I dropped out of a Star Trek game recently and was a little bummed because frankly I think my dissatisfaction with the game sprang from two things. The first was, I did not ask enough questions. One of my Vindicators players is running the game and offered me a position and wanting to game, I jumped in without seeing if the game was for me. Had I done my homework I think I would have taken note of some of the characters being run and I probably would have backed out. The second thing is, the player running the game did not really tell me anything about the game.
What I jumped into was a romance novel thinly disguised as a Star Trek game. I am serious. I think every single player had a significant other, and many posts were devoted to characters calling one another pet names like "Bella". Occasionally something would happen that looked vaguely 'Trek like but they passed by so fast they were over before I knew it. Why? Because some players would furiously post over a short period of time and by the time I had an opportunity to reply, it was all over. This was partly due to some players running two characters.
Now, what did the GM do to help me fit in? Tie an NPC to her that would become her love interest. I was not really looking for a love interest but that is what I got saddled with.
Finally, I was playing a former civilian who was volunteered during the Dominion War and stayed on afterward, going to the academy and eventually becoming a lieutenant. I liked being a lieutenant, the lieutenancy fit my character's background and my temperament. I do not need to be a senior officer to enjoy playing Star Trek and frankly I find any game where everyone has three pips on their collar to be boring. So what did the GM do without consulting me first? Promoted my character two grades to Commander. Not only did I find this to fly in the face of any and all logic, but I discovered later on there were two 24 year old Commander department heads in the game, which really rubbed me the wrong way.
So, what did I learn from all of this? And what can you take from it (and do not assume this is exclusive to Star Trek; it can apply to any game)?
1) Homework is key. Make sure the game is for you before you join. Ask questions, explore the web site/forum, read other character bios. If you are joining late then read older posts to get a feel for what the game is like.
2) Likewise, if your game is fundamentally different from others in the genre it is only fair to warn your players of this. Do not present them with one thing then blindside them with another. Do not present your game as a gritty cop drama and then make it turn out to be a slapstick comedy. It's like saying your game is NYPD Blue and in reality it is Sledge Hammer. Yes, Star Trek has always had some romance or sex but a majority of the themes involve action and exploration. If your game is (fill in the blank) with a twist, then let your prospective players know!
3) Beware of player bullying. It does not always come from snide comments and the like. It can be something as innocent as some players delivering numerous posts and having them responded to without other players having an opportunity to respond themselves. It can make players feel impotent and useless. This is especially true if some players are running multiple characters, they can all but take over a game and turn it into something resembling fan fiction.
4) Be aware of what your player wants. If your player created one type of character and you try to force them into a role they did not ask for then you are only going to make them miserable. Consult them before making any major changes to their character backgrounds or introducing new elements to their character.
5) Try to make your game make sense. One thing that really annoyed me about Star Treks Voyager and Enterprise was how they handled promotions, which led to Harry Kim being an ensign for seven years. Likewise the same thing happened to Hoshi Sato, who when the series had their finale some seven years total had gone by and she too was still an ensign. Forcing someone to remain the most juniormost officer rank is just stupid and showed how little the producers understood how a military functions. One the other hand, TNG and DS9 both attempted to be a bit more realistic with occasional promotions during their runs (leaving out the whole Riker deal where they remained a Commander for fifteen years). And a jump from lt. Commander to full Commander was considered a big deal. If you are running a game that is employing a military structure of some sort then try and make it look realistic. I have seen all too many twenty five year old admirals over the years.