黄昏の天使 “Twilight Princess” (1988) was the eighth box set to be released for the Japanese version of Call of Cthulhu and the only non-translated item that Hobby Japan produced for the game. The designer was Jun Arisaka 有坂純 and the artist Yoshihisha Aran 亜蘭善久. The box set is, incidentally, my candidate for the most expensive Japanese RPG collectible: I’ve only seen incomplete and damaged sets up for auction, but they still went for over $600. The subtitle of the set is “The Stories of the Demon Princess: First Part”, but publication of a second part was not to be.
The setting is Japan in the 1980s. Cthulhu Now, which had just been released in English the previous year, was not available in Japanese yet, but a 32 page “Sourcebook for the 1980s” is included and provides stats for modern day weapons, skills and occupations.
The 8 scenarios are described in a perfect bound book of 100 pages and a saddle-stapled book of 84 pages. The investigators start by looking into a series of murders happening nightly in a small town, and they make the acquaintance of a beautiful but suspicious young woman who is one of the Katagiri sisters. The investigators eventually meet their father, who still dresses in the fashion of the Edo period. Ultimately, the investigators will learn that after 3000 years it is time to reforge the Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi, the legendary sword in the possession of the Emperor of Japan, and to do this they must raise a pyramid submerged beneath a lake in the ancient province of Izumo.
Hobby Japan’s 4th box set for Call of Cthulhu was 療養所の悪魔 “The Asylum & other tales” (1987). It’s a translation of a Chaosium book from 1983 containing seven unrelated scenarios. One of the scenarios is by David Hargrave, who incidentally had not been on the best of terms with Greg Stafford after Stafford refused to publish the Arduin Grimoire, but apparently they patched things up. Hargrave’s scenario has the investigators explore a mound in the woods of Maine with 13 rooms dug into it.
The title of the book refers to a scenario by Randy McCall describing the Greenwood Asylum for the Deranged. If an investigator suffers a loss of sanity, a sensible course of action would be to have them committed to its care, as the institution has an excellent reputation. However, the investigators may learn that five inmates have died recently of supposedly natural causes, so something’s up.
The Japanese version of “The Asylum & other tales” is a box set. The translation is by Teiko Nakayama and the JV adds no additional artwork other than a photo of a stone building covered by Virginia Creeper on the back. The box set contains two booklets of 36 and 44 pages (the EV book has 80 pages). In the JV the player handouts are provided as 4 loose sheets.
All of the Hobby Japan Call of Cthulhu box sets are in demand and the Japanese version of “The Asylum & other tales” usually sells for the equivalent of $300 to $500 in yen. I haven’t seen one of them for sale with the obi, so unsure if they originally had one.
Box contents: • The Asylum & other tales Book 1, letter sized saddle-stapled book, 36 pp. • The Asylum & other tales Book 2, letter sized saddle-stapled book, 44 pp. • Player Handouts, 4 loose sheets • Hobby Japan survey card
ヨグ＝ソトースの影 “Shadows of Yog-Sothoth” (1986) is a translation of Chaosium’s first stand-alone scenario for Call of Cthulhu. Organized into seven chapters, Shadows is the archetype of a Call of Cthulhu adventure: the investigators trot the globe, suffering in all likelihood death and loss of sanity, possibly to witness the rise of R’lyeh from the ocean floor and to confront the game’s titular monster-god. Which sounds untoppable, but oddly Shadows does not make many “best of” lists. The chapters are said to be uneven, with Devil’s Canyon and Easter Island being two of the better ones.
The Japanese version is a box set, which has the advantage that the handouts can be provided detached. I suspect the real reason Hobby Japan made a box set out of this had something to do with their distribution channels. It’s fascinating to see this adventure as a box, but the JV doesn’t add any additional artwork or content. The translation is by Jun Arisaka, who also translated the Call of Cthulhu rulebook.
When looking over this game, I realized for the first time that the character that looks like an equals sign in the Japanese title is how the Japanese represent a hyphen in the source language. An actual hyphen would look too much like the katakana long vowel marker.
Box contents: • “Shadows of Yog-Sothoth: A Global Campaign to Save Mankind”, 68 pp. • “Bonus Scenario 1 / Bonus Scenario 2” 12 pp. • Handouts, 8 sheets • Hobby Japan survey card
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
クトゥルフの呼び声 “Call of Cthulhu” (1986) is Hobby Japan’s translation of the 2nd edition of Chaosium’s game of Lovecraftian horror. I’m told Call of Cthulhu is the most popular TRPG in Japan today. I don’t think this was the case back when Hobby Japan was the publisher, though it did well enough for them to justify an impressive series of supplementary box sets before going out-of-print for a ten year spell. Pictured is an 8th printing of the introductory set from 1989.
For any readers unfamiliar with the game, character generation starts by rolling nine characteristics: strength, constitution, size, intelligence, power, dexterity, appearance, education, and sanity. Having a large size is a significant advantage in melee and monsters can be much larger than humans. The game lacks classes, but one’s occupation determines what skills one is likely to have. There is no level advancement either, though characters can improve their skills. Sanity, which decreases as characters learn more about the Lovecraftian Mythos, distinguishes Call of Cthulhu from other Chaosium games. If sanity is left out one has a serviceable set of rules for a generic modern setting, and the game has been used this way in Japan.
As for the Japanese version, Jun Arisaka translated the rulebook. The JV box set adds a scenario book containing the three short scenarios from the EV rulebook as well as scenarios from the Cthulhu Companion (1983).
Box contents: • perfect bound rulebook, 80 pp. • saddle stitched scenario book, 52 pp. • saddle stitched sourcebook, 32 pp. • world map, 23″ x 34″ • silhouette sheet, 8.5″ x 11″ • 10 character sheets, 8.5″ x 11″ • dice: 2d10, 1d8, 3d6