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Oriental Adventures (1e)

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We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

Dungeon Masters and players: prepare yourselves to enter a whole new world-the world of Oriental Adventures!

The material in this book will enable you to play the AD&D game as you've never played it before. In the lands of Oriental Adventures, characters are not judged solely on their prowess with sword and spell. Oriental characters' social skills and personal honor are just as important as their combat abilities. When was the last time politeness and proper manners really mattered in your campaign? How can characters associate with nobility if they know nothing of courts or court etiquette? How many AD&D characters worry about how their actions reflect upon their families and comrades? These and many other intricacies of social interactions and responsibilities are brought to light in this volume. Don't get the idea that Oriental Adventures characters don't fight. Pages and pages of Oriental weapons and armor are described and illustrated here. From the favored weapons of the ninja to thin pieces of cloth that actually stop arrows, the arms and defenses of the Orient are yours in the lands of Kara-Tur. Have a favorite monster from Japanese films? Find it under Gargantua in the Monsters section! Want to learn a martial arts style or create a new style? You can do it in the new worlds opened up to you in Oriental Adventures!

Product History

Oriental Adventures (1985), by David "Zeb" Cook, is TSR's eighth hardcover for the AD&D game. It was released in October 1985. This marked the first time ever that TSR released two hardcover books in a single year, following from Unearthed Arcana (1985). They’d keep up the two-a-year rate through 1987.

Disputed Origins. Gary Gygax says that he started thinking about an Asian-influenced supplement for AD&D as early as 1980, shortly after the original AD&D game (1977-1979) was completed. He first mentioned in it Dragon #90 (October 1984) when he announced that Francois Marcela-Froideval was working on rules "for including Oriental characters in the game", possibly as part of a "second volume of [the] Players Handbook".

By 1985, TSR was in severe financial straits, and so Gary Gygax suggested that a half-dozen new books be published under his name, one of which was Fracois Marcela-Froideval's Oriental Adventures. This increased the importance of the project and required it to hit its deadline; it's also where the book's history comes into some dispute.

David "Zeb" Cook was consulting on the project because of his interest in Japanese history and culture. As a result, when Marcela-Froideval turned in a manuscript for the book that was just 30-60 double-spaced pages, it landed in Cook's lap. Gygax then wrote Cook a contract to prepare the book on his own, with just 4-5 months to go on the deadline.

Everyone agrees that the resulting manuscript is 100% Cook's own, perhaps inspired by some of the ideas suggested by Gygax and in Marcela-Froideval's notes. However in much later years Gygax would claim that Cook "ramrodded" his book through TSR, with the intent to "sink Francois' material", and that he did so by taking advantage of the fact that Gygax was "engrossed in the business affairs of TSR".

Both Cook and the book's main editor, Mike Breault, disagree with this interpretation of events. Cook points toward his contract and says that Gygax was fully informed on how the book was being prepared.

Whatever the specifics, the book’s accepted origins are: Gygax came up with the idea; Marcela-Froideval wrote a manuscript that wasn’t published; and then Cook wrote a manuscript that was.

Some suggest that Gygax’s animosity toward Cook came about not because of Oriental Adventures, but instead what came afterward: reportedly, Gary Gygax asked Cook to join his new company, New Infinities, around 1986. Cook instead opted to remain at TSR where he continued to work with Gygax's arch-nemesis, Lorraine Williams, and where he eventually authored AD&D 2e (1989), which replaced Gygax's iteration of the game. It seems quite possible that this was the actual source of the dispute and might have colored the principles’ views of Oriental Adventures.

Disputed Bylines. Though Breault, Cook, and Gygax all agree that the text of Oriental Adventures was entirely written by Cook, the book was still released with the name "Gary Gygax" on the cover. This matched TSR’s trends for 1985, which also saw the release of the D&D Masters Rules (1985) and T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985), each with Gygax receiving prime billing despite the fact that he probably didn't do any of the new work on either book. The intent was probably to put Gygax's name first and forefront in as many projects as it was possible, as good marketing that was intended to help save TSR from its financial hardships.

Though the cover of Oriental Adventures says "Gary Gygax", it doesn't actually say "by Gary Gygax" — a distinction that might or might not have been intentional. Greyhawk Adventures (1988) similarly lists James M. Ward's name on the cover without a "by". The inside credits of Oriental Adventures offer a more accurate depiction of how the book was created saying that "Original Oriental Adventures Concept" was by Gary Gygax with Francois Marcela-Froideval while "Oriental Adventures Design" was by David "Zeb" Cook.

