Funded! This project was successfully funded on January 2, 2013.

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Masked superheroes reclaim the streets from criminals, Mafioso, and psychotic metahumans in this tabletop Iron Age comics RPG.

WE DID IT!!!  Funding goal met!

In celebration of our achievement, the $5,000 and $6,000 funding goals have been merged!  If we hit $5,000, you'll get access to both the GM screen inserts and the free adventure (complete with pre-generated heroes and quick-start rules).  

HUGE NEWS:  We have a PUBLISHER!  

We are proud to become the newest print/publisher partner for Chronicle City!
We are proud to become the newest print/publisher partner for Chronicle City!

More News:  The "Warden's Bounty" System!

Convince a friend to back CSW, get free stuff!  Convince THREE (now reduced from five!), and your rewards level automatically increases at NO CHARGE TO YOU!  See the link above for complete details!

Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics

Welcome to a riveting new chapter in roleplaying from Blackfall Press LLC: Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics. Engage in pulse pounding action as vigilantes combating the corruption in the decadent, downtrodden city of Greensburg. Slip across rooftops and down back alleys, confront vicious gangsters and thugs, investigate mobsters and drug deals, and face down psychopathic metahumans. The city cries out for help—will you heed the call for justice? Or will you whisper, “No...”?

Your pledge towards Cold Steel Wardens ensures that we will be able to put out the best game available.  Funding goes directly towards two primary items:  high-quality, professional art and a fantastic layout.  Everything you see here is preliminary visual work for a written game that is, for all intents and purposes, complete.

However, your commitment to Cold Steel Wardens guarantees you a PDF copy of our beta draft as soon as this drive is completed!  See the "Risks and Challenges" section for more details!

What is Cold Steel Wardens?

Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics is a table-top roleplaying game designed to emulate the Iron Age of Comics, made famous by works such as Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Rise of the Midnight Sons, X-Men: Age of Apocalypse, Daredevil: Born Again, and The Question.  

The Iron Age of Comics (aka the Copper, Dark, or Modern Age) refers to a a period of comics writing between the early 1980s and late 1990s, which typically featured low-powered, street-level heroes investigating realistic threats such as drug traffickers or mafioso in addition to the more 'standard' supervillains. Iron Age comics also focused on moral and social issues such as violence, vigilantism, and social justice, as well as Eastern mysticism and philosophy.

Players take on the roles of masked heroes in Greensburg, a city known for its overwhelming corruption and heinous crimes. Our urban warriors use skills, gadgets, and metahuman powers to take their fight for justice to the crooks, Mafioso, and worse that inhabit their city. 

The heroes’ investigations take place under the watchful eye of the Warden, a separate player who narrates the action, sets up investigations for the heroes, and controls the NPCs of the world. The Warden pushes the heroes to face down their own flaws, as well as challenges them with difficult ethical and moral choices—how far will a hero go in the name of justice?

Concept Art:  Wounded Vigilantes--Courtesy of Jonathan Barnes
Concept Art: Wounded Vigilantes--Courtesy of Jonathan Barnes
What system does Cold Steel Wardens Use?

Cold Steel Wardens uses a new system, tentatively called the MAFIANAP mechanic. In emulating the Iron Age of Comics, the MAFIANAP mechanics emphasize role-play opportunities, investigative gameplay, brutal combat, and difficult moral choices for would-be heroes. This feel is achieved through a core design concept of parallelism, centered around eight core Vitals as well as parallel tracks of Physical and Mental Strain. MAFIANAP itself is an acronym for the eight cover vitals:  Magnetism, Accuracy, Force, Intellect, Agility, Nerve, Awareness, and Psyche.

Heroes in Cold Steel Wardens are fully customizable, with players able to choose any combination of Skills, Masteries, and Powers to fit their ideal Iron Age archetype. However, those Heroes are marked by their Flaws, Stances, and Motivations—background elements which the Warden uses to develop moral challenges, while simultaneously providing bonus dice, via the Hero Pool, to accomplish those Heroes’ goals. 

The MAFIANAP mechanics also lighten the burden of gamemastery for the Warden, with significant focus on developing investigations and inclusion of tiered, easy-to-run archetypal NPCs.  

What's the difference between this and other superheroes games?

