Crusader Kings III released with Princes of Darkness, a complete overhaul mod of Vampire: The Masquerade that is exhaustive and challenging.
By Bea Caicoya
Published Sep 13, 2020
Medieval strategy simulator Crusader Kings III is known for its intricate feudal relationships and intrigue. Crusader Kings III is also very mod-friendly,?as Paradox allowed developers from all over the world to access the code before release. One of the best overhauls was Princes of Darkness — which, in all fairness, already had a Crusader Kings II version. Princes of Darkness is a compete Vampire: The Masquerade overhaul of Crusader Kings III, perfect for exploring the Dark Ages of Kindred, and meaty enough to draw fans from World of Darkness, an IP that Paradox acquired in 2015, into another one of their products.
Princes of Darkness goes deep into vampiric lore, drawing from the fictional history of Europe by Night RPG books. Vampire lieges control most of the land through vassals — sometimes their Childer, sometimes a ghoul, and sometimes a fellow vampire that they have blood bonded into signing away their rights. These dark lords and ladies also have to keep up the Masquerade, the set of rules that keep humans — and the newly minted Inquisition — from discovering their existence and putting them to the torch. So far, so classic Chronicle.
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A tip: if you have never played Crusader Kings before, don’t go in blind to get your Dark Ages continental conspiracy fix; go through the tutorial first. It will teach you how to use the dozens of menus, how to interact with other characters, how to change the map view to get a clear idea of which religion rules the night, and, most importantly, how to control the passage of time. It turns out that immortals take their sweet time to change anything,
Vampire: the Masquerade fans will be happy to see some of their fan favorites here. Lucita de Aragón, a Lasombra that recently appeared in L.A. by Night, is vibing in her Iberian kingdom and keeping her peasants subjugated with a combination of charm and magnificent swordsmanship. North of Spain, there’s Mithras, the “lazy god-king,” the best option for those seeking a relaxed experience. Mithras’ Avalon is prosperous and relatively stable, and his lineage is mostly loyal — ideal for an easy first playthrough.
The incorporation of the Vampiric Traditions, religions and preferences is almost seamless. The classic feudal contract from the main game, which is the document that guarantees stability between you and your vassals, is replaced with the Vampiric Traditions, which the player can modulate to fit their personality and objectives — or to humiliate potential rebel lords. Try checking “None” on the “Create Childer” section and see how fast someone tries to diablerize you out of spite. On the other hand, reasonable traditions keep the Masquerade in place and your dominion safe, so don’t be too lenient either.
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Most players will pick Cainite, but Odin, Lilith and more are also available in the game. This doesn’t mean that they are well seen; this is medieval Europe after all, and the cult of Lilith, advocating for hedonism and torture, is not going to gain you a lot of allies. Each religion awards different boosts, and pilgrimages to sacred sites will provide even larger benefits, assuming the player can survive the trip.
Princes of Darkness adds four Lifestyles based on Blood Resonance (Phlegmatic, Choleric, Sanguine and Melancholic) that, with enough time, can improve your abilities. Every discipline and ability from the TTRPG is present in the game, and diablerie is allowed. There’s even a character generator that will allow you to craft the vampire ruler of your dreams and switch out Potence for Blood Sorcery if that’s how you want to roll.
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Hunting is also a lot of fun. Once per month, players can find humans to slake their thirst, to add to their court or to Embrace. Depending on the status of the victims, this might create a breach of the Masquerade — which won’t be a problem if you have an ability like “Dominate” to order them around.
It’s in the little details where this Crusader Kings III mod shines; the highlights are now in red instead of blue, and zooming out shows sinister shadows curling around the world map. The Nosferatu get their own make-up and shading, and the Stress stat has been replaced with the Beast, which the player has to keep at bay if they don’t want to become an empty husk. These are just the surface of the numerous changes made to make this mod as accurate as possible.
This may be the closest that a VtM player will ever get to running and participating in a Dark Ages campaign on their own. It hits all the right mechanic and narrative points, and it can generate a story on its own. However, the learning curve is also very steep. The menus are not easy to navigate, it’s a bit difficult to find your deployed armies on the map, and the sheer amount of characters is so immense that it’s almost impossible to keep track of their ambitions and quarrels. Then again, that’s precisely how a Prince from the Dark Ages must have felt.
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About The Author
(430 Articles Published)
Bea is a European transplant currently living in Toronto.
You can endure her shameless self-promotion by joining her five Twitter followers at @BeaCaicoya.
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