||This article or section includes a list of references or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations.
You can improve this article by introducing more precise citations.
||The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject.
Please help improve the article with a good introductory style.
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[attribution needed]. 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)
The vast human empire of Shou Lung is undoubtedly the most powerful nation on the face of Toril. The empire was started by a simple peasant known as Nung Fu, who was invested with the Emblems of 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). With an immense population, vast territory, and a central government managed by an efficient and generally honest bureaucracy, the Shou could, with a great deal of effort, come to completely dominate the planet. That they do not is due to cultural rather than military or economic factors. The Shou have been expansionists in the past, but the current emperor finds more pleasure in knowledge and culture then military conquest. This tendency has been reinforced by the recent Tuigan Horde invasion of 1359-1360 D.R., which devastated many of the northwestern provinces, decimated the armed forces, and left the upper ranks of the Mandarinate in a leaderless shambles. During this time, large numbers of Shou refugees fled westwards across the Golden Way trade route to the Unapproachable East in Faerun and settled in the Thesk region. The nation is thus still recovering from the upheavals. So, while this nation controls the largest military spelljammer fleet in Realmspace, those vessels are employed in a strictly defensive role, rooting out pirates and acting as a counter to the spelljammer fleets of Wa and the Elven Imperial Fleet.
The official head of the government is the Celestial 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 Jen is the Emperor's official court wizard, 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 Faerun. In fact certain regions in Faerun make a living solely on the imports from Shou Lung and many merchants, settlers, and diplomats have come to Faerun 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 main criminal organization in the country is the Tsui Tong (analog for the Triad) which is given a certain degree of freedom to operate within the semi-independent port city of Kai Shan due to the aid and support they gave the Emperor during the Black Cycle which brought Shou Lung back from the brink of ruin. There are no Imperial troops stationed in Kai Shan, nor are there any magistrates or town guard. The city's reputation is its greatest defense, though the Shou fleet would certainly counter any attempts by outsiders to invade the city, as it is technically still a part of Shou Lung, and surrounded by other Imperial territories. It is rumored that the Tsui have contacts with the Chainmen (though selling Shou citizens to slavers would surely bring the wrath of the Emperor down on the city, if discovered), the Tenth Pit, and even the Zhentarim of Faerun.
The Shou practice mainly two forms of religion, "The Path of Enlightenment" (analog for Confucianism) and "The Way" (analog for Daoism and Theravadan Buddhism). 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 Faerun, 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. Kana and her family were practitioners of the Way.
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 has been a separate state from Shou Lung since breaking away from its northern neighbor nearly three centuries ago. It used to be the southern part of the Shou Lung Empire. Since the establishment of the Lui Dynasty (the Green Dynasty) and the founding of the T'u Lung Empire, Shou Lung and T'u Lung have officially been at war, although the conflicts have ebbed and flowed, of course, but the provinces along their borders have become deserted and ruined from the endemic warfare. There is currently a truce between the two nations.
Composed of six provinces T'u Lung is everything Shou Lung could become but is not. The provinces are ruled by hereditary nobles who pay as little attention to the T'u Emperor as they can get away with (although the real power rests with Empress Dowager Wai Locunni Eio). Taxes go unpaid, free men are enslaved, and criminals left free. The government is corrupt on all levels, though in some rare districts a local magistrate may be somewhat honest and honorable. Poverty runs rampant throughout the nation. Unless forced to unite by some outside force (in the past this has most often been an invading Shou army) the nobles of T'u Lung fight incessantly among themselves.
Many of the cities and towns are now in ruins, even those which have not been abandoned have many ruined buildings within their town limits. On the other hand, the nation's corrupt, ineffective government allows neogi, Chainmen, and pirate raids unheard of access. Only the random presence of powerful wu jen or shukenja in some of the smaller villages appear as potential dangers to raiders. The nation has an active slave trade that often captures and sells Shou subjects to the Thayan slavers of Faerun.
Emperor Kochi first claimed the island of Wa and started his empire when the Sacred Wand and the Moonlight Arrow, the emblems of the Imperial office, were given to him by the Spirit of Wa. The Empire of Wa was the first imperial state to be established in Kara-Tur, according to Waan tradition. The island nation of Wa has much in common with Kozakura culturally, despite (or perhaps because of) the two nations' traditional rivalry, but was mostly inhabited by non-human races such as the Hengeyokai. The Hengeyokai were humanoid spirit-animals who came in many forms such as rats, foxes, dogs and cats. Like Kozakura, Wa was composed of a series of islands clustered around a large central island, Tsukishima. Over 80% of Wa was mountainous, the other 20% composed the strips of habitable land along the coasts. Wa was particularly cursed by nature, as typhoons and earthquakes were not uncommon, and many of Wa's volcanoes were still active.
