I grew up on science fiction and fantasy, loving both genres equally, however, when I discovered Dungeons and Dragons back in 1980, my greatest love became fantasy.
Forced into game-mastering due to the racism of the white students who refused to teach Black students to play, or who treated us like “orcs” when they did teach us, my storytelling grew from the simple stories about Shaft, Billie Jack, Luke Cage and the Falcon I would tell to entertain my friends and family, to the building of complex worlds inhabited by complex characters – Fantasy worlds filled with intrigue, adventure, horror and humor.
Wanting to tell better Fantasy stories and to create a richer world for the players in my Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, I became a voracious reader of fantasy novels, reveling in the richly-textured worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Robert E. Howard.
After two years of enthusiastic play, however, I – and my friends, it turned out – was tired of playing such a Eurocentric game. We had grown tired of lands that were obvious representations of England, Germany and Poland. These settings were not offering us anything new; anything we had not seen in slightly different forms over and over again. To make the game interesting, many of my friends would create a character that was a ninja or samurai – because they were people of color, which made them unique and because they were ninjas and samurai, which made them cool.
When I decided to introduce a Mandinka king who had come to the Land of Nod – we called all Eurocentric settings “The Land of Nod” because, for us, they had become boring and powerful sleep-inducers – to hunt the vampires who murdered his family, however, our interest in the game resurged. The players in my group begged to have their characters accompany the king back to Mali once they helped kill the vampire hordes infesting the Land of Nod. I agreed and everyone went into a frenzy; they, to find armor, clothing, weapons and spells appropriate to the terrain; I, to research ancient Mali and African folklore, creature lore and social, military and ecological systems and to create a world worthy of my players and of Africa.
From this experience, I learned that a writer has to do three things in order to create a fantasy world that is real enough for readers to escape to; to immerse themselves in; to feel:
  1. Know it personally.
  2. Research; research; research.
  3. Make it up.
For my friends who do not write fiction, you probably think that writers of fantasy rely entirely on “making it up”, but you would be wrong. For the most part, fantasy worlds – just like worlds in hard-boiled crime, horror and romance – are based on something.
Very often, fantasy worlds are an altered or hybridized version of a pre-modern, non-technological human society, which means, to create a world that readers will accept as real, you gotta research, research, research!
The best places to find new ideas for fantasy world-building are in reading about history, culture and “real-world” systems of belief. If an author’s only research is other fantasy novels, he or she will wind up borrowing Eurocentric milieus from the rest of the genre – and give us even more cliché from the Land of Nod.
We need more worlds like Charles Saunders’ Nyumbani – “home” in Swahili – a world based on the traditions, legends and lands of Africa. Saunders, the founder and father of the fantasy subgenre Sword and Soul, has created a world that is fantastic, yet very real. Nyumbani is home to Saunders’ Imaro, one of the greatest and most interesting heroes in the history of fantasy fiction.
Taking inspiration from Charles Saunders, authors Milton J. Davis and Balogun Ojetade (full disclosure: that’s me), no strangers to world-building themselves, joined forces to create Ki-Khanga, a unique world that draws readers in and keeps them there. What, exactly is Ki-Khanga? How does this world “work”? Well, Charles Saunders says it best:
“Ki-Khanga is an Africa that could have been, located in a world that might have been. Sprung from the fertile minds of Milton J. Davis and Balogun Ojetade, Ki-Khanga is a place of magic and mystery, heroism and horror, spears and seduction. It is a place roiled by the long-reaching repercussions of an ancient feud between pre-human races and the subsequent wrath of an affronted deity. Not only does magic work in Ki-Khanga – magic defines Ki-Khanga, in more ways than one.”
I invite you to join us on the sandy shores, perilous mountains and mysterious savannahs of our world. I invite you to ride beneath the dunes of Targa in the bowels of the oga’koi-koi or to do battle with the Ndoko in the Great Circle. I invite you to share in our tales of triumph; of tragedy; of terror and tenacity. I invite you to free yourself from the Land of Nod…and flee to Ki-Khanga!
Help us change the game by supporting the Kickstarter for Ki-Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game.
Sword and Soul forever!

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 https://chroniclesofharriet.com/. 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 www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at www.tumblr.com/blog/blackspeculativefiction.

9 responses »

  1. lkeke35 says:

    The art for this is gorgeous!

  2. eccoagent says:

    i’d really like to assist in this. i’m a stone cold expert on bantu mythology and culture.and i got the funk.

  3. […] that roam the world of Ki Khanga. You’ll find stats and descriptions of creatures in the Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game […]

  4. […] Thank you, to each and everyone one of you for deciding to join our journey to Ki Khanga! […]

  5. […] Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game is a table top role-playing game. […]

  6. […] Diversity is the watchword for the Africa of the world we know. In terms of differences in climate, culture and creativity, the continent that gave birth to humanity is beyond compare. Language alone is one example: more than 700 distinct tongues are spoken in Africa. And there is more genetic variation among the African people than there is anywhere else in the world. It is no wonder, then, that such a place can serve as a nexus for the literature of the imagination – a foundation upon which new additions to the already vast history and mythology that thrived in Africa during pre-colonial times can be built. Ki-Khanga is one of those additions. Ki-Khanga is an Africa that could have been, located in a world that might have been. Sprung from the fertile minds of Milton J. Davis and Balogun Ojetade, Ki-Khanga is a place of magic and mystery, heroism and horror, spears and seduction. It is a place roiled by the long-reaching repercussions of an ancient feud between pre-human races and the subsequent wrath of an affronted deity. Not only does magic work in Ki-Khanga – magic defines Ki-Khanga, in more ways than one. Conceived originally as the setting for a forthcoming role-playing game, Ki-Khanga provides fertile ground for Sword and Soul fiction as well. Together, Milton and Balogun have spun a series of fantasy tales for this book that do full justice to the alternate Africa they’ve created. The stories take place in a wide range of cultural backgrounds that both mirror and diverge from those in the Africa of our world’s past, from Khem (Egypt) to Oyo to Zimbabwe. Creatures from both African folklore and the authors’ fertile imaginations abound. The human characters populating Ki-Khanga are memorable as well. In the stories in this book, you will meet the likes of Nubia, a vengeful warrior-woman; Adjoa and Kwadjo, a pair of royal twins who vie for their father’s throne; the Old Hunter, who protects his homeland from arcane threats; Kiro, a fisherman who is more than he appears to be; Shaigu and Pandare, a team of reluctant assassins; Timneet, a sorceress and patient mentor; Akhu, an inventor and animal-trainer extraordinaire; Edfu, a foppish noble who must defend a fortress against a mystical threat; Anju, a prince who lives in the shadow of a dire prophecy; Akinah, a king’s daughter who is also a sorceress; Omolewa, a resourceful young woman with a ferret and a secret; Zaakah, a tattooed woman who is a potent user of magic; Omari Ket, a mercenary warrior who squeezes out of scrapes he just can’t seem to avoid getting into … This anthology is more than just an introduction to the wonders of Ki-Khanga; it’s an immersion. With the breadth and depth of their new and different Africa and its inhabitants, Milton and Balogun have accomplished a significant feat of world-building and character-creation. It is a milestone in the continuing evolution of Sword and Soul. There are twelve days left for you to help make history as we give the world its very first Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game! […]

  7. Fujimoto says:

    I’m glad to see this post again, updated now that Ki Khanga‘s getting ready. A great repost!

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