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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Welcome to Kara-Tur

This is what I posted to my players today-

Kara-Tur is the assumed setting for the original AD&D Oriental Adventures campaign, in much the same way that Greyhawk is the assumed setting for 1st edition AD&D; it is a fantasy Asia. The politics at TSR when OA was published divorced it from the World of Greyhawk, since E. Gary Gygax was on his way out; eventually they grafted it on to the Forgotten Realms, but in it's originally presented form it's just an exotic fantasy east Asian continent. Presented in the OA book they name only four main empires- Shou Lung and T'u Lung (both analogues to different periods of Chinese history, although I couldn't tell you what periods because I am not all that well versed in Chinese history), Wa (modeled after Tokugawa era Japan) and Kozakura (modeled on Sengoku era Japan); and mention only a handful of other locations in passing. There is no map.

Kozakura, where our campaign is set, is modeled on Japan during the Sengoku Jidai period (Roughly, the last chaotic century of the Ashikaga Shogunate, before the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate; a period of nearly constant civil war, actually a pretty great time for adventure, most Japanese themed RPGs are set during this time period). I actually have the Forgotten Realms Kara-Tur boxed set though, so we can add in all of the other places that are detailed there too for future adventuring, from fantasy Korea (Koryo) to fantasy Tibet (Tabot) to fantasy Mongolia (the Hordelands and the Plain of Horses), you can see that, as was the case with many late 1980's TSR products they didn't spend a lot of time trying to come up with original names, they mostly just changed the vowels added them to the map and were good to go.

Anyway, here is the Native's guide to Kozakura:


Or the "Little Cherry Blossom," is far from a unified state. For several centuries it has been the scene of incessant warfare between powerful Daimyo, all struggling to gain the title of Shogun. The island is divided into fiefs and estates, ruled by the Daimyo. It is a very turbulent place - one where fortunes and might can be achieved by even those with the most humble of origins. As such it is the perfect place for an adventurer seeking fame and fortune.

Kozakura lacks the rigid social structure and laws of its culturally similar neighbor, Wa, and more than once a peasant has risen to become a powerful lord through military skill.

There are two main religions in this country: The Way of Enlightenment (analogous to Buddhism), and the Eight Million Gods (analogous to Shinto). There are many schools, temples and shrines in each. Most Monks come from the powerful temples of the Way, as do Sohei (but by no means all). The Daimyo realize the spiritual and martial strength of these bodies of holy warriors, and do their best to keep on the right side of them.

The majority of the populace are human and dwell upon the 3 great plains of the main island of Shinkoku. Korobokuru and Hengeyokai live in remote valleys, safely away from intruders. Spirit Folk are all the offspring of unions between nature spirits and humans, and thus are from areas of remote natural beauty.


No one knows when the first humans arrived in the islands of Kozakura. The Korobokuru, who had inhabited the islands for ages, keep no written records. Their oral tales are filled with stories of
their heroes battling foreign chiefs and gaining wondrous and rare gifts. The Korobokuru themselves maintain that the humans came from over the sea. Humans have no recorded history of this migration.

According to the chronicles of various temples and monasteries, the islands of Kozakura were the creations of one or more gods, of which Shinkoku was first. There is no agreement on which gods
were responsible, but a general consensus maintains that it was Izanagi "Heavenly Brother" and "Izanami" Heavenly Sister. The Korobokuru believe the world (and thus the islands of Kozakura) were created by one of the Animal Spirits—possibly the Bear God or the Eagle Goddess. All agree that Shinkoku has been the home of the gods for untold millennia.

Gradually, the other islands came into being. Tenmei was created when Heavenly Sister was banished from Shinkoku by Fierce Wind Son. Hinomoto was created when Heavenly Brother declared his retirement and Mikedono was created accidentally in the war between Fire Bright and Fierce Wind Son.

The Korobokuru were the first settlers of the islands and their stories tell how the islands were given to Poinpeyuan, a great hero of their race, as a gift from the gods. The Korobokuru could keep the islands so long as they paid proper reverence to the gods and obeyed special taboos. Later stories tell how the Korobokuru people broke these taboos and the humans came to take the islands away. Recorded human history begins with the accounts of several powerful family tribes. Each tribe controlled a small portion of Shinkoku and constantly struggled with the other tribes and the Korobokuru for more territory. Then, the Akimatsu tribe presented the claim that its tribal chief, Mori, had been chosen by the gods to lead all the peoples of Shinkoku. Several miraculous events occurred that helped substantiate his title as emperor.

This is the "Legendary" history of Kozakura, taken largely from the module OA1: Swords of the Daimyo by David "Zeb" Cook published by TSR in 1986; slightly edited for content and space. Much of this was typed up and I just copy/pasted it from Fabian's OA website- Adventures in Kara-Tur. I altered some of it to suit my campaign and edited it for US English, but other than that the "Guide" is Fabian's & Zeb's work.

Rules stuff-

Most Characters are of Lawful Alignment, some classes are REQUIRED to be lawfully aligned, perversely, some are required to NOT be.

There is no common tongue in OA, the Human language in Kozakura is Kozakuran. I actually like that not all people speak the same language in this version of D&D. There is a "Trade" language though that can be used to get your point across in most international ports or major cities; I suggest that if the campaign ever starts to travel at least one player pick it up.

The OA rules had not differentiated yet between number of proficiency slots given for weapon/non-weapon. I am working on splitting them apart as you read this so that OA characters don't get stupidly high numbers of proficiencies to waste on weapons at the expense of other skills or vice versa.

Now- Here's what I got in the mail today!

Another bunch of Clan War miniatures, but at least I have real purpose behind owning them now. I tried to convince my wife that I bought them for her, in an effort to get her to paint them before Sunday, but that didn't go well. I wish my painting skills were as good as hers. She is temperamental.


  1. Sweet miniatures! And really glad you got some use out of my old site! :)

  2. Oh, I'll be using it again tomorrow when I write up the "Miyama Province Guide". I am just grateful that someone else has saved me some of the typing, there really aren't all that many of us Kara-Tur fans out there. I would have thought there'd have been more.

  3. As a gamer living in Kyoto for a long time, sometimes I despair when seeing atrocious RPG Asian settings that have more in common with video games than historical fantasy. Your methods and work are right on the money and I hope to hear more about your campaign and the lively setting you have going. Seems like you guys are going to have a blast in a fantastic world with strong roots in history and D&D and not some watered down CRPG. Kudos.