The Crusader Kings 3 beginner’s guide for the totally confused (2024)

There is a lot to do in Crusader Kings 3, and its open-ended design felt overwhelming to this genre newcomer.

The sheer amount of freedom in the game is a welcome aspect for veterans, but that’s not me. I came to Crusader Kings 3 because of the interesting stories I read about it — and also it’s free with Xbox Game Pass.

I spent my first few minutes of the game absolutely confused. The game’s fun came into full focus only when I learned that the player’s job is to direct the story.

In this Crusader Kings 3 beginner’s guide, we’ll introduce you to the series — and genre — from the perspective of a complete beginner. We’ll explain the fluid nature of the game’s storytelling system and help you make decisions that steer the narrative in a concrete direction of your choosing.

Consider the tutorial mandatory

Crusader Kings 3 is a series of systems colliding with each other. As you make decisions, the game churns out outcomes based on your actions while heaping on dozens of others scenarios that require your reaction. Think of it like playing The Sims.

Without a smartly designed tutorial to explain all the mechanics behind the scenes, trying to understand what’s going on can be a challenge. Right when you load up Crusader Kings 3, it immediately offers to lighten the mental load by running you through a starter scenario. If you want to enjoy this game, consider the tutorial mandatory.

The Crusader Kings 3 beginner’s guide for the totally confused (1) Image: Paradox Interactive via Polygon

Until then, grab a drink and a snack and play through the tutorial. This opening session mimics the gameplay you’ll experience, but at a snail’s pace. The tutorial slowly introduces several systems and explains their functions. Don’t worry about internalizing everything. Just work your way through. Once you’re done, you can continue playing as the tutorial character or quit and start a fresh game.

There are dozens of systems to be aware of at any given time, and it’s helpful to at least be made aware of them. Thankfully, to enjoy the game as a beginner, you don’t need to take part in all of them all the time. Once you start forming an idea of how you want to play the game, then you’ll naturally begin gravitating toward which systems are worth your attention.

Read blue text

When you hover over blue text, it displays important definitions and explanations about game systems. Read these if you get lost, and use the blue text definitions to remind you what certain keywords and ideas are. As you continue encountering concepts, you’ll understand more of the game.

The Crusader Kings 3 beginner’s guide for the totally confused (2) Image: Paradox Interactive via Polygon

Don’t expect everything to make sense within your first few hours. Focus on the game systems that seem interesting to you and explore whatever you want to learn more about. You can expand definitions within definitions until you nearly fill up your screen, which shows just how complex Crusader Kings 3 can be.

Follow the advice and issues pop-ups

As you play Crusader Kings 3, several pieces of advice, issues, and decisions that you need to make appear at the top of your screen. They represent the most pressing concerns in your kingdom. If you’re ever in doubt about what to do at any given moment, just pay attention to the icons in this area.

The Crusader Kings 3 beginner’s guide for the totally confused (3) Image: Paradox Interactive via Polygon

Advice is about important decisions, and it appears as diamond-shaped icons. These won’t always show up, but when they do, you should prioritize these immediately.

The issues list appears in a rounded cross icon with a number on it. It’ll display a list of suggestions and situations that could use your attention, though they aren’t always pressing.

The Crusader Kings 3 beginner’s guide for the totally confused (4) Image: Paradox Interactive via Polygon

If the issues list is empty, click on the reload icon next to the Current Situations text, and the game will generate new issues for you. If you’re ever unsure about what to do next, reload your situations and follow the suggestions.

Other major decisions and reminders will appear in this section, so make sure to clear out whatever appears there. Important tasks that you may overlook, like remembering to pick new skills and perks, will also show up in this section.

Your lifestyle is your character’s class

In Crusader Kings 3, you can play out your legacy as a diplomatic, violent, or passive ruler. You have to choose a lifestyle option when you start a new game or when your current character dies and you take control of their successor. Your choice determines how well your character performs certain key decisions within that style of gameplay.

Think of your lifestyle as choosing a class in a role-playing game.

There are several lifestyles to choose from — Diplomacy, Martial, Stewardship, Intrigue, and Learning. Each has its own focus, which determines the stats that get buffed. In each lifestyle, you also have three skill trees that support a specific play style.

