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.)

Gaming Resume

Boy where do I start…I guess the beginning. 🙂

The Early Years – Getting Started – 1978 through 1980

My role-playing career started in the 6th grade when a friend of mine introduced Don and I to Dungeons and Dragons. It was the ole blue covered edition from TSR. After playing only a few session with our DM I was hooked. In no time I was running games for a group of people in my neighborhood and my cousin Paul. We went through all the classic modules. I remember distinctly the “G” Series modules as well as many of the other solid color TSR adventures.

After playing within our little group for a while we started to branch out and play at a local game store. The local game store of choice in those days is now a legend to most South Bay gamers…The Game Table. The Game Table was a hole in the wall game store in the old downtown Campbell area.

Game Table Business Card

It had the typical gaming supplies and more importantly a large gaming surface. The store scheduled games of all types and it costs something like $2.50 to play in a game that would last the entire day. You could even buy discount cards that gave you 5 games for $10! As you can imagine most parents, including ours, took advantage of the situation.

During our time at the game table we met a set of older guys who were looking for some regular players and another DM. They were high school guys too so for us junior high school kids it was a big deal. To this day we refer to these guys fondly as “Big Bob” and Sean. They ran a Monty Hall D&D campaign with a group of evil PC called “Murder Inc.” We played a lot with these guys. It was because of “Big Bob” and Sean that we were invited to our first convention…DunDraCon IV. Boy it was a blast! We gamed until all hours of the night and ate noting but pizza.

Over the years Don and I would go to MANY RPG conventions. For the next 20 years we would attend the regular Bay Area conventions (i.e. DunDraCon and Pacificon) as well as conventions held at Cal Poly (i.e. PolyCon). When Origins ’94 was held in San Jose at the new convention center we were some happy gamers. I was also lucky enough to go to GenCon 25 in Milwaukee with Rudy. That convention was something to behold. I’m really glad I went…it is something I had always dreamed of doing and that I will never forget. I know I know…what a fanatic…the funny thing is that it would only get worse when I discovered the RPG with guys in their funny suits…

The High School Years – Bring on the Heroes – 1981 through 1984

In 1981 a friend, Joe Lambert, would introduce me to a game that would forever change the way I thought about role-playing games. The game was called Champions. Since I had just started reading comic books Champions was a natural extension of my RPG experience. After playing the game a few times I was in love. I liked the way the system could adapt and change based on your needs.

During these years I would run several Champions campaigns. The games started at a very high power level but soon we experimented with different styles and flavors. I would end up running many memorable Hero based games at this time with some of my regular gaming buddies. At the time the guys I would game with included Chris Corny, Deryl Clark, Rudy Fuentez, Scott Tashiro, Joe Lambert, Bob Lambert, and Don. One of our most memorable super teams at the time was a group called Reliance. (I got the name from the back of an 18 wheeler. There is a particular brand of truck called Reliant.) Some of the characters and villains I recall vividly to this day include Ice Devil (Rudy), Elite (Don), Survivor (Don), Tsunami (Scott), Lady Love (Deryl), Mad Merc (Mine), and Spade (Rudy). Below is a picture of Mad Merc drawn by Rudy. If you want to see the character sheet for Mad Merc click on the picture.

Mad Merc Picture

One of the things that I did during this time was teach advanced education classes for younger students. My Mom was big in the schools and was involved in this project. When she asked for ideas I suggested teaching other kids to play Champions. It teaches mathematics, dealing with complex situations, and creativity. Mom jumped on the idea and I ended up teaching two groups of student how to play Champions! It was really fun and very rewarding to me. I think these session were instrumental in my current love of teaching and instruction.

The College Years – SAGA – 1985 through 1989

When I first arrived at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo I looked for the campus gaming club. The gaming group is known as the Society for Adventure GAming (SAGA). When the group made introductions to new members they asked for your name, major, and favorite game. I told them my name was John, that I was an electronic engineering major, and the I played most RPG but that my favorite was Hero. Instantly two of the guys started to pump their fists. These two, Tod Kessler and Ray Loresto, would become close friends and would take part in literally every campaign that I would end up running over the next 5 years. It turns out that someone had tried to run Champions in the past but they did not know what they were doing. These two really wanted to try the system with a better GM. (I’ll talk more about these gents and others in a bit.) The next year I became the club Secretary and held the post for the next four years.

