D&D 5E Oriental Adventures 5e: How would you do it?

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ehren37

Legend
Texas is much more like a theocracy with deep conservative views.

This is pretty ridiculous if you actually bother to learn anything more than broad stereotypes. Try going to a major city next time maybe? Houston is the most diverse city in the US, and elected one of the first openly gay mayors in the US (three times!). But hyuk, hyuk, us Texans are a bunch of idiots!

Rural areas everywhere are mostly conservative, population centers are mostly progressive.
 

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Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
So.... I've done both, and I could not disagree more, both as stated, and because of what we are discussing.

First, America is largely homogenized. Whether you are in South Beach (Miami), Boston, the Texas panhandle, Minnesota, Orange County, or Idaho, you will find the same McDonalds, most of the same chain stores, and people that watch (largely) the same selection of networks and streaming services.

Are there differences? Yeah! But there are differences everywhere- just like the difference between, say, Boston and Los Angeles might be less than the difference (in some ways) than the difference between Venice Beach and Riverside (CA). Some of California is incredibly progressive - but then again, so is Austin. That's not really saying much.

Most importantly, there is a shared history- a United States history, that people point to. People are not a citizen of a state (well, except for some people we won't mention), they are a citizen of the United States. While the EU has homogenized things to a much greater extent, the differences between different European countries, and the inhabitants therein, dwarfs those in America.

Moreover, this is about history. Whatever homogenizing effects might have occurred in the last 50 years aren't relevant to the histories (which is what we were discussing). D&D takes all of that European history, excerpting from Rome on through the early 1800s (often through the added prism of German and British writers) and puts it in a blender. And it works, for a game. But that doesn't mean that the wells that it draws from aren't distinct.

I guess we just disagree then. You know, Germany, France, Britain, etc all have McDonalds too....

I understand that Western European countries have exponentially more history than in the US, but as far as current cultural differences go, from what I've seen there are greater differences between say, New York and Alabama, than between Germany and France. Before people lose their marbles, I'm not saying there are NO differences between Germany and France, but that there are more similarities than between New York and Alabama. Many of these differences can be measured as well, such as education, health care, jobs, etc. There is a bigger gap between New York and Alabama then many western European countries in these metrics. It's a fact that the south is run more like (and they want it that way) a Christian theocracy than New York. Just look at the bills being proposed and passed on state levels, and the words from the actual leaders of those states.



This is pretty ridiculous if you actually bother to learn anything more than broad stereotypes. Try going to a major city next time maybe? Houston is the most diverse city in the US, and elected one of the first openly gay mayors in the US (three times!). But hyuk, hyuk, us Texans are a bunch of idiots!

Rural areas everywhere are mostly conservative, population centers are mostly progressive.

I've spent lots of time in Dallas. What is ridiculous is you making a straw man. I never said Texans are a bunch of idiots, or anything close. So you're either making a strawman because you can't actually argue what I really said, or you are assuming "conservative" = "idiot", because that's the only word I actually used. Which of course would illustrate your biases...I never implied anything of the sort.

We're also not talking about isolated pockets, we're comparing US states vs western European countries. And states like Texas, or Alabama as a whole are culturally much different than New York or California, and we have a slew of data that illustrates this. (And so you don't get confused again, different doesn't mean worse. it's just different.)
 

QuietBrowser

First Post
If I was to do a 5e version of OE, it would be very true to the 1e version. Every version after that was a pale imitation that failed on many different fronts, from my point of view.
There has literally only been one OA since 1e, and whilst I admit the 3e version was a bit too hung up on doubling as a Rokugan D20 corebook, I still consider it superior to the 1e version, simply because it lacks Gygax's obsession with low fantasy.

