Friday, 3 January 2020

Oriental Adventures Round Up

This was peak 1st ed with proficiencies, exotic martial art slots, lots of new monsters and classes. It had lots of problems too but good supplements came out for it. It suffers for it's time being a strange hodgepodge of history and classes focus on Japan really. Most of the adventures remained in pseudo Japan campaign areas despite a detailed world and another box of faux central Asia to join the forgotten realms map which was nice. Some of the claims about this era of dnd are a bit silly by people with poor knowledge of the game. Glorantha fans on some forums have become greedy cultural plunderers mashing up pop archaeology and sometimes living including cultures. The word orientals is pretty imprecise like calling it a Asian roleplaying setting, and is a bit dated.

I don't really like pure samurai gaming, pretty similar feeling i get playing vampires or crime lords or SS for some reason. But being a mix of peasants, ronin, holy folk and magicians worked better to me. I kinda find the newer Rokugan setting contrived to justify necessity of samurai and their horrible class system where whole villages would die for the fault of one person kind of discipline. I did like how half party would be ninjas in disguise and would want side quests. I liked my wujen ninja who with martial arts backstab almost killed a kaiju (few samurai with bows helped and got credit). Had awesome kensai cat lady character with katana. My homebrew of dnd incorporates lots from this era. I love the spirit folk races and my changelings race is based on them. I think I played a ninja in Call of Cthulhu once.

Red Tide book from drive through is a sorta samurai vs orcs and a moral evil existential force invading. Yoon Suin more like a cambodia/ankhor or thailand part of the orient. It is a great book and honestly running that and plundering content from OA products would be a great idea.

So anyway a quick look at the products to support the OA handbook:

Kara Tur Box Set 
My copy has lost box and possibly other bits is now in a pouch.
I had this and sold it and the central asia and hollow earth boxes as I was just getting into more history and gurps stuff in 90s. Gurps China and Japan are great. RQ3 had a very dry samurai box set with some cool new abilities for people who max out in skills can develop a ki power version of skill. Japan and martial arts and ninjas were popular in the 80s especially in video stores. I think as a teen this book was pretty solid and dense for a TSR book. It was a bit intimidating and low in illustration using mostly recycled art from other products. It has 2 books and a lots of maps and I think it had those acetate hex sheets originally.

Dives straight into gazeteer no preamble or anything going strsainght from the hardcover. So basically has three China's which is pretty ok. Has great table on ministries for empire I love. Lots of secret societies and monasteries, religions, philosophies, etc. It has a Tibet and a great mnorthern waste with primitives and OA dwarves all into shamanism. Many OA priest class are good shamanic type spells for a shaman spell list. Various Jungle and Island peoples. New monsters, and adventure ideas. Finally two Japans. I did get this again and it has lots of good bits to steal. Rare for me to say it but density of it and the scope is pretty daunting. Several regions Im kinda not sure exactly what inspired them but many I can tell. The jungle would blend into Yoon Suin ok, It isnt too hard to get which is good.

O1 Swords of the Diamyo 
One of my favorite modules ever that continues to inspire me even though I only just got it after 30 odd years apart. Inside covers is a weather and long distance sailing map system to reach the forgotten realms by sea that is good with a Kara-Tur map inside. there is section on book with sea exploration tables that is good too. This isnt just a module it is a major expansion detailing Kozakura province of Miyama where you arrive after crossing the sea in adventure 1. I suppose this is if you want a campaign to start with western characters.  The other adventures are for locals but account for travelling foreigners. The second adventure is defending a village from evil black temple monastery sohei.  Adventure 3 is longer and traveling to region to find the secret of the boss. It is pretty linear. Adventures are half of one book. We have a timeline of the country, new creatures, pregens with family chart, kozakura province hex map 40 mile scale, maps of the province showing clans and wilderness areas. A city map, a village map, a monastry map and a fortified residence for rich and a samurai house map all handy additions to maps in core hardback OA book.

The second book has a intro on kozakura geography and climate. There is a good list of court titles. Then detail on province Miyama, quite detailed with nobility bloodlines, armies, religion, samurai families. The gazeteer part has random hex content for exploringthat is one of best ever followed by details of specific hexes. There are shrines, villages, watch towers, haunted places, lots of adventure hooks. I did run this hexcrawl and It set a style i still go by. The adventures are pretty linear but brief but the sandbox here was very good for player directed action and story.

OA2 Night of the Seven Swords 
A more standard module with cover fold has a new province map, a huge isometric complex, caves maps, a fancy inn map too, its a find clan relics in a haunted castle gig in some political intrigue gig. It is more of a dungeoncrawl really. Has a 48 page book inside with quick province guide and timeline. The haunted castle is well rrally haunted even needing a ghost bridge to get there. There are random visions and phantoms too. Then you have to get through hostile wilderness to get home tobattle in a fancy inn full of nobles over intrigue. Ideas in the haunting for tragic spirits are good and similar to my gotthic setting. You could stick this in Ravenloft in part

OA3 Ochimo the Spirit Warrior 
A threefold cover with siedeways and isometric map of a huge te,ple complex with lots of moats. The back has a hex map of a Island. This is set in one of the threee mainland dragon empires, Shou Lung. It has a timeline, mythology and history and government info. Page 7 gets into adventure. So merchants send you to sea immediately to a small island settled four times in past under kozakura after explaining would use non-kozakuran setting. Most recently buerocrats discoverd Shou Lunged owned island and sent a colony. A local evil spirit wants them gone. Adventurers step in. There is a nice reception hall map for meeting patron. A sailing adventure to reach the islands, then a section detailing the island with encounters and events. You get to hear about evil heart of Island and find other stuff exploring. Attacking the huge temple with monsters then entering some spirit world to fight a dead spirit king. Its good stuff with a bit of courtly stuff then onto huge monster hunt in a fancy dungeon. its pretty good.

