Kingbeast's Lair

Growling about the RPG industry and my gaming life. RPG and anime reviews from a passionate fan. (Formerly John's Hero HQ.)

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The Kingbeast’s Lair 2014 Gift Guide

December 05, 2014 By: John Taber Category: Anime Reviews, Fun Reads, Games, Media Interests, Product Reviews

Welcome to the third annual Kingbeast’s Lair gift guide. Just like last year I will be presenting two lists. One is my personal wish list and the second is a selection of products that I think would make great gifts for that geek in your life. This year I will also add a board game entry to the lineup. The boys and I have played a lot of board games over the last year and I think we have found some winners. So for each selection I will limit myself to one RPG, one board game, one anime series or movie, and one fun read.

My Wish List

This might be the first year where there are NO RPG products at all on my actual wish list so instead I will pick something that I added after I mailed it out. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Book Of Cairn Front CoverThe Book of Cairn by SoulJar Games
The Book of Cairn, or Cairn, is an small publisher RPG where the players take on the roles of intelligent animals. After researching it and talking to some folks who have played it I think it would be a great game to start playing with my kids. We are outgrowing Hero Kids and this one seems like it might be a great next step. It is also only $10 for the PDF on DriveThruRPG. Here is the description on RPGGeek:

A long time ago, humans walked the face of the world, but were destroyed for their arrogance and hubris. The Bright Ones lifted up the simple animals of forest and field, giving them the ability to think, build, and stand on their own two feet. In order to keep the newly Favored animals from making the same mistakes the humans did, The Bright Ones gave them the Compact โ€” a book telling them how to live together in harmony.

Those who engage in dark deeds or refuse the ways of Harmony eventually become Dire โ€” sinister, twisted versions of themselves, acting out of greed, vengeance, or selfishness. You must protect the town of Cairn and help it survive the winter. But beware! For you can become Dire, too.
Can you stop the Witch before she curses all the berries of the forest? Will you find the source of corruption withering Farmer Cottonstarโ€™s fields? What of the growing threat of otters and moles working outside the town? Using a system of adventure seeds and story paths, you become the heroes of Cairn. The town survives or thrives based on your actions. And with 20 species and 20 professions, you can play almost any critter you can think of.
The Cairn RPG is a fantasy role-playing game where even the smallest creatures can have the biggest adventures.

7 Wonders by Asmodee
7 Wonders is a card management game where player build up powerful empires. It has so many award that they stretch off the page on RPGGeek. Maybe the biggest award of the list is a 2011 Spiel des Jahres Kennerspiel Game of the Year Nominee. Amazon sells the game for $32. Here is a description from the RPGGeek listing:

You are the leader of one of the 7 great cities of the Ancient World. Gather resources, develop commercial routes, and affirm your military supremacy. Build your city and erect an architectural wonder which will transcend future times.

7 Wonders lasts three ages. In each age, players receive seven cards from a particular deck, choose one of those cards, then pass the remainder to an adjacent player. Players reveal their cards simultaneously, paying resources if needed or collecting resources or interacting with other players in various ways. (Players have individual boards with special powers on which to organize their cards, and the boards are double-sided). Each player then chooses another card from the deck they were passed, and the process repeats until players have six cards in play from that age. After three ages, the game ends.

In essence, 7 Wonders is a card development game. Some cards have immediate effects, while others provide bonuses or upgrades later in the game. Some cards provide discounts on future purchases. Some provide military strength to overpower your neighbors and others give nothing but victory points. Each card is played immediately after being drafted, so you’ll know which cards your neighbor is receiving and how his choices might affect what you’ve already built up. Cards are passed left-right-left over the three ages, so you need to keep an eye on the neighbors in both directions.
Though the box of earlier editions is listed as being for 3โ€“7 players, there is an official 2-player variant included in the instructions.

