What About The Rest of the World? (And our next stretch goal!)
10 months ago
– Wed, Mar 31, 2021 at 04:09:33 AM
Today, I want to talk about a topic that a few people have asked about in a variety of ways. The essence of these questions really boil down to this. What's going on in other parts of the world outside of the Americas in this alternate future? In Coyote & Crow, we focus most closely on Cahokia, our starting city. We touch on the Free Lands and the other nations of Makasing and we'll even briefly outline the nations further south in what we call Abayang and Abazang (South and Central America).
But what about Asia? Africa? Islands in the Pacific? What's going on in the rest of the world and how were they all affected by this alternate history and by the Adahnehdi? The short answer is this: We're not going to address that in this book.
Here's the slightly longer answer. The people of this world are coming out of a mini ice age. They've been dealing with issues of survival for centuries. That survival isn't just about the elements. Much of it is about internal and external politics too. There was a devastating war that affected a good portion of both continents. This war led to many of the current treaties and recognized boundaries that you see on the map that appears on the Kickstarter page.
As you build your characters in this world, it's helpful to remember that their world is changing around them. The weather is improving, technology is exploding in capability and reach. Governments are carefully watching their neighbors and weighing the strength of their alliances and treaties. It's in this context that people are beginning to explore out beyond their borders. We're going to let individual Story Guides decide for the time being what's out there. We may give you all some vague clues, but we don't want to box you in too early.
But there's a longer answer to the kind of question this is that I want to address. It's not that wondering what people in Japan are doing during all of this is a problem. It's not. It's natural curiosity. But behind some folks questions, I'm detecting a hint of something else. I think some folks have a mindset that if you're intelligent and advanced and capable than the world must inevitably look and behave something like it does now. Maybe with different art or architecture, different music or food, but that there would a fundamental 1:1 analogy to our real world. That the people of this world, if they could fly to Japan, necessarily should have by now.
I reject that idea wholeheartedly and I'll tell you why. Expansionism is complicated and it is a reflection of a lot of sociological factors. As a generalization, people tend to push outward when they're in need of resources. While there is something to be said for humans innate drive to explore and search the great beyond, our species as a whole tends to spread out in a way that either keeps us in balance with the world around us or, if we're consuming too much, forces us to continue to spread further.
It's important that I emphasize that the people of Coyote & Crow aren't living in a utopia or any kind of Iron Eyes Cody bullshit fantasy land. But I do believe that most Indigenous cultures around the world are pretty good at finding a sustainable balance between their needs and the physical world around them. So take that basic idea and apply it to the people of Coyote & Crow. You had a population in the hundreds of millions that was brought low by a climate disaster, starvation, and war. Hundreds of years later, as people are recovering, their concepts of expansion or travel aren't going to be the same as we see in our real world.
North America alone is 10 million square miles of territory. Even with the population rebounding significantly in the last 100 years, with roughly 40 million people living in Makasing, can you picture how vastly open this continent would be? It's basically the equivalent of the current population of California spread out over the entire US.
There's flight in Coyote & Crow. They have sunwings (which are small personal aircraft) and yutsu vehicles (yutsu is a form of technology that allows for hovering vehicles). They understand astronomy and physics. These folks can get into orbit if they want to. The question isn't can they or even have they. The question you need to ask is why would they want to go there. I don't mean individuals, I mean societies. During your sagas and stories, you may invent reasons to take those trips. And that's part of what the game is about, the mystery of exploration.
So once you've had a chance to read through the book and all of the ancillary materials, maybe you'll want to tell a story about a group of explorers who sail to Africa. That's great! I know what's waiting in Africa in terms of how I've built out this world and there will be plenty of clues in the book, but I want to hear what you think is there. Maybe down the line we'll canonize what's going on over on other continents. But for now, we have so much rich material to tell stories in Makasing. We'll build that world out first, because to me, it's the most important location. When we do branch out, our first stop will be to focus on Central and South America which have such amazing potential for stories and settings.
On to other things! We have our final stretch goal and is it a doozy. We're going to partner with Native and award winning author Rebecca Roanhorse to write a one shot adventure for Coyote & Crow. If you haven't read her books, I highly suggest them. You can find out more about her on her website: https://rebeccaroanhorse.com/
To unlock this stretch goal, we'll need to hit $1 million. That might seem like a lot but our research tells us that many Kickstarters receive to up 25% of their funding in the last 3 days. I think that means we can do it. When I started this campaign at $18,000, I thought I was being practical and reasonable. The lesson of the last three weeks is that you all have given me a sign that it's okay to dream big for this world we're building. So if I'm going to dream big, I think this goal is the right kind of aspirational. To me, this goal is about sending a message to the gaming and RPG industry. It says that representation and diversity isn't just the right thing to do, it also brings a much needed freshness of perspective and ideas to our hobby that the public obviously wants.
