LESSON Roleplay Research - Why it doesn't have to be a chore, and why you should bother with it.

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Minibit, Feb 26, 2014.

  1. The very word 'research' can be a big turn-off for any player, after all; who wants to do work just to participate in a game? However, many players find their available genre/setting lists limited by a simple lack of knowledge. Some common topics botched for lack of research are

    • Psychological disorders (Multiple personalities and schizophrenia in particular
    • Mob/Mafia workings
    • Assassins/mercenaries
    • Adoption/host families
    • School transfers
    • Circuses and other travelling shows
    • Military functions

    I'm not saying you can't enjoy a roleplay that deals with these things if you wing it or make up your own rules for how they work, nor am I saying that all or even most GMs will not permit you in the roleplay if you haven't done your research, but many players prefer to ground their stories in reality, and it's far easier to play in these kinds of stories if you have a basic knowledge of how they work in reality.

    It's also worth noting that if you pursue any kind of storytelling career, whether you become a comic artist, fiction author, or news journalist, that you'll need to make friends with research eventually, and embrace it as a means of learning new things every day.

    So how do we take that big bad word 'research' and make it not work?

    Well, for starters, in most cases you don't need to know absolutely everything about a subject, just the bits that apply to the roleplay! You don't need to memorize it, there won't be a test, and you can even just look things up as they happen.

    For example, if you wanted to play a medieval/dark ages setting, but you really don't know much about that age beyond King Arthur, castles, and knights in shining armour, I'd recommend looking up the following

    • Average clothes for commoners and peasants
    • Education in the medieval era
    • Common weapons in the medieval era
      (fun fact: swords were expensive and took a long time to learn to use well, so a soldier in the medieval era was FAR more likely to carry an axe (which he would be familiar with from woodcutting) or a lance/halberd, which were cheap to make and easy to learn)
    • Anything specific to your character
      (If you're playing a seamstress, look up how upscale that job was, how she would get her materials, and who her main customers would be; also if she would have her own storefront or work out of her home)
    Note the answers you find on a word file or stickynote and reference it as needed. The whole process will take around 10-20 minutes, depending how thoroughly you want to research.

    Speaking of research, you don't need to break out the three-ring-binder and tab markers and hit the library, you can do research by simply switching tabs and googling

    Some personal tips that have worked for me to find reliable information

    • Take Wikipedia with a grain of salt. Check the sources at the bottom of the page and, to be extra sure, search the same subjects on trusted source sites such as the Encyclopaedia Brittanica or university websites to see if the information matches. Wiki is pretty reliable for things like pop culture and less-than-obscure research, but it's still a free-to-edit site, which means it can't hurt to check whatever you find there.
    • It can help to start with searching for reliable websites to look for your information on. You can simply google the question "Where to find info on Medieval Life" or you can try sites you already know you can trust.
    • The more specific you can get, the better. It's generally better to look up psychological disorders on a medical site than it is on a general research site; the results may be generally the same, but a site that specializes on providing information on that topic will have more specific and more reliable results.
    You can learn some pretty cool stuff when you do a little research, and your writing will be more realistic and colourful as a result. You may learn about things you never though to include before, and it can add a flavour and depth to roleplays that would otherwise have been flat due to limited knowledge.
    • Like Like x 4
    • Thank Thank x 4
    • Useful Useful x 1