November’s here and along with the chill it’s bringing a pile of delightful new d20 products for us to salivate over.
Dungeons & Dragons
Last month my daughter was beyond thrilled to see Battle for Baldur’s Gate hit shelves. This expansion for the D&D card game Dungeon Mayhem stars the shapeshifting druid Jaheira and the ranger Minsc alongside Boo, his miniature, giant space hamster.
Recent Pathfinder 2e releases from Rogue Genius Games include three new entries in their ‘Monster Omnicron’ line: Conductor Devil by James Case, Dy’etu by Ivis K. Flanagan, and Panoptant by Luis Loza; as well as The Ghosts of Sparwell Lodge, a 2e adventure intended for 4th level characters written by Ron Lundeen.
Tails of Equestria
My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria releases an exciting new boxed set this month: Ogres and Oubliettes includes 130 pawns, an assortment of plastic bases, a poster map of Equestria, and a brand new adventure ‘Dungeon of the Diabolical Draconequus,’ starring fan favourite villain: Discord! My kids are absolutely over the moon for this one!
Speaking of my kids, my daughter’s creation ‘Sky Bunnies’ was recently picked up by the Tails of Equestria RPG for their ‘Creature Feature.’ She’s beyond thrilled!
And finally, WizKids launches another awesome set of miniatures with Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures! This collection features art from the new Pathfinder Second Edition and is the first to include Huge sized miniatures in a very long time. The spoilers I’ve seen look fantastic!
And that’s what we’re touching on this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!
Early in July I participated in a mini-competition on Freelance Forge (a very welcoming private forum for freelancers in the tabltetop RPG industry that I highly recommend aspiring freelancers join!) that challenged participants with creating a Starfinder creature themed around the phrase ‘Red, White, and BOOM!’ — a topic meant to bring to mind Independence Day but, as a Canadian, I immediately thought of Canada Day (happily they both involve fireworks! Haha). The goal of the competition is not to win, but to get inspired, practise making creatures, and to give and receive feedback on each others creations, so that we improve our skills. It was a lot of fun — both the act of creating, and getting to read everyone else’s entries. With the competition over I decided to incorporate some of the feedback I received and post my newly-polished, explosive little creature on d20 diaries.
Introducing… the scintrix!
CR 5 XP 1,600
CN Medium fey Init +5; Senses low-light vision; Perception +11
DEFENSE HP 70; RP 4 EAC 17; KAC 19 Fort +9; Ref +9; Will +4 Defensive Abilities vanishing trick
Str +3; Dex +5; Con +1; Int +0; Wis +1; Cha +2 Skills Acrobatics +11, Stealth +16, Survival +11 Languages Common, Sylvan Other Abilities aglow, compression
Aglow (Ex) A scintrix increases the light level by one step out to a radius of 10 feet. This glow is suppressed while the scintrix is invisible.
Brilliant Bolt(Su) As an attack, a scintrix can shoot a brightly colored bolt of energy from its body at a single target, which explodes upon impact in a shower of sparkling rainbow-hued light. This attack has a range increment of 60 ft. and the aurora weapon special property.
Explosive Entrance(Su) A scintrix that uses its bite attack while under the effects of vanishing trick reappears with an explosive bang and a flash of scintillating colors. Any creature within 10 feet, other than scintrix, must succeed at a DC 13 Fortitude save or be blinded for 1d3 rounds; on a successful save the creature is instead dazzled for 1d3 rounds.
Vanishing Trick(Su) As a standard action a scintrix can cause its body to disappear, leaving only its eyes and mouth visible. This functions as if the scintrix were invisible. The scintrix can maintain this invisibility as long as they desire, though it ends immediately if the scintrix attacks, sleeps, falls unconscious, or dies. By spending 1 Resolve Point, a scintrix can instead activate vanishing trick as a move action.
Environment any forest, jungle, or plains
Organization solitary, pair, or flare (3–7)
Scintrix are the fey embodiment of shock, surprise, and sudden excitement – a burst of vibrant energy given life and shifting form. At home in forests, jungles, and plains, throughout the universe, scintrix are most commonly found on planets with particularly vibrant colors, wild magic, unpredictable weather, or thin planar boundaries. Where nature, physics, or magic defy logic, scintrix are sure to appear.
Scintrix are animalistic quadrupeds with a stocky, thick-set body, gleaming eyes, and a wide grinning mouth filled with white sharp teeth. Their bodies are a kaleidoscope of brightly colored, shifting streaks of light that crackle and burst with energy. Only their eyes, mouth, paws, the tips of their short, pointed ears, and the ends of their frazzled, bushy tail remain stable. Despite appearing as bursts of light and color, the body of a scintrix is squishy and pliable, capable of squeezing through spaces much smaller than their size suggests.
Cunning and clever, with an appetite for fun as well as meat, scintrix are pranksters that take great glee in surprising their prey before devouring them. Stealth hunters, scintrix can become unnaturally quiet and still at a moment’s notice, vanishing from sight almost completely, with only their eyes and mouth remaining visible. They stalk their prey, leaping out to attack only when their prey is completely unaware. Their appearance is marked by a loud bang, blinding flash of light, and bursts of scintillating color.
Vain and talkative, scintrix prefer to hunt intelligent beings. Playful, they enjoy toying with their food, bursting in and out of a fight with crackling laughter, only to vanish and surprise their prey again later. When faced with particularly entertaining prey, scintrix are known to draw their hunts out over weeks, engage their foe in conversation, or take their prey captive as pets. Unfortunately for such prisoners, scintrix are easily bored.
My kids love playing roleplaying games and, on occasion, they take the time to create monsters, locations, and adventures of their own. Yesterday I shared a critter created by my son for the Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game called Mini Notes. Today, we’re taking a look at a creature made by my daughter: Sky Bunnies!
Tails of Equestria is a family-friendly RPG that’s accessible, engaging, and fun to play. Based on the popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television show, Tails of Equestria emphasizes teamwork, kindness, and friendship. For more information on Tails of Equestria check out this blog post.
Body: D6 Mind: D4 Charm: D4 Stamina: 10
Talents: Consume (D8), Fly (D8)
Cute and cuddly but vicious, the nimble sky bunnies dance from cloud to cloud. They are constantly hungry and even though they love to eat ponies best they’ll swoop down from the sky and eat everything they see! They move around a lot, flying off to new places as soon as food or animals are running out.
My daughter hopes you love her ‘vicious cutie pie.’
Thanks for stopping by!
UPDATE:My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria has officially adopted my daughter’s Sky Bunnies for their Creature Feature!
My kids love playing roleplaying games and, on occasion, they take the time to create monsters, locations, and adventures of their own. Over the next two days we’re going to share a pair of critters they created for Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game, a family-friendly RPG that’s accessible, engaging, and fun to play. Based on the popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television show, Tails of Equestria emphasizes teamwork, kindness, and friendship. For more information on Tails of Equestria check out this blog post.
Today we’re showing off my son’s creation. He’s hopes you enjoy it!
