Excalibur New Officer Handbook
- 1 Introduction to the USS Excalibur-A
- 2 Where to Get Help
- 3 Simming Format
- 4 Starbase 118 Fleet Requirements
- 5 Common Simming Problems
- 6 Polishing your Sims
- 7 Mission Specific Playable Characters
- 8 Ranks and Promotions
- 9 The Mentor System
- 10 Outside the Ship
- 11 Closing Thoughts
Introduction to the USS Excalibur-A
First and foremost, welcome to the Excalibur-A! If you're reading this, it's likely that you've been linked to this handbook by either Captain Kalianna Nicholotti, or your mentor, whoever that may be.
This page serves as a combined welcome and "HowTo" page for simming as part of the USS Excalibur-A crew.
While you may have just graduated from the Academy with all required knowledge in hand, this handbook strives to reiterate that information and provide you an even more in depth look at the day to day operations of simming with the Starbase 118 Fleet. Not only will you be able to build on the skills that you first learned during your week in training, but you will be able to have a concise handbook at your fingertips for those moments when you might have a question.
This handbook is not to replace the one on one guidance that you get from both the command staff and your mentor. On the contrary, this text has been created to help supplement the information that you get from these members of the crew, enabling you to grow into your role aboard the Excalibur-A.
Find an error? Have a question not outlined here? Please, never hesitate to contact Captain Nicholotti or your mentor at any time!
Where to Get Help
There are many reasons that people join the Starbase 118 fleet. While a love of Trek is a major one, there are some officers that join just because writing these characters is a lot of fun. As such, there are times when you might just need a little bit of extra help ironing out the tech and canon trek information that you include in your sim. Thankfully, the writers throughout the fleet have a few very trusted websites where we can seek out information and help.
If you find yourself seeking information, and you don't know where else to turn, consider searching one of the following sites to help you.
The Starbase 118 Fleet Wiki: Every character has a page as do every installation, team, taskforce, or group that is involved in the Fleet. You can find a lot of information on both Trek and the members and workings of the fleet by searching our Wiki site.
Memory Alpha: The know all and end all of all things Trek. This site is invaluable when you are looking for anything that is considered canon in the Trek universe.
The Main Starbase 118 Website: There is plenty of information to be found on the main site for the Fleet. Some of this includes fleet specific information, such as our rank and promotion guide, while other information and articles are based on Trek, Science, and what's going on 'OOC' in the realm of Trek and the franchise as a whole.
Still feel lost? Don't hesitate to contact any member of the command staff with your questions. If they don't know the answer, they can find the answer for you.
The UFoP: Starbase 118 Academy introduces all new Ensigns to the script style format that the fleet uses to sim. Once Ensigns are assigned to their own ship, however, they might notice that there are little differences that vary from the format taught in the Academy. These differences make up the 'style' that a ship has, and each ship in the fleet is proud to have their own 'style'. This section will cover some of the variations that make up the 'style' that we use here at Starbase 118.
Once a new Ensign has simmed a few times, they will notice what these differences are on the ship they are assigned to. While some things vary quite a bit, other variations fall in line with everything you learned at the academy.
Understandably, our style is almost identical to what you would have encountered at the academy. The only thing which might be surprising is that we don't capitalize the last names of crew members who are speaking (which some other crews do).
All of the basic aspects of a sim, however, remain the same. This means that you still need to use proper signage, as well as a location at the beginning of the sim, and a signature at the end of the sim. For a refresher on signage, make sure to reread Tutorial #1 - Where Do I Go From Here.
A (short) basic sim will look something like this:
The Excalibur crew is one that focuses on characters. When it comes to describing your character or their surroundings, remember...more is better. While a basic description tells us the simple actions that are being completed by your character, elaboration and the addition of thoughts or background via descriptive paragraphs conveys a much deeper message to the other writers in the group. Not only will we be able to see what your character is doing, but what they see, feel, smell, hear, and how they react to any such stimuli. Regardless of what kind of character you play, this adds depth that can make any character become more than just an idea on paper.
