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Coyote & Crow the Role Playing Game: An Interview With Connor Alexander

Heather O'Neill of 9th Level Games reached out to me to introduce Connor Alexander and his project, Coyote and Crow, a tabletop RPG now on Kickstarter. Creatively, this is an exceptional project by Native Americans to tell their stories of Indigenous Futurism based in positivity and empowerment. Connor agreed to talk with me about the vision for the game and what makes it stand out.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): Thanks for taking the talk with me about your project. What’s your Kickstarter and what’s it about?
CONNOR ALEXANDER (CONNOR)
: Our Kickstarter is Coyote and Crow, a tabletop RPG set in a science fantasy alternate future where colonization didn't happen and advanced civilizations have risen. It uses its own d12 system and non-point based system for experience that we call the Legends system. It's created and led by a team of Natives from around North America.

EGG: That’s awesome! Tell us about your creative team and how you came together?
CONNOR
: Frankly, it was a long, slow process. In the gaming world we're dealing with a microcosm of what the rest of the nation is dealing with. That is, Natives in gaming are working in a space dominated by whites and white culture. So finding folks who were qualified, interested, and available wasn't easy and almost killed the project more than once. But I'm so proud of the folks that we have now. Just an incredible pool of talent and perspectives.

EGG: In the game, the Americas were never colonized. Let’s talk about how that changes the world. How are North and South America different?
CONNOR
: Wow. That question literally took us 200 pages to describe. But the key thing is the Awis. It's an event that happened in their world that didn't happen in ours. In short, around 700 years back, a meteor struck the Earth somewhere near Nepal. Not only did it have devastating repercussions for the whole world, but it introduced something new to that world, something that powers much of the fantasy element of the game. It's called the Adahnehdi. Beyond that, the climatic upheaval hit the Americas hard and those struggles forced the changes that resulted in advanced nations rising over the course of the following 700 years. Some folks have made technological comparisons to places like Wakanda.

EGG: Can you talk about how the Awis impacted the rest of the world?
CONNOR
: For a number of reasons, we made a choice early on to make this game about what happened to the Indigenous people of North and South America and the story is told from their perspective. Because these people were focused for so long on survival and because the climate was so devastated, until recently, no one was traveling across the oceans. So what happened to the people of Africa, Asia and elsewhere is something that characters can choose to explore. Or not. There's more than enough adventure to be had in the Americas. Frankly, one of our goals was to separate this game world from colonialism. One of the best ways I can think of to do that is to just not talk about Europe in this book. It just doesn't interest me.

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EGG: That’s a fair point. This next question may be outside of the scope of this game but I’ll throw it out there: Has this impacted the dominance of monotheism?
CONNOR
: Egg, this is one of those questions I'd love to have in a bar with you until 3am. We don't tackle spirituality heavily in the game. For the most part, real world tribes still exist in this world and they still have their own beliefs. Fictional tribes and other groups have varied beliefs but most fall into some form of spiritual animism. One of our core beliefs is that we wanted Native players to be able to bring their own customs and culture to this game and layer in a way that it would meld well.

EGG: That’s a valid decision. Why jump to the near future?
CONNOR
: This is about the best question anyone could ask. The answer is because non-Natives (and even some Natives) see Indigenous people everywhere as people from the past. Our cultures our treated as antiquities and curiosities, instead of living, breathing things. So, I wanted to reach two audiences by putting this in the future. One was white audiences. I needed to give them a pop culture framework for seeing us in a different light. I want it to be jarring. We aren't just people who fight cowboys or who take sides in colonial wars. The second was Natives themselves. I wanted to create a world that wasn't rooted in our real now, which can sometimes be really depressing, but a world that, while maybe not a utopia, at least offered a world where Natives were charting their own path and aren't living under this horrible trauma.

EGG: That sounds inspiring. Let’s switch over to the engine: What system will this use?
CONNOR
: We've created a d12 based system unique for this game. You're using a pool of dice and are shooting for a success number. The more dice hit that number, the more successes you have and the faster or better you accomplish your goals. I've never been a huge fan of single die outcomes and I also tend to shy away from systems that have you rolling twenty dice at a time. We are working hard on this system to make it about a single set of rolls with 5-8 dice on average that can deliver a wide range of results.

EGG: What makes this the right system for the RPG?
CONNOR
: We went into this with two goals. One, the system needed to be Native built. We didn't want to build on the backs of others. It was important this be ours. Second, it's a system that we think helps tell stories rather than crunch numbers, which is at the heart of what we're trying to put out there. We want a system that encourages people to tell stories.

