On Killing Book Review

On Killing

I finished Lt. Col Dave Grossman’s book On Killing recently. It’s about soldiers’ resistance to kill, how the military overcomes that instinct, and the larger reprecussions of that type of training on society. It is not a “how-to” book as I feared many people might’ve thought whenever I read it in public.

At the start I should say that Grossman presents a good case. He backs it up with hundreds of interviews with soldiers and his personal impressions from being in the service. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of hard data to support his point. Why? Because for the most part there just haven’t been a lot of studies on how to get someone to kill another person. It ranges into the unethical territory of psychological studies. The data he does have is convincing. Continue reading

The Division: Game Feasibility

I posted a review of The Division earlier. The game plays quite well and if you’re looking for an FPS to play with your friends then The Division should fill that hole nicely.

The plot though!

The plot is barebones, with most of it being shown to the player in hidden conversations between NPCs throughout the game instead of directly telling you what’s going on (a good story device!).

In the game an evil scientist has altered the small pox virus to be extremely lethal and resistant to treatment. Continue reading

Characters of Cimmeria: Amalganus Halkias

This character’s story was largely created and written by Throgg, a player in my D&D campaign. Amalganus is the son of a previous character of his and the father of his current character, providing a paternal link through the time that passed between his two PCs.

Amalganus

Amalganus was a Jipanguese military leader, politician, and international organizer. In his military career he fought on the frontlines with his men, often protecting them from blows with his mighty shield. Amalganus was catapulted to fame when King Jevaninada II and the Dragovinians rose to power in Xoria. Only a minor lord at the time, Amalganus’s extraordinary charisma allowed him to organize the Second Alliance of Cimmerian city-states. Approximately a decade after the formation of the Second Alliance, Amalganus disappeared on a journey with uncertain goals in the west and was never heard from again. The Second Alliance is certainly Amalganus’s legacy, standing as a bastion of Cimmerian independence and courage against the imperial threat of Xorian expansion.

Amalganus was the son of Amalgami the Betrayer and Emelia, the daughter of a Phoenixian merchant. Emelia’s father disavowed her and kicked her out of his home after Amalgami betrayed the First Alliance. Pregnant with Amalganus, Emelia fled to Yuettencal in the Aractrashan Kingdom. She gave birth in June 438BCE.

Emelia supported herself and her son by selling her fine clothes and jewelry she brought with her from Phoenix. In time this money dried up. Left without other options, Emelia used her remaining clothes and refined social skills to become an upper class aristocrat. She quickly attracted the attention of an elderly Jipanguese lord named Humanto Moshiro who visited her on business trips. Humanto loved Emelia dearly and brought her back to Jipangu as his concubine. Amalganus was raised as a ward by the military household of Kowitari.

Amalganus trained with the other young nobles showing incredible talent and potential. He squired for a respectable officer, Dilaeon Kowitari, performing admirably and winning much honor. Amalganus was soon placed at the side of ranking officers as he was groomed for a command of his own. Around this time Emelia and Humanto were blessed with a son, Purodu.

Amalganus accompanied a small mission to defend the countryside from trolls. Amalganus demonstrated exceptional skill and decision making by saving the life of his superior officer, as well as rallying his unit’s forces for a decisive victory over the trolls. Unfortunately, in the aftermath tragedy struck the Moshiro family. Purodu who had always been sickly, died. Humanto’s old body could not bear the sorrow. His heart gave out soon after and he followed Purodu into the Underworld. With his sole heir by blood dead, Humanto’s lordship passed to Amalganus.

Amalganus’s military record continued to shine. He received many marriage proposals and decided to solidify his relationship with the Kowitari family by marrying a daughter of their house, Hiroka. Amalganus’s house commanded respect throughout the city, even though he possessed a mere 18 years. The public loved him and he was commonly referred to as, “an old soul”, having inherited the charisma that propelled his ancestors into power. Amalganus recognized the growing threat of the Dragovinian aristocracy in the west. Almost as soon as Jevaninada II took the throne, Amalganus began to organize the Second Alliance.

Amalganus continued to gain honor and respect, both as military leader in Jipangu but also as the head of the growing Second Alliance. Hope spread that the Xorians would not invade if presented with a united resistance. As the Second Alliance grew, so did Amalganus’s family. Hiroka bore Amalganus his first son, Amalius, in February 420BCE. Amelia was born in May 418BC and Amalchus in October 417BCE.

In 412BCE Emelia grew incurably sick. On her deathbed, she revealed to Amalganus the truth about his father, a fact she had kept hidden, as well as the family name “Halkias”. Shocked and horrified, Amalganus vowed to reclaim the honor of House Halkias. The only path to clear the Halkias name lay in bringing Amalgami to justice. Amalganus secretly began the hunt by pouring through historical documents for clues to Amalgami’s location.

