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Dear Kr’Abby: Pets

Dear Kr’Abby,

I am a Science Officer aboard a Starfleet vessel. Recently, I faced a disciplinary panel which concluded I should run all future and existing scientific projects by my superior officers before continuing. This is highly disagreeable. My question is, do bacteria count as a science project, or a pet? As long as the tank remains sealed, I do not believe anyone is in danger of contracting antibiotic-resistant necrotising fascilitis.

-I’m Not Mad, I’m a Scientist

Dear Mad Scientist,

It strikes me that even in this very question you are trying to find ways to skirt the rules.  Honest, I dislike rules as much as the next person, but you are a Starfleet Officer and Starfleet loves rules.  I am guessing that disciplinary panel you faced involved bending rules.  So I looked up the Starfleet rule regarding pets on Starfleet vessels:

Book 27, Section 386, Paragraph 8: All pets onboard a Starfleet vessel are subject to approval by the Chief Security Officer and the Chief Medical Officer to determine the appropriate safety levels of housing the pet on the vessel.  Reasonable accommodations will be made to allow officers and crew in single quarters or family quarters to keep a pet in those quarters and still maintain the safety of the crew at large.  Crew residing in double or bunk accommodations must have the permission of all bunk mates to keep the pet, or the pet must be easily contained in a manner that is both safe for others and humane for the pet.

I think the key words here are ‘reasonable accommodations’ and ‘easily contained’ which it appears your bacteria are.  That said it gives you a choice of running the bacterial experiment past your senior officers vs. running the bacterial pet past your chief of security and medicine.  Honestly if you are extremely committed to your experimentation you might be better served as an independent researcher, but if you are a committed Starfleet officer I expect your superiors will continue to tighten the rules until you are comfortable conforming to them or find a different venue to experiment in.

 

Dear Kr’Abby,

My daughter is obsessed with tribbles and wants to get one as a pet.  I don’t like tribbles.  What should I do?

-Starfleet Dad

Dear Starfleet Dad,

Threaten to eat the tribble, say no and get your daughter a cat instead.

I’m serious, tribbles are a menace to society.  Cats are nice.

Dear Kr’Abby is written by Doctor B’Rusk, the Federation’s foremost half-Klingon psychologist who specializes in tough-love advice. We take submissions from across the galaxy!


Witty Wordsmith: 5 Questions for Better Backstories

You’ve done it!  You have just graduated from the academy with a shiny new ensign!  Or maybe you just put yourself forward to play a pivotal new mission NPC.  Now you’re sitting with a blank wiki page and wondering how to flesh out a good character backstory that will make you and your fellow players want to read about and care about this character for months if not years to come.

1: Where does your character come from?

This is such an important question in defining a character’s backstory that frequently gets overlooked.  Say you want to play a human, but you want to make your human officer unique from other human officers on the ship.  Think of how different your character would be if they were born and grew up on a harsh colony world instead of Earth.  Or if they are a proud Lunar citizen and have a bunch of quirks that mark them as one.  Or maybe they grew up on a starship.  All of these locations turn a simple concept in a complex and interesting character.

Also consider – did your character grow up with lots of other species, or was everyone of the same species?  Or were you one of the only humans (or Vulcans or…) living in a very different culture.  Pick a location and build your character’s outlook, culture and quirks from that foundation.


Dear Kr’Abby: Coming of Age

Dear Kr’Abby,

May parents won’t let me leave the planet I live on.  All they do is nag me about how dangerous it is out there in the galaxy.  How do I get them to get off my back?
–Frustrated and Young

Dear Frustrated and Young,

The simple answer is: do your parents realize that it’s equally dangerous anywhere?  One cannot control chaos, it will strike whenever and wherever it pleases, even on the most pastoral of planets.  However, I imagine you have already pointed this out to your parents and have not gotten a positive response.  So let me address the two issues I see in this situation: the desire for freedom, and nagging.

You desire freedom, but have you thought it through?  Do you have employment available for you?  Shelter?  Friends or family who will support you in your travels?  A safe way to travel?  If you have not thought any of this through, your parents may be making valid points and you may need to put more time and effort into considering your adventures before you embark upon them.

Conversely, if you have put thought and effort into these issues and you are still being nagged, then nagging is a sign that your parents feel powerless and are trying to assert power over you.  It may be time for a discussion with them on why they feel the need to control your destiny.  They may have issues that they require counseling on.

Of course if you have prepared your trip well, talked to your parents and they still will not allow you your freedom, a great many adventures have come from a brave person who runs away from home.  Just make sure you have a job or family member waiting for you in the cosmos before you set off.

