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Speaking for Others: The Voices You Borrow

Written by Captain Malcolm Lysander

As to speaking for other people in your sim, here’s the basic premise you should follow: feel free to write small things for other characters, as long as they are accurate with that character. Here are some examples using the characters that played in the StarBase 118 Operations sim. One example included a dialogue between the captain (Lysander) and a medical officer (Bizak): (sim)

“BIZAK: Well, I guess I’d better start at the beginning?”

“LYSANDER: I’d say that’s the best place.”

In this situation what Bizak wrote for Lysander was not something that would change the situation dramatically, nor was it something that was beyond the scope of what Lysander would say in that situation. So, we could say that “low impact dialogue”, or dialogue that really doesn’t have much effect on the entire sim is acceptable. HOWEVER, if Bizak had written:

“BIZAK: Well, I guess I’d better start at the beginning?”

“LYSANDER: Why would I want to start from there?! I have to go, I don’t like you.”

… that would be unacceptable. Why? First off, Lysander probably wouldn’t say something like that because he has never given an indication that he doesn’t like Bizak. After all, in that sim, HE asked HER to have a drink with him, so obviously he wouldn’t then decide that he didn’t like her.

The following also wouldn’t work:

“BIZAK: Well, I guess I’d better start at the beginning?”

"LYSANDER: Uh oh, watch out! The Enterprise is crashing through the wall behind you as we speak!”

… for most obvious reasons. For starters, nothing dramatic is happening in the sim that would suggest that there would be any reason for a ship to come crashing into the station. Next, before you put something into a sim that will changes things, like the Enterprise set to ram the StarBase, you need to talk to the captain first.

Another example of a GOOD use of someone else’s character:

“LYSANDER: Locke, fire phasers!”

LOCKE: Aye Captain, firing phasers!”

Lysander put the words in Locke’s mouth that would more than likely be spoken by Locke, the tactical officer.

You simply have to walk a fine line between moving the sim along, and giving too much of someone else’s character. Use your good judgment, and try to use the other person’s character as little as possible, to avoid a problem. Keep your words neutral (so that you’re not stepping on the other person’s character in the wrong way), and only use the other character for simple actions, if you have to use them at all.

If you’re going to involve another character in such a way that the other character may be injured, you should CO-WRITE the sim together, or at least ask the other person how far you can go with their character. Co-writing a sim means contacting the other character via Instant Messenger or e-mail to write the sim out piece by piece. (So, one person would write one thing, and send that to the other person. Then the other person writes their response, and sends that back. Then you put all that into one sim and send it out.)

Format, Style, & Feel

Written by Rear Admiral Brian Kelly

While sim “style” is certainly a personal choice, and varied styles can successfully co-exist on the same ship, there are several unavoidable truths about simming generally.


First, while sim ‘style’ is to a degree a matter of choice, form should not be. When a captain requires form to be relatively consistent on her ship, she is not curtailing freedom or creativity, she is trying to prevent confusion. One can be as creative as one likes using one format as he can with another. With that in mind…

You should remember that not all email programs organize bytes the same way, and what looks visually good on your screen might not on other screens. So I like to separate portions of sim text with a blank line for purposes of visual organization. For example, I place that space between the portion of the sim which is my private thought and that portion where I speak, and also between different expressions of speech as well:

::Kelly realized the prisoner was lying to him. He turned to the brig officer and signalled for him to restore the force field. Kelly left the cell, then turned back to the prisoner…::

KELLY: Are you sure you can’t remember what happened?

CLARK: That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it…

You can also see that when I am thinking to myself, or relating what is happening in the omnipotent third person (narration), I present that in very traditional text format. In the past tense (for we are telling a story, and the ‘recent past tense’ is the traditional tool for that format), and place it between two sets of colons at either end to make clear what it is.

I have seen “Oo” or “oO” used to delineate thoughts from actual narration but for my money that’s confusing, because those ‘thought bubbles’ are also then used to capture action as well as private rumination. So I simply use the double colon for both, and things are cleaner.

Also, when someone is speaking, I like to place their name in CAPS to draw attention to the fact that speech is coming and who will be speaking. Again, anything that visually separates and organizes is a good thing. I also use caps whenever I refer to a PLANET, a STARSHIP or a BASE OR OUTPOST. Too, this draws attention to these important proper nouns in sims.

This is not something most captains require, but they’ll appreciate it. If they use a different format, change yours to suit; it’s not brown nosing, it’s consistency, and that’s never a bad thing. On RANGER, I prefer everyone use that format, though not all do, and I wait for them to rise in rank before I ask them to mold, because I want them to get used first to the more important aspects of simming, namely, style.


