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Kara-Tur is a fantasy world created by Gary Gygax, David Cook and François Marcela-Froideval detailed in 1985's Oriental Adventures for the First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. Kara-Tur roughly corresponds to ancient East Asia in the real world, and many countries, places and peoples can find common ground with real life examples[who?]. It was later placed on the planet Toril, the planet of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, and lies east of Faerûn.
Various countries described in the set include:
- Shou Lung (China)
- T'u Lung (China)
- Wa (Japan)
- Kozakura (Japan)
- Tabot (Tibet)
- Koryo (Korea)
- Ra-Khati (Nepal)
- Bawa (Indonesia/Java)
- Horse-Plains (Mongolia)
- Malatra (Laos/Vietnam)
Shou Lung, which is located to the east of Faerun is arguably the most powerful nation on Toril. Places of interest includes the port of Karatin, capital of the Hai Yuan, or Maritime provinces and Kao Shan province with the semi-independent city of Kai Shan. The main criminal organization in the country is the Tsui Tong.
The empire was started by a simple peasant known as Nung Fu who was invested with the Emblems of Imperial Authority by the semi-legendary Nine Travelers (although it was his great grandson that would be the first Emperor of the Li Dynasty). The Empire of Shou Lung has the longest history in Kara-Tur second only to the Empire of Wa. It has had six dynasties so far starting with Li Dynasty (Dynasty of Might), Ho Dynasty (Dynasty of Peace), Hai Dynasty (Dynasty of the Oceans), Kao Dynasty (The High Dynasty), La Dynasty (Wax Dynasty) and the Kuo Dynasty (Dynasty of the Nation).
The official head of the government is the Emperor, but in practice everyday affairs of state are handled by the Chancellor, who executes the Emperor's decrees, oversees the bureaucracy and controls the information that reaches the emperor's ears. The current Emperor is Kai Tsao Shou Chin. The Wu jens are the Emperor's official court wizards, who advises the Emperor's policies with divinations and deals with magical threats. The government is composed of eight ministries: State, War, Magic, Faith, Sea, Agriculture, Public Works and State Security. It is a meritocratic system; every year the Civil Service Examination holds examinations to test candidates for government jobs. The Shou have always had a strong trading relation with Faerûn. In fact certain regions in Faerûn make a living solely on the imports from Shou Lung and many merchants, settlers, and diplomats have come to Faerûn in search of new opportunities in the West and set up the Shou Expatriate region. The people of Shou Lung frown upon the slave trade, and anybody found guilty of trafficking in slaves is put to death.
The Shou practice mainly two forms of religion, the Path of Enlightenment and the Way. The majority of the people in Shou Lung practice the Path of Enlightenment, in which they worship the Celestial Emperor and the Nine Travelers and a whole host of lesser immortals and spirits who make up what is called the Celestial Bureaucracy. Unlike the people of Faerûn, devotion to a single deity is very rare in Shou Lung. The other Shou religion, which is more popular in the southern provinces, is simply called "The Way" and is more of an ethical philosophy than a true religion characterized by divinities, spirits and a fully realized metaphysics. It focuses on the enlightenment of the self through the practice of certain spiritual exercises rather than the worship of particular gods.
Lying between Kara-Tur and the Horse-Plains was a Great Wall of Stone, better known as the Dragonwall. According to legend, a wu jen wizard was tasked by the emperor to find a way to keep the Tuigan hordes from raiding Shou Lung's northern provinces. The wu jen stole the Jade Mirror from the sea dragon Pao Hu Jen, whose body was thousands of kilometers long. The wu jen led the dragon on a chase along the border, and at a certain point stopped and held up the Jade Mirror to the dragon's eyes, which instantly turned him to stone. After his petrified body fell to the ground, the emperor had his engineers carve fortifications into it so that it could serve them as a defensive wall.
T'u Lung used to be the southern part of the Shou Lung Empire, before it broke away in civil war.
Kozakura is an archipelago nation found several hundred miles to the east of Shou Lung, and to the south of Koryo. The current factual head of government is the shikken, a regent for the seventeen year-old shogun. In theory, he runs a feudal society, but outside of the capital his power is mostly symbolic. As of 1433 in the local calendar (DR coming), the shikken is Tanekawa Okawa. The largest island, Shinkoku, is roughly in the centre of the archipelago, and is also home to the current imperial capital, Doiyu.
