The Portland Times
May 31, 2391
Portland Flies Again
One of the newest vessels in Obisidian Fleet is one of the oldest, with the launch of the USS Portland on April 7th, 2391. Newly retrofitted, the Portland sports modern tactical systems and space for testing advanced Starfleet prototypes.
Next to some of the brand new ship designs, the Portland may look like a museum piece. However, the latest round of retrofits has enabled the Miranda class to serve effectively for up to another 40 years, say analysts.
“Apart from a few systems that won’t be ready until next Tuesday, the Portland is operating just fine. I’m sure we will be a vital addition to the fleet,” said Commander Alenis Meru, the Portland’s captain, at a launch ceremony featuring bands we haven’t heard of yet and a keg of PBR.
When asked about the rumours of illicit romances on the USS Portland, Commander Alenis responded with “no comment”
Portland in Trouble!
While performing testing, the USS Portland has responded to a distress call from a civilian freighter. Starfleet command has confirmed that the USS Portland has engaged an Orion cruiser near sector 377.
No other details are available as of press time. Rumours that the Orion vessel is commanded by a former acquaintance of one of the senior staff of the Portland are unconfirmed.
Chief Morale Officer’s Report
Acting Ensign Ko-ko
The USS Portland launched on April 7th, and since then, has achieved great success. In that time, we’ve welcomed aboard eight new characters, bringing the roster up to nine.
In our first month, even though it was only a partial month, we achieved 19 posts from April 7th to April 26th (months are measured from between when I submit monthly reports to Obsidian Fleet, which is usually the 25th-27th) That is one post per day, which is very good for a newly launched ship. In May, we had 16 posts. The raw numbers are a bit deceiving, however. With Joint Posts only counting as one post even if they are long posts with half dozen authors that take several days to write, the large number of JPs as part of the battle means that we’re still maintaining a high level of in-character interaction even though the raw numbers have dipped slightly. As we’ve seen with the space battle posts, it can take many posts in the JP workshop to end up with a post that at the end of it all, only counts as one post.
We’ve also added some interesting plot elements through play that we can use as plot threads for future missions. These include the orb shard sitting in the science lab, and the Orion pirate with a cloaking device. Additionally, there has been some excellent character development, and a couple budding relationships -- including one involving the Admiral's daughter!
All of this effort has not gone unnoticed; the USS Portland has won the Silver Unit of Merit award from Obsidian Fleet for excellence in the month of April. This is a great achievement, especially for a newly launched simm.
We have also been working hard on the infrastructure of the Portland. The attractiveness of the website is largely a credit to Agnes (Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Rouse), who was instrumental in assisting with the technical infrastructure. We’re also developing a player mentorship program to help new players learn the ropes and get their characters integrated and brought into the story.
Captain’s Corner: Meta-gaming is good
Commander Alenis Meru
There, I said it.
I say this a lot, whether I’m playing tabletop games or play-by-post RPGs. And when I do, I’m invariably met with blank stares. After all, since Gygax first met the d20, it’s been common knowledge in the role-playing community that meta-gaming is [a href="http://chalybsanimus.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/why-metagaming-is-bad-or-and-just-how-does-your-character-know-that-pal/"]one of the greatest sins that a player can commit[/a]. One of the first things that a new player is taught is to get into their character’s head and do exactly what their character would do, and don’t you dare use out of character knowledge [a href="http://www.ongoingworlds.com/blog/2014/02/meta-gaming-character-not-mindreader/"]because that would be meta-gaming[/a]!
So, what is this meta-gaming thing which is so bad? Simply put, it’s taking the out-of-character knowledge that the player has and using it to influence their character’s actions, even though their character doesn’t have access to that knowledge. The classic example is a character reaching for a torch when fighting trolls because the player knows that trolls are weak to fire, even though the character may not know that.
Some would call this cheating, or at least, it would be considered bad form. So, how should one respond to such a terrible violation of role-playing etiquette?
We should embrace it.
Hear me out. As a game master, one can come down on this player for using out-of-character knowledge, starting an argument about it and forbidding the player from taking that action. You can tell the player that his character has no way of knowing that, and he’s roleplaying wrong by reaching for the torch. In the meantime, the game has likely come to a screeching halt, and no one is having any fun.
Better, the game master can respond to the meta-gamer by saying “Nice move! How does Ragnar know their weakness?” This gives an opportunity for the player to tell us something about Ragnar and something about the world, maybe something that we didn’t know. Perhaps Ragnar’s family were killed by trolls, and he swore vengeance, spending years studying trolls and their weaknesses for the day he would finally get his revenge. And perhaps this troll king standing between him and the McGuffin is the one who ordered the raid on Ragnar’s village!
That’s an awesome story, and it’s definitely more fun for everyone than arguing about whether or not it is realistic that one of our heroes is smart enough to try smacking a troll with a torch.
Meta-gaming is inevitable.
