PASSING THE TORCH: 4 Pioneers Of Urban Fiction and a New Era in Street Stories!

Urban Fiction – the most popular genre of fiction among Black people, particularly Black youth – like all great genres of fiction, has old, deep roots. They are roots that have borne fruit the likes of  Sister Souljah, K’wan, Teri Woods, Vickie Stringer, Treasure Blue and Wahida Clark, just to name a few.

The roots of the Urban Fiction tree – the Founding Fathers, if you will are:

Chester Himes

Urban FictionChester Bomar Himes was born July 29, 1909 in Jefferson City, Missouri, but his parents –Joseph Sandy Himes, a peripatetic professor of industrial trades at Black colleges and universities and Estelle Bomar Himes, a teacher at Scotia Seminary – eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

Urban FictionIn Cleveland, Himes attended East High School in Cleveland, Ohio and went on to attend Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Early in his Freshman year, he was expelled for playing a prank.

In late 1928, Himes was arrested, chained upside down, beaten by police until he confessed to an armed robbery and then sentenced to 20 to 25 years of hard labor in Ohio Penitentiary. In prison, he wrote short stories that were published in national magazines. Himes stated that writing in prison and being published was a way to earn respect from guards and fellow inmates, as well as to avoid violence.

His first stories appeared in 1931 in The Bronzeman and, beginning in 1934, in the prestigious men’s magazine, Esquire. His story, To What Red Hell, published in Esquire in 1934, as well as his novel Cast the First Stone – only much later republished, unabridged, as Yesterday Will Make You Cry (1998) – dealt with the catastrophic 1930 prison fire Himes witnessed at Ohio Penitentiary in 1930.

In 1934 Himes was transferred to London Prison Farm and in April, 1936, he was released on parole into his mother’s custody. Following his release, he worked part-time jobs and at the same time continued to write. During this period, he came in touch with Langston Hughes, who facilitated Himes’ contacts with the world of literature and publishing.

Later, in 1936 Himes married Jean Johnson.

Lit 3In the 1940s, Himes spent time in Los Angeles working as a screenwriter and authoring two novels, If He Hollers Let Him Go and The Lonely Crusade. He also provided an analysis of the Zoot Suit Riots for The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP.

Himes’ brief career as a screenwriter was for Warner Brothers. He was terminated, however, when CEO Jack Warner heard about him and screamed “I don’t want no niggers on this lot!”

By the 1950s Himes had decided to settle in France permanently, a country he liked, in part due to his popularity in literary circles. In Paris, Himes was the contemporary of the political cartoonist Oliver Harrington and fellow expatriate writers Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and William Gardner Smith.

Famed author, Ishmael Reed said of Himes: “He taught me the difference between a black detective and Sherlock Holmes” and it would be more than 30 years until another Black mystery writer, Walter Mosley and his Easy Rawlins and Mouse series, had even a similar effect.”

Himes wrote a series of Harlem Detective novels featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, New York City police detectives in Harlem. While most Urban Fiction features law enforcement officers as the antagonists, Himes, considered the father of Urban Fiction, chose detectives as the protagonists, but they are as victimized by racism as any other Black man and thus become defenders of their community and opponents of the unjust and racist system.

The titles of the series include A Rage in HarlemThe Real Cool KillersThe Crazy KillAll Shot UpThe Big Gold DreamThe Heat’s OnCotton Comes to Harlem, and Blind Man with a Pistol – all written in the years 1957–1969.

Cotton Comes to Harlem was made into a movie in 1970, which was set in that time period, rather than the earlier period of the original book. A sequel, Come Back, Charleston Blue was released in 1972, and For Love of Imabelle was made into a film under the title A Rage in Harlem in 1991.

In 1969 Himes moved to Moraira, Spain, where he died in 1984 from Parkinson’s Disease. He is buried at Benissa cemetery.

Robert Beck

Urban FictionRobert Beck – better known as Iceberg Slim – was born Robert Lee Maupin on August 4, 1918 in Chicago, Illinois. He spent his childhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Rockford, Illinois until he later returned to Chicago.

Lit 6Slim attended Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, but soon began bootlegging and was expelled as a result. After his expulsion, his mother encouraged him to become a criminal lawyer so that he could make a legal living while continuing to work with the street people he was so fond of, but Maupin, seeing the pimps bringing women into his mother’s beauty salon, was far more attracted to the model of money and control over women that the pimps provided.

Slim started pimping at 18, and continued to pimp until age 42, after a final 10-month prison stretch in solitary confinement in 1960. At that point, he decided he could continue making money off pimping by writing about it instead. Slim moved to California  to pursue writing under the Iceberg Slim pen-name. In normal life, he changed his name to Robert Beck, taking the last name of the man his mother was married to at the time.

His first novel, an autobiographical classic, was Pimp: The Story of My Life, published by Holloway House.

Reviews of Pimp were mixed; it was quickly categorized as being typical of the Black “revolutionary” literature being created at the time. However, Beck’s vision was considerably bleaker than most other black writers of his era. His work tended to be based on his personal experiences in the criminal Urban Fictionunderworld, and revealed a world of seemingly bottomless brutality and viciousness. His was a peek into the world of Black pimps, hustlers and crooked cops. Pimp sold very well. By 1973, it had been reprinted 19 times and had sold nearly 2 million copies.

Following Pimp, Beck wrote several more novels: Trick Baby (1967), Mama Black Widow (1969), Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim (1971), Long White Con (1977), Death Wish: A Story of the Mafia (1977), and Airtight Willie & Me (1985). He sold over six million books prior to his death in 1992, making him one of the best-selling African-American writers (after Alex Haley).

Slim died of complications from diabetes on April 28, 1992. He was 73 years old.

Donald Goines

Urban FictionDonald Goines was born December 15, 1936 in Detroit, Michigan. His parents were a middle-class black couple that ran a laundry business.

At the age of 15, Goines lied about his age to join the Air Force, where he fought in the Korean War. During his stint in the armed forces, Goines developed an addiction to heroin that continued after his honorable discharge from the military in the mid-1950s. In order to support his addiction, Goines committed multiple crimes, including pimping and theft, and was sent to prison several times. He began writing while serving a sentence in Michigan’s Jackson Penitentiary. Goines initially attempted to write westerns, but decided to write Urban Fiction after reading Iceberg Slim’s  Pimp.

Lit 10Goines wrote novels at an accelerated pace in order to support his drug addictions, with some books taking only a month to complete. His sister Joan Goines Coney later said that Goines wrote at such an accelerated pace in order to avoid committing more crimes and based many of the characters in his books on people he knew in real life.

In 1974, Goines published Crime Partners, the first book in the Kenyatta Series under the name ‘Al C. Clark’. Holloway House’s chief executive Bentley Morriss requested that Goines publish the book under a pseudonym in order to avoid having the sales of Goines’s work suffer due to too many books releasing at once. The book dealt with an anti-hero character named after Jomo Kenyatta that ran a Black Panther-esque organization to clear the ‘hood of crime.

Urban FictionInner City Hoodlum, which Goines finished before his death, was published posthumously in 1975. The story, set in Los Angeles, was about “smack” (heroin), money and murder.

On October 21, 1974 Goines and his common-law wife were discovered dead in their Detroit apartment. The police had received an anonymous phone call earlier that evening and responded, discovering Goines in the living room of the apartment and his common-law wife, Shirley Sailor, in the kitchen. Both Goines and Sailor had sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and head. The identity of the killer or killers is unknown and no motive for the murders has been found.

Thanks to one of my favorite authors, Lynn Emery, I have learned there was also a Founding Mother of Urban Fiction:

Ann Petry

Urban FictionAnn Petry was born Anna Lane on October 12, 1908 in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, the youngest of three daughters to Peter Clark Lane, a pharmacist and Bertha James Lane, a chiropodist and hairdresser.

The Lane girls were raised sheltered from most of the disadvantages other black people in the United States had to experience due to the color of their skin; however there were a number of incidents of racial discrimination.

Urban FictionAfter an English teacher read one of Ann’s essays, she told Ann that she should, one day, become an author. She decided to write professionally. Her parents, however, had different plans for Ann. They decided she would be a pharmacist and, in 1931, Ann graduated with a Ph.G. (Graduate of Pharmacy) degree from Connecticut College of Pharmacy in New Haven. After graduation, she worked in the family business for several years. She also began to write short stories while working at the pharmacy.

On February 22, 1938, she married George D. Petry of New Iberia, Louisiana, which brought her to New York. She wrote articles for newspapers such as The Amsterdam News and The People’s Voice and published short stories in The Crisis. She also worked in an after-school program at P.S. 10 in Harlem. It was during this period of her life that she realized and experienced the racial inequality and injustice suffered by the majority of Black people in the United States.

Harriet TubmanImpacted by her Harlem experiences, Ann Petry used her creative writing skills to bring these injustices to print in the form of the novel, The Street.

Published in 1946, The Street became wildly popular and won the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship with book sales exceeding one and a half million copies.

The impact of Petry’s writing continues to be appreciated: literary critics praise her as the most successful author of urban protest writing; and black feminists cite The Street as the first African-American novel in which motherhood is a major theme.

In an article in the February 1946 issue of The Crisis, Petry said of The Street:

“My aim is to show how simply and easily the environment can change the course of a person’s life … I try to show why the Negro has a high crime rate, a high death rate, and little or no chance of keeping his family unit intact in large northern cities.”

Ann Petry died April 28, 1997, near her home in Old Saybrook, after a brief illness.

Recently, I interviewed Fagbuyi, Urban Fiction historian and co-writer of the soon-to-be-released Urban Fiction audio drama series, STREET STORIES: Diesel:

Lit 12

What was your introduction to Urban Fiction? How did you start reading it?

My introduction to Urban Fiction was in 2000, during my senior year of high school. One of my classmates was reading The Coldest Winter Ever, by author Sister Souljah. She let me borrow it. I read the book in one day. I’ve been hooked on Urban Fiction ever since.

What do you like about Urban Fiction?

I love the complex plots; the twist and turns. I love how the story pulls you in.

How many Urban Fiction books have you read?

I’ve read at least 200 Urban Fiction novels.

What is Street Stories: Diesel? And how are you involved?

Street Stories: Diesel is a gritty street story full of love, treachery and revenge. With every corner you turn in the world of Diesel, you have to watch your back because everybody wants to wear the crown and rule the streets. Some will even die trying to get that crown. Diesel was thought of by Balogun. I was given the opportunity to co-write. I am excited to be a part of this awesome project!

An audio series is a unique and new approach to Urban Fiction. Why did you and your co-creators choose to create an audio series? Are there any Street Stories: Diesel novels in the works? A television series? A movie?

An audio podcast is an awesome idea! There aren’t any Urban Fiction audio drama series out there and we wanted to do something unheard of; to start a trend.

Yes, there is a Diesel novel in the works. There will be a novel for every Street Story that we record. The books will give a more juicy, behind the scenes detail of what’s going on in the Street Story world. We will give our listeners a deeper look into the characters in the novel and trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

A television series? We would love to give you that answer right now, but you will just have to stay tuned for that one. No contracts have been signed as of yet.

A movie? When presented with the opportunity to bring Diesel to the big screen, yes.


The torch lit and carried by the three great Founding Fathers of Urban Fiction has been passed into capable hands and it appears the fire of Urban Fiction will forever burn brightly.

Soon, that flame will grow into a conflagration and set the streets on fire when a little Diesel is poured on it!

STREET STORIES: Diesel – Empire, Power and the Growth of Urban Fiction

DieselIn the wake of the popularity of the hit Urban Fiction television series Power and Empire, people worldwide are clamoring for more Urban Fiction content across media.

DieselAlready outselling every other genre in books, Urban Fiction is now making major moves on television.