I hope you're all having a lovely weekend.
Adventuring in Makasing
10 months ago
– Tue, Mar 23, 2021 at 12:04:26 AM
Good morning C&C friends!
We've got just 10 days left in our Kickstarter and I'm getting so excited to announce our last stretch goal later this week if we hit that mark. I'll be able to give you the name and further details on the Native author who will hopefully be writing a one shot adventure for us!
But on to the update. A friend messaged me over the weekend and was already mulling some ideas for a Saga. Saga is what we call a series of adventures or stories, in lieu of campaign, which is often used in role playing games. We felt that campaign came off as too militaristic and we thought Saga worked well with terms like Story and Session, which we also use.
Anyway, our conversation made me realize that for many of you this world might almost feel too big. Maybe you're feeling like you're not even sure where you would start. While we're planning on Saga expansions, one shots and resource books, I wanted to assure you all the core book has you covered. First, we have an adventure included, Encounter at Station 54, which you can use as a one shot or the start of a larger Saga.
Second, the Story Guide section of the book will dive into themes and settings, helping you craft your own Sagas. The world we're building is vast, it's true. You can do so much in the space we're crafting. Do you want an urban noir setting reminiscent of cyberpunk? You can do that. Your stories can be full of intrigue and hi-tech toys and shady deals. Or maybe you want to run something like a spy thriller. Players travel to distant cities, trying to recruit allies, get information and perhaps prevent a war, all while wondering who might betray them. Perhaps horror is your thing and you want to have your characters stuck in a remote village where citizens are starting to disappear under mysterious and violent circumstances. Resources are running low and anyone could be next. You can do that too.
If you want to run a classic adventure saga, that's also easy. Maybe the Council of Twelve in Cahokia sends your team out into the permanent ice zone to find the source of a distress beacon that has suddenly activated. Players will be out on their own, far removed from any help and walking on lands that were considered uninhabitable for hundreds of years. What or who will they find?
And then there are themes. Is your Story about religion versus science? Modernity versus tradition? Family and duty? Personal ambition versus the collective good? Don't let the conceits we've put down in this book, describing the world of Coyote & Crow, limit your storytelling. The book is meant to do the opposite. It should help you realize that these people live in a different world than ours, but they're just people. They have the same questions, struggles, triumphs and failures that we do. Let that be your guidepost when creating Sagas and then just let your imagination go!
I have to admit that I'm really looking forward to hearing about the Sagas and stories you all end up creating, the fascinating characters, the epic legends. Exciting times lay ahead. Thank you all.
The Humble But Mighty d12
10 months ago
– Thu, Mar 18, 2021 at 09:53:09 PM
I've had a number of folks ask me why we chose to go with the d12 for our system. There's a few reasons and some of them might not be what you think. I thought I'd use my update today to fill you in on some fun trivia. The d12 and the number 12 itself play important roles in both the mechanics and the world building we're doing for Coyote & Crow.
First, I'm often a fan of underdogs. I like the Rebel Alliance, the OPA, and AFC Richmond. So for me personally, my favorite die is the d12, a constant underdog in the polyhedral world. But it's not just because it's so rarely used. Twelve is a beautiful number. It has a long and storied history in many cultures. It has many important meanings and connections to our natural world. It's for those reasons I wanted to make the number 12 important in the game world as well.
In Coyote & Crow, the number 12 is sacred. It's at the core of their advanced mathematics based in a duodecimal system. I wanted the people of this world to have a math and science that was distinctly their own and giving them a system that isn't based on 10 seemed like a great place to start. We won't dive into that too much here but we'll touch on it a bit more in the book.
Coming back to the d12, there's an often overlooked elegance to it. It's not nearly as swingy as a d20, but it also offers twice the variance of a d6. There's room in there for a lot of subjectivity, there's space to play. That's really what intrigues me about it. I also like that most d12's have nice bold, easy to read numbers, which helps with accessibility. And speaking of accessibility, I should add that having only one type of die is important when considering folks who are new to RPGs. Fewer dice to mentally sort is a reduction in cognitive load. For this reason, I strongly considered going with d6s early in our development. But my desire to distinguish this new world I was building led me to getting away from a die that was so closely associated with traditional games like Monopoly.
Speaking more broadly about accessibility, a big part of our mission for this game and this world is bringing in folks to our hobby who have never played RPGs before. And while this system has been referred to as somewhat crunchy by a few folks, we're doing our best to make it an painless transition for those who are new to tabletop role playing games. These are just a few of those initiatives:
- Creating a 'rules light' downloadable version of the game that will be free to the public (stretch goal unlocked)
- Keeping the dice to one type
- Having sections of the book that directly address folks that are new to the hobby
- Our current stretch goal of developing free mobile software that includes a dice app.
