2153, August 15
Capt Suzanna Batenburg
Various people have given their help and suggestions during this guide's development and revision. We learn from the past so to those in the past, we thank you. Some content was also adapted or taken from these sources:
* UCIP Email SIM Senior Officers Training Guide V1.1 - Written by Captain Suzanna Blokpoel
* TFE Command Course Guide V1.1 - Written by Captain Suzanna Batenburg
Welcome to the Email SIM Senior Officer Training guide!!!
Congratulations belong to you, you have recently been promoted to Department Head, a Senior Officer. This means that your CO and XO have seen the potential within you. This Guide is not in anyway a replacement of the Command Course Guide it is more like a preparation for it. This course is intended as a stepping stone, to help make the transition between Assistant Officer to that of Senior Officer. Most SIMmers are a little bit confused how things change for them when they do become a Department Head. The job of Department Head comes with a number of privileges but also responsibilities. The next step is to build on your experience, polish your skills and over time become 2XO, XO and some of you will go on to become COs. Becoming a Senior Officer also means that you need to help your CO and XO to direct the plot. The latter is what I will try to explain to you in this guide.
This guide will covers areas from the Command Course that deal with IC plot related items and looks at how those apply to you as Department Head. Because like COing and XOing, you run your department just like the CO and XO run the whole ship.
There are three types of Email CO.
1) Those who do it
2) Those who have learned to do it
3) Those who will never learn it because they just don't grasp the basic concept.
Each of you falls either in category 1 or 2. Each of you has already shown signs of your potential and the ability. All it takes is to polish that ability and opening your eyes to a few basic concepts and a bit of experience. If you understand the basic concept of Email COing, the rest can be learned, and it isn't that difficult. Here you will get your basic training as Department head and Senior Officer. It does require 4 things:
1) Flexibility and
2) Attention to Detail
3) Creativity (the 'Everything fits, otherwise we'll make it fit' approach ;-) )
4) Looking at the bigger picture (ie How does this affect the other departments? Does this include my Assistants?).
In Email... unless it has been logged somehow, it hasn't happened. Simple as that.
In this course I will cut and paste a few sections of the Official Command Course guide (the full guide can be found at http://URL to be confirmed) to show you the basics of how a plot is directed IC by the CO and XO and then show how that applies to what each of you do and need to do as Department Head. Because like I said above, like COing and XOing, a Senior Officer runs his/her department just like the CO and XO run the whole ship.
It all comes down to the Chain of Command (CoC). The CO receives IC orders from the Fleet Commander, and looks at the bigger picture on Fleet level. ie, how does this plot affect the other SIMs in the Fleet?
The XO is a key interface between the CO and the department heads. The XO needs to be both a Command Officer and a Department Head. I know that sounds confusing. What I mean is that an XO keeps a close eye on the orders that were given by CO and then checks up with the Department Heads to make sure the orders are passed on. If there is a technical OOC problem with the Department Head the XO can log for this Senior Officer and make sure the Assistants in that Department are kept involved. If a Senior Officer hasn't quite grasped the bigger picture yet, a log from the XO can help tie up some of the subplots and help the Senior Officer IC to deal with the situation at hand.
The Department Heads receive orders from the CO and XO and need to look at the bigger picture on a SIM level. ie... how does what I do affect the other departments and our SIM plot?
Let's look at how a CO starts the plot:
<<snip from Command Course guide - How to start an Email Plot>>
It's the CO's, or in the CO's absence the XO's, responsibility to start the plot. This is done by posting a 'plot starting log'. The plot starting log should paint a picture of the situation as it is at the moment and give a good indication of what can be expected, ie, what sort of direction the plot is going. The latter is done by issuing specific orders to all Departments Heads. They will then log accordingly, adding to the plot themselves as it develops. Remember, unless you tell them IC in a briefing or other way, via message or communicator.. they do not know things. You need to talk to your crew to get them started in the plot.
Remember that as CO
you have to look at the bigger picture, you need to ensure that *all* your
department heads are involved in the plot you create and give them information
and orders in your plot starting log. They will then involve their assistants.
If it is not possible to involve all the department heads, you can consider
creating a small subplot for them until you can get them involved in the main
So.. how does that apply to you as Department Head?