Grave Of The FireFlies by Section 23
Grave Of The FireFlies is the story of two orphans after the firebombing of Tokyo during WWII. It is massively rate on with 834 reviews and a 4.7 out of 5 rating. Here is a description of it from the Amazon listing ($20) that I like:

Isao Takahata’s powerful antiwar film has been praised by critics wherever it has been screened around the world. When their mother is killed in the firebombing of Tokyo near the end of World War II, teenage Seita and his little sister Setsuko are left on their own: their father is away, serving in the Imperial Navy. The two children initially stay with an aunt, but she has little affection for them and resents the time and money they require. The two children set up housekeeping in a cave by a stream, but their meager resources are quickly exhausted, and Seita is reduced to stealing to feed his sister. Despite his efforts, she succumbs to malnutrition. Seita painfully makes his way back to the crowded city, where he quietly dies in a crowded railway station. The strength of the film lies in Takahata’s evenhanded portrayal of the characters. A sympathetic doctor, the greedy aunt, the disinterested cousins all know there is little they can do for Seita and Setsuko. Their resources, like their country’s, are already overtaxed: anything they spare endangers their own survival. As in Barefoot Gen, no mention is made of Japan’s role in the war as an aggressor; but the depiction of the needless suffering endured by its victims transcends national and ideological boundaries. Takahata’s extraordinary film suggests a flower on the grave of countless children who, like Seika and Setsuko, died needlessly in wars they neither fought nor understood. (Unrated: suitable for ages 12 and older, violence, emotionally intense material)

100 Bullets: The Deluxe Edition Book Three by Vertigo
Last year I got Book Two as a gift and loved it so this year I have Book Three on my list. In an earlier blog post I reviewed 100 Bullets Deluxe Edition Book One. See that review for all the good reasons why this sucker tops my list of fun reads. You can get copies on Amazon at this URL for $33.

Wish List For That Special Person In Your Life

Here are just three of the items on my bookshelf that I think would make great gifts.

FATE Core Front CoverFATE Core by Evil Hat Productions
FATE Core is a rules light RPG that packs a big punch. It has so many great concepts that even if the game is not played it is worth a read. Also like all Evil Hat products the production quality is very high. For a $17 price tag at Amazon this is a little gem. Go buy it.

Formula D by Asmodee
Formula D is one of the big hits on the board gaming front at my house this year. The simple gameplay allows the boys to play that game at a very high-level right out of the gate. We now have some of the expansion tracks and can’t wait to get more. Wonderful auto racing fun that scales up to 10 players! Amazon has it for $40.

Star Wars: Clone Wars: Season 1 by Warner Home Video
Being such a huge science fiction and Star Wars geek I started watching Clone Wars when it first came out. The first season has ups and downs but in this set are some fantastic episodes. So many fun characters are addressed in this series. Stick with it through Season 2 and things get even better. You can get Season 1 on Amazon for $32.

Pariah MissouriPariah Missouri by Decade Brothers Studios
Andres Salazar and Jose Luis Pescador have a hit with this small press gem. Pariah is a wild west tale set in a city that is being overrun by evil. Only a group of brave men and women will be able to fight back against the menace that growing in Pariah. The artwork is fresh, the coloring is superb, and the story is led by a team of great characters. Here is a link to my glowing review of the book. There is also a Pariah RPG setting book in the works where I contributed the Hero conversions and helped with an initial editing pass. You can get Pariah from your local comic store or

Merry Christmas everyone! ๐Ÿ˜€

2014 ENnie Award Winners!

August 21, 2014 By: John Taber Category: Games, Growlings, Product Reviews, Site Recommendations

ENnies LogoHere is a list of the 2014 ENnie Award winners. If I have a comment you can find it under the entry..

Best Adventure

My Take

Eternal Lies is good stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

Best Aid/Accessory

My Take

I have the FATE dice called Antique. These new FATE dice sets are nice.

Best Art, Interior

Best Art, Cover

Best Blog

My Take

Gnome Stew has kicked tail for a long time. Highly recommended.

Best Cartography

Best Electronic Book

Best Family Game

My Take

I just finished reading FAE a little while ago. It is the first product in a while that has made me react with, “This is really something special.” FATE took several awards this year and they are all well deserved.

I’ll have to look up the Hobbit Tales…never heard of it until this year. ๐Ÿ™‚

Best Free Product

Best Game

My Take

Really glad that this category came down with FATE for the gold and Numenera for the silver. I think FATE is a better product that is a LOT more accessible than Numenera. Botha are fantastic but I give the edge to FATE.

