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Oriental Adventures (1e)
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Oriental Adventures (1e)

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We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

Dungeon Masters and players: prepare yourselves to enter a whole new world-the world of Oriental Adventures!

The material in this book will enable you to play the AD&D game as you've never played it before. In the lands of Oriental Adventures, characters are not judged solely on their prowess with sword and spell. Oriental characters' social skills and personal honor are just as important as their combat abilities. When was the last time politeness and proper manners really mattered in your campaign? How can characters associate with nobility if they know nothing of courts or court etiquette? How many AD&D characters worry about how their actions reflect upon their families and comrades? These and many other intricacies of social interactions and responsibilities are brought to light in this volume. Don't get the idea that Oriental Adventures characters don't fight. Pages and pages of Oriental weapons and armor are described and illustrated here. From the favored weapons of the ninja to thin pieces of cloth that actually stop arrows, the arms and defenses of the Orient are yours in the lands of Kara-Tur. Have a favorite monster from Japanese films? Find it under Gargantua in the Monsters section! Want to learn a martial arts style or create a new style? You can do it in the new worlds opened up to you in Oriental Adventures!

Product History

Oriental Adventures (1985), by David "Zeb" Cook, is TSR's eighth hardcover for the AD&D game. It was released in October 1985. This marked the first time ever that TSR released two hardcover books in a single year, following from Unearthed Arcana (1985). They’d keep up the two-a-year rate through 1987.

Disputed Origins. Gary Gygax says that he started thinking about an Asian-influenced supplement for AD&D as early as 1980, shortly after the original AD&D game (1977-1979) was completed. He first mentioned in it Dragon #90 (October 1984) when he announced that Francois Marcela-Froideval was working on rules "for including Oriental characters in the game", possibly as part of a "second volume of [the] Players Handbook".

By 1985, TSR was in severe financial straits, and so Gary Gygax suggested that a half-dozen new books be published under his name, one of which was Fracois Marcela-Froideval's Oriental Adventures. This increased the importance of the project and required it to hit its deadline; it's also where the book's history comes into some dispute.

David "Zeb" Cook was consulting on the project because of his interest in Japanese history and culture. As a result, when Marcela-Froideval turned in a manuscript for the book that was just 30-60 double-spaced pages, it landed in Cook's lap. Gygax then wrote Cook a contract to prepare the book on his own, with just 4-5 months to go on the deadline.

Everyone agrees that the resulting manuscript is 100% Cook's own, perhaps inspired by some of the ideas suggested by Gygax and in Marcela-Froideval's notes. However in much later years Gygax would claim that Cook "ramrodded" his book through TSR, with the intent to "sink Francois' material", and that he did so by taking advantage of the fact that Gygax was "engrossed in the business affairs of TSR".

Both Cook and the book's main editor, Mike Breault, disagree with this interpretation of events. Cook points toward his contract and says that Gygax was fully informed on how the book was being prepared.

Whatever the specifics, the book’s accepted origins are: Gygax came up with the idea; Marcela-Froideval wrote a manuscript that wasn’t published; and then Cook wrote a manuscript that was.

Some suggest that Gygax’s animosity toward Cook came about not because of Oriental Adventures, but instead what came afterward: reportedly, Gary Gygax asked Cook to join his new company, New Infinities, around 1986. Cook instead opted to remain at TSR where he continued to work with Gygax's arch-nemesis, Lorraine Williams, and where he eventually authored AD&D 2e (1989), which replaced Gygax's iteration of the game. It seems quite possible that this was the actual source of the dispute and might have colored the principles’ views of Oriental Adventures.

Disputed Bylines. Though Breault, Cook, and Gygax all agree that the text of Oriental Adventures was entirely written by Cook, the book was still released with the name "Gary Gygax" on the cover. This matched TSR’s trends for 1985, which also saw the release of the D&D Masters Rules (1985) and T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985), each with Gygax receiving prime billing despite the fact that he probably didn't do any of the new work on either book. The intent was probably to put Gygax's name first and forefront in as many projects as it was possible, as good marketing that was intended to help save TSR from its financial hardships.

