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Author Topic: My approach to Asian-themed fantasy  (Read 403 times)

jhkim

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My approach to Asian-themed fantasy
« on: July 26, 2020, 03:25:24 pm »
The thread on Oriental Adventures made me think some about how I prefer to handle Asian-themed fantasy. I find that my approach to Asian fantasy is different from how some approach it. So I thought I'd talk about ways that I prefer to do things in a positive sense.


1) I use genre references to a mix of genres, not just martial arts or other popular purely Asian genres.

I've run two main Asian campaigns - a pulp game (using Spirit of the Century) set in an alternate 1860s Korea, and an ongoing Amber Diceless game set in a variant Chinese-themed version of the Amber universe. Both of these referred some to Asian sources, but they also had a lot of genre plot points from Western genres like pulp and Amber. Having different genre references can mix up the stereotypes and expectations some. I love martial arts films, but they're a very narrow window to view things - and Asian films themselves have a mix of genre influences - like how Kurosawa was strongly influenced by American Westerns, and vice-versa.

I'll still refer to period material. Like for the 1860s game we watched the Korean film "Blood Rain", and Amber Diceless has a lot of wuxia references. But there's also a lot of other genre references.


2) I concentrate more on fun characters and action, rather than pretending to be authentic.

A number of Asian fantasy games have a lot of material about how to get into the mindset of another culture. But - with due respect to the few fantasy games that try to be medieval authentic - most fantasy RPGs are not about trying to really understand and be true to 12th century Italian culture or whatever. They're about killing monsters and being heroes. Thus, for example, I wouldn't consider a system for collecting honor points, which doesn't strike me as either particularly fun or authentic.


3) I used English rather than borrowed terms.

For example, I would refer to a long sword as a long sword rather than a gum, jian, or katana. I'll refer to figures as knights rather than xia or samurai, and casters as sorcerers or shamans rather than shugenja and such. First of all, this is more consistent. I don't use terms like spada or chevaliere in a European fantasy game - I'll just say sword and knight. More significantly, people have a tendency to get weird about these things. Some are just completely stupid about katanas, for example - when it's just a fucking sword. But even if they aren't completely stupid, there is still a tendency to treat them as weirdly different when they're just fucking swords. Likewise for other terms.


4) I avoid accents or stylized speech.

So, just "Greetings, Lord Fong, we've brought the assassins." rather than "Honorable Fong-san, these wretched ninja in chains we give to you."


There's probably more, but these are the points that come to mind for me. I'd be curious about if others do anything similar, or alternate approaches.

FelixGamingX1

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My approach to Asian-themed fantasy
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2020, 03:43:02 pm »
I see much desperation as of late to portray Asian adventures to max accuracy. Why people are obsessing over it is beyond me. Technically movies like the last samurai are awful ways to portray a westerner becoming a samurai. Everyone seems to overlook the fact Japan opened its borders to the world fairly late, and honestly I bet many proud Japanese still want nothing to do with the rest of the world.

I'd only believe a trpg about Japanese culture to be accurate if it was written by a legit authentic Japanese person who had old traditions passed down through generations. Everything else being labeled authentic asian written by someone who isn't old school oriental is a fugazi.

In my books they salut you with "Harol!" Having fun should remain the number one priority when playing a game in my opinion.
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Spinachcat

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My approach to Asian-themed fantasy
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2020, 10:39:48 pm »
I play Oriental Adventures, Bushido and L5R to revel in the exoticism of fantasy Asia.
And if that hurts somebody's fee-fees, they get to fuck off.

My katanas and ninjas are crazy ass awesome in a samurai game.
We always say stuff like "Honorable Fong-san, these wretched ninja in chains we give to you."
Plus wujen, shukenja, oni, and all the other trappings that make it NOT bog-vanilla fantasy.

Even worse, we'll skip pizza that night and order Chinese food or sushi!
Nothing says HuWhite Supremacy (reeeeeeeee!!!) like supporting your local immigrant family restaurant.

Most of the GM's of "Asian Fantasy" RPGs I know have been Americans of Chinese, Japanese or Filipino descent. Hell, I played Bushido for years with a Japanese supremacist and his games were pure awesome! To have a bunch of fucknuts crying about how waaaaycist "Asian Fantasy" tropes are today means nothing to me.

