Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

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Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Big Mac » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:37 pm

Over in the Does anyone use Kara Tur? thread two interesting posts got added. But they raised a point that was different enough from the original, topic, that I want to start another thread. First there was Dragonhelm's post:
Dragonhelm wrote:I cast Thread Necromancy!

I have played in OA2 Night of the Seven Swords. I have all of the OA and FROA modules. I have the Kara-Tur boxed set, and the 1e and 3e OA books. While I found ideas in all of these that I liked, the setting as a whole never captured me.

I got into Legend of the Five Rings for a bit. Cool visuals for sure, and a rich history. But in a way, it's too much for me to keep up with. And as it turned out, it was a horrible place for a full-fledged OA game. It's not heroic in the slightest. It's all about service to your clan and empire, and saving face. Sorry, but I need heroic action.

As you guys can tell by recent threads, I'm fairly excited by the Dragon Empires products from Paizo. This is the OA I've been looking for, I think.

What's the difference? I think a lot of it boils down to presentation. Kara-Tur is basically the Realm's answer to real-world Oriental nations. There's Japan, China, and Korea to name a few. I don't get that same vibe from Dragon Empires. I know some of it is due to presentation. Kara-Tur was written a long time ago, when books had B&W interiors. Pathfinder has a lot of color going on. I find, too, that I like the gods better in Dragon Empires.

So right now, I'm of a mind to use Kara-Tur to mine ideas from for Dragon Empires.
Then there was Cthulhudrew's response:
Cthulhudrew wrote:I agree, and as I think I stated elsewhere, one of the things I like that you mention is that Dragon Empires/Tian-Xia doesn't feel like just a Golarion 'port over of RW cultures. The developers really seem to have taken a lot of inspiration from RW Asian history and mythology, of many different cultures, but used them as a tapestry on which to hang otherwise completely new nations and mythologies. It is how/what I think should have been done- if not with Kara-Tur, per se- but certainly when adding Kara-Tur to the Realms (a similar problem to the nations of Unther and Mulhorand, IMO). The Realms under Greenwood and its initial developers was much more an original (if generic) fantasy setting; when they started to pile on the RW analogues, it was just a bad fit altogether, since it wasn't designed that way.
I know that Kara-Tur has always had a smaller following than mainstream Forgotten Realms. So I'd like to ask: Is Kara-Tur enough like Greenwood's Forgotten Realms?

If other subsettings (like Dragon Empires) can integrate oriental themes into their products, is there anything else that could be done with Kara-Tur to make it work better for mainstream Forgotten Realms fans?

If I had a TARDIS, and could send you back to do the 3rd Edition Oriental Adventures book as a Kara-Tur book (rather than a Legend of the Five Rings book), how would you do it?

Does anything need to be added?

Does anything need to be taken away (or modified)?
Last edited by Big Mac on Sat Jul 21, 2012 5:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by night_druid » Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:03 pm

Big Mac wrote:I know that Kara-Tur has always had a smaller following than mainstream Forgotten Realms. So I'd like to ask: Is Kara-Tur enough like Greenwood's Forgotten Realms?
I would hazard a guess that were Ed to have written his own version of Kara-Tur, it would have featured smaller kingdoms and probably more varied landscapes. He probably would have drawn inspiration from any asian-themed pulp novels of the 70's & 80's, and have monsters more prominent.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Big Mac » Mon Apr 09, 2012 12:45 am

night_druid wrote:I would hazard a guess that were Ed to have written his own version of Kara-Tur, it would have featured smaller kingdoms and probably more varied landscapes.
I wonder if something similar to "smaller kingdoms" could be put into Kara-Tur. In the real-world you have the USA made up of lots of smaller states and each state has its own level of government. Even within those, you have counties. Is there something similar in Kara-Tur that could be "amplified" a bit? I'm sure there must be some sort of command structure that allows for local rulership of smaller and smaller areas. Perhaps there could be a level of rivalry between different lords. Perhaps — despite different regions being technically "at peace" — there could be some areas where there is a great deal of rivalry, as people try to work their way up the ladder.

As for varied landscapes, I wonder if there could be certain "interesting details" that are too small to show up on the big maps. If the Living Jungle game could hide the Malatran campaign setting within Kara-Tur, perhaps there could be some other hidden things.
night_druid wrote:He probably would have drawn inspiration from any asian-themed pulp novels of the 70's & 80's, and have monsters more prominent.
Are there any 70s or 80s pulp novels that you think would have a good Greenwoodian feel to them?

