Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

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Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by Dragonhelm » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:57 pm

What I don't understand about fantasy OA in general is why it has to be fantasy China, fantasy Japan, fantasy Korea, etc. Rokugan is fantasy Japan, and the nations of Kara-Tur are all based on earth nations.

Why is it bad to take the best elements of all of those to create a new land? Does it cause that big of a disconnect?

Just curious is all.
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Re: Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by Havard » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:02 pm

Actually Rokugan does include elements from other Asian countries as well, but I guess the Samurai/Japanese flavor is the strongest.

How would you make a fantasy country that is totally made up and still Oriental? I'm not opposed to the idea, but I guess I can see how it might be difficult? :)

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Re: Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by ripvanwormer » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:27 pm

When you play European-style fantasy, do you include fantasy versions of European countries? (Fantasy Greece, Italy, England, Ireland, France, Russia, Norway, etc.?) If so, it's probably best to make your Asian pastiches resemble specific countries as well rather than to pretend that China, Korea, and Japan (and so on) have the exact same culture. It's not "bad" not to, but it's more consistent.

Or are your European-style countries made up of the "best elements of Europe," remixed to create new lands? Maybe it's not clear whether a specific fantasy nation is more like the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, Czarist Russia, or the Roman Empire because it doesn't have any obvious defining characteristics of any of those. If so, it'd be strange to make your Asian-style fantasy countries too obviously China, Cambodia, or Tibet; instead, it's probably better to combine a variety of Asian-style and purely made-up elements in new and innovative ways in order to create something reminiscent of Asian culture but not obviously a reference to a specific one.

If the European parts of your world are a combination of direct Earth pastiches, more ambiguous nations, and pure fantasy cultures, probably the Asian parts should be a combination as well.

And of course there's no reason there has to be an absolute boundary on a fantasy world where one continent is European-style and another continent is Asian-style and there's no mixing of any kind.

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Re: Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by Morfie » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:40 am

My only problem with some Oriental Fantasy is that they are basically the same as Western Fantasy with some name changes. They need to be different to make people want to play there.

I don't have a problem with them based on Real World cultures, it makes them more relatable in a way, and is a good starting point to divulge into later. The same with western cultures.

Anyway, sometimes I've seen fantasy China (for example) but with different eras of that culture in the same campaign world.

I don't think it would be bad having combinations either.. there is nothing stopping you having Chinese samurai and Thai ninjas.

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Re: Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by Big Mac » Mon Feb 11, 2013 12:27 pm

We have westernised fantasy worlds all the time, without people making a fuss. But I think a lot of people just don't know how to avoid cliches, when they make oriental stuff.

There is no reason why someone couldn't do something unusual like an "Oriental Africa", with everyone being black-skinned, but having an Asian culture.

I suppose the thing about changing things is that some of what makes the Oriental fantasy "feel" Oriental is down to culture and some of what it makes it the way it is actually comes from Geography.

I've heard that swords (not sure if these are Japanese swords or Chinese swords) are folded hundreds of times to make up for poor-quality metal. If that is the case then would that craftsmanship have occurred in a land where metal was two or three times as good?

So you can move away from a copy of the real countries, but that will change the way your fantasy cultures work and eventually make it all feel less Asian.

(And of course, one of our problems is that most gamers get their idea of "Fantasy Asia" from a bunch of TV shows and movies that are there to entertain, rather than educate.)
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Re: Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by Michael Tumey » Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:51 pm

I'd say that Japan, because it was a 'closed nation' and continuously feudal, up until Commodore Perry opened it up in the 1850's and forced it to join the modern industrial world, Japan carries a certain mystique, moreso than other oriental nations. With it's feudal period being more recent, from an anthrological point of view it's a more interesting test case, from a cultural stance, so more has been written about Japan, than the rest of Asia. These facts put Japanese culture more in front of western eyes, and it becomes the default oriental concept for many RPG developers.

There are China analog settings and game systems out there. Qin, the Warring States is definitely China only. Rite Publishing just released the PDF (print coming in end of May) of Heroes of the Jade Oath (PFRPG), as it already exists as Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved ruleset - another primarily China analog, though it does feature a Japan-like and Korea-like place as well.

