This is a hard post to write. I’m not really happy with what I have to do, but sometimes you have to make hard decisions to keep a project moving forward. But let’s start with good news. Coyote and Crow is developing and what I’ve got on paper is great. Character creation is nearly complete, much of the world building content is done, the major dice mechanics are solid. I’ve got some beautiful art from Kyle Charles and the the skeleton of our fictional language from Travis Roberts. My alpha tests were very successful. I’d like to think we can still get to Kickstarter by this summer.
But that’s where the problem comes in. I started this project in August of 2018. Keep in mind that I’ve never published previously (even if my day job centers around the game industry, including RPGs) and I also work a demanding full time job. That means that I’m splitting my time between developing the game and attempting to find out enough about publishing to know what I don’t know. It also means spending time trying to get freelancers on board. And not just any freelancers, but citizens of First Nations who were qualified, available and willing.
There’s a ton to unpack in this situation and I could probably write an entire essay on just this portion of my experience. But I’m going to see if I can sum it up in just a few paragraphs. My original intent was to have a creative team that was 100% made up of First Nation folks. It was important for two reasons. First, representation. I want to give more opportunities to Indigenous creators, especially on a project focused on Indigenous people. Two, since my game is set in a fictional Indigenous world, I want to have authentic voices. I want my imagined world to have real touches. There’s also the hard reality that a game like this would (rightfully) fall under extreme criticism without Indigenous folks in the lead.
Going back to “qualified, available, and willing”, I’ve run into what I’ve decided are insurmountable difficulties in keeping with my original goal. Finding people who are skilled and experienced with role playing games is already a small circle. When you add on the caveat that they be First Nations, you are dealing with a tiny group of people. Then you tack on their availability. While I’m glad that so many of the folks that I’d like to work with have packed schedules, and therefore are out producing and creating great things, it does mean that my pool of folks to work with shrinks further. Lastly, there’s a very real reticence within Indigenous circles to attach themselves to the projects of others they don’t personally know if it involves Indigenous representation. For outsiders, it might seem like a great chance for a Native to put their mark on a project and ensure accuracy. But often, these projects can spin out of their direct control and result in their names being attached to shoddy outcomes. Or worse, the people running the project were only interested in attaching a Native’s name to get some sort of pass. A finger they can point to avoid responsibility for poorly thought out content.
All of this is reasonable, understandable and just the state of where things are. But it doesn’t change the fact that finding the kind of team I’d like to have is out of my current time and money framework.
Which brings me to where I’m at now. When I started this process almost two years back, I assumed that by now, I’d likely have a finished first book and have a team of regular freelancers. Without a Kickstarter or other financial backing from anyone, I’m paying for this out of my savings account currently and it’s already been, by far, one of the most ambitious things I’ve ever tackled. More than anything, I want this book to be beyond just done or fine. I want it to be an example for aspiring Natives in the tabletop community and for non-Natives to see an example of how to do representation properly. Sadly, I feel like I now have to change direction. I feel like I have to back away from my original goal of making this game with an all-Native team. At the rate I’m going, the cost/time ratio is just too high.
Which means that I’m going to open up creative/artistic roles in the development to non-Natives. I’ll be giving preference to folks with Native American heritage, other minorities and women. I also plan on hiring outside sensitivity consultants to sign off on the book when the time comes.
So, if you have experience in role playing games in any capacity – writing, editing, art, development, graphic design, layout, etc – and are interested in working on Coyote and Crow, please contact me. This would be paid work. I’m not looking for handouts. Just experience and passion.
ConnorArticle || Tags: Connor Alexander, coyote, Coyote and Crow, crow, Futurisms, indigenous, Role Playing, RPG, TTRPG