So you've decided to give the USF a try, have you? Great! Only, I bet you're wondering what it means to participate in Free-Form Role-Playing (FFRP).
For total newbies, Role-Playing is just a form of acting. You play a 'role' -- a character completely designed by you -- within our 'play.' So what makes it so interesting? For one thing, there's no script! Everything hinges around the actions and reactions of your characters. You make the decisions that decide the fate of your character. That's right! You the player, not the Host. All we do is provide a 'stage,' a 'setting,' and the universe around you. The Host is the producer, director, extras, and stagehands. All you have to do is play-act your character, reacting to the world that moves around you.
I can hear you now. 'Wait. What makes FFRPing different from other forms of Role-Playing Games?' Two words: No Dice. That's right. No dice, trade-points, or rock-paper-scissor decisions to make. Conflicts are resolved by three things: 1.) your common sense, 2.) your sense of fair play and honesty, and 3.) the abilities of your character.
Huknak the Klingon gets into a barfight with Lily the Caitian. Now, ol' Huknak is a pretty tough character, but a little slow on the draw (a bit too much bloodwine). Lily is kind of thin, and looks pretty quick, not to mention how sharp those claws of hers look. She swings out, slashing at Huknak with those claws.
The player who is playing Huknak takes the slash, grunting with the pain and backing off a step. Why? Well, for one thing, the player knows that if this were a real barfight, our friend Huknak might be reaching for a dermal regenerator. He's big, and not fast enough to dodge her slashing attack. Besides, he's one tough hombre. A few scrapes along his arm aren't gonna keep him from pounding this kitty back into the pound.
On the other hand, the player who is playing Lily might think twice about this fight. Huknak didn't seem to mind the slash too much, and those arms are pretty muscular. A punch from Huknak might hurt a bit -- especially now that he's angry. If she has sense, she'll either get creative or back away really, /really/ quickly.
If you paid attention, you'll notice another thing that makes FFRPing so different: the other person gets to decide what happens to them when attacked. I know it sounds strange, but it works!
Let's say you were to get involved in a fight. You get swung at with a fist. *YOU* decide if you get hit based on the skill of the opponent and your own abilities. You also decide how badly you get hit depending on the strength of the opponent. See why a sense of fair play is so important? The character playing Huknak in our example could have also chosen, if he's a good enough fighter, to block Lily's slash with one hand, and swing a punch with the other. He also could have chosen to get slashed across the face, dropping to the ground and screaming though his bloody hands as he covers his face.
Gruesome, ain't it? Point is, it's all part of the action. Sometimes a grunting, groaning, battle-scarred fight makes for a better action scene than a swing-dodge-miss boring leap-fest.
Being Starfleet Officers
Remember: Generally you're playing a Starfleet Officer. There are certain things implied by this role:
- 1.) Generally you're a graduate of Starfleet Academy. Your character has been educated at one of the most premiere and prestigious universities in the known galaxy. You're not a dummy, but it doesn't mean you know everything. Every week we discover new things. Seeking out new worlds and new civilizations; no go boldly where no one has gone before.
- 2.) Your character has taken the Starfleet Oath. Among other items, your character should not be punching or shooting people willy-nilly. If your character is acting in self-defense or is involved in a firefight, that's one thing. Knocking out an NPC that you are unfamiliar with is frowned upon.
- 3.) Starfleet officers generally do not use pre-24th Century technology. Your character will likely not be using a bow, spear, claymore mine, AK-47. If you're firing explosive arrows like Hawkeye or Green Arrow, you're not exactly being thematic.
- 4.) During the sim, you should act as if you are a Starfleet officer serving at your assigned position. The command staff will give you orders and describe the general events that are taking place—it is your job to come up with realistic solutions to the problems that your crew is currently facing.
- 5.) Starfleet officers follow orders. If your Commanding Officer tells you to stand down, you do not tell him 'Too bad!' and start shooting your phaser. That's a short trip to a formal reprimand.
I found this helpful hint from a review of the Last Unicorn Games version of the Star Trek Tabletop RPG:
Okay everyone gets Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons. Star Trek on the other hand is a difficult beast to master as a narrator and player. It’s really different. The Federation is a just and stable government and Starfleet is honest and conscientious. Yes, these organizations sometimes have problems but those are abnormalities for our heroes to fix. A good Star Trek campaign is about maintaining the status quo – society is pretty good and or heroes have to protect it. Speaking of our heroes, Starfleet personnel do not kill things and take their stuff. They try to resolve conflicts peacefully and have fairly strict rules how to behave in certain situations. It’s not wealth and power but a job well done that marks a successful adventure. Since players can replicate anything they want – piles of gold and treasure are meaningless to a Starfleet officer. This is far removed from traditional RPGs! PCs in a Star Trek campaign have to be self-motivated and buy into the system.
