EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

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EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by Dragonhelm » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:58 pm

EN World has posted an article called 'Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?'.

Agree or disagree? Check it out!

Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

EDIT: Forewarning, a lot of this thread on EN World is debate on whether "Oriental" is racist or not. I'm posting it here in case anyone wants to read it, but it doesn't really offer any insights that I haven't read before.
Last edited by Dragonhelm on Tue Mar 13, 2018 6:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by AxesnOrcs » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:19 pm

I think that there is a need for non-western cultural and regional rpg focused supplements, even if it's for a game of make-believe elves and dragons. Something between basic overview for children and lower-division college text. Gaming books about foreign cultures that most westerners have an incomplete, false, or skewed view of would be worthless if they don't have any gaming content. But they also shouldn't be the 3e era style "shoe-horn D&D tropes into this book on generic fantasy Asia or Africa." Stuff from "these are totally not elves and dwarves with the serial numbers filed off" to these are literally D&D elves but in fantasy-Africa.
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Re: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by night_druid » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:55 pm

Do we "need" it? No more so than any other product. The real question is if there's a demand for it. From what I can tell, not much of one. AD&D had a small line of OA-related products, which phased out early in 2e's run (lack of sales is my guess). 3e took another crack at OA products, and again it faded after a few years. I haven't seen many d20/OGL OA-style products so I can't imagine its very profitable.
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Re: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by shesheyan » Tue Mar 13, 2018 5:34 pm

night_druid wrote:Do we "need" it? No more so than any other product. The real question is if there's a demand for it. From what I can tell, not much of one. AD&D had a small line of OA-related products, which phased out early in 2e's run (lack of sales is my guess). 3e took another crack at OA products, and again it faded after a few years. I haven't seen many d20/OGL OA-style products so I can't imagine its very profitable.
Indeed. I never purchased a OA product. Everyone I knew who were interested in asian cultures played Legend of the five rings.

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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"

Post by ghendar » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:23 pm

I think that if you want a certain flavor of a game, then you may need a sourcebook (or extensive personal knowledge) to help facilitate that. If I want to play an African themed game then it's nice to have a book that supports that theme, although there are different flavors of an African game. Oriental Adventures filled a need at the time. If you wanted to play in (a fantasy version of) medieval Japan, this book gave you the option to do that. If I want to play in ancient Rome or Greece, or India, or Aztec, or pre-columbian North America, or Viking, or whatever place/era, there will be a need for such books. Just because D&D is more diverse than in the past doesn't eliminate a potential need and market for such books.

On the other hand, D&D has always been quite diverse. Even in pre-5e versions of the game, the art would at times show diversity. Humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes etc, etc, etc, not to mention the myriad "monsters." OD&D (the original little books) even encouraged monsters as part of the adventuring group. While I agree that diversity is good, it's not the be all and end all for the adventuring party.
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"

Post by Cthulhudrew » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:56 pm

I agree with AxesnOrcs that having more cultural sourcebooks is certainly a great boon for those seeking to do something different with their RPG settings. The standard Tolkienesque "western" campaigns still seem to be by and large the main default. While there is I think a greater access to information to research to develop more Asian-style settings (or African, or whatnot), being able to have a resource devoted to that compiled and enumerated by others is incredibly useful for a GM.

As for the type of resources, I have mixed sentiments. On the one hand, even with the wealth of information available in today's digital age, I think there is still a lot of misinformation and just general ignorance (not ignorance in the bad sense, just lack of knowledge) about non-western societies out there, at least here at home in the US. So I think having well-researched and presented cultural campaign settings is not only a boon to gaming, but to just the general knowledge base itself.

On the other hand, while I used to enjoy them quite a bit, over the years I have grown increasingly leery of campaign settings that consist of "real world nation x" dropped into a fantasy rpg. To bring the OA perspective as an example, I can't even begin to say how many times I've seen the RW Mongols dropped into campaign settings, with barely even the serial numbers filed off. Linguistic terms, histories, pretty much dropped wholesale into a campaign world, with little thought given to how the dynamics and mechanics of an rpg would be impacted. (And my grievance isn't just isolated to OA settings, or Native American settings; I see the Tolkienesque settings given all too much of the same treatment. "Dwarves like gold and mountains and have beard and hate elves. Welp, I'm done!")

What I would much rather see is something that is much harder to pull off except by very devoted and knowledgeable creators, and that is to really take a look at the RW cultures that are being, essentially, appropriated or aped, and to translate them into fantasy terms and come up with something that is a little bit of both. Pathfinder's Tian-Xia has done a relatively decent job of this, and for another really good example, I'd point to Qadira: Jewel of the East, also put out by Paizo.

