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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Big Bad Con 2019 Recap

October 14, 2019 By: John Taber Category: Games, Growlings

One of my Sipping Primordial Soupers asked me to review the games that I played at Big Bad Con 2019. I thought I would take that a step farther and post a recap of my Big Bad Con 2019 experience. This post rambles around quite a lot so be warned. 🙂

The Games

Here are the games that I played in order that I played them. This year every RPG I played was new to me. Even though games at Big Bad Con focus on small-press offerings often I have the game at home or have even played it at one time or another. This year that was not the case.

On Friday afternoon I played the DIE RPG with Carl Rigney. DIE is a roleplaying game from Kieron Gillen who wrote a graphic novel of the same name. The RPG is in the beta stage and is free to download ). The settings is very meta. The characters are troubled adults who are meeting back up with their old gaming group for one last session. During this session they are thrown into a fantasy world where they become their character. The great twist is that they can only return to the real world if everyone in the group agrees to return. That means these messed up people need to decide if they should stay in this fantasy world where they might have powers or return to their messed up lives. The session was amazing. I played a man from a broken home who wants to be accepted and trusted by his friends. He is currently a PI and has “helped” his friends catch a cheating spouse and is actually seeing one of the ex’s. His sister was actually played by the GM Carl who is also one of the characters…but still the GM. Meta. The game was amazing! DIE would likely be best to complete in maybe two or three s sessions was expertly handled in one. Carl Rigney is really amazing…this was my first choice game during registration and my favorite game at Big Bad Con 2019.

Friday night I fortuitously got into a game of Into the Dark with Stras Acimovic. My Friday night game got cancelled so I signed up for a different game. Then the week before the con when I was reviewing who would be at the con I noticed that Stras would be there so I packed my Scum & Villainy and saw that they would be selling a new ashcan of a game called Project: Perseus. So I looked up what games there would be running so I could get an autograph. I found that Stras was running a new game in playtesting called Into The Dark and signed up. The game and Stras did not disappoint. Into the Dark is a horror fantasy setting where you play a group of delvers who brave a supernatural darkness called the Murk to seal off these wells where monsters spawn. We played a mission where a crazy spider queen monster called a Weaver was taking people and creatures from the Murk and stitching them into crazed beasts. I played a warrior called a Murk Hunter. The system is a stream-lined hack of Blades In The Dark. You could tell this genre is directly in Stras’ wheelhouse. It was twisted, dark, and thrilling at the same time. I will DEFINITELY pick up this one to run with Sipping Primordial Soup as it is perfect for one-shots.

Saturday morning I took part in the playtest of a co-op card game called TREADS where you play members of a Sherman tank crew during WW2. Only one other player showed up so Mark Richardson (Headspace), the person creating the game, ran several of the tank positions. I played the Commander position of the tank which was really fun. The look of the game…even with makeshift components…was amazing. It plays kind of like a tower defense game with threats emerging from the sides of the board. It was deadly. We might have been close to winning but likely we would have died before depleting the threat deck which is the objective of the game. I think Josh would adore this game so if TREADS does get released it will be on my buy list.

Saturday afternoon I played my second favorite game of the con. Brian Isikoff…who is another amazing local GM and a gaming buddy…ran a game of The Expanse from Green Ronin. The Expanse uses a variant of the AGE system that is found in several other Green Ronin products. I had no experience with AGE or The Expanse properties. All of the other players had experience with The Expanse either through the books or TV show. The game revolved around a group of luxury cargo haulers who get sucked into several crazy schemes. The games was a fun romp through the setting with a great set of players. My highlight was a smaller side mission with a unusual passenger. This is another one that I plan to pickup and consider running for Sipping Primordial Soup. If you get a chance to game with Brian do it. 😀

Saturday night I played a round of Spirit Island. I had played Spirit Island once at Big Bad Con last year and decided to try it again. The game is a co-op worker placement area control game. The conceit is that the players are island gods trying to scare settlers off their island. The game is complex even with the base rules and luckily we had an amazing person to help us learn how to play. Even though I have a copy I had not had the chance to play it as I think it is a bit too complex for most of the board gamers at my disposal. Had a fun time playing a lightning spirit.

Sunday morning I played my last game of the con which was an amazing session of Blade & Crown with Brian again. Blade & Crown is an OSR feeling game set in a middle-age feeling fantasy setting. In this session the players were the stars. To me all of the lady players is what made this session fun. There was a sexy crafty thief, an amazing water wizard, a priest who wanted to be a pope, and a merchant played by the ladies. It was a blast going through the adventure called The Bandit Map. The adventure itself was so nice that I may purchase it just to lovingly borrow the material for another system. The system was OSR and a bit crunchy but seemed to flow to pretty well. It was pretty gruesome if you got hit. Another home run session from Brian.


