Japanese role-playing game

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This article is about Japanese pen-and-paper role-playing games. For Japanese role-playing video games, see History of Eastern role-playing video games #Japanese console RPGs.

Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPG) are role-playing games made in Japan. Japanese role-playing games made their first appearance during the 1980s. Today, there are thousands of Japanese-designed games as well as several translated games. Traditional role-playing games are referred to as pen-and-paper RPGs, paper-and-pencil RPGs, or tabletop RPGs in English-speaking countries and table-talk RPG, TTRPG, or TRPG in Japan to distinguish them from the video role-playing game genre.


In the 1970s, Japanese role-playing games received little attention[where?], as gamers instead played English RPG titles. It was not until the 1980s, when role-playing video games such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy which helped popularize the genre. Several computer game magazines also introduced traditional role-playing games.

Some of the earliest Japanese RPGs were science fiction titles, including Donkey Commando in 1982 and Enterprise: Role Play Game in Star Trek in 1983. Classic Traveller was the first translated RPG in 1984, with Dungeons & Dragons following in 1985. One of the earliest Japanese-designed traditional fantasy RPGs was titled Roads to Lord, published in 1984. Group SNE pioneered a new book genre called Replay in the late 1980s; this new genre consists of session logs arranged as publications. The first replay, Record of Lodoss War, was a replay of Dungeons and Dragons that has been published in Comptiq magazine since 1986. The first Dragon Quest was published by Enix in 1986 for the NES and MSX/MSX2 platform. Replays and novels of Record of Lodoss War gave birth to the fantasy RPG genre.

A typical format of a replay:[1]

Game master: In this scene, you should think the reason why your PCs team up the party with each other.
Amu: Well, I will visit Eiji's home, because Eiji became an adventurer. At last, he will repay the money he borrowed from me.
Eiji: Hi, Amu. I became an adventurer at long last. Please lend your money to me again.(Haha.) I don't have money, because I bought chainmail.

Sword World 2.0, the newest edition of the most popular role-playing game in 90's Japan

Sword World RPG was published in 1989 and became popular very quickly. A notable feature found in Sword World was Forcelia, which included Lodoss island from the Record of the Lodoss War. Analysis of the game’s success suggests that the designers took ideas from many famous American games including D&D, AD&D, Middle-earth Role Playing, and RuneQuest and modified the settings to suit Japanese tastes. Compared to (A)D&D and other contemporary games, Sword World RPG had a flexible, less restricted, multi-class system. It used only ordinary 6-sided dice. Other polyhedral dice are uncommon, especially in rural Japan. It was tied up with light novels and replays. The paperback (bunkobon) rulebooks are inexpensive and portable.[2]

Notable role-playing games in mid-late 80's and early 90's include:

1988 Wizardry RPG Group SNE RPG version of Wizardry
1989 Sword World RPG Group SNE
1989 Record of Lodoss War Companion Group SNE
1990 Blue Forest Story 1st ed. Tsukuda Hobby
2nd ed. FarEast Amusement Research F.E.A.R. (1996)
Fantasy world similar to Southeast Asia
1991 Gear Antique 1st ed. Tsukuda Hobby
2nd ed. F.E.A.R (1999)
One of the earliest Steampunk RPG
1992 Crystania Companion Group SNE
1992 GURPS Runal Group SNE
1993 Tokyo NOVA F.E.A.R. The most successful cyberpunk RPG in Japan
1994 GURPS Youmayakou Group SNE English title: “GURPS Damned Stalkers”
1996 Seven Fortress F.E.A.R. Popular fantasy RPG

Until the 1990s, Group SNE was a leading role-playing game company in Japan; in the late 1990s, the RPG craze ended (see History of role-playing games). Role-playing games were defeated by trading card games, or TCG’s, such as Pokémon Trading Card Game and Magic: The Gathering; and most RPG magazines were discontinued or changed into TCG magazines. This period is called the Winter Age of TRPG by Japanese gamers.

Alshard, one of the most popular J-RPGs in the 21st century

The "Spring Age" spans from 1999-2002. Notable role-playing games of this age are Blade of Arcana (1999), Double Cross (2001), Night Wizard! (2002) and Alshard (2002). In 2007, Night Wizard! was created into an anime television series. The expansion of generic role-playing game system named Standard RPG System was based upon Alshard's game system since 2006. They were all made by F.E.A.R. and grew to be one of the newer leading RPG companies in Japan.