Body: – Mind: D8 Charm: D4 Stamina: 6
Talents: Teeny Tiny (D6), Creative flair: music (D6), Special skill: dancing (D6)
Special: Must sing instead of speak
Mini Notes are tiny creatures that love to sing and dance. Especially brainy, they are quick, clever, and always sing instead of speak. Their love of music usually brings them to towns and cities with lots of music and festivals. In the wild they are often found near birds or whales.
He’s very proud.
Thanks for stopping by!
UPDATE:My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria has officially adopted my son’s Mini Notes for their Creature Feature!
Over a year ago my family started playing the Dead Suns Adventure Path by play-by-post. The hows and whys of our decision to play online instead of at a table in our own home, and why we started playing it in the first place, is something I’ve already written about. Suffice to say, time is a factor (it always is, isn’t it?). Time to play, time to prep, time we could be dedicating to other games or other things.
Life’s busy. But, my kids adore the Dead Suns Adventure Path. They love their characters, and have a blast playing them. So, due in no small part to the requests of both of my children, we’re finally bringing our Dead Suns campaign to a proper table! Which means, it’s time to talk Dead Suns…
Dead Suns is a six-part Adventure Path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game that sees your PCs join the Starfinder Society, and race to gain control of an ancient super weapon before the undead Corpse Fleet or the terrifying Cult of the Devourer get their hands on it and lay waste to the galaxy! Dead Suns and its supplementary products include:
You can also check out the awesome trailer for Dead Suns below:
Dead Suns is the first campaign that was released for Starfinder, which means there’s a few kinks to iron out, particularly in regards to the difficulty of starship combat. It’s a fun, tough adventure, and my family is sure to have their hands full surviving to the end. There’s only three of them (four if we include my NPC), and my children don’t always make the most sound tactical decisions. To top it all off, my family did NOT make a balanced party AT ALL. But, you know what we did make? A goofy, group of weirdos that are a ton of fun to play.
So who are the heroes of our Dead Suns campaign?
So glad you asked!
At the centre of our team is my NPC T’Kesh. I know, I know. I’m the GM so why the heck is my character the heart of the team? For reasons I’ve already written about here! Haha. It makes sense, I swear!
T’Kesh is a red-scaled ikeshti (think of them as alien kobolds) from Akiton who, like most of her people, has a voracious appetite, a knack for surviving in the harshest of environments, and a willingness to stick pretty much anything in her mouth. She’s a hunter and a cook, and soon found she was exceptional at both. Like all ikeshti, life changed when she reached adulthood. Ikeshti who are in heat become incredibly aggressive, growing larger and angrier until they successfully mate and lay eggs. Those who cannot mate successfully turn into ravenous, violent monsters known as riveners. Luckily, T’Kesh found a mate and laid a clutch of eggs. Then, she and her mate fought to the death! (Which is absolutely normal behaviour for ikeshti parents. I blame the hormones…). TKesh won, which allowed her to become something known as a Congregant — a female ikeshti that is overcome with the need to ensure the success of her people as a whole. Not necessarily her individual eggs or young, but the whole of the ikeshti race. So T’Kesh set out to find a male brood-minder to tend to her eggs, dragged him back to her nest, and took off, heading for the nearest city. She marketed her talents at hunting and cooking, entering contests, competitions, and making home-made survival and cooking videos until she went viral. She bought herself a ship and convinced a local holo-vid station to let her have her own reality show: T’Kesh: Killer Chef! In the time since T’Kesh has travelled the Pact Worlds and beyond, surviving in harsh environments, hunting her own prey, and turning it into delicious gourmet meals. Whatever she doesn’t eat she turns into her own line of R2Es named after each episode of her show. T’Kesh: Killer Chef became a hit, allowing T’Kesh to send a hefty amount of credits back to her people.
T’Kesh is a bombastic, self-centred, resourceful ikeshti with a habit of narrating her exploits to the constantly filming video drones that follow her around. She fights with a survival knife, tactical pistol, and a sniper rifle. Mechanically, T’Kesh is an icon operative explorer that uses her surroundings to her advantage. She’s well-versed in a variety of physical, social, and survival skills, but knows next to nothing about technology.
While on Akiton T’Kesh met an SRO named Rabbot. Small in stature and rather slender, with a square squat base with large treads, a pole-like body, two stick-like arms, and two skinny antennae that stick up out of her head like the rabbit ears on an old tv, Rabbot is a bit of an enigma. She doesn’t talk about where she comes from, nor why she felt the need to work with T’Kesh. But, when T’Kesh was in need of a cinematographer for her hit show, Rabbot showed up for the job. In addition to working the cameras, Rabbot’s antennae function as a signal booster, and her torso can reconfigure itself into a small stove. Unknown to all but Rabbot, the little SRO has a hidden compartment in her forearm which contains a single, tiny, rabbit stuffed toy. Rabbot is very protective of her ‘baby’ and pets it when no one it looking. At all other times she denies its existence.
Rabbot is two and a half feet tall but can adjust her telescopic body and neck to be taller and shorter at will. Her treads allow her to be highly mobile, but make stairs and getting up onto high surfaces difficult. In such terrain Rabbot activates ‘jump mode’ which allows her to bounce up onto higher surfaces with ease and is likely the origin of her name. Rabbot has a robotic, monotone voice, and always begins every sentence with “Beep…. bop… rabbot…” making her seem rather serious and dim — which couldn’t be further from the truth! Rabbot is intelligent, cunning, and fond of telling jokes.
Mechanically, Rabbot is a roboticist operative with the ghost specialization. She’s prone to quickly building barricades for cover and protection, before slinking off to another location entirely without anyone noticing. She’s exceptionally good at acrobatics, disguise, stealth, and sleight of hand, and is a fair judge of character. She’s a solid pilot and engineer with a preference for tinkering with mechanical devices over computers. Rabbot fights with an azimuth laser pistol and is my seven-year old daughter’s character.
My daughter is the driving force behind us playing Dead Suns in the first place, and finally bringing it to the table. Her absolute love for Rabbot and her companions, and passion for the game is absolutely astounding to see in one so young. She’s thrilled to share Rabbot with all of you!
The next person to join the T’Kesh: Killer Chef crew was Nubb, a snot-nosed goblin with a habit of sticking everything in his mouth. Yes, everything. Once experimented on by unknown parties, Nubb has an advanced AI installed in his brain which makes him exceptionally intelligent and good with technology. Of course, Nubb himself is exceptionally dumb, even by goblin standards, which makes the Nubb of today a strange mix of reckless stupidity, wanton destruction, and computer genius, mixed with bouts of astounding brilliance. Interfacing with his AI through a series of holographic screens transmitted directly to his eyes, Nubb is often seen poking randomly at the air and talking to himself, going through the motions of touching screens only he can see. Nubb works as T’Kesh’s editor, prepping the footage into episodes of her show, and transmitting them to the show’s producers back on Akiton.
Mechanically, Nubb is a cyberborn operative with the hacker specialization. He’s nimble, smart (most of the time), and a whiz with technology of all kinds. He fights with a survival knife, needler pistol, and a laser pistol, but the majority of his wealth is invested in the AI and computer installed in his brain. Nubb is my husband’s character and the resident trapfinder, disabler, and hacker.
