Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WANDERING HEROES OF OGRE GATE (虛界 遊 俠 傳 The Mystic Realms-Wandering-Hero-Legend)

Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate
written in Chinese Calligraphy by Mak Jo Si
The calligraphy logo for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate arrived today. We have incorporated it into the cover but I wanted to put it on display here because I think it is so beautiful on its own. The calligraphy was done by Mak Jo Si of Chi in Nature and he kindly shipped me a copy. Mak also helped me with some of my research on weapons and Chinese culture. His feedback along with that of Chang Yaoyuan and Susanna Liang really helped us get beyond a surface level understanding of the genre. 

The characters in the calligraphy are: 虛界  遊 俠 傳. Mak informs me that this could literally be translated as "The Mystic Realms-Wandering-Hero-Legend." I think that is a nice nod to the difficulty of translation titles and concepts from the original material into English, except the question that arises with Ogre gate is which direction the inaccuracy is coming from: is it really 'Ogre Gate' or 'Mystic Realm'?

It is difficult to take inspiration from another place, treat it respectfully, but also be authentic to yourself. I've been watching martial arts movies from China, Hong Kong, Korea and Thailand for ages and it can take a long time to grasp some of the nuances at work that are built on cultural assumptions, language or history we have no experience of. Translations are necessary but inherently misleading. So I think the translation issue is symbolic of this broader difficulty. The difference in meaning between Ogre Gate and Mystic Realm is an acknowledgement of this. 

What we are really trying to say with that is, take our interpretation of the Wuxia and martial arts fantasy with a grain of salt. We are game designers and fans, not experts. Some things we may get right, some things may have better explanations than what we provide. I believe strongly in good research but I also know its limitations in the context of an RPG book. First and foremost RPGs are games and that always takes precedence over accuracy. If you want to know about history, read history books not RPG source books. If you want to know about wuxia, read about the subject, read wuxia, read Chinese history and watch wuxia films. A wuxia RPG book or history RPG book can give you some helpful tools for managing the genre or period, but it is simply no replacement for books designed solely to inform rather than entertain. 

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