The ONLY reason I haven't played a Korean Fantasy RPG is because the only one I've ever heard about was a Kickstarter game that had to shit itself with politically correct wankery so I bailed before its end date. I'm 100% sure there's cool Korean myths, monsters and heroes that would be fun to play. Maybe someday, someone who can write a RPG without SJW pandering will produce a Korean Fantasy game worth playing.

And upon that glorious day, we'll order BonChon fried chicken, some steaming bulgogi, a bibimbap and chew on spicy kimchi! Now that's some tasty cultural appropriation right there.

LiferGamer

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My approach to Asian-themed fantasy
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2020, 10:54:59 pm »
Quote
Some are just completely stupid about katanas, for example - when it's just a fucking sword. But even if they aren't completely stupid, there is still a tendency to treat them as weirdly different when they're just fucking swords. Likewise for other terms.

I TOTALLY pissed off one of my players in GURPS when I told him his Katana was 'just' a fine bastard sword.
Your Forgotten Realms was my first The Last Jedi.

If the party is gonna die, they want to be riding and blasting/hacking away at a separate one of Tiamat's heads as she plummets towards earth with broken wings while Solars and Planars sing.

FelixGamingX1

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My approach to Asian-themed fantasy
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2020, 11:45:03 pm »
Well, all katanas made in the US are actually stainless steel made in China. To get a authentic Japanese Katana out of Japan is quiet a process. I powder, wipe, and oil mine every year. It mostly sits under the TV. I'd love to get a custom Hattori Hanzo one day.
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Spinachcat

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My approach to Asian-themed fantasy
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2020, 12:26:51 am »
In samurai myth and cinema, the katana isn't just a sword. No more than the Walter PPK is just a pistol in the hands of a certain secret agent. Or the 44 magnum wielded by the Dirtiest of the Harrys. In their genres, these objects take on added levels of power and magic.

tenbones

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My approach to Asian-themed fantasy
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2020, 01:17:58 am »
I do it all.

I treat Asian/Arabic/African/British/Irish/Scottish/Russian/Greek/Maori/Aztex/etc.etc. influenced cultures the same in context to the PC's that encounter them. I'll do dialects if I can pull it off (assuming they even speak "common") If not, I'll do a ham-fisted pidgin - if they even care. I'll sprinkle as much cultural detail as I feel needs to happen make my players feel like they're dealing with people from distinct cultures with possible distinct values of their own. I'll use whatever cultural taboos I find useful and fun for the purpose of interesting role-playing up to and including conflict-generation. I'll dial it up as high as I feel like doing it for cinematic reasons, understanding fully well those become the watermark for future interactions, as well as keeping it as reality-based if nothing more than to establish the level of verisimilitude of what I'm trying to express in the game.

If someone at my table has an issue (and until recently that has never happened) - sucks to be them, they can kindly pick up their dice and leave.

Easy peasy.

GeekyBugle

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My approach to Asian-themed fantasy
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2020, 03:10:54 am »
Jut so you fine people can deal some extra dmg to those delicate fee fees

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Steven Mitchell

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My approach to Asian-themed fantasy
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2020, 08:01:38 am »
I have never run an Asian-themed campaign, mainly due to lack of interest (both me and the players).  We have used an occasional Asian-themed character from "a distant region" for a fish out of water character.  The most memorable was a hobbit samurai played almost completely straight out of central casting--serious, honorable, competent, etc..  The comedy was the incidental kind from the nature of the thing.  Fantasy Hero is good for that kind of thing.

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My approach to Asian-themed fantasy
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2020, 02:45:43 pm »
We played a little bit of Anima Prime set in a sort of "steampunk Sengoku" setting. Samurais and ninjas and weird weapons and steambots and onmyodo, and the alternation of over-the-top action scenes and melodrama.

Unfortunately, our Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate game didn't get off the ground (we did create characters and played a few fights to get the hang of the system), but it's exactly the type of Asian-themed game I'd run/play. The genre is very similar to D&D-esque fantasy in the sense that it's an amalgamation of myths, legends, and history, and it's concerned more with aesthetics than representing reality or historicity accurately.
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