- Keeping our stretch goals digital so that people who receive donated copies can get access to additional materials as easily as anyone else
Regardless of whether you are a fan of the d12 or not, I hope you'll see that what we're doing with Coyote & Crow is loaded with intention. That our plans are not haphazard or impulsive. The project is obviously doing so much better than we ever anticipated (THANK YOU!) but it hasn't changed our original mission of bringing this amazing hobby to a wider audience through thoughtful development. I hope that this game is something that inspires you to bring someone to the table who's never rolled a d12 before.
A message to non-Natives
11 months ago
– Fri, Mar 12, 2021 at 12:16:20 AM
Today, I want to talk a little bit about who should be playing this game. I've seen a trickle of concern that Coyote and Crow is something non-Natives shouldn't bring to their table. Before I get into how we've handled this situation in the text of the game itself, I wanted to share my broader thoughts on the topic.
To me, RPGs are about bringing people together, sharing stories and leaving the table with a collective experience that makes all of the players lives just a little bit brighter. I want everyone to play Coyote and Crow the way it was intended to be played: With an open, respectful, joyful heart, and a sense of wonder and adventure.
Let's talk about the "A" word. And I'd like to start off by providing a simple analogy. Let's say a person travels to a different country with a different culture from their own and someone invites them into their home for dinner. They sit down at the table and when they're offered food they say, "I wouldn't feel right eating this. It would be appropriation." Hopefully it's obvious how off target that is. Yes, the analogy isn't perfect. But my point is this: Appropriation, at its root, is about taking. What we're doing is giving. And what we're giving you is fictional. It's not the traditions or history of any real world tribe or nation (more on that in a little further on).
When it comes to the actual game, we address this concept head on in a few ways. First, we have pages at the start of the book that directly speak to non-Native players and Native players. We discuss how each group should approach the game and some obvious no-no's for non-Natives. But throughout we call attention to specific things where there might be a chance for any non-Natives to misstep or for Natives to add value. A perfect example of this is the Ceremony Skill. This is a fully functioning Skill on its own and is useful as is to anyone playing. But we also call this out as a point where Native players can speak with their Story Guide and work to create Specialized versions for the Skill that allows for different effects and parameters based on that particular Native's culture and traditions. In this scenario, non-Natives don't need to take any special actions. Just play the game as it's written, and you're fine.
I also want to point out that on the character sheet there's a line called 'Other Identifiers'. This is a place where Native players can add their tribe if that's something they want to do. Real world tribal identity is not required for your character and in fact is specifically called out as something not to do for non-Native players. I'm not going to go into expansive detail here, but we do address the concept of identity, nationalism and tribal affiliation further in the book.
The core book focuses on the city of Cahokia and to a lesser extent, the surrounding area called the Free Lands. While we touch on the neighboring nations identified in the map, we'll leave the deep dive on those to future expansions. We'll be tapping Native writers from those regions to more fully realize each and give them all the unique flavor and feel that they deserve. Those expansions will address more directly how real world tribes intersect with the world of C&C, but we'll have the same qualifiers and guidance for non-Native players in those books as well.
The reality is that most of the people who do the worst kind of appropriation, the worst stereotyping and racist behavior, aren't going to want to play this game. We don't have to worry about them because this book is so in your face "not-white" that it's going to act like repellent. Good. We don't need them. Will there be folks who trip up and say something stupid at the table and offend someone else? Abso-freaking-lutely. But that's no different than any other day in America. Don't use that as an excuse to not play Coyote & Crow.
To sum up, I get it. Not wanting to appropriate culture is a good instinct. But trust our whole team when we collectively say, we want you to play our game! We want you to enjoy this and to share it with us. And if you're ever not sure about a specific point, ask us. While I'd love to think that this update will put the issue to bed, I'm fully aware that it won't. We're already planning on expanding those opening pages in the book that discuss how to approach the game. We want everyone feeling good when they sit down to play Coyote & Crow.
And let me end on a tease! We'll announce one final stretch goal if we hit the current one. That next stretch goal is going to be a stand alone adventure for Coyote and Crow from a certain Nebula and Hugo award winning Native author!
The Warrior Icon
11 months ago
– Mon, Mar 08, 2021 at 11:05:20 PM
Just a quick update. Today we hit another tremendous milestone. Thank you all so much for your continued generosity and support. Our whole crew is elated over the response to their work and we're all so excited to finish what we've started.
I also have a slightly embarrassing situation to address. A very kind person pointed out that our icon for the Warrior was almost identical to the modern icon used in Black Power messaging. This was entirely an error on my part. I used a placeholder mock-up instead of our final icon and we've since remedied that. You can see the actual icon for the Warrior in the current image on the Campaign page. The icon that was there previously was an internal use only illustration that was meant as a developmental reference and was never intended for print. I apologize to anyone who was confused or concerned, and I truly hope there was no offense caused. We have the deepest respect for our Black allies and our icon was always meant as a nod to them.