Home > Jointhesaga.com, OtherSpace > Thinking About: The Captain’s Chair

Thinking About: The Captain’s Chair

It takes a special player to successfully tackle the role of a starship commander on OtherSpace.

If you’re doing it right, you’re not just some walk-on bit player who shows up once in a blue moon. You’re a regular, in-game as much as possible, recruiting new crew and making sure that the crew you’ve already got is having a good time.

You’re a walking, talking roleplaying event generator. Where you go and where your crew goes, fun often follows.

It’s not all about barking orders. As others have observed, if you want to be captain just for the sake of bossing people around, you’re going to have a short shelf life as commanding officer. People get bossed around plenty in real life, after all.

It’s about creating a dynamic situation where people have clearly defined roles and making sure that they’ve got the tools and the encouragement to use them.

Back in the old old days on TOS TrekMUSE, I assumed the role of a starship commander in the civilian Federation Merchant Marines and, eventually, aboard Starfleet’s USS Excelsior. My crew didn’t need me around all the time to give them things to do. The ship’s doctor kept pushing for health exams. The engineer ran tests and drills. The science officer conducted experiments, gathered data, and encouraged us to go out exploring the stars. Day-to-day activities weren’t hard to come by. And when they ran out of stuff to do aboard the ship, they’d go to the starbase pub, get drunk, and start fights. This often led to RP for my character, because I’d have to bail them out of trouble, get yelled at by the brass for my troublemakers, and then discipline the bunch of them to demonstrate the principle of crap rolling downhill.

When people saw us coming, though, they knew we’d be bringing something interesting with us.

I’d like to see more of that return to OtherSpace. We’ve had some memorable commanders and crews over the years, including VanMahr, Falkenberg, Jest’liana, Marlan, and Mika. We’ve got a few good ones these days too, like Tiana, trying to make things happen.

In other media, if you want references for interesting dynamics to explore that might be educational for our purposes on OtherSpace, check out Firefly, Stargate SG-1, and The West Wing. (The West Wing? WHAT THE HELL? No, I’m serious.) Firefly’s a great space western that got canceled after only 13 episodes, so it doesn’t take very long to watch. Plus, you can see the kind of interplay between roles that might be of interest in our space opera setting. SG-1 is a nifty series about a team of explorers – a mix of military and civilian – who roam the cosmos via ancient stargates. Their adventures and interactions should be educational.

But what about The West Wing? The most advanced vehicle in that show is Air Force One! So, I’m crazy, right? Bear with me, though. Take a closer look at the show’s character dynamics. You’ve got a charismatic leader (the President) and the equivalent of a bridge crew (Bartlett’s closest advisers). Navigating political currents can be as hazardous as exploring deep space.

All of these shows – and many others – can demonstrate what I’m getting at.

The real success comes when you bring enthusiasm and personal drive to the role of starship captain, and when you recognize and embrace the fact that it’s as much about being a director as it is a person who gets to tell other people what to do. It’s about empowering people who play with you on these roving RP stages to spread fun like a virus.

So who’s the next legendary crew going to be?

  1. Sergeytov
    January 22, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    I figure a couple things I ought to say. First being that orgs have weird quirky little personalities all their own, and they mostly reflect the leader of said org. Compare Mikage and the Svajone (where ‘order’ is highly valued) to some of the smaller ship crews where the crew seems to change between adventures (and that chaos is part of the charm) and you’ll see what I mean. Namely, a leader has the power to grant a ‘vision’ for the org quite often, and that vision can be what differentiates one crew from another. When recruiting, keep in mind it’s a players’ market, if they don’t like your offer, they can probably walk along and stumble into another easy enough.

    Some shows to watch:
    SG-1 is good if you want to see how a ‘mildly military’ type group deals with ‘weird sci-fi stuff.’

    Stargate Atlantis: Better than SG-1 for military/civilian interaction, arguably, since Atlantis shows a lot more civilians than SG-1 does. Not only that, it’s far shorter than SG-1. Also good for ‘mildly military dealing with sci-fi stuff.’

    Leverage: A show about a quintet of thief/con artist types. The group covers the ‘core roles’ of non-ship/non-political groups quite well for the OS theme, is a decent primer on planning out exciting capers, and the first season is entirely self contained (13 episodes). Only bad news? They were aired out of order, so you’ll want to look up a list to see what order they’re supposed to be viewed in.

  2. January 22, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Leverage is a fantastic example of this, yes. Good call.

  3. Markiel
    January 28, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    One of the issues preventing such troublemaking, and sometimes crew rivalaries is the sheer threat. For example, If one person is thinking about starting a tiff with someone else that is in a crew, the /whole/ crew jumps in, being a hero. It’s sometimes evident even when it’s the crew member that starts it. While things like this do happen in “real life” you don’t see everyone jumping in. That’s one reason why you don’t normally see someone simply starting a fight.

    The other one I know of? Simple. Nobody likes being punished or stopped before they’re done. If this is the wrong assumption, feel free to correct me. Although I do feel the primary reason inter-ship brawls don’t happen is simply due to the concept of punishment, and lasting damage.
    (I know, irl if you get whacked, you suffer repercussions, but my point stands as to why conflict is so hard to get going)

    • January 28, 2010 at 3:21 pm

      This wasn’t at all about conflict. It was about captains of ships giving their folks stuff to do.

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