Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game provides a framework for players to create characters that are interesting and diverse and for those characters to adventure in a world that is just as interesting and diverse.

Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game is a fast, narrative focused, card based system that uses player created traits in a single explosive resolution mechanic.

Scenes are generally outlined by the Griot (Game Master) and then left open for the players to fill with narrative. The Griot presents challenges in these scenes for the players to overcome. If they are successful, their narratives happen, if they fail, an unfavorable event, told by the Griot, unfolds.

Scenes in the game are cinematic and like a good movie, can be comedic, dramatic, or filled with non-stop, pulse pounding action. Players are rewarded for dynamic and inventive play.


Players narrate the action they want their characters to undertake in the scene.

Unlike some roleplaying games characters are not limited to a single action of some description like taking a swipe at an opponent with an axe or retrieving an item from a backpack. They can take several actions much like a hero does in the action sequence in a movie.


A scene could be a 5 second brawl in Mahmoud’s Dibi Shack in Central Sati Baa, or a 5 hour climb up a mountain in Menu-Kash. It all depends on what is involved and how it is narrated. A Horo cavalrywoman, chased by a raging were-elephant through the streets of Fez, for example, could be a nail-biting, epic 90 minute game of cat-and-mouse or a dramatic 10 second trampling.

A scene may contain only a single play (one round of cards) or, if not resolved in one round of cards, may contain several other plays until it is resolved. Cards are not shuffled during a scene.


Whenever you attempt something where the outcome is in doubt, it requires a check of an appropriate trait – Ability, Skill, Talent, or Effect.

Determining if you succeed at a task is done as follows:

  1. Decide what you want to do (“Action”).
  2. Decide what Trait(s) you will need to perform the Action.
  3. Draw your Hand for the challenge from the Action Deck (the GM draws from his own deck, which contains no Jokers and his Aces are “Wild”, valued at 11 points, regardless of Suit) – the number of cards is equal to the rank of the trait needed to perform the Action.

For example, Milton wants his character, Kola Kujo to somersault into the chair next to Princess Fine Mama Jama – he uses Kola Kujo’s Acrobatics skill, which has a rank of 4. Milton Draws 4 cards to make his hand.

  1. Play as many cards from your hand as the Difficulty Rating (DR) of the task. The Difficulty Rating is a base number, plus a card played from the Griot’s

For example, Balogun, the Griot, determines that Kola Kujo to somersaulting into the chair next to Princess Fine Mama Jama, is a fairly easy task, thus it has a DR of 2. Balogun draws a card from his Deck – a 4 of Clubs, for a total DR of 6. Milton must play 6 cards. However, he only has 4 cards in his hand. He must play those 4 cards and draw 2 more from the deck and play them, as well. If he had an Acrobatics of 8, he could have drawn 8 cards and then played 6 cards of his choice.

  1. Add or subtract a number equal to the Ability associated with the skill used, as long as you do not go over 21, or the designated “Bust” number (21 is recommended, but the Griot has final determination; however, this number stays the same throughout the campaign, so if you pick 22 as the designated number at the beginning of a campaign, it stays 22 until the campaign is finished). The entire number of the Ability must be used. It can be added, subtracted, or not used at all – the player decides.

For example, Milton draws four cards (because his Acrobatics skill level is 4): he draws a 9 of Hearts; Ace of Diamonds; King of Spades; and 3 of Clubs. Numeric cards use their value, so the 9 of Hearts and 3 of Clubs are added together for a sum of 12. Kings have a value of 12 points and Aces either equal 1 point or they cancel themselves and the highest card.  Kola Kujo has an Agility (AGL) of 6, so he decides to add the King and use the Ace as a 1 and then add it, too. His total is now 25. He subtracts his AGL rank of 6 from the score of 25 for a total score of 19.  He does not go bust. Kola Kujo’s somersaulting show-off attempt is a success. But how successful IS it? See below:

  1. The outcome is determined as follows:

Your Total is…                                    The result is…

5+ points greater than Bust Number      Fumble

1-4 points greater than Bust Number     Failure

Bust Number                                              High Success

1-4 points less than Bust Number           Full Success

5+ points less than Bust Number            Partial Success

Milton compares his Total of 19 against the Result Chart.  His Total is 2 points less than the bust number of 21, thus he has achieved a Full Success.  Kola Kujo soars through the air, rolling like a ball toward the empty seat next to Princess Fine Mama Jama. He twists at the last second, lands in the chair in a seated position with one leg crossed over the other and then flashes Princess Fine Mama Jama a bright smile. Princess Fine Mama Jama returns the smile and says “I liked that. Now, can you go back and do that with a round-off, tuck and double gainer?”

  1. Once the challenge is resolved, you and the Griot discard your cards back into their respective decks and shuffle them.

Performing several Actions at once: When performing several Actions at one time by combining traits, the GM decides the most important trait needed for the Actions.  For each additional trait used, the GM raises the DR by one level.

For example, Milton wants Kola Kujo to leap from the window of Kamau, the Castrator’s bedchamber after he awakens beside Kamau’s wife – Fatou, the Cheetah – to the sound of heavy footsteps in the courtyard.  In mid-leap, he wants Kola Kujo to grab a hanging vine and then swing through the window of his house – which is across the road – and land quietly in bed next to his sleeping wife, Makeba Dasnora, without rousing her.