When a new plot, or a new subplot starts, your Department will receive direct orders from the CO. If it is a totally new plot, the plot starting log will paint a picture of what to expect (ie. you've been called to a briefing where an outline has been given or something to that effect). If it is a subplot, the picture of the situation has already been painted before hand in the logs.
What is expected from you is first of all to respond to these orders. Acknowledge them, the next step is to get your assistants (active or NPC) involved. Please note that although the use of NPC is a great tool to way to bring depth to the picture in your department, the ACTIVE assistants go first. At all times you need to check if your active assistants have something to do. Looking at the bigger picture basically.
Let's look at how big the picture is, these ships we serve on have more than just the active crew to run them. The NX class has 87 crew, but generally we have about 10-15 active SIMmers.
This means that every department will have plenty of NPC officers and crew. Because the NX is designed as a Vessel of Science and Exploration, that is where the main focus of the crew numbers is.. in SCI and Engineering. That does not mean that its Armoury epartment is not important.. On the contrary they will protect the ship and the rest of the crew as they boldly seek out new life and new civilisations :-).
Science, Medical and Communications work together, so does Armoury, Engineering and Helm.
The Armoury should be kept informed of the research and be able to give advice from their point of view on the projects undertaken where appropriate.
To give an idea of size, the Crew Split on an NX, for example is as follows:
Petty Officer 3rd Class (PO3)
Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2)
Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1)
Chief Petty Officer (CPO)
Senior Chief Petty Officer (SCPO)
Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO)
Warrant Officer (WO)
Chief Warrant Officer (CWO)
Back to the specifics...
So, the Senior Officers have received orders, that is the COs way to get your Department involved in the plot. Now it is time for you as Department head to start your subplot, the one that involves your Department and ties it into the main plot. So what do you do?
You do the same thing... you need to get your Assistants involved in the plot. Depending on the situation, you can have a Department meeting, to brief them on the situation and what you expect from them. Then give specific orders to the Active Assistants first and foremost (assuming of course that your department has them, if your department does not have any active Assistants, you can also give orders to your NPC Assistants). If you've used NPCs, then in a later log just have that NPC report that his or her work is complete.
Alternatively you can contact your Assistants using the comm system or just calling a few of them together somewhere. It doesn't really matter how, as long as it fits into the current plot and you explain what is going and what you need them to do.
Now the plot has started, and now is the time to pay attention to the details. To recognise how what one person does can have an effect on everyone. Lets look at a few examples.
How does that translate to the Department Heads:
* The ship will rock unexpectedly. Remember the start of 'the Undiscovered Country'?. People were thrown about (isn't it about time they fitted seatbelts ;-) ), equipment was thrown about.
* Sickbay can expect minor casualties (cuts and bruises).
* Engineering can expect some minor damage.
* Communications should compile the damage report and co-ordinate repair teams with Engineering.
* Science will try to find out where the shock wave came from.
* Armoury will keep its eyes open for possible threats.. we were caught off guard... Liaises with Science on this.
* Armoury will always roam the ship, they can give first aid, help co-ordinate with sickbay and report any damage they see to Communications and Engineering.
How does that translate to the Department Heads:
* Armoury looks after internal sensors and needs to monitor the explosion and report it.
* Who ever was contacted in that log needs to respond to it.
* Sickbay has a patient to treat.
* The conduit needs to be repaired.
C) The turbo lifts have been reported to be malfunctioning and have been taken off line.
How does that translate to the Department Heads:
* Everyone is climbing through Jeffrey Tubes and it is a long climb from Engineering on deck H to the Bridge on deck A ;-)
* Engineering needs to work at finding a cause and solution.
So as Senior Officer it is very important to read all the logs carefully and think:
* 'How does that affect my Department?'
* 'Do I need to do anything in response to this?'
* 'Do my active Assistants have something to do?'
Personally, as CO, I generally do not direct the plot OOC, I very rarely send emails to our command list or to individual officers about specific things I need them to do. It makes for a far more cohesive story and plot line to do this IC. It also allows for more plot freedom. The crew come up with ideas and recommendations, the COs pick and choose which they will follow. The disadvantage is that at times this slows things down a little bit. But on the other hand, that gives other the opportunity to write personal logs, and it all adds to the depth of the plot and our characters. Which in turn leads to a higher quality SIM.
Having said that, there are exceptions of course, because of a larger Fleet objective it may be necessary to post a basic plot outline to the Senior Officers. On the rare occasions when I do such a thing, I do expect my senior officers to bear it in mind when they write their logs.