Japanese games[edit]

In Japan, domestically-made role-playing games are competitive in the market. Despite the market’s small size, many original products are published. For example, 95 domestically-made RPG rulebooks, excluding supplements, were published from 2000 to 2007. In the same period of time, 25 translated RPG rulebooks were published.[3] D&D is very popular; however, due to the existence of large competitors, it does not dominate the market.

GURPS Runal, the most successful GURPS supplement in Japan

Sword world RPG, an orthodox fantasy RPG produced by Group SNE, has been popular since the 1990s. There is little novelty in the setting, but it is a comprehensible fantasy. In addition, there are several original settings for GURPS made by Group SNE. Most games of SNE were tied up with light novels or anime such as Record of Lodoss War, Legend of Crystania and Rune Soldier. In most cases, SNE's campaign settings provide idyllic and predetermined harmonious adventures. In a certain sense, their non-savagery worlds strongly influenced and dictated the direction of early light novels and Japanese fantasies.

F.E.A.R. games are more heroic and dramatic than usual games. Characters seen in Tokyo NOVA, Blade of Arcana and Alshard are mighty heroes who possess supreme powers. Also, several connection rules represent dramatic human relationships. F.E.A.R. specializes in creating unique fantasy worlds, ranging from firearms to androids.

Console and computer RPGs have a profound influence. For example, Alshard is inspired by Final Fantasy and Arianrhod RPG (2004) is inspired by Ragnarok Online. Story-oriented games are also influenced by various foreign role-playing games, such as Cyberpunk 2020, Torg and World of Darkness.

Adventure Planning Service (Bouken Kikaku-kyoku) produced SATASUPE (2003), Meikyu kingdom (2004), Shinobigami (2009) and Reality Show RPG: Kill Death Business (2013), and prefer cynically tongue-in-cheek settings; the utilization of capricious dice often confuse and exhilarate the stories.[clarification needed]

Translated games[edit]

From English to Japanese[edit]

The most popular translated role-playing game is Dungeons and Dragons, which has been translated over six times. (Classic D&D 3rd Revision, AD&D 2nd ed., D&D Rules Cyclopedia, D&D 3rd ed., v3.5, 4th Edition)

Several Japanese D20 System games have been developed. Other translated systems include: Call of Cthulhu, Fighting Fantasy (including Advanced Fighting Fantasy), GURPS, RuneQuest (including Hero Wars), Shadowrun, Stormbringer (including Elric!), Traveller, Tunnels and Trolls, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and World of Darkness systems. Each title has been translated several times, releasing many different editions. Some games were modified in Japanese and later released, such as RuneQuest 90's and Hyper Tunnels and Trolls.

Several minor products, such as Cyberpunk 2020, Dark Conspiracy, Dragon Warriors, Earthdawn, The Fantasy Trip, HârnMaster, It Came From The Late, Late, Late Show, James Bond 007, Maelstrom, MechWarrior, Middle-earth Role Playing, The Monster Horror Show, Rolemaster, Torg, and have also been translated.

From Japanese to other languages[edit]

The first RPG translated from Japanese into another language was the Sword World RPG. Its basic rulebook and scenarios were translated into Korean. (ko:소드 월드 RPG)

In 2008, the Maid RPG was completely translated from Japanese into English. Tenra Bansho Zero was projected to be the first translation into English; however, Maid was completed first. The original PDF release of Maid had to be re-edited, due to the controversial content it contained.

In 2013, the 3rd Edition of "Double Cross" Made by F.E.A.R was released in English by Ver. Blue Amusement.


Replays are RPG session logs arranged for reading, similar in style to light novels. In Japan, a lot of RPG replays are commercially-published.[4] Replays are more popular than RPG novels. Not only replays of Japanese games but also replays of translated games such as GURPS, D&D, Shadowrun, and WFRP were published.[citation needed]

RPG magazines[edit]

A list of several RPG magazines:

  • Role & Roll (R&R) – Published monthly, since 2003; it focuses on games of Group SNE, Adventure Planning Service, F.E.A.R., and other companies.
  • Gamers Field (GF) – Published bimonthly, since 1996; it is the official magazine for only F.E.A.R. games.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ KIKUCHI, Takeshi (2004). Arianrhod RPG Replay. 
  2. ^ KATSURA, Norio (Autumn 2006). "Fantasy TRPG Chronicle". RPGamer 15: 8. 
  3. ^ "RPG old and present, east and west (RPG Kokon-tozai?)". Role & Roll 40: 16. January 2008. 
  4. ^ Over 43 books of Sword World RPG's replays were published until July 2007.

External links[edit]