Greg’s Japan Trip by Greg Stafford
I have just returned from SUPPLEMENT-CON, the Japanese convention in Tokyo to participate in the release of Hero Wars in Japanese. I wish first to thank Atelier Third, our publisher, for bringing over my wife Suzanne with me, and to Megumi and Masatoshi Iwata for the hospitality that we received. We felt completely at home and well attended for the nine days there, and hope to return the favor some day.
The convention was sponsored by Atelier Third, and attended by about 150 fans. Almost all were men, except Megumi, Suzanne, one woman whose name we missed, and employees of Atelier Third. Hero Wars was available for the first time, and I tried to autograph every copy (some people were too shy.) The Hero Wars fans are much like everywhere in age and enthusiasm. They gave me my favorite memento: a huge scroll autographed by everyone present. My second is the kabuki kite.
The Japanese fans presented Mr.Stafford with a scroll autographed by all those who attended. “Reading it was an uplifting experience,” said Stafford. See some photos of the scroll.
Japanese HW looks much better than our first edition (of course). It is hard cover, with new illustrations (see site) and the best character sheet I’ve seen yet. We have reproduced it here. We are going to use a variant of it for HW Second Ed.
Part of the program was a Q&A by Norio Katura. He was very knowledgeable in his interview and questions, left me straight lines to say something funny, and got off a number of zingers on his own as well.
Later, for perhaps most of the night, Norio also ran the huge 6-game series of HW. I am sorry I didn’t get to see this because I was told he did a great job. Frankly, taking on 36 players is more than I would ever dare to do! Other games were played as well, not all of them Gloranthan or HW, but including many run by the designers of their own games. Suzanne played in one run by Kiyomatsu, designer of Sword World (?I believe.)
I narrated a HW game for Megumi Iwata, our publisher; Ryo Mizuno, famous fantasy author; Tadaaki Kakegawa, fanzine importer; Hiroto Kawakami, Hero of GTA; and Mr. Anonymous. All are enthusiasts of Glorantha and most were in their first HW game. I based the Flying Rock Temple setting on a Shinto shrine that we visited in Megumi’s home town, Maebashi.
I took the plot from one of the Kabuki plays that we saw (The kabuki was a definite high point of the trip for me!) Everyone knew that story and so were all expecting a one-armed person or thing to arrive, so I’d prepared a four-armed thing that had lost one and hiding its other one until needed. It was a simple ruse and worked well enough to lure them into melee. Alas, they ought to have used missiles and magic but, for purposes of honor and cooperation, instead got whipped just outside the temple’s safety zone.
Their Lesson 1: HW is pretty easy to play.
Lesson 2: Choose your attacks carefully!
Lesson 3: Hey, HW is more dangerous than they thought!
Nearly all the GTA members in Japan attended lunch the next day. It was great to meet everyone. The best part was polling to see what their opinion was concerning modern Vormain compared to Japanese history. (Yamato won, though I will probably not use it as the model I am writing.) The most amusing moment also occurred. I have to preface this event to note that many people expressed pleasant surprise are our adroitness with hashi (chopsticks.) For various reasons outside of my knowing a French style restaurant was chosen where, to the amusement of many people, some people had difficulty with silverware. The irony was not lost on anyone. It was the only meal where we ate bread. Thanks once again to all Japan GTA.
I also got to meet a dozen or more Japanese game designers. I was quite frankly embarrassed at my ignorance of the vast number of Japanese roleplaying games. They are all of high quality production, encompass a variety of subject matter, my favorite being the Old West setting ala Japanese cyberpunk interpretation. OK, I couldn’t read a thing but the picture of the nuns with guns converted me.
I’ve never been to Japan before and loved it. Once our hosts realized that Suzanne and I were willing to eat almost anything we enjoyed such a tremendous variety of fresh Japanese food that it will forever spoil my American experience. The only thing I didn’t eat was the eel liver in the soup. One meal I (Suzanne was ill) ate fugu, the blowfish that is poison if cut wrong. People have to be licensed to prepare it, and it’s served as sashimi, fried, in soup and with sake with fugu fins boiled in it. And no, I didn’t get some kind of buzz from residual poison. But yes, I have decided that the Lunar Empire has Bluethroat, a high-class poison restaurant with a healer supplied for every room. “Guaranteed resurrection within five seconds.”
Downtown Tokyo is as neon as downtown Vegas. The book stores in a city where everyone is literate are building-sized, and the comic stores are like warehouses, with only current issues available and a huge section of girls comics. Collectible figures and geegaws are ubiquitous and I had to struggle incessantly to keep from buying whole sets on a whim (I did get for myself Humpty Dumpty, a couple of the plastic fake netsukes of fairy tale monsters, and a beetle.) The toilets are as strange as you have heard. I was moved by the temples and shrines that are set so peacefully and quiet even in the bustling city. Tokyo’s subway rivals Paris or London. Pop music is more popular than rock and roll. They have Starbucks.