Disputed Intellectual Property. Editor Mike Breault reports that there was one other legal oddity having to do with Oriental Adventures: when Breault got the book back from typesetting he discovered that the book's indicia had been changed to claim that Gary Gygax was the owner of the copyright to AD&D. Breault reported the problem to TSR Legal who reportedly had a confrontation with Gygax that resulted in the indicia being returned to its original form.

Continuing the AD&D Hardcovers. Earlier in 1985, TSR had introduced a new sort of AD&D hardcover: Unearthed Arcana (1985) was a pure rules supplement that added new classes, races, spells, and other mechanics to the Players Handbook (1978). Oriental Adventures was the same but more-so. It was an entire alternate Players Handbook, complete with a full set of classes, races, and spells, plus new rules for families, honor, and martial arts. It could entirely replace the classic Players Handbook for games set in Asian-influenced lands.

This made Oriental Adventures an important part of what's now called the 1.5e release of AD&D. This was a fairly dramatic revamp of the rules to AD&D that added lots of classes and some important new rules. It's generally understood to included Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures, Dungeoneer's Survival Guide (1986), and Wilderness Survival Guide (1986).

Some also see Oriental Adventures as the first of AD&D’s setting-heavy hardcovers — a series that also included Dragonlance Adventures (1987), Greyhawk Adventures (1988), Forgotten Realms Adventures (1990), and to a lesser extent Manual of the Planes (1987). Though Oriental Adventures originated the "Adventures" nomenclature, it’s quite different from the later books because it largely evokes setting through its classes, races, and other rules; the land of Kara-Tur is given just 6 pages of description near the end of the book.

About the Orient. Though Oriental Adventures marked TSR's entry to the world of Asian-influenced fantasy, it wasn't the first look at the topic in a FRPG. In fact, there were already two complete Asian-influenced FRPGs: FGU's Land of the Rising Sun (1980), and Phoenix Games' Bushido (1980), which was picked up by FGU for a second edition (1981). Despite being late to the party, Oriental Adventures did very well — probably out-selling the two earlier games in short order.

By adapting Asian fantasy elements, Oriental Adventures also introduced a lot of new mechanics to the AD&D game, among them many new classes. Characters like the ninja and the samurai were well-known — and in fact The Dragon had published a samurai class in issue #3 (October 1976); the shukenja, the wu jen and others were probably newer to most readers. However, the book's most interesting addition might have been a new version of the monk; the monk had always been the odd-man out in the traditional AD&D game, but now he was allowed to flourish in what Gygax considered to be his native environment.

About Skills. Oriental Adventures' most important additional to the future of the AD&D game was its inclusion of "non-weapon proficiencies" — which is to say skills. They were already a central part of many RPGs: GDW's Traveller (1977) introduced the idea, while Chaosium's RuneQuest (1978) moved them to the fantasy realm and turned them into something that could be improved. By the early '80s, many other influential games such as The Fantasy Trip (1977, 1980) and Rolemaster (1980, 1982) also included skills. In other words, AD&D was again playing catch up.

Cook's first iteration of skills didn't tie them to AD&D’s attributes. This was revamped by Douglas Niles in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, which also adapted Cook’s non-weapon proficiencies to a western setting. Cook himself returned to the topic of skills when he wrote AD&D 2e. He made them an official (but optional) rule set — but almost all 2e groups used them. Since D&D 3e (2000), skills have become a totally standard part of the D&D rules — but it took 15 years to get there!

The 2e Connection. Gygax apparently liked Oriental Adventures enough that he said in Dragon #103 (November 1985) that the Players Handbook for the second edition of AD&D would include material from both Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures. At a minimum, he intended to replace the classic monk class with its Oriental Adventures brethren.

Gygax's plans for 2e never came about due to his being forced out of the company shortly afterward. Instead, it was Zeb Cook who wrote 2e, and ironically he left the Asian-influenced character classes out of the new game. Despite that, the 1e Oriental Adventures sourcebook kept being referenced for years after the release of 2e — showing that edition lines weren't as hard and fast then as they are now.

Expanding Greyhawk. In Francois Marcela-Froideval's original design, Oriental Adventures was supposed to be set in the world of Greyhawk. His Asian-influenced lands were going to lie past the west coast of Oerik. Since either Frank Mentzer or Len Lakofka was working on an eastern continent, this along with a southern continent would have completed the world of Greyhawk as a globe. This idea was still being touted in Dragon #102 (October 1985), just before Oriental Adventures' publication, but it was abandoned shortly thereafter.