So my preference is for more of that style of campaign setting- OA, western, or whatever- but either way, I think there is still a demand for it, if only by a relatively small portion of the rpg audience.
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"

Post by Havard » Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:32 am

Excellent points.

I think there are a couple of things to consider about sourcebooks like this. One thing is to try to aim for historical accuracy that Cthulhudrew mentions. I think that in actual games, most players will be bound to cliches, familiar tropes from movies and comics more than actual historical accuracy, but that isn't really an excuse for books to be poorly researched. I do like books that have options for Cinematic or even Hollywood-eque tropes, but if so it is better if the books make it clear that these concepts aren't suited for campaigns that aim to be historically correct.

Another issue is scope. Many books have titles that suggest they would cover all of the continent of Asia, while ultimately they are mostly about Japan with a few elements borrowed from China. I'd love to see books that are more specific about what cultures they want to bring into D&D and perhaps more books that adress cultures outside of Feudal Japan.

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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:42 pm

Although the word as used by the book (both 1e and 3e OA) clearly refers to the place/setting rather than the people, the word "oriental" is now sufficiently loaded that it's best avoided. I think this orientalism in D&D reached its nadir when WotC's 4th edition briefly proposed a "ki" power source (monks and the like thankfully ended up being "psionic" rather than "ki").

I'd say we don't need a book called "Oriental Adventures". We do, however, still need books that cover East Asian (and other culture-specific) tropes. Consider that the GURPS (3e) line of setting books did an amazing job (to the extent they were sometimes recommended as research books by college professors back before the Internet was a common resource). Those took each culture individually, rather than try to create a mash-up, which I think strengthened the product line. The Classic D&D gazetteers also demonstrated a good role model on how to do a "cultures" book (although the cultures presented were their own thing rather than an attempt to model the real world the inspirations are obvious).

Part of the danger of simply mixing in everything from every culture into a core book is that it risks making each culture's distinctiveness just another part of the "fantasy kitchen sink" setting. If war elephants are in core, and are clearly the "best" cavalry unit, then everyone will use them, even if it wouldn't make sense for the culture.
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Re: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by Big Mac » Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:57 pm

shesheyan wrote:
night_druid wrote:Do we "need" it? No more so than any other product. The real question is if there's a demand for it. From what I can tell, not much of one. AD&D had a small line of OA-related products, which phased out early in 2e's run (lack of sales is my guess). 3e took another crack at OA products, and again it faded after a few years. I haven't seen many d20/OGL OA-style products so I can't imagine its very profitable.
Indeed. I never purchased a OA product. Everyone I knew who were interested in asian cultures played Legend of the five rings.
The 3e OA line was Legend of the Five Rings. They ditched Kara-Tur and used Rokugan. All the books, except a couple, had duel stats with D&D and Lot5R rules in them. Then WotC sold Lot5R back to AEG.

So, WotC couldn't do anything that followed on from the 3e OA, because they don't own the IP any more.

I strongly doubt they would do a book based on the older 1e OA. I think they might do something with Kara-Tur...at some point, but I think they would be more likely to go for a big hardback adventure, along the lines of Storm King's Thunder.

They have reworked some of the things in (mainstream) Forgotten Realms, so they might alter some of the stuff in Kara-Tur...if they bring it back. There is also the big 4e time-jump, which would mean that Kara-Tur could be moved forwards in time. That would give them an excuse to have some parts of Kara-Tur fade into the background and some new things appear. They would probably need to put some Returned Abeir backstory into Kara-Tur, to make it feel like something actually happened during the 3rd and 4th Edition Eras.
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Re: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by shesheyan » Thu Mar 15, 2018 2:08 am

Big Mac wrote:
shesheyan wrote:
night_druid wrote:Do we "need" it? No more so than any other product. The real question is if there's a demand for it. From what I can tell, not much of one. AD&D had a small line of OA-related products, which phased out early in 2e's run (lack of sales is my guess). 3e took another crack at OA products, and again it faded after a few years. I haven't seen many d20/OGL OA-style products so I can't imagine its very profitable.
Indeed. I never purchased a OA product. Everyone I knew who were interested in asian cultures played Legend of the five rings.
The 3e OA line was Legend of the Five Rings. They ditched Kara-Tur and used Rokugan. All the books, except a couple, had duel stats with D&D and Lot5R rules in them. Then WotC sold Lot5R back to AEG. So, WotC couldn't do anything that followed on from the 3e OA, because they don't own the IP any more.
Sorry for not being clear. Most people I knew played AEG's version (1997) and didn't want to touch the 3e d20 (2008) edition. Many players I know usually prefer a system that integrates the flavor of the setting into the rules somehow. Qin RPG (fantasy China) is a good exemple of that with its use of Yin and Yang black and white dice. There lies the line between people who like and don't like generic systems. I used to be in the generic system camp (d20 Modern)... but I'm less and less convinced as time passes. My reading of Coriolis pretty much proved to me I don't need (or want) a sci-fi 5e book anymore.
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"

