Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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New Crowdfunding Project: "Coyote and Crow"

Coyote and Crow is a science fantasy roleplaying game set in an alternate timeline where a meteor hit the Earth, causing calamities that changed history, an event called the Awis. (I'm guessing it hit either Europe or the ocean on that side of the planet.) Europe never invaded Turtle Island, and new abilities began to emerge: the Adahnehdi, the Gift. 700 years later, several thriving civilizations share the continent of Makasing: the Keetoowagi Republic, Haudenosaunee, Free Lands (with Cahokia as the capital), Aztec Empire, Dine Republic, and Salish Alliance. (The map is flipped, with South at the top, in an amusing bit of cartographic decolonization.) Science and spirit both form foundations of their advanced technologies. So this is a rare example of entertainment NOT based on colonial dynamics.


The project was fully funded within the first day. \o/ It has also met SIX stretch goals. The next stretch goal is set to reveal on March 10, so watch for that. There's also a bonus of 4 recipes if you donate within the first 48 hours, and it launched on March 2, so depending when you read this you may squeak under the wire. Donation levels run from $5 to $400, with a PDF at $20 and a hardcopy book at $50.

The roleplaying game offers a variety of challenges. The world is healing but still hazardous. A lot of it was effectively sealed off by ice, wild oceans, or other impassable hazards. As these recede, people are exploring in new directions. Old alliances are breaking down and new ones forming. So there's a lot of opportunity for different types of campaign whether you like political intrigue, cultural development, character soap operas, or exploratory adventures. While Coyote and Crow includes a combat system, it is not designed primarily as a combat game, so if you're really into melee or wargaming, this might not be a great fit for you. If you're tired of hack-n-slash games and want to explore problems that can't be solved by hitting, it seems very promising. That aspect reminds me of Dead Inside, a game of soul restoration rather than raiding.

The game engine is supposed to be very streamlined, using 12-sided dice with pencil and paper. You shouldn't need to open the game book frequently during play. There are 6 Archetypes, which define the general type of character. There are 15 Paths that look to be inspired by animals, which determine statistic bonuses and which of the 27 special Abilities your character can choose. Archetypes x Paths = 90 combinations right there; no telling how many more once you factor in the Abilities because number per Path may vary. Gifts and Burdens allow you to customize your character with advantages and disadvantages. (This is exactly what I was looking for when my high school friends gave me the AD&D corebooks because they wanted to play in my writing world. That required some ... creative adjustments and worldwalking.) So Coyote and Crow is really designed for gamers who love storytelling and characterization in a flexible session context. If you like the precision of looking up detailed rules, this may not have all the tools you want.

Instead of experience points, advancement uses the Legend system. Your character and party have short-term and long-term goals. As you fill these goals, your tell your story, and get an opportunity to add new Abilities and change Gifts and Burdens, so your character can do more things. Over time, your reputation grows as more people tell stories about you, which also influences what your character can accomplish. This has two advantages over abstract experience systems: 1) It capitalizes on the cultural importance of storytelling across Turtle Island, which is an interest shared by many roleplayers. 2) It presumably connects character actions in the game to how the character grows, rather than letting players pick unrelated advancements for strategic reasons. Expect that you'll need to put your strategy into the way you build your character and set goals, not tack it on after the fact. One game I can think of that locks growth to action is World Tree, where you can put your experience points into upgrading anything your character used while gaining said experience, but not things that weren't used then.

Coyote and Crow is created by a Native-led team representing multiple tribes, genders, and other traits. All the writing and most of the art is done by Natives, and these folks get a pay bump via some of the stretch goals. \o/ There are no white (and presumably also no black, Asian, or other foreign) characters, only Native North American characters in the game. It creates a very different cultural perspective, so the diversity is going to come from the different nations, which are about as different from each other as say, Sweden, Spain, Germany, and Greece. Preliminary materials indicate supportive advice both for Native and non-Native gamers to accommodate their different backgrounds coming into this game. If you are fluent with both or running a mixed-player game, then you may want to read all the tips and follow whichever ones suit you.

I am particularly thrilled by the overall positive and healthy cultural environment. This is exactly the kind of material I was looking for back when I took a college class on Native American Literature and was appalled to see that all of the contemporary characters were broken. 0_o Okay, reservations are full of broken people because they were designed to break people, but if that's the only kind of story we tell, then it perpetuates the problem instead of giving people ideas on survivance. It took a lot of hunting to find things that weren't either A) myths and legends, B) historic fiction, or C) things I'd written myself, but happily many more positive things have come out in recent years. The Potlatch card game is another recent example, which teaches about the gift economy as found in Northwest cultures, and it's bilingual in English and Lushootseed.

I should mention here that the campaign cites a constructed language for Coyote and Crow, called Kag Chahi. From the terms I've seen in the preliminary materials, I'm guessing they built it based on one or more of the language families particular to Turtle Island, several of whose associated peoples are already visibly on the map. So I'm really, really looking to exploring that regardless of how the game mechanics turn out. Stretch Goal 3 is a Kag Chahi character name generator on the company website and Stretch Goal 6 is a wiki of the language. Natives will be invited to help with the conlang development, so if you speak a tribal language, please do watch for that.