Of course, this is not new – The Wire continues to be popular, although it aired its final episode March 9, 2008. And, even though similar shows – shows that are just as intense; just as violent; just as crime-ridden – that don’t feature a majority Black cast are called “crime dramas” – The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Wentworth (a remake of the series Prisoner: Cell Block H, from New Zealand) and Gang Related – they, too, are wildly popular with youth and adults from all ethnic backgrounds, but especially Black people.

What, exactly is Urban Fiction, you ask?

In many ways, Urban Fiction is a tough genre to define because, in trying to give it an exact definition, we inject our own biases into the definition. You may be familiar with urban fiction under other names – Street Lit; Hip Hop Fiction; Ghetto Lit. All of those terms, however, reduce the genre to something much more specific than it is. Every story doesn’t take place in the streets; every story is not about a b-boy, b-girl, or does not contain a hip hop aesthetic; and many are not set in some ghetto or slum. Street Lit, Hip Hop Fiction and Ghetto Lit might instead be considered subgenres of Urban Fiction.

Urban Science FictionThough rare, Urban Fiction can also contain elements of Urban Fantasy – Kingmaker: The Knights of Breton Court – and Science Fiction – Redeemer. Both these books feature action packed, gritty and thrilling stories and are considered to take Urban Fiction to new heights of craft and quality.

Urban Fiction is a genre within the Super-Genre of Realistic Fiction. In Realistic Fiction, characters are ordinary, “real” people. Characters usually change as a result of some “real world” problem (drug addiction, rape, a dying loved one) they must attempt to resolve.

The setting is usually imaginary, but could possibly exist and, while it is usually set in the present, the story can also take place in the past, future, or in no time at all.

The plot in Realistic Fiction must be plausible and believable. The reader should feel that the story really happened. Often, young readers will ask if a Realistic Fiction story was real and will be disappointed when they discover it was not.

As mentioned earlier, Urban Fiction is mostly realistic, but stories can take on elements of Fantasy, Science Fiction or the Paranormal, as long as the feel is still gritty, and the plot is still plausible.

Urban FictionIn the spring of 2015, two powerhouse media companies – Roaring Lions Productions and Def B4 Dishonor Productions – will join forces to bring high quality, hard-hitting Urban Fiction into homes worldwide with the first Urban Fiction audio series, STREET STORIES: Diesel.

Street Stories is a show that delivers intelligent, exciting and meaningful Crime, Pulp and Urban Fiction Drama across media. The first of its projects will be the ongoing audio series Diesel, which will air its first episode in mid-spring.

Each episode will be followed by Word from The Streets, a talk show in which the host will discuss the show that just aired with a member or two of the cast and give a sneak peek at the following episode.

Following is some of the work from Roaring Lions Productions and Def B4 Dishonor Productions.

We will continue to update you with news of this series, which is bound to be a hit!



Diesel Sista 1

Marcus Garvey DieselpunkMob bosses. Nazis. Flappers. Jazz. Bootleggers. Marcus Garvey. The Tulsa Race Riots.

This is some of the stuff of the era of Dieselpunk – an often grittier sibling of Steampunk.

Dieselpunk is a sub-genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy that includes – but is not limited to, or bound by – the aesthetics, style and philosophies of film noir and pulp fiction and featuring retrofuturistic innovations, alternate history and elements of the occult. Think the movies Captain America: The First Avenger, Sin City, Hell Boy, the Indiana Jones films and The Mummy (1999 – 2008) trilogy.

Dieselpunk is set during the Diesel Era – a period of time that begins at the end of World War I and continues until the early 1950s.

Over the next few weeks, in our League of Extraordinary Black People Series, I will explore the amazing achievements of Black people during this incredible era. I call the Blacktastic stories of these men and women Dieselfunk. I even wrote a Dieselfunk novel, The Scythe, that I know you’ll enjoy.

Some of the Dieselfunk Archetypes we will explore are:


Jigaboo DevilWhen the police don’t have the manpower to help; when the Hard-Boiled Detectives demand too much money or just don’t give a damn… there are those who will stand up for the weak, the oppressed and the victimized, fighting crime and evil in all its forms. The Avenger is a shadowy figure who strikes fear into the heart of the criminal community, hiding their true identity behind a mask, scarf, or wide brimmed hat pulled low to conceal their face. An Avenger’s motivation is rarely known. Many utilize strange inventions, chemical concoctions and / or psychic or occult powers to give themselves an advantage against their enemies.


Diesel Sista 2During the Diesel Era, airplanes were still a fairly new concept. Most people had never actually seen one. Many adventurers raised some money, built a plane and put on shows to exhibit their skills. Some raced their planes, while others did stunt shows such as the famous Barnstormers of the 1920’s. Industrialist Howard Hughes made much of his fortune in the burgeoning aviation industry. These daring men, more at home in the wild blue yonder than on the ground, were always on the lookout for adventure and the opportunity to make a few bucks. Others served in the war and proved themselves the Aces of the sky – modern-day knights, racing over the battlefield, delivering a hail of hell in the form of hot lead on the troops far below.


The Doctor can be a general practitioner, surgeon or other specialist, a psychiatrist, or an independent medical researcher. A doctor seeks to help patients, promote a more rational and health-conscious society and, of course, to acquire money and prestige. The Psychiatrist is a Doctor of Medicine who diagnoses mental disorders and administers treatment for the same. He or she can  also diagnose and treat medical conditions.


This archetype includes dancers, singers, jugglers, stage magicians, athletes, musician, actors and anyone else who earns their living in front of an audience. It is applause, accolades, artistic expression, glory and / or money that drives them.


The explorer braves the unknown, searching for long buried treasure, ancient and arcane knowledge or what lies beyond, beneath, or between.

Whether searching the wonders high in the Tibetan Mountains, at the center of the Earth, or in the depths of the sea, the Explorer will always venture where none others dare tread.


Femme Fatale FlapperAn irresistibly attractive man (Playboy) or woman (Femme Fatale) who uses his or her many charms to convince others to provide some good, service or favor. They are the perfect foils for a trusting, heroic adventurer who is often unfamiliar with the wily ways of these men and women. They are dangerous and willing to use their beauty – or anything else – to attain their goals. While many use their powers of enchantment for evil, others use their charms to help others, or to bring about positive change. These are usually anti-heroes who operate on both sides of law and order.


Diesel Sistas 2Grease Monkeys are the rough, tough and oh so ready mechanics, electricians and handymen / women of the civilian and military worlds. Aces at repairing automotives, ships, aircrafts and appliances for the home or business, these men and women keep the world moving along.


HardboiledWith many police departments forced to cut back on manpower from dwindling revenue, many people have turned to the private investigators for justice. Although in most cities, the “private eye” is licensed by the police and must be privately bonded as well, these gumshoes often work in the morally gray area between law and crime.

The private eye usually acts in non-police situations – gathering information and evidence for private clients in impending civil cases, tracking down fleeing or cheating spouses or business partners, or acting as agents for private defense attorneys in criminal cases. A private eye has no problem separating his or her personal feelings from the job and will gladly work for the guilty and innocent alike, as long as his fee is paid. Of course, working on both sides of the fence is tough – the police see you as a civilian muscling in on their job, and civilians view you as a rent-a-cop without the badge. 

A more sophisticated cousin of the Hard-Boiled Detective is the Consulting Detective, who relies more on astute, logical reasoning and a powerful intellect than the two-fisted gumshoe.


HuntersWhether they are stalking a lion across the Plains of the Serengeti in a rite to prove their worth as a man amongst their people, tracking down elephants for their ivory, bringing a museum the corpse of a Yeti for display, or riding shotgun on an archaeological expedition, there will always be a need for the Hunter – explorers of unknown lands and seekers of the next big challenge.


Brilliant masters of gadgets and gizmos, the Inventor is intrigued by the complexities of technology and finding new uses for metal, electricity and diesel power. The Inventor is an expert in advanced mechanics and electronics, which allows him or her to create devices well beyond the normal capacities of the Diesel Era.


Journalist 1These men and women seek to uncover and expose the troubles that plague the world and to make the general public aware of those troubles.

While some might believe that to be a good journalist, you just need a notebook and a nosy disposition, in reality, you must be willing to put yourself in the thick of things to get the scoop. You must be able to skillfully use words to report and comment upon current topics and events, writing as many words in a day as an author may in a week.

Journalists work for newspapers, magazines and radio, often taking on the role of detective to bring timely and accurate news to the public. They are the eyes and ears of the city.

Constantly on the hunt for the next big story, Journalists will uncover the secrets that others need – and have a right – to know. 


The Mad Scientist blindly pursues knowledge and power. They gladly experiment on the living and dead alike, using brutal torture techniques to unlock the mysteries of the mind and brain and conducting breeding experiments in an effort to produce new species. These devotees of Charles Darwin and Doctor Moreau fill their island sanctuaries with animal / human hybrids, clones of themselves and loved ones and strange conglomerations of flesh and metal.


MysticTrained in techniques from the indigenous people of Asia, Africa, or the Americas, the Mystic is an individual on a quest to discover the great secrets of the mind and body. Through meditation, study and training, they have tapped into their psychic potential. Most mystics also have extensive knowledge of the martial arts from the culture their masters hail from. This gives them a distinct advantage during the Diesel Era, as martial arts are nearly unknown in the West during this period.


Occultists may be the wealthy widow, seeking supernatural truths from her deceased husband, or a champion of science, seeking to debunk the paranormal. They may be the college professor, student, or librarian who uncovers the sinister nature of the occult. Whatever the vocation or preoccupation, the occultist dedicates him or herself to the study of the unexplained. Closely related to the Occultist is the Parapsychologist – a scientist, interested in the observation of, experimentation with and measuring the power of the supernatural. Unlike the occultist, these men and women tend to be scientists, who hold degrees in physics, psychology, or medicine.


ProfessorThe Professor holds a Ph.D. in one or more areas of expertise and has earned tenure at some college or university. He or she is qualified to teach and has a reputation of excellence – or incompetence – in one or more field of study. Professors often become involved in adventures as they search for such things as ancient civilizations, ancient artifacts, new technologies, or contact with extra-dimensional life.


A scoundrel excels at making her way around the law. She knows how to be stealthy, break and enter, and cover her tracks. A scoundrel may be a street thug, con artist or even a daring and stylish cat burglar or a crime lord, who oversees a criminal empire.


Jesse and Ruth Owens sitting with an unknown group of people, ciMasters and Mistresses of manipulation, charm, deceit and infiltration, the Spy pursues a life of intrigue, politics and diplomacy throughout the world. Most spies can ease their way into any group and have connections across the globe. Similar to a Consulting Detective, his or her keen senses and insight into human motivations allow him or her to notice facts and behaviors that most others miss. The Spy’s weapon is information and thorough planning – they maintain numerous cover identities and always have a contingency plan and several escape routes, should a mission go to hell.


Pulp 1The warrior is at the forefront of battle – whether on the side of justice and heroism or in the service of selfishness, wickedness or mad schemes to rule the world. Warriors are skilled in the use of most modern weaponry, as well as basic hand-to-hand fighting techniques, tactics and strategies; many possess an expertise in a wide variety of weapons and are truly terrifying on the battlefield. Warriors range from backwater pit fighters, to bold activists, to military sharpshooters and battle-scarred veterans of world war. They make a living at the only thing they are good at – fighting, killing and surviving.


I hope you enjoyed this introduction to Dieselfunk. Be sure to hang out with us as we bring a little funk to the Jazz Age with The League of Extraordinary Black People: The Dieselfunk Edition!

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Speculative Fiction RoundtableIn response to the hostile and inaccurate portrayals of Black People in the media, W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson argued that all art is propaganda and their art would always be political. They advocated an Uplift Program to improve the image of Black people in society. Authors and playwrights who prescribed to this program presented fine and upstanding Black people who conformed to the social mores of the day.

In response, the Harlem Renaissance was born. Authors of the Harlem Renaissance rejected the restrictive standards of the Racial Uplift Program. Rather than responding to the hostile climate by simply presenting positive representations of Black People, writers of the Harlem Renaissance attempted to expose the racist oppression in American society.

