Divinity Ii: Ego Draconis

Divinity Ii: Ego Draconis

Your life has suddenly taken more than more than its fair share of twists and turns in a very short amount of time. Barely any time has passed from when you were little more than a Dragon Slayer initiate and completed the ritual to put you on the path to become a Slayer. In a twist of the strands of fate, your first dragon hunt thereafter was supposed to be the last you and your compatriots would ever know, as you and your fellow Dragon Slayers were in pursuit of the last known Dragon Knight in existence. Rather than the day end with the betrayers finally eliminated, your destiny changed course when the last Dragon Knight approached you and fused her essence into your own.

Now you are the very being that you were trained to hunt and kill, which not only makes you a favored target for the Dragon Slayers to sink their blade into, but also puts you in a unique position of terrible knowledge. While humanity has been working on eliminating the Dragon Knights a new threat has been brewing in the form of a demon army led by Damian, a being so furious over the loss of his love that he would see the world burn with all the flames his wrath can muster. Not only must you survive being stuck between these two opposing forces, but you must also gain enough power and friends to stop Damian's army before he uses it to turn the world asunder.

If you hadn’t already guessed, Divinity II is the latest high fantasy epic from Larian Studios, the architects behind the previous games in the Divinity series including 2002’s Divine Divinity and 2004’s Beyond Divinity. The gameplay is essentially an action RPG as you control your character through real-time combat using your abilities to topple your foes and perform evasive rolls and leaps so as to avoid the swing of an axe or the sting of a bolt of magical energy. You only control your own character rather than a party, which means that  the only micromanagement you will be performing is simply that of keeping tabs on your skills and their cooldown as you rain hell down on your enemies.

As a Dragon Slayer initiate one of your first trials in becoming a fullfledged Dragon Slayer is to visit the village of Farglow. This sacred village is a place that all Dragon Slayers visit once and never again, and a key reason for the visit is the mind wipe that occurs at the height of the initiation ritual. This mind wipe has the unfortunate  side effect of wiping out much of the training and experience that initiates have amassed over their training, but that training was only meant to see if the initiates mind is tempered enough to accept the gift that follows the mind wipe. You see, the wipe leaves the initiates mind open and clear to receive the new knowledge that the ritual imparts, not the least of which is the ability to see and communicate with undead spirits as well as the ability to read minds. This wipe also leaves the initiates eyes with a perpetual silvered shine, a trademark visage of a Dragon Slayer.

The ability to interact with the undead is important, as with the lands of Rivellon having endured a long and bloodied history of conflict there are many spirits left haunting the dungeons and towers that scatter the landscape. Your quests will take you through many areas that these ghosts call home, and talking with them may not only shed some light on previous unknown history as it pertains to your objective but they also may have side quests for you to complete in order for you to complete that which they can no longer do now that they are no longer in the corporeal realm.

The ability to read minds however is a true game changer, and is one of Divinity II’s most inter- esting features. As you make your way across the lands of Rivellon, you will encounter many characters during your journey, both human and non-human. You can use your newly acquired mind reading powers to probe the minds of nearly any character that you can talk with normally, letting you in on insight or hidden knowledge that would otherwise be unavailable to you. Mind reading, however, does not come with- out a price, as each time you do so it puts you into an experience debt that can be high or low depending on the strength of the mind you are reading (or as to how juicy the information is). Once this debt has been accumulated all future experience gains go towards paying it off before your character continues to gain experience towards leveling, but the rewards are often worth it.

Mind reading has a variety of uses, the most basic of which is to get a cheap bit of gossip or to learn a juicy or possibly embarrassing aspect of a shopkeeper’s life so that it can be used as leverage to help him adjust his prices accordingly. However, the use of this ability in quest lines can often change the direction a course takes dramatically. Early on in the game you are simply asked by a female villager to deliver a sealed letter to the village blacksmith and are explicitly told to not tell her husband. Seeing it for what it obviously is, one outcome of the quest would be to simply deliver the letter and leave it at that.

With such matrimonial woes going on, it’s hard not to mind read into the matter further, and when the woman’s mind was read you find that she often wonders why her husband hides a key up in the rafters that she cannot reach. This leads to grabbing the key and checking out the locked cellar, which is a plan cellar barring the fact that it contains her husband diary in which he details the fact that her murdered the last man that tried to court his wife on the side. When confronted with this new knowledge the husband enrages at the thought of his secret getting out and attempts to cover his tracks by killing you. There are entire quest chains that are unlocked simply by letting your curiosity getting the better of you and mind reading people you talk with. It might be hit or miss as to if they will have worthwhile thoughts rattling around, but the results are often worth it.

The ability to read minds also comes in quite handy when you can use it to glean what the motivations are of someone who is sending you on a quest. You may get sent on an errand, only to mind read the quest giver to find  that they are only doing so to keep you away from something or at least hope that you do not find it. On some quests that have multiple outcomes, this may influence what outcome you ultimately want to choose now that you have insider knowledge of the quest givers. Of course some powerful characters may notice you peering into their minds and begin to have a mental conversation with you, which can both positively and negatively affect their views of you.

As stated earlier, however, the game doesn’t exactly revolve around playing with the unspoken gossips of the townsfolk, as there are far more grave matters afoot. When the Dragon Knight infused her abilities and mind into your own you gained the ability to become a Dragon Knight but those abilities lay dormant. Thus, one of your first primary goals is to unlock those skills and not the least of which is the ability to turn into a dragon at will. While in dragon form, you have the full ability to take to the skies and engage in aerial combat as you breathe fire on your enemies and emit tracking bursts of flame to take out distant foes. It is fully possible to leap off of a cliff where you have slain a few mountaintop baddies, transform into a dragon as you freefall off the side, roast some airborne enemies, and then change back into human form again to kill some additional foes down in the valley below.

Combat is something that you will quickly get used to in Divinity II, but how it plays out is ultimately up to your personal tactics and how you build your character. Killing your enemy gains you experience proportional to the level of the fallen foe, which not only pays off any experience debt that you accumulated from mind reading, but also goes towards leveling up your character. Every time you level, you gain four attribute points to apply towards your base stats. Vitality increases your hit points, while Spirit helps dictate your maximum mana points available to you.

Strength is the primary attribute for melee fighters due to how it affects how much melee damage you deal, how much of it you resist, how fast you regenerate hit points, and how well your body and resist affects such as burn and bleed. Dexterity deals with how much ranged damage you deal, how effectively you can dodge return fire from archers, and how much damage your critical hits do with any weapon. Finally, Intelligence can be pumped up to increase your magic damage and resistance, boost your ability resist such spells as curses and polymorph, and increase how quickly your mana regenerates.

Every time you level, you also gain one skill point, which can be spent across any of the skill categories assuming you meet the skill’s minimum level requirement. Putting points into these skills either boosts your character, grants you a new ability to use, or further bolsters and ability you already know. There are five of these categories; Priest, Mage, Warrior, Ranger, and Dragon Slayer. Priests have less healing abilities than what you would expect, instead being geared towards summoning undead minions to help you fight or cast detrimental curses against your enemies. Mages are based more on straightforward magic damage, with skills that deal direct damage or give you some crowd control. Warrior skills are based almost entirely around either dealing damage in melee or other skills that help you stay alive while doing so. Rangers are your stereotypical archers with a bevy of arrow skills such as stun, poison, and explosive arrows, as well as some degree of stealth. Finally, Dragon Slayer skills are ones that increase your encumbrance, decrease how much experience it takes to read someone’s mind, or increase your weapon proficiencies.