One of the other new gentlemen that I met in college was Bill Robinson. I met Bill in a very interesting way…through Hero! While in the dorms I signed up to take part in the Fantasy Hero first edition play test. Bill responded with a copy of the play test rules and a very nice letter. (You can actually find my name in the play testers section of the Fantasy Hero book.) The letter mentioned that he did not think there were any Hero players at Poly and that he was making some money during the summer so that he could return to college to complete his English degree. Bill showed up the next quarter and we ended up becoming roommates and good frients. (Bill was the production designer on Fantasy Hero and later became the editor of the Adventurer’s Club.)

Some of my other regular SAGA gaming companions included Tod Kessler, Ray Loresto (who would be my roommate for several years), Debbie Geisbrecht (now Mrs. Tod Kessler), John Turner (who I would later become related to…I’m serious…don’t ask), Steve Rosenau, Dan and Robin Nitschke, Jim Salter, Dave Grant, Deryl Clark, and my brother Don who went to Poly to get his Math degree. To this day I think one of the only reasons I made it through college was gaming. Some of the classic campaigns and PC that I remember from these years include:

  • Our Danger International Network Team Shadow Corp – Bill Robinson ran a great Danger International campaign that would spawn one of my favorite PC AND Heroic level campaigns! Hank Sweet came from this campaign that Bill Robinson ran. Hank is an ex-cop now PI who eats donuts. He is a real softie but a bulldog when the chips are down. Below is a picture of Mr. Sweet that was drawn by Hero artist extraordinaire Scott Ruggels. If you click on the picture you can see a copy of the actual character sheet.


Hank Sweet Picture

  • Allegra (nicknamed “Legs”) – Deryl’s Fantasy Hero PC who ran in Bill’s campaign. She could really throw down. Mystically enhanced fighter type who always seemed to get hit in the legs…
  • Achmed and Abduhl (i.e. “The OPEC Avengers”) – Really Nightshade (Tod Kessler’s Champions PC) and Enforcer (Ray Loresto’s Champions PC) in disguise. They used these disguises once to get into a protected gang of hoods. We were laughing so hard that night that we could hardly see straight. Robin drew a picture of the duo that was just wonderful.
  • Daermo (Enforcer in disguise) – During one of our Champions sessions Enforcer lost his powers on a permanent basis. It was a really big deal as Enforcer was a major PC in this particular campaign world. Ray told the players he would make another PC. Instead he talked with me behind the scenes and had Enforcer train to become a mysterious martial artist known as Daermo. (Daermo is a Japanese word for “nobody”.)
  • Stealth (Deb’s Champions PC) – Fun cat PC with a blow gun that could heal PC at range with IPA. Made for an effective sniper. Deb played her with grace and passion.
  • Seth (my D&D Wizard PC) and Jino-Ti (Ray’s D&D Cleric PC) – These two had some epic adventures together. For a while their exploits became legendary when they were the only survivors in two very tough runs. These two had such chemistry that Ray and I devised a set of code words that we could use to pass information to each other in front of other PC, players, and NPC. Even the GM did not know our codes! We had alignment codes, detect magic codes, etc. It was a blast. Both would eventually die in different ways.
  • Crystal Singer (Steve’s Champions PC) – Boy Steve played Singer as a bitch. It was tons of fun having Crystal Singer and Stealth in the same session.
  • Artemis Zippo (Urne’s Fantasy Hero PC) – Zippo is a duelist extraordinaire. John Turner has a lot of fun playing this character and it shows. Zippo is one of my favorite PCs.

SAGA held a yearly gaming convention in the dorms called PolyCon. It was a lot of work for SAGA but it was a lot of fun. During these conventions many tournaments would be held. For some reason PolyCon produced some wonderful tourneys. One year at the D&D tournament my team of players not only won the D&D tournament but they were the only team to finish the first round without getting into a combat! The DM running the sessions could not believe it. During the finals Rudy would place first and Jim would place second. I was so proud of these guys. I tell you…my players ROCK!

During these years I was also given the opportunity to review the 4th edition of the Hero rules. My feedback on Fantasy Hero was good so they wanted to see my comments on the 4th edition stuff. The letter I wrote about the BBB was over 20 pages! It was enough to get my name into the 4th edition rules on the play test page. I’m very proud of this fact.

The Nineties – The Checkered Demon – 1990 through 1999

The early 90’s were a great time to be a Hero fan. Tons of products were released in this time that would become classics. It was during this boon that I decided to try and run a BBS dedicated to Hero.

