Hello, fellow gamers. Today I’ve prepared an interview with Andy (A.P.) Klosky, writer and designer of the Cold Steel Wardens RPG. I got talking to him after I posted my article on Super-Hero gaming styles a few weeks ago and he mentioned he had a great game I should take a look at. Cold Steel Wardens is an RPG for ‘Super-Heroes’ set in the Iron Age of Comics. You can find a copy of Cold Steel Wardens on DriveThruRpg
What made you choose the Iron Age of comics as the setting for Cold Steel Wardens?
Back in 2009, the Watchmen movie had just come out and I was jazzed to use it as the inspiration for a home game. Unfortunately, I couldn’t decide on a system. I ended up settling on a crazy mash-up of Palladium’s Heroes Unlimited with some Call of Cthulhu sanity system elements grafted on. It was a hot mess, but it got me wondering: with so many great “generic” supers games out there--Mutants and Masterminds, Champions, etc.—and so many great Silver Age games--ICONS, Supers!, etc—where was the Iron Age game?
To me, the Iron Age brought us some of the most timeless storylines in comics; the ones we’re seeing being turned into movies and TV series today began as Iron Age storylines. That, to me, says there’s still a great deal of respect for the storytelling artistry that began in the Iron Age. In 2010, I started writing and the game just started rolling from there…
Tell us about MAFIANAP, is that something you see developing into a game mechanic system for multiple styles of games?
The MAFIANAP mechanics really scratch that sweet-spot between a rules-light game like FATE and a rules-heavy game like Champions. There’s enough meat there to sink your teeth into as a veteran roleplayer, but it also contains a unified mechanic which makes it easy for newbies to grasp. I often tell new players at my convention games, “You’ll get it within 3 rolls!”
I would love to see MAFIANAP expand into other genres, particularly ones that benefit from a modern viewpoint. Frankly, I’d love to see a The Walking Dead rpg using the MAFIANAP rules, but that might be a touch beyond my reach!
You list a great set of comic resources in the back of the book p. 266. Do you have a particular favorite on this list?
I’m a huge Ghost Rider fan, so the two Garth Ennis storylines (Road to Damnation and Trail of Tears) I listed are particular favorites. Batman: The Long Halloween is also a personal favorite.
New Corinth: Rust Belt meets Gotham City, can you tell us a bit about the city and how you developed it as a setting for CSW?
New Corinth has always been a touchstone for my own experiences. I’m a Rust Belt kid—I grew up just east of Pittsburgh and now live in Dayton. In fact, my last teaching job was in one of the poorer schools on the west side of Dayton. I’ve watched jobs leave, warehouses waste away, and crime spring up. So, in many ways, New Corinth comes from what I see around me.
One of my biggest goals for New Corinth, though, was to provide a pseudo-realistic setting within a comic book universe. The struggles that the characters in New Corinth deal with are real ones: race relations, prison overcrowding, underfunded schools, poverty. Yeah, there’s comic book action and drama, but when your meta-human vigilante takes down a teenager holding up a bodega, there should be a moral question of “Why is this kid holding up a market? What led us here?” Those are the important questions that really get to the heart of Iron Age storytelling.
The combat system seems particularly designed to not be lethal for the player characters, but highly lethal for their opponents. This seems to be in line with the Iron Age comics style. That being said, this Strain system is pretty interesting because it seems to represent a lot of the emotional and mental turmoil that this era of comics evoked really well. Will you tell us a bit about how you designed that system and how you see that being expressed by a good player and GM?
The Strain system in CSW was built to be debilitating all around: I wanted to reflect the fact that heroes get injured and can die; heroes deal with stress, anxiety, depression, and worse.
The best example I can think of to demonstrate the Strain system would actually have to come from Captain America: Civil War. In essence, the conflict in that movie came not from the hero vs. hero brawl, but rather the internal struggle of survivor’s guilt. Both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are driven to their wits’ end by loss and emotional anguish. These are characters that have been pushed to their psychological limits and, in turn, write their grief in battle. That’s drama, to me.
There seems to be interest in a POD or other physical copy of the game. Is that out already and where can people get it?
Physical copies are already on sale through Studio 2 Publishing! In addition, we’ll be offering physical copies of the core-book available as part of our upcoming Cold Steel Wardens: Rogues Gallery Kickstarter.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming Kickstarter project: Cold Steel Wardens: Rogues Gallery. What should we expect in this supplement?
CSW: Rogues Gallery is the first of a number of supplements that I have planned for Cold Steel Wardens. I wrote the draft for Rogues Gallery last July as part of Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
Rogues Gallery is meant to expand on the New Corinth setting by exploring two of its most important locations: Stonegate Federal Penitentiary and Lincroft Asylum. Further, the book includes write-ups for a fantastic array of mooks, masterminds, meta-humans, and madmen, ready to drop into any CSW campaign.
What sets CSW: Rogues Gallery apart, though, is how the book is set up. The majority of the text is written by the perspective of Sawbones: a phase-shifting private eye turned masked vigilante. Each write-up contains Sawbones’ own notes, observations, and biases, as well as the evidence that he’s accumulated over the years on that criminal.
That evidence ranges from police reports to psychological profiles, from newspaper articles to clues as obscure as a food truck license or a restaurant menu. These items are meant to be ‘print and play’—a GM can print off those pages and literally hand them to their players, “Here’s the clue you found!”
Let’s address a potential elephant, the first KS for Rogues Gallery didn’t hit its goal what plans do you have this time around to help make it a reality?
Most notably, our March attempt was made before the Studio 2 print run of CSW hit stores. Switching publishers has definitely been a positive move for us, but the additional exposure from Studio 2 will surely help, as our corebook is now in game stores across the country.
In addition, we’ll be mobilizing to ensure the word gets out about CSW. We’re planning a launch party at The Malted Meeple game café in Hudson, OH on August 1st, then will be running sessions all throughout GenCon Indianapolis. With any luck, we’ll be able to really spread the word on CSW: Rogues Gallery and get it into your hands!
So, I operate a Facebook group and Twitter (Inclusive Gaming Network) and I am developing a project about Inclusivity in gaming circles, so I want to ask you this question. Could you tell me how you see CSW being a good game for a diverse gaming group?
One of my biggest goals for Cold Steel Wardens has been to create a setting in which our in-game heroes can explore real-world issues within a safe space. I’ve run games that have dealt with human trafficking, racial inequality, gender and sexuality issues, and much more. These are real problems that face our world; it just makes sense to be able to explore these issues within the ‘magic circle’ of the game table.
Further, the characters within the New Corinth universe struggle with these very issues. Within the pre-gen characters I bring to every convention, we have characters struggling with mental health, their sexuality, their cultural representation…the list goes on. As a member of the LGBT community, I find it important to show humanity as it is: not whitewashed, not inundated with straight, white, cis-male, heroes. The real world is a collage; New Corinth is no different.
I really hope you check out this game. I haven’t had a chance to play it, but AP was happy to provide me a review copy and I’ll definitely be playing a game before too long. Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter that should go live on August 1st!
With 17 years of playing rpgs, Josh started with Mind's Eye Theater LARPs and loves the World of Darkness. Josh is the administrator of the Inclusive Gaming Network on Facebook. He’s a player in Underground Theatre’s and One World By Nights Vampire LARPs and is running both a Mage game and a Dark Ages: Vampire game at the moment. He’s a serious advocate for inclusive gaming spaces, a father, and a recent graduate from the International Peace and Conflict Resolution graduate program at American University in Washington, D.C.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.