The campaign also describes the game as suitable for novice to experienced gamers. It's actually meant to do two different things: encourage tribal folks to try gaming, and invite gamers to explore a totally different cultural perspective leading to a very fresh gaming experience. A lot of games on the market really focus on either the novice or the expert audience, so this flexibility -- if it pans out in the final product -- gives it wider appeal.


Based on campaign details, this game seems to have benefits for:

* Novice gamers. Coyote and Crow is designed to accommodate players who are new to roleplaying. Also, backers at $20+ will get access to a rules-light version before the full version comes out.

* Expert gamers. The worldbuilding looks spectacular; the game engine is fresh and seems to do a good job of weaving the theme into the mechanics. If you're tired of raiding McFantasy land, try something different.

* Gamers on a budget. The whole system fits in one book, so you don't have to break your bank buying a whole shelf of stuff. The PDF is only $20.

* Game hosts. If you like running games, especially at a game night, game shop, or convention, then it pays to have a game that will feel new and interesting to a lot of people. A particular advantage is that Coyote and Crow is supposed to span a wide experience range, suiting it for mixed or pickup groups.

* Game designers and publishers. Europe has been mined up one side and down the other. There is so much more to the world that we could be playing with. Look at other cultures for inspiration, and especially, creative people from diverse backgrounds. Coyote and Crow is an example of gaming from a different root kit.

* Collectors of Native American art. Almost all the artists are tribe members. The campaign page shows some different styles, including realistic and stylized approaches. I confess I'm also charmed by all the purple that the Awis scattered around, because it's an interesting divergence from the historic palette still favored by some Native artists.

* Eastereggers. If you love reading books for the fun of spotting things you recognize, and you know something about any of the ... hmm, at least 6 major cultural groups on the map ... then this ought to be a blast. I had fun spotting things just in the preliminary materials.

* Native American tribe members. The developers are specifically hoping that you folks will think about "How would my tribe have handled the Awis and the difficulties that followed? What kind of advanced civilization would we have developed in this new future?"

* Non-tribal allies and others interested in Native cultures. This game offers a look at Native worldviews and principles, offset through science fantasy, but based in what is known of precolonial cultures here. It looks like a good contribution to diversity in gaming. That's promising for personal exploration, classroom use, or good clean fun. If you've been wondering how to enjoy multiculturalism without misappropriation, consider:
1) Buying from member creators, in this case a Native design team, is reliably legit and also generally considered safe for use by a wider audience.
2) If you practice the premise "The gift must move," then you're doing cultural exchange, not misappropriation. Many Turtle Island cultures have traditionally used a gift economy, expressed in various ways from the Lakota giveaway to the West Coast potlatches, in which wealth is based on what you give away not what you hoard (i.e. the opposite of a capitalist economy). Coyote and Crow offers several reward levels to facilitate gifting; you can support the project for the love ($5) or send a hardcopy book to a Native American reservation ($50 for one copy, or $100 if you want one for yourself and one to give away).
3) If you don't have a "pay the rent" project in your area, or you find the land issue just too fraught, then other methods of supporting tribal people can also help repair past injustices. Donating to Native projects is a viable option.

* Native language learners. Go on, try to play this thing while speaking only in Tsalagi or another heritage language. It's written in English but you can still talk about it in another language. Translate a paragraph or a page. It's got to be easier than trying to cram European concepts into a Turtle Island language, and it's definitely more fun than translating a newspaper.

* Crowdfunders. You don't have to wait for some editor to like things; you can decide what deserves to exist. If you want more diverse games, back and buy them. Support diverse game developers and widen the talent pool. Note that this project constitutes a "sandbox" that begins with one roleplaying game but could easily support expansions or other game formats in the future, if you like to back things with broad potential.

* Activists. Poke a bigot in the eye! Buy from people they hate and/or give things to people they hate. It's rare to find a project with a Native-led creative team, so you've got a good tight focus here.

* Holiday or birthday shoppers. Do you know a gamer who likes things off the beaten path? They probably haven't seen this yet. Or several other folks on the above list, for that matter.


Basically, I decided to do a post on this project because it hits a lot of things I love -- tribal cultures, Native creatives, gaming, xenolinguistics, and crowdfunding. I picked the "one for me, one for a reservation" option because I write fairly often about indigenous issues, so this is a good opportunity to give back. I really want to encourage people to make new cultural content; backing this game and getting it into more Native hands should help with that. The world needs more settings with no white people in them, and not just the way every black author seems to write one story like that and then quit. Also, I know my readers love tribal topics because aside from the established Iron Horses thread I also got several exciting prompts about Native Americans in yesterday's Poetry Fishbowl. And of course, lots of you are avid crowdfunders. :D Take a peek and see if Coyote and Crow appeals to you or someone you know. Pass the word.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, entertainment, ethnic studies, gaming, networking, shopping
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