Monday, 6 December 2010

Whatever Happened to Oriental Adventures?


I was browsing through some White Dwarfs back from when I first started buying it and noticed that this colour ad crops up in every Dwarf from about that time. So TSR UK were clearly on a big push for it and took it seriously but - where is it now?

You don't seem to hear anything about OA in the OSR blogosphere. I seem to recall that apart from the ads I didn't hear anything about it Back In The Day and can't recall seeing a copy but I certainly must have done at GW Birmingham when it was current and on the shelves.

In retrospect it seems a strange decision to follow up the PHB, DMG, MM etc. with a cod-Japanese supplement but I suppose there was the 1980s Ninja craze in full flow so that might have influenced TSR thinking. I can't imagine any market research suggesting that this was what AD&D players were crying out for. Bushido had come out in 1981, was well-regarded and surely any Western players attracted to playing samurai and bushi would have migrated over to there.

Does it's complete invisibility on the OSR scene reflect that nobody really cared? Or just that it was AD&D and these days people are more interested in OD&D and variants?

I remember thinking it must be a big, premium label AAA release because it was advertised heavily, had a great cover and had the all-important, imposing, "grown-up" word Advanced in it's title and obviously looking back that is simply evidence of the naivety of youth!

14 comments:

  1. I've blogged about OA on a fe occasions. The concept is interesting but the execution is classic late 1st edition AD&D: putting a lot of complication in places I don't like. I usually steer clear of Asian settings because I can barely run a game based upon my own cultural heritage without it being a bit of a wreck, so I don't truct myself with someone else's toys.

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  2. In terms of mechanics, I believe it introduced many of the bits and pieces which later became core in the dreaded AD&D2, so I suspect there's a fair bit of damnation-by-association.

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  3. OA had some cool toys in it, it also had flaws. Ninja were flimsy creatures and better executed elsewhere (early Dragon and White Dwarf did good takes). Your average 1st-lvl OA party fought goblins, NPCs and brigands until 4th level when they could handle other things. Maybe. Plus OA didn't play well with regular D&D; most DMs preferred the games they'd already devised unless you went for the modules.

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  4. I'm in the process of picking up a copy, but that's more the completist in me than the gamer. Like Jeff, I'm not sure I could do justice to a quasi-historical setting other than fantasy-Europe, without either a lot of work or a deliberately cartoonish approach.

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  5. The concept is interesting but the execution is classic late 1st edition AD&D: putting a lot of complication in places I don't like.

    Jeff basically pins it for me here. Also, even when I first got the book, I felt like the classes, which were a big chunk of the book, were flimsy and superfluous - Samurai, Ninja, and Wu Jen seemed like wasted page space when the PHB already had Fighters, Assassins, and Magic-users. I have seen a few Kensai in play; it seemed much more than the others like a viable subclass.

    There is good material in the book, though. I Really like the random event charts, and there are many good monsters and magic items. It just has tons of padding and tends toward fussiness, neither of which appeal to the many OSR fans, myelf included.

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  6. Just out of interest - I'm sure I'll find out for myself via eBay or Amazon - how does the unarmed combat system play?

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  7. I agree it has some good bits in it. Oddly for an AD&D product, on a read through only it doesn't seem like everything would convert easily to an AD&D retro-clone, which limits its usefulness for me. For example, I like the concept of building monks up by fighting style, but anything built by that overpowers a basic C&C monk, and I haven't done the work to tone it down, or to strip the C&C monk down and rebuild it.

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  8. Groups I knew of used OA when it was released and for years afterward. I usually saw it used as part of a larger campaign and not limited to be the campaign itself. There are not many Unearthed Arcana blogs out there but folks jumped all over UA back in the day.

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  9. Oriental Adventures became part of the Forgotten Realms setting (I spent an interesting day or sorting out the maps for an electronic atlas of Forgotten Realms, so that was how I found out) and then disappeared before returning for Dungeons & Dragons with Rokugan from Legends of the Five Rings as the default setting. It was a move unpopular with the L5R devotees.

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  10. I blog occasionally about ideas for running an OA type game on my blog, but not much about the book itself.

    I thought it was a really cool book back in the 80's, but never got to play in an OA game until I ran a 1E/2E mixed game in the mid 90's, which used the core AD&D books, OA, and several splat books like the Complete Ninja's Handbook.

    I liked the 3E OA book, for its toolbox elements, but hated it for its L5R/Rokugan elements. I did run a pretty good game with it, though.

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  11. I liked the 3E OA book, for its toolbox elements, but hated it for its L5R/Rokugan elements. I did run a pretty good game with it, though.

    3E was not the best showcase for L5R. I got to play 1E L5R and it was awesome. The game mechanics supported the feel and genre of the game to a degree that's rare in my experience. And I liked 3.0 when it came out, but 3E L5R left me cold. It felt like regular D&D with spells and feats renamed, when I knew what L5R could really be.

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  12. As I understand it, OA was an idea Gygax had wanted to do entirely by himself, but in the end, TSR needed money immediately, and he got his co-writers to do most of it, so it could get out the door ASAP. He didn't really think the approach ultimately taken was right for AD&D, but his hands were tied - he couldn't rewrite it since the company needed the money right away to stay afloat. Something like that, I am going from memory here.

    Personally, we never used it beyond the stats for the weapons. The two page spread of weapon illustrations was like the best part of the book...

    I don't think oriental D&D has ever been very popular, or a big seller. People not of the countries it's based on (unless they are already avid students of that stuff) feel they don't know enough to play it "correctly" and it sits on the shelf.

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  13. Oddly enough I started an OA campaign today. It does suffer from a lot of late AD&D1 craziness, but I got it when it first came out and my friends and I loved it. I have DMed several OA campaigns over the years, including one where I mashed/converted OA1st and OA3e together. That one drove the 3e rules lawyer in the group crazy :)

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  14. I've now picked up a copy of OA from eBay. Let's see what we can appropriate from it...

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