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Hey folks. I’ve got something important to talk about. This has come up in a few different channels, worded in a few different ways, but I got an email today that made me realize that I really need to fully address this situation once and for all. So, this post is directed specifically at people who are feeling squeamish about playing Coyote & Crow.



Okay, let me get into this. First, if you’re concerned that you shouldn’t be playing Coyote & Crow, it’s likely that you’re a white person and you’re worried that playing this game constitutes some form of cultural appropriation or that you would somehow misrepresent Indigenous people during your time playing the game.

I get that instinct. It likely comes from the fact that you’re trying to be an ally to Indigenous folks, probably to POC in general. You’re being “respectful.”

Except – you’re not. You’re not being respectful when you refuse to play Coyote & Crow for that reason. You’re not being an ally. You’re being a shitty person and frankly, you’re being a little racist. Feel free to gasp and fan yourself if you need to. When you’ve finished, please read on.

If you’re not Thai, do you not go to Thai restaurants because that would be appropriation? If you’re not Mexican, do you not bring home Mexican food? If I invited you into my house to have some Indian tacos, would you not eat them because that would be disrespectful? “But Connor, food isn’t the same. I’m just eating the food. Pretending to be Indigenous in a roleplaying game isn’t the same thing.”

That’s some bullshit and here’s why (and I can’t believe I have to explain this to so many of you). There’s a difference between taking and giving. Taking something is when you, the taker, impose your desires and wants on someone else. You remove something from someone’s possession and make it your own. It’s at the core of colonizing. It’s rampant in our modern American culture to this day. It’s part of what I’m pushing back against in the game industry. Coyote & Crow is a reaction to taking.

Giving is the opposite. Giving is surrendering something voluntarily to others. It’s an offering. It’s sharing. More than two dozen Native folks worked on Coyote & Crow (and a ton of great non-Native allies too) and we worked to offer you all something – a vision of a world without colonialism and the people that live in that world. They’re fictional people who live in a fictional world. No one at Coyote & Crow inserted direct, 1:1, real world Indigenous cultures into the game. Inspired by? Sure. But just as often as not, it’s extrapolation, speculation. Playing Coyote & Crow is to pretending to be Indigenous the same way playing a human in a Star Wars RPG is pretending to be from Earth.

We went out of our way throughout the book to call out areas that might be sensitive to Native or non-Native players and make sure they had clear direction. The Skill Ceremony is a great example. But we also devoted four pages at the beginning of the book, directly addressing non-Native players and Native players, giving them guidance on how to best approach the game. I’m going to post those here in JPG format for your direct perusal.

Honestly, though, we shouldn’t need those four pages. Everything I wrote above is just common sense to me. But let’s get back to the racism. Hooray, you don’t want to be racist. Good goal. But you know what doesn’t help anyone in that scenario? Avoiding engagement with other cultures. Here’s the brutal truth about Coyote & Crow. If the same group of Indigenous people who made it, instead made a game called Space Cats where you play space pirate cats who fight against the evil Canine Empire, you’d probably feel like you were okay to play that game, right? But the reality is, THAT is still an Indigenous game too. Because it was made by Indigenous creators. The difference is that you feel scared to engage with another culture, even when it’s literally being offered up to you in a safe format by that very culture. That need to distance yourself from Indigenous folks or POC? Sure, go ahead and call it “respect” if you want, but what I see is avoidance.

Look, if you don’t want to play C&C because you’re not into science fantasy or you think the rules are too crunchy, or you don’t like d12s or alternate history RPGs aren’t your thing – go on with your bad self. You do you. But if the only thing holding you back is that don’t feel “comfortable” pretending to be a person with browner skin than you? Even when Indigenous folks are literally trying to offer you the game? Then you’re the problem. Sort your shit.

And if you still can’t get past it? Just buy our game because you’re an “ally” and then put it on your shelf and never play it. That works too.

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