[Let's Read] Oriental Adventures (1e)

MacBalance

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Another somewhat random thought: Compare Oriental Adventures to the peak GURPS era of tons of sourcebooks (3rd edition?) which I believe was after this. While not my favorite system, those did an impressive job distilling a topic down and providing jumping-off points to players and DMs.

This is not quite in that category, but I think this book aspires to be there.
 

MacBalance

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GURPS 1E got released the next year, in 1986.
That late? I figured it would have been early 80s. I think 3e was the "peak GURPS" for print releases, at least. Tons of books, often great treatments of historical or mythological subjects that are a great first step as research for a lot of possible settings.

Oh, here's the maps from the back of Oriental Adventures:

Spoiler: Show






I like them, although the lack of a world map is frustrating. They also seem unusually large in the sense that they're single-page maps that are nearly ready for modern battle mat usage. The closest thing I can think of is the later Spelljammer deck plans, but they went for a more 'traditional' scale of 1/4" representing 5'.
 

Gemini476

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It's somewhat interesting how they don't even pretend to be drawn to the grid - for the better, IMHO, but it's not something you see that much of these days.

As for not having a world map, that's probably because those are pretty expensive if they're going to be useful (and heavily setting-specific). You can't expect a finished map to fit into an existing DM-original world map easily, but the rough textual descriptions let you make one yourself that fits better.
 

AbdulAlhazred

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That late? I figured it would have been early 80s. I think 3e was the "peak GURPS" for print releases, at least. Tons of books, often great treatments of historical or mythological subjects that are a great first step as research for a lot of possible settings.
TFT was originally published by Metagaming, and was itself based on Melee and Wizard, which were published around 1978 or 79 as micro games. Metagaming's boss apparently thought TFT was too complicated and SJ left in 1980. Metagaming tanked in '83, but even then SJ couldn't buy back the rights to TFT, so at some point between then and '86 he started over and developed GURPS, which is pretty much an elaboration of TFT into a generic system. There were a few other projects between 78 and 83 or so that were basically 'proto GURPS'. I remember we did some playtesting on a few of them since we were a rather large group of gamers and had some connections with folks in Austin, but I'm not even really sure exactly who was trying to do what. Anyway, the point is GURPS wasn't really a particularly early system, mainly because of the whole Metagaming/TFT thing putting Steve out of the RPG publishing space for a while. Its lucky that he ended up with the rights to OGRE and Car Wars!

I like them, although the lack of a world map is frustrating. They also seem unusually large in the sense that they're single-page maps that are nearly ready for modern battle mat usage. The closest thing I can think of is the later Spelljammer deck plans, but they went for a more 'traditional' scale of 1/4" representing 5'.
1" = 10' was the standard back then, I never saw anyone use 1" = 20', so it was hardly 'traditional' back in the day. Also I'm not sure why you refer to battle mat usage as 'modern'. We had Chessex 1" ruled erasable mats, backed with a hex grid on the flip side, well before 1980. Actually I'm not sure the early ones had the Chessex imprint on them, but they were the same thing. My original one eventually rotted, otherwise I'd go find out what was printed on it. We also used to mark 1" grids on large sheets of white paper and lay them under plexy on our gaming tables and then use china markers on that. I admit, AD&D rules were not written in a specifically square-centric fashion, movement and AoE were described in inches, but in practice we would move our figures around by counting squares and informally the rule was one guy could fit in a square (maybe the DM tweaked that a bit if they had certain weapons or for something like kobolds).

4e for example was no surprise to me, it fits pretty cleanly within the general practice we had back as far as the late 1970's in terms of map usage and combat conventions.
 

Bình

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I can shed a little light on some of these Vietnamese monsters.

