Welcome to Makasing! 

That might not be a normal way to start a “How-To” article, but Coyote and Crow isn’t a “normal” roleplaying game. I’m Logan, a writer and editor descended from the Apsaalooke tribe and Coyote and Crow’s Lead Story Guide. 

I’ve been running Coyote and Crow almost from the beginning and, for all intents and purposes, I’ve been living in the setting of Coyote and Crow (Makasing) off and on for the last year and a half. If you’ve seen Actual Plays or played at convention games, chances are you already know my face! I didn’t create the game, but I’m one of the most experienced Story Guides you can find!

Hopefully, if you’re here, you know what Coyote and Crow is. On the off-chance you decided to read this on a whim or because someone else asked you to, we’ll start with “the basics.” 

The Setting:

Coyote and Crow is a roleplaying game about an alternative future in which Turtle Island was never colonized. Its world is identical to our own, up until about the year 1400 when a bright purple light streaked across the night sky. No one’s really sure what that light was, but everyone knows what it did. 

After that night (called the Awis,) the seas began to boil at the same time the temperature dropped everywhere else. Monsters out of legend crept into the open, and things that had never appeared in even the darkest of nightmares emerged. Going out of sight of your home village became a death sentence. Travel became all but impossible. 

At the same time, bright purple lines and whorls began appearing on plants and animals. People ate the plants and animals and used their pieces as part of their rituals, and gradually, the markings began appearing on people as well. 

via: Coyote & Crow

Time moved on. Eight hundred years passed as the world did its best to kill everyone. Tribes migrated, merged, split apart, and formed alliances and larger nations. Many tribes we’re familiar with no longer exist. Tribes that never had a chance to exist have come into being. More importantly to the average citizen, however, is that five major nations have emerged from a time of chaos and war.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy, The Ti’Swaq alliance, the Diné Republic, The Ezcan Empire, and the Free Lands dominate the North American Continent. Each of these have strengths, weaknesses, and culture that derive from the tribes that created them. However, most of the published material deals with the Free Lands. Less a nation, and more a loose grouping of settlements and nomadic groups, the Free Lands are nominally under the sway of the Trade City (and the central hub of Makasing) Cahokia.  

In the last twenty years, the world has finally begun to calm. The temperature has risen slightly, and the seas have stopped boiling. Monsters still roam the land, but people have learned how to fight them. All of the technology that had been developed out of survival could be put towards making the world a better place. 

Within Coyote and Crow, the year is somewhere around 2110, and Makasing is almost unrecognizable. The continent never knew colonization, and so many things from our daily lives are absent. Cows, Gunpowder, and Alcohol never emerged in this setting. So guns, the combustion engine, and absolutely anything to do with milk just doń́t exist. That doesn’t mean society is stuck in the buffalo days (although some choose to live like it). 

via: Coyote & Crow

Many of the things that don’t exist have analogs. Although there are no guns, that doesn’t mean we never developed long-range combat. Instead, most technology is based on magnetism and solar power. Cows don’t exist here, but goats absolutely do. Alcohol isn’t a thing, but there are still plenty of natural intoxicants for those who want to alter their consciousness for recreational or religious purposes. 

People often talk about how this society is a utopia. It’s not. Cahokia IS a place where no one is going hungry at night or freezing to death on the street. There’s an incredible sense of community throughout the setting because that was necessary to survive the time after the Awis. That doesn’t make it a utopia. 

It just makes it an empathetic society.   

Coyote and Crow has a different history than our world, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of problems. There are still plenty of issues for your players to solve as they explore this setting!

The Mechanics

This game is a “dice pool” system that uses D12s to make Skill Checks.

Everything is a Skill Check! Lying to someone is a skill check. Hiding in the bushes is a Skill Check. Trying to attack someone is definitely a skill check! I love it because it means you learn how to roll once, and then everything else in this system uses the same mechanic!

Whenever you make a Skill Check, you look at your sheet and figure out if the Skill you want to use is trained or untrained. If you have ranks in the skill, that means it’s trained, and if you don’t, it’s considered untrained. This is important because every skill has two related Stats as well. If you’re trained in something, you get to use the larger Stat. If you’re untrained, you MUST use the smaller one.

    Then, you grab a number of D12s equal to the amount of ranks you have in the Skill, plus the number of the related Stat. This will usually be a number of dice between three and twelve. The Story Guide will assign a Success Number. Higher numbers are harder, and lower are easier. (The basic Success Number is 8) Then you roll your dice and count how many are equal to or greater than the Success Number.

via: Coyote & Crow

Two numbers to watch for are 1s and 12s. 1s take away Successes, starting with the highest first! (Bad things happen if you get more 1s than Successes.) On the other hand, 12s Explode. They’re automatically worth two successes a piece, and then you roll a Critical Die as well! A Critical Die is a chance to get an additional Success, and 1s do not count on Critical Die! If that Critical Die gets a 12? It explodes and adds ANOTHER Critical Die to the pool. 