So how is a plot directed by the CO? Let's look at what the Command Guide teaches the COs and XOs.
<<Snip from the Command guide>>
2.7 Directing the plot
In Email, after the plot has been started and the crew has started logging based on the 'plot starting log', the CO will need to post logs as and when the plot requires it. Please remember that the general logging requirement is only one log per week and the crew will need *at least* 48 hours to respond to logs. In your logs, as CO, you need to clarify situations, make decisions, and in doing so steer the plot in the direction you want it to go.
It's the CO's and XO's responsibility to ensure that the logs posted by the crew are tied into the main plot line and story. This is done by creating a sequence of events from the crew logs, confirming details established in those logs from the crew and on a regular basis establishing an overview of what has happened in your logs (the latter can be achieved by reflecting back briefly over what has happened in the last few hours/days for example) before moving the plot forward again. This is to make sure that the logs posted by the crew make sense within the plot, creating cohesion and become a story rather then stay loose and 'bitty'. A loose and bitty story can cause a lot of confusion for the crew.
You can, and at times, will need to speak for some of your officers in your logs to ensure that your orders are carried out and for the plot to be moved forward. Care should be taken though that when you do, you portrait the character correctly. Play it on the side of caution if you are unsure, and keep the conversation to a minimum without harming the log or the plot.
Attention to the *DETAILS* in the logs from your crew is *CRUCIAL*, and whenever possible you should use them. The logs from the crew need to be confirmed in the logs from the CO and XO. Not necessarily by quoting them literally, but by using the information given in those logs to move the plot forward and dealing with the situations in the subplots created by the crew. The crew wants and *NEEDS* to have the freedom to add to the plot, move it forward with their, with their own ideas as well. They will become disillusioned and eventually drop out if they can't or if they *feel* they can't, and if they are always only filling in the bits after the event so to speak. They each have a great imagination, let them help you write the plot and unfold the story.
Having said that, the crew should be made aware that major changes to the plot should be cleared by the CO and/or XO before being posted to the list.
Extra subplots should only be introduced by the CO if the crew are not doing so themselves, or if the plot needs to be guided into a specific direction. Email SIMs have more depth rather than width, and creation of subplots by the CO for the sake of it, is not encouraged. Too many subplots make the plot too complicated and confuse the crew. They won't know what to focus on and the result is half finished subplots that haven't had the opportunity to be properly developed because of time constraints and the possible confusion. This in turn will harm the overall quality of the plot and the SIM.
Also, be aware *NEVER* to end your log with a cliff hanger, it may look good for a general non-participating reader. But unless someone else in the crew knows how you want to move the plot forward and will do so within 24 hours of your cliff hanger, such an end of the CO's log will stop the plot dead in the water until you log again and move the plot forward.
That is how the CO and XO direct the plot, it also explains why our logs tend to be on the long side ;-).
You need to do the same within your department and with your assistants. Every Department will get something to do and that is your subplot. Once you have received your orders and have passed them on. You keep a close eye on the logs of your assistants, you tie in the logs of your assistants into your logs. Much like the CO will do with the logs of the Department heads. That makes the Assistants feel like part of the team and like they make valuable contributions. If your department doesn't have active assistants, then report on behalf of the NPCs.
As stated in the Command Course Guide, you can speak for other Characters, and you may even in SMALL doses speak for your CO. But be aware that when you do, you can NOT have the CO or XO make decisions for you, even less so, if you have not had prior permission. As Senior Officer and Department Head, you make recommendations IC, then end your log with that recommendation. Choosing between the recommendations is how the CO and XO direct the plot IC. We know what general direction we want to go into, and if your plot idea will fit into it or not.
The same counts for you and your Assistants, they can make recommendations to their immediate CO, you. And you in turn can make decisions on a department level. If those recommendations have a wider implication on the plot, you need to talk to the XO or CO IC.
I won't go through all of the ones, only the ones that have an impact on a Department Head and how you can help there.
<<Snips from Command guide>>
2.8.1 SLOW simulation (How to keep it alive)
At times, a SIM may run slowly. Primarily, this is due to key officers not having much to do, being incompetent in playing their role, or experiencing Email or OOC RL trouble. When the SIM is going slowly, and you do not suspect OOC/Email trouble, try to prompt key officers into getting more involved. Ask for more input from them, or order them into doing a long-term activity like keeping watch for certain conditions, going to a part of the ship to fix something, etc. The executive officer should be watching for occasions such as this and should handle them personally if possible.
