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Forums » RP Discussion » Historical Roleplay ~ Historical Context?

Historical RPs... I've written some good ones over the years. Usually they were written within the context of the period of time and place where the story is set, and the language used reflected the normalcy of the period.

Of late, at least in the last five or so years, I have noticed a trending OOC tendency saying language and opinions expressed in-character in historical RPs should not reflect the period culture, thoughts and attitudes as they very well may be nationalistic, racist, sexist/misogynistic, homophobic, etc. which are all things that are absolutely unacceptable today in 2021.

My questions to all you RP Repositorians are these:
  • • Is it acceptable to write from a historical viewpoint and with an attitude set in the time period and world setting?
  • • Does the fact the historical roleplay is being written in the present day make it subject to present day culture in-character... the language, thoughts, viewpoints, and attitudes?
  • • What are your thoughts on the current trend in historical roleplay that tend to require modern attitudes in historical roleplays and by extension, characters created for historical time periods?

This primarily pertains to created characters and public forum RP, though it has come up in private RP planning at times. Look forward to any and all opinions on this, and if anyone has any further questions to add, feel free.
In private is one thing, but by specifying "created characters" and "public forum RP" you've answered your own questions. Roleplay communities bring together people from all walks of life, who have the reasonable expectation not to stumble on "language, thoughts, viewpoints, and attitudes" that erode their past and present wellbeing. This isn't a social studies class or a Tarantino movie; it's a safe space in April 2021 no matter how faithfully you want to write April 1945.
Rogue-Scribe Topic Starter

Did you even read the title of this thread before posting all this?
sland wrote:
In private is one thing, but by specifying "created characters" and "public forum RP" you've answered your own questions.
No, not at all.
“sland” wrote:
Roleplay communities bring together people from all walks of life, who have the reasonable expectation not to stumble on "language, thoughts, viewpoints, and attitudes" that erode their past and present wellbeing.
Hmm... being that any one person could be ‘triggered’ by just about anything at anytime, your analogy here pretty much precludes anything being roleplayed in not only a historical, but in a current sense.
“sland” wrote:
This isn't a social studies class or a Tarantino movie; it's a safe space in April 2021 no matter how faithfully you want to write April 1945.
I’m not sure what you mean by “this”. My questions are for the wider roleplay verse, not just RP Repository. I’ve posed these questions on a number of roleplay sites.

As for your use of dates, I suppose you could add April 2001 or April 988 or any other date, April or otherwise. It seems you’re basically saying that history cannot be roleplayed unless it has a present day nature, which by that nature rules out historical role playing. As for the “social studies” or “Tarantino” reference, that did make me laugh.
As a historical re-enactor and researcher, I believe it is acceptable as long as it's understood by others that that character is portrayed with the attitude that was the norm for that era. For example my character Fiach Leannan, the typical English-hating Irishman who's dominant in his own house during 1900. I would need to portray him as such for a convincing authentic character otherwise there is little point. If Fiach was to adopt a modern way of thinking, behavior, and attitude then his character would not fit into that particular period role.
If his character was set in a modern scene then he'd invite his girlfriend out to dinner, but in 1900 he'd bugger off to the pub on his own, drink until he had his fill and expect the woman in his life to have cooked a meal, cleaned his house and be keeping his bed warm. Some men these days still have that attitude towards women sadly.
However, I do have my own boundaries and respect my writing companion's views on the subject. OOC discussion is very important in regards to subjects that are deemed unacceptable and if they were uncomfortable with a scene then it would either be toned down or altered but still be relevant to the period.

You have to remember your characters are people of their own times; allow them to be bigoted or politically backwards, don’t attempt to make them all into free thinkers who are ahead of their times. You have to be able to see the story from their perspective, even if it offends you.
Dragutin (played anonymously)

Is it acceptable to write from a historical viewpoint and with an attitude set in the time period and world setting?
Define what you mean by acceptable. Is it accurate? Yes. Depending on the attitude and the subject, is it likely to be pleasant according to modern day perspectives? Hell no. Whether someone plays a historical character period-accurate in terms of attitude and viewpoints is, however, entirely up to them. I've played with people who are period accurate and those who are not equally. Different groups will be different in how they approach the historical/modern attitude difference.