Finally, we have Skitt. Skitt is a super helpful yellow skittermander that desperately misses the little ‘tummy mouth’ he was born with. It was so helpful for eating! And Skitt LOVES eating. Eventually he had a new one made and installed as an augmentation, which he thinks is really neat. Skitt met the crew of T’Kesh: Killer Chef on Vesk-6 and, after hearing the word ‘chef’ Skitt couldn’t help but offer them his friendly services! T’Kesh told him to get lost — over and over again — but Skitt was always good with people! So he cast charm person and her and she didn’t complain anymore. …For a few days, at least! And so Skitt became a member of the crew! He works cameras (usually accidentally filming his feet) and helps with dialogue (which usually results in scenes having to be reshot). T’Kesh fires him at least once a week, but his magic-friend-making-smiley-spell always fixes that up real quick! Despite the many ways that Skitt messes everything up, he is friendly, helpful, enthusiastic, and cheery, making him the cheerleader and emotional heart of the group. He loves to sing and dance, and can even talk to animals — a trait which T’Kesh occasionally makes use of on her hunts.
Mechanically, Skitt is a priest mystic who worships Weydan, god of discovery, exploration, and freedom. He has the xenodruid connection and knowledge of a variety of living things. His favourite spells are charm person, life bubble, and mystic cure, while his favourite zero-level spells are ghost sound, stabilize, telekinetic projectile, and token spell. Although Skitt carries a survival knife and a laser pistol, he much prefers to use telekinetic projectile to throw things around with his mind — always being sure to point his many hands at his enemies like guns and shout ‘PEW PEW PEW!’ at them. Skitt is my eight-year-old son’s character.
Yes, you read that right. My family of four made three operatives for an adventure path. All the characters are small and dextrous, and none of them are physically strong. Far from a balanced party, I know. But, you know what we’re good at? Skills! Haha.
The Dead Suns Adventure Path begins with Incident at Absalom Station. The PCs have just arrived on the station to meet with a dwarf by the name of Durovar Kreel, who is supposed to be their contact in the Starfinder Society. Unfortunately, he dies in the first scene and it’s up to the PCs to work with the Starfinder Society to solve his murder. This leads the PCs to joining the Starfinder Society, and sets in motion a series of events that will take them farther and farther away from their home in order to save the Pact Worlds.
When my family started playing this adventure path we were already playing in the Starfinder Society, and didn’t want our AP characters to be doing the same thing. So, we decided to make a few changes. Although the AP itself and its characters would remain the same, the organization we work for would have a different name and purpose. It’s name?
That’s a story for another time!
We’ll be back later this week with our first campaign update for Dead Suns: Busted Up Dreams! See you then!
The Dead Suns Pawn Collection contains over a hundred pawns that include allies, enemies, monsters, and starships. The minis in this set are highly versatile, and definitely going to see some heavy use even after the campaign is over.
There’s a lot of awesome pawns in this collection, so narrowing down our favourites was tricky! Our favourite medium figures are the dwarf, Durovar Kreel, and the Downside Kings thugs. Both are incredibly versatile, easy to use, and look awesome. Our favourite large pawns are the whiskered renkroda, Ilthisarian, Gatecrasher, and scavenger slime. Why? They look like nothing else I own. Of the big pawns, I like the sky fisher a lot, while for ships I like the Crypt Warden, a ‘Batplane’-like Eoxian ship, and the Barrow Catacomb, which looks fierce!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why Dead Suns? It’s been out a while now. Surely I’d rather have Against the Aeon Throne or Alien Archive 2?
Our story begins back when Starfinder was new… The rulebook had just hit my hands and I was scouring it for character concepts and cool locations to adventure in. ‘Eww, bugs!’ I thought, ‘NOT playing a shirren.’ (My, how the tables have turned! I love those fellas!). I was excited to check out the first Adventure Path and see what the Starfinder Society would look like. So imagine my surprise when I realized the first adventure path would feature the Starfinder Society. Why would I want to adventure with them when I’m going to get a ton of that in the Starfinder Society? In short, I didn’t. A little disappointed I gave Dead Suns a cursory glance and decided to jump into the Starfinder Society with both feet.
It wasn’t a mistake. I adore the Starfinder Society, both it’s structure, low price point, and exciting adventures. 100% huge fan. But, later down the line when I was getting into the world of play-by-post gaming I was looking for some fun Starfinder games to join –– I was up to date with all the SFS scenarios at the time –– when I stumbled across a recruitment for the Dead Suns Adventure Path. I created a character, applied, and was accepted. We had some rough patches at first. Players arguing and some drop-outs. But the GM crafted a really detailed world for us to adventure in, and it showed. Unfortunately, we played together only a few months before the GM stopped posting, and my glitching, emotionless, android mechanic hung up her adventuring shoes. I was disappointed, of course. But, I was also hooked.
I loved Dead Suns.
So, a short while later, when my brother asked if I’d let him practise GMing a one-shot of Starfinder I hopped at the chance. I offered him one of my SFS scenarios to practise on, but he declined. He owned the first volume of Dead Suns and wanted to give it a shot.
I spent a solid week planning my character. There would only be myself and an NPC run by my brother, and we would only have a single afternoon to play together (while our kids ran around my house causing havoc), so it needed to be something easy to play, and have a personality or background I could capitalize on quickly. Something fun! Something crazy! With a race I couldn’t use in SFS.
I decided to make an ikeshti congregant who left Akiton to make her fortune. She could send her money back home to support her people and adventure for both excitement and coin. Simple motivations that would let her hop into the action. So how, exactly, would she make her fortune? Reality TV! My ikeshti, named T’kesh, would be a reality star known for hunting down exotic prey, cooking it, and eating it. Everything she didn’t eat she would craft into her own line of R2Es named after the episodes and dishes she created! She was a hunter, chef, and daredevil! I decided to call her show ‘T’Kesh: Killer Chef!’ I made her an operative with the explorer specialization. She fought with a knife, tactical pistol, and sniper rifle.
When I told my brother he laughed and decided to create his character to be her cameraman. A mystic lashunta who dreams of creating award winning documentaries, the poor guy was stuck filming my crazed ikeshti’s absurd hunting-cooking show.
Thus prepared we sat down to play. We only got a few minutes into the session before my daughter stuck her head up to the table. She was six at the time, and had only learned how to play Starfinder a week or two before. “Can I play, Uncle?” she asked.
“…Uh…. No, I don’t think so. I don’t have time to help you play today.”
My daughter gave him a pouty scowl and stayed there, stubbornly perched at the edge of the table with her eyes and nose just barely above the tabletop.
Soon the first fight broke out. “Can I at least roll something?” My daughter asked. “I can count, you know.”
My brother said no again, but I’m a sucker for including kids in RPGs. “Oh, let her roll something. She can grab a mini from your bucket and act like a bystander. You use an enemy stat block and she’ll just move and roll. It’ll be fine.”