Best Miniatures Product

Best Monster/Adversary

Best Podcast

My Take

I just adore Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff. It has quickly emerged as my favorite RPG podcast and I listen to a ton of them. I’ve reviewed several of Ken Hites’ DunDraCon seminars in the past and my opinion of Ken still holds true. Folks should really listen when Ken opens his big trap…I mean mouth. ๐Ÿ˜€

Best Production Values

Best RPG Related Product

Best Rules

My Take

Two STRONG entries in this list. I already gave my opinion on FATE but I think 13th Age is a GREAT RPG with enough crunch and story driven elements. Very nice RPG.

Best Setting

My Take

Right here is the category where Numenera excels. The setting is a wonderful mix of sorcery as science with a dash of post-holocaust goodness. A very complete and detailed setting.

Best Supplement

Best Software

  • Roll20 – The Orr Group LLC *GOLD*
  • Realm Works – Lone Wolf Development *SILVER*

My Take

Interested that Realm Works won here even though it is fairly new. If I was not so hooked on OneNote it might be worth giving it a go.

Best Writing

Best Website

My Take

SO glad RPGGeek won here. I am such a fan of their site. I just LOVE having my entire collection and want list managed on their site. Their news entries were “upgraded” recently and they rock. Highly recommended site.

Product of the Year

My Take

As I mentioned above I would reverse these but either way these are both wonderful.

2015 Judges

  • Annah Madrinan
  • Jakub Nowosad
  • Kayra Keri Kupcu
  • Kurt Wiegel
  • Stacy Muth

2014 Judgesโ€™ Spotlight Winners

  • Hooper: Hobomancer Companion – Hex Games
  • Kayra Keri Kupcu:  Deep Magic – Kobold Press
  • Stacy Muth: Rocket Age RPG – Cubicle 7 Entertainment
  • Jakub Nowosad: The Demolished Ones – Chronicle City/Rite Publishing
  • Kurt Wiegel: Weird Wars Rome – Pinnacle Entertainment Group

    My Take

    Weird Wars Rome is super cool. I think this Savage Worlds setting is more creative than Deadlands Noir but again…it is like comparing Mozart and Bach. Both are great in different lights.

    GAME ON! ๐Ÿ˜€

My Hero Kids And Their First RPG Session

April 10, 2014 By: John Taber Category: Games, Growlings, Product Reviews

Hero Kids Cover


I recently introduced my board game loving boys, Josh (11 years old) and Evan (9 years old), to role-playing games. It was a fantastic experience that I wanted to describe in my blog. First I will go through the preparation and setup that I did before the session. Next I will describe how the session ran and what I learned.

Preparation And Setup

The first preparation that I did was to decide which system that I wanted to use. Before I started my search I tried to define all of the characteristics that I wanted in the system. This list included ease of play, very simple math with at MOST single digit addition, and flexibility. The math requirement was important to me as Josh has lots of trouble with math and I was afraid that if I chose something too complicated he would not want to play at all. I then started looking online and purchased several possible options. The one that really jumped out at me was Hero Kids. Hero Kids has several great aspects that I thought would appeal to my boys. First there is VERY little math. For most actions instead of doing addition or subtraction you roll dice and take the highest number. REALLY simple. If you are better at something you roll more dice. I also thought that Hero Kids was very intuitive to pickup but still has a surprising amount of flexibility. I felt that I could EASILY modify the system to play superheroes, science fiction stars, cartoon characters, or anything my boys might want to play. When I asked the boys they decided that they wanted to play heroes like Zelda. That means epic high fantasy…easy. After picking the system and genre I made a simple Hero Kids shield insert that includes all of key rules. This way the rules would always be accessible to the players. Here is a link to the shield insert.

Next I considered who I wanted to invite to the first session. After having taught my cousin’s kids how to play I knew that it worked well having an experienced role-player in the session. Thus I invited my brother Don to play with us. His instructions were simple, “Lead by example and try to solve some of the conflicts WITHOUT combat.” After Don I decided to invite Sermin (aka Mommy). The reason for inviting Mommy to the first session was simple. She can read the boys better than anyone and help me determine if a break is needed, keep the boys in line, or alert me if the boys were getting bored or confused.

