The Korean themed Koryo Hall of Adventures: Adventure’s Guide to Jeusung for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons (Pathfinder 1 conversion document also available) caught my eye immediately when it launched on Kickstarter in 2019 as an Asian inspired campaign setting.
Asian inspired campaign settings are rare. Most Kickstarter’s target Norse, Athenean, Romanesque, or Grim-dark settings presumably as this is where the gaming market is perceived to be, or there are so few people in the hobby that have the time and knowledge to write such a book.
Kickstarter Launch Video for Koryo Hall of Adventures
The 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons book Oriental Adventures is often criticised for its portrayal of Asian cultures as reinforcing bad television stereotypes but at 144 pages it was never realistically going to accurately portray more than two thousand years of diverse Asian history and culture in a way that was commercially appealing in a predominately US market.
So how does this book compare?
The book has a single author who has been a resident of South Korea for more than 10 years. Turning though the pages you can see that the author’s life experience and passion of Korean culture has been poured into this 272 page book.
The main sections of the book are:
- A mythology and history of Jeosung – which explains the creation of the world, departure of the gods and the current state of the world
- The people of Jeosung – an explanation of how the races in the Players Handbook fit into the world (including Dragonborn and Goliath), and social hierarchy
- Agencies and Factions – introducing government agencies and organisations you can use to breath life into the world
- Visualizing Jeosung – the part of the book that most directly draws from Korean culture: architecture, farming practices, food and drink, treasure and musical instruments are all outlined providing Game Masters with knowledge on how to frame life in Jeosung
- Gazetteer of Jeosung- a tour of the continents, including notable location, events, and NPC’s
- New NPC classes Mudang (Spirit Shamans – which are structured somewhat similarly to 5e warlocks but powered by a spirit (momju) that inhabits the shared space of their physical form
- New subclasses for Bards (College of Gwangde – a performance bard) and Monk (Sunim – martial spiritualist in the attainment of purity)
- New magic items
- New spells
- New Monsters – drawn from Korean themes.
The book is well written, contains thoughtful and beautiful culturally aligned commissioned artwork and presents a world and culture that is foreign compared to the typical medieval-esq Dungeons and Dragons world whilst still being accessible to Western Readers.
At times, the title strays towards novel rather than technical manual which presents a structured who, what, when where and how for a game master to play within. I think the inclusion of a novel styled components between the technical components was a deliberate design choice to increase immersive flavour of a different culture, it achieves this goal, but it is different to how Wizards of the Coasts presents a campaign setting (like Ebberon).
My impression is that the book may have benefited if it had focused in precise detail on a small number of adjacent provinces with lots to do rather than attempting to present a campaign sized world. Not all campaigns need be as large as Forgotten Realms most Wizards of the Coast adventures are contained within a small geographic area so players and game masters don’t have to absorb and be familiar with an enormous amount of lore to be accessible. If I were running this campaign world I would crunch its content into a smaller geographical area.
Overall the Koryo Hall of Adventures: Adventure’s Guide to Jeusung presents a land and culture that is foreign and very different to the only other asian-themed than the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons book Oriental Adventures. If you want an asian inspired campaign setting written by someone that has lived in an asian culture for an extended period of time you should consider picking this title up.
The hardback version of this book was published in South Korea and survived the courier journey to Australia in perfect condition. If you are thinking of getting a copy the publisher is ensuring books are packed and ready for a long safe journey.
It is also available in a Korean language version, which is a nice touch.