Though the cover of Oriental Adventures says "Gary Gygax", it doesn't actually say "by Gary Gygax" — a distinction that might or might not have been intentional. Greyhawk Adventures (1988) similarly lists James M. Ward's name on the cover without a "by". The inside credits of Oriental Adventures offer a more accurate depiction of how the book was created saying that "Original Oriental Adventures Concept" was by Gary Gygax with Francois Marcela-Froideval while "Oriental Adventures Design" was by David "Zeb" Cook.

Disputed Intellectual Property. Editor Mike Breault reports that there was one other legal oddity having to do with Oriental Adventures: when Breault got the book back from typesetting he discovered that the book's indicia had been changed to claim that Gary Gygax was the owner of the copyright to AD&D. Breault reported the problem to TSR Legal who reportedly had a confrontation with Gygax that resulted in the indicia being returned to its original form.

Continuing the AD&D Hardcovers. Earlier in 1985, TSR had introduced a new sort of AD&D hardcover: Unearthed Arcana (1985) was a pure rules supplement that added new classes, races, spells, and other mechanics to the Players Handbook (1978). Oriental Adventures was the same but more-so. It was an entire alternate Players Handbook, complete with a full set of classes, races, and spells, plus new rules for families, honor, and martial arts. It could entirely replace the classic Players Handbook for games set in Asian-influenced lands.

This made Oriental Adventures an important part of what's now called the 1.5e release of AD&D. This was a fairly dramatic revamp of the rules to AD&D that added lots of classes and some important new rules. It's generally understood to included Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures, Dungeoneer's Survival Guide (1986), and Wilderness Survival Guide (1986).

Some also see Oriental Adventures as the first of AD&D’s setting-heavy hardcovers — a series that also included Dragonlance Adventures (1987), Greyhawk Adventures (1988), Forgotten Realms Adventures (1990), and to a lesser extent Manual of the Planes (1987). Though Oriental Adventures originated the "Adventures" nomenclature, it’s quite different from the later books because it largely evokes setting through its classes, races, and other rules; the land of Kara-Tur is given just 6 pages of description near the end of the book.

About the Orient. Though Oriental Adventures marked TSR's entry to the world of Asian-influenced fantasy, it wasn't the first look at the topic in a FRPG. In fact, there were already two complete Asian-influenced FRPGs: FGU's Land of the Rising Sun (1980), and Phoenix Games' Bushido (1980), which was picked up by FGU for a second edition (1981). Despite being late to the party, Oriental Adventures did very well — probably out-selling the two earlier games in short order.

By adapting Asian fantasy elements, Oriental Adventures also introduced a lot of new mechanics to the AD&D game, among them many new classes. Characters like the ninja and the samurai were well-known — and in fact The Dragon had published a samurai class in issue #3 (October 1976); the shukenja, the wu jen and others were probably newer to most readers. However, the book's most interesting addition might have been a new version of the monk; the monk had always been the odd-man out in the traditional AD&D game, but now he was allowed to flourish in what Gygax considered to be his native environment.

About Skills. Oriental Adventures' most important additional to the future of the AD&D game was its inclusion of "non-weapon proficiencies" — which is to say skills. They were already a central part of many RPGs: GDW's Traveller (1977) introduced the idea, while Chaosium's RuneQuest (1978) moved them to the fantasy realm and turned them into something that could be improved. By the early '80s, many other influential games such as The Fantasy Trip (1977, 1980) and Rolemaster (1980, 1982) also included skills. In other words, AD&D was again playing catch up.

Cook's first iteration of skills didn't tie them to AD&D’s attributes. This was revamped by Douglas Niles in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, which also adapted Cook’s non-weapon proficiencies to a western setting. Cook himself returned to the topic of skills when he wrote AD&D 2e. He made them an official (but optional) rule set — but almost all 2e groups used them. Since D&D 3e (2000), skills have become a totally standard part of the D&D rules — but it took 15 years to get there!

The 2e Connection. Gygax apparently liked Oriental Adventures enough that he said in Dragon #103 (November 1985) that the Players Handbook for the second edition of AD&D would include material from both Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures. At a minimum, he intended to replace the classic monk class with its Oriental Adventures brethren.