The Griot decides that Jump is the most important trait (if Kola Kujo misses the Jump, the Swing never takes place and he will end up on the receiving end of Kamau, the Castrator’s Mystic Nutcracker of Agony). Leaping to the vine requires a Great (GR) level of difficulty (DR8).  The Swing adds one level to the DR, raising it to Extraordinary (EX) (DR10); and landing in bed with Silent Movement raises the DR one more level to Impossible (IM) (DR12).

Combined efforts: You can combine efforts with others to accomplish a task.  All can pitch in one or more cards of their choice to resolve a task (all involved must play at least one card). Add or subtract the lowest Ability score of all involved.



DR                               Example

Easy (1-3)            Bash open a simple wooden door; run on dry, even land

Average (4-5)        Bash open a wooden door with a moderately complex lock

Tough (6-7)          Resist an Asonbosam’s hypnotic gaze

Heroic (8-9)          Cast fireballs while being shot with blowgun needles

Epic (10-11)         Sneak quietly past a pride of lions

Impossible (12+)   Track man who passed over hard, wet rocks a week ago



2 – 10

Jacks = 11

Queens = 12

Kings = 13

Aces = 1 or cancels itself AND the highest card played

Jokers are “Wild” cards.  They are considered to be of whatever Suit is applicable and give either an Automatic High Success, or an Automatic Fumble.  When you play a Joker, immediately draw a card from the Action Deck and turn it over: a Black Card = High Success; a Red Card = Fumble.



Hearts ♥ – Emotional, Spiritual and Healing Actions

Diamonds ♦ – Mental and Intellectual Actions

Clubs ♣ – Physical Actions

Spades ♠ – Social and Status-related Actions



Combat is checked almost like any other Action:

  1. Determine Fighting Total, which is equal to your Fighting Score, plus any applicable Skills, Talents and Effects. Draw a number of cards equal to this score. All other combatants in the battle do the same.
  2. Determine Initiative, which is the order in which you take your Turns in combat. Your initiative equals your Agility (AGL) rank, plus a card played from your Hand, plus any other modifiers.  If you play a card of the same Suit as AGL (which is related to the Clubs suit), use the card’s face value.  If you play a different Suit, divide the card’s face value by 3, rounded down, and then add it to your Total.

For example, Kola Kujo has an AGL of 6.  Milton plays a Ten of Hearts.  Kola Kujo’s initiative = 6+(10/3) = 6+3 = 9.  This rank lasts for the entire conflict. If Kola Kujo entered conflict after it had begun, Milton would determine initiative and act when Kola Kujo’s turn came up in the existing order.  If Kola Kujo had the same initiative as another combatant, whoever had the highest AGL would go first.  If it was still a tie, Milton and the player of Kola Kujo’s opponent would both draw a card.  The one with the best Suit would win, as follows:





  1. If fighting against other players or NPCs, play as many cards from your hand as you want, but you cannot go over the designated Bust Number. If fighting creatures, use that creature’s DR (no card added) to determine number of cards that must be played.
  2. Place your cards face down. All other combatants do the same. Everyone turns over their cards at the same time. The player closest to the designated Bust Number, without going Bust, wins – they describe how the scene plays out. All players that don’t go bust, Succeed as with Tasks above; all players that go bust Fail or Fumble, as with Tasks, also.
  3. Skills, Talents and Effects are added or subtracted before the cards are turned over (each combatant must declare their plus or minus amount; the entire Skill and Talent ranks are used, but Effects may allow a variable amount to be added or subtracted). The Griot writes the declared modifiers down and THEN everyone turns over their cards.

On October 21, 2017, in celebration of Black Speculative Fiction Month, we will be playing Ki Khanga at Community Grounds Coffee House. The game will be streamed live on Twitch and later shared on Youtube. If you are in Atlanta, you are welcome to come play. Premade characters will be available or you can bring your own (made with 120 points).

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link, Rite of Passage: Initiation and Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at He is author of eight novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika; a Fight Fiction, New Pulp novella, Fist of Afrika; the gritty, Urban Superhero series, A Single Link and Wrath of the Siafu; the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe and the “Choose-Your-Own-Destiny”-style Young Adult novel, The Keys. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis and co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo. You can reach him on Facebook at; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at

3 responses »

  1. Fujimoto says:

    What an intriguing system. I hope it’s well received and revolutionizes gameplay mechanics for generations to come! Also, will there be stats for the characters mentioned here? Because Princess Fine Mama Jama and Kamau the Castrator (and his Mystic Nutcracker of Agony) deserve that kind of recognition for their names alone.

  2. […] Ki Khanga Co-Creator, Milton Davis and I have taken it upon ourselves to make Ki Khanga: The Sword And Soul Role-Playing Game as cool as possible. To make Ki Khanga more interesting we have done extensive research on African history, politics, geography, sociology, folklore, theology, architecture and warfare. When was the last time YOU read a book or encyclope because you wanted to and not because you were doing an assignment for some class? My love for Ki Khanga has motivated me to visit museums and art galleries. I have grown much more cultured and educated in the process of fact-finding for Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game. […]

  3. I love the narrative system although I’m curious why you chose playing cards for the resolution phase. Of all the card-based systems I ever played, Everway’s Fortune Deck has been the most interpretative, soulful, and creative. It’s based on the Tarot, loosely, but includes such things as Zodiac and elemental correspondences.

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