After two years of research and hired detectives, Amalganus tracked Amalgami down in Greece. In a rare moment of poor judgement, Amalganus abandoned his family and responsibilities in Jipangu to travel west in search of his father. He found Amalgami posing as a noble named Alcibiades in Athens. Amalgami had long since abandoned his humanity and he attacked Amalganus upon seeing him. An epic combat ensued. Amalganus fought valiantly, forcing his lich of a father to his knees. Amalganus stopped short of delivering the final blow to his own father. Amalgami took advantage of this moment of hesitation and decapitated Amalganus with Korm.

Amalganus’s body was brought to Amalgami’s hideout in Ionia along with Amalius who had witnessed the final combat between his relatives. Amalgami locked the body away in a room that Amalius was forbidden to enter. The body was presumably experimented on before being disposed of. The final resting place of Amalganus Halkias remains unknown.

-GoCorral

Petar

Petar

Petar is home to about 110,000 people and is the seat of Xorian military power. The main contingent of Xoria’s army was stationed in Petar during peace time to prevent incursions from the nearby Magical Lands. The city is walled and has a large keep at the center if the outer fortifications are breached during an attack. In the case of a siege non-perishable food is stockpiled in the basement of the keep and a large staff of clerics and mages are kept in reserve to act as an infirmary and food creating service for the army and the civilians of the city.

The economy of Petar is heavily focused on supplying the army. All blacksmiths have a quota of goods they must sell to the army every month. The mages guild has so many students of battle magic that a few renegade war mages from the war mage academy in Greshen Dale have set up an illegal teaching outpost in the city. Druids in the city are coerced into using magic to enhance crop growth to feed the troops. Everybody who does not send some of their products to the Xorian military must serve a year service in the army every five years.

Almost all of the farms of Petar grow wheat and other staple crops. The military command wants all arable land to be used as best it can. A few fruits and vegetables are cultivated to provide a balanced diet for strong troops, but the populace is always complaining that there isn’t enough. Cattle and sheep are raised on the exhausted land to get wool, dairy, leather, and meat. The manure from all the animals refertilizes the tired land and every few years the grazing land will be switched with the farm land.

Petar is strategically located atop a hill in the middle of a wide plain. It is gossiped that this is the spot where Hades’ head hit the roof of Erebus when Zeus told him the conditions of his marriage to Persephone. Four months of companionship out of every year would seem ridiculous to any man, let alone an Olympian. The hill allows the Xorian army to see any approaching army for miles and gives them a defensible position once that attacking army is within bow range.

The government of Petar is headed by Duke Delor who is subordinate to King Jevaninada. The Duke does most of the administrative work and takes his orders from Commanding General Barejando when he is present in the city. Barejando is in charge of all Xorian infantry battalions on offense and defense and Petar’s police force. He is personally responsible for the defense and safety of Petar. The general has his hands full planning invasions, rooting out Persian, Rebel, and Cimmerian spies, and maintaining order. With so much to do it’s easy to see why Barejando leaves management of the civilian population of Petar to Delor.

Duke Delor is also the Dragovinian religious leader in Petar. He manages the blood drinking ceremony every week in the city’s main cathedral. Delor personally created many of the Dragovinian beasts that watch the people of Petar for any possibly seditious activity. In his free time he enjoys spying on the citizens, and if he’s lucky, ripping a suspected Rebel’s throat out. When Delor tours the city he always seems to find suspected rebels, and suspects are always found guilty.

One of the most amazing things in Petar that has most likely led to the rumor of Hades’ head bump is the extraordinarily large gold deposit beneath the hill. The gold vein was discovered many years ago by one of the kings of Xoria himself. While surveying the digging of one of Petar’s many wells the king’s sharp eyes picked out the glint of gold at the bottom of the well. That well has since turned into a mine shaft where most of the money of Xoria is minted and then taken to the current king, Jevaninada II.

-GoCorral

Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 26

Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 25

There’s a Chinese proverb that I love, “The Empire, long divided, must unite: long united, must divide.” Unity comes and goes. Same thing happens to the Hykman League in this post. Previously they united four races, Human, Elf, Hobgoblin, and Rana. Now everything falls apart. The Hobgoblins go independent, the Elves factionalize, the Humans war upon each other. And… evil wins! Why does evil win? So that good adventurers have something to strive to defeat of course! It’s all about making interesting campaigns later on. Navillus spreads his influence out of the Upper Maw into the Eastern Maw.

737 NA: The Hobgoblins, enthusiastic at the new found technology of the Humans, built cities to gather their people in the forest. Cities were built at the head of each of the rivers in Halusho: Drukana, Nazarak, and Tentomrozan in order from west to east.

A faction of Elves was outraged that the Hobgoblins were allowed by the Hykman League to settle in the Halusho and the Mandibles. The faction split from the League and went into the forest “back to its roots.” The faction named itself the True Arrows. The True Arrows formed an elite soldier corps to hunt Hobgoblins and any who associated with them.

