D&D 1E Non-Japanese Elements of 1e Oriental Adventures

Voadam

Legend
1e Oriental Adventures is mostly an alternative 1e PH for Asian themed fantasy with the majority of it being inspired by feudal samurai movies and based on Japanese myths and history.

However it says in its introductions it also deals with other East Asian cultures.

From Zeb Cook's Introduction on page 4:

It is with great pleasure that I write this.
For one thing, I finally have the chance to introduce new readers and gamers to a long-time fascination of mine—the Orient. The Orient is rich in variety and diversification. Though there are similarities among its many lands, each land has its own unique outlook and style. This is part of what makes the Orient mysterious and exciting—the exploration and discovery of entirely different cultures. Thus, the Oriental Adventures book is broad in scope—it does not restrict itself to a single country or time period. Presented here is material drawn from Japan, China, Korea, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. The historical periods that provide inspiration are equally broad—Heian, Kamakura, Sengoku, and Tokugawa Japan; Han, T'ang, Sung, and Ming China; ancient Korea; even the Mongol invasions.
The second pleasure in writing this comes from the reading I had to do to prepare. The Oriental Adventures project spurred me to read materials I would otherwise never have seen. Some of it was thrilling and some not.
The variety of topics was huge—legends, folktales, literary epics, genealogical histories, philosophy, religion, poetry, architecture, land management, government, history, martial arts, sociology, anthropology, military affairs, economics, and fiction. The bulk of this material deals with Japan, with China a close second. This is not due to any oversight. Most of the material available deals with Japan, through the choice of various writers.
From the standpoint of gaming, Japan's history and culture provides greater opportunities for adventure and advancement. Although often seen as a rigid society, Japan has had several periods of tumultuous upheavel where a person of any rank could make his name—the Sengoku period or the collapse of the Heian government being only two. Of course anyone who looks carefully at China will find the same occurred there. However, fewer people cared to write about it."

None of the material is explicitly as stated as being from one real world source or another.

What material have you identified as specifically not Japanese in it?

What have you identified as coming from a specific other East Asian source?
 

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Voadam

Legend
For me the big one is the two page discussion of Kara Tur as a continent setting with four empires specified starting on page 136.

Shou Lung is a continental empire and appears to be fantasy China.

Tu Lung is a breakaway empire from Shou Lung and appears to be a fantasy Taiwan.

So two big geographic areas in OA as fantasy China.
 

Voadam

Legend
The next one that comes to mind is the 1e barbarian class.

In the original Unearthed Arcana these were cold environment fantasy Vikings, steppe nomad fantasy Mongols, and jungle environment Amazonian types, all lining up with their Greyhawk fantasy analogs which are called out explicitly as the examples.

This is repeated in OA but the cold are coastal cold forests. The steppe nomads seem to be fantasy Mongolians.

I am not positive on who the cold coastal forest barbarians are supposed to be.

I am similarly not sure if the jungle ones are mimicking the UA structure or are supposed to be fantasy analogs for a specific East Asian culture.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
For me the big one is the two page discussion of Kara Tur as a continent setting with four empires specified starting on page 136.

Shou Lung is a continental empire and appears to be fantasy China.

Tu Lung is a breakaway empire from Shou Lung and appears to be a fantasy Taiwan.

So two big geographic areas in OA as fantasy China.
Not Taiwan - T'u Lung is based on mainland China during a period of political disunity and a weak central government (think: Warring States period) while Shou Lung is based on mainland China with a strong, imperial center and relative political unity (think: Han dynasty).
 

Voadam

Legend
The parang is a Malaysian machete.

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Voadam

Legend
Not Taiwan - T'u Lung is based on mainland China during a period of political disunity and a weak central government (think: Warring States period) while Shou Lung is based on mainland China with a strong, imperial center and relative political unity (think: Han dynasty).
Warring States period seems characterized by a bunch of militarily opposed states with no central empire. Also the development of the civil service bureaucracy happened then.

T'ung Lung seems characterized mostly by the split from the existing Shou Empire with a rival emperor and weak corrupt bureaucracy. The nobility and secret societies plot against their emperor, but they don't seem to be actively at war militarily with each other the way Kozakura is. T'ung Lung is on the mainland of Kara Tur and did not retreat to an island the way Taiwan did, but the split from the empire while maintaining their own called to mind Taiwan to me, but I am open to other possibilities. Ancient China is not something I know in-depth so I am working off of the written text in OA, some surface knowledge, and wikipedia.

Do you know of any specific Chinese periods where there is a central empire but it is weak and the bureaucracy is considered corrupt?

