Welcome back! Today’s journal is going to mostly be about dice in Coyote and Crow – what you’ll use, how you’ll use it and why I’m making the choices I’m making.
Before I get into that though, let’s do an all around update on where things are:
- I’m getting some great writing in, although I often find myself being pulled down a etymological rabbit hole over a single word. It’s amazing how much history just a few letters can contain. And how much wretched baggage.
- While no one’s on the payroll yet, I’m having great conversations with Elijah Forbes (who will likely end up being my art director), Barbara Schelling (who did the fantastic new logo for C&C), Travis Roberts (who has some fantastic linguistic insights), and Robert Adducci (who I’m going to hopefully tap to write out some content)
- I licensed a wonderful piece of art from Harry Conway, a non-Indigenous artist, as a place holder promotional piece. His piece, “Death From Above” sets a dynamic and exciting tone.
But let’s talk about dice. Specifically, I want to talk about 12-sided dice (or d12s as they are commonly known) and why they are the only dice that Coyote and Crow will utilize.
I’ve been playing with polyhedrals since 1979 and I got my first set of D&D dice that I had to fill in with crayons (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up). In that set, you got a d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and most importantly a d20. The d20 over the years has become more than just a commonly used die in role playing games, it’s become a symbol, a standard tool, a trope.
But I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan. It always felt a little silly to me when the barbarian charged the door, rolled a “1”, and bounced off, only to have the feeble wizard insist on a go at it. The old man rolls a “20” and the door is a pile of splinters now. But I’m not here to nitpick about dice or other game systems. What doesn’t work for some, works for plenty of others.
It wasn’t until the World of Darkness came along that I found a system that I really clicked with. Their focus on d10s and a concept of ‘degree of success’ rather than a binary fail/pass really captured my imagination. It really is an elegant system and whether you’re a fan of that setting or not, you have to admit, it was a refreshing change from many more cumbersome or clumsy systems of the day.
For Coyote and Crow, I had a very specific list of requirements that I wanted to meet for the game.
- The system had to be simple enough that it allowed players to focus on storytelling and their character sheet, not endless calculations or charts
- The dice needed to encourage role playing and more than just success/fail
- The physical dice themselves need to be fairly accessible, especially to those players who might be on a reservation or otherwise not particularly close to hobby shops. For this reason, I sincerely considered making the game based entirely around d6s.
Where I landed was the often overlooked and criminally underused d12. Not as swingy as a d20, but more variation than a d10, it also tends to have large, easily readable faces which helps those without great eyesight. And while not as common as d6s, they aren’t hard to come by. And if I have my way, I’ll be offering sets of dice as add-ons to the Kickstarter.
In addition to the game focusing solely on d12s, there are also three ‘tiers’ of dice, most commonly segregated by color: white, grey, and black. Most times, players will be using white dice, which are sort of a baseline default. Grey dice are the next level up and usually indicate either a greater effect or more lethal level of damage. Finally, the black dice are for epic effects and extreme circumstances.
So the next obvious question is, how do you use the dice? As I stated above, one of my goals was to keep it simple. While I’m not going to get into a full breakdown of how you create a dice pool in Coyote and Crow, let’s assume your character is doing something fairly mundane. Whatever they happened to be doing grants them a pool of three standard dice in this instance. So, they’d pick up three white d12s and roll them.
‘7’ is the magic number in Coyote and Crow, in that it’s the standard number a character needs to roll. So in the above example, if even one of the d12s rolled a 7 or higher, they would score a success. Which would indicate that the player succeeded in their attempt. For more difficult or easier tasks, the number can raised or lower. If the player rolls more than one success, they might accomplish the task faster or better, depending on the circumstances.
However, in Coyote and Crow, 1’s and 12s have a special effect. A 1 is always a failure, no matter how many other bonuses the character has. It also cancels out 1 success. If a character has zero successes, the fail at their attempted task. If they have negative successes (more 1’s than successes), the character has critically failed and there’s a story based outcome. This could be anything from slipping on a ledge to a weapon jamming or any number of things.
Conversely, a 12 isn’t always a success. If a player rolls a 12 with a standard die, they are granted the ability to roll an additional die upgraded to a grey d12. If the first 12 was a success it still counts as a success. The new roll might not just add a success, but also trigger certain other effects, including potentially lethal damage. A 12 with a grey die triggers a roll of a black d12 with potentially even further, more drastic effects.
You may have noticed that I said, “If the first 12 was a success”. That implies that a success number might be higher than 12. That’s possible and it means that whatever the player is trying to do is incredibly difficult. A 13, 14 difficulty rating – or even higher! – is something that a player should dread facing.
There are two ways to be successful against difficulty numbers that high. First, a black die with a 12 is always a success. Second, any 12 rolled on other dice can be used to add +1 to another 12. So if the difficulty number was a 13 and the player rolled a 10, a 12, and a 12, the 10 would be a failure. The first 12 could make the second 12 into a 13, for a total of one success.
You might think that getting multiple 12s with just a handful of dice is pretty difficult, and you’d be right. But between the rarity of difficulties that high and some player abilities to manipulate the dice, you’ll all be just fine.
In addition, certain abilities, skills and weapons will allow your character to start with a certain number of grey dice on their first roll, increasing their odds of getting cool effects.
Anyway, that’s a quick peek into Coyote and Crow’s dice system. We’ll have more fun stuff soon. For now, I’ve got to get my ass ready for Gen Con!Article || Tags: Connor Alexander, Coyote and Crow, dice, Role Playing, Tabletop, TTRPG