After you’ve counted your Successes, as modified by 12s and 1s, that’s how many Successes you have for your Skill Check! Some rolls just need a single Success, while others require a certain number of Successes on the roll. Regardless, more Successes are always better!

There are other rules and exceptions, of course. (Two of the big ones you should read and understand are Focus, and Fortitude.) But in general, that’s how you make every roll in Coyote and Crow! The one permutation I’m going to talk about is Combat, because many players' first question is how do we fight things? In this game, it works exactly the same as the above! 

You make a Skill Check based on the weapon or attack you’re using. The Success Number for this is the Physical Defense number of your opponent for physical attacks, Mental Defense for mental attacks, and Mystic Defense for spiritual attacks. The number of Successes you get is the amount of Damage your opponent takes! 

 Combat in this game is fast and brutal. It’s almost always moments of high tension because it is so easy to find yourself at death’s door in this system.

Try Coyote & Crow With A Pro Story Guide Today!

Telling Stories in Makasing 

This is my favorite part of the game! The world sets the stage. The mechanics define the boundaries. However, it’s the story that really makes a game worthwhile! 

The very nature of this system is storytelling. This game is more narrative-focused than almost any other on the market. It has a unique style to it, with more than its share of pitfalls that can trap players and Story Guides alike. I’ve tripped into more of those than I’d ever want to admit, and I want to let all of you learn from my mistakes!

Something unique about this game is, because of the nature of its setting, many people don’t feel comfortable running it. The first thing I want to focus on is this:

Coyote and Crow is for Everyone!

(A quick disclaimer: Remember that I am one Native voice. I can only speak for myself!)

The biggest problem that I hear prospective Story Guides say is that they don’t feel comfortable running this game. They feel like it’s a “closed practice” to Story Guide. That it would be disrespectful, or even akin to “red-face.” 

That’s just not true. 

Coyote and Crow is open to all. It doesn’t make you a bad ally to enjoy this game. Indigenous People created it, and we’re literally inviting you in to play! Roleplaying is a very old tool for building empathy. (I could make a joke about walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins, but that may be a bit too “On the Nose.”) 

via: Coyote & Crow

Yes, every character in the game is an indigenous person. It’s how the system was designed, and there’s no escaping it. If you are uncomfortable taking on the mantle of another ethnic group, I totally get it! That’s a very valid philosophy. 

Remember, however, that the world of Makasing is at least a little bit different from our world. MANY tribes exist in this world that never had the chance to exist in our own. So long as you’re doing your best to be respectful? There is ABSOLUTELY Nothing wrong with playing this game. We WANT you to come and join with us! This is a game about Indigenous people, made by Indigenous people, and we want you to be able to explore an Indigenous world and see something that could have been!

The Native Practices that actually are considered “closed” won’t be featured in most games. We are opening the doors to come and share a unique cultural storytelling perspective. The only thing necessary to play this game is to do your best to be respectful! (Bigots and racists are the only ones not invited.) 

This is, in a very real sense, our world, and we’re offering to share it with you! 

No one expects perfection when it comes to depicting some of these cultures. The fact that it’s a fantasy world gives you some wiggle room to get things wrong. The entire game ALSO gives you a reason and an excuse to learn more about Indigenous culture! 

But how do you tell a story using Indigenous culture? There are some “Do’s” and some “Don’ts.” I’m going to start with the “Don’ts” because they’re what people ask me about more than anything else! 

Things that should be Avoided 

There are three big things I would like to outline. 

The first is the Ceremonies Skill. It’s one that will likely come up a lot. HOWEVER, in many Native cultures, Ceremonies are still very closed practices. There’s been a history of people finding out information about indigenous practices and doing very unethical things with them. 

At the very least, they get shoved on television and infantilized or worse. 

When I run this game, I tend to say, “You do your ceremony,” “It works,” or “It doesn’t.” If a person has a ceremony they want to describe, that’s between you and your player to discuss. 

via: Coyote & Crow

The second thing that we ask as you explore the world of Coyote and Crow is to not have your character claim a tribal heritage you don’t possess yourself. Real-world tribes and nations certainly exist within the setting, but they’re far from the only option! The history of Makasing has been a turbulent one. Tribes have merged, disappeared, reappeared, and there are plenty of people whose tribal identities aren’t a part of everyday life.  

The last thing I beg you to avoid is this: Don’t “mine” the setting. Please, Please, PLEASE! Don’t just take “cool things” from this game and drop them into your D&D game devoid of context to add something “new.” That has too many uncomfortable parallels with history. 