Not that Southeast Asia doesn't deserve a setting, apart from Naga worship (a distinctly SE Asian phenomena that seems to be included in both L5R and OA), and not at all from China, Japan, Korea, there just isn't enough knowledge that truly sets it apart from the other oriental nations.

I develop the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror (PFRPG), because of my Japanese heritage, my goal was to create an authentically based, Japan-only setting, with no references nor inclusions of Chinese, Korean or S.E. Asian influences in any way. IMO, most Japan based campaign settings fail to depict Japan more than a cursory manner - I wanted to create a very detailed, culturally authentic, Japanese horror based setting - so it's what I've done.

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Re: Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by Big Mac » Mon May 06, 2013 10:24 am

Michael Tumey wrote:I'd say that Japan, because it was a 'closed nation' and continuously feudal, up until Commodore Perry opened it up in the 1850's and forced it to join the modern industrial world, Japan carries a certain mystique, moreso than other oriental nations. With it's feudal period being more recent, from an anthrological point of view it's a more interesting test case, from a cultural stance, so more has been written about Japan, than the rest of Asia. These facts put Japanese culture more in front of western eyes, and it becomes the default oriental concept for many RPG developers.
I suppose the island thing helps, as the isolation from the main continent probably made it harder for other nations to invade. That has to have made Japan more stable than it might have been if it was connected to its neighbours by land. A stable culture is a bit easier to understand than one that is constantly changing.
Michael Tumey wrote:There are China analog settings and game systems out there. Qin, the Warring States is definitely China only. Rite Publishing just released the PDF (print coming in end of May) of Heroes of the Jade Oath (PFRPG), as it already exists as Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved ruleset - another primarily China analog, though it does feature a Japan-like and Korea-like place as well.
I would be interested to see if anyone could do an entire Oriental world, where you have sub-settings that each take themes from real-world Oriental nations, and make each one feel like a distinct place. I'm not sure if this was what Dragonhelm was getting at, but if everyone that wasn't Asian had vanished from the face of the Earth, it would eventually have been recolonised. I suppose that the Eskimos and Native Americans are colonists from the Asian area, so they could give us a clue as to how to run cultures that are a step or two away from mainstream Asian cultures. Maybe if you had a world that was based on the Asian and American parts of the world, and the Polynesia islands between them you might get a setting where the Oriental cultures have other cultures to bounce off of.

Do you know what Qin, the Warning States and Heros of the Jade Oath and Arcana Evolved did with their maps? Did they pretty much make a Chinese-shaped setting or did they actually change the shape?
Michael Tumey wrote:Not that Southeast Asia doesn't deserve a setting, apart from Naga worship (a distinctly SE Asian phenomena that seems to be included in both L5R and OA), and not at all from China, Japan, Korea, there just isn't enough knowledge that truly sets it apart from the other oriental nations.
I wonder if there is any fiction that tries to fill in the missing information, like the way that Tolkien kind of used The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to invent a mythology for England.

From what I see of Asian countries outside of Japan, from the safety of my armchair in London, they mostly seem to be rushing to build cities with mile-high buildings and superfast mobile broadband. It would be a shame if they lost all signs of their heritage. Hopefully people will preserve some of the older parts, so that archaeologists can learn some of the things that have been lost from history. And hopefully things like Lord of the Rings will inspire many local authors to build fantasy worlds that
Michael Tumey wrote:I develop the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror (PFRPG), because of my Japanese heritage, my goal was to create an authentically based, Japan-only setting, with no references nor inclusions of Chinese, Korean or S.E. Asian influences in any way. IMO, most Japan based campaign settings fail to depict Japan more than a cursory manner - I wanted to create a very detailed, culturally authentic, Japanese horror based setting - so it's what I've done.
It is interesting that you have done Japanese horror. Dragonhelm's OP was about OA being a fantasy <insert Earth nation> but a horror <insert Earth nation> has got to bring different tricks to the table, just from that one design change.

What are you doing with your Kaidan map? Is it the same general shape as Japan or have you modified the shape? Are you expanding Japan to fill the world? Are you going to create Japanese-like cultures to replace other lands?
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Re: Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by Michael Tumey » Mon May 06, 2013 5:31 pm

First, let me correct myself, Qin, the Warring States is not a China analog, rather it IS China - this being a historically based game. Thus it's map is the real China as well.

