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


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Orius

Hero
Thanks for the reference, when I get some time I will pull out the Dragon CD to check out 229.
That's good. I though the internet had chewed up and swallowed my post on me and I was stewing about it for several hours. I didn't want to have to type it out all over again.

Anyway, I checked the Bibliography in OA, and most of the books mentioned there just cover Japan or China. Again, it's probably the result of the limitations on research at the time. The Japanese focus too may reflect the political realities of the Cold War. Jon Pickens is given some credit in the book's introduction. Pickens had a fairly extensive personal library it seems. In Dragon #315, its mentioned under the development notes for Arabian Adventures that he provided Jeff Grubb with three boxes packed with books on Middle Eastern culture; I would guess that he may have provided Cook with a good amount of background material for OA.

My impression about the book's origin was that Gary felt that the game could and should branch out into non-European fantasy. He'd been talking about an Asian themed supplement since around 1980. He wanted to have Francois Marcela-Froideval write the book -- Gary had his own little clique of writers and developers that worked on his pet projects with him, which I believe was a factor in Greyhawk's decline -- but Marcela-Froidval worked fairly slowly or something so the project got passed to Zeb Cook to meet the publishing deadline.

Another thing to note given the age of the book is that Chinese names and terms follow the older Wade-Giles romanization scheme. This really shouldn't be surprising given that Pinyin didn't start getting used by Western academia until the late 70's and some of those reference works on China might have been several decades old.

I suppose given the research material it's not surprising the initial view of Kara-Tur in the book is just Japanese and Chinese. Kozakura is clearly an expy of Sengoku Japan and Wa is Tokugawa Japan. Shou Lung probably mixes elements of Han, Tang, Ming, and possibly Song China. T'u Lung would be various periods of unrest and discord under weak dynasties. Instead of Warring States, I'd start with the Three Kingdoms period instead:



T'u Lung definitely feels like it should be the Late Han Dynasty during the rule of Emperors Huan and Ling who were well known for their corruption, Dong Zhuo's brief and brutal rule, and the successor states of Wei, Shu Han and Eastern Wu after their founders passed. Also look into how the Jin started to fall apart not long afterwards. The other periods of Chinese history where things were fragmented after one of the powerful dynasties collapsed are also worth looking at though I know less about them.

In addition to actual history, T'u Lung is very much the wuxia part of Kara-Tur. Look at the whole wuxia flavor of corrupt courts, cruel warlords and evil eunuchs with brave heroes fighting it (the PCs!) and T'u Lung seems the perfect fit. I'd run T'u Lung as the wuxia setting, and Shou Lung as a Song dynasty expy -- the Song were technologically advanced, wealthy and prosperous, diverse, and relatively open for Chinese society.
 
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gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
So one of the Japan aspects I wanted to emphasize were the religions, and do it differently than in other treatments like OA.

The Religions of Kaidan are Twisted and Broken (Kaidan is a Horror setting afterall)

Of course, I had to include my version of Shinto, which we called Yokinto (not a name I like, but we used), primarily because in Kaidan's prehistory, the yokai (animal based shape-changers) were the first inhabitants of the archipelago of Kaidan, before humanity by a thousand years or more. Yokinto shrines are located in places of outstanding natural beauty - waterfalls, mountain lakes, hot springs, unique large rocks in various landscapes, with local clerics as priests. The kami spirits consist of Yokinto heroes, nature spirits, and the ruling spirits worshipped by the imperial family.

Buddhism, which our version is called Zaoism (a kind of cross between Zen and Daoism,) because it's an existing major religion today, hasn't really gotten the love I thought it deserved. Now Zaoism is not Buddhism, there is no Nirvana, no escape from the reincarnation cycle - the cycle is all measures of the religion of the afterlife - of course that too is disturbed in Kaidan. The reincarnation cycle of Kaidan is broken, though it contains the 5 worlds/layers of the cycle: Heaven, Asuras, Human, Hungry Ghost and Hell. Because the Aristocracy, Office of the Shogun, the provincial Daimyo and the Imperial Court are undead from the curse of the setting's founding, Nobody except the aristocracy can achieve that caste - PCs will never be aristocracy, however the aristocracy is undead, thus do not participate in the reincarnation cycle. Thus the cycle is broken.

