RPG Fantasy Encyclopedia: Japan Edition

幻想辞典日本編 “RPG Fantasy Encyclopedia: Japan Edition” (1988) is an illustrated digest of Japanese folklore and a sourcebook for fantasy campaigns set in Japan.

The encyclopedia notes interest overseas in Japan as a setting, citing “Oriental Adventures” for AD&D and “Land Of Ninja” for RuneQuest, but dismissing them as not something a Japanese person would play. The author finds it odd to see the samurai on the cover of Oriental Adventures seated on a lion-dog, statues of which frequently guard Shinto shrines in Japan. He makes a joke about a geisha class which can perform party tricks with folding fans and water for some reason.

The first chapter relates the story of Izanami and Izanagi, created by the first gods, who use a spear decorated with jewels to create in turn the island Onogoroshima, where they procreate and give birth to the islands of Japan. Izanami dies and Izanagi seeks her out in the underworld, but she is not allowed to leave because of the food she has eaten there. Also Izanagi realizes his wife is rotting and flees in fear. After barricading the entrance to the underworld with a boulder, he performs the necessary rite of purification to cleanse himself. From the ablutions three gods are created: Amaterasu the sun goddess, Tsukuyomi the moon goddess, and Susanoo the storm god (all of whom are assigned 400 HP by TSR’s original “Deities & Demigods” by the way). Amaterasu and Susanoo have a god-making competition and Susanoo, believing himself the winner, celebrates by defecating in his sister’s palace and flaying the “piebald horse of heaven”. Amaterasu sulks in a cave, plunging the world into night until the god Omoikane persuades her to come back.

The encyclopedia concludes with a bestiary. The oni 鬼 (ogre or demon) perhaps inspired the ogre magi of AD&D. It is described as having horns, tusks, and superhuman strength. It wears a loincloth of animal hide and carries a spiked club called a kanabo. Onis are the villains in the fairy tales “Kintaro”, “Momotaro”, “Issun Boshi”, and “Usurei Yatsura”, all stuff to add to my reading list.

A5 softcover with dust jacket, 296 pp.

RPG Fantasy Encyclopedia

RPG 幻想辞典 “RPG Fantasy Encyclopedia” (1986) is the first Japanese RPG product to be published in book format and distributed in book stores. It is an introduction to fantasy role playing, written by Arai Hayakawa and published by Softbank Publications, with a complete game in back. The dust cover is translucent—the tower you see in the distance on the cover is actually printed on the book itself.

The 2nd chapter briefly describes Dungeons & Dragons, RuneQuest, and Tunnels & Trolls. At the time only the first had been translated into Japanese. The 3rd chapter recommends Arthurian Romance and “The Lord of the Rings” as background literature for the readers, who are anticipated to be unfamiliar with Western fantasy.

The “Monster Manual” is the 10th and longest chapter. 186 monsters, not counting subtypes, are described and illustrated, though there are no stat blocks. The selection of monsters is close to the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual, adding the Broo and Jack-o-Bear from RuneQuest and a creature, armed with sword and whip, called a “Barlog” [sic].

The game is in the 12th and final chapter. Character generation commences by rolling 2d6 five times to determine strength, intelligence, dexterity, constitution, and luck. One chooses a class from fighter, thief, priest, or mage and gets some ability score bonuses and penalties. For combat, one rolls 2d6, adds attacker weapon class, and subtracts defender armor class to see if a hit is made—a 6 or higher is needed—with damage determined by how much one goes over. The thief has three skills: find trap, remove trap, and search. There are lists of equipment and magical items, 30 spells, and stat blocks for 54 monsters. There is even a scenario called “The Red Crown” with 12 rooms, culminating with a minotaur.

A5 perfect bound book with dust cover, 288 pp.