Dear Kr’Abby,

Girls think I smell bad, what should I do?
–Really not that smelly

Dear Really,

Well, do you smell bad?  That’s a loaded question as many species smell differently and many species have different olfactory senses to recognize good and bad smells.  So, please try this simple three step process:

  1. Are you fulfilling hygiene requirements for a young member of your species?  If not, do so!  Hygiene is not just for Vulcan scholars and teenage Terran girls, but for everyone!  If so, then go to step two.
  2. Is your species known for a pungent smell?  If not, please see a health professional and get a routine examination.  A foul smell can be a sign of a medical condition.  If not, continue to step three.
  3. If you are healthy and hygienic, tell the girls to kiss your targ.

Everyone will smell differently, and some people just need to learn to adapt to everything that living in a multi-species galaxy brings, including many new smells.

Dear Kr’Abby is written by Doctor B’Rusk, the Federation’s foremost half-Klingon psychologist who specializes in tough-love advice. We take submissions from across the galaxy!


Dear Kr’Abby: Romantic Complications

Dear Kr’Abby,

I love this girl, but she’s Vulcan and doesn’t even notice me.  What should I do?
–Worried I’m Invisible


Witty Wordsmith: Acting vs. Reacting – How to Plan Better Stories

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything” Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

How many times have you gotten halfway into a mission or a story or a roleplaying encounter and started to feel frustrated because you didn’t have a sense of direction or your team wasn’t working together as a cohesive whole?  It can happen even to the most experienced players and best COs.  Once a story starts to go off the rails problems tend to increase as more players get frustrated and start reacting to what’s being thrown out in the plot; and reactions often prompt bad decisions and the situation can easily snowball.

A lot of things can derail a mission.  Maybe one team was more clever than expected and they solved a part of the story too fast so the player portraying the adversaries tossed out some unexpected new opposition to entertain that group while the other teams catch up.  Maybe too many players decide to escalate a situation until it becomes ridiculously tough to handle or maybe the mission leaders decide to spring a surprise on unwary players who react badly.  Derailing doesn’t have to be solely the fault of poor mission planning and it can happen to anyone.  But the good news is there’s some ways you can deal with it when it happens and plan to stop it before it starts.


Witty Wordsmith: What is Powersimming?

The word ‘powersimming’ comes from the term ‘powergaming,’ a term which came out of tabletop roleplaying.  Powergaming is when a player focuses on the mechanics of the game so heavily that they stop thinking about the story that the game is trying to tell, the appropriateness of what elements they are placing on their character and the balance of the character in the party so that everyone is having fun.  But what does it mean in a script-style sim that doesn’t have game mechanics or dice rolls?

Powersimming is where one player dictates the actions of another player or players by “writing them into a corner.”  The tags in a powersimming exchange do not open up the action for all players to contribute equally, but instead drive the other players into following the ideas and decisions of the writer.

No matter what the game’s rules are, powergaming or powersimming both have the same root problem – they give a dominating amount of control to one player while the other players feel sidelined.  Unfortunately in a script style game it can be difficult to know how to advance a story without powersimming.  But it also tends to be much easier to correct powersimming than powergaming – you don’t have to re-roll your character, you just need to adjust your tags.

So, how do you get your ideas across without pushing other characters in a controlling fashion?

Limit your tags.  There is a reason that 4-5 tags is considered the ‘sweet spot’ for most posts.  That tends to be the right number of tags to get your ideas through without forcing a scene to go in a certain direction.  While sometimes you’ll have a bit less or a bit more, if you’re routinely leaving 8 or more tags you should re-read your posts and see if you can cut down the number of tags to allow your fellow players more agency in collaborating with the action.

Don’t assume answers to important questions.  If you ask another character ‘would you like anything to drink?’ unless they have a history of never accepting hospitality (or not drinking liquids) you can safely assume the answer is yes and continue on with your tags.  But if you reach a critical moment in a scene and have to ask an important question it’s always good to leave that as your final tag and let the other player respond.  No matter how common sense your character might think their decision is, the other characters in the scene may have a completely different point of view.  A Kelpian officer might think “we should run away!” is the most sensible advice ever, while a Klingon officer would think that was the most dishonorable idea possible.

Get excited at your fellow player’s answers.  Sometimes it can be scary giving up the control of the scene to other players.  But that’s also one of the best things about simming.  If you were writing fiction you would never get the ideas and feedback from other writers like you do in simming.  That element of waiting for replies and seeing what new direction a scene goes in is a special thrill.  The more you appreciate it the more you’ll start leaving open-ended tags and have the fun of a collaborative ride and a story that go where no one expected it to go!

When in doubt ask your mentor or CO.  Sometimes learning how to leave tags that collaborate well with your fellow players is a matter of experience.  And the experienced staff on your ship are there to help any players – new or old – with playing better and writing better.  If you have questions about a scene, tags or maybe you feel that another player pushed your character into a corner and took away your agency, talk it out with your staff.  Communication help solve problems and makes every game stronger and every player better.