Expanding the Realms. Instead, the world of Oriental Adventures was added to the Forgotten Realms with the publication of Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1988). However, Zeb Cook's massive Asian-influenced land ended up being a little too big for the Realms, so it was shrunk down for future iterations of the setting.

Future History. Oriental Adventures was very popular and ended up being the best-seller for TSR in 1985, despite many other popular publications appearing that year. It subsequently spawned eleven direct spinoffs. Most of them were adventure supplements. OA1: "Swords of the Daimyo" (1986) also added considerable detail on the world of Kara-Tur. The series then ran through OA7: "Test of the Samurai" (1990) and was afterward restarted with a Forgotten Realms prefix for FROA1: “Ninja Wars” (1990) — but that was the final Oriental Adventures release. The other Oriental Adventures supplements were the "Warlords" 1-on-1 gamebook (1985), the aforementioned Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1988) boxed set, and MC6: "Monstrous Compendium Kara-Tur Appendix" (1990).

Oriental Adventures also was the source of two spin-off settings for the Forgotten Realms. The first was The Horde (1990), which depicts the lands west of Kara-Tur; it was presented as a bridge book between Western and Eastern culture. The second was Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures (1992) which was pitched at TSR as a sequel to Oriental Adventures, showing how popular the setting remained almost a decade after its release. (The released version of Al-Qadim doesn’t actually reference Oriental Adventures, which may have been out-of-print by that time.)

Wizards of the Coast reused the name more recently to produce Oriental Adventures (2001), but this 3e book depicts the Legend of the Five Rings (1997) world of Rokugan rather than the classic land of Kara-Tur.

About the Creators. Cook got his start with D&D with A1: "Slave Pits of the Undercity" (1980), but he was better known for his Basic D&D work prior to 1985. Following the publication of Oriental Adventures, Cook contributed to several Asian-influenced supplements at TSR, including three of the "OA" adventure books, The Horde (1990), and the related Horselands (1990) novel. He even returned to the topic in the d20 era, contributing to Green Ronin's Jade Dragons & Hungry Ghosts (2001), a book of Asian monsters.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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Reviews (6)
Discussions (62)
Customer avatar
Joshy K September 27, 2022 6:32 am UTC
would love POD of one of the books that originally got me interested in D&D (:
Customer avatar
Simon W September 23, 2022 10:30 am UTC
It's a "Mithral Seller" and still WOTC is not willing to make it POD? :O
Customer avatar
George M September 23, 2022 1:55 am UTC
PURCHASER
It has always boggled my mind how exactly this book could ever be considered racist. It's not like I'm an expert on the subject, but I'm half-Japanese and I grew up during the 1980s in the middle of White America (Colorado, where there were very few Asian people at all). I faced a fair amount of racism as a kid, and when I first started playing 1st Edition AD&D in 1981, I was quick to notice that there was no real representation for people like me. When OA came out in 1985, I was thrilled beyond words; I finally had the ability to play a hero that represented someone from my culture, and as such, it very quickly became my favorite book from that game.

Funny thing, too; almost everywhere else you looked in American culture, Asian men were always portrayed as weak and sexually inadequate, whereas Asian women were portrayed as playthings/sex dolls. OA was very much the opposite, in that it was one of the few things out there that portrayed Asian men and women as heroes/heroines, and I have yet...See more
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Simon W September 23, 2022 10:29 am UTC
Thanks for contributing your experiences to this discussion, George. :)
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Daniel R August 26, 2022 9:52 pm UTC
PURCHASER
POD Please!!
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Chris S July 22, 2022 5:17 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I'm not sure if this is a download issue, but my copy of this book is nearly illegible. It looks like a resolution issue, but some of the words do not have distinguishable letters.
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Chris S July 23, 2022 5:07 am UTC
PURCHASER
To follow up, it is absolutely an issue with the app (even when I download it again after deleting it, the issues remain, but that might be a cached data problem?). When I manually download the PDF, it is perfectly legible. I'm sorry if I made anyone worry about the quality of the scan.
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Matthew P July 31, 2022 1:48 pm UTC
PURCHASER
IS the PDF Book marked?
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Chris S August 03, 2022 4:17 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I feel like you already have your answer, based on that "purchaser" tag, but yes it is.
Customer avatar
Kenneth Ian V July 16, 2022 3:02 pm UTC
IF YOU WANT A POD (Sorry for the all caps, it gets lost otherwise)

I contacted DriveThruRPG and they said a POD is completely out of their hands; you have to contact Wizards of the Coast and ask them directly.
So: Here is Wizard's phone number from facebook: +1 425-226-6500

https://www.facebook.com/Wizards-of-the-Coast-540208589333239/about/?ref=page_internal

[WoTC used to have an email address and a "contact Wizards on Messenger" link but those have disappeared in the last couple of months. LOL. Please take my money. Go away annoying consumer. Ah, corporate joy.]
Customer avatar
Greg H April 05, 2022 11:48 pm UTC
I would really like to get this in a hardback book, can I order it as one?
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Customer avatar
Simon W April 06, 2022 7:45 am UTC
Not from DM's Guild/DriveThruRPG, yet.

