Character Focus: Dead Suns

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!

sfs 1-16 - ikeshti - congregant merthinett - nicolas espinoza
An ikeshti from Starfinder Society Scenario #1-16: Dreaming of the Future. Illustration by Nicolas Espinoza. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

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.

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A pair of SRO from Starfinder: Pact Worlds. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

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!

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A space goblin from Starfinder: First Contact and Starfinder: Alien Archive. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

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.

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A skittermander from the Starfinder Critical Hit Deck. Illustration by Taylor Fischer. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

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.

Dead Suns Crew 2
Our heroes are ready to begin their journey!

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!

Jessica

 

Dead Suns Pawn Collection and a Trip Down Memory Lane…

Dead Suns Pawn CollectionWell would you look at this lovely package that arrived in the mail?!

Gorgeous!

I’m a huge fan of Paizo’s Pawn Collections, but it’s been ages since I’ve got my hands on a new set. Today that changes! It’s time to crack open Starfinder: Dead Suns Pawn Collection!

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!

Favourites

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.”

Totally worth it.

 

Wayfinder 20 Announced

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.

Submissions are due October 31, 2019, 11:59 Pacific. For detailed rules and submission guidelines check out the Wayfinder #20 Call for Submissions.

For more information on previous issues of Wayfinder check out these blog posts: Wayfinder 18: Fey and the First World and Wayfinder 19: Destination Absalom Station. You can also head over to Paizo’s website and download all the previous issues for free. (I highly recommend you do so!)

Sounds like it’s time for my kids and I to crack out Pact Worlds and get brainstorming!

Best of luck!

Jessica

 

 

Wayfinder 19: Destination Absalom Station

Wayfinder #19 CoverAs you may have heard, the latest issue of Wayfinder magazine was recently released. Wayfinder is full of fan-created content for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, and is a free download on Paizo’s website. Over the years they’ve made an astounding 19 issues of Wayfinder, as well as a Bestiary! Nearly every issue has a theme, with this latest one being Starfinder’s Absalom Station! So whether you’re a fan of fun, or a fan of free, I highly suggest you give this little gem a chance!

But, what’s inside Wayfinder #19? A lot! At around 72 pages for each issue, that’s a lot of free stuff! The articles inside offer new aliens, themes, equipment, and starships. In addition to player options, there’s plenty for GMs with adventure ideas, plot hooks, characters that can be used as allies or enemies, unique NPCs, and even a short adventure. Both players and GMs can make use of a ton of locations, personalities and gazetteers that are described throughout. To round things out there’s also songs, poetry, and fiction. And let’s not forget the awesome art!

Over eighty people contributed to this fanzine, from authors and artists, to directors and editors. My kids and I were both surprised and honoured to be among them this year. I submitted a ‘Weal or Woe’ article entitled ‘Victims of the Vat Gardens,’ as well as two themes, ‘Ghost Level Delver’ and ‘Scrounger.’ My seven year old daughter submitted ‘Galactic Rabbits’ and their smaller counterparts ‘Galactic Bunnies’ to the Alien Archive,  while my eight year old son submitted ‘Radioactive Robots.’   Both of my kids have been showing off their creations to their teachers and friends at school, which proved rather difficult. First they had to explain what Starfinder and Wayfinder are. Haha. We’re all very proud. Their favourite part? Getting to see the wonderful art that was created for their monsters!

But, enough parental bragging. Today we’re talking Wayfinder!

There was a lot that I loved inside Wayfinder #19. From player options and monsters, to fun locations and fiction, everything was really well done. My favourite player options were the many themes available, particularly the ‘Guttersnipe,’ ‘Laborer,’ and ‘Eyeswide Aspirant.’ I really enjoyed an article on the goblin hero-gods entitled ‘Blessings of the Barghest‘ by Joshua Hennington, with awesome art by Tyler Clark. There’s some really creative cortex options for mechanics written by Nicholas Flitter, which is sure to be a fan favourite. It’s accompanying art is by Paul Chapman.

If it’s gear you’re interested in, be sure to check out the ‘gloves of experience’ and ‘detective’s duster,’ magic items by Jonathan Hendricks. There’s also some snazzy new weapon properties, fast draw and low-velocity, by Adam Kessler and Nicholas Hite.

