Sunday, September 22, 2019

Asian-Inspired Melting Pot Settings

I'm best known in the OSR as the creator of Flying Swordsmen and Chanbara. Or, I should say, people know FS and Chanbara, whether or not they know me. The DM of the PbP AD&D game I'm in was a contributor to Chanbara (he helped edit). He sent me a message the other day that he started working part time in a FLGS and met a guy who has Chanbara. Not sure how the game came up in conversation, but when the dude found out that my DM's name was in the book, he came back and asked the DM to sign it!

Now, that got me thinking of two other projects I've had on my mind for a while. One is revising Flying Swordsmen to be less like Dragon Fist and more like Chanbara. Not sure I'll actually tackle a second edition of FS any time soon, though. Another was an idea to make an Oriental Adventures style supplement for Labyrinth Lord AEC. But I wouldn't want to just clone 1E OA. There were some game design choices I think that would be best avoided there, and it's a bit too heavily Japan-centric.

Which leads me to this. Yesterday (or maybe it was Friday when I started thinking about it) I was considering what sorts of classes would work well for an Asian fantasy-inspired setting. Not "fantasy China" like FS, or "fantasy Japan" like Chanbara. A game that, like normal D&D does for European/Near Eastern fantasy, mixes the best elements for a game together in an "unholy goulash" as James Mal once said.

Today (well, this morning I spent most of the time playing Gauntlet II emulated on my computer until I got bored/controller thumb and quit around level 44) I wrote up eight classes for such a game. I still need to write up the spell lists for the casters, but I've got the classes all lined up from levels 1-15 (to match my current house rules of D&D). I haven't thought of what races to include, but it will probably be a mismash of the original OA, 3E OA, and the optional races in Chanbara.

The classes, and a brief summary of each, are as follows:

Hwarang (Knight): Fantasy Korea needs some love! Historically, hwarang were knights of the Silla kingdom. In this game, they are basically BX/BECMI Dwarves (any weapons, any armor, good saves), but I also gave them the ability to maximize their damage a number of times per day equal to their level (which is from the 1E OA Kensai class). Oh, and a d10 hit die since I use AD&D hit dice for characters in my homebrew. They don't get the dwarf's infravision or detection abilities, of course.

Mudang (Shaman): Again went with the Korean for the name. These guys are based on the Cleric class, but with a few alterations. Their prime requisite is Charisma (since they draw power from spirits/The Spirit Realm). Like Labyrinth Lord, they get spells from level 1. They can use blunt weapons, but only light armor and shields. I tried to simplify the Turn Undead ability, but explaining it makes it sound more complicated. First of all, it also affects evils spirits and demons.
HD less than 1/2 the mudang level: 2d6HD destroyed automatically
HD less than mudang level: 2d6HD flee automatically
HD equal to mudang level: roll 7 on 2d6 to make 2d6HD flee
HD greater to mudang level: roll 9 on 2d6 to make 2d6HD flee
HD greater than double mudang level: roll 11 on 2d6 to make 2d6HD flee

Not sure if this will work out well, since the high level mudang will be able to automatically turn a lot of undead, but then so could the Cleric so we'll see. I may change the 11 to mudang level +4 hit dice.

Ninja (Spy): Instead of basing these guys on the Thief class, I based them on the BX Halfling class. That makes them better in combat, and better at hiding (Halfling hiding is good!), but not able to do all the other thiefy stuff. I took away the Halfling combat bonuses and gave them backstab instead. Along with good noise detection, I threw in detect secret doors, sliding walls, traps, etc. from the BX Dwarf and Elf classes (slightly better odds to detect traps, 1-3/d6). They can use any weapon, but are limited to light and medium armors.

Ronin (Wave Man): Because samurai should be serving their lord, but ronin can go out adventuring any time they like. Based on the Fighter, but I stuck to the BX/BECMI d8 hit die for them. They can use any weapon or armor, but not shields. They get to pick a fighting style that grants +1 damage with a weapon group (swords, spears, bows, axes, bludgeons, chains), with a second style at higher levels, and at even higher levels getting to bump one style up to +2 damage.

Sohei (Warrior-Monk): Again based on the Cleric class, but more martial than the Mudang with a d8 hit die, and slightly slower advancement (1750xp to level 2). They can use any weapon, but only light or medium armor, plus shields. And spells are their only special ability. Their spell list will be a bit more aggressive than the standard Cleric/OA Shukenja spell list.

Wushi (Wizard): Like the Wu Jen of 1E OA, but the name means "magical learned gentleman" where wu jen just means "magic person." Oh, and no wu jen taboos, just the Magic-User with a slightly different spell list. Spellbooks and all.

Xia (Gallant): My take on the wandering do-gooder martial artist type, based on the BX/BECMI Elf class. They can fight (all weapons, light armor only, no shield, and d6 hit dice), and get unarmed damage like a Monk/Mystic. Plus they can cast spells (max at 4th level though). I intend to make the spell list using ideas from the player in my West Marches game who was playing a Muscle Wizard -- spells that would make him better in melee combat. And since it's the wuxia-themed class, flying around on wires and dancing on bamboo branches type spells too.

Yakuza (Gangster): Based on the Thief class, but again moving away from d% specialized skills and instead x/d6 skills. I gave them a find traps 1-4/d6 and a combined disarm traps/open locks of 1-2/d6. They can backstab just like the Thief (and ninja), and at every even level they get a tattoo. I have 20 tattoos that grant various magical effects like bonuses to saving throws, magical resistance, or a 1st level spell effect once per day.

Using this, you could have an East Marches sandbox type game of wandering heroes, or a megadungeon, or whatever. Killing monsters and taking their stuff, Slaughter-Vagabond style, if you like. Or of course getting into the fun politics and urban intrigue/competing martial arts schools, all that jazz.


  1. I like what you've done here, but I am really commenting on East Marches as a name for using these in sandbox style play, kudos.

  2. Cool ideas on mixing together the far east into one. On names of classes... wondering if there is a more ancient name to go for instead of Yakuza... it brings to mind gunmen with tatoos. Sanzoku is the word for lrganized bandits I think. Maybe that?

    1. Well, my Yakuza are knife/swordsmen with tattoos. Sanzoku is the word for bandit, but that has a different connotation.

      The yakuza emerged from two groups: tekiya (wandering festival booth operators) and bakuto (gamblers). Both have fairly long histories. The term "yakuza" seems to have come about in the late 19th century.

      I suppose I could use either Tekiya or Bakuto for the name of the class, since both terms have longer pedigrees. But I'll probably stick with Yakuza since it combines both types and is also the name that was used in 1E OA.

      Thanks for the comment. Your comment did make me reconsider the class name.