A Philosopher's Blog

Uncommon Commoners #1: Fish Sticks

Posted in Pathfinder by Michael LaBossiere on May 31, 2014

Fishsticks-Cover

A Pathfinder Role Playing Game compatible adventure for 1st-3rd level characters.

Description

Fish Sticks is the first book (of seven) in The Uncommon Commoners campaign series. In this semi-epic campaign, the uncommon commoners will fulfill their destiny. Or die trying. Or both—if their destiny is to die trying.

Bound by destiny and linked by a secret from the past, the uncommon commoners must face their first semi-great challenge, best explained by the following uncommon poem:

 

Welcome to Pisco, our village.
Which, I hope, you will not pillage.
Though the village smells please do not go!
I beg you to listen to our tale of woe!
Once we were happy and full of weal.
Now the place smells like a dead seal!
As for the cause of our pain
You do not need a giant brain
Nor the diviner’s art
To know that the fish do fart!
I am at my wit’s end!
Help us, or I’ll go around the bend!
That is what I have to say.
If you won’t help us, I bid you good day!

The Uncommon Commoners #1: Fish Sticks is a Pathfinder Role Playing Game compatible adventure. It is intended for a party of 1st-3rd level uncommon commoner characters (included in the adventure). While the adventure is written to be humorous and fairly light, it is also designed to be suitable for serious game play.

Here are some of the features of the adventure:

  • Detailed color maps for the adventure.
  • Fully developed NPCs, complete with detailed descriptions, backstories and motivations. And loot.
  • An actual plot. Really. In at least two senses of the term. Plus combat, of course.
  • Full statistics are included for all encounters—no need to look up monsters.
  • Pre-Generated uncommon commoners with backstories, catch phrases, special abilities and special feats.
  • New NPC classes (the magician and the wilds warrior).
  • New Traits & Feats (resilience, focused healer, heroic resilience, devoted healer, and doorman).
  • New rules for intelligent mounts.
  • New Spells (accompanying performer, amplify instrument, entourage, loud speak, and saltball).
  • New Magic Items & Equipment(boots of underwater walking, dancing sea bird, elixir of dancing, elixir of drunken dancing, necklace of saltballs, sexy tiara, salt bomb, bubble weed and Kelok crossbow).
  • 86 pages of adventure (includes maps)!
  • Donk!

Available  At

DriveThru RPG
P
aizo

Downloads

Hero Lab Files, Maps, Etc.

See paizo.com/pathfinderRPG for more information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

 

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Brain Games

Posted in Philosophy, Technology by Michael LaBossiere on April 7, 2014
Brain Games box art

Brain Games box art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a general rule, most people want to gain for as little as possible effort. For example, people seem to often buy exercise equipment thinking that it will make exercise easier. They usually find out that is not the case—thus the brisk trade in lightly used exercise equipment and its regularly being buried under clothes. The latest brain training games seem to be offering the same temptation: if a person plays these brain games, she will become smarter. The appeal is, of course, that the games are supposed to fun rather than burdensome—like education tends to be. The obvious questions is whether such games work or not.

On the face of it, the idea that playing these brain games can have positive effects does make some sense. After all, exercising the body improves it—so, by analogy, the same should hold for the brain. The obvious concern is that not everything that people think is exercise actually improves the body. Likewise, the brain games might be like useless exercises for the body: you are doing something, but it is having no effect. To address this matter, the thing to do is to turn to some actual science.

As it stands, the unbiased research seems to show that the current crop of commercial brain training games have no meaningful impact. While people do get better at the games, this is most likely due to familiarity. To use an analogy to another type of video game, doing the same scripted event over and over in a game like World of Warcraft or Deadspace III will cause a person to improve at that specific task. To use a specific example, in Deadspace III the player has to “fly” through a field of debris and avoid being smashed. My friend and I smashed into the debris repeatedly until we finally made it—through familiarity with the process rather than by getting “better.” The same seems to be true of the current brain games and getting better at such a game does not entail that one is smarter or more mentally capable. In light of the existing evidence, spending money on the commercial brain games would be a waste of money—unless one is just playing them for fun.