As an example, lets take Bob. Officer Bob walks into a room, and Bob's writer can choose to portray this action in one of two ways:
::Bob walked into the room.::
::As Bob entered the room he looked around. The aroma of honeysuckles lingered in the air, and their was a slow song playing. Taking another step, he bent over, tilting his head to peek around the corner.::
As you can see, there is a pretty big difference between the two, and not just in word count! The second version gives much more insight into what the character is thinking and feeling, as well as what the room actually looks and feels like. Just like the writers behind these characters, they have numerous senses that can be used to describe any given situation. The more ways you can think of to describe your characters senses, the better!
What to Sim
Your character! :)
Well, that's probably a little less precise than you were aiming for, so let's elaborate.
When a person is assigned to the ship, it can be pretty difficult to come up with a way to not only interject into what is occurring aboard at that given moment, but also to integrate into a crew that has already been working with each other to form a coherent bond. Tip: A good rule of thumb is: If your character doesn't have anything to do, ask someone if you can help. Worst case scenario: sim an NPC and cause a problem for yourself!
Generally speaking, there's always something interesting and fun going on on the Excalibur. Sometimes this is a set mission- the ship has been assigned to a task by Starfleet Command- or it's something a lot more free form, such as a dramatic event. In any event, your character should have something to do to contribute, even if this contribution isn't at the forefront of the action.
How, exactly, your character helps out will vary wildly based on the duty post your character is assigned to on the Excalibur. This is where your creativity as a writer comes in. There are two main types of posts that you can send out; one that deals with your own character and what they are doing, and one that deals with other characters yours might be talking with. It is always a good idea to get others involved in the story, so leaving tags for other players is always looked on with a positive light.
That doesn't mean you can't write posts that are based solely around your own character! Depth and character development is important on the Excalibur. Just make sure that you aren't always writing alone. Not only does this make it difficult for other players to tag you, but it also creates a situation where others might not want to involve you because they might think you are busy elsewhere.
In essence, character development is more than welcome both during missions and during shore leave. At the same time, however, make sure that you contribute to the story and move it along as well.
Starbase 118 prides itself on its serious and realistic themes, its free form nature and its interesting character driven plots. On the Starbase, we believe that Star Trek and all good drama in general is about the characters, first and foremost. While we do have missions, plots and external forces at play here, our primary focus is on our characters and displaying strong character development.
We do not limit character development to shore leave only. While some ships like to concentrate on the mission while it is running and only allow development posts during shore leave, the Starbase welcomes development posts at any time. This doesn't mean, however, that the plot should be abandoned. The quality of writers on board makes it easy to both develop characters and push the story forward at the same time.
We also tend to be slightly more "European" in what constitutes a PG-13 rating. Generally speaking, this means that we tend to prefer a euphemism ("Frak!") over a censored word ("$@#%!"), we have a number of shipboard romances (and as of 2388, a pregnancy) and we explore these through tastefully written sims and Joint Posts. We also take a relaxed, 24th century view on the personal choices and freedoms of the crew aboard.
Accordingly, this means that we tend to avoid scenes with strong violence or gratuitous bloodshed if at all possible- especially acts committed by Starfleet personnel in good standing. While an occasional sim may contain violence, it is unbecoming for officers in good standing to wound or take lives unnecessarily, gratuitously or with relish. The Excalibur fires her phasers only when she has to.
This ties in with the realism of things that we enjoy on the Excalibur as well. While we do explore plot lines and missions that involve Trek and other fantasy related topics, we try to make things as realistic as possible. For example, children should not be on the bridge, no character should have too many 'powers', and we all pride ourselves with being able to realistically react to events such as death, injury, and animosity.
Ultimately, it is the simmer's responsibility to ensure that their sims are tasteful. Repeated violations of the PG-13 guidelines may result in a warning or disciplinary action. If you have questions, or you simply wonder if a sim is pushing things to far, either tone it down or contact a member of the command staff. They can clear a scene for you and make sure that you are adhering to the PG-13 guidelines.
Need Help Getting into the Story?
There are many times where you might sit back and think to yourself, "How do I get involved?" Often you might find yourself asking this if you have just been assigned to the station, or if you have been gone for a few days and you are catching up to the rest of us. You may also ask this if a plot or story arc is going on with only a segment of the crew involved.