Starships. Some people love them and some people hate them. Most fall somewhere in between. Whatever your preferences I highly recommend you check out an advice article entitled ‘Making the Best of Starship Combat.’ The GM Guide, written by Hilary Moon Murphy, and the Player’s Guide, written by Brett Indrelee, are packed full of helpful advice for running and engaging in starship combat. This article alone is worth the effort of downloading the fanzine. It’s really great work. For those of you interested in more mechanical options, you’ll find many starships in this book, as well as crews and personalities to man them, and new build options. I particularly enjoyed an article on ‘Iceforged Ships’ by John Laffan with art by Beatrice Pelagatti. (You know you want to bring Winter Witches into space!)

There are a lot of cool new creatures inside Wayfinder #19, but my favourites (other than those my kids made!) turned out to be the trashbot, a CR 1 robot made of scrap, and the gelatinous z-sphere, a CR 3 ooze that can zip around even in zero-g. Oh, your poor low-level players!

My favourite campaign inspiration was an adventure seed entitled ‘The Show Must Go On,’ which was written by K. M. B. Kovalcik and features art by Todd Westcott. It involves skittermander pop stars who are in need of some help if they’re going to get to their performance on time. I also adored the many articles on Absalom Station itself, particularly ‘Ollie’s Option Bar‘ by Hilary Moon Murphy, and ‘Urban Myths of Absalom Station‘ by Alex Riggs.

Want less inspiration and more adventure? Check out ‘The Disappearance of Sector G17‘ by Paris Crenshaw, an adventure for 4–6 4th-level characters that tasks the PCs with tracking down an entire missing sector of the Spike. This adventure features art by Tanyaporn Sangsnit and maps by Alex Moore.

For more information on Absalom Station, be sure to pick up official Paizo products, Starfinder Core Rulebook, and Starfinder Pact Worlds.

Want some more Wayfinder? Be sure to check out their many, many other issues on Paizo’s website!

I hope you’ve enjoyed checking out the contents of the latest Wayfinder with me. If you happen to have contributed to it: Thanks! And if you’re thinking of applying for the next issue: I wish you the best of luck!

Have fun!

Jessica


Update: The topic for the next Wayfinder Fanzine is Starfinder: The Diaspora! Stay tuned for more information.

Shackled City: Part Nine: Return to Cauldron

It’s been a while since we talked about my family’s current home campaign, Shackled City. We haven’t stopped playing — far from it. But we’ve been so busy lately it’s hard to find the time to play anything at all, let alone write about it. So while I have a free moment let me welcome you back to Cauldron, home of the The Shackled City Adventure Path!

When we last left off our heroic musicians had finally returned home to Cauldron. They had saved a lot of people and brought down an underground slave ring, but they were ill at ease. Someone else knew about the slavers and had done nothing. Who were they? And what about the people they had failed to save? The people who were sold to unknown parties before our heroes were even hired to find them… Were they gone forever? Could four kooky members of an up and coming band possibly brave the Darklands to track them down? No! Surely they couldn’t do anything so foolish! ….Or could they…?

If none of this sounds familiar you can read this blog post, which details our characters, or continue on with this article to hear a quick summary and jump right into the action! You can also check out our previous adventures in Shackled City: Part OneShackled City: Part Two: A Mystery!Shackled City: Part Three: Jzadirune, Shackled City: Part Four: Enter the Malachite Fortress, Shackled City: Part Five: This Place is the Pits!, Shackled City: Part Six: KazmojenShackled City: Part Seven: Bad Luck, and Shackled City: Part Eight: Reunion.

The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.

shackled city adventure path d20diaries


The Heroes

Our eccentric heroes are all members of ‘Dinorabbit,’ a musical band that changes its name frequently and was most previously known as ‘Boople Snoot.’ The band’s lead singer and song-writer is Falco Rhiavadi, a foppish noble bastard of mixed Tien descent whose father was devoured by a dragon when Falco was just a boy. A well-groomed, handsome man with an easy smile and a winning personality, Falco’s a black sheep among his family. Mechanically, Falco is an oracle of life whose familiar is a jealous and demanding thrush named Ruby. Falco is played by my husband.