Monsters are cool. You can never have too many of them. They certainly help remind people that it is fantasy and not an emulation of reality.

I remember watching Big Trouble in Little China and getting fairly bored with it until The Guardian popped up. Maybe some rival clans of beholders could add a bit of spice to Kara-Tur.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Dragonhelm » Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:51 am

Perhaps you have the wrong question there. Maybe the question should be, "Is it D&D enough?".

It needs D&D's races. Yes, spirit folk are kinda like elves and korobokuru are kinda like dwarves. But, they're different enough that they're not as recognizable.

Kara-Tur needs a D&D style pantheon, not some Celestial Bureaucracy. Or at least the CB should be presented like a D&D pantheon with notable deities, some of which are Kara-Tur's equivalent to Forgotten Realms deities.

Kara-Tur is the fantasy equivalent of real-life Earth. Get rid of that. Take the good elements from Earth's Oriental lands, but give them a fantasy twist.

Do not be afraid to add in some Hollywood, wuxia, and anime elements. Present those elements in a D&D style. A samurai class, a ninja class, powers that would make for great wu jen spells.

I have some other thoughts, but they need to be on a separate post.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Dragonhelm » Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:58 am

Okay, on to part two...

In short, no way is Kara-Tur "Greenwoodian" enough. The reason is that Kara-Tur was never originally meant to be part of the Realms. It wasn't in Greenwood's designs, and it was originally going to be part of Greyhawk.

Kara-Tur feels like an add-on. It was NOT conceived to be part of a whole. I didn't get that vibe from the Dragon Empires. Reason is, the Pathfinder Oriental lands have been mentioned for some time now. And while I don't think the creators had it fleshed out fully when Pathfinder began, I think they at least had some basic ideas. When the finished product came out, it felt integrated, especially with the shared elements.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by BlackBat242 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:07 am

I would set it in a Pre-Qin dynasty-type era... the "warring states" or even as far back as the Xia & Shang periods, where the kingdoms were many and small.

I've always thought that the trilogy described below was great inspiration... I got them basically as they were published. I just wish Barry Hughart hadn't gotten shafted by the publisher(s).
The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox

The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox is a series of three books about Li Kao, an ancient sage and scholar with "a slight flaw in his character", and his client, later assistant, the immensely strong peasant Number Ten Ox, who narrates the story. The series blends Chinese mythology—authentic and imagined, from several eras—with detective fiction and a gentle, ironic humour. The first book Bridge of Birds was published in 1984, the title derived from the "The story of Cowherd and Weaver Girl" myth. Bridge of Birds shared the 1985 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and won the 1986 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.

It was followed in 1988 by The Story of the Stone and in 1990 by Eight Skilled Gentlemen. No further books followed, although Hughart had planned a series of seven novels. In the last of these, Li Kao and Number Ten Ox would die facing the Great White Serpent (a conflict alluded to in Bridge of Birds). They would then become minor celestial deities who would continue to cause problems for the August Personage of Jade.

In an interview in 2000 Hughart blamed the end of the Master Li and Number Ten Ox series on unsympathetic and incompetent publishers. The style of his books made them difficult to classify and he felt his market was restricted by the decision to sell only to SF/fantasy outlets.

As an example of publisher incompetence, Hughart notes that his publishers did not notify him of the awards given Bridge of Birds. He also points out that The Story of the Stone was published three months ahead of schedule, so that no purchasable copies were available by the time the scheduled reviews finally appeared; finally, the paperback edition of Eight Skilled Gentlemen was published simultaneously with the hardback edition resulting in few sales of the latter. When his publishers then refused to publish hardback editions of any future books, Hughart stated that he found it impossible to afford to continue writing novels, which brought the series to an end.

Later in 2008, Hughart wrote:
Will there be more? I doubt it, and it’s not because of bad sales and worse publishers. It’s simply that I’d taken it as far as I could. ... No matter how well I wrote I’d just be repeating myself.
An omnibus edition, The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox was first published in 1998 by Stars My Destination Books in both hardback and trade paperback. It was illustrated by Kaja Foglio.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Dragonhelm » Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:31 am

BlackBat242 wrote:An omnibus edition, The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox was first published in 1998 by Stars My Destination Books in both hardback and trade paperback. It was illustrated by Kaja Foglio.
I just looked, and this book is in Kindle edition now. Truthfully, it sounds like the author might have better luck self-publishing, though if he wanted hardcover physical books, he might have to go the way of kickstarter.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Big Mac » Mon Apr 16, 2012 1:54 am