This is a question with no one right answer. Aboard the Excalibur, there are a few different ways that you can jump right in. Generally the easiest thing to do is to ask the command staff OOC'ly if there's any thing you can do IC'ly to assist- they're sure to have ideas. The command staff is here to help you integrate into the crew so that you can enjoy the fun that our missions, and shore leaves, bring us. We never want you to feel left out, so if you are having trouble, never hesitate to contact a member of the command staff.
If you simply cannot get into the plot, ask another member of the crew to leave you tags. The Excalibur crew contains writers who often enjoy writing for PNPC's (Personal Non-Player Characters), which means that someone, somewhere, will be able to interact with your character. All you have to do is ask!
Alternatively, you can introduce a twist of your own. Maybe your character spots something on long-range sensors. Maybe there's a fight in the ship's bar... who knows. The sky's the limit here. The command staff of the Excalibur welcomes these plot twists and sidelines. It only makes the story that much more interesting for everyone aboard.
Finally, if you're really stuck or seeking variety, you may play a PNPC. Once you're comfortable with your main character and settled in with the crew, you can create what's known as a Player NPC or PNPC. A PNPC is like a regular NPC, but only you can write for them. In some ways they're like a second character, but they're supposed to play a supporting role. A good PNPC might be:
- A boyfriend or girlfriend for your character.
- Your character's assistant or work partner.
- Your character's family member, such as a parent or child.
- A close friend.
However, there's no obligation to tie your character to your PNPC. In fact, one of the good uses of PNPCs is that they allow you to play in any division you wish on the ship, or get involved in plots you would otherwise have to stay out of. With that in mind, you also might want to create a PNPC that:
- In a different department.
- Is a different species or gender to your main character.
- Really dislikes your main character! Nothing like conflict to get the stories flowing.
Regardless of what you choose, make sure that you maintain the weekly post rate of at least 3 posts per week with your main character. You are, of course, not limited to this amount of posts, and you may post as much as you wish with any of your characters, but to properly consider a PNPC what it is, they should play a supporting role rather than one that would shut your main character out. If you find that you have more fun playing a PNPC, and that your post count reflects this, you may consider switching your main character for the PNPC. Then, your main would become another PNPC, while the PNPC in question would become your main.
Switching characters is allowed, but on a case by case basis. These changes have to be approved by the command staff of the Excalibur, so contact a member of the staff to discuss the change that you are thinking of. Keep in mind, however, that switching characters is not something to do every month. If a switch is approved, another will not be immediately approved. So think about these changes deeply before you decide to jump.
Starbase 118 Fleet Requirements
Generally speaking, SB118 requires at least ten sims a month to be considered a "part time" writer- any less than that (without reason) may be treated as an LOA. A "full time" writer generally sims three times a week (twelve a month) and some sim every day or every other day. Some sim more often than that... but that's far from required and, as discussed below, is sometimes undesirable.
It's a casual observation that the more someone sims, the lower the quality and the shorter the length of the sim is. So sacrificing quality for quantity is obviously not desirable. However, someone who only sims twice a month- even if those sims are the bees knees- isn't desirable either.
So each writer must find a balance, must find what works for them. But no matter what you decide is best for you, membership in our group requires at least ten sims a month to be considered active, and twelve sims per month to be considered a full time writer. While there are some characters who sim less than this, it is often difficult to really integrate said characters into a full out plot.
Generally speaking, these sims should be evenly spaced out (every couple days), rather than a large burst of activity at the end of the month. Since our plots and story lines run throughout the month, it will be difficult to contribute appropriately if you are only simming one week out of the entire month. However, if you feel that you have been away too long (perhaps you went on a week vacation or the like) then you can always ask a member of the command staff for help getting back into the story so that you can meet the posting requirements.
Consistently maintaining a sim count higher than the bare minimum (generally 20+ a month) and answering your tags with alacrity looks very good for your development, keeps your character involved in the plot and allows for a much more fun simming experience for the whole crew.
While each ship is considered an individual ship within the fleet, there are jobs and tasks that are required to make the fleet, as a whole, run. As you move up the ranks on your ship, you will be presented with lots of opportunities to help out on a fleet-wide basis and not just on your ship. While simming a character in the future world of Trek is a blast, there is plenty of behind the scenes activity that must happen in order to keep the fleet going. Fleet rank requirements state that helping out is required if you want to advance beyond a certain point and become a leader within the fleet.
