It all began with a single Reddit post. "You've probably been cucked," said user MadHopper in an ominous warning to fellow Crusader Kings 3 players last week. "Don't turn on debug mode unless you want to see some terrible truths."
The warning was related to a mystery that many Crusader Kings 3 players have now spent days trying to solve, the question being: why are there so many hidden bastards in the game? When MadHopper hovered over his children in the game's debug mode, he discovered all but two of his 10 kids had been secretly fathered by someone else. "That's when I moused over myself: turns out my father was cucked too," MadHopper added. "My house is effectively no longer descended from its founder at all."
The revelation alarmed players who wanted to ensure their playthrough followed family lines, and who were disturbed by the idea all their supposedly legitimate children had actually been fathered by someone else. "Out of all the wives my characters had I believe it was just one that didn't produce any bastards or children with disputed heritage - the homosexual one," Alastor wrote on the Paradox forums. "I mean I know this is the middle ages and everyone was having wacky sex with everyone all the time, but still this is a bit much."
Since then, others have reported similar findings after delving into some of their own games in the debug mode, and now a community inquisition has begun into what's happening under the hood.
The most likely theory to explain the abundance of bastards in these games is that seduction in Crusader Kings 3 is pretty easy, with some players arguing AI seduction is now more potent than in Crusader Kings 2. Funnily enough, the dev team at Paradox Interactive has already dialled back AI seduction after testers were bombarded with dozens of attempted seduction schemes when playing as female rulers. It's possible that AI seduction schemes are still rampant, and these bastards are the result of a lot of secret love affairs. Just take a look at OccasionalBugReport's court below.
Yet others think something else could be causing the proliferation in bastards, including a random in-game event that causes a child to be fathered by another. Paradox forum user CobraPL noticed that their heir had been legitimate in an early save, and at some point the child's parentage had been overwritten in the code. CobraPL attributed this to the "disputed heritage secret" event, which caused the child to become a bastard in the game's code. Would this be enough to explain the dozens of illegitimate children? Possibly, as CobraPL said the code allows deceitful characters to forge fatherhood quite frequently.
Of course, perhaps the only people who really know what's going on are the devs at Paradox - but unfortunately they did not wish to comment on the community's debug findings.
While the idea of players discovering they'd secretly been cuckolded is quite amusing, some have argued the sheer amount of adultery in the game is "unrealistic" for the time period. Others have even turned to user-made balance mods to turn off AI seduction entirely. Personally, I quite like the idea of a Game of Thrones-level of seduction to spice things up. And although Crusader Kings 3 may tip into being slightly unrealistic at times, sex outside of marriage was surprisingly common during the period, even in Catholic Europe. "While adultery was not quite as common as simple fornication, it too seems to have been relatively widespread," says an overview by Brown University. "It was so common, in fact, that by the later Middle Ages it was not even considered grounds for the dissolution of marriage."
The good news is that, most of the time, you'll be completely unaware if all your children are illegitimate... unless the secret gets exposed or you open up the debug menu. Ignorance is bliss.