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1E About the Asian contributors to Oriental Adventures, or Who even were these guys?

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I made this post in another thread about asking actual Asian people what they thought about Oriental Adventures, which as an Asian American myself I appreciated a lot, especially given how dismissive some people are about opinions from actual Asian Americans on OA. the OP brought something up that I wasn't fully aware of myself, that some of the only Asian people to receive credit in an official D&D product were in OA. which I replied by saying I thought it was sad, that a large chunk of the only known contributors to D&D who were of Asian heritage were in this one book from over thirty years ago, and one filled with some very dated ideas about Asian culture. without context it does put OA in a better light, at least some effort was made to get actual Asian people in on the action, even if it was hastily done, but then I had to really think about it. anyway, the rest is mostly going to be the post with a little bit of editing.

P.S. don't be surprised if I stop replying, if at all, being here has made me feel exhausted and i just wanted to say my piece from an Asian American viewpoint.
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Some pointed out that Masataka Ohta, Akira Saito, Hiroyasu Kurose, Takafumi Sakurai, and Yuka Tate-ishi were those who were involved with critiquing and even writing part of the original Oriental Adventures, and in fact, are some of the ONLY credited Asian individuals to EVER be credited on ANY OFFICIAL D&D release for direct contributions (apologies if I didn't get the names exactly right, I tried spelling them correctly, I apologize if I made any mistakes on it). That said, it was done with short notice and there may have been many other changes made had they been given the time to fully change them or taken more seriously in that endeavor. Those who pointed it out do NOT WANT the few Asian contributors to be erased from D&D history, which seems to be one of the driving points of why they are so angry about people suggesting the removal of OA.

so I kinda want to come back to this bit: who exactly are these people? who is this group of individuals who apparently comprise a large chunk of the entirety of Asian people credited in an official D&D release? maybe I'll make a new thread about this—haha jk that sounds exhausting welp.

without any real context we probably just believe that these 5 individuals are experts in Asian culture, though given they all have Japanese names it's more likely they just experts in Japanese culture. so okay, maybe OA is full of some very dated ideas about East Asian culture, but at least they got help from some cultural experts.

but... who are they? I decided to google their names individually and... nothing seemed to stand out. some author citations I guess? none of them for RPG books. this felt weird, only one of them, Akira Saito, has a name you might call "typical" in Japanese and unsurprisingly the top hits included a 3d modeler and motorcycle racer. it doesn't help I don't know the kanji for their names either, that would actually narrow down things a lot.

so I decided to google all of them at once, maybe someone has already written the story on the creation of Oriental Adventures and I got... [that previously mentioned] forum thread (awkward), but also the sample bit from Drive Thru-RPG and I finally got to read their credit:
To the Japanese players—Masataka Ohta, Akira Saito, Hiroyasu Kurose, Takafumi Sakurai, and Yuka Tate-ishi—for critiquing and improving the manuscript on short notice.

so... they're just players? now I know at least some of you already knew this, fine, but I didn't, and it's like really? some of the only Asian people to receive credit in an English language D&D product were just players? not even contributing any content or subject expertise, just "critiquing and improving the manuscript"? what exactly does that even entail?

and again, who are they? I did some digging and learned in 1985, the same year OA was published, redbox saw its first release in Japan. maybe some of these guys were part of the nascent tabletop RPG scene in Japan. maybe they were part of Shinwa, the company who published D&D in Japan at that time. again no real leads, but then I started googling their names again and realized something: each search got a hit on DBLP. DBLP is a German bibliography website that lists academic articles about computer science. each one of those names brings up at least one academic article from the 1980's. now at this point it's pure speculation, but if these are in fact the same people it does paint an certain image: a gaming group at some college whose members were all studying computer science and had the opportunity to become playtesters for the Japanese version of D&D. maybe one of them knew English and could run D&D for his group and this got the attention of Shinwa. or maybe he didn't and had to learn English well enough to play the paper version of the RPG games he loves to play on his PC and got his friends into it.

now as an aside, I have to say: if that was the case then that's kinda awesome. they got more credit than your average video game QA tester could ever hope for, and no matter who they actually are I really want to know their story and what role they might have played in D&D's release in Japan. I wish I had the connections and know-how to interview them and write that article. as I've already hinted at English language information about early era tabletop RPGs in Japan seems so scarce, and I want to know so much more about the role D&D had in Japanese pop culture, especially opposite of video game RPGs which were by far more popular at the time (or any time or place really if I just face facts Orz). and yeah I know about Lodoss War and The Slayers, and it's clear that when Squaresoft was making the first Final Fantasy they probably used said redbox as reference material, but all that just feels like I'm barely scratching the surface.