Additionally, in order to advance in rank beyond Lieutenant you should be showing that you are, in some capacity, involved in the OOC working of the ship and the fleet. This is generally something small and, in most circumstances, doesn't take up much more time than an hour a week. Something like becoming a wiki editor, a forum moderator, writing something for the Fleet News or in some way contributing to the ship and the fleet as a whole. Even Ensigns can contribute, so don't be shy- ask away.
There are many ways to help out, but you should be meeting a 3 sim a week average before taking on additional duties. In this instance, we say fun before work! Remember, the ship is here for you to have fun, it should never feel like a job!
Common Simming Problems
Not every voyage is smooth sailing, and while simming there are many issues that you might encounter. Some of them are general, while others are very specific in nature. In any event, they should all be treated with caution. Remember, we are all here to have fun, but we are also all human. Sometimes it is personalities that clash, while other times it is the actions of a character or group of characters. The Academy goes over some of these issues, especially when building a bio for your character. Here is a more in depth look at the problems that you may face along the way. Telepaths
Telepathy and Special Senses
Telepathy is a very powerful sense, most commonly found in Vulcans and Betazoids (and others). As such, caution should be advised when simming telepathy.
The best way to sim telepathy is as just another passive sense. In addition to reading someone's body language, you could also sense basic emotions from them; distress, joy, sadness, pain and anger are examples of 'passive' sensing. You might be able to sense a Romulan assassin creeping up behind you, for instance, or that the Klingon warrior standing before you is just a hologram. The range of passive sensing would be, generally speaking, line of sight. This makes it a balanced, well reasoned sense.
Telepaths such as Betazoids can "talk" privately to those who can hear them. While useful, speaking telepathically to someone while others are in the room is considered very rude- it's the equivalent of pulling out your cell phone to send someone an SMS while they're standing right there, so others can't see what you're saying.
It should be noted that forcefully entering the mind of someone who does not consent to such an action (to read their memories, to alter their thought patterns or to damage their psyche) is a very serious criminal action and can be humiliating for the victim. Starfleet officers and civilians alike are expected to refrain from these actions, except where faced with no other choice. While there are situations where this is appropriate, such as when simming a 'bad guy', it is important to ask if you have any reservations about it at all. In this case, it is better to ask permission than forgiveness later.
Of course, nothing comes for free. Telepathy presents its own set of problems and issues; sometimes two people just don't get along, but will act nice to each other to preserve their feelings. How would you feel if you could tell the person you were talking to really didn't like you? Some people distrust telepaths. How will your character deal with this prejudice?
When the ship's in distress, perhaps your character is overwhelmed by the rush of fear and panic into their minds. How do they deal with that? Almost any "power" can be turned into a weakness with enough creative work, and weaknesses make our characters that much more realistic. It is as if they are real people and we are watching them grow. Thus, exploring the downside to any 'powers' your character has is often applauded.
The only hard and fast rule we have is that no character can have telekinetic powers. That is to say, no character may move physical objects with their mind. Years of experience in the simming world have taught us that such a powerful gift solves too many problems too easily, and makes a character far too powerful. This rule is fleet-wide, but we feel it necessary to reiterate it.
The same goes for other powers that are deemed to provide too much power to a single player. Most of these issues are ironed out while you are still in the Academy, but some main remain. Your mentor and the command staff will work with you on making your character more realistic and less powerful, but don't think that it will make your writing any less interesting! Remember, we pride ourselves on realism here, so keep this in mind when creating PNPCs and simming your main character.
While we, the writers, can read any sim in the fleet (and know what's going on all over the ship) your characters do not. Part of realistically playing a character is making sure that the character only reacts to what they know. There's nothing wrong with picking up hints or clues about what's going on all over the ship, but even powerful telepaths should be mindful to keep some surprise in store for their characters.
It can be frustrating to spend time and sims building up to an event, be it a major component of the plot or just some story arc you are following, and end up having to salvage it from ruins when another player 'claims' they knew what was happening. As such, be aware of how much knowledge you have when you are writing a sim and make sure that you keep your character 'in the dark'.