Mick Frimfrocket is a gnome with dark blue skin, bright pink hair that stands straight up on his head, and light blue eyes with flecks of red around his pupils. He’s energetic, bold, and loves nothing more than a good laugh! Mick acts as the band’s pianist and creative director. He’s the driving force behind the band’s constant name changes, and over-the-top performances. Mick was born in the gnomish enclave of Jzadirune but was brought to the city of Cauldron to escape the Vanishing. Orphaned by the mysterious events and with few memories of those early years, Mick was raised in the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same orphanage that recently had four children kidnpapped right from their beds! Determined to save those little scamps, Mick was very excited to take up this missing person’s case and follow it to its conclusion — particularly when he realized that it led through his one-time home. Mechanically Mick is a monk / bard (prankster) who attacks with wild kicks while playing his piano in battle. Partway through exploring Jzadirune he came into possession of a broken magical construct. He’s played by my seven-year old son.

Rabbity Castalle is a rabbitfolk waitress who works at the Tipped Tankard Tavern. A dancer and singer for the band Dinorabbit, Rabbity also has a pet panther named Panthy. She’s lucky, nimble, and quick, but a little skittish. A co-workers of hers, Griffin Malek, was one of the recently abducted people, so she was very keen to solve this mystery and return him home. Rabbity is a hydrokineticist played by my six-year old daughter, using the rabbitfolk race. Rabbitfolk are a Pathfinder Compatible race created by my daughter (with some help) which will one day be published in the upcoming Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion by Sunburst Games. Rabbity recently ‘befriended’ (she thinks) a vicious howler named Prickles. What could go wrong?!

The final member of our party is Aeris Caldyra, a local locksmith who was cajoled by her roommate, Rabbity, to join the band as a percussionist and set designer. With few friends to call her own, Aeris relented to the rabbitfolk’s request and is the least talented member of the band. The last worshipper of Alseta in Cauldron, with more than a few secrets and regrets, Aeris is a suli bloodrager with a chip on her shoulder. Always one to lend a hand, like her Grandfather Marzio once would have done, Aeris was determined to rescue the missing citizens of Cauldron. Aeris is my character for the Shackled City Adventure Path.


shackled city cauldron
The jungle city of Cauldron, located in the bowl of a dormant volcano.

The members of Dinorabbit and their newly liberated Cauldronites arrived in Cauldron to little fanfare. They brought the people they had freed from slavery to the Church of Abadar — the group who had hired them to find four missing orphans — and spoke with it’s current leader, Jenya Urikas. The authorities were called and the group had just enough time to ask about Terrem Karatys, one of the four children they had been tasked to save. Terrem had been free by our heroes only a few moments before a monstrous beholder had appeared and stole him away again. They admitted their failings to the Priestess, who looked confused.

“Oh? You didn’t save Terrem? Well, he is here safe and sound. He arrived on our doorstep before any others.” She counted out the coins she owed the group for saving three of the four children and handed it to them with a smile. “A pleasure doing business with you.”

My family was more than a little confused. Why would a beholder go to the trouble of stealing an orphaned kid that they had saved from slavery just to bring the kid home? And this beholder… He wasn’t the only one interested in Terrem. The Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild also wanted the boy. In fact, they had gone as far as tasking the orphanage’s janitor, Patch, with keeping an eye on him. Strange… Our heroes tried to speak with Terrem, but the boy would say nothing.

Suddenly the town guard arrived and everyone — victims, heroes, and even some priests — were brought to the Garrison for questioning. The PCs were interviewed over and over by the authorities. The guards looked for holes in their story. Incongruities that might show they had something to do with the kidnappings… They were lectured on the legality and dangers of vigilanteism. Informed that the entirety of Jzadirune and the Malachite Fortress were off limits — it was an active crime scene, after all. The poor musicians were so busy they barely had a moment to stop and breathe. After a few days they received one last warning from Terseon Skellerang, Captain of Cauldron’s city watch, and were sent on their way.