My brother relented and my daughter peeked into the mini bucket. She found little droid mini from the Star Wars RPG and plopped it on the table. “This is Rabbot!” she announced grandly. “I am an SRO operative with the ghost thing! I will sneak around really quiet like a bunny! I have antenna on my head, and they look sort of like skinny rabbit ears! Also, I am your second cameraman! My eyes record pictures and sound like a camera and my tummy can turn into a stove.” She moved her mini onto the board. “Beep… bop… rabbot… Oh no…. what is with this… fighting…”
When it was her first turn she looked at the board and then looked up at my brother. “Does rabbot have a tactical pistol or an ‘az-ma’ laser pistol? I hope it is a laser one. They shoot way further.”
“Uh… sure. Laser pistol.”
“YAY!” she moved her mini around behind some cover then snuck up on top of a crate. “Trick attack with stealth!” she yelled, rolling her dice. Then she did her best robot voice. “Beep… bop… rabbot… eat this…” She fired her laser pistol, scored a critical hit, and spent the rest of the fight being an absolute rockstar. She was focused, remembered all her rules, and spontaneously created an adorable, thoroughly entertaining character.
When the game was done my brother left and my daughter grinned, “When do we play next, Mom?”
“We don’t,” I told her. “Sorry, baby. We were just playing Dead Suns that one time.”
“But, Rabbot is the coolest.” She gave me a pouty face then added in her best robot voice, “Beep… bop… rabbot… don’t let me… die…” She stuck out her tongue and closed her eyes, making a very silly ‘dead face.’
We didn’t have time to play another game at the table, so I had to say no. But, weeks passed, then months, and she never lost interest. Eventually, I buckled. Sort of. I told her we could all make characters and try Dead Suns out as a play-by-post. But, it would be up to all of us to take the time to write out our turns. She was absolutely thrilled and forced everyone in the house to get characters made. She insisted I keep T’Kesh, of course, and that she would play Rabbot. My son made a skittermander mystic with the xenodruid connection. He named him Skitt and decided that he tried to be a helpful cameraman too, but he was horrible! In fact, the only reason T’Kesh allowed Skitt on her team was through Skitt’s heavy use of charm person spells. Also, he could talk to animals. My husband gave it some thought and ended up making a space goblin operative with a supercomputer implanted in his brain. He named him Nubb, and decided he could act as an editor for T’Kesh: Killer Chef!
Yes, we had a mystic and a whopping three operatives. SUCH a balanced team (not). Surely this would turn out great…
We didn’t always have the time to post in our Dead Suns campaign, but we never stopped playing it. Just this month both of my kids insisted that their Dead Suns characters were their very favourites and they really wanted to bring Dead Suns to the table. So, we did some shuffling and carved out some time. Dead Suns would enter out weekly game rotation.
I didn’t need to pick up the Dead Suns Pawn Collection. A lot of the minis I already have from the Core Rulebook, Pact Worlds, and Alien Archive could cover what I needed. But, my kids really love Dead Suns, and I wanted to make it special.
Plus, did I mention I love Pawn Collections? What better excuse could I have to pick them up!? Haha.
Minis in hand and statistics transferred to proper character sheets, we’re ready to bring this game to life.
My daughter couldn’t be happier. This morning she looked at me with her big brown eyes and gave me a giant hug. “Thanks for not letting Rabbot die, Mom.”
Wayfinder, a free magazine made by fans of Paizo’s popular roleplaying games, has just announced their topic of their next issue. Wayfinder #20 will be all about the Diaspora, an asteroid belt in the Starfinder RPG.
Everyone is welcome to create and submit an article to the fanzine, no previous experience required. Submissions can contain a wide array of content, from advice, fiction, poetry and songs, to aliens, enemies and allies, and new rules content. So whether you want to make some themes, monsters, or nifty places to explore, now’s your chance.
This Mother’s Day my kids wrote me poems and stories, drew me pictures, cards, and books. My son even made me a coaster to hold my drink. And my husband? He and my children got me character art commissioned for my favourite Pathfinder Society character!
I’ve never had character art for a character of mine before. My kids and I have drawn pictures of some of our characters on occasion. And sure, a picture here or there might inspire us to make a character similar in appearance. But custom professional art? Unheard of! So it was with great shock and surprise I awoke to discover my family had somehow procured gorgeous art of my beloved -1 PFS character.
Clearly I have a wonderful family and am beyond spoiled. Today I’m going to share that art with you!
Introducing Danicka Raburnus and her vicious dog, Prickles!
Danicka Raburnus was my very first Pathfinder Society character. My -1. I had played Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons, and other RPGs for a long time before making Danicka, but she was the first character meant for organized play. She marked my entry into the Pathfinder Society, and was the first in a series of wonderful characters, delightful roleplaying, and exciting adventures.
Danicka is… far from perfect. When it came time to create Danicka I wanted to do something different. Everyone has characters who are attractive, intelligent, healthy, brave, and so on. People who are special. Heroes. They’re not all perfect, and many have a flaw or two, but they usually have quite a few redeeming qualities. I’ve got plenty, myself. So when it came time to make Danicka I wanted to create a character who was different than those I’d made before. Someone who wasn’t a hero. Who wasn’t special. Someone hopelessly flawed and regrettably forgettable. Someone who wanted to be special, who wanted to be the hero, but just wasn’t.
I have a soft spot for making, strong, independent, female characters. I love playing half-orcs and dwarves. I love bards, rogues, oracles, and sorcerers. Adaptable characters with a flaw or two, and a bit of a scoundrel’s streak.
So I went out of my way to make Danicka different.
I made her a wizard, which I rarely do. And I went out of my way to make her as unremarkable as possible. She has an archetype that prevents her from having a familiar or an arcane bond––qualities that make her feel inferior to her fellow wizards and spellcasters. She learned spells that are visually unremarkable. No fireballs or flashy magic for this girl! She was intelligent and wise, but too shy and nervous to speak her mind.
I never use complimentary words to describe her. I don’t call her pretty, or fit, or athletic, or slender. She’s not even skinny. She’s scrawny. Boney. Her hair is frazzled, limp, plain, or mousey. Her skin is not like porcelain, or alabaster. It’s pale, freckled, and ink-stained. Her clothes are nice but ill-fitting, out of fashion, and in dull colours. She doesn’t show off any skin, covering herself from neck to fingers and toes. She doesn’t even wear nice boots, just flimsy cotton shoes that flop and squelch wildly whenever they get wet. She wears a floppy hat on her head. She has poor vision and wears plain spectacles.
It’s not that these qualities are undesirable or unattractive. They’re not. It’s that I designed her to be average and blend in, and that I describe all of her qualities in as uncomplimentary a fashion as I can.
She shrieks in battle. Gets queasy. Stammers, stutters, whimpers, and whispers. Her efforts to make friends are awkward and almost always end in failure. She’s shy and meek. Easily scared (often terrified!). She faints on occasion (though never in a way or at a time that would hinder her mission or the game). She’s weak, awkward, and extraordinarily clumsy.