While you can create a character that is primarily based around one of the skill categories such as a full-on Ranger, the most powerful characters come with mixing and matching skills in order to suit the variety of situations you will find yourself in. Since you can switch weapon sets on the fly - you may wish to pepper your foes with arrows before rushing in with a sword and shield, or prefer to swing a massive hammer around and just fling some painful magic at any target out of your mighty reach. Building a character that follows just one of the skill categories means that while your character will be incredibly powerful while in their element, you will often find yourself in situations where it is very difficult to survive such as a ranger in close quarters, or a warrior caught out in the open.

In either case you will be dealing a lot of death towards a large variety of humans, goblins, skeletons, demons, and their ilk. Though the game is fully 3D in both graphics and in movement, the use of your attacks and abilities is based around a lock-on system to help manage those battles that could otherwise easily be overwhelming. Your current lock is picked by simply pointing your camera towards the enemy. You can either let this free-moving lock run its course and simply point at who you want to hurt at the moment, or you can choose to put a hard-lock on a target, ensuring that you will only try to hit them until either they perish, or you change your lock.

It is important to get a firm grasp of this system quickly, as simply standing around and picking your abilities to use against your target can often only get you killed. Melee fighters have an easier time going toe to toe with enemy hits assuming you pump their strength and vitality points up and deck them with armor, but if you have been forgoing strength in favor of the more delicate or intellectual pursuits, you will find that often your best defense against a foe is to make him unable to hit you at all. By pressing the jump button and moving to either side you can perform an evasive roll, and by jumping forward or backward you will leap into the air in a flip. These moves are great tools to help keep melee fighters at bay while you pepper their healers, or simply roll out of the way of an enemy mage’s spell before it lands. Higher level enemies are harder to evade in this manner and certain spells either move far more quickly than others or have homing abilities of various quality, but dodging and rolling can often mean the difference between using a potion or two in a fight or using none at all.

Gear plays a big role in your survivability and tactics, as not only can gear items add to your melee, ranged, and magical defense but many gear items come with a variety of additional enhancements, which may be better suited either for your character or for the task at hand. Gear items themselves provide basic defense and have a chance of having modifiers of some caliber, such as the ability to deal automatic damage to any foe that hits you with a weapon with any attack, or simply have a change of dealing some damage to any nearby enemies regardless if they attack you or not. Other boosts, such as the ability to increase one or more of your skills by a number of points can be invaluable, not to mention those pieces of gear that increase your base stats.

Such gear can be purchased through one of the many shopkeepers and blacksmiths that dot the game world, but generally speaking these pieces of armor and weapons only have the most basic of stats and rarely have anything more than maybe one stat bonus to them. The best gear comes from either random loot from enemies or from quest rewards. Purchasing gear is great for filling holes in your equipment or trying out the different styles of combat, but soon enough those blacksmiths and shopkeepers will simply be those who you sell unwanted gear that you’ve accumulated in exchange for some gold coins or possibly a few potions and charms for your travels.

In addition to their inherent bonuses many pieces of gear have either enchantment or charm slots. Charm slots work similar to the socketing systems found in other RPGs where you simply fit an object into the charm slot that adds such things as melee damage, magic resistance, vitality points, mana regeneration and a multitude of others. You can put a charm into a charm slot at any time and it doesn’t require anything, other than a weapon or gear item with such a slot and something to put in it. Once you put a charm in a slot, however, that charm is permanently bound to that item. It can be replaced, but you cannot retrieve that charm and use it in other items.

Enchantments are far more powerful than charms, but in a similar manner, they require an enchantment slot be present on the gear item. Enchantments also are selective in what items they can be applied on, such as weapons, jewelry, or armor. Their effects however are often with the hassle of getting them on your gear, though. Some enchantments can add the ability to automatically restore your hit points or mana as a fraction of the damage you have dealt, or simply add a nice bonus to your base damage. Enchantments do require the help of someone to help you put the enchantment on, however, so you can’t just slap one on while in the middle of your latest dungeon crawl.

While you don’t have a party in Divinity II and only ever control your own character, that’s not to say that you can’t get some dedicated help of your own. As you comb through dungeons and kill enemies you will acquire the body parts of creatures in the form of their heads, torsos, arms and legs. These ghastly bits of loot are more than just trophies of your latest kills, serving a far more important purpose when taken to a necromancer who can help you assemble them into a new being. Similar to your skills, however, how you build this little pet monster of yours often depends on how you want him to compliment your own character.

Every body part has a set of attributes, such as how much it increases health, resistances, damage and whether or not it adds any abilities for the creatures use. You can just as easily build your creation as a tank that has high health, as you can build it as a melee force of nature, which gets in close and mauls your foes. With certain body parts, you can give the creature ranged abilities, so if you would rather it stay back and let you get messy in melee, you certainly can. Summoning your creature is done by using a Crystal Skull and takes half of your total mana, but once summoned, the creature will faithfully follow you and generally get in the face of anyone foolish enough to brandish a blade or an unkind stance against you.

You will fight your way through a multitude of dungeons and other environments filled with all manners of things that wish to do unpleasant things with your mortal coil, but unlike a traditional dungeon crawler, Divinity II often makes use of gameplay elements other than just simply blazing through the area, cutting enemies down and gathering loot. There is much of that action to be had of course, but in addition you must watch out for pressure plates or other hidden traps that can have both good and bad consequences such as the difference between spawning a chest full of goodies or polymorphing you into a ladybug for a period of time. As you leap over and roll out of the way of danger, it is important to keep an eye on your surroundings, not only to watch for flanking enemies, but also to make sure you don’t accidentally activate some devious trap that takes off half of your hit points in the blink of an eye.

Other elements in the game play a prominent role in spicing up your dungeon crawling as well. There is a small amount of platforming elements found in some of the more complicated dungeons in which you must accurately leap from platform after precarious platform in order to reach a switch to open a gate or simply leap over an obstacle from higher ground. There is no fall damage in the game, so missing a leap rarely results in death,  unless you happen to fall amongst a bunch of enemies who will then be quite happy to poke you full of new wounds. It won’t be long before you will think to leap onto a platform that a lesser, non-Dragon Knight couldn’t get to, so that you can avoid the reach of the swords and axes found in the hands of melee enemies, but to negate being cheap, the enemies in the  game will either use a ranged attack against you if they can’t reach you, or will simply begin to regenerate hit points at a vastly accelerated rate.

Another aspect of working your way through a dungeon or through the countryside itself in the pursuit of finishing quests, is how often in many quests you will need to either use your mind read ability to learn a key element about the quest, or read something that you had picked up for clues. Again, experience debt does hamper your characters progression somewhat, but there will be many times where you can get free attribute points or skill points to spend, just because you decided to read the mind of a librarian and accidentally learned a new alphabet, that you then used to read an ancient book filled with knowledge.

One thing to keep in mind as you play Divinity II, however, is that the game certainly does not hold your hand if you decide to wander off the beaten path and into a pack of higher level enemies. The game’s enemies do not automatically scale to your level, so it is entirely possible to wander into a goblin’s lair filled with enemies two or three levels higher than your own. This level difference doesn’t seem like much, but even a couple level difference between you and your enemies matters a great deal. Enemies of a higher level than your own will deal massive damage, whereas if you are against an enemy a few levels lower than you, it will hardly be able to scuff the polish on your armor.

Regardless of how tough it was to do so, once you have completed a quest, you will be presented with a rewards menu. In the rewards menu, you can not only view the base rewards that come with completing that particular quest, but you will often get one or more reward selections, which lets you pick additional rewards to add on to your earnings. Such additional rewards can come in the form of even more experience gains, or another stack of gold coins to pad your coin purse with, and can also contain powerful new gear or charms. It can often boil down to what you need at the time, as sometimes getting more experience can be worth it, whereas in other times, you may simply decide that you would rather have that nice new axe over another stack of coin.

