Monday, 14 November 2011

Oriental Adventures/Masks of Nyarlathotep Update

 After some humming and hawing as to whether or not I should simply create my own pseudo-Japanese nation from scratch or else borrow one of the maps for Kazakura from the Oriental Adventures box set, I've finally settled on a third option. Frankly, I'm just going to use a map of Japan complete with original province names and the names of major cities as my starting point. Runequest Ninja (a very fine supplement by the way if you can find it) provides an excellent map of the Provinces as they stood in the (I think) Tokugawa period.

This has the added advantage of allowing me to incorporate various Japanese geographical myths into the campaign world -for example, the legend of a pit leading directly to the Buddhist Hell in Izumi province makes Izumi the perfect stand in for one of the major adventure locations in Masks of Nyarlathotep.

However, rather than simply call the country founded on these islands Niwon or Nihon and use an "alternate earth Japan", I'm going to incoporate them into my home-brew campaign world, Edarnia and call them "Hisui no Shima", the  Jade Islands. Fortunately I've already established that Edarnia has an Underworld as well as dark, utterly alien Cthuluesque Gods even older than the Primordials who created Edarnia.  On top of that, the game world also has as well as a malevolent force of non-life known as the "Corruption (amoung other names)," an excellent stand-in for the Taint from L5R. However, I like the sound of "taint" so it looks like the corruption has acquired another cultural-cetnric name. I'll be tracking (and using) taint points in the same manner as Insanity points are used in Call of Cthulu, with the added bonus that an increasing taint score also results in increasing physical mutation. Hmm, echoes of Ravenloft here as well perhaps?

Rather than having the traditional view of two main Japanese religions that exist concurrently and in relative harmony, Jeido Shoto will have just the one, the Hundred Million Kami. The religion will be mostly Shinto based, but will include a great many Buddhist elements. The main reasoning for this decision is that it will reduce the number of concepts a gamer unfamiliar with Japanese culture will have to adapt to. Hopefully, given how closely Shinto and Buddhism were integrated in Japanese culture, it won't be too big a change for the Japan-buffs in the group either.

It might seem odd (and in fact, probably is given that I chose to simplify the religious situation on Jeido Shoto) but rather than going with RuneQuest Nija's recommended triumvirate of power (Emperor-Retired Emperor-Shogun) I'll be going with the puppet Emperor, Retired Emperor, puppet Shogun, Shikken model from later Japanese history. Although this power structure shouldn't feature too much in the Mask's campaign, I'm not putting so much effort into a campaign setting just to use it one campaign. I expect to get my mileage out of Hisui no Shima.

I've still to come up with names for the setting's analogue of China, which will be a major trade-partner and which will provide many NPC's and at least one adventure setting during the Masks campaign. However, Mongolia is easy enough. I'm taking the name "Burning Lands" from the L5R setting, which works well enough for me, and I'm going for it.

Ezo, the northern-most of the Japanese Islands, was not particularly settled until the 15th century. Except by wako (pirates) renegades and Ainu (the indigenous inhabitants of Japan). Ezo seems to be an ideal stand-in for the Shadowlands of L5R , the Chaos Wastes of the Old World, the Blight of the Wheel of Time and about a dozen other settings combined. So that' what I'll use it for. The interior of the island will be a blighted wasteland of volcanic cloud, ash and a gateway to the Hell of the Hundred Million Kami. The coastal areas will be habitable, and home to a few hardy samurai clans and their retainers as well as a great many bands of ronin, wako and other renegades.


Ray Rousell said...

Sounds very interesting!!!

Unknown said...

Got my copy of Runequest: Land of Ninja the other day. A fine ideas mine. I'm going to see if I can convert any of it over to OpenQuest.

Dangerous Brian said...

Thanks Ray.

RuneQuest Land of the NinjaIt's a great sourcebook. OA and the Forgotten Realms Kara-Tur guides are faily decent. But I reckon that the most useful information on a near-Japanese culture in RPG supplement can be found in Land of the Ninja and OA-1 Sword of the Daimyo.

The Legend of the Five Ring's stuff is a great mine of material for adventure ideas and the supernatural. But it's depiction of Japanese Culture is, in some respects, much farther from the historical truth than a great many people realise. I'll be mining L5R for inspiration when it comes to the supernatural: blood magic and monsters and using the concept of taint as a sort of substitute for insanity points. But there will be very little of Rokugan itself in the game world.

Unknown said...

Absolutely agree on Swords of the Daiymo - it's a brilliant book. Kara-Tur is good over-view of Asian analogues, as is The Horde but a combo of RQ:LoN and OA1 is a winner for a fantasy Japan.

Rokugan is a like a mash-up of Japan and China, with a dose of body horror. I like aspects of it but the whole animal clan thing is a turn off for me. Have you looked at Wicke's newish samurai rpg Blood & Honor? It sounds like a really fun take on the genre.

Dangerous Brian said...

I hand't even heard of it Fabian. Thanks for the tip. I'll give it a look.

For me, the big L5R turn-off isn;t so much the animal theme of the clans, but rather the very limited number of them. Even with the minor clans, there's very little room in Rokugan to add in or detail your own clans or even a clan created by a player for his character.

I know why they chose to do it that way (a mixture of marketing and game-play, I presume) but having so few big political "actors" really limits the DM's options when it comes to plotting intrigues and family feuds. Don't get me wrong, I love the setting. But I find the small number of clans very constricting.

Unknown said...

Blood & Honor is the opposite of that; all the players work together to create their clan as they make their PCs.