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 2018 Recap

October 20, 2018 By: John Taber Category: Games, Growlings, Site Recommendations

Big Bad Con 2018 LogoWhat Is It?

Big Bad Con is a tabletop gaming convention held in the East Bay.  For the past several years it has been held at the Walnut Creek Marriott in October.  Although billed as a tabletop gaming convention I think the focus is on small press role-playing game and LARP events.

Why Is It Special?

Big Bad Con takes the words acceptance and kindness to heart.  Every time you walk in the lobby or approach a Ranger, one of the yellow scarf wearing staff members, you are greeted with a smile and a hello.  They will then do everything in their power to make sure the con attendee is taken care of and having a good time.  This even happens during sessions!

Acceptance is paramount.  There are pronoun ribbons for your Big Bad Con lanyard and at seminars and panels there is a real focus on acceptance and embracing identity.  In conference rooms there are spaces marked off for people who have a special need of any kind.

The result is an atmosphere that encourages attendees to talk with each other openly.  Several times I got into fantastic conversations with complete strangers.  In every case I was more than pleasantly excited about it.  One example was before the sessions on Saturday morning.  I was in the lobby having a coffee and noticed that an attendee was reading Mouse Guard.  I plan to run Mouse Guard for this group so I asked him for some advice.  Turn out that the guy has run Mouse Guard for several years and it is his favorite RPG.  He went on to spend nearly an hour giving me pointers, cheat sheets, and other helpful advice.  It turned into just an encounter that I will never forget.

What Did I Play?

I played four role-playing games and a board game.  Every session went wonderfully.

I started with Bliss Stage.  This is a giant robot anime setting with a twist.  Carl Rigney was running the game which prompted me to sign up.  Carl never disappoints.  I had a blast smiting evil dream creatures with an amped up sonic cannon.  It was awesome!

Next I played The Watch with Anna Kreider the designer.  Before the session started I actual met Racerx who was also at the session.  Fun was had by all in an action packed emotional setting.  This is a little game with a lot of depth.

On Saturday I played in Mountain Witch again with Carl Rigney.  It was one of the highlights of my Big Bad Con 2018 visit.  Having six players really makes this game tick and Carl brought it as the GM.  Go fast!

I try to take it easy on Saturday night with a board game.  It works really for me to unwind and still have enough energy for Sunday.  I played a neat little co-op area control board game called Spirit Island.  It took some time to get warned up but the game certainly rolls along once it gets going.  Liked it so much that I bought a copy and pledged for an expansion they have currently on Kickstarter.

I wrapped up the con with a delightful session of Mermaid Adventures and the Pip System with the designer Eloy Lasanta.  The session itself was a blast and the rule system was exactly what I was looking for in a universal system…simple to learn, easy to customize, and enough crunch that my hardcore players will enjoy it.  He showed off a system called Infestation when the PC are bugs with newly acquired intelligence and I think it will be tons of fun to run with my boys.

What Is My Take?

I think Big Bad Con has become the premiere role-playing game convention in the Bay Area.  I think anyone in this humble group that focuses on Indie RPG titles should would hard pressed not to have a good time.  Highly recommended.

Big Bad Con 2015 Report

October 19, 2015 By: John Taber Category: Games, Growlings, Site Recommendations

Big Bad Con Games On DemandAfter hearing rave reports about the convention from many of my gaming compadres I decided to give Big Bad Con a try this year. Choosing a gaming convention is an important decision for me as now that I have kids I can only attend one overnight gaming convention a year. Spending time away from the family puts more pressure on my family and costs enough money that it is a decision that I make carefully. Big Bad Con is run by Sean Nittner, a local alpha gamer, and many local gamers act as volunteer staff.

There are several things that make Big Bad Con unique to Bay Area Cons. First off it is an RPG focused convention. You won’t be kicked out for playing a board game but literally every event and seminar is related to either RPGs or LARPs. As I am a primarily RPG gamer this was something that really attracted me to Big Bad Con. The selection of RPG events really focuses on indie games which is fine by me. Big Bad Con caters to an older crowd. They have a policy to admit only people of age 18 or older. This is again something that I appreciated. You knew you were going into a game with other adults. Big Bad Con also has one of the most open community standards that I have seen at a con. I thought it was a breath of fresh air. Signups for events (aka gaming sessions) is done online. In the first round you can register for 2 games then after 2 weeks you can register for any event that you want. I LOVED signing up for games early. I’ve heard this is a standard practice on the East Coast but out here in the Bay Area online game signups before you attend the event is a recent phenomenon. This signup process worked GREAT for me. I got literally every game I wanted to play and was able to nearly fill my schedule before actually attending the con. This also allowed me to purchase the RPGs beforehand if I did already own them and read up. If you did not get into a game then their awesome Wolf Pack took up the slack. They had several games on demand that looked great. Laminated sheets made it easy to sign up. 😉 Finally a portion of the registration fee goes to a charity. This year it was Doctors Without Borders. Just awesome. 🙂

When I showed up at Big Bad Con on Friday afternoon I was warmly greeted by Sean and the volunteer staff and picked up my badge. Along with the lanyard were some neat little pins that attendees seemed to wear like badges of honor. So very cool. 🙂 I also picked up my t-shirt that I got as part of the kickstarter. The Big Bad Con 2015 t-shirts were awesome and before I left I ended up with both the Wolf and Creepy Little Red Riding Hood designs. In the same room Endgame had a rack with some of their products on hand. I picked up a copy of Monster Of The Week that was on my want list.

Game sessions were held in either a larger conference room with 4 tables or in a private room with a single table. I played several games in both environments and frankly never had an issue. Sometimes the single rooms would get hot but opening a window did the trick.

During the con food was provided by either the local hotel restaurant or by food trucks. The food trucks were frankly awesome! I tried lots of different food including eggs benedict, gyros, wraps, pad thai, and crepes. I think the lamb gyros were my favorite of the weekend. The only complaint that I heard very strongly was related to a burger truck that came on Saturday night. In my session it took almost an HOUR for folks to get their food and return. I did not try the burger truck so I don’t know the reason. I guess the staff should consider multiple trucks on Saturday night for dinner. The local hotel restaurant is fine but a bit expensive. I enjoyed the Sunday brunch a lot but it was a bit expensive. Big Bad Con often had coffee available which was appreciated. I also found it interesting the two of my GMs actually brought food to the games. NEAT! 😀

I played in four convention events and one game run by a friend. I started on Friday with a rip roaring game Of War Of Ashes by the author of the book, Sophe Legace. It was a blast. My second game was Motobushido. It was epic samurai goodness! Godlike started off Saturday. The GM was from Double Exposure and did a nice job with it. I then rounded out my Saturday evening with a game of Champions that was tons of fun. On Sunday I played a game of Kerberos Club (FATE) run by Craig Robertson. I actually met Craig on the board game front (aka Tide Of Iron and 1AGames) but I had never played an RPG with him. Fun game! I was so tired that I did not attend my last scheduled event and that was a shame as it was the game I signed up for first. Carl Rigney was running Golden Sky Stories. I had seen Carl at several seminars at DunDraCon and really wanted to game with him. Next year Carl! 🙂

I have been attending gaming conventions for over 30 years. My first convention was DunDraCon IV. I have been to probably 40 gaming conventions over the years including GenCon, Origins, DunDraCon, Pacificaon, KublaCon, PolyCon, and others. Out of all that con going Big Bad Con stands out as my favorite gaming convention after only attending one time. If you live in the Bay Area and play role-playing games you should make Big Bad Con a destination. To get more information just head over to

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 😀

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 Judges’ 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! 😀