Category Archives: Dominion of the Dreki

Dominion of the Dreki: Fires of Faith

Who knows what moves the hearts of men? The fires of faith have seemed dim, this past generation. Asatru have lived in peace with Christian; Moslems have waged only the inner jihad, and have not sought to extend the House of Submission; Christians have not attempted the recovery of the Holy Land; even the vile Suomenusko have, a few disavowed adventurers excepted, fought mainly against the mosquitoes and against their own children. A weak and decayed generation, far from the mighty deeds of their ancestors! But there is an ebb and a flow to history, and in the seventh year of Godfried, the inrushing tide of war at last reached its high-water mark: The Emperor in his wisdom, may the White Christ protect the righteous warrior, proclaimed the Crusade for Anatolia, to recover the mountain peninsula for Christendie and to prepare the way for a campaign for the Holy Land.

The warriors of the Crescent, however, were not slow in answering. The moribund sultanate of Syria (currently unplayed), it is true, did not mobilise with all the decisiveness that might have been looked for. However, the rival Caliphates of Persia and Egypt both responded with declarations of Jihad, for Frisia and France; war objectives which, if attained, would cripple the Empire and reduce it to the level of a second-rank power. (For a moment, seeing ‘Caliph’ and ‘Jihad for France’ together, I thought the long-awaited inevitable betrayal by Fimconte had finally arrived; but I had the wrong Caliph. Iberia remained scrupulously neutral, although no doubt carefully scrutinising both sides for a carelessly exposed kidney.) These Jihads brought out the old warrior spirit of the desert nomads; at one point I had over 80 “Emir X joined the Jihad for France” notifications in my message queue. That wasn’t, however, an advantage for the Muslims. The various Emirs insisted on sending all their troops in stacks of 1k and 2k, so that for a while Central Europe was covered in the banners of Islam, but the Emperor had the advantage of numbers in the decisive clash of the main forces.

The Muslim powers began their campaign with African troops invading Ireland; the Persians, having no navy to speak of, marched towards Europe through Anatolia and the Balkans, incidentally reinforcing the Syrian defenders along the way. The Crusaders, faced both with equal forces defending the difficult terrain of Anatolia, and with a direct threat to their homeland, consequently retreated somewhat rapidly. Thus Istanbul was saved for Islam; and for some time there was a real question of whether Christendom could hold Western Europe against the savage Saracen. The loss of so strategic a location as Ireland, obviously, would have demoralised the nobles of Germany, notoriously more concerned with land and privileges than with religion; and if any significant fraction of them had taken the turban to save their estates, resistance might have collapsed entirely and the Crescent flown from the Danube to the Channel. (Or, in other words, the CK warscore model is kind of gameable; occupying Ireland, indeed.)

However, with the main Crusading forces’ return to the Netherlands, the invasion of Ireland became untenable. The Emperor’s superior sealift capacity, due largely to the Norwegian merchant fleet, gave him such mobility that he was able to force his enemies to battle on unfavourable terms; and in a decisive clash in which Cross outnumbered Crescent 40 thousand to 30, destroyed their main fighting force. Had the two dozen little warbands of the various Emirs managed to be within supporting distance of their Caliphs, this might have gone quite differently; as it was, the warriors of Islam were left with quite a few troops in the field, but scattered all over Germany in futile sieges, with nothing able to stand against the hammer of the Emperor’s relieving column.

All this had, nonetheless, taken time; and more time was lost in mopping up the Emirs and their fanatical ghazi warriors, apparently stimulated by the defeat of Islam into ever-more-suicidal efforts to reverse the tide. The net result of all the bloodshed, therefore, was the status quo antebellum: The Jihads for France and Frisia failed, but so also did the Crusade for Anatolia. After five years of war the Syrians were able to say, with some justice, that if the White Christ had intended to deliver their homelands to His faithful, he’d had His chance. Recognising the point of diminishing returns, the Pope therefore called off the Crusade. This is, of course, the kind of thing that will happen when you insist on using false gods in your Holy Wars.

