I lived in Japan from the summer of '98 to the spring of '08. I didn't get into gaming until 3E came out, though. That's when I found some other teachers were also gamers, and we picked up the new rules and gave them a go. This was in Toyama prefecture, pretty far from the big cities (about 4 hours by train to Osaka, 5 to Tokyo). I picked up the brand spanking new 3E PHB when I was in the States over the summer, and used my 2E books until I was able to order the other core books from Amazon. There wasn't anywhere to get stuff locally, although some boutique shops sold polyhedral dice. I'd occasionally check in second-hand bookstores for Japanese RPG books, but never found any.
Oh, and there was this little
bric-a-brac shop that sold airsoft equipment and collectible figures and
stuff. I found a pack of vintage Grenadier "Knights of the Round Table"
minis there and snatched them up. Still have them. For the most part,
we were limited in what we had to game with to what we ordered from
overseas or could access via the internet. One of those internet goodies
was a free pdf game WotC released called Dragon Fist (fantasy martial
arts RPG using the 2E rules). We played that a few times in addition to
In 2001 I moved to Yamanashi prefecture, just an
hour and a half outside of Tokyo. Again, it took me a little time to
get into the local gaming scene, because I wasn't sure who gamed and who
didn't, and people were still kinda reluctant to bring up gaming in
casual conversation. But gamed online with some of the Yamanashi guys
about once a month. We tried d20 Modern and the d20 Star Wars rules,
along with D&D 3.5.
Then, I got invited to a
group playing White Wolf's Trinity around 2003 or 2004. After the
Trinity game ran its course, some of the same gamers ended up playing
D&D with me. We played a 3E OA game that I ran for a while.
the WotC message boards, I came in contact with a couple of guys in
Tokyo and we formed a group. One of the Yamanashi guys was now living in
Chiba (also near Tokyo) so we invited him, too. A few other players
came and went. We'd meet once a month for marathon 6-10 hour sessions,
mostly of 3.5, although I ran a successful d20 Future game set in the
Gaming in Tokyo was
great, because there's a chain of hobby shops called Yellow Submarine.
They had minis, dice, rule books, modules, Dragon and Dungeon magazine,
plus board games and other related stuff. Whenever I had time before or
after the sessions, I'd usually stop by because the bus or train from
Yamanashi pulled into Shinjuku station, and a Yellow Submarine was just
around the corner.
One of the Tokyo guys was trying
to develop his own Story Game RPG, so we play-tested many versions of
it. And from the Forge message boards (once the home of story gamers
online), he got interested in playing Classic D&D again, which got
me interested. And so I discovered the OSR (Old School Renaissance) just
as it was kicking off.
Before Steve got
transferred back to the States, we played a few games of old school
D&D. And I got my Yamanashi group to play it, too. And it was pretty
fun. I also tried a bit of Star Frontiers with them.
and my buddy Paul and I developed our own "story game" type rules light
system, Presidents of the Apocalypse. This became our "someone in the
group is leaving, let's go out with a fun game" game. We're still not
100% happy with the rules, but eventually we plan to publish it in some
form or other.
The OSR back then was all about
making "retro clones" that were rewritten versions of the classic games,
released under the d20 OGL. So OSRIC is basically AD&D 1E,
Labyrinth Lord and Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game
are Classic D&D, and Swords & Wizardry is original D&D. I
remembered having fun with Dragon Fist in Toyama, and started thinking
about how I might make a retro-clone of it. But then my wife got
pregnant, and we decided to move to Korea to be near her family...