Japanese Rules Cyclopedia

In February 2006, while browsing the Acaeum site, I came across something interesting: among the foreign editions for the old D&D rules, there were Japanese versions.

Since I have been living in Japan for six years now, this was a nice surprise for me. I have seen very little evidence of active roleplaying going on here, but it's nice to know that they released the books. Moreover, it gives me something interesting to look for and try to collect.

Looking into the availability of these books, however, has proved difficult. Yahoo Auctions and the Japanese auction site Rakuten Ichiba both yield few results. Of these, three sets of books seem to be reasonably common: the Rules Cyclopedia, in three volumes; a translation of the Penhaligon Trilogy, in five volumes (possibly manga??); and a "replay" of a Mystara campaign, in five volumes. (According to one of my Japanese friends, these "replays" used to be quite popular. It seems they are basically dramatised campaign reports, complete with characters, background and setting info, etc.)

Of these, the Rules Cyclopedia seems to be the least over-priced, and the easiest to obtain, so I went ahead and bought it. The final price including postage was 4,460 yen.

The Japanese version of the Rules Cyclopedia comes in three volumes: (1) Player's, (2) Dungeon Master's and (3) Monsters. Each booklet is about B6 size - the same size as a small manga comic book. The original prices were 900, 980, and 800 yen respectively, and the total page count comes to more than 1,100 pages. It must have been hellishly difficult to find a particular rule in them - I mean, the English A4 version was hard enough!

Note that the books are traditional Japanese style, which means that they read from right to left, with the cover on what we would consider to be the back cover.

(3) Monsters is on the left, (2) Dungeon Master's in the middle, and (1) Player's on the right.

Take off the slipcase and you can see a star map. I placed two books side by side so you can see the front and back together.

Inside each book, there is a small colour section at the front, with the rest of the book in black and white. Let's take a look at the colour sections, starting with the Player's book.

The first colour panel shows the character classes, in manga style. See if you can work out which is which.

The next one illustrates spells being cast; on the left is fireball, on the right cure light wounds.

This one illustrates equipment, with labels telling you what is what. Japan's cultural background is of course quite different from that of western nations, so it's interesting to see these images. The anime style is obviously trying to make things more familiar, while at the same time images like this are could be said to be conveying western symbols and ideas, for those who may not be familiar with them.

The last picture continues with the theme of equipment.

The DM's book's colour illustrations focus on gameplay and setting. This first one is a general picture of the "adventure setting".




Finally the Monsters book shows some interesting ensemble pictures of monsters. In this one you can see an ogre, a minotaur, a golem, a troll, a mummy, a kobold, a hydra, a dragon, a bat, an ochre jelly and a gargoyle. "The monsters are waiting for you!"

The second picture shows a giant, a unicorn, a chimera, a goblin, a wolf, an orc, a manticore, an elf and a dwarf. "Monsters are everywhere!"

"Various kinds of monsters appear - at sea, in the sky..." We have a wyvern, a harpy, a griffon and a hippogriff in the air, with a whale, a sea elf, a shark, a dolphin, and a merman under the sea.

The last panel shows monster types, dividing them into humanoids, lowlife (spiders, slimes, etc.), dragons, general monsters, other-planar monsters, magical constructs, undead and animals.

Now let's take a look inside the book.

Everything reads from right to left, in vertical columns - even the tables have been converted to vertical format, as you can see. This page is the magic-user's XP chart and description. For some reason they only list each class up to 9th level. Even though the maximum level is stated as being 36th, they don't seem to give any details for how to advance past 9th.

Lastly, here are some illustrations from the book.

A woman holding an unreasonably large "saikoro" (die).

A very cute looking elf.

Anime-style dwarf...

Presumably a fighter. The manga style mixed with D&D classes is quite strange indeed.

A kindly cleric helping a fighter.

Created 7th March 2006. Last updated 4th May 2006.

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