The Tabot nation was formed during the "Year of Frost" when the Shou Ho Dynasty decreed that the Path of Enlightenment was to be the official and only religion in Shou Lung. Many monks, temples and religious orders of the Way were persecuted in Shou Lung and they fled to the mountains. The temple militias of sohei and monks that fled there formed an alliance against the Shou and founded the nation of Tabot. The Shou attempted invasions well into the early Kai Dynasty but had little success due to the Crystalline Warriors of Ji that protected Tabot. Centuries later, the nobles of Tabot were overthrown by a six-year-old boy called the High Lord of Oceans, and established Tabot's current theocratic government in which the clergy of the Way holds most political power in the mountainous nation.
The Kingdom of Koryo held power over the entire peninsula of Choson. The kingdom had it origins in the Kingdom of Silla. When the King of Silla attempted to launch an attack on their hated enemies the Kozakurans (who had tried to invade the Choson Peninsula in the past), his fleet was destroyed by a tsunami, which allowed one of his generals, Wanang Sun, to overthrow him. Under Sun, he was able to unite all the factions of Choson and establish the united Koryo Kingdom.
The barbarians of the Horse-Plain has tried countless times to invade their neighbors, the Shou and T'u Lung and have been successful on a few accounts, but their victories were often short lived. Recently though, Tuigan tribes successfully breeched the Dragonwall and devastated many of the northwestern provinces of the Shou Empire. During this invasion, many Shou refugees fled to Faerun and settled in the Thesk region of the Unapproachable East. The Horde tribes were eventually driven out and the Shou and T'u have been focusing most of their military prowess towards defending against further invasions.
Originally intended as a western part of the continent of Oerik, it was first released as a stand-alone campaign setting, and by 1988 it was combined by TSR with the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. In that year TSR released a boxed set with two books detailing the campaign setting and maps.
In 1989 a printing of Trail Maps for Kara-Tur appeared.
In 1990 the maps were again included in the Forgotten Realms Atlas. Later that year TSR gave the monsters for Kara-Tur a proper treatment for Second Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the Monstrous Compendium series.
After 1990 Kara-Tur was a mostly discarded campaign setting. With only a few mentions in cross-over products such as Spelljammer and Ravenloft, plus a few mentions in other Forgotten Realms products and Dragon Magazine articles.
With the release of Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons with new owners, Wizards of the Coast decided to do a proper treatment for Oriental Adventures. All the character classes, monsters, spells, weapons and feats were converted to Third edition format, but this time with the campaign world being Rokugan, the setting for AEG's Legend of the Five Rings.
The setting of Kara-Tur still exists on Toril and is often mentioned. Characters and artifacts from Kara-Tur sometimes show up in Faerûn, but beyond that there is little interaction between the continents. In 2005, AEG dropped the D20 version of Legend of the Five Rings.
In 2007, WOTC announced that the Forgotten Realms will be the first campaign setting to be released for the 4th Edition. It remains to be seen if Kara-Tur will be updated to 4th Edition.
Official Material Edit
- Kara-Tur, the eastern realm
- The Assam Portal
- Harmun Righthand
- Room 13: Ogre Trouble (features Tharrusk - an Ogre Mage from Kara-Tur)
Specific prestige classes Edit
Novels and Modules Edit
- OA1, Sword of the Daimyo (1986)
- OA2, Night of the Seven Swords (1986)
- OA3, Ochimo the Spirit Warrior (1987)
- OA4, Blood of the Yakuza (1987)
There were 3 choose your own adventure style books (one was actually released before the original Oriental Adventures book):
- Blade of the Young Samurai - Endless Quest 23 (1984)
- Test of the Ninja - AD&D Adventure Gamebook 5 (1985)
- Warlords - 1 on 1 Book 7 (1986)
One of novels in The Empires Trilogy is set in Shou Lung of Kara-Tur.
- Dragonwall - Book 2(1990)
- Dragon (magazine) #315, for information on ancestor feats and martial arts styles.
- Wizards of the Coast Oriental Adventures Page
- James Wyatt, Author 3E Oriental Adventures
- The Oriental Adventures Project
- Wizards of the Coast free downloads - including OA5, OA6, and OA7
- Kara-Tur on Spelljammer.org
- TSR Archive Oriental Adventures product list