Witty Wordsmith: Opening Doors | UFOP: StarBase 118 Star Trek RPG

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Witty Wordsmith: Opening Doors

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It is often said that reading opens doors to new worlds. And by relation, writing opens doors in your mind to new and creative ideas.

In roleplaying, the concept of opening doors is even more critical. When the author’s pen is given to a group of people rather than a single voice, we all must work together to create an entertaining story. So while a good sim adds a character’s actions to the group plot, a great sim does this and opens the door for fellow crew mates to add their ideas and actions. While this is an advanced simming skill, even a beginning writer can practice opening doors in their simming by focusing on some critical areas of writing development.

Ensigns can practice opening doors in their writing by focusing on making friends and fostering relationships. Having conversations focused on character interaction is a great way to practice leaving tags and responding to tags. Start working on how to develop a conversation organically, without shutting down the person you are talking to, or leading them in a specific direction. Practice open-ended tags and add description about your own character’s thoughts and feelings. This will not only win you friends IC, but it will help make your character more interesting and believable!

Example: Instead of just answering questions when they are asked of your character, take a topic in the conversation and expand upon it. Ask the person you are talking to questions back. If your PC was just asked ‘what are your hobbies’ and you replied ‘I like to play the Vulcan lyre’ you could follow it up with ‘do you play any instruments?’

Lieutenant JGs can practice opening doors in their writing by focusing on how they solve problems in the plot, and making sure things are a group effort. Most issues in a mission are handled by a group of characters working together, rather than a single person. This interaction makes it more fun for everyone, but also means that the group needs to work together rather than standing back and letting one person solve everything (or on the flip side, getting angry because one person decided to run forward and solve everything before they got a chance to do it). Consider each individual problem your team faces, and consider how the group can work together to solve it. When your character poses a solution to the team, leave some openings for your fellow crew to add their ideas. You’ll find your creativity getting sparked by the interplay of ideas.

Example: Say a team is trying to fix a ventilation fan, and you have the bright idea of using a phaser power pack as a temporary generator. Instead of just saying ‘it’s fixed, ta dah!’ think about what your teammates could do to support this repair. Maybe one person needs to reboot the fan system while you install the power cell. Open up the process of fixing the problem to your team mates and let them jump in with their own useful ideas as well. You’ll end up with a more rewarding and believable story when all is said and done – and your team will love you because you worked together.

Lieutenants start to take on a leadership role as department heads and experienced simmers. This is where all your prior practice at opening doors starts to pay off! Department heads need to look at things not just problem by problem – but as part of an overarching goal. Remember, at this level new simmers look to you for examples of how to sim well, no matter what your position on the ship may be! You might be a team leader for a project and instead of just allowing other players to add ideas into the plot you will need to delegate roles to your team mates. It’s time to start thinking about the strengths of the characters around you and offering them opportunities that play to those strengths. We have moved from the focus of a small team solving a single problem to a team solving a specific goal. Getting your team involved will not only keep everyone happy and active, but it will make the plot move forward more quickly and be more interesting for everyone.

Example: In the example above, say the overarching goal is to clear a building of poisonous gas while avoiding enemies who want to capture you. So fixing the fan is just one problem, but in order to accomplish the goal you also need to reboot life support, administer antidotes to the people who breathed the gas, and avoid enemies. You may be in charge of all of this, or maybe just a few parts of it. Start thinking what characters around you can help in those things. Can the medical officer administer antidotes while the security officer covers him?  Can they work while the fan is being fixed?  Offering suggestions to keep your crew mates busy while a complex project is going on not only helps keep interest high, but it gets you to your goal faster and lets you try more creative things!

Lt Commanders and beyond are leaders in the game. It’s their job to open doors for their fellow crew mates, and make sure everyone is engaged and active in the overarching plot. But even if three pips seems a very long way away, you can see the stepping stones of how to make your sims interactive and to promote excellent roleplaying. Start with personal relationships and focus on how to craft good tags. Move to solving each problem and focus on working with another character or three to get the job done. Step up to looking at not just individual problems, but separate goals and seeing how your team works together to accomplish the task, and finally start seeing the goals meld together as an overall plot where an entire crew comes together to form a great story. It’s a learning process, but by taking things one step at a time, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a great simmer!

Still need inspiration? Try some of these door-opening challenges in your next posts:

  • Approach a character you have never interacted with before and strike up a conversation
  • Find a character on your ship that you share an interest with and ask them about it
  • Next time you’re working on a mission, try the question: ‘what do you think?’
  • Ask a fellow crewmate if there’s something the always wanted to roleplay, and see if you can set it up for them
  • Think of your next mission as if you’re playing a game in ‘co-op’ mode and need two people for every puzzle
  • Stop writing just before the climax of the scene, and see where it goes