Strangely I tied the social caste system to the cosmology, so which social caste you are born in is cosmic. Now the social caste system only consists of 4 castes: Aristocracy, Samurai (Bushi), Commoners, Hinin/Eta (Oppressed). By Zaoism: Heaven = Aristocracy, Asuras = Samurai, Human = Commoners, Animal as an added caste refering to Yokai beings, Hungry Ghost = Hinin/Eta, Hell has no associated caste. Player characters accumulate Karma points, at the pace of Hero points in PF (usually only 6+/level). Lawful acts (over time) = 1 positive karma point, Chaotic acts (over time) = 1 negative karma point. All the castes/reincarnation layers fit within a range of karma points, in a total scale of 180 points (a circular scale), at 181 accumulated points, you start back at 0 once again. So your accumulated karma points added/subtracted total at PC death determines which caste you will move into in the next life. Since you cannot be Heaven/Aristocracy, spirits go to Hell, and are NPC oni/demons...

PC death. Once a PC dies he's dead, Reincarnation (by spell), Raise Dead, Resurrection spells do not function in Kaidan. Everyone will enter the reincarnation cycle. First one's spirit goes to Yomi, the land of the dead, while your karma points, and any reincarnation/karma spells placed prior to death are summed up for karmic movement on the cycle, plus a die roll. Instead of being reborn into a new life in the cycle, the PC rolls on the Reincarnation table and the results by class, adjusted level and caste are determined. Your spirit attempts to possess a living being that qualifies to your reincarnation destination caste/class/level. A seven day ordeal called Mind Fever, where the possessed person becomes greatly ill as the struggle to his own soul begins. A roll is made to see which spirit owns the body. If you win, you wake having been reincarnated into the life of the formerly possessed person. If you fail the roll, your are now a ghost (yurei) subject to the rules of being laid to rest. If you are laid to rest in yurei form, you will begin your reincarnation process again with new rolls for new destinations.

What this ultimately means is once a PC dies in Kaidan, their soul is permanently trapped into the cycle, even an outsider (non-Kaidanese adventurer adventuring in Kaidan) dies while within the confines of Kaidan, no matter their actual deity or personal religion of choice with a predetermined afterlife destination is now subject to cosmic laws of Kaidan, trapped into an endless reincarnation cycle forever.

As an aside, there's an annual Buddhist meet of temple priests across the midwest have a meeting at a tiny town not far from me. When I used to run my graphic design/digital print studio in my hometown, I was the closest higher end graphics shop in the area so something like a Buddhist "bishop" had been coming to my shop every year. I showed her my Kaidan reincarnation cycle - and though she understood it's meaning and how it's different than the practiced Buddhist beliefs regarding it - she LOVED it. So while not an official endorsement, I don't have any guilty feelings distorting a world religion into a horror setting.
 
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Many of the monsters are non-Japanese. Don't have time to go monster-by-monster, but there are monsters from Malaysia (bajang, bisan), Philippines (buso), Vietnam (con-tinh, doc cu'o'c) just as a start. The dragons use Chinese names but Chinese dragons are extremely similar to Japanese dragons anyway.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Many of the monsters are non-Japanese. Don't have time to go monster-by-monster, but there are monsters from Malaysia (bajang, bisan), Philippines (buso), Vietnam (con-tinh, doc cu'o'c) just as a start. The dragons use Chinese names but Chinese dragons are extremely similar to Japanese dragons anyway.
While I don't know if Asians have felt an negative impact regarding the presentation of it's "dragons", but as an aside, I've seen a home-made partially translated Pathfinder Core rules in Japanese, as they play it in Japan. Neither the Japanese nor the Chinese would call their dragons, "dragons". In Japanese they are Ryu. They recognize European dragons as dragons, but they don't have dragons, they have Ryu. Ryu aren't dragons. So calling those dragon like beings, dragons, at least according to the Chinese and Japanese, is a kind of misappropriation.