Now that the players and system were in place I went about picking a first adventure. Luckily Hero Kids supplies several adventures to choose from and I had purchased several of them. After reading the ones I owned I chose NOT to run the one that they recommend as the introductory adventure (aka Basement O Rats). Instead I used the Hero Kids adventure titled the Mines Of Martek. The reason is that Mines Of Martek has a simple mission goal, several puzzles that do not involve combat, and it starts off with VERY little role-playing. I know my boys so I knew that they would not understand role-playing at first but would definitely appreciate the thrill of combat. The puzzles in Mines Of Martek that I liked included rescuing a miner from a sinkhole, crossing a rickety bridge, and burning giant spider webs.

My son Josh who is mildly autistic handles new things better if he is given advanced notice of what to expect. Thus I decided to get some of the preliminary discussion out of the way the day before the session. Essentially I just started talking with them about what will happen and how RPGs work. When doing this talk I used Zelda as an example whenever possible. For example, I explained that the players play characters like Zelda on a mission that I am directing. I told them that I act kind of like the Nintendo. I then described that I like RPGs better than video games because you can have your character do whatever you want…there are no pesky video game boundaries. I then explained the setting again using Zelda as an example. I told them that their home town is a lot like Ordon Village in Twilight Princess. We also picked out the dice we would use for the session. This turned out to be a very fun exercise. ๐Ÿ˜€ Doing this session the day before not only got them excited about it but got much of the preliminary information out of the way. It worked great.

The Session

After setting up the battlemat and other accoutrements I presented a brief overview of the setting and the role of the characters. In this case the role of the characters is to solve problems while their adventurous parents are off fighting dragons. I then let the players select which characters they wanted to play. The selection did not surprise me that much at all. Josh took a knight. I knew it would be a warrior and one with armor and a shield is an added bonus. Evan took a healer with a light blast spell. I knew it would be a thinking man’s support character of some type. Don took a more flexible warrior and Sermin took a water mage to round out the group. After selecting the characters I quickly used the character sheet to review the system. I explained the attributes, equipment, and their special abilities. I next explained how you tell how many dice to roll and that you want to keep the highest number (i.e. the Hero Kids system).

Once that was done I handed out three poker chips to each player and explained how these would be used. Poker chips!?! ๐Ÿ™‚ I decided early on that one of the things that would frustrate my boys was the fickleness of the dice. It sucks when you really want to hit that big bad master villain or jump the ravine to save the Princess and roll badly. To combat that I added a bennie mechanic taken directly from Savage Worlds or FATE. If the player spends a poker chip they can reroll their dice and try for a better outcome.

Now that the rules were explained we started the adventure. I jumped right in with the local town sheriff asking the PC to help rescue two miners who are trapped. The mission statement is simple. With some brief leading by Don the group entered the mines and started to look around. In the first room they decided to fix a broken mine cart and get some gear. They got a kick out of pushing each other around in the mine cart between each room. The first major combat was with some bats. It went really well for the good guys. I rolled TERRIBLY the entire session! ๐Ÿ™‚ During this combat I also noticed another point about Hero Kids that I enjoyed. Hero Kids has group initiative only. Once it is the heroes turn to act the characters can go in any order. This is a subtle but nice touch as it lets different players jump forward if they know what they want their characters to do.

After the first combat Evan started getting a bit distracted by the mine cart and the stuff around the bats. I was VERY pleasantly surprised when Josh’s knight reminded Evan’s healer that they needed to find those miners. This was an awesome time when Josh’s laser focus paid off. ๐Ÿ˜€

The next room featured a puzzle with a miner caught in a sinkhole. In the first room they had collected a rope. Even though it took some prompting by Don they eventually figures it out and saved the miner. It was a nice little problem to resolve.

One other scene deserves some attention in this blog post. In the third room the group comes across a dark hole where they can hear giant rats starting to emerge. Acting quickly Don’s characters pushes a rock over the hole preventing the rats from escaping. This is EXACTLY what I wanted him to do during the session (i.e. solve a conflict without combat). It showed Evan and Josh that the best way to solve problems is often with your brain not your sword.


Overall I know the session went really well. How do I know? After the session Evan asked about the village where the characters live and the underground river that they saw in the mine. He asked if they could investigate these next time. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The next weekend I ran a second session with just Evan and Josh. After the second session Evan started asking about making a potion to return their bennies during the game. Oh yeah and those glowing purple rocks in the basement tunnel…what were those? I also thought it was funny during the second session when he asked if I was making it all up. My response, “Of course! That is what makes role-playing games awesome!” Hook. Line. Sinker. ๐Ÿ˜€