Engineer Simming Guide

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Star Trek has a history of great engineers. Personable like Trip and LaForge, gruff like Scotty, hard working like O'Brien, and, like Torres, always talented. The UFoP has a habit of granting some of the best ship classes to its crews, and the people necessary to run them should be of a similar caliber. Engineers are recognized as miracle workers, Scottish accent or not.

Engineering has a station on the Bridge, though it seems that only is special circumstances is one of the officers operating it. It's usually manned by some anonymous crewman, an NPC who's only job is to interpret and repeat reports for the benefit of the command crew. However, when the going gets tough, it's common to have one of the chief engineering officers on the bridge, which can give you the opportunity to react to things as they happen, and to interact with a good concentration of other PC characters (there always seems to be at least one on the Bridge).

But it must be admitted that, as long as things are running fine, no one pays too much attention to the engineers. How, then, do you go about developing your character and enjoying your job? How do you avoid repetitive sims about paper work and "tweaking”?

While this can sometimes be interesting, comical, and valuable to the development of your character and the plot, it doesn't make for a lot of good simming. But there are ways around this. This example is not the only solution, but it's the one that I've used and had great success with.

Simply, you (and any other PC Engineers) generate a roster of NPC characters. You generate a few more-detailed characters (name, rank, gender, and species are usually enough) and make a simple duty roster. Decide who reports to whom. Then you have a support cast to allow interaction between player characters and these non-player characters. It is usually implied that, after sciences, Engineering has the largest division on a starship. Generating lists of hundreds of NPCs would be prohibitive, but having 5 or 10 "developed" characters to mix in with the “no-namers” can open a lot of opportunities to sim. Especially if, for whatever reason, your chief engineers are somewhere else. The ship won't run itself, and it's nice to be able to sim something about engineering even when the "stars" are gone.

Before the Mission

Common sense and the nature of running a ship or organization hasn't changed in the 24th Century. Before a mission, there is plenty to do to ready a vessel for launch. The on-loading of most supplies will at least be coordinated by Engineering, especially if it will require the transporter or shuttle-bay. Weapons, matter for the replicators, spare parts for repairs away from a base, computer updates, and a myriad of other items need to be considered. If there's a need for refit, the opportunity to work is nearly endless. If the crew is getting a new vessel, it is critical for an Engineer to spend time (both IC and OOC) getting familiar with it's design to be effective.

Mission specific criteria may also apply. A Breen delegation may require the conversion of part of the ship to an artic environment. Vulcans need higher gravity and temperature. What if you have an especially large or small species coming aboard? What if they have a taboo about using a transporter? Or can’t handle 1 Earth gravity? Modifications to life-support environments and the ship and its support vessels in general are your responsibility.

Are you going to cruise the neutral zone for Romulans or Borg? Are you carrying especially volatile or perishable chemicals or drugs? Are you sure the ablative armor and shield generators are running at their peak and that the holds are prepared for their cargo? When the first volley is fired or the first container cracks, it is too late to prepare.

Then there are always the pains you took in character generation. What sort of Engineer are you? In 20th century terms, are you more computer nerd or auto-shop maniac? Do you spend free time buried in technical manuals or on the holo-deck taking on Moriarty? Even when there's nothing to do, there's a lot to do, and endless combinations of characters. No two people on Earth are alike, and this seems to hold true for the rest of the Galaxy.

During the Mission

Just as the Captain can leave the con to anybody on board, and most people can sit in the center seat and keep the ship in orbit and receive messages from Starfleet, it seems a lot of people in the 23rd and 24th centuries understand a lot of the basic concepts of the devices they use. But if the ship is attacked or some extraordinary circumstances arise, the Captain takes his chair back.

For example, it seems that most Medical personnel can find their way around Sickbay's devices, reprogramming tricorders and helping diagnose not only the patients, but also simple problems with their machinery. But being able to figure out the problem, and being able to fix it are different. If the problem is serious enough, there's no one on board other than the Engineering crew to fix it. Sometimes these problems appear simple, like a replicator making a steak that tastes like carrots. Sometimes it's serious, a warp core breach, an alien computer virus, an attack renders the ship inoperable, and the engineering crew are the only ones that can set things right. A crew with no ship isn't very effective, and if the ship is out of action, you should be in full swing. And the person who needs to be there, hands on and coordinating everything that goes on in Engineering is the Engineering Chief and/or his Assistant.

The tools available to an Engineer are many and varied. The tricorder has a vital role, but Star Trek Engineers also seem to rely heavily on getting in and getting dirty. Engineers will spend a lot of time in Jeffries tubes, work-bees, warp conduits, computer cores, workstations, crawl spaces and performing EVA. As an Engineer, be prepared to boldly go where no one else in the crew will go... You also have the amazing flexibility of being to develop, within reason, your own tools. If you can imagine something to do a job, you can build it, usually. And any great idea for a tool or device that someone else has, they'll probably need your help designing and building it.

