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After successful military campaigns, I often end up earning the ire of my vassals for "too many duchies". To resolve this, I go to duchies I don't want, pick one of the counts in that duchy, and make them duke. If duchy does not exist, I create a duchy, and then do this.

However, I am actually not sure how to pick the best duke. I generally pick the count in the duchy's territory who likes me the most to minimize revolt risk. However while picking a -100 vassal is obviously undesirable, in practice the boost from being made Duke ensures that whoever I pick will have a pretty positive view of me anyway - so the revolt risk is low either way. Also, once the duke dies, there is little assurance his successors will like me as well.

Since my main factor, relations, fails to discriminate much between candidates, I am forced to essentially pick at random. I feel like I could be doing a better job.

Is there some kind of strategy to selecting a new duke? What are important factors to consider?

For instance, I can see that when given the choice between an ambitious and non-ambitious duke, the latter is preferable. But what if there are multiple candidates none of whom is ambitious?

  • A good rule of thumb (that hasn't been mentioned in any answer so far, but don't take this as a full answer) is that you should always (unless you're Iqta) give land to your family; In other words, you want to make sure that your Dukes and Counts are going to like you, and by giving your family lands you're assuring that your landowners are going to always have positive opinion modifiers (Same Dynasty). Don't forget, your most loyal duke will eventually die,and so will you. His heir may hate your heir, and then you'll be playing while having a Duke that hates you, and you're screwed – Oak Apr 19 '16 at 17:20
  • @Oak I've heard that idea before, but it worked poorly for me. The relatives end up hating me too because they desire my throne, form pretender factions around themselves, and what's worse is when I try to kill them and get caught I now become a kinslayer too. Perhaps I was doing it wrong? – Superbest Apr 19 '16 at 19:40
  • You have to be selective, because they are of your dynasty, you can pick someone who will like you at start, and preferably without children (or young children). The idea is that they either die without heirs and the titles default to you, or that you are the one raising the kids... Also keep in mind that 1-5 vassals are easy to please, but if you fail to please them they are a problem because they are strong. Many vassals tend to be much weaker, but also harder to keep in check. Also, with conclave the problems of having random factions from people that love you is removed – Oak Apr 19 '16 at 21:18
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  • Stats: There are two stats you want to look out for when picking your middle-managers: Stewardship and Martial. The first increases the amount of income they get, which allows them to upgrade their holdings and increases the taxes they pay to you (if you tax that kind of vassal). Martial increases the amount of troops they provide.
  • Traits: You should pick people with traits which give them an opinion-bonus with you, because the better their opinion, the more troops and taxes you get from them and the less likely they are to cause you any trouble. Note that there are also some traits which cause hidden changes to AI behaviour. Traits like "Deceitful" make them more likely to take part in plots. Traits like "Wroth" make them less "rational" which causes them to make stupid decisions.
  • Content vs. Ambitious: These two traits are so important that they deserve special mention. The content trait comes with some slight attribute penalties, but is the easiest to handle due to their +50 opinion bonus towards their ruler. That makes content people usually the first choice for leadership positions. Ambitious is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Ambitious rulers will always look for ways to expand their, and in extension your, realm. This makes them very likely to declare wars on outsiders. So when they have enough potential enemies outside the realm to declare war on, they will do so, which can be a great asset. But on the other hand, when they have nothing to conquer, they will look into how to gain more power inside the realm, which means they will get the hefty "ambitious" opinion penalty towards you and try everything to stir up trouble.
  • Do not let them become too powerful: Avoid giving single vassals too many counties. Even when the current one might be quite easy to handle, think ahead for a few generations. It's hard to depower a large duchy once formed, and you don't know how their grand-grand-children will turn out. A future superduke who hates your future character can become a great pain in the ass. So before you make someone a duke, check if they aren't going to inherit another one.
  • (Conclave DLC) usefulness as council member: With the conclave DLC, dukes will want to be on your council. That means you should look for dukes which have one exceptionally high stat so they are actually useful in that position.
  • Remember to look at their kids: Keep in mind that when they kick the bucket you will have to deal with their heir. When their heir is complicated or a moron, that's a deal-breaker. Unless, of course, you can make an accident happen to them and their younger siblings are more reasonable.
  • Your next character:
    • Giving your heir under gravelkind or (...)geniture some of their inheritance during your lifetime allows them to build up their power-base before you die. Being a ruler makes them grow stats more quickly and it shortens the "new ruler" opinion penalty for their direct vassals. It also removes the "unlanded heir" penalty. Unfortunately some restrictions apply to giving titles to heir-apparents which I don't fully understood yet.
    • When you are ruling an elective realm, consider giving your duchies only to people from your own dynasty. Duchies are usually (always?) hereditary titles, so any future dukes will very likely also be of your dynasty. Any duke is eligible for becoming the next king, and when they are from your dynasty, you can continue playing with them. This frees you from the headache of always persuading them to vote for your son so you don't get a game over. As a king your vote for the next king is very influential, so it gives you the option to pick your next character from your dukes, which is very useful indeed.
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Their opinion of you, as you mentioned is an important factor. Other traits that I'd look for when choosing a duke are their:

