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Realism in an Unreal Universe
Using NPCs
Love is in the Particle Scrubbed Air
Avoiding Backsims
Giving Briefings an Interesting Edge
Taking Cues From Lost
Scene Setting
Using Research
Creating a World
How to Add magic
25 Character Questions
The Art of Conflict
Making Your Sims Realistic
General Plotting
Micro vs. Macro
Avoiding "All Dialogue" Sims
Writing Alien Species
Advancing the Plot
Fleet Logistics Sexism in Simming Margaret Wander Bonanno
Melinda Snodgrass

Avoiding Backsims, Regaining Missed Opportunities

Written by Rear Admiral Rocar Drawoh

Ever missed someone’s post and had to backsim after the plot had moved on? Alternatively, perhaps you have posted a sim that moves things on and then a fellow player posted a sim requiring responses from your character in the past even though you had moved your character on from that place or time-frame?

This is a situation we all face from time to time and generally our solution is to post a backsim, filling out the necessary gaps and asking the reader to insert it back before the current time frame. Such backsims can be over a page long, however more often than not they will be a post of just a few lines which appear at the start of our next sim with a massive leap in time to the rest of our post and little concept. Despite this common practice, there are ways to effectively avoid backsim posting.

One of the easiest and most effective methods is the ((Flashback)) which if you milk it can really help you do some character building; as it shows your character thinking about an event in the recent past or that something important was still playing on their mind some time latter. Essentially this allows you to insert the lines that have been missed within the context of your sim.

e.g.- Say a staff meeting ends and I have simmed my character back to his office, but then Commander Shartara posts a set of lines for me to reply to in the meeting. Rather than back sim, I could simply include the following lines in my next sim…

((Rocar’s Officer -Duronis II))

::Having left the conference room some moments earlier, the Ambassador sat down at his desk and picked up a PADD. As his green Ktarian eyes gazed over the information he couldn’t help but think back to something that Shartara had said to him during the meeting, Rocar’s mind going over their exchange just moments earlier::

((Flashback – Conference Room))

Shartara: Sir. . . I quite like Kate Rusby’s voice::

::Rocar chuckled a little as he’d remembered Rusby singing at his birthday. Despite his reservation he had replied…::

Rocar: Okay. . . .see if she’s free to perform at the Embassy reception on Tuesday.

((End of Flashback))

::Rocar sat in his office and shook his head in amusement at the brief exchange before the meeting had carried on and come to a close. Smiling to himself he turned his attention back to the PADD and the matter at hand.::

For added effect I would advise you to write the Flashback in the pluperfect tenses (i.e. “He HAD said” instead of “he said” or “He would have said” rather than “he would say”) as this helps convey the fact that it is an event in the past that your character is remembering.

Of course simply remembering something without reason rarely happens in RL unless we are reminded of the event, and this lends itself to the sim as it offers the writer to use a little style in artistic technique. Rather than just sticking a flashback into the middle of the sim, try and lead into it by including a trigger. For example, if you are going to flashback to an event by a lake, then describe the ripples on your characters cup of coffee catching your characters attention; if you are going to back flash to a conversation with a beautiful blond then spot a blond haired officer ahead in the corridor; or if you’re going to remember a fight with an Orion, then sim an NPC mentioning Orions to your character in everyday conversation, or pick out a key word in some dialogue that someone else simmed for you.

A flashback memory triggered something around your character is quite a stylistic way to write and helps bring a back sim into context whilst replying to the gaps you missed; you can even portray your character as giving the matter thought after the incident and thus do some good character building.

This technique can also be adapted slightly to allow for showing different side to your characters. How often in RL do you have a verbal confrontation with someone and then several hours later think of something witty you should have said? Likewise, when simming, it will occasionally happen that you write a reply to someone’s previous sim and then latter you realize that you did not maximize on the gaps in the dialogue and missed out on a chance to do some real good character development?

If this happens, then there is no need to pull your previous sim, despite your mistake. Instead, why not use thought marks and the flashback techniques to play over what happened and have your character imagine the same event with different dialogue. Perhaps start off with your character meditating or in bed ready for sleep, then have them think about what they said and imaging the alternative line that they did not say or could have said. This way you still manage to use the dialogue the way you realized you could have done, without having to pull your previous sim.

