Captain Rocar examines the briefing and how it can fit into the simlife of UFoP.
Often we all tend to think of our sims falling into two categories: “the mission” and “shoreleave.” The mission is the time for the real Starfleet bravery and sci-fi action, where as shoreleave offers us a chance to do a lot of character development either in exploring our characters pasts and their interests or by fermenting friendships and relationships with our crewmates.
Both “mission” and “shoreleave” tend to follow one another in a constant cycle and both offer us brilliant opportunities as writers. However, on many ships there is in fact a third wave that comes between the end of shoreleave and the start of a mission: that of the staff meeting or briefing. This is an important element to the start of the mission — a Captain will give you all the key details of your mission’s setting and task and it is everyone’s chance to ask questions. It is also your chance to shine and write great sims that show your characters professional mind at work.
Unfortunately, all too often a lot of us tend to be unsure of what we should sim our characters doing in the Conference Room meetings and often we end up sending in just short posts or worse still we stop simming altogether until the briefing is over. This really should not be the case and if it happens it means that we are all missing a brilliant opportunity.
Okay, granted, conference room meetings can be less exciting than the main mission, but they are, however, key to understanding the mission and establishing the key facts you’ll be working with and developing. It gives you a basic scenario and then each player should come away from the meeting with an idea for how to develop the mission – what direction to take it in and what twists to introduce. Since it is the crew who will take the information from the briefing and decide on the twists and take the plot where they want it, this chance to ask questions IC and establish as many background facts as possible should not be overlooked! As such, we should never stop sending in sims simply because we are in a briefing and waiting for something to happen!
A common excuse for not simming at this juncture tends to be: “I do not have a question to ask.” This is fine, sometimes both writers and characters cannot think of a questions to ask. But it does not mean you have to be silent and stop simming! Instead, you can be describing 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?
Furthermore, everyone can be simming their character’s reactions to what their Captain (or whoever is presenting the facts in the briefing,) is saying or indeed reactions, thoughts and feeling on what others in the room are saying or asking. 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 indeed 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
In addition to how your character feels about the facts being presented to you at the conference room table, 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 shoreleave 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
Okay, so as a crew, the facts that your characters hear in a briefing are all the same, but your individual reactions do not need to be. If your Captain tells the senior staff that three naked Klingons will be dancing on the bridge, a male Klingon Security Officer would have different thoughts, feelings, and plans than a a female Vulcan Science Officer would — so you should reflect this in your sim according to your character even though you all hear the same piece of info from the CO.
So, even if our characters have nothing to say in the conference room, that does not mean that we should fall silent and not sim. Essentially, the character is still in the room even if they cannot think of anything to say. In actual fact, simming our character’s 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 sat in the conference room as 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 crewmates and developed our characters.
And remember, your character’s reaction in the briefing room does not just have to be related to the facts that the Captain is giving you about the environment on the planet you are beaming to and the mission. Also convey how your character feels about their own individual role on the assignment. How does a security officer feel about being sent to Manaria on a science mission to a polluted planet when he could be arresting criminals on StarBase 118’s promenade? How does an El-aurian feel about people polluting their homeworld when her own people don’t have a homeworld anymore? How does a command officer about leading an away team of scientists? How does a scientist or engineer feel about taking a peek at the alien technologies on offer? 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 chance. Supposing now you’re a security officer sent on a science mission; is it a blow that you’ll have no leading part? Supposing you’re a science officer sent on a science mission; are you excited that your department will be playing a key role after the quiet time last mission? Or are you nervous that you won’t be able to solve the pollution?
Really use the briefing at the start of a mission to have your character sit back in their chair and consider their feelings and react to the assignment. It’s an ideal opportunity to develop aspects of your character and for each member of the crew to learn more about their crewmates. If you really want to go at it, 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!
Also, bear in mind that the conference room table is one of the rare occasions in the sim where you are ALL in the same place at once and can interact with everyone at once! Most missions split into at least two teams and on shore leave we tend to divide into groups to form relationships and friendships and at promotion ceremonies we tend to mingle in groups.
Additionally, 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.
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. So give your Captain something to work with and stop him sounding boring!)
Another common occurrence is that 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.::
Bloggs: And if we encounter resistance from the Klingons should we should to kill?
(NB: If it was a real sim Rocar would probably say something a little more exciting than just “yes!” )
What this all boils down to is that, although sitting round a conference room table may not be as exciting as “shooting photon torpedoes at Klingons”
or “convincing the Counselor to go on a date with you” or “beaming into the unknown,” 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. Your characters are Starfleet
officers! They care, they protect and they work together! They would not likely sit in silence without a single reaction, thought or emotion simply
waiting for the mission to start so they can get some action. So, 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!