One of the things that I personally love about Big Bad Con is the amount of amazing game designers that show up from all around the country. I bring books with me to get signed and every time I get to speak with the authors they are so friendly. This time I got signatures from Avery Adler (Monsterhearts, Dreams Askew, Quiet Year), Brie Beau Sheldon (Turn, Script Change), James D’Amato (Two great RPG books and the One Shot Podcast), Stras Acimovic (Blades In The Dark designer credits, Scum & Villainy), Karen Twelves (Improv For Gamers), and Strix (Bluebeard’s Bride). Also at the con I chatted with Jason Morningstar (Fiasco, Night Witches), Hannah Shaffer (Noirlandia, Damn The Man), Sanguan (Moonflower), and I heard the Storybrewers Team was at the con but I did not get to meet them. I was bummed that I did not hear they would be attending before I arrived. 🙁

Jason Walters And Oh Yeah IPR

Big Bad Con is also a chance I get to see old friends. Jason was the top of my list when I heard IPR would be providing the games for the dealers room. Jason is such a dear friend. We were able to catch up on our families and gaming lives on several occasions. Gosh love Jason to bits. Also IPR provided some killer stuff. I picked up Royal Blood which Jason put aside for me, several expansions for The Spire, The Quiet Year, and Flotsam. Looks to be some killer stuff.

Wrap Up

Big Bad Con 2019 is in the top 3 gaming conventions I have ever attended and I have been to a ton of them. This convention is run so amazing well. Some things that really stand out to me about Big Bad Con are the openness to people of color, acceptance of people with different identities, friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, and the desire to make sure everyone is happy. Sean Nitner who runs Big Bad Con is amazing. Some of the changes for this year were great so I want to point them out. At every table were standees where people could put their names and character names. Nice touch. They also had small-press designer showcases where people could talk about their games and sell them. This was neat but I would have loved to have had more information in the program about when each was scheduled and maybe a paragraph about what they would be showing. That would help so that I could plan a visit. A was bummed that I left with none of these products. Scheduling these during the breaks between sessions would also have been nice. Big Bad Con is one of the best gaming conventions in the country especially if you like small-press RPGs. This is THE place to let your gaming geek flag fly high! 🙂

Guidelines For Answering the GM Crafting Questions In Blades In The Dark

March 16, 2019 By: John Taber Category: Blades In The Dark, Games, Growlings

Crafting in Blades in the dark involves answering four questions.  Two are answered by the player and two are answered by the GM.  The GM questions involved determining the Quality and Drawbacks for the invention.  Fortunately the GM has some guidelines in the Blades book to help provide guidance.  This thread goes over the two GM questions using an example from my Blades In The Dark campaign.

The Crew Leech named Mort wants to create an alchemical solution.  Here is his idea:

It’s a two part alchemical potion which is made as a set.  One is an oil which draws an item closer to the ghost field making it invisible.  The second allows the drinker to see the specific item the paired oil was used on.  For example, if I spread the oil on a sword then drank the linked potion, the sword would be invisible to others but I could still see it.  If I put the oil on my sword and someone else drank the linked potion, the sword would be invisible but I would not be able to see it, only the person that drank the linked potion.

For Question 2 – Quality

When determining Quality for a creation there are several factors.  These are determined by the Magnitude chart on page 221.  The main areas are:


For Area values run from closet (0) to city block (6).

For Scale values run from 1 or 2 people (0) to 160 peoples (6).


For Duration values run from a few moments (0) to a week (6).

For Range values run from within reach (0) to across the city (6).

Tier & Quality/Force

For Tier & Quality values run from Poor (0) to Legendary (6).

For Force values run from Weak (0) to Devastating (6).

Quality really comes into play when you want to make more of the potions.  To make more you have to hit the Quality target during a downtime action.  You make a Tinker roll then use this chart:

1 – 3 – Quality level is Tier – 1

4 – 5 – Quality level is Tier.

6 – Quality level is Tier + 1.

Critical – Quality level is Tier +2

The Workshop upgrade for the Crew adds +1 Quality to the result.

1 coin may be spent to add +1 Quality to the result.

Example: As the MC I would say the area is close and the range is reach.  Duration of a few minutes (1) or an hour (2).  To Tier & Quality I would say Adequate (1) if the item flickers sometimes or Good (2) if it is very difficult to detect (maybe a distortion if you watch for a while).  Thus the total Quality might be 2 to 4.

For Question 4 – Drawbacks

The book has guidelines for drawbacks.  It groups them into sections.

Complex – Item must be crafted in several stages where each takes a Downtime activity and associated roll.

Conspicuous – Take +1 Heat when used on an operation.

Consumable – Has limited number of uses.  All alchemical formula must have this Drawback.