Try these two sims out, and you not only avoid the dissatisfaction of posting a few lines of disconnected back sims or having to pull sims you not happy with, you also end up writing a new sim off the back of your previous oversights. These new Sims will allow you depth and development to your character whilst using some nice writing techniques that provide you with a high quality sim and something a little bit different to usual.

Giving Briefings an Interesting Edge

Written by Rear Admiral Rocar Drawoh

Between the end of shore-leave and the start of a mission, many vessels hold staff meetings (“briefings”). Conference room meetings can be less exciting than the main mission, but they are, however, important to understanding the mission and establishing the key facts you’ll be working with and developing. It gives players a basic scenario and then each player comes away from the meeting with an idea for how to develop the mission – what direction to take it in and what twists to introduce. This chance to ask questions IC and establish as many background facts as possible should not be overlooked. You should always try and avoid not simming because the mission briefing is taking place.

A common excuse for not simming at this juncture tends to be: “I do not have a question to ask.” Sometimes both writers and characters cannot think of a questions, however, it does not mean you have to stop simming. Instead, you can describe how your character feels about not being able think of a question – nervous, embarrassed or confident that they already know everything they need to know? Moreover, everyone can be simming their character’s reactions, thoughts and feelings as to what is being said in the conference. If someone tells those at the conference table that the Klingons have killed 500 Bajorans on the planet, then you may not have a question to ask, but you can describe your character watching the CO as he speaks and allow your character to react — for example your mouth falling openly aghast in shock to show your character’s compassionate side! (Or for contrast, you could sim your character smiling and show how much your character hates Bajorans!)

In addition to this, you can also sim how your character feels about the mission ahead and the task presented. Does your character agree they should be doing it? Does your character agree with the chosen plan? Is your character apprehensive about the risk he or she will be taking? Does your character wish shore-leave could have gone on for longer? These are all things you should be simming. After all, your Captain is telling your character something they did not know, the result of which could be fatal — would your character sit there nonplussed and silent? Or would they have a reaction?

As a crew, your characters all hear the same information in a briefing but your individual reactions do not need to be identical. If your Captain tells the senior staff that three naked Klingons will be dancing on the bridge, a male Klingon Security Officer and a female Vulcan Science Officer would have different thoughts and feelings about the same situation. Your sims should express and reflect your character’s reaction even though you all hear the same piece of info from the CO.

Even if our characters have nothing to say in the conference room, that does not mean that we should fall silent and not sim. Simming our reactions to the “mission facts” offers us a brilliant chance to do some major character building. Suppose your Captain is briefing everyone on Borg activity on the planet Centura IV and your character has a phobia of the Borg. You can convey this to your fellow players and develop that aspect of your character’s personalities through describing your character’s thoughts, feelings and reaction to the briefing. (You could even do a flashback whilst your character remembers their last encounter with the Borg!) Meanwhile, a fellow player might play a character with severe hay fever and react to the same captain’s briefing by shuddering at the thought of having to beam down to the pollen filled atmosphere of Centura IV. By the end of the briefing, we would have learned a lot of background on our crew-mates and developed our characters.

Your character’s reaction in the briefing room does not just have to be related to the facts that the Captain is providing about the mission. You should convey how your character feels about their own role on the assignment. How does a security officer feel about being sent to Manaria on a science mission when he could be arresting criminals on StarBase 118’s promenade? How does an El-aurian feel about people polluting their home-world when her own people don’t have a home-world anymore? How does a command officer feel about leading an away team of scientists? Within the mission, every character has a different role and the briefing room is a great chance for you to convey your character’s feeling about their duties in the upcoming plot. Briefings are an ideal opportunity to develop aspects of your character and for each member of the crew to learn more about their crew-mates.

Sims where Captains just give out a lot of facts tend to be dry. So give him something about your character in the meeting that he can then include to add a bit of spice! If you don’t want to ask your Captain a question then sim something else, even if you just say your character falls asleep, or looks bored with what the Captain is saying or even that your character starts rubbing someone else’s foot under the table and looking seductively at them. Anything like this then gives the Captain leading the briefing a set of small details that they can include in the sim. This way, rather than just a load of mission facts, the Captain can also add little extras in between his dialogue and write a better sim.

For example:

Rocar: Team 1 will enter the compound from here and move towards the Klingons.

