So You Want To Be A Gamer | UFOP: StarBase 118 Star Trek RPG

So You Want To Be A Gamer

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Writer's WorkshopGamers: A unique breed; creative, out of the box, problem-solving people. To the uninitiated, gaming can be a bit daunting, but fear not. I have a plan; I can walk new gamers through the process. You do not need to be a professional writer, you just need to have fun.

To start things off is that odd-ball word you may have seen floating around in that internet alphabet soup: PBEM RPG. It means Play By E-Mail Role Play Game. On the web, there are thousands of sites devoted to the PBEM RPG, in nearly any genre imaginable. I currently use a science fiction site that is running around in the Star Trek universe: UFOP: StarBase 118. In nearly all PBeMs, players work together to craft ongoing stories with unique characters. The story portions are called “sims,” told from the characters’ third person points of view. The writer has to keep in mind what the character is thinking, feeling, seeing, smelling, hearing, and tasting. Yes, all the senses need to be engaged with as many detailed descriptions as possible for the reader to get the full experience. Much like a favorite author does with their character. Before tackling anything, read, read, read and read some more. Ask questions of your fellow players about how they created their characters. What experiences did they use,terrestrial or alien cultures, et cetera.

Some folks may want to play in the Star Trek sandbox. Ok, no problem. Most of us know Star Trek. Being closely familiar with it myself, I can say how I made my character. Before I created her, I did a lot of research on Memory Alpha and various websites on her species, their world, history and culture. I needed to incorporate that into her speech, actions and world view. I couldn’t have her see cultures with a human point of view, because she wasn’t enculturated, raised or brought up in the culture of an Earth human.

You don’t want a superhuman character; even Q had flaws, quirks and weaknesses. You want a realistic person, one with strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and quirks. It’s not too hard really. Just think of a few things first. Are they male or female, young or old, human or non human? For mine, I choose a non-human for the literary challenge. Thinking as a non-human is its own challenge. If you are leery to have your first character an alien, try a human.

Give the person a background, a backstory. Where did they come from? Was their family Starfleet or civilian, political attitudes if any, problems with other species, how do they feel about the ‘current ‘ events in the Trek universe? Consider their personal history. Use that to create challenges as fodder for character development, such as, were they in a war, and what are the consequences of that? Do they have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Is it under control or not? Any lasting injuries, and  how do they react seeing an “enemy” being a part of Starfleet? Does the character have medical issues that Trek Tech couldn’t cure, like a disease, a virus he or she is a carrier, or a genetic disorder that can create some challenges for the character to grow from? Remember, don’t dump unrealistic troubles on the character, or too much too soon, or all at once.

Some players will put portions of themselves into the character. It could be physical attributes or memories,only changed to suite the character. Some put pieces or entire parts of their own personality complete with habits, quirks, or codes of honor. Some players and writers may combine attributes of many people they knew into a character. Fashion sense, food likes and dislikes, hobbies, or family life. Is your character lovable or not? It depends on what you intend to do with him or her. Keep them as realistic as you want. How do they handle personal challenges? Some writers might even use the character as a catharsis for their inner healing. This should be taken with care, but can be very fun to write.

Some players have an outline of the character’s path through life, while others “wing it” by having the character reacting to what is presented by the other characters about them. Whatever method you choose is up to you.

One thing I’ve noticed as a gamer, that after a while the character starts to become alive, and seems to have a will of his or her own. This is because of the many little things that I mentioned above had been incorporated into them. When this happens, and it will, don’t force the character into a place they don’t want to go. Trust me, they’ll fight you. Creativity dries up. Characters have a way of making their stance clearly known. This is the challenge and the fun of having a multi dimensional character, with facets, moods and realistic reactions that fit that person’s species.

A Vulcan, for instance, won’t act the same way as a human, or a Klingon, an Andorian or even a species from another galaxy. A Klingon or Vulcan acts within accordance to their unique cultures. What they eat, how they dress, their particular body language and cultural stances on politics, other species and each other.

If the writer wishes to add a twist, consider the person’s upbringing. Were they raised in a home that was privileged or poor? Was the household politically active or not? Did the parents raise the child in a way, that if known by the wrong people, would make him or her a pariah, an outcast among their own people? For example, a Vulcan that is more emotional than his or her fellows is considered an embarrassment; that person would be seen as ” a Vulcan without logic” and considered an outcast. Or a Klingon that is peaceful would be seen as weak, and not a warrior in his or her own culture and be emotionally, and perhaps physically an outcast. In both examples, the two characters would not have the same access to normal resources that “normal ” members of that society would have, because of their differences. This could be a good hook in a story, or create good writing oppotrunities.

Above all when making a character, you must, must, must have fun. Enjoy writing for the character, and it will show!