Titles are the key to your dynasty’s expansion in Crusader Kings 3 – if you own the title you own the land, fair and simple. That doesn’t mean other nations won’t try and steal your titles, so it’s important to understand how they figure in to your empire building plans.
A title in Crusader Kings 3 represents territory you own.
From a top-down view, titles are pretty simple to understand: if you own a title you own the associated territory. There’s some nuance, however, that is critical to understand if you don’t want your titles to vanish over time.
First, you should understand how territory is structured in Crusader Kings 3. There are five tiers of land: Baronies, Counties, Duchies, Kingdoms, and Empires. They may have slightly different names based on your culture (a feudal duchy in Ireland is a “Petty Kingdom”, for example), but the basics remain the same. Baronies make up counties, counties make up duchies, and so on.
An important facet of titles you need to understand are claims. I go into much greater detail about claims in the guide here, but the idea is equally simple – claims are titles you have a right to, well, claim. I bring this up, because you can seize lower tier titles if you own the title for the larger tier of territory they belong within: I.E. if you own the title for a duchy, but not a title for all its counties, you can legally go to war for those missing titles.
Once you own a title that territory is added to your realm and domain. Thing is, you can only control so many holdings in general within Crusader Kings III (the buildings on the map under your direct control), and a mere two duchies within a kingdom before penalties kick in. These adverse effects range from lower taxes and levies, to your vassals developing negative opinions of you. To mitigate this you will need to assign some of these territories to a different character, giving them the title and ownership of the land.
Since these people will remain your vassals the land will still count towards your realm, but you’ll need to be mindful of who you’re giving all this power to. You don’t want to give someone a title equal to your highest title lest you want them to become and independent nation, and you want to spread the wealth around a bit to avoid one family consolidating too much power. Titles are passed on based on your realm’s succession laws, so take those into account when handing off a duchy to one of your subjects: if their heirs don’t fall under your house and start to marry into other dynasties you risk losing that territory when the title is handed down to someone who doesn’t consider you their liege.
You can grant titles either by right-clicking on a character’s portrait and selecting the option towards the bottom, or by clicking on your realm’s banner next to your character portrait in the bottom-right of the HUD (it’s also in your character sheet, just below your avatar and traits). You can select any available titles and gift as many as you desire to a single person in a one go, but remember to keep an eye out for the building icon next to some of your titles. This indicates that title has one of your holdings on it, and you want to maximize how many holdings you directly own to increase your taxes and levies. Vassal’s will contribute, but holdings under your sway provide the best benefits.
When granting titles it’s typically best to give them to either distant relatives that remain within your dynasty, or to courtiers from your court with the Content perk. You’re less likely to run into troublesome issues if you do so, but keep an eye on their marriages to ensure they don’t marry into a new dynasty and lose the titles thanks to your own succession laws (such as their only heir being a woman in a patriarchal society, meaning her sons will take on their dad’s house and dynasty, which could fall under someone else’s rule).
Finally, you can’t give away your Primary Title, or the title that your capital is based in. You can give everything else away, but that’s yours. If someone has a claim on it they can try and usurp you, so be mindful not to give any vassal’s an easy De Jure claim by granting them the duchy or kingdom your capital is in.