Issue #39, June 2018
ISSN 2206-4907 (Online)
The Far East
Interview with Lee Gold … Reviews of Bushido, GURPS China, Legend of the Five Rings, Jade Dragons, Land of Samurai ... Oriental Mystara ... D&D Gargantua ... D&D and T&T Hengeyokai ... Gulliver's Trading Company ... GURPS Korea ... Ainu Nezumi ... The Malay Archipelago
Table of Contents
RPG Review is a quarterly online magazine which will be available in print version at some stage. Maybe a ten year anniversary? All material remains copyright to the authors except for the reprinting as noted in the first sentence. Contact the author for the relevant license that they wish to apply. Various trademarks and images have been used in this magazine of review and criticism. Use of trademarks etc are for fair use and review purposes and are not a challenge to trademarks or copyrights. This includes GURPS by Steve Jackson Games, Legend of the Five Rings by AEG., Tunnels & Trolls by Flying Buffalo, Cover image of The Orient by Herbet Moll (1729) updated and copyright by Karl Brown 2018. Multiverse image from rpgeek.com, from the second issue of the magazine. Map of Skothar from www.pandius.com by Christian Constantin. Xiongnu raids during the Han dynasty, by Qiushufang (CCSA4). Yeti from AD&D Monster Manual. Rat by Banksy. Ptolemy’s Barge from Nicolaes Witsen.
Welcome to the 39th edition of RPG Review, in our tenth year of operations, focusing on “the Far East” as our subject matter. It is curious to think that we now have been going for longer than some of the publications which we cite as influences, but in some respects it is easier to do a “semi-professional” ‘zine on the Internet these days than it was to do a professional magazine from the earlier days of the hobby. Certainly our expenses (especially wages and printing) are a lot lower. People can probably tell that the editorial quality isn’t quite as good either. In that regard we must must really thank in particular those people who make contributions to this long-lasting journal.
In this regard, we can but stand in awe in at the work of Lee Gold, whose APAzine, Alarums & Excursions, has been running consistently since 1976 and is arguably the single most important cultural artefact of the hobby as a result. Lee of course is the author of gaming products such as Land of the Rising Sun, the first “Far East” roleplaying game, along with GURPS Japan, which makes her a particularly apt interview subject for this issue.
In addition to the aforementioned interview, astoundingly regular contributor Karl Brown makes excellent contributions to the journal, and this exception is no different. His articles in this issue include Gargantua, potent monsters with an East Asian flavour for D&D 5th edition, a co-authored article with Rachel Ghoul for Hengeyokai, a shape-shifting PC kin, Hengeyokai for Tunnels & Trolls 5.5 edition, and a campaign story for Gulliver's Trading Company. Karl also did the necessary head-hunting to find Francesco Defferrari who from the Threshold magazine has provided us a cross-posted article on Oriental Adventures in the old BECMI D&D setting of Mystara.
My own contributions include a review of several appropriate RPG systems and supplements over the course of our hobby. This includes Bushido (1981), GURPS China (1991), Legend of the Five Rings (1997), Jade Dragons & Hungry Ghosts (2001), and RuneQuest Land of Samurai (2008). In addition I have written two system articles, one on alternative “roll and keep” resolution system (such as used in L5R), along with two campaign articles, one based on the Malay archipelago of the 16th century, and another on the Ainu in Japan from roughly the same period. Another regular contributor Michael Cole, has provided a summary of a GURPS Korea game, albeit on that was mostly set in China.
Overall, I am happy to say that we’ve at least touched upon most of the games and geographical settings of the Far East in this issue. It is perhaps unsurprising that Japan and China feature so prominently, indeed there were several Japanese RPGs and supplements that are not described at all. Some of these have been described in previous issues (e.g., Fox Magic RPG Review Issue 6) as is some setting information (e.g., “Thai Influences in Gamandria”, Issue 26-27). Still, there are gaps; Korea, The Phillipines, Vietnam, and Cambodia is barely touched on, Thailand has next to nothing, Myanmar, Laos, and even Far Eastern Federal District of Russia nothing at all. This oversight is unfortunate as there is hundreds of millions of people in such areas with rich cultural and mythological traditions.
