Leaders are neat. Like, you get bonuses to whatever they're leaders off, and if you lose a high level one, it sucks. But personally, I can't help but feel they're a little… bland? Sure they've got a name and a portrait, if they're an admiral fought in a really big war, you might write down the name, but they don't have much personality outside of that, you know?
So, I was just doing some ruminating, as you do. It wasn't too long ago that I was playing Crusader Kings 3, and I really enjoyed it! And thinking about it, there's a few ideas I'd love to see transplanted from Crusader Kings into Stellaris, or more likely a Stellaris 2 however far away that is (Just a thought that like, the game might have shifted loads, but there's only so much they can do, you know?)
Anyway; to make Leaders more diverse and interesting, the main thing is to just change how their traits work.
Instead of having just the straight buffs and penalties they have now, all leaders now have two or three personality traits. These provide the same sort of buffs they give now, but are also presented in a way that makes them more of… a personality trait I guess? Basically just to distinguish between them.
Leaders also have an ethical guideline, so they can be any of the eight Ethics, based on what the most popular ones are in your Empire. So Xenophile empires won't be stopped from having a xenophobe leader, but it'll be rare.
Leaders prefer to act according to their personality and their ethical guidelines. This sort of hinges on anomalies having more options and outcomes and such (part of why I think it'd be better for a sequel, as opposed to having to go through and rewrite the code for all the existing events) – ultimately the player has the choice on how the leader acts, but going against the leaders personality will create a stress mechanic in the leader, or something similar to it. Basically encouraging the players to either roleplay to how the leader acts, or accept the consequences of being a dictator. The outcome of this could also change based on your government type – democratic governments will probably get flak for forcing scientists to do morally compromising things, but a dictator or king will get away with it, up to a point of course.
As a final bit, probably should have put this with the others, I'd either rework the scientists specializations into an "education" trait – and diversify it for the other leader types. Or maybe make starting level vary – so you can hire a Level 5 General straight from the get-go. Naturally it's more expensive, but maybe there are other factors to consider as well. If you're playing a Monarchy or have an Aristocratic Civic, hiring a leader with a "Common Birth" education or something gives a penalty to unity or other resource like that. Or maybe your Xenophile society has to comproise and rely on a xenophobe admiral, who might try to use his influence in winning a war for you to try to push your hand.
Basically, just make leaders and factions more dynamic and flavourful.
And as a side note, given how absolutely massive the game is, tracking all of these would be impossible, but I'd still love a Civ VI style sort of breakdown of your timeline – notable leaders being hired and dying, planets colonizing, wars won and lost, alliance forged and so on.
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