Updated: Feb 28
Since my last post, I have decided to make another change to my plans for the Five Powers/Harmony Drive game I have in development. I was concerned that I would not be able to finish the original plan for the game I discussed last time by the deadline for the Five Powers Jam in mid-September. I want to make this one a bit higher production then my previous creations since I know I can make at least halfway decent art or find publicly available images for my setting.
Additionally, I realized that I was really trying to go in two different directions in the process of creating this game. As a result, I have decided to split it back into two games but they still are both going to utilize at least a portion of of the Harmony Drive and Five Powers SRDs. They will also be at least mostly compatible with one another.
Game #1 - Sageuk! Roleplay in Joseon [working title]
The first of the two games that are going to result from this is a TTRPG adaptation of the Korean historical drama genre known as sageuk. With a nominal setting in the Late Joseon period (17th to 19th centuries Korea), this game will allow experienced TTRPG players or K-drama fans to roleplay their own historical fiction stories. I would include basic information to allow the players to play in Hanseong (Hanyang or Old Seoul).
I chose the Late Joseon as the setting for Sageuk! as it the one of the more common time periods for Joseon historical dramas to take place in. The reigns of the reformist and long-ruling kings Yeongjo and Jeongjo are particularly popular. This is because this was one of the more socially dynamic periods for Joseon full of change and controversy.
The important part for now about this new plan for Sageuk! is that it will be focused more on historical fiction rather than fantasy. As such, I am not going to include the magic system and assist pool from Harmony Drive, at least not as they are written. However, I will still retain a class system, a list of skills, and the modified Elemental Dice System from Five Powers. The initial version of Sageuk! may or may not release with a modified version of Harmony Drive’s encounter system depending on development time.
To partly replace the assist pool, I may introduce a so-far unnamed system that allows the players to create secondary characters. These will can act as assistants to the primary characters or in a similar fashion to in the role of secondary crew in Star Trek: Adventures, acting where story-wise it just does not make sense that player’s primary character to be involved in a situation. However, this is still in a prototyping phase.
Game #2 - Untitled (Suggestions?)
The second game is going to be a historical fantasy game. While still inspired by sageuk, this one is going to be playing off of “fusion sageuk” that incorporate fantasy or strong fictional elements. In this game, the player characters are going to be incarnations of the protective spirits for the capital city. Their goal is to continue to preserve the city and the people who live within it subtly, out of sight of the general public. I will likely provide much of the same information that I am for a historical Late Joseon setting that I include in Sageuk!, but it will also include a city generator so that the group can create their own basic city design based on the same basic rules of pungsu-jiri (Korean geomancy) that was behind the design of Hanseong & Kaeseong.
The current design for this game is going to utilize the full suite of features from Harmony Drive Including the Magic, Encounters, and Asset Pools. The Magic comes from the spirit side of the characters. If they rely on it too much, then they start to lose touch with their humanity.
The asset pool system I am currently planning is going to be similar to the secondary character system I am going to potentially implement for Sageuk!, where the secondary character is going to be a regular human involved in the spirit's life. However, I intend on adding an additional ability added to this that will make it more similar to the classic Harmony Drive assist pool. The primary character will be able to use their relationship with the secondary character as an anchor or channel to draw extra power from. However, if they abuse this, it negatively effects the secondary character. Maybe damaging the relationship or harming the secondary character's health? I have not decided yet.
How are these compatible?
I know, there are some pretty significant differences between the two games. However, the core is the same, so that a character in Sageuk could actually be used in the other game. First of all, they are both going to use the modified Elemental Dice system that I referenced in my last blog post about the game. Additionally, the skills and Professions (classes) are going to be the same in both systems.
At the moment, the skill list is strongly based on the Harmony Drive skill list. Here are the skills that remain largely unchanged:
Engineering (making/repairing buildings or other big things)
Humanity (1 on 1 or small group communication)
Tinkering (Making / Repairing smaller things things)
These existing skills that have been changed.