What is deemed acceptable should be up to the majority of the continuity. If most are fine with portraying the period as is and it is made clear that that is how it is played? Fine. People explore themes on the unpleasant side of life all the time in RP. If the continuity decides that they prefer to make those views rare in their setting? That's fine too.


Does the fact the historical roleplay is being written in the present day make it subject to present day culture in-character... the language, thoughts, viewpoints, and attitudes?
I personally try to avoid modern conceptions in the characters that I play. Whether their thoughts, viewpoints etc are changed by the characters that they meet over time is a whole other ballpark. To start with, I try to be as true to the period as possible. I don't think I have ever played in a setting where there was not given room for contrary views and the potential for adjustment, or not, to describe both sides of the coin.

Language I try to keep understandable but I do like to include occasional words in the language of the time for emphasis - this facilitates role-play as everyone can understand each other. If there are two characters with different languages, the barrier is played out. I've used bold and italics to suggest another language, for example.

For thoughts, viewpoints etc, I keep a strict OOC/IC boundary. I am not my character and they are not me, nor do their attitudes, viewpoints, perspectives and morality reflect my own. That's the whole point of role-playing for me - creatively writing another character.

I do think that, period depending, it does sometimes take a lot of work to accurately portray a period attitude and so there is the risk of encountering outdated research-based viewpoints.

For Stigandr, for example, the concept of magic being associated with passive homosexuality was a post-Christian attitude. As he has not been converted and holds absolutely no love for Christianity whatsoever, he does not have an attitude that is contrary to homosexuality, and it has no relationship to magic in his mindset.

In terms of how he views non-white populations as another example, there are a whole host of studies demonstrating how the populations who engaged in Viking were a lot more mixed. For example, Vikings did encounter BAME people. They raided and traded with them, as they did with nearly every other population out there. While there is no evidence in the current material culture indicating that BAME people engaged in Viking alongside the white populations that did, there is evidence of interactions both positive and negative. It is plausible that here and there, the occasional non-white individual could have been accepted and gone raiding with them. Stigandr's viewpoint reflects this.

As @WinterBlackDraoi also brought up, if playing a period accurate character, they are a product of their time and not ours. Comfort zones with what may come up in RP can be discussed OOCly to allow for toning down or potentially approaching the RP from another angle.


What are your thoughts on the current trend in historical roleplay that tend to require modern attitudes in historical roleplays and by extension, characters created for historical time periods?
I've only encountered the trend in relation to live-action role-playing. Now, in LARP, I can 200% understand this as after a week at work where you may encounter homophobia, sexism, racism etc, the last thing you want to do on your weekend off is interact with those themes again as part of your hobby voluntarily. Most LARPs that I have seen that touch on themes that are contrary to modern viewpoints due to their setting do tend to make it very obvious up front what the LARP may involve.

In terms of role-playing, I keep OOC and IC strictly separate with all of my characters. They are not me, nor are their viewpoints, attitudes, beliefs etc. I have included this as a disclaimer of sorts in the past. Said disclaimer gives people the opportunity to 'opt out' of interacting with my character while the character itself remains open to fluidity in terms of their viewpoints.

I am not cisgender, nor am I heterosexual. I can understand why people may wish to keep certain things out of their creative downtime but for me personally, when playing a character from a set period, I will reproduce that period in them as accurately as I can while allowing for development. I am, however, aware of what others may wish not to encounter in other's writings and use the disclaimer as a 'head's up' equivalent.