OA page 137:

T'u Lung
T'u Lung ("Earth Dragon") was part of Shou Lung until a dispute over imperial succession 300 years ago. Claiming its own emperor, T'u Lung set up a separate imperial court. After many wars between the two states, the situation has stabilized. No love is lost between the two empires. In the wars of succession, the Emperor of T'u Lung was supported by powerful officials and nobles of the rebelling provinces. This led to their acquiring great power and strength. Although the government is modeled after that of Shou Lung, the Emperor of T'u Lung (of the Lui Dynasty) has never been able to break the power of his nobles. Thus they control the examination system and have arranged for various offices to become hereditary. Furthermore, their power has allowed them to exempt their estates from most imperial edicts (including taxation). Now the Emperor can only enforce his edicts with the consent of the majority of the nobles. Commoners have little chance to rise in the government and corruption of official posts is common.
T'u Lung is divided into six provinces, each administered by a hereditary governor. The provinces are divided into districts and official positions are assigned on the basis of family and graft. Although T'u Lung inherited the public works of Shou Lung, these are poorly maintained and new projects are seldom undertaken. The people are easily oppressed, having no recourse to the law. The prime activity in the capital, Chia Wan Ch'uan, is political plotting. Many of the nobles of T'u Lung are leaders of secret societies pledged to overthrow the Emperor.
 

Voadam

Legend
The Celestial Bureaucracy seemed pretty Chinese to me

The adventure Mad Monkey Vs. Dragon Claw was pretty Kung Fu film inspired if I remember
I agree on both points.

The Celestial Bureaucracy is mentioned on page 116 of OA:

THE CELESTIAL EMPEROR AND THE CELESTIAL BUREAUCRACY
Unlike the western world, which has always tended to view non-human creatures as a loose collection of beings with no unity or cohesion, the Oriental mind has organized the world into a unified whole. One particularly strong belief is that of the Celestial Emperor, a powerful being who heads the Celestial Bureaucracy, a type of government of the spirits. Many of the spirit creatures described in this section come under his command and many hold offices or positions within the Celestial Bureaucracy. Here they receive and carry out orders, punish the wicked, and file reports of their activities. Thus the Chiang lung (river dragons) have been given the duty of making rain and report to the Ministry of Thunder, who in turn reports to the Celestial Emperor. Like the bureaucrats of the real world, these spirit officials can be corrupt, disobedient, just, or incompetent. They can also be replaced, since each year their activities and behavior are examined by their superiors.

OA5 Mad Monkey vs. the Dragon Claw felt the most Chinese and Martial Arts movie themed in the OA series to me as well. The Japanese stuff seemed mostly limited to a few NPCs having classes like Bushi. It was set in T'u Lung and focused on martial arts, the celestial bureaucracy, and I think some Hong Kong movie tropes.
 


Voadam

Legend
One of the more interesting breakdowns is the base class distinctions.

"Japanese" Classes-
Bushi, Kensei, Ninja, Samurai, Shukenja, Sohei, Yakuza

"Chinese" Classes-
Wu Jen, Monk

Other-
Barbarians
I had never researched the origins of Wu Jens before and was not familiar with any terms for Chinese or Japanese spellcasters other than a translation to "sorcerer" and no real specific ethnic folklore/mythology/movie tropes that would match up to the Wu Jen.

I had assumed they were Japanese along with most of the rest of OA, interesting.

Thanks.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I Love this thread.

I don't have enough expertise to contribute meaningfully to the topic of what source materials are non-Japanese. But I can see how it would come across that the book treated Japanese culture as normalized while other Asian Cultures were 'othered' - especially given so many of the classes were Japanese inspired (even if that was more in a pop culture rather than historical kind of sense).
 


Orius

Hero
I had never researched the origins of Wu Jens before and was not familiar with any terms for Chinese or Japanese spellcasters other than a translation to "sorcerer" and no real specific ethnic folklore/mythology/movie tropes that would match up to the Wu Jen.

I had assumed they were Japanese along with most of the rest of OA, interesting.

Thanks.
The wu jen is a hybrid of a few different things. In Dragon #229 (May 1996), Zeb Cook had an article which presented an updated wu jen for 2e. He explicitly stated that the class was "... originally a mix of Taoist hermits, Chinese sages, and the mountain hermits of Japan, among others." The wu jen sounds like what OA really should have been, a pan-Asian fusion fantasy rather than fantasy Japan with a collection of material from other Asian cultures awkwardly shoehorned in. At the very least, if you're going to have a dominant real world culture in a fantasy Asia, it should probably be Chinese rather than anything else, unless you're deliberately focusing on a particular culture.

Interestingly enough, the mountain hermits he mentioned as far as I can tell are the actual historical shugenjas while the shukenja of OA is a sort of generic Asian priest that seems mostly Buddhist but mixes in other elements, possibly stuff like onmyodo. And onmyodo might also be one of the "others" Cook mentioned. I can't really say for certain, since I only have a surface understanding of these cultural elements myself.
 