On the way out they ran into Krylscar Endercott, a town guard who was among those that had been abducted from his home by dark folk and then saved by Dinorabbit. Although he was badly wounded when they found him, he grinned at the sight of them and asked for a blade. The stubborn fool was a big help in getting everyone home safe. They chatted with him a bit, and bid him farewell.

cauldron.jpg

Upon re-entering the city for the first time in days they were shocked to discover that although their deeds were well known, their identities were not. A heinous crime! While Aeris returned to work at her locksmith shop, the rest of the band spent some time spreading word of their triumphs and of an upcoming performance — which they had yet to schedule. The next few days were marked with frivolities — writing, practising, performing, rumourmongering, and so on. Falco took these responsibilities very seriously, intent on milking their newfound fame for all it was worth.

Rabbity discovered that Griffin, the friend she had worked so hard to save, was out of a job. He had been replaced as bartender and was now stuck waiting tables. Also, Rabbity had been fired. She hadn’t been into work in nearly a week and left no word as to why, so that wasn’t too much of a surprise. Still, my daughter was a little insulted. She also worried about her pet howler, Prickles, who was currently locked inside the Malachite Fortress, hopefully not killing (or being killed by) the investigating city guards. Deciding they needed to sneak into Jzadirune and save him before he got into trouble, Rabbity concocted a plan. She looked into the people who they hadn’t saved and picked out one whose home was close to Jzadirune — 52 Ash Avenue, the home of skinner Rikaldo Veskar. Rikaldo had a tiny, blood-stained, stinky home that had been abandoned 37 nights. Knowing that he had been sold to unknown buyers in the Darklands and wouldn’t be returning, my daughter set out to purchase the building from the city. She sought guidance from her friend Ruphus Laro at the Church of Abadar and determined the steps to take to buy the building. It cost more than she had, but she managed to convince the group it was important. They pooled their money and bought the house. Then Rabbity asked Falco to start using his stone shape spells to tunnel out a passage from their new junky home to Jzadirune. With some luck and planning they’d be able to get to Prickles before he killed anyone. Hopefully….

Mick was equally busy. He spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he could legally get his hands on Jzadirune. Deciding he needed help he sought professional guidance from the Church of Abadar, just as Rabbity had. With their legal advice he put together a plan to legally acquire the underground complex. And so he set out to track down the original ownership paperwork, and the living descendants of Jzadirune’s founders. There weren’t many of them. Only six. So Mick set out to barter with them over ownership, in the hopes they would turn it over to him. Hopefully, when all is said and done, he could legally claim the property from the city.

Aeris spent her time working, patrolling the town, and looking for a sign that matched the mysterious Kingfisher symbol they had discovered on a letter written to the slaver Kazmojen. She discovered nothing.

There was plenty the group did together, as well. They visited the orphanage, Church of Abadar, and all the other people they had saved, double checking they were safe, healthy, and reintegrating back into society. Patch was fine and back at work. Apparently he had managed to keep his affiliations with the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild a secret. The orphans were a little traumatized — all except for Terrem who seemed unconcerned over the entire ordeal.

Krylscar had returned home to find his parents hadn’t even been looking for him. Turns out they thought he had robbed them and fled the city — the jerks! He was trying to find himself a new place to live, but not having any luck. At work everyone treats him like a weirdo and he’s angry that they never saved him. In fact, he was generally an angry guy. Still, he had friends. He remained close with his pal Griffin, and often showed up to hang out with the members of Dinorabbit. They knew he wasn’t some shifty loser. They knew he was a good guy. (My family really grew to like this guy! Haha).

Jasper and Jeneer had gone back to work like nothing had happened. Jasper teaches math at Bluecrater Academy, and Jeneer is a jeweller’s apprentice. The group saw Maple, a suspected member of the Alleybashers gang, on the streets from time to time, but she never stayed to chat. And Coryston Pike, the retired adventurer, made it home, but hadn’t been seen around town since.

But, not everyone had recovered. Sondor (the dwarven cartwright), Deven Myrlzal (a teenage human lamplighter), and Irruth Mercadi (a chandler), were all traumatized by their experiences. They wouldn’t talk. They just sat still, scared, and sad. Currently they were at the Church of Abadar, but they would need to head home soon. As Priestess Jenya Urikas plainly pointed out, the Church of Abadar was not in the business of charity.