First...the whole anime/manga thing? Yeah...just get that RIGHT out of yer noggin' right now. The 1e OE didn't have any of that feel to it. It felt, to me, more like a baseline of "Samurai and Ninja" movies made by japanese/korean/chinese (Yojimbo, 7 Samurai, Heaven & Earth, etc...oh, except for the SHOGUN mini-series that aired on TV....I freaking LOVE that 'movie'!). Now, toss in some "Kung Fu Theater" for some amusingly over the top stuff and PRESTO! First Edition AD&D Oriental Adventures.

Basically, do that, but with the 5e system. :)
Of course it would lack any "animesque" feel; anime and manga didn't come to America until the late 80s, and Gygax was a big low fantasy fan, so of course he stuck with the kung fu, samurai and wuxia films that began trickling into America in the 70s. That's what Gygax had access to, so that's what he tried to emulate.

Now, I'm not saying that it's wrong for OA to grant access to that kind of feel. BUT! Different fans have different tastes in fantasy levels, and Japanese/Chinese fantasy is not monolithic. A good OA sourcebook should provide all the tools needed to support a campaign themed on Seven Samurai (Low/Historical Fantasy), Journey to the West (Swords & Sorcery) or Inuyasha (High Fantasy) - an OA that only supports Low Fantasy is inherently cutting down its audience appeal.

For Martial Arts...definitely would have to have it's own "sub-system". IMHO, just reducing it all to the OPTIONAL (!) Feat system would be whole inadequate. It wouldn't "feel" like I was performing any sort of "martial art awesomeness", and would instead feel like "Oh, yeah. I took that feat so I do d10". Bleeachy! The only thing I'd tweak would be the "effectiveness" of the MA damages vs. weapons/spells. IMHO, if you aren't a Monk, Shoei, Kensai, or Wu Jen...then you shouldn't be doing the same 'deadly 1:1 damage' as some Bushi with a naginanta. Everyone who learns MA (which, lets face it, is about 98% of any OA NPC) would have learned/trained/developed their MA style to beat others. And when I say "others" I mean humans (and 'demihumans'...it is fantasy, after all) style of MA. Some tea house Kung Fu master should wipe the floor against any boisterous drunkard who starts something in his tea house...but when an Oni, Pan Lung, or Bajang pops up? Well, any 'attack' should be much less effective!
My only problem with this is that... what exactly is a Martial Arts subsystem supposed to do? Martial Arts, in the pop culture view at least, revolve around unarmed fighting strikes, grabs, locks, and throws. But... 5e already HAS mechanics for Unarmed Strikes, Grappling, and Shoving (which throws would be a reskinned of), AND it tries to avoid an overabundance of fiddly, super-specific rules. So, how would a Martial Arts subsystem actually offer meaningful differences to these rules, that couldn't be achieved by the use of feats & class features that make unarmed strikes, grapples and shoves more versatile and effective?

Also, don't forget that NPCs don't work on the same rules as PCs; NPCs with special attacks that do heightened damage despite not usisng weapons and/or lead into grapples/shoves easily convey the "martial artist" theme in 5e.

I think a couple tweaks to the three OA non-human races (Korobokuru, Hengeyokai, and Spirit Folk) might be in order....stronger/more drawbacks, but stronger/more powerful 'otherworldly stuff'.
Here's my problems with these three "classic" races.

Korobokuru are redundant. If you actually look up the lore of the koro-pok-guru (the most commonly accepted modern translation), they're described as small, reclusive humanoids who live in the wilderness (in pits roofed with butterbur leaves, specifically), pursuing a quiet existence as hunter-gatherers and fisherfolk with no particular interest in the outside world and generally being inoffensive little people. We have this racial archetype in D&D already. It's called the halfling. Maybe there are stories of their natures, abilities and interactions I'm just not finding, but nothing about what I've found suggests them as anything that can't be covered by giving the appropriate Ainu cultural trappings to halflings.