As I said, this is the deeper part of the ocean, as the saying goes. I have seen so many great simmers use different styles that the very idea of a uniform style is an impossible one when creative endeavor is our goal. On the other hand, some general observations about style, I hope, will help you develop one of your own if you haven’t got one yet, or help you refine it if you have. The polish and veneer of your sims are part, in the end, of the over all evaluations that take place when the big promotions are looming, and given that we’re all human and make perforce subjective judgements, polish can only help, and its absence can only hurt.

First, I know some of you are not from English speaking lands. Ok. But in this I am not politically correct: If you are joining our group, which sims in English, and you expect to be well regarded, you must master the language as best you can, and that means spelling and grammar as much as word usage. I had a commander on RANGER who was from the Netherlands, and for whom English was not a first language, and most of the time, you would never know it. Even more importantly, he improved his command of English over time so that it was clear he was putting in real effort, and that counted for a lot with me, as well as with others.

Of course, not mastering these elements of style is an especially grievous sin if you ARE from an English speaking land. Neither age nor being pressed for time is a valid excuse here, not with me. If your command officers claim it is less important to them, be aware that it is only LESS important. If you consistently present sloppy sims, it won’t help you in the long run; not in getting taken seriously by your fellow simmers, and not when it comes time for high rank.

Do mistakes happen? Absolutely. I make them, every captain does, and every member of the EC does. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there are a few typos or grammar errors in this article — the UFOP is not, after all, a Pulitzer competition or a master’s thesis. But my own rate of error is not high, and I always proof my submissions once at least. Of course, by taking the time to discuss this topic, I don’t need to point out that the rate is sometimes higher for others, too much so for it not to become on occasion irritating.

And the cure for it is so simple — READ YOUR POSTS BEFORE YOU HIT “SEND.” Even the longest sims, if they were worth writing, are worth another two to three minutes to check; and that’s all it EVER takes for the longer ones. So if you don’t have the time do make that minimal investment, you don’t have the time to sim right then. In other words, if you don’t have time to do it right, don’t do it till you do.

Youth is also not an excuse. If you’re in High School, you’re learning — or should be — how to write well and organize thought, as well as grammar. And no matter your age, everyone has a spell checker. If you make lots of spelling mistakes, use it.

Is all of this “required” by the UFOP either by way of the group as a whole or by a captain in the sense that if you dont adhere, you’re let go? Of course not. This isn’t military school and you’re not being punished — this is supposed to be fun. But in the end, many of you come to aspire to higher office. So I suggest you do all you can to make sure what you display looks and feels right so it gets taken seriously — otherwise you wasted your time, or at best, you’re saddling yourself with a disadvantage which is easily avoided.

The Feel

I have always felt, and continue to feel, that the best sims are those which delve deeply inside the character — and thus the best simmers are those who add layers and dimensions to their character. Some of the best sims I have seen from others (and those I myself do and enjoy the most) are the sims in which little or no “action” takes place — or even dialog, sometimes — and in which the person mulls over a problem, a memory, or an issue. Sometimes that mulling involves memories, and one ex first officer of RANGER who went on to command used to make masterful use of the “flashback” to the great enjoyment of all who read his sims. Another current captain about to start her own ship does a great deal of work with friends and family visits and calls. When she served with Fleet Captain Hollis, I know he enjoyed reading about this simmer’s friend from her marine days.

The consistent thread here — which Gene Roddenberry always held was the soul of Star Trek — is that the best stories are about people, not new weapons, or spies, or fights or battles. Those, like magic in a good fantasy novel, are merely backdrops to tell a good story about people; they are not characters themselves, nor should they ever be what drives a story.

This isn’t easy for everyone at first blush, especially if UFOP is your first shot at acting, or role-playing. But remember that you can only have so many fights, so many new weapons, so many “unusual plot developments” before things get boring. When that happens, I commend to your attention looking inside your character, revealing their hurts, their dark places, their fears, their motivations; start with family and friends to flesh yourself out. You’ll find your sims richer, your enjoyment of this deeper, and your investment in UFOP more likely to reap rewards.