But amidst all those awkward and oddly endearing qualities, she’s a hero. Not outwardly. Certainly not obviously. But she’s a good person. She won’t take a life. Ever. And she won’t condone it from her allies. In fact, wanton violence, destruction, theft, and other illegal deeds are among the only things that she’ll speak out against. She’d rather remove an enemy from a fight than cause someone harm. I gave her merciful spell as a feat to ensure her few damage dealing spells aren’t lethal. She’ll stabilize unconscious enemies, hurl herself into danger to protect someone else, and is always the first person to offer healing potions to the wounded. She’s generous and kind. She won’t lie and always gives her enemies a chance to surrender.
So, who was Danicka? Where did she come from? And what make such an ordinary, meek woman want to be a hero?
Danicka was born to a hero. Her mother, Portia Raburnus, was a wizard of great renown who helped saved the city of Magnimar not just once, but on three occasions. Danicka has always wanted to be just like her mother, and grew up studying the arcane arts. Her mother passed away five years ago, right before Danicka began her formal training at the local magical academy, Stone of Seers. Danicka always keeps her mother’s arcane bonded item with her—a highly decorative quarterstaff that looks remarkably like a broom. She had hoped to use the broom as her own arcane bonded item, but could never manage to make it work.
Danicka did well in school, but despite her academic achievements she was constantly overlooked—for Danicka was ordinary looking, and incredibly shy. Regrettably forgettable. Most people don’t even remember Portia Raburnus had a daughter.
Danicka’s recently graduated and set out to finally prove herself brave and bold! A hero, like her mother! She marched right into the local Pathfinder Lodge and demanded a job. Unfortunately, her demand came out a nervous whisper and they hired her as a maid. But, sweeping the floors used by bolder souls with her mother’s broom isn’t enough for Danicka Raburnus! She’s going to prove herself one day! Maybe after she’s done cleaning up the common room…
Danicka is incredibly shy. She speaks rarely, and when she does its in a whisper. She’s constantly trying to work up the courage to be louder, to make friends, and to do something, but her attempts at friendship always come out in awkward stuttering bursts, and her attempts to speak her mind end up with her randomly yelling something (and then losing the courage to finish). She’s easily embarrassed and was bullied on occasion in school (when her classmates could be bothered to remember she was there).
Danicka studies hard and loves to learn new things. She knows she’s a young woman of many flaws and is trying desperately to change. She wants to be brave and bold, but has yet to break out of her shell and really be herself.
Mechanically, she’s a wizard with the exploiter wizard archetype that’s a member of the Silver Crusade faction of the Pathfinder Society. She took the traits tireless logic and volatile conduit. Her beginning feats were eschew materials and merciful spell, although she later added spell focus (enchantment). She’s knowledgable and speaks a wide array of languages. For her first exploiter exploit she chose energy shield, although she never had the opportunity to use it until many adventures had passed. Some of her most commonly prepared low-level spells are daze, detect magic, read magic, comprehend languages, mage armour, shield, sleep, and merciful ray of frost or merciful magic missile. In time she learned that outsiders and undead were a threat her non-lethal methods couldn’t handle, so she started carrying a lethal wand, a few lethal scrolls, and some holy water around to combat such irredeemable threats.
I had intended to keep her a wizard for the entirety of her career, but along the way, things changed. Danicka changed.
After Danicka’s first mission in the world of play-by-post gaming, she was invited to join an ongoing campaign run by the delightful and incredibly talented GM ShieldBug. For a wonderful seven scenarios she had the pleasure of playing in a consistent group of awesome players. Her companions were very different from Danicka. Some were weird, some were liars, some were scoundrels, and most were violent. They pushed her buttons, shoved her out of her comfort zone, tested her morals, and urged her to change. With them she found her backbone. She found courage. She faced peer-pressure and discovered that there were things worth fighting for, even if it meant standing up to your allies. She made friends. She made enemies. She made mistakes. She became a hero. She saved people and towns.
Mostly, she was embarrassed.
But it wasn’t only Danicka that changed. Her friends did, too. She made them better people. And they made her brave.
On one of her adventures she was forced to interact with terrifying, man-eating, Thuvian desert dog. Miraculously she bonded with it, though it terrified her to no end. Later in the scenario she was forced to face the dog in combat, and she managed to convince him to stand down. The mission came to an end and I was faced with a turning point. Move on? Or keep the dog?
Danicka kept the dog. She named him Prickles, for his spiky fur (matted with the blood of his enemies) and terrifying demeanour. Although I could have just bought a dog and remained a wizard, I chose to multiclass Danicka into druid. I selected another understated archetype (the wonderful wild whisperer!) that removed some of the flashier of the druids abilities and replaced it with investigator’s inspiration and talents. She began to take ranks in handle animal, and survival. She used her druid spell slots to prepare healing magic. She took the feat boon companion, and statted up Prickles as a wolf.
Danicka spent the next while attempting to tame her vicious dog. I took great glee in role-played her fear of her own pet, and her worry that it will hurt someone. Prickles is clearly the alpha of the duo, but he usually listens to Danicka’s pleas. That said, out of fear, Danicka never tells Prickles to attack anyone. She’s too afraid she won’t be able to stop him from killing. Instead, she orders him to stay by her side. Mechanically, Prickles has the bodyguard archetype. He’s always on ‘defend’ and won’t enter a fight unless Danicka is hurt. However, if she’s hurt he flies into a rage and attacks whoever wounded her until they’re dead. Usually Danicka hurls herself between the enemy and her dog before they are devoured, but once or twice Prickles killed something––an event which filled Danicka with great regret. For his part, Prickles is used to his ‘pet’s’ panicked shrieks and mewling. But he’s incredibly territorial and won’t stand for anyone touching his ‘pet.’ Not even her allies. He’s a bit cantankerous, and won’t take ‘orders’ from anyone other than Danicka. And he only listens to Danicka if she begs.
All in all, they’re a comical pair, with my shy wizard desperately trying to handle her overwhelming pet.
On her most recent missions, Danicka’s had to bid her old friends farewell. She’s gone on new adventures with new teammates. Only Prickles has remained by her side. But, despite the distance, it’s her old friends that continue to drive her and inspire her. Mhazruk Kruhl and his terrifying familiar Needle, the burly Yaiho Crasher, the tap-dancing escaped-slave Forrest Glavo, the eccentric Arin Qualnoh blessed (or perhaps cursed) by the gods, and Brock Swiftread, a scoundrel if there ever was one. They’re the closest thing to family she’s ever had.
So here’s to Danicka and Prickles, and all the people and characters who have made her who she is. Here’s to the people who have GMed for her and played alongside her. The people who have put up with her panicked shrieks and bleeding heart. Here’s to my family, who brought one of my very favourite characters to life. And here’s to Joe Nittoly, the amazing artist who drew her. Thank you! Thank you! And thank you again! You’re the best!
And here’s to all of you, for taking the time to read about one of my favourite characters. Maybe I’ll see you around a PFS table one day.
