Things I’m going to talk about today:
- Experience in RPGs
- Native American talent
- What’s next
It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m wiped. In the last couple of weeks I’ve dealt with the incredible achievement that was Avengers: End Game and the dismal failings of Game of Thrones. More importantly, I’ve been grappling with huge shifts in organization and workload at my day job. And to be frank with all of you, it’s left my batteries so dry that I’ve not nearly made the progress on Coyote and Crow that I would have liked.
But that doesn’t mean no progress has been made. In fact, I overcame one of the greatest hurdles in my development with a specific rules concept that I’m thrilled to see implemented. So let’s jump in.
Experience in RPGs
One of the things I really dislike in most role playing games, both tabletop and digital, is how the concept of character evolution is handled. The ubiquitous “Experience Points” and “Level” mechanics are understandable, easy to use and in many scenarios, make sense. But I’ve never liked them. I think I was about thirteen years old when I first said something like, “Why is my character now better with a sword because he found a chest full of gold?” It always felt so dry and arbitrary.
One of my core ambitions with Coyote and Crow is to make a game about legend making. It’s not enough to have my players walk away from the table to tell their friends about the amazing adventure they had. I want that aspect of my role playing game to actually play a part in the character’s growth. I want their character’s legends to reflect the character on paper and vice versa.
But you also have to give players substantive rewards. You have to give them the ability to act and see tangible results from those actions. You can’t entirely abstract the process of growth. Well, I suppose you can, but that’s not where I want my game to go. I don’t want dice-less, rule-less vagueness that becomes nothing more than a group discussion over a prescribed setting. Maybe that’s good enough for some folks, but it’s not where my passions lie.
In any case, I’d been struggling with this idea almost since the beginning. I don’t want to use experience points – in any form really. But I also want some measurable level of growth for my characters and allow them to improve in a way that the players feel they have a sense of agency. It finally came to me in a cliched moment in the shower. That aha! moment.
I’m not going to dive into details yet. Instead, I’ll just tantalize you with the basics. In Coyote and Crow, characters will have two types of Goals: Short Term and Long Term. A player assigns these goals, with storyteller agreement. A short term goal might be, “I want to increase my Stealth skill.” It’s a stat based goal that has a visible, tangible result and plays out through a specific set of steps. Once the requirements have been met, the player advances their skill in Stealth and then assigns themselves a new Short Term Goal.
For Long Term goals, players and storytellers work out a more grand plan for the character. This might involve finding a mythical item or reconciling with an estranged parent or curing a sick child of a disease thought to be incurable. This is where the legend making comes in. Once they’ve accomplished their goal, the character now has a “Legend” about them. The more Legends about them, the more powerful – and Legendary – they are. There will be a game mechanic to represent this but the important part here is that it doesn’t take killing anyone or stealing anything, to make your character Legendary.
Ideally, I want to use the Legendary rules as not only an external game mechanic, but an internal social mechanic. Characters who have multiple legends about them will turn heads when they walk in a room. People will whisper or ask for autographs. Stories will be told.
So yeah, I’m pretty excited about that. I’m looking forward to motivating characters to do things other than shoot, hack and steal their way through my stories, if that’s their preference. And I think this mechanic will fill that role nicely.
A few months back, I got really frustrated. I began to give up on finding something that I think is in a very narrow Venn diagram. I need talented artists, I need Native Americans, I need people who are available to work, and I need people who – preferably – have experience in RPGs and that I can afford. I need people who fit all of those descriptors simultaneously. It’s a big ask and for a while, I gave up and began talking to non-Native artists.
But the more I lingered on that, the more the taste began to sour in my mouth. There are some amazing non-Natives out there who were and are willing to work with me on this project. And I appreciate their talent and enthusiasm. But I can’t do it. It would break my heart to look at my book and see Indigenous people on the cover drawn by non-Indigenous artists. I decided that I’d rather delay this whole thing indefinitely, than do it without a Native team.
A few months later and I’m so glad I made that decision. While I haven’t found THE artist, I’ve spoken to some very talented folks and one of them, Elijah Forbes, made a brilliant suggestion that sparked a new plan for me. I’d been trying to find one artist, or at least one key artist, who could handle my art. I thought I had so few options I just needed to find one and stick with them.
Elijah suggested acting as an Art Director and then the dam just broke. I realized that instead of trying to find one artist who can ‘do it all’, I should be reaching out to as many Natives as I can and having them do what they do best, one, two, or three pieces at a time. Not only will scheduling be easier, but I get to bring more Indigenous artists to the table and include more names in this project.
After that, I realized that I’d spoken to quite a few folks and that many of them, even if they couldn’t join the project, responded to my emails in a supportive way or helped try to put me in contact with others. So, I just wanted to list out everyone that I’ve reached out to and thank them. I sincerely appreciate your help – at whatever level you were or are able to give it.
- Rebecca Roanhorse
- Beth LaPensee
- Roy Boney Jr.
- Jeffery Veregge
- Elijah Forbes
- Demcie Mesteth
- Kayla Shaggy
- Nocona Stevenson
- Cyrus Waters
- Kristina Badhand
- Marcus Lopez
- Jack and Fiona Galarreta
- Evan Randall
- Robert Adducci
- the NDN Players
- Johnnie Jae
With sample characters built, much of the major dice mechanics in a workable state and a rough sketch of a test adventure built, my next goals are to get some test plays under my belt and to get some initial art done.
For the test plays, I already have three groups of four players, each of which will be able to select from six varied pre-made characters. I’ll have them go through a single night story and then evaluate some feedback.
As for art, I’m hoping to chat more with Elijah soon and start focusing in on what sort of talent pool we can rally together and sketching out what we need for our first few pieces.
How fast will all of this happen? I don’t know. No clue. But I am going as fast as my brain and the universe will allow me. And I’m as motivated as ever to make this a brilliant, beautiful and exciting game. Until next time.
ConnorArticle || Tags: futurism, games, indigenous, Native, native american, Role Playing