Along With The Gods Duology

2017, (Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds); 2018, (Along With the Gods: The Last 49 Days) ; Dir. Yong-hwa Kim ; (IMdB) and (IMdB)

The Along with the Gods duology is an adaptation of a popular webcomic by the same title. “Webtoons” are extremely popular in South Korea, and many of them include fantastical elements. While some of these webtoons really just rehash Western fantasy and science fiction tropes, others explore fantastical concepts, religious ideas, magic, and fantasy narratives of a more distinctly Northeast Asian kind.

Like Jeon Woochi, The Taoist Wizard, the Along With the Gods movies are set in the modern era—or at least parts of them are. These “world of the living” sections are interwoven with parts set in the world of the dead, through which the departed must journey and undergo a series of trials and tribulations. As they traverse the underworld, they stand trial before a series of powerful spirits or “gods” who pass judgment on some aspect of their lives and conduct. On this journey, the dead are accompanied by minor spirits who serve both as their guides and as advocates in their trials.

The “living world” setting of the series is basically just modern-day Korea, though one riddled with spirits and supernatural beings. As the films proceed, the guide-spirits puzzle through mysteries of their own while struggling to understand the circumstances of their recently-dead charges. These guides were once human, as the second film reveals, and they remain fairly human in their afterlife tenures. Still, even if they’re a bit too tame to inspire memorable Jeosung spirits, they’re pitch-perfect grist for the mill of any Game Master who needs to prep functionary/bureaucrat NPCs. (I also think they’re a great reminder that spirits can and should be just as motivated and particularized NPCs as humans and demi-humans.)

However, it’s the underworld and the gods that rule it that are truly where inspiration is to be found in these movies. The afterlife vistas are both gruesome and utterly weird, and the gods that hold court within them are excellent inspiration for strange, inhumanly alien, and yet compellingly particularized powerful spirit beings, such as the Daeshin and Daegam discussed in The Koryo Hall of Adventures.

Attentive GMs will also find a wealth of compelling detail to weave into their games. Magical (or even mundane) shields, scrolls, or grimoires could easily be illustrated with a scene from the underworld—some great wheel crushing the “bodies” of millions of condemned spirits, or a great spirit seated in judgment over a departed adventurer. Tapestries or fine silk robes could take on new life and suggestive power if embroidered with bewildering and strange scenes of the underworld, and they could also foreshadow encounters with important spirits who will be involved in a future portion of the campaign. Meanwhile, the particular quirks of the films’ major spirits could easily be repurposed to particularizing major spirit-NPCs in a campaign with the right focus.

Finally, a really enterprising GM might even go so far as to integrate a trip (or sequential trips) into the spirit world as part of a campaign, especially for groups in which a Mudang character is a party member. For anyone game-runner considering that, the Along With the Godsmovies would be utterly indispensable.

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Both films are also available for streaming on Netflix

Appendix K

The Koryo Hall of Adventures draws on Korean history and culture, as well as the experience of living in Korea, and not all players and Game Masters are familiar with this cultural background. Appendix K, named as a riff on Gary Gygax’s now-celebrated “Appendix N,” attempts to provide a list of references to help better visualize this campaign setting. In this series, Gord Sellar covers movies, television series, books, music, and other works that offer inspiration, adventure seeds, ideas, helpful visuals, and more.

Gord Sellar is a writer and musician who has lived in South Korea since 2002, and contributed energetically to the cross-pollination between its local SF scene and the English-speaking world. In addition to academic work on Korean SF, he has blogged extensively on the subject, and has served as a co-translator, editor, and support person for multiple major efforts to translate Korean SF to Western audiences (such as Kaya Books’ anthology Readymade Bodhisattva and Clarkesworld’s 2019 Korean SF translation series). He wrote the screenplay and musical score for the first Korean-language adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story, the award-winning “The Music of Jo Hyeja” (dir. Jihyun Park, 2012), and his adventure Fermentum Nigrum Dei Sepulti is now available from Lamentations of the Flame Princess (US webstore | EU webstore).

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