Advanced Simming Tips

Written by Vice Admiral Hollis Calley

  1. The best way to improve at simming is to sim often.
  2. Involve others when you sim.
  3. Remember once an idea is simmed, it can go in many directions.
  4. If an error is made, always try to fix it in character.
  5. When simming with others be willing to give them time to respond. I always figure 48 hours should be adequate, and after 72 hours continue on.
  6. When simming for others, limit responses to 5 words or less. You can also do joint sims by using chat soft ware, or exchanging emails.
  7. Do not create and solve a problem in one sim. Nor should one push the plot too far all at once. Doing so is called a “Marathon Sim”, and while useful for administrative reasons, should be avoided.
  8. Avoid meta simming; there may be times when the player knows exactly what is going on, but the character remains ignorant. Mysteries are often spoiled by meta simming.
  9. Be gentle with one and other. Everyone can have an off day, or miss something. Ultimately this is a friendly game.
  10. Expect consequence for IC actions. If someone phasers an innocent, expect them to be hauled up on charges.
  11. Some captains hate surprises. If you are planning a sudden plot twist that will re-write the mission contact the command officer to clear the idea.
  12. IC can bleed into OOC. Be careful when simming confrontations between characters. Often such sims should be proceeded by an OOC discussion that specifies what will happen, and how to resolve the confrontation.

Realism in an Unreal Universe

Written by Captain Malcolm Lysander

Even though Star Trek isn’t real, the universe in which it is written has it’s own rules, which we have to abide by. These rules include things like we have in real life: gravity, death, etc. It also has rules that we don’t have, like what the top speed of a Galaxy class ship is, or just how much damage a photon torpedo can do. If when you’re writing a sim, you’re putting in something that doesn’t exactly fit into what you would see in Voyager, Deep Space 9, or The Next Generation, then you probably shouldn’t be putting it in.

So, for example, if we were in a battle plot, you should only be putting things in that would happen in a battle. This isn’t the time to be trying anything experimental, like start you character on a workout regiment on the holodeck. Doing such a thing is out of the scope of realism, for a few reasons: A) Your character, no doubt, would have more pressing issues on his/her mind during a battle, like how to keep the ship working. B) Power on the ship would be diverted away from holodecks and other recreational areas, during a battle.

Realism & the Plot

For some reason, many simmers seem to forget that they are taking part in a collective writing experience. simming is like writing a collective novel. Everyone controls their characters, and takes part in driving forward the plot. But plot is a tricky vehicle to drive, and it takes a lot of practice to be able to steer it with pizazz.

If there is one thing that everyone simmer should understand is that without a conflict, there is no plot. Story-writers through the ages have defined a number of “stock conflicts”, that just about every story you read or watch follows. The generally accepted conflict arcs are as follows:

  • Protagonist vs. Antagonist: Simple and straightforward, this is a person against person story. These are perhaps the most common types of stories, and they are one of the most interesting to write, because we discover the psyches of two characters, our protagonist and our villain, or antagonist. Here are some examples:
    • Story: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
      • Protagonist: James T. Kirk
      • Antagonist: Khan
    • Story: Treasure Island
      • Protagonist: Jim Hawkins
      • Antagonist: Long John Silver
  • Protagonist vs. Nature: These stories often pit the protagonist against natural elements in some sort of quest or journey. They often teach us about the futility of life, or how fragile human beings are in the face of the power of nature.
    • Story: The Perfect Storm
      • Protagonist: The crew of the Andrea Gail
      • Element of Nature: Nor’easter, developed from three merging hurricanes.
    • Story: Jurassic Park
      • Protagonists: The dinosaur experts
      • Element of Nature: The velociraptors
  • Protagonist vs. Machine: Often these stories demonstrate the cold ruthlessness that a machine can exhibit, as it follows it’s programming, often wreaking havoc on the life of the protagonist. Or, other times, they reflect the contrast between the maker and it’s progeny, which is often faster, smarter, or more powerful.
    • Story: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
      • Protagonists: James T. Kirk, William Decker
      • Machine: V’ger
    • Story: 2001: A Space Odyssey
      • Protagonist: Dave Bowman
      • Machine: HAL 9000
  • Protagonist vs. Society: This plot puts a character, or small group of characters up against a larger group of people, or society as a whole. Usually it questions the assumptions we make about our Lives, or how "the majority" think.
    • Story: Star Trek IX: Insurrection
      • Protagonists: The Ba’ku
      • Antagonists: The Son’a, and the society that would benefit from the anti-aging technology.
      • Conflict: The fountain of youth has been found, but the price may be too high.
    • Story: Romeo and Juliet
      • Protagonists: Romeo and Juliet
      • Antagonists: Montague and Capulet families
      • Conflict: Families have long-standing feud.
  • Protagonist vs. Self: While in cinema it is difficult to convey this type of story, in prose form it is much easier. Even so, this type of plot requires many "facilitators", or other characters who give the protagonist much to react to. In these stories, we learn about the power of will, and self-change and exploration.
    • Story: Leaving Las Vegas
      • Protagonist: Ben
      • Self Element: His alcoholism
      • Facilitator: Sera
    • Story: The Catcher in the Rye
      • Protagonist: Holden
      • Self Element: His angst, alienation and lack of self-esteem
      • Facilitator: The unobserved psychiatrist to whom he is telling his tale.

