved.

July 780 AD: A learned diplomat has offered to take me under his wing and teach me a bit about diplomacy. Apparently, if you give someone two choices, even if one of them is unthinkable, you can create the illusion of decision making.Who knew?

October 780 AD: My Chancellor continues to work (small) wonders and has fabricated a claim on Agrigenton. Unfortunately, I can’t use it because the current count is a direct vassal of the the Byznatine King. Rat farts!

November 780 AD: My hopes of significantly expanding my borders by taking over Agrigenton and Panarmos have evaporated. But I dare not lose my claim on Panarmos before it is too late. Nothing is certain in this life but death and taxes… and maybe the comedy stylings of Gabriel Iglesias. As such, I’ve borrowed 300 pieces of gold from the Jewish merchants (who are only charging me 17% interest on the total sum) and raised an army of mercenaries to crush the Panarmos levies.

February 781 AD: I was cornered by my wife today, demanding that I remove my Spymaster from office and appoint her. I thought she as joking until she showed me the chastity belt… my chastity belt. An hour later, he was gone and she was clad in a dark robe, hiding in the shadows, and hissing when she spoke. I’ve never felt safer (or more afraid).

January 782 AD: Mine! All mine! Panarmos has fallen! My “countercount” refused to surrender, even to the bitter end. That arse! He cost me at least a year’s worth of pay to my mercenaries when he was outnumbered nearly four to one. But at the cost of hundreds of lives and many pieces of gold, we finally have somewhere else to go out and eat.

November 782 AD: Symeon is now old enough to be instructed and I have assumed the mantle of his guardian and educator. No two-bit teacher or expert is going to show him how the world works – leave that to his father!

January 784 AD: In an effort to improve my abilities of subterfuge and intrigue, I’ve joined the servant’s gossip circle. Oooooh the scandal! On a separate note, the servant’s breaks seemed to have shorten. Odd that.

June 784 AD: My wife tells me our son seems to operate in a capricious manner. I won’t tolerate that. How else can I predict what he’s going to do? It’s the strap for him and a dictionary/thesaurus for me.

August 785 AD: I encouraged Symeon’s ambitious nature. One day, he may be King. Hahaha… who am I kidding? With my genes, he’ll be lucky if Sicily doesn’t sink before he’s sixteen.

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