  • Skills: Their overall stats will have different effects on the territory, for example a duke with a high stewardship will lead to a higher amount of gold, which will also lead to a higher amount of gold for you. The same applies to martial and learning. A duke with a high intrigue skill can be a good thing if you utilize them as your spy master but they can always use that skill against you with assassination plots.
  • Traits: Different traits make each character behave differently. A duke with the ambitious trait and a high martial could potential start a faction and have enough men to make a serious threat. I recommend looking for a candidate with the content trait. This trait automatically gives your candidate a +50 opinion towards his liege and makes him ineligible for most plots. Trait list

  • Leadership: Dukes can be potential candidates for leaders during combat. If you're regularly at war or want another commander for future battles, then choosing someone who will be a good fighter can really help in a battle, especially if you're outnumbered. Refer to the link above for a full list of leadership traits.

Those are some of the key factors that I look for when choosing a duke, always remember that they are your closest allies, and potential enemies.

  • Don't points 1 and 3 contradict each other? One implies low martial is good, other implies high is good. – Superbest Apr 19 '16 at 19:42
  • @superbeast that's a good point also, you want to balance the skills. If they don't like you or they're ambitious then it's something you'll want them to have a lower skill with. Learning and steward is something you can't go wrong with, martial and leadership skills can go either way and diplomacy and intrigue are usually bad unless you intend to hire them. – S.Wessels Apr 19 '16 at 19:57
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Other major factors to consider are their immediate family, dynasty/house power, culture and rulership 'type'.

  • Family: If you promote someone without a solid line of succession (fertile wife, heirs etc.), you can set their duchy up for internal strife. Usually, this doesn't really interfere with your realm too much, but if your vassals end up warring with each other, some decisions are limited (like changing succession types).

  • Dynasty: If you pick someone from a powerful house, especially one that has foreign ties, you can set them up for a hostile take over for your realm. This is an outside risk – be especially wary of their traits and opinion of you and keep an eye on heirs as they are born and educated, because if they end up not liking you, they will be able to call in outside allies to their rebellion.

    I recently ran a very successful empire where I promoted only my own dynasty members to Kingsship Viceroyalties, Dukes, and (where I could) counts and barons. This ended up trickling down to having a lot of bishops being of my dynasty and frequently putting a dynasty member in the Vatican. The downside to this is if you ever have to assassinate a dynasty member the Kinslayer penalty is brutal. Also, it can be a pain trying to figure out the risks for inbreeding. The upside is that many types of succession and rebellion result in either directly resuming your emperor seat or being in a very nice position to marry back into it. In other words, you're rarely in a position of losing due to having no dynastic heir when everyone of significance in your domain is of your dynasty.

  • Culture: This becomes a problem in large, conquest based domains. If you get many different cultures in your domain, you can wind up with a lot of people hating you and hating each other. A monolithic culture is more boring and predictable, so where possible promote people of your culture and culture group.

    Remember that the culture penalty for vassals can double-dip when your heir is being raised under a different culture from theirs (i.e. raising your own kid in your own culture).

  • Rulership type: It's usually best to go with feudal rulers as they give even taxes and levies, but don't underestimate the benefits of a vassal merchant republic. Also, if you foresee yourself needing large amounts of piety for a divorce or invasion decree (or just asking for large sums of cash), an Arch-bishopric can be very beneficial.

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