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

GreyLord

Legend
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.
 

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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
Supporter
... 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
Supporter
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
Supporter
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

Hero
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

Legend
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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