Guide to Diplomacy
From Start to End
In the early game, your ruler winds up doing most of the diplomacy for you, primarily in the form of “Influencing” individuals (members of your Royal Court and foreign leaders, along with the heads of various religions slightly later on).
You may only influence one individual once in his/her lifetime, however, and when you succeed, you’ll gain a +40 relationship boost. Given that there are so many people you can potentially influence, and the fact that people tend to die on a fairly regular basis, you’ll actually be able to influence a lot more often than you might think, and it’s an extremely handy form of early game diplomacy.
The other big thing rulers do to manage relationships early on is to arrange marriages.
While you’ll occasionally get marriage offers from barbarian tribes, the overwhelming majority of the time, these simply aren’t worth taking. Not only does marrying a barbarian cost you -1 Legitimacy, it also carries a powerful opportunity cost. If you marry a barbarian, then you can’t marry a member of one of your vassal families or a rival nation, which means you miss out on the relationship boosts that come with that, and yep, you get more than one.
You get the initial boost for arranging the marriage to begin with, then if the marriage produces an heir who’s in line for the throne, you’ll get another boost for that.
The main reason that the tech “Aristocracy” is so critical to your early game success though, lies in the fact that it allows you to appoint an Ambassador.
Without an Ambassador, if you get into an early game war, you have no way to ask for peace, since only Ambassadors can do that, which means you’re stuck in the war until the nation you’re fighting decides to let you out, and that’s not good.
The other reason though, is that having an Ambassador opens the door to the most powerful relationship building tool you’ll ever have at your disposal, at least where other nations are concerned: The trade mission. Assuming you’re not using your Ambassador for something else, every time he or she is free, you should be sending him out on a trade mission with someone.
You can even send the Ambassador on trade missions to people who hate your guts. They’ll refuse to trade, but you’ll still get the option to give them some money and get a +40 relationship boost (which is the same boost you get for a successful trade mission), so trade missions should be your go-to means of improving relations with your rivals.
In the early game, also be aware that you’re going to get bullied. Bigger, stronger nations will come to you at regular intervals and demand tribute.
Consider this the price of doing business. If you want to remain in the game, pay up and make them pay for it later.
Eventually, you’ll be strong enough to say no, but that’s going to take some time.
- Peace/Truce with Tribes or Rival Nations.
- Demand Tribute.
- Trade Mission.
- High Synod (Your chances of success in this mission will increase based on your Ambassador’s Wisdom score).
- Wisdom: Increases Culture.
- Charisma: Increases Foreign Relations.
- Courage: Increases Tribal Opinion.
- Discipline: Increases Religious Opinion.
A bit later on, you’ll unlock your Chancellor (at Spoked Wheel).
Chancellors are your go-to person for keeping families happy. You can outright bribe them with gifts, or you can pacify cities, once you get the tech “Coinage.”
Pacifying a city will reduce its discontent level by 1, which will provide a corresponding relationship boost with the family that controls the city, and there’s absolutely no downside for doing this, so every three years, you should definitely be sending your Chancellor out on a mission, assuming you have the resources to do so.
- Family Gifts (Chance of success increases based on your Chancellor’s Charisma score).
- Pacify City (Chance of success increases based on your Chancellor’s Discipline score).
- Imprison (Chance of success increases based on your Chancellor’s Discipline score).
Note that imprisoning a family or religion head removes them from that position!
- Wisdom: Increases Growth per city.
- Charisma: Increases Civics.
- Courage: Increases Training.
- Discipline: Increases Money.
Later still, once you research the tech “Portcullis,” you’ll unlock your Spymaster and get even more diplomatic options. You can, for example, assassinate problematic family members, or put them in jail if you’d prefer. You can steal the maps of your rivals, set up spy networks and do horrible things to rival cities, and once you research the tech “Cartography” and if a rival nation is ahead of you in tech (“Learned” or better), you can steal research. Crucially, you can also “slander” nations. This is one way to use Diplomacy as a sword, rather than a shield.
If you’re going to war with a rival nation, and he has a staunch ally, and you’re worried about having to fight them both, start a whisper campaign against the nation you’re planning to fight to drive a wedge between that nation and his staunch ally.