Dragonhelm wrote:Perhaps you have the wrong question there. Maybe the question should be, "Is it D&D enough?".
Nice counter-question!
Dragonhelm wrote:It needs D&D's races. Yes, spirit folk are kinda like elves and korobokuru are kinda like dwarves. But, they're different enough that they're not as recognizable.
Koroborkuru are dwarves. It says so on page 12 of Oriental Adventures. But they are dwarves with a strange name. I don't see that reason for the strange name, as the product is an English-language product aimed at English-speaking people. They should have just called them dwarves and given them oriental subrace names. If Koroborkuru was a dwarven subrace name, they could have been seen as working a bit like the way hill dwarves and mountain dwarves work. In fact page 12 says the dwarves come from vast jungles, snowy mountain forests or barren wilderness areas. That suggests to me that they should have had three dwarven subraces in total.

Spirit folk are not really elves. They are something else. That really needs to be developed more. Other settings have new races or even replace a core-race with a new one (kender, I'm looking at you) so I think this is OK. But the OA descriptions for these guys make them sound a bit like half-dryads. :?

I can't even tell what those guys look like, from the description, apart from the fact that they look a bit like people. Maybe they are supposed to be part-human races like the planetouched races that came along later. :?
Dragonhelm wrote:Kara-Tur needs a D&D style pantheon, not some Celestial Bureaucracy. Or at least the CB should be presented like a D&D pantheon with notable deities, some of which are Kara-Tur's equivalent to Forgotten Realms deities.
Wow! You are right. Here is what page 23 of Oriental Adventures says about Shukenja:
Shukenja in Oriental Adventures wrote:Although a shukenja serves a particular religion, players to do not need to choose any particular religion for their shukenja characters. All religions are respected and venerated, and the practices and beliefs of one are often intermingled by the peasants of those of another. Unlike the western world, the land of Oriental Adventures has no separate organized church. Instead, religious beliefs and rituals are intertwined with the rituals of daily life. Temples about, each more or less independent of all others regardless of the deity or deities worshipped.
That is really really vague. I don't have the Kara-Tur boxed set and only have Oriental Adventures. I only got that in the last year or so, and my mental-picture of the Celestial Bureaucracy from my 2e Legends and Lore. The China stuff has a Celestial Bureaucracy, but the gods are named. I do think that Oriental Adventures stuff is pretty unworkable.

Were I to try to run that, I'd be tempted to add in religions — actual individual religions* — but make Kara-Tur temples work a bit like a department store, so that any Shukenja can walk into any temple and treat it as a "home temple". That kind of keeps both things true (and I do like a Ben Kenobi solution). It could kind of be a bit like the Towers of High Sorcery, in Dragonlance, with everyone being polite and working towards their own personal faiths.

* = I'm torn between raiding the Chinese pantheon, from Legends and Lore and between using some or all of the standard Faerun pantheon and changing the names and religious practises. The second sort of thing worked OK for Taladas.

I know that from when I did 2e, people ran "generic" priests. So I'd probably also allow Shukenja to worship all religions in a generic way. (That is different from the 3e FR, where you are not allowed to do that, but I think that the leader of the Celestial Bureaucracy could choose to allow that sort of worship, if they wanted to.)

One thing I don't understand, yet, is where The Path and the Way (and The Path and The Way) come into this. According to Spelljammer The Path and the Way and its two offshoots are supposed to have a lot of conflict and that does not fit in with the OA describes the Shukenja.

Sohei seem like Paladins, Rangers or Druids. 3e FRCS logic would suggest to me that they would need to have a patron deity. In mainstream FR, they get to choose from a limited selection of the normal religions, so I'd say that some sort of rule would need to be made to work out what deities would support Sohei. Or maybe all religions want "religious soldiers". (I used to do fantasy LARP. We had warrior priests and they worked fine.)
Dragonhelm wrote:Kara-Tur is the fantasy equivalent of real-life Earth. Get rid of that. Take the good elements from Earth's Oriental lands, but give them a fantasy twist.
It seems to me that upping the level of oriental folklore and legends would help. Conventional D&D isn't based on the real-world, but on our fantastic beliefs. Likewise the fantastic stuff should be here too.