To effectively take on the full mantle of what it means to be a Dragon Knight and put yourself in a position where you can effectively combat Damian’s demon army, you must first gain access to your Battle Tower, which happens approximately 40% of the way through the game. It is at this time that you unlock your ability to take to the skies as a dragon, not to mention you now have your own base of operations. The Battle Tower can effectively serve as your adventuring hub, containing its own small band of citizens loyal to your cause such as a blacksmith capable of folding enchantments into your weapons and armor, an herbalist with whom you can concoct new and additional potions, a necromancer so that you can get under the hood of your creature and swap out body parts, and a scout who can collect the raw goods and materials used in many useful applications.

The Battle Tower also has its own storage capacity, which by the time you get it will be a godsend considering the amount of raw goods, spare gear, and various recipes and enchantments you will have been carrying around by that point in the game. By default, your character can only carry 100 slots of items, and even though multiple Fanny Blossoms will only take up one slot of their own, your inventory space will fill up quite quickly. Skill points can be spent into your encumbrance to let you carry around a larger amount of items, but even then you certainly need to keep tabs on your inventory space. The nice thing about gaining access to the Battle Tower, however, is the stone that you can use to teleport to it at any time. Once your loot bags are full, simply teleport back home, offload / sell some goods, and then use the stone to teleport back right where you were.

Of course the pinnacle reason of being a Dragon Knight is to gain the ability to take flight and become a dragon. While in the air, you can fairly easily control your dragon by simply flying around using the mouse to steer and the keyboard buttons to control movement (or using a simple 360 pad control scheme). You will be subject to the attacks of airborne enemies, but immune to those on the ground, just as how while in the ground you cannot be harassed by airborne enemies as you deal with ground forces. Flying enemies have an additional targeting symbol around them to help you pick them out more easily, but otherwise the combat system and the ability to lock on to enemies in the air is handled the same as it is while on the ground.

Air battles are usually much faster in their pacing than ground battles are, thanks to both enemies and your own dragon form, moving around much more quickly. Since the air combat takes place in the skies. you must worry about enemies above and below your altitude as well as in your immediate airspace. In addition, you will often fight larger battles in the air than you do on the ground, making aerial combat an overall intense method to engage your foes. Occasionally, you must deal with ground-based defenses, such as the equivalent of antiair towers, but such pitiful structures usually can’t hold up for more than a second against your dragon breath.

Whether you are taking it in from the ground or from the air, the environments of the game all seem to maintain a vibrant and unique look from one to the other. At the start of the game, as you make your way through the village of Farglow, you get to appreciate some of the attention to detail that has been put into the design of its architecture, which is a level of detail that is shared throughout the game’s towns and villages. As you strike out onto your own, you will be battling through goblin hamlets set on the ridges of a tall cliff overlooking a valley with a swiftly flowing creek at its bed. Upon leaping down to that level, you will look up and see god rays from the sun getting cast down through the overhead foliage.

The game also features a large amount of fully voiced characters, though the voice of your own character remains silent as you engage in conversations with them. Conversing with other characters boils down to listening to what the other person has to say, and then picking a response from the one or more listed that you can choose from. These responses can be good natured, charming, evil, or neutral in nature, running the gamut in between, though once a response has been picked the charm (or damage) has been done and you rarely get the chance for a take back, to change the outcome. This means that you really need to pay attention and take careful consideration into what you say in a conversation, or at least keep a handy quick save readily available before you engage in one. One thing that the game does not have however is a morality system, so such conversations can take whatever direction you wish without fear of messing up your standing on some moral ground.

Regardless of what moral path you take, the gameplay of Divinity II will have a lot to offer RPG enthusiasts when it comes out on January 5th. The game combines a rich and storied lore with its traditional action RPG oriented gameplay, but further expands upon it with the ability for you to read the minds of nearly anyone you meet, not to mention you are granted the ability to transform into a dragon at will and take flight. In either case, keep a sharp eye towards HardcoreGamer.com as the game nears its release date for the exclusive first review of Divinity 2 just in time for the dawn of the new year.

Hardcore Gamer had the chance to sit down with Swen Vincke, the CEO and Studio Head of Larian, and David Walgrave, the Producer of Divinity II, to ask them questions about their biggest game yet.

1) How big can the airborne battles as a dragon get?
Will the player be primarily fighting single or small groups of enemies, or can battles become more complex? The player will take on single enemies if he’s smart. There will be squadrons of flying creatures taking you on, but if you don’t single them out, and you’re going to fly right in the middle, you’re as good as dead. You will also have to take care of enemy air defenses, so there’s air-to-ground combat in it as well.

2) What challenges did you face in adding the ability to become a dragon into the game and take flight?
There were numerous challenges. We already started taking them into account during preproduction where we experimented with different technical solutions to all our problems. We needed to have big levels where you could fly around freely, and they couldn’t be less detailed than the rest of the world. And when flying at 40 meters per second, streaming had better keep up (opposed to running at 4 meters per second). You can also transform back into a human in most of these levels, so the ground experience needs to be up to par with the rest of the world. There were constant “what if” moments during art creation of these levels, and during quest design, et cetera. Of course, we also iterated through different control schemes and animations for the dragon. You’re basically flying a huge beast around, but you want it to feel reactive and fast enough. Took quite some different setups before we found the right feel.

3) How much of the game can the player spend in their dragon form once they gain the ability to do so?
You’ll probably spend something like 20% of the time as a dragon.

4) Other than not being able to enter dungeons, what downsides does being a dragon have that might make the player at times want to stay on foot?
As a dragon, it’s pretty hard to talk to people. People run away at the very sight of a dragon, and think they’ll be barbecued when you’d try to talk to them. Not being able to talk to other people in an RPG is kind of a downside :) Some areas are really dangerous or impossible to enter as a dragon because people have put up anti-dragon defenses.

5) Do you still gain the same amount of experience and loot regardless if you kill an enemy in human form or in dragon form?
The targets that you can kill as a dragon cannot be killed when you’re human. So that’s the downside of being human in the game ;) Airborne targets don’t drop loot. They do give experience though. Experience is shared between your dragon and your human form.

6) What sources influenced you in the creation and refinement of the game’s lore and story?
Well, the basic lore was already there, thanks to the previous Divinity games (Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity). We just worked further on that history. Of course, we did add a lot of new stuff, because Divinity II takes place hundreds of years after Divine Divinity. Our writers were influenced by different cultures and sources, not just lots of fantasy books. If you do want some fantasy names, there’s the usual Tolkien of course, but also the excellent fantasy work of Robin Hobb and Stephen Erikson. But we read much more than just fantasy, and we also know this world’s history and history being made today. You will find many references in the game to the most varying topics.

7) What similarities and differences does Divinity II have with your previous titles in the series?
- the density of things to do
- it’s in the same universe
- classless skill system
- there’s always the stress on strong char development
- quest depth
- we worked out the summoning dolls a bit more (in Divinity II, you build your own creature)
- obviously, we’ve gone full 3D now, with an engine that supports current gen technology
- we feel Divinity II is more dynamic
- and on the gameplay front, we’ve started mixing different genres: there’s aerial combat as the dragon, you can mindread people, we have a couple of platforming challenges, and the combat has been adjusted to the over-the-shoulder cam to feel more action based.

