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Indigenous RPG Coyote & Crow is a hit, and a new anthology of adventures is on the way

‘Things are better than I could have imagined’

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

In 2021, Connor Alexander set out to publish the world’s first tabletop role-playing game conceived and authored by Native American and First Nations writers. In 2022 he delivered with Coyote & Crow, the core rulebook that underpins an entire RPG universe. The reception was positive beyond his wildest dreams, and he’s carrying that momentum forward into a new anthology of adventures: Coyote & Crow: Stories of the Free Lands is live now on Backerkit, with delivery set for later in 2023.

Coyote & Crow posits an alternate history in which colonizers never set foot in North America. The Mississippian city of Cahokia was never abandoned. Instead, downstate Illinois became the centerpiece of a thriving civilization of Indigenous people who have spread all across the continent. At their disposal are magical powers brought on by a remarkable celestial event. Best of all, the game is open and welcoming to Native and non-Native players alike.

“Things are better than I could have imagined,” Alexander said in an interview with Polygon. He’s referring to the fact that Coyote & Crow was recently nominated for a Nebula Award — but also because of a letter that he recently received.

“The response is what’s blown me away,” he continued. “I’ve had so many people reach out to me and tell a very personal story about how the game has affected them, or about the things they’ve done in the game, and the fun times they’ve had with it already.”

Alexander said he’s working hard to get Coyote & Crow into libraries — including Indigenous libraries on reservations around the U.S. and Canada. Alexander is looking to supercharge his community (a dedicated portion of which are non-Native players) with Stories of the Free Lands, the first published set of adventures available since the core rulebook was first released.

“This thing’s a pile of 10 stories from 10 different Indigenous authors paired up with 10 different artists,” Alexander said, “all taking place roughly around the primary city of Cahokia. [...] We wanted to get people sort of a flavor of what you could do with the core book and kind of get their stories rolling.”

The anthology goes beyond the “monster of the week” format that the system so easily falls into, Alexander said.

“I asked for a broad range of thematic settings,” Alexander said. “Let’s do murder mysteries. Let’s do espionage. Let’s do political intrigue. Let’s do stuff that isn’t just monster of the week. And the writers really came back with some great stuff. I’m excited.”

One of the stories, written by Riana Elliot, a Cherokee writer, will see players working to protect a bridal party as it heads off to celebrate the unification of two fractious families. Another, written by Alexander himself, will put the spotlight on the future site of a geothermal power plant — and the mysterious cult that worships on the land where the power plant is set to be built.

“We touch really lightly on a lot of water protection issues there, a lot of science versus the spiritual,” Alexander said. “But the question becomes, ‘Did this cult have anything to do with the disappearance?’ And untangling those two things, and keeping those two opposing groups from going at each other’s throats, is kind of where the tension lies for the characters.”

Beyond those adventures, Alexander is being fairly tight-lipped about what’s included in the anthology. He wants players to be surprised by what they find inside. The campaign runs now through Oct. 12, and stretch goals — including additional pay for everyone involved in the project — will be revealed on Backerkit over the next several weeks.

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