Please, don’t add to cultural erasure! 

If you want to learn more about Indigenous culture, then please do so! Use Native monsters, but use them correctly! Do your research, and make sure that you’re not bastardizing important parts of cultures! It makes for more entertaining Sagas that way, and it’s a way to make your games more engaging!

With the negatives out of the way, I think it’s finally time to focus on

The Art of Communal Storytelling

I want to start by underlining that there’s no “wrong” way to be a Story Guide. If you come to it from a good and respectful place, and your players are having fun, that’s all that matters! These are just some tips and trips from my experience as Coyote and Crow’s Lead Story Guide. 

Every game has its own stylistic tone. You don’t run Vampire like you do Dungeons and Dragons. Coyote and Crow is a game that pays heed to older storytelling traditions. This isn’t an adversarial game about crunching numbers. We’re building a story about each other, with each other. There’s a reason the Community program is called “Fireside.” That’s the kind of energy that we want! That relaxed atmosphere of sitting around a fire, laughing, telling stories, and engaging with the game. C&C leans heavily into the narrative aspect of roleplaying games. It also includes a sense of communal storytelling. It’s a bit trite to say, “You’re gonna get back as much effort as you put in!” but it’s absolutely true! 

The more you work with your players, the more everyone’s going to engage with the story, and the more everyone will enjoy the game!

My “Secret” to Telling a Story

The biggest tool in my arsenal to engage players is immersion! 

When I run games, I always remember the imagery of native storytellers at Pow-Wows. They’re not just sitting down as they tell a story. They’re dressed in regalia and they’re moving! They’re dancing, kneeling, and making full use of the space as they tell their tales. They’re using music, and voices to bring their audience into the world, and I do the same! 

I’m not in regalia, but I am dressed in eye-catching attire. I stand, even when everyone else is sitting. I stalk around the table and let everyone’s eyes follow me. I whisper in players’ ears and jump for emphasis. I have music cues on my phone ready to go, and I make full use of the space! 

That’s MY Style for doing it, but it doesn’t have to be yours. I’m just a dramatic thing. It’s also the more superficial aspect of immersion. 

The biggest part of immersion is to make sure your players’ characters matter! 

via: Coyote & Crow

Their choices have weight! Hopefully, their actions have consequences. We are building this world around them as they tell us how their characters become Legends! Coyote and Crow is a system that encourages you to weave the narrative around the characters, rather than vice-versa. 

Never be afraid to go “Off-Book” to accommodate player choices. Change the story if you have to! So long as your players are having fun? They’re going to remember the game for years to come! Remember: Enthusiasm Wins. Seriously. Put your whole heart into your Saga and Commit! Even if you “fail” somehow, you’re gonna fail memorably, and people are gonna have a GREAT TIME! 

And if you somehow make a mistake with the rules? You’re the Story Guide. This is your world. It doesn’t matter what the book, me, or even the designers say. You are the final arbiter. If a rule doesn’t work? Throw it out. If you find one that works better? Run with it.

A Whole New World

This world is pretty different from the one players are used to. Its setting isn’t based in the same tropes and cliches that most other roleplaying games are. The “Monomyth” isn’t as big a thing in Native culture. Native stories don’t always follow a three-act structure. “You all meet in a tavern” doesn’t work in a setting that doesn’t have common houses or alcohol! 

Do some research into Indigenous cultures! Learn what kinds of food they ate in the regions your Saga takes place in. Don’t be afraid to use the differences to your advantage as you tell a story! Learn about their stories and use those as inspiration! Use the cultural influences where you can. Explore the world! 

Don’t just run a D&D game in another system.

Indigenous Heroes weren’t “chosen ones” who were special because of their birth. Monsters couldn’t always just be killed. Their presence usually meant that something else was wrong, and had to be fixed. Killing a physical body didn’t mean anything to some Native creatures. A body was a temporary thing to a spirit, and there were plenty of Native creatures who would just come back the next time the moon rose. 

A monster's presence was often a symptom, rather than a cause, and killing it doesn’t mean the problem goes away.  

My Last Words 

I can not stress “Do your research” enough! It’s not just about being respectful to Native cultures, it’s also about learning about our modern world, and seeing the effects that the Columbian Exchange had on societies and how deep that’s gone. So much of what people think of as “Indigenous Culture” wasn’t a thing pre-colonization. There are no Horses or Frybread in Coyote and Crow, because both of those things came with colonization. (Okay, so there’s some evidence of horses here before that, but that’s a topic for another article.)

Coyote and Crow is a world unlike any other. It’s a place where Indigenous people can come and share our stories in a way that people can take part in. It’s something special, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

With that, I have only two more things to say… Have fun! and 

Welcome to Makasing! 

Nov 24, 2023
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