The Hotness
Games|People|Company
Legacy of Dragonholt
Blades in the Dark
Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
First Quest
Symbaroum Monster Codex
The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild
Numenera Destiny
Legend of the Five Rings RPG: Core Rulebook
Gamma World
The Will and the Way
Fate Accelerated
Curse of Strahd
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Beginner Game
Veins of the Earth
The Glorantha Sourcebook
Eriador Adventures
Dread
The Star Wars Roleplaying Game (Second Edition)
Dungeon Master Guide (AD&D 2e Revised)
Microscope
Chuubo's Marvelous Wish Granting Engine
Monsterhearts 2
Obscene Serpent Religion 2
AMBER Diceless Role-Playing
RuneQuest (2nd Edition)
Middle-earth Role Playing (1st Edition)
Book 01: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
Chill Horror Role-Playing Game
Delta Green
Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rulebook (First Edition)
Dungeon Master's Guide (AD&D 2e)
Day of the Beast
Mythic Game Master Emulator
The Great Pendragon Campaign
Ye Booke of Monstres II
Murder of Crows
The Nighttime Animals Save the World
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Core Set
Player's Handbook (AD&D 2e Revised)
Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set
Signs of Faith
Sagas of the Icelanders
Hessaret's Treasure
Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Beginner Game
Player's Handbook (D&D 5e)
Hoard of the Dragon Queen
DDEX2-03: The Drowned Tower
The Orc in the Well
Symbaroum Core Rulebook
Adventures in Middle-earth Player's Guide
Recommend
19 
 Thumb up
 Hide
7 Posts

GURPS Japan» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A watershed moment rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: Iron_Reviewer [+] iron_reviewer_deadline_046 [+] [View All]
Eric M. Aldrich I
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Where We've Gone

This is the sixth review in my series on the evolution of GURPS. The first five reviews are:

Man to Man
GURPS Basic Set (1st edition)
GURPS Fantasy (1st edition)
GURPS Basic Set (2nd edition)
GURPS Horror

Preamble
In early 1988 two books were released together that would define the potential of GURPS more than any others.

The most anticipated and noteworthy for its time was GURPS Space, but equally important, and probably the reason why GURPS is revered by many who do not even play it was the series of historical sourcebooks, the first of which is this, GURPS Japan.



The Product

GURPS Japan is a perfect bound 112-page softcover written by Lee Gold of Alarums & Excursions and Land of the Rising Sun fame.

The full-color cover is by Guy Burchak, as are all the interior illustrations.

It along with GURPS Space put forth the new standard for GURPS books -- very few after this were saddle stapled. (Though those two were not the first -- that honor falls to GURPS Bestiary)

Ok, so what's actually in it?

The introduction sets the tone, stating that there is way too much material to cover but that it will concentrate on two eras, basically the 16th ("The Warring Provinces Era") and 18th (the late Tokugawa era) centuries. Other eras are covered in the book, but for the most part they are glossed over. It also contains a basic map of the islands.

Section 1, This Is Japan, contains 11 pages of the basics to both eras -- geography, politics, society and social classes, the justice system, and even farming schedules. Maybe the best brief overview ever written on the subject.

Section 2 has six pages devoted to The Japanese Campaign. Serviceable. Covers what you would expect.

Characters is one of the sections that's really heavy on the GURPS content. It's 16 pages. Covers all the types you'd expect, from Warriors to Priests to Artists to Commoners and even Entertainers and Courtesans. Very well done, even if it's GURPS specific.

Section 4, Combat, made this worth the price of admission for those that played GURPS but didn't care one iota about Japan. For here is the first pass at a martial arts system and mass combat. It of course covers distinctly Japanese fighting styles as well. 16 pages.

Section 5 is about Ninja, and it's very brief at only five pages. Covers ninjas as characters, their equipment, and a small section on poisons.

Section 6 is a brief history section covering from before the 1100s through the opening of Japan in 1868. It's only 8 pages, but a good primer on the subject.

Sections 7 and 8 cover the main focus of the historical aspects of the book -- the "Warring Provinces" and "Late Tokugawa" eras respectively. Eight then seven pages.

Section 9, Religion focuses primarily on Shintoism and Buddhism. Eight pages. At this point Japanese mythology is explored a bit as well as the historical record with the emphasis on the former.

The next two sections are purely fantasy.

Section 10, Magic, while only eight pages, adds several spells unique to the milieu, and a couple of very minor tweaks to the base system found in GURPS Fantasy.

Goblins, Monsters and Ghosts, Section 11 is a nine-page bestiary of Japanese mythological creatures.

Finally, Section 12 returns to reality with a brief five-page discussion on Japanese and Westerners, including reactions and perceptions of the cultures. It covers initial contact with the Portuguese and the Jesuits to Perry's Expedition arriving in 1854.

There is a glossary, an index, and brief suggested reading list.

So is it any good?

Yes. For what it covers there are few, if any, gaming books that do so that are this well written.

The major criticism I have is that it doesn't cover enough! But 112 pages is enough to scratch the surface. If one is interested in the eras in question, it's worth the price of admission.

Conclusion

Initially the GURPS histories didn't sell too well, and on top of that the print runs were fairly small. But then, around 1996 or so, people discovered just how good they were. The problem was, Steve Jackson Games failed to notice how crazy the prices had gotten on the secondary market and instead lamented how slow the first couple of books had sold. The disconnect got so absurd that GURPS Russia was initially sold only through Warehouse 23 because they didn't think there'd be any demand! Retail stores screamed and someone clued them in on a new phenomenon called "eBay".

Until the second edition of this book it went for outrageous amounts of money at auction. The second edition adds 16 pages of material, and therefore would be the recommended version to hunt down if you're interested in the subject. This edition is basically for collectors only (which is good, as it's the harder one to find).

I personally loved this book when it came out. It was a far better treatment of the subject than the few other books I had seen (the uninspiring Oriental Adventures comes to mind immediately). The book could double in size and would still not be enough, but that's nit picking for 1988 and GURPS. I'd give it a 7.

Thanks for reading.
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Lowry
United States
Sunnyvale
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've been wondering just what SJG's thoughts on the historical line are, since there's yet to be anything comparable in 4th ed. The other two elements of the 'non-system' books have shown up (settings and genre books), but anything pure history has been only in thin PDF.

I'd leap on 200-page version this, or China, or....
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric M. Aldrich I
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've come to regard the historical books as the gaming equivalent of "art films" -- that is, they have no budget, they are well regarded, are done to get awards/great reviews, and no one sees them.

The historicals have their devotees, to be certain, but not enough to warrant full-fledged support. Heck, as far as I know (and this is third-hand rumor), the only reason any historicals have come out at all in PDF since the advent of fourth edition is due to them already being "in the can" (the GURPS WW II series comes to mind). None have been freshly started in the last 8 years.

A shame, really.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Lowry
United States
Sunnyvale
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Actually, I was thinking of GURPS Hot Spots: Renaissance Florence (and, I think, a couple other things), for the recent 'thin' PDF historicals. I believe that's all post 4th ed development.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric M. Aldrich I
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Yes, you're correct of course. I had completely forgotten about those. At least it's something. Have you looked at any of them?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Lowry
United States
Sunnyvale
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
No, not yet. I haven't been spending much on RPGs for the past couple years (which is up from the 'nothing' of several years before that), and PDF-only products tend to come behind print products.

In fact... other than one of RPGNow's charity deals, I haven't bought any RPG PDFs.

I hope to get to it eventually, but right now, it's standing in line behind a lot of other stuff. (Like the GMT preorder-of-the-month club....)
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.