Last year I shared my family’s experiences creating their first Starfinder characters. We had a lot of fun making a kooky crew, and tried them out a bit before deciding they would join the Starfinder Society. There were some changes that needed to be made. Tucker was a halfling, which would have to change, but otherwise the transition went smoothly. Then we sat down and played Into the Unknown. Life got busy. We moved on to play Starfinder Scenario #1-03: Yesteryear’s Truth, which was great fun (for details check out this blog post).
But, my kids have WAY too many characters and not enough focus.
I’m a fan of creating a character and playing them through consistently right to the end. I want to play them every week. I want them to accomplish something amazing over the course of a long campaign. And when their story is done I want to know what happened to them. Did they retire? Get married? Ascend to godhood? Go insane? When their story’s complete I’m ready to make a new character and start all over again.
But, my kids? My kids love making new characters. They like hopping from story to story. But they also don’t like letting characters go. They want to play them all at the same time. There’s tons of them. An unattainable goal if I ever heard one! Haha.
In short? We rarely have time to take our Wayfinders for a spin.
The other day my daughter informed me that she wanted to create her own adventure. This isn’t the first time. She’s GMed for us before and brutally slaughtered us all. It’s partly because she doesn’t have much experience determining appropriate CRs, but it’s also because she’s incredibly lucky. Too lucky. It’s great when she’s a fellow PC but when she’s the GM? Look out! Monsters have awesome aim, enemies are so stealthy they might as well be invisible, and no opponent ever fails a saving throw. It’s not that she’s cheating! We don’t use GM screens in my house so we can all see her rolls, and I help her every step of the way. She’s just that damned lucky.
So when she said she wanted to GM something everyone groaned.
She looked so sad.
“Oh, no! She’s going to kill us again!” my son wailed.
“Be nice!” I scolded my son. Then I whispered to my husband, “She totally is…”
But, I smiled at my daughter and said, “That sounds exciting. Let’s do it.” Because it is exciting. Of course I want my kids to want to imagine, create, and GM.
So my daughter and I went to my room and peered at my bookshelf. Making a one-shot would mean everyone would create more characters, which we didn’t really have time for at the moment, so I suggested she create a mini adventure for Starfinder. Our Wayfinders were in the middle of a journey through the Drift from the radioactive planet Elytrio to Absalom Station. The timing couldn’t be better!
But, they were SFS characters… We decided to play the entire scenario off the books, using the stats for our characters but leaving our actual SFS characters entirely untouched. And while we were at it? Tucker might as well be a halfling again (in appearance).
My daughter thought about the Drift a bit, pulled down the Alien Archive, and got browsing. She stopped on creatures she took a liking to and we chatted about them, brainstorming ideas together. Some she liked and some she didn’t. She wrote down notes in her little Pokemon notebook. When she hit the end of the book she narrowed down her ideas and made some more notes and drawings. An hour later we were picking out miniatures and prepping the table. It was game time!
I started off the session by reminding everyone what we were up to. Where we’d been, where we were going, and who we were with.
Our crew consists of four Starfinder Agents that belong to the Wayfinders Faction. Hoponisa (Hops for short), is a ysoki technomancer from the dark side of Verces who loves to dance. She’s on a mission to find herself the ‘perfect mate’ and is handy both in the pilot’s chair, the engineering bay, and at a computer console. She has a robot rabbit dubbed ‘Snowball’ who is a glorified computer with some minor mobility that she crafted herself, then wrapped in fuzzy faux fur for ultimate cuddle-ability. It’s also her spell cache. Hops has been a Starfinder for a long time and is the person who recruited the rest of the crew into the Starfinder Society (before that they were mercenaries who did work for the Starfinders on a regular basis). Together, the gang travels the Vast, deploying drift beacons for credits at the behest of the Wayfinders. After discovering new planets, collecting data on their environments, and deploying drift beacons, the group prepares a report on the planet for the Wayfinders, which allows the spacefaring faction to better prepare proper Starfinder teams for further exploration on these locations.
Hops and the crew of the Pegasus Class ship, Infinity, have gone on plenty of missions together. Led by their Captain Aya, a wise, enigmatic kasatha mystic who believes that every life is precious, they’ve charted planets and discovered new places. Their roles on the starship change a lot, with the rest of the crew rotating between pilot, engineer, science officer, and gunner as the mood strikes them. Aya and Hops are joined by Tucker Aetherfoot, a ysoki (originally a halfling) operative with the daredevil speciality who’s nimble, acrobatic, and full of boundless energy. He wears a t-shirt with a shirren design on it (to represent his long-time friendship with the shirren Vishkesh), and wears a racing helmet with a rose-tinted visor and stylized mouse ears on the side (which was given to him by Hops as a birthday gift). Tucker’s insatiably curious, and runs a blog in his spare time about his experiences exploring the Vast. He’s a devout Desnan from Absalom Station, prone to dancing when he’s idle too long. …Even in the middle of a mission. Lastly, there’s Vishkesh, a shirren mechanic with a little flying spy drone named Rijin. Rijin is trained to help Vishkesh with repairing starships, and is also outfitted with a flare thrower. He’s a chipper little thing, with a bubbly artificial personality. Vishkesh has a fondness to caring for (and rescuing) larval shirren, and currently has a dozen dangling off of him in their protective canisters at all times. Vishkesh is the proud owner of a pig stuffed animal — a rare creature he’s never seen in in the flesh! He’s also from Absalom Station, and is a long time friend of Tucker’s. Vishkesh worships Hylax.
When they joined the Starfinders the crew of Infinity decided they needed a helping hand. They hired two rookies to assist them and round out their crew: Gizdara, a half-orc technomancer who’s a whiz with computers, and Diggs Drifthopper, a burly ‘rabbitfolk’ whose planet was conquered by the Vesk years ago. Diggs was forced into the military, but was recently allowed his freedom and was looking for work. He’s good with a gun, but not much else (which he can’t use in SFS play, as a non-combatant hireling, haha). Still, my daughter insisted on hiring him because he was destined to be Hops’ mate. (Uhhh… Okay? Haha). Diggs’ job is mostly to watch the ship while we’re away from it.
There’s one other person on their ship at the moment: the Membrane Ghibrani Klarima who they were bringing from her home planet of Elytrio to join the Starfinder Society. For now she was a passenger, but the group was teaching her everything they could of the universe as they travelled the Drift.
With the recap out of the way my daughter took over, explaining that we had been in the Drift for a few weeks. All of a sudden the alarm blared and there was a strange flash of red light nearing the ship. LAVA!
Wait, what? How could there be lava in space?
My daughter gleefully asked for a Computers check from our Science Officer — Vishkesh at the moment — revealing that a piece of the Elemental Plane of Fire had been torn off and stranded in the Drift (quite recently by the look of it)! We were about to do some more research on this phenomenon when there was a burst of light. Lava and powerful heat blasts from the shard of the Plane of Fire was flying at our ship! Our pilot, Hops (which I was running on behalf of my daughter since she was GMing), flew like a pro, dodging lava balls, and super heated waves of energy. But a few moments later Vishkesh identified that our air lock had been opened. Something was on the ship!
We turned for the elevator only have it DING pleasantly.