They won’t be allies for long, and while you’re doing that, you can be sending your Ambassador on trade missions with your rival’s ally, eventually wooing that nation into your circle.
Once you’re friends and he’s seething at his former ally, it’s usually a simple matter to bribe your new friend to go to war with his former ally, and you can follow suit a few turns later, utterly devastating your target.
- Infiltrate Nation (Chance of success increases based on your Spymaster’s Courage score).
- Slander Nation (Chance of success increases based on your Spymaster’s Charisma score).
- Steal Research (Chance of success increases based on your Spymaster’s Wisdom score).
- Assassinate (Chance of success increases based on your Spymaster’s Wisdom score).
- Establish Local Spy Network (in a specific city).
Note that establishing a local spy network in a target rival city does not remove fog of war. The scout can make the initial contacts for you, but if you want to be able to see what’s going on, you’ll have to assign a character to manage the network in that city!
- Wisdom increases Science.
- Charisma increases Family Opinion.
- Courage decreases Discontent per city.
- Discipline increases the number of orders you have available.
Diplomacy is insanely powerful. Don’t overlook or discount it, and be very mindful of exactly who you appoint to which position. How you plan to use them in that post will almost certainly influence your selection.
Finally, be aware that there’s some competing needs at play here. For example, keeping the heads of your family happy is very important and giving them jobs on the Council is a good, quick way to boost relations with them, however…
If you can find other means of getting on good terms with them, you can use your family heads to run some diplomatic interference for you, which you may not be able to do if you’ve appointed them to the Council and spent an order to send them on some other mission, so plan the matter carefully indeed!
Earlier, I mentioned that not all characters are created equally, and that’s true. If, for example, you can get the head of a family “Pleased” with you, then you can spend 2 orders and a bit of money to ask that character to “intercede” on your behalf. This works just like an “Influence” mission except the family head does it for you. He or she can go speak with a character in their family and try to sway their opinion of you. If successful, your relationship with that person improves by +40, which stacks with your own Influence efforts.
The combination can be powerful and it matters because if you can get your wife, your heirs (especially your heir apparent), your Ambassador, Chancellor and Spy Master to pleased then the amounts that they will add to the top line of your economy will double. Then you can start doing the same to city governors. The impact can be enormous.
Also note that this same concept holds true with the heads of religions. If they’re Pleased with you, they can perform a similar function that cuts across family lines, provided that the character in question follows the Religion Head’s faith.
All in all then, you have a slow growing but incredibly powerful suite of tools at your disposal to help increase your relationship with the “key players” in your Realm.
Sex As A Diplomatic Tool
This is another thing that should not be overlooked. Oftentimes, you’ll get an event that gives you the possibility of taking a lover.
Doing so will radically improve your lover’s opinion of you, but be aware that not all lovers are created equally. Even so, if you select your lovers carefully and stick with politically connected individuals (heads of families and/or religions) it can give you another powerful means of influencing other characters in your Realm.
There are some downsides to be aware of. You run the risk of alienating your spouse if you’re found out, and you may have illegitimate children that can cause you some trouble, but for the most part, these are manageable issues, so again, don’t discount the notion entirely. If you do, you’re ultimately limiting your diplomatic reach.
Strategy Notes on Diplomacy
While diplomacy with other Nations is pretty straightforward, internal diplomacy can be a highly complex metagame in its own right.
Not all characters are created equally. Heads of families and heads of religions are much more important than most other family members, so focus your diplomatic (Influence) efforts there, and don’t forget to pay attention to your “Small Council” members (Spouse, Ambassador, Chancellor, Spymaster) because if you can get them to pleased, you’ll reap additional benefits based on their stats.
Stats matter, so do keep a watchful eye out for any character with good stats and give that person a job, then do all you can to improve relations with them.
Remember that improving relations with the head of a religion will have ripple effects if all of your families follow that religion (so if everybody is following Judaism, then a +20 Relationship boost with the head of Judaism will also give you a +20 boost with the families following it), and if you’ve got the heads of families and religions in your corner, they can run intercession missions for you to bolster relations with other, more problematic family members, allowing you to magnify your diplomatic efforts.
Finally, bear each character’s age in mind. At some point, as characters age, there are diminishing returns associated with trying to improve relations. If they’re not long for the world anyway, you may as well focus on someone else.
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