Power Posing is when you force an action to happen you way. Forcing actions of other PCs and NPCs is usually frowned upon. An example of Power-Posing is:
Starfleet Officer: ::Fires his phaser, knocking the Nausicaan thug square on his back.::
A better way to pose this would be:
Starfleet Officer: ::Fires his phaser at the Nausicaan, hoping to knock him out::
In the second example, our Starfleet Officer poses what he *intends* to do, thus giving the Nausicaan a chance to react.
Similarly, Godmodding (manipulating incoming RP to make yourself seem unrealistically fast, clever, or invincible) is also bad. An example of Godmodding might be:
Starfleet Officer: ::Twists, letting the bullets easily pass by her cheek as she gives a last-second dodge. All 25 bullets rattle into the walls of the crumbling building as her fingers twist around her assailants weapon.::
You're not Superman. You'll might get hurt. If you're a human, you'll probably not be able to win in hand-to-hand combat with a Klingon, Vulcan, or Andorian. You need to be realistic about your character. As fun as it might be to punch through a pack of Nausicaans, often a better story can be constructed by letting your character 'be themselves.'
From the USF Simulation Guide:
During the sim, you should act as if you are a Starfleet officer serving at your assigned position. The command staff will give you orders and describe the general events that are taking place—it is your job to come up with realistic solutions to the problems that your ship is currently facing.
You are the Chief Science Officer aboard the USS Integrity. The CO advises the crew that the Integrity is currently evacuating a colony on a planet suffering from severe tectonic disturbances. The CO turns to you for recommendations, and after a moment's thought you say...
This is the great thing about simming: you can respond however you like. Be creative—this is your chance to offer a unique solution to a problem and potentially save your ship. However, remember that this is a Star Trek sim; your answers should be plausible within the Star Trek universe. Oftentimes the CO will write a problem into a sim and not have a specific resolution in mind—s/he will consult the crew and frequently use the most creative and believable idea to solve the problem.
Unfortunately, not every sim can directly involve every department with the plot. Most Star Trek episodes dealt with a specific character or department—it is very difficult to write a believable plot which equally involves engineering, medical, science, tactical, security, operations, helm, and the counselor. As a result, you will often find yourself without specific orders. In this situation, take the initiative! Consider your rank and position: in the current plot, what would (for example) a medical officer without specific orders do? Oftentimes you will be able, for example, to come up with a way to contribute that the CO may not have considered. However, bear in mind that only hosts are empowered to initiate events outside of their character's influence: as a tactical officer, you may not cause three Romulan Warbirds to warp into your sector. Instead, you must use the resources available to your character to contribute to the plot.
Bear in mind that, each week, your sim is telling a story. Every story has lead and supporting characters—and though the CO and XO will try to spread the action around to everyone, you will often find yourself cast in a supporting role. If you're not in a lead role, don't worry—try offering your expertise to those that are more directly involved. Alternately, try working on an unrelated subplot—just try not to interfere with the main action! Your CO and XO are trained to pay attention to everyone: if you help them make it possible to give you a bigger role, they'll frequently do it.
Let's return to our example...
You are the Chief Science Officer aboard the USS Integrity. Your ship is currently evacuating a colony on a planet that is suffering from severe tectonic disturbances. But the CO hasn't given you any specific orders, so what do you do? Here are some very reasonable options...
Offer your help on the Away Team. While helping with the evacuation, you might just find a clue or two about the cause of the earthquakes.
Offer to help the Transporter Chief beam people up. You might be able to suggest an idea that would boost transporter power so the Integrity could beam up more people at once.
Offer your services to the CMO to assist in the triage area. People escaping from the planet would be very likely to have all sorts of minor injuries—cracked ribs, for example—that someone with basic first aid experience could help to treat or, at least, prioritize and stabilize. If you dealt with those problems, the medical staff would be free to concentrate upon the more serious injuries.
Stay on the bridge, at an auxiliary station, searching for a nearby M-class planet where you could transport the evacuees until a more permanent arrangement could be made by Starfleet. After all, no matter the size of your ship, it probably won't be big enough to accommodate the entire population of the colony for any length of time.
As you can see, if you use your imagination and ingenuity, there are many opportunities for your character in a sim—even if you don't appear to be directly involved with the plot. Which one will you choose and how will it affect the adventure? That's what makes simming so much fun!
If you perform very well, you will earn the ultimate reward: PROMOTION. If you work hard, you will get a chance to move up in the ranks. Someday you might even earn the rank of Captain and get to command your own starship, starbase, space station or outpost—believe it or not, all of our hosts started out as ensigns once upon a time.
Star Trek simulations are both fun and challenging to those people who want to exercise their creativity, role-playing skills, and knowledge of the Star Trek Universe. We invite you to join our crew and BOLDLY GO WHERE NO ONE HAS GONE BEFORE...