The Crusader Kings 3 beginner’s guide for the totally confused (5) Image: Paradox Interactive via Polygon
  • Pick Diplomacy as your focus if you want to be a leader who cares more about the relationships between other realms and your own people.
  • Martial is a good lifestyle if you want to build a successful empire as a strong military tactician.
  • Stewardship-focused players are concerned with an empire that builds wealth for personal gain and the betterment of their people.
  • Pick Intrigue as your lifestyle if you want to root out secrets and manipulate others to grow your realm.
  • Learning is a great choice if you want to build a dynasty based on knowledge and studying religious texts.

Each character you play as will have an innate disposition to one of these lifestyles. However, you aren’t locked into one course of action based on your lifestyle. In fact, no matter which style of play you choose, you’ll still need to use other skills to progress in your game. For instance, if you choose to excel in Intrigue, you’ll still need to flex your Martial muscles when fighting wars.

No matter what lifestyle you pick, the ruler you control will be deficient in some areas. To make up for your shortcomings, you can rely on your council to pick up the slack.

Pay attention to your council

Even though you make most of the key decisions in your kingdom, you won’t rule it alone. To assist you in several aspects of running your domain, you’ll have six council members focused on different areas of your realm.

At the start of your game, you’ll have each seat filled with a member of your kingdom best suited for the job. Your council plays an essential role in your rule, providing you with passive support and management in areas like religious development, diplomacy, schemes, and more. Each member’s efficiency in their role is dictated by the associated level of the skill required for their function.

Excluding your spouse, each member of your council has three options to choose from. These tasks will increase in effectiveness based on certain factors like the level of skills or even their opinion of you.

As these characters die or simply leave your domain, you’ll have to replace them. When choosing replacements, make sure that you inspect the skill level of each potential replacement. Choose new council members based on the the associated skill level that’s relevant to the seat you’re filling.

The Crusader Kings 3 beginner’s guide for the totally confused (6) Image: Paradox Interactive via Polygon

You spouse can assist you in a range of different affairs. Your spouse is the only council member with the flexibility to assist in any role. When you first assign them to a role by clicking on the Assist Ruler icon, you’ll choose between involving them in court politics, military chivalry, managing the domain’s finances, courting intrigue, or supporting patronage. To make the most of your spouse’s support, choose the task that gains the most support based on the level of their skills.


The bishop helps you develop piety based on the level of their learning trait. Piety can be used to gain loans from the church and must be used as a spendable resource in several actions that the church must approve of. Bishops can also help you fabricate claims on counties if you’re looking to grow your kingdom. Plus, the higher opinion your bishop has of you, the more money they will passively earn you.


Your chancellor manages diplomatic efforts in and outside of your kingdom based on the level of their diplomacy. They are mostly a passive member of your council, automatically increasing the opinion others have of you which will make your life easier.


The steward manages your domain, helping collect taxes, speeding up development, and promoting culture. The higher their stewardship level, the better they perform.


Your marshal is in control of all your military affairs. Based on the level of their martial skill, they can increase the effectiveness of your armies, lower military maintenance costs, and even help you grow your army’s size.


Your spymaster can either passively or actively support you. Based on their intrigue level, they can disrupt schemes against you, boost the effectiveness of any active schemes you’re engaged in, or even find secrets on other domains. Any secrets on someone can be used as leverage against them in the future.

Embrace bad moments

No matter how well you play, your children will die before you, your spouse will divorce you, you’ll lose a few wars, and you may even get unceremoniously murdered. Many bad things will happen to you in Crusader Kings 3, and it’s all a part of the design.

History is messy. The story that you create while playing will be messy, too. Every setback — even your own death — is not the end of the game. The point is not to see a single character succeed, but to build a legacy.

Crusader Kings 3 is meant to be played through several in-game generations. The decisions you make as your current character will affect the life of their successor and the many successors after them. It’s worth keeping in mind which choices help your current character in the short term and which decisions will affect your lineage in the years to come.

The Crusader Kings 3 beginner’s guide for the totally confused (7) Image: Paradox Interactive via Polygon

The inner workings of Crusader Kings 3 allow for grand, absurd, and lengthy stories to be told. There are so many systems at play that it can be overwhelming to keep track of them all. Thankfully, the game’s design will always present you the most pressings situations to focus on.

