Each month, we interview a captain or first officer of the fleet to gain more insight on what it takes to command a ship and learn more about how each of these staff members found their way into these roles.
This month, we’re interviewing Captain Sal Taybrim, CO of StarBase 118 Ops – our oldest simming installation that I, myself, founded in 1998!
WOLF: As far as I can tell the last time I interviewed you was way back in March of 2016 – that’s a shame! Can you refresh our audience’s memory and tell us a little about yourself including where you hail from and what you like to do when you’re not simming or leading super fun fleetwide chats?
TAYBRIM: Well, I live in Wisconsin, USA and spent most of my time in small towns – both for work and where I live. I grew up on a farm so small towns feel comfortable; but I love having the internet as a tool to talk to people all over the globe! When I’m not writing my husband and I run a variety of 5K races and obstacle courses, I’m still training for my second degree black belt in tae kwon do, love cooking and baking and I like to knit crazy things! Like socks that proudly proclaim “Don’t Panic!”
You’ve had one of the faster progressions through the ranks in the past few years. Did you come to our community with experience in writing or roleplaying?
Yes, I did. I started simming in e-mail based Star Trek games back in 1996. I got my first e-mail address and immediately found a Star Trek game to play. I actually found StarBase 118 after one of the longest games I played folded; and I was looking for a new game that stood the test of time, and StarBase 118 seemed like the best candidate!
That said, while e-mail simming was always a part of my life, my biggest roleplaying experiences came from playing the White Wolf tabletop games in college – Particularly Vampire: the Masquerade and Changeling: the Dreaming. After I graduated from college my friends and I gathered on the White Wolf online roleplaying chats where I ran an epic Changeling venue for a little over ten years straight. The last chat also closed about the same time I came to StarBase 118, so this is my new roleplaying haven to call home.
What was it like to learn our style and try and adapt to a new community?
It was very difficult for me at first because I came into StarBase 118 expecting it to play like most of the e-mail games I had played. But simming styles are really different across the board; and I was used to various prose-based sims (in particular round-robin style sims where you can write for other people’s characters. I’m sure just saying that will make a few player’s hearts skip a beat!) The StarBase 118 script style was very hard for me to adapt to until one of the senior officers I was talking to – I think it was Kael Thomas – mentioned that StarBase 118’s script style came from StarBase 118 starting as a chat game. And everything clicked. I knew a lot about how players interacted and collaborated over chats and that change in thinking really helped me adjust to how players are expected to work together in a script style format.
Talk to me about Starbase 118 Ops – while lots of other simming groups have starbases, ours is certainly one of the “oldest” Out Of Character since it was founded way back in 1998. How have you made it your own, and how often does your crew leave the base to go on “away” missions?
One of my biggest tenents in starting a new game is to make sure the players feel they have an ownership of the setting. If we were playing Dungeons and Dragons, I would have the adventuring party find a castle and clear it out of monsters before rebuilding it or have them earn land and build a keep rather than just putting them in a shiny new castle. That’s a bit harder to do in Star Trek where Starfleet usually puts a crew on a ship. I struggled quite a bit in trying to think about what ship I wanted to take on when I took command; and I remember a moment when Admiral Wolf suggested that it might just be better to stay on StarBase 118 until I could create the ship I wanted. And internally I went “wait, I can have Starbase 118? Why didn’t I realize that?!” and I decided that I would take on StarBase 118 and really make it not just my Starbase, but my crew’s Starbase..
From there I worked with the crew and staff into fleshing out important aspects of the base such as the commercial section and dealing with things we wanted to change. The most important one was the section called “the Below” which was a secret ‘deck 13’ style area of the base where criminal activity went on right under Starfleet’s nose. Everyone on staff had an issue with that because there was no explanation how The Below evaded sensors for years. So we did a lot of digging in the archives to find all the posts concerning this area and tried to make a good explanation on when this level was added and how this level avoided detection based on previous missions. And then we crafted a mission to get in there and deal with it. I loved how invested our crew became in revamping and recrafting this area and I’m really proud at how much creativity and detail the Ops crew put into reshaping areas of the base into a setting they love.
I also have to say I’m so excited we were able to take on the USS Columbia as our support ship. We have so many crew (including my own character) who have a connection to and positive memories of the Columbia. It feels so fitting to bring this storied ship back to StarBase 118 and have her at the forefront of our adventures.
As to how often do we leave the base? Usually we try to run two missions on the base and one away from the base. Although the line blurs a little when it comes down to the nitty gritty of the action. All of our long term plotlines center on StarBase 118, but sometimes we end up launching the Columbia to complete specific mission tasks. Running a starbase is certainly a different feel from running a ship that’s out there exploring – we don’t launch the Columbia to seek out new life, we almost always launch the Columbia to complete a specific goal that ties back to the storyline going on with StarBase 118. Fortunately we have a wonderful campaign region, where we can create a fascinating political tapestry that drives our stories. With the Klingons, Romulans, Federation and Orion Syndicate all staking claims in the same little area, we can always focus the drama on Starbase 118.
The last time you were interviewed here on the Community News you were just starting your command. What’s it been like over the last year or so getting situated. What do you feel like you’ve learned in the last year?
It feels like StarBase 118 had grown slowly but steadily in terms of how much the crew has fleshed out both the Starbase and the surrounding area. I am very happy with how detail oriented my crew is, and how we can keep building off every mission. Sometimes there’s a small detail that doesn’t really factor into a current mission that can be the focal point of a future mission and one thing I have learned is to keep track of all those details so they can be used again. For example, in one mission we had a list of Klingon colonies that was offhandedly mentioned as part of a report. In a future mission there was a ship destroying Klingon colonies so we brought that list up and used the same names. It was just a tiny detail, but it made the area of space we play in seem so much more alive.
I particularly love that the base is stationary because we can keep detailing the Trinity sector, pulling from hints and names in the wiki and giving each of these planets which may have once been just a mention some good dimension and life. I have also learned that it’s very valuable to encourage my crew to help build these worlds. Not only do many hands make light work, but I think that the more a crew helps to build a setting the more connection they will feel to that setting!
What has been the greatest challenge, in character and out of character, with the command experience?
In character I think the biggest challenge Sal has had is that he’s not a very play-by-the-rules sort of personality. He’s very much a character who will do what is right, even if it’s not a popular or even a sanctioned action. I have played with this in character having him get reprimanded by Starfleet, and having to work towards building a trusting relationship with his superiors. This makes the character more fun and interesting for me to play – I prefer to portray characters with flaws and to work through those flaws over time.
Out of character? I think building a strong and wonderful crew and staff was challenging but also extremely fulfilling. The more a commanding officer can give to their players the more they can expect back from them. I love it when a crew comes together like a well oiled machine, willing to pass the story spotlight around so that everyone gets their turn to shine as well as ther turn to support others.
And we can’t forget that you just won the prestigious Christopher Pike Pendant – awarded to commanding officers who command their ship with honor and dedication, and help to provide a creative atmosphere which fosters outstanding simming. Congratulations on this achievement! What does it mean to you to receive this award?
Thank you! I was surprised and very honored to receive this award. To me I feel this is one of the best honors I could receive, because I place a high value on creating a good story and great place for my crew to express their own story ideas. In many ways I feel this reflects as well upon me as it does on my crew. We all work together to create a wonderful setting to play in!
Thanks so much for your time!
You can read more about Capt. Taybrim on the wiki.