RPG-X User's Manual - a Guide to RPG-X

Started by Klaw, August 19, 2019, 03:06:46 pm

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Klaw

August 19, 2019, 03:06:46 pm Last Edit: August 30, 2019, 02:53:13 pm by Klaw
(Please note, this is going to take me a couple of days or so to sketch up - check back often!)

RPG-X, a Handy User's Guide
By Klaw, with community contributions by (TBD)

Section 1: The Basics of the Interface

(Which will be easier to write when I get home... so, I'll wait till then...)

Section 2: The Basics of Roleplaying (From the {UFP}/TLO/Forge school of RP)

So, you have the interface roughly figured out - now we need to figure out how to play.

Well, the first step is to understand the various roles that you can take on. Starting from the top, and working our way down.

Command:

The Command Division represents the leadership of the crew. These officers are typically the Executive and Commanding Officer of the post. The roles for these officers can vary from RP to RP, but generally speaking, they follow a pattern.

The role of the Commanding Officer (CO) is to lead the crew on the mission at hand. the CO usually guides the story from it's start to it's completion - but is not necessarily the Game Master. As the commanding officer really only answers to Admirals - and people off ship, the CO has some freedom in their duties to be as hands on, or hands off as they desire in terms or the management of the crew.

The role of the Executive Officer (XO) is to assist the Commanding Officer in running the command. The XO generally serves as a buffer between the CO and the crew, allowing the CO to focus on larger matters outside of the mundane day to day operations of the ship. The XO generally oversees each department, and reports pertinent information to the CO.

Generally speaking, these are the two more traditional roles in the command division. Other roles can find themselves lumped into the division, including Strategic Operations Officer, Second Officer, and even Chief Flight Officer. These roles, for the most part, find themselves wearing command colors, but tend to serve specific functions within the context of the story, as delegated by the CO or XO - or, in the case of the Chief Flight Officer (CFO) duties are performed within the context of their name (They fly the ship)

Security:

The Security division represents the security and tactical officers on the ship. These officers are tasked with the job of keeping the rest of the crew safe from external dangers yet unknown. The Chief Of Security (CoS) is the division's commanding officer. The CoS oversees the operations of the entire security division, including security crew assignments, weapons readiness, and strategic operations (where available). Other duties may include low priority maintenance work on tactical systems (as the Engineering Division could be too busy to do it for them...)

As with starfleet, the Security officers are on station, not to look for a fight, but to be ready if one finds us. They're highly trainined professionals tasked with preserving the safety and security of the crew, without provoking any foreign elements into an unneeded conflit.

Engineering:

The Engineering division represents the maintenance and basic operations of the ship itself. Engineers could be computer specialists, warp field specialist, even plumbers! If it's hands on, and has anything to do with mechanical or programming fortitude, it's in a gold uniform, and shoved in Engineering. The Chief Engineer (CE) is the division's commanding officer. The CE oversees the operations of the entire Engineering division including engineering crew assignments, maintenance and overhauls of ship systems, and the wellbeing of the ship itself.

Chief Engineers are often skilled in various aspects of Engineering life, but may not *always* be an expert in every field (as is the case with every supervisor in the world) as a result, they will rely on their team, to help keep the ship running in peak condition!

Science:

The Science Division represents Starfleet's mission of exploration. These are the scientists - biologists, physicists, chemists etc, that are onboard to further the goals of Starfleet, and help us all better understand the nature of the Universe, and in turn, the nature of what it means to be Human (or Klingon/Ferengi/Borg - whatever :P ). This division is commanded by the Chief Science Officer (CSO). the CSO oversees the operations of the entire science division, including science crew assignments, ongoing scientific research, planning and plotting for the next experiments when the current ones are completed.

As with Engineering, the CSO is often skilled in various aspects of the realm of science - but very likely doesn't know everything. You'll need to rely on your team to effectively explore those strange new worlds!

Medical:

The Medical division (a personal favorite of mine) maintains the health and wellbeing of the ship's crew. These officers oversee all aspects of the crew's health including mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health (where applicable). The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) oversees the operations of the Medical Division, including medical crew assignments, ongoing medical research operations, and has the authority to override any order in the interest of the wellbeing of the crew (Though this can be a tight rope walk, and one that, if you're wrong about - could end your career).

The medical division is very nuanced, including everything from counselors to nurses to physicians to surgeons - and even (in my mind at least, though I've never seen it happen before yet) - clergy. As a result of the wide ranging needs of people to maintain their health, the Medical division needs to be able to meet those needs, no matter what they may be.



Within each division there can be any number of additional roles. Ranging from a generic Security Officer (SEC) to a more specific Chief Surgeon in the Medical division. Your imagination is your only limitation when it comes to creating roles.