As the doors opened Captain Aya ordered Hops, Diggs, and Gizdara to remain at their posts. Gizadara took over as Science Officer while Diggs took on the role of gunner and blasted through the hunks of rock flying at our ship. Vishkesh, Rijin, Aya, and Tucker leapt to their feet — too late!
A trio of fire elementals roared off the lift and slammed into the kasathan captain — the nearest target.
“The elementals are so angry! They must be lost and confused!” my son (Vishkesh) pointed out. Unfortunately, his understanding did little to calm the creatures. The fire elementals tore into Aya and scored multiple critical hits — curse my daughter’s luck! Haha. My kashathan mystic went down before she even had a turn.
“Sorry, Mom!” my daughter said a little guiltily.
“It’s alright, baby. Aya will be fine.”
The battle continued, and wow was it a tough one! The fire elementals tore into Tucker while Aya slowly recovered on the ground with her SP. By the time she rejoined the fight her healing magic was sorely needed! Tucker was hanging on by a thread and Vishkesh was in big trouble! Not long afterwards the group rallied and took down the last of the exceptionally lucky elementals. But not before Tucker suffered some luck of his own — bad luck!
With the fire elementals defeated Vishkesh hurried to the airlock to get it locked down while Aya healed the wounds of her crew. Hops flew us out of the range of the planar anomaly and the journey returned to normal.
For a time…
Not much further away we came upon a strange group of asteroids that looked like they were all part of some kind of large complex — a metallic castle of some sort. It was clearly another broken planar shard torn from another world and deposited in the Drift by Drift Travel. Hesitantly, the group scanned the planar wreckage and detected signs of life. Not wanting to leave anyone stranded in the Drift, Aya ordered the ship to investigate the asteroids.
They flew past chunks of reddish rock, through space strewn with shards of glittering metal. Suddenly they saw a ship! It looked like a hunk of junk cobbled together from — well, junk! They turned on the comms to hail the ship only to be fired upon!
Hops sailed the ship through space, dodging meteors and make-shift torpedoes, Vishkesh boosted the ships guns, Tucker fired upon the enemy, and Aya encouraged her crew. Although the battle shouldn’t have been challenging, it was — once again my daughter’s good luck conspired to destroy us.
Suddenly Vishkesh noticed incoming projectiles from somewhere other than the ship! One of the chunks of broken castle was inhabited! They fired cannons at the Infinity. Cannons that held… goblins in weird globs of goo! The goblin bombs splattered against the hull of Infinity! Unfortunately for the goblins our ship’s shields were too tough for them to penetrate! Most splattered on impact like giant bugs! But, armed as they were with sharp implements and hacking kits, it’s likely the goblins would have attempted to breach the hull or hack into the air locks to gain entry had our shields been depleted.
Suddenly a voice crackled over the intercom. “AHA! You smart-heads are good! You foil our goo-guns good! But we goblin pirates! Goblins attack and goblins snack! Or…. goblins want to snack! We hungry! Hand over your food and we let you go!”
Aya sighed in a rare show of impatience. “All lives are precious…” It sounded like she was reminding herself of this, instead of teaching the others as was typical. “We came here to lend aid to any stranded in the Drift. Surrender, Goblin Pirates, and we will forgive your attack. We have food to spare and tools to repair your Drift Engines. …If you have any.”
The goblin pirate laughed. “AHA! We win! We no shoot and you give us food! Yes! Come! Come to our home and give us many many food!”
“…” Aya decided it was best not to argue with a goblin. “Yes. Exactly. We’re coming in for a landing.” Looking at Hops she ordered. “Hops, take us down.”
The gang flew their ship to the strange broken castle and landed — as best as they could. Floated nearby was a better description. After a space walk, Aya, Vishkesh, Tucker, and Rijin set out to meet the goblins. They were greeted by a snivelling, friendly little goblin — not the goblin pirate from before — and given a tour. The castle was hollow and without gravity except around its outer walls. Along these outside walls were small rooms that had both air and gravity — an anomaly the goblins couldn’t quite explain. Up near the broken ceiling (and any holes in the walls) there was a massive makeshift net — to prevent any goblins from accidentally drifting off into space.
On the tour the group discovered that the goblins weren’t just hungry, they were completely out of food! No wonder they had attacked!
But, the goblin had a plan. “Oh, you look so fat and not starving! Oh! Yum! Uh… Yum to your food! Not yum to you!” The goblin laughed, but Tucker was a little nervous. “We have much money to give you! Yes! Lots of shinies! Came here to steal shinies from castle, but ship broke! And shinies not good to eat! Nope! We have tried!” the goblin nodded. “Our King has shinies! You go see him and kill him and take them! And his pet! Must kill it too! Very smart it is. Smarter than King I think!” The goblin nods. “Then you take shinies and give us many many food! Yes! YES! Good plan! See?”
“Did some of you want to come with us?” Vishkesh asked.
Tucker groaned. “Oh, I don’t like that plan…”
The goblins around all cheered. “Yes! Oh, give us ride! But first take shinies! You take for food! And if you not want we take it and use it to buy more food when you get to… where you go! Me not care! Me want FOOD!”
With a sigh the group headed up to bargain with the King. “All lives are precious,” Aya reminded everyone. “This need not come to a fight.
Unfortunately, Aya was wrong. It did come down to a fight. The quartet faced off against the goblin king and his (definitely smarter than him) tashtari pet. For once my daughter’s luck didn’t trump our own and we made quick work of the angry pair. With the shinies and a ton of goblins in tow, the group reboarded the Infinity for the longest, most irritating trip they would ever endure.
Words of wisdom: Never let a pack of starving goblins on your space ship!
Our family had a lot of fun playing my daughter’s Starfinder adventure. Best of all? My daughter was happy she didn’t kill everyone. (Yay!)
One of the play-by-post campaigns I am lucky enough to take part in is run by the wonderful GM Zek on Paizo’s messageboards. The campaign is called the Mantisbane Pact, and it takes place in Golarion, the world of Pathfinder. Mantisbane Pact involves an alliance of powerful monarchs and rightful rulers who come together to destroy the Red Mantis Assassins and their god, Achaekek. Our players would act as their agents, travel to Ilizmagorti (a city firmly in the grasp of the Red Mantis Assassins), and work to bring the entire organization crumbling down.
A few weeks ago I shared a short story I wrote as part of the application process to get to play in the Mantisbane Pact. In it we met my character, a smart-ass, jaded slayer named Kilarra Calvennis. Throughout the course of this campaign the GM and players have had the opportunity to write a variety other vignettes and flashbacks, often from the perspective of our shaman, who can view moments from the past by using the Akashic Record.
Today I’m sharing with you a flashback from Kilarra’s life I wrote when our shaman (Talia) attempted to discover why Kilarra was out of prison, despite being sentenced to life in jail for patricide. After today it will be available on the d20 Stories section on our website. Enjoy!
Talia feels like she’s laying on something hard and rough. A stone floor?
There’s sounds. Women crying, wailing voices, a distant scream of pain. Breathing close by — Kilarra perhaps — it’s hard to tell in the dark.