And what was Norway’s contribution to this clash of titans? Well, apart from the war-winning sealift capacity of our merchant fleet, someone had to keep an eye on the savage Suomenusko! The last thing the Emperor needed, at a time when he was straining every sinew in defense of the heart of his realm, was a second front opened by an ankle-biting opportunist. I’m glad to say that I accomplished this vital mission with great success; so scary were the fierce Norse faces I made in the general direction of Finland, that the Suomenusko Holy War for Uppland did not occur until after the Emperor’s great victory against the Muslims. This turned out to be a strategic miscalculation, since the defeat of the main Muslim forces left the Emperor’s veteran army free to sail north on the aforementioned merchant fleet, and crush the Suomenusko utterly. Having thus put my heathen enemies off-balance, I followed with a strategic masterstroke, declaring Great Holy War for Suomi – the heart of darkness! Unable to face us in battle, Yahmik has instead turned to assassins, presumably hoping to end the war by making me lose an election. This was, indeed, a pretty good move on his part; I lost two Doges before I realised that making an Yngling named ‘Ormr’ my spymaster was probably not a good idea, even if he did have Intrigue 25. I mean, the guy’s name is literally ‘Snake’; great indicator of trustworthiness, there. Fortunately my latest Doge was quicker on the uptake than me, saw through Ormr’s agent, and arrested him. Execution will follow pretty shortly; also, a kinsman is spymaster now. This conflict is not yet settled, but I think I may say without fear of contradiction that it is going my way. The Baltic shall be united under the Dreki! Who in turn are under the Emperor, making some kind of threesome, but it’s ok – Godfried’s nickname of “the Kind” derives from his habit of giving a reacharound.

Orm Yngling

Well, I don’t know what I was thinking.

Suomenusko plot, 1018

Then again, it’s also possible I’ve made myself a teensy bit unpopular.

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Dominion of the Dreki: The Heathen Menace

The Christian millennium has come and gone without incident, as is only to be expected; it is, after all, a false religion. However, the Kaiserfriede which holds from the Bay of Biscay to Lofoten, and which I most loyally and wholeheartedly support, proves that it is possible to live in peace with the followers of the White Christ. Even the Serkmen, whose betrayal is of course as inevitable as the sunrise, have kept their treaty with the Emperor for two generations now – as indeed they had better; the things that are in short supply in Serkland include manners, trustworthiness, and soap, but not enemies.

On the other side of the Baltic, however, other gods hold sway: There, the dark spirits of the Suomenusko grip the hearts of men, and daily demand the sacrifice of a child, a puppy, and a thousand mosquitoes. The mosquitoes, of course, form a competing set of dark spirits which daily demand a river of blood, although in fairness it must be said that they do not grip the hearts of men and are thus rather an improvement on the Suomenusko pantheon. Worse, however, than the daily killing of children on stone altars – after all the cute little tykes are heathens themselves, and nits make lice – is that these accursed heathens indulge in commercial competition! Indeed they have several trading posts on the Baltic coast of the Emperor’s German lands; for his own wise reasons, the Emperor has not yet had them put to fire and the sword, even though these foreign infidels are literally taking the bread from the mouths of Norse children by selling their inferior amber and furs at sweatshop prices. Clearly there can be no peace with this kind of evil.

Baltic Republics
Baltic Families

Trade zones in the Baltic. Note the four (!) Virumaa trade posts on the German shore, right in the middle of what should be a Dreki zone stretching from the Kattegat to Öland. Note also the two different “Virumaa” families; they do that to confuse predators.

