My Games

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Discussion on Korean TTRPGs with Gearoong

I had a conversation with Gearoong, another one of the Bastionjam submitters. Gearoong is a Korean TTRPG creator, and his entry was an English translation of the Striders SRD. I was interested to learn more about the Korean TTRPG community and the role of Korean culture, history, mythology, etc., and they were kind enough to discuss the topic with me.

Note that this discussion was taken from the bastionland discord. For the sake of simplicity, I cut it down to only the messages of my own and Gearoong's, although there were a few responses Gearoong made to other people which I include as well. I received Gearoong's consent to share this on my blog, but did not reach out to everyone else involved in the conversation, which is why I chose to cut it down in this way. There is some light editing for stylistic purposes but the intended meanings have not been altered.

I googled for Korean Tiger, based on our discussion below, and found this evocative piece of art.

Max: I would be interested to learn more about the Korean TTRPG scene if you have any insights. It seems like there is a lot of really interesting creative works coming out of Korea right now in general, so any insights would be appreciated. I recently started reading the manwha Tower of God after getting really into the anime adaptation, and I've been hearing interesting things about God of High School which is also an anime adaptation of a manwha. I've listened to some podcasts about Korean TTRPG creators and I think I follow one or two on itch, but as someone who does not speak Korean, my exposure is limited. I don't know how much influence manwha has on the Korean TTRPG community but I could imagine that or any number of other factors having an influence creatively.

Gearoong: I think manwha and anime, and also Japan TTRPG scene influenced Korean TTRPG community VERY MUCH. In early 80 to 90 they had golden age of the manhwa & anime... and DnD B&X! Lots of works dubbed and B&X published in Korean, also had a conference. Pretty many rule designers influenced on that period. (But I'm not the one). But in late 90s and 00s there's Blank Period because of economic problem... And on 10s, Japanese play reports of Call of Cthulhu have translated and introduced to Manhwa & Anime communities. Also with Japanese TTRPG Rules like Double Cross, InSANe! Lots of people played TTRPG again.

Max: I have not heard of inSANe

Gearoong: So, there's Two Root-B/X and Call of Cthulhu(CoC). InSANe is TTRPG about the horror genres. It's play feels like Japanese horror movies. Also DnD 5th are published here recently, but it have serious typo and translation problem...

Max: Are there any prominent hacks or adventure books of D&D/CoC/other games or prominent original Korean RPGs? If not, do you see that happening eventually in the future?

Gearoong: Maybe CoC! There are lots of scenarios and hacks for CoC. and also, CoC have the largest community on Korean twitter! And their design and layouts are very hilarious, because they are based on manhwa communities which drawing their own arts.

Gearoong: Like this: a hardcover book for CoC scenario. It is my friends'.

Max: Oh that's awesome! I'm curious about the playstyle of Korean gamers, if there is more of a focus on "narrative" gaming, "challenge" gaming, or all sorts of types? Also, what ideas, in terms of mechanics, layout/art, setting, etc., you think may be unique to Korean TTRPGs, if any?

Gearoong: "Narrative" gaming will take the place. the emotions between characters, or problems between NPC... is mainstream of Korean CoC scenarios-and published rules, too. But it doesn't mean there is no room for "challenging" ones.

Max: That seems like what I've heard about the Japanese TTRPG community as well, so I guess that makes sense if the Korean TTRPG community was partially influenced by the Japanese community.

Gearoong: Yes, but we have Blades in the dark, Apocalypse world, Beyond the Walls, and GURPS-and I think these make difference from Japan. Korean TTRPG Publishers are sensitive to western TTRPG trends, and it influences pretty many rule designers. Maybe the position that Korean TTRPG has are same to the position that manhwa have-Middle of Western comics and Japanese manga. We have AWE / FitD / FATE / OSR based rules, but their play feels like Japanese TTRPG because of their themes.

Max: Ya, most people don't realize this but historically, many American cartoons were animated by Korean studios, and I believe this is still somewhat true today. And Korean animators do many of the interstitial (don't know if that's the right term) animations for Japanese anime as well. So Korea is like a connective tissue in that regard, which I find interesting.

Gearoong: Yes, I think it is interesting, too!