Gygax's plans for 2e never came about due to his being forced out of the company shortly afterward. Instead, it was Zeb Cook who wrote 2e, and ironically he left the Asian-influenced character classes out of the new game. Despite that, the 1e Oriental Adventures sourcebook kept being referenced for years after the release of 2e — showing that edition lines weren't as hard and fast then as they are now.

Expanding Greyhawk. In Francois Marcela-Froideval's original design, Oriental Adventures was supposed to be set in the world of Greyhawk. His Asian-influenced lands were going to lie past the west coast of Oerik. Since either Frank Mentzer or Len Lakofka was working on an eastern continent, this along with a southern continent would have completed the world of Greyhawk as a globe. This idea was still being touted in Dragon #102 (October 1985), just before Oriental Adventures' publication, but it was abandoned shortly thereafter.

Expanding the Realms. Instead, the world of Oriental Adventures was added to the Forgotten Realms with the publication of Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1988). However, Zeb Cook's massive Asian-influenced land ended up being a little too big for the Realms, so it was shrunk down for future iterations of the setting.

Future History. Oriental Adventures was very popular and ended up being the best-seller for TSR in 1985, despite many other popular publications appearing that year. It subsequently spawned eleven direct spinoffs. Most of them were adventure supplements. OA1: "Swords of the Daimyo" (1986) also added considerable detail on the world of Kara-Tur. The series then ran through OA7: "Test of the Samurai" (1990) and was afterward restarted with a Forgotten Realms prefix for FROA1: “Ninja Wars” (1990) — but that was the final Oriental Adventures release. The other Oriental Adventures supplements were the "Warlords" 1-on-1 gamebook (1985), the aforementioned Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1988) boxed set, and MC6: "Monstrous Compendium Kara-Tur Appendix" (1990).

Oriental Adventures also was the source of two spin-off settings for the Forgotten Realms. The first was The Horde (1990), which depicts the lands west of Kara-Tur; it was presented as a bridge book between Western and Eastern culture. The second was Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures (1992) which was pitched at TSR as a sequel to Oriental Adventures, showing how popular the setting remained almost a decade after its release. (The released version of Al-Qadim doesn’t actually reference Oriental Adventures, which may have been out-of-print by that time.)

Wizards of the Coast reused the name more recently to produce Oriental Adventures (2001), but this 3e book depicts the Legend of the Five Rings (1997) world of Rokugan rather than the classic land of Kara-Tur.

About the Creators. Cook got his start with D&D with A1: "Slave Pits of the Undercity" (1980), but he was better known for his Basic D&D work prior to 1985. Following the publication of Oriental Adventures, Cook contributed to several Asian-influenced supplements at TSR, including three of the "OA" adventure books, The Horde (1990), and the related Horselands (1990) novel. He even returned to the topic in the d20 era, contributing to Green Ronin's Jade Dragons & Hungry Ghosts (2001), a book of Asian monsters.