Spirit Folk, likewise, feel redundant. I don't know what actual myths they're drawing from, I'm presuming they're just generic references to the vast celestial bureacracies of China and Japan, but the worst part of it is that they feel all too similar to elves. Seriously, look at the facts:
* Both races are the weakest and most "human" of a vast array of mystical beings that live alongside yet out of phase with the mortal world (Fey vs Kami).
* Both races look like extraordinarily beautiful and exotic humans with, at most, minor traits that hint at their unearthly true nature.
* Both races live for prolonged periods(? I honestly haven't been able to track down the spiritfolk lifespan in either OA book).
* Both races possess some inherent minor magical traits.

Maybe if the powers the Spirit Folk had were stronger, or they had better fluff than being an Orient equivalent to planetouched, I might have less of a problem with them. As-is, they feel too much like something you could replicate by taking an elf and giving it a racial trait or feat to replicate. River & Sea Spirit Folk in particular feel all too easy to replace with Aquatic Elves. Heck, at least the Dargonesti & Dimernesti have their shapechanging powers to make them unique; Water Folk don't even have that.

Hengeyokai... mostly, my problem with how this race is presented is that it's incredibly weak. It's literally "one trick pony: the race", with absolutely nothing going for it besides the "turn into an animal" power. If the different sub-breeds were better defined and the race as a whole had something more to it than just "you can turn into one specific animal, like a weaker version of a guy who took a level in Druid", I would complain a whole lot less.

Honestly, I really think the absolute best way to handle Hengeyokai is to make Hengeyokai a Racial Trait rather than a Race proper and instead focus on building distinct races who share that trait from the myths. Kitsunes, Tanuki, Bakeneko at the very least have the gumption to stand on their own and be proud races. If we can make dwarves, gnomes and halflings be separate in vanilla D&D, why can't we extend that same courtesy to races who actually do have distinctive characterization, goals and power-sets in the myths? Freaking Pathfinder has done a better job with kitsunes than D&D ever has!

Likewise, I believe that a proper 5e OA should try and broaden the racial options. The myths of Asia's various sub-continents are filled with all manner of humanoid beings and non-evil spirits; plenty of PC fodder.

Classes? About perfect, really. All of them felt like they had their own niche in the world. With the choices for 'customizing' many of them built in (e.g., Kensai and his chosen weapon, Wu Jen and their '5-Elements' type spells, etc), I think each could have one or two Arch-Types would be more than enough to cover anything a campaign may need.
I... really don't understand what you're arguing here, so I can't comment on it either way.

Now, when they get to the 'Campaign Setting" aspect. THIS is where I'd like to see a bit more effort. Chinese, Japanese and Korean are obviously the focus...but India, Mongolia, Vietnamese, Philippines, etc should have at least a couple pages about how to incorporate some of those cultures/histories/fables. Better still, put out a separate "campaign add-on" book/box that could add more in-depth setting stuff for that. :)
Definitely agree with this.
 

CubicsRube

Hero
Supporter
I don't think that people should male a judgement about what anonymous "others" find offensive. They should speak for themselves.

I don't have a problem with the term oriental except that its just outdated. I lived in asia for 4 years and none of my asian friends ever seemed to have a problem with it. I recently went to a place called "oriental spa" for a foot massage and i assume they didnt have a problem with it.

I dont think many people worry to much about names. I know burmese people that still call the country burma and have no problem woth that although they are proud of their independance. It's just a name.

All that is anecdotal, but i still think more valid that a removed opinion on what others fin offensive.


Back on topic, i dont think they should call it oriental adventures becauses its the forgotten realms, not asia. It should be kara tur. Same reason you shouldnt call scag "european adventures"
 

redrick

First Post
I think it should be written by a team that includes people who are of asian lineage (and preferably multiple people from multiple parts of the continent, because, you know, it's a big one) and knowledgeable about the folklore and fantasy of their own heritage. Then they can call it whatever they want.

