Deck O? Names ? Japanese is a generic supplement from Tabletop Adventures, LLC. The zipped file is somewhat over five megabytes in size, and contains three PDFs and a text readme file, which catalogues the contents of everything in the zipped file. One of the PDFs is a single full page color ad for Tabletop Adventures. The second one is nine pages worth of cards, and the last one is a twenty-nine page file of support information.
The file with the cards contains twelve cards to a page. One each of the cards? four sides is a kanji (Japanese character), along with a number that denotes the number of strokes used in drawing the kanji, its pronunciation, and its meaning. One of the four sides of the card is colored, with a special border, while the other three are white. The different colors indicate what type of name the card contains; blue for male, pink for female, purple for surnames, and grey for place names. You create a complete Japanese name by taking two cards of the same type, putting one of the white-edged names first, and then combining it with the colored edge of a card of the same type to build a name.
If this sounds horribly complex, rest assured that the design is elegantly simple. I could take two female name cards, for example, and take one of the white edges of one that reads ?kiyo? and use the pink-shaded side of the other that reads ?mi,? and I?d have a female name, ?Kiyomi,? and know that it means ?pure beauty? and how to write that in Japanese. While there are a total of one hundred eight cards in the set, the last eight are blank, allowing you to make your own.
The last PDF file opens with a full-color cover that takes up a page. The first page after this contains the instructions for how to use the cards in the other PDF, giving the aforementioned instructions, as well as some alternate ways to use them for name-generation.
After this there?s a table of contents to the rest of the file (as well as bookmarks). The people at Tabletop Adventures made the rest of this file into a primer on Japanese language and culture, allowing for you to use this to not only make Japanese names for you game, but add all the flavorful touches to truly make it feel like a game set in Japan. Perhaps I?m a bit biased, as I majored in Japanese Studies at college, but I absolutely loved this, and couldn?t get enough.
The file opens with some basic naming conventions, including notes on suffixes used to denote the level of respect you feel for a person. There?s a huge difference in calling a guy Takashi-kun and Takashi-sama, after all. A little over a page of cultural tidbits follows before it then gives a pronunciation guide to the Japanese language in general.
It then deals with an introduction to the Japanese alphabets, covering the kana syllabic alphabets, as well as the lithographic kanji alphabet that was imported from China well over a millennium ago. A handy table displaying the entire kana alphabets is then given. Oddly though, there?s nothing given that displays the pronunciations for numbers, which is strange since the next section deals with the superstition and beliefs of numbers, and even gives a form of Japanese numerology.
The file then closes out with several pages of information on the Japanese system for counting days, weeks, months, years, and eras, before giving a page of resources to use for more information. The product ends with a cut-out box for the cards, with instructions on how to cut it out and assemble it, and card backs for the cards themselves, also with assembly instructions.
All in all, I found Deck O? Names ? Japanese to be a product that is as useful as it is interesting, which is to say interesting, and I think that you will too. This is far more than just a generator for authentic-sounding names, but rather it offers a glimpse into how the Japanese view the basics of life, and helps you to transport that into your game. The fact that it does that by educating you is a bonus. Few products make learning fun, but this is one that manages to masterfully pull it off.
<b>LIKED</b>: This product not only delivered a varied but simple system for generating Japanese names, but also went far above and beyond that by including many basic facts about Japan and Japanese life and history.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: It was a little odd to talk about the beliefs and numerology of numbers in Japan without actually listing at least the numbers one through ten in Japanese. That's a minor oversight though, as this is otherwise packed with great information.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>