However, I don't engage in public forum RP. Hypothetically, if I was continuing with my usual playstyle in terms of period-appropriate viewpoints and attitudes, I would include some manner of disclaimer at the start of the public RP thread to allow people to keep on scrolling past while also making them aware of what may be encountered when either role-playing or reading.
Rogue-Scribe Topic Starter

WinterBlackDraoi wrote:
As a historical re-enactor and researcher, I believe it is acceptable as long as it's understood by others that that character is portrayed with the attitude that was the norm for that era.
I agree. It seems the whole point of historical roleplay assumes this. I was a part of a Civil War re-enactment, and I know for a fact the guys re-enacting the Confederate soldiers were not 'white racist, pro-slavery' advocates. They were into it to portray history and to present the typical southern soldier at the time.
WinterBlackDraoi wrote:
However, I do have my own boundaries and respect my writing companion's views on the subject. OOC discussion is very important in regards to subjects that are deemed unacceptable and if they were uncomfortable with a scene then it would either be toned down or altered but still be relevant to the period.
I agree, though I always ask why they may be uncomfortable with particular language or attitudes that were quite prevalent in the time period. It's good to have discussion on these things.
WinterBlackDraoi wrote:
You have to remember your characters are people of their own times; allow them to be bigoted or politically backwards, don’t attempt to make them all into free thinkers who are ahead of their times. You have to be able to see the story from their perspective, even if it offends you.
Yes! I agree with this view. It would be hard to portray a period character without incorporating the period thinking. Thanks for your input! :)
Rogue-Scribe Topic Starter

Stigandr wrote:
For thoughts, viewpoints etc, I keep a strict OOC/IC boundary. I am not my character and they are not me, nor do their attitudes, viewpoints, perspectives and morality reflect my own. That's the whole point of role-playing for me - creatively writing another character.

Thanks to the writer of Stigandr for your input! You have a lot of good meat in your post but it's late and my battery is low. I'll likely comment further later on, but have to say that the part of your post I quote say it really well. It does come down to the line between IC and OOC, and it is all to easily for one to blur that distinct boundary. Again, thanks for your insight!
It's important to re-examine your perception of what was "normal" in any time period as history is written by the victor. (And personally, I find those "normal" stories are told over and over and over again--and hella dull.)

Were things a lot more sexist, homophobic, racist, etc.? Yes. Did everyone express those views as vulgarly and blatantly as a Quentin Tarantino movie? No. If you're writing a character who is openly and/or accepting of all of these things simply because "that's the way things were", it's a very narrow view. History is full of people who knew better, who spoke out against it, who rebelled it against it--just like today. It's important to consider their stories, too, if you're going to worry about "accuracy."

If you want to write an edgy character, just write an edgy character. You don't need to justify it by lazily claiming "that's the way things were." Especially since people still experience racism/sexism/homophobia/etc today, lol. It's not like these problems disappeared. I even have modern characters with those traits. If you have characters with those traits and claim it's for HiStOrIcAl aCcUrAcY, it's lazy. Just own it--you enjoy writing it. I do! I like RPing with characters like that too.

A better question would be "Is it necessary to write sexist/racist/homophobic/nationalistic characters?" or "Do I need an excuse to write a shitty person as a character?"..and the answers are no, lol. Just write what you want.
I'll take these one at a time.
Is it acceptable to write from a historical viewpoint and with an attitude set in the time period and world setting?

Sure, but whose view point are you talking about. If you look at the colonization of the Americas from the Spanish, English and French points of view they were all quite different. You will also always have more "forward" thinking people or people who viewed things differently throughout history as @Kidd mentioned above

Let me give you an example: Look at the Middle Ages from a Middle Eastern and Eastern prospective and it is a time of advancement in science, medicine and the arts, trade routes, commerce and cultural exchange.

Does the fact the historical roleplay is being written in the present day make it subject to present day culture in-character... the language, thoughts, viewpoints, and attitudes?

Again, sure, but hopefully it also makes it more accurate, because History should also look at and have a more accurate perspective of the real roles and real contribution of peoples of different genders and cultures. I find it funny that I was learning about the role of women or different cultures from mostly white male European historians. Totally LMAO at the irony of that.

What are your thoughts on the current trend in historical roleplay that tend to require modern attitudes in historical roleplays and by extension, characters created for historical time periods?