When white people like me tell stories about other cultures, we have to work double time not to offend, because we hope nobody will call us out on the fact that we're telling somebody else's story in the first place. If Ta-Nehisi Coates, NK Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor and Samuel Delany had consulted on Tomb of Annihilation and they said, "Yeah, we decided to boil all of Africa down into one primitive island nation where everybody is trying not to catch Mad Monkey Fever," I'd say, "huh, didn't see that one coming, but, cool?" But when a team of (well-meaning) white folks do the same, it smacks of cultural insensitivity.

I would love to see as much official support as possible for a D&D that is set somewhere other than western Europe, and I'd love to see sourcebooks that explore Indian folklore, Japanese folklore, Chinese folklore, Mongolian and Central Asian folklore, Polynesian folklore, and more. I don't think we should have a reskinning of the PHB, because the PHB should, from the get-go, support more than just western european fantasy.

D&D is always gonna be super broad. It's not the game for a deeply researched historically and culturally accurate game drawing on any real culture. So I imagine any sourcebook that draws on east asian culture is going to be similarly broad. I'd just like it to be broad in a way that's imagined by folks of said cultures, rather than by Americans of western european descent.
 

Zilong

First Post
Personally, I don't think it's terribly wrong, but unfortunately that hasn't been done in D&D. It's typically Japanese culture spammed with some other Asian cultures sprinkled in as an afterthought (ooh, have a Mongolian barbarian, a Chinese Kung-Fu Monk, and a Chinese Taoist-style Wizard, with your seven Japanese-inspired classes). I think it'd be better if an fantasy Asian sourcebook actually gave a more equitable amount of space devoted to elements derived from different cultures.

That's why I think that making it a Kara-Tur sourcebook would be a better way to go, as Kara-Tur has countries based on multiple East Asian cultures (of course it has two Japans and two Chinas, but at least it has more that).

That is my main gripe about the way 3.x OA was presented. The name thing I'm of two minds. Yes I do find "oriental" to be mildly annoying, but its not something I'm going to get up in arms over.

The insistence on wholesale using Japanese terms and mythology for 85-90% of the things in the book with a few token Chinese and Korean references thrown in while ignoring basically everything else in East Asia is far more irritating to me. Basically, OA, or whatever more modern name you'd like to give it (Kara Tur Gazetteer?), would be infinitely better if fewer things were covered in a thin veneer or "muh samurai and ninja". Obviously samurai and ninja, or whatever pseudo-Japanese pop icon you want to use, are not bad and neither are the people who like them. Let's just try not to go overboard with them the next go around shall we?
 

CubicsRube

Hero
Supporter
Bear in mind that typocal d&d lore bears no resemblance to any period or location in western european history
 

Well if the problem is that putting Asian, African, etc cultures in a blender is objectionable but putting European cultures in a blender is fine, what if we just blended absolutely everything together? Default D&D already has monks, for one thing. Further, many elements of different regions' mythology and folklore have similarities that could be folded together. For example, hengeyokai might could just be non-evil werecreatures. Kitsune could be replaced with tabaxi. The default wizard culture could be primarily D&D standard but fold in the wu jen's avoidance of certain taboos. Samurai are just fighters and paladins with ornate armor, and ninjas are just rogues.

In the real world the split between European cultures and Asian cultures came into being because of vast periods of geographic isolation in environments that could be drastically different. That doesn't have to be the case in a fantasy setting. Perhaps the world is comparatively young, technology reached a medieval era very quickly through divine guidance, trade and travel have always been common, and every culture has the same pantheon of powers and the same understanding of cosmology.

The expected standards for non-European inspired settings, frankly, are a lot higher and more subject to scrutiny, so I say just take 70% default European-inspired setting detail and blend in aspects of non-European cultures in a way that feels cohesive, using existing D&D elements as stand-ins whenever possible.

I know Pathfinder goes the opposite route and has stand-ins for many real world cultures in its core setting of Golarion, including ones patterned after Asian cultures. What has been the reaction to their take?