Waan government is similar to that of Kozakura as well, as there is an Emperor whoseposition is largely ceremonial, and the real ruler of the nation is the Shogun, Matasuuri Nagahide. Unlike Kozakura, however, the Shogunate of Wa is strong and vital, and in fact Wa is enjoying the longest period of peace of any nation in Kara-Tur. Peace has led to advancements in education and the arts, as well as a general increase in prosperity. The official religion of the country is a variation of the Shou Path of Enlightenment. A rigid caste-based social system ensures domestic tranquility, the distinct castes are strictly adhered to, travel is monitored by the Shogunate, and religion is regulated.
The nation is rather xenophobic and contact with foreign elements is forbidden. Foreign vessels are only allowed to dock at the port of Akkaido. Those who have adopted foreign customs and ways are oppressed, especially those who follow the recently imported Western deity, Chauntea, the Goddess of Agriculture. In fact, most officials will go out of their way to make life hard for foreigners while they stay in Wa. The nation's prosperity is limited to the nobility and the merchants, as the peasantry staggers under a dizzying array of obligations, rules, and taxes. Ironically, Wa had a good trade relationship with Shou Lung, whom the Waans were once at war with, and anyone from Wa was granted Shou citizenship if they could prove that they had Shou ancestry, since many Shou soldiers remained in Wa and intermarried with the locals after the Omi War. In fact, the famous Grey Blossom mercenaries of Wa were started by Shou Army soldiers who decided to stay in Wa.
Ronin and out of work bushi caused many problems in Wa since the Shogun's administrative reforms reduced the numbers of the nobility and soldiery to more reasonable levels. The Shogun had been considering setting up a colony on the planet Garden in Realmspace for the express purpose of reducing the number of troublemakers in his realm. Like Kozakura, the main criminal organization was the Yakuza.
The island Empire of Kozakura was founded by Emperor Miki late into the Omi Wars when the land was not yet "discovered" by the Shou and Wa nations. The land of Kozakura was inhabited by the humans and Korobokkuru (Eastern Dwarves) and full of beautiful mountains, thick forests and sparkling seas. The majority of the inhabitants live on the main island of Shinkoku, but there are nearly a thousand islands surrounding it. Because Korobokkuru living in the Empire were often treated as lower class citizens while the memories of subjugation from the humans during the formation of the Empire was still fresh in the Korobokkuru's memories, many of the Korobokkuru lived along the coasts, and in the inaccessible central mountains far from human settlements. Powerful samurai ruled the land, and in theory their power devolved from the Kozakuran Emperor of the Jade Throne. For many years the position of Emperor had been a purely ceremonial office, however, and the real political power rested in the hands of the Shogun, the military commander and dictator of the nation. The nation is currently in the midst of a byzantine civil war between various feudal factions and has not had much contact with outsiders. The official Kozakuran state religion is known as the faith of the Eight Million Gods (an analog for Japanese Shinto), which involved worship of a host of animistic nature deities and spirits including a sun goddess and the Emperor of Kozakura himself, who was believed to have descended from a divine ancestry related to the sun goddess. There was also another popular religion called the Way of Enlightenment, which was a variation of the Shou Path of Enlightenment that was brought to Kozakura by Shou missionaries. The Kozakuran variation of this faith's name also serves as an insult to the other rival Shou religion to the Path of Enlightenment, which is known colloquially in Shou Lung as "The Way". The main criminal organization are called the Yakuza.
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.
During the Hai Dynasty in Shou Lung when Wa pirates raided the Celestial Sea and the Shou coastlines, the Shou Emperor was convinced that the Wa warlords had something to do with it. He demanded that the warlords cease and desist and swear fealty to him. Offended, the Wa Emperor refused and gave no reply to the Shou. Seeing no end to the raids and attacks by the pirates, the Shou Emperor amassed a fleet of 100,000 ships to launch an invasion of Wa. Hearing of the pending invasion, the Wa Emperor enlisted the aid of a counselor named Nobunaga who prepared Wa’s defenses and sent the ninja master Fukio to infiltrate Shou Lung.