::Rocar paused and wondered why Lt Nicole Kidman kept looking at Ensign Hanks with a mixture of amusement and annoyance. Giving the young Ensign a suspicious look, the Ktarian Captain returned to what he was saying.::

Rocar: Meanwhile Team 2 will enter here where Lt Garfunkel will…

::Smiling a little, the CO motioned for Ensign Simons to nudge Lt Garfunkel who had his eyes shut and looked fast asleep.::

In the above example, if Lt. Garfunkel does not sim that he’s asleep and Ensign Hanks does not sim that he is rubbing Kidman’s foot then Rocar’s sim would be a mass of dialogue outlining the mission but with less variety. Always give your Captain something to work with and stop him sounding boring!

Another briefing technique is to sit back in the conference room chair as the words being spoken by your captain begin to be drowned out by your own thoughts. Dissolve into a flashback and write a sim full of dialogue as you explore your character’s past before snapping out of the daydream and returning to the meeting.

Once a mission starts, a ship’s command staff often gets an OOC question from players. There’s nothing wrong with this, but sometimes a lot of those OOC questions could have been written up IC and asked at the conference room table in the briefing! The briefing is an ideal chance to ask your OOC question IC.

For example, rather than Ensign Bloggs on Duronis II OOCing Captain Rocar next week and asking “Is it okay if we kill off one of the Klingon NPCs and which team am I on?” He could ask Rocar the following, in character, at the conference table:

Bloggs: So I’m with Commander Jagger’s team?

::The Ktarian stopped wondering if Garfunkel was actually asleep and glanced over at Bloggs.::

Rocar: Yes

Bloggs: And if we encounter resistance from the Klingons should we shoot to kill?

Rocar: Yes

Although sitting round a conference room table may not be as exciting as a mission or as shore leave, it does not mean that there is not an opportunity to write high-quality and worthwhile sims – either asking questions or describing your characters thoughts and feelings. After all your characters are Starfleet officers and care, protect and work together! They would not sit in silence without a single reaction, thought or emotion simply waiting for the mission to start so they can get some action.

Next time your ship is having a staff meeting at the start of a mission try out some of the above tips and I look forward to hearing about some really high-powered conference meetings throughout the fleet!

Scene-Setting: The Most Important Tweek You Can Make to Your Writing

Written by Fleet Admiral Tristan Wolf

Consider your favorite television show. You watch as the characters move through a realistic environment that reflects a place applicable to the story. Important cues in the scenery tell you where things are happening. In Star Trek, a small room where there’s a pulsing light on the wall means that we’re in a turbolift moving at high speed. A round room with a screen at the front means we’re on the bridge. And a room with a bench near the window invariably means we’re in someone’s quarters.

In simming – just like reading a book – it’s exactly the opposite. There’s no scene for us to see. Instead, the writer (you!) has to explain what the scene looks like through the eyes of the character. This is an incredibly important part of helping a sim come alive for the reader.

But many simmers fall into the trap of assuming that because we have a shared understanding of what Star Trek “looks like,” we can forgo scene-setting. Or, perhaps some writers assume that because we use a modified script format that our sims should read more like a screenplay than they do like a novel. But that’s just not true.

The more interesting your sims are to read, the more likely that other simmers will engage with them, and that’s why learning scene-setting is the most important tweak you can make to your writing.

The first habit you need to break, as you begin to learn the skill of scene-setting, is to avoid “telling” and instead start “showing.” It’s fine to tell the audience that your character lifted the mug, or that he or she smiled at the person they’re talking to. But it would be better if your audience got to experience what was happening through your writing. Let’s look at an example:

Telling: ::Bethany nodded as she lifted the mug and took a sip.::

Showing: ::She was in total agreement with Dora about where this was going. That man was a scoundrel, and everyone on the ship knew it. An absent-minded sip from her mug caused her to wince, Dang that coffee’s hot! she thought, shooting an angry stare across the room at the replicator that refused to follow directions.::

See the difference? In the first example, we get the drift that Bethany agrees, because she nods. But in the second, the nod is implied because her unconscious thoughts and feelings are being described. We’re seeing that she agrees, instead of being told. And instead of being told that she’s taking a sip of the mug, we’re seeing it. The action of shooting an angry stare across the room even coincides with her outrage toward “that man.”