I'll have to track down the Kara-Tur boxed set, as it is a revision of this, but I think a lot more could be added to the culture. I think in 3e terms, so think that you need to have a fanon-netbook about the size of the Geography section in FRCS to cover the lands of Kara-Tur. (And given it is a much bigger setting, you could even increase that amount.) I would say there is plenty of room for random ideas to be added.
Dragonhelm wrote:Do not be afraid to add in some Hollywood, wuxia, and anime elements. Present those elements in a D&D style. A samurai class, a ninja class, powers that would make for great wu jen spells.
Yep. I need to read up on more stuff as I don't have the Kara-Tur-fu yet, but I think that we could have threads to add some of these things and then someone could eventually compile it into a netbook that did for Kara-Tur what Living Greyhawk Gazeteer did for the Greyhawk Campaign Setting.
Dragonhelm wrote:In short, no way is Kara-Tur "Greenwoodian" enough. The reason is that Kara-Tur was never originally meant to be part of the Realms. It wasn't in Greenwood's designs, and it was originally going to be part of Greyhawk.

Kara-Tur feels like an add-on. It was NOT conceived to be part of a whole. I didn't get that vibe from the Dragon Empires. Reason is, the Pathfinder Oriental lands have been mentioned for some time now. And while I don't think the creators had it fleshed out fully when Pathfinder began, I think they at least had some basic ideas. When the finished product came out, it felt integrated, especially with the shared elements.
I have heard that Kara-Tur was supposed to be set on Oerth before. But to be honest, I don't think this stuff would feel any less of an add-on if it was connected to the Flanaess. There are a lot of elements that Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms have in common, the structure of religion being one of them. It is equally wrong for both settings.

I think that the best thing the Greyhawk community could do is design a Shaofeng Campaign Setting that is based on a cross between the 3rd Edition Oriental Adventures rules and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer.
BlackBat242 wrote:I would set it in a Pre-Qin dynasty-type era... the "warring states" or even as far back as the Xia & Shang periods, where the kingdoms were many and small.
Hmm. "Small warring kingdoms" sounds like you would need to toss out the Kara-Tur nations to do that. Do you think you could keep the Kara-Tur structure and have smaller warring units within those nations?
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by BlackBat242 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:29 am

You mean something like Ireland in the 200-900s?

The High Kings of Ireland (Irish: Ard Rí na hÉireann) were sometimes historical and sometimes legendary figures who had, or who are claimed to have had, lordship over the whole of Ireland. While the High Kings' degree of control varied, Ireland was never ruled by them as a unitary state.

According to 7th and 8th century law tracts, a hierarchy of kingship and clientship progressed from the rí tuaithe (king of a single petty kingdom) through the ruiri (a rí who was overking of several petty kingdoms) to a rí ruirech (a rí who was a provincial overking).

Each king ruled directly only within the bounds of his own petty kingdom and was responsible for ensuring good government by exercising fír flaithemon (rulers' truth). His responsibilities included convening its óenach (popular assembly), collecting taxes, building public works, external relations, defence, emergency legislation, law enforcement, and promulgating legal judgment.

The High King of Ireland was essentially a ceremonial, pseudo-federal overlord (where his over-lordship was even recognised), who exercised actual power only within the realm of which he was actually king. In the case of the southern branch of the Uí Neill, this would have been the Kingdom of Meath (now the counties of Meath, Westmeath and part of County Dublin). High Kings from the northern branch ruled various kingdoms in what eventually became the province of Ulster.

There were frequent clashes between petty kings, ranging from small border cattle-raids to outright invasion and full war. Only in the last case did the neighboring petty kings, their overlords, or the High King become involved in more than the role of arbitrator. Wars between petty kings needed to be short, before their overlords could muster and apply the force necessary to stop the fighting, or the warring kings might find themselves exiled and outlawed, and someone from another family placed on their seat.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Big Mac » Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:20 pm

That sounds about right. I wonder if an Oriental version of that could be created and slotted into the gaps in the Kara-Tur canon.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Dragonhelm » Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:33 am

Big Mac wrote:* = I'm torn between raiding the Chinese pantheon, from Legends and Lore and between using some or all of the standard Faerun pantheon and changing the names and religious practises. The second sort of thing worked OK for Taladas.
Years ago, I thought about importing the Chinese or Japanese pantheons from the Legends and Lore books. But as time has gone on, those options do not satisfy me.

Pathfinder's Dragon Empires has the model I would like to see in Kara-Tur. Basically, it's a mix of Pathfinder's regular pantheon (i.e. Desna), some deities that may be renamed (not sure if this is true or not), and local, regional deities (i.e. Sun Wukong, the Monkey King!). So you get some of the familiar deities, some that may be in a new guise, and some you don't see anywhere else. It's a great formula.