Once you determine the play style you want to attempt, you’ll have a better sense of what to pay attention to. In time, Crusader Kings 3 becomes the game you want to play, whether that means being great military leader, a master manipulator, or a champion of the people. There’s so much history to make in each playthrough of the game that each session can be a memorable occasion, so long as you know what to focus on.

For a more advanced players, check our Crusader Kings 3 beginner tips guide.

The Crusader Kings 3 beginner’s guide for the totally confused (2024)


Is Crusader Kings 3 easy for beginners? ›

New players to this series can easily start with this title to slowly understand the basics of the series before getting into its more complex aspects. As beginners, it's recommended to utilize the following tips to grasp the game's mechanics and take the first step into the amazing gameplay loop of Crusader Kings 3.

What is the best starting point in Crusader Kings 3? ›

Dublin has solid development growth, faster than many of your rivals in Ireland, and is a great starting point for those of you without much CK3 or grand strategy experience.

What is the best starting faction in Crusader Kings 3? ›

Bohemia is an especially good place to start, with Duke Vratislav having a ton of advantages by his side to take care of most conflicts with ease. Players will easily learn the ropes with this character.

Is Crusader Kings 3 a heavy game? ›

Your CPU and RAM are both quite lacking, hence why lowering your graphics did nothing. As CK3 is a CPU-heavy game (lots of frequent calculations to do due to all the characters), that's going to be a real performance bottleneck.

How many years can you play in Crusader Kings 3? ›

Players begin as a character in either 867 or 1066. Upon the death or deposition of a player's character they continue to play as that character's heir. Overall, players develop a dynasty over the centuries, with the game ending in 1453.

What is the best stat for a crusader? ›

Strength, on the other hand, is your most important attribute for a melee build such as the Crusader or Barbarian, as it will increase the damage of all of their skills. Vitality and Fortitude are the other attributes you should focus on, and they have similar effects.

What is the lowest rank in Crusader Kings 3? ›

A Barony is the lowest rank of landed titles and the only rank that is not playable (although they may be held by playable characters). Each county has 1-7 baronies, which will always be in the same realm as the county they're part of. Baronies may be sparsely populated or have a holding.

How do you win Crusader Kings III? ›

  1. 7 Having A Strong Ally Network.
  2. 6 Train Commanders.
  3. 5 Kidnapping The Enemy.
  4. 4 Picking Realistic Targets.
  5. 3 Murdering The Enemy.
  6. 2 Maximize Your Strengths.
  7. 1 Attacking The Capital.
Aug 21, 2023

What is the best way to stop factions ck3? ›

If a vassal has an opinion of 80 or higher for their liege, they'll refuse to join a faction entirely. Gifts are the most direct way to increase vassal Opinion, and player rulers with high Diplomacy will get more Opinion from each gift.

How do you win wars in Crusader Kings 3? ›

The fastest way to win a war is by occupying lands and besieging holdings. Sieges take time, so either fast forward through a winnable war or watch your armies when your opponent is evenly matched.

How many wives can you have in Crusader Kings 3? ›

Title tierExpected spouses
2 more rows
Oct 26, 2023

Can you marry in Crusader Kings 3? ›

To get married in CK3, one will have to send a proposal and have at least +1 in the marriage acceptance stat with that character or their guardian (for betrothals of characters under 16). There are many factors that can affect the marriage acceptance stat in varying degrees.

What are you supposed to do in CK3? ›

Conquering land and expanding one's realm is arguably the most common goal in Crusader Kings 3, but doing this without ever declaring war flips the premise on its head, creating an engaging challenge.

Does Crusader Kings 3 have a good tutorial? ›

Read everything and take your time, it's well made and will get you started. that's what tutorials do. though i think EU4 and even Imperator Rome has better tutorials irrc. CK3 is still good enough though, do what it says and it's impossible to go wrong.

Is Crusader Kings 3 hard to run? ›

You'll need a minimum of 6 GB RAM, however the developers recommend 8 GB. The minimum graphics card you can play it on is equivalent to an AMD Radeon HD 7870. However, the recommended graphics card is an AMD Radeon R9 390X or better.

What are the difficulty levels in Crusader Kings 3? ›

DifficultyHostile Scheme ResistanceShort Reign Duration
Very Easy+30-50%

Do I need to play Crusader Kings 2 before 3? ›

So while they do fit on an overall timeline(s) and you will get the most enjoyment out of it the more games you've played, you should enjoy it well enough on its own.

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