A sample, general purpose RP roster could look something like this:
Quote from: undefined
Command
CO - Commander Christopher Johnson (Klaw) - Model: Renner
XO - Lieutenant Commander Lindsay Calhone (Shoot) - Model: Telsia (CSO)
CFO - (Open) - Model:

Security
CoS - Lieutenant Liu Tze Huang (Dendo)  - Model: Kim
ACoS - (Open) - Model:
Sec - (Varying Ranks) - Model:

Engineering
CE - Lieutenant Commander Oriol Vives (Scott Archer) - Model: TBD
ACE - (Open) - Model:
OPS - Ensign Ryan Ditch (Basildonboy83) - Model: Kenn
Eng - Ensign Allison 'Ali' Merchant (Scott Archer) - Model: Alexa
Eng - (Varying Ranks) - Model:

Science
CSO - Lieutenant Commander Lindsay Calhone (Shoot) - Model: Telsia
ACSO - (Open) - Model:
Sci - (Varying Ranks) - Model:

Medical
CMO - Lieutenant Alastair Clarke (Stringtheorist) - Model: Oviedo
ACMO - (Open) - Model:
Med - (Varying Ranks) - Model:


This roster was pulled directly from Star Trek Nova, a serial roleplay that is based in the Enterprise Era (During the early days of the Federation). As a result, the color scheme uses the TOS and PRE-TOS colors of old, but the basic layout is fairly common across SRPs in this school of roleplaying - and includes some variation (most notably, the CSO is also dual-wielding positions, serving as XO)

Generally speaking, in a more standard RP setting, most players will take on one position - to quote Ron Swanson from NBC's Parks and Recreation: "Never half-ass two things, whole ass one thing". It's generally unwise to make your CMO your CoS too, because, in truth - both jobs are incompatible thanks to the Hippocratic oath - but more than that - even in a business world, doing the job of two people is not only unfair to the person doing that job, but to the company they're doing it for as it creates problems that could have been avoided by just hiring someone to focus on one of those two jobs. (Such as distractions, or shoddy work as a result of conflicting time tables, etc).

That's not to say don't do it - but it is to say that, with maybe the exception of what I did above, it can take away from the immersion of the experience, by detracting from the believability. There certainly are opportunities, and situations where it could be *necessary* - so don't stop because Klaw said to - but be aware of what you're trying to accomplish, and how this *could look* to anyone who doesn't fully understand yet.



So - we know a thing or two about jobs, now we need to decide how to select one. In the case of a general one-off random RP, you need only ask the CO. He or She can assign you a job based on the plot - to help further your enjoyment of the story by integrating your character into the action.

In the event of a Series - such as Nova - there is usually a signup sheet, where you will be asked to fill out a form, and the CO will place you based on your answers.

Lastly - you can always just do what I do - come in, expecting to play a certain role, and find the fun in the story - whether you're heavily featured in it, or not :)



The next step - is developing a character. You have a job now, and that's great - but you know what they say "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". If you're defined *solely* by your job, you're only creating a 2 dimensional character. We, as people, are all each far more than the job description of our jobs that we hold - so we need to help make our characters more too.

Generally, I find that writing a backstory for my character helps make them more real for me. Let's take my Nova Character Christopher Johnson as an example. CJ is a soldier, a former MACO - forced into the Federation Starfleet after the Military Assault Command Operations command was dissolved. He's holding a bit of a grudge about this, he's a tough commander, demanding the best out of his men - but he's recently been showing a softer side - often eating with the crew, socializing (even hosting poker games in the mess hall - but we haven't seen those yet). Like me, he's changing - developing into a new person with each passing experience. It helps to create the immersion, to create a starting point (like the bio I linked above) and envision how your character will react to the world around them as the story develops. Worst case scenario, base your character on your own personality - and contemplate what you would do in a similar situation.

Lastly, when in doubt, return to an old saying I use: What would Worf do?

The idea here is to choose a character on Star Trek (or any show, really) that you are emulating, or that you admire and ask yourself - how would they react in this situation? Then use your knowledge of those characters to better base your decisions within the realm of the RP - this can also help create dynamic characters, as often times, Star Trek characters can find themselves at odds with others, and create tension, and a new dynamic between themselves over a situation.

At the end of the Day - the Plot Runner has a story to tell, and may ask you to tone down your objections, or your characterization if it's hindering the plot. Be mindful not to become too larger than life.

Creating a character is a very personal, deeply rewarding, and extremely difficult undertaking. But once you have a basic character designed, (like my character, Walter Pierce) you can then use him or her like a cookie cutter, editing information where needed to better fit the setting (for example, a plot set in 2155 isn't going to include an officer who helped evacuate Romulus from the Hobus Star Explosion). Characterization, and roleplaying is all about adapting, and thinking on your feet.

Klaw

Section 3: Writing an RP
   
So you want to take the center chair, Huh? Well with that position, there is a big responsibility. As the CO, it is your duty to bring a plot to the table that will enlist the use of imagination, use the talents of your fellow players, and grab and maintain their interest. This is no small feat, but with a little imagination, and a lot of practice, it will become easier, and will greatly improve your skills as a role-player.

