Crusader Kings 3: how to control and reduce stress levels

Crusader Kings 3: how to control and reduce stress levels

Kings Crusaders 3 it’s not just about running a kingdom or an empire, it’s also about playing a medieval character (or a dynasty of characters) and adding some personality to what is otherwise a run-of-the-mill grand strategy game. This is the main reason Paradox Interactive added the Stress mechanic to the game.

Stress is a stat that every character in the game has. If it rises too high, characters will experience mental disruption and will usually gain negative traits and suffer other negative consequences. If it stays high, characters may even die from stress. That’s why the players of Kings Crusaders 3 he should know where stress comes from, how to track it down, and (most importantly) how to get rid of it.


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The stress meter

Crusader Kings 3 Mental break from stress

Without any menus, players will find the stress gauge in the lower left corner of the screen. It’s right next to the player’s ruler portrait, between the Inventory menu and the Dynasty menu. If a character’s Stress reaches 100, they will reach a new Stress level and suffer a mental breakdown. If a character still has at least one level of Stress 5 years later, he will suffer another mental break. Additionally, if a character reaches a total of 400 Stress, they will drop to 300 and immediately suffer a mental breakdown.

On its own, here’s what each stress level does:

Stress level



Nothing, the character feels good


-10 percent Fertility


-30% fertility, severe health penalties


-50% fertility, severe health penalties

Earn stress

Crusader Kings 3 Stress Gain

Stress comes from a variety of sources. Some decisions will cause player rulers to become stressed, while other decisions will cause rulers to lose stress. The personality of the character plays a big role in which decisions are which ones.

Almost all the characters in Kings Crusaders 3 has three personality traits. These appear when the character becomes an adult and their guardian has the option to replace these traits with one of the other two.

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Many events in the game have decisions that interact with personality traits. For example, when a player ruler goes on a pilgrimage, he may come across a group of pilgrims who are making fun of the ruler. Normally, sitting down and listening is a way to reduce Stress, but characters with the Vengeful or Arrogant traits can gain Stress by doing so, and a Sadistic character might reduce Stress by whipping peasants.

Player rulers can also gain stress from normal game mechanics. If a ruler is Ambitious, he will gain Stress whenever he gifts counties that would bring him below his domain limit. On the other hand, generous rulers lose stress by granting counties to others. Compassionate rulers gain Stress when executing captives (including traitors and murderers), while callous rulers gain Stress when letting captives go without ransoming them.

There are also ways to get stress that have nothing to do with personality traits, such as:

  • A close relative, lover, soul mate or friend dies.
  • The character is imprisoned or tortured.
  • You choose to change a ward’s personality trait.

Mental breaks

Crusader Kings 3 Stress Overload

When a mental disruption affects a player governor, an event will begin and players will have to choose an option. If the ruler is at Stress level 1, one of the options is usually to gain a little more Stress and do nothing else. This is fine if players know they can reduce stress quickly, but options are made worse if the next mental break hits while the stress level is at its highest.

A mental break can allow players to choose between two traits of the coping mechanism. Most of these traits are negative, but some of them are actually positive. Choosing a coping mechanism will add trait to the ruler and also give the character a new decision they can make to reduce stress. Unfortunately, these decisions have a three-year payback period, so stress is still a factor.

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coping mechanism

Effects on traits

Effects of the decision


+1 Prowess +20% Loss of Stress Small increase in health

Take some stress off: gain Sweaty Stink, -5 General Opinion for 1 year

Comfort eater

-1 Administration +20% Loss of stress

Indulge in food: lose gold flakes, gain weight


+1 diplomacy +20% stress loss

Talk to confidant: -10 Opinion with all courtiers except the confidant (Envy)


-2 Intrigues +20% Stress Losses

Confess: Gain Creepy Confession, -5 General Opinion for 2 years


-2 Administration -2 Prowess Tiny health penalties +20% Loss of stress -10 Travel safety +10 Opinion with other drunks

Treat yourself to a drink: -150 Prestige


-2 Prowess Tiny penalty to health +20% Loss of stress

Scourged: Gain Wounded


-2 Administration -2 Learning +20% Stress Loss +10 Opinion with other Hashishiyah

Consume Hashish Cakes: Get Hashish Stupor, -1 Stewardship and -2 Learning for 2 years


+1 diplomacy -15% monthly income +20% stress loss +10 opinion with zealot vassals

Donate to charity – lose gold flakes


-1 Diplomacy -3 Prowess +20% Loss of stress

Shun Food: Gain Hungry, -1 Prowess, Moderate Health Penalty, Weight Loss for 3 years


-2 Diplomacy -1 Martial +2 Prowess +20% Stress Loss +10% Dread Gain -5 Opinion (attraction)

Lash Out: equal chance to insult random vassals, by getting Lashing Out, a -10 Opinion with Direct Vassals for 1 year Release your Anger: a special hostile interaction; he can target anyone with a Stress level of 1 or higher and challenge them to a duel


+1 Learning +20% Loss of stress

Write Thoughts: Gain Busy Writing, -2 Diplomacy for 1 year


-10% Monthly Income +0.5 Prestige +20% Stress Losses +10 Opinion with courteous vassals

Visit the Market – Lose Gold Flakes


-1 Diplomacy +1 Intrigue +20% Stress Loss -5 Opinion (Attraction) +5 Opinion with other libertines

Visit a brothel – lose gold flakes; possibility of disease


-2 Diplomacy -1 Administration +20% Loss of stress

Blocks: -150 Prestige

“Scaled Gold” means that rulers who control larger economies will have to pay more to use these decisions.

NPC characters also have to worry about stress and also acquire coping mechanisms after mental breaks. This is worth knowing because coping mechanisms can affect an NPC’s personality and the player ruler’s heir may have different coping traits if he has had a difficult life.

If a mental breakdown occurs when a character’s stress level is 2 or 3, some of the options may be even worse than a coping mechanism. Possibilities include:

  • Replacing a personality trait with the arbitrary
  • Replacing a personality trait with anger
  • Losing a Fame level
  • Gain the Witch Trait (which is either good or bad depending on the ruler’s Faith)
  • Get the moody trait
  • Get the melancholy trait
  • Killing someone in public
  • Abdication or death

RELATED: Crusader Kings 3: How to Manage Factions

How to lose stress and gain less stress in the future

Crusader Kings 3 Stress Party

If the player ruler’s stress is increasing, a good option is to start a business. The three basic Activities, Feast, Hunt and Pilgrimage, are all good ways to de-stress. This loss of stress doesn’t happen immediately as of the Lance update (1.9), but in return, activities can reduce much more stress than before, especially if players choose the recreational intent.

Rulers can also lose stress by playing with their personalities. Generous rulers may give things away, sadistic rulers may torture prisoners, arrogant rulers may insult peasants, and so on.

However, something that is even more valuable than losing stress is never gaining it in the first place. Kings Crusaders 3 has several ways that housekeepers can reduce stress gain, such as the Carefree perk in the Learning Lifestyle tree and the Whole of Body trait from the same tree. Both of these skills reduce stress gain by 20%, for a total reduction of 40%. If players manage to find enough perks, traits, and other perks to reach 100 percent, their ruler will never gain Stress from any source for the rest of their lives.

Kings Crusaders 3 is out now on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

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