Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Angels and Devils

In every man's heart there is a devil, but we do not know the man as bad until the devil is roused.


So let us discuss Drew’s game, the USS Exeter (This is not the original web site as Drew left his original fleet under a cloud.  Apparently someone was making allegations about him on the forums there or something.  Seems like I am not the only one who has issues with Drew.). I joined it in July of this year as lieutenant Aurora 0408/A, a human clone from a society of clones that I created.  I was inspired by two TNG episodes, Up The Long Ladder and The Masterpiece Society.  The idea was each type of clone had a specific function in that society (i.e. Grubermans were sanitation workers, Auroras were involved in space sciences, Dukes were military and law enforcement, etc.).  Aurora was an outcast because she decided to be an engineer instead and made a home for herself in The Federation.

Everything seemed to be all right at first.  The adventure involved a mission of mercy to a planet which was experiencing a world-wide drought.  We had to determine what was causing it and how to fix it.  I spoke with Drew and suggested one quick, temporary fix might be ice mining local stellar bodies, i.e. comets or the rings of some planets.  He thought it was a great idea and we would factor it into the game somehow.

And somewhere along the way it got lost in the shuffle.  More on that later.

The Exeter reaches the planet and the captain (played by Drew, which is quite normal on just about every single Star Trek game I have seen) forbids anyone from analyzing any of the data collected by the inhabitants.  He wants fresh eyes or something.  I tried to imagine Kirk, Picard, Sisko or even Janeway dismissing hard data out of hand.  Archer?  Yeah, okay, I can see Archer doing that.
Making the dog captain would have made more sense.
That decision made no sense, but hey, let’s roll with it.  We were to send down two away teams to the two rival governments and-

Wait, two rival governments?  You mean like just about every other adversarial set up seen in Star Trek?  No attempt to stretch one’s self, set up multiple factions, even just three?  It’s him and me, black and white.  I can understand that when you have a sixty minute story to tell, but this is a role playing game, try and think outside the box a bit.

Two away teams beam down and now Drew wants someone else to play the aliens dealing with the team led by the XO.  So, Drew doesn’t want to role play the NPCs for half the players.  Why not?  It’s his game, he is the GM, it is his responsibility to role play the NPCs.  So that half of the game turned into a muddled mess due to a lack of direction (Drew's half went very well, apparently).

Later on, we now have a new pair of factors involved in the game, The Dominion and Section 31.  Now I don’t mind either organization when they are written well, but Drew was not up to the task, at least where the latter was concerned.  Because the whole point of Section 31 is, few know they exist.  Members of DS9 know they exist because the shadowy organization wanted to recruit Doctor Bashir and this resulted in him telling others.  An admiral or two were aware they existed because of their security clearance.  But outside of that Section 31 was beyond black ops.

And in Drew’s game everyone acted as if their existence were common knowledge.  I think I was the only person who role played utter ignorance of their existence.  I think Drew mistook Section 31 for Starfleet Intelligence.  Or something.  This is one of those instances where there is player knowledge and character knowledge and it seemed neither Drew or the other players could tell the difference.

So apparently The Dominion might be behind the drought and Section 31 was along because…Drew apparently likes Section 31.  Only the Section 31 guy does not seem to be very good at his job because he is confrontational and not very good at manipulating people and events from behind the scenes the way Section 31 is supposed to be.  Section 31 operatives pose as legitimate officers, conduct their affairs through intermediaries, shun the light.

But hey, let’s roll with it.  The Section 31 agent through some plan manages to help the Captain capture the Dominion scout ship along with its crew.  At this point I begin to role play Aurora as being concerned the Dominion vessel might be booby trapped.  The Dominion is run by shape changers and their foot soldiers, the Jem Hadar, can turn invisible.  Any bunch this sneaky probably has booby traps everywhere (I was role playing Aurora, a character from a highly conformist and all-human culture as being leery of aliens and a little racist.  And really, can you blame her?  It seems like every alien is stronger, smarter, lives longer or has some sort of super power like telepathy or shape changing or invisibility.  You never saw enough racism in Star Trek. Everyone liked everyone else.)!  Drew was okay with it and I engaged in a joint post with the player running lieutenant Rakka, the Nausican chief of security, to discuss sweeping the scout craft for booby traps.
Now this is where Drew’s role playing style began to rankle a bit.  The system he was using, the mechanism to run the game, was the Nova system.  Nova is a means to send e-mails to the players but rather than sending e-mails to a single group address, the player has to choose whom to send it to.  The system encourages joint posting rather than a more open system and this often results in very, very large e-mails sent out at intermittent intervals.  A player has no idea of the game’s health because all sorts of things could be going on with those posts.  I much prefer games using a mailing list or a forum.

