The Buddhist-themed update of VIET 1.4.3 focused on adding new mechanics and flavor for the Buddhist religion. Buddhism is a new religion, part of the Eastern religion group, added in VIET. It has the Bon, Maitreyist, and Sammitiya heresies, and features a number of (semi-)historical rulers, mostly on the eastern fringes of the map.
The Buddhists are an underdog group in CKII's world, with most of their playable rulers generally as difficult as the Zoroastrians or Jews.
Some players might even ask whether there were any Buddhist rulers in CKII’s map and timeframe. Surprisingly, the answer is yes: quite a few, even more than the Zoroastrians. All of the Buddhist rulers added in VIET have historical basis (some more than others - with some I had to take some historical liberties, similarly to what PI did with the Zoroastrian Karen).
At the 867 start, there are three playable Buddhist rulers located in eastern Iran on the edge of the map. I have taken some historical liberties with these three dynasties, particularly in geography and extent of borders, but they are as semi-historical as the Zoroastrian Karen.
The first are the Nezak who are vassals of the Samanids. Historically they ruled an area near Balkh and stubbornly resisted Muslim incursions well into the 8th and possibly 9th centuries. The other two are the Indianized Shahis and the eclectic Dunbils in Afghanistan, who have a marriage alliance; they both have a Hindu branch of their dynasties, adding to their troubles. The last two are as challenging as the Zoroastrian Karen, if not more, given that they have fewer options for expansion.
By 867, all three have already struggled for centuries against the Muslims - historically the Hindu branch of the Shahis managed to survive until 1026 (though in Kashmir and Punjab, barely off the map), but perhaps a skilled player will be luckier.
The Khitan are playable from November 1, 1141 until the Mongol invasions. They are a heavily Sinicized dynasty, who also have Chinese mechanics and flavor.
Overall, they are probably the easiest of the playable Buddhist rulers. They control a small portion of Central Asia, but with some luck and expansion they could easily rule much of the Iranian plateau or the Russian steppes. At the 1141 start, they begin with a gifted and high-stat ruler, Yelu Dashi - unfortunately, he is getting rather old, and it is uncertain whether his descendants will be able to continue his legacy.
Historically the Khitan were a nomadic group related to the Mongols. Conquering parts of northern China in the 10th century, they ruled for a couple of centuries before being conquered in turn by their vassals, the Jurchen. A group of Khitan, led by a royal prince, Yelu Dashi, fled westward and re-established the Sinicized state in Central Asia which survived until the Mongol invasions; this later Khitan state is also known as the Western Liao or Kara-Khitan. Known as strong supporters of Buddhism, they also adapted many aspects of Chinese culture and administration - Yelu Dashi, for instance, achieved a high rank in the traditional imperial examination system. Nevertheless, while in Central Asia, the Khitan retained much of their Chinese trappings, partly due to the fact that the majority Muslim population they ruled saw the Chinese as the greatest and most advanced society in the world.
The Mongols professed a wide variety of faiths, ranging from Tengri Shamanism to Nestorian Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. There are a few playable Buddhist Khans, including Abaqa and Ghazan (before his conversion).
Every non-theocratic Buddhist ruler of Count-tier and above must support a major sect of Buddhism. Historically, various Buddhist schools relied on patronage from local rulers, and instead of portraying them as different religions or heresies, I’ve decided to simulate them via triggered modifiers that provide different bonuses (which I find more accurate immersion-wise than as heresies).
In game, you can choose between four: Zen, Pure Land, Lotus School, and Vajrayana (or Esoteric Buddhism, of which Tibetan Buddhism is a branch). While I could have added more sects, such as the Flower Garland or Yogacara schools, I’ve chosen the four above because: 1) they are well-known; 2) they had important roles in not only the religious history but also the political history of Central and East Asia; and, most importantly, 3) I felt having 4 was the best in terms of balance and simplicity.
Rulers will automatically choose a sect at the beginning of their reign or when they first convert to Buddhism, but they can switch to a different sect via decision several years afterwards. However, if a ruler switches to a different sect, there’s a chance others might (depending on the ruler's traits) view the switch in a negative light, believing they are changing sects for political reasons. Therefore, you'll have to plan ahead and think carefully about which sect you want to support!
Sect Bonuses and MalusesEdit
The effects of supporting each sect are as follows:
Historically among Buddhists vegetarianism wasn't practiced that often by non-clergy, but there were some examples of rulers adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, most famously emperor Ashoka. In-game, there is an option to turn vegetarian via decision, but it has some strict requirements. Vegetarianism gives you a massive piety boost - even more than being a retreat veteran or master! - but it has both bonuses and maluses, so it isn't an obvious choice. Ultimately I intend for it to be more of a roleplaying decision rather than an opportunity to min-max and stockpile piety.
There will be a lot of vegetarian flavor events, some of them drawn from my experiences growing up as a vegetarian myself (I was born vegetarian, in case anyone cares). Based on your choices during these events, a behind the scenes system will monitor your progress as a vegetarian - calculating how well you can resist the temptations of meat or not - and if your perseverance fails, you might be forced to renounce vegetarianism and return to a life of eating meat. After all, in real life, refraining from meat isn't the easiest thing if you grew up eating tons of it.
Going on RetreatEdit
A major decision - and the biggest one for the Buddhists - is to go on a spiritual retreat at one of the local temples. It has strict requirements similar to becoming a vegetarian, though it is easier to access. While doing a retreat is a great option to improve yourself spiritually (i.e. gain a lot of piety), you’ll have to have a regent while you’re on a retreat, similarly to Muslim rulers going on the Hajj. Going on retreats too often might leave you unable to cope with the changing affairs of the realm - but perhaps getting closer to enlightenment is worth it.
Structurally the retreat is somewhat similar to the Survey Realm decision and event chain. However, it is much more complex. You can, for instance, choose to go on retreat for either three months, half a year, or a full year at a time. The random flavor events during the retreat are also more randomized, and there are different ones depending on whether you are a novice or experienced retreater.
Those who have done well on retreats become a “retreat veteran”, and retreat veterans who themselves have done well can become a “retreat master.” Both traits provide some nice piety and learning bonuses. However, you can’t go on a retreat and expect to earn those traits easily - depending on your choices with the retreat events, you may or may not gain them. After all, just because you sat around meditating doesn’t mean you actually were meditating well. During each meditation retreat, a behind the scenes system will monitor your progress - the chances of you of being “promoted” depends on how well you’ve done.
Build a Holy SiteEdit
Visit a TempleEdit
Miscellaneous Additions and ChangesEdit
Buddhists (and Hindus) have access to a limited variant of the county conquest CB if they hold 1 or 2 duchies, and if they aren't king or emperor-tier. It is useful for early expansion.
Ultimately, aggressive expansion will be harder due to Buddhism's pacifist ideals. Any Buddhist lord who is an attacker in a claim, county conquest, or holy war CB will get a slight malus to piety and church opinion. To make up for this, Buddhist realms get bonuses to defense, similar to some pagans.
Other Additions and ChangesEdit
Additionally, while the zealous trait normally increases the martial stat, for Buddhist rulers it will decrease martial and slightly increase diplomacy and stewardship instead. Meanwhile, cynical Buddhist rulers won’t lose piety in contrast to non-Buddhists, as public skepticism wasn’t viewed as negatively in Buddhism as in other religions (in fact, some Buddhist masters were famous for their cynical attitudes).