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Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1e)


We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

This box contains everything AD&D game players and DM's need to establish an exciting Oriental Adventures campaign!

Kara-Tur, world of eastern mystery, is on the far side of the planet from the Forgotten Realms Campaign setting, but the two cultures interact only if you want them to! This is the "official" campaign setting for the Oriental Adventures rulebook. Kara-Tur has everything you need: Two 96-page books describe the places, culture, politics, monsters, magic, people, religions, and more, plus advice on running a long-term Oriental Adventures campaign, bringing characters from other worlds into Kara-Tur to other worlds.

Product History

Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1988) is the third major boxed set for the Forgotten Realms. It was published in October 1988.

Origins (I): Returning to Kara-Tur. The story of Kara-Tur begins with the publication of Zeb Cook's Oriental Adventures (1985), which included a scant five pages overviewing an Asian-influenced land named Kara-TUr. It mentioned four empires: Shou Lung (Imperial China), T'u Lung (warring China), Wa (Tokugawa Japan), and Kozakura (Sengoku Japan), but didn't even include a map of the lands(!). At the time, Kara-Tur wasn't linked to any other campaign world.

Four adventures, OA1-OA4 (1986-1987) then developed this standalone land. OA1: "Swords of the Daimyo" (1986) was the most notable because it included a map showing these four empires as well as some nearby lands, such as the Plain of Horses.

Origins (II): Expanding the Realms. In 1987, TSR debuted a major new setting for AD&D in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1987). The new setting soon began accrue existing generic settings, such as Bloodstone Pass from the "H" adventures (1985-1988) and the Desert of Desolation from the "I" adventures (1983, 1987). However, the biggest such expansion of the Realms probably came in 1988 when Zeb Cook coordinated the production of Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1988), which linked Ed Greenwood's Forgotten Realms to Zeb Cook's empires of Kara-Tur.

To a certain extent, it was a weird marriage. The Realms was a land filled with demihumans, dragons, and monsters. It had an ancient, mythic history. Conversely, Kara-Tur was human-oriented and didn't enjoy a prehistoric and mythic background.

However, the way the cultures of the two lands had been created was even more different …

Origins (III): A Real-World Correlation. Fans of the Forgotten Realms may be surprised to learn that the world didn't originally use real-world cultures as the inspiration for its countries. One of Ed Greenwood's long-time players says that his setting was inspired by "Cities and farming regions he'd visited, yes, and the 'flavours' of them he wanted to evoke, but real-world countries or peoples or cultures no."

This changed when other authors began adding their own settings to Greenwood's world, because unlike Greenwood they often used real-world cultures as a touchstone. Technically, this practice started with the Celtic-influenced culture of the Moonshae Islands, but Kara-Tur was the first big expansion in this direction. Greenwood also notes that the real-world correlations extend beyond the major additions to the world to also include "recastings of my largely-offstage kingdoms like Unther and Mulhorand to more closely resemble real-world historical (or 'Hollywood historical') settings."

Greenwood disagrees with the results, saying that "the too-close-to-our-real-world additions like Maztica, the Hordelands, and Kara-Tur were a mistake in style". He thought that they "[pulled] gamers out of roleplaying into disputes about historical details, for one thing".

However, even after decades of additions, the core of the Realms remains Greenwood's own. His primordial lands like the Sword Coast, the Heartlands, and the Dalelands have no direct real-world correlations.

Exploring Kara-Tur. Of the four classic Kara-Tur lands, any description of Kozakura is omitted, probably because the Japan-analogue had already received considerable attention in OA1: "Swords of the Daimyo" (1986) and OA2: "Night of the Seven Swords" (1986) — including extensive descriptions of both the Maeshi and Miyama provinces. However, the Kara-Tur box does expand on both the Japanese Wa and the two Chinas: Shou Lung and T'u Lung — building on material on Shou Lung found in OA3: "Ochimo: The Spirit Warrior" (1987) and on Wa found in OA4: "Blood of the Yakuza" (1987).

However, Kara-Tur goes beyond that, revealing that the land is bigger than Cook revealed in Oriental Adventures. That begins with a description of the Plain of Horses, which is essentially historical Mongolia, and would become better known as the Hordelands during the Empire event (1990). In addition, totally new countrires appear. Koryo can now be found just above Kozakura and Wa; it's fantasy Korea. Tabot has been added west of Shou Lung; it's Tibet. Finally, a few more scattered lands appear: the Northern Wastes is eastern Siberia, the Island Kingdoms are Indonesia, and the Jungle Lands are Indochina. (Some of these lands are broken into multiple kingdoms of their own.)