Heroes of the Jade Oath, which is a China/Korea/Japan analog, has had it's map created by Jonathan Roberts (who currently is creating the maps for the Saga of Ice and Fire for Del Rey) - it's map is very much like the real world far east.

Aside from being the main developer for Kaidan, my initial involvement in the RPG industry is as a fantasy cartographer, thus all the maps of Kaidan are my work. I was commissioned by Paizo to create the City of Kasai, capital of Minkai, Tian Xia, Golarian for the Jade Regent AP, the last module The Empty Throne. I also wrote some of gazetteer and am credited as one of the contributing authors for the release.

The following is the map I've created for the archipelago of Kaidan - intent to resemble Japan as an island nation.

Image

Indeed, making Kaidan a Japanese horror setting brings it's own set of expectations apart from the goals of many oriental settings. There are in fact many Japanese horror tropes that are alien to western horror tropes that bring a very unique twist to an oriental game. In many ways Kaidan is far more esoteric than any other setting - with concepts from the Buddhist Wheel of Life (as a twisted reincarnation cycle) and many other concepts that were never previously included in oriental RPG settings.

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Re: Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by Havard » Mon May 06, 2013 9:37 pm

Wow, that is a beautiful map Michael Tumey! :)

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Re: Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by Michael Tumey » Mon May 06, 2013 11:04 pm

Thanks, Havard!

Speaking of maps, my first product with my name as author, has just received it's first review and has gotten 5 stars, from Roleplayers Chronicle. Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House - it's primarily a map product, 4 stories of a typical Japanese bath house. While it is indeed a Kaidan product, I mention it here, as it's intended for use for any oriental setting. Included in the product is a 1" = 5' scale of all four floors as sectioned, ready to print pieces comprising the bulk of the pages of this release. Also is included 50 ppi, and 100 ppi full maps of the floor plans for use in Virtual Tabletop applications.

More than just a map, it includes a complete, detailed encounter with 3 haunts, a custom Japanese ghost with multi-CR rating for just about any level of encounter (CR 6, 10, 14, 18 and 22), and a very ugly curse.

Again, I'm only mentioning this product to point out that this and most of the releases of Kaidan product could be usable in Kara-Tur, Minkai, Rokugan, Rokushima Taiyoo, or any oriental setting no matter the ruleset.

Edit: here's an earlier map of the island of Yonshu, done using map symbols resembling the ukiyo-e (wood block print art) of Hokusai and Hiroshige for the Curse of the Golden Spear, our intro trilogy of modules in Kaidan.

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Re: Why must OA be fantasy [insert Earth nation]?

Post by Big Mac » Wed Jul 17, 2013 3:26 pm

I love those maps Michael.

I think that cartography brings a lot to a campaign setting. One of the things I really loved about Diesel's work at TSR, was that he started to bring a local character to the maps. I like maps that look like they are in-character maps (created by NPCs within the setting rather than artists in the real world).

If you want to make a campaign setting feel like China or Japan then being able to go back to historical maps and emulate that art-style can really help a GM start to build a sense of reality that their players can use to get into the game. This is one of the reasons why I dislike flashy maps designed for the GM's eyes only that do not have an equally pretty (or better) alternative for the players.

Being able to hang one of those maps on the wall during gaming sessions would add atmosphere, but someone could also get up and have a look at the map, if they wanted to work out where their PCs were.

Anyhoo, returning to Dragonhelm's original question, I know of one Oriental fantasy thing that TSR did that is very different from real-world nations and that is the Oriental space explorers in the Spelljammer campaign setting. That had a ton of potential, but I don't think that TSR did enough with it.

The Dragonships in Spelljammer are there in the background (just as Shou Lung elements were in the background of WotC's 3e Forgotten Realms). There were some Shou Lung explorers in Krynnspace. They were pretty good. And the Cloakmaster Cycle has some Dragonships turn up, but they are just in the background. I would really have loved to have seen more Oriental stuff in SJ's foreground.

I started off only being interested in Kara-Tur, and rejecting 3e's Rokugan, but then had a change of mind. Part of my increased interest in Rokugan, Mahasarpa and non-D&D worlds, with an Oriental theme is that they are worlds that Oriental spacefarers might discover if they searched the spheres.
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