Fermentum is an inspiring and substantial addition to the Lamentations of the Flame Princess product line-up, at over double the size of the largest of 2019’s offerings. It is at once something new and impressive from a new (to our hobby bookshelves anyway) and impressive author, and entirely at home thematically and aesthetically with the existing Lamentations of the Flame Princess range. I highly recommend it!
If you can’t tell, I enjoyed the book a lot and look forward to running it. This is a great little horror-themed exploration and dungeon crawl, with escalating tension as the players hope to discover a resolution while facing rising infection and loss. The beer and brewing theme is fantastic, and I can imagine unnerving the players with Guinesses or stouts all around as we sit down to play this one (except maybe sodas for the kids). Cheers! Salut!
Finally, Get Real Roleplaying also posted an actual play video to their Youtube channel, containing an online session running through the adventure:
Things go… horribly wrong, pretty much as intended. After spending so long with this adventure and its particular, individual mechanical oddities, it was really interesting to see how the mechanics worked for another group being run by a different GM.
(Trigger warning for cuckoldry-obsession, alien codpieces, magical suicide, and Things Going Terribly, Terribly Wrong.)
I’d call this a middling effort. It has some highlighting to help call attention to things, but it too frequently used and (AC, highlighted?) and also is weird about it, highlighting weird choices when more effective ones are present in the same description. A little verbose, but the highlighting helps a lot to focus attention. It’s not BAD, per se, but it’s not overly GOOD either, given its inability to bring the fire and chaos to life. Which means its better than most crap being published.
Yowch! But opinions are opinions, and I honestly appreciate his taking the time to discuss our book. And hey, “better than most of the crap being published” ain’t bad for my first published work in the genre.
By the way, on the publisher’s website I’ve been posting a series of posts titled “Appendix K” on different Korean media—music, books, movies, and TV shows—that could be inspirational for anyone running a game in Jeosung, the default setting of this book. Aurélien also hired me to create an OSR conversion guide for the setting, and that has now been published. It’s available on the Koryo Hall of Adventures website for €4.25.
While it’s obviously a supplement to The Koryo Hall of Adventures rulebook—a really interesting RPG book worth checking out—the OSR material in the conversions guide is designed to work out of the box relatively seamlessly with any OSR system. In fact, the document includes quite a few things that would be fun to integrate into any OSR game even if you weren’t running a game set in Jeosung, the setting for The Koryo Hall of Adventures.
The design philosophy I used was to maintain as much of the feel from the original as possible, so that GMs using systems with, say, more sparse character ability advancement could strip out bits, instead of GMs having to create more for systems with a richer set of ability-advancement options.
Here’s an overview of the contents within the document:
An Introduction to Jeosung: This includes an overview of how to adapt the setting to the range of tones and styles more common in OSR, since the hardcover has a much more “heroic adventure” tone. It also includes tips on infusing the setting concept “Obangsaek” (the five elements of earth, wind, fire, water, and mind) into your own setting.
Three character classes:
The Jaein: a “bard”-like class based on Korean minstrel traditions. These characters have magic powered by masks, music, and dance, as well as acrobatics and animal mimicry.
The Sunim: martial artist monks with powers driven by “obangsaek” (the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and mind).1
The Mudang: spellcasters based on traditional Korean shamanism, with magic powered by multiple spirits supplicated in rituals and bound to the mudang. (Think of magicians in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth books binding multiple chugs and sandestins, and you have the basic idea.)
Monsters: A complete OSR-styled conversion of all the creatures in The Koryo Hall of Adventures rulebook, including detailed writeups of each creature and suggested treasure.
Magic: Complete writeups for every spell and magic item published for The Koryo Hall of Adventures (including conversions of Andrew T. Ha’s supplementary spell PDF). The text also includes some artifacts and a set of tables for determining the specific quality (and fun/challenging twists) for mudang-created charms (which are basically minor animal-magic talismans).
Equipment: A rough guide suggesting approximate equivalent values for items common in Korean-styled traditional markets found in the setting.