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

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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Reviews (6)
Discussions (42)
Customer avatar
Corey C February 15, 2021 9:19 pm UTC
A print on demand version of this book would be nice.
Customer avatar
Ian V February 23, 2021 4:03 am UTC
I sent an email to Wizard of the Coast asking if they had any plans for a POD version of this book and got a reply telling me 'Thank you for showing interest in our products but it is our policy to never reply to emails'. So that's that, then.
Customer avatar
Sam C December 19, 2020 12:54 pm UTC
Don’t read the comments, the book isn’t being discussed, just the disclaimer. The scan is fine if that’s what you’re looking for :)
Customer avatar
Ian V October 27, 2020 11:32 am UTC
My only question is: "Why doesn't this have a print on demand option?!" This was one of the best selling, most enjoyed books of 1e AD&D. I don't know anyone who doesn't like this book (who has actually read it).
Customer avatar
Ian V November 04, 2020 2:09 am UTC
Re: the disclaimer.
Daniel Kwan, the author of the 5e book Unbreakable, called for a ban of the book claiming that "by lumping together Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Philippine, and “Southeast Asian” lore [Oriental Adventures] reinforced western culture’s already racist understanding of the “Orient.” This seems to be a case of Mr. Kwan actively trying to be insulted. You could say the exact same thing about ALL of Dungeons and Dragons: By lumping together British, Greek, German, Italian and French lore, the entire Dungeons and Dragons range created by Gary Gygax reinforces American culture's already racist and incorrect understanding of "the European Middle Ages." You could say this, but you'd be completely missing the point. AD&D/D&D was created as a fantasy game and did a pretty good job of creating a fun setting to play in. David Cook did a good job of creating a fun Eastern setting that was respectful of the people he depicted. Was it a completely accurate...See more
Customer avatar
Marc S November 24, 2020 8:34 pm UTC
Thank you for your sanity
Customer avatar
Joe S February 02, 2021 5:22 pm UTC
I would point out that the sourcebook heavily favors Japanese culture and thus the playtesters probably wouldn't have felt underrepresented. The fantasy Korea "Koryo" is a literal appropriation of one of their dynasties names, and the precious little information on it is quite literally a copy & paste of a few historical names and some very inappropriate blanket statements about how they are an unwelcoming people. Daniel Kwan is not Japanese, and he and a panel of other Asian members of the D&D community had a great panel that they shared on YouTube that discuss what the issues are with writing Asian games that explains in much better detail why Oriental Adventures was a problematic production.
Customer avatar
John M October 01, 2020 7:18 pm UTC
POD plz!!!!
Customer avatar
Rick A September 12, 2020 3:59 am UTC
Print on demand option needed, please!
Customer avatar
Joe C September 08, 2020 3:22 am UTC
Print On Demand Option would be excellent
Customer avatar
George F August 28, 2020 8:02 pm UTC
So, this one is so racially offensive that it requires an unneeded disclaimer at the beginning AND end of the product description?
Customer avatar
Jason S October 16, 2020 7:51 pm UTC
It's become the newest best seller. I just picked up an original copy on ebay.
Customer avatar
Scott M August 19, 2020 3:54 pm UTC
There is nothing problematic about this book at all. "Oriental" is simply Latin for "of the east" (in the same way that "Occidental" means "of the west"). This reflects ancient merchants' and explorers' understanding of the world at the time (east-west was pretty much all they knew)

We switched to saying "Asian" for people, not because its a racist term, but rather because it better reflects our global understanding of the world and its cultural and ethnic regions. I am from the southern US, and people call me a "Southerner" all the time. It's exactly the same thing (and not racist at all).

