Journal of the Emerald Specter 89: The Rook Disaster

Wait, another Journal entry so soon? I told you I was going to be writing a few entries while I looked for time to record the Specter Show.

Content is king. This content is another “tale from the past” that was about something other than eWrestling… this one is about SIMming.

A SIM, for the uninitiated, is a simulation. I’ve tagged Obsidian Fleet more than once, but that is really what SIMming is (and has turned into) and I can summarize it as a “collaborative writing effort to tell a story guided by the Captain.”

My first SIM was the USS Sovereign, based on the Enterprise E from Star Trek: Insurrection. I played the role of a medical officer (Allison Blair) and added a little twist of having a witchcraft heritage in her family. I was slowly expanding that story until a change in command (a new, or rather returning, story leader came in… someone I’d never met) shifted how the SIM ran to the point I wasn’t really enjoying myself. I was also told to nix the witchcraft and I did by deciding to leave.

I found a couple of other SIMs, learned the ropes of how to really do things both as a player and even as a storyteller. That’s when I started in on being a captain of my own ship.

This isn’t about that first ship. It’s not even about the second ship. It’s about the third ship, the USS Rook (a ship that was created at my request, though I hadn’t realized I made a request at the time).

I’ve run my fair share of roleplaying games throughout the years. I was good enough to run Werewolf: The Apocalypse without the books, I’ve run lots of Vampire: The Masquerade AND Vampire: The Requiem games, and my old favorite of Wraith: The Oblivion got some play as I ran some games, too. All that table top RPG experience led me to believe that some of my techniques in RPGs would work well in SIMming.

When Obsidian Fleet has a new captain, they run them through a sort of boot camp to teach them the ins and outs of how to run a SIM. I had been through their boot camp and since I was returning, I got to go through the refresher version for the Rook. Once you finish the prep work, you run an “episode 0” as a sort of a “take the ship out to test it” game so that all the players can get used to the ship. Once I got through with that, the “fun” began.

Each and every player had written up a background for their characters, as they are supposed to, and I noticed a pattern when I was reading through them. Almost every single character had a person in their backstory with a past that was either shady, undeveloped, or otherwise attached to some sort of crime. While we were still in episode 0, I began heavy duty development of episode 1.

The story was ingenious. I patted myself on the back so hard and I thought that there would be record posts recorded on the Rook because of how deeply I’d developed this single story!

I took every single one of my characters from old SIMs and introduced them, coyly, into the Rook roster. Each one of them was introduced into their different departments as “advisors” without a rank. I’d had a variety of characters in different departments (because I wanted to play different roles through the years) and them all coming on the ship at once was to invest the players in their presence.

How? Well, I purposely held everyone’s rank to Lieutenant JG or lower, except for the XO. The mission that this advisor crew were brought on for was to investigate a ship that was lost in the line of duty. While we traveled there, though, that was where things were going to really take root for the actual mission (the lost ship was going to be episode 2).

The advisor crew were tipped off by a father/uncle/cousin figure from the crew’s past, who was working with others of similarly shady repute from other species than human, to the presence of a roboticist who was wanted by the Federation for (banned) eugenics experimentation to create an alternative to the Borg threat (basically creating an anti-Borg). The “advisors” were brought on because only the newly commissioned Rook had the technological advancements available to help this sinister roboticist complete the final stages of the first anti-Borg, which meant they were going to mutiny and take the ship straight there.

When the transmissions from a ship shadowing the Rook were detected by the crew, it was revealed that this father/uncle/cousin figure, along with his cohorts of other species, were involved in a nefarious plot (as was suspected by their histories). The mutiny was initiated and the movement towards getting everyone super invested into the story I’d weaved was underway! The posts were destined to start flooding in!

Posting dropped by more than 50%.

I was so confused. As a captain should, I put out a plea that we needed to keep active and get the posting up… and I had several players transfer off the ship without any notice. Posting continued to diminish and some people just flaked (which means they didn’t respond, didn’t post, and just generally stopped playing without notice).

My Task Group CO, the person I reported to as the captain, contacted me and told me that there were some complaints that I’d overstepped a little. Overstepped? I was told that I had messed with some backgrounds that players were upset over, and rather than them coming to me about what I’d tried to do.

Episode one was dead. A whitewash story was made up over the story that had been used as a reason the Rook had been brought back to dry dock. I’d contacted the TFCO and let them know I was stepping down as the captain, and someone else stepped in to keep the ship from disappearing completely.

I was completely blindsided. Absolutely none of the players who complained said anything to me. None of them bothered to mention that they had plans for anything, none of them seemed to think to say something to me about this plan I thought was magnificent… I could have recovered from someone giving me direct feedback, but I didn’t get any.

A tactic I use as a GM in a table top RPG is to take the character’s backstories and weave them into the story. I thought that by using everyone’s backstory in the SIM I’d get everyone interested in the SIM and want to move forward as one of the highest posting SIMs in the fleet. Instead, I was crapped on and left out in the cold.

I don’t actually know what the true issue was. I know that I haven’t SIMmed since on a Star Trek based SIM and I haven’t done anything more than lurk on the Obsidian Fleet site.

Just like the last story, my memory may not be as solid as I thought. Memoir over biography.

I don’t run great ideas by the people who would experience those things. That would be akin to an author running their story idea by you, their reader, before writing the book. Things like that don’t work. What’s the point of playing a game where you already know what’s going to happen?

Someone will refute my claims above. Honestly, it probably wasn’t as dramatic as I made it out to be… but it wasn’t that far off, either.