From Plato to Nato

From Plato to NATO: The Idea of the West and Its OpponentsIt a book not about history, it’s a history about history. It’s a meta-history book.

Where to begin? This book contains so much information, it’s impossible to remember it all from reading it only one time… The amount of things I’ve learned about the western history from this book is immense. The topics presented in this book are wide; from philosophy, religion, art, capitalism, liberalism, socialism, war, science, literature, imperialism, everything western related… Where to start?

With this book, the author wants to prove a point about the perception that the Western Civilization has of itself and it’s opponents. And to make that point, to prove it, he has to make certain the reader knows the history of the western civilization. And that is a big plus for me. I’ve learned much about history I didn’t know, especially since this book places history into different perspectives. To break this down into simple questions: how did the middle ages look back to the classical times? Renaissance? The french revolution? 19th Century romanticism / nihilism? Neo-nazism? How is it all connected to each other? And much more questions are answered here… He takes all those historical facts and analyses it, how then let it fit into the grand narrative of history as we know it today, but also other narratives such as for example the german cult-of-greece and how their vision shaped our perception of history. It’s not about history, it’s a history about history. It’s a meta-history book.

When reading this book I try to stay open, try to absorb the information, interpret it, learn from it. But honestly I don’t think I’m smart enough or don’t know enough yet, to catch it all. But I’m learning a lot, how the worlds views our western history and what it defines to be a westerner. And that is enough for me. It’s more an attempt to understand or follow Western Civilization throughout history attempting to define itself. History is so much more complicated than most extremist politicians, patriotic people or even history teachers try to let us think. Maybe they themselves don’t know how narrow their view is.

He also discusses the ways the forces in power build their own world image and how they misuse history and misinterpretations to give themselves more power. And that’s also what makes this book so contemporary… This debate is still ongoing today, between liberalism, socialism, patriotism. But also people who are religious against those who want to almost eradicate (in my opinion) religion from our history pages. Is the idea of democracy even a western idea? And is cultural liberalism not something typical Christian?

Personally this is one of the most intense, dense books I’ve ever read. The amount of thought written down in this book overwhelms me and I can’t possibly imagine the amount of research, work and thought put into this book.

From Plato to NATO: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents by David Gress

Divinity Original Sin 2

Playing Divinity Original Sin feels very much like playing a Dungeons And Dragons game, and it’s also the game it takes most of its inspiration from. It’s an easier to understand version of DnD, and I think it is perfectly possible to release a PnP version of the core rules of the game. While these rules aren’t really explained in-game, they are very intuitive and it’s easy to comprehend what is going on behind combat.

I like Divinity Original Sin 2. It’s a little bit different from the first game, but still it feels very fresh and the problems addressed with the first game are now gone.

Differences from the first game

One of the biggest differences are now the “two-type-of-armor-system”. One is physical and the other one magical. Little bit similar as in the Starfinder Pen And Paper RPG, where you got AC for physical damage and EC for Energy Damage. Other differences are balancing of the skills, damage dealing and spells. Also the action points are fixed. Crafting is different too and is now easier. The rock-paper-scissor mini game for conversations is also gone.

Another big difference are two new races, which in the beginning I wasn’t really convinced of, but if you play further they fit really well into the story.

The Story

The story is also in my opinion better told than in the first one.  I’m not a fan of voice acting in general, but this game does it really well, especially since dialogue is mostly text-based and everything is also voice acted. It’s very nicely done. So you don’t have to listen to the voice actors to know what is coming. You can just read and respond to it faster.

What is good about this game is that the story allows for multiple solutions to certain problems. This can be from ignoring the quest and fight your way through to multiple civil solutions you can do by “roleplaying”.  These solutions aren’t always clear and not everything is handed out to you by map markers or highlighted characters. You have to find out most of the stuff yourself.

The first time I played the starter island, I dumbly fought my way out of the prison. But actually on my second try of the game, I already found 4 ways of getting out of the prison. Which made me wonder now… how much stuff I have missed or didn’t see the first or even the second time I will play through this game.

Combat

Combat is very similar as in DnD. It’s turn-based, which is fun. But sometimes also so slow when facing many enemies at once. It can also become very difficult at times. It’s not an easy game.

So when combat starts, just as in most turnbased RPG’s everybody gets their initiative, based on their initiative score and something else I don’t have found out… That determines who gets first in combat. Note that turns always alternate between player and opponent. Your initiative only determines the order of your own characters.

