I have found freedom. It is called Transylvania.
Maybe I need to back up a bit.
For the longest time, I was a very deep researcher when it came to games set in historical periods or real world locations. I felt extremely uncomfortable getting even insignificant information wrong – such as on which bank of the Volkhov River the Viking Era city of Novgorod sat. Centurion: Legionaries of Rome, the RPG I Kickstarted had a bibliography, and while it wasn’t extensive it didn’t include all the books I had read developing the playtest campaign – which included two mini-campaigns, one in the Late Republic and one in the Principate.
I did very little prep for the encounters, stories, and plot of my adventures, but immersed myself in knowledge of the era or place. When we were playing Sword Noir, that meant I did almost no prep. Bliss!
Now I am scaling back on my prep further as I leave many decisions in the hands of my players. And this has led us to Transylvania in 1936. When it happened, it was in the middle of a session, so I had no time to prepare, to research, so I just went with a Universal monsters/Hammer horror version of Transylvania. And I have decided that is how I am going to move forward.
I’m going to embrace the modern media interpretation of the places to which the characters will travel.
A map? Certainly. Lists of authentic names? When I can. Deep, historical, political and societal research? Screw that noise.
We’re playing to have fun. There’s no need to “get it right” when really what the players want is to have adventures. No one cares about the political atmosphere of pre-war Romania.
But research on Vlad Tepes? That, I might do.