Interestingly enough, video games of the more “traditional” sort can improve memory and mental skills. This is not surprising—such video games typically place players in challenging environments that often mimic general challenges in the real world. As such, rather than simply focusing on a relatively simple game that is narrowly focused, the gamer is forced to fully engage the general challenge and develop a broader set of capabilities. As such, video games of this sort probably help improve mental abilities in a way analogous to how reality does so. In the case of video games, the challenges will tend to be more challenging and more frequent than what a person would generally encounter in the real world. For example, participating in a World of Warcraft raid involves tracking abilities, maintaining situational awareness, following (or giving) orders, following a strategy and so on. That is, it provides an actual mental workout. So, a person looking for games to make her smarter would be better off getting a gaming console or PC and selecting challenging games. They will probably be much more fun than the brain games and apparently more effective.

I would also like to put in a plug for traditional table top games as well—be they games like Risk or D&D. These games provide enjoyable challenges that seem to have a positive impact on cognitive abilities. Plus, they are social activities—and that is no doubt better for a person than playing brain games online solo.

 

My Amazon Author Page

My Paizo Page

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Cheben at Paizo Store & DriveThruRPG

Posted in Pathfinder by Michael LaBossiere on December 28, 2013

Cheben-Cover

Description

The good folks of Cheben have four problems they need solved.  To start things off, the dead have been walking about in the old graveyard and scouts have reported seeing something else skulking around the old mausoleum. Good Father Rollin would go deal with them himself, but he is busy ministering to the spiritual needs of the community.

Second, goblins have been spotted near the old auxiliary armory and it is feared they might have set up a base of operations on the island. The militia would handle the problem, but the mayor worries that the goblins might be engaged in a ruse to lure away the defenders of the town.

Third, an area of woods near the town is permanently in shadow, no doubt due to magic of some sort. Two hunters have gone missing in the woods and others have reported siting strange creatures in the woods. The town wizard would deal with this, but he is busy with critical research, which leads to the final problem.

Kosven, the town wizard, needs some brave souls to investigate an old and abandoned library. The library has reputation for being haunted and no one in the town wants to face what lurks within its walls.

As usual, it is up to starting adventurers to solve the villagers’ problems. Or die trying.

Cheben is a Pathfinder Role Playing Game compatible adventure. It is intended for a party of 1st-3rd level characters.

Here are some of the features of the adventure:

  • Detailed color maps for the adventure.
  • Full statistics are included for all encounters—no need to look up monsters.
  • New Monsters (Paper Phantom, Silent Guardian (Least), Rage Wolf, and Whip Plant).
  • Retro Art (=Bad Art).
  • A complete campaign starter adventure with four distinct adventure areas.

Available  on Amazon
Available at DriveThruRPG
Available at the Paizo Store

Downloads

Cheben Monsters & Maps

Hero Lab Portfolio Folder

See paizo.com/pathfinderRPG for more information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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Tomb of Kerakos at Paizo & DriveThruRPG

Posted in Pathfinder by Michael LaBossiere on December 4, 2013

A Pathfinder compatible adventure for 3rd-6th level characters.

Description

While most human cities grow with life, the great city of Thetos arose from a devotion to the study of death. Over the centuries, necromancers from around the world (and perhaps other worlds) have been drawn to the secret wisdom hidden within her walls. It is said that even the great necromancer Rils abided for a time within the city.

Tales speak of those who came seeking the knowledge of Rils and most tales end with the final death of the seeker. Some few, such as Kerakos, managed to survive the tests and become great necromancers. When Rils departed from the city his students honored him by creating their own challenges in imitation of those they had faced. Kerakos, reputed to be among the greatest of Rils’ students, reputably created just such a tomb within the desert near Thetos. While the tales of the tomb vary, most of them share a common detail: anyone who can survive the dangers of the tomb can shed the bonds of mortality and gain everlasting existence.

