Sunday, April 4, 2021

Of Fantasy and Ash

OK, hold on to your helmets. You may want to sit down for this one.

I purposely waited until after April 1st to post this so you know I'm not foolin' around. 

OK, here goes...

I'm thinking about running a Dungeons and Dragon-style Medieval Fantasy campaign.

Wait! Here me out...

I don't like Dungeons and Dragons and the type of Fantasy it usually depicts isn't of particular interest to me. At the same time...after remembering my experience with an Anime themed D&D one-shot in the past, I directed my attention towards various Japanese takes on the genre from Anime, Manga, and Tabletop RPGs. 

I recalled that overall...there were a good number of them I really liked. Some are among my favorite Japanese entertainment IPs of all time. What's going on here?

Western Fantasy is remarkably popular in Japan, dating back to the earliest Fantasy novels and especially RPGs translated into Japanese from the United States. A lot of these were very influential on the those who would grow to dominate the Video and Computer Game industry, as well as the Manga and Light Novel authors of the late 70s and early 80s.

Funny enough, the first American Fantasy TRPG in Japan wasn't D&D. Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy books were translated in 1984, followed some time later by Tunnels and Trolls and Runequest. 

Dungeons and Dragons came across the sea to the Japanese isles somewhere between T&T and Runequest but never caught on at the time the way the others did. I am leaving out a number of extraordinarily popular games in Japan that aren't in the Fantasy genre, such as Call of Cthulhu and Traveller but they certainly had an effect on Japan's Game Designers system wise. 

The first Japanese Fantasy TRPG of their own to hit it really big was [and some say is] Sword World in 1989 It has a very interesting origin, now one part true and one part Otaku legend. The small but up-and-coming Anime/Manga studio known as 'Studio SNE' had an office RPG campaign going. Some say it was D&D but other sources claim it was Runequest with D&D monsters and other bits thrown in. Eventually they would turn their campaign into a series of Fantasy novels called 'Record of The Lodoss War'. 

Sword World TRPG
First Edition, Version 2.0, and Version 2.5

Lodoss was an island/nation on their campaign world of Forcella, which also featured the continent known as Crystania later seen in other Anime and Manga works, notably the film, 'The Legend of Crystania'. Following the novels, the Record of the Lodoss War story became an Original Video Animation series and years later an animated TV show. 

Eventually Studio SNE wanted to publish their own Lodoss War RPG but changes needed to be made to avoid legal issues with TSR and other American companies. A reworking of the setting and the development of new rules resulted in the Sword World RPG

Where was I? Oh exposure to all of this was very influential on my Dungeons and Dragons gaming, which had largely gone by the wayside by the mid-to-late 80s. When I did run it, it was nearly always my Winghorn Guard/Aerth setting, which is D&D by way of Anime and American Superheroes.

Thinking about it now, I wonder...

What if I could break down and analyze the parts of D&D and similar games that I'm not fond of and replace those elements with others having a more Anime/Manga feel? Hmmm. I think I am going to try to do just that!

Stay tuned and see what happens...

Barking Alien



  1. I'm in for the ride. I absolutely love Lodoss War, so I'm intrigued to see what you can sculpt from the sprawling morass of many iterations of Dungeons & Dragons to give "your game" a manga/anime feel that you're happy with.

  2. I think this sounds pretty darn cool. I don't know much about Japanese takes on medieval fantasy at all, so I'd love to see how your game takes shape.

  3. I remember seing a box of HarMaster 3rd edition in Japanese in a Yellow Submarine. I can't tell if the whole game was translated or only the box. I guess it was the former.
    I have a few TRPG, I can tell that they very often only use 6-sided dices. Some of them have combat maps that are smaller that what we are used to (8x8 squares for Log Horizon TRPG for exemple).

    1. Ooh! A fellow JTRPG fan! Woohoo!

      I have a few myself and yes, I address the preference for D6s in my next post (D6 is also my personal favorite die type).

      Let me know if you want to discuss the subject sometime and check back as I've got a lot more to say on the matter.

      Thanks for dropping by Alqualonde!

  4. I cannot wait to see what you can come up with. I'm always looking for new takes on medieval fantasy since most of my players exposure is through JRPGs and anime.