When I came up with the idea I was not sure I had the technical resources to pull it off. I talked with a friend of mine at work, Pete Shinkevich, and he mentioned that it would not be that tough. He really inspired me to give it a try. Using a collection of left over parts we created the BBS. Pete threw in a case, I found a motherboard, Jim provided a fantastic 700 MB SCSI drive, etc. It just came together. Once we had the PC I setup the software (PCBoard running over DesqView) which was not an easy task and ran new phone lines into the house I was renting (i.e. the Slammer). Running the lines was not an enjoyable task! It involved digging a 20′ long trench 18″ deep along the side of our driveway. After it was created I needed a name. Pete proposed the name I would end up using, “The Checkered Demon”. (It is actually the name of an old comic from the 60’s.) I ran the Demon for over two years. It was tons of fun. Below is a logo used by the BBS. A friend of mine from high school did the artwork. Now Alex Sheikman is an RPG artist for White Wolf. You can see a lot of his art in Vampire:Dark Ages. Tim and I would play door games and chat with visitors. We had a blast. On the BBS I would meet some Hero fans that loved the game like I do. These folks included Derek Heimforth, James Jandebaur, Scott Bennie, and Steve Long.

The BBS also gave me some notoriety. It gave me an “in” to play games with the old Hero guard including George MacDonald, Steve Peterson, Glenn Thain, Ray Greer, Doug Garrett, and Bruce Harlick. In fact one game I will never forget is a Champions game I played run by George MacDonald. Another memorable session was a Danger International run by Doug Garrett. I even played Hank Sweet…it was a blast!

Checkered Demon Logo

During this time I moved into the Slammer. This was a run down house that four of us rented. I would end up living there for almost 9 years. During that stint a LOT of memorable games would be run at the house. We played at least three times a month during this period. Some of the campaigns that I remember during this period include the Temple Of Elemental Evil (see below, AD&D), Underdeep (AD&D), Alien Legion (Hero), Sweet Investigations (D.I.), The Von Braun Covenant (Horror/X-Files/V D.I.), The V Gene (Champions), Jeff’s Vampire Game (I co-GM’d after a bit), and Rudy’s Vampire Games. I know there were more these are just the ones that come to mind!

The 00’s – Real Life And The Rebirth – 2000 through Early 2009

The start of the new millennium ushered in a dramatic drop to the amount of role-playing that I was able to undertake. With my marriage to Sermin and the birth of my sons Joshua and Evan things got and continue to be quite busy. Even though my personal life started to really take off I was able to manage some gaming accomplishments.

I ran a Vampire campaign with Jeff Brickman that lasted around 6 sessions. Jeff approached me about Vampire with me taking on co-GM role. We had a great time running the start of the campaign in 1570’s France. The PC were very creative and we had lots of fun.

2002 was a year of rebirth for Hero. With Steve Long and Darren Watts purchasing Hero a lot happened. The dynamic duo released the fifth edition (aka “FREd”) plus more pages of Hero material than any year in the history of the company! Dan Simon who designed Hero Designer and Dave Mattingly the editor of the online ezine Digital Hero have also played significant roles. Luckily I was able to contribute by submitting an adventure and an article for the ezine. The Champions adventure, Infectious Enthusiasm, was printed in Digital Hero #9. To my surprise issue #14 contained my flying carpet article! COOL! I’ve also completed an export template for the character creation program. Hopefully in the future I will be given other opportunities to aid my favorite RPG.

In 2003 I started a Champions campaign called Reliance Reforged. It lasted over a year with over 12 sessions! I had a lot of fun with the campaign. It was my first attempt at running a campaign using FREd using characters built at 350 points. I’m not sure I like 350 point characters…they are quite effective! 🙂 See the link on the right side of this page for details on this very different Champions campaign.

I started my second science fiction campaign in 2004. It is called Star Aria. See the link on the right side for more details. The campaign ran for over three years and amounted to 32 sessions of play. I consider it to be one of the best campaigns I have ever run.

After running Star Hero for so long I decided to take a break and try something different. I started up a campaign based on the Terra Incognita rules from Grey Ghost Press. The campaign was stew of low-tech pulp, Indiana Jones, and Cthulhu. It ran for 17 sessions and produced some real gems. The Sacraments Of Evil adventure will go down as one of my favorite single session runs of all time. See the link on the right side for all of the details.

During this period my name (i.e. “John Taber”) was used in the UNTIL : Defenders of Freedom book! I’m the North American Regional Commander. Watch out! 😀

The 10’s – Heroic Quests – Mid 2009 Through Today

In May of 2009 I started a new Fantasy Hero campaign called Spirit Storm. The concept was to make a high fantasy campaign where animal like races roam the world. It has run for 34 sessions and will likely take 1 or 2 more sessions to complete. See the link on the right side for additional details.