Now of course we recognise that even the term “the Far East” represents the point of view of European explorers and colonists. To the people who live in such places they are certainly not far, nor are they east. Perhaps if one was to use the international date line the region could be called “Early Day” or something like that. I don’t however see that term catching on in the immediate future. Still, if there is any population that’s shown some willingness to step beyond their own cultural boundaries and explore what is different about others and discover how much more is the same - it has been members of the RPG community. In that spirit, this special issue of RPG Review it is hoped can make at least a small contribution.
RPG Review Cooperative
A fairly normal month for the Cooperative, as we continue with our two main publications, The Tinker's Toolkit for D&D 5th edition by Karl Brown (http://www.dmsguild.com/product/232813/The-Tinkers-Toolkit) and Papers & Paychecks by Lev Lafayette (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/227291/Papers--Paychecks). Please note that all proceeds from Papers & Paychecks go to the RPG Review Cooperative.
Cooperative library has now expanded to over 700 items, with the
influx of donations from Paul Smith in particular being worthy of
special note. We have continued with our regular movie nights at the
Astor Theatre with special recognition of the 50th anniversary
screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. We're also involved in promoting
Arcanacon 2019, which was the longest RPG convention in Melbourne,
until it was cancelled in 2018. Also, we're promoting a RuneQuest
Down Under Con for November this year.
Most of you will know that the RPG Review store has closed down temporarily, as the site which hosted it (Quicksales) is no longer in operation. This does provide us, of course, the opportunity to do a stock-take and to reorganise the store. We raise a number of questions for those who use this resource for consideration; how do you prefer an online RPG store to be organised? By game system? By publisher? Alphabetically? By year of publication? Where do you prefer related material to go (e.g., computer games, wargames, board games)?
Our inquiring minds seek advice! Because collectively we know more than any of us individually can know.
Who is that Spider Woman?
Hey, I seem to remember your half spider-woman mascot being based on something from medieval France- what’s her name?
The RPG Review logo of Arachne is from Greek mythology, although the artist Gustave Dore was French from 19th century (c.f., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Dor%C3%A9).
Arachne, who had the temerity to challenge Athena to a weaving contest. The goddess turned her into a spiderwoman (c.f., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arachne). The logo is a study from the Dore’s 12 Canto of Dante’s Purgatory.
Hope this helps, Lev
Back in the day there was "Multiverse" magazine on which there was a recent rpg.net thread.
The crew who put this together also included Super Squadron author Joe Italiano, who published a letter in RPG Review
I'm interested in this part of Australian gaming history, as this team (Adventure Simulations?) were able to get a RPG magazine into mainstream distribution in Australia (however briefly) and put out a boxed RPG.
What are the chances of an interview and article on this? Do you know any of the key people apart from Joe Italiano? I'd be happy to conduct email interview/s and write up an article if you have contact with some of these guys and could make the introduction.
Also on Aussie gaming history, I'd love to read some interviews or an article about the history of Mind Games.
You're right Joseph Italiano was a mainstay in Multiverse, along with editors Toni Teolaa and Robert Mun.
Other regular contributors included Mark Angeli (who also worked on Werewolf: The Wild West, Lordly Domains for Pendragon, and Corum), Greg Ingram (who also did the industry news for the magazine as well as numerous articles), Mark Morrison (who has had many Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer scenarios and supplements published by Chaosium), and Garth Nix, who has since gone to become a famous author of children's and young adult fiction. Any and all of these people are potential interview subjects.
As for Mind Games, we have a member of the Cooperative who has some contacts in that regard and I'll pass the request on to them.
All the best, Lev