Most superhero-style RPGs try to focus on comic books as a whole, covering everything from the wackiness of the Silver Age to the grim bleakness of the Iron Age in a single game. They provide NPCs to face down, ranging from galactic conquerors to psychotic serial killers. But, in playing to the middle, these games under-serve the various sub-genres within comics writing.  Not the least of these is the Iron Age, which has given us some of the greatest stories the history of the genre:  Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and countless others. 

Cold Steel Wardens is designed from the ground up to emulate the Iron Age of Comics. Its rules-set fosters intense investigation, brutal combat, and a focus on ethical and moral dilemma. Its default setting, Greensburg, is an amalgamation of real-life American Rust Belt cities and such classic comics settings as Gotham City, Hub City, and Hell's Kitchen. The MAFIANAP mechanics ensure that an unpowered vigilante can hold his own alongside a super-powered metahuman, even though they may take vastly different approaches in their methods.

Concept Art:  The River Flats, a slums district in Greensburg--Courtesy of Jonathan Barnes
Concept Art: The River Flats, a slums district in Greensburg--Courtesy of Jonathan Barnes

What do you need funding for?

The text of Cold Steel Wardens--the contents, the mechanics, the setting--is already done.  

The first draft of Cold Steel Wardens was completed in August 2012.  Funds raised through this Kickstarter go directly towards the costs of producing a high-quality roleplaying game: layout, art, editing, and an initial print run.  Above all else, we are dedicated to putting forward the best, most polished game possible, and intend to use the funds raised to ensure that goal is achieved.

Stretch Goals! (Now reduced!)

$5,000:  All backers receive a 16 page PDF adventure, "Rolling Blackout" with 6 pre-generated heroes. Start playing Cold Steel Wardens within minutes!  We use these funds to directly enhance the layout and quality of our print run.

$6,000:  We release a set of free, full color GM screen inserts, such as those found here for Savage Worlds.  We use these funds to begin marketing and advertising Cold Steel Wardens; the more people that join in the game, the more likely we'll have additional supplements and books!

$7,000:  The free 16 page adventure increases to 32 pages and will include an additional 6 pre-generated Heroes!  Also, any backer receiving a softcover copy will have the option to upgrade to hardcover, for an additional $5!

$10,000:  Full color!  Our book goes to print with glorious color art!

$15,000:  I don't know yet!  Suggest something in the comments, and I'll see what awesomeness we can make happen!

A Few More Things!

First up, we're taking the "Kicking it Forward" pledge--5% of any profit made via this product (after it's in your hands, of course!) goes towards supporting other Kickstarter-based funding drives.  For more information on how that works, see their website!

Also, for you numbers-junkies out there, we're on KickTraq:  

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Our biggest challenge in publishing "Cold Steel Wardens" comes in taking that next great leap from draft to finished book. Revision and editing services, layout and art creation, and the actual publication process provide massive (but not insurmountable!) challenges for us as we move forward towards having a finished, polished game.

As of December 14th, we have a tentative agreement with Chronicle City for a print/publisher partnership! Chronicle City's expertise in the RPG industry allows us to free up additional funds for art and layout while maintaining fantastic quality in printing for you, the backers.

To show our commitment to fulfilling our obligations and ensuring your copies of "Cold Steel Wardens", EVERY person backing this Kickstarter will receive a PDF copy of the current draft at the end of the crowd-funding drive. You'll be able to read and play Cold Steel Wardens within one month of the Kickstarter completion.

Let me make that clear: Donate at ANY level, and you get a draft copy of the beta rules for "Cold Steel Wardens" when the Kickstarter ends!

Further, you'll have the opportunity to provide feedback and critiques as we proceed through the revision and development process. This not only provides you with a glimpse of the development process and gives you the opportunity to provide feedback, but also ensures that if vicious Knot-Tops take out our entire staff, you'll still have a fully-functional game to enjoy!

FAQ

  • The Warden's Bounty system allows you, as a backer, to get free stuff for helping us spread the word about "Cold Steel Wardens". Convincing your friends to join our fight for justice nets you free swag!

    Essentially, if you convince even 1 person to back us at the $10 level, you get a free set of Hero Pool tokens. If you convince 3 (reduced from 5!), your pledge reward level is automatically increased by one tier, at no additional charge to you.

