Referee’s Bookshelf: Bushido

One of those games that was originally put out through a small press before Fantasy Games Unlimited acquired it and put out a more widespread new edition, Bushido is one of those RPGs that has a comparatively low profile but whose influence is surprisingly extensive. Bob Charrette and Paul Hume, its authors, would be commissioned to produce the Land of Ninja supplement for 3rd edition Runequest, which effectively amounts to a conversion of the Bushido setting to Basic Roleplaying, and the influence of Bushido‘s honour system and class breakdown can be seen in later products such as Gary Gygax’s Oriental Adventures. According to Designers & Dragons, the Legend of the Five Rings gameworld was first developed after AEG explored the idea of making a new edition of Bushido but decided against paying the extortionate price required to get it out of the FGU IP black hole.

Bushido is based around providing a solid system for fantastic martial arts adventures in a version of historical Japan that draws as much on martial arts cinema and other media as it does on real history. In fact, Charrette and Hume seem acutely aware of their position as outsiders trying to describe a different culture to other outsiders, and consequently they make sure to draw a clear line between their game setting, referred to in the text as Nippon, and the real Japan; when they say “Japan”, they mean the real place, and when they say “Nippon” they mean the setting. (It’s a bit like a European medieval fantasy game calling Britain “Albion”.)

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