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EGG: Beyond this project, what else are you working on?
CONNOR
: This core book goes to Kickstarter on March 2nd. From there, we have about five expansion books in the wings. One for each of the five nations in Makasing (North America) and a campaign book that takes place in the pacific northwest. In addition, I'm working on a push your luck dice game that would double as a dice set for the RPG.

EGG: Thanks for talking with me. Where can fans find more about this project and follow your work?
CONNOR
: The best place is [our website]. Our Kickstarter is [here] and you can find us on Twitter at @CoyoteNCrowRPG. Great chatting with you, Egg! Thanks for all you do for our hobby.
  • Coyote & Crow the Role Playing Game from Connor Alexander
  • “A science fiction and fantasy tabletop RPG set in a near-future where the Americas were never colonized, created by a team of Natives.”
Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG and Amazon.
 

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Egg Embry

Egg Embry

When I first read about this game, my mind also drew comparisons to Wakanda, i.e. what would happen if a culture developed free of external forces.

After backing the Kickstarter, the first update email I received largely addressed the question of cultural appropriation, with "white" gamers sincerely asking if they should play this game. I appreciated Connor's response basically saying they want All gamers to play and appreciate this game. It sounds like they do address specific Native vs non-Native play (e.g. Natives should feel free to bring their own real world traditions into the game; while non-Natives should stick to the fictional tribes/traditions presented in the game book).

Over-all, I can't wait to get this in my hands (and others').
 


When I first read about this game, my mind also drew comparisons to Wakanda, i.e. what would happen if a culture developed free of external forces.

After backing the Kickstarter, the first update email I received largely addressed the question of cultural appropriation, with "white" gamers sincerely asking if they should play this game. I appreciated Connor's response basically saying they want All gamers to play and appreciate this game. It sounds like they do address specific Native vs non-Native play (e.g. Natives should feel free to bring their own real world traditions into the game; while non-Natives should stick to the fictional tribes/traditions presented in the game book).

Over-all, I can't wait to get this in my hands (and others').

Honestly, RPGs have enough trouble as it is making money and staying in print when white gamers buy and play them. So if a game company wants to make money in the US, someone making a game like this, or games based on African or Asian cultures, has to both need and want people not from those cultures to buy and play the game.

I do wonder a couple of things. Do they add back in the various Native tribes and cultures that no longer exist in the modern day? And how does this deal with Hispanic populations? Without the Spanish and Portuguese, for good or very bad, none of that culture would exist at all in the modern world. Same with Haiti and Jamaica and other places without the slaves who were brought there, but of course, those are very touchy subjects. Basically, what do the Caribbean and Latin America look like without those peoples? And what kind of research and reconstruction did his team have to do to bring those regions back to more pure Native?
 


Lo_

Villager
I was able to playtest this in 2019 and had a blast. It took some exploration to try to get my head around what my character's perspective and outlook was, but that process was enjoyable. And new, which is good. The adventure itself had a bit of an X-files vibe, which worked well.

Also it was nice to have something to do with all my d12s : ) They do get lonely : ) Looking forward to playing the final thing and exploring more of the setting.
 

Matchstick

Explorer
Honestly, RPGs have enough trouble as it is making money and staying in print when white gamers buy and play them. So if a game company wants to make money in the US, someone making a game like this, or games based on African or Asian cultures, has to both need and want people not from those cultures to buy and play the game.

I do wonder a couple of things. Do they add back in the various Native tribes and cultures that no longer exist in the modern day? And how does this deal with Hispanic populations? Without the Spanish and Portuguese, for good or very bad, none of that culture would exist at all in the modern world. Same with Haiti and Jamaica and other places without the slaves who were brought there, but of course, those are very touchy subjects. Basically, what do the Caribbean and Latin America look like without those peoples? And what kind of research and reconstruction did his team have to do to bring those regions back to more pure Native?
At least some of the answers are in the latest Update. The nations in the game are fictional. At some point it was mentioned, as you indicate, that it would be impossible to include all Native tribes past and present.

They are also going to do expansions, and I believe that's where other areas' tribes would come in. Hawaiian is mentioned in the comments if I remember correctly. But those expansions will be defined at least partially by the available Native writers from the relevant area. All fictional tribes though still.

Edited to Add: the update referred to by myself and @dogoftheunderworld above is very much worth reading IMO.

 

ruemere

Adventurer
Mixed feelings on this.

The preview art is stunning and unique. I would have made a purchase on this alone. The lack of EU shipping option is however a dealbreaker to me - PDFs don't make for a great reading on portable readers, especially so if they are art-heavy.
The layout, the fonts and the system (as presented on the campaign preview page) seem not to be strong selling points for now.
The setting premise appears to be great, even though there is not much to comment on.
 
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