They know it, too, the dark-hearted fishmongers; every day they work for our downfall. Just consider: When mad King Styrbjørn, he that was crowned Emperor of Denmark and ruled a few valleys in Sweden, died, his successor naturally wished to unite the Norse peoples by rejoining his lands to the Republic. The prestige and pride of the Dreki blood, however, forbade this to be done without at least a little blood shed; what is the worth of a throne that was not paid for with men’s lives? So there was a symbolic war, a clashing of shields to mark the reunification; and while the Swedish fighting-men were away, the Suomites sent their armies into the Gastrikland valleys, and stole by subterfuge what they could not have taken in open battle. This is not the act of a friendly power. This is the act of a people who know perfectly well that there can be only one hegemon in the Baltic, and intend it to be them. Well, they can’t be blamed for that; but they can be destroyed, their armies scattered, their fleets sunk, their homes and crops burnt, their women taken as slaves and their children subjugated. And that is precisely what will happen, as soon as the Emperor comes to his senses and realises that there can be no peace or compromise with the Heathen Menace.

Baltic Borders

Borders after the unlawful aggression of the Suomi. Come on, now! That’s clearly my sphere of interest, in fact it’s my back yard!

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The Dominion of the Dreki: Colourful Characters

No great events in this session, except that I recovered the Fylkirate by pressing my brother’s claim and then getting him elected Doge, so I thought I’d have a look at some characters instead.

Emperor of the West

Pippo Groningen

He destroyed Rome in order to save it. He gave the Dreki the honour of bestowing the kiss of friendship on both his cheeks, and distracted them so they didn’t read the fine print. He has survived three wives, but nothing was ever proved to the judges he appointed, and besides, they knew the job was dangerous when they took it. He is The Most Interesting Emperor North of Paris. He doesn’t always drink wine, but when he does, he ensures that his courtiers have a glass too.

Merchant Prince

The most powerful vassal of the Emperor Pippin is sometimes referred to as “The Taxes”, as in the two immemorial scourges of mankind, death and taxes. The Emperor, a formidable warrior in his youth and the scion of a dynasty that has been known to hang the heraldry of exterminated bloodlines on their bedroom walls and gloat over them to ensure potency, is thus cast in the role of “The Death”. But most people are quick to recall, when making this half-in-jest identification, that death, at least, doesn’t come every year.

Pirate Caliph

Yes, he does have a red beard, and he does execute anyone who calls him Barbarossa. Or mentions the inevitable betrayal of his alliance with Frisia. Or looks at him funny. But although his rule is perhaps a touch harsh, you can’t say he’s unfair or arbitrary; it’s easy to avoid being executed if you just follow the rules he has laid out, and are a subject of a completely different kingdom on the other side of Europe. India would be even better.

Concubine

She isn’t conventionally beautiful, although her blue eyes are striking, but Aliken has that feminine allure, that je ne sais quoi, that undefinable charisma of some women that makes men unable to keep their hands off. She has been the concubine, and the power beneath the throne, of three successive Dreki Lawspeakers. Obviously, a woman in such a position attracts whispers even more easily than she attracts men. She is variously said to be the agent of the Emperor, for keeping the Dreki under control; of the Caliph, to subvert the Dreki for the inevitable day of betrayal; of the Pope, to convert the heathen; of the Zoroastrian witch-sisterhood with an agenda that varies with the speaker; or any of the eleven possible combinations of double- and triple-agentry. She is rumoured to be a man-eating and man-hating Valkyrie, her strength-sucking bed arts the cause of the early deaths and senility of the two previous Doges, and the premature greying of Ingemar. (“But,” the whisperers invariably continue, “what a way to go!”) She is the Emperor’s illegitimate daughter, exiled from his court after one too many escapades with the serving maids; or she was thrown for a bone to the throne of the Norse wolves to keep them busy; or she escaped from the sack of Rome and has worked her way to a position of power for revenge against the Caliph. But Aliken keeps her own counsel.

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The Dominion of the Dreki: Restoring the Republic

This seems to belong before what I posted last week, going into more detail about the restoration of the Republic which was a given in the previous post.