8) What feature or aspect of Divinity II are you the most proud of?
The mindreading skill is a very unique game mechanic. Players have a hard time deciding whether or not to mindread the character, and giving players freedom of choice is what we’re for. It also makes NPC’s more interesting, it gives them more depth, and of course, it allows for even more branching quest solutions. Mindreading gives you insight in a character, leads to treasure, or can change the way you can react to people or how you solve quests. The fact that you can shapeshift and fly around feels very gratifying every time you press that button. The feature had been in our minds for years, and a lot of people kept saying that it could never be done. But it’s not about proving them wrong anymore, it’s just turned out to be great fun, every time you do it, even if you start taking it for granted after a while.

9) How long do you expect the average play through of the game to take?
Depending on how good you are, you can finish the game in about 60 hours. If you’re going to read everything (all the books, diaries, sonnets...) and do all the sidequests, you’re looking at about 80 hours.

10) Are there any plans towards expansion packs or downloadable content?
We are talking about this with different parties and cannot say anything at this time.

11) Do enemies respawn in the game, after a period of time, such as a goblin hamlet getting repopulated, or are there a finite number of enemies in the game?
The number of enemies are finite, they do not respawn. This is a design decision we made early on because the game could become unbalanced. It also makes clear to the player where he has already been, and where he still has to go. It will also indicate what his next move should be: enemies do not adapt their level to the player level, so if you are level 1 and you’re wandering off too far, you’ll quickly notice. Try taking on an enemy that’s a couple of levels higher than you are, and you probably will die. However, you can try to take him on, which may work out for you if he’s all alone. If you succeed, you will be rewarded with more experience.

12) What is the highest level attainable in the game?
Depending on whether you do all the side-quests and experience gained by killing enemies, you will end the game with a character that’s between level 32 and 40. The level cap is level 60 but with the quest XP and enemy XP that is currently in the game, you won’t reach that :)

13) How many skill and attribute points can be found via a means other than simply leveling up?
There are about two dozen skillbooks in the game, half a dozen statbooks, and a dozen of dragonskillbooks.

14) Without spoiling anything, what other unique or interesting gains can the player get using mind reading?
Apart from lore, alternative quest branching, other rewards, secret objects and locations, there are characters that teach you a new skill when you mindread them. You’ll have to be careful using mindreads, ‘cause some people will just be thinking about day-to-day stuff, or trying to complete a funny limerick in their head.

15) If the player uses mind read a lot they will go into a lot of experience debt, does that mean that players who use it often won’t get to as high a level as those who mind read sparingly?
Well, that depends on whose mind you read, really. Mindreading certain characters will unlock an entirely new location, reward, or quest branch, so you’ll gain back more than the mindread cost you. Of course, you may also gain back loot (items, money) and no experience, so you’ll have to make a choice between what’s more important to your character. For instance, if you know that a mindread of 50 XP will earn you the location of a gold bag that has 100 gold coins in it, do you think that’s fair or would you rather not have bothered? I think it’s often obvious who will think of something interesting, so you have to learn to judge by talking to people first, and see how they fit in the story.

16) With no morality system to keep the player in check, are there repercussions to playing a “good” or “bad” character?
The people that you have interacted with will remember how you have treated them before. Some will stop trading with you, or their prices will be higher if you were rude to them or failed a quest. Good or evil has an impact on prices (but that doesn’t mean being a goodie two-shoes will always give you a discount of course) and on quest branching.

17) How many different body parts are available for players to craft their personal minion with?
You combine the creature with a head, a torso, arms and legs. So you need four body parts. All four body parts come in four different flavours: dragon elf, goblin, undead and the standard creature parts. Using a body part from one of the former three gives the standard creature a boost in stats and changes the skills of your creature. The body parts also come with different stats. So you could find two different goblin heads :) (And probably even more!)

18) What skills or abilities do you feel that a beginner adventurer should work into their builds?
That really depends on what type of player you are, and what character you want to build. However, there are some skills that all types of players can use. For instance, the evade skill is handy for warriors that tank their way through the enemies, but it’s also a great skill for the rangers when melee enemies come too close. If you’re planning on mindreading a lot and you don’t want to spend too much XP, invest in mindread early in the game, because most of the mindreads will be in the first part of the game. (It’s kind of hard to mindread people in dragon form. Not to say impossible.) Again, even though it’s personal choice in my opinion, I would advise people to put at least one point in summon ghost or summon demon very early in the game. You don’t have your creature at the start of the game, and having an ally will take the heat off of your character for at least a little while. They’ll also heal you or attack the enemies for you.

19) How many total quests are there in the game, and of that number how many of them are optional side quests?
There are more than one hundred quests, of which more than half are optional. But you will notice that without questing, you will have trouble getting on in the game. Solving quests is not only fun, it also yields a lot more XP than killing enemies. So if you find yourself hitting a wall, make sure to talk to people and explore the area.

20) What area of the game are you the most proud of, either from a visual or from a design standpoint?
I personally still love the very first level we ever made which is called Broken Valley. A lot of effort went into that level from all teams, and we actually re-created it about three times. I am still amazed at the size of the valley. The first part of the valley (the village) is really packed with interesting houses and dark dungeons and colourful characters. They give you lots of quests, and once you continue down the stream, you realize that you’ve only seen one fifth of that entire valley. There’s really so much to do in that first level, that the external testers initially thought that that was the entire game. I can’t blame them, cause Broken Valley does have a lot of quests and offers a lot  of variety. But it’s just the beginning, even though you can easily spend more than ten hours in this valley alone if you want to see and do everything.

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More Tax Cuts Coming

More Tax Cuts Coming

There's more to this years reduction than meets the eye: Behind-the-scenes, basic policy changes will affect future

You can expect bigger and better cuts in your federal taxes in the future. That's the word from the top level of government officials. It's the belief, especially, of Walter W. Heller, the President's top economic adviser. He ought to know. He put together the economic theory that both underlies this year's $11.5 billion tax cut—history's largest, so far—and will also bring future reductions. The new round of income tax cuts isn't coming within the next year or so, to be sure. The next major assault on the present tax structure is likely to be revision of federal excise taxes, possibly next year.

Probably more important, the new tax cut and its basic theory must prove itself by giving the economy a new push upward. You and other businessmen have a hand in that. The manner in which you foresee the current tax cut's impact and respond to it will help determine whether or not business continues to boom.

What's more, government spending increases must be checked. Here's how Mr. Heller puts it: "In the long run: Yes, taxes will need to be cut again if the advance of federal expenditures—cash expenditures, including the social security and other trust funds—does not keep pace (with expected increases in tax receipts in the future) . This won't apply for the next year or two, when we're working off the effects of this year's tax cut. But in the long run, if expenditures do not keep pace, then there will be an increasing fiscal drag. Federal budget operations will be taking more money out of the economy than they're putting back in. And at that time, it will certainly be appropriate to consider another tax cut."

Why do such men as Walter Heller, with a basically New Deal outlook, and other, more conservative political economists see further cuts as assured? The answer lies in the recognition of what Congress, a Democratic Administration and the nation did when they approved this year's taxcut. These three political institutions agreed on a tax cut that was far from routine even when its mammoth size and technical revisions are left out. They embraced a concept of government-economic relationships which likely will affect your business, the economy and national policy for years into the future when the immediate effects of this year's tax cut is history.

The newly endorsed, double-barreled concept is this: First, high federal income taxes drag down business growth during prosperity as well as recession; and, second, high economic activity at lower tax rates brings in more money to Uncle Sam than do high tax rates in spongy business conditions. It took a major turnabout in congressional and even public thinking to accept the proposition that you could cut taxes without having money in the Treasury to cover federal spending. It required overcoming what Mr. Heller termed th? Puritan ethic of many opponents of tax cutting at a time of deficit spending.

