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DnD Character Classes all have some observable sources and influences:

In the Oriental Adventures books there are a bunch of new classes, including Samurai and and Wu Jen.

But what are the inspirations for some of these classes? In particular, the Wu Jen has always made me wonder. Are they just (dare I say it...) based off Asian stereotypes an given funny nonsensical names or are they inspired by mythological and literary sources like their more Western counterparts?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The wu jen date back to the 1st edition Oriental Adventures sourcebook for AD&D. According to this post, it's the Wade-Giles romanization for what would probably now be rendered as wú rén (巫人) and translated as "sorcerer person." So it's a plausible name for the concept, but not one that predates D&D.

As for some of the other OA classes: the sohei were Buddhist warrior monks; samurai, ninja, and yakuza are likely well known to you.

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+1 That seems pretty solid. – LeguRi Sep 1 '10 at 18:10

Oriental Adventures was first released way back in the heyday of 2e, as Kara-Tur. It was part of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. I think Some were inspired by movies (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 7 Samurai), while a number of the classes seem to be inspirted by actual Asian mythologies (focusing primarily on Japan and China).

I also think that some of the 3.0 classes were inspired by the Legends of the Five Rings games.

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OA was a late-era 1E book, and later a 3E book. – aramis Sep 1 '10 at 16:45
Though the overlap between D&D 3.0 samurai/wu jen and Lo5R clans is an excellent point. – Beska Sep 1 '10 at 17:03
My mistake. Kara-Tur was 2e. – Bricu Sep 1 '10 at 17:45

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