Shou Lung quickly captured the northern and southern coastlines of Wa but the fortification of central Wa by Nobunaga proved stronger and central Wa avoided the consequences of the Shou invasion. Many captured northern and southern coastal Wa daimyos betrayed Nobunaga after their cities fell and they lent their aid to the Shou generals.
The Shou Emperor, who was aboard the royal flagship, was assassinated by the ninja Fukio who was in disguise. However, Fukio was not able to escape and was killed by the Emperor’s Western wu jen Rourke. The Emblems of Authority were recovered by Rourke but he was slain when he returned to the Imperial Palace in Shou Lung. With no heir, many of the most powerful Shou generals returned to Shou Lung and fought for power leaving only a handful to continue the invasion of Wa. The Shou leadership was thrown into despair and this period is known as the Black Cycle. With the greatly reduced number of Shou troops now occupying its territory, Wa was able to take back most of the occupied provinces from the Shou. Even though most Shou troops were driven back, they were never truly defeated and Wa was left in a state of sporadic warfare. Some of the remaining Shou generals continued with guerilla warfare against the Wa while others offered an armistice to the Wa Emperor and were granted governorship over the territories they controlled. When a new Shou Emperor finally ascended the throne and tried to enlist his former generals back into Shou service, many of them decided to side with the throne of Wa rather than the Shou. Even so, their resistance was futile since the remaining Wa daimyos were divided and suspicious of each other and the years of war had left Wa with no effective central government. Shou Lung soon took control of Wa.
When civil war erupted in Shou Lung between the Shou and the T’u and the northern provinces of Shou were invaded by the Horse Barbarians, the remaining Waan daimyos took advantage of this opportunity and under the united banner of Nitta Shogoro, they were able to finally drive out the occupying Shou troops. Beset on all sides, the Shou conceded ultimate defeat and Wa was declared an independent state. The two countries quickly reached an agreement to open their ports to one another's merchants to allow trade between the two countries and to fill both emperors' treasuries. The Grey Blossom mercenary regiment of the Shou Army that had occupied Wa asked permission to remain in Wa since they had been stationed there for so long that they had made their own lives in that nation, many intermarrying with Waan wives. The Shou and Wa Emperors granted them permission to remain and they would become one of the most famous mercenary bands of Wa. But in less than 5 years, the petty Wa warlords turned on each other once more and the Waan government was split into factions and plunged the island into 200 years of civil war before any type of stable government was established. Up to this day, the Waan daimyos remain divided but they provide a unified front against all foreigners.
When the Shou Emperor was assassinated during the Omi War and there was no heir to the throne, the leadership of Shou Lung fell into chaos. The six southern provinces (now the Empire of T’u Lung), were marked by repeated invasions from southern barbarian tribes. Only a small number of cities that still had feudal lords in power maintained any semblance of order. The most famous of these feudal families were the Yang and Wai clans, which would later play a large role in the Shou and T’u Lung civil war. The western lands also fell under the control of Copper Demons who ruled the land in a brutal fashion. A criminal family from Kai Shan eventually seized control of that city and became semi-independent. This family later supported an adventurer name Wo Mai, who claimed to be a descendent of the Shou Empire’s founder, in recovering the Emblems of Authority and was crowned the new Emperor and established the Kao Dynasty. Because of the criminal family’s aid to Wo Mai, the city of Kai Shan to this day retains its autonomy and the ruling criminal family grew into what is known today as the Triad or Tsui Tong. Wo Mai and the Seven Heroes and Seven Nonmen soon set forth for the western regions and ended the reign of the Copper Demons. They also defeated the last of the barbarian tribes invading the southern provinces and reestablished Shou control. Also at this time, a secret organization called the Cult of the Black Panther was helping peasants that were displaced by the war between Imperial troops and the invading southern barbarians start new lives independent of barbarian and Shou control alike.
The civil war between Shou Lung and the six southern provinces of its empire who would later form the breakaway Empire of T'u Lung had its seeds planted when the first Li Dynasty of the Empire was established. During that time, a secret organization known as the Cult of the Black Panther, whose leaders claimed that they were immortals who had aided the Nine Travelers in ruling Kara-Tur when they were still humans, made a claim that they were the rightful successors to the Nine Travelers. Because of their mystic powers, they were held in more fear and reverence in the southern provinces than the Shou Emperor. Led by the great General Wo Chan, Shou troops fought the Cult of the Black Panther in what would later be known as the Battle of Infinite Darkness, and managed to destroy the Cult's temple in Durkon. The Shou finally ended the resistance in the southern provinces and established firm political control over the area. The leader of the Cult was never found.