Tomb of Kerakos is a Pathfinder Role Playing Game compatible adventure. It is intended for a party of 3rd-6th level characters. It is written to follow Rils’ Lesser Sanctum, but can be run as a stand-alone adventure.

Here are some of the features of the adventure:

  • Detailed color maps for the adventure.
  • Full statistics are included for all encounters—no need to look up monsters.
  • New Monsters ( Desert Ghast, Desert Zombie, and Kerakos Mummy)
  • New Magic Items (Armor of Kerakos, Scarab of Kerakos).
  • Free Hero Lab portfolio.
  • Giant scorpions.

Available on Amazon
Available at DriveThruRPG
Available at the Paizo Store

Downloads

Tomb of Kerakos Monsters & Maps PDF

Hero Lab Portfolio Folder

See paizo.com/pathfinderRPG for more information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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Broken Mine at Paizo & DriveThruRPG

Posted in Pathfinder by Michael LaBossiere on October 4, 2013

A Pathfinder compatible adventure for 4th-6th level characters.

Description

Old stories tell of the wizard Kelsun, better known as Kelsun the Mad Prophet, who was driven mad by visions of a world-shaking disaster. Fortunately, his madness proved to be benevolent—he set out, in his odd way, to help ensure that items of power would be available to help rebuild civilization after the disaster. Unfortunately, his benevolent madness was…madness. He created strange dungeons filled with exotic traps and monsters to guard these items. As most dungeon creators do, he left cryptic and even bizarre clues regarding the locations of his caches.

One such clue was entrusted to an order of druids and, after centuries, they finally managed to locate the dungeon in question. However, as is always the case, they will call on the heroic adventurers to recover the item promised to them, a magical vine. In return, the brave survivors will be able to keep all the other treasures of the broken mine.

Broken Mine is a Pathfinder Role Playing Game compatible adventure. It is intended for a party of 4th-6th level characters.

Here are some of the features of the adventure:

  • Random encounters for the area.
  • Detailed color maps for the adventure.
  • Full statistics are included for all encounters—no need to look up monsters.
  • Unusual traps.
  • Hero Lab support.

Available on Amazon.

Available at DriveThruRPG.

Available at Paizo.

Downloads

Broken Mine Monsters & Maps PDF

Hero Lab Portfolio Folder

See paizo.com/pathfinderRPG for more information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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Tower of Zakelana at DriveThruRPG & Paizo Store

Posted in Miscellaneous, Pathfinder by Michael LaBossiere on September 19, 2013

Zakelena-Cover

Description

Roughly three centuries ago the young Zakelana began her adventuring career as a wizard. She was well known for her gift for turning foes to allies and for having a rather broad definition of what counted as a legitimate target for adventuring. This approach earned her the anger of many powerful people who sent assassins or monsters to exact their vengeance. Whenever possible, Zakelana attempted to persuade any would be killer to switch sides. The best known example occurred when a rival mage send a creature to torment Zakelana in her dreams. According to the tale, Zakelana was able to win over the creature with the gift of a pony named “Giggles.”

In her later years, she retired from adventuring and one day she simply vanished. Some speculate a final experiment failed and banished her eternally to some other dimension. Another tale relates how one of her many enemies finally killed her. In any case, she vanished but left behind a tower and a magical gateway to the space containing the tower. Some tales claim that the guards of the tower are monsters that Zakelana won over but could not allow to roam freely. The tales also speak of the great wealth and magical secrets within the tower.

Tower of Zakelana is a Pathfinder Role Playing Game compatible adventure. It is intended for a party of 10th-12th   level characters.

Here are some of the features of the adventure:

  • Usable as a side adventure or extended encounter.
  • Detailed color map for the adventure.
  • Full statistics are included for all encounters—no need to look up monsters.
  • New spells (Zakelana’s Dimensional Tunnel and Zakelana’s Dimensional Pit).

Available on Amazon.

Available at DriveThruRPG.

Available at the Paizo store.

