If you're a long-time anime fan, you probably did a bit of a double-take at this season's Record of Grancrest War. The title, and the setup, are more than a little like the now-classic Record of Lodoss War. And for good reason: both are the creation of writer Ryo Mizuno, and both -- while in different universes -- have a similar adventure flavor to them.
But there's one more thing they have in common: they're both built up from tabletop campaigns. Because not only is Mizuno a writer, he's also an RPG developer and a Dungeon Master. With that in mind, let's dive back into the earliest history of Record of Lodoss War: past Spark, past Parn and Deedlit, all the way back to a D&D game back in the mid-1980s.
Phase 1: Attacking the Darkness
In its earliest form, the events of Lodoss War were the transcripts of a tabletop RPG DMed by Mizuno (notably featuring sci-fi writer Hiroshi Yamamoto playing as Deedlit). Called "replays," the transcripts were published as fantasy reading material and got popular even among non-gamers. The original replays were published in three parts: covering Parn's, Orson's, and Spark's parties respectively.
The first replays were printed in 1986; by 1989, Mizuno's Group SNE had traded up from D&D to a sourcebook of their own creation. The system, Sword World, centered on the world of Forcelia (where Lodoss and its surrounding countries exist). While the Sword World sourcebook is very D&D-esque, there are a few key differences. Mainly, it requires only the use of two six-sided dice, as gaming dice were hard to obtain in Japan at the time.
Sword World is still used in Japan, with the Second Edition launching in 2008. It's also known as the 2d6 system.
Phase 2: High Fantasy
With the replays becoming so popular, Mizuno decided to take the game transcripts and turn them into a series of novels. The result was seven novels, printed between 1988 and 1993, chronicling the adventures of Mizuno's players in full literary form. Designer and director Yutaka Izubuchi created the series's art.
Two short story collections followed in 1995, as well as two more series: the Legend of Lodoss prequels, and the sequel series Record of Lodoss War Next Generation.
With the story of Lodoss and its heroes growing exponentially, what was once a transcript of a tabletop campaign had gone on to become highly regarded high fantasy. But it didn't stop there.
Phase 3: Anime and Manga
Of course, once anything gets popular enough, manga and anime adaptations aren't far behind. The Record of Lodoss War OVA with which most fans are familiar kicked off in 1990, racing the books to the end Game of Thrones style. Much in the same way, the adaptation caught up with the books and went off in its own direction.
1998 saw both an adaptation closer to the source material and the chibi theater shorts Welcome to Lodoss Island! And in 2014, the parody anime Meshimase Lodoss focused on Lodoss fans trying to put on a school play.
The manga spans eight series, covering both book and television content.
Phase 4: Other Worlds Than These
The world of Forcelia is home to countries other than Lodoss, though -- and they've gotten their own share of love.
Legend of Crystania and Rune Soldier both take place in the same game setting as Record of Lodoss War... just in different countries. The more comedic Rune Soldier takes place in Alecrast, a continent north of Lodoss Island. And the film and OVA Legend of Crystania take place in the land of, well, Crystania. Unlike Rune Soldier, however, this serves as a direct sequel to Lodoss War, following Lord Ashram and his companion Pirotess as he leaves the island after the events of the series.
Gamers will be happy to know that Sword World takes Alecrast and Crystania into account in their setting, should anyone else want to journey there.
Stage 5: Back to Games
Now, in a way, Record of Lodoss War has come home again thanks to an MMO. Launched in 2016, it brings Mizuno's Forcelia setting into the modern branch of RPGs, allowing fans old and new to experience the setting in a whole new way.
This wasn't the first game adaptation, of course. Titles have been released for PC, SNES, Game Boy, and Dreamcast. There was even a browser-based TCG launched in 2012.
With Record of Grancrest War, Ryu Mizuno may have left Forcelia (for now), but he hasn't left his roots. Like Lodoss War before it, Grancrest has tabletop ties. The story started as a light novel series in 2013, followed close behind by an RPG sourcebook for the new setting. It may not be based on a replay, but the feel and pacing of a tabletop campaign are still there -- which is natural, coming from Mizuno and his decades of game-based fantasy!
Kara Dennison is responsible for multiple webcomics, blogs and runs interviews for (Re)Generation Who and PotterVerse, and is half the creative team behind the OEL light novel series Owl's Flower. She blogs at karadennison.com and tweets @RubyCosmos. Her latest stories can be found in Whoblique Strategies.