Interview: Stephanie Yoon, Writer of Sins of Our Elders
A slighted spirit takes vengeance on the community that forgot her by taking their memories.
By Matt Chapman
Stephanie Yoon’s adventure, “Sins of Our Elders”, takes inspiration from aspects of her Korean culture. One of the adventure’s core elements is the sense of honor and respect family members feel for their elders, although she also couldn’t help but sprinkle a little Korean horror alongside those noble sentiments.
“Asian cultures truly revere their elders. New generations grow up knowing that they must give due deference for all the work their parents and grandparents have done in making sure the family remains intact and thrives. That energy runs throughout the entire adventure,” she says.
“There are also so many incredible, scary stories that come out of Korean culture. When I was sat there with a blank slate, wondering what sort of story I wanted to tell, I knew I wanted to pay homage to the horror elements of Korean folktales.”
Stephanie notes that Korean folklore often features humans who were wronged in life, and return with a specific purpose to correct that wrong. She wanted to put a twist onto that classic tale, making the creature’s vengeance less bloody.
“This is a classic monster from Korean folktales that’s been spiced up with more fantastical elements for the Dungeons & Dragons experience. I don't know if I’m revealing a lot about myself, but I find the fear of not remembering the things you’ve been doing quite scary. I think DMs will relish the opportunity to dig into that visceral horror,” she reveals.
“Giving the creature these supernatural powers ties it in nicely to the adventure’s overall themes of misplaced attributes of glory, and the harm that was done to this person in real life. But I wanted the creature to be able to take revenge in a way that the person who wronged them isn't always murdered. Can this spirit be appeased through non-combat methods?”
As well as crafting a 6th-level adventure for this D&D anthology, Stephanie also got to populate the streets and alleys of Yeonido, the City of Judgment. Her gazetteer details the noteworthy sites and major clans that can be found in a city-state nestled among fertile hills and deep forests. She says it was fun creating extra material for people who enjoy the adventure and want to engage further with this region, providing additional locations and story hooks.
“The gazetteer shows players the lifeblood humming under this fantasy setting. It was inspired by my habit of wandering the streets when I take a vacation. One of my favorite things to do is to take the subway, get off at a random stop and walk around to get the vibe of the place,” she explains. “And the first time I saw the art for Yeonido and its characters, I was blown away. I hope people see the magic and the possibility in the same way I did and are inspired to create characters from this region.”
The collaborative nature of the project, which saw the large group of writers reading and commenting on each other’s work, also helped shape the background of Yeonido. Stephanie worked with Journeys through the Radiant Citadel creators whose settings had Japanese and Chinese inspirations to align their mythologies.
“Together we crafted a shared origin myth that all three of these fantasy settings leaned into. Crafting that and working together with those incredible, talented writers was one of my favorite experiences throughout this whole thing,” she says.
“This opportunity was incredible. For most of my professional life, I've been creating other people's worlds, but this city is profoundly mine. It was such a labor of love and I'm revealing myself to the world as a part of this adventure, which is exhilarating and a little bit scary! I went into it with full faith of how these facets of Korean culture have shaped me and my creative processes and I’m excited for people to experience that when they get the book.”