Let’s try another:

Telling: ::Bruce was tall. Everyone was always looking up to him.::

Showing: ::Another dent in his forehead. That was the fifth time he had knocked his head on a door-frame this week! He’d expect that on an old Miranda class, where the doors are hobbit-sized, but not on a Galaxy-class ship! And now that self-satisfied smirk from Bethany as she passed through with, what, a foot to spare? He rubbed his forehead in pain, his shoulders drooping as he slinked away in embarrassment.::

Okay, so the second one’s a bit longer, but isn’t it more interesting to read?

So now you have an idea of what simple actions can look like with a little more color. But what about actually setting the scene? Remember, even though we share a common “language” of understanding about what Star Trek looks like on screen, that doesn’t mean that we can’t make our sims more interesting. And you can do that by helping the reader see what your character is seeing, like this:

Telling: “Ugh, I’m going to be late again.”

Showing: ::The door hissed open quietly and Bruce stepped through, dipping his head a bit to avoid hitting it on the frame. There had to be dozens of people seated, facing the other end of the room. This was no good — it was so dark he’d never find Bethany! He slowly made his way along the wall, only to get all tangled-up in the decorative Angosian spice-plant near the door, the one he had admired just yesterday, damnit! Someone, Bethany!, turned and shushed him, her 3-D glasses reflecting off the screen before she went back to leaning against a man next to her as they shared popcorn. If only he had arrived on time, that man could have been him…::

Instead of just being told that he’s late, we get to experience the ramifications of being late. We understand that he’s being late without being told, and in a way that also makes us understand that Bruce is tall, clumsy and forgetful, probably because he’s nervous. And we know that he’s going to a 3-D movie-night in a room he’s already been in before.

Now let’s apply some of this showing to the actual scene the character is moving through:

Telling: ::Bruce and Bethany enter the bridge.::

Showing: ::Bruce felt like he had never been here before. Despite standing on the bridge every day now, eight hours a day for six months, it all felt new. What was once a room that was colder than he thought he could bear all day was now warm to the point of causing a bit of dew on his forehead. That coy smile and wink from Bethany, as she headed to her seat at Ops put his thumping heart far louder than the quiet engine thrum. And that starfield — so silent and empty before, now so deep and streaky, so full of opportunities they were racing toward! He hummed happily as he locked his console and rubbed it with sleeve. No way was this panel going to be smudged today.::

Bruce thinks the bridge is too cold for comfort. We know he’s been a bridge officer for six months, and even that his console was smudged with fingerprints when he arrived. Oh, and we know that Bruce and Bethany are flirting with each other!

Remember, too, that showing doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to write more. Sensory writing and self-reflection can be done concisely, and the sort of boring, expository telling you see here may be much longer and more dense. Critical and thoughtful consideration of your descriptions makes all the difference!

Next time you write a sim, think about how you can help set the scene for the reader, and make your sim more colorful. Remember to show, don’t tell!

Other tutorials to consider:

  • Creating a world within your sim
  • Bringing characters to life
  • How to add magic to your story
  • Forcing good habits: Halting and avoiding all-dialogue sims
  • The Secret to Show, Don’t Tell

Fleet Deployment

Written by Rear Admiral Brian Kelly

Shortly after receiving my captain’s pips, but before RANGER’s keel was completed, I found I had some time on my hands. One of those days was spent addressing middle school students on 40 Eridanni 6 on their career day. One of the students asked me a question which having answered then I now realize is also largely a mystery to most Federation members not in the service. The question concerned how StarFleet organized her ships and how she maneuvered them around Federation territory given the distances involved.

The adult version of this series of questions tends to focus on the seemingly impossible fact that many service members and high ranking officers seem to know one another rather well, and seem to get around quite regularly. This seems unlikely because at warp 9, it would take ten years to cross Federation space at it’s widest point from one end to the other.

Although as fleet officers reading this journal we all know the answers to these questions, I thought it advisable to provide a means for answering friends and family which includes all the accurate information.

Federation Space

The Milky Way’s ellipse makes it necessary to travel significant distances between stars; although we have no direct evidence of positioning for planetary formations in cluster or nebulae galaxies, we suspect that travel times may be much shorter in tight stellar clusters. As things stand here, however, there’s a great deal of empty space.

Which is something it appears most civilians don’t know. They seem to think the Federation is a large pie slice or some similar shape, and that everything within it is “ours’ or at least “friendly” or “known.” This is not the case.

In fact, Federation space is irregularly shaped, and of the several thousand sectors within it, only about half have been mapped, and only about a third explored even cursorily. The fact that the “unknown” areas remain partially or completely enclosed within patrolled space does not change the fact that they are not patrolled themselves.