0A4 Blood of the Yakuza 
The inside of the threefold has a clan map, and another map of Kara Tur then a foldout map of a city for gangs to fued over. im imagining rooftop night fights already. A 48 page book set in Wa (Tokagawa Inspired) a more unified version of Kazakura (warring states). A big timeline of Wa, stricter politics then into the city Nakamaru. It has history, calender, districts, architecture, factions, nobles, gangs, ninja, temples, forigners, etc. Adventures are gang related political adventures. Then there are encounters for city districts, events and a final battle.  There is also a 16 page encounter construction booklet with npcs, a npc gen table with names, jobs, personality, the maps of castle, a temple, samurai compund, samurai residence and entertainment district map. Crime war intrigue is a good idea and we get a nice detailed city. 

OA5 Mad Monkey vs the Dragons Claw 
This one has forgotten realms logo on cover. Only a twofold cover with a a tomb and a underground river and city. T'u Lung one of the other Dragon empires is the feature region and it also features the celestial bureaucracy. Its also about feuding martial artists. Has a detailed timeline and describes two martial arts. The adventure could be a sequel to Jeff Grubs OA2. You arive from some other nation then get to guard some guy going south into the Shou dragon empire, and some very very long boxed texts. There is a sea journey as is in a few OA books which I like. I guess as you get more higher level you get international travel. Mad monkey island moves around which is cheating for a place you seek. You get to train up in mad monkey style then back to encounters and events in TuLung which includes on a encounter table martial arts refugees and evil sects.  I guess you can battle guys you meet on the road just for martial arts sake. There are events, a city, a ruined city, ruined farms, shrines a really cool library and lots of fighting dragonclaw monks. Finally you go down a underground river to a underground sunken city to defeat the dragon claw. A monkey deity might give you the biggest buff for a battle I have ever seen. Seriously wow matrix level power up. You get to max out with a martial art and use it thanks to temporary knowledge from the cult demigod. So cheers for this bit of fun. I like the martial arts duel is in part monkey god vs a demon and other spirits involved.

OA6 Ronin Challenge 
Now with second ed logo. Gatefold has two panels with all weapon tables and an ad for RPGA network with a province map of Shou Lung. There is a 96 page book and two double sided fold out maps. One has temple one side with neat views depending on facing in colour, then a section of a city once again screams roof chase. The other is a big province colour map and inside a B&W map showing where all product maps in setting are on world map. It has Chinese names for OA classes so you don't feel like its ancient china occupied by Japan but then art does samurai anyway. It has lots of imperial court life stuff and starts at a impirial martial arts tournament and bridge top building (I love these).

This tournament is huge and reveals a traitor you must hunt into exotic long lost mountan valleys. You get a magic hen.  Mountain and village encounters, meet a sage and explore a cave, fight king kong and meet increasingle exotic foriegners. Including tribals in a swamp then some bunch of sultanate Indians with turbans and elephants and jungles. There is a ghost village, a spider valley, a amazing library and important books, some bizzare chess game with a dragon and life size statue armies. There is a appendix on Kara Tur language and notes on new regions language which i partly translated a curry menu with. Plus mountain outposts for empire detailed. It's a big long journey to the west like Monkey by Wung Pu Eng through lots of strange valleys.  Probably 4-8 sessions play.

OA7 Test of the Samurai 
Inside 3fold has a time track chart and a peninsula map and that same map of Kara Tur. Onesided colour fold out map with peninsula of Wa, a city and a strange wilderness hexcrawl.  There is disapearances! Woo! Supernatural corruption and omens afoot. You meet unicorns and a pheonix. It follows previous module diving straight into supernatural malarchy and exitement. the party may carry reincarnated essence of some old clan put their by gods. You get to explore a magical land and get up to all kinds of supernatural monkeyshines in a magical land. Some of the most powerful monsters Ive ever seen. Once again a few months of play here. I would say these are on linear side but still good.

Interesting the evolution of this line to including lots of travel by land and sea, also going from sandbox then to dungeon crawls to sprawling exploration wilderness campaigns. Sill think 0A1 sandbox was best.


  1. Great article. I had the Oriental Adventures book and read through it a million times but never got to play in a campaign. I hope with virtual tabletop online gaming that *someday* I'll get my chance.

    1. it was the hot game of the day. I had two parties and several times had both with 12 players, half were ninja others mostly samurai.

      Lots of peaople into larping and role playing honour codes and such. Instead of meeting in a tavern you meet in a lords palace.

  2. I liked the quasi-historical spin of OA but bevertheless the most fun I had playying it was an OA/Dragonlance mashup where the PCs were Kender, Gnome, Gully Dwarf, and Kobokuru samurais and ninjas.

  3. Sounds gonzo awesome
    Executing evil guys with public beheading would be a treat

  4. I liked the events tables. Beyond that I don't think I used anything from the game.

    1. sorry just to be clear do you mean AD&D 1st ed or do you mean a particular book? 8 books mentioned for a game unsure which you mean


I love and welcome feedback but not spambots
Good feedback and suggestions inspire me to write more