You do this by posting a log, specifically asking them for, or ordering them to do the above mentioned suggestions. It is not advisable to create a completely new subplot in an attempt to speed up the plot in these circumstances. This could only cause (more) confusion with the officer involved and even the rest of the crew. Remember to leave enough time for the existing subplots to develop in Email.
Also check whether an officer that seem quiet or hesitant is such because of their incompetence in playing their role. You may need to coach them in what they need to do, or in a more extreme case, asking them to yield their post to another crewmember.
Part of the job of the Executive Officer is to make sure that the crew is able to do their duties. The CO may flag out a specific individual to the XO so that the individual may be instructed with OOC Emails or IC interaction for Email SIMs. The XO is an extension of the Academy in the effect that it is their responsibility to ensure the training at the academy took hold and that individual is ready to do their job; if not... train them.
In Email cases of a crewmember or crewmembers seemingly experiencing OOC problems that prevent logging, you can wait until they recover by speaking for that character in the mean time in your logs (use them as NPC) if required, or re-assign someone to take their place if possible in an acting position if the problems lasts longer. The main thing is to make sure that the plot continues despite the trouble of one officer, unless of course that officer is singularly important to the plot.
Keep an eye on your assistants. Make sure they are kept busy IC, a more experienced SIMmer won't need much in the way of orders and IC guidance to be kept busy but the new SIMmers will. Regardless, interact with your Assistants, encourage them IC and OOC and help them feel part of the team.
If there are specific things you notice that they keep getting wrong, send them a private email and guide them to the relevant section of the SIM guide or Advanced Course Guide (when available). Make sure you are positive in your approach if you need to correct them and be careful not to correct them on every little thing. Only if it is major stuff. Tell them they are doing a good job, and that there is a way to do even better and proceed to show them in a *constructive* way what you mean. We were all nervous when we started SIMming.. I know I was terrified when I posted my first log. I had panic attack about 3 months later when I was assigned as IC XO, at a time when I had only barely figured out what I was supposed to do as Chief Science. So what we want to try and do, is build their self-confidence, not break it with constant criticism.
If you intend to send one of your assistants such an email, feel free to show it to the CO or XO first, for advice. Always CC or BCC (if more appropriate as not to scare him/her off) it to either the CO or XO or both. So they know that a certain issue is being addressed and won't duplicate the effort or make them feel inadequate by more than one person addressing them over something.
Encourage your assistants to take advanced courses, especially the one relating to their department. But also the others, so they get a better understanding how the different departments work and how they interact.
Something that I did when I was Chief of Science with multiple assistants, I had them choose a specific area of expertise to look after. For example, Stellar Cartography, biological Sciences, Geological Sciences, technological sciences... to name but a few. I made them sub department head, and gave them a desk and a couple of NPCs in their little department to play with
The idea behind this is, that it is, at times, difficult to keep all your active Assistants directly involved in the plot. Or you have to take an unexpected LOA for a few days or a week. This way, they are not stuck for something to log about as they have their own little area to write about. They also get the chance to practice their leadership skills on the NPCs, and learn to look at the bigger picture. Also, when the plot asks for expertise in a certain field... we can use that particular Assistant and give him or her the chance to get a bit of the lime light and show off that expertise.
Medical, Engineering, Science and Armoury are the three other departments where there are likely to be multiple assistants. So the opportunity to assign areas of responsibility to the Assistants. Think about it and discuss it with your CO and XO if you want to set this up IC in your Department.
I'll start off with a snip from the Command guide again.
2.8.2 LOSS OF CONTROL (How to keep it in-line)
I If a log introduces a sub plot that is totally away from the plot direction you have in mind, you can send an OOC message over the listserv to retract the whole log, or part of the log. This should only be used as a *total LAST RESORT*, for instance in case of fleetplot where this log would impact on other SIMs in a major way. Generally speaking the CO and XO need to incorporate as much as possible from that log and only changing the very bare minimum of the details from the 'wayward' log in your own log as you steer the plot back in the direction you want it to go. This shows not only leadership on your part, but also the ability to improvise and adapt to the circumstances. Because, if it has been posted IC in a log.. you have to assume it has become fact and has happened and you need to deal with it. The key of doing this is in the creation of a sequence of events, doing this you can make nearly anything fit into your plot.
