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I think the best way to handle the "too many plots, is too complex" problem is to add stuff back in a tiny bit at a time, and see where the line lies.  I think the world feels a LITTLE sterile with only you having plots, but I can DEFINITELY see that if everyone had plots, there'd be no game left underneath all the madness.  However... what if you added a random personality type, a "schemer", who does have plots just like you do.  They'd be rare, and they could be noticeable-- a special border on their portrait, for instance.  Furthermore, they could have more than one kind of scheme... so some might want the highest throne in the empire, but others might want to push a particular policy, or spread a belief.  You could hitch a ride with some plots that way, but have to fight against others.  Their plots should be visible in their information screen, and if you "watch" them, you can see what efforts they are taking to further that plot.  And if you really wanted, you could always just enthrall the schemer, removing any REALLY inconvenient plots from the game!

Regarding entourages... I like the idea of bonuses and penalties based on who you have in your staff.  (Of course, you should be allowed to fire staff... but there's a risk of doing so if they have any of your secrets)  There may also be a reason yo enthrall a staff member... if you do, you could get some extra "world actions", like subdue populace (or the reverse, cause peasant uprising) for captains, or aid in stone rituals for priests/priestesses, or aid in contagious disease for physicians.  Bolster your area, or weaken an opponent's.  The effects can be strong, because enthralling is so darn expensive in power expended.