Ideally we could look to Asian-flavored fantasy coming out of Asia itself, but even in countries like Japan fantasy largely means "pseudo-medieval European-inspired fantasy". D&D pretty much set the standard for much of Japanese-produced fantasy, particularly AD&D (for example, the Record of Lodoss War franchise grew from someone's D&D home game; there's also other clues, like the presence of pig-headed orcs in many franchises and the representation of Bahamut as a dragon instead of a giant fish as he was in real world mythology). Probably the biggest difference between D&D and Japanese takes on fantasy is that elves are the only non-human player race presented in D&D that has any popularity in Japanese-authored European fantasy (when "dwarves" do show up they are often unrecognizable).
 
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Mearls already said he doesn't want to publish 5e supplements that are new versions of old D&D books, so I wouldn't expect an Oriental Adventures sourcebook with that name. That makes the discussion about how appropriate that name would be for current standards unnecessary: while you can expect WotC to publish eastern flavored adventures and supplements one day, they won't be called "Oriental Adventures".

About my own expectations, I hope the Volo's Guide to Kara-Tur (or whatever they call it) that they choose to make focuses on capturing the tropes I want to see, with honorable samurai, flying monks and deadly ninja. Also, ignore the Edward Said fans and let us have the cool toys. Don't give me historically accurate Shinto priests written by Japanese authors who have actually been to Shintoist sacred places, give me Avatar: The Last Airbender instead. No amount of "proper cultural background" will work as a good substitute for fun and compelling rules.
 

Phasestar

First Post
A couple of points:

Orient simply means "East" from Latin, so it's an old term and a lot of words in European languages originate with Latin. Oriental to me refers to medieval / pre-medieval China/Japan/Korea/etc. I don't see that it's offensive as used in "Oriental Adventures" any more than "Medieval European Adventures" which is the base setting of D&D, would be. D&D historically is like pulp fantasy which borrows heavily from many real world sources to create a fantasy world.

With that said, unless there is a latin-like culture in your setting and the fantasy China/Japan/Korea is to the east of it, there are probably better titles than "Oriental Adventures" for describing that kind of setting.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
ITT: A bunch of white people discussing what is and is not racist.

A couple of points:

Orient simply means "East" from Latin, so it's an old term and a lot of words in European languages originate with Latin. Oriental to me refers to medieval / pre-medieval China/Japan/Korea/etc. I don't see that it's offensive as used in "Oriental Adventures" any more than "Medieval European Adventures" which is the base setting of D&D, would be. D&D historically is like pulp fantasy which borrows heavily from many real world sources to create a fantasy world.

With that said, unless there is a latin-like culture in your setting and the fantasy China/Japan/Korea is to the east of it, there are probably better titles than "Oriental Adventures" for describing that kind of setting.

#1 - The origin of words has little bearing on their present meaning.

#2 - The reason it was called Oriental Adventures and we don't have European Adventures is because of ethnocentrism. It is the idea that Whiteness is the default and everyone else is 'other'. That's the real problem. It treats white people as special while others are less than white.
 

Gardens & Goblins

First Post
ITT: A bunch of white people discussing what is and is not racist.



#1 - The origin of words has little bearing on their present meaning.

#2 - The reason it was called Oriental Adventures and we don't have European Adventures is because of ethnocentrism. It is the idea that Whiteness is the default and everyone else is 'other'. That's the real problem. It treats white people as special while others are less than white.

If the 'Oriental' in the title refers to a person or people, I'd agree that it could be taken as offensive. And we can and do refer to items, objects, history, language, literature and other cultural elements as oriental, both within and outside of academia.

Oriental Adventures can be read quite literally as adventures with/concerning these elements.

On the flip side, within architecture at least, we can and do refer to aspects of architecture from 'the west' as... wait for it.. Western Architecture.

So yes, the origin of the word has little bearing on the present meaning - and the meaning, unless direct at a person or persons, can be used in a perfectly sound and sensible manner.

