Guest Article: Blackfall Press – Rogues Gallery (Cold Steel Wardens)

Cold Steel Wardens: Rogues Gallery
By: A.P. Klosky

Cover Mock-Up (for KS Drive)I’m an unabashed comic book fan. Even as I was in grade school, I spent my free time reading through my uncle’s collection of Worlds’ Finest, Justice League of America, Spider-Man, and Fantastic-Four.

In a strange twist of fate, though, the first comic I ever read was Justice League of America, Vol. 1, #65…the issue in which time-travelling villain T.O. Morrow creates energy duplicates of the heroes’ most deadly enemies to off the entire Justice League.

I suppose it’s there that my fascination with villains started. From the haunted halls of Arkham Asylum to the cold stone throne room of Latveria’s Castle Doom, I couldn’t get enough of the bad guys. In recent years, as comic book favorite heroes have dominated the silver screen, I find that so many of those movies rise and fall upon the strength of their villains. Would The Avengers have been as good without Tom Hiddleston’s sardonic smirk as Loki? I think not!

While in undergraduate, I spent a semester abroad in Liverpool, UK, studying medieval history and literature. In one of my first classes of the semester—in a lecture on Chaucer’s narrative verse—the professor said something that’s been lurking at the heart of everything I’ve read, wrote, or gamed since.

“Conflict is the root of all literature. After all, what would King Lear be like if everyone just sat around saying, ‘Pass the cornflakes’?”

As I started the first draft of Cold Steel Wardens: Rogues Gallery, I found this question rising to the surface again and again with each mook, metahuman, mastermind, and menace I created.

The idea of a ‘monster manual’ suitable for a superheroic roleplaying game isn’t a new one; nearly every superhero game seems to have at least one. While many are spectacular pieces, the best of these draw the GameMaster (and, through them, the players) in by providing instances of conflict. Not just mere combat, mind you—actual, thoughtful conflict and moral quandary. Decision points that can shape an entire campaign.

In CSW: Rogues Gallery, those crisis points push the Cold Steel Wardens setting—New Corinth—to the very brink.

Case in point: Stonegate Federal Penitentiary. Many superheroic settings feature items such as ‘power inhibitor collars’ or ‘metahuman-dampening cells’. No such luck in Stonegate; there, the threat of a metahuman-led breakout becomes a very real occurrence, with Stonegate’s warden at her wits’ end trying to keep order.   Sections on prison psychology, race relations, and gang conflicts assist GameMasters in providing a setting where conflict is around every corner.

As for the villains in CSW: Rogues Gallery themselves? They run the full gamut of Iron Age Comics archetypes, while simultaneously providing new twists on those same concepts, all through the eyes of one of New Corinth’s iconic vigilantes: the phasing private-eye, Sawbones. Sawbones’ files comprise the bulk of CSW: Rogues Gallery, providing unique perspective into his city while including ready-made documents—police reports, newspaper clippings, psychological profiles, and more—for a GameMaster to provide for their players.

Case in point? An archer/vigilante might be nothing new, but what happens when that archer steals the legacy and equipment of a now-dead hero, dividing the New Corinth vigilante community in twain? Whom will the players side with?

When a darkness-manipulating metahuman seeks vengeance against the company who created him, how far will the players go to reveal the truth?   Are the Heroes willing to expose the iniquities beneath Lincroft Asylum, if it means that the patients (including some deranged metahumans) are turned away as the Asylum closes its gates?

Those are the questions that Cold Steel Wardens: Rogues Gallery raises. Will your Heroes answer the call?

Cold Steel Wardens: Rogues Gallery will be available on Kickstarter from March 15th to April 18th, 2016.

For additional information on Cold Steel Wardens, please visit:

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