Speculative Fiction RoundtableAlain Locke, who believed Black people lived in a world with political realities and needed to respond with deliberate politics in their work, wrote in his foreword to the literary collection The New Negro, “We turn therefore in the other direction to the elements of truest social portraiture… we shall let the Negro speak for himself.”

Author Wallace Thurman rejected both the politics of the Racial Uplift and of the Harlem Renaissance “New Negro.” Wallace believed Black writers should be able to portray Black people in whatever manner they best expressed the story.

Roundtable 4He organized a group of authors – including Zora Neale Hurston, who rejected the Racial Uplift efforts to present Black people in a way that would accommodate the cultural standards of the white majority. Hurston also asserted her work as distinct from the work of fellow Harlem Renaissance writers, whom she described as the “sobbing school of Negrohood” that portrayed the lives of Black people as constantly miserable, downtrodden and deprived – to create their own magazine, FIRE!!, that would publish stories about the Black experience without any filters or censors.

FIRE!! sold very poorly, however, and was condemned by WEB Dubois and Paul Robeson as maligning the image of the Black community.

So, as Black creators, should our fiction, film, television shows and comic books always show Black people in a positive light? Should our work seek to expose and deal with racism, sexism, oppression, colonization and cultural appropriation? Should we portray Black people in any way we see fit, positive or negative? What do YOU think?

Speculative Fiction RoundtableTomorrow – December 30, 2014 – a roundtable of Black experts in Afrofuturism and Speculative Fiction will meet to discuss this issue and more and offer solutions.

What is a roundtable, you ask?

A roundtable is a form of academic discussion. Participants agree on a specific topic to discuss and debate, with each person given equal right to participate.

A roundtable discussion allows extensive discussion and feedback for the presenter in a more informal way than a panel presentation or workshop. Emphasis is on the discussion itself, rather than a formal presentation. The goal is to get everyone involved and participating in the discussion.

Roundtable discussions are also a common feature of political talk shows. Talk shows such as Washington Week, Real Time with Bill Maher and Meet the Press have roundtables of reporters or pundits.

The Black Speculative Fiction Radio Roundtable airs Tuesday, December 30, from 8:00pm-10:00pm EST. The show will be hosted by Ed Umoja Herman and actor Khalil Maasi (“The Blacklist”). The participants in the roundtable are veterans and movers-and-shakers in writing, filmmaking, publishing, event production and comic book creation in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. They include:

  1. Milton Davis – author; publisher; event producer and curator
  2. Balogun Ojetade – author; filmmaker; event producer and curator
  3. Valjeanne Jeffers – author; editor
  4. Alicia McCalla – author; librarian
  5. Jiba Molei Anderson – comic book creator
  6. Hannibal Tabu – author; comic book critic and historian
  7. Cerece Rennie Murphy – author
  8. Dr. Kinitra Brooks – professor; expert on horror and science fiction
  9. Naseed Gifted – comic book creator; teacher
  10. Maia Crown Williams – Producer and curator of M.E.C.C.A.Con

Join them for two hours of Black Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Action and Adventure…plus great conversation, dynamic readings of some great work and a lot of knowledge dropped about the power and importance of speculative fiction, ending sexism in Black Speculative Fiction, countering negative Black images in the media, creating, controlling and distributing our own creative works and more.

The call-in number is 917-889-7765. You can also listen in at

Journey to Ki Khanga™: Creating Your Sword and Soul Roleplaying Game Characters, Part 3

In the last two posts, we have worked on our Ki Khanga™ Characters. In this post, we complete our characters.

Ki KhangaMilton Davis and I have decided to do a contest in celebration of Ki Khanga’s release in 2015: send in your completed character with their back-story. The top five characters will be included among the Ki Khanga pre-made characters in the rulebook and the best one will be illustrated by a popular artist. You will also receive credit in the rulebook if your character is included and your character will forever become part of the Ki Khanga Universe!

If you would like to know more about the world of Ki Khanga in order to flesh out your character, I suggest you read the Anthology.

Now, let’s put the finishing touches on our character as Milton does so with his character, Kofi:

Remember, using the 150 points of Aṣe allotted to him, Milton built Kofi’s Abilities, Calculated Abilities, Skills and Talents and now has 2 points of Aṣe left to finish building his character.

Milton’s breathing finally returns to normal. “I’ll never run that far again,” he vows. He then takes another sip of coffee. It is still hot; still delicious. Milton smiles at the cup and then takes a quick peek at the TRAIT COST CHART once more:

TRAIT                        COST IN AṢE

Ability                         2 per rank

Skill                            1 per rank

Talent                          1 per Talent or Talent rank

Effect                          (base Effect cost + modifiers) x rank + flat modifiers

Defense                       2 per rank

Fighting                      10 per addl. Rank

Health                         10 per addl. Rank

Will                             10 per addl. Rank

Wealth                       10 per addl. Rank.

Milton looks at the formula for the cost of Effects and calls Balogun for clarity.

“Hey, Balogun,” Milton says.

“Hello, Milton,” Balogun replies.

“I called to…”

“To ask me to clarify the formula for the cost of Effects,” Balogun says, finishing Milton’s sentence.

“How did you…”

“I knew years ago, when I first shook your hand in Starbucks,” Balogun replies.

“But how…”

“I’ve been playing roleplaying games for three decades,” Balogun answers. “I am roleplaying games; roleplaying games are me. There is no question about roleplaying games I do not hear; no confusion, elation, triumph or failure involving roleplaying games I do not feel. Every die thrown; every character made…I am there.”

“I thought so,” Milton says.

“The formula simply means that each Effect has a cost attached to it,” Balogun says. If you modify the power in any way, it increases the cost of the Effect. The cost also increases per rank you decide to start with. For example, if we take the Change Skin Effect, the base cost is 3 points of Aṣe / rank. You can transform into an ordinary animal, or a duplicate of another person (or humanoid) with this Effect. You choose which type – animal or human – when you purchase Change Skin.  Change Skin can be purchased twice – once to transform into animals; once to mimic humans. If you can only transform into one specific type of animal, or only mimic a specific person, the cost is reduced to 2 points of Aṣe /rank.”

“I see,” Milton says.

“So, if the character Thelma has Change Skin and can only mimic her uncle Nate,” Balogun continues. “The base cost of the Effect is 2 per rank. She doesn’t use any modifiers and takes one rank in Change Skin, which costs her two points of Aṣe.”

“Got it,” Milton replies. “So…”

“Yes, we can meet next Tuesday to go over the character,” Balogun replies. “You’re welcome. Peace!”

Balogun hangs up. Milton sips a bit more coffee and reads the descriptions for Effects:


Effects are extraordinary abilities possessed by characters, creatures and even weapons and items.  They can be magical, psionic, divine, biological, or technological, as described below (you choose the Source).


Biological: Comes from your own physiology, drawing power from the function of your organs or stores of personal aṣe. An octopus’ ink, neurotoxin and color / texture changes are biologically generated Effects. For checks, the base is END. ♥

Divine: Comes from a higher being or spirit. Divine power is usually available only to those with an allegiance to that divinity. The base is PRE. ♠

Magical: Comes from manipulation of mystic forces (some call “universal aṣe”). This includes the casting of spells and use of potions, scrolls and many items. The base is WIS. ♥

Psionic: Comes from the psyche of the wielder. The power of your mind. These include the classic mental powers of Telepathy and Mind Control, but can include any of the effects. The base is WIS. ♥

Technological: Comes from technological devices and specialized equipment.  The technology may come from an advanced society, an alien race, etc., which is to be described at your character’s creation. The base is INT. ♦

Effects are broken down as follows:

Name: Name of the Effect.  With the GM’s permission, you can change the name to something that sounds cooler, more intimidating, or more fitting for your style of play.

Cost: The cost of the power – per rank – in Aṣe.

Time: The amount of time it takes to cast or activate the Effect. An Effect with a Time of “1 Turn” can be used on your turn to act in a round, just like any other Action. Effects with a Time of “1 Round”, means the Effect happens on your turn in the following round and you can do nothing but perform that Effect.

Duration: How long the Effect lasts. “Sustained” means the Effect lasts as long as you concentrate on it (see ‘Concentration’ Skill); “Instantaneous” Effects happen and then end in the same Action it was used. Some outcomes are, however, permanent. For example, Heal is Instantaneous, but the healing it causes is permanent. “1 Round (or 2, 3, 5, etc.)” means the Effect last 1 round per rank. So, if you had Animal Tongue 5, which has a duration of 1 Round, the Effect, once activated, would last 5 rounds (or until you decided to cancel it).

Description: What the Effect does and how it works.

ANIMAL TONGUE – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Round. You can communicate with ordinary animals.

BANISH – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: Permanent, unless dispelled. You can cause a spirit or otherworldly entity to return to its plane of origin.

BEWITCH – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Round. You can cause people to feel friendly about you and trust you enough to perform minor favors for you.

BEFUDDLE – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You can cause a target to be confused and unable to perform any action.

BLESS – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 3 Rounds. You may temporarily increase a target’s Health, Will, Attack Total, or Defense Total.

BOLT – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 2 Turns; Duration: Instantaneous. You cast a bolt of energy that does damage. The range of your Bolt is 10’/rank.

BREEZE – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Round. You can cause a light breeze to blow.

CHANGE SKIN – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: 3 Rounds. You can transform into an ordinary animal, or a duplicate of another person (or humanoid).

CHILL – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Round. You can lower temperature in a 10’ radius around you per rank, causing those in the area to shiver and their breath to be visible (reveals invisible or hidden characters).

DARKSIGHT – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Round. You can see in total darkness as if it was daylight.

DECIPHER – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Round. You can understand languages and encrypted codes.

DEFLECT – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You can create a force-field that repels a number of damage per attack equal to a drawn card’s value.

The force-field forms a 360° dome around you, extending 1” from you. For an additional +1/rank cost, the field can extend out to a 2’ radius per rank and can protect anyone who can fit into this dome.

DISENCHANT – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: Instantaneous. Disenchant negates Effects of equal or lower rank if successful.

DRAGON’S KISS – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 2 Turns; Duration: Instantaneous. Conjure either a 3’ wide wave of flame with a range of 50’, or three fireballs, which can be hurled up to 30’ at separate targets.

ELDER’S REPRIMAND – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: 3 Rounds. You place a curse on your target.

ERASE MEMORY – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: Permanent. You can remove a specific memory from a target if successful.

FEAR – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You cause your target to become frightened.

FLAME – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: Instantaneous. You can create a large flame that can consume objects, such as a chair or a pile of wood.

FLASH – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: Instantaneous. You can cause a blinding flash that causes the Blind Condition.

FLIGHT – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: 3 Rounds. You or your target can fly at your running speed x rank. You can carry whatever your STR allows.

FREEZE – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 2 Turns; Duration: Instantaneous. You can freeze a human-sized creature or object inside a chunk of ice.

FROST – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You can cover a target with a layer of frost.

HEAL – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: Instantaneous. You can reduce the Condition of others by one step per rank. You can heal one person/round per 2 ranks of Heal (round down). Thus, at Heal 7, you can heal up to 3 people per round. At a +1/rank cost, you can also Heal yourself.

IGNITE – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: Instantaneous. You can create a small spark of heat that can light candles, fuses, or parchment.

ILLUSION – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 2 Turn; Duration: 3 Rounds. You can create convincing illusions with appropriate sound effects.

INSUBSTANTIAL – Cost: Special (see below); Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Sustained. You can assume one of four Effects, each with a flat cost. For checks, each is considered to be 5 ranks.