Max: Are there any aspects of Korean culture, history, politics, mythology, etc. that you think does, or potentially could, influence the Korean TTRPG scene? I realize that's a heady question, but I could even think about, like I've heard of the monster from Korean mythology, Pulgasari, that infamously was used as the basis for a North Korean Godzilla ripoff if I remember correctly. I learned about it because there's a Pokemon based on it... It's possible I'm mistaken and Pulgasari is an entirely North Korean creation and not relevant to South Korea, but my understanding is that it's originally from Korean mythology well before the split. I apologize if I am mistaken.

Gearoong: Oh, it came from the same country- and pulgasari legend is older than our civil war.

Max: Ok cool, thanks for the clarification.

Gearoong: There's lots of aspects: someone use Japanese Imperialism's pain, someone mix Pansori(판소리) and Korean-Asian Occults, someone use Local rites like Yongwangje(용왕제)

Max: I am going to have to research all of these things! I recently read the novel Pachinko, about a Korean family that moves to Japan during World War 2, and their experiences as Korean-Japanese up to the "present" (I think the book ends in the early 00's) where they suffer a lot of discrimination and oppression. Is that what you are referring to by Japanese Imperialism's pain?

Gearoong: Yup, that's good reference.

Max: I am somewhat familiar with Chinese mythology and Japanese mythology, but less so Korean mythology except where it intersects with those two, unfortunately. In the same way that there is a fascinating interplay between Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and other beliefs in China, and Buddhism and Shintoism (and other beliefs) in Japan, I imagine Korea also has some unique religious and mythological intersections as well.

Gearoong: Yes we have, but we lost pretty lot during colonization by Japanese.

Max: That's really unfortunate, but I suppose makes some sense.

Gearoong: Somewhat only Korean Confucianism and Taoism are remained with Korean Shamanism(무속신앙). Ah, and the story about Tiger (but now they are extinct on Korea).

Max: Oh wow, I had no idea there used to be tigers in Korea. That's amazing, but also really sad that they no longer exist.

(Another member of the discord group asks about Korean Actual Plays and Play Reports)

Gearoong: And yes, we have "actual plays"! But it does not have translation unfortunately:

(Someone else mentions that the video does in fact have English subtitles)

Gearoong: It is the one about the myth of tigers!

Max: For sure I will watch this then, thank you! This is exactly the kind of thing I was curious about, where, yes it's Call of Cthulhu, a Western TTRPG, which was popularized in Korea by way of Japan, but it's about a Korean folktale. This is amazing and I'm really looking forward to watching it.

Gearoong: We have lots of folktales about the tiger... Maybe it will be the reason why Koreans lacks legends of scary ghosts.

Max: Ah, so you think tigers fill a similar niche as ghosts and other boogeymen in Korean mythology? This is already getting my imagination going. I could imagine a Korean fantasy TTRPG with a humanoid tiger species, or maybe tigers as magical monsters or nature spirits.

(There was a side conversation that picked up about rakshasa in D&D vs. in actual Hindu mythology, worthy of its own discussion down the line)

Gearoong: Oh we say Rakshasa as Nachal (Yes, like China and Japan, we also have influnce of Buddhism). Now I must go to sleep because it is 6am here.

Max: lol ya I was wondering about that. Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of this!

Gearoong: And Thanks to you to hear my story, It was fun!

(After the conversation in the discord, on a subsequent day, I asked Gearoong one more question)

Max: Can you tell me a bit more about your game? I understand that it's an SRD for a Korean game that does not include setting content, but I'd be interested to hear more about your thoughts on the game, and also the setting that it originally comes from, even if that setting is not available currently in English.

Gearoong: It was designed from simple idea: Make GM changeable. The idea was started on McDowall's post: Collaborative Bastionland. And that time I've played The Legacy of Earenean(이어리니안의 유산, Korean rule which have original world setting of my rule: Frontearth Strider). With Earenean's setting and their idea of Arguing rule and Collaborative Bastionland, I can complete Frontearth Strider and made SRD from that game. The original setting of Earenean was about sword and sorcery, but my Frontearth uses 700 years after it and it is about pistols and magic technologies. and these have pretty anime-styled atmosphere.


  1. Very interesting to hear from a perspective on the hobby so distant from my own.

  2. Sorry to bother you like this but I think I got a message from you on some app or service and I swiped the wrong way and now can't find it. Or possibly I'm having a breakdown. If the former, my email is

    1. Ya the reddit chat app is not always great... anyway, I just sent you an email, thanks!

  3. Good interview. Would like to hear discussion of D&D vs. actual rakshasasasasa.