Comptiq Magazine: December 1986

The December 1986 issue of Comptiq magazine features episode IV of the Record of Lodoss War campaign that taught Japan how to play Dungeons & Dragons. Episode III ended with everyone in the party but Etoh put to sleep by the sorceress Karla. Etoh pretended to be asleep.

In episode IV the party wakes to find themselves locked in a room without their weapons. Woodchuck looks through the keyhole of the door and sees a corpse which Etoh says was animated by Karla. Etoh overheard the magical password that Karla used to lock the door. Deedlit suggests fashioning clubs from the legs of a table. Etoh says the magical password to open the door and Ghim and Parn rush the zombie and bash it apart. The party members locate their weapons in another room and then ambush Karla’s henchmen when they come upstairs to investigate the noise. The battle leaves the henchmen dead and Ghim with a single hit point.

In another room of the house the party finds a chest on a table. Woodchuck shakes it, breaking the potion inside. Woodchuck picks the lock of the room where the princess is imprisoned. She is apprehensive until Etoh speaks to her using the lawful alignment language. Parn asks whether the princess is beautiful, and indeed she is (18 CHA). Parn announces his intent to be the next king of Varis. In an aside to the readers the DM says this is unlikely to happen. When exiting the house Woodchuck is killed by an invisible stalker and Parn drinks a potion of heroism so he can kill it.

The party takes the henchmen’s horses and returns to town. En route a roc flies overhead and lands in front of them, polymorphing into Karla. She offers the party whatever they desire in exchange for the princess, while preparing a magic missile spell should they refuse. The DM at this point has to remind the party that their alignment prohibits them from accepting the bargain, which proves unnecessary as a squadron of knights in service of Varis arrives. Karla says she will meet the party again and flies away. The party members level up and Woodchuck is raised from the dead.

B5 perfect bound magazine

Wares Blade

ワースブレイド “Wares Blade” (1988) is a Japanese fantasy RPG with a technology component—essentially the power armor popularized in anime shows such as “Mobile Suit Gundam” and “Armored Trooper Votoms”. In the world of Wares Blade these suits (操兵) are magical artifacts which transform the pilot into a giant up to 8 meters tall.

The Wares Blade rules use d10 dice exclusively. When d5 rolls are called for, one rolls a d10 and divides by 2. The ability scores are SEN (sense), AGI (agility), WIL (will), CON (constitution), CHA (charisma), and LUC (luck), and these are randomly determined during character generation by 3d5 rolls. One divides each ability score except luck by 3 to get a modifier from 1 to 5. These modifiers are added to a d10 roll to determine success or failure in most situations. For example, the SEN modifier is used in attacks and the AGI modifier in defense. Physical damage is applied to CON and “life force damage” is applied to WIL. LUC can be used to increase a roll, but it is an exhaustible quantity.

The game has four classes: warrior, sorcerer, priest/monk, and commoner, the last including thieves. Sorcerers belong to one of eight schools, each having 12 spells to choose from, at least in the starter set which covers levels one to three.

Warriors can choose as a skill the ability to pilot the suits (操兵), though they are not for sale and difficult to acquire. All the same the game includes character sheets for the suits with slots for SP (speed), POW (power), ARM (armor), and BAL (balance).

The lead designer for the game was Satoshi Chibi, who also wrote the first novel 聖刻1092 “Seikoku 1092” set in the Wares Blade world. The cover art is by noted fantasy artist Jun Suemi. Plastic kits for the suits were produced: do an image search for “MOクラフト WARES 1092” to see examples.

Box contents:
• Player’s Guide, 48 pp.
• Rule Book, 48 pp.
• Scenario Book, 48 pp.
• copies of “Character Sheet 1”, “Character Sheet 2”, “Suit Sheet”, “NPC Sheet”, “Skill Sheet”
• Character Counters
• Wares Blade World Introduction sheet
• Hobby Japan survey card
• 3 d10 dice

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

火吹山の魔法使い “The Warlock of Firetop Mountain” (1984) set off a gamebook boom in Japan which would last through the end of the 1980s. Shakaishisosha, originally a publisher of middlebrow science books, translated the first 33 titles in the Fighting Fantasy series. Fighting Fantasy gamebooks use character sheets and dice, so they can serve as a gateway drug if you will to role playing games. Shakaishisosha themselves would go on to publish several RPGs, mostly translations of stuff originally published in the UK.

Gamebooks in Japan were invariably published as bunkobons, which are the mass market paperbacks of Japan. A lot of RPG material would get published in bunkobon format too. Bunkonbons are A6 sized, which is about an inch shorter than an American mass market paperback. They have dust covers and are often sold with an obi. All the bunkobons I’ve seen are East Asian style books with the front cover on the right and vertical text.

To play “The Warlock of Firetop Mountain”, one must first generate a character by rolling d6+6 for SKILL, 2d6+12 for STAMINA, and d6+6 for LUCK. Monsters also have SKILL and STAMINA. When fighting, both the player and the monster roll 2d6 and add their SKILL. Whoever has the lower sum subtracts 2 from their STAMINA.

The Japanese version of “The Warlock of Firetop Mountain” uses the art from the original UK edition: the cover is by Peter Andrew Jones and the interior art by Russ Nicholson. The translator is Sayako Asaba.

Alone Against the Wendigo

ウェンディゴへの挑戦 “Alone Against the Wendigo” (1986) is the first supplement released by Hobby Japan in support of the Japanese Call of Cthulhu box set. I wouldn’t have predicted them to choose a solo adventure for their first supplement, but gamebooks were exploding in popularity in Japan at the time. The other surprise is that Hobby Japan made a box set out of this; the Chaosium version is just a booklet. However, the box set does include an ample supply of blank character sheets and these are useful as players will want to make several forays into this usually lethal adventure.

The player can choose to be Laura Christine Nadelmann or Lawrence Christian Nadelmann. Laura has inferior hit points, but better luck and sanity, so I chose her and I seemed to be doing well, advancing my Hanninah Mythos skill to 35—learning about the Hanninah Mythos is the point of the adventure. However, I eventually made a poor choice and the monsters cornered me and Norman, one of my grad students, in a cave. Our only hope was to shoot them down with our rifles before they incapacitated us with their cold rays. Sadly, I did not select the rifle as one of my skills and I ended up as a subject for experimentation on the monsters’ space ship.

The Japanese version translator was Teiko Nakayama. The art is the original version art by Dan and David Day.

Box contents:
• Alone Against the Wendigo, perfect bound book, 72 pp.
• 8 character sheets
• Hobby Japan survey card