    See the full details at this link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EkaIL51DyvcbERtZWg3WySfpv7cGSy7ENJWtTYIX2Mg/edit

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  • Everything visual that you see here is concept art, done 'pro-bono' by personal friends and acquaintances. Obviously, because of this, our art is rough. It's only meant to give you a general idea of the sort of feel we're going for. Our first real goal, providing that the KS gets funded, would be to hire professional artists and layout experts. We're devoted to producing the best possible game we can, and that means visually as well as content-wise. We just need to make sure we have the funding to make that a reality, and that's where you come in.

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  • Well...both! The Iron Age certainly incorporates both ideas, and it's a struggle that "Cold Steel Wardens" openly embraces. While many of the inspirations for "Cold Steel Wardens" involve heroes without super-powers (Batman, Rorschach/NiteOwl, etc), there are a ton of great Iron Age heroes and storylines focusing on powers, and "CSW" doesn't skimp on including these.

    Your humble author has a great fondness for "Rise of the Midnight Sons" and "Maximum Carnage"--both of which feature supernaturally powered heroes (Ghost Rider, Blade, Morbius the Living Vampire) or classic comics characters in new, challenging situations (Spider-Man). That's to say nothing of my fondness for Gambit and the punk-hairdo-era Storm.

    It's among our fundamental design goals to ensure that players can built great, archetypal characters and be effective investigators and crimefighters regardless of whether they have powers or not. While their methods may change, the core themes of the Iron Age--brutal combat, intense investigations, social and philosophical issues--all remain!

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    Sentinel (International): A signed softcover copy with personalized thank-you, a PDF copy and an exclusive adventure set in Greensburg (PDF). This adventure will be released for everyone on our six-month publication anniversary, but you can have it now!

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    Rojo Bastardes (Retailer): 5 softcover copies of Cold Steel Wardens AND a retailer-exclusive demo adventure with pre-generated characters (PDF) that you can run at your store! In addition, we will list your store in the book and on our website announcing you as a retailer that carries Cold Steel Wardens.

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    Mafia Lieutenant: All rewards listed at the $250 (Assassin) level, AND I will run an exclusive, off-the-books Cold Steel Wardens game for you and up to 5 of your friends at either the 2013 Origins Game Fair or at GenCon Indy 2013. This game will occur on a day and time of your choosing during one of these conventions, and will feature a casebook designed specifically for your game. After the game, you'll be given all materials for the adventure (notes, outlines, etc) in digital format. Note: You (and your players) are responsible for purchasing badges, hotels and the like--I'm just running the game for you.

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    The Warren Group (Retailer): 5 softcover copies of Cold Steel Wardens, the retailer-exclusive demo adventure, 5 softcover copies of EVERY other Cold Steel Wardens book we produce, AND at my expense on a weekend of our combined choosing, I will travel to your gaming establishment and run a full day (based upon your establishment's hours) of Cold Steel Wardens demos for your patrons. After the day of demos, I will run an exclusive, never-before-seen Cold Steel Wardens session using characters created specifically for that session for you and your staff. All materials for this scenario are yours to keep following the scenario. (Limited to continental United States only) In addition, we will list your store in the book and on our website announcing you as a retailer that carries Cold Steel Wardens!

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    Warden: All rewards listed at the $100 (Avenger) level and the $500 (Mafia Lieutenant) level, AND I will travel at my expense on a weekend of our combined choosing to your house. There, I will prepare dinner for you and up to 5 of your friends. After dinner, I will run an exclusive, never-before-seen Cold Steel Wardens session using characters created specifically for that session. All materials for this scenario are yours to keep following the scenario. (Limited to the Continental United States only) You will also receive 2 free hard copies of every further Cold Steel Wardens book ever produced!

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    Capo: All rewards listed at the $1000 (Warden), $100 (Avenger), and $500 (Mafia Lieutenant) levels AND you'll be brought on a freelance consultant and designer for future Cold Steel Wardens products. You'll have direct influence on the future of the Cold Steel Wardens line and the MAFIANAP system. This will entail significant writing, editing, design brainstorming and more. Obviously, there will be negotiation and compensation at this level, which we will hash out should you pledge this amount.

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Funding period

- (33 days)