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The Dominion of the Dreki: Peace and Profit

I noted last week that, in the resistance against the Christian faith, I have tried several different strategies: Successively, Holy War has failed, alliance has failed, treaty has failed, and dictatorship has failed. Consequently I restored the old Republic – but not purely for roleplaying reasons. Crucially, the Grand Republic of Ireland is a kingdom, not an empire; it can, therefore, swear fealty to the Emperor of Frisia. After two generations of failure at war, I am turning to a new strategy: To bow the stiff necks of the North, and make peace. This does have the disadvantage (or is it?) of aligning me with the current proto-hegemon, which is not good for anyone’s popularity; but as the counter-hegemonic alliance has signally failed to protect the independence of small powers, my remaining option was to make the best terms I could.

Knut Dreki

Knut Dreki, the Doge Who Did Not So Much Kneel As Bend Over.

The counter-hegemons did have a damn good try this session, with a Jihad for Aragon that, surely, made the average colour of pants in Iberia move somewhat in the direction of brown. Although I did not follow the fighting closely, it seemed to me that it was going somewhat against my new Iberian friends (that is, they are the allies of my overlord). However, Fimconte, with his usual nose for sharp gameplay, was able to defuse the situation by converting to the Ibadi heresy of his attackers, invalidating the jihad CB and ending the war without any land changing hands. I opine that this act will surely rebound against him in the end; apart from the human badboy it cannot have done his credit with Allah any good.

Jihad for Aragon

Jihad for Aragon!

The result of these varied shenanigans and accommodations is some scary-looking blobs:

Europe, 983

Immense empires of the West.

The eventual and inevitable betrayal – Fimconte can clearly be trusted roughly as far as you can see him, and on the Internet you can’t see him – will be epic in scope, and lead to a shattering war. Unless, of course, it is resolved by invalidating the CB.

Internally, a quiet session for me; I’m effectively rebuilding my republic from scratch, including (sigh) House Dreki. In fact, it wasn’t until I got the Dogeship again and could use my accumulated tech points to bump up Bergen’s trade tech that any of the Irish patrician families could actually build any trade posts! I got a nice sequence of four creating a trade zone in the Kattegat and the Sound, and now just need some upgraded cities for them to improve. Lacking CBs, I wasn’t able to do much to reabsorb Old Denmark, though I’m currently pressing my brother’s claim on the Fylkirate, which will return the important tactical option of Great Holy War to my control as soon as that brother inherits.

The oak breaks, the willow bends. “Cities and Thrones and Powers / stand in Time’s eye / almost as long as flowers / which daily die”; but profit is eternal, and so is the good name of peacemakers. Let us make peace, then, and profit.

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Dominion of the Dreki: Groaningen Under the Yoke

Life has been uneventful in the far north, these two sessions; that’s why I wrote no AAR last week – it seemed a bit boring to report “to my surprise, I survived the session”. In fact, I not only survived but did so without territorial cessions. I conjecture that oddman doesn’t think it worth bothering with Ireland for a while; I am protected in my possession of Scandinavia by his treaty with Khan, and while I still have a couple of provinces on the British mainland, they’re perhaps not worth burning a Holy War CB on. Thus, little of interest happened to me in the 934-946 session; I strategically moved vassals around in accordance with a Cunning Plan that shall be revealed later, but that’s all.

In the 946-960 session, however, all hell broke loose – though I wasn’t its target. Oddman (ably subbed by Vaniver) and Fimconte declared, respectively, Crusade and Jihad for the northern and southern parts of Italy. In spite of various interventions they rapidly overran the peninsula and annexed it. That results in this map of Europe:

Europe, 960

In other words, two allied powers now rule (ok, yes, modulo the revolt in Italy, but it’ll soon be crushed) from Gibraltar to the Elbe, from the Highlands to Malta. This is a bit of a problem. As balances of power go, it doesn’t. (Balance, that is. It certainly powers.) Naturally, the great nations of Europe and the Middle East have immediately formed an alliance to contain this common enemy, exchanging dynastically connected girls like party favours to create an overpowering coalition that can roll back the ill-gotten gains – hah. I jest, and the jest is bitter. The great nations of Europe are cowering in fear of the aggressors. The phrase “new Christian overlords” has not, admittedly, made an appearance yet, but it can be only a question of time.