but in the bigger picture, it's extremely disappointing. did TSR ask them for their help because they were Japanese? was this supposed to be a concession to make themselves feel better because at least one person at TSR was like "oh hey maybe we should get at least one Asian person to contribute to this book"? if they had connections in Japan (and they clearly had enough connections to release a product in Japan) did they not at all bother trying to get an actual expert in Japanese history and culture from Japan?

also what of this bibliography that people seem to laud because it somehow justifies the existence of this book? I can't read it (legally), but are these books by actual authors from Asia that were translated into (or originally written in) English, or are they just books by Western authors? if OA is considered dated, can you also imagine that some of the books they cite are also dated and might have views on Asian culture that might be problematic?

can you understand how upsetting it might be that the majority of Asian people to be credited in D&D are all in one book and likely contributed no actual content to the game?

if no Asian person made any meaningful contribution, direct or otherwise, to the creation of a book about Asian culture, for people who don't know about Asian culture, can you at least concede that that in of itself is a little messed up?

Addendum: I do want to ask in this separate thread: who are the other Asian contributors to D&D? are there any? it's not like there's a lack of players like me either, and I want to believe even in the early days there were at least a few Asian American players rolling up elves and fighting-men. the now much maligned Daniel Kwan is very much into RPGs, and even wrote unofficial material for 5e, and makes an actual play podcast about a 5e game, though I guess he's dropped that system (and hell I can't blame him). point being there are Asian people who are into D&D enough to write and sell their own original material. hell I remember in a thread a few weeks back someone brought up the thriving gaming scene in Malaysia and Indonesia, and this of course includes playing D&D.

as I mentioned before D&D was released in Japan, and still is to this day (though I imagine it's not the most popular RPG anymore). TSR had to have had an officially sanctioned magazine in Japan, or at least given some hobby magazine rights to publish official content, I can't imagine no Japanese player didn't author something for such a magazine, and it's not hard to believe that they could possibly translate something like that for the American Dragon magazine, though to my knowledge this never happened (though probably doesn't help that no version of AD&D ever saw a Japanese release) .
 

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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
That's interesting.

Though when you say they did not contribute content to the game -- cultural consultancy, like editing, is a skilled job, and while they're not 'writing' jobs, they are still contributing in a valuable way to product.

As to the extent these people were actually involved, like you say, it's hard to tell. That quote reads like it was a group of players who offered some feedback; it could have been anything from that to a full-blown consultancy gig.
 

GreyLord

Hero
Addendum: I do want to ask in this separate thread: who are the other Asian contributors to D&D? are there any? it's not like there's a lack of players like me either, and I want to believe even in the early days there were at least a few Asian American players rolling up elves and fighting-men. the now much maligned Daniel Kwan is very much into RPGs, and even wrote unofficial material for 5e, and makes an actual play podcast about a 5e game, though I guess he's dropped that system (and hell I can't blame him). point being there are Asian people who are into D&D enough to write and sell their own original material. hell I remember in a thread a few weeks back someone brought up the thriving gaming scene in Malaysia and Indonesia, and this of course includes playing D&D.

as I mentioned before D&D was released in Japan, and still is to this day (though I imagine it's not the most popular RPG anymore). TSR had to have had an officially sanctioned magazine in Japan, or at least given some hobby magazine rights to publish official content, I can't imagine no Japanese player didn't author something for such a magazine, and it's not hard to believe that they could possibly translate something like that for the American Dragon magazine, though to my knowledge this never happened (though probably doesn't help that no version of AD&D ever saw a Japanese release) .

I replied a little about the history of them in the other thread, but in regards to Asian contributors, there have been some Asian Contributors over the years (some of who I know personally). Some of it would be politically inhospitable to talk about at ENworld (meaning, it touches on things that go far enough that could inflame enough passionately to cause serious disruption). Basically, some have said that they have contributed things for D&D at other times (even recently as a contractor, but not an Asian contractor in that instance) which have had their credit taken from them by others.

Other Asian Contributors during a more recent period, but on a much limited basis would be the (I think these are Asian contributors, but I may also be mistaken) artist Raven Mimura and brand managers awhile ago (Raymond Lau?).