You can try buying it 2nd hand.

Also, maybe some printing companies would print the PDF as a book and even bind it with a hard cover. I'm not sure if that's possible.

Otherwise, we can continue asking Wizards of the Coast to make it available as a hardcover Print On Demand, until they are convinced to do so.
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ronny A August 03, 2022 8:10 pm UTC
PURCHASER
it's totally possible. a lot of print shops will be happy to do it.
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Tapio P March 18, 2022 2:41 am UTC
POD Please!!
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Daniel R February 11, 2022 8:55 pm UTC
PURCHASER
POD please
Customer avatar
William L February 01, 2022 12:32 am UTC
PODx1000.
Customer avatar
Daniel S January 08, 2022 12:49 am UTC
Well, the comment section has been an interesting read! This is a great book. I can't believe I didn't have this back in the day, but after all the broohaa I tracked down an original copy (as well as an original Kara-Tur) for myself as I am sure WotC won't add this as POD. I would have bought it POD if it were available, but alas, 'twas not to be.

It is fantastic. It really captures the spirit of AD&D without the verbosity of Gygax's prose (which has an appeal, I'll admit) and casts a nice net over a selection of cultures.

Yes, as noted there is a heavier focus on Japan, and yes, it was written by and for a predominantly northern American audience (*see footnote) though a quick look on ye olde internet will reveal the love and sheer enjoyment that this product has garnered from a wide variety of players (and I mean a wide variety). This love is both for the product, and its subject matter. The book itself clearly shows great affection and respect for its subject matter (see Eric...See more
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Simon W January 08, 2022 1:53 pm UTC
Hi Daniel, when you say "Daniel Kwan who of course represents all Asians", you were being sarcastic, yeah? I know people from Asia who enjoyed Oriental Adventures. E.g. When I was a teenager, I DMed some Oriental Adventures for 2 friends, one of whom was an Indigenous guy from Guam (an island in Asia). He enjoyed the adventures we played.

Will Oriental Adventures be banned? We do not know the future. What we do know is that the future depends on what we, the people of the world, do.

Let's take action to ensure that harmless books are not censored by "identity politics" and people with vested interests (author of new Asian fantasy products, Daniel Kwan, benefits by slandering and potentially stifling the AD&D Oriental Adventures products).

Let's take action to ensure that no-one censors harmless books, especially books that actually show Asian cultures in a positive way and make D&D more culturally inclusive, as the Oriental Adventures book does....See more
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Customer avatar
Daniel S January 09, 2022 1:49 pm UTC
I would like to take this opportunity to confirm my extreme sarcasm (I should have made it plainer -my apologies!). As to your other points: indeed. I'm not sure how motivated I am to gather signatures for a petition, but yes, I agree with you.
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Customer avatar
Simon W January 09, 2022 5:52 pm UTC
:D Daniel S, even your comments are helpful in supporting this cause. Also, thanks for your kind words. Game on! :D
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Simon W January 09, 2022 6:26 pm UTC
By the way, Daniel, this petition is relevant, in case you're interested in signing it:

https://www.change.org/p/company-wizards-com-wizards-of-the-coast-should-remove-the-disclaimer-statement-on-all-of-its-legacy-products
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Customer avatar
Daniel S January 10, 2022 12:09 am UTC
Many thanks, I will happily sign.

I genuinely hope that companies such as WotC start to show a bit more respect for their legacy content. I would rather deal with companies that understand that we, as adults, understand the nuances of context. I hope that they begin to steer away from those who champion insipid superficiality, while achieving little or no actual good in the real world (and, as you have pointed out, reaping literal financial benefits for themselves).

But I ramble...