Drew contacts me and asks me during my joint post with the player running Rakka to have a jail break, some of the Jem Hadar are supposed to bust loose.  Now, why isn’t Drew running those Jem Hadar?  Why isn’t he role playing the NPCs rather than have us running the characters?  Instead he is here dictating to me what he would like to see happen in the game.  And while I had my misgivings I thought what the heck, I owe the guy for posting a message in the wrong area of the message board because of my ignorance of Nova in general.

The jail break goes down, my character is wounded, I am sent to sickbay and I am thinking that this is great, I get to do a scene with the doctor!  Only…the doctor all but disappears from the game at this point (This is the second doctor, btw.  The first one quit.  People quit a lot in Drew's game.  The current XO used to be chief of security.).  So I am left running a solo post NPCing the medical staff.  Some people love doing solo posts.  I hate ‘em.  I am playing a role playing game to interact with people, not write fan fiction.  And this seems to be exactly what is going on because around the time I post I discover other PCs have been wounded and are in sickbay.  Well, I am thinking, wouldn’t it have been nice to have been able to factor this in to my post, to have these things going on together somehow?  Only the Nova format does not allow this because the joint post system means I have no idea what people are writing while I am writing.  If this were a forum based game everything you could see what is going on as players are role playing it out.  If it were a mailing list based game that discouraged joint posting the same applies.

I do want to address one important thing regarding Drew's tenure as GM and he was not the original guy.  He inherited the game from someone else, which means he also inherited some, well, baggage.  Namely he inherited ensign Ghaliel Arreren tor, space angel.  No, seriously.  Apparently her race is very ancient and has been messing around with primitive cultures for thousands of years, thus giving rise to legends of angelic beings.  You know, like that Star Trek episode Who Mourns For Adonis, where an alien claiming to be the Greek god Apollo states that it was he and his people who brought civilization to Earth?  Or the rubber tree people from the Voyager episode Tattoo.  Or TOS' Preservers, who went around rescuing primitive cultures.  Or if you wanted to go outside of Star Trek for influences you could look up Arthur C. Clark's Childhood's End where aliens bear a striking resemblance to winged devils.  Or if you want to go outside conventional science fiction take a look at DC Comics' Dawnstar:
Best.  Costume.  Ever.  Has nothing to do with the post, just sayin'.

Oh, did I mention she also wears a special, sexier version of the standard issue uniform? So the whole space angel thing?  Yeah, Drew gets a pass on that.  And the space angel's black hair?  Unusual among her species.  So not only did she stand out among humans, she stood out among other angels.  Nice.

But wait, Tom, you may say.  What about your character?  Didn't you rip off Star Trek ideas yourself?  Well yes, you could say I did.  First of all, I did not come up with some lame reason why my character is running around in a spandex catsuit.  Second, my character was not a member of a race of advanced beings who have been running around space manipulating more primitive cultures.  If anything my character was from an inferior, backwards, insular culture.  Third, I did not have super powers (i.e. flight).

Perhaps the player was "inspired" by other sources like I was, but it is what you do with that inspiration that counts.  I tried to come up with something unique in Star Trek, but in Ghaliel's case it was a matter of been there, seen that.

But now there is another aspect of the game: the space angels have a space station orbiting this planet and someone has slaughtered everyone on board!  So let us recap all the irons heating up in the plot forge.  We have a planet wide drought, two rival governments blaming one another for it.  A space station full of space angels orbiting overhead who may or may not be involved and may or may not be helping to fix the problem who get slaughtered wholesale.  We have The Dominion, who may or may not be responsible for the drought as well as Section 31, who is doing a terrible job remaining in the shadows.

Well, my character gets out of sickbay and the captain approaches her to dissect the Dominion vessel.  She agrees and now I am joint posting with the helmsman who will be helping her.  Now I had already role played my character’s concern of booby traps in one post, and because I do not have access to the archived messages I cannot be certain but I believe I role played with Drew my character’s concern about the Dominion craft being unsafe.  So my intention in role playing the scene was to have Aurora have the ship flown into orbit within transporter range so in the event of some mischief the Exeter would be safe.
And that was when Drew IMed me, asking me to have the ship brought into the hangar bay so it could explode.  Drew was not only having scenes scripted-again-but now he wanted me to role play my character as an idiot.

And that was when I lost it.  I was fed up.  I had to sit through almost three months of meandering plot and Drew was asking me to role play my character as some sort of mental deficient, like, like-
Star Wars Episode I in 3D?  Yay!
Yeah, like those guys.

So that was it for me.  I quit.  You can wade through some of this stuff on the Exeter site, each character bio has a list of posts.  Apparently the whole adventure was wrapped up off camera and the crew is off to a new adventure.  This does not surprise me.  During this period Drew lost not only me but about three other players, so by this point taking this lame horse out in the back of the barn and shooting it in the head was probably for the best.

Tomorrow I will break down where I think Drew made his mistakes, among other things.

To be concluded...

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