The new RPG Coyote & Crow raised over a million dollars on Kickstarter, and it's easy to understand why: the game was created by Native American designers, and depicts a futuristic version of an uncolonized American. Postcolonial future sci-fi gaming? Sign me up!
Here's the premise:
More than 700 years ago, a bright purple streak shot across the night sky. Over the coming weeks, the Earth fell into a deep winter, the seas raged and ash rained from the sky. The event became known as the Awis. As resources dwindled, winter became longer and summer shorter, people struggled to survive. Wars erupted, people starved, some fleeing their ancestral homes before creeping ice sheets.
But people survived. Tribes adapted. And in the wake, people began to notice a strange purple mark appearing on people, plants and animals alike. It became known as the Adahnehdi, the Gift, and many took it as a sign that the Great Spirit had not given up on them.
Eventually, the weather began to ease, the Earth began to heal, and new nations arose. New sciences and technologies, born out of necessity, led to a discovery about the Adahnehdi. It wasn't just a mark, it was a path to abilities and powers, beyond normal human limits.
Now, 700 years after the world was brought to the brink, a new chapter has begun. Your characters enter a world that is healing but is no less dangerous. The ice sheets are retreating and the seas are calming, but what lay out beyond your borders? The treaties and alliances that made so much sense during the long winters are now eroding and old grudges between nations are not so easily forgotten. New technologies arise almost every day and the rate of change is frightening for some. And then there are the stories. Talk of spirits, monsters, beings of legend. For so many they were just tales to be told around the fire. But now there is talk that these legends may be far more literal than you may have previously believed. Has something awakened them?
I just recently posted (and learned) about the pre-Columbus city of Cahokia near modern-day St. Louis. By complete coincidence, that city's existence was also a major inspiration for this D12-based game — and it's the starting point, from where your RPG adventurers begin. As Connor Alexander, a Coyote & Crow creator and a member of the Cherokee Nation, told Polygon:
No living culture can claim Cahokia as direct descendants at this point. Those mounds in downstate Illinois represent a blank space on the map where an unknown Native American culture once stood. It's a meaningful place for modern-day Natives because of what it represents of their past. But it's also meaningful for non-Native people who today recognize Cahokia as a place where they can learn more about the history of colonization and their role in it.
The creators are also being very conscious of issues around cultural appropriation. As they explained in a campaign update:
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.
Alexander also told Polygon that:
We have these callouts throughout the book. If you're Native, you can do this. Or, if you're non-Native, please don't do this. But, outside of that, I can't emphasize enough that this game is created by a group of Natives for everyone — and as an offering. It's meant as a place for us to share something.
While the formal fundraising campaign is over, it's not too late to pre-order the game. There's a hardcover guide book, as well as a digital version, plus a Roll20-exclusive version.
Coyote & Crow the Role Playing Game [Connor Alexander / Kickstarter]
Breakout tabletop RPG by Native designers imagines an uncolonized North America [Charlie Hall / Polygon]