Switching To Coyote and Crow
Table of Contents:
Switching To Coyote and Crow - How to Follow the Path of the Adanadi
Everybody is looking for a new system to try right now with all the chaos surrounding D&D. You might have just heard of a little successful Kickstarter project called Coyote and Crow, a futuristic alternate history setting and system focusing on advanced Native American cultures. Is this journey into the Black worth taking? Will your stories be worth telling? Hop on your Yatsu lift and put on your second eyes as we go through everything you need to know.
Why Coyote and Crow?
Coyote and Crow is a narrative driven system seeped in Native American lore and solar-punk style. It’s flashy, unique, and focuses on “taletelling” in a way that can lead to whole mythologies forming at your table as time and generations pass. The world of Coyote and Crow is idyllic and utopian, but not without conflict. The nations have warred before and many tensions are high, strange and ancient spirits and creatures persist amongst the land, and the onset of the empowered Adanadi is allowing mortal man to peer into the unknown.
If you’re looking to create a story with your players with a bit of mechanical oomph to back it up, then Coyote and Crow might be the game for you.
While the world of Coyote and Crow has diverged drastically from our own, it’s still rooted in real world cultures and history. Living cultures not your own can be a touchy space to play in, and while the book does a good job to address this it’ll still be on the GM and players to address it as well. Keep this in mind when putting together your Coyote and Crow campaign.
What Books do I Need?
Coyote and Crow is a small system right now, and while that means there isn’t a lot out there it also means you don’t have to worry about picking up many books. In fact, to play the system you only need the following book:
A physical copy is a bit pricy, usually running $70 (it is nearly 500 pages to be fair) but you can pick up the PDF direct from the creators or from sites like DriveThruRPG for $25.
What Dice do I need?
Coyote and Crow has a unique dice system based on d12s, and you’re going to need a lot of them. If you’re a chronic dice collector like I am you might have enough d12s from other sets lying around but if not there are Coyote and Crow specific sets for sale as well. You’ll need about 10 of the buggers, and you’ll want a few of them to be easily distinguished from the rest to use as critical dice.
The World of Coyote and Crow
Coyote and Crow is a combination of setting and system, but it’s a setting first. The core book delves deeply into this alternate history where a comet strike in the 1,400’s plunged the world into a new ice age. Our games are set nearly 700 years after “the Awis”, focusing on the new nations, cultures, and technologies that successfully endured the long freeze and rose up within what we would call North America.
The Awis brought with it the gifts of the Adanadi, people born with spiritual powers, identified by the color purple showing up in their hair, eyes, or other markings. Nature has also awoken with these spiritual powers, and gifted creatures walk the plains and haunt the woods. The burgeoning spiritual powers have also brought on more awareness of The Black, a spiritual world adjacent to our own filled with indescribable wonders and potential threats.
A lot of Coyote and Crow is vibes, combining authentic Native American cultures and mythos with a solar-punk utopian aesthetic. Technology progressed differently, we’ve got VR headsets, hover skiffs, and 3D printers, but no factories, no gunpowder, and strangely no wheels (or at least no wheeled vehicles).
The nations aren’t perfect, and their histories are rife with wars and conflicts, but generally civilization as the players find it is largely idyllic, advanced, and harmonious with nature. The players themselves are typically Adanadi, tasked by their tribes to use their gifts to keep peace or complete epic tasks.
Let’s go through some of the fundamental rules you’ll be working with in Coyote and Crow:
Dice Checks and Target Numbers
Fundamentally Coyote and Crow boils most actions down to skill rolls. You’ll be rolling a number of d12s that will go up or down depending on your stats, your skill ranks, and other circumstances that can add or remove dice from your pool.
Once you figure out how many d12s you’re rolling, your GM should let you know your target number. Any result on your dice that is equal or higher than the target number is a success, the more difficult something is, the higher the target number should be and an average target number is 8.
After you roll, there’s a few extra ways characters can fudge their dice, using their “mind” score to nudge die results up, or if they have legendary ranks they can nudge some dice up for free.
