Each month, we interview a captain or first officer of the fleet to gain more insight into what it takes to command a ship and learn more about how each of these staff members found their way into these roles, and what’s been happening under their command
This month, we’re interviewing the Commanding Officer of Starbase 118 Ops, Commodore Sal Taybrim, a Betazoid male.
Nilsen: You’re becoming a regular here at Newsies HQ, we interviewed you a few months ago to talk about your awards and you mentioned craft beer, I am your new best friend. Tell me more about the beers you love out of character, and what would Taybrim be found drinking?
Taybrim: I love locally made beers and I adore attending local festivals. Because I am also a runner, the perfect Saturday for me in the spring and summer is to run anywhere from 5 to 15 kilometres and then enjoy bands and a lovely craft beer at a local brewery. I am fortunate enough to live in an area where such events are pretty common and I have made a lot of local friends this way! Sal and I both have a common taste for things that are not overly sweet and a fondness for bitter. I absolutely adore a juicy IPA with a strong hint of grapefruit (I also love just plain old grapefruit) but I think Sal would tend towards the sours like a lemony gose.
Then again on the days when there are no runs to be had my husband and I get on our bikes and bicycle over to one of our local favourite places which specialises in barrel-aged dark beers, and that would be the perfect dessert drink to enjoy overlooking a Wisconsin lake for me, or maybe on the terrace of the Promenade of StarBase 118 overlooking the city centre for Sal.
I also was wondering if you’d tell us a little more about your experience with your hobbies, particularly your crocheting and knitting. How did you get started? What are some of the wackiest things you’ve made?
I know I enjoy haunting the crafting channel of the Discord server! I started crocheting as a small child – at the age of five or six – because my mother and my aunt would make all sorts of crocheted decorations from ornaments to afghans and I wanted to learn. I picked it up again in high school to try making some fashion pieces and in college to help with my technical theatre studies. I learned how to knit because a friend of mine begged me for a Jayne Cobb hat. So I taught myself how to knit and ended up enjoying it so much that it became my primary craft.
Some of the oddest pieces I have made include a massive Cthulu amigurumi figure that is over a foot tall, a computer-pixel-based dither pattern scarf for my husband that used over a mile of yarn and not one, not two, but three massive shawls that replicate various types of wings. There’s something magical about making yourself your own set of wings (or three!)
If I’m correct, you’re the CO of one of the longest-standing installations in the fleet. How would you compare the Starbase 118 Ops of now to that of the past?
Oh goodness. When we first relaunched StarBase 118 Ops – I was the first officer under Leo Handley-Page. Leo wanted to turn Ops away from the rambunctious “anything goes” installation it had been historically and into something more respectable. We spent quite a bit of time scouring the wiki and upgrading things, integrating areas like marines and intel into the whole Starfleet structure and gameplay. In the past, some of these elements played almost like separate games and we wanted everything to collaborate and work together.
We also slowly wrote stories to remove some of the sillier elements that had been written into Ops. Like once upon a time there was a secret criminal sublevel beneath the promenade… which we thought was pretty strange that it was secret on a Starfleet base. Now it’s a swanky subdivision for people who want to live in a dark, mysterious (but totally Starfleet-safe) place. I like the improvements we made, I think it sets Ops up for long-term success and bright future stories.
What are some of your highlights from the past year on Ops? Any moments from you or your crew that you want to shout about
For me, the biggest highlight was being able to write a personal story with Sal where I finally was able to focus on his damaged telepathy and some of his medical issues that had compounded from years of dangerous Starfleet adventuring and get some of those addressed in sim and fixed. This has given me a lot of new opportunities and freedom to write new stories with Sal and he doesn’t feel like such a dusty old character.
For the crew, I was so incredibly proud of our new and junior crew members in one of our past missions where we had a body swap. This was a chance for some of our newest players to step up and truly shine and they did an utterly fantastic job taking opportunities and making creative sims to help solve the story problems. I love it any time the crew step forward and has new fresh ideas that inspire others!
Tell us about your leadership style. What would I see both out of and in character if I was stationed on Ops?
I firmly believe in open, honest communication and player agency. In a game where anything is possible so long as words go onto a page, players having the freedom to write meaningful stories and to make important decisions and carry them through is an integral part of the experience.
Of course, this can be a double-edged sword if one player’s actions infringe on another player’s agency. Collaboration is a key concept in any roleplaying game and it can be a difficult skill to learn for some players. At base, I want to build up players who all want to actively support each other and open doors for one another so everyone gets to write the things that matter to them together.
This is reflected in Sal Taybrim who is built to be an understanding, genial, warm and empathetic character. He wants to connect with and understand other people, he’s an extrovert a diplomat and a people person. He wants his crew to collaborate and he’s more than willing to always be in the thick of things with them because he’s one of them.
Building on this, what does leadership mean to you?
To me, leadership is about advocating for and inspiring others. As long as a player comes to the game to collaborate and work with other players in a positive way we can work with that player to help them reach their goals. I feel very strongly that this is both a game and a story, the point of a game is to have fun, and the point of a story is to be meaningful. Some support and praise will go a long way to help build a player up to feel comfortable writing meaningful stories.
Advocating for players is making sure you are the ones removing roadblocks, whether that’s solving simple tech issues mediating player disputes or making the difficult decision to remove an uncollaborative player. A lot of this loops back to open and honest communication. Players need to communicate their needs and frustrations to staff. Staff need to communicate their intended courses of action and expectations to players. It’s not easy, but it sets a ship up for long-term success.
What are some of the goals you’d like to accomplish, both for Sal and for Ops as a whole for the next year?
Our biggest upcoming goal is to help Lieutenant Commander Gogigobo Fairhug attain the rank of Commander and get him set up for success on his leadership journey. To me, helping someone else succeed is one of the best feelings in the game and it comes with such energy and joy that it should make 2401 an absolutely memorable and fantastic year!
Thanks for your time, Commodore Taybrim!
You can read more about Commodore Sal Taybrim on the wiki.