Crusader Kings III may need no introduction. The historical soap opera simulator became an instant hit for its ability to recreate the epic highs and lows of being nobility in medieval Europe. The personal dramas and assassination plots make for more than a strict history simulator, but what if I wanted to go even further?
CK3 lets you change some fundamental rules about how its vision of history works. Some changes — such as gender equality — deviate from its intended world just a bit too much, so altering them disables achievements. However, explicitly prioritizing women over men is still considered “legal.” As is setting the default sexuality to predominantly gay. I decided to take this as a challenge: How much could I break the game, or its history, with a lesbian supremacist crusader queen? What follows is a timeline of my journey through the very gay ages.
So Many Lavender Marriages
My gay ambitions dull slightly when I realize that CK3 has no concept of adoption, or of trans people. To continue the family legacy (and secure all important political alliances), I am going to have to arrange some straight marriages. Or “straight” marriages, as both parties involved are (almost) always gay.
Thankfully, the fun returns when the game suggests my beloved husband may (may!) be cheating on me. He is shocked and hurt by my accusation. I, meanwhile, am simply sitting here eating popcorn, because I, too, absolutely have a secret lover. We’re all gay here! It’s all fine!
This repeats for every single generation, and it never gets any less funny. That is until I finally have a Queen sneaky enough to investigate my husband’s suspicious ways. I find him with my sister. After all this time, the game finds something to surprise and upset me with: statistically unlikely straight people.
My Second Cousin, Thrice Removed
A brief tone change here: Much of the intended CK3 experience revolves around your dynastic bloodline. As play carries down generations, you’re incentivized to groom your heir before birth. As well as sorting potential spouses by their alliance value or prestige, you can also compare heritable traits. Most genetic traits are color-coded as good or bad, whether they’re the bland “Handsome” (good), or a condition such as dwarfism (bad, according to the game’s rules). As Oma Keeling writes for GlitchOut, “The ability… to turn this into a historicized human breeding program creates an unsettling parallel with eugenics.” It creates uncomfortable value judgments, particularly when AI created spouses present trade-offs. You’ll often have to accept a “bad” trait into your family line for an alliance, or take a prestige hit to marry a “Genius” with no land.
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I note this sour part of the game because this playthrough unexpectedly averts this problem — or at least removes any incentive to engage with it. I know that isn’t historically the case for gay people and eugenics, but bear with me. While some of my Queens politely produce one or two children (presumably lying back and thinking about Denmark), many of them don’t have any at all. This means my heirs are most often nieces or cousins, whose upbringing I don’t directly control. When their heirs end up being their nieces or cousins, the results of marriages I never touched, it brings some healthy chaos into the family tree. With the Scandinavian Elective system, it matters more that someone in my dynasty is aligned in personality with my vassals. There’s little to gain from micromanaging the gene pool, only for everyone to throw behind cousin Ingrid because she’s just so darn likeable.
Europe is One Very Large Closet, Full of Other, Smaller Closets
History is complicated. We can’t look at it as “past bad, present good”. However, 1066 in the Catholic parts of Europe was (broadly speaking) not a great time or place to be gay. The Catholic Church of the time condemns it as a significant moral sin — more-so than premarital sex or adultery. But gay people have always loved each other, even in oppressive circumstances. And as I neglected to also turn off religious homophobia, this is a game world full of people who believe they are the only ones having secret, queer love affairs.
The moral here is: blackmail. I have access to the tactic of dropping my (also gay) spymaster into any court, and immediately being returned a series of secrets: “Sodomy!” “Sodomy!” “Sodomy!” Both in-universe and out of it, I am the only one who knows that already everyone is gay. It might actually bring them all some peace if I exposed them, so they could realize how many other gay people are out there. Unfortunately for them, I need those sweet, sweet hooks to manipulate election votes. For some unimaginable reason, people don’t seem to trust my judgement?
After a little while, the omnipresent homophobia begins eating into my fun. Even with the mechanical incentives to be sneaky and underhanded, navigating everything in secret is less entertaining when it’s your only option. While same gender marriage hasn’t solved everything in modern times, it’s freeing for a lot of people. So, I pull a Henry VIII and decide to split from the Catholic Church to marry my girlfriend, in an attempt to move that landmark ruling forward a good… near millennium? (Unless we want to talk about brother making rites?)
I dedicate nearly a virtual lifetime to building up piety: buying indulgences, going on pilgrimages, and (crucially) abstaining from love affairs. All this to turn around at the last minute with a swift middle finger to the Pope and establish a new Christian sect: Lesbianism. I make same-gender relations legal, and divorce free. I also make “deviant sex” acceptable, which I hope refers to all those “sodomy” secrets. Although, as I chose Carnal Exaltation to remove the loaded virtue “chaste,” between these two there’s a chance I may have created a cult of goat boning. Only time will tell… In the meantime, I’ll cherish the pop-ups about my amorous bishop. Get some, Your Excellency.
Literally Crusader Kings III
The Lesbians are a passionate but ultimately small community, and I had forgotten one crucial detail. This is a game literally about the crusades. The Catholic Church does not look kindly on our splitting off for any reason. Much like the other heretics, the Danish Lesbian Queendom is almost immediately targeted by multiple Holy Wars. The Catholic militaries thrive — using funding from my previous indulgences, no doubt. Battle after battle slowly chips away at the boundaries of Denmark, and worse, it seems I made a fatal error. I cannot gay marry for love nor alliances as I’d presumed. My relationships are righteous in the eyes of God, but neither legally nor politically binding.
The Queendom falls… But this is not the end for Lesbians. The word has spread, far and wide(ish), and doesn’t need me to sustain it. I sit back and watch as a patient observer while the influence of Lesbianism waxes and wanes. It took strongly in Poland, and I see it pop up across Europe as far south as Hungary. At one point it exists only in a tiny sliver of a single county. As I anxiously wait for that last lilac patch to vanish, there’s a spontaneous resurgence of gayness across Germany and France. Truly, the tenacity of Lesbians warms my heart.
Did I break the game’s history? Not as much as I’d have liked! Perhaps if same-gender marriage had worked out the way I’d intended. (Modders, help a friend out here?) The looming omnipresence of Catholicism kept people in the closet, and I had to fight hard to keep my place at the table as long as I did. Especially as all my knights were women. I loved that, but I kept getting my heirs killed in battle because I didn’t realize that “women in control of everything” meant literally everything. How did anybody ever inherit anything without getting stabbed first?
My time with lesbian supremacy highlighted some shifts in perspective, and provided a lot of goofier moments along the way. Tthat’s what I think lesbianism is about. That, and unexpectedly straight people betraying you: I am never going to forgive my husband for cheating on me with my sister. That was just rude.