Excalibur Manual/Department Heads
Congratulations! You're a Department Head (Chief Engineer, Chief Science Officer, etc). What exactly does that mean?
Generally speaking, Department Heads are leaders of the ship. They may not be the Captain, but they play an important role in managing tasks and responsibilities both in and out of character. More specifically, it entails the following:
Department Heads are most often experienced simmers, writers that have done a fair number of missions, and have a solid understanding of how a plot progresses, what needs to happen at different stages, and how to keep a team or crew engaged. These individuals realize the importance of flow and do their best to prevent a scene from becoming chaotic. Clear leadership is the key here. Providing IC and OOC guidance to writers under your command is critical in keeping a plot from spiraling out of control or fizzling out entirely. Additionally, Department Heads should not be constrained by who tags them; they should be the ones providing tags for others, and throwing themselves into the role. Engagement in the plot should not be contingent upon tags thrown your way, but your character’s actions in a given situation. Remember: new writers are looking to you to guide them!
Direct action in character - give players some indication of what they should be doing. Simmers just out of the Academy might be familiar with the format we use, but they’ve almost certainly never had a superior officer in their particular field. Newly commissioned Ensigns can feel lost, intimidated or simply confused in the opening days and weeks of a mission. It is therefore vital that Department Heads offer suitable support, suggesting possible ways to engage and influence the plot until they can stand on their own, and sim their character appropriately. In many ways, this delicate introductory period is more fragile than their week at the Academy. It is here that the Ensigns will get their first taste of what they can expect going forward. An attentive Department Head is extremely important.
Gather their input on OOC tasks - find ways to include them when working on something for the Ship or the Fleet. By now, it’s no secret that the duties of the staff can be quite time-consuming. Simming frequently, facilitating the plot and mentoring are crucial tasks, and the drive to complete them can sometimes leave less operationally necessary jobs unfinished. Without frequent updates, wiki pages can flounder, forums can go stale, and the variety of smaller roles that are nevertheless key to an atmosphere of positive contribution can completely fade. At the same time, Ensigns may well have difficulty integrating into the ship, both IC and OOC. They might feel like an outsider looking in, or as if they ought to be doing more. It is here that a Department Head can jump in and make a massive difference. Though it will usually be the mentor to spearhead the efforts to get Ensigns engaged, Department Heads can offer a different side of support. Perhaps you and the Ensigns have just completed a mission that included a fascinating scientific observation, and you’d like to make an SJAS article on the subject. Maybe engagement on the Duty Post forums would encourage further participation. Maybe they have the makings of a wiki whiz and could start updating relevant pages. While it is not your job to see that an Ensign is tasked with some role, helping them to find ways of participating is of paramount importance.
Seek out their opinions, report any issues to the CO or XO.
As a Department Head, you are the command staff’s eyes and ears. Though we do our best to spot issues and address them swiftly, we can’t do anything about a problem we don’t know about. Though reports or blatant snooping are certainly not required, it is hoped that, should you see something concerning, you will inform the CO or XO promptly. We are able to handle problems both directly and effectively and remain sharply attentive to potential disruptions to the ship’s stability. As such, turning it over to us ensures that the proper people can make the appropriate decisions, and helps to make sure that you do not become any more engaged or caught up in whatever the issue might be. More often than not, these issues take the form of personnel squabbles; if managed, they can be overcome and moved past. A stagnating resentment or argument, however, can have catastrophic consequences for a ship. It is in the pursuit of good spirits that we ask that you maintain a subtle vigil, and keep us appraised as is warranted.
As an experienced simmer, your input is welcome. While mentors often form an intimate and trusting bond with their mentees, simply put, they can’t always catch everything. If you see something the mentor does not, it is alright to reach out and speak to one of their mentees - but feel free to reach out to the appropriate mentor or command staff with your concerns. If you do speak directly to an officer, make certain to BCC the mentor in the message, to make sure all relevant parties are kept in the loop. It is critical to know when it is appropriate to speak to whom, for maximum clarity. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask the staff.
Despite all of the above, the best example any leader can set in this case is simming with frequency and quality. Your ethics when it comes to simming will set the tone for the incoming officer and guide them toward the standard they will be likely to adopt. Replying to tags with a reasonable speed will provide a necessary example for them to base their own efforts. If a Department Head lags behind the plot or has two-week-long gaps in their writing, it’s a serious problem that should not exist.
Whatever the situation or message, respect is paramount. Politeness will go a long way to keep tempers from flaring, and an unkind word is all it takes to risk a more serious problem. Always remember to breathe when you write, and to strive for communication, not bluster. It can be frustrating to mentor an Ensign that refuses to engage, or simply will not stop leaving hundreds of tags a sim. Still, it is expected that every message will contain a cool, friendly atmosphere that is intent on offering support, assistance, and information. While it is alright to speak on Discord, more official mentoring matters should be held in emails and should be BCC’d to the staff list. Backroom discussion via instant messaging not only passes the Chain of Command, but can lead to unhealthy discussions and other damaging problems. If a conversation starts via Discord, please let the Command Staff and other appropriate staff know. Doing so will give the staff the information they need, and can avoid personnel issues.
All of the above are vital duties of a Department Head and are expected of anyone holding those positions. It is not easy to fulfill this role, but those that adhere to these guidelines and support these missions are the leaders of our community. We thank you for your efforts and your commitment.
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