738 NA: The return of Navillus and the actions of the True Arrows put too much stress upon the Hykman League. The Brotherhood of the Living Immolation revived and clashed with the Revered Administration in the streets of Hykma and the Hearth. The frustrated poor enacted their revenge fantasies on the rich. The streets were stained with blood and both cities descended into chaos. A bloody civil war wracked the Hykman League.

The Hobgoblins broke off regular relations with the Hykman League having learned enough to maintain a civilization of their own. The Hobgoblins created schools with a sort of Hobgoblin agoge (Spartan training). The Hobgoblin militocracy conscripted armies in the three new cities.

Tension mounted in the Elven forests. The armies at New Prestounasi redeployed and martial law was declared. The armies struggled to maintain peace, defend against Hobgoblin raids, and contend with the True Arrows. The armies were called to return to Hykma – by both sides. The generals refused to return, staying in the forest, fearful of aiding the wrong side.

739 NA: The Grez researched improved ice magic and architecture. They used their improved skill with cold magic to create ice golem creatures. The Grez formed armies out of these ice golems in Reesrevoton.

The son of King Hrotomak, Tenzomak, conscripted a new army to defend his beautiful city of Syluk.

740 NA: The True Arrows kicked the Hobgoblins out of Shianosoth and reestablished the ancient Elven city. Many of the old buildings were left as ruins, reminders of what happens if Hobgoblins are allowed free reign.

741 NA: The Elves of Rotandean and Crodolan feared that the civil war might spill over into their territories. Rotandean created an army. Crodolan’s mages used their enchantment magic to charm the commanders of the Hykman army to stay in the forested city. True Arrow leaders convinced the people of Crodolan to mercilessly execute the Humans within the army. A new Elven army was formed at Crodolan to defend from reprisals.

In Hearthland, the Metal Dwarves realized that their military was ill-suited for fighting the undead abominations of the Grez. A new military organization was created, vastly superior to that of any other nation. Promotions were now based on intellectual merits instead of connections or prowess in battle.

742 NA: The Hykman Civil War ended, leaving a wake of carnage and a strong military presence in both Hykma and the Hearth. The Brotherhood of Living Immolation took control of both cities, though the proxy of the Revered Administration still remained, now many of the Administrators were themselves members of the Brotherhood. The Revered Administration had too many things working against them, the infiltration of their order, the burning fanaticism of the Brotherhood of Living Immolation, and the greed of Revered Administrators.

In honor of their victory, the Brotherhood of Living Immolation built a massive and wonderful temple to Navillus in the Elven Gardens of Hykma. While the true nature of the Brotherhood of Living Immolation was still concealed under infinite veils of secrecy, the temple was a rallying point for common men.

-GoCorral

Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 27

Crafterton

Crafterton

Crafterton is town with a population of about 60,000 people, most of whom are Halflings. The town’s economy is based around factories powered by the strong wind blowing to the west towards Cecilia. The factories were once powered by wood fires, but the island’s forest has been severely depleted. Cutting wood is now only allowed during winter and even then only by government permit. Some of the more entrepreneurial Halflings import wood from the lumber port of Makotako, but most are content to do without.

The ban on woodcutting leads to many of Crafterton’s dishes being uncooked, heavily spiced, and/or soaked in acidic juices. All the newer buildings and furniture in the city are made from stone imported from Bradel Fields. Any of the city’s surplus tax revenue instead of being saved is spent on a restoration project. The City’s Commercial Council (CCC) once worked in line with the thief’s guild of Balin’s Holt to discover many new secrets that can help Crafterton’s factories and forests. This cooperation stopped after the Xorian occupation.

Crafterton’s factories do not use an assembly line, but put a bunch of people in the same space using the same large power machine to make many products at the same time. The power comes from windmills on top of the factories and from imported fuel for the bigger factories that use fires. When no wind blows laborers are hired to turn a large crank that keeps the machine going.

The factories produce everything. One of the more famous ones, Lindertur’s factory, makes houses and then exports them. The exportation of the larger commodities requires help from golems made in Havdrast’s factory. The fault in this whole system is that Crafterton has almost no natural resources beyond fish and good soil that is only being used for personal gardens. Everything has to be imported or magically created.

Due to the large demand for transportation many magical schools have opened in Crafterton about those disciplines. Most wizards in the city are conjurers. Bags of Holding, Portable Holes, and Heward’s Handy Haversacks are all produced in Heward’s factory. The Wayfarer’s Union, providing teleportation services, is also located in Crafterton.

Something even more preternatural than the rest of the city is the Factory of Ideals. It produces potions that twist people’s thoughts to a different prospective. The Factory of Ideals produces potions that make people fall in love, do evil things, do good things, and even release bodily waste in public. The factory is allowed to keep working for unknown reasons by the government. Most people assume bribery.