Much of the Asian contributors decided to go their own way and have blazed TTRPGs in Japan (and this probably applies to other parts of Asia, I'm not as familiar with them as I only had one player I knew who was in China for a while before coming to the West, the others were Japanese) creating a local scene of RPGS there which mostly is unknown to many Western audiences, but has heavily influenced many of the other products coming out of Japan (for example, many of the influences on fantasy fiction and fantasy soap operas. Also CRPGS obviously).
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
That's interesting.

Though when you say they did not contribute content to the game -- cultural consultancy, like editing, is a skilled job, and while they're not 'writing' jobs, they are still contributing in a valuable way to product.

As to the extent these people were actually involved, like you say, it's hard to tell. That quote reads like it was a group of players who offered some feedback; it could have been anything from that to a full-blown consultancy gig.
I mean if they did actually provide content I feel like they would have been credited as such, and not just with "critiquing and improving" (though I will say I am personally familiar with providing written content without receiving credit). as it's mentioned their inclusion was rushed, so even if they did give content it probably wasn't huge.

also I do want to reiterate my big issue here is how the majority of Asian contributors to D&D happened this one time in a book like OA. if we had to chart this on a time vs. contributor axis it apparently spikes early on and then just has a few blips from time to time. I mean maybe? I want to believe that's not the case.

I replied a little about the history of them in the other thread, but in regards to Asian contributors, there have been some Asian Contributors over the years (some of who I know personally). Some of it would be politically inhospitable to talk about at ENworld (meaning, it touches on things that go far enough that could inflame enough passionately to cause serious disruption). Basically, some have said that they have contributed things for D&D at other times (even recently as a contractor, but not an Asian contractor in that instance) which have had their credit taken from them by others.

Other Asian Contributors during a more recent period, but on a much limited basis would be the (I think these are Asian contributors, but I may also be mistaken) artist Raven Mimura and brand managers awhile ago (Raymond Lau?).
okay, that is better than I thought it might be. I have to admit I should have emphasized that I was talking about writers contributing game materials (the talk about representation mostly centers around this, so much so I forgot people like artists count as contributors Orz). I don't want to diminish the work of artists or managers, but at the end of the day people are gonna use something because they thought the game material itself was interesting.
Much of the Asian contributors decided to go their own way and have blazed TTRPGs in Japan (and this probably applies to other parts of Asia, I'm not as familiar with them as I only had one player I knew who was in China for a while before coming to the West, the others were Japanese) creating a local scene of RPGS there which mostly is unknown to many Western audiences, but has heavily influenced many of the other products coming out of Japan (for example, many of the influences on fantasy fiction and fantasy soap operas. Also CRPGS obviously).
so like, are these people who worked on the Japanese version of D&D? I mean it does only make sense the Japanese RPG scene started after D&D inspired some of them to make their own games, but I could imagine the staff who worked on the early Japanese version of D&D might want to branch out on their own.
 

GreyLord

Hero
I mean if they did actually provide content I feel like they would have been credited as such, and not just with "critiquing and improving" (though I will say I am personally familiar with providing written content without receiving credit). as it's mentioned their inclusion was rushed, so even if they did give content it probably wasn't huge.

also I do want to reiterate my big issue here is how the majority of Asian contributors to D&D happened this one time in a book like OA. if we had to chart this on a time vs. contributor axis it apparently spikes early on and then just has a few blips from time to time. I mean maybe? I want to believe that's not the case.


okay, that is better than I thought it might be. I have to admit I should have emphasized that I was talking about writers contributing game materials (the talk about representation mostly centers around this, so much so I forgot people like artists count as contributors Orz). I don't want to diminish the work of artists or managers, but at the end of the day people are gonna use something because they thought the game material itself was interesting.

so like, are these people who worked on the Japanese version of D&D? I mean it does only make sense the Japanese RPG scene started after D&D inspired some of them to make their own games, but I could imagine the staff who worked on the early Japanese version of D&D might want to branch out on their own.

I'm not really qualified to really get into much of this (James Ward, who is on the forums probably could, but as this is a VERY touchy subject on the forums currently, if I had any advice to tell him, it is to avoid it like the plague and not to touch discussing it currently) regarding the Japanese individuals who worked on the D&D brand for Japanese products and production (and yes, there were a couple as I understand it).
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Some deets on the Bibliography. It has about 70 entries (which is a lot for a D&D book I think). There 25 or 30 Asian authors, split between primary sources like Mushashi and what look like mostly scholarly books and articles. In my professional opinion it seems pretty solid on both representation and source quality. I don't think this is a trip to the local library anyway, it looks more like a decent university library's level of sourcing to me, especially for the mid 80's. The Bibliography used a '+' to denote good general resources, and surprisingly those are not all Western authors, but split about 50/50 with Asian authors. All the numbers here are me eyeballing the list, I didn't actually count other than the total and authors.

