Let's roll

In memory of Gary "Dungeons & Dragons" Gygax, I thought it might be nice to take a look at the history of D&D in Japan.

Wikipedia's delightful article divides D&D's Japanese history into four ages: "Pre-Translation", "Shinwa", "MediaWorks", and "Hobby Japan". The Pre-Translation Age was one of truly legendary nerdery -- men and women without internet connections of any kind, importing at great expense books in an foreign language and studying the rules they contained for pretending to be an elf. Their cyclopean achievements make the otaku of today look like keg-chugging frat boys. This golden age lasted from the dawn of D&D in the mid-70s until 1985, when Shinwa ushered in the twilight of the ur-nerds by releasing the first Japanese edition of the game.

The Ages of Shinwa lasted almost a decade, and is now remembered fondly for its bloopers: "plutonium pieces" for "platinum pieces", "reggae armor" for "leather armor" (i.e. ゲ→ザ, an easy enough error for a typesetter to make). This was also the period when HAGIWARA Kazushi threw a Beholder into his manga serial Bastard!!, but had to give it limbs and rename it SUZUKI Dogezaemon for the trade.

The Shinwa Empire was reportedly brought low following a miscalculation on its part regarding the willingness of Japan's gamers to switch to Advanced D&D, and it was three years later in 1994 that MediaWorks seized control of the property. The keystone of their localization effort was YASUDA Hitoshi of Group SNE -- anime nerds will recognize them as the force behind Record of Lodoss War, which began as a humble transcript or "replay" of their D&D campaign. This was to be a localization by RPG nerds for RPG nerds, but, alas, it was up against an implacable enemy: Japan's late-90s "Winter Age of Tabletalk RPGs", a market contraction now generally attributed to post-Bubble malaise and competition from computer games.

We the living find ourselves in the Age of Hobby Japan, playing 3rd or 3rd-and-a-half Edition and still very much concerned with translation issues. (This cultural interest in textual authenticity and accuracy strikes me as very similar to that of the Anglosphere's manga/anime otaku fandom; I wonder if the analogy is really that easy.)

Popularity factor: 6


I, for one, would prefer "reggae armor."

Any idea if Oriental Adventures was published and/or popular? One of the things I disliked about that system were its "honor points," and how it tried to smoosh the Western chivalric code onto the samurai class (although most of what I knew about it at the time came from Kurosawa movies).

A sad, sad day for nerddom.


"Oriental Adventures." Wow, the memories. How I adored my first edition "Oriental Adventures." I'd probably be shocked and appalled to read it today, huh?

Big bummer about Gary Gygax. :(

*Pours some Mountain Dew on the floor for his dead homie*


We have a 5 in 6 chance of meeting him at the crossroads.

Oriental Adventures, that's a good question. I'll see what I can find out.


Here's a somewhat related RPG-link. Not sure if you've seen it yet:



I hadn't--great link! Thanks!


So there are Japanese equivalents to American otaku.

Also, time to close comments ^^

Comment season is closed.