Over the last couple of years, I’ve received a number of variations of the following question: “What about real world tribe X in Coyote and Crow? What happened to them?” I’ve decided now is a great time to tackle this question and address some important issues. Buckle up!
The history of Makasing diverges from our world around the year 1400. The event that changes the world, known as The Awis, completely obliterates our real world timeline and starts a wholly different chain of events, not the least of which is a massive climate shift that has extreme effects for life on Earth for more than 500 years.
It’s an understatement to say that no real world tribe survived in a way that they look like the tribes we all know today. Not a single one. But what happened to them? Well, I have two answers for you. One has to do with game design and product development. The other has to do with non-Natives. They’re both equally important answers.
First, regarding game design and development, once I’d decided upon tackling an alternate history, I had to make some important decision. With a roughly 300 page book for the core, I had to decide whose story this was. Since I’m Cherokee, I could have gone there, but quite frankly, that didn’t feel genuine to the world I was building. But the more tribes I considered adding in, the more I knew I was leaving out. There simply isn’t enough room in the book to cover alternate histories for every tribe in a single RPG book. That’s a series on it’s own. But more on that in a moment.
Instead, Coyote and Crow avoids diving into tribal alt histories. That’s not to say that certain real world tribes don’t play important roles or aren’t mentioned. But 700 years and a massive climate disaster has changed the face of the world enough that new Nations and new governments (and even new tribes) have sprung up. There will be things that seem immediately familiar and things that generate even more questions when you look at this map.
But here’s the harsh reality of real world tribes in Coyote and Crow. Yes, this is my baby, my world, my game. But I don’t have a right to tell the story of what happened to any real world tribe in Coyote and Crow. Hell, I don’t even think I’m the best voice to tell the story of this world’s Cherokee people. There are so many great Native voices out there.
Instead of looking at this as a failing or a void, I want to use this as an opportunity to my fellow First Nations writers. My plan is to write this core book as a sandbox for others to play in. I want to create the parameters and possibilities and then offer the space to someone who wants to step in and tell the story of their tribe in this world. Each fictional Nation in the map above will hopefully have it’s own expansion book. Maybe real world tribes will have chapters in those books. Maybe there will be a whole separate expansion book for a tribe. Maybe a booklet or PDF or website article. That will largely be left to the writers I work with and where our collective imaginations take us. There’s a lot of room in the world I’m building.
So that’s one reason there are very few mentions of real world tribes in the Coyote and Crow core rule book. But the second reason is important too.
As a giant in the RPG industry once told me, no matter who I want to aim my book at, no matter who I hope it reaches, I have to keep in mind that in the end, the average player of this game is going to be a straight, white, man. For better or worse.
Creating a base world that contains fictional nations and lacks real world tribes creates a system where I am not facilitating the appropriation of any tribes or their traditions. It’s going to happen, regardless. There are going to be people who feel justified in taking things, ideas, apparel, beliefs from our real world and strapping them onto their character, even when they have no right and no understanding. But I don’t have to help folks do that. I don’t have to give them those tools.
I also want to call out that I’m very blatantly partitioning my book for Natives and non-Natives. In the introduction, there’s a whole section dedicated to how to approach the book depending on which you are. There will also be numerous things called out that give Natives rules or content options that allow them to modify the game according to their heritage.
Again, my goal is to create a sandbox style environment for Native players, something that inspires their imaginations and hopefully helps them see themselves in a fresh light. And for non-Natives, I want to give them a game with plenty of sci-fi and fantasy but steps outside the well-worn tropes of euro-fantasy and classic dystopian cyberpunk. I want everyone to see a lived in world full of First Nations people thriving and in the spotlight.
Lastly, to be very clear, the book doesn’t tackle anyone outside of North and South America. I don’t define what happened to folks on the other continents (I do hint at it). But there’s really no need to even really mention those folks in this book because it’s just not about them.
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