That explains some of it I suppose. Its just the completion of the Neretzes quest, not the game. Basically, you are just defeating the empire kingdoms. I'll admit I could do that. My goal is to own the whole map and doing the Neretzes quest just makes that harder. So I occasionally do the quest to see if they fixed it, but mostly avoid it totally.
As to tournaments though, I don't make special trips to do tournaments, but every time I pass close to a town I stop in to see if there is a tournament. And while I understand that if a companion who is not with your party/army wins a tournament you get cash instead of gear; as I stated above, I get my best gear (except perhaps at clan level 6) from doing tournaments. And I get my companions/family members gear that way too. Even before reaching clan level 1 I probably win about 75% of the tournaments I'm in, so why not do them? I will say though that I prefer a sword and shield, so usually I try to stay in the empire territories in the early stages because the finals are always sword/shield and about 50-75% of the other rounds I have sword/shield too. I look at it as free loot and good leveling of abilities in the earlier stages of the game.
Sweynfokbeard, regarding diplomacy, as I stated, I don't mind paying off the neighbor, but to pay them of just to have them declare war again 20 days later is stupid. Maybe the game should add an option to pay them extra to assure the peace lasts at least a year or something. I wouldn't always want to, but when you have 6 empires at war with you, paying one off to go away for 20 days to get his armies revitalized seems rather stupid to me. You'll still be warring at least 3 or 4 of the empires you are currently warring when he returns.