I'll share some experience and thoughts about Decadence in CK2, as i've read many complaints about it and it still a controversial theme.
I've been playing a fairly good game in Ironmode as the Abaddib (spanish muslim), and i think finally came to terms with the decadence issue...
After the conquest of Spain, i got the Badsha title. It was easy to maintain my decadence around 20-50, my family was relatively small. It was the first generation of the Empire.
The problem started with the vassalization of Mauritanea and Mali, soon it became impossible to get less than 1.7% and 2% monthly, even with family members as sultans and lots of emirates with them.
I'm permanently with 90-100% decadence. The only time it really drops is after a Decadence War, but in 2 or 3 years is back to 90-100%.
The point why Paradox made this way I got: A huge muslim empire has to deal much more with internal struggle than external, as it was in history. The solution is internal conflict or everlasting holy wars...
So far, I've manage to win 5 decadence wars and lost one.
The problem was not actually 100k man pumping inside my territory. I have 30k Retinue, 10k personal demense, 30k vassals and enough money to hire mercenaries for enough time. The real problem is that they spawned far from my capital and by the time my army got ready to get there they had already won because they got 100% war score from conquering some peripheral provinces.
The Decadence War SHOULD DEMAND THE CAPITAL. It was ridicule to give up my Badshah because some provinces in Mauritanea and Mali were conquered by an angry rival family. My main title is Badshah of Hispania, capital in Seville, Sultanate of Andalusia and Leon, i should not lose Badshah because Mali was conquered.
The new usurper (badshah with only 2 sheikdoms) took place. Even yet in jail I proclaimed my brother the true emperor though a faction. We had 650% of troops in relation to "our liege". In an easy war we won and kicked that insolent out, but my character was executed in prison and my new character (with 2 sultanates and 9 sheikdom as heirloom) was 8 years old, vassal to my uncle the new Badshah (1 emirate and 3 sheikdoms). The good was that my family was back in the throne.
While growing up, I've made a few "friends" and started a new faction for myself. The 30k retinue was a plus and we easily won again. I was made emperor again with 30% decadence, enough to make a huge military expansion in the next 10 years.
From all this, the "lessons I learned" are:
- Decadence is a mechanic to make you think more about internal affairs than expansion. Always make a huge Retinue (Military tech and castles are your friends). Always have at least 3k cash, 5k is recommended for safety. I was always paranoid of rival uprising, more than a Crusade against my empire.
- Dont be afraid to hire a lot of mercenaries to a Decadence War. You will get around 2k from banishing the defeated proclamer.
- Dont worry about a temporary loss of your title, if you have a maxed retinue, a good demesne, enough friends and off course, a legitimate hire, you will be able to easily dethrone the usurper almost just after the decadence war.
- Never start a long war if your decadence is higher than 90%. Even a Holy War can be problematic. I've almost lost a decadence war because I was facing 20k catholics when 70k pumped from a Decadence War. Quick Holy Wars are the best, go for sheikdoms and duchies, only go for full Invasion if you get 50-60% or less decadence, enough for at least 2 years of war.
And for suggestions to improve the Decadence mechanics and the roleplaying:
- Decadence War should demand the capital, or it is really unfair and unlogical to lose some distant provinces and lose your badshah title.
- Ramadan should be annual, as it really is, with monthly bonus instead of immediate decadence bonus.
- Declaring Decadence War against someone in a Holy War should cost a LOT of prestige and morale from troops of the same religion.
- The imprison-banish-execute mechanics is too 'gamey'. Although inner family rivalry was common in middle ages, this defies logic. "Arrest everybody" is not a solution, and it is too tyranical (even for despotic muslim leaders as my self). I think there should be more diplomatic ways to deal with it. Examples i can think be:
- "Revoke personal dinasty rights" (his sons would still have rights though), costing lots of prestige and monthly prestige while he is alive. And also opinion penalty to all dinasty members, specially his parents.
- "Make him a foreign embassador" (you send him as a public official to another realm (the farther the less decadence he generates), costs you monthly prestige and money to his liege (generating also some opinion penalty). It is like a "go play elsewhere and dont bother me", if he has a low intrigue, he would even thank you for that :-D
- "Pay him to stop mumble" (you give the character an allowance to stop mumbling about the lack of land and titles). Costs you a good monthly sum of money. And it is good to remind that giving money to an uneasy dinasty member is not always a good solution.
- A really tyranical way to dimish decadence should not be against my own family, but against the title pretenders. So, i think my Spymaster or Grand Vizier would pop out saying "The FAMILY NAME are starting to be very unease with your rule. I recommend a mass purge, "Do you want to imprison them all?" If they rebel, you start a preventive Counter-Decadence war. This would be more historical than mass imprison of my own family.
Well, hope this help people with problems with Decadence.
Here is a printscreen of the game.http://cloud-3.steampowered.com/ugc/616168817282833149/D93199E0FD84392553ACE35936E86B8B6D157F1B/