Nominated for a Nebula Award, Coyote & Crow, one of the million dollar RPG Kickstarters, is coming back to crowdfunding with new books and a new “home”, Backerkit. During their first campaign, I spoke with Connor Alexander. For this upcoming campaign, Connor agreed to answer my questions about the new books, how the system works, and what the reaction to this book has been like.
EGG EMBRY (EGG): Thank you for speaking with me! Let’s talk about the new campaign, Coyote & Crow: Stories of the Free Lands. What can you share about this project?
CONNOR ALEXANDER (CONNOR): This follow up has been a long time coming. We wanted to initially get these stories to folks at the same time the core book hit retail shelves. One of the most common asks we had after the first crowdfunding campaign was successful was “What kinds of stories can we tell with this game?” So we wanted to gather up some Indigenous writers and show people what’s possible. But like so many things in the world right now, there were delays. And by the time we got them together and ready to go, we had other things to share, like our Story Guide Screen and Naasii, our standalone dice game. So we decided to just bundle everything up and let folks get early access to some of the stuff that would have otherwise gone straight to retail.
EGG: For gamers that have not tried out Coyote & Crow, what’s the RPG’s pitch?
CONNOR: It’s a science fantasy world set in an alternate future where colonization of the Americas never happened after a world changing climate event altered history centuries back. Now, in the near future, players take on the roles of epic heroes in a mirror America where advanced technology and spirituality stand side by side.
EGG: What is the core mechanic of Coyote & Crow?
CONNOR: It’s a story focused system where characters use pools of D12s to determine a range of success or failure. It’s a system built to encourage epic storytelling and to offer a range of alternatives for conflict resolution besides combat.
EGG: Can you talk about the project’s goals? What will you produce?
CONNOR: For the new campaign, we’re offering 10 stories broken down into two PDF bundles of 5 stories each. Each story is written by an Indigenous author paired up with a different artist. Some are folks who wrote or did art for the core book, but we have lots of new folks onboard too. While we aren’t firmly committing to doing a physical print run for the stories, it is planned as one of our stretch goals. The reality is, printing, paper and shipping costs are just astronomical right now and the time lag is such that we just wanted to make sure that folks could get these stories to their table as quickly as possible. For the other products, like the Story Guide Screen and Naasii, I was the primary author/designer of those. I also wrote one of the ten stories.
EGG: There is a tendency to put projects into categories. Because I want to share this project as much as possible, I’ve mentioned Coyote & Crow when I’m writing about cyberpunk. But, this RPG isn’t specifically a cyberpunk game, I’ve simply shoehorned it there to fit it into an article here or there. What genre or subgenre would you put Coyote & Crow into?
CONNOR: Great question! We’ve been called Hopepunk and Solarpunk and I certainly don’t mind those labels. I call our game Indigipunk. I think there is a small subset of folks that look at our setting and call it a utopia, but I take real offense to that. I think we present a world that isn’t a dystopia and it offers a primary location (Cahokia) that offers housing, healthcare, education, and a healthy environment for all of it’s citizens. But that’s not a utopia, that’s just a baseline for what life should be like. I think that says a lot more about where people’s heads are at in this country that we think basic human needs being met are a utopia. To me, Indigipunk means that it’s a radical departure from most visions of the future in that it attempts to give us a future where Indigenous people had the ability to shape their own destiny. It’s not a perfect world, just a different one. One that lacks colonial trauma.
EGG: Coyote & Crow crowdfunded in excess of a million dollars at Kickstarter. However, for the new campaign you’re changing venues to Backerkit, correct? Why make that move?
CONNOR: We knew we wanted to move away from Kickstarter after they announced their plans to work with blockchain technology. We can’t always make environmentally responsible decisions as a publisher working in America today, but that was one we could control. We considered GameFound, but we also had a great experience with BackerKit on our last campaign and they’ve been lovely to work with. So when they offered to let us into their beta, we said yes.
EGG: Are you planning any additional advertising to guide fans to the new platform?
CONNOR: We’re reaching out to fans every way we can think of. BackerKit will be doing their own advertising, but we’re reaching out through our Discord and other social media and sales channels. We know that we have a rather unusual campaign as far as what we’re offering and we know that BackerKit isn’t entirely embedded in people’s minds as a crowdfunding platform. But I’m fine with us blazing new trails. If this campaign goes well, it’s a sign that at least for us, it’s about the product and our mission and not the platform.
EGG: When are you planning your crowdfunding campaign?
CONNOR: We’re launching on September 13th and it will be a 30 day campaign. Because most everything is finished, shipping our way or close to being done, we’re confident we can start fulfilling well before the end of the year.
EGG: Now that Coyote & Crow is available to gamers via FLGS and bookstores, what has the reaction been like?
CONNOR: It’s been unbelievable. On the one hand we’ve had some great streamed actual plays, a Nebula award nomination for game writing and incredible sweet emails from educators and therapists who say the game is already making a huge impact with Indigenous youth. On the other, we’ve had a hard time getting the attention of your average game stores out there. While we’ve done some good work, the truth is that RPGs are such a small slice of the gaming pie that I totally understand that most game stores can’t keep up with anything beyond D&D, Shadowrun, and Pathfinder. I get it. But we’ll slowly work our way into their hearts – and onto their shelves.
EGG: Coyote & Crow opens the door for Native stories and Native creators. What kind of positive impact have you seen/heard about Coyote & Crow having on other Native creators?
CONNOR: I’ve been truly humbled by how many writers and artists and other creatives have reached out to me, asking how they can participate in some way. Beyond just wanting to continue on as a game publisher, my hope for this campaign is that it puts us in a position where can foster those folk’s ambitions. And I don’t just mean by hiring them to work on future C&C products. I mean, I want to be able to authorize clothing designers or toy makers or crafters or whomever else is feeling inspired to make something connected to Coyote & Crow. I can’t wait to see some of the cosplay we’re eventually going to have. Natives know how to dress up.
EGG: Beyond Coyote & Crow, what else are you working on?
CONNOR: I’m working on a few things. Some stuff I can’t really talk about at the moment. But I’m also working on a stand alone tabletop game for next year. We’ve got a card game on the way. A novel set in the C&C universe. Plus expansion books for C&C. There’s so much to be done. It’s an exciting time over here.
EGG: I appreciate your time. Where can fans learn more about you and Coyote & Crow?
CONNOR: Our website, which also has a list of our socials on the main page. You can also sign up to be notified about the new crowdfunding campaign launch at [Backerkit]. As always, Egg, thanks for taking the time to chat with me!
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