During the Black Cycle, the southern area of Shou Lung (now the Empire of T’u Lung), was marked by repeated invasions from southern barbarian tribes. Only a small number of cities that still had feudal lords in power maintained any semblance of order. The most powerful of these feudal families were the Yang and Wai clans. Also during this time the Cult of the Black Panther reemerged and began helping peasant families that were displaced by the war between the Imperial Army and the invading southern barbarian tribes. Shortly after the Wa declaration of independence from Shou rule, the southern provinces were plagued with screaming spirits that killed many incompetent and corrupt bureaucrats in what is now known as the Nights of Screaming Demons. Later investigations linked this event to the Cult of the Black Panther. Soon, many key military positions in the Shou Army were filled by people from the southern provinces. When the southern barbarians again attempted to invade the Empire, the Shou Army made short work of the invading barbarians. After the last Emperor of the Kao Dynasty, he was succeeded by his cousin who established the La Dynasty. The first Shou emperor of the La Dynasty was a weak ruler whose court was easily infiltrated by the agents of the Cult of the Black Panther who secretly ruled and manipulated the Shou government from within. The Yang and Wai clans soon led a revolt against the corrupt northern bureaucrats and quickly established a power base of their own in the south provinces. At this point the nobles of the south considered themselves a separate force from the bureaucrats of the La Dynasty who governed the northern provinces, but believed that they still belonged to the same Shou nation and they also continued to acknowledge the authority of the Shou emperor, even if his authority was recognized only in name in the southern provinces.
When two concubines of the last Emperor of the La Dynasty gave birth within hours of each other, he refused to name an heir knowing that if he did, his life would be in jeopardy. Years later he died before naming either of his sons as heir. The northern bureaucrats favored Prince Shin Lu while the southern nobles favored Prince Shin Gisen. War broke out between the northern and the southern provinces as the various factions rallied behind their preferred candidate for the Imperial throne. Shin Lu’s forces defeated Shin Gisen’s troops but were too weak and exhausted to pursue the enemy and eradicated the military strength of the southern nobility. Shin Lu proclaimed himself the Emperor of Shou Lung and established the newborn Kuo Dynasty. Shortly after Shin Ginsen proclaimed himself as the first Emperor of the Lui Dynasty and established the T’u Lung Empire in the six southern provinces that had long been largely autonomous from the rest of the Shou state. In order to repel the Shou troops from his newborn state, Shin Ginsen appealed to secret societies such as the Black Leopard Cult and granted them amnesty from Imperial persecution along with other religious and political organizations that were considered illegal in Shou Lung as long as they lent their considerable power to repelling the Shou from T'u territory. The T'u proved successful at driving the Shou Army back across the border with the aid of their new allies and establishing the independence of their Empire, but the price was high, for now the throne of T'u Lung would never have as strong a grasp over its state as the Shou ruler did over his. For the next 250 years, Shou and T’u waged what are known as the Uncountable Wars, with these conflicts ravaging the territories that lay along the Shou-T'u border.
The Great HuntEdit
When Wa was planning to expand its territory, they sent an invasion fleet with 1,000 ships to Kozakura led by Hidegari Iegusa. The Waan fleet was able to capture the southern tip of Shinkoku with little trouble but could not advance further because of Kozakuran fortifications. The borders of the captured territory were raided constantly by Kozakuran troops. Both sides attempted to break the stalemate and Kozakuran troops led by Honda no Motosune launched a naval strike against the Waan ships and for days battles raged on the decks of 300 ships. In the end, Iegusa was killed and his army driven out of Shinoku. During this period, the non-humans in the occupied areas rebelled against their Waan colonizers and established independence. They hunted down all Waan survivors and stragglers and exacted a violent revenge on them. They made it into a sport and this period eventually came to be known as the Great Hunt. When Motosune drove out the remaining Waan fleets, he tried to reestablish control in the southern areas. To his surprise, the people of the area previously occupied by the Waan forces refused to be reincorporated into the Kozakuran Empire and insisted on remaining independent. Motosune massacred the spirit folk inhabitants of these villages and reclaimed control over the southern prefectures of Kozakura, but in so doing the Kozakuran Shogunate earned the enmity of the spirit folk of Kozakura for many centuries.
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 listes:Kara-Tur