Voadam

Legend
The wu jen is a hybrid of a few different things. In Dragon #229 (May 1996), Zeb Cook had an article which presented an updated wu jen for 2e. He explicitly stated that the class was "... originally a mix of Taoist hermits, Chinese sages, and the mountain hermits of Japan, among others." The wu jen sounds like what OA really should have been, a pan-Asian fusion fantasy rather than fantasy Japan with a collection of material from other Asian cultures awkwardly shoehorned in. At the very least, if you're going to have a dominant real world culture in a fantasy Asia, it should probably be Chinese rather than anything else, unless you're deliberately focusing on a particular culture.

Interestingly enough, the mountain hermits he mentioned as far as I can tell are the actual historical shugenjas while the shukenja of OA is a sort of generic Asian priest that seems mostly Buddhist but mixes in other elements, possibly stuff like onmyodo. And onmyodo might also be one of the "others" Cook mentioned. I can't really say for certain, since I only have a surface understanding of these cultural elements myself.
Thanks for the reference, when I get some time I will pull out the Dragon CD to check out 229.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
One of the more interesting breakdowns is the base class distinctions.

"Japanese" Classes-
Bushi, Kensei, Ninja, Samurai, Shukenja, Sohei, Yakuza

Other-
Barbarians
Bolded part, you have the correct spelling, but in OA (every edition) they spelled it kensai, which is not even a Japanese word, and PF kept with it. Sword saint is kensei. Part of the "corrections" I included in my Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG). Plus Shugenja is a religious practice (Shugendo is the religion) and yamabushi were what they really were, and I made them half casters, somewhat like paladins, Bushi refers to the social caste, so fighter doesn't really have a named Japanese equivalent. I had yojimbo, those became a ranger archetype. (PF1), but would probably fit as fighter.

And apologies for not discussing not Japanese, but as much as an expert of Japanese as I am, I'm not that for any other Asian culture, I know about as much many, maybe more than some...
 
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I Love this thread.

I don't have enough expertise to contribute meaningfully to the topic of what source materials are non-Japanese. But I can see how it would come across that the book treated Japanese culture as normalized while other Asian Cultures were 'othered' - especially given so many of the classes were Japanese inspired (even if that was more in a pop culture rather than historical kind of sense).

My best guess is they thought let's do a book where New Book:Asia:: D&D:Europe, and given that Japanese stuff was so big in the 70s and 80s (look at Neuromancer or You Only Live Twice) that was what stuck in their head, plus the boom in kung fu movies (which are Chinese).

Concerns about cultural appropriation only really start to take off in the 1990s if you believe Google ngrams, so it wouldn't have been on their radar. They probably went to the local library and did their best. Research used to be a lot harder before the Internet.
 


Voadam

Legend
Bolded part, you have the correct spelling, but in OA (every edition) they spelled it kensai, which is not even a Japanese word, and PF kept with it. Sword saint is kensei. Part of the "corrections" I included in my Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG). Plus Shugenja is a religious practice (Shugendo is the religion) and yamabushi were what they really were, and I made them half casters, somewhat like paladins, Bushi refers to the social caste, so fighter doesn't really have a named Japanese equivalent. I had yojimbo, those became a ranger archetype. (PF1), but would probably fit as fighter.

And apologies for not discussing not Japanese, but as much as an expert of Japanese as I am, I'm not that for any other Asian culture, I know about as much many, maybe more than some...
No apologies necessary. :)

Knowing Japanese elements can elucidate the negative space of other Asian elements and created items.

It puts you ahead of my background familiarity of TMNT, Usagi Yojimbo, and Lone Wolf and Cub.

Did anything strike you in OA as completely unfamiliar? Like Wu Jen or any specific weapons or monsters?

Narrowing down individual names for google searching instead of just check everything can be useful.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Oh yeah, Wu Jen, I had big problems with. I have Onmyoji wizard archetype as my casters.

And of course the treatment of kappa, and many of the Japanese folklore monsters were waaay off, even Paizo version Japanese monsters are bad in my opinion. I went to 19th century and earlier sources, completely avoiding anime/manga and other 20th century renditions - I wanted as complete authenticity as I could muster.

Rather than retyping it all, all of my Kaidan class archetypes can be found under 3PP Rite Publishing on d20pfsrd.com
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Oh yeah, Wu Jen, I had big problems with. I have Onmyoji wizard archetype as my casters.

And of course the treatment of kappa, and many of the Japanese folklore monsters were waaay off, even Paizo monsters are bad in my opinion. I went to 19th century and earlier sources, completely avoiding anime/manga and other 20th century renditions - I wanted as complete authenticity as I could muster.
Well, that would be true to form for DnD then, having the monster way off from original folklore lol.
 

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