Mudang Spirits: An extensive random table-driven system for randomly generating interesting and unique nature spirits, either to add to a mudang’s spirit roster as they level up, or for inspiration in creating spirits used in adventures or encounters. Includes methods for generating personality, appearance, portfolio, and preferred jesa (sacrificial offering) for spirits at four different power levels.
There’s even a random table for determining which musical instruments and styles a Jaein has mastered, either for players who prefer to determine things by randomly rolling, or for filling out a Jaein NPC.
I dare say most of this material is filled-out enough that anyone running an OSR game could probably pick it up and use it even if they weren’t quite ready to take the dive into a complete detailed-setting book—even though I think the core rulebook is worth checking out, and has lots of interesting material to draw upon for anyone interested in a Korean-flavored RPG game.
This is a riff on Kevin Crawford’s excellent “Vowed” class from Red Tide.↩
The vagaries of full-time child-care and full-time work (online, thank goodness) on top of full-time pandemic and full-time global insanity have left me a bit out of the loop when it comes to Korean SF—and I feel a little less obligated to keep up this series now that more people out there in the rest of the world are paying attention to Korean SF—but I feel like it’s worth mentioning a few things:
Back in September, FutureCon happened. It was a great series of panel discussions about SF all over the world, and I highly recommend checking out all of them. (Since many of the panels happened late at night, in Korea’s time zone, I’m slowly working my way through them.) But in any case, I had a chance to moderate a panel on Japanese and Korean SF, which (more thanks to the panelists than to me) was fascinating. It featured Terrie Hashimoto, Taiyo Fujii, Haruna Ikezawa, and Soyeon Jeong.
This isn’t the only new(-ish) SF-themed Korean show to turn up on Netflix: while I was looking for the link above, I also happened to notice My Holo Love, a love-story about a woman and a hologram. Shades of Her?
I dunno… I haven’t had time to watch much stuff, and more and more SF themes have been creeping into the mainstream in Korean television. I don’t really follow cable television here, though, so I’m not the person to discuss that. Feel free to drop a comment below if you’re more in the loop than me!
(I’ll also mention in passing that zombie films and TV have been doing strong in Korea: Kingdom is a great Joseon-era zombie series. I won’t get too deep into it here, though, since I have a piece about it coming out as part of the “Appendix K” series. Meanwhile, though it was not without its minor problems, I nonetheless enjoyed the Netflix original #Survive.)
There’s a few big publications of Korean SF in translation coming out next year—and that’s just what I’ve heard about:
In February 2021, Honford Star will be publishing Sung Ryu’s English translation of Bae Myung-hoon’s Tower, which is sort of a “mosaic novel” (or, as we used to call them, a “linked short story collection”) set in a mega-highrise called The Beanstalk. I’ve been hearing about the novel for years, and am looking forward to a chance to read it. (Preorders are available on Amazon for the Kindle edition, but not yet for the print edition.)
Then, in April, Harper Voyager will be publishing an English translation of a set of novellas by Kim Bo-young, titled I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories, translated by Sophie Bowman and Sung Ryu. You can preorder it on Amazon.com and presumably elsewhere. (I’m lucky enough to have one of the ARCs, and plan to dig into it soon. It includes all kinds of chewy reading notes and commentary on the translations, which is something I wish more translations included.)
Finally, and this isn’t really new news—I’m nine months late—but in terms of Korean-only publications, an interesting new magazine titled 오늘의 SF (“Today’s SF”) launched late last year. It seems to feature a good mix of new/original fiction and nonfiction pieces. I’m guessing it’s been put on hold—like so many things—due to the pandemic, since only issue 1 comes up when I search the title, but that issue is a beauty: I have a copy here on my desk and it’s stylish, almost more like a thick paperback book than a magazine. Here’s hoping things get back on track next year, with more issues and stories. If you’re interested in getting a copy, it’s at most of the usual Korean booksellers. Here’s a linkto the magazine over at Yes24.
Note: there have also been some short story collections that sounded interesting, but I’ll try cover those in a subsequent post. For now… well, I have other things I need to get done today!