  • Fluid/Rubbery (5 Aṣe): You can become a fluid mass, or a stretchable, rubbery form. You can flow through any sort of opening, under doors, and so on. You can automatically flow out of any restraint that is not watertight. You can exert normal STR and you can still push or carry objects. You may attempt to catch a falling person or object, cushioning the fall with your flexible form. This reduces falling damage by your Health + Defenses + a played card from your Hand.
  • Gaseous Particles (10 Aṣe): You can become a cloud of gas or fine particles (including a swarm of tiny insects). You have no effective STR in gaseous form, but you have immunity to physical damage. Energy and area attacks damage you normally. You can flow through any opening that isn’t airtight.
  • Energy (15 Ase): You can become coherent energy. You have no effective STR, but you are immune to physical damage. Energy attacks – other than the energy constituting your form (to which you are immune) – damage you normally. You can pass through solid objects permeable to your type of energy, but energy resistant barriers, such as force-fields, block your movement.
  • Incorporeal (20 Aṣe): You can become an incorporeal phantom. You can pass through solid matter at your normal speed and you are immune to physical and energy damage. Sensory Effects and those that target Will still work on you. You must also choose one other reasonably common Effect that works on you while you are incorporeal. You have no effective STR and cannot affect the physical world. Your sensory Effects work normally. Unless you have immunity to suffocation, you must hold your breath while passing through a solid object and you can suffocate. If you revert to solid form while inside a solid object, you suffer damage equal to the object’s Health, minus your END. If not Incapacitated (or worse), you are immediately ejected from the object into the nearest open space. If you are Incapacitated, you are trapped inside the object and your Condition worsens to Dying on the following round.

INVISIBILITY – Cost: 2 or 4/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: Sustained. You can vanish from sight at will, gaining total visual concealment, although other senses can still detect you. This costs 2/rank if you are only invisible to normal vision; 4/rank if you are invisible to all visual senses, including infrared and ultraviolet.

LEVITATE – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You – or a human-sized creature or object – can rise and float in the air.

LIGHT – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You can create a light that illuminates an area within a 15’ radius / rank.

LOCK / OPEN – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You can seal an object, making it magically locked, or unlock a locked object.

POSTCOGNITION – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: 1 Instantaneous. You can see visions of the past. You pick up on past information in an area or from a subject.

PRECOGNITION – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: 1 Instantaneous. You can perceive possible futures. If circumstances change, the vision may not come to pass.

PRODIGIOUS LUCK – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: 1 Round. When attempting Actions, including combat, draw extra cards and add them to your Hand.

PUSH / PULL – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Round. You can move objects up, down, toward you and away for you without physically touching them. The maximum weight you can move is 1 lb./rank.

READ MINDS – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: Sustained. You can read another character’s mind by making a check against the target’s Will.

SAFE FALL – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: Instantaneous. As long as you are capable of Action, you can fall – without harm – a distance equal to your Safe Fall rank x 20’. If there is a handhold for you to grab – or if you have the Wall-Crawl Effect – you can stop your fall with a DEX check.

SHIELD – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Round. You can create a barrier of force that protects against frontal attacks of any type. Shield absorbs 2 points of damage per rank (works like a normal shield). Shield cannot be used to protect others.

SHOCK – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: Instantaneous. You can deal electrical damage by touch, or by channeling the electricity through a conduit.

SLEEP – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You can cause your target to suffer the Asleep Condition.

STUN – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You can cause your target to suffer the Stunned Condition.

SUMMON ANIMAL – Cost: 1/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Round. You can summon an ordinary animal of your choosing to your area. The animal can be your steed whether it ordinarily is or not. The size of the animal depends on your Summon Animal rank:

1 – 3: Tiny (mouse, rat, bat, squirrel, hummingbird, house cat, pigeon)

4 – 5: Small (average-sized dog, monkey, rooster, average goat, owl, wild cat, chimpanzee)

6 – 7: Medium (baboon, large dog, wolf, condor, cheetah, hyena)

8 – 9: Large (gorilla, horse, lion, crocodile)

10 – 11: Huge (elephant, great white shark)

12+: Immense (blue whale)

TELEPATHY – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: Sustained. You can communicate over a distance using a mental transmission. Communication is instantaneous with any subject within your range. Your range is equal to your Telepathy rank x 1 mile.

TELEPORT – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 2 Turns; Duration: Instantaneous. You disappear from one location and reappear in another instantaneously. You can teleport a distance up to your Teleport rank x 500’.

THUNDERCLAP – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You can emit or summon a powerful, concussive sound that causes your target to suffer Deaf and Dazed Conditions. For an additional cost per rank of +1, you can affect an area equal to a 10’ radius / rank.

TRANSFORM – Cost: 2 – 5/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: Sustained. You can change objects into other object, altering their shape or material compositions. What you can transform affects cost per rank as follows:

2/rank: Transform one thing or substance into another thing or substance, such as metal into wood, iron into glass, or broken objects into repaired ones.

3/rank: Transform a broad group of things into a single result, such as any metal into gold; or a single thing into a broad group, such as gold into any metal.

4/rank: Transform a broad group into a broad group, such as all metals into all liquids.

5/rank: Transform any material into anything else.

Transform only affects inanimate objects. You cannot Transform animate (living) beings.

WALL-CRAWL – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 1 Round. You can climb walls and ceilings at your normal walking speed with no chance of falling.

WALL OF FORCE – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: 3 Rounds. You can create a wall of force that repels all projectiles and cannot be passed physically (not even by incorporeal creatures). For an additional cost per rank of +2, you can create an invisible wall that can be seen through from either side.

WEATHERCRAFT – Cost: 5/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: 3 Rounds. Summon and create thunderstorms, heat waves, powerful winds and so on. You affect an area equal to Weathercraft rank x 1500’ radius.

Cold: You can lower the temperature in an area, creating up to extreme cold. Those in the area must make a Health check against your Weathercraft Total  -2 for uncomfortable cold (a cold winter day); Weathercraft Total for intense cold (arctic conditions); or Weathercraft Total  +2 for extreme cold (an arctic winter storm). A Fumble = Dying; Failure = Incapacitated; Partial Success = Exhausted; Full Success = Fatigued; High Success = Suffer no Condition. Every 3 rounds, the condition worsens by one level until removed from the cold.

Heat: You can raise the temperature in an area, creating up to extreme heat. Those in the area must make a Health check against your Weathercraft Total  -2 for uncomfortable heat (a hot summer day); Weathercraft Total for intense cold (a blazing desert); or Weathercraft Total  +2 for extreme cold (the edge of a volcano). A Fumble = Dying; Failure = Incapacitated; Partial Success = Exhausted; Full Success = Fatigued; High Success = Suffer no Condition. Every 3 rounds, the condition worsens by one level until removed from the heat.

Impede Movement: You can impede movement through the area with high winds, icy or wet surfaces, and so on. Reduce speed by up to ¼.

Reduce Visibility: You create a dense fog that causes any Action requiring sight to suffer a -5 penalty.

You can use one aspect of the weather at a time. You can use more than one aspect at a time (e.g. Cold, Impede Movement and Reduce Visibility all happen at once; victims suffer all the effects) for a cost per rank increase of +1.

WIND – Cost: 2/rank; Time: 1 Turn; Duration: 2 Rounds. You can cause strong gusts of wind to blow through an area, stirring up dust clouds and loose debris and doing damage.

WRATH OF ṢANGO – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: Instantaneous. You can hurl bolts of electricity. These bolts ignore all armor. If the target is wearing metal armor, he suffers the Dying Condition. Otherwise, the target is Incapacitated. The range of Wrath is 100’.

ZOMBIFICATION – Cost: 3/rank; Time: 1 Round; Duration: Permanent. You can control the minds of others. The Effect lasts until you relinquish control.

Milton chooses the Stun Effect, which costs 1 point of Aṣe per rank. He purchases two ranks, so he has no more points of Aṣe left.

Milton decides that the Effect is Technological – Kofi’s throwing clubs.

Finishing Touches

Now, Milton completes the design of his character. To do this, he must include some important information:


Ki KhangaSince Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul RPG is set in a mythical Afrika, names are very important to the people. In fact, your surname is so important in many cultures that it is said before your given name, thus Oyabode (given, or first name) Ojetade (surname) would be called Ojetade Oyabode.

Most people on the continent of Ki-Khanga consider your name and / or your title to represent your mission, your power and your challenge. Your name tells people your personal story.

For example, in Oyo – the renowned warrior Balogun Oyayemi Adetutu’s name can be translated as: Balogun (“War Chief”) Oyayemi (“Oya befits me”) Adetutu (“The crown is cool”). This name / title combination tells people that their beloved warrior bears the rank of General, or War Chief (Balogun); he is a priest of the goddess Oya, or is to become one (Oyayemi); and that he is destined to rule and his rule will be one of peace and tranquility (Adetutu).

So, put some thought into the name you choose for your character.

Milton has already chosen the name Kofi for his character.


Ki KhangaHow old is your character? Most adventuring characters are typically between the ages of 20 and 40, but some are younger, as many cultures send teenagers on adventures as part of their passage into adulthood. Characters can also be much older than forty. It is up to you and the concept you have for your character.

Milton decides that the veteran constable, Kofi is 52 years old.


What does your hero look like? Consider the character’s ethnicity, country of origin, gender and other factors when determining what he or she looks like.  Determine height; weight; build; eye color; hair color, texture, length and style; and skin tone and texture. Also determine what the clothing, weapons and equipment you purchased for your character look like.

Milton determines that Kofi’s country of origin is Asanteman, but he is now a resident of Sati Baa. He is 6’2” tall; weighs 211 pounds; and has a muscular, well-defined build. Kfi’s eyes are brown and his hair is kinky, cut short and is salt-and-pepper colored. His skin is dark brown and leathery.


Your motivation is what drives you to be who you are; what keeps you going in the face of adversity. When you play out your character’s motivation, the GM rewards you a point of Aṣe.

Choose one Motivation for your character.

  • Acceptance: You feel that you are different from others and work hard to gain the trust and acceptance of them.
  • Doing Good: You believe in doing the right thing and have a strong moral center.
  • Greed: You seek only to make a profit from your adventuring and hire out your skills and talents to the highest bidder. You may do good deeds, but you figure why not make a living doing so?
  • Justice: You have a need to see the innocent protected and the guilty punished. You may walk a thin line between seeking justice and seeking vengeance.
  • Patriotism: You are devoted to the beliefs and morals of your home (or adopted) nation or culture. Perhaps you are the honored champion of your people, but it is the service – not the accolades – that matter to you.
  • Recognition: You want recognition and /or attention and what better way to get it than doing daring deeds and fighting epic battles?
  • Responsibility: You feel that it is your duty to use your talents and skills for good. Most likely, you are trying to live up to the teaching of a mentor or the ideals of a predecessor who inspired you.
  • Thrills: You live for the rush that is brought by overcoming obstacles, winning challenges and surviving danger.

Milton chooses Responsibility as Kofi’s Motivation.


Complications are the personal challenges that your character faces. They can affect how others treat you and how you interact with your environment. Complications can also provide interesting subplots and plot twists to adventures.

You must choose one Complication, but may choose as many as you wish, as long as the Griot allows it.

  • Addiction: You have a powerful need – physical, psychological, or spiritual – that you will go out of your way to satisfy. If you are unable to satisfy your addiction, you may suffer other Complications.
  • Disability: You are blind, deaf, mute, or paraplegic. You may have extraordinary traits that counter the disability, but it will still affect you from time to time.
  • Enemy: You have an enemy or enemies that are trying to do you harm. Enemies may abduct loved ones, sabotage your missions and attack you and so on.
  • Fame: You are a public figure, known throughout a country, a region, or even the entire continent.
  • Honor: You have a strong personal code that you live and act by. This becomes a complication when you face a moral dilemma, or must go against the majority.
  • Intolerance: You strongly dislike something and actively oppose the thing you dislike, regardless of the consequences.
  • Obsession: You are possessed with a particular person or thing and pursue it to the exclusion of all else.
  • Phobia: You are irrationally afraid of something. When confronted with it, it causes you to hesitate, flee or act irrationally.
  • Quirk: You have certain likes, dislikes, hobbies, or habits that are your “signature”.
  • Relationship: An important person, or people, in your life get involved in – or interfere with – your affairs in troublesome ways.
  • Reputation: You have a bad reputation – deserved or not – that affects the way others treat you.
  • Responsibility: You have family obligations, professional duties, or other demands on your time and attention.
  • Rivalry: You are in fierce competition with a person or group and try to outdo your rival(s) at every opportunity.
  • Secret: You have something potentially damaging or embarrassing that you are hiding from the world. Something, or someone, may one day threaten to reveal it.
  • Scorn: You are part of a group, suffer certain circumstances, or have a certain appearance that provokes others to react toward you with distrust and prejudice.
  • Temper: Certain things send you into a rage. When you lose your temper, you lash out at whatever provoked you.

