Oriental Adventures introduces the infinite worlds of fantastic Asia to the DUNGEONS& DRAGONS® game.
In these pages, you’ll find:
• 5 new races, including hengeyokai, nezumi, and spirit folk
• 5 new classes, including the samurai, the shugenja, and the wu jen
• Over 25 new prestige classes, including the ninja, the tattooed monk, and the yakuza
• 100 new spells
• 75 new monsters
• A complete campaign setting: Rokugan, the world of the Legend of the Five Rings™ trading card game
To use this supplement, a Dungeon Master also needs the Player’s Handbook, the DUNGEONMASTER’s Guide, and the Monster Manual. A player needs only the Player’s Handbook.
Oriental Adventures (2001), by James Wyatt, is an alternate setting book for D&D 3e. It was published in October 2001.
About the Cover. Oriental Adventures stands out on the early 3e shelf. Where most of the core books either had brown covers (to show they were players books) or blue covers (to show they were GMs books), Oriental Adventures looks totally different. It sticks with the 3e style of faux-book covers, but it depicts an elegant hand-bound book with hand-drawn illustrations — matching the theme of an Asian-influenced setting.
Continuing the 3e Line. After publishing a new set of core D&D rulebooks in 2000, Wizards of the Coast continued into 2001 by releasing some of the most varied core books in Dungeons & Dragons' history. Their first few releases revisited classic books from the '80s and '90s, revamping them for the new 3e line: Psionics Handbook (2001) was reminiscent of PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook (1995), then Manual of the Planes reached back even further, to offer a new take on Jeff Grubb's classic book (1987). Now Oriental Adventures (2001) again returned to AD&D's very innovative period in the mid'80s, by offering a new take on Zeb Cook's book of the same name (1985)
A History of Oriental Adventures. The original Oriental Adventures (1985) was a book that was marketed as an "alternative player's handbook" for AD&D. It contained new classes and races for AD&D, plus new rules systems like honor and even "non-weapon proficiences" — D&D's first skill system. The result was far enough from AD&D's norms that it kicked off a period of publication now known as "AD&D 1.5e", which featured numerous expansions for the classic game.
Oriental Adventures also introduced a new setting called Kara-Tur, which mixed together countries influenced by Japan, China, Korea, and other Asian cultures. This setting remaining popular into the '90s, spawning eight adventures (1986-1990) and a variety of other supplements. The lands of Kara-Tur were eventually incorporated into the Forgotten Realms with the Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1988) boxed set. This in turn spun off two nearby settings: The Horde (1990) and Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures (1992).
However as new D&D settings appeared during the '90s, Kara-Tur faded away — other than occasionally appearing on maps of the larger Realms. Oriental Adventures was never revamped for AD&D 2e (1989-2000), though its ninja class and martial arts system returned in PHBR15: The Complete Ninja's Handbook (1995).
A History of Five Rings. Although Wizards of the Coast decided to revamp Oriental Adventures for D&D 3e, they would focus on a different campaign setting: Rokugan.
Rokugan began life at the Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG). It was originally imagined as the setting of the Legends of the Five Rings CCG (1995), which was later spun off to Five Ringers Publishing to allow for better funding. AEG then received a license from Five Rings to publish a Legend of the Five Rings RPG (1997). It was the first particularly successful Asian-influence RPG since … TSR's Oriental Adventures.
Meanwhile, Five Rings Publishing found themselves involved with the roleplaying business deal of a lifetime. After TSR started having serious financial problems in 1997, Five Rings negotiated the rights to purchase the company, which they then passed on to Wizards of the Coast. As part of the deal, Wizards bought Five Rings Publishing as well.
AEG's license to produce the Legends of the Five Rings RPG ended in 2000, which meant that Wizards of the Coast now owned the Rokugan RPG. Though Wizards would return the rights to AEG in 2001, in the meantime they flirted with the idea of using Rokugan as a new D&D setting … which led to the new Oriental Adventures.
Oriental Adventure Origins. The new Oriental Adventures was to focus heavily on the world of Rokugan from the start. In fact, the original brainstorming group for Oriental Adventures consisted of Wizards' new story team for the L5R CCG — Rob Heinsoo, Duane Maxwell, and James Wyatt — plus developer Owen Stephens, who had played the L5R RPG extensively. There was good reason to use Rokugan instead of Kara-Tur for the new Oriental Adventures: as Wyatt said, Rokugan was "quite possibly the single most successful attempt to create a fantasy world with an Asian flavor".
