Serial Setting 2 ~ Week 10

The Casting Shadows blog’s second Serial Setting appears in weekly installments scheduled for a 6-month run, providing basic details for heroic pulp adventures for the Ubiquity Roleplaying System as presented in Hollow Earth Expedition. These ideas, set in a fictional version of the Korean peninsula in 1936, present a community oppressed by faceless enemies and their own countrymen. It will additionally suggest routes, leads, and hooks for GMs to entice groups based elsewhere in the world to get involved. This week also includes a hook for those who may indulge in a historical or generation game cross-over with newly released Leagues of Adventure  line for Victorian themed adventures.

10  The Phantom Wreck

The peninsula, for reasons of culture, geography, and history has had periods where foreign visitors were less than welcome. In the climate of 1936, this outlook is somewhat justifiable. The hermit kingdom wanted to be left alone, but others, as many had before them, felt that they could make better use of the land, and were unconcerned about the opinions of those who dwelled upon it. Such is human nature.

The village of Samhang, isolated and small, has had little contact with foreigners except as invading armies, and that not for 600 years. In terms of true invasions, the peninsula has been rather quiet. Raids have been a constant problem for centuries, but all passed off as acts of piracy or desperation. With its protected harbours, isolation, and its bleak appearance from the sea, even the seasonal predations of West Sea (Yellow Sea) pirates have been small cause for concern for the town. Fishermen at sea have had many violent encounters and historically have often prepared themselves for violence before setting sail, but under the rule of the Oppressor, these things are neither possible, nor necessary.

One exception occured during the early 1860’s when a group of Catholic missionaries, both lost and extremely enthusiastic, overshot their destination by a ridiculous amount and wound up on the other side of the peninsula than they had intended. Unconcerned they braved the entrance to the harbour. Those that survived were treated well by the locals, who mainly ignored their teachings and increasingly kept them separated from the daily life of the village. In 1866, anti-catholic sentiment across the nation flared to a fever pitch due to the strong message from pulpits and missionaries that ancestor worship was idolatry. Being a major building block of the entire culture, few felt like tolerating this criticism from ‘outsiders.’ Many, including those in Samhang, were killed and recongnized as martyrs by the Pope. No fewer than two other missions seeking some of those lost were sent in the late 1800’s, but what happened to them is lost to history. All that remains is the figurehead of a sailing ship, a water-logged captain’s log written in a secret code, and a very bizarre-looking pistol. These artifacts have recently been taking into the custody of Sasaki Ito, who is trying to find a market for them.

The Coils of the Dragon claim many vessels, but few European sailing ships have ever had cause to run afoul of them. Only the sea knows what treasures and secrets lie on the bottom within the battered skeletons of their wrecks.

One local story or legend, taken as absolute fact by the Samhang fishing community despite its outrageous nature, tells of moonless nights on the waters of the sea, when your boat is just far enough from shore that the roaring of the waves over the Coils is muted and the pull of the tides is of no immediate concern. They say, if you are still enough, and the waters calm enough, you can see the shape of a schooner plying the depths lit with a ghostly, greenish light as though all aboard were alive and well. Just as soon as your eyes make out the shape, it flickers and is gone, sometimes to reapper, sometimes not. Unlike many legends where the person who has seen it with their own eyes is a cousin or friend long-absent, this one every sea-borne teller tells from the first person perspective.

Lee Hanee, The girl with the dragon-green eyes

Unlike her neighbors or essentially anyone else born of local parents, Lee Hanee does not have deep, dark, brown eyes so brown they seem black. Her eyes are a startling green which due to circumstances, stand out more than they might otherwise.

Out of respect for the feelings of discomfort others might have toward her deformity, she spends most of her time indoors living little better than an orphan, keeping her head down and her eyes hooded. She is a diligent worker, and if she had ever been engaged in conversation, her curious nature may have allowed her to develop into an excellent conversationalist. As it is, she is an excellent maid, has no particular opinion on any subject that does not relate to cooking or cleaning, and is the very definition of filial piety. She is completely at peace and feels she is fulfilling an important function in society. Sometimes, she wishes she had been born like all the other daughters, so that she might be of greater service.

Her opinions on her life and culture, particularly her contentment and lack of questioning, will be invisible to any non-asian foreigners who might encounter her on the rare occasions where she ventures outside in the darkness to do chores, gather greens, or deal with unruly animals. Her small size, innocent expression, and the intelligence burning behind the brilliance of her green eyes, will almost surely cause a stir in a do-gooder who wants to save her. Calamity and unpleasant clashes of culture may follow…

Where did the green in her eyes come from? Is she a descendent from some of the survivors of past wrecks? Is it more than genetics: something supernatural? The decoding of the diary, seeking the last resting place of a relative known to be lost on a voyage to Korea (then called Joseon), following ghost stories of the sea, or seeking to bring culture and religion to a ‘backward people’ may singly or together conspire to lure adventurers here, exposing them to, or trapping them in the myriad adventures and problems which make Samhang their home.

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