Vassals are individuals you appoint to help you run your kingdom since you can only personally handle a limited number of holdings (20 at the start of the game). Your vassal must at least have the title of a Count (realm size of at least one) in order to count against your vassal limit.
The key to easy vassal management is their opinion of you, the higher the better. Using the Diplomatic Lifestyle with a Family Focus will give you access to the Befriend perk, which if successful ensures a vassal has an opinion of 100. Giving powerful vassals Council seats almost always guarantees a positive opinion of you. Using the Sway scheme is very effective as well.
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Managing Vassals (And Court Members) Individually
The simplest way to manage vassals and keep them in line is to have them like you by encouraging them to have a high opinion of you, especially your powerful vassals. Although you have a limited number of council positions, and even though a powerful vassal may not have any above average skills, it still can benefit you to assign them to a position if their opinion of you is negative. This gives a substantial boost in opinion that oftentimes can swing over their opinion of you to a favorable one. Having a vassal with a negative opinion can cause problems. One of the biggest disadvantages to having a vassal with a negative opinion of you is that you cannot change any succession or gender laws.
Not all vassals expect to be on the council so looking for a vassal who does not care if he or she is on the council is one thing to look for before replacing someone. If you click on the vassals tab you will see a tiny raised fist that is part of the vassal’s portrait, hovering over the fist with the cursor will bring up a tooltip telling you why the vassal is unhappy with you, why he or she is content, etc. The color of the fist is a tip also, if a vassal has a red fist it’s a good idea to check out the reasons they’re angry with you.
If you just can’t get that guy or girl onto the council for some reason you can try either a gift or a sway scheme. A sway scheme can greatly increase someone’s opinion of you, usually by around 25, but you can only have one personal scheme working at a time. If you want to change sway schemes or switch to any other type of personal scheme the personal scheme that is in progress stops.
Another one of the easier options is a gift (essentially a bribe) although these are not as effective or as long lasting as a scheme if it is successful. For example, if I give a gift of 100 gold to one of my Earls his opinion of me might increase by as much as 25 (amount changes depending on circumstances) but his opinion of me will probably decline by about 1.20 per year. Giving gifts is a short-term fix if you have the gold to spare.
You can also offer a ward or guardianship to a vassal. By offering a ward, someone like your son, to be a ward of someone else will give a boost in opinion toward you.
You can try to seduce a vassal. If this succeeds your vasal will become your lover and won’t join any factions that are against you. Like any scheme it will take time, maybe as much as 2 years, and once again, any other personal scheme you have in progress will be aborted. This scheme will typically give an opinion boost of 25. Similar to seducing, you can also try romancing a vassal, which will give you a prestige bonus if successful.
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If none of these options is a good solution you can elect to go for more “direct” measures, like murdering the vassal or imprisoning the vassal by using a Hostile scheme. There are two types of schemes, Personal and Hostile, and you can be pursuing one of each at the same time, so if you start a Hostile scheme it won’t disrupt any Personal scheme you have in progress.
If you try to imprison someone it won’t always succeed. If it fails the vassal will rebel against you and others may follow, resulting in a civil war. If you successfully imprison a vassal your dread increases, meaning you can keep some of those vassals in line because they fear you. Your opinion takes a significant hit though so it might not be worth it, it depends on what your strategy is for ruling.
Murder is another Hostile scheme so any other Hostile scheme in progress will stop but it’s an interesting option to pursue. If you do pursue this getting support from your spymaster will help a lot. When you start a murder scheme you’ll see what your chances are for success, what the chances are for keeping it secret, and how long it will take. If you enlist the help of your Spymaster your chances for success and chances for keeping it secret will significantly improve, plus the time to complete the scheme will get a significant reduction as well.
You’ll receive a report when the murder plot is ready to be executed along with the likelihood of its success and likelihood to be kept secret. Since this particular plot had a 94% chance of succeeding and a 95% chance of being kept secret I decided to put it into motion and it succeeded. You can monitor the progress of your schemes, both Personal and Hostile, at the schemes tab, which is part of the Intrigue menu.
One really efficient way to increase a Vassal’s opinion of you is to grant them a title. This action will typically gain you about 40 in the Vassal’s opinion of you for 50 years. This option is available by right clicking on the Vassal’s portrait and choosing “Grant Titles.” Clicking on it will bring up a list of titles that are available, just be careful about how powerful that title makes them or they might just try to eventually replace you.
Modifying A Crusader Kings 3 Feudal Contract
Another method to alter a vassal’s opinion of you is to alter the feudal contract you have with them. Although this is typically used to raise or lower taxes, or increase or decrease the amount of troops this vassal supplies, there are a few options that can be chosen that will improve the vassal’s opinion of you without changing anything else.
To modify a feudal contract go to the Vassals tab on the Realm menu. Click the “Modify Feudal Contract” icon beneath the portrait of the vassal. You can increase or decrease taxes or troops supplied, enforce Forced Partition Succession, allow the vassal to declare war, guarantee their Council rights, and protect their title from being revoked.
Although this option is mainly used for tax and troop purposes there are a few options that will grant you, their Liege, and increase in opinion, although lowering taxes or Levie obligations is always a popular thing to do, they both produce a +5 opinion of you from the vassal. Allowing a Vassal to declare their own wars will give you a bump of 5 in opinion, guaranteeing their council rights gives an increase of 5, and protecting their title from revocation can give another 5 increase in opinion.
Increasing The Opinion Of All Vassals
There are several ways you can influence the way everyone thinks of you, both Vassals and subjects alike. If your crown authority is set to Limited Crown Authority (level 2) decreasing it to Autonomous Vassals (level 1) will increase all Vassals opinion of you by 10. Aside from providing some Levies and taxes they can do whatever else they wish.
Increasing Crown Authority to a level 3 or 4 will negatively impact all vassals opinion of you but you will get more in taxes and levies, but not all cultures, like the Irish for example, will support this option.
I find it difficult to control my warlike tendencies and usually pursue a Martial lifestyle, but if I really want to get along with my Vassals I choose the Diplomatic Lifestyle instead and choose the Family Focus. One of the first two perks available is the Befriend scheme which is what I select as soon as it becomes available.
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As it progresses you’ll get opportunities to speed it up, like a “promise of dedication,” which can reduce the befriend time by a whopping 14 months or a “Gesture of Generosity,” which can reduce the time for the scheme to complete by 12 months. Once befriended the Vassal has a 100 opinion of you and won’t join any factions against you. Since they like you so much you don’t even need to worry about giving them a seat at your Council.