Jeon Woochi – The Taoist Wizard
2009, (a.k.a. Woochi: The Demon Slayer) ; Dir. Dong-Hoon Choi ; (IMdB)
Jeon Woochi is a figure that shows up in several Korean folktales and older texts. He’s kind of the Korean equivalent to Merlin or Gandalf or Elminster, except that unlike these other figures, he’s also a thief, a trickster, a loudmouth, and prone to getting himself into trouble and then out of it by the skin of his teeth, and by dint of his magical gifts. Which is to say, Jeon is a lot more fun than Merlin or Gandalf or Elminster, and a great, interesting model for a Wizard PC or NPC in Jeosung.
Be warned: the latter half of the film is much less interesting than the first half, and is set in modern-day Seoul. Still, the first half is a great look at what a civilized part of Jeosung would look like, and has plenty of the wonderfully snarky, wise-cracking protagonist Jeon Woochi, as well as a sidekick who isn’t what he seems—but who is a fun twist on the wizard’s Familiar trope.
There’s excellent costuming and the architecture is also good, as is the nocturnal combat with “yogae” (a category of monster that could easily span a wide range of supernatural monsters in any RPG bestiary, with a little cosmetic restyling). There’s even a creepy opening scene involving a powerful magical artifact, and set in what feels a lot like the Spiritual Plane, if not in some dark moment like Jeosung’s Winds of Darkness era. This McGuffin—a powerful magical flute—could easily be the basis of a whole campaign set in Jeosung, in the tradition of the Rod of Seven Parts.
Still, what makes this film stand out is its depiction of Taoist magic. While some of his spellcasting is pretty much like what you’d expect of an RPG wizard, much of it depends on brush, paper, and ink: Jeon carries a pouch willed with slips of paper onto which magical words are written, and which are consumed as he casts some of his spells. When he teleports, he does it by stepping into a landscape painting and rising away on the back of a horse he conveniently painted into the scene. Another Taoist wizard uses a paper fan to cast a spell much like the familiar Gust of Wind, too.
This kind of stylization of arcane spellcasting would be very easy to integrate into your game through scene description. Wizards could prepare spells by preparing paintings or props like fans, or by inking the right inscriptions onto the papers in their components pouch. (GMs who tend to abide strickly by the rules could rule that any material components were magically mixed into the ink at the time of preparation.)
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.