Exploring the Realms. Kara-Tur is placed to the far east of the Forgotten Realms. The map included here doesn't yet connect to the maps of the west; that would await the Empire event. When that connection appeared, The Horde Barbarian Campaign Setting (1990) would reveal another problem: Kara-Tur is just too big when compared to the rest of the Realms. To accommodate this, The Horde would reduce the scale of Kara-Tur's maps by one-third to better link up the west and the east.

Future History. Kara-Tur was followed by OA5: "Mad Monkey vs. the Dragon Claw" (1998), but that was the last hoorah for Eastern Realms for a few years. When the Empire event brought the Horde to the Realms, interest in Kara-Tur also resurged, but that only lasted from 1990-1991, after which Kara-Tur would largely fade from public consciousness. "Ancestor Feats and Martial Arts Styles", an article by James Wyatt for Dragon #315 (January 2004), would revisit some of the themes for D&D 3.5e.

About the Creators. David "Zeb" Cook coordinated the work on Kara-Tur, but the writing was by Jay Batista, Deborah Christian, John Nephew, Mike Pondsmith, and Rick Swan.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (6)
Discussions (17)
Customer avatar
Jimmy L December 31, 2023 2:32 pm UTC
POD Please
Customer avatar
Keighn M September 04, 2023 9:18 pm UTC
This version comes in 3 pdfs consisting of two 98-page booklets and 8 pages of poster maps. The box front cover & back is not included nor are the transparent mapping sheets (I mean in the pirated box set you get all that but in a solid pdf and transparent is just black & white. Maps in the Yar-har-har version are cut up pieces.). Here you get the maps I. Their entirety via pdf format (you could probably cut/paste to art utility and print smaller maps).

