It all started with Star Trek...
I really discovered Star Trek around 18 and became a fan while watching the original series. Not living in one of the countries where the series has long become rooted in pop culture, it was 2 years before I realized Star Trek was a phenomenon reaching many on several continents. My friend Françoise took me to an American bookstore to show me a book called "Strange New Worlds" - a collection of fan written short stories.
Star Trek fans? Writing stories in the Star Trek universe? Getting published??? I was in shock. It got even better when I spotted a big pile of Star Trek novels! Armed with my high school English and my father's dictionary, I endeavoured to read the book ("Uhura's song" took me 14 hours) and spent the rest of my money, steadily, on some 20 more novels. In the process, I also developed a real appreciation for the English language... To the extent that I returned to the Uni, this time to study English.
I started doing some amateur writing around the age of 20, and my only audience then consisted in my best friend, Françoise, whom I thank to this day for pushing me to write! My first stories were set in the Star Trek universe and I learnt a lot in the process.
Meanwhile, the internet was something exciting I knew was happening somewhere... else.
I was close to 30 when I could finally afford a very basic home computer and a modem (14 Kbits). I was paying access by the minute and stuck with Usenet a lot, since I was able to download the messages and read offline. I avoided Star Trek forums after I got majorly spoiled over a Next Generation episode. When I finally returned to them, I found two adverts about roleplaying, one by Bravo Fleet, one by Tango Fleet.
"Flabbergasted" sounds just right to describe my reaction. There were actually tons of people on the net who indulged in creative writing, read each other's stories, and it all happened around my favorite universe!
The combination could not be resisted. In September 1999, I applied simultaneously to Bravo Fleet (Starbase Bravo) and to Tango Fleet. Tango Fleet put me on its compulsory training program, and I joined the USS Avalon as SM3 Mandy Ryan in October 1999. Bravo Fleet's COs were free to take on untrained newbies, which Cordi Xan did on Starbase Bravo as soon as he had my application. I wrote my first bio without help, and I was thrown into the swimming pool as Dr Tanih Taan, Ensign and MO. This was the first time I was doing any creative writing in English, not to mention I didn't know the rules, the ranks, the game positions (roles)... anything. Most of all, I was suddenly going public by showing my writing skills (or lack thereof!) to about 20 people. To the terminally shy person I am, it was about as easy as walking naked in the street...
It's a wonderful memory =)
Players move around, disappear even. Sims change with time. You seldom get the perfect combination, and when you have it the only certainty is "now". Tomorrow, your sim can change or go down. Tomorrow, politics can tear apart your home on the net. But when it gets good, nothing compares - and so you go on. From post to mission, from sim to fleet, you continue the search for these elusive moments of perfection when it all falls together.
Roleplaying is an addiction, but the game is always about people.
This site is for all of us who like to remember
It stands for Star Trek (based) played-by-email roleplaying games.
Roleplaying is a general term that covers anything from rolling dice at home to playing "massive multiplayer online role playing games" (MMORPG). I'm told some also play "in real life", assigning themselves a persona with a given mission.
Somewhere in the middle of this large definition, throngs of players from almost anywhere gather in "simulations" (sims, RPGs). In chat rooms (IRC), on forums, on message boards, on newsgroups (Usenet) or by email, they become part of a group of 10-20 people. In a virtual environment (a fantasy world, a starbase, a starship, a colony, a team, etc.) they collaborate on creating a whole adventure. This virtual environment resides mainly in the player's brain, but the game usually has online resources to support and enhance the experience, as well as advertise and recruit.
Each player create their own character(s) and mostly write from that character's perspective as a given mission (storyline) unfolds. Depending on the type of PBEM and how experienced a player is, one gets more or less freedom in advancing the plot. It is called interactive writing. The main difference between the various types mainly lies in two points: 1) what leeway you have using another player's character, 2) format conventions on how to present your written contribution. The game is led by a game master, who may have created or inherited the background environment for this specific sim. The general background can be entirely original or based on a book, a TV series...
A sub-section of this larger group play by email. Sometimes it can be as "simple" as having a character with points for strengths, weaknesses, etc. and a gamemaster rolling the dice and announcing your next action ; wherupon you write a paragraph or two, that will be collated by the GM into a general mission log. (I really can't say more, as I have only browsed a few websites, not played this type of game.)
This website is about the "amateur writer" side of PBEM RPGs. (As much as we have narrowed down from the general roleplaying definition, there are thousands of PBEM sims - and even more websites offering databases and resources, or just advertisement). On a quality simulation, one contribution a week per person can mean several pages and the average player is an entertaining read. Top 'players' - if they set their minds on getting published, one would likely pay for their books!
There again the background can be very diverse. I have seen PBEM RPGs set nowadays or in the past, with entirely original premisses. But the cardinal need of any RPG is recruitment, and what universe you choose for your sim will directly impact on how many players you attract.
Numerous players come to roleplaying because they like an anime or a tv series and would like to be a part of it. But this, in itself, is often not enough; faced with the competition out there, independent sims (also called "indy") have trouble thriving. That's were RPG's organizations come in.
Some RPG organizations are a simple support platform: they have the site, people dedicated to maintaining and advertising it, resources (webdesign support, an email server...). The sims can have a common theme, like Star Wars, Star Trek, or the organization can be a collection of sims with different environments.
Other RPG organizations are united around a single universe. A number of them basically aim at bringing the game to the next level: as you gather experience and climb the ladder, you become eligible for openings at game management level and beyond. (Of course, nobody gets paid and you can be a great webdesigner before you are a skilled player. The logic here is the age old truth that newcomers to any group have to be tried and tested before they are handed responsibilities). Recruitment can be centralized (part or whole), the organization then assigning new players, possibly after a screening and training process (an "academy"). It is frequent in the Star Trek universe to see a pseudo military structure reproduced within and outside the sim.
No introduction on PBEM RPGing can be complete without mentioning the darker side of the force. Apart from recruitment, sims and organizations (sometimes called Fleets) have their share of problems: politics. Politics is about real people playing the oldest game in the book, trying to assert one's position in the food chain, from leader to follower. Ignoring politics is an option - until your game is affected.
For more information, please go to the "LINKS" section where I have listed a couple of reference sites on RPGing.
Thank you for visiting =)