Polishing your Sims
One of the most important steps in building a great sim involves taking what you have written and polishing it up so that it not only reads well, but looks nice as well. The Starbase 118 Fleet adheres to certain guidelines when formatting sims so that they are similar fleet-wide. Some of these guidelines include the location of action at the top of your sim, the signage throughout the sim, and a signature at the end of a sim. It is important to remember these guidelines so that everyone involved will be able to read, and respond, to your contribution.
When writing sims, one should be mindful of the readability of your work. Generally speaking, a properly formatted post will be clean and easy to read, with a correct use of punctuation and grammar. Occasional typos are fine, but frequently making mistakes a spell-checker would pick up can be annoying. Many members of the fleet are from different international countries where English may not be the national language. As such, we don't expect perfect grammar or spelling, but if you want to advance and take up a leadership role within the fleet, use of spell check and proofreading your sims is required.
Generally speaking, it's a good idea to always:
- Use a spell-checker. This is the easiest and most effective way to dramatically improve the quality of your sims.
- Read your sims before posting them. If YOU wouldn't read your own work, who will?
- Use whitespace to make your posts more readable.
- Splash in actions, thoughts and the like. A good rule of thumb is, one good descriptive for every two lines of dialog for your character. It is not required, but if you use this exercise, you can increase the quality of a sim instantly. Dialog is good, but internal feelings and thoughts are better.
One should also be aware of runaway dialog. Unless your character is giving a big speech, you should keep your spoken lines fairly short, giving other players plenty of time to contribute. Remember, this is a collaborative game and it will be no fun for one person to do all the talking or acting. Be mindful of this; it makes simming so much more fun for you and those around you.
Mission Specific Playable Characters
A Mission Specific Player Non-Playing Character, or MSPNPC, is an NPC assigned to a specific player for the duration of a mission. They are usually antagonists, and are played just like any other character, except they are generally only played for the mission they were created in. Occasionally, some MSNPCs are seen again in future missions or sims. Tip: If you're assigned a MSPNPC, don't tell anyone- and try to mix up your writing style and format a little to keep people guessing! The mystery is half the fun!
MSNPCs are assigned by the command staff of the Excalibur. Generally an email is sent out near the end of a shore leave period and anyone who wishes may apply to be one of the characters. Most of the time, applicants are not told what, or who, they are playing until the details are ironed out and the mission is about to begin.
When thinking about simming a MSNPC, it is important that you consider your availability. Regardless of how many PNPCs or MSPNPCs you are simming, you will be expected to maintain your sim rate throughout the mission in addition to these extra characters. If you think that spending the extra time for another character might mean that you sim your main character less, then it may be a good idea to wait till next time.
Once assigned, you will be sent an introduction email explaining your character for the mission and any limitations that may be placed on said character. You will be expected to sim this character as needed throughout the course of the mission, even though that may not be as much as is considered 'full time' for purposes of the fleet. You are, however, required to sim it enough to push the plot forward so that it does not stall because of tags or events that are in the hands of the MSPNPC and its writer.
Ranks and Promotions
Yeah, baby! The privileges of rank.
Every writer in the fleet has both an IC and an OOC rank. In most circumstances, these two are the same. Where writers choose, for example, to sim an enlisted crewman rather than an officer, or to have their character decline a promotion for roleplaying reasons, their OOC rank and their IC rank may differ.
Only your main character will get ranks and promotions officially. You may sim an enlisted crewman of any rank, but all officers must be the same rank as your main character or lower. This means that if you are a Lieutenant, then you can not sim a PNPC that is a Lieutenant Commander.
You may, temporarily, sim an NPC of any rank up to Captain (such as the Captain of a visiting vessel)- but their presence should be appropriate and their interactions brief. This is not an opportunity to order around the Lieutenant Commanders, no matter how much fun that could hypothetically be.
To be promoted means that both your commanding officer and the rest of the fleet (you'll be surprised who reads your sims...) have judged you worthy of being recognized for your efforts. In most cases, to meet the criteria for a promotion a minimum amount of time served is required in addition to other criteria, including some things mentioned in prior sections of this handbook.