When the group discovered that Keygan Ghelve had been arrested they went to visit him. My kids were a little upset about his fate. Did he really deserve to be arrested? Out of fear he had helped the kidnappers and slavers, but he had also fought alongside our heroes to free them again. Of course, he had done that only because the group had forced him to… In time they realized that Keygan’s fate was out of their hands. Instead they offered to take care of his rat familiar, Starbrow, and his home. It took some bargaining and a signed contract, but Keygan agreed to transfer ownership of his home and locksmith shop to the members of Dinorabbit on the condition they took care of Starbrow, they did not sell any of his paintings or his grandfather clock, and they didn’t bring their meddlesome pets into his home. When he was released from prison, ownership of his home and shop would revert to Keygan. Keygan was grateful, and they began to feel a little better about this whole ordeal.

In time they discovered a vandalism problem in Cauldron. Someone had been painting words on buildings in goblin. Things like “Murrd wrote this!” “Snurk smells like dung!” and “Drakthar has bat ears!” Luckily, Mick could speak goblin and was pretty sure the culprits were a gang of goblins. Which was absurd! Everyone knew no goblins lived in Cauldron! Determined to prove he wasn’t crazy, the group stayed up late a few nights, attempting to catch the vandals red-handed. Although they came close, the only thing they managed to earn was a scolding from the guards for suspicious behaviour. Whoops!

One day the group received a summons from the Mayor’s Office. They hurried over and were told that the mayor — Lord Mayor Severen Navalant — wanted to host a ceremony in honour of their deeds. Although it was clear he was hoping to use their newfound celebrity status to bolster the public’s opinion of him, the band didn’t mind. They wanted to do the same to him, after all. Together they made some plans and the party was scheduled, with Dinorabbit making a headlining performance. The Mayor also asked about their experiences under Cauldron and their opinions on what should be done about Jzadirune, the Malachite Fortress, and the passages to the Darklands. Mick took this opportunity to share his plans to acquire full ownership of Jzadirune while Rabbity petitioned for her ‘beloved’ new pet Prickles to be returned to her at once! The Mayor smiled and assured them he would take it under advisement. The group was skeptical he would, but had little choice but to accept him at his word.

The days leading up to the festival were hectic, with even Aeris practising as much as she could. They put on a lot of other performances, both big and small. My family was happiest to earn themselves a performance at both the Cusp of Sunrise (a fancy social club that was for the nobility) and the Coy Nixie (a fancy restaurant where they first began their adventure). Before they knew it the party was upon them. Much to their surprise the mayor named them ‘Champions of Cauldron’ — a position which he later assured them had no real responsibilities to go with it — rewarded them the deed to Jzadirune, and gave them a new task: putting an end to the goblin vandals that have been irritating the town! Both shocked and pleased at this turn of events, the gang agreed. Not that they were given a choice…. Haha. After the ceremony the party began, and my family had a blast describing their performances and songs. The night ended with fireworks, and a few angry scowls from Captain Skellerang.

The next day would see them busy again. Plans had to be made for Jzadirune and Prickles had to be liberated. The Lord Mayor’s secretary informed them that the Malachite Fortress would be turned into a guard post for the Town Guard so that the entrance to the Darklands could be properly protected. This, of course, meant that they would need to have engineers remodel the entrances to both Jzadirune and the Malachite Fortress a bit. Both the members of Dinorabbit and the Town Guard had to be able to access different parts of the complex without traipsing through the others space. I handed my kids a map of Jzadirune and asked them for their ideas. They also got to make plans for the engineers to fix up some of Jzadirunes broken walls and tunnels while they were at it — courtesy of a small grant provided to them by the Mayor’s Office. A surprise my kids found very exciting! Even more exciting? The group got to visit Jzadirune and Rabbity retrieved Prickles. Happily he did not try to devour her. Yet.

By the time Dinorabbit left Jzadirune and began to walk home they were greeted by rain. More than that. It was a downpour. Fall had come to Cauldron, which meant the rains would continue for a few weeks more, at least. It was misty out. Cool and dark. There was a chilling howl on the wind — like that of a wolf. On the side of Aeris’ locksmith shop was more goblin graffiti.