Why is all this important to simming? Because as you can see above, all good plot arcs involve a conflict. The most important thing to remember is that conflict is what makes all of this fun. The purpose of studying conflict is to know why we have to ensure that conflict is cultivated, fed, and resolved in an interesting and meaningful way.

Some simmers seem to have difficulty in understanding why conflict is important, and sometimes resolve the conflict too quickly, and/or too easily. When this happens, it destroys the flow of simming, and much repair has to be done to the sim. simming in a way that resolves conflict too easily is often called “Super Gaming”. Let’s say for example that our typical heroic crew was in a battle with two Romulan Warbirds. A typical Super Gamer would fire a full spread of torpedoes and destroy one, or both of the Warbirds within the first five minutes of the battle. Now where’s your conflict? Somehow (against the rules of Star Trek, which is that all the Warbirds we’ve seen have been at least as powerful, if not much more powerful than any StarFleet ship), the crew has managed to destroy these ships, thus effectively ending the plot-line there. Now what? See the problem?

Generally a good rule of thumb is to consider: Would this happen on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”? Would the Enterprise have defeated a ship in just one or two phaser blasts, or torpedo shots? Was Geordi able to stop the warp core from breaching within 30 seconds of hearing the alarm, every time? Was Picard able to persuade every alien race to do it his way? If you keep this in mind, it will be much easier to sim a realistic plot-line.

Using NPCs: An Empire at Your Command

Written by Captain Malcolm Lysander

There is a plot device that may help those of you who don’t have another person simming with you at your post. (i.e.- if you work in security, and there is another security officer on the crew, then you have another person simming with you at your post. But some posts, like Helm/Com/Ops, may only have one person stationed at them — you.) This plot device that you’ll find helpful is called the “Non Playing Character” (NPC).

Everyone is free to play as many NPCs in the sim as they wish (within reason, of course.) Many people in UFOP create two or three (some people, like Hamlet, have about 20 NPCs) “extra” characters. These characters aren’t your main characters, but every now and then you use them as someone else to interact with in the sim.

For example: Let’s say there is only one science officer on your crew. You could create another character who’s an ensign, and is also posted to science. During your sims, you could have your primary character interact with the new ensign by giving him orders, helping him fix things, or whatever. You don’t HAVE to create a character who’s in the same department as you though. You could just create a civilian character which which your primary characters falls in love with, for example.

You may create NPCs who are of equal or lesser rank than you. (i.e.- A Lieutenant can create an NPC who’s a lieutenant or an ensign. An ensign can only create NPCs who are ensigns, cadets, yeomen, etc.)

NPCs are just there to add a little depth to your sims. If your characters are always working alone, you’ll start to get bored. By showing how your main character interacts with other characters, you’re developing your character for us more, which is always good.

Love is in the Particle-Scrubbed Air

Written by Vice Admiral Hollis Calley

Birds and Bees

  • “I never been fond of fast relationships in real life, and I am the same way IC.”
  • “I got involved in a relationship (in the game) early on. I’ll never do that again.”
  • “I am almost as picky about IC relationships, as I am about real life relationships.”

Relationships in character can be a great source for character development and interesting situation. After all, nothing is as purely social and emotional as a relationship. Still, as the above quotes suggest, relationships can be as tricky IC. Each of the quotes come from experienced simmers from two different groups I belong to.

What follows is a short primer on ‘Love’ in the hope of helping YOU sim relationships well and avoid common pitfalls.

No Nasty Stuff!

First thing to remember is that we’re a PG-13-rated site. That means: no swearing, no hyper-realistic violence, and of course, no sex! Keep the intimate, steamy details inside the bedroom and end a scene before you get that far. If you are worried a sim does too much, email the ship’s command staff. I’ve written up several graphic examples of what you should NOT sim, but our pesky editor gave the thumbs down.

Take it Slow, Baby

The great thing about relationships is that they allow a character to explore life. Couples meet, get to know each other, develop affection, commit to each other, and if so inclined: reproduce (*ahem*). Then comes moving into a new place, watching off-spring mature, growing apart, and divorce. Or maybe you stay together and die of old age.