Time passes. There’s the sound of something falling to the ground and tumbling around. It sounds like a dice, but it’s likely a stone. There’s a bit of a slapping sound, then a scraping, as if whoever dropped it was picking it back up.
It falls again. Slap. Scrape. Silence.
It falls again. Slap. Scrape. Silence.
In the distance the crying continues. Different voices, the same sounds. A sigh, a scream, denials, and tears.
“Please! I’m innocent!” someone can be heard to call above the din. A young woman by the sounds of it. “I didn’t kill him!”
Nearby someone scoffs. Talia recognizes it as Kilarra. “No one cares,” she mutters under her breath.
“Yeah, I’m innocent, too!” a different voice calls out. It’s deeper, and clearly mocking the crying woman. “I didn’t kill nobody!” The voice breaks out into a cackling laugh.
The young woman devolves into sobs.
The stone falls. Slap. Scrape. Silence.
Eventually something changes. There’s a lightening of the room. It’s subtle at first, but soon becomes light enough to see vague shapes.
Kilarra’s pale and thin. Her lip is cut and swollen, and a poorly healing wound on her face is clearly going to become the familiar scar she bears to this day. Kilarra lays on her back in a bare, stone cell, staring up at the ceiling. She fiddles with a tiny dice in her fingers, dropping it on the floor, covering it, and picking it back up again. Her other fingers tug on the hem of her ‘dress.’ She wears a filthy sack with a few holes cut in it for her arms and head that looks like it once held potatoes. The fabric’s rough and little bugs scurry around amongst it’s loose fibres.
Behind her is a wall of bars. Outside there are other cells, filled with women of varying ages. Some cry, some speak to themselves, but most sit in resigned silence. The other woman across the hall wears pants and a shirt, has a pallet of hay, a blanket, and a chamber pot — luxuries Kilarra’s cell does not possess.
The world continues to brighten. The walls turn red and the flickering of an open flame can be heard. The light suddenly spills into Kilarra’s cell, and stops.
From her place on the floor Kilarra raises an eyebrow. She rolls onto her stomach, pushes herself up to standing and stalks over to the bars. She grabs hold of them, her knuckles bloody and bruised, and leans her face up against the bars.
Outside her cell is a man in shining armour. He holds a torch in one hand, and a bag in the other. Kilarra’s eyes drift to his belt where she sees a keyring and an empty scabbard — the sword is nowhere to be seen. She smirks, apparently finding that funny.
As Kilarra grabs hold of the bars the guard — a young man, really — steps back quickly. He’s jumpy and nervous.
“You forgot your sword, kid,” Kilarra remarks with a curled lip. “Better go get it before the warden finds out. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I’ve got nowhere else to be.”
The man shifts uncomfortably, then straightens himself. “It’s not lost. I — “
Kilarra chuckles then nods at the package. “You bring me a gift?”
The young guard clears his throat. “Step back,” he orders.
Kilarra smirks and takes a few steps back. She leans against a nearby wall and crosses her arms. The man steps closer, pauses, and looks at her, then quickly shoves the bag between the bars and steps back.
“You finally returning my chamber pot?” she asks.
“What? No, its…”
As the guard stutters Kilarra opens the bag and pulls out a blouse. She scoffs in disgust and shoves it back in the bag. “What’s the matter? Warden tire of his other whores?” She tosses the bag on the floor. “Tell him I bite. Hard.”
The fresh-faced guard looks confused for a moment, either unsure what Kilarra’s talking about or unsure why she’s angry. “No, it’s… You’re free.”
Kilarra scoffs aloud. “Free. Seriously?” She scoffs again and shakes her head.
The man nods. “By order of the Warden, you’re to be set free.”
“Why?” she asks skeptically.
Kilarra bursts out laughing.
The guard shifts uncomfortably. “Could you… put on your clothes? You can’t go outside like that. It’s unseemly.”
Kilarra’s laughter fades to silence. She watches the guard for a moment, wary and on edge. Eventually she takes off the rough sack and tosses it to the ground, then empties the bag out and starts getting dressed. There’s a blouse, pants, boots — familiar looking clothes Talia’s seen Kilarra wear every day.
The guard blushes and turns around, giving her privacy — an act which causes her to let out another cackling laugh.
“This place is going to eat you alive, kid.” She laughs some more, then approaches the bars. “Ready.”
The guard unlocks the cell. “Follow me.”
Kilarra slips out behind him, following the guard down the hall. His torch illuminates the cells they pass — some of which are as spartan as Kilarra’s, but most of which have hay, pallets, chairs, simple beds, blankets, one even has a flickering candle and a pile of books. The prisoners are all female of varying ages, some cry, some beg, but most simply watch with tired, hopeless eyes. A few of the prisoners give Kilarra a nod as she goes. A few others step back in fear.
At the end of the hall is a pair of barred doors flanked by armoured guards. Above them is a massive painting of Grand Prince Stavian the third. Words underneath it read: A crime against the empire is a crime against yourself. Repent, Obey, Serve.
Unlike the guard walking with Kilarra, these men are hardened and unafraid. They each draw their swords at her approach. One sports a broken nose and a missing front tooth. He snarls at the sight of her.
She smirks. “Love the new look.”
“Listen up, you bit—“
Kilarra’s laughter drowns out the man’s words as the young guard quickly unlocks the door and ushers Kilarra through it.
They travel through more corridors and gates, up stairs and through a few checkpoints. Wherever Kilarra was being held, it was a long ways underground. The sort of place where the prisoners are never expected to leave alive.
As they travel the halls get lighter, and the torch is left behind. Kilarra squints into the dim light as if she were looking into the sun. In time they reach a large room. One final gate blocks the way to the prison’s main hall. One final gate to freedom.
A rotund man wearing nobleman’s finery and a deep sneer scowls at her. “I don’t know what strings you’ve pulled, but it won’t last.”
Kilarra smirks. “Hello, Warden. Fancy seeing you here.”
“You’re a degenerate!” the man spits. “You may be free now, but you’ll be back. Scum like you always comes back.”
“Aww,” she replies with a sarcastic pout. “I’ll miss you too.”
The warden stands seething in front of the gate. He takes a deep breath, nods at the guards, and clenches his fists. As the guards unlock the doors he speaks in a grand voice. “Kilarra Calvennis. In the name of Grand Prince Stavian the third, long may he rule, you are hereby released for… good behaviour…” he spits at Kilarra’s feet then straightens himself. He waves his arms through the air, clearly deciding she’s not worth reciting the rest of the words. “I hereby release you. Now go, before I arrest you for loitering.”
Kilarra strides out of the gate, hurries through the waiting room and bursts out of the doors onto the busy streets of Oparra. She squints into the sun and takes a deep breath. Slowly, a smile spread across her scarred face.
“Kilarra Calvennis?” a voice calls out.
Blinded by the sun, Kilarra’s smile slips. A fleeting look of panic crosses her face. A moment later it’s replaced by a look of determination.
“Who wants to know?” she calls back.
But before the voice can reply the vision blurs and fades, leaving Talia back in her own body.
Want to read more about Kilarra? Be on the look out for more vignettes and flashbacks in the coming weeks!