Following the release of its smaller-scale Northern Lords DLC earlier this year, Paradox has announced Crusader Kings 3's first major expansion, The Royal Court, which will be lording over its subjects from atop its throne later this year.
The Royal Court is both the name of the expansion and a new hub area being introduced as part of the paid DLC that, alongside its associated mechanics, will be exclusive to emperors and kings who've risen to the peak of their power. It's intended to give high-level players new challenges and tasks to focus on, alongside their usual duties.
The court itself takes the form of a 3D throne room (visible from different angles and stylised to fit one of four cultures), that serves as something like a bridge between the map and characters. Here, players will be regularly petitioned by vassals and subjects seeking judgments on important matters of government, as well as somewhat pettier matters of person conflict. It'll be up to players to choose a side in a bid to turn a disagreement to their advantage - perhaps pacifying a conflict or deliberately inciting one to reap the rewards.
One new concept feeding into the Royal Court is Grandeur, inspired by the notion that kings didn't hoard gold but spent it as a sign of power, using it as clout to strengthen their position. To increase their Grandeur, players will need to hold court and field petitions, requests, and demands, as well as spend gold on amenities that increase the comfort of visitors, such as food, clothing, servants, and lodgings. Rulers that pour their money into buildings and war instead won't see the political benefits of high Grandeur and will suffer diplomatic penalties.
As Grandeur increases, you'll attract a better calibre of visitor to your court, including Inspired people - artists, craftspeople, thinkers, and the like - who'll request money to embark on projects on your behalf. They might, for instance, head off to search for a relic or undertake a great work of scholarship, resulting in items and artefacts that can be physically displayed around your throne room.
Some Inspired works serve more practical purposes, however; wandering smiths can, for instance, create great weapons while artisans might fashion elaborate jewelled crowns, and these can be placed in your new personal inventory for use rather than in your throne room. Paradox says some of these, such as weapons, will be visible on your character portraits, appearing in animations such as duels.
Importantly, items and artefacts accumulate history. They could, for instance, be stolen (along with your throne room) if your kingdom is taken in war - although old owners will still have a claim on them. You might also temporarily lose them if your rank falls to the point where you no longer have a throne room. If this happens, though, they'll simply lay dormant until you rise in power once more.
Artefacts will also age and decay over time, presenting yet more choices. You might, for example, choose to reforge an old sword at significant expense or retire it to keep as heirloom. However, the latter option requires an antiquarian in your court, one of several new minor roles in the expansion. These include the food taster, the royal champion (who can fight duels on your behalf), and the court tutor - who can teach you a new language as a Scheme, leading to new interactions and benefits, such as halving the penalty for being a foreign ruler in another land.
Paradox says language is a small part of wider overhaul for Crusader Kings 3's culture system which will be included as a free update for all players alongside the Royal Court expansion. This is designed to make the existing culture system more dynamic, particularly in the way different cultures interact with each other, and closer to the game's religious system in modularity.
Once the overhaul arrives, cultures will have a central Ethos reflecting their values - such as bellicose, stoic, inventive, courtly, or spiritual - that impact the Traditions, another new system, they're able to adopt. Cultures can have a large number of Traditions which, in turn, provide a wide range of niche, but useful, effects. They might, for instance, make farms more productive in harsh climates, make diplomacy easier or more resistant to change, even provide military bonuses in certain circumstances. The idea is that many previously obscure or hidden rules will now be Traditions, such as Scandinavian inheritance rules, making them much easier to find.
That's not quite it for cultural changes either; lying between a culture's Ethos and Traditions are its Cultural Pillars, which impact the fundamentals of a society - from language and heritage to aesthetics of dress and architecture - and how it relates to other cultures.
All this comes into play with a new system that lets players spend Prestige and meld aspects of their dominant and subject cultures together under the right circumstances - choosing from their preferred Ethos, Pillars, and Traditions - to create hybridised cultures.
Doing so will recalculate existing dynamic relations, averaging the relations of both parent cultures for the newly created one, and reap additional benefits too - such as enabling players and AI to mix and match Traditions that might not ordinarily be possible (although obviously not those in direct opposition to one another). On the flip side, players will also have the opportunity to spend Prestige on cultural divergence, allowing them to break away from their traditional mode of life by ditching certain Traditions that may no longer have any value in a particular game. Whichever approach players choose, however, Paradox says the changes will quickly spread, causing history to evolve in new and interesting ways.
There's no release date for Crusader Kings 3's The Royal Court expansion and accompanying free update, but it's scheduled to launch at some point later this year.