Endorsement of the tax cut also brought, for the first time since the depression of the 1930's, agreement by a Democratic Administration that big spending is not necessarily the best remedy for the country's ills. The Administration has, as a result, committed itself to hold down government spending and reduce the national debt. Whether this or future Administrations will stick to this commitment remains to be seen. But, as a practical political matter, the commitment may be difficult to break. White House officials are already squirming under vigorous reminders of President Johnson's economy pledge from congressmen objecting to pressure in support of pet Administration schemes.

The tax cut's successful journey through our checks and balances system also provides new understanding of the importance of private enterprise and business investment in a prosperous economy. What Rep. John Byrnes, Wisconsin Republican, observed to NATION'S BUSINESS recently about the manner in which the big tax bill passed the House of Representatives demonstrates what has happened. Mr. Byrnes is the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, which shaped the tax measure. "The history of the tax bill," he said, "is one of compromise on both philosophy and theory by all sides."

The compromise, essentially, was that the White House got its tax cut, and whatever political advantages come frcm resulting better business. And the country got government endorsement of the longer term principles which should bring future tax cuts and, hopefully, restraint on federal spending. When major political forces are at work, compromise implies that someone changed policies. And that's exactly what President John F. Kennedy did when he proposed the current tax cut.

He entered the White House on January 20, 1961 urging citizens to ask what they could do for their country, a theme in the liberal economic thinking of the day that ruled out a major tax cut. Even before his inauguration, in fact, President-Elect Kennedy indicated that the road to tax reduction would be a rocky one. In December 1960, Mr. Kennedy had Mr. Heller at his red brick house in the Georgetown section of Washington, D. C, for one of his famous preinaugural appointment sessions.

Mr. Heller, then a University of Minnesota professor who was about to become Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, brought up a possible antirecession tax cut. JFK indicated that it would not fit well with his inaugural theme of sacrifice. Despite this turndown of Mr. Heller, some politicians, including influential Democratic Senators, believe the President planned all along to whittle taxes for either economic or political reasons. If so, he didn't act that way.

Douglas Dillon also talked tax changes with Mr. Kennedy when Mr. Dillon was being sounded out for his present position as Secretary of the Treasury. But the context was always structural changes —called reform by the Administration—carefully balanced so the government lost little tax revenue. "The tax cut plan did not originate before President Kennedy took office," Myer Feldman, an aide to Mr. Kennedy before and during his presidency, and now counsel to President Johnson, says flatly. Nor did Mr. Kennedy launch his presidential policies like a man dedicated to a tax reduction and to the restraint in federal spending needed to make the tax cut work. Quite the opposite. He raised federal expenditures during his first full fiscal year in office—the year ended June 30, 1962-to $87.8 billion or practically $8 billion above President Eisenhower's outgoing recommendations for that year. Budget deficits ran to $6.4 billion in fiscal 1962 and $6.3 billion in fiscal 1963.

Mr. Kennedy chose to follow what political economists in the capital like to call the Galbraith school, after John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard professor. This group of economic theorists contend that government can cure unemployment and keep the economy going upward by steadily raising spending, taxes and deficits. Mr. Kennedy, like most politicians, had based his economics largely on what he thought would attract votes as opposed to the practical economics of businessmen or the theoretical economics of academicians. So he reached out for advisers, mainly from the university ranks, to fill this gap. A task force of advisers headed by Paul Samuelson of Massachusetts Institute of Technology told the newly elected President the best way to spur the economy and cut unemployment was to pump more money into the economy via increased government spending rather than through tax cuts.

"Mr. Kennedy opted for an increase in spending," sums up one of his former tax advisers. His tax policy steered clear of big cuts and aimed at restructuring the tax system without loss of revenue. "The Treasury was gung-ho for reform and so were we at the White House, philosophically," says a Kennedy aide.

Besides Mr. Dillon, the key treasury advisers were Under Secretary Henry H. Fowler, a New York lawyer who recently resigned, and Assistant Secretary Stanley S. Surrey, a Harvard professor with aggressive ideas for restructuring the tax system. Increasingly urgent danger from the loss of gold to foreigners was a major consideration.

"President Kennedy would have liked to stimulate business by lowering interest rates when he came into office," asserts one key Democratic senator on tax matters. "But he couldn't because of the balance of payments situation and because he couldn't control the Federal Reserve Board." FRB Chairman William McChesney Martin, Jr., and other officials feared lower interest rates would encourage more American investors to send money to Europe in search of higher returns, thereby increasing potential pressure on the value of the dollar.

So the Treasury and the President came up with their 1961 proposal of a tax credit designed to encourage new investment by business in plant and equipment. The planners reasoned this would help the economy by encouraging installation of more efficient machinery. Companies could then compete better with foreign competitors here and abroad, went the reasoning. The plans called for enactment of the investment credit law in 1961, easing of depreciation rules after that and, in 1962, submission of a top-to-bottom reform of the complicated tax structure. The Treasury's brass was ready to give up $2 billion to $5 billion in revenues for their tax reform but nothing close to the $11 billion enacted this year.

This, then, was the economic policy of the Kennedy Administration during its first year and one half. By late 1962, however, Mr. Kennedy had reversed himself. This man who had started out talking about sacrifice and opposing tax cuts was telling the nation that high federal income taxes can drag down a recovering economy. He even took steps toward holding down spending.

How the President came to change his mind in the course of less than two years is the crucial chapter in the change of federal economic policy dramatized by the tax bill. The man most responsible for this change of thinking was Mr. Heller. Anyone who calls Mr. Heller "the father of the tax bill," must be ready for an argument in Washington these days. Many deny his key role and claim it for themselves.

Talk to practically any New Frontiersman about the tax cut and you'll hear the adage in vogue this season: "Success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan." Certainly other vital roles were played by business spokesmen, Treasury officials, Chairman Wilbur D. Mills of the House Ways and Means Committee and other congressional leaders. They helped originate thought, shape the tax cut, refine the Administration's policies and sell the measure to the country. But it was Mr. Heller and his associates at the Council of Economic Advisers who accomplished the indispensable first step of convincing the President he should propose the tax cut.

Critics contend that Mr. Heller gets the glory while others did the work. They maintain he simply came up with an economic theory and lots of charts to back up a tax cut decision already made by President Kennedy for political reasons. Officials privy to Mr. Kennedy's thinking during those days swear this isn't so. But these insiders concede that politics did play a major role in the decision to press for a tax cut. The reasoning was this:

Mr. Kennedy won election on the promise that he could get the country moving. But by early 1962, the rate of unemployment still remained above five per cent and the economy looked as if it might slip into a recession. So a hunt went on  for new ways of improving prosperity. When Mr. Heller's group showed him that a massive tax cut might do the trick, he pushed for tax reduction as a political goal. "The main thing I remember the President talking about during that period when he was considering whether to propose a tax cut," says a White House aide, "was that the longest postwar recovery to that time had run 37 months and the current one seemed to be tapering off."

"President Kennedy knew the only way he could avoid a recession by November 1964 was to cut taxes," asserts one Democratic senator close to the President's tax thinking. The solution Mr. Heller offered in justification of a massive tax reduction has come to be known as the theory of fiscal drag. Fiscal drag theory Here's how he described it in a definitive article in November 1962:

"It now seems clear that one of the chief reasons for the sluggish behavior of our economy over the last five years or so is the persistent drag exerted by our present federal tax system. . . .
"With our present federal tax system, taxes tend to grow by roughly 30 per cent of any rise in gross national product during periods of economic expansion. With a federal tax system that drains off about 30 cents out of every additional dollar generated by production, a very strong expansionary thrust is required to drive the economy strongly forward.