Milton decides to pick Fame and Responsibility as Kofi’s Complications.

Now Milton must choose Kofi’s weapons and equipment. Kofi has 6 ranks of Wealth. Milton multiplies Kofi’s Wealth rank by 5 to determine how many Equipment Points (EP) Kofi has. Thus, Kofi has an EP of 30 (6 X 5).

Milton purchases his weapons first. He checks the charts and finds throwing clubs, which cost 1 point of EP each. Milton purchases 10 of them. He has 20 EP left. 


ITEM                                                       COST   

Unarmed Strike, BA-AV Str                    n/a

Unarmed Strike, GF-HG Str                   n/a

Unarmed Strike, EX-BE Str                     n/a

Dagger                                                            1 

Punching Dagger                                         1    

Arm Knife                                                     3        

Tortoise Shell Knife                                    6

Wrist Knife                                                   3

Knobkerrie                                                   2

Club                                                               1

Quarterstaff                                                 1

Shortspear                                                   2

Leafspear                                                     8

Longspear                                                   3

Greatspear                                                  5  

Trident                                                        8 

Hand Axe                                                   3 

Battle Axe                                                  6

Great Axe                                                   8      

Warhammer                                              7

Shortsword                                                6

Broadsword                                               6   

Longsword                                                 6   

Scimitar                                                      8     

*Your STR is added to the damage you do with melee weapons.


ITEM                                                   COST             Range

Bola*                                                            1                        10’

Net                                                               9                        10’

Whip*                                                          3                        15’

Blowgun (needle)                                     1                         15’

Dart*                                                           1                         20’

Sling (bullet)                                             1                         50’

Throwing Club*                                        1                        20’

Returning Club*                                       3                        20’

Throwing Blade*                                      3                        15’

Throwing Spear*                                      2                        30’

Javelin*                                                      2                        30’

Light Crossbow (bolts)                           9                         80’

Heavy Crossbow (bolts)                         16                       110’

Shortbow                                                   7                         60’

Composite Shortbow                              11                        70’

Longbow                                                   16                        100’

Composite Longbow                              21                         110’

Greatbow                                                 31                          100’

Composite Greatbow                            40                          110’

*Your STR is added to the damage you do with thrown weapons.

Milton now checks the Armor Chart and chooses a suit of Studded Leather, which costs 3 EP. Milton now has 17 EP.


All armor has a Protection Rank, which is subtracted from the damage an attack does. Armor also has an Agility penalty that reduces AGL – and all Actions associated with it – by the listed number. This penalty only applies when the armor is worn and/or the shield is wielded. Finally, the cost – in Equipment Points – is given.

Light Armor                          Protection      AGL        Cost

Beaded                                               +2                    —               2

Chain Shirt (iron)                            +4                    —               10

Leather                                              +2                    —               2

Padded                                              +1                     —               1

Studded Leather                             +3                     —               3

Woven Cord                                    +1                      —               1

Medium Armor        

Hide                                               +3                 -1            2

Iron Mantle                                    +5                 -3           15

Wooden Plate                                +4                 -2            8


Buckler, Wooden                           +1                 —            1

Buckler, Iron                                  +2                —            2

Small, Leather                               +1                 —             1

Small, Wooden                              +1                 —             1

Small, Iron                                     +2                 —             2

Large, Leather                               +2                 —            2

Large, Wooden                              +2                 —            2

Large, Iron                                     +3                 —           3

Leather Body                                 +3                 -1            3

Milton  peruses the clothing and decides to purchase two Explorer’s Outfits, which costs 4 EP each, leaving Milton with 9 EP. He decides to hang on to the 9 EP for spending in Sati Baa and on any adventures he may embark upon.


Artisan’s Outfit – Cultural standard; plus a cloth or leather apron for carrying tools. Low quality material. (Cost: 2 Equipment Points)

Citizen’s Outfit – Cultural standard; no decorations. Low quality material.  (1E.P.)

Courtier’s Outfit – Cultural standard; tailored to fit and in the latest fashions. High quality material. Usually embroidered or ornamental. (5 E.P.)

Entertainer’s Outfit – Cultural standard; designed for maximum mobility. Moderate quality material, dyed in bright patterns. Often decorated with small bells, streamers, or trinkets. (3 E.P.)

Explorer’s Outfit – Cultural standard; Many pockets; comes with a hat or a simple headdress. Sturdy, high quality material. (4 E.P.)

Noble’s Outfit – Cultural standard; tailored to fit and in the latest fashions. High quality material. Usually embroidered or ornamented with beads or cowry shells. (6 E.P.)

Priest’s Outfit – Cultural standard; tailored to fit and in the latest fashions. High quality material; may be dyed or embroidered. Ornamented with fetishes, culturally appropriate decorations and – often – non-magical masks. (4 E.P.)

Royal Outfit – Cultural standard; tailored to fit; heavily covered with embroidery, precious metals, gems, cowry shells and/or beads. Superb quality material. (9 E.P.)

Scholar’s Outfit – Cultural standard; emphasis on comfort. High quality material. Occassionally embroidered. (3 E.P.)

Traveler’s Outfit – Cultural standard; emphasis on comfort and durability. Moderate quality material. Usually dyed, but rarely embroidered or ornamented. (3 E.P.)


Item                                                    Cost

Barding, Huge                                     x8

Barding, Large                                    x4

Barding, Medium                               x2

Bit and Bridle, Huge                            2

Bit and Bridle, Large                            1

Camel, Riding or Pack                         5

Cart                                                       2

Donkey or Mule                                    1

Elephant, Labor                                    15

Horse, Light                                          8

Saddle, Huge, Military                         4

Saddle, Huge, Pack                               1

Saddle, Huge, Riding                           2

Saddle, Large, Pack                              1

Saddle, Large, Military                        2

Saddle, Large, Riding                           1

War Camel                                           10

War Elephant                                        40

Warhorse, Light                                    15

Milton is now done with his creation of Kofi. He now sits down to write the old constable’s back-story, which I recommend you do, too. Have fun!

Once your character is complete, if you desire to enter it into the Ki Khanga Character Contest, please email the character, with their back-story, to

Journey to Ki Khanga™: Creating Your Sword and Soul Roleplaying Game Characters, Part 2

Ki KhangaIn our last post, Milton was busy creating his character, Kofi, a veteran Constable in the merchant riverine city of Sati Baa.

Using the 150 points of Aṣe allotted to him, Milton built Kofi’s Abilities and Calculated Abilities and now has 46 points of Aṣe left to finish building his character.

Milton dunks his Danish in his coffee and then yanks the now soggy pastry from the cup of java and takes a bite. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, savoring the sweet gummy taste of the soaked Danish. “Heaven,” he whispers, and then he takes another peek at the TRAIT COST Chart:

TRAIT                         COST IN AṢE

                                                           Ability                         2 per rank

                                                          Skill                             1 per rank

                                                          Talent                          1 per Talent or Talent rank

                                                          Effect                          (base Effect cost + modifiers) x rank + flat modifiers

                                                         Defense                       2 per rank

                                                         Fighting                       10 per addl. Rank

                                                        Health                         10 per addl. Rank

                                                        Will                             10 per addl. Rank

                                                        Wealth                        10 per addl. Rank.


“Skills are next, huh?” Milton says. “Cool, let’s do this.” He thinks about Kofi, a skilled and highly experienced law enforcer in a town that is all about commerce. After a few moments of contemplation, Milton reads the Skills descriptions:


  1. Skills are learned abilities – a combination of training and natural affinity.
  2. Each skill is linked to an Ability and to that Ability’s applicable Suit.
  3. Each skill has a rank that indicates how many cards you draw to accomplish the task AND the points you add to your played card.

For example, Kofi wants to eavesdrop on a pair of sailors who are fifty feet away (a tough task, Difficulty Rating (DR) 7, plus the GM’s played card – a five of Diamonds, which raises DR to 8). Milton uses Kofi’s Listen skill, which has a rank of 3 and is linked to his Wisdom, which has a rank of 10. He draws 3 cards. He adds Kofi’s Listen and Wisdom ranks to the value of the played card (a 6 of Diamonds) for a total of 19 and compares it to the DR. In this case, Kofi easily overhears the sailors’ conversation.

  • Untrained: If you do not possess a skill, you are considered untrained. You can still attempt the skill, but you would only use the Ability linked to the appropriate skill. If the skill is designated as “Trained Only”, however, you cannot use the skill if you are not trained in it. To attempt to use a “Trained Only” skill untrained results in an automatic Fumble. Fumbles are discussed in detail in the Ki Khanga™ Sword and Soul Roleplaying Game.


Milton chooses from the list of skills below. Detailed descriptions are given in the Ki Khanga™ Sword and Soul Roleplaying Game. Here, we have included the Ability each Skill is linked to, the card Suit it is linked to and whether the Skill is ‘Trained Only,’ or not.

Each Skill costs 1 point of Aṣe per rank.

ACROBATICS [AGL; Trained Only; ♣]







CRAFT [INT; Trained Only; ♦]: Craft is actually a number of separate skills that are purchased and built individually. Some of the crafts include: Alchemy; Armor smithing; Basket Weaving; Book-Binding; Bow-Making; Blacksmithing; Calligraphy; Carpentry; Cobbling; Gem Cutting; Leather Working; Locksmithing; Painting; Pottery; Sculpting; Shipmaking; Stonemasonry; Trap-Making; Weaponsmithing; Weaving and Woodcarving.

DECIPHER SCRIPT [INT; Trained Only; ♦]


DISABLE DEVICE [INT; Trained Only; ♦]





HANDLE ANIMAL [PRE; Trained Only; ♠]





KNOWLEDGE [INT; ♦]: This skill encompasses a number of unrelated skills. Knowledge represents a study of some body of lore. Typical fields of study include: Arcana (ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, magical creatures); Architecture & Engineering (edifices, dams, bridges, roads, fortifications); Art & Literature (artists, ballads, plays); Folklore (legends & myths, superstitions, cultural / racial lore, folk remedies); Creature Lore (habits, habitat, strengths, weaknesses); Geography (lands, terrain, climate, people, customs); History (royalty, wars, migrations, notable events, catastrophes); Local Lore (local customs, personalities, laws, traditions, creatures); Nature (flora, fauna, fractals, weather, climate, natural cycles); Peerage (bloodlines & genealogies, heraldry, factions, duties); Religion (deities, history, traditions, holy symbols, shrines); Warcraft (tactics, strategies, leaders, siegecraft, military history).




PICK LOCK [DEX; Trained Only; ♦]

PROFESSION [WIS; Trained Only; ♥]




SLEIGHT OF HAND [DEX; Trained Only; ♦]

SPEAK LANGUAGE [INT; Trained Only; ♦]: Though Kikhanga (the “Common” Tongue) is a nearly universal trade language; most people speak their native tongue as well. You begin the game fluent in Kikhanga and the native language of your people. For every rank in this skill, you gain fluency in another language.





USE MAGIC DEVICE [PRE; Trained Only; ♠]


Milton chooses the following skills and gives them the listed ranks: Bluff: 2; Climb: 1; Concentration: 2; Diplomacy: 3; Disable Device: 1; Gather Information: 4; Intimidate: 3; Knowledge – Creature Lore: 1, Geography: 1, Local Lore: 2; Listen: 3; Move Silently: 1; Ride: 1; Search: 3; Sense Motive: 3; Speak Languages – Ki Khanga (common), Twi / Asanteman (native), Kiswala; Spot: 2; Swim: 1; Taunt: 2.

