Choosing Choson

I am resurrecting Choson.

Not the nation/dynasty, but the idea for an RPG. And I’m a little bit excited about it. Let’s hope the enthusiasm lasts.

Here’s the thing, I have never really created a setting for publication. Well, that’s not true. I created Albenistan for our Spec Ops line of products, and I created a bunch of settings for Arcane Kingdoms. What I haven’t done is created a setting tied to mechanics and then published those. The closest I got was Immortals of Bronze, and that barely got off the drawing board.

My desire to create an RPG set in Korea ran into a few problems. I would need to choose a period. The one period I considered as viable and interesting was the period of the Imjin Wars – when Shogunate Japan invaded Korea as a route to hit China. This was the period in which my favourite Korean historical figure emerged – Yi Sun Sin.

Right now, it looks like there will be another RPG coming out soon-ish set in the same time period. I know nothing about it, other than someone whose taste I respect liked it on playtest.

There is certainly room for more than one RPG set during the Imjin Wars, but there were also problems with that period from my point of view. One of the aspects of Korean history I really found interesting was the inflexible hierarchy of Korea’s bureaucracy, even though it was based on the more open model from China. During the Imjin Wars, anarchy reigned, and power was diffused from the court. Peasant generals and Buddhist monk guerillas emerged, something unheard of at other times.

So while the Imjin Wars would have been an amazing time to set an RPG, I’m happy to look elsewhere.

There’s also the question of appropriation. I ran into this when I wrote Nefertiti Overdrive, and the game’s characters and characteristics changed as I began to recognize that I was guilty of disassociating Egypt from Africa in my conviction that it was a Mediterranean culture. While I am happy with the compromise I felt I reached, I don’t think it assuaged all the concerns that were raised, and I in no way want to discount those concerns.

I didn’t want the same thing to happen with Choson. I am far more conversant with the history and culture of Korea than I am with Ancient Egypt, but even then, I remain cognisant that I am an outsider. I feel there is a level of disconnect when it comes to history, or else only those within a culture could write its history. I feel that an outsider can bring a level of objectivity that one within a culture, especially one so heavily aware of its own history as Korea, would have difficulty mustering. That said, everyone brings their own biases.

So now I am now thinking of creating a system and second world setting (not the real world) heavily influenced by three major states of historical Korea – Silla, Koryo, and Choson. As a second world setting, it will allow the inclusion of all the elements of those three periods into a single one, disassociate it somewhat from the actual culture, and avoid duplicating an existing effort.

Are you as excited as I am?

You can find the Albenistan adventures here.

You can find Arcane Kingdoms here.

A couple of articles on Immortals of Bronze are here.

You can find other discussions of Choson here and here.

You can read about the Imjin Wars period at Wikipedia as a starting point.

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