the Wikipedia Limit

So I’m running this game, and it’s set in the 1875 frontier, which is not an area or time period I know very much about.

I have this knee-jerk reflex to research the hell out of it. Gee, I wonder where that came from? I’m having to actively remind myself this is a game, not a novel somebody’s paying me for, and so while research is okay, obsessive amounts of it are not. Thus I have instituted the Wikipedia Limit: I am allowed to read as many Wikipedia articles as I like in the course of doing game prep, but if figuring something out would require more in-depth reading, then I say “screw it” and just make something up.

There are exceptions to this rule. The major one is for Native American matters — religion especially — because Wikipedia’s coverage of those isn’t good. I’m also allowed to google phrases like “famous [fill in type] people” to get a list of names I will then look up on Wikipedia. But if I discover, as happened just a few minutes ago, that a person I want to include in the next session was arrested in 1875, but Wikipedia doesn’t say when in 1875, then I am allowed to decree it happened after this session’s events were over. Which I would never permit myself to do for the Onyx Court.

Thank god for Wikipedia, because it’s actually a really great resource for this kind of thing, offering me (in most cases) plenty of information for my purposes. But it’s funny, how hard it is to hold myself to that limit.

0 Responses to “the Wikipedia Limit”

  1. aliettedb

    We have an ongoing game set in 1519, and I know the GM obsessively consults Wikipedia and research books (so much, in fact, that he decided to write a book around the time period).
    And yeah, Native American matters suck (but so does anything too specific: it never achieves critical mass. I’ve corrected articles on Aztecs, as well as stuff on fairly obscure bits of French history and/or culture).

    • Marie Brennan

      Lots of things may need correction, but the Native American articles are frequently nothing more than one-sentence stubs. I had to do some fairly extensive internet searching to learn anything about Shoshone mythology, frex.

      (so much, in fact, that he decided to write a book around the time period)

      Gee, I don’t know ANYTHING about that . . . <whistles, hides Onyx Court books under rug>

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