I’m on a study project to improve my understanding of roleplaying games. To this end, I already have two reading projects, A Game Per Year and An Adventure Per Year. This is the third, with the goal of reading or playing 52 games made in the last few years. Originally I considered making this “A New RPG Per Week” and that’s where the number 52 comes from, even though a weekly schedule is probably not within my abilities.
I learned my English from reading roleplaying game books. Thanks to the baroque language Gary Gygax liked to use, I learned words like eldritch or trebuchet before I knew basic food vocabulary. I remember how it felt as a child, looking at English-language game books and wondering at the hidden wonders within. It felt magical, the experiences and wonders concealed by language I didn’t quite grasp.
Nowadays, I get much the same feeling from game books in Japanese or Spanish. I’ve bought many even though I don’t really understand them. The magic is there, incomprehension coupled with the feeling of endless potential.
This is the territory explored by Salvador Moss’s Adventure Game In Need of Translation. It’s a roleplaying game published in an unknown language, but that doesn’t make it completely opaque. The lavish, evocative illustrations and visual design suggest a lot while explaining little. You grasp the beginning of a thread but have to make up your own meaning.
When I was in Tokyo, I visited a local game store and bought a bag full of books. Later, I puzzled them out in my hotel room using my phone and the Google Translate app which translates text on the fly from the phone camera. With this game, a reader is left to use their knowledge of roleplaying conventions. Different dice types show up in the illustrations, as well as what could be character classes or enemy types.
Other elements defy easy categorization.