Next, for every result of 12, you get to roll another die called a “critical die”. Any result higher than a 1 on a critical die adds a success, and if the result would also hit the target number or higher it counts as 2 successes.
Exactly how many successes you need to actually do something depends on what you’re trying to do. Some skills may have a set number required to pass/fail, while some might be incremental and have ways to partially succeed or succeed a lot. When making attacks for example, the number of successes you make is the amount of damage you deal.
Primary Actions and Secondary Actions
Coyote and Crow uses a system of “primary” actions and “secondary” actions, and on each player’s turn they can make up to one “primary” action, and any number of “secondary” actions so long as they don’t conflict with each other.
For players used to 5e, the primary actions should make perfect sense. Your primary action is very much like an action in 5e. You can make a skill check (which is also how you make an attack), or use an ability. You get one primary action per turn, and you can also use up your primary action to do a secondary action again.
Secondary actions are a bit more nebulous. In some ways they work in the same way as a 5e bonus action, since there are several abilities that utilize a secondary action, and you use secondary actions to do things like reload weapons, speak to allies, or defend yourself. What’s interesting here is that you have unlimited secondary actions, so long as you don’t use the same one twice, and the actions don’t contradict each other. So you could dive behind cover and reload your gun, but you couldn’t also start dodging while stuck in behind cover. Your movement is also a secondary action, so really most of a turn will be taking several secondary actions, along with one big primary action.
Range and Positioning
Coyote and Crow uses a very abstracted theater of the mind method when it comes to range and positioning and doesn’t really lend itself towards miniatures or maps. Instead, things are said to be at a “short”, “medium”, or “long” distance from each other.
A “short” range is something you could reach within one round’s movement, which could include things adjacent to you or things on the very edge of that movement range.
A “medium” range is something that would take 2 movement actions to reach, and is described as something “too far to touch but close enough to see” and is generally the range you’d fire ranged weapons at.
A “long” range is something that would take 4 or more movement actions to reach, and is described as everything from “really far” to “just visible on the horizon”. Some really long range weapons might be able to reach these lengths, but generally it’s a range you’ll need to close the distance on to interact with.
Ultimately though, this system will be very hard to track for any complicated combats and that’s fine since combat is definitely not where the game is centered. Coyote and Crow is a very narrative game and you shouldn’t expect many protracted combat encounters.
Switching to Coyote and Crow as a DM
Let’s go through some of the biggest changes you’ll feel as a DM switching from 5e D&D to Coyote and Crow.
Coyote and Crow is a primarily narrative system, light on combat and heavily invested in creating a communal story rather than tactics. Depending on how you ran 5e games this may or may not be a big departure for you, but it’s something you’ll have to get used to in the setting. Chaining together combats is not how you’ll get the most out of this game. Let your players be clever, talk things out, and come up with creative solutions to problems. Think of the game much more like an act of collaborative storytelling and try to only use the dice when their skills and aptitude are really being challenged.
Stories and Sagas
Coyote and Crow encourages you to weave narratives, and then to allow those stories to change in the retelling. Whenever you reach the end of a major arc or story, encourage each player to retell that story from their character’s perspective as the main protagonist. Each player’s stories combine to form the varied retellings of the events as they happen, creating a natural mythos and legends based on the player’s actions.
Coyote and Crow encourages you to build not only stories but entire sagas. Save snippets of the players retold stories to tell the next batch of characters (even if they’re the same players). The stories can stretch and squash but over multiple story arcs you build entire sagas. The goal here is to create a sort of verbal history that your players share with each other, ranging from campfire story vibes to important cultural legends.
The Three Path Concept
Coyote and Crow actively encourages you and your players to avoid combat and to always provide multiple methods to solve any given problem. They call this idea “the three path concept” which when boiled down basically means having 3 methods of dealing with a conflict. These “paths” can be anything you’d like, but generally when you plan out a conflict the system wants you to have three ideas ready for how your players solve that problem. If they come up with some other 4th thing that’s also great, but you should be prepping multiple solutions.