I took a pic of mine, and I think we're ok to show just the Bibliography in the context of this discussion, so check it out for yourself:

1594118314148.png
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I'm not really qualified to really get into much of this (James Ward, who is on the forums probably could, but as this is a VERY touchy subject on the forums currently, if I had any advice to tell him, it is to avoid it like the plague and not to touch discussing it currently) regarding the Japanese individuals who worked on the D&D brand for Japanese products and production (and yes, there were a couple as I understand it).

James Ward should run, not walk, from any discussion on the topic.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I don't have sourcing for it right now, but IIRC-

1. Cook had to write this on a very short time frame, all things considered. He was given a manuscript from Gygax's friend Francois Marcela-Froideval, but none of it was used.

2. Playtesting wasn't really a thing back then, and Cook was the one who advocated (and got) the play-testing/consulting by these individuals, which was on short notice given the timeframe.

Again, I'm not sure that's the gospel truth, I am going off of memory and I haven't had coffee.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Good lord man, get some caffeine in you before you start making declarative statement in a public forum.

Apropos to the topic, I actually have one of the books on that list sitting in my bathroom as reading material right now, Secrets of the Samurai, by Ratti and Westbook. It's a lot less sensational than the title makes it sound, and it has a lot of neat little illustrations. A reasonable overview of the history of various martial arts in Japan.
 

GreyLord

Hero
Good lord man, get some caffeine in you before you start making declarative statement in a public forum.

Apropos to the topic, I actually have one of the books on that list sitting in my bathroom as reading material right now, Secrets of the Samurai, by Ratti and Westbook. It's a lot less sensational than the title makes it sound, and it has a lot of neat little illustrations. A reasonable overview of the history of various martial arts in Japan.

I think I also have that book (packed up in a bunch of book boxes in my garage though) somewhere.
 


Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
Some deets on the Bibliography. It has about 70 entries (which is a lot for a D&D book I think). There 25 or 30 Asian authors, split between primary sources like Mushashi and what look like mostly scholarly books and articles. In my professional opinion it seems pretty solid on both representation and source quality. I don't think this is a trip to the local library anyway, it looks more like a decent university library's level of sourcing to me, especially for the mid 80's. The Bibliography used a '+' to denote good general resources, and surprisingly those are not all Western authors, but split about 50/50 with Asian authors. All the numbers here are me eyeballing the list, I didn't actually count other than the total and authors.

I took a pic of mine, and I think we're ok to show just the Bibliography in the context of this discussion, so check it out for yourself:

View attachment 123479
well alright. I appreciate the picture.

a few things I notice: 1) very heavily skewed toward Japanese things, though given the history of this book I guess I shouldn't be surprised. 2) aside from primary sources most of the books by Asian authors are about specific aspects and culture, like folklore. a lot of the books about broader culture and history are by western authors. I hope you understand that up until relatively recently a lot of western academics had.... interesting views on Asian subjects, and if that's the viewpoint the writers were going by it could very well skew this book a certain way.

like on a personal note, as a Korean American what kind of book title is "The Koreans and Their Culture"? like, what about our culture? why you gotta mention it separately? less personally I look up the book and it's from...1951. yeah I'm not exactly expecting any sort of fair or unproblematic views if I'm honest, and there's no indication of whether or not he goes into the history of Korea, or whether or not he's talking about what Korea was like in the past or what it was like at the time he wrote the book. a book on modern Korean culture feels useless if you're trying offer a medieval fantasy version of it. I get that OA doesn't go heavily into Korea, but it's still the only source they offer other than a book about folklore.

and yeah, I realize that might very well be the only source they had, but that's part of the problem here. today I don't even need to leave my home if I want to find resources on Korean culture, but that wasn't the case back then and yet they still made an entry about it. also if they cover Mongolia and Vietnam, where's the sources about those places? maybe I'm missing it? I know they don't go into those places heavily, but listing no source feels like a tiny red flag.