Conclusion: Oriental Adventures is excellent. Buy it.
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Customer avatar
Daniel S January 10, 2022 12:28 am UTC
Edit: "while achieving little or no actual good in the real world" should be a generality. I don't know Mr Kwan beyond his public stance on OA, so if he's out there doing good in the community, well done to him.
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Customer avatar
Kenneth Ian V May 01, 2022 12:01 am UTC
Thank you for posting this! The petition doesn't seem to be very well known or advertised so any promotion is good.
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Simon W May 01, 2022 9:10 am UTC
:)
Customer avatar
Garrett K November 13, 2021 4:59 am UTC
POD!
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Customer avatar
Adam S December 23, 2021 6:26 pm UTC
What he said!
Customer avatar
Travis M August 12, 2021 7:54 pm UTC
I have fond memories of this product as well as Al-Qadim. The rules were a little clunky at the time, and the setting very much Japan-centered, but the world-building was fantastic, as were the adventures.
Customer avatar
Eric R July 30, 2021 5:22 pm UTC
There's a lot of folks saying that Oriental Adventures is "racist," but if they would only get past the cover, they would see that the authors show great respect for East Asian cultures. References to the "exotic East" and such are only found on the binding, and might be from the marketing department, not the authors. Inside, the information about East Asia is both balanced and based on historical research, and I say that as someone with a PhD in East Asian history. Had the series been called the "Land of Kara Tur," it would still be part of 5e. Playing the game is no more racist than playing any other East Asian themed RPG or video game. On the contrary, it might inspire many to learn more about East Asian culture. So don't judge this book by its cover.
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Customer avatar
Maung Thaw H August 12, 2021 3:15 am UTC
Well, in my honest take, I think the book is dated.
Like I get it that it was trying to emulate samurai or Kung Fu genre in RPG, but Legend of 5 Rings, Bushido, Feng Shui, and Exalted did that better even if it was later.
Well, you like it but you also have to account "homebrewing, DM skills, put aside complicated or unnecessary rules, and ability to make interesting campaign with your knowledge and integrate to gameplay" (also maybe using Bushido as other OA player stated too). Not sure if you are a DM or writer, but nostlagia paints a different picture especially if you aren't DMing it (like a clever DM who may spend a lot of time trying to make it interesting instead of "RULE AS WRITTEN").
My major issue is 1. Japanese centrism, which is they are operating on Japanese terms and classes (Samurai, Bushi, Shugenja, Ninja, and Yakuza), but really out of place when it is placed in non-Japanese countries (again, not this book since it is clear that it was Japanese fantasy focused,...See more
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Customer avatar
Simon W August 13, 2021 5:27 pm UTC
You can call ALL older editions of D&D "dated", but the fact is that many people enjoy them. I much prefer BECMI D&D and AD&D 1st and 2nd edition over D&D 5th edition. My reasons are the same as those described by Noah Antwiler in his 2-part YouTube video review of 5th edition, especially:

(1) the replacement of bonuses and penalties to attack rolls with the "advantage" and "disadvantage" rule, which makes it the same to attack a blinded, prone enemy from behind as attacking an enemy who is simply prone (and the same difficulty for a prone character to attack as a character who is prone AND blinded, etc.).
(2) the lack of variety, because everything is so unrealistically balanced, like a video game - e.g. the characters of each class end up very similar to others of the same class, and
(3) the lack of risk, because everything is so unrealistically balanced, like a video game - e.g. the DM is urged to make every encounter easy to overcome with...See more
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Customer avatar
Eric R August 13, 2021 8:23 pm UTC
Hi Muang,
Thanks for continuing the discussion.

I think Simon responded to many of your points about magic and the Japan-centric setting of Oriental Adventures. While it's true that the earliest materials were that way, as Simon noted, later modules focus on campaign events on the continent where the countries were patterned after premodern China, Korea and even Tibet. I'm running an Oriental Adventures game right now as DM and the PCs will be traveling away from "Japan-centered" Kozakura soon to the continent (but please don't tell them that).

The original Oriental Adventures book, published in 1985, was certainly a product of its time. The USA was experiencing a "Japan boom" in the 1980s with the mini-series Shogun coming out in 1980, sushi becoming popular, and many experts explaining Japan's postwar "economic miracle," and attributing it (for better or worse) to cultural factors. Were the same books written today, I am sure that they would...See more
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Customer avatar
Maung Thaw H August 14, 2021 3:33 am UTC
The last part, was mostly based on Tabot/Tibet's landmarks or adventures involving "rumors of a pool that extends life" that would seem interesting but potion of longevity being common in said setting might not be interesting. That or misreading it as "official adventure" instead of "suggestion of adventures".
Well, for the wizards, I wasn't talking wizards specificially, what I am asking is "what makes Wu Jen unique other than asian-flavored wizards with paladin-esque strictures?".
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Customer avatar
killog12 K September 09, 2021 9:39 am UTC
Everything you just said, Simon, is a fact.
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Product Information
Mithral seller
Author(s)
Pages
144
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1.0
ISBN
0-88038-099-3
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TSR2018
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