I’ve set myself another geek mission, to bring more of what I call ‘Forgotten Asia’ into fantasy fiction (mainly sword and sorcery) and role-playing games. When you look at the material available, the concept of ‘Asia’ seems to stop at China and Japan. D&D’s original Oriental Adventures was nearly all-Japanese in its inspiration. Try counting the sourcebooks on samurai and ninja and kung fu in various RPG lines, and compare them to the sourcebooks on Ancient Persia, the Caliphates, Central Asia, the Rajputs, or the ancient Southeast Asian kingdoms, and you’ll find that that vast majority, both space and time-wise, is represented by the merest fraction of the former.
Of course, one reason why Japan and China make it to so many RPG products is because there’s no dearth of easily consumable material; books, movies, comics, games, all in English. If you want material on the rest of Asia, you have to dig. That’s good news for me, though – I’ve an open market niche! My main focus for the next year or two will be on Southeast Asia – the region in green above.
There’s a lot about SEAsia that’s ripe for use in gaming and for sword and sorcery fiction – and I mean fiction written from the viewpoint of an insider, not a wandering barbarian who comes, kills stereotyped Oriental tyrant, and leaves with girl. The successes of Legend of the Five Rings, Pendragon, and the loyal following of Tekumel tell me there are quite a few players who enjoy immersing themselves in milieus very different from their own. And just looking at the map, and out my window – yep, I’m Southeast Asian too – I see so much adventure potential. Vast stretches of ocean! Islands of all sizes! Jungles!
The historical periods from which I’m drawing most of my inspiration is from c. 400 CE to 1100 CE, a time of great flowering and epic conflicts as kingdoms rose in the ricelands of Java, Siam, Vietnam and Cambodia, and at key points on the Maritime Silk Road. Southeast Asian ports became melting pots where Chinese, Malays, Khmers, Siamese, Vietnamese and Burmans mingled with Indians, Persians, Arabs, possibly even Greeks from Alexander’s empire and its successor states, or Romans, or medieval Venetians.
It was a time of conquerors, liberators and unifiers, travelling scholars and pilgrims, pirates and soldiers of fortune. In short, an age for adventurers. Come, play in the jungles with me.
Operation Speak Out With Your Geek Out is an initiative to raise awareness of who “geeks” really are, and to destroy some hurtful negative stereotypes, by getting people to talk about the things we enjoy and why we enjoy them, in the hopes that others may learn to appreciate them too.