I did my best to help the Italians: I sent my raiders south in their dragon-headed ships, to loot and burn in Pomerania, and distract the Moslem armies. I meant to do good, and I did quite well. But this business of raiding people who have actual armies is nerve-wracking – my mouse hand twitched for the embarkation order at every random movement of Fimconte’s vassals. The powers of Africa and the Levant need to get their act together; the people of the North can bite ankles (and such bites have been known to fester), but we’re going to need someone who can meet the Christian armies in the open field, and break their faith and make them run. Where are the brave Moslem armies of old? Where are the conquerors of Ethiopia and Rome?

Earlier in the game I had a lot of characters die young, mostly at very inconvenient times; although my current one is not that great, he is at least sticking around for a while. I’ll be sad to see him go; after my geniuses all died before reaching two score, having an average man reach his three-and-ten got me rather attached to him.

Thorsteinn Dreki

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Dominion of the Dreki: Emergency Powers Activated

The situation has developed not necessarily entirely to my advantage. Because the PvP is depressing, I will first relate the only amusing thing that happened during the session, namely the way I took over the kingdom of Svithjod. It turned out that I had enough bits and pieces of Sweden to do a Usurp of the kingdom title; however, you can’t usurp while the target is at war. The war in question was a revolt, which the Swedish AI had effectively won; the rebels were reduced to a 20-man stack hiding out across the border in Lappland. Now, if I were leading a revolt that was down to its last twenty men, against a kingdom that could get together a thousand easily, I think I might have traveled east and south and seen whether the Sultan of somewhere warm was hiring blond mercenaries; but the AI was just sitting there slowly attriting away. It’s true that banditry “in aid of the cause”, and calling it guerrilla resistance, is an old and honoured occupation, but it’s not as though they could even have been finding much to steal in Lappland. However, the Swedish AI, displaying a nearly human level of metagaming – don’t let anyone tell you the Singularity is not near – refused to send its stack north to finish the deal. After all, what did it care if twenty former rebels slowly starved to death? That war was the only thing keeping it independent. So I offered it help – a classic offer you cannot refuse; in fact, while the player gets a choice in these things, I’d be unsurprised to learn that the AI has been coded to always accept offers of help in war. In any case, I sent my retinue north into Lappland, it duly crushed the rebels, the war ended, and I usurped Svithjod. You’re welcome, Swedish AI! Oh, and would you like to be my vassal? It turns out he would. (If he hadn’t, of course, I would have DOWed for the de jure CB.) So Scandinavia, at least, is now united under my rule.

England, unfortunately, is rather closer to being united under the rule of Voldemort – excuse me, Oddman. (“Unity is strength! Division is weakness!”) Following his obvious best strategy, as soon as the truce ran out he (and separately Fimconte) attacked me, holy wars for duchies. Pavski sent an army; but his navy was too small to transport the amount of troops we needed to challenge Oddman’s 45k. (Logistical constraints, in Crusader Kings! Who would have thought it?) We lost the decisive battle, and the war ended with my capital being ignominiously moved inland; in this exigency, I have assumed emergency powers and Denmark is no longer a republic. I am sad about this, because republics are fun to play, but it must be admitted that the “emergency powers” thing is not entirely a euphemism; I’ve spent quite a bit of time in this game waiting to become Doge. (Not to mention those two elections that didn’t stay bought.) A reasonable certainty that I’ll still be in charge if – to take a completely unlikely scenario – some two-bit AI with a coded grudge should manage to give me poisoned wine is worth quite a bit of money. I will attempt to restore the republic as and when convenient, but right now we need a single strong hand at the helm, and every man to his oar!

I still retain a few English provinces and most of Ireland, but at this point it’s clear that my most important assets are Scandinavia, the Muslim alliance, and the unquenchable optimism of the man who knows the gods are on his side. Oh, and my Yngling vassals. It’s true that unleashing these weapons of historical destruction is a move of desperation, and in truth I’m not yet quite desperate enough to go there. But it’s good to have something in reserve; and I have not yet begun to fight.

England, 934

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