Sohei seem like Paladins, Rangers or Druids.


IIRC, they're kind of like paladin-monks.

I have heard that Kara-Tur was supposed to be set on Oerth before. But to be honest, I don't think this stuff would feel any less of an add-on if it was connected to the Flanaess. There are a lot of elements that Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms have in common, the structure of religion being one of them. It is equally wrong for both settings.
Agreed. Kara-Tur was originally meant to be a stand-alone. If it was to be integrated with another setting, then it truly should have been integrated.

My fear with Kara-Tur is that, in order to make it more interesting to me, I would land up rewriting it.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Big Mac » Mon May 07, 2012 9:55 pm

Dragonhelm wrote:
Big Mac wrote:* = I'm torn between raiding the Chinese pantheon, from Legends and Lore and between using some or all of the standard Faerun pantheon and changing the names and religious practises. The second sort of thing worked OK for Taladas.
Years ago, I thought about importing the Chinese or Japanese pantheons from the Legends and Lore books. But as time has gone on, those options do not satisfy me.

Pathfinder's Dragon Empires has the model I would like to see in Kara-Tur. Basically, it's a mix of Pathfinder's regular pantheon (i.e. Desna), some deities that may be renamed (not sure if this is true or not), and local, regional deities (i.e. Sun Wukong, the Monkey King!). So you get some of the familiar deities, some that may be in a new guise, and some you don't see anywhere else. It's a great formula.
Having mulled this over myself, I agree with you.

Taladas did a reboot of some of the Dragonlance gods. I think that something similar for Kara-Tur would work well.

I think you could even keep a lot of the structure of KT's "clerics" sharing temples with people serving totally different religions. I think that you could at least raid some of the concepts of the structure of a Celestial Bureaucracy from Legends and Lore and build a radically different way of using the same FR deities*. As for what new deities you include, I'd be inclined to consider looking at the Maztican Pantheon (as we know they are just across the sea), the Norse Pantheon (as we know at least one made it to Faerun) and the Mulhorandi Panthon (as one of them would work well for a god that appeared along with some sort of celestial event). It might even be good to throw in a few of the demi-human and monster gods to make a single unified pantheon.

* = This sort of reorganisation of what is already there would also work well for Realmspace, where - if you didn't do this - you would need multiple other pantheons.
Dragonhelm wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Sohei seem like Paladins, Rangers or Druids.


IIRC, they're kind of like paladin-monks.
Sure. But as spellcasters within Realmspace, 3e FRCS logic would suggest to me that I'd make them all have a patron deity** (even if that deity differed from the people they study with). FRCS has paladin and monk orders that both seem to be tied to a single church, so maybe that would be logical for Kara-Tur***.

** = The patron deity rules of FRCS pretty much say that if you don't pick a FR deity before you die, you are in trouble. I would be inclined to relax that a little for ordinary folk of Kara-Tur and make them instead go through some sort of after-death process where they need to discover which deities are appropriate for them and then need to choose. (That could even make for a delay where dead people from Kara-Tur don't move onto the afterlife and it is easier to communicate with them. Perhaps that could fit into some of the oriental ghost stories.)

*** = For those not working in 3e, this logic may not apply. I'm not sure if the strict patron-deity rule applied before 3e.
Dragonhelm wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I have heard that Kara-Tur was supposed to be set on Oerth before. But to be honest, I don't think this stuff would feel any less of an add-on if it was connected to the Flanaess. There are a lot of elements that Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms have in common, the structure of religion being one of them. It is equally wrong for both settings.
Agreed. Kara-Tur was originally meant to be a stand-alone. If it was to be integrated with another setting, then it truly should have been integrated.

My fear with Kara-Tur is that, in order to make it more interesting to me, I would land up rewriting it.
I think that it would have been re-written if WotC had made a full blown Kara-Tur Campaign Setting for 3e. To be honest, I think that if I was going to use Kara-Tur in a 3e game, I would probably need to create a KTCS document to help me work out how to do it. (And to use the Shou Lung in Spelljammer, I might need to do some of that anyway.)

What I think that Kara-Tur needs is for the Forgotten Realms rules (not the main D&D rules) to have the Faerun elements removed and replaced with Kara-Tur elements. You can have a totally different culture and even have the gods work in a (slightly) different way, but you need to include things like the Weave and the Shadow Weave. And you can have new elements (that only exist in Kara-Tur) but you need to implement them in a similar way that the bespoke elements of Faerun (like the Harpers or the Red Wizards of Thay) work.