Last for now is the Con-Tinh which is another lesser spirit with a tree connection. In this case, they're bound to an old tree that can be attacked to hurt the spirit. A Con-tinh, which appears to be from Vietnamese roots, is a spirit of a maiden who died before their time. They hide in the branches of their tree during the day and come out at night to attack people.
"Con Tinh" is a Vietnamese word, but all the evil dryad stuff is either invented or mixed up from another legend. In Vietnamese, "con tinh" (pronounced something like "kawn ting") is more like an ent or a treant. In folk belief, any living thing that survives for 1000 years will become sentient and animate. A con tinh is a really old tree that has "awakened" like this. They aren't necessarily evil, but they will definitely have a fae-like tendency to screw with humans. If you go to any rural village in Vietnam, you'll notice that any big old tree is surrounded by little offerings left by people who want to be on its good side if it crosses that age threshold and wakes up.

Next up is the Doc Cu'o'c which is a greater spirit.i believe this may have been stated in D&D multiple ways, despite the strangely specific appearance as a half of a man's body split down the middle (so one leg, one arm) holding an axe. The axe does 1d8 damage but has a bonus electrical damage equal to the monster's current HP. They lair on the astral plane, which they can easily access with their array of at-will spell-like powers.

Did I mention this is a good spirit? Despite being pretty horrifying, this is a good spirit that actively protects against lesser spirits. Just don't make it mad by stealing from its Astral lair, which will cause it to wreck the area.

I've seen a few references that this spirit is Vietnamese in origin, adding another monster outside the expected Chinese/Japanese domination. I also remember seeing the concept in some other Let's Read threads, perhaps under a different name.
This is Độc Cước (there's no way to write the pronunciation without extensive use of rarer IPA symbols, so let's just say that if you heard it said, you would think it sounds like "dope cook"). Độc Cước is a fancy way of saying "one leg". If he was a European legend, his name would probably be "Monopod". He was a legendary giant. There's a temple dedicated to him in the village that he was said to protect (there are some big divots in the stone by the sea that look like giant footprints, so they say that's where he once walked). He protected the village from monster attacks and helped chop wood and clear fields during peaceful times. Then one day the village was attacked by "red nosed goblins" that attacked from the forest and from the sea simultaneously. Độc Cước couldn't be in two places at once... or could he? He used his tree-felling axe to cut himself in half from head to groin. Half of him hopped toward the forest to fight the goblins on that front and the other half waded into the sea to fight the attackers coming from that direction. He saved the village but decided to go out on patrol to keep the village safe, so he doesn't live there anymore, but he's still out there somewhere: half of him in the forest and half of him in the sea. There are a lot of unique giants in the folklore with their own magic powers, so it doesn't really seem that unusual that Độc Cước could cut himself in half and be ok.

Today let's look at the Hai Nu which is a sort of local equivilent of a mermaid, perhaps a bit more practical than the stereotypical clamshell-bikini variant.
This is a Chinese name but I can recognize it from the Vietnamese cognates. The Vietnamese words "Hải nữ" would be the Viet pronunciations of the Chinese characters for "sea woman". There are probably some dialects of Chinese that are similar (the "Hai" for "sea" is in the name of Shanghai). The Vietnamese word for mermaid is actually "nàng tiên cá" (which is something like "fish fairy maiden"), but I think it's a new word made up to translate European stories like "The Little Mermaid". "Fairies" in Vietnamese folktales are usually associated with mountains and birds and explicitly not the water. The legendary origin of the Vietnamese people is actually based on the idea that fairies and dragons just come from two very different worlds and can't really live together. They say they are descended from 100 kings who were the sons of a fairy and a dragon, but their parents got amicably divorced because "fairies are bird kind and dragons are water kind". The dragon took 50 sons into the sea and the fairy kept 50 sons on land to found the first Vietnamese kingdom between the mountains and the sea.

The Kuei is another lesser spirit and is a "demon-ghost" that resembles a more classical ghost in D&D lore: A spirit of someone who needs to finish something unfinished in life.
The Vietnamese pronunciation of the Chinese character "kuei" is "quái" and just means "monster" in general. "Ma" is the generic ghost/demon/vampire thing. Put them together and you get the compound "ma quái", which is all kinds of monsters in general (this is cognate to "mogwai", the little monsters in the Gremlins movies). In fact, a Vietnamese "monster manual" would be "cẩm nang ma quái". Now that I think of it, there are a lot of different specific kinds of "ma" (so many crazy vampires!) but "quái" is mostly a generic monster thing.
 
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