The other difference in divinity from other RPG’s is that no matter what, you will almost always do damage. The percentage of missing an attack is very low. I think characters can dodge an attack if they have the appropriate talent or if the attacker simply just missed. When dealing damage, you first have to destroy their respective armor and then you can lower their HP. Which is pretty cool. So you don’t have to roll to hit against an armor number, which makes it possible and more fun to attack a higher level enemy with multiple characters. It gives you the sense that your attacks actually do something instead of miss. There is also a chance you do critical damage with each weapon. That percentage is also determined by your wits. And the percentage damage it does extra is determined by the weapon stats itself.

Damage dealt is also more fun than in D&D. You always do minimal damage with certain weapons. So if you have sword and it does between 5-8 damage it would be in DND 1d4+4. There is no way you do only 1 damage, there is no way you can roll bad. Also the damage of weapons and spells increase with your attributes.

Character Creation

The damage you do, they hp you have, etc… is based on your attributes. Which is very similar to abilities in D&D. The names are sometimes different, but they work in the same way. The only new one is “Wits”, it effects your critical chance, initiative and perception.

Next to attributes are abilities. Which are called skills in DnD. These increase characters effectiveness with weapons or allow you to take more skills. There are two kinds of abilities in the game. Combat and Civil abilities. Some help with bartering or sneaking other with damage of certain weapon types.

Then there are skills, which are also are a little bit like skills in D&D. They determine the effectiveness of your spells and weapons. The huge difference is that you can always learn a new skill, thus getting the proficiency with everything related to that skill. So if you want to cast fire spells with a certain character, just give him the pyromania skill. These skills get their bonuses from their respected attributes and scale with level. The weapon related skills scale with the weapons you have.

The skills you can actually do are those you have learned from skill books, which act like the feats from pathfinder or DnD 3.5. You can find those books or buy them from vendors. These are plenty and easy to find and mostly bossfights will reward you with one. The number of skills you can remember are determined by character level.

And then at last you have the talents, which are also a little bit like feats or special abilities in DnD. The talents are passive and give you certain perks. Like talking with animals, or you heal more if you are alone, stuff like that.

Similarities with DnD

What also came over from 3.5 DND is that the range and damage of your ranged attacks are higher when having the higher ground. That you can flank enemies and that you can have attacks of opportunity. The different kind of states the characters can be in are also the same: sleepy, diseased, slowed, poisoned and they are also healed in almost the same way. The different kinds of terrain also work the same and make the combat very entertaining because it’s a huge part of the game. It’s also one of the first basic tricks for every DM in a rpg to make combat interesting by having cool environments.

O, yeah, graphics and stuff…

Furthermore, the graphics and sounds are very good. The user interface is very well done with many effects to make it enjoyable to use.

Actually I’m not really into graphics of games and while this game is obviously more demanding and detailed in its graphics and sound in comparison to the first game, I still prefer… the original – not even the definitive edition – of the first game. Because of the more cartoony look. If you know me, my favorite type of graphics are those of the computer games between the years 1998 and 2004. Those were good times.

Only ❤ for this game!

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

A great game I recommend to anyone who loves the elder scrolls games, especially skyrim, the newer fallout games and the witcher. Many things these games do wrong, this game does right, but vice versa, this game does many things wrong those game did do right. Overall, in my opinion, while the game feels very rough around certain edges, Kingdom Come is the better game.

The first thing this game does really good is the immersion. It takes 6 very long hours to pass the introduction phase of the game, this includes the tutorials and the many cutscenes. While I can understand that many will find this boring and some even will give up before even passing this first part, it is a really good introduction to the setting and story of this game. It gives the player gradually access to new information, and gives enough time to interpret everything. By the time the game lets you loose, you should have enough information to know how everything works.

The bohemian region is amazing, it is an actual place in Europe, historically rebuild in cooperation with a team of historians. This is a huge plus: if you do everything by horse or by foot and don’t make use of the fast travel system, you will have a very nice experience. The cities are also very detailed, full of people doing their daily activities. The only game so far, that had such a good environment is the witcher 3. What I also like is the incorporation of random events happening on the road, similarly done as in Red Dead Redemption,

The problem with the Witcher and the Elder Scrolls is that most vendors, inn’s, (bassically everything) were just flavor. They weren’t incorporated in the game system, they didn’t really had any purpose. In this game everything feels connected, every city and village feel like a small community. You will get sleepy, hungry. After a fight, you will get dirty and wounded: you will have to wash yourself, repair your clothes and equipment. For this all to do, you will have to see many NPC’s and make use of their services. NPC’s who will react to your appearance. Something the elder scrolls and Gothic also did, but it wasn’t that as developed. The Witcher didn’t really have this kind of system, because everybody reacted the same to a Witcher.