I actually think that the ODL project (aka Shattered Lands of Royodo) gives you a pretty good model of what WotC should have done here. I wish that Nael was still around, as I think he is an expert in this area.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Isuru » Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:37 am

night_druid wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I know that Kara-Tur has always had a smaller following than mainstream Forgotten Realms. So I'd like to ask: Is Kara-Tur enough like Greenwood's Forgotten Realms?
I would hazard a guess that were Ed to have written his own version of Kara-Tur, it would have featured smaller kingdoms and probably more varied landscapes. He probably would have drawn inspiration from any asian-themed pulp novels of the 70's & 80's, and have monsters more prominent.
Sorry for the Thread Necromancy. I'm still catching up with this place.

This was one of my favorite topics back on the WotC boards years ago, Kara-Tur not being Greenwoodian enough. We've seen even some places like Mulhorand and Unther during the late 3e era drifting from their strict real world inspirations towards a more fantasy interpretation. Due to the lack of products for KT since their initial run, it never had a chance to grow into the setting it was supposed to be a part of.

Eventually, I asked Ed himself on Candlekeep if he ever had anything planned in his home Realms for the area where Kara-Tur occupies ("his Far East"). I didn't receive a direct response since he's always swamped with questions and he works through them when he can, but his intermediary The Hooded One (a player in his home game who relays all the questions and messages from Candlekeep to him) recalled they had a few vague mentions in their games with Ed. The distant lands beyond Thay were the place where all sorts of strange things and stranger magic came from, at least according to the average Faerunian.

She remembered seeing a few kingdoms clustered around a sea-gulf on a map he had. These belonged several map sheets east of the wastes beyond Thay. In all I think the scale works out to be even greater than the distance between Kara-Tur and Faerun. She believed Ed showed the map and perhaps other materials to Jeff Grubb. Since TSR already had more Realms material than they will ever publish, Jeff told Ed to keep them. Since they were never handed in to the company they are technically still Ed's. In all likelihood, these will never see the light of day due to their fuzzy canon status.

So yeah, kingdoms clustered around a sea-gulf. That's Ed's version of Kara-Tur. Though nothing suggests this will be Asian flavored in anyway. It could be an even more sword and sorcery exotic variant of Thay. It could be something similar to the existing Realms if Returned Abeir is any indication. Or it could be something like Castlemourn.

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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Big Mac » Sat Jul 21, 2012 7:25 pm

Isuru wrote:
night_druid wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I know that Kara-Tur has always had a smaller following than mainstream Forgotten Realms. So I'd like to ask: Is Kara-Tur enough like Greenwood's Forgotten Realms?
I would hazard a guess that were Ed to have written his own version of Kara-Tur, it would have featured smaller kingdoms and probably more varied landscapes. He probably would have drawn inspiration from any asian-themed pulp novels of the 70's & 80's, and have monsters more prominent.
Sorry for the Thread Necromancy. I'm still catching up with this place.

This was one of my favorite topics back on the WotC boards years ago, Kara-Tur not being Greenwoodian enough. We've seen even some places like Mulhorand and Unther during the late 3e era drifting from their strict real world inspirations towards a more fantasy interpretation. Due to the lack of products for KT since their initial run, it never had a chance to grow into the setting it was supposed to be a part of.
This entire thread was inspired by thread necromancy in another thread.

I'm mostly a fan of Forgotten Realm's 3e Era. There are a few details I dislike (like getting rid of a few gods and godesses), but on the whole, I do like the way that the 3e pulled things together from different products and updated things to attempt to make them fit together. How well that worked, is down to personal opinion, but I do feel that there was a positive attempt to build on what was done before.

I do feel that areas like Kara-Tur (and the other FR subsettings) are a massive whole in the 3e Realms, that spoils an otherwise fairly well covered era. There are multiple hints to Kara-Tur in 3e products (and even some 2e products) and I do feel like the groundwork has been done without the job being finished. I just have to wonder what a 3e Kara-Tur Campaign Setting hardback would have been like.

