The Dragon Invasion

How the role-playing game came to Japan.

The Magazine
Jan 27, 2014 · 9 min read
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Henk Rogers today.

Idea man

The American author Saul Bellow wrote that humans live amid the realm of ideas much more than they live amid nature. For Rogers and a group of like-minded students at the University of Hawaii in the late 1970s, those ideas lurked in dank caverns of the imagination. Some of them even breathed fire.

Lost in translation

It was a reckless and, in some ways, baseless decision. “My only experience writing code was some college assignments,” he says. “I had never built a product. I had no idea what I was getting into. But I did have a bold vision for the game: a full Dungeons and Dragons game featuring fighters, warriors, wizards, clerics. All of that stuff.”

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Black Onyx

Dropping gems

By January the investment money was almost all gone. As a final attempt to drum up interest in the game, Rogers hired a translator and visited the offices of every computer magazine in Japan at the time. “I sat down with each editor and asked them for their name. I typed this in and then asked them to choose the head that looked most like them. In this way I taught them how to roll a D&D character. Then I left them to play.”


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This article originally appeared in Issue 26 (Sept. 26, 2013)

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A fortnightly periodical of features for curious people. Get The Magazine app for iPad, iPhone, & iPod touch in the iOS App Store, or subscribe on the Web.

The Magazine on Medium

Narrative non-fiction writing from a fortnightly periodical for curious people with a technical bent.

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