It is also advisable to point out that Sector 001 is not one of the two aforementioned “furthest points” along the Federation “long axis” and that the trip at warp 9 from Sol sector to the furthest point in explored federation space is only about 6,000 light years.

What many civilians do not realize, however, is that those “furthest” points are usually not controlled by member states, when they are inhabited at all. They are only part of the border of claimed Federation space. When an area is not yet explored and mapped, or no member or treaty race occupies it, or it is not part of an established trade route, it is not patrolled.

So it is perhaps now a bit easier to understand how our ships move about so quickly; they’re really not going “all over” the federation. If one ship were to be assigned the task of going from the “furthest occupied and patrolled point” to the corresponding point in the fastest course, it would likely represent a trip of only about 3700 light years or so, which is about 4 years at high warp; still too long, especially when one considers the return trip. Which is why Starfleet is not one fleet, but many.

On Earth, in the latter half of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, naval units were usually assigned certain bodies of water in which to base and patrol. There are historical references to the “Pacific Fleet” and the “Indian Ocean” Battle Group. The same pattern, not surprisingly, was repeated on other worlds in similar fashion. While the distances concerned then were expressed in miles rather than light years, the reason was as credible then as it is now.

When a group of ships bases in an area and stays there barring the most extraordinary situations, they get to know the territory. But even more important is that their deployments become manage-ably short, with corresponding time for crew lives to be led, repairs and refits, crew rotation, etc. Which is why service people are, when possible, selected for fleet postings with a mind for their home colonies or member worlds.

Starfleet is organized this way now. Sector 001 forms the hub of a large wheel with both longitudinal rings and radial spokes, breaking the whole circle into a grid. The grids, of course, are sectors, and Starfleet has organized herself to patrol them in a way which adheres to the approach described above, proven by time to be the most effective.

There are actually 15 “Fleets” within Starfleet, each with a numerical designation, and each further broken into “task forces” which change in size and composition over time and with military or political needs dominating such change. The fleet territories overlap. Not all fleets are the same size, nor are they uniformly composed. What they all have in common, however, is the fact that excepting extraordinary circumstances, they don’t need to spend more than 3 months at the most getting anywhere within their assigned space.

When one considers how much smaller claimed Federation space was 130 years ago and how most of that space was unexplored, it becomes clear how ENTERPRISE was able to perform deep space exploration and at the same time get back to Earth on occasion; they did most of their time spiraling out from Earth, not heading directly away from it in a straight line. Thus, when the time came to return at speed, they could do so quickly, in a straight course.

Although the Federation is much larger today, the same holds generally true. If a vessel is required in one of the fleets furthest from Earth, it is made there in a local shipyard on a member world or colony, not in sector 001. When personnel are required, they are schooled at one of the academy satellite campuses, of which there are 10, scattered throughout Federation Space. Though this is not generally known, since the “San Francisco” campus is the largest and oldest, the sense of it is of course obvious; it hardly makes sense for students to travel several years to go to school for the same period.

The fleet from which the ENTERPRISE comes, as well as those ships attached to SB118 and SB251, the fleets which for the most part fought the Dominion War and which fought the Borg, come from the 9th, 39th and 61st Fleets, stationed throughout an elliptical area of Federation Space only about 1500 light years across; the largest of the “slices” and thus bearing the largest fleets.

Although the war dragged on long enough for other fleets to make their way to the battle area by war’s end, as desperate as the Federation needs were, there were fleets which couldn’t have arrived in time even if they left when the first shot was fired.

It’s my hope that this aids the civilian in understanding how the Federation patrols, defends and explores the vast areas entrusted to it.

Sexism in Simming

Written by UFOP: Starbase 118 Academy Staff

What is Sexism?

Sexism is the unjust or prejudicial treatment on the basis of sex or gender. In modern society, this often originates with men, and is directed at women. In simming, this manifests as male characters treating female characters in ways that devalue their skills or abilities – generally “less than.”

xkcd: “How it works”

Why is This Important?

“Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” is the core of Vulcan philosophy and is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Star Trek universe as a whole. Our community seeks to embrace all of the infinite combinations that both writers and characters bring to the group, and celebrate the worth and diversity of our members – but, while we may play our game in the utopia of Star Trek’s future, the unfortunate truth is that the twenty-first century in which we live is not always so enlightened. Because of that, we must be educated about, recognize, and refrain from engaging in sexist behaviors.