"As expansion develops, the federal budget shifts strongly from deficit toward surplus, thereby draining larger increments of purchasing power out of the economy than it puts in. The expansion can continue only if consumers, business and state and local governments increase spending faster than their incomes rise, thereby putting more purchasing power into the spending stream than they take out."

He argued that gross national product would rise by two to three times the size of the tax reduction. Higher incomes and profits from improved business would mean the lower tax rates would soon produce more revenue for the government than the old, higher ones did. Mr. Heller pointed out to President Kennedy that the federal tax system would take an additional $6 billion to $6 billion out of the economy each year if normal growth occurred. In order to keep the economy thrusting ahead, government would, therefore, have to offset this drain by either increased spending or tax reduction. Mr. Heller argues that it is unlikely that a year-in, year-out increase of $6 billion to $6 billion in government spending would be practical. He doesn't, of course, take a philosophical stand against spending.

" Y o u may be able to devise ellicient projects for this additional spending over the long run but it is doubtful that it can be done each year," he says.

How did the ex-professor devise his fiscal drag concept? Tracing parentage of economic ideas is tricky business. Some economists contend this line of thought stems ultimately from Adam Smith's belief that the less government intervention in the economy the better. Others say it owes its birth to John Maynard Keynes' proposition that the government budget can and should be used as a major influence on the national economy. Business groups and conservative economists have pointed out for years that high taxes dull the incentive to invest and take away purchasing power from the people.

Andrew Mellon in the 1920's said the tax reductions would gradually bring more revenue to the government because the economy would grow.

More recently Mr. Heller owes much to economists who in the 1950's began to take a hard look at taxes in relation to the level of the gross national product and full employment. A major landmark to many economists was a study issued by the staff of Congress' Joint Economic Committee in the mid-1950's. Credited mainly to James W. Knowles, now  executive director of the committee, the study projected economic growth into the future and attempted to show what would happen to national output and unemployment under various federal tax levels.

Drawing on these and other studies, Mr. Heller put together his fiscal drag theory in the late 1950's. Unlike other economists he advocated reducing taxes during prosperity in order to keep a growing economy from leveling off. Many others saw tax cuts as useful simply to pull the economy out of a recession.

As long as President Kennedy followed a policy of high taxes and higher spending, the Hellor theory got little attention. The Berlin showdown in the summer of 1961 brought the first victory for Mr. Heller and the fiscal drag theory.

Threats by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent the country into fast mobilization. Simultaneously, Mr. Kennedy debated raising taxes $3 billion to pay for the extra costs. Most Administration advisers favored the tax boost. But the Council of Economic Advisers opposed it on the ground that taxes were already a drag on the economy and that an extra $3 billion would hurt even more. A showdown developed.

It finally came to a head on a Friday afternoon in July. Mr. Heller was in Texas on a speaking trip. A telephone call came through from Washington saying the President had tentatively decided to ask for the tax boost.

Mr. Heller, working through his Council colleagues in Washington, began his counterattack by phone from Dallas. Back in Washington the next morning, he was driving to his office when the two-way radio in his White House car summoned him to the nearest phone. The President was calling from his week-end retreat in Hyannisport. The conversation led to a series of meetings Monday. At an evening session on the second floor of the White House, the President, Vice President Lyndon Johnson and Mr. Heller had a final goround.

Mr. Heller did not know of the President's final decision—the decision not to ask for higher taxes—until he received a White House cable the next day in Paris, where he had flown overnight to a meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development The turning point The second victory came a year later when Mr. Kennedy decided in mid-1962 to press actively for a big tax reduction. In retrospect, it sometimes appears that the decision was the only logical choice. But complicated economic and political currents were swirling around the White House.

Economically, bellwether indicators shot up deceptively high in the fourth quarter of 1961, causing the Administration's seers to forecast high prosperity, high revenues and a balanced budget for fiscal 1963 despite big spending plans. These forecasters thought the economy might well reach full employment without a tax cut stimulus. But before two months, it was clear the forecasts were haywire.

President Kennedy asked in his State of the Union message for standby authority to cut taxes as an antirecession weapon; he got a fast turndown from congressional leaders. In Ap:il, Mr. Heller sent up a trial balloon for a tax cut when he addressed the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. And by June, a Heller-fueled boom for a quickie tax cut to be enacted by Congress was under way.

The economic indicators and misjudged forecasts were confusing enough. But Mr. Kennedy made things even worse for himself by severely undermining business' confidence in the future by his attack on the steel companies and businessmen in general. Then, in May, the stock market plunged. What's more, many businessmen were fighting his proposal for an investment tax credit which the Administration had originally expected to sail through Congress. And organized business was urging a tax cut, accompanied by spending reductions. This political uproar made it impossible for Mr. Kennedy to boost spending still higher in hopes of improving the economy.

If you're President of the United States, what do you do in that situation? If you were John F. Kennedy, you looked for something that would mollify business and get the economy going again. You held all sorts of conferences big and small with economists such as Mr.  Samuelson, with top Treasury Department officials, with Mr. Heller and his aides, with Ted Sorensen, the special counsel and top speechwriter, with Larry O'Brien, the chief White House lobbyist on Capitol Hill, and others.

Many meetings were held around the long tapered table in the Cabinet Room. Others took place in the sunlit oval room Presidents use as their office. Participants were mixed and matched. Frequently, Mr. Kennedy brought an unannounced guest, Chairman Mills. His opinion was vital because he must support any tax bill before it has a chance of advancing through Congress. Mr. Mills wanted reform of the tax system so as to provide greater incentives for business investment. He also insisted any tax cut must be accompanied by a hold down in federal spending and the budget deficit. Treasury Secretary Dillon and his aides took roughly the same stand although they sought to go farther with reforms. Mr. Heller's forces wanted a major tax cut as soon as possible with reforms to by enacted later. "A clear consensus developed within the government during May.

June and July 1962 on the need to do more for business," Mr. Fowler points out. He asserts the Treasury didn't oppose a big tax cut as such but wanted the bill to include basic reforms. "To us at the Treasury," he said recently, "there was no value in either greater spending or a temporary tax cut. The economy needed something permanent." The Treasury and Mr. Mills carried the day in opposing the quickie tax cut. But it was Mr. Heller who got the major victory in convincing the President that the Administration should press for a big tax cut the following year—1963—in order to reduce the tax drag on the economy.

"There's no question it was Heller who convinced the President of the economics of a tax cut," asserts one White House adviser. "He and the Council staff first had to educate the President on the economics. Then when he was convinced, they had to provide him with understandable statistics and other demonstrations of the tax cut's effects so he could make a plausible case to the country."

"The analyses were brilliant, imaginative studies which broke ground in the field of tax-cut effects on unemployment," observes one Washington economist. "Of course, many of the studies turned out to be wrong, but they were brilliant, nevertheless." Presidents, Republican and Democrat, are political animals rather than economists. It's one thing, therefore, to convince a President that the economy needs a tax cut and quite another to get him to propose such a step to Congress. In the late spring of 1962, while he mulled the economic merits of the reduction, Mr. Kennedy told his congressional contact men to size up the chances for a tax cut bill in Congress.

"We told the President it was possible to get the cut through Congress but that there would be a fight and it would be long and bloody," says Henry Hall Wilson Jr., specialist on the House of Representatives on the White House congressional relations staff. What went on within the White House during these pivotal months throws interesting light on how President Kennedy made decisions. Political and economic considerations were blended so that it is virtually impossible to determine which was the really motivating factor in Mr. Kennedy's tax cut decision.