Dear Kr’Abby: Family Questions

Dear Kr’Abby,

I’m pregnant and dealing with overprotective co-workers.  How should I stand up for myself while still maintaining Starfleet decorum?
–Starfleet Mom

Dear Starfleet Mom,

You know how highly I esteem the honor of Starfleet officers but in this case I believe you should take a lesson from Klingon child-rearing and headbutt any co-workers who get too bossy or pushy.  This works wonders to discourage strangers from touching your belly as well! Now I hear that Starfleet regulations take unkindly towards headbutting if it causes injury, and some Federation species do not have the reinforced skull plating that Klingons or even half-Klingons like myself possess.  In this case I suggest wearing a highly fashionable padded headband to protect yourself while still getting your point across.

However, if you are wholly committed to a peaceable diplomatic solution, firmly tell any co-workers who do not out-rank you and who you are not bonded to or who have not contributed biological material to your offspring that they do not get a say in how you conduct yourself and you duties.  If your superior officers have a problem with this, then see if their demands are rational.  If so, follow orders, honor demands that you swallow your pride from time to time to obey the chain of command for the greater glory of your Federation Empire.  If they are unreasonable, however I suggest seeking a new station or posting where you can have the respect you deserve.

Dear Kr’Abby,

I’m supposed to be marrying a quad of fellow Andorians, but two of the three others are completely insane.  I’m not sure this will work out, even though our family’s hopes are riding on it.  What should I do?
–AndorianBlues

Dear AndorianBlues,

How insane are we talking?  Is this ‘irritating but ultimately bearable’ insane or is this ‘toasted your favorite pet targ over the warp core manifold’ insane? If the actions of your intended quad-mates threaten your life, then get out now.

However, assuming that the personalities are simply difficult, in this enlightened age, there is much we do to further our houses.  Take this burden upon yourself until it is fulfilled and then speak openly about the total commitment, letting the others understand that you will travel onward after all familial cuties are completed.  I understand that multiple bondings are not uncommon for Andorians and you should be able to move forward after this issue is resolved.  Remember, if punches are not being traded then communication is key.

If punches are being traded, well… is that aggression or foreplay?

Dear Kr’Abby is written by Doctor B’Rusk, the Federation’s foremost half-Klingon psychologist who specializes in tough-love advice. We take submissions from across the galaxy!


Witty Wordsmith: How to Avoid Burnout

“I don’t know what to do next in the story.”

“I have writer’s block.”

“I’m just not interested in my character anymore.”

Have you ever gotten these feelings?  Have you had a hard time connecting to the story and the game?  Burnout is a natural pitfall of any hobby, especially creative ones.  It happens to everyone at some point in their simming career.  But there are some tricks to enjoying the game long term, and to rebound from feelings of burnout without quitting the game for long spans of time.

At base, burnout is when you don’t know what to do next with your character.  This could be because you can’t think of what actions to take next or could be due to a feeling of disconnection from the character where you don’t care about what happens.  Either way, the longer it goes on the more likely you’ll stop having fun with the game.  So how do you stop this from happening and turn it around?


Writers Workshop: Advice from Award Winners

We’ve just seen the 2394 Fleetwide awards ceremony celebrated at the end of June.  It’s a time of celebration and inspiration for writers of all levels.  Maybe you’ve won a few awards or maybe you will be working hard to win your first award next year.  No matter where you are in your writing you can always learn something from your fellow players!

In celebration of the fleetwide awards ceremony, I asked awards winners for some advice to share with newer players.  I hope everyone can take something from these wonderful words of wisdom, and once again congratulations to every player who won an award this year!


Trek trivia today in the fleetwide chat

Today’s chat will feature a special kick-back-and-relax activity: we’ll be hosting a special Star Trek trivia contest for all the trivia heads out there!  We’ll have 1 hour of trivia that covers all four Star Trek series, the animated series, all 10 ‘prime universe’ movies and a nod to the JJ-verse, with even a little bit of Starbase 118 trivia thrown in!

This chat starts at today (Sunday, July 9), at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern / 6pm BST / 3am+1 Sydney AUS.

Join us in the chat room by clicking here – no extra software required! You can chat right from your browser window. If it’s your first time in our new Discord server, you’ll need to take a short tutorial and register your username.

All participants will earn a special trivia badge and our esteemed winner will get a very special elite badge to show off on their profile!  Did you know last year’s trivia winner was Fleet Captain Zalea Solzano?  Do you think you can be the next trivia champion?

See the rules for trivia and learn more on the forums.

Who can participate?  Any StarBase 118 member who shows up!  Remember to set your chat name to your primary character name so we know who you are and you can get bragging rights for your mad trivia skills! Not into trivia?  No worries!  You can come and spectate, cheer on your teammates, and join us for an open chat afterwards!


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