Who decides when an attitude is "modern" Some people always knew that killing or mistreating people for the colour of their skin or their religious beliefs wasn't acceptable, that it was wrong on so many levels. Rebelling against dictatorships, corruption, intolerance, abuse of power, standing up for those who others believe should have no voice is not a new or modern idea, history has plenty of examples of men and women from all cultures and walks of life doing just that. We just have better access to that information now.
Rogue-Scribe wrote:
It seems you’re basically saying that history cannot be roleplayed unless it has a present day nature, which by that nature rules out historical role playing.
I was focused on public etiquette and didn't mention historical RP, or the word 'history', making this such a bizarre stretch I'm not even sure it's worth correcting.
Rogue-Scribe Topic Starter

“Kidd” wrote:
”Were things a lot more sexist, homophobic, racist, etc.? Yes. Did everyone express those views as vulgarly and blatantly as a Quentin Tarantino movie? No. If you're writing a character who is openly and/or accepting of all of these things simply because "that's the way things were", it's a very narrow view. History is full of people who knew better, who spoke out against it, who rebelled it against it--just like today. It's important to consider their stories, too, if you're going to worry about ‘accuracy.’ ”
True. There is no myopic scope on history and the determination of what is known is usually presented by those who got to interpret and record it. If a scene is set in 1947 Los Angeles or 1880 New Mexico or 1300 China or back in the Roman Empire days, you want to reflect that, explore the what-ifs, and not copy a history book.
“Kidd” wrote:
“If you want to write an edgy character, just write an edgy character”
Its what I do too. I usually immerse my historical character into a specific setting so what was going on around where they are placed becomes part of their story. Thanks for your input!
“Falyn” wrote:
”Who decides when an attitude is "modern" Some people always knew that killing or mistreating people for the colour of their skin or their religious beliefs wasn't acceptable, that it was wrong on so many levels. Rebelling against dictatorships, corruption, intolerance, abuse of power, standing up for those who others believe should have no voice is not a new or modern idea, history has plenty of examples of men and women from all cultures and walks of life doing just that.”
I could have been more clear on this. In reference to ‘modern viewpoint’ I was referring to the ‘political-correctness’ and ‘cancel-culture’ sort of stuff. The fact there were good people doing the right thing throughout history in all civilisations and cultures as well as people who weren’t is a given really. I have run across (more than once) criticism for presenting historic norms in the background history of my characters, like my mountain man of 1806 trading goods to an indigenous tribal chief for a wife. Historically this sort of thing happened, but by presenting it in a historical roleplay character does not make ‘evil’ in the context of the historical time, nor does it represent the view and attitude of the character’s writer in this day and age. The attitudes I was addressing is two-fold and the core of it stems from the overall subject of people not being able to seperate Rp from RL. I’m probably still not clear with this. I’m liking the discussion and points being brought up.
sland wrote:
Rogue-Scribe wrote:
It seems you’re basically saying that history cannot be roleplayed unless it has a present day nature, which by that nature rules out historical role playing.
I was focused on public etiquette and didn't mention historical RP, or the word 'history', making this such a bizarre stretch I'm not even sure it's worth correcting.
It is also public etiquette to read the title of a thread before writing commentary to it, so I wrongly assumed that you did read the title before you wrote your post. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Rogue-Scribe wrote:
Historically this sort of thing happened, but by presenting it in a historical roleplay character does not make ‘evil’ in the context of the historical time, nor does it represent the view and attitude of the character’s writer in this day and age
Maybe this is more philosophy and not what you're asking about, but I would still say things that are bad/evil now were bad/evil then. Trading goods for a wife is basically slavery leading to martial rape. Just because we have the language for this now doesn't mean it wasn't that in a different context lol. It doesn't make your character less oppressed or victimized nor does it make her husband less of an oppressor or rapist.

Of course, it doesn't represent your view. The RP isn't the same as OOC. But people need to be allowed to see characters doing shitty things and not like it. It's not always a complaint about the writer

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