We challenge our members to think beyond the limitations of the twenty-first century and write their characters in a way that doesn’t create a hostile simming environment for others.

Discrimination is an Important Part of Fiction

Science Fiction plays a unique role in fiction. It allows us to talk about contemporary social issues from a different perspective, removing the viewer or the reader from their preconceived notions about a problem and making them think about things in a different way.

Star Trek is particularly good at this type of social commentary. Consider The Original Series episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” in which a fugitive seeks to escape his pursuer. The fugitive’s face is colored black and white, while his pursuer’s face is colored white and black. The message of the story was about how ridiculous racism is, and was particularly poignant in a segregated society like the United States in the 1960s.

When fiction uses discrimination with a purpose in this way, it requires careful thought, pre-planning, and consideration. But the result can be important and educational.

{{Heading|Simming is Different Than Normal Fiction|Maroon

Unlike in standard fiction, where the violence perpetrated against characters is “victimless,” our characters are played by real people, and those real people can be affected by discrimination when it’s used casually, without appropriate planning or forethought into how to ensure that readers are not subjected to the types of behaviors which they face in everyday life, and which are hurtful and damaging.

Casual Sexism Has No Place in Our Game

The line between “literary sexism” and “casual sexism” is very thin. You could have what you see as a very good reason and a purpose for playing a sexist character. But without appropriately planning for how this will manifest in the game, it could still come across as hurtful, and create an environment in our game which is hostile to our female members. An environment that is hostile to our female players not only makes it more likely that they will leave, because they are being treated poorly, but also that it will be more difficult to gender-balance our fleet, because we will have a poor reputation.

Because of that, “off-the-cuff,” casual sexism which is not written with careful planning, intentional sensitivity to the players, and a goal for character growth, is not allowed in our game.

Tutorial Sexism in Simming.png

Examples of Sexism to Avoid

::Ensign Khan stared at the cadet’s behind as she walked away. No one who dressed that way could possibly have graduated at the top of her class.::

There are two particularly egregious points here. In the first sentence, the character is exhibiting behavior – staring at someone’s anatomy in an unwelcome way – which is inappropriate for a Starfleet officer. In the second sentence, the character is engaging in discrimination by assuming that a woman who dresses in a certain way is less intelligent or capable than a man. It’s a hurtful reminder of daily discrimination, and objectifies a woman’s body.

::Ensign Khan considered that, if the cadet was going to dress that way, he certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more of her.::

Again, this type of behavior enforces the objectification of a woman’s body and clothes.

::Ensign Khan stomped off from the briefing, having been thoroughly raked over the coals by the captain who, once again, was showing what a bitch she is.::

In contemporary society, women are often treated as unequal to their male peers when in positions of power, or are unduly perceived as being more harsh than men. Stereotyping female characters in positions of power by attempting to paint them in an unflattering light is wrong. Male and female leadership should be judged by the same standards, both in and out of character. And just because you didn’t get what you want from a female CO does not mean she is behaving in a way that is less appropriate than any other CO.

::Ensign Khan eyed the new Lieutenant as he leaned over the engineering console. What a body!:: “Any chance you’re off duty tonight?”

Here, we assume that the other player has rejected Khan’s advances…

::Khan pushed.:: “Are you sure we can’t get together for dinner?”

Just like in real life, “No means no,” not “Keep asking until you get a yes.” You should always talk with another player before trying to initiate romantic overtures, Carbon Copying (“CC”‘ing) your commanding officer, and if you are rebuffed, accept that it won’t work and find a way to make the interactions work appropriately for a Starfleet setting. Pushing another player to have their character interact with yours is inappropriate.

Common Concerns and Questions

“This is just my character – he’s a jerk!”
Remember that, like their writers, characters are complex creatures and can’t be defined so simply. If you think your character is a jerk, why is that so? It isn’t enough to simply write such a character. You have to include moments of vulnerability, and a clear backstory of how the character developed that way, which will help the other writers contextualize your character and understand why he or she acts that way. Be considerate of our other players and how your characters’ behavior may have a negative impact on the atmosphere of the game. It’s not enough to simply say that everything that happens In Character stays In Character. Instead, you need to play your character smartly, in a way that doesn’t create a hostile environment for other players.

