By Commander T’lara
He’s always been a story teller.
“Big tales, small tales, tales of all sizes. What I love about Star Trek role playing, though, is trying to tell those stories we never could have seen onscreen. Reaching all those little corners of the Trek universe that were too insignificant to spend money on for a show, but were great for character development.”
Fleet Admiral Tristan Wolf, founder of the UFOP: StarBase 118 role playing group (RPG) has turned his desire for telling terrific stories into a 10-year enterprise (no pun intended). His vision started in 1994, just as the Internet revolution was beginning to take off. “The (UFOP Starbase 118) RPG was started in June of 1994,” he commented. “I started the group after having been a part of a number of RPGs on AOL, in the early 1.0/2.0 days.”
Those early role-plays were live-action; real-time role-plays taking place in chat rooms. But Wolf discovered a new group, simply called “Star Trek SIMS” that was using e-mail as a role-playing venue.
“I decided that the process was, in my opinion, not optimal, so I recruited a few friends I had at the time and began this group. My hope was to spin the idea into more of a community.”
Wolf’s first ship was the USS Phoenix-B, a Nebula class vessel. The crew consisted of ten gamers, and the game was played via AOL chat for the first few months. “Things started pretty slow but began to pick up once we moved over to an e-mail format,” Wolf said. “The e-mail format was great for people with ‘regular lives’ who didn’t have time to get on chat on the nights we wanted to play. Plus, it let the game go on all day every day. You could just drop in when you had the time.”
Another notion that was hatched at the time was the idea of UFOP becoming not just an online sim game, but a community as well.
“Early in our history, we realized that to be successful, we would need to be a community. The Internet is ripe with ways to connect people, and UFOP utilizes many of those mediums. E-mail is used for the actual role-playing. We also have a very active forum, where members discuss Star Trek and group activities.”
Wolf feels that this sense of community, as well as a long heritage, is what differentiates UFOP from the rest of the online sim world. “Ask any captain about who they’re descended from, SIMming wise, and you’ll get a good idea of just how important our family tree is,” Wolf emphasized. “You can look back at the ‘greats’ and see evidence of their mark on our group now: Elinor of Kanist, Brian Kelly, Jeff Pelletier, San Aquiss, SkyFire, Maela Jolon, Allen O’Malley, Shaun Marlin, right on up to the Executive Council of Today.”
Wolf credits one UFOP Pioneer, Elinor of Kanist, with the group’s longevity. “Elinor of Kanist is one of the legends of our group, and she really was one of the primary reasons our group became what it is today,” He said. “She pioneered the training program and was always diligent in keeping up simming. She commanded the Centris before it was turned into a training vessel. We have much to thank her for.”
Star Trek has always been known for its diversity, for the idea of bringing people of different cultures, races, religions (and even species) together. This idea has also been embraced by Wolf for UFOP.
“UFOP: StarBase 118 has always had a policy of acceptance and tolerance for all people. Our Constitution includes portions which specifically state that everyone is welcome here, no matter what their religion, race, age, sexual orientation or height. I think our membership shows a great deal of diversity in the fact that so many of our members are not based in the United States. We’ve also seen great success in accepting gay, lesbian and bisexual players into our ranks.”
But the future of the UFOP lies in its ability to draw new players into its ranks, a fact that Wolf is well aware of. “I’d love to see resurgence in the number of applications we receive. There was a time, back in the good ol’ days, when we actually had to stop taking applications because we didn’t have anywhere to put people! Now it seems like we’re having trouble filling spots because Trek has taken such a beating by the people who control it at the top of the ladder – Paramount execs and such,” he said. “If we can find a way to up the number of applications two- or three-fold, I think it would solve many of our problems.”
But despite the fewer recruits, Wolf is optimistic for the future of the UFOP. “In the near future, we have a number of things we plan to accomplish. There will be more additions to the web site to make it a complete, useful source for our members. Some staff members will also be attempting to clean up the Constitution and make it more focused on what we need from it. There’s a multitude of other teams and committees that are always at work, but things have to happen one step at a time.”
He continued: “My hope is that in ten years, the Star Trek community will finally see that we are the hidden treasure of the online Star Trek scene! I definitely see us finally ironing out some of the issues of policy and training that we’ve dealt with in command. I also see us learning to use the new tools of the Internet that are fostering community to our advantage. I see us remaining one of the only groups out there to really provide a coherent and complete command training system for our staff.”
Being the leader of a group with over 120 diverse individuals can be wearing at times. But Wolf maintains that it is the idea of the time and energy that he puts into the UFOP that keeps him from walking away.
“It can be especially difficult when people are willingly attempting to make things chaotic. Due to the nature of the Internet, and our group, it’s often hard to see problems coming before it’s too late. We’ve had people attempting to sabotage the group by posing as two (or more) separate players, just to foster animosity between people.”
However, he added, “There are a few things that tend to give me pause when I’m on my way out the door, though. The first is the plain and simple fact that I’ve been doing this for ten (ten!!) years now. I’ve become so used to getting my daily dose of this group that I just can’t imagine life without it! The people on the staff, also, have always been so supportive that it would be difficult to leave because of them.”