But again, as WOTC is based in America, and while I have lived and loved in the magical, mystical oriental lands for many years and never heard the phrase used in a derogatory manner (perhaps because there are simply so many other physical and social slurs for some folks to choose from!), I realise that at least within America the word has come to represent something more. As such, it would be wise for WOTC to drop it in preference of something else.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
The first thing I would do if I were creating Oriental Adventures 5E is float the idea on an internet forum just to see whether anybody reacts negatively to the word "Oriental."
 

Phasestar

First Post
ITT: A bunch of white people discussing what is and is not racist.

Speaking of offensive, that comment seems pretty out of line to me.

#1 - The origin of words has little bearing on their present meaning.

I've never heard Orient or Oriental used in a derogatory way in the present day. Honestly, I have no idea where the idea that this is offensive came from, it just means "east".

#2 - The reason it was called Oriental Adventures and we don't have European Adventures is because of ethnocentrism. It is the idea that Whiteness is the default and everyone else is 'other'. That's the real problem. It treats white people as special while others are less than white.

You seem to be very focused on skin color. Yes, people in Europe would say that people in Asia are to the east of them, or "Oriental". It has nothing to do with skin color or being "less than". I'm sure the folks in China or Japan looked at the Europeans in the same way. If Gary Gygax had been born in Japan, the default setting would have been different and we'd have a "Occidental Adventures" expansion.
 

Uller

Adventurer
ITT: A bunch of white people discussing what is and is not racist.

And you know the color of someone's skin color on an internet forum...how? Are you assuming it just because they hold a certain opinion? Stereotype much?

Certain words have been used in order to establish superiority of one group over another. I won't list them here but it is easy to think of words for Africans, Italians, Irish, Jews, Europeans, Asians and on and on that are specifically intended to belittle people. Orient isn't one of them. Life is much better if people give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of taking offense when none is intended.
 



Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I understand that Western European countries have exponentially more history than in the US, but as far as current cultural differences go, from what I've seen there are greater differences between say, New York and Alabama, than between Germany and France.

As someone who's traveled a fair bit both in the USA and Europe, I agree with you that there are more differences between certain states that some outsiders realize... but I also think there are a lot more differences between European countries that *you* realize.
 

3catcircus

Adventurer
And you know the color of someone's skin color on an internet forum...how? Are you assuming it just because they hold a certain opinion? Stereotype much?

Certain words have been used in order to establish superiority of one group over another. I won't list them here but it is easy to think of words for Africans, Italians, Irish, Jews, Europeans, Asians and on and on that are specifically intended to belittle people. Orient isn't one of them. Life is much better if people give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of taking offense when none is intended.

But, but, but... What will people with too much time on their hands do if they can't use it to express manufactured outrage over non-issues that don't even matter to the majority of the people they are allegedly defending against said words?!?! My God, man - where's your sense of fake victimhood and false outrage ripe for the exploiting?

In all seriousness, though - it's been titled Oriental Adventures through 3 editions of the game. No need to be revisionist about titling it. The fact is that Zeb Cook was obviously in love with historical Asian cultures - just read the intro in OA 1e. That carried over into the Kara-Tur boxed set. It's evident that those products were created with a genuine love of the people and cultures they modeled them on.

But, I'd definitely be revisionist about taking that 1e content to make it 5e and focus on fleshing out the setting to a greater degree. While there is a lot of fluff about Shou Lung vs. T'u Lung and Wa vs. Kozakura, why not spend more scope of a 5e product(s) on fleshing out Tabot, Malatra, Bawa, Petan, etc.? There is literally a section of the Kara-Tur map of nothing but jungle titled "The Warring States" to the east of Petan. Whats there? Who are the people who live there? Why are they at war?

I'd rather have more fluff than having a bunch of crunch on the different varieties of samurai depending upon their clan like they did in the 3e Rokugan products. Who cares about that much variety if I want a campaign to focus on a culture modeled after ancient China or Korea?
 

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