“We’ve seen terrible people in Starfleet. Why can’t I play one of them?”
You can! But behaving in a way that reinforces our modern-day issues with sexism and other forms of discrimination requires great care, planning, and the very delicate touch of a writer. It’s not enough to simply sim a jerk. You have to plan on how this manifests in the game, make sure you have an identifiable and understable purpose and intent in your actions, and have a firm grasp on the realism element (how did someone like your character get into Starfleet with that attitude?). It is also necessary to for there to be character growth. We often see those terrible people in Star Trek for one or two episodes, after which their behavior is “resolved” in some way. How is that going to work for your character over the course of months?

“Aren’t you just forcing every character to be a bland, cookie-cutter version of Wesley Crusher?”
We have a huge diversity of characters in our fleet, and we certainly encourage drama and strife among them! But we also want to make sure that our female players aren’t constantly rolling their eyes and feeling like they’re playing in a good-ol’-boy’s-club that treats them, and their characters, like objects whose purpose is sex.

“But she described her character in a way that seemed sexy. She obviously wanted male attention.”
This is sorta like someone saying “Well, she deserved what she got for dressing that way.” That’s a terrible thing to say in our own modern day, and behaving that way is harmful and simply wrong. Just because a player described his or her character in a provocative way does not mean that he or she is looking for a sexist response from other characters. We are all responsible for our own actions, and you specifically are responsible for what your character does. Moreover, you should not presume to understand the motivations for other players – you will often be wrong, if you do!

Using Sexism in Simming

Our hope is that all of our members keep the central Star Trek ideals of tolerance and acceptance in mind when they participate in our game. But as we discussed above, we know that discrimination has an important place in creating drama and telling stories. Because of that, we should aim to use discrimination in a way that doesn’t harm the women who are members of our community.

Before even considering a sexist or discriminatory character, take extreme caution and care. Think about what your goals are in going down this path, what you want to accomplish, and how you can accomplish it in a way that is not hurtful, but is sensitive to other players. Do not ever assume that others playing will know your intentions or will give you a “pass” for the sake of seeing what you come up with.

Remember that we have players of many cultures and life experiences in our sim, and some people have been victimized by discrimination on a daily basis in their real life. Our game, and community, are the place they can come to escape that type of hurtful behavior.

Second, if you’re planning on exploring discrimination in the sim by introducing a character who is behaving in an offensive way that could be hurtful to real life players, email your CO first and let them know what your goals are and how you plan to execute your plan. Ask if your CO has any concerns and what their thoughts are on making this attempt as fruitful, educational, and enjoyable as possible for everyone.

And third, if you’re planning on involving another playing character in any way, you should approach your CO first to let them know, and ask if it’s okay to reach out to that player while carbon copying (“CC’ing”) the captain. Your goal in emailing the other player should be to introduce your intentions and ask if there are any concerns, while making clear that your characters’ thoughts are his or hers alone, and are not reflected in your personal feelings and that no offense is intended – and if offense occurs, that there should be open lines of communication between the both of you so that it can be dealt with swiftly.

Sexism and Star Trek

On the technical and canon front, any discrimination that happens In Character must be realistic in the context of Star Trek. While it’s easy to imagine that the world of Star Trek is still full of James Kirks – swashbuckling men whose inner-lives are full of condescension toward women – the difference between TOS and TNG eras is stark in contrast, and a canon precedent of the more sensitive “lady’s man” (think Will Riker) is the norm. By the time of Jean Luc Picard, women are treated as equals, as opposed to being relegated to supporting roles in short skirts.

Moreover, Starfleet personnel are intensively screened, and that anyone who graduates from Starfleet Academy has at least a baseline sensitivity to discrimination, both internally and externally. Almost everyone in Starfleet is “enlightened.”

That doesn’t mean that sexism doesn’t exist in the Star Trek universe. We’ve seen sexist men in TNG era, and we know from some of the episodes in which the minds of Starfleet crews are manipulated that there are men who are violent and discriminatory. But the vast majority of Starfleet personnel, for most of the time, are thoughtful and sensitive to discrimination and sexism. In fact, it’s so ingrained in their daily lives that it would be extremely out-of-place for a member of Starfleet to act in a sexist way.

Join the Discussion on Our Forums

If you have questions, or would like to talk more about this issue, over to our forum thread about sexism in simming and join the discussion.