Crusader Kings III is grand historical simulation in which the player takes on the role of a medieval ruler and their dynasty, blending roleplaying with traditional strategy map conquest through marriages, alliance-building, intrigue, and warfare. This is the first part of a multi-part recap of a Crusader Kings III game begun in September 2020 and concluded in March 2021.
In 867, the Duke of Bavaria is a middle-aged man named Karlmann. He is part of the Karling dynasty, the descendants of Karl der Groß, aka Charlemagne--so he has a lot to live up to. The duchy of Bavaria at this point encompasses far more than the actual duchy of Bavaria, including pieces of present-day Austria, the Czech Republic, and Baden-Württemberg. There are just three things you need to know about Karlmann: he's a vassal of Ludwig the German, who is king of the East Franks; his only heir is a legitimized bastard named Arnulf; and he's sick.
So Karlmann hires a court physician and starts feeling better. Well enough, in fact, to make a baby, which he decides to name Karlmann, because why not?
If you've followed my previous Crusader Kings adventures, you might guess where this is headed. On succession, rulers split their titles between their sons, so while I'm happy for Karlmann, Sr., Karlmann, Jr. poses a potential problem. That potential problem becomes an actual problem less than a year later when Karlmann, Sr., dies. I take over playing as the primary heir, Arnulf, duke of Bavaria, but baby Karlmann gets the duchy of Carinthia, literally splitting the original Karlmann's lands down the middle.
So Arnulf is in the middle of trying to work out how to solve this little problem, when Ludwig the German dies suddenly. Now Arnulf is king of East Frankia, which includes all of his lands, plus all of his half-brother's lands. Problem solved, right? Not quite.
Lothaire of neighboring Lotharingia had previously declared war on Ludwig for the title of King of East Frankia, and Ludwig was losing badly. And now Arnulf has inherited his war, which he continues to lose, badly.
About halfway through this war, another Ludwig (Arnulf's uncle this time) pops up and says "Hey waitaminnit, I want to be king of Bavaria," and so Arnulf looks at the situation. He can lose his kingdom to Lothaire and probably end up in prison and stripped of his titles, or he can hand the kingdom of Bavaria to this Ludwig guy and keep his duchy and stay chill. My friends, Arnulf is a survivor. He hands the poisoned chalice to Ludwig without a second's thought and goes back to being a duke.
In short order, Lothaire wins the war and Lotharingia grows, while the kingdom of Bavaria is basically little more than the duchies governed by baby Karlmann and Arnulf.
Meantimes, Arnulf finally manages to have a baby with his wife, a visigothic princess from Spain who doesn't like him much. Later both his daughter and his wife are captured by raiders. He raises the funds to ransom his daughter, but before he can do the same for his wife, someone shows up with the claim that somehow he and his wife are *related.* (Can I emphasize how extraordinary this is. Literally everyone in central Europe is Karling, so he went to Spain to find a wife, and *still* she's related to him?!)
Arnulf, as we've established, is not a guy who needs much prodding, so he promptly divorces his wife (still imprisoned) and remarries. He's got a second daughter now and he's technically still heir to no-longer-a-baby Karlmann, Jr.'s duchy. But who knows how long that will last--or if it will even matter.