The writing of the book was to be shared between Heinsoo and Wyatt. However, things were quickly changing at Wizards in the early '00s. Wyatt ended up the sole designer of the book, working on it from July 2000 to February 2001 with a trio of different editors. While he worked, he also revamped plans for the organization of the book. Originally, it was to be split — with half of it focused on generic Asian fantasy and half of it on Rokugan. However Wyatt decided that a split book would result in a lot of confusing redundancy, so he instead wrote a single book that incorporated Rokugan details throughout.
A Different Sort of Core Book. Oriental Adventuers surprisingly doesn't say "campaign setting" on the cover. In fact, it doesn't really define what it is anywhere. There's a good reason for that: it's a whole set of variant core books, all between two covers. Like the original Oriental Adventures, much of the focus is on an alternative player's handbook (chapters 1-8), but there's also a lengthy monster manual (chapter 9), a short DM's guide (chapter 10), and a couple of sections on the setting of Rokugan (chapters 11-12).
A Historic Collision. Oriental Adventures lists a variety of different sources, but three were of particular importance: Zeb Cook's original Oriental Adventures (1985), John Wick's Rokugan-focused Legend of the Five Rings, and Chris Pramas' wuxia-influenced Dragon Fist (1999), which was released as a PDF during the waning days of AD&D.
All three sources are apparent throughout the new Oriental Adventures. The spells, for example, come from all three books. The five new races include three from the original Oriental Adventures — the Hengeyokai, the Korobokuru, and the Spirit Folk — and one from Rokugan — the Nezumi. The new classes are similarly scattered. The samurai, sohei, and wu jen are all from the original Oriental Adventures, while the shaman is a renamed shukenja, also from Oriental Adventures. However, the very similarly named skugenja is straight from Legends of the Five Rings.
Despite the use of material from Legend of the Five Rings, Wyatt ultimately decided not to completely adapt the old AEG game in Oriental Adventures. Because he was creating a D&D campaign setting, and not a new d20 game, he didn't feel that it was appropriate to move too far from D&D's norms. So you won't find honor in the new Oriental Adventures (except as a minor alignment-like bit of color), nor do the ancestral adventages include disadvantages (which Wyatt felt were "foreign to the D&D design philosophy). There also isn't much emphasis on duels, not is combat as deadly as it is in Legend of the Five Rings.
The Forgotten Heroes. Several classes from the original Oriental Adventures are missing from this new book. Players were most upset about the lack of a ninja core class, but James Wyatt said that "[d]ifferent people … have different ideas of what ninja were or should be, and as a result their abilities are difficult to define in the terms of a single class." Some of that variety came across through a new "ninja spy" prestige class, which supplemented the monk-like "ninja of the crescent moon" prestige class from Sword & Fist (2001). Players would eventually get a ninja base class for 3.5e in Complete Adventurer (2005).
A few other missing classes from the original Oriental Adventures also appeared as prestige classes, including the kensei (weapon master) and the yakuza.
Expanding the World of Five Rings. Oriental Adventures marked Wizards of the Coast's one and only opportunity to depict the world of Rokugan. They did so in two chapters, spanning about 35 pages. Part of them described the the Empire of Rokugan, part of them focused on the clans, and part of them detailed the Shadowlands.
Expanding Kara-Tur. Sadly, TSR's Asian-influenced land of Kara-Tur gets no attention in this new Oriental Adventures. However, as James Wyatt noted, the new book "really gives you everything you need to use your old Kara-Tur material with D&D".
Monsters of Note. Though the new Oriental Adventures is mainly focused on the world of Rokugan, it also features one notable Rokugan anachronism: the lung dragons. These D&D favorites first appeared in the Fiend Folio (1981) and were prominently featured in MC3: "Monstrous Compendium Volume Three, Forgotten Realms Appendix" (1989) for AD&D 2e. The new Oriental Adventures marked their first appearance in over a decade and their premiere for the 3e game.
The material on Rokugan setting explains that the lung dragons are not the dragons of Rokugan, who are instead "physical embodiments of the elements or forces of nature".
Future History. Wizards published a web enhancement for Oriental Adventures, "The Mahasarpa Campaign", which details yet another setting for Oriental Adventures (and one used by Wyatt for his own campaign). After publishing Oriental Adventures, Wizards returned rights to the Rokugan setting to AEG, who released their own Rokugan Oriental Adventures Campaign Setting (2001) just two months later; it expanded and sometimes revamped the systems from Wizards' sourcebook. AEG later published two more supplements for Oriental Adventures, Creatures of Rokugan (2002) and Magic of Rokugan (2002), and then began dual-statting their L5R supplements for both d20 and their own Legends of the Five Rings game system. The dual-statted line continued through 2005.
About the Creators. Wyatt started working at Wizards of the Coast in January 2000. Though he began work with Monsters of Faerûn (2001), Oriental Adventures was still one of his earliest books for the company.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to email@example.com.