The combat system is a difficult frustrating system that you’ll eventually will get the hang of, but sometimes it just feels very awkward, especially in the beginning. But when you’ll get the hang of it, it is by far the most complex and satisfying system I have experienced so far.

The stats behind the game are just as in the elder scrolls series hidden, exact numbers and RNG you will never know. Skill trees are not present, but stats are. There are no classes or builds you’ll have to think about. Just keep practising everything and eventually you can do everything. Every skill has a couple of perks you can choose, just like in fallout. It is a nice system, that only becomes complex in the way equipment works. Where in Skyrim armor only exists of a couple of pieces, it exists here of many layers of armor who all give their own bonuses.

The story itself is, so far, pretty normal for this kind of game, it is nothing groundbreaking. But I’m happy about that, it already feels like you are too much of a hero for the middle ages. A time when peasants were nothing more than peasants and here you’ll become a little hero for the nobility very fast… What I like is the feudal system, especially in the beginning, as peasant you will feel the nobility being a little bit posh toward the peasantry, something that you won’t often see in modern political correct rpg’s.

What I don’t like about this game are the animations in the conversations, and the flow of the conversations. There are not many animations that can happen in a conversation and especially in the beginning with all those introductions, it’s almost funny how many times you’ll see people do the exact same thing over and over again. Bowing, pointing toward themselves when saying “I”, or when referring to God making a cross looking at the sky, when angry they point angrily towards a certain direction,… and with flow I mean certain intonations, sometimes you’ll choose the angry option of the conversation and Henry will shout, then you’ll choose a friendly option and Henry immediately becomes friendly. Little bit awkward…

While speaking about animations, sometimes in combat the enemy can do funny bugged attacks, and the front legs of the horse move in my opinion weirdly when walking. But I don’t see horses very often where I live, so I’m not an expert.

Fast travelling is also done very nicely, it almost becomes a mini game in itself. When choosing a destination you’ll see a nicely illustrated pawn, representing you, travelling over the world map sometimes the you’ll encounter the already mentioned random events and you’ll will have a couple of seconds to react to them.

Side quests so far aren’t that fun, except for the thieving quests because sneaking, lockpicking and pickpocketing is fun and very exciting. Sometimes people react to your behavior just as in the gothic series. Sneaking around? People will asks why you are sneaking. Walking around in a private area, people will ask to leave or call the guards. But sometimes it does not work… When you break into a public building when it’s closed for the night, for example an inn and the innkeeper will see you in the inn, the game thinks you are in a public building and the innkeeper won’t react. Walk 1 inch toward his private quarter and he will freak out. This is especially funny when the private part of the building is the second level, which begins at the last step of the stairs. So you can run up the stairs, look around and leave and nobody will say anything about it. In my opion the private quarter should begin at the beginning of the stairs.

Another thing that needs fixing is the ranged combat. It’s sometimes difficult, slow and I’m not sure that people in those time had the quiver with arrows on their backs. When you look at certain medieval paintings (this is also true for the local musea in my city), the quiver is worn around the hip-area. But ranged combat is incredibly powerful and game breaking: when encountering a difficult enemy, take out your bow, run in circles and with 3-4 headshots he will be dead.

Random encounters are not always very random, after encounter the exact same knight with the same armor 3 times after each other, I knocked them all out and became very rich early on in the game. Knocking out is also too easy to do. Even when people know you are crouching behind them, you can knock out somebody and take their clothes and kill them with 1 strike.

Epic events aren’t really “epic”, Kingdom come has same issues as in other games. These are very scripted events and it takes you out of the immersion. Soldiers will behave accordingly to the script and enemies and friendlies don’t really pay attention to the player. It almost plays itself you are more of a spectator.

But enough about the bad stuff! Graphically this game is marvelous and a real beauty. I play it on medium settings on an 7 year old computer, one which was top of the line back then and I get 44 – 47 FPS. I don’t have seen any graphically issues so far. Items in the game are very detailed and are also historically correct.

Long story, short: awesome game, must play.

