The Portland Pulse
April 5, 2392
Captain Alenis killed in action
Captain Alenis Meru of the USS Portland has been reported killed in action during an away mission to Gamia III.
The circumstances of her death are not entirely clear, but preliminary reports indicate that she was killed in a cave on Gamia III during a confrontation with pah-wraith cultists. In accordance with standard procedure when a captain is killed in the line of duty, Admirals Washington, Cresswell, and Hurin will be leading a review of the conduct of the captain and her crew in the days leading up to her death.
Rumours that this confrontation and the death of the captain are somehow associated with Bajoran end times prophecies have so far been unsubstantiated. A funeral for the captain will be held on Deep Space Nine.
USS Asphodel reported rogue
The Asphodel has been reported as going rogue following massive death and destruction at Facility 729. All vessels are advised to stay away.
USS Asphodel, recently declared quarantined, has now been reported to have gone rogue, following evidence submitted by an anonymous source, which showed the ship's commander and crew laying siege to Facility 729 in order to gain access to the Requiem project, with footage showing the ship's Commanding Officer standing by as the Marine Commander killed the project's head researcher.
Starfleet Command has dispatched USS Hyperius to pursue and apprehend the Asphodel, and any ships that encounter the vessel are to submit a report to Starfleet.
Chief Morale Officer’s Report
Acting Ensign Ko-ko
Unfortunately, the USS Portland has not become Moonbase Alpha, and it was all just the CO’s sick idea of an April Fools joke. Which really frustrates me, because I was so excited to play Tony Verdeschi. I'll try to keep her from getting people's hopes up in the future, but I'm just a bird and there's only so much I can do.
Ah well. On the plus side, we’ve got this shiny new forum! The command staff had made a decision to transfer to a self-hosted website and forum for a number of reasons, including security, our desire for our own domain name, and the limitations of proboards. We have a brand new phpbb forum, and over the coming weeks we will be looking at adding extensions to replicate some of the recent additions in functionality of the old forum. The command staff has also painstakingly brought over all of our old posts and in-progress JPs, so we didn’t lose anything in transition.
Further, we are also celebrating our first anniversary this month! I’m so excited, and I’m sure the captain, or at least a holographic representation thereof, has arranged for a big party in the mess hall with cake and PBR, whatever that is.
Oh, and we had 28 posts last month and started a new mission. Cheerio!
Captain’s Corner: Actions and Consequences
Captain Alenis Meru
If you poke around the internet, you’ll see that a lot of the simms out there have something in their rules to the effect of “IC actions have IC consequences,” often putting various degrees of emphasis on this statement, such as “if you write your character jumping out of the airlock, your character is going to be dead.” It is so popular that it has somehow become almost a clichéd truism in the world of simming, commonly cited by players and GMs alike.
And yet, it is one that has always bugged me. It’s like the simming equivalent of “support the troops” – a somewhat harmless statement on its own, but one which carries with it a lot of implications and other baggage, to the point that it becomes an almost propagandistic thought-terminating cliché, invoked whenever someone’s writing and its effects on other characters are questioned.
Of course, the idea that actions have consequences is necessary to our storytelling. Without a cause and effect relationship, we wouldn’t really have a coherent story, but more of a bunch of random events that happen. In that sense, there is nothing wrong with the idea that actions have consequences; in fact, it is necessary that they do. But where it starts getting tricky is when we start breaking that statement down.
Generally, the idea of “IC actions = IC consequences” is meant as an exhortation to writers to think of the consequences of their characters’ actions before taking them in an effort to write a realistic piece of fiction. For example, if you don’t want your character to spend some time in the brig, it might be a good idea to wear pants while on duty like all Starfleet officers would realistically do. That’s all well and good, but coming at it this way can make consequences seem like punishments, which are no fun for anyone.
Further, while in-character actions tend to have consequences, what those consequences are is often up to interpretation. If I write my character running into a room and opening fire on a bunch of Jem’hadar soliders, what is the consequence of that? Does my character kill all the Jem’hadar, get killed himself, or somewhere in between? Do we go with the most likely result, or do we get to bend the laws of physics and probability as every Starfleet officer who isn’t a redshirt does from time to time? And who decides all of this?
What would Janeway think of your IC consequences?[/center]
Unfortunately, when people say IC actions have IC consequences, often what they really mean is “IC actions have IC consequences, I get to decide what those consequences are, and if you don’t like it, sit down and suck it up.”