The total cost of these skills is 37 points of Aṣe. Milton now has 9 points of Aṣe left.


  1. Talents are the extraordinary traits we all possess that are more than skills, but not quite on the same level of power as Effects (see Effects in Part 3).
  2. Talents often enhance skills we already possess and sometimes give us access to abilities most people do not have.
  3. Like Abilities and Skills, Talents are bought with – and advanced by – Aṣe. Also, like Abilities and Skills, Talents are rated in ranks. Most are 1 rank (the rank required to purchase the Talent), however, some Talents can be purchased multiple times to increase outcomes, or to add new outcomes. Some Talents are linked to Suits and some are not, as they apply to Skills of more than one Suit.

Milton peruses the list of Talents below. He doesn’t have many points left, so he decides to pick only a few talents and save a few points to buy an Effect.

The Talents and the Skills they modify are listed below. The cost of each talent is 1 point of Aṣe or 1 point per rank in that Talent. A more detailed look at Talents is included in the Ki Khanga™ Sword and Soul Roleplaying Game rulebook:

AGILE: +2 on all Balance and Escape Artist checks.

ALERTNESS: +2 on all Listen and Spot checks.

ANIMAL AFFINITY: +2 on all Handle Animal and Ride checks.

ATHLETIC: +2 on all Climb and Swim checks.

AMBIDEXTERITY: You can use either hand with equal aptitude. ♦

BASH: You can make a bash attack with a shield. ♣

BEGGAR: +4 on Diplomacy checks when you are begging. ♠

BREW POTION: You can create potions, which carry spells within themselves. Prerequisite: Knowledge – Arcana 5; you must possess the Spell Effect you want to add to the potion. ♦

BRUTISH: You are strong and menacing-looking. Add your STR as well as your PRE to Intimidate.

COMBAT CASTING: + 4 to Concentration checks made to cast a spell or to maintain an Effect. ♥

COMBAT EXPERTISE: Take up to -5 from your Attack check and add the same rank number (5 or less) as a bonus to your Defense. Prerequisite: INT 6. ♦

COMBAT REFLEXES: You can take up to your AGL rank in attacks against Stunned and Unaware opponents (only one additional attack per opponent) (see Conditions). Prerequisite: AGL 6. ♣

CRAFT MAGIC ARMS & ARMOR: You can create and repair magic weapons, armor and shields. Prerequisite: Craft – Armorsmithing 6, Weaponsmithing 6; Knowledge – Arcana 6.

CRAFT MAGIC ITEM: You can create a wide variety of magic items (other than armor and weapons). Prerequisite: Knowledge – Arcana 5; Use Magic Item 6. ♦

DECEITFUL: +2 on all Disguise and Forgery checks.

DEFLECT ARROWS: Once per round, when you would normally be hit by a ranged weapon, you may deflect it so that you take no damage. Prerequisite: DEX 6; Combat Expertise. ♦

DEFT HANDS: +2 on all Sleight of Hand and Use Rope checks.             

DILIGENT: +2 on all Appraise and Decipher Script checks.

DODGE: During your Action, choose an opponent and receive +1 to Defense against attacks from him.

DUAL WIELD: You can make an additional attack with an “off-hand” weapon. Both attacks are executed using only one attack Action. ♣

CONSTITUTION: You receive a +4 on the following checks: Swim, to resist drowning; END to keep running, avoid damage from starvation or thirst and from hot or cold environments. ♥

FAR SHOT: When you use a projectile weapon, such as a bow, increase its range by x1½ . For thrown weapons, increase range by x2. Prerequisite: Point Blank (Talent). ♦

GREAT FORTITUDE: + 2 on END checks against poisons, disease and environmental hazards. ♥

HAND-TO HAND: +2 on all unarmed attack checks. ♣

IMPROVED DISARM: +4 on Attack checks to disarm your opponent. Prerequisite: INT 6; Combat Expertise. ♦

IMPROVED GRAPPLE: +4 on all Grapple checks, whether you initiated the grapple or not. Prerequisite: DEX 6; Hand-To-Hand. ♦

IMPROVED INITIATIVE: +4 on Initiative checks. ♣

INVESTIGATOR: +2 on all Gather Information checks.

IRON WILL: You receive +2 on all Will checks. ♥

MAGICAL APTITUDE: +2 on all Use Magic Item and Knowledge – Arcana checks.

MOUNTED ARCHERY: Using a ranged weapon while mounted does not increase the DR level for performing several Actions at once. Prerequisite: Ride 6; Mounted Combat.

MOUNTED COMBAT: Once per round, you can add your Ride rank to your steed’s Protection and Health when it is attacked. Prerequisite: Ride 1.

NEGOTIATOR: +2 on all Diplomacy and Sense Motive checks.

NIMBLE FINGERS: +2 on all Disable Device and pick Locks checks.

PERSUASIVE: +2 on all Bluff and Intimidate checks.

POINT BLANK: +1 to your Attack Total with ranged weapons at a distance of 30’ or less.

PRECISE SHOT: You can fire a ranged weapon into melee combat without imposing the standard -4 penalty to your Attack Total. Prerequisite: Point Blank. ♦

RAPID SHOT: Add another attack as if you were executing a combined effort (see Dual Wield). Prerequisite: DEX 6; Point Blank. ♦

RIDE-BY ATTACK: Charge and attack while mounted on your steed (which is standard) and then move again. Prerequisite: Mounted Combat; Ride 6. ♣

RUN: Move at 6x normal walking speed when running. ♣

SCRIBE SCROLL: Create a scroll of any spell that you know. Prerequisite: Craft Magic Item. ♦

SELF-SUFFICIENT: +2 on all Heal and Survival checks.

SKILL FOCUS: Choose a skill – you gain +3 on all checks involving that skill.

SPIRITED CHARGE: When you execute a mounted charge, you do double damage (triple if using a lance or a great spear). Prerequisite: Ride 6; Mounted Combat; Ride-By Attack. ♣

SPIRIT-STEP: Move up to ½ your total speed before and after your Attack check. ♣

STEALTHY: +2 on all Hide and Move Silently checks.

SUNDER: +4 on Attack checks on your opponent’s weapon or shield (as well as other objects) when your goal is to break the object. ♣

SWIFT: Your speed is increased by x1½. You can purchase this twice for x2 speed.

TOUGH: Draw a card: a red card = +2 Health; a black card = +1 Health; If you draw a ♥, add the +2 and draw again, adding the second draw also (if that is a ♥ too, add +2 and draw yet again, etc.). ♥

TRACK: You can follow the trails of creatures and characters across most types of terrain. Prerequisite: Survival 6.

TUMBLE: +2 on all Jump and Acrobatics checks.

TWO-WEAPON DEFENSE: When wielding a double weapon (like a quarterstaff), or two melee weapons (not including natural weapons, like claws, or unarmed strikes), you gain +2 Protection. Prerequisite: Dual Wield.

WEAPON PROFICIENCY: Each choosing of this talent adds one weapon you are skilled in the use of. You suffer a -4 to your Attack Total when you use a weapon you are not proficient with.

Ki KhangaMilton chooses the following Talents for Kofi: Alertness; Ambidexterity; Far Shot; Investigator; Precise Shot; Weapon Proficiency – Throwing Club, Club.

These Talents cost Milton 7 points of Aṣe. He has 2 points of Aṣe left.

The corners of Milton’s mouth curl up into a broad smile. “I have 2 points left,” he says, lifting his gaze toward the Heavens. “I can purchase an Effect!”

Milton leaps from his chair and jogs around his office once. He collapses into his chair, struggling for breath. He silently curses himself for getting overly excited and running too far, too fast.

While Milton catches his breath, let’s do the same and return in two days to add an Effect and to put the finishing touches on our character.

Journey to Ki Khanga™: Creating Your Sword and Soul Roleplaying Game Characters, Part 1

Sword and Soul RPGFor the past two years, author and publisher, Milton Davis and author and filmmaker, Balogun Ojetade have worked diligently at the creation of Ki Khanga™, the Sword and Soul tabletop roleplaying game.

What is a tabletop roleplaying game, you ask?

A roleplaying – or role-playing – game, also called an RPG, is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting or through a process of decision-making and character development.

Actions taken within the games succeed or fail according to a system of rules and guidelines.

There are several types of roleplaying games. The original form is the tabletop roleplaying game.

Sword and Soul RPGA tabletop RPG is conducted through discussion, whereas in live action roleplaying games, or LARPs, players physically perform their characters’ actions. In both of these forms, a game-master (GM), which we call a Griot in the Ki Khanga™ Sword and Soul RPG, decides on the rules and setting to be used and acts as storyteller and referee, while each of the other players plays the role of a single character.

Ki Khanga ™, like most great tabletop roleplaying games, is a form of interactive and collaborative storytelling. Events, characters, and narrative structure give a sense of a narrative experience.

Interactivity is the crucial difference between roleplaying games and traditional fiction – a player in a roleplaying game makes choices that affect the story. Such roleplaying games have their origins in an old Afrikan tradition of storytelling games in which a group of friends collaborate to create and tell a story.

Sword and Soul RPGParticipants in a role-playing game will generate their own unique characters or play pre-made ones and as they play, they create an ongoing plot. A consistent system of rules and a more or less realistic campaign setting in games aids suspension of disbelief. The level of realism in games ranges from just enough internal consistency to set up a believable story or credible challenge up to full-blown simulations of real-world processes and activities.

In Ki Khanga™, the Griot describes the game world and its inhabitants. The other players describe the intended actions of their characters, and the Griot describes the outcomes of attempted actions and interactions. Some outcomes are determined by the game system, and some are chosen by the Griot.

A standard concept in RPGs is the player character – or PC – which is a character in the fictional world of the game whose actions the player controls. Typically each player controls a separate player character, each of whom acts as a protagonist in the story.

In contrast to player characters, non-player characters, or NPCs, are controlled by the Griot. NPCs make up the population of the fictional setting and can act as antagonists, bystanders or allies of the player characters.

Ki Khanga Play 1We will now examine the basic character creation process in Ki Khanga™ to make your own player character.

Let’s join Milton Davis as he creates his very first Ki Khanga™ character:

Milton sits down with a steaming hazelnut latte…not the fancy type you buy at a coffeehouse; the kind you buy at your local gas station. Milton says cheap latte knockoffs help him understand roleplaying games. If you need to go grab a cup, too, dear reader, go ahead, we’ll wait…

Back?  Now, grab a pen, a calculator (there is a calculator app in your phone in case you don’t own such lo-tech antiques as a calculator) and a few sheets of paper. Got ‘em? Okay, let’s get to it!


  1. Your character is built from Aṣe [ah-SHEH] – points used to build and advance him or her.
  2. Aṣe is an overall measure of power and effectiveness. Each character starts with 120 points of Aṣe. The Griot (GM) may decide to give more or less points, but starting at over 200 Aṣe could unbalance your game as 200+ Aṣe is considered demi-god level.

Milton asks Balogun, the Griot, how many points of Aṣe he is allowed to build his character with.

Balogun answers, his voice like rolling thunder in mountain air: “All characters in this Campaign (story arc) will start with 150 points of Aṣe to build their character with.”

Milton decides he is going to create Kofi, a Constable in the merchant city of Sati Baa. Kofi is a gruff, experienced law enforcer who is an expert with a throwing club and good at deduction. Milton must first purchase Kofi’s Traits out of his 150 points:

Trait Costs

  1. Traits are the attributes that make up your character.
  2. Abilities, Skills, Talents, Effects, Defense, Wealth, Health, Will and Fighting are all Traits that define your character and affects how successful or unsuccessful he or she is.
  3. Each level of a Trait is called its rank, thus Str 5 means your character has 5 ranks of Strength.
  4. Each Trait costs points of Aṣe as described in the chart below:



TRAIT                         COST IN AṢE

Ability                         2 per rank

Skill                             1 per rank

Talent                          1 per Talent or Talent rank

Effect                          (base Effect cost + modifiers) x rank + flat modifiers

Defense                       2 per rank

Fighting                       10 per addl. Rank

Health                         10 per addl. Rank

Will                             10 per addl. Rank

Wealth                        10 per addl. Rank.


