Crusader Kings 3 has its fair share of unusual events, but none have quite so many twists, turns and shocking surprises as the one created live on stage during PDXCon 2022, Paradox Interactive’s annual convention. A beloved horse. A cosmic disaster. Super cannibalism. Shit got weird.
Game designers Daniel Moore and Ewan Cowhig Croft kicked things off by taking prompts from the audience. Iconic equine Glitterhoof and the classic ‘comet sighted’ event were thrown into the mix, elevated by more unusual ingredients like a supernatural hunger for human flesh.
Lacking a horse model, the devs opted instead for a human alternative: a bedraggled-looking Roman gentleman who they named Glitter Honse. Back in the days of CK2, events were mostly powered by evocative prose, but now backdrops and expressive 3D models give the designers more to work with. A not insignificant amount of time was dedicated to figuring out the vibes Glitter Honse and his owner were putting out. Sinister. Conspiratorial. The con attendees clearly had a weird relationship with horses.
“You should never do this” was uttered more than once as the devs rapidly fleshed out the event with the scripting tool before seeing the changes immediately take effect in the in-game event.
Despite the friendship between Glitter Honse and his owner being defined as one that would “last a thousand years”, it wasn’t without its complications. While they rode in silence, everything was hunky dory, but conversing with the horse generated such a vast amount of stress that his owner would go through 15 years of “howling hell”. Horses just aren’t great conversationalists.
Extreme stress aside, it was a lovely jaunt across the plains, until a shadow appeared in the sky: THE PROPHECY. Mandatory all-caps, of course. As this prophesied cataclysmic meteor—which only triggers if there’s a king in Bavaria, because why not?—hurtled towards man and horse-man, there wasn’t much either could do.
“OK, so now, whatever option you pick, the horse gets annihilated by a meteor?” asked Moore.
“Oh, absolutely,” Croft replied.
So the horse was absolutely going to be toast, but there was more to do—what actually happens when the cosmic bowling ball strikes? One member of the audience suggested that there should be a chance for the player to die as well, given that the horse they’re on suddenly gets murdered by space.
“Now while that is realistically fun,” Croft responded, “for the player, randomly dying without some diegetic reason why that might happen is not necessarily a fun time. And we need to put the player at the center of these experiences. So giving someone leprosy and having them slowly die over weeks and months and they’re unable to do anything about it? Fine. Plenty of foreshadowing. Just randomly hitting them with a meteor? That’s not great design.”
For the audience, the takeaway from this explanation was that the meteor needed to give Glitter Honse’s owner space leprosy.
So what does space leprosy actually entail? Well, it’s just like normal leprosy, but from space, which makes it even more concerning. Oh yeah, and it also makes you super fertile and can be inherited by your kids. What a legacy! Super cannibalism, meanwhile, differs from its boring variant by being both overt and immediate: you start eating people openly and straight away. It can spread, too! Specifically through the medium of feasts. A quick edit to an existing feast event meant that, whenever anyone held a feast, there’d be an outbreak of super cannibalism.
“Do you think this would have any balance implications?” Moore wondered. Everyone agreed that it would be fine.
While Glitter Honse’s fate was sealed, the devs felt like there should at least be an opportunity to save him, deflecting the meteor. Naturally this had a 0% chance to succeed. But it’s still important to try. You can’t let your best mate die without putting up a fight, no matter how impotent your attempt.
More suggestions were being flung around, but there had already been quite a bit of feature creep. New traits, a change to feast mechanics, a Bavarian prophecy—it was a lot for a single event, and the deadline was looming. Moore and Croft’s careers were on the line. It had to be shipped.
Tragically, this incredible saga will not be making its way into the live game; at least not in any official capacity. Maybe it wasn’t actually all that balanced after all. Maybe people would be confused why a sad looking block with holes in his tunic was being referred to as a horse. And there were some worries that these cosmic plagues would overlap too much with Stellaris. It does seem a little unfair, though, that the Stellaris team gets all of space. It’s a big place and CK3 already has comets. There was a substantial amount of pressure on Croft to put it on Steam Workshop, however, so who knows? Maybe you’ll be able to play it one day. Here’s hoping.