Here’s the thing. Our characters don’t exist, except as part of and in service to the story. We aren’t spacemen, we’re writers. We may be writing stories about spacemen, but we’re still writers. In fact, these spacemen don’t even exist outside of our writings. As such, it’s foolish to think that we can somehow figure out objectively what our imaginary spacemen who only exist through our writing would do without being tainted by our own ideas as writers. It’s inevitable that our characters’ actions are going to be influenced by out-of-character considerations.
And that’s not a bad thing. Despite being referred to commonly as a "simm," short for simulation, our goal isn’t necessarily to provide the most realistic and accurate simulation of what would really happen if our characters were plunked down in a situation. Realism is boring anyways. Our goal in role-playing is to tell cool and interesting stories together, and instead of getting into character and asking ourselves “what would my character do?” sometimes we need to step back and ask ourselves “what COULD my character do that would advance the story in cool and interesting directions?” That’s meta-gaming – it’s allowing out of character factors to influence how you’re playing your character.
Often, it’s easier to write cool and interesting stories together if we freely and openly engage in meta-gaming. Out of character information can make it a lot easier for players to use their characters to build dramatic tension and build stories towards exciting conclusions, rather than just taking things as they come.
Meta-gaming is also useful in maintaining and increasing participation. One of the challenges of managing a role-playing game is involving the entire crew – as a game master, you don’t have the luxury of being able to focus solely on a few characters and neglect the rest. Otherwise, the guy who plays Chakotay is going to start feeling a little like, well, Robert Beltran after six or seven seasons of Voyager.
You may notice from time to time that a certain player isn’t getting much of the spotlight and hasn’t really been participating in the game. But your character may not have much of a reason to interact with this other character. In fact, your character may have reasons not to. Perhaps your Tellarite and his Andorian are prejudiced against each other and would both sure as hell sit on the opposite sides of Ten-Forward. The answer is meta-gaming. Figure out, out of character, a reason for your characters to get together and do that. Then go do some odd-couple buddy-cop stuff together. I guarantee you, whatever you come up with is going to be a much better story than if you both sat on your butts on opposite sides of the ship because not hanging around with a filthy Tellarite is “what my character would do.”
Of course, the one caveat to this is that we should always be focusing on telling cool and interesting stories. Meta-gaming is a powerful tool, and it can be used for evil, scene-stealing, Mary Sue-ing, god-modding, story-wrecking purposes. But in such a case, I would argue that the problem isn’t so much meta-gaming as it is just plain bad and inconsiderate roleplaying.
If I have to trade off a little “realism” (lets just ignore for a moment the fact that “realism” is kind of an absurd notion in a universe that contains transporters, faster-than-light travel, and Trip Tucker’s wrist nipple) and immersion for a more interesting story, I’ll meta-game my way into the better story every time.
We need to stop thinking of meta-gaming as something bad. Done well, a bit of meta-gaming can reveal things about the world, enhance stories, and increase participation. Embrace it. Run with it. And use it to tell better stories, because telling awesome stories is why we’re all here.
Quotes of the Month
“Well, loneliness is something I did not experience last night.” he said with a chuckle, still wondering who the woman was he spent the night with. -Timothy Rouse
Maria looked at her shocked. “You did what?” when the shock of Ellen’s word decreased Maria continued. “You, the brave admiral’s daughter hooked up with a guy, a complete stranger..." -Maria Hill, played by Timothy Rouse
["You, you dolt, I thought you science types were supposed to be smart. Congrats, you're a Papa."]
"What? How could this happen?"
["If you don't know, I'm not gonna be the one to explain it to you."] Yvette said cheekily. -Jason Beauvoir
"Tyrlai Zade, reporting for duty, Captain. Sorry about the outfit, and my hair and umm, whoever was just on the comm. Aren't Miranda's awesome though." She smiled hopefully. -Tyrlai Zade, while dressed highly inappropriately
"You tried to boss the Captain of a ship around, I just assumed you must be a Commodore." Tyrlai smoothly adopted a puzzled look. "And all of the impressive stuffy blustering. Can I call you Commodore Stuffypants?"
The man glared at her with a menacing stare. "You just made the report, missy." -Tyrlai Zade
“Mr. Vike, I’m afraid to inform you that piracy is not tolerated in these parts of space,” replied Alenis, staring down the figure on her screen.
The stern-faced man stifled a chuckle. “Madam, I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but the bird on your shoulder makes that statement less credible. -Alenis Meru
"Women voting, eh? What won't they think up next? I tell you, next those women will be demanding to be able to serve in the military! Could you imagine, a ship with women on it? Why, sailors would be so distracted they'd never get out of dock!" -Constable Nettles
"Who the hell is Brad Silverton?" -Alenis Meru
Name This Newsletter Contest!
The Portland Times is a rather dull name, don't you think? If this is going to be a recurring feature, we're going to have to think of something better. The winner will receive a case of PBR, courtesy of The Portland Times