As stated, retracting a log should be AVOIDED at all cost and as said above, only ever be a LAST RESORT because the retraction of a log over the listserv not only crushes the self-confidence of the officer involved, he/she may not have been aware of the implications of their log, it also sends a message to the rest of the crew that will stifle their creative endeavours and their willingness to add to the plot for fear of a public retraction. If a log needs to be retracted or changed because it is impossible to 'fix' it in your own log, it would be better to contact the officer in question in private explaining the problem and asking them to change their log themselves, assuming that the circumstances in the plot allow for this of course.
If one of your assistants sent in a wayward log, usually those logs can be easily spotted, because the writer has not paid attention to details. Something suddenly comes on the sensors in their log and they take action. Often you will find it the crew member in question has nothing to do with the sensors (TAC handles Ship-to-ship sensors and OPS handles Ship-to-shore sensors). Or we have a sudden intruder alert when the shields are up. If it can be dealt with IC, then do so, attempt to be positive. But if it is a situation like an intruder alert when the shields were up at all times, ie, not paying attention to details. Do report it to the bridge IC and recommend them to be cautious and investigate, but in this particular instant you can also ask the crew member in question IC since when it is possible to beam through our shields ;-). In the mean time, get hold of the CO or XO OOC and ask them if it is ok to go ahead with the subplot or not.
In cases where it deals with a new subplot that would be introduced, see if there is a way to make it fit without it affecting the way in which the overall plot is going. It is where our creativity and everything fits, otherwise we'll make it fit' instinct needs to take over. Talk to the CO and XO and jointly you will see if it can be made to fit and deal with the situation IC. You, as Senior Officer, can NOT retract the log of someone else. ONLY the (A)CO can do that. And it is a rare situation where we can not make something fit into the plot somehow, it may mean that some of the details need to be changed, but that would be better than a full log retraction. As stated.. retractions are a last resort for the CO.
Also, as stated before, the CO and XO direct the plot by choosing between the various recommendations and reports that are sent in. So leave it to them to make the big decisions please.
Again I'll start with a snip from the Command course guide.
<< Start snip>>
2.8.3 TIME LINE ISSUES
In Email SIMs it's important to keep track of the timeline and regular time skips are necessary. It's up to the CO and XO to pace the plot in your logs and any necessary time jumps need to be made clear in your logs. OOC time is very rarely the same as IC time. Different crew members can be logging about the same thing at different points during the week. And in general it is best to avoid too many direct references to time in logs. Do not assume that the logs posted on your listserv are following linear time.
Care should also be taken as it's very easy to get stuck logging about events that take IC only a few days for several weeks of OOC time when that was not the intention. If this has happened, the CO needs to make sure that a time jump happens before the new plot starts. As a good friend and my teacher once said.. in email SIMming.. the IC time is more like doggy years. For example, we promote people from Ensign to LtJg in 8 weeks, that would RL never happen, but in doggy years.. we are looking at just over a year, that is more realistic :).
Although the duty logs come first, the crew on Email SIMs needs time to do personal logs, and for that to happen IC time needs to pass. The crew needs time off duty to sleep and handle personal matters. Personal logs are very important in Email SIMs as they build the characters, they give an insight into them which will make it easier for other crew members to interact. As such, personal logs, promotes interaction among the crew, which in turn will help make them feel part of the team and that improves the overall quality of the SIM.
We don't always work, we play too ;-). Look at the bigger picture. The NX as an example has over 80 crew onboard, most of them are NPCs. So, at times, if it fits in the plot, go off duty. Have the Beta shift come on.
Build IC and OOC friendships with your assistants and the other crew members. Talk to them OOC as well as IC. Make them feel part of the team. Send them OOC emails and ask them for input and ideas. Give them praise and encourage them. Do the odd joint log with them. As Department Head, don't be afraid to knock on CO's Ready Room door and interact with him/her on and/or off duty. They generally don't bite... ::grins::
The end ;-). These are the very basics behind the IC side of Email COing, and how you can use those principles within your department. Applying them will help you become a better officer and polish your abilities, so when the opportunity for promotion to 2XO and XO arrives, you'll be ready to be considered for it.
Thank you for reading this far. Keep this Guide handy for future reference, as a training manual. If you have any questions regarding the items I've covered, please do talk to me, in email or in IRC.