Sure, calling someone "AN Oriental" can be *perceived* as a slur, in the same way that calling me a "cracker" could be. Crackers are also tasty treats; thus, the word "oriental" is only racist if you *want* it to be. And let's face it, the "woke" kids *want* it to be so, in order to tear it down because...See more
Customer avatar
Russell A August 11, 2020 9:13 am UTC
One of the best books I have in my collection. Well worth purchasing.
Customer avatar
DAVID M July 16, 2020 4:46 pm UTC
So is the disclaimer included in the PDF? And does anyone know if they'er including the disclaimer in the PoD versions?
Customer avatar
Mark C July 16, 2020 8:48 pm UTC
No it is not printed on the book. The book is presented in the original format nothing has changed other then the fact WotC has ladled it on the store page. POD has no disclaimers printed in the books either.
Customer avatar
Mark C July 16, 2020 11:15 am UTC
By denouncing things which were never racist, they sure make it seem like it was. It ends up looking like they’ve been tolerating prejudice for years, and fans lose something unnecessarily. Which of course, cannot come back, because the organization publicly called it racist.
Customer avatar
Mark C July 16, 2020 7:37 am UTC
The thing that makes me so mad about this is the people who demonize these old books dont care if they come from a place of hate or not, all they care about is white people wrote them. Now they labeled AD&D a thing of hate for people who only used it as a stepping stone for a podcast to build up a fan base to win a ENnie. In the 70s and 80s I was a devil worshiper for playing AD&D now I am a uncle tom and my white friends are racists for playing AD&D. @WotC I hope making AD&D a thing of hate was worth it...
"Ffs the disclaimer is neatly hidden beneath a history of how a group of white dudes who love "Asian culture" wrote this book of stereotypes."_ Asians Represent
Customer avatar
Mark C July 15, 2020 8:22 pm UTC
They remove other PoC comments on their videos that disagree with them, they are in effect taking those voices so they are the soul representation of their community. I dont know why WotC listened to them to do this disclaimer or even consider removing these great books, but the people you are letting direct this dont play fair. They dont mention anything that does not support their views, they remove any comments that disagree with them, or point out things that dont fit in what they want done, and they silence other PoC who do not share their views.
Customer avatar
Mitchell M July 15, 2020 7:49 pm UTC
And just one more thing, they spend several min making fun of all the non Asian creator names in their vid but not once mention all the Asian play testers who had a hand in this book. I will name them here Masataka Ohta, Akira Saito, Hiroyasu Kurose, Takafumi Sakurai, and YukaTate-ishi.
Customer avatar
Tom V July 15, 2020 6:45 am UTC
Without having to sit through a 26 hour long video series, can someone list for me what were the top 5 things that Daniel Kwan & his buddies found offensive about this book please?
Customer avatar
Mitchell M July 15, 2020 7:02 pm UTC
It basically boils down to the wrong color person wrote it. They have no issue with other things that use the same tropes Kung fu movies, Japanese fantasy, Anime, Asian pop and pulp etc. They also have no understanding of AD&D they call things like comeliness racist and other mechanics that are universal to the system.
Customer avatar
Scott M August 19, 2020 3:45 pm UTC
I suppose Eric Clapton has no business playing American Blues, then, since he was born in England and doesn't have enough melanin in his skin. What a talent and awesome ambassador for American Blues the world would have lost if these "woke kids" had their way.
Customer avatar
Ewan C July 14, 2020 4:54 am UTC
WotC is trying to profit from something it asserts 'is wrong now and was wrong then', and to justify this shameless display of hypocrisy tells us that we can learn a valuable lesson about how 'diversity is our strength' by buying these books. If that's the case, why aren't the books being given away for free? Wizards simply wants money. It doesn't care about social justice at all. If it did, it would have yanked the books on principle or else done as I have suggested and made them freely available.
Customer avatar
Mitchell M July 15, 2020 7:06 pm UTC
Social justice has nothing to do with this. If an Asian person wrote OA they would have no issue with it. They have no issue with Kung fu movies, Japanese fantasy, Anime, Asian pop and pulp etc all things that OA is based on and uses the same tropes. 26 hours to say the wrong color person wrote this book is insane. If we agree with the people who see this as an issue then all fantasy that uses real cultures as the base are problematic. This whole whites are not allowed to write fantasy unless it is white fantasy is problematic in of itself. As for the disclaimer it is knee jerk. D&D was the parent of the whole hobby to say "it was wrong then and is now" is saying the whole hobby is based in hate. And calling all who worked for TSR and WotC up until 5e problematic.
Customer avatar
Mitchell M July 15, 2020 7:27 pm UTC
"yanked the books on principle" Thank god TSR did not do that in the 70s and 80s over that moral outrage you would have no D&D to call problematic and racist today.
Back then it was murder and suicide today it is social justice. I dont think the outrage over this game will ever end.. And just so you know I am brown, AD&D was always open to all people. It was one of the few truly inclusive things back in the 70s and 80s, when I started in the hobby. Removing all PoC from AD&D is not making it inclusive.
Customer avatar
July 17, 2020 4:03 am UTC
Words of wisdom.
Customer avatar
Ewan C July 17, 2020 11:07 pm UTC
I actually agree with you on all of that, Mitchell M. I'm pointing out WotC's hypocritical stance. These guys have the gall to sell books they condemn morally. It's a sop to the 'social justice' crowd,, but it really shows the corporate shills don't respect anybody. Not activists who feel strongly about these things, but also not Gygax and the many other writers, artists, designers, DMs and players without whom Wizards wouldn't even exist.
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