Even the exact timing of the decision is lost to those on whom the President leaned most heavily for advice. The public conceives of momentous presidential decisions as being made, or at least announced to his intimates, in some precise manner—perhaps in a stately fashion at a meeting of the Cabinet or at a gathering around his carved desk of the officials and congressional lieutenants directly involved, or, at least, in some paper of state, if only a memorandum to top aides.

If there was such a clear-cut point of decision by JFK on the tax bill, it has been lost to his associates most closely involved. To them, the decision to push for a tax cut came about by osmosis. In the course of several months, participants simply became aware that the President had accepted the tax cut plan.

"I would submit a memo on a certain point to the President and if after a certain time he hadn't said anything showing he rejected the thought, I assumed he'd accepted it," reveals one Cabinetlevel aide.

Equally involved officials became aware at widely different times that the President had decided for the tax cut. For some officials the first clear-cut sign came on June 7. 1962 at a press conference. Before the press conference, aides inserted into briefing papers prepared by Mr. Sorensen a sentence saying the Administration would ask for a net reduction in taxes the following year. When Mr. Kennedy spoke the sentence, these insiders assumed he had made up his mind. Nobody told them so, however.

Others weren't fully sure until two months later. That's when on August 13 he told the nation in a full-dress television report why he would not ask for a quick tax reduction that summer but why the economy needed an across-theboard, top-to-bottom cut and revision in 1963.

There were practically none of Mr. Kennedy's highly publicized direct phone calls to officials up and down the line involved in details of tax planning. "The contemplative process wasn't canied out over the phone He didn't think out loud over it," Mr. Fowler notes. Mr. Kennedy left the size of the tax bill to negotiation between the two chief contending forces. Mr. Dillon's Treasury, situated to the right of the White House physically as well as spiritually, wanted as little revenue loss and as much tax reform as possible. The Treasury, backed by Mr. Mills, feared congressional passage of a tax cut bill without major restructuring attached would doom such changes for years.

The other force was Mr. Heller's Council of Economic Advisers, operating out of the ornate old Executive Office Building to the left of the White House. Mr. Heller wanted a big tax cut fast, irrespective of reforms, in order to jazz up the economy. He argued for several billion more than the $10 billion finally agreed upon. White House staffers told the President that as long as he was going to have a fight over taxes he might as well ask for as big a cut as he could. Mr. Kennedy himself was mainly preoccupied in this period with a matter of high urgency, the Cuban missile crisis.

The President, by and large, knew little about the major provisions of the tax bill—including the exact size of the proposed cut—until December. That month he made his formal commitment to the proposal and began his full-scale pressure for it in a speech to the Economic Club in New York. He finally learned full details and gave his approval to the detailed Administration scheme at a Yuletide conference in the sun at Palm Beach, Fla.

The shaping of legislation in executive departments can be a nervewracking job. The tax bill was no exception. Stanley Surrey, the assistant secretary in charge of putting together the tax proposal in all its technicalities, recalls working long into the night; steady streams of economists, businessmen, tax specialists, lawyers and special pleaders filing past his desk, and ground-breaking staff studies of problems never encountered previously.

Congress' opinion vital But no matter how much work goes into any Presidential proposal, the thing that finally matters is how Congress treats it. The work of assuring congressional acceptance fell mainly on Mr. Dillon and his aides. Mr. Heller, who had a reputation as a big spender, kept in the background.

This wooing of Congress started with consultations with Mr. Mills throughout the decision-making process. The congressman is deeply conscious of the American constitutional system division of executive and legislative powers so refused to take any positive role in shaping the Administrative proposals. But any indication of coolness or lack of understanding about some tax idea on the part of the Arkansas lawmaker was enough to make the Administration's men restudy their position.

Other discussions were going on with the late Sen. Robert Kerr of Oklahoma, who, besides being the most politically powerful Democratic Senator, held a key role because of his No. 2 position on the Senate Finance Committee. Finance Committee Chairman Harry F. Byrd opposed a tax cut.

Much of the consultation with Mr. Mills and Mr. Kerr was kept as quiet as possible. Mr. Fowler flew to Little Rock for one weekend meeting with Mr. Mills during the fall of 1962. Even more importantly, Secretary Dillon got Mr. Mills and Mr. Kerr together in the senator's home bailiwick in late November for a talk about the bill's main provisions. Senator Kerr helped the Administration by what is described as explaining certain provisions of the plan to Mr. Mills. The two powerful congressional leaders didn't seem too shocked by the tax proposals, as one Administration source puts it, so Mr. Kennedy went ahead with his proposal.

By the standards that prevail in city hall and state capitol politics, legislators should have waved their arms in joy over the opportunity to vote for a tax cut. But Congress doesn't work that way. Members knew the people had stronger feelings about federal fiscal responsibility than many supposed political experts believed. Making matters worse, the Administration's bill included a number of structural changes which would have hurt many businesses and individuals more than the rate cuts would have helped. As a result, businessmen, congressmen and many members of the House Ways and Means Committee objected strongly. The whole bill was endangered until Congress made the necessary improvements.

Mr. Mills firmly insisted in his courtly southern fashion that the Administration must curb spending if it wanted his help in cutting taxes. His stand re flee ted fears by many legislators, businessmen and others that Mr. Kennedy would try to couple the Heller tax-cut thesis with the Samuelson-Galbraith bigspending recommendations, thereby spending the country into inflation. The turning point for Mr. Mills came when President Kennedy gave him an advance look in late 1962 at the Administration's budget proposals for the fiscal year which will end this June 30.

The spending figures showed a rise. But Mr. Mills was impressed by the fact that total spending other than that for defense, space and interest on the national debt had leveled off and Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara promised Pentagon spending would level off the following year.

The rest of the country didn't convince as fast. The structural changes were highly objectionable to business. And it didn't seem to make sense for the government to reduce taxes when it was already running a deficit. Strong demands for federal economy arose. Many people simply didn't believe—and still don't—that the Administration would willingly hold down spending at a time when it was pushing the Area Redevelopment Administration, the Accelerated Public Works program and other big-spending schemes.

"I am convinced that in the early stages of the tax bill, the White House wanted only to throw fuel on the fire so as to cause inflation," says Mr. Byrnes, the Republican tax leader in the House.

Spending holddown a key Mr. Kennedy made it hard for himself by refusing to pledge to hold down spending since labor and other liberal groups were complaining that he wasn't spending enough. Failure to make a public pledge until nearly the final moment gave Administration forces trouble all through the House. But this pledge by Mr. Kennedy and, later, by President Johnson not only assured passage of the tax bill but could well help hold down federal spending and deficits into the future.

"President Johnson's signal contribution to the tax bill was to cut his budget spending proposal for fiscal 1965 to S98 billion," says an influential Democrat in the House. Mr. Johnson's pledge came when the hill seemed stuck in the Senate. Much opposition among conservative Democrats melted became of it. Not all, however. "I don't care what they say in the newspapers," asserts Sen. Russell Long, the Louisiana Democrat who managed the tax bill in the Senate. "We and the Administration were scared to death about the bill." The Administration had to turn to Senator Long, a more or less unknown legislative quantity, for its tax leadership in the Senate when Senator Kerr died suddenly on January 1, 1963, just when the tax fight was starting.

"We were really worried," says a Kennedy strategist. "Senator Byrd had made clear he couldn't work for a tax cut without a balanced budget and nobody else in the Senate knew anything about taxes except our opponents." He makes clear that the opponents were the Democratic liberals on the Senate Finance Committee such as Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee and Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois.

