Serial Setting 2 ~ Week 15

The Casting Shadows blog’s second Serial Setting appears in weekly installments scheduled for a 6-month run. This series is focused on providing basic details for heroic pulp adventures for the Ubiquity Roleplaying System as presented in Hollow Earth Expedition. These ideas, set in a fictionalized and mysticized 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 installment features a means to thrust unsuspecting travelers into the thick of things. With a change of setting to one where the Oppressor is still operating under the guise of a friendly and enlightened neighbor, using local front men to push through their radical changes in government to pave the way for the annexation in 1910, this seed could also be used for Leagues of Adventure.

15  The Rainy Season (Changma) –  Into every life a skin-peeling torrent of water must fall

The old complaint that ‘it never rains, but it pours’ has a special level of truth in nations with a rainy season comparable to the enthusiastic one found across the Korean peninsula. Lasting for several weeks during parts of July and August, the season is characterized by lengthy rainfall each day, flooded waterways, severe flooding in low areas, and mudslides everywhere else with elevation and topsoil to spare. Elders speak of the rains coming in late July and extending into the first weeks of August, but some yearly variation is common with the rains coming as early as June and as late as September. For those not familiar with the area, the difference between the heavy rains of the summer rainy season, or changma (창마), and the torrential downpours of the typhoon storms which lash the peninsula in the late summer and fall is obscured by the massive amount of precipitation which pounds the earth in each.

In this age of ambitious pushing of boundaries of technology, human endurance, commerce, and contact, forays into new territory unprepared for what awaits is not without precedent. Even when prepared, the limits on accuracy and timeliness of information can be as effective as sabotage on the best laid plans. Given the ferocity, duration, and suddenness of the seasonal rains and their counterpart storms, aviators and sailors may suddenly find their destinations altered by the majestic force of the elements, and their mode of transport transformed into its component parts by a sudden and powerful introduction to Korean soil and stone.

For an aviation-related accident, an impact in the mountains, the terrain being typically characterized by bare stone, thin soil, scrub pine, and pine needles, may find themselves riding with their flaming wreck down the face of the mountain in a massive mudslide, then swept off by the splintered water courses which criss-cross in the rolling foothills before joining larger and more abusive waterways further on. As they struggle to remain above the surface, they may find their journey brings them in contact with people, livestock, and homesteads which share their luck.

Sailors touched by the kiss of luck may find themselves cast ashore at one of the peninsula’s many wide beaches, but those with a different skein of fate have many walls of jagged rock and bleak cliff faces with which to challenge their survival skills should their voyage be turned to a new port of call with the reckless force of an unconstrained typhoon.

In either case, this sudden arrival on the peninsula faces the character with language barriers, immense cultural barriers, a populace an inch from rebellion, a cruel subjugation force occupying the length and breadth of the land, and the virulent diseases and ailments so common to this time of year. Temperatures remain in the low to mid-thirties celsius for weeks at a time, the humidity is oppressively high, and sewage and other waste cannot be prevented from flowing into drinking water and food supplies.

The rain is a hammer from which there is no escape for the nail.

Na Garyoung, struggling widow

Two years ago, Garyoung Na lost her husband when their brick and thatch house and the ostensibly solid ground on which it was built crumbled away and were battered to pieces in a new channel dug by the swift-moving runoff from the mountains. Garyoung survived by pure luck, and counts her blessings for this survival daily, despite the newfound hardship of her life. Some may say that luck is capricious, and rarely provides a blessing without a price.

With a farm in ruins, the loss of a capable pair of hands, the addition of Garyoung to the family now seems like a strain to those who survived. A hard worker herself, Garyoung never shirks her duties, but in the eyes of the family patriarch, she can never replace the son who was lost. She is now another mouth to feed instead of one of the mothers of the next generation. Not every family would react this way, but Garyoung’s luck has never been the sort of which children’s tales are made.

As the constant rain returns and its hounding of the land drives everyone a little crazy, she has come to fear the thought which has crept into her brain that she may become one of those women who are taken away to “comfort” the soldiers of the oppressor in dingy pleasure houses near the barracks. She has come to fear this so much, that in the dead of night, under cover of the rain, she has left her home behind and headed off into the mountains to try to make her way back to her own family – whose reception, she hopes, will be more humane than that of her husband’s. Even as she walks in the thick heat of the night she knows her family is starving, too…

What would it mean to Garyoung, scarcely 5ft tall, wiry, and with a wide, honest face and long, lustrous black hair to encounter a scattered group of lost foreigners, disoriented, possibly injured, and in trouble?

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