So let's start with imagination. In 1966, Gene Roddenberry created this vision of the future, a Space Drama called Star Trek with Technologies and social "impossibilities" that boggled the imagination (IE an African-American, Uhura, Sitting on the bridge, among others). Gene Roddenberry created this universe, which can have endless possibilities, in our own imagination. Every Mind works differently, everybody looks at the color blue, and thinks and sees something different from it; but when you unlock your imagination, and express your thoughts, people begin to see your point of view, and then the imagination of others can flow as well. Free flowing ideas from everyone are the basis of good plot writing, and GREAT plot development. Don't be afraid to allow some wiggle room, for the imaginations of your crew. While it can be a god-send for tricky areas in your plot, it can also lead to plot jacking, so be weary about it.

Now, there is imagination, and then there is the "Twilight Zone". There are some things that are scientifically, and physically impossible, there are also "over-kill" ideas; an example of which would include, but is not limited to "Oh My Gosh, 400 Borg Cubes are Transwarping to Earth!!!" "Fire all Weapons" --*2 Torpedoes Fire* "Ships Destroyed, sir". Make your story believable, if you need help, seek out episodes of your favorite Sci-Fi Adventure (it doesn't have to be Star Trek, it can be Babylon 5, Serenity, heck, even Space Precinct) and observe how a central idea for the story is formed, and how solutions, or elements come together to expand that idea. (An example of my own writing will follow)

Another key element to a great RP is activity. Keep your players active, keep them thinking, and for some people, it's good to keep them working. When not in command, I prefer roles that allow me to sit back and enjoy the story, not necessarily act it out. But sometimes, a VERY active Engineering role is as enjoyable. Keep giving people things to do, ESPECIALLY the people who won't find things to do on their own. (See guide to Crew Positions)

When sitting in the captains Chair, I read over, or think over my plot, I imagine Picard, or Sisko, and their Crew, as if it was an Episode of Star Trek, and I was watching from my own home. I then ask myself, would I watch this? Would I enjoy this story? How Can I execute it to Maintain Interest? The key there is to allow input, if only a little. Turn to your colleagues, if you're stuck in an area, Turn to someone who is more experienced. You would be surprised how much material from an SRP is made up on the spot by the Characters involved, NOT the CO.

The Most important thing to remember here, is to NOT give up, even if you bomb your first attempts (and Believe me, I have bombed more than one RP in my life, and I still have the occasional Bomb) Keep trying, reflect on what went wrong, seek feedback from your colleagues, and if you really get in a rut, Come talk to me, or any of the admins. We're all experienced CO's, we've seen it all, done it all, and know how to fix it all.



So - here's an example outline of a plot from an abandoned project of mine (That I may come back to one day) called Star Trek: Renegade (Not to be confused with the fan film...)

QuoteStar Trek: Renegade
    The Dominion war was a time of great hardship and strife for all Federation citizens across the quadrant. Some of these citizens decided in the days before the war, that if their government wasn't going to do anything, they would take care of their own. Some joined the Maquis, some formed militias and others were simply caught, and thrown into prison under charges of espionage. Times were dark, and when the war hit, they only got darker...

    The Federation was greatly outnumbered as a result of the Cardassians joining the Dominion, and Deep Space Nine's lack of intervention as Dominion Ships entered the Alpha Quadrant. Federation Officials went on a recruitment drive throughout planets within their control. But all of this was for scraps, and the war went into full gear.

On a Federation border planet near Cardassian Space, A young Starfleet Lieutenant was sent with a small security force to attempt to amalgamate a militia into the Federation Ranks - when the Cardassians attacked... The battle was a slaughter, 3 divisions of Cardassian Troops swept through the settlements across the planet, murdering the thousands who tried to stand against them. The young Lieutenant did what he could, but when reinforcements were denied access... The Young Officer grabbed what people he could fit in his shuttle, and made a daring escape...

It's been nearly three years since the war ended, and "Captain" Thomas Winters has made a name for himself as a smuggler, gun for hire, thief and problem solver. Aboard his ship, the Renegade, Winters sets out on his own, looking for work, avoiding the Federation when possible, and with a single goal in mind: keep flying.


Episode 1
"Passengers"
Captain Thomas Winters and the Renegade have arrived on a Klingon controlled port near Romulan Space, looking to pick up some passengers, and also - looking for trouble, What Winters doesn't expect is the band of passengers he'll be bringing on including an old girlfriend, an overly spiritual chef, and a retired Starfleet Engineer. This trip to Bajor may just be one of the longest trips of his life...


So - to break down my thinking process. I usually start with a rough internal roadmap of what I want to do, where I want to go, and use it to sketch a skeleton of the series or episode.

After that, I write a teaser - and that's usually what I post on the forum to help navigate my thinking, and express the extreme basics of the story to the players.

After that - I may write an outline - and break down the episode. in some situations, I've broken it down as far as scene by scene, but generally - I like to keep things loose, and run based solely on the skeleton and teaser that I already have.

The point here is - you can go hard core, and write out every single line you want people to say - killing the enjoyment for some folks... or you can go totally hands off and risk anarchy. Writing an RP is only part of the battle of running it - and you need to decide where, in those two extremes, does your command style rest?

Section 4: Running an RP

Section 5: The Basics of Server Administrator Controls

Section 6: The Things we Missed