Despite Senator Byrd's formal opposition to the tax cut, the Virginian was instrumental in letting the bill pass Congress. The key was an advance look at President Johnson's fiscal 1965 budget which showed lower spending. At that point, Senator Byrd permitted it to be reported out of his committee Then, reports Senator Long, Mr. Byrd supplied key votes for the Administration against amendments that might have killed the bill.

"Without Senator Byrd," says Louisianan Long, "that ol' frog might have been so loaded with buckshot it never could have got off the ground." Businessmen, too, helped boost the frog off the ground. The Administration also had support from labor, professional and academic economists and other economic groups. But it was businessmen who swayed key votes in final House and Senate voting. "The history of the tax cut in Congress proved to me," says a presidential adviser, "that labor is influential when it opposes something. But when you want to get something positive passed, it is support from businessmen which influences congressmen."

Possibly this lesson will he re membered when political leaders total up the results of the tax fight. But the final assessment may be many years in coming. For, if this year's reduction works, it may be many years before the country sees an end to the direct effects of future tax cuts stemming from the principles underlying the tax cut of 1964.

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It's Timely to Consider Still Another Inequality

It's Timely to Consider Still Another Inequality

Advent of daylight saving time draws attention to an area of discrimination which has so far escaped the Supreme Court's endeavor to establish absolute equality in every possible field. Not all communities have advanced their clocks an hour this Spring. But the fact that so many have just done so is evidence that government has the power to adjust time in what it conceives to be the public interest. This being so, consideration of more basic remedial action is invited.

When a businessman flies from the East to California he possesses a distinct advantage over a western colleague traveling by air in the opposite direction. The easterner can rise at a normal hour, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, phone his office and still be in Los Angeles or San Francisco in easy time for lunch. To do the same when flying from one of those cities to New York or Washington is currently impossible. If the westerner is to make a lunch date on the East coast he must rush from his patio to the airport at the crack of dawn that day.

This injustice towards our Pacific brethren will doubtless be ameliorated as jet travel improves still further. But the underlying defect will remain. There will still be discrimination against Mr. Addison Sims of Seattle. If at 3 p.m. his time he urgently needs top-level interpretation of a regulation affecting his business, his phone call will normally find the Washington agency closed for the day. The earth, as mankind has reluctantly been forced to admit, rotates around its axis in a certain way. And as long as that continues, the time situation will be what Chief Justice Warren in another connection calls inherently unequal. With the generous interpretation now given to the Fourteenth Amendment, this is a virtual challenge to the Court to set the matter straight.

Preliminary steps have, indeed, already been taken. When the Court espoused the doctrine of one person, one vote" it certainly suggested "one voter, one time" as a follow-up slogan. If every legislative district must have approximately the same number of people, regardless of county divisions, it would also be proper for them to vote at approximately the same hours, regardless of time divisions. In 1916, because of the discriminatory time lag, it was not known until the day after the election that Hughes had lost California to Wilson, and with it the presidency. Almost half a century later such disconcerting upsets are still possible.

Something, of course, could be accomplished by legislation, if the White House would emphasize the equalization of time as well as the equalization of wealth. The Senate, however, tends to ignore time completely and in acting with all deliberate speed both Houses habitually emphasize the adjective at the expense of the noun. Results could be more quickly attained by relying on the vast array of federal agencies which now regulate matters without prior legislation.

An illustration is the Agency for International Development, which announces, in its own words, an effort to reshape the entire educational system of Nigeria. If charity begins at home it would seem equally reasonable for the I.C.C. to reshape the time system of the United States.

But some preliminary governmental steps might be desirable, since not everyone is as yet aware of the invidious discrimination involved in the time differential. Thus the C.A.B. could conceivably decree that jets would be permissible only on flights from West to East, limiting East-West air travel to the old reliable if somewhat lumbering DC3. This would tend to neutralize the time bias. But the basic injustice, caused by the way the solar system is arranged, would still remain.

As the equal protection of the laws is now interpreted, the immunities of some are certainly abridged by time belts. Once seized of the issue the Supreme Court would almost have to decide it. Since no such suit, to the writer's knowledge, is currently pending, speculation on the probable verdict is in order.

With evidence showing that existing time differentials are inherently discriminatory, precedent would suggest their fusion in one nationwide temporal system. Standard time, naturally, would then become that of the national capital. One would scarcely expect the Establishment in Washington to subordinate its convenience to that of the grassroots.

A not unimportant advantage of this reform would be its overdue elimination of our present humiliating dependence on England for the calculation of our own American time. It certainly does not comport with a masterful image of the United States to admit that our continental times zones are centered at respectively 75, 90, 105 and 120 degrees west of Greenwich, meaning Greenwich near London and not Greenwich, Conn.

This makes the present system not merely discriminatory as among our own people, but almost anti-American. If educational standards for Nigeria can be set by Washington, then time standards for all the Free World can also be set there. This would not imply any recognition of the time used in Red China and if De Gaulle wants to recognize that, let him do so. Admittedly there will be a few difficulties, even within our own Union.

Under the present archaic system it is said to be 7 a.m. in Honolulu when it is actually 12 noon in Washington. After Hawaiian time is adjusted to that set by the Supreme Court the sun will scarcely be over the yardarm when  cocktails are served at Waikiki. But such inconveniences could be accepted as a patriotic duty. They will cause less resentment than that aroused in many State legislatures by the problem of redistricting on the mandate of a basis of complete equality for each voter.

Indeed no form of discrimination can be eliminated without a measure of discrimination in reverse. That is demonstrated, for instance, in the prayer cases. It is apparent that the State of Maryland, as a whole, would like to retain some form of religious observance in its public schools. To this end its General Assembly has this year passed a bill permitting a period of silent meditation before classes begin, as a substitute for the now unconstitutional recitation of the Lord's Prayer.

Asked by the governor for an opinion on the legality of this measure the attorney general of Maryland says it will probably be accepted by the Supreme Court, provided the teacher, while supervising the meditation, does not hold a Bible in his or her hand. To do so, he suggests, might offend atheists by intimating that any religious faith is preferable to none at all.

To soothe any Hawaiian irritation, people there, after time is equalized, might still be allowed to call their noon meal breakfast, provided they do not have their watches set at what is now Hawaiian time during that meal. In any case problems of this nature will not need to worry the Supreme Court. It will merely prescribe the equality of time, leaving it to the localities to make the readjustments. And if the upheaval should produce an East-West rancor, comparable to that now recreated between South and North, this too might have a backhanded political advantage.

In the pedagogy of logic there is an old device known as the reduction to absurdity. Legend says it originated in the case of a medieval monk, who preferred counting his beads to  protracted service in the monastery cowbarn to which he had been assigned. So he told the abbot that if the two prescribed hours of daily prayer were good for his soul, 12 hours of chapel devotion would presumably be that much better.

The abbot, after reflection, called this reductio ad absurdum, but compassionately ruled that because of the cowherd's piety he should, after his barnyard work was done, worship continuously in the chapel, for the 12 hours from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Reduction of an argument to absurdity, as attempted above, has not heretofore been a common device in American discussions of vital issues. That is because, as a practical people concerned with tangible accomplishment rather than fine-spun discourse, we have seldom permitted theories with ridiculous implications to make substantial headway. Both our system of government and our way of life depend for good health on constant check and balance. The extremist viewpoint, in any direction, has seldom received either public sympathy or official support.

There are signs that this traditional position of the golden mean is coming to an end. Certainly it is weakened when the admirable premise that all men should be equal before the law is developed into a governmental effort to make them all equal, period. If the impossible dogma of absolute and standardized equality should ever gain the upper hand, it could not long stay dominant. There is too much evidence that the Creator did not intend this world to be that way. Infinite variety, not deadening equality, is a law of nature which no human court can hope successfully to repudiate.

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