I’m in Korea as a guest of my translation and publishing partner, Sungil Kim, talking about game design at a local convention in Seoul. I’ll have a lot to say later, but for now if you are interested, go follow game designer and Game Chef host Sangjun Park on Twitter - @heofonkoppe - as he lays out the scene and links to amazing games, some in English already. Don’t miss his game Moonflower. More when I get back!
Hello! I just now signed up for The Gauntlet and seeing this thread blows my mind. I am that guy! Meeting Jmstar in Korea energized me to start taking active steps to connect the Korean RPG community to the world. There’s a strange and amazing RPG world here - I don’t even know where to begin.
As my mind settles down a bit (had two busy weeks in a row) I’ll try and see what the best approach would be, but in the meantime I will try to answer any question that people have about the Korean RPG community.
What are the touchstone games you have in Korea. In the UK and US everyone knows certain big games (like D&D) but I think I’ve heard that (for example) in Japan everyone’s starting point is Call of Cthulhu.
I’d love to know what the big foundational games are in Korea (especially if they are Korean games - rather than a translation of D&D).
The “big” games in Korea are Call of Cthulhu and inSANe right now. Neither are Korean games, but people are doing wildly creative things with them. Some remarkable modules I’ve seen for them include things such as:
- Players are vegetables. They all want to become delicious curry. They have dark secrets.
- Players have to deal with the unspeakable horror that is horny friends who suddenly hit on them too hard.
- Players are stuck in a convenience store while the rest of the universe disappears. (This one might be Japanese, actually.)
These are examples of quirkier modules, of course. There are more “traditional” stuff for CoC and inSANe. One trend, which I am excited about, is fan-made supplements that focus on a specific Korean region or a specific Korean historical period.
- “Cheon-an Cthluhu” interprets the folklore and urban legends of the Cheon-an region through the lens of Cthulhu Mythos, which led to stories that are both fundamentally Korean and undoubtedly Lovecraftian.
- “Gyeongseong Cthulhu” focuses on Seoul during the colonial era and builds on the anxiety and rage of the Korean people.
Even though we don’t have a foundational local game yet, I would say that people are eager to create. I would design something that would handles intense emotional and relational drama well if I were to contribute to a foundational Korean game.
That’s all so fascinating and amazing! I’m so much looking forward to learn more.
What I’m interested in:
Is roleplaying more highlighting aspects of mainstream culture or kind of a counter culture in South Korea?
Is somebody taking care for preserving the history of South Korean RPG culture? It seems absolutely worth taking care of.
The Korean RPG community is, overall, a progessive bunch. As context - Korea is set in its own ways since those ways are what raised up a prosperous country out of war-wrecked ruins 66 years ago. Militaristic conformity, vertical social hierarchy, et cetera have been the most “practical” ways of doing things. The Korean RPG community is making an explicit attempt to break away from that because (here’s the fun part) the community is new.
People have been playing RPGs since early 90s, sure, but it was with the publication of Dungeon World, Dawn of Fate, Magic Bookshop and such in 2012-2013 that led to the formation of the current RPG community in Korea. There have been tidal waves of newcomers who, as they decided they were playing RPGs for the rest of their lives, chose to make best of the fact that this subculture is new.
We do still have people who are… traditional, but at least around me I see feminists, LGBTQIA activists, social vanguards and all stripes of people who are taking a forward stance on social issues. So I guess I would say the Korean RPG community is a bit of a counterculture.
(Caveat: There are RPG community hangouts and forums where I don’t go to. I don’t go there for reasons known to many of you now - so I can’t say the entire Korean RPG community is a progressive bunch.)
As for history - if I may be so immodest I’ve been making low-key efforts to observe and chronicle the dynamic changes that are happening to the Korean RPG community. I know somewhat of its origins, its inital developments, and its first boom. I witnessed its early steady growth first-hand (I was actually one of the admins of the biggest online RPG hangout!) and experienced the schism that ultimately led to diversification of the RPG crowd. Now we are currently going through… whatever stage future history will deem it. I honestly want to make this a not low-key effort! But, well, it’s not as high priority as other issues unfortunately.
So what are the big Korean-made games? Not CoC modules, but unique games that have made a splash in Korea, and why do you think those games made such a splash, @sangjun?