First, Milton must calculate each rank Kofi possesses in the 7 basic Abilities. He checks the above chart and sees that each Ability costs 2 points of Aṣe per rank.


  1. We all have certain basic abilities – how strong, attractive, coordinated, charismatic and smart we are.
  2. There are seven basic abilities: Strength; Endurance; Dexterity; Agility; Intellect; Wisdom; and Presence.
  3. There are also four calculated abilities that are a combination of basic abilities: Fighting; Health; Will; and Wealth.
  • Strength (STR): Measures muscle power; damage dealt unarmed and with most melee (close combat) weapons; how far you can jump; the amount of weight you can lift, carry and throw; and is a factor in calculating your Health. STR is linked to the Clubs ♣ Suit.
  • Endurance (END): Measures fitness, stamina and overall resilience; resistance to poison, disease, drowning and similar threats; and is a factor in calculating your Health. END is linked to the Hearts ♥ Suit.
  • Dexterity (DEX): Measures hand-eye coordination, precision and reflexes. Dexterity is a factor in calculating your Fighting and is applied to Ranged Combat checks. DEX is linked to the Diamonds ♦ Suit.
  • Agility (AGL): Measures balance, grace, speed and overall physical coordination. Agility is a factor in calculating your Fighting. AGL is linked to the Clubs ♣ Suit.
  • Intellect (INT): Measures how well your character learns and reasons. Intellect is a factor in calculating your Fighting and Wealth. INT is linked to the Diamonds ♦ Suit.
  • Wisdom (WIS): Measures common sense, perception and intuition. Wisdom is a factor in calculating your Will and Fighting. WIS is linked to the Hearts ♥ Suit.
  • Presence (PRE): Measures force of personality, persuasiveness, leadership ability and physical attractiveness. Presence is a factor in calculating your Will and Wealth. PRE is linked to the Spades ♠ Suit.



1 – 3: Below Average (BA)

4 – 5: Average (AV)

6 – 7: Gifted (GF)

8 – 9: Highly Gifted (HG)

10 – 11: Exceptional (EX)

12+: Best Ever (BE)


Milton decides although Kofi is an older man, he is still an active Constable in the elite Constabulary of Sati Baa, so his Strength and Endurance should be above average. He checks the ABILITY VALUES Chart and decides Kofi has somewhat above average Strength, so he gives him a rank of 6, which costs him 12 points of Aṣe. This puts his Strength, or STR, in the Gifted (GF) category.

Milton decides Kofi will also have Gifted level Endurance (END), but it will be greater than his Strength, so he gives him an END of 7, which costs Milton 14 points of Aṣe.

The third Ability Milton gives Kofi is Dexterity (DEX). Milton determines that, as a master with throwing clubs, Kofi must have a high Dexterity. He feels that Kofi’s dexterity is Exceptional. He looks at the ABILITIES VALUE chart again. He gives Kofi a 10 Dexterity, which costs him 20 points of Aṣe.

Milton continues with this process for the remaining four Abilities. He ends up with the following stats:

Strength: 6 (cost: 12 Aṣe)

Endurance: 7 (cost: 14 Aṣe)

Dexterity: 10 (cost: 20 Aṣe)

Agility: 5 (cost: 10 Aṣe)

Intellect: 8 (cost: 16 Aṣe)

Wisdom: 10 (cost: 20 Aṣe)

Presence: 6 (cost: 12 Aṣe)

Total Cost: 104


Milton now has 46 points left to complete his character. He now determines Calculated Abilities, which are determined by a combination of basic Abilities. The Calculated Ability’s rank can be increased by spending 10 points of Aṣe. It can also be lowered if the player chooses to do so. A lowered Calculated Ability adds 10 points of Aṣe to the player’s remaining Aṣe points.

Milton studies the Calculated Abilities and each one’s corresponding chart:

Calculated Abilities

Fighting (FIGHT): Measures your natural, raw ability to attack and defend in both Close and Ranged Combat. FIGHT is used to determine how many cards you draw at the beginning of combat. Your base FIGHT rank is calculated on the chart below:


                                                               (AGL + WIS)/2 (round up)

(DEX + INT)/2 (round up)           BA   AV   GF   HG   EX   BE

                                       BA            2       3       4       5       6       7

AV              3       4       5       6       7       7

GF             4       5       6       7       7       7

HG            5       6       7       7       7       8

EX             6       7       7     7       8       8

BE             7       7       7     8       8       8


Kofi has a DEX 10, AGL 5, INT 8 and WIS 10. Milton calculates the base scores from the chart: (10+ 8)/2 = (18)/2 = 9; (5 + 10)/2 = (15)/2 = 7.5, rounded up to 8.

Kofi’s first score, the average of his Dexterity and Intellect, is 9, which is Highly Gifted (HG). His second score, the average of his Agility and Wisdom, is 8, which is also Highly Gifted (HG). Checking the chart, HG and HG meet at the rank of 7.

Kofi’s fighting rank is 7, so in the game, Milton will draw seven cards at the beginning of each combat Kofi is engaged in.

FIGHT (and all other calculated Abilities) can be increased with Aṣe during character creation and as the game progresses.

Health (HLTH): Measures fortitude, ruggedness, metabolism and the ability to resist damage from attacks and from the environment. HLTH is the amount of physical damage you can take before suffering critical Conditions (see Conditions). Your character’s HLTH score is calculated on the chart below:


                                                         Strength (STR)

Endurance (END)            BA   AV   GF   HG   EX   BE

                        BA            5       6       7       8       9     10

AV           6       7       8       9       10     10

GF            7       8       9       10     10     10

HG           8       9       10     10     10     11

EX             9       10     10     10     11     11

BE              10     10     10     11     11     12


Kofi has an END 7 (GF), and a STR of 6 (GF).

Checking the chart, GF and GF meet at the rank of 9, so Kofi’s Health is 9. Milton decides to increase Kofi’s health to 10 at the cost of 10 points of Aṣe.

Milton now has 36 points of Aṣe left to build his character.

Will (WILL): Measures mental stability, level-headedness, determination, self-awareness, self-confidence and willpower. WILL is used to resist mental and spiritual attacks and represents the amount of mental and spiritual damage you can take before suffering critical Conditions. Your WILL score is calculated on the chart below:


                                                        Wisdom (WIS)

     Presence (PRE)           BA   AV   GF   HG   EX   BE

                        BA            5       6       7       8       9     10

AV           6       7       8       9       10     10

GF            7       8       9       10     10     10

HG           8       9       10     10     10     11

EX             9       10     10     10     11     11

BE              10    10     10     11     11     12


Kofi has a PRE of 6 (GF), and a WIS of 10 (EX).

Checking the chart, GF and EX meet at the rank of 10, so Kofi’s Will is 10.

Wealth (WLTH): On the continent of Ki Khanga, currency comes in many forms – cowry shells, gold nuggets, pieces of ivory. To simplify things, money is expressed as Equipment Points (EP), which is related to your character’s Wealth rank. Wealth also represents your earnings at the end of each adventure. More EPs can be amassed through trade of goods and services, looting, etc. At character creation, you receive 5 EP per WLTH rank.

  1. For example, Yamil the Merchant has WLTH 8. He starts out with 40 Equipment Points (8 x 5). At the end of each adventure, Yamil is also awarded 40 EP.
  2. EP is used to buy equipment, weapons, clothing, other goods and services.
  3. Your Wealth is calculated on the chart below:


                                                                  Presence (PRE)

                   Intellect (INT)        BA   AV   GF   HG   EX   BE

                                       BA          2       3       4       5       6       7

AV           3       4       5       6       7       7

GF            4       5      6       7       7       7

HG           5       6       7       7       7       8

EX           6       7       7       7       8       8

BE            7       7       7       8       8       8


Milton calculates Kofi’s final Calculated Ability. Kofi has a. INT of 8 (HG), and a PRE of 6 (GF).

Checking the chart, HG and GF meet at the rank of 7, so Kofi’s Wealth is 7. Milton decides to reduce Kofi’s WLTH to 6. He earns 10 points of Aṣe by reducing his WLTH by 1 rank. This earned Aṣe is added to Milton’s points for building his character.

Milton now has 46 points of Aṣe left to build his character.

Milton decides to take a break here and grab the cream cheese danish he hid among his collection of Sword and Soul novels and comic books. Go ahead and take a break, too. But be sure to join us in two days for Part 2, wherein we give Kofi his Skills and Talents.



Sexism in Fantasy Fiction

Sexism in FantasyI love reading and writing Fantasy. I really do. But I am growing increasingly disgusted by the racism and sexism within it. I can no longer read books in which people of color and women are constantly oppressed and seen as lesser beings in a world based on fantasy.

Lately – as the father of seven daughters who are all avid readers of Fantasy – I have become particularly disgusted with the continuing sexism in Fantasy fiction and visual art.

Writers, you can create a world with any rules you choose. In your world, you don’t have to continue to perpetuate the sexist tropes so prevalent in Fantasy since its inception.

Are you that lacking in creativity that you cannot write something better? Are you that apathetic to the plight of our Sisters? Or have you convinced yourself you have to maintain some sexist status quo to sell?

Shame on you.

Certain tropes have been formed and propagated. Given the overwhelming number of Fantasy novels set in a sort of idealized, white, medieval Europe…given the grossly oversimplified and homogenized concept of medieval gender roles, stereotypes and sexist archetypes have arisen in Fantasy. Some examples are:

  • The Spirited Woman Married Off Against Her Will To A Man She Doesn’t Love
  • The Lone And Exceptional Woman Warrior In A Culture Of Male Warriors
  • The Widowed Queen Fighting To Keep Her Throne Against An All-Male Cast Of Contenders
  • The Woman Who Runs Away Rather Than Be Married Off Against Her Will But Who Then Needs Rescuing From Worldly Perils
  • The Woman Whose Love Of Books And Scholarship Is Exceptional And Odd And Therefore Deemed Socially Awkward
  • The Unmarried Woman Who Is Happy Being Unmarried And Therefore Considered An Oddity
  • The Unmarried Woman Who Was Forbidden To Marry The Man She Loved And Is Therefore Sad And Unfulfilled
  • The Woman Who Ran Away To Marry The Man Forbidden To Her And Who Is Now A Social Pariah
  • The Penniless Woman Who Needs To Be Rescued From Penury As Her Gender Prevents Her From Working
  • The Girl Forced To Dress As A Boy In Order To Live Out Her Socially Unacceptable Dreams
  • The Adventurous Daughter Whose Parents Let Her Run Free But Threaten Her With Marriage Should She Fail
  • The Female Scholar/Magician Trying To Make It In A Largely Male World
  • The Lone Female Soldier/Technician/Magician/Scholar Whose Male Colleagues Don’t Take Her Seriously.

Come now. That’s all you got?

Shame on you.

Sexism in FantasyRegarding the existence of sexism in the real world both historically and currently, I’m not trying to suggest that any of the above tropes are unrealistic; nor am I suggesting they should be avoided at all costs, or that they are inherently bad. What I am saying is that as writers, we are not bound by these tropes and have chosen to portray worlds that involve societies in which sexism plays a part. We can choose otherwise.

Or we can choose to take our exploration of sexism further.

In most Fantasy, we are left with sexism as a background detail; a tool used to justify the plight or origins of particular female characters, but never actually addressed.

You, dear writer, can follow sexism to some of its natural conclusions rather than focus exclusively on those few exceptional women who have avoided it, forcing characters – and, by extension, the readers – to view sexism as more than an inevitable background detail.