“Who builds town in volcano? Stupid humans!”

The gang sighed.

Tomorrow they would need to put aside their ambitions and get to work. The had a gang of vandals to catch.


Behind the Screen

The Shackled City Adventure Path is a difficult to get your hands on adventure path published in eleven separate Dungeon Magazines, or available in hardcover from Amazon here or from Paizo Publishing’s website here. The first adventure, Life’s Bazaar is available in Dungeon Magazine #97 from Paizo Publishing’s website here. A copy of the premade player handouts is available from Paizo here.

Despite being a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Path, we’re running this campaign with Pathfinder (both the campaign setting and the ruleset). Our characters utilize content from many sources, some of which are listed below.

The shaman and the bloodrager classes, as well as the bloodrager archetype spelleater, can all be found in the Advanced Class Guide. The urban bloodrager archetype can be found in Heroes of the Streets. The Kineticist class can be found in Occult Adventures. The monk and bard are base classes found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook (or in a convenient travel-sized edition: Core Rulebook (Pocket Edition)  while the prankster archetype for bards can be found in the Advanced Race Guide.

Mantisbane Pact: Release

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!

Jessica


Release

Its dark.

Cold.

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.

“Good behaviour.”

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.”

Taldor
The flag of Taldor. Image courtesy of Paizo Inc.

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!

Want to learn more about Golarion, Taldor, Grand Prince Stavian III, Kyonin, Ilizmagorti, Mediogalti, and the Red Mantis Assassins? Check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Inner Sea and explore Golarion for yourself! For more information on Taldor you can also check out Pathfinder Companion: Taldor, Echoes Of GloryPathfinder Campaign Setting: Taldor, The First Empire, or play the War for the Crown Adventure Path which begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path 127: Crownfall (War for the Crown 1 of 6).

The ABCs and 123s of D&D

Today we’re taking a look at two delightful books released by Dungeons & Dragons for kids: The ABCs of D&D and The 123s of D&D. Intended for young children, these books offer kids a first glimpse at the world of Dungeons & Dragons while teaching the alphabet and counting to ten. Both books feature whimsical artwork by Caleb Cleveland, and catchy rhyming couplets written by Ivan Van Norman.

The ABCs and 123s of D&D

I recently picked up both of these books for my young nephew, who is soon to turn five. Not only does he adore them, but both of my children (a boy aged eight and a girl aged seven) also found them thoroughly entertaining. I was impressed by their quality and content. The art is perfect for kids, with colourful, whimsical illustrations that hide all kinds of secrets — clouds shaped like dice and towers made of books, for example. Delightful little tidbits that kids will discover as they get a bit older.

I is for Imagination

“I is for IMAGINATION. What’s YOUR favorite tale?”

B is for Book

“A is for ADVENTURE, our journey has begun.
B is for BOOK, the source of all our fun!
C is for CREATURES of every shape and size.”

Although I expected The 123s of D&D to be shorter than The ABCs of D&D, that wasn’t the case. Yes, the ABCs of D&D covers the entire alphabet, with typically a letter per page. And yes, the 123s of D&D covers the numbers one through 10, with one number per two pages. Technically that would make it shorter, but after counting to to ten there’s a lovely mini bestiary that features a sentence or two about the creatures depicted throughout the book — all written in rhyming couplets. What a pleasant surprise! I’m really happy they included it and all the kids loved it. It immediately inspired them to start making up stories of their own with the creatures. My daughter’s favourite was the almiraj, of course (she adores rabbits and rabbit-creatures of all kinds).

123s of D&D

“We begin with ONE Dungeon Master telling a story of daring deeds, the adventure of TWO heroes and their brave and noble steeds.”

Bestiary

“All these monsters you can meet when playing D&D. So have fun on your adventures, and save a spot for me!”

My kids and I thought that The ABCs of D&D and The 123s of D&D were wonderful, entertaining, inspiring little books. Despite being written for young children, they’re of interest to any kids that still love a picture book. Really wonderful work!

Jessica