Don't get too bogged down in the Engineering. You will undoubtedly be called to analyze strange new places and meet new peoples. You will be able to access data first hand, and perform many varied duties. Never forget that Engineers are more than organic repair drones. Common sense and common knowledge, along with the willingness to speak up, voice opinions, and make suggestions, will make you more than a good Engineer, it will make you a good crew member and an asset to any vessel you serve on.

After the Mission

It must be said that starships very rarely return home in the same condition they left. After a mission may be your busiest time. Even if a ship is destroyed, there will be much to do to prepare the next vessel for launch. And if you're lucky enough that the ship isn't in dire need of repairs, the technology of the 23rd and 24th century is advancing just like that of the 20th century. New devices, improvements, repair methods, holo-programs, replicator meals, and just the general news of the time, on top of social interaction and R&R are more than enough to give you something to fill your free time. Engineers in the Fleet have journals and publications especially for them, dedicated to these technologies (sort of like the 20th century "Popular Science/Mechanics" and other technical journals) and Engineers on the frontier could find themselves not only reading articles, but also publishing articles. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the frontier needs a lot of things.

You're also the only one who can keep up on all the advancements because that's your job. If something looks like it will be useful to the ship on future missions, it's up to you to take whatever actions are necessary to let the CO know and try and get those upgrades onboard.

Time between missions can be used in many ways, and of course you might be constrained by what remnants of a story arc carry over, but in general, it is a great time to have some fun with your character and maybe lay some foundation for the NEXT mission.

We wouldn't call this "ongoing" if it only happened once...

Away Missions

Typically engineers are not required for Away Team missions unless there is some kind of technology involved - powering up an alien ship, trying to repair another Starfleet vessel, et cetera. Occasionally you may get to go just because the experience will do you good. One thing to always remember: even though you're an engineer, you are not a god. Trip Tucker nearly died during one away mission. Scotty never died on an away mission because he rarely ever went on away missions, but he could have been seriously hurt or killed at any point. La Forge had his share of problems. O'Brien did, too. And Torres had plenty to worry about on her missions. To put it simply, you have to rely on others just as much as they do you.

For example. You've arrived at an alien planet and you're trying to get their equipment working, but you can't read the script. Your tricorder won't work, so you should ask your science or comm officer that is accompanying you to translate it for you. Or some other situation.

Being an engineer is easy. Being an effective engineer is what's difficult.


The Chief Engineering Officer

There are responsibilities shared by all Engineers, but the CEO has some specific duties. Probably the most important is that results, regardless of who actually does the work, will reflect on the CEO. Slow or shoddy repairs will damage a reputation as much as being a "miracle worker" will build it up. This is controlled mostly by how you sim, and how you run your department. The Captain can't run Engineering. He gives orders to you. His job is command, so usually the orders are not specific. He'll give you a goal, it's your job to figure out how to achieve it. You'll be the person that Engineering crews come to for direction, and you'll be the one the Captain asks for reports. You are the link between those who can do the work and those who need the work done.

If you are lucky enough to have an Assistant (or to be an Assistant) this can make things easier. However, make sure that having (or being) an Assistant is making things easier. A lousy relationship, working especially, but also socially, is a hindrance to good work and could have possibly disastrous results. If things are running rough for whatever reason, and it's not just part of the plot, work it out. If you can't work it out, talk to the CO. The lives of the crew depend on you.

An Assistant Engineer is there to help the Chief Engineer out, either by staying on the ship or going on the away missions, or performing whatever other duties are necessary. When the Chief can split his workload in half and hand off some of the responsibility, it makes life easier all around. It also helps when the Assistant has a grasp on technology, allowing the Chief to be ambiguous in his assignments and still get results. Other dynamics are possible and successful, sometimes spectacularly so, but this is the general rule.

The CEO (and possibly the Assistant) is usually the only members of the Engineering crew with enough rank or authority to challenge or question an order. Even an Ensign as CEO has a responsibility to the entire crew to inform the command staff when things are impossible. Of course, Starfleet has a history of ships doing the impossible, and the CEO should always follow orders within reason, but the CEO should be the voice of caution and reason from Engineering. In many cases, a dangerous situation in Engineering will go unnoticed if not reported to the Bridge, and starships, while amazing, are not invincible. You're job it to hold the breaking point as far off as possible for as long as possible, but there's always a limit, and you need to be willing to tell the CO when that limit is close, reached, or surpassed. Ignoring all the flashing warning lights will only work so long before you and your crew will be a fine mist of ions slowly expanding into space.

The Captain's health is watched by the CMO, and no one onboard but the CMO can relieve the Captain, but you have a responsibility to the ship, to the crew, and to yourself to prevent any act, whether external or internal, from destroying your ship. Countermanding an order is a serious affair that can lead to court-martial if used incorrectly, but shutting down is sometimes the only option. Common sense and a cautious nature will help you see these situations. Be careful out there.

I’ve been playing an engineer in the UFoP for many years, and it’s a blast. When it comes to this organization, I can’t really picture doing anything else. The opportunities are endless, and there’s fun to be had. If you think Engineering is somewhere you want to be, we’re waiting for you.

Sources


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