Switching to Coyote and Crow as a Player
Let’s go through the biggest changes you’ll feel as a player swapping over from 5e D&D to Coyote and Crow.
Abilities and Skills
Coyote and Crow has a lot of building blocks for a given character, all in all you’ll be assembling the following pieces:
- Ability Points
- Skill Points
- Gifts and Burdens
- Starting Equipment
- Short-Term Goals
- Long-Term Goals
Try not to get too intimidated by all that (it’ll take a bit of character creation time but after that things get simple), really all of these options boil down to skill rolls. Coyote and Crow functions on almost exclusively skill rolls and all these building blocks for your character functionally just add bonuses or penalties to certain skill rolls.
Coyote and Crow doesn’t have character levels and instead advances using things called short- term and long-term goals. At any given time, you should have 2 short term goals and 1 long term goal picked out. These goals are always tied to improving yourself and take a set number of game sessions to complete.
Let’s say your character has a short-term goal of getting better at cooking. Currently, your character has a cooking skill of 2. Once you choose this goal, you’ll mark down every time you finish a game session, and after the 2nd game session is complete your cooking skill will improve from 2 to 3. If you want to keep getting even better at cooking, the next time it will take 3 game sessions Etc.
The long-term goals work exactly the same way, just for bigger stakes such as gaining entirely new abilities, increasing core stats, or gaining new psychic powers. As the “long-term” would imply, these goals take considerably more game sessions to complete, and tend to range from 4-12 game sessions to achieve.
Body, Mind, and Soul
Coyote and Crow doesn’t have hit points like you’d be used to in 5e. Instead, you essentially have three separate hit point pools, body, mind, and soul. Each of these point pools is determined by adding different core stats together, and they represent different aspects of your wellbeing.
Body is the closest thing to the hit points you’d be familiar with, and it represents your physical health. If you get physically injured, it’s your body that takes the hit.
Mind is your mental health, and it can get reduced by taking psychological damage. It also uniquely can be spent to alter your rolls, representing your mental exertion focusing and trying to overcome problems.
Soul is your spiritual health and wellbeing. Angry spirits and other mystical threats can deal soul damage making it a far more important health score for certain encounters.
Once you take damage in any of these scores, you can heal them by taking short or long rests, which functions pretty similarly to how it works in 5e. On a short rest you make a check for each of your scores, and you restore a point on each score you succeed in. Long rests automatically restore points in each score equal to your base stat.
You can also recover points through various skills like healing or ceremonies, and some of the special abilities also provide healing.
What to Expect from your Coyote and Crow Games
Coyote and Crow is a narrative game with a strong emphasis on storytelling and diplomacy. The world has some dark corners but for the most part the world is a utopia filled with people in harmony with both nature and each other. If you’re looking for an upbeat narrative game with a spiritual center, you’ll find a comfortable play space in Coyote and Crow.
Coyote and Crow FAQ
Is this Game for Everyone?
I’ve seen a surprising amount of discourse regarding this system and if it can somehow be cultural appropriation to play it without ties to a Native American heritage. I can say at the very least the author’s stated intent is for the system to be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their ancestry. Players are advised however not to create caricatures or stereotypes of Native American peoples in their roleplaying.
What’s With the Coyote and Crow Dice Game?
Coyote and Crow released a dice game that you can pick up for about $20 that confuses some people when picking up the game. The dice game is a completely separate product and game that makes use of the Coyote and Crow lore but does not interact with the TTRPG. It does however contain a bunch of d12s which if you plan on playing the Coyote and Crow TTRPG might be worth getting.
Are There Any Supplemental Coyote and Crow Books?
Not yet. A supplemental book called Stories of the Free Lands is in development and was funded at the same dime as the dice game and DM screen, but it has yet to drop. Keep on the lookout for these adventures sometime in the near future. If you can’t wait there is a novel set in the Coyote and Crow world titled Hemlock and Sage that you can pick up and use for some inspiration.
Last updated: January 27, 2019
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