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[Let's Read] Oriental Adventures: The Supplements

MacBalance

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In this thread I will be reviewing the various supplements released by TSR for AD&D 1e/2e under the Oriental Adventures branding. This collection spans two editions and was rolled into the Forgotten Realms as that setting became dominant. This is a follow-up to the previous Let's Read of Oriental Adventures.

Here's what I intend to cover:

  • OA1 Swords of the Daimyo
  • OA2 Night of the Seven Swords
  • OA3 Ochimo: The Spirit Warrior
  • OA4 Blood of the Yakuza
  • OA5 Mad Monkey vs. the Dragon Claw
  • Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms
  • OA6 Ronin Challenge
  • OA7 Test of the Samurai
  • Maybe MC6, the Monstrous Compendium supplement for Kara-Tur.

My intent is to summarize more, with no more than 2-3 posts per adventure. The box set will need more detail, though.
 

MacBalance

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Let's roll!

First up is:

OA1: Swords of the Daimyo.



An interesting feature of several of these adventures is they're a sort of hybrid between adventure books and 'gazeteers' for specific regions of kara-Tur. This one, at least as presented in the PDF, was two books. One is the Province Book of Miyama and details a single province of Kozakura. The other is the Adventure Book of Miyama and, predictably, is the adventure portion. I think later adventures dropped the dual-book format, but maintained the format as a mix of adventure and setting info.

This book also has what I believe is the first map of Kara-Tur:
Spoiler: Show




There's a couple other maps as well. There's a detailed color hex-overlap map of the Miyama Province. Some notes on moving on it are on the traditional inside-cover, but most of that is taken up by a large 'abstract' map that is used with the adventure book for a 'sea voyage' sequence.

Province Book of Miyama

At least as of this book, the gazeteer and adventure information are synchronized: The adventure takes place in the province detailed. The intro has a disclaimer that this is a fantasy game and the language used is not meant to be a definitive or accurate translation.

While focusing on a specific province, we get a good overview of Kozakura which expands on the handful of paragraphs in Oriental Adventures. This starts with a klunker, as we're told that "Kozakura is west of Kara-Tur" which means the maps are all South-Top (possible, but unlikely) or is a typo.

Anyway, Kozakura is formed from several islands and is basically mythic Japan. Most people live in three large plains, with life in the mountains being hard and lonely. A lot of politics and warfare to rule Kozakura is based around controlling these three plains.

A section titled Place Names has a useful list of suffixes to help create place names. Stuff like a term ending in -gawa or -kawa is likely a river. So Macbalancegawa is a river that might end in Macbalancenuma, the swamp.

Next is History which starts wit a disclaimer: This section creates deities, but a DM knowledgeable in Japanese mythology or with their own existing setting may want to use that instead. This seems a bit wishy-washy. Also, I feel like a 'Japanese Pantheon' was pretty popular in most of the TSR-era books like Deities and Demigods and successors.

The coming of humans to Kozakura is lost in the past, although the korobokuru dwarves swear they came from over the sea. One or mroe gods, possibly a "Shinkoku" created the islands. Or it was "Heavenly Brother and Heavenly Sister." The korobokuru beleive it was the Bear God, Eagle Goddess, or another animal spirit.

So no real known background. The korobokuru do believe they were given the islands but had to avoid some taboo. They failed, and human tribes were allowed to move in.

The Politics of Kozakura
This section is a bit complex. It's interesting, although I'm not sure how useful it would be in actual play unless the DM wants to have the PCs deep into high-level politics.

So the Akimatsu clan conquered much of Kozakura through alliances and military might. They founded the Emperor title which is kept within the main family, but cadet branches seek leverage over the Emperor. In many cases, there can be child-Emperors appointed with a grandfather effectively ruling the Empire as regent. Old Emperors would be forced to retire. This was initially difficult, but over time became a standard office with substantial influence in the court. The Emperor, the Regent, and the Retired Emperor(s) had a full-time job handling court politics.

This led to provinces and others developing a great deal of independence. Land grants by the rulers gave power to temples who trained sohei as military forces. In time, this led to the position of shogun being created. The shogun is the most powerful daimyo (which is not defined here) and required blood ties and endorsement from the Emperor.

The shogun is the real power in Kozakura, but even that is fading as shikken rise in power. Remember how the title of Emperor became something given to children to allow power to be applied more discretely? This was repeated for the title of shogun. So a Shogunal Regent position was created.

A useful set of two lists shows some important differences:

Power
  • Shikken
  • Retired Emperor
  • Shogun
  • Emperor

Prestige
  • Emperor
  • Retired Emperor
  • Shogun
  • Shikken

Interesting system. It does feel like something that would naturally evolve in the real world. Again, I'm hesitant to say how useful it would be in practice, but it's interesting.

We get brief write-ups on the current holders of the big 4 titles. It's a bit odd that the text feels the need to state that characters are NPCs, but I'll roll with it. The current shikken is an old man at 42, while the current shogun and emperor are 17 and 15 respectively. Sounds like a setup for the shogun and emperor to decide they don't want to be figureheads and try to change the social order. The shogun gets called out for this, while the Emperor is noted as being quite happy to retire to a temple once there is a viable successor.

We also get a huge list (a column of text) of titles you'd hear involved int he Imperial court.

That's a brief overview of Kozakura. Much more in-depth than the main book, although it gets bogged down a bit in the high-level politics. Next up will be the main goal of the book, a focus on Miyama province.
 

Gemini476

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The whole thing with the Shogun being nominally less powerful than the Emperor but de facto more powerful was an actual thing in historical Japan, I'm pretty sure.
 

The Fireballed Mage

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The whole thing with the Shogun being nominally less powerful than the Emperor but de facto more powerful was an actual thing in historical Japan, I'm pretty sure.
Recall I said something about Kara-Tur being Asian Histrory with the serial numbers filed off? In some cases they were a little too faithful to the source materials.
 

MacBalance

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(re: Shogun/Emperor dynamic)
Recall I said something about Kara-Tur being Asian Histrory with the serial numbers filed off? In some cases they were a little too faithful to the source materials.
The interesting thing is if it's ever covered we also have Wa, which is a different take on the same concept.

So far I will admit there's not a lot of "fantastic" in Kozakura. A few mentions of the local version of dwarves, but that's about it.
 

Kakita Kojiro

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That's not much of a stretch; koropokguru are an Ainu legend. Of course, in the absence of a human Ainu equivalent, using the korobokuru as Ainu stand-ins basically Others them. But OA (or any D&D of that era) was never really good at this sort of stuff.
 

Marcantony

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An interesting feature of several of these adventures is they're a sort of hybrid between adventure books and 'gazeteers' for specific regions of kara-Tur.
I never knew that. At the time having limited funds I went with source material rather than adventures. I might try to track these down then. Thanks.
 
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