All writers, even those who chose to sim an enlisted crewman, begin their careers as Ensigns. Ensigns are expected to have a basic knowledge of how to sim at SB118, should be meeting the monthly post requirements as set out by the SB118 constitution and should be eagerly contributing to their ship's duty post.Ensigns of particular talent and flair may be allocated the role of 'department head', but generally they are assigned as a subordinate to a senior officer in their field.
- Lieutenant (Junior Grade)
Lieutenant (Junior Grade), or Lieutenant JG, is the second rank you can earn during your stay at the Victory. To reach the rank of Lieutenant (Junior Grade) a writer must meet all of the criteria as listed on the main Fleet site. You can find specific requirements for promotion from Ensign to Lieutenant (Junior Grade) here.Note: A Lieutenant Junior Grade is generally addressed as simply 'Lieutenant'.
Lieutenant is the third rank you can earn during your stay at Starbase 118. To reach the rank of Lieutenant a writer should once again meet all fleet-wide requirements as outlined here.
- Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander is the fourth and final rank you can earn without beginning to cross into the realm of command. A writer who wishes to become a senior staff member and reach the rank of Lieutenant Commander should follow the guidelines stated here.Note: A Lieutenant Commander is generally addressed as simply 'Commander'.
The Mentor System
When new writers come aboard any ship, including the Excalibur, they are given a mentor. This will generally be a staff member of rank Lieutenant or higher who guides, encourages and helps the new writer with any issues they may be facing. The Excalibur has a few specific officers who have signed up to mentor new Ensigns as they are placed with our crew.
These officers have a history of high level simming ability and a secure grasp of how things work on the Excalibur and in the Fleet. Because our mentors have the responsibility of shaping some of the Fleet's future leaders, we do not take this job lightly. On the contrary, to be a mentor means both dedication to the rules and setup of the Starbase 118 Fleet as well as knowledge of writing and simming overall.
Anyone can apply to be a mentor, but the program run on the Excalibur is not for the faint of heart. Only the best of the best are accepted. Want to better your chances of approval? Make sure that you maintain a full time sim rate and contribute with sims that are of appropriate length, checked for spelling and grammar errors, and free from other formatting or content problems.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor aboard the Excalibur, read over the mentor handbook and contact Captain Kalianna Nicholotti to apply.
Outside the Ship
Outside of simming, there are a huge number of resources for you to let out your creative energies. Involvement in any of the OOC activities is strictly optional below the rank of Lieutenant, but in order to progress up the ranks a certain level of involvement is expected.
Fleet OOC Opportunities
At the time of writing, there are a vast number of fleet-wide OOC activities you can become involved in!
- Meeting others playing your duty post around the fleet, and learning more about how to play that post better;
- Entering the Writing Challenges, held every two months;
- Nominating well written sims by either yourself or your crew for the Top Sim contest;
- Writing articles for the Community News (head to the team Yahoo! Group and request membership);
- Joining the Publicity team!
- ... and much more!
Extra Writing Avenues
There are many players throughout the Fleet that enjoy writing more than just on their own vessel. After you reach the rank of Lieutenant, you are permitted to have one other 'main' character on another ship. This other character is known as a secondary. This is not, however, the only extra avenue of writing within the Starbase 118 fleet. On the contrary, there are many other places that encourage your creativity to flow.
The community hosts a Writing Challenge competition, which is run every two months. The winner from the last round picks the topic for the next round. This is a great chance to share your own unique style with the entire fleet. The submissions are available for all to read before they are judged, and once judged, the finalist goes on to compete for the yearly title of champion.
There are also two areas on the forums where you can write freely, outside the ship:
- Character Cafe: where writing in any style can be posted- even if it's not Star Trek related!
- StarBase 118 Lounge: where you can post sims set in the "UFOP: StarBase 118 Universe," but not strictly related to the vessel you sim on.
It might seem like there are lots of different things to learn and understand, but most of this will come second nature after you are with us for just a little while. Many officers already model the behavior that is encouraged, so it is easy to pick up on the good habits of others. There is a great team of officers on the Excalibur, and we all learn and grow together.
Regardless of your rank or position, or when you joined the Excalibur, always remember that the command staff is there to help you. No matter what your question or comment is, or if you simply need another set of eyes or help with another issue, your Captain and First Officer will be glad to help! Simply contact them.