Or, you can avoid writing default sexism in the first place by actually considering how gender roles work in your story, building a cultural, social and historical setting that usurps the expectations of the reader. You can create an equal society, or one whose inequalities are unusual; you could write a typically sexist society, but make sexism a major narrative focus. Lots of different ways to explore the topic…if you are willing.

If not?

Shame on you.

As writers, we should not perpetuate sexism by training readers to take its presence for granted: to refrain from so much as questioning or calling it out, let alone showing its worst consequences.

Most Fantasy authors write sexist stories without any conscious thought, simply because it never occurs to them to do otherwise. The freedom to ignore the relevance of women is just another form of privilege; one more malignant than benign. And remember: if your equality looks homogeneous, then it’s probably not equality.

Modern sexism has become cunning; sly; codified. In the same way a closet racist would never dream of openly saying “nigger” but might refer to killing “zombies”, or make a pointed reference to someone Black having a natural rhythm, or liking fried chicken, a closet misogynist has a vast array of words, comments, phrases and attitudes they can employ to subtly put a woman down, or disconcert her, but without it being immediately apparent that that is what they are actually doing.

Intelligent writers are particularly adept at this.

I recently wrote a Fantasy novel in the Sword & Soul subgenre. This novel, Once Upon A Time in Afrika, attempts to turn these tropes on their heads. Read the novel and tell me if I succeeded.

In my research for the novel – and in my life as an African traditionalist, which requires an in-depth study of African history and sociology, I discovered some amazing facts about the women-warriors of Africa and the Diaspora that many of you may find useful in your writing:

The “Dahomey Amazons” 

The “Dahomey Amazons”, referred to as Mino, meaning “Our Mothers” in the Fon language, were an all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey which lasted until the end of the 19th century. They were so named by Western observers and historians due to their similarity to the semi-mythical Amazons of ancient Anatolia and the Black Sea.

 For The Mino were recruited from among the ahosi the king’s wives – of which there were often hundreds.

The Mino trained with intense physical exercise, with an emphasis on discipline. Units were under female command.

Considered exceptional and brutal warriors by all unlucky enough to encounter them, those who fell into the hands of the Mino were often decapitated.

The Aje of Yorubaland

A story, that teaches the tenets of African wrestling, is as follows:

There was a boy named Omobe (“rascal”, “troublesome child”) that had great physical ability and was trained to be a wrestler. As he grew older his wrestling abilities grew stronger and before long he was considered the greatest wrestler in the world. At his birth the local priest/diviner warned his parents to not allow Omobe to climb palm trees. But one day while his parents were away he decided to climb a palm tree any way. From high up he could peer into the spirit world and he noticed that several divinities had gathered for a fantastic wrestling match!

Omobe immediately climbed down and made his way to the spirit world to test his own luck amongst a variety of spirits. He beat every opponent: Egungun (ancestors), Orisa (Forces of Nature) and all others lost at his hands. Finally he prepared to wrestle Olokun. While he summoned all of his physical strength, Olokun drew on her spiritual powers.

During the match Omobe attempted to throw Olokun to the ground, but instead Olokun ended up firmly attached to Omobe’s head. All attempts at removing Olokun from his head failed and Olokun declared Omobe’s head her permanent abode as a sign of Omobe’s arrogance and disrespect towards the other spirits.

When Omobe returned home the local priest/diviner advised him to appease Olokun or die. So for seven days Omobe made sacrifice. On the last day Omobe was initiated as the first Olokun priest. After Omobe’s initiation into the priesthood, Olokun loosened her grip on Omobe’s life.

Amongst African traditionalists, the palm tree represents the ancestors and the elders.  Omobe climbed a palm tree even though he was not supposed to, which means he learned the higher levels of wrestling technique – and gained the ase (power) of the wrestler – through crafty means and then abandoned his teachers (he climbed down from the tree) and used what he had learned to fight those who taught him. 

This act of arrogance and disrespect led him to fight against the Forces of Nature, themselves.  Finally, Olokun, the spirit of unfathomable wisdom and matron spirit of the descendants of Africans who were taken captive during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, defeated Omobe. This means, though Omobe had mastered the physical aspect of wrestling, his disrespect of – and disconnection from – the community and its spiritual support prevented him from learning the deeper wisdom found within the study and training of the martial arts.

It was not until Omobe devoted himself to the attaining of deep wisdom and respect for the African traditions as an Olokun priest, that he was able to save himself from an early death. 

This story teaches us that in order to learn the depths of wisdom found in the African martial arts, reverence of one’s ancestors, respect for one’s elders and adherence to tradition is paramount.

Furthermore, the “deep wisdom” Omobe had to learn in order to redeem himself and to save his life was the wisdom rooted in respect for, and understanding of, the “Aje” – referred to as Awon Iyawa, also meaning “Our Mothers” – which is primal, female power.

It was Olokun, a female Force of Nature, who defeated Omobe and threatened to take his life until Omobe became her priest.  Omobe was socialized by Olokun, which is in accord with Aje’s function as a biological, physical and spiritual force of creativity and social and political enforcement.

War, defense and anything associated with Ogun, the Warrior Spirit of the Yoruba, is also associated with Aje.

It is recognition of – and respect for – the power women and girls that gives the African warrior the authority to defend and to take life.

The Isadshi-Koseshi

Nupe Women-Warriors, called Isadshi-Koseshi, fought as fiercely as the men, opposing invasions of the Fulbe conquerers who raided the Nupe for cattles and slaves.

Ibo Women and the Aba Rebellion

The Aba rebellion in southeastern Nigeria grew out of a traditional female rite of the Ibo. People were outraged at the colonial government’s plan to tax women.

In protest, Ibo women bound their heads with ferns, painted their faces with ash, put on loincloths and carried sacred sticks with palm frond wreaths. Thousands marched on the District Office, dancing, singing protests, and demanding the cap of office of the colonial chief Okugo.

This protest spread into a vast regional insurrection. The Ibo women’s councils mobilized demonstrations in three provinces, turning out over 2,000,000 protesters.

The British District Officer at Bende wrote, “The trouble spread in the 2nd week of December to Aba, an important trading center on the railway. Here there converged some 10,000 women, scantily clothed, girdled with green leaves, carrying sticks. Singing angry songs against the chiefs and the court messengers, the women proceeded to attack and loot the European trading shops, stores, and Barclay’s Bank, and to break into the prison and release the prisoners.

Elsewhere women protestors burned down the hated British “Native Courts” and cut telegraph wires, throwing officials into panic. The colonials fired on the female protesters, killing more than fifty and wounding more. Marches continued sporadically into 1930. These mass actions became known as the Aba Rebellion of 1929, or The War of the Women. It was one of the most significant anti-colonial revolts in Africa of that day.

Black Women in Ohio

In the summer of 1848, ten African-Americans, fleeing their enslavement, made it across the Ohio River into Cincinnati. The slave catchers tracked them down, but the bounty they were after proved to be quite difficult to acquire:

Cincinnati’s North Star newspaper’s August 11, 1848 issue reported the event thusly: “The women began to gather from adjoining houses until the Amazons were about equal to the [slave-hunters] – the former with shovels, tongs, washboards and rolling pins; the latter with revolvers, sword-canes and bowie-knives. Finally the beseigers decamped, leaving the Amazons in possession of the field, amid the jeers and loud huzzahs of the crowd.

Sexism in FantasyLet us all strive harder for awareness of – and sensitivity to – sexism in our writings and our readings. Let us be more critical of it, for to do – and say – nothing about sexism is to help propagate it. Are you helping to propagate oppression?

If so, shame on you.

As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged.

PSYCHOLOGY, SANKOFA AND SWORD & SOUL: Why We Need Fantasy and Folklore!

PSYCHOLOGY, SANKOFA AND SWORD & SOUL: Why We Need Fantasy and Folklore!


Ki Khanga 2Fantasy often takes  place  in  otherworldly settings – such as the planet Pandora,  in the film Avatar –  or a slightly different version of the world we  know, such as Nyumbani, in Charles R. Saunders’ incomparable Imaro series of novels. The  details  that  go  into  the  imagining  of  a fantastical  setting  allow  the  writer  to  both  ground  a narrative in reality and challenge the notions of that reality.

In Fantasy, the distractions of the mundane world are stripped away by the fantastical setting, and the remaining resemblances between the story world and our world are only those that really matter.

Fantasy stories do not explicate their authors’ philosophies; rather, they incarnate them and thereby put them to the test. If author Milton Davis’ readers find his seafaring Swahili prince, Changa Diop, beautiful, it is because Changa represents the high and noble in human nature that rings true, that persuades us, whether we realize it or not.

Too often, Fantasy stories are mistaken as diversions for the entertainment of children, stories that not only aren’t true, but could not possibly ever be true. Many Black people discourage their children from reading fantasy and certainly will not read it themselves because Fantasy dares to tell children to believe in fantastical things like wizards and monsters. Fantasy does not teach children that monsters exist…they already know that. Fantasy teaches them that monsters can be slain – a lesson we grown folks need to learn and internalize too!

State of Black Science Fiction PanelRecently, a few writing colleagues and I were guests at an annual festival that celebrates natural Black beauty, wellness and culture. We were invited to sit on a panel and discuss why Black people should read and write speculative fiction.

We were introduced by famed hip-hop artist and activist, Professor Griff of the famed Hip-Hop Group, Public Enemy (*sigh* yes, the same group to which Flavor Flav belongs), who spoke briefly before bringing us up.

When it was announced that we were discussing Fantasy and Science Fiction, the crowd of three hundred dwindled to twelve.

One of the authors was near tears and has since not shown up at any events where it is clear that a majority of Black people will be in attendance. She was shocked and hurt by the reaction of the festival’s attendees. She felt as if her own people had rejected her; perhaps even hated her for “selling out” to Fantasy and Science Fiction.

I was not shocked. These were “conscious” Black people and I know how so-called conscious Black people think, for I am one of them.

Ki Khanga 6“Conscious” Black people are quick to accuse something of being trivial and a distraction from the work of awakening the ignorant masses of our people. And, to many of them, fiction is as trivial as you can get.

Damn the fact that our ancestors were master storytellers and conveyed most life-lessons and values through fiction. In fact, most traditional African cultures still have their Djeli, Sanusi, Babalawo, Iyanifa, Houngan, Mambo, Bokonon and other griots – keepers of the culture and history. And these storytellers are revered.

Damn the fact that every corner in the Black community has its storytellers; every mosque; every church; every barbershop.

Damn the fact that many of the Fantasy stories told by authors such as Yours Truly, Milton Davis, Valjeanne Jeffers and, of course, Charles Saunders are written in the subgenre of Sword and Soul and by writing such stories, these authors are applying the African principle of Sankofa.

Ki Khanga 3Sankofa is an Akan word that means, “One must return to the past in order to move forward.”

The symbol of Sankofa is that of a bird whose head is faced in the opposite direction of its body. This illustrates the fact that even though the bird is advancing, it periodically makes it a point to examine / return to its past, since this is the only way for one to have a better future. 

Some also interpret Sankofa to mean, “No matter how far away one travels they must always return home.”

However Sankofa is interpreted, the basic and important meaning remains – your past is an important aspect of your future. So, in order to make the best of your future, you must visit your past.

Ki KhangaFantasy stories carry readers beyond the restrictions of time and space and promote a sense of mystery and transcendence, helping readers envision a better society where intelligence, courage, and compassion prevail.

They awaken higher ideals without preaching and show how the small and powerless can triumph through perseverance and patience.

Fantasy is perfect for Black people. Conscious, or otherwise.

Balogun Ojetade, author of the Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon A Time In Afrika and Milton J. Davis, publisher and author of the Meji and Changa’s Safari Sword & Soul series, have come together to create a world of mystery; a world of magic; a world of warriors and Gods of Light and Darkness.

I recommend you give Ki-Khanga: The Anthology a read and enjoy tales of our past – both dark and glorious – that offer an escape from our present and pathways to our future.