I feel like the 4e Era arrived before 3e's job was finished. And now the 4e Era is winding up and we still don't have a Kara-Tur that balances well with Faerun.
Isuru wrote:Eventually, I asked Ed himself on Candlekeep if he ever had anything planned in his home Realms for the area where Kara-Tur occupies ("his Far East"). I didn't receive a direct response since he's always swamped with questions and he works through them when he can, but his intermediary The Hooded One (a player in his home game who relays all the questions and messages from Candlekeep to him) recalled they had a few vague mentions in their games with Ed. The distant lands beyond Thay were the place where all sorts of strange things and stranger magic came from, at least according to the average Faerunian.

She remembered seeing a few kingdoms clustered around a sea-gulf on a map he had. These belonged several map sheets east of the wastes beyond Thay. In all I think the scale works out to be even greater than the distance between Kara-Tur and Faerun. She believed Ed showed the map and perhaps other materials to Jeff Grubb. Since TSR already had more Realms material than they will ever publish, Jeff told Ed to keep them. Since they were never handed in to the company they are technically still Ed's. In all likelihood, these will never see the light of day due to their fuzzy canon status.

So yeah, kingdoms clustered around a sea-gulf. That's Ed's version of Kara-Tur. Though nothing suggests this will be Asian flavored in anyway. It could be an even more sword and sorcery exotic variant of Thay. It could be something similar to the existing Realms if Returned Abeir is any indication. Or it could be something like Castlemourn.
if Ed Greenwood's "distant lands" are not compatible with Kara-Tur, perhaps they would be better used as the basis of one of the "unknown lands" on the rest of the planet Toril. :?
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Isuru » Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:07 am

A Kara-Tur hardcover in the style of the FRCS would have been something but such a book was unlikely to begin with. We didn't even get 3E era updates to areas that needed them, places unvisited in major products since 1E and early 2E and originated as either entirely different settings or cobbled together from other product lines. Places such as the Moonshae Isles, supposedly from a product line from TSR UK that never fully materialized, and the Cold Lands/Demonlands (Damara/Vaasa), pulled from the Bloodstone modules, and the Old Empires (Mulhorand/Unther/Chessenta) because TSR wanted Egyptian/Babylonian Adventures.

When Rich Baker still frequented the FR boards (and worked at WotC for that matter), I asked about the remote possibility of a Kara-Tur book. His response was the setting being a subset of a subset was according to accounting unlikely to make the sales needed to get it on the schedule. Subset of a subset (not a direct quote, just my paraphrasing) meaning it was both a sub-setting of FR (settings already a subset of D&D) and a niche cultural setting. In this case, I guess it was a triply subsetted setting.

We could see the odds against KT when even the 3e OA tried another setting. The 3e OA book didn't do spectacular, meaning KT was an even lower priority.

There has been mentions of the unknown lands on Toril, either through novels or even 'fanon' work that eventually became an official product (Grand History of the Realms). Many of those continents are named and have some notes on flavor and content associated with them.

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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Angel Tarragon » Mon Jul 23, 2012 11:57 pm

This may be a fairly stupid question, but its worth bears asking (at least from my perspective); Did Ed establish the original crunch/fluff that was published in the mini-settings first incarnation?
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by night_druid » Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:25 am

Isuru wrote:So yeah, kingdoms clustered around a sea-gulf. That's Ed's version of Kara-Tur. Though nothing suggests this will be Asian flavored in anyway. It could be an even more sword and sorcery exotic variant of Thay. It could be something similar to the existing Realms if Returned Abeir is any indication. Or it could be something like Castlemourn.
It does sound a lot like Returned Abeir. I wonder if he took his campaign notes for his "far east" realm, filed the names off, and poof! Returned Abeir.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Isuru » Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:32 am

Twin Agate Dragons wrote:This may be a fairly stupid question, but its worth bears asking (at least from my perspective); Did Ed establish the original crunch/fluff that was published in the mini-settings first incarnation?
Which mini-settings?
night_druid wrote:
Isuru wrote:So yeah, kingdoms clustered around a sea-gulf. That's Ed's version of Kara-Tur. Though nothing suggests this will be Asian flavored in anyway. It could be an even more sword and sorcery exotic variant of Thay. It could be something similar to the existing Realms if Returned Abeir is any indication. Or it could be something like Castlemourn.
It does sound a lot like Returned Abeir. I wonder if he took his campaign notes for his "far east" realm, filed the names off, and poof! Returned Abeir.
I'm not sure we will ever know. Perhaps some elements of those already ended up in the Realms or another setting Ed contributed to (and there are many). Or Ed still has them filed away in his basement, awaiting the day when he can integrate them into the Realms or modify them into another established setting or reform them into their own setting.