I hope you understand why this book might be seen as dated and potentially harmful, especially now that I know the haphazard nature of its creation. if this book was just "Japanese Adventures!" I doubt we'd be talking about it the same way we are now, but that's not the case. the book skews heavily Japanese but they still called it "Oriental Adventures", and they're serving real world cultures as exotic and mysterious settings under the thin veneer of fictionalized countries, especially at a time when academic resources may have been less than stellar.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
... especially at a time when academic resources may have been less than stellar.

I know this has been reiterated repeatedly, but you are comparing this research and playtesting for an RPG book produced on short notice for the time with the typical approach, which is best typified by the character of Long Duk Long in 16 Candles.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Of possible interest now that I've had my coffee; I remembered, and located, an article in Dragon Magazine #122, with articles by Bunnell and Cook expanding on the bibliography and detailing additional sources and ways to order more books and information.

It's worth a look-see; I should mention that the use of the term "Oriental" continues, and AFAIK, Mr. Cook continued to use it as an adjective ("Oriental history") in interviews through 2009.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Hmmmm.... so, just after the Bunnell and Cook articles in the Dragon Magazine from 1987, there's another article called .... Out of Africa with the subtitle (oh boy) .... Supernatural creatures from the dark continent. With a followup article Gaming the Dark Continent.

So when people say that OA was very well researched and respectful for its time, you have to remember the context.
 

FireLance

Legend
Addendum: I do want to ask in this separate thread: who are the other Asian contributors to D&D? are there any? it's not like there's a lack of players like me either, and I want to believe even in the early days there were at least a few Asian American players rolling up elves and fighting-men. the now much maligned Daniel Kwan is very much into RPGs, and even wrote unofficial material for 5e, and makes an actual play podcast about a 5e game, though I guess he's dropped that system (and hell I can't blame him). point being there are Asian people who are into D&D enough to write and sell their own original material. hell I remember in a thread a few weeks back someone brought up the thriving gaming scene in Malaysia and Indonesia, and this of course includes playing D&D.
Cautiously raises hand

Does writing a couple of Class Acts articles for Dragon magazine count?
 

Mirtek

Adventurer
without any real context we probably just believe that these 5 individuals are experts in Asian culture,
Why would we believe that given that D&D at this time, nor at any other time really, did not aim at any kind of realistic treatment of any culture? Why bother consulting experts when all you want is to stripmine for anything that makes for cool combat options after some "Michael Bay treatment"

Monsters and races have been created back then based on nothing more than grapping a mini out of a bag-of-dinosaurs and than slapping some game mechanics onto them
 
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ChaosOS

Hero
Supporter
Why would we believe that given that D&D at this time, nor at any other time really, did not aim at any kind of realistic treatment of any culture? Why bother consulting experts when all you want is to stripmine for anything that makes for cool combat options after some "Michael Bay treatment"

Monsters and races have been created back then based on nothing more than grapping a mini out of a bag-of-dinosaurs and than slapping some game mechanics onto them

Because today we expect good writing? Having a depth of understanding of a culture and its myths dramatically improves the depth of writing, because you can add the nuances a shallow understanding would miss. Furthermore, we still today see issues where non-western sourcebooks and adventures are written from the perspective of a tourist - just look at ToA! What people want is to feel like their voices are heard and their culture is presented as a viable option for play.
 

KentDT

Explorer
but... who are they? I decided to google their names individually and... nothing seemed to stand out. some author citations I guess? none of them for RPG books. this felt weird, only one of them, Akira Saito, has a name you might call "typical" in Japanese and unsurprisingly the top hits included a 3d modeler and motorcycle racer. it doesn't help I don't know the kanji for their names either, that would actually narrow down things a lot.
Just curious, but why do you think that only one of them has a name you might call "typical" in Japanese? I live in Japan and I have met/known Japanese guys with every one of these first names and surnames (not in the same combination, though, and of course I don't actually know any of the actual listed contributors themselves). My point is, they are all pretty typical Japanese names.

And, by the way, just for general information (ie, I'm not directing this personally at you, Panda-s1), 5e was released in Japan about 2 years ago (PH at the end of 2017) and the other books are being translated and released (Baldur's Gate:Avernus was just released so they are close to catching up). I've never lived in a big city here and have never directly met a Japanese person who plays but somebody is buying the books.
Also, maybe it's neither here nor there, but the company that financed my car loan is one of the biggest consumer credit companies in Japan, its official name is "Orient Corporation" based in Osaka with a Japanese CEO and all Japanese board. I'm guessing Japanese people living in Japan might possibly have no problem with the "Oriental Adventures" name.
 

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