I’ll give an example. Many years ago, I was on a simm and my character was leading an away team. I had written a post with some other players where we had found some bodies of soldiers who had been killed with some kind of new weapon. Somewhere in the middle of that post, I wrote my character as having contacted the ship to beam the bodies to sickbay for an autopsy, something I thought was a reasonable thing to do at the time.
Unfortunately, the Chief Medical Officer didn’t agree, and the next day I woke up to her doing a post where the bodies just appeared in sickbay without warning, in violation of dozens of safety protocols and causing the entire sickbay to be locked down for potential biohazards. My character was reamed out six ways from Sunday by the CMO and the command staff, and as a player, I started to get so frustrated that I stopped logging in for a while.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but after some reflection, I saw what the problem was. I had my character perform an action, and ended up with a bunch of consequences that I didn’t intend, had no input in coming up with, and didn’t enjoy writing. It ended up with my character being portrayed less as the competent Starfleet officer that I was going for, and more of an imbecile who can’t even follow basic safety procedures. And I was stuck with the unfun task of writing this guy as he got chewed out for it. As a player, I felt written into a corner, and any protestations of mine about this would have fell on deaf ears, as “IC actions have IC consequences.”
“But it’s what my character would do!”
Of course, it’s not always a question of player versus environment. Sometimes these questions can arise in a situation of an interaction between two players, where one PC takes an action and the other PC reacts to it. Here, the phrase “IC actions have IC consequences” is often coupled with the old cop-out “it’s what my character would do!” This too, can cause problems. I’ve written before on the importance of stepping outside of your character and doing what’s best for the story, so I won’t repeat my arguments here, but suffice it to say, I believe we as writers always have choices and we should use our creativity to expand the possibilities for interesting stories rather than limiting ourselves to the one possibility we think is most likely, regardless of whether it is fun or not.
Further, the “it’s what my character would do” defense contradicts the notion of IC actions having IC consequences as it is normally used, to exhort players to consider the consequences of their actions before they do something that might be considered stupid. Saying “it’s what my character would do” takes away one’s agency as a player, which is exactly the opposite of what the notion of IC actions and consequences is urging one to do – use one’s agency as a player to have your character not do things that you wouldn’t like writing the consequences of.
So, what should we do?
From time to time, I GM Dungeon World. It’s a very simple and flexible tabletop RPG system which places story first in a way that few others do. As the GM, that means I’m often put in the position of deciding what the consequences should be when a player throws the dice and a low number comes up (low numbers being bad). But as a proud lazy GM, sometimes I won’t feel like thinking up a consequence and turn it back on the player. I’ll say something like “Okay, so your character was trying to swing into combat on that vine and start stabbing those orcs, but you rolled a 2. What do you think happens?”
You might be surprised to find out that instead of saying something like “the vine breaks and my character falls, but fortunately his fall is broken by a pile of gold, big enough to make him rich beyond his wildest dreams,” the player will often come up with a consequence for failure that is even harsher than what I had in mind. And yet, it’s guaranteed to be a consequence that he as a player enjoys because it’s something that he came up with himself.
That’s the magic of collaboration. When you collaborate on consequences, or even give the decision to the other player whole-hog, your chance of ending up with a consequence that people end up being frustrated over approaches zero. And as a player or a GM, collaboration allows you to unlock story possibilities beyond your wildest dreams. Trying to single-handedly impose consequences on others, whether as a player or a GM.
In conclusion, while in-character actions do lead to consequences, what those consequences are is open to question. The best consequences are those which follow logically from the action, which are cool and interesting, which players collaborate to create, and which no one feels like they are feeling punished because of. This way, no one feels like they’ve been written into an uncomfortable corner and everyone has fun.
Quotes of the Month
"And how many millions of years have your people been working on being verbose and annoying?"
"That's just me."
- The Reptilian and Tyrlai Zade
"Any last words?"
"Yes, actually. To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by a posing end them.”
- Alenis Meru and Jason Beauvoir
“You all had visions, didn't you! Why don't I ever get a vision? Bloody prophet favouritism!”
"How does a hologram suddenly gain sentience? That doesn't make sense."
"Ok so how does a fourteen year old become so interested and knowledgeable about biology?"
"A girl's got to have a hobby."
-Brad Silverton and Coln Jena
"I suppose I could talk to one of the engineers about making some adjustments to my holo-matrix. I've always wondered what it would be like to be a redhead..."
"Sometimes the newer technology doesn't want to agree with the 80 year old ship, we just had to give it a nudge."
"Yeah, and she gets a bit more grumpier as the years go on."
-Sera Williams and Parker Hudson
"She looks like..."
"She looks like me..."
-Nikki Barclay and Sera Williams, upon meeting Sera’s mirror universe counterpart