Same with a kirin, that is not a "dragon" horse. It's like calling an elf, a dwarf - they aren't the same thing.
 
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In Japanese they are Ryu. They recognize European dragons as dragons, but they don't have dragons, they have Ryu. Ryu aren't dragons. So calling those dragon like beings, dragons, at least according to the Chinese and Japanese, is a kind of misappropriation.
Bhutanese druk is generally translated as thunder dragon, and ryu and lung are both generally translated as "dragon." Plus I'm using dragon in the broadest sense, because even the standard perception of a "European dragon", so to speak, that is used in D&D is reductive and not actually reflective of dragons in much of European myth and folklore. I'm using "dragon" in the broad folkloric sense, and in that sense, ryu and lung are certainly dragons - large, serpent-like creatures, generally with magical powers.

It's like calling an elf, a dwarf - they aren't the same thing.
Bad example. Before Tolkien became de rigeur in peoples' minds, elf was a very general term, and dwarfs were generally seen as a type of elf. See for example svartalfar in Norse myth, which are seen as dark elves in modern interpretations but originally were synonymous with dwarf.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Just saying, I've actually spoken to a Japanese person from Japan who played PF, and he wasn't upset, rather he was simply bewildered how ryu, could be compared to dragons. He considered them apples and oranges. Not withstanding what a translation might state - the Japanese disagree in the translation. They know what dragons are, and ryu aren't dragons... simple.

I mean if this thread is the concern that OA is somehow racist to Asians, rather than argue with westerners about it, I go to the source and ask them, and they don't seem overly concerned, though they are confused about our confusion on what their mythical beings really are...
 
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They know what dragons are, and ryu aren't dragons... simple.
They have a particular idea of what dragons are, in their minds, based on one particular, narrow definition of dragon. But this is not the only definition of dragon. As stated, I'm not using that definition, as should be obvious since I included ryu in it, and ryu are very different from "standard" D&D dragons, which again are not completely reflective of a lot of European folklore about creatures collectively called dragons. My actual point was that lung and ryu are very similar.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Ryu and Lung are certainly synomomous, but to Chinese and Japanese, they aren't dragons, that's something else.

British dragons are woms, wingless, really giant snakes with poison not fire-breathing, and it may be safe to classify them as dragons, since it's European origins doing the classification. Maybe we should ask an Asian to participate in the classification process, because obviously to them, we screwed up.

This isn't my argument, though, I don't have one, I see OA as something riddled with mistakes, rather than being "racist" - so I have no horse in that race. It's just wrong, not racist. But I still played it when it first came out. I looked at the 3.0 OA, just looked, saw the Rokugan map, which I just hate the "this Japan place looks like China". In retrospect the existence of OA 3.0, was the reason I started to make Kaidan happen. Now it's time to fix that... is what I was thinking. I would have published for 3.5, but that was dead, by the time it was half developed, so why I went PF.
 
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Neither the Japanese nor the Chinese would call their dragons, "dragons". In Japanese they are Ryu. They recognize European dragons as dragons, but they don't have dragons, they have Ryu. Ryu aren't dragons.
I majored in Japanese Language and Culture in college, and spent some time living over there, and in my experience you're technically correct, but that's not a distinction that's applied very strictly.

To look at one of the most famous examples, Dragon Ball refers to the actual dragon in the series as 神龍 ("Shenron," using the kanji for "kami" and "ryu"), as it's very clearly an Asian-style dragon, but the orbs that summon it (from which the series takes its name) are written with the katakana ドラゴンボール (phonetically spelling out "dragon ball").
 