What I don’t know is the DPI/resolution quality of the map images. You could probably scan 1:1 but know that would take some hefty data and one hell of a big scanner unless you want to try panel by panel which is horrible —— I tried with Undermountain). So, this ain’t bad. Better than bootleg imho but pity no box front/back cover. Go to TSR archive for that.
Customer avatar
Baron C March 21, 2023 10:42 pm UTC
Staples will do your POD for about 13 bucks
Customer avatar
Lucas D March 18, 2023 2:49 am UTC
ive always been really interested in learning about kara-tur but once again, i want to be able to hold the book in my hands while i read. POD please!
Customer avatar
Daniel R February 11, 2022 8:56 pm UTC
POD please
Customer avatar
killog12 K September 09, 2021 9:32 am UTC
Tell me exactly how using a stereotypical eastern setting is anymore prejudiced than using a stereotypical medieval european setting? Making princesses getting saved by knights in shining armor is okay but having ninja's sneaking into a fort is too much? Really getting sick and tired of this spineless back-pedaling by Wizards of the Coast, not just with D&D products, which have never been prejudiced in any way shape or form, but also with their other products like Magic the Gathering.
Customer avatar
Kenneth Ian V September 26, 2021 6:01 am UTC
Well said! If I wanted a true-to-life nuanced sociopolitical campaign setting matching the real world cultures of the setting, well I wouldn't be playing an imaginative fantasy game called "Dungeons and Dragons". Racism and Sexism should be called out, but Kara-Tur is an homage to fantasy Asian tropes, not a put down or denigration of Asian culture, just like D&D is an homage to fantasy European tropes. If anyone wants to be offended by something actually real, why don't they research the situation in Syria and the international communities failure to do anything about it, instead of pointing out First-World-problems with old AD&D books?
Customer avatar
Maung Thaw H November 15, 2021 5:28 am UTC
A counter argument.
But you can say that the sources and common sense of the creators filtered from seemingly innocent but racist viewpoints due to lack of awareness (like say pulp novels or decades-old historical texts basing cultural or historical narratives on Asian culture that became outdated like the "despotic oriental society" or poorly translated at the time). Like the entire Shou Lung is basically "compare and contrast with dragon's viewpoint of Fantasy Japan that sometimes bleed from author's viewpoint about Samurai" or entire Koryo's gist is...Xenophobia, Tae Kwan Do, and some sort of mishmash of Asian themes with Korean-copy-paste and no mentions of Gat and Hanbok (I mean they already mentioned Kimono or Chinese clothing terms, so they could have used it). Plus it focused too much on appealing to genre than expanding (then again, homebrew might work but "RULE AS WRITTEN" is still a thing and some missing details--namely bureaucrat characters because political intrigue...See more
Customer avatar
Maung Thaw H November 16, 2021 6:56 pm UTC
Plus it had some consistencies and many interesting bits.
Like the book say "Shou are not known for sword play" (I know Kung Fu fighters or wanted players to carry that mindset, but alot of Chop Sockey movies--even in 80's--has sword fighters) then proceed to have an art of two not!Chinese duelists using swords (Jian and Hook swords) along with having Guan-Dao glaives but no stats for them (homebrew would work but RULE AS WRITTEN might came up since many wanted to differentiate between Chinese and Japanese for "authenticity").
Customer avatar
Nicholas P July 27, 2021 6:24 pm UTC
POD please
Customer avatar
Kenneth Ian V June 01, 2021 9:47 am UTC
In February of this year I sent an email to Wizards of the Coast asking if they had any plans for a POD version of this book and got a reply telling me 'Thank you for showing interest in our products but it is our policy to never reply to emails'. I did this because DriveThruRPG told me that the decision is completely out of their hands and is up to WotC.
Since then WotC has tightened up their contact information to the extent that I can't even find their 'contact us' email address anymore.
However, I did find some contact information which I listed below. So, instead of complaining about no POD on this site (which won't do anything) try contacting WotC. If enough people do this maybe they will get the idea that a POD is wanted. One can hope.
Facebook lists their phone number as 1 425-226-6500
Facebook also has a "Contact Wizards of the Coast on Messenger" link in the About section.
Customer avatar
JUSTIN H March 02, 2021 3:25 pm UTC
Wrong? Wrong... it's wrong... it wasn't wrong then and its not wrong today. People would and still do write things like this because they love the history and cultural that it came from. not to XXX on it. The fact that you're saying it's wrong is a disgrace to many. you want to be "all inclusive" but only if it fits your idea. it's oxymoronic honestly.
Customer avatar
Nicholas P January 28, 2021 7:39 pm UTC
POD please
Customer avatar
ronald P January 12, 2021 5:34 am UTC
would buy if pod!
Customer avatar
Thomas G December 25, 2020 12:04 am UTC
With all the description of the land, I didn't see any mention of the Oriental Adventures Races. Does this have anything about the Hengeyokai or other magic races of OA?
Customer avatar
Maung Thaw H December 25, 2020 6:16 pm UTC
Well, they are operating on Oriental Adventure rules, just slotted into Forgotten Realms.
So they are expected non-human races to be Hengeyokai, Kokabukaru, and Spirit Folks.
To be honest, the entire setting felt too... human-centric and low fantasy, plus the nation-building based on alignment dichotomy to be lazy (or the fact that I am more of "nations as collective of individuals with their own agenda and personality"--ala Game of Thrones, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Legend of Galactic Heroes).
Customer avatar
Simon W January 16, 2022 7:11 pm UTC
Whether or not you "feel" that something is "too human-centric and low fantasy" is SUBJECTIVE. You talk about your interpretation as if it is an absolute fact, as if no-one else could have a different interpretation. How about, rather than judging things in a negative way, you instead appreciate the game worlds you read about? This way, you haven't wasted your time and you can instead enjoy what you read, and use it for enjoyable gaming?

I know I like low fantasy, if by that you mean low magic and/or realistic motivations, like people had in real history (like in Game of Thrones), instead of unrealistic black and white, pure good vs pure evil, "saving the world" all the time (like in Lord of the Rings).
Customer avatar
Maung Thaw H January 28, 2022 5:32 am UTC
Well, depends. If you like different interpretation or like the game, but it's also important to point out the flaws or wanted to improve (at least update) it.
1. Kara-Tur was intended to be an independent slot-in, but the Forgotten Realms version seems to be odd like Forbidden Palace (not even changing the name) only had anti-magic barrier that only accounted for flying (you can do adjustment, but it really show that writer were fixated on being authentic yet failed to account for fantasy) where your Faerun dungeon had better wards even accounting for dimension-hopping.
2. Greenwood dislike it for being slotted in. True, there are mentioned in future Realms lore, but they do TRY to make sure it try to fit with Realms' setting (like Mad-Monkey module by Grubbs, "silent retcon and update" by including female Mandarinate instead of "male only" in original lore, Spelljammer, Malatra's own crashed space ship site and quarantined zone due to mutated wildlife, or even 4E's rune magic)....See more
Customer avatar
Nathan F November 30, 2020 10:09 pm UTC
Please make this Print on Demand. The recent boxed sets that have been made in a hardback option are wonderful. Would love to see the rest of them that way!
Customer avatar
Michael A November 29, 2020 10:54 am UTC
need a pod option for this
Customer avatar
NICK M May 10, 2020 3:48 pm UTC
I’m using this to fill out the backstory for my 5e Shou Lung monk. It’s inspirational stuff!
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