This is the first in an irregular series looking at the many Warhammer products that were previewed, but never released.
From the beginning there had been an intention to produce supplements expanding WFRP‘s geographic reach beyond the Old World. The idea was mentioned in White Dwarf’s WFRP preview in October 1986 (issue 82) and regularly repeated thereafter. But for a long time there was never any sign of serious work being done on these projects.
Then in November 1988 White Dwarf carried this intriguing comment:
WFRP is not forgotten with several major supplements on the horizon including … new rulebooks dealing with the ancient civilisations of the east and the jungles of Lustria.
– White Dwarf 107
Shorty afterwards the oriental supplement acquired a name: Tetsubo. (A tetsubo was a studded club used by samurai in feudal Japan. It could loosely be equated with a war hammer.)
Unlike many proposed products of the time, considerable development work was carried out on Tetsubo. Freelancers Dave Morris and Jamie Thompson produced an extensive draft describing the eastern realm of Yamato.
They drew on their prior experience of and interest in game settings inspired by far eastern folklore and history. Thompson had co-written gamebooks in Mark Smith’s world of Orb (Talisman of Death and The Way of the Tiger series). Morris had already mentioned Yamato in his Dragon Warriors game.
Tetsubo is something of an oddity. It draws extensively on feudal Japanese culture and folklore and barely acknowledges the Warhammer world. It feels like a Japanese-inspired RPG that just happened to use the WFRP ruleset. It is telling that it was not even set in the Warhammer land of Nippon.
It is easy, therefore, to see reasons for its rejection by GW. Yet it contains a great deal of interesting material and is in my view better than some of the content that did pass GW’s editorial process. Given the shortage of material for WFRP and Flame’s objective to produce material quickly, it is a little surprising that more effort wasn’t made to salvage something from it.
You can read Dave Morris’ own comments on Tetsubo, and even download the original document, here.
The next Lost Warhammer post can be found here.
Nippon is discussed further here.