Neverwinter Nights

THIS GAME DOESN’T NEED AN INTRO

After 100+ hours into this game, I haven’t discovered everything and there are still premium modules from Bioware I haven’t even touched yet + there are community modules that are even larger and better made than the original expansions or premium modules. It is crazy. Even this first month, people have already submitted enough modules in the Steam Workshop that if you want to play the good ones + premium modules + expansions + the base games, you could easily put 300-400-1000? hours into this game. And those are hours and hours of quality storytelling, not some run & fetch quests!

D&D

This game is not easy, nor it is very difficult. It is also based on a lesser used d&d ruleset: the 3.0 version. If you don’t know these rules, the game can become difficult, since it may be that you don’t know what you’re doing. The 3.0 ruleset was a shortlived ruleset was updated into the extremely well known 3.5 ruleset, which currently lives on today in Pathfinder and Starfinder. The 3.0 ruleset has different skills, classes’ special abilities and level-based unlocks are different then in the 3.5. It’s not a huge difference. But the wizard familiars and spell specialisation is completely different.

The skill set in neverwinter nights is not really any version of d&d. Since 3.0 and NWN was developed simultaneously, Bioware altered some skills and made them more efficient for a computer game. Such as swimming and climbing, also roleplay-skills are not added, f.e. reading lips (which doesn’t exist in 3.5) or Inuit (which is the survival check in later d&d versions),… Riding was added in the latest patch nwn received back in the day. So don’t bother levelling the riding skill when you are playing the main game, since you won’t find any mounts.

CHARACTER CREATION

The fun thing about this game, maybe the most fun thing, is character progression. 3.0 and 3.5 are still the most technical crunchy D&D versions were you really could customize your character in any way possible. Character creation and levelling is not for the faint of heart. Without knowledge of the original RPG it can become quite difficult. Especially in the beginning.

When building your char you can also chose to use the recommended button. And it can be a wise choice, except when chosing a class in character creation. That is the only moment where you shouldn’t use the recommendation button. It will choose for fighter, I think, and that is the most boring class to play in this game. Otherwise, if you have chosen a different class and want to use the recommendation button afterwards, it will chose the most common options and the ones easiest to use for beginners. It also keeps in mind your previous choices. So if you have chosen to be a wizard, the recomendation button will know.

The cool thing is, that the prestige classes are also included in this game. After a certain criteria is fulfilled in your character build, this will be after leveling up a couple of times, you can choose to multiclass into a prestige class. For example you can become an epic shapeshifter druid, or a red dragon disciple. You will develop wings and dragonfire breath and have dragonskin armor as spells. Pretty cool.

COMBAT

Combat is for some people very confusing. The game doesn’t really explain what’s going on behind the scenes, I think in the boxed version of the game it was explained in the manual, but it’s not explained ingame. So for people who don’t know D&D, which is rare, since 5.0 is extremely popular, I’m going to explain combat in D&D in short. Keep in mind, this game is a real-time turn based game, so every character will do an action when it is his turn.

At the start of combat, all combatants who engage into combat will receive an initiative number. They will roll this randomly with a 20 sided die + their initiative modifier, which consists of their dexterity + bonuses from feats. The highest number can act first in combat. Then when everybody has received their turn, the first one can do a move action and a normal action. Or do a double move action. This game is real time turn based, so this you won’t notice at first. But say, you are first in the initiative round. You have a speed of 30 feet (human) and you run 60 feet toward the enemy. The enemy can run 30 feet towards you and then still hit you first even when he is later in the combat initiative. So keep in mind, sometimes it is better to let the enemy run towards you.

To hit someone you have to roll for attack. This is d20 + BAB (base attack bonus, a number according to class & level) + the attack modifier of your weapon + feats + bonuses. The attack modifier of your weapon can be your strength or dexterity modifier. Finesse feat and ranged weapons use the dexterity modifier. So keep this in mind while building your character. So you generate this number, how high does it have to be? It has to be the same or higher than the AC of the enemy you want to hit.

AC? Armor class. AC is the following formula: 10 + Armor + shield + dodge (feat / spells) + natural armors bonus (feats / spells) + deflection (feat / spells) + dexterity (up to a maximum number according to the armor you are wearing).

You have hit the enemy, how much damage? Then you roll the die roll specified to a weapon. Lets say a greater longsword does 1d8 damage. So this can be a number between 1 (!!!) and 8. So even after all this, it can still be for nothing. But after a while you will find better weapons that can do extra damage, for example a greater longsword +1. This will do 1d8+1 damage.