Either way, this should not all happen in the first week of simming, or even in the first month. The best IC relationships take time. Rare is love at first sight. Plan on the relationship taking several months to get to the first kiss. Sim meeting the family for the first time. Talk about commitment. Assume the first intimate contact will be after a couple missions. In the end you will have a more realistic and mature IC relationship. Or if you leap in with both feet and sim your character waking up and going, “OH my what did I just DO!” then comes the process of slowly over the course of months figuring out the pitfalls of sudden romance.

Family (OOC) Planning

It is best to have a discussion with the writer of the other character before things go too far. Negative emotions do not always begin or end with the characters. If you are angry with someone in character, it is not uncommon to feel some animosity toward them out of character, and visa-versa. If one player is looking to sim a family, and the other just wants to sim a date, maybe they shouldn’t sim a second outing. I don’t advocate planning out every step OOC, but knowing what your partner in simming is thinking can never hurt.

Joined at the Hip

Relationships can be a real detriment to beginning simmers. At a point where players need to be interacting with the plot, and getting to know all the players on a ship, they are locked in a room with their significant other. Sometimes they will even go so far as to ignore other simmers entirely, even when directly simmed to. Waiting till after a promotion or two ensures that you have a good base to start a relationship from. This is not unlike waiting till after high school or college before getting serious in real life.

Nor is it uncommon for simmers to become co-dependent, especially if one simmer is more developed than the other. The weak simmer depends on the ideas and skills of the other and never matures in their writing. At the same time, the strong simmer expends extra effort supporting this ‘partner’ eventually becoming embittered and vindictive. As you can see this is not a good situation. Pick your partner carefully, and don’t be afraid to end the relationship if you feel that it’s not going in the direction you had planned.

High and Dry

He doesn’t call. She doesn’t write. WHERE ARE YOU?!

This is a game and people are bound to leave it sooner or later. What do you do when the person you have been simming a relationship vanishes? Your options are limited and are basically: to sim them out of the story (death or dismemberment), or sim for them. As the character isn’t yours, you need to talk to the captain about what is best for the story.

The other possibility is that your IC significant other may move off ship your ship through transfer or promotion. Do you break up or attempt a “long distance relationship”? Following the other simmer could inhibit promotion and character growth. Make your decision based on what you hope to do with your “simming career” and how you think it will work out after the move. And, of course, be sure to communicate with your “partner writer”!

Inflatable Dolls

Sometimes the best relationship is the one closest at hand: Fly solo and create a PNPC! Some may say it is a bit sterile, but you can avoid every problem addressed above by doing so. A PNPC will do exactly what you want, say what you want, and allow a great range of flexibility. You can sim intense emotions like jealousy or love/hate without affecting anyone else adversely. An NPC is also a great choice for short-term relationships, or early in ones career.

He’s dead Jim!

Perhaps you have decided to kill off your NPC partner. Or maybe a real life partner has left the community, and the captain has decided to give them a Viking Farewell on a burning shuttle craft. Either way, your character has just been widowed. It is time to dress in black and sim grief. It takes a long time for powerful feelings to fade, usually years. You should not be getting involved in another relationship right away, and when you do, memories of that person will still be there. I suggest simming strong grief for a mission, and then scaling the emotion back over the course of the next couple missions. Once again sim at a measured pace.

Um… what is that?

Recently on the OOC boards in the “Aliens” forum, there was a brief discussion on Xenobiology. Specifically, it was about interspecies reproduction. Problems of anatomy aside, it is highly unlikely DNA from species separated by hundreds of light years, and millions of years of evolution would be compatible. Even very closely related species like the donkey and horse produce a sterile offspring: the mule. Still, Star Trek is a universe of miraculous technology. It is likely ways could be found to artificially mingle DNA. When simming a pregnancy, be sure to take in to account the need for artificial assistance between species, and potential damage to the mother. These are wonderful plot developments, and add some much needed character development. Consider how your character would feel if he or she came to the realization that even with modern science, something has gone wrong with your child – or the child’s mother?

Boldly Go Where No Person Has Gone Before?

Even in The Original Series we saw that possibilities varied for future relationships: Spock was half Vulcan, Cochrane was discovered alive and in the arms of an energy being, and Kirk had seemed to fall in love with every alien who saw him shirtless. Don’t be afraid to explore the possibilities of relationship. Most relationships I see are between comfortably humanoid, gender-differentiated species. Star Trek is in part about pushing the envelope, and expanding horizons! Relationship’s have the same potential for exploration as the Final Frontier.