In 2010 I got the privilege of reviewing a manuscript from Jason Walter that would later become an RPG product known as Posthegemony: Terra Nomenklatura. After conducting a detailed review Jason liked my comments so much that he asked if I would work on the product as an editor. I was flattered and readily accepted. This also allowed me to playtest the product at DunDraCon 35. I am very proud of the product and think all Hero players should check out Jason’s work on the product. I think it is his best RPG work to date. 🙂

I pledged two kickstarters for the Pariah, Missouri graphic novels by Decade Brothers. During the second kickstarter the author, Andres Salazar, mentioned that he wanted to do a role-playing game for the property. This got me very excited because I loved the Pariah books. As part of the RPG design effort he asked if people knew Savage Worlds, FATE, or the Hero System. I stepped up and offered to help with the Hero System material. I really like how it came out…go check it out for yourself at this link.

As a famous Disney character exclaimed…TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!

Gaming Accomplishments

I am very proud of some of the RPG related things I have accomplished over the years. Here is a brief list that is presented in historical order.

  • Champions Advanced Educations Classes – As detailed above I spent some time conducting a class where advanced placement students could learn how to play Hero. It was very well received and I ended up running the course twice. One of the things that this did was give me a great enjoyment in conducting training classes that I hold to this day.
  • Play Tested Fantasy Hero First Edition – During my first year at Poly in 1984 I signed up and became a play tester for the first edition of Fantasy Hero. I still have original manuscript and it is frankly a mess. The entire document was something like 50 pages and all over Steve and George had penciled in comments. It did work pretty well though and having the other Hero players at Poly provided me a great chance to return some killer feedback. It was enough to get my name placed into the final copy of the book.
  • Sent Comments On Hero 4th Edition Draft – With Bill as a roommate I had an opportunity to review the early 4th edition Hero draft. (I actually still have a copy of the material.) Initially George and Steve has some crazy ideas about changing the way mental powers worked. They also devised the concept of many of the now standard rules in this draft. It was a fun read! I would end up generating a response of over 20 pages. The result was that my name placed in the infamous Big Blue Book (BBB). This is one of my crowning Hero achievements.
  • Created And Ran The Checkered Demon BBS – For over two years I ran a Hero inspired BBS. It was a lot of fun but it was also a lot of work. I met some great people which made the entire venture fruitful. I closed the BBS due to lack of interest and the emergence of the internet. These two factors…as well as a sharp drop in the release of new Hero products banished the Demon.
  • Published A Column In Adventurer’s Club #26 – I wrote a column for AC #26 entitled Cause and Effects. It was article that exploited Hero’s flexibility by showing readers the various ways in which the rules could be used to create various effects. In particular it highlighted how a single special effect could be reach from several angles. I came up with three articles. The first got published in AC #26. It was about a Fear special effect. The other two did not get published as AC folded with issue #26 but recently the editor of Digital Hero, Dave Mattingly, has approached me about rewriting the Flying Carpet article. See below for details!
  • Designed rtf Hero Submissions Export Template for Hero Designer – I did this to make it easier for me to submit material to Hero. Dan Simon prompted me to tune it so that is could be added to the official Digital Hero release.
  • Published Champions Adventure In Digital Hero #9 – I submitted a Champions adventure called Infectious Enthusiasm. The adventure is 23 pages long and includes 10 unique characters! The artwork done for my article is just fantastic. I am VERY happy with the results. If you want to purchase the issue click here.
  • Published Article About Flying Carpets In Digital Hero #14 – I was pleasantly surprised when I found that a flying carpet article I submitted for Adventurer’s Club then updated for Digital Hero saw print. Very nice. If you want to purchase the issue click here.
  • Officially Listed On RPG Geek – I actually have a Game Designer page on RPG Geek that details my official RPG accomplishments. Here is a link to the page. Go check it out!
  • Edited Posthegemony: Terra Nomenklatura – I edited this labor of love from Jason Walters. It was a lot of work but also a great deal of fun. If you are an “Interesting Person” looking for a way to escape you owe it to yourself to take a look. Here is a link to the product.
  • Hero System Content For The Pariah, Missouri RPG – I worked on this material during the kickstarter for the second Pariah, Missouri graphic novel. It was a ton of fun. If you have not read this book or checked out the RPG you should do so. Here is a link to the site where you can get details.

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