Spells have their own specified rules. Just read the spell description to understand them.

In D&D you can do many extra actions in combat. The only one I know of that is included in NWN is the bonus action known as the attack of opportunity. A Bonus action is an action you can do only one time per round. So after the last one in the initiative order has done his turn, you regain a bonus action. So, when an enemy runs away from you OR passes you, then you get a free instant attack. This will be notified to the player above his head with the text: “attack of opportunity”. This is a normal attack.

STORY and GRAPHICS

The storytelling in this game is the traditional old school text-based conversations, the most important ones are voice-acted. Which is pretty cool. The presentation is for some people not pretty. It is one of the first real 3D isometric games and it doesn’t look very good. Even the enhanced edition doesn’t really look good, BUT they are still working on it. To be honest, I downloaded some community made modules just to test a few things, and even the old ones look better than the official modules.

The official modules, most of them or even all (?), are set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. Which is the most popular roleplaying setting since the eighties. Back then, it was not the main D&D setting, that was Greyhawk, but it was the most build and thought-out setting out there. And you will notice it while playing this game, this setting is HUGE and the community can create endless new stories in this setting. It is awesome.

ENHANCED 2018 EDITION?

The enhanced edition is not finished yet. So expect more changes in the future. Do I recommend it now? Well I recommend it to anyone who just wants a easy experience: steam cloud-saves, easy to instal community mods and modules, easy multiplayer and optimisation for modern pc’s. With the GOG version I haven’t really bothered with searching for modules and back in 2002-2004 I didn’t have an internet connection at home so I missed a huge part of the game.

I think with the enhanced edition, this can become a very nice new feel to an very old school RPG experience. With easy to install workshop creations from steam. This game has endless possibilities, and the fanbase is enormous. Even now the content released is enough for hundreds of hours of gameplay, even without replaying the game once.

Misery is a choice

Er zitten nog enkele onuitgeklapte stukken in het gesprek. Onderaan zitten ze toegevoegd.

MISERYISACHOICE-01.jpg

Eerste onuitgeklapte quote:

It’s a quote by Nick Yarris, a guy who served 22 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. He’s been tortured by guards and abused by inmates. He spent 2 years in a cell next to the psychopath the movie Silence Of The Lambs is based on. He watched 11 people commit suicide. This is on top of being molested as a kid and suffering brain damage when his rapist bashed his skull in with a rock.
He now goes on speaking tours around the world, spreading a message of love and positivity. When asked in a recent interview with Joe Rogan why he’s not a bitter person right now, he said that misery is a choice.

Tweede:

In my experience there are 2 kinds of misery.
The first one is inflicted by circumstances beyond your control, you can only breathe deeply, analyse and try to solve it.

The second one is self inflicted by choices, vices and the occasional bad judgement ( giving in to hate, anger, vindictiveness etc). This one is the actual harder to deal with cus it involves taking responsibility for your actions and being able to humble yourself to correct these things. Pride, frustration and so on are major blocking factors. It also involves the willingness to admit you were wrong. It is a difficult thing to do or to learn to do. Though once you accept this and you are able to move on your life tends to get better on a personal level.

Many do the second one and pass it off as the first one.

Derde:

& het stuk waar hij vertelt dat hij geld heeft moeten lenen om naar de podcast te geraken, ondanks dat hij een settlement van 4 miljoen dollar gewonnen heeft. A role model he is not 🙂 Maar z’n quote is een echo van een sentiment dat ook in buddhisme terug te vinden is. Je bent niet de auteur van jouw eigen gedachten. Je kan erin verdrinken: positief zijn bij positieve gedachten en negatief zijn bij negatieve gedachten. Of je kan aan de oever staan en kiezen welke gedachten je wilt opvissen. Velen hebben goede redenen om verbitterd te zijn. Trauma, handicap, genetische predisposities, PTSD, psychologische aandoeningen, random pech, geboren worden in de verkeerde plek. Het is makkelijk om je te spiegelen aan mensen die het makkelijk hebben en om kwaad te worden op het universum. Je kan daar een heel leven mee vullen en dat is wat het betekent, in religieuze termen, om een oneindigheid in de hel door te brengen. Maar je kan nog steeds keuzes maken die je weg van de hel kunnen trekken, al is het slechts de keuze om, in jouw hoofd, niet te verdrinken in neuroticisme.