The Korean game that had the biggest success is probably 고마워요! 대소동 해결단. I’m still not sure how to translate the name! Perhaps “Thank You! Ruckus Busters”? It’s a gloriously absurd game about how an imaginary city is taken over by some kind of ruckus (a mad scientist taking over a neighborhood, zombie apocalypse, et cetera) and how these unlikely heroes have to take care of it. Players take on the roles of a Magical Girl, a Sentai Hero, an Occult Enthusiast and such. The game is meant to be played as one-shots.
It resonated with the Korean RPG community because, in my opinion, it reflected the Korean geek culture as it is. It was an essentially Korean game but it was not about the Joseon Dynasty or the ancient history of the place or millennia-old folkloric heritage or so on - it was about what Korean people like to talk about and enjoy now. It is not driven by nationalistic pride. I mean, it’s got Magical Girls and Bug-themed Superheroes. The game recognizes that the Korean pop culture is a melting pot of international influences.
That sounds great! At first I was hoping it was an Attack the Gas Station-type game but that sounds even better!
How was it released? Do a lot of games get brainstormed and released for free in online cafes or do you PayPal/Ko-fi type services (or just bank transfers at the atm like I used to always do) that designers use to get some money for their smaller games?
Are there game chef, game jam, type things going down?
Also: I don’t suppose they’d be interested in a translation for the zine?!
The financial part was done through Tumblbug, the Korean-language crowdfunding platform. The Ruckus Busters was one of the biggest projects in the TTRPG category. The writing and development lasted more than a year, I believe, but the actual release of the book was delayed as (to my knowledge) one of the illustrators reneged on a contract. It was a good thing that both of the game’s designers were graphic artists themselves. (Coincidentally, the book looks lovely because of that, too.)
The vast majority of games being made are not monetarily compensated. Right now, it’s either free games released online or full publication with an ISBN and taxes. Ko-fi and such deals where fans can compensate creators are not yet commonplace, perhaps because there is no tipping service that handles KRW specifically yet. No Patreon analog, either!
There aren’t any regular game jams. Perhaps one a year - the TRPG Gallery over at DCinside held a Black Hack jam, but I am not sure how successful that was. Gearoong might know, so I’ll talk to him about that. Aside that, I’m planning to coordinate the Korean section of Game Chef 2019 and, if I may be so ambitious, I want to do Korean-language game jams via itch as well. But I have a lot on my plate already.
(I talked to 구르는사람들 (the folks behind Ruckus Busters) about the zine idea yesterday and they said they will consider it positively.)
Just in case there are any Korean speakers here (actually it’s just a plug), Brendon and I launched a dedicated space for Korean-speaking analog game designers yesterday. The membership total right now is just 29 at the moment, but conversations are starting! There’s also a mini game jam slated for next week, subtitled “You Can’t Stack Dice in This Game”.
If you happen to have Korean among your languages, please join us! If you happen to have an advice for fostering game design convos, we would appreciate that, too.
There are a lot of things happening in the Korean TTRPG scene at this exact moment. There’s another TTRPG community coming up soon whose stated goal is safety first. People are organizing play events, retreats, and small-scale conventions. Perhaps one day we’ll go back to having regular massive conventions!
Nobody asked me this but I got too excited.
Quick question @sangjun : Which game is “inSANe”? Is it the Korean version of the Japanese game “Insane” by Bouken in their Saikoro Fiction series? Or is it another game?
Also, I have Korean Dungeon World. It is a masterpiece. It gave us a lot of inspiration for our upcoming production of the Japanese version of Dungeon World! It’s such a wonderfully realized book, and so sturdy too!
That game, yeah! I was pretty sure that their official stylization was inSANe, but I might be mistaken. At least that’s how everyone stylizes the game name in Korea.
The crowdfunding project for Dungeon World was a truly massive success, so Cympub could afford to make every copy masterpiece! It’s amazing.
The Korean DW book is so good. Cympub’s output is of extraordinarily high quality across the board. One thing I talked about while I was in Korea was how generally embarrassed I am when I see what translation partners come up with in terms of quality, production and book design. I think my favorite example of this is the flexi binding of Russian Fiasco, (think those laminate-covered travel guides) which is a dragon I’m still chasing.