This skill really has three components. Just having the fashion skill by itself means that the character is aware of the current tasteful fashion trends in different situations and is able to use those to their advantage (disguise or dress to impress). To get a skill bonus to making new pieces of clothing, the character has to synergize with another skill. Basic clothing would require the new Handicraft skill while more fancy pieces like intricately decorated clothing worn in rituals would require the Art skill.
With this skill, the specialties have changed to Urban (cities & towns), Rural (villages & farmland), Deep Countryside (forests & mountains), and Coastal (fishing villages & the islands). This skill covers the basic abilities & familiarity that a person would develop having lived in a type of environment.
Close-Combat / Archery / Gunnery
I have changed the Weapons (short/medium/long) skill to three separate skills to emphasize the different knowledge and training requirements. Close-Combat is rather self-explanatory, but Archery is taking the place of Weapons (medium / long) with the exception of black-powder weapons. Korea has a long tradition of using firearms and rockets, so I intend on the gunnery skill to cover the use of cannon/mortars, rockets, and muskets as well as knowledge on how to safely care for black powder in transport & storage.
And here are some of the new skills!
In Harmony Drive, there is Tinkering for small things and Engineering for big things. I wanted to keep these skills more technical and create a separate skill for less-technical, but still skilled work that would fit the type of work a farmer, servant, or local artisan might have to do. Therefore, this skill covers things like making household goods, cooking, basic repair work, etc.
Significant portions of religious and social life in Joseon Korea based around rituals and customs just like in many other cultures. The ritual activities of one profession or class were often obscure to others either intentionally or just a lack of opportunity for cross-exposure. For example, a person from the countryside is likely unaware of the intricate traditions and behaviors expected to attend a member of the royal family, much less in full Court! A minister or the King would likewise be at a loss at the Yeongsanjae, a Seon Buddhist ritual.
As a result, I have included a number of specialties to reflect these niches of specialized knowledge. Ritual (Confucian) reflects the highly ritualized Royal Court and the skills a scholar may be expected to know to properly participate in society outside of the political elements of it. Ritual (Buddhist) and Ritual (Shindo) [Korean shamanism] reflect the practices and celebrations of those religious traditions, though Shindo practices is quite diverse from region to region. Ritual (Common) reflect knowledge of the rituals and festivals of the villages and common folk from various regions of Korea.
Sadly, this is starting to stretch a little long, so I will hold off on discussing classes for now even though I promised to do so last time. I also have been talking a lot about my own games lately. It is past time I did a review of someone else's stuff. ^_^
The Historical Tangent
In the Late Joseon, economic and social disruptions caused by the destruction during the wars with the Japanese & Manchu in the Mid Joseon period were reaching their full effect. This disrupted the traditional norms imposed by the Neo-Confucian literati at the beginning of the Joseon’s Yi Dynasty, which was further thrown into chaos from the morale blow caused by the loss of the Ming and imposition of Qing suzerainty.
Increasing commercial activity even among the nobility and use of fake family registries (jokbo) were fraying the boundaries between the noble (tax-exempt) yangban and more wealthy middle-class (jungin) & commoners. This combined with an increasing number of farmers being renters or nobi (slaves) owned by the protected landowners to undermine government revenue which had been based on taxing the working free farmer. I discussed some of these economic shifts in my post about the adoption of coinage in Korea and alternative currencies.
On the other hand, the two monarchs I mentioned previously and members of the Silhak (practical learning) movement were also bringing Neo-Confucianism and in turn the government into a bit of a renaissance. This was in response to the fall of the Ming to the Manchu Qing dynasty and the violent factional court intrigues that had recently reached a new peak, likely even claiming the life of Crown Prince Sado. Korea's literati were engaging heavily in renewals of educational traditions and philosophical discussion due to their self-perceived role as the last bastion of Confucian virtue. Meanwhile, government policies bent toward internal issues such as tax reforms, re-enforcing the focus of the government and education on practical administration, disrupting infighting & corruption by promoting unity through factional balance. Unfortunately, much of these efforts would be undermined in the future for a number of reasons I won’t get into here.