Koryo Hall of Adventures – Writing About Animism and Gods

When first starting to write the Koryo Hall of Adventures’ campaign setting, it was clear to me that I wanted the belief system to be different since I wanted to introduce shamanism as a centerpiece of this setting.

This meant that I would need to introduce animism, a belief that attaches souls and spirits to objects, plants and natural occurrences, leaving very little space for gods to play in this very crowded universe. During my research on Shamanism however, I found the literature on shamanism to be confusing and sometimes contradictory. Some authors talk about spirits, some talk about patrons and others talk about gods set up in different levels. Finally, in Korea, the prevalence of Buddhism and the attempts kings and more recent presidents have made to make shamanism disappear also create confusion between what is deeply Buddhist and what comes from shamanic culture.

A great example is the dragon king that can be found in Buddhist temples as a sculpture or in paintings. It is represented by an old man with a white beard surging out of the water with a Korean dragon by his side. This is an icon absorbed by Korean Buddhism that in fact comes from shamanism.

So the challenge is to create proper cohesion between the gods, Buddhism and shamanism as part of the Koryo Hall of Adventures. To do so, I am planning to separate beliefs according to territories with shamanism as the main belief in Haguiliesta, the land of the shamans and Buddhism in Tezumo, the second largest realm in Jeosung. The two other realms will have a combination of shamanism and Buddhism with prevalence for one or the other in certain regions. One such example is Cheonsanju (land of heavenly mountain) which is set in the northern realm of Noonnara and which hosts the god of all mountain spirits called Sanshin.

So in the Koryo Hall of Adventures Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting, there will be a mix of spirits, those of nature and those of the dead, as well as gods on different levels. The lowest level being human scale gods who will roam the lands looking like any other creatures but having supernatural abilities, and the gods with a more powerful impact such as the gods of the mountain, the god of the sea of the gods of death.

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