Post by Ashtagon » Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:41 am

My understanding of the time was that AEG wanted to transfer wholeheartedly to the d20 system, but WotC would not allow them to create a revised (3.5e) version of the 3.0e Oriental Adventures, and since the entire product line hinged on that one book, it had effectively been obsoleted by WotC. I lack information on their specific reasons for choosing to go back to a version of their original rules system rather than create a variant d20 based system (as many others have done). Perhaps at the time the legalities were a little less certain concerning whether a d20 clone would be challenged, and (unlike Paizo), the staff had sufficient expertise with another system already that there was less reason to test those waters.
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Re: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by Dragonhelm » Thu Mar 15, 2018 12:46 pm

night_druid wrote:Do we "need" it? No more so than any other product. The real question is if there's a demand for it. From what I can tell, not much of one. AD&D had a small line of OA-related products, which phased out early in 2e's run (lack of sales is my guess). 3e took another crack at OA products, and again it faded after a few years. I haven't seen many d20/OGL OA-style products so I can't imagine its very profitable.
Paizo had their Dragon Empires books, which included a small sourcebook or two, a stand-alone adventure, and an adventure path. So there is that.
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"

Post by Dragonhelm » Thu Mar 15, 2018 12:49 pm

Ashtagon wrote:My understanding of the time was that AEG wanted to transfer wholeheartedly to the d20 system, but WotC would not allow them to create a revised (3.5e) version of the 3.0e Oriental Adventures, and since the entire product line hinged on that one book, it had effectively been obsoleted by WotC. I lack information on their specific reasons for choosing to go back to a version of their original rules system rather than create a variant d20 based system (as many others have done). Perhaps at the time the legalities were a little less certain concerning whether a d20 clone would be challenged, and (unlike Paizo), the staff had sufficient expertise with another system already that there was less reason to test those waters.
From what I remember of the time, AEG (or FFG at that point?) found that their fan base preferred the classic L5R system, which was made specifically for that setting. Personally, I loved the idea of the elements tying into one's abilities.
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"

Post by shesheyan » Thu Mar 15, 2018 12:51 pm

Ashtagon wrote:My understanding of the time was that AEG wanted to transfer wholeheartedly to the d20 system, but WotC would not allow them to create a revised (3.5e) version of the 3.0e Oriental Adventures, and since the entire product line hinged on that one book, it had effectively been obsoleted by WotC. I lack information on their specific reasons for choosing to go back to a version of their original rules system rather than create a variant d20 based system (as many others have done). Perhaps at the time the legalities were a little less certain concerning whether a d20 clone would be challenged, and (unlike Paizo), the staff had sufficient expertise with another system already that there was less reason to test those waters.
Interesting. What the company wants and the players want are very often two different things! Many fans didn't like their game of choice being translated to 3e d20. Fans felt abandoned. As you have said yourself d20 is geared toward high octane action heroics with high levels of HPs. On the other hand LR5 1e was very lethal. That is what players liked. Combat was a last resort but meaningful when it happened. The system is very important to set the tone of the game and what is possible for the characters to do. Players buy into the specific type of behavior the system promotes. Its not just a question of setting. I hear/read far too often that the system is not really important... «au contraire» !
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"

Post by Dragonhelm » Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:03 pm

So personally, I would love an Oriental Adventures book. However, due to the political and social issues involved, I doubt we would ever see a book like that.

What I do foresee is that they might do an adventure set in Kara-Tur with some basic rules on creating OA-style of characters. That fits their modus operandi of late. That being said, Kara-Tur never excited me much. Maybe because it's so much of an analog to real-life countries and peoples. So something big would have to change.

I have wanted to do an OA-style fan product for Dragonlance for years (Royodo?), but in the current climate, I would fear touching it.

BTW, thank you all for making this a much better and more productive thread than what I saw on EN World. They closed their thread on this very topic. Again, further proof that the Piazza is such a great community.
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by willpell » Thu Mar 22, 2018 4:33 pm

I definitely think there's a good reason to include influences from non-European cultures in DnD, if only that it's less boring that way. The issue I see is that the content tends to be very sequestered (a less culturally sensitive person might even say "ghettoed") off by itself. Cultural purism has its place, but so does the opposite. When someone thinks of the "mystic east", they tend to be thinking of something like the Chinese emperor in his forbidden city, and that's fine for certain Lawful organizations in a campaign world. But what about Bangkok and Singapore? Bustling hubs of trade that happily open their eyes (and, let's be honest, frequently also their legs) to foreign trade, deriving tremendous prosperity and power from their very willingness to dilute (but still never completely lose) their cultural heritage? That's a valid path for a nation to take as well, especially if the population and/or power center lean more towards Chaos (which, the attitudes of stupid Templar paladins notwithstanding, is by no means synonymous with Evil).