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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Angel Tarragon » Tue Jul 24, 2012 5:45 am

Isuru wrote:
Twin Agate Dragons wrote:This may be a fairly stupid question, but its worth bears asking (at least from my perspective); Did Ed establish the original crunch/fluff that was published in the mini-settings first incarnation?
Which mini-settings?
Kara-Tur. It is a mini-setting of the Forgotten Realms.
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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Isuru » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:12 am

Twin Agate Dragons wrote:Kara-Tur. It is a mini-setting of the Forgotten Realms.
As far as I know, proto-Kara-Tur originated in the 1e Oriental Adventures (1985) book. Via Wiki (because I'm too lazy to dig out my physical copy) the authors were Gary Gygax, David "Zeb" Cook, and François Marcela-Froideval. The editors were Steve Winter, Mike Breault, Anne Gray, and Thad Russell. I don't think Ed had any input on it.

I don't think he had input on the later Kara-Tur box set either (authors: Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew and Deborah Christian).

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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Jorkens » Fri Jul 27, 2012 2:25 pm

Is there anyone here that is surprised by me shouting no?

Kara-Tur was a bad match for the Realms, the east works better as a great unknown that can be the source of stories and legends. It also keeps me from hearing what Ed's original ideas for the area is, which of course is a pet peeve of mine.

But even if you like Kara-Tur there is one problem that has always irritated me, the border. Now, the Hordelands works as a buffer, but the mountains become weird, with the Kara-Turian products detailing a pure oriental culture and monster population whilst the few Realmsian sources talk about orcs and giants on the other side of the same range. Some mixing should take place no matter how impassible the mountains are; burrowing and flying creatures should at least have no problem. This keeps the two settings from in any way flowing naturally together.

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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Isuru » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:04 am

Having such a distinct boundary never allowed the two settings to meld right out of the gate. Then having little support meant Kara-Tur never had a chance to do so subsequent to its release.

It also didn't help that Kara-Tur, despite some of its gonzo aspects, never approached a level of cohesiveness (or openness) as a fantasy setting. It read like a history summary that was a fantasy setting and the fantasy part was only because the assignment required it.

I feel this has to do with the source material for the setting compared to Faerun and other settings (like Al-Qadim). Those are based on fantasy fiction as much as (if not more so) than their historical sources. While Kara-Tur no doubt had some fictional sources, it felt like historical sources formed the bones. I think that's partly why it's less popular than some of its contemporary settings. It's not fantastic enough, not due to level of magic, but integration of fantastic elements with the setting. With regards to historical settings, there are far more competent offerings elsewhere, leaving Kara-Tur as a middling example.

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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Jorkens » Sat Jul 28, 2012 11:23 am

I remember trying to work out this for a Candlekeep Compendium article years ago concerning the borderlands where Faerun, Kara-Tur and Zakhara met. The nearest I got to a workable idea was that thousands of years ago, a small conclave of Imaskari wizards fled into the region and put up a cloaked magical barrier of some sort at the top of the mountains that served to protect them from both sides. The monks of Tabot and the Yak-men where the only ones that knew the secret at all, with the monks trying to preserve the barrier and the Yak-men seeking to find the secret magic used to construct the barrier in the first place.

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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Isuru » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:34 am

I believe the Imaskari were used as an originating source for some of the peoples of Kara-Tur in the fandom version of the Grand History. I think a few bits made it into the official WotC published version. A handful of fans worked on the expansive if a bit disorganized Kara-Tur Redux thread on the WotC forum, mostly before the big change over around '08.

I've been thinking on night-druid's mention of Returned Abeir's format being very similar to the vague description kingdoms around a sea-gulf. The concept might be something worth considering as a backwards engineered adaptation.

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Re: Kara-Tur — Is it Greenwoodian enough?

Post by Big Mac » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:55 am

Jorkens wrote:I remember trying to work out this for a Candlekeep Compendium article years ago concerning the borderlands where Faerun, Kara-Tur and Zakhara met. The nearest I got to a workable idea was that thousands of years ago, a small conclave of Imaskari wizards fled into the region and put up a cloaked magical barrier of some sort at the top of the mountains that served to protect them from both sides. The monks of Tabot and the Yak-men where the only ones that knew the secret at all, with the monks trying to preserve the barrier and the Yak-men seeking to find the secret magic used to construct the barrier in the first place.
Do you think that Malatra (the Living Jungle setting) could have been placed here to plug up the gap?
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