Research Station Gamma

研究基地ガンマ “Research Station Gamma” (1984) is the first item published in support of the Japanese Traveller box set. It is a translation by Hitoshi Yasuda of GDW’s second adventure for Traveller, but Hobby Japan also included translations of the first three supplements and made a box set out of it. Box cover art is by Naoyuki Kato.

In the adventure the players are stranded on Vanejen, a world in the Rhylanor subsector. To raise credits for passage off-world, the players enter the service of a “Chirper”, which is the winged creature crouching behind the security robot on the cover. Some of its siblings are trapped in the titular Research Station Gamma which the Imperium built to house and study alien life forms. The research station is run by three types of robots, and although the English version already had illustrations of them, Naoyuki Kato re-imagined them for the JV.

The icosahedral hex map of the planet Vanejen is inconveniently small in the English version, but the JV fixes this. BTW, the polygons at the vertices of the icosahedron only have five sides, so strictly speaking these should be called a hex-pent maps.

1001 Characters is a sort of Rogues Gallery. It concludes with Traveller stats for 9 characters from science fiction novels which some consider to be oblique references to the “Appendix N” of Traveller. The characters are not named, but the first is clearly John Carter from “A Princess of Mars”. I don’t recognize the second character with the impressive UPP of FFFFFF.

Box contents:
• Research Station Gamma, letter-sized booklet, 28 pp.
• Supplement 1: 1001 Characters, letter-sized booklet, 52 pp.
• Supplement 2: Animal Encounters, letter-sized booklet, 44 pp.
• Supplement 3: The Spinward Marches, letter-sized booklet, 24 pp.
• How to Use Research Station Gamma, letter-sized pamphlet, 4 pp.
• Map of Vanejen, letter-sized sheet
• Research Station Gamma Player’s Handout, letter-sized sheet
• Map of Research Station Gamma, 10″x14″ sheet folded
• Illustrations of Robots, 4″x9.5″
• Submersibles, 6″x11.5″

B2: Keep on the Borderlands

Shinwa’s 国境の城塞 “Keep on the Borderlands” was released in 1985, though not all printings have the year of the translation on them. Mysteriously, the years on the early printings don’t match any English version of the module either. They do match the French version, however, which was also the source of the map of the Caves of Chaos, as can be seen by observing that the Japanese version map has “DESCENTE” printed on it in three places. The interior art comes from the EV, including the hermit, but not the minotaur, by Erol Otus.

Of all the adventures Gary wrote, Keep on the Borderlands was the only one that Shinwa translated. Gygax describes the keep as “a microcosm, a world in miniature.” Back then, we gamers weren’t overusing the word “sandbox” yet. The number of encounters is impressive, and we are given a basic treatment of some of Gygax’s earlier motifs, e.g. evil temple in section K.

The writing style is distinctively Gary. When he wanted to be a bit grandiose he would pair nouns with “and”, e.g. “magic and monsters”, “law and chaos”, “adventure and heroism”. Perhaps he was subtly recalling the name of the game. The unnamed translator uses the particle と to render these phrases in Japanese: 魔法とモンスター, 方と無法, 冒険とロマン.

Letter sized saddle-stitched pamphlet with loose card stock cover, 32 pp.

Wizardry RPG: Trebor Campaign

トレボー戦役 “Trebor Campaign” (1989) is a box set of scenarios for the Wizardry tabletop RPG, published by ASCII Corporation. Production is credited to Hitoshi Yasuda and Group SNE. Each of the sourcebooks contains a main scenario, two sub-scenarios, and scores of sepia illustrations.

The box set takes its name from the main scenario of the Eastern Region sourcebook. In it the mad overlord Trebor teleports the party into the towering Korukia mountains to find a path suitable for the large army he wants to send against the neighboring kingdom of Rada. Graduates of the original Wizardry computer game will be familiar with Trebor and the rigors of being in his service.

The main scenarios from the other sourcebooks are titled “Temple of the Lizardmen” and “Final Conflict! Llylgamyn”. There is a lot of material here!

Box contents:
• campaign guide, A4 saddle-stitched pamphlet 8 pp.
• “Eastern Region Scenario Sourcebook” A4 saddle-stitched 44 pp.
• “Western Region Scenario Sourcebook” A4 saddle-stitched 48 pp
• “Northern Region Scenario Sourcebook” A4 saddle-stitched 44 pp.
• gamemaster’s screen, cardstock, 27cm x 59 cm
• fighting sheet, cardstock A3 folded
• fighting sheet, cardstock A4
• “Ethelnaat”, map, A3 folded
• 21 single sheet maps, numbered 2 through 22

Comptiq Magazine: September 1986

The first installment of ロードス島戦記 “Record of Lodoss War” appeared in the September 1986 issue of Comptiq magazine. Record of Lodoss War would go on to get light novel, manga, anime, and video game adaptations—even its own tabletop RPG. But in the beginning it was just a Dungeons & Dragons session written out with didactic intent as a dialogue between dungeon master and players. D&D had been available in Japanese for 15 months and the authors observed that people still didn’t know how to play. The only participant to get a credit is Hitoshi Yasuda, the founder of Group SNE, who I understand played Ghimu the dwarf.

The dialogue starts with character generation and to my satisfaction ability scores are rolled 3d6 down the line. In addition to the dwarf the party contains Parn the fighter, Etoh the cleric, Slayn the magic user, Woodchuck the thief, and Deedlit the elf, all inhabitants of Lodoss Island, which has as features the White Dragon Mountains, the Forest of Demons, the Desert of Death, and the Swamp of No Return. These forbiddingly named destinations are left for future installments and the party journeys from Zaxxon, the village of their youth, to a town where they purchase a map from a shady character for 5 GP. The map indicates the location of a crystal warrior guarding a hidden treasure.

This issue contains something more significant than the start of the Record of Lodoss War franchise. It contains the start of the TRPG session or “replay” as a form of literature in Japan. Replays are generally written in the voice of the DM and the players, just like the sample session in the original edition of D&D. However, at least in the Lodoss replay the players and DM often speak in character and players are referred to by the names of their characters.

B5 perfect bound magazine 218 pp.

Dungeons & Dragons: Basic Rule Set

This week I’m taking a look at the Japanese version of the Dungeons & Dragons basic set. This is the first edition of D&D in Japanese, published in June 1985. By many accounts it was a popular and desirable item, though some also remember it as being expensive. The November 1987 issue of Tactics magazine carried a Yellow Submarine ad offering the red box for ¥4800 which was about 34 USD. For comparison the TSR Hobby Shop was selling the English language red box for 12 USD in those days.

Reading the Japanese translation drives home how much terminology was introduced by D&D. The translator, Masayuki Onuki, usually handles it by writing an approximation of the English word in katakana, in effect borrowing the word into Japanese. Sometimes the term rendered two or even three times, e.g. 強さ (Strength, ストレングス).

The box came with a set of six ivory polyhedral dice, which don’t match the multi-colored dice pictured on the back of the box.

Box contents:
• Players’ Manual, letter sized saddle stitched softcover, 60 pp.
• Dungeon Master’s Rulebook, letter sized saddled stitched softcover, 56 pp.
• Players Sheet, letter sized sheet
• Players’ Manual Errata, letter sized sheet (1st printing only)
• Dungeon Mster’s Rulebook, letter sized sheet (1st printing only)
• 6 polyhedral dice