Actually incorporating OA content into a DnD game should be about more than just making a samurai that's an orc, or even a Dragon Samurai prestige class (that's one of the worst examples IMO, and IMC I changed it to simply Dragon Guard, with the ones who live in Fake Fantasy Japan looking like samurai, but the Fake Fantasy German ones being Landsknechts in Gothic plate, with no real mechanical difference). If you're going to have these game mechanics in your game, you should use them throughout; put members of the Ninja class in your Fake Fantasy France, have the Naginata be a traditional weapon of the Tuatha de Dannan, make exorcists banish ghosts with jade weapons and little paper prayer-strips even if they're Dark Elves, etc etc. On rare occasions you can have an exclusivist enclave, but for much of your campaign world, integration should be the norm. After all, the scythe is the most powerful weapon for a character whose build is focused around crit-fishing; if said character happens to be from Fake Fantasy China, he shouldn't be using a sword just because it'll make him more Chinese-looking (at least not unless it's explicitly established that his family has pressured him into using the traditional weapon of his clan, and he's ended up losing battles he should have won because of this).

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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by Morfie » Fri Mar 23, 2018 5:22 am

I still think it's needed. Sometimes we see classes like Ninjas and Samurai in other sourcebooks but not much else.

But I would call it Eastern Adventures. I don't personally* consider Oriental to be a pejorative term in this particular context, but it is an archaic term. Also nobody ever uses the reverse term anymore to describe Westerners - Occidental. Asian Adventures doesn't quite fit either - sometimes India (et al.) is part of Asia, sometimes it's not. I have met multiple Indian people who do not like being called South Asian.

I also wouldn't lump Chinese and Japanese cultures together, whilst ignoring other areas. South East Asian areas have especially missed out previously.


*Not Asian myself so as such, I can have no say in this. I am of very mixed race however and I do get mixed up with almost any culture by people so I am sensitive to racist behaviour.

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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by willpell » Fri Mar 23, 2018 2:06 pm

I for one wouldn't bat an eye if someone from the East called me an Occidental. They probably already do, in their own language.

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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by Ashtagon » Fri Mar 23, 2018 2:51 pm

In Japan, the most common term is gai(koku)jin (literally outside (country) person), with hakujin ("white person") seeing some usage where ethnicity specifically is being referred to. The most common Chinese term seems to be gwailo, literally "ghost person", a reference to skin colour.

I couldn't comment on other languages. I'm not aware of any that use anything analogous to "westerner" to refer to Europeans.
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by willpell » Fri Mar 23, 2018 4:34 pm

My understanding is that both gaijin and gweilo are used largely as perjoratives. Occidental and oriental are more clinical, value neutral terms. I wonder how many eastern languages have a more detached or formal term for the foreigners who came to their lands. What are we called in Thailand for instance?

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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by Ashtagon » Fri Mar 23, 2018 4:42 pm

Who is "we", paleface?

(tongue firmly embedded in cheek)
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by willpell » Fri Mar 23, 2018 4:51 pm

Shrugs....at least you didn't call me "roundeye", that one's physically inaccurate in my case.

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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by Ashtagon » Fri Mar 23, 2018 4:57 pm

Back on topic, I have no idea about the contextual usage of gweilo. Regarding "gaijin", however, I don't think it is pejorative so much as "that's the only word for foreigner we have. What else would we use". Some people claimed that "gaikokujin" was somewhat more polite than "gaijin", but I can't say I noticed the difference. You'd be understood if you started talking about "Yoroppa-jin" ("Europeans"), but it'd sound about as stilted as talking about H2O instead of water. Plus, Yoroppa-jin would probably not be understand to include Canadians or Americans.
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by Yaztromo » Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:13 pm

willpell wrote:
Fri Mar 23, 2018 4:34 pm
What are we called in Thailand for instance?
Farang. Not an exceedingly formal and polite term either.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farang
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Re: EN World Article: Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Post by willpell » Sat Mar 24, 2018 7:48 am

Yaztromo wrote:
Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:13 pm
willpell wrote:
Fri Mar 23, 2018 4:34 pm
What are we called in Thailand for instance?
Farang. Not an exceedingly formal and polite term either.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farang
Sounds like it could be derived from the Arabic term "ferengi" meaning "foreigners". Yes, this is where Star Trek got the name. Thailand is pretty close to Muslim-run Indonesia and Bangladesh, so it's a reasonably possible etymology.

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