Rare – Creation needs rare item or material when crafted.

Unreliable – When you use this item make a Fortune roll using its Quality to see how well it performs.

Volatile – Item produces a dangerous side-effect for the user.  Some side-effects are consequences that may be resisted.

Example: For this alchemical solution I might decide on Consumable and Rare.  Eyes from a dead person as an ingredient.  Mort believes eyes from a blind man would make a particularly powerful version of the item.

So here are details as to how this came out in my game.

Creation Name: Ghost Oil

What type of creation is it and what does it do?

It’s a two part alchemical potion which is made as a set.  One is an oil which draws an item closer to the ghost field making it invisible.  The second allows the drinker to see the specific item the paired oil was used on.  For example, if I spread the oil on my sword then drank the linked potion, the sword would be invisible to others but I could still see it.  If I put the oil on my sword and someone else drank the linked potion, the sword would be invisible but I would not be able to see it, only the person that drank the linked potion.

What is the minimum quality level of this item?

Item affected flickers based on size (e.g. smaller items do not flicker and larger items do,  1) and it lasts for minutes (1).  Quality level 2.

What rare, strange, or adverse aspect of this formula has kept it in obscurity or out of common usage?

Willingly messing with the Ghost field and putting on item and your ability to see it in that space is dangerous.  If something went wrong, the item could be lost to the ghost field forever.

What drawbacks does it have, if any?

Consumable and Rare.  Eyes from a dead person are needed as an ingredient.  Mort believes eyes from a dead blind man would make a particularly powerful version of the item.

Dungeons & Dragons Does Good

January 27, 2019 By: John Taber Category: Games, Growlings, Product Reviews


I started running Dungeons & Dragons 5e (5e) campaign for my kids and one of their friends.  As part of the preparation I read the main three books cover-to-cover.  After reading the books I came away with a realization, “They done good.”  Many of my perceived minor foibles that were present in 3e and earlier additions are smoothed over or rewritten.  I know this is 5 years or so late but…here is a simple review of the changes in 5e that caught my attention.

Rolling Thunder

The dice mechanic has changed subtly for the better.  First off all rolls are now high.  Instead of rolling low for skills, high for attacks, etc players now always want to roll high.  Skills are rolled using a d20 plus a characteristic bonus plus a proficiency bonus based on level if you have the skill.  This means skills automatically improve as the player levels.  Neat.

They have also introduced rolling with Advantage or Disadvantage.  If the PC is at an advantage they get to roll two d20 and take the best.  If the PC is at a disadvantage they roll two d20 and take the worst result.  Simple yet really effective.

Occasionally a PC might be in a situation where a roll is not done as they are not actively performing a task.  For example, someone is trying to sneak up on them as they walk down a trail.  In this case there is passive checks.  Passive checks are a calculated number (10 plus modifiers) that is compared to a target.  So in my example, if the walker has a passive perception of 14 the person sneaking up has to hit that with their roll to stay hidden.  Again…simple…effective.

We All Go To Town Together

Everything is condensed to one experience point chart.  Gosh this make so much sense and should have been done ages ago.  This also makes it easier to treat advancement as characters will often level at nearly the same time.

The GM is also give advice on how to balance encounters based on level and a simple formula.  This makes it easier to plan encounters and adjust them on the fly if say one of your players cannot make it.


One really fantastic change is stolen right from systems with bennies like Savage Worlds.  There is a new mechanic called Inspiration.  This mechanic gives the player an Inspiration point when their character follows one of their flaws, traits, or bonds.  This point can be spent to give them Advantage on a roll.  I really appreciate mechanics like this that give the players a bit more control of outcomes if it is really important to the character.

More Hit Points (HP) at level 1 is also a very nice touch.  This makes starting PC able to take at least a couple of good hits before dying.  This is great at giving PC a bit more staying paying up front.  Also healing is simpler.  In fact it makes it so that every party does not need a cleric.  Another wonderful change.

Magic Mana

Magic is changed as well.  Characters using magic have prepared spells but these do not restrict how many times they can use each spell.  The amount of times a caster can do a spell is driven by spell slots.  So a wizard might memorize Magic Missile, Unseen Servant, and Identify.  During an adventure they can use their spell slots to cast any of those spells until the slots are gone.  Again…simple but less restricting.  Nice change.

The amount of magic items each PC can use is controlled.  Characters have to bond with magic items.  This takes a brief amount of time.  The key here is that they can bond to 3 items only!  This means characters are less dependent on magical crutches and forced to use the talents of their class.  Excellent.


I really looking forward to see how things turn out as the campaign advances with these tweaks.  I guess this goes without saying…this might be my favorite Dungeons & Dragons Edition to date.  Critical hit WOTC!