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gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
To look at one of the most famous examples, Dragon Ball refers to the actual dragon in the series as 神龍 ("Shenron," using the kanji for "kami" and "ryu"), as it's very clearly an Asian-style dragon, but the orbs that summon it (from which the series takes its name) are written with the katakana ドラゴンボール (phonetically spelling out "dragon ball").
That's fair. But fair or not, I have zero interest in any fictional derivation of Japanese lore, even done by the Japanese or anybody from the 20th/21st century. That is almost too "modern" for me to use as a souce, and maybe influenced by the west somehow, so be less "true". I only look at sources from 1899 or before. I wouldn't even look at Dragon Ball Z, nor consider a source of accuracy - even though it was Japanese that created it. It could be accurate, I don't know, I won't look. I wanted Kaidan to be created as a first interpretation, rather than a reflection of someone else's interpretation.

I didn't learn this in school, rather over a lifetime, and reading actual non-translated Japanese sources, on trips to Japan to visit family.
 
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gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
While Lafcadio Hearn (Kiozumi Yagumo) is one such source, one story has the wrong folklore name for the being described in the story. And "The Boy who Drew Cats" was a complete invention by Lafcadio Hearn, more like Irish lore, and not Japanese - so he made mistakes. There are no "goblin rats" or what RPGs created as the humanoid nezumi, didn't exist in Japanese lore. There was a henge rat, but not the same thing.
 

I see OA as something riddled with mistakes, rather than being "racist" - so I have no horse in that race.
I think you may be thinking about some other thread. This thread is not a discussion about what parts of OA are racist. It's about identifying the non-Japanese elements included in OA. The point I made was that although Chinese names are used for a particular type of creature (lung instead of ryu), the nature of the creature is so similar in Chinese and Japanese folklore that they are effectively the same creature, which you seem to agree with.

In folklore, a dragon means a large serpent-like creature, generally with magical powers. There are very few specifics involved. I'm familiar enough with Japanese and Chinese folklore to know that ryu and lung clearly fall under that definition. The fact that some people may not be familiar with this definition doesn't affect whether it encompasses such creatures.

The standard D&D dragon also falls under this definition, but is not an exclusive representative of it. "Dragon" covers much more ground in folklore than it does in D&D, which is why I specified which definition I was using.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Whoops, you're right.

I don't want to redo D&D, just wanted a setting that felt a bit more accurate, at least to me. Something I told myself to try to do one day when I was shortly after high school, looking at the original OA. So I finally did.

Edit: honestly, I had to do Kaidan, but that's the only Earth analog I ever plan to do - analogs generally aren't my thing, I'd rather be totally original, if possible, so I develope and create for Starfinder now, and my only source is my imagination. I might sneak an updated Kaidan in one star system of my current setting, just because, but now I work with aliens and alien cultures unique to alien worlds, not Earth.
 
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GreyLord

Legend
Oh, and the finger cutting, self mutilation punishments forced onto problem yakuza members was about cutting off your pinkie, because your pinkie controls the movement of your sword, while the other fingers/thumb hold the sword - losing your pinkie, takes away combat effectiveness. You don't lose a second finger in your second "incident", though, they just kill you.

Yakuza meant "good for nothing", a losing hand in a card game with the result of 8, 9, 3 (ya ku za - 8, 9, 3 in one of the counting systems)

In modern Japan, their world famous tattoo artists aren't allowed to have public shops, they operate from home studios and are not allowed signage, business cards, websites - it's word of mouth, as well as how to find them. It's that taboo in Japan, still - and the same in Korea. American fascination with tattoos give the Japanese heebie geebies. You're not allowed to use a public bath house if you wear a tattoo. Yakuza use private ones.

Small correction, at least in modern times. Yakuza actually CAN cut off more than the tip of their pinkie for continued offenses. It is not necessarily death after the first offense.

Many of the leaders, in fact, have multiple portions of fingers in relation to this.

I'm not sure about the past, but presently, they are not necessarily killed for more than one offense. It can continue down the line of their joints and then fingers, or if they are expelled they may also be required to lose joints/fingers.
 

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