Downloads

Tower of Zakelana Monsters & Map PDF

Hero Lab Portfolio Folder

See paizo.com/pathfinderRPG for more information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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Dragon Hunt Now at Paizo and DriveThruRPG

Posted in Pathfinder by Michael LaBossiere on August 31, 2013

A Pathfinder Role Playing Game compatible adventure for 8th-12th level characters.

Description

The once peaceful town of Gremsel is no longer peaceful. Several months ago a ferocious red dragon landed in the center of the town and gave the people an ultimatum: either they would pay him tribute or he would consume every creature in the town, from the smallest cat to the largest cow. Unable to stand against such a beast, the people agreed to his demand.

Hope arrived in town with a new magistrate possessing funds to hire bold adventurers. Sadly for the good folks of Gremsel, hope quickly departed as the dragon boldly killed the adventurers, returning only their charred skulls to the center of town.

Desperate and short on funds, the magistrate of Gremsel has put out a call for heroes bold (and generous) enough to face the dragon. Will the new heroes slay the dragon or shall their charred skulls join the tastefully arranged pile in the center of the town?

Dragon Hunt is a Pathfinder Role Playing Game compatible adventure. It is intended for a party of 8th-11th level characters.

Here are some of the features of the adventure:

  • A dragon. In a dungeon.
  • Detailed maps for the area and dungeons.
  • Full statistics are included for all encounters—no need to look up monsters.
  • A robust narrative with opportunities for both role-play and combat.
  • 99 cents!

Available  on Amazon.

Available at the Paizo store.

Available at DriveThruRPG.

Downloads

Dragon Hunt Map & Monsters PDF

Hero Lab Portfolio Folder

See paizo.com/pathfinderRPG for more information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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Kelok’s Tomb Available Now at DriveThru RPG

Posted in Pathfinder by Michael LaBossiere on August 21, 2013

A Pathfinder compatible adventure for 2nd-4th level characters.

Description

The wizard Kelok achieved some minor fame developing original spells, some of which were apparently extremely dangerous to the caster. While some of his descendants claim he developed many spells still used today, unbiased experts claim that his original spells have all been lost. His detractors claim that this is a good thing, at least for wizards who prefer not to be imploded by their own magic.

Because of his love of magical research and dangerous machines, it is perhaps fitting that the legends claim that he met his end whilst researching a new spell. Those friendly to his memory claim that he perished while nobly expanding the boundaries of magical knowledge. His detractors insist he perished while making his last and greatest mistake. Whatever the truth of the matter, nothing has been heard from Kelok in 150 years and it has long been accepted that he perished and was placed within a tomb of his own design.

Little is known of his tomb. According to legend, the tomb was located in the wilderness to keep unwanted grave robber and pilfering adventures away from his treasures. There are, of course, the usual tales about the tomb of any wizard, namely that it is packed with great wealth and fantastic items. Naturally, there are also the usual tales of the elaborate precautions, terrible traps, and vicious monsters that protect the tomb.

Here are some of the features of the adventure:

  • Interesting encounters on the journey the tomb.
  • Detailed color maps for the tomb.
  • New monster (Iron Guardian).
  • New spells (Kelok’s Claw, Kelok’s Companion, and Tigermane’s Wolfskin).
  • New Traps (Fire Square and Ice Square).
  • Full statistics are included for all encounters—no need to look up monsters or traps.
  • Robust opportunities for role-play and combat.
  • For character levels 2-4.

Available on Amazon.

Available at the Paizo Store.

Available at DriveThru RPG.

Downloads

Kelok’s Tomb Monsters & Maps PDF

Hero Lab Portfolio Folder

See paizo.com/pathfinderRPG for more information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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Hunter

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Running by Michael LaBossiere on August 5, 2013
English: A white-tailed deer

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I return to visit my home town in Maine, I run my favorite route. This year was no exception and the early morning found me running through the forests and fields of the University of Maine. Emerging from a section of the cool and shaded pine forest, I spotted a large buck standing, with a clear sense of the aesthetic, in an open area. He saw me almost immediately and our eyes met across the distance.

The deer and I are both the product of untold generations of natural selection (or, perhaps, the result of design) and we are both well equipped to do what it is that we do. Or, in more teleological terms, we possess attributes that enable us to fulfill our functions with a degree of excellence.