The CCC is a guild comprised of all the factory owners in Crafterton. They decide the amount people are taxed and where that money goes. They are in effect an aristocracy without representation. They are all very rich and have no obligation to the poor of the city. Prior to the Xorian occupation the public accepted this arrangement. Whenever the public was upset they would strike and start building up farms to live off of. The strike negotiations started quickly and the problems are always quickly resolved. This feeling of goodwill has changed since the Xorian occupation.

Crafterton was occupied by the Xorians in 437 BCE. A military governor, Commander Borgawitas, oversees the CCC now, preventing any possible seditious activity. Many of the factory owners have become Dragovinians and enjoy the benefits of integration into a larger empire. The common folk of Crafterton have easier access to goods with the removal of import tariffs, but their civil liberties have been seriously limited. Many of the Halflings have been forced to work on the restoration project without pay.

The hurricane floods of 401 BCE destroyed many of the smaller buildings of Crafterton and without the wind break of large trees, almost all the efforts of the restoration project were undone in one night. The CCC was quick to rebuild the factories, but the rest of the city has been left to languish. Efforts to strike are no longer met with concessions and negotiations, but whips and executions. Dragovinian animals are everywhere, watching the captive populace to prevent insurrection.

-GoCorral

Obama Asking Congress for War with ISIS

Looks like I’m going to write something political again because today President Obama asked the US Congress to declare war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

ISIS is a group that grew out of al-Qaeda in northern Iraq. Since its impossible to truly wipe out a terrorist group, they continued to operate during US occupation and after Bin Laden’s assassination.

When the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011, ISIS took advantage of the situation and moved into eastern Syria.

ISIS has since absorbed or eliminated most of the other rebel groups in the Syrian Civil War, making the Civil War essentially a fight between Assad’s forces and ISIS.

The US has been providing training and weapons among other things to the original Syria government led by Assad.

The US has also been helping Assad with bombing raids and drone strikes on ISIS targets.

That’s about the limit of aid Obama can provide without going to war. The congressional acts that allow the war on terror don’t allow the President to deploy soldiers directly on the battlefield in Syria without a declaration of war from Congress.

Obama is now asking for that declaration.

Congress has said they will debate it and the discussion could take months.

Congress has been quick to declare war in the past when the President requests it, making the very existence of debate a sign that the USA probably won’t go to war.

And I don’t think we should be going to war with ISIS.

There are good reasons for going to war against ISIS. The group/country’s leaders are despotic theocrats.

Among the traditional offenses such a regime commits they’ve also made the Arabic acronym for ISIS, DAESH, illegal to pronounce as one word. You have to sound it out D-A-E-S-H. This is because Daesh is similar to the Arabic verb for “crushing opponents” which makes the regime sound evil? And what better way to not seem evil than to whip people who dare to pronounce your country’s acronym incorrectly! -_-

Going to war against ISIS could also lay the groundwork for forming the nation of Kurdistan for the Kurd population in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. The Kurds have long been discriminated against either directly or through gerrymandering as a racial minority in the other countries, but that could change if they were given their own country.

So all that stuff is well and good. The UN is involved for those reasons.

But why is the USA involved? What do we get for declaring war on ISIS?

Well, we help out US allies, Iraq and Israel by keeping the region temporarily stable around them.

But we have allies for reasons right? What do Israel and Iraq give us in exchange for this help?

Well… As far as I can tell, they give us space to build military bases so that we can keep a presence in the Middle East region. And that presence is needed so that we can protect Israel and Iraq.

Wait, what?

I’m sure there are other reasons besides that, but that’s how it looks to me.

Another issue with helping the Syrian government is that we are helping Assad, a hereditary dictator. We call him President of Syria instead of King of Syria because it is polite to do so, not because he actually won any fair election to the presidential office.

Our continued presence in the Middle East helps root out terrorist organizations, but it also helps to create them. The US involvement in the Syrian Civil War has been with indiscriminate strikes. As much as we’d like to think that bombs and drones only hit military targets, they still harm more civilians than ISIS militants. And what do those civilians and their families think when the US bombs them? “I hate those Americans! The ISIS people hate them too! Maybe I’ll go join them after all!”

Those are the big points on the topic that I’ve landed on when debating with myself. My opinion is that the USA should not go to war in Syria. In fact, I wish we’d provide less aid to Assad by not bombing or performing drone strikes as those harm civilian lives.

But as with everything political, the situation is more complex than that. Would allowing ISIS to freely take over Syria result in the loss of more civilian life? Maybe.

My ill-informed mind can’t provide all the answers on this topic, so I’d encourage you to learn more on your own by visiting CNN’s website. They have a lot of cool videos that can tell you more.

-GoCorral