D&D’s original Oriental Adventures was written by Gary Gygax, David “Zeb” Cook and Francois Marcela-Froideval and published in 1985. It was well-received, but it was a product of its time.
Modern readers will likely find two problems with the book. The first is in the title and the use of the word “Oriental”. That’s a catch-all phrase that’s clumsy these days. We know there are lots of different cultures and not just a single “exotic East”.
A version of this debate surfaced as Netflix took the comic-book character Iron Fist to the small screen.
One of the show’s stars, Jessica Henwick, tweeted a comment when Iron Fist co-creator said;
Don’t these people have something better to do than to worry about the fact that Iron Fist isn’t Oriental, or whatever word. I know Oriental isn’t the right word now, either.”
The other problem is the ‘fetishism’ of Asian culture. The idea of there being a strange and magical world far to the east is appropriate if you’re a Victorian British explorer setting out to travel further than anyone else has. It hardly seems relevant today. In fact, today, people all over the world play Dungeons & Dragons.
A years back, Aaron Trammell tackled this in an essay called How Dungeons & Dragons Appropriated the Orient.
The topic is notoriously challenging to work with. Just a month ago, despite working with an Asian sensitivity consultant, Jetpack 7 had to abandon plans to Kickstart Adventures in Dugatai: The Mystic East after feedback from the community.
Unbreakable Volume 1 is a collection of Asian myth and folklore-themed adventures for D&D 5e. It doesn’t have the new character classes and races that Oriental Adventures books of yesteryear brought but offers up 253 full-colour pages of adventure instead.
There are 10 adventures in total, suitable for character tiers 1 through to 4 as well as Asian-inspired monsters, magic items and characters from myth and legend.
This supplement, already a copper bestseller at DriveThruRPG, has been written to avoid the pit traps around using Asian mythology to inspire D&D encounters. At the same time, as Gary Gygax tried to do with the original Oriental Adventures, the book is all about enthusiasm and a delight for multi-cultural D&D and the richness of Asian folklore.
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