Both the deer and I are equipped with a decent array of senses, although the deer has something of an edge here. We are, interestingly enough, both well optimized for running. However, we are somewhat different sorts of runners. The deer is much faster than I, but I have an advantage in endurance. While I am not a tireless runner, I can (and have) run for hours. The deer can outrun me, but I can outlast the deer. So, a contest between us could come down to his speed against my endurance. I also have a special advantage—my species excels at handling heat. On this warm day, this gives me an edge over the deer.

While the deer is equipped with hooves and horns for offense, I would seem to be poorly equipped. As a human, I lack a proper set of killing teeth and my nails are stubs—shameful nubs when compared to the magnificent claws of a proper mammalian predator like a lion or beer.

However, I have hands and a pretty good brain. As such, I can make and use weapons. For example, the tree limbs I ran past could be easily converted into a club. I also have the ability to throw quite well, thanks to my eyes and arms—unlike any other animal I can hurl an object with force and accuracy over a fairly long distance. Even without weapons, my training allows me to use my hands, feet and grip lethally. In this regard, I am more than a match for the deer in unarmed combat. However, the deer is not helpless. Far from it—nature has blessed him with the tools he needs to survive against hunters like me and my four-legged brethren.

As I look at the deer, the remembered flavor of venison fills my mouth. Venison is my second favorite meat. My favorite is veal, which I gave up almost thirty years ago thanks to Singer’s book Animal Liberation. I also feel the runner’s desire to see if I can outrun someone else. I also have the mental traits that make me a suitable hunter: the aggression, courage and toughness needed to engage another living creature and inflict (and sustain) the damage needed to secure a meal. The deer also has his traits: caution, cunning and courage—I know that while he would endeavor to run, he would also fight for his survival.

The deer shifts slightly and seems to gaze more intently at me—as if he somehow knows that I am hearing the ancient call of the hunter. I can certainly feel the desire to pursue the deer, to face the challenge of the chase. I can see that the deer is getting ready to run. As I have been shaped by my hunter ancestors, he has been shaped by his ancestors—the hunted. We are, as I have said, both very good at what it is we do. We are, after all, what we are.

While I am well equipped for the hunt, I am also endowed with something else—the ability to engage in moral reasoning. While I am hungry (I am seven miles into a 14 mile run), I know that I have breakfast waiting for me. I have no need to kill the deer for food. I will not waste a life simply to gain a trophy, so I would certainly not rob the deer of his life merely in order to rob him of his antlers. While I would love to chase him for sport, I am sure he would not enjoy the game—he would not know it was a game and it would terrify him and waste his energy. As Kant said, cruelty for the sake of mere sport is not something that I, as a rational being, should be involved with. I will not play a game unless everyone involved knows it is just a game. At least, when I am at my moral best, that is what I will do—I do admit to the desire to yield to the call of the chase.

I turn away from the deer, running through the tall grass. The deer turns away as well, heading back into the woods. It is a beautiful day and we both have many miles to run.

 

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Shark Island Pathfinder RPGCA Free on Amazon

Posted in Pathfinder by Michael LaBossiere on July 11, 2013

Shark-Island-Cover

A Pathfinder Role Playing Game compatible adventure for 1st 3rd level characters.

Free on Amazon from 7/11/2013-7/15/2013

Description

After the fall of a great empire, the survivors set out in the remaining ships in search of new lives elsewhere in the world. In the course of the voyage, some of the ships became lost. During one particularly violent storm, several ships were separated from the main fleet and most of those were destroyed. A few, however, survived to see the sun shining on a promising new home-a seemingly empty island. After discussing the matter, the captains decided to remain on the island and the people set out to construct a fortress and a village.

For the first year, things went well for them. They completed their houses, established the fortress and planted crops. Unfortunately, the survivors had brought their doom with them.

Available on Amazon.

Downloads

Shark Island Monsters & Maps

See paizo.com/pathfinderRPG for more information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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