What is a Star Trek
PBeM is an acronym that stands for "Play By
e-Mail". The basic idea is to simulate the experience
of a face-to-face role playing game by using e-mail. There
is a game master (or multiple game masters), and a group
of players. Instead of verbally telling the game master
(and the group) what a player's character is doing, the
player emails a description of his or her actions to a
mailing list. The concept is the same, but the medium
As a result of the different medium, the game
is more descriptive in nature. Most posts are written to not only
describe the actions a character is taking, but what s/he is thinking,
feeling, or experiencing. In this way, it is an even more immersive
experience than face-to-face role playing.
Another benefit to the PBeM paradigm is the lack
of a vast time commitment. If you want to role play face-to-face,
you usually have to coordinate the schedules of eight or more
people, find a time and place where they can all get together
and be sequestered for hours at a time. With PBeM, you can play
anytime you have a few spare minutes to check your email and do
a bit of writing. So long as you're able to work a handful of
such sessions a week, you have all the time you need.
Our particular PBeM is set in the Star Trek universe. Therefore,
it certainly helps to know some background information about that
fictional setting. Our game is based on information provided in
the original series, the movies, and the more recent series: Deep
Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. A potential player need not
have seen every single episode, or even a majority of them. He
or she needs only to have seen enough to have an understanding
of how things work in the fictional setting of the United Federation
of Planets, circa 2400 A.D.
How it All Works
So you may be asking, how does all of this work? Well, the organizational
structure of the game fairly closely mirrors the actual structure
of Starfleet. The overall game consists of a number of duty stations,
which can be either a stationary outpost (like a Starbase or a
research facility), or a Starship (like the Enterprise, or Voyager).
Each duty station is its own self-contained game, has its own
storylines, and its own set of characters, independent of any
other duty station.
Each duty station has a Commanding Officer (CO),
and a First Officer (FO). These two players are usually very experienced
with the game, have been playing for quite a while, and know the
ins and outs. They are the game masters for that particular game,
in that they come up with the plot and are responsible for guiding
the progress of the game, as well as dealing with any player-related
issues that arise.
Everyone else on a duty station is a player in
the game. They each have a fictional character which they created
at the time they applied to join the game. Their character will
belong to a department within the ship (e.g. Security, Engineering,
Science, Medical). Their character will also have a rank, which
will not only affect their in-game status, but will also reflect
their time and accomplishments in-game. Players start at Ensign
(junior grade), but can eventually work their way all the way
up to Captain, or even higher!
The single most important aspect of the game is posting. A post
is an e-mail containing a description of a character's (or group
of characters') actions. Therefore, posts are what make the game
go. Each post takes place in the context of a "mission",
which is a storyline that the game is generally following. Missions
are roughly analagous to an episode in the sense of the TV series.
A post contains the following information:
What character is this post centered around
Where the post takes place
When the post takes place
What characters the action in this post will require
a reply from
Generally, the CO of a ship will start a mission
with a fairly long post which will set up the storyline. After
that, it is largely up to the players and their imaginations to
keep the story going via a series of interconnected posts. This
continues until some goal or series of goals have been reached;
these goals are usually known only to the CO and FO initially,
and are revealed to the players gradually as they reach them via
Here is a sample post from one of the current games in Star Trek : Freedom:
(USS Discovery - Bridge - CO Captain Tardek -
Day 2 - 2405.10.29.0750)
Mission: Three's Company, Twelve's a Crowd, Day
Tardek looked up as the doors to the turbolift
parted to admit him to the bridge. He saw that Commander Matthews
was already there, getting things prepared for launch. He also
noticed Tore'Len'Chi over near one of the science consoles. Other
members of the crew were scurrying around, performing last minute
checks and calibrations.
Quietly he stepped down into the center of the
bridge. He had no desire to have anyone make a big deal out of
his arrival, but as soon as his footstep echoed off the deck plating
at the center of the bridge, a crewman turned and spotted him.
"Captain on the bridge!" he called, and everyone turned
towards him and stood at attention.
"As you were," said Tardek quickly.
He turned towards Matthews. "Commander, this is your bridge,
not mine. Consider me merely an interested observer."
Tardek nodded and took a seat in the chair usually
reserved for the FO, leaving the command chair open for Matthews.
He sat back and watched the preparations, waiting for the order
to be given for the ship to launch on the new mission.
(reply Matthews, Tore iyw, any on the bridge,
(posted by Aaron)
Notice that the first thing in the post is a header,
describing where we are, who is posting, and what day/time it
is. It also includes the current mission and stardate. Stardates
are written by YYYY.MM.DD format, so 2405.10.29 means October
The post then goes on to describe what Captain
Tardek does when he enters the bridge. Note that it not only describes
what he does and what he sees, but also what he is thinking (not
wanting a fuss made over his arrival). It also specifies a place
for another character (Matthews) to insert a reply in a future
post. At the end, it announces everyone who is expected to post
in response to this post, and who wrote the post to begin with.
Now, here's the reply from the player who posts
for the character Matthews:
(USS Discovery - Bridge - FO Lt. Cmdr. Dallas
Matthews - Day 2 - 2405.10.29.0750)
Mission: Three's Company; Twelve's a Crowd, Day
Matthews patched several more power grids through
the right areas quickly, his eyes already moving to the next item
on his list. The impulse engines had a problem in the startup
sequence and had resulted in some shorts along the way. Dallas
had been working on and off on it all night and was finally getting
something to work with it. It would just take a few more switches
and reports from Damage Control and they would have impulse engines
If they didn't short out first. Sighing to himself,
he made his way to the front of the room. The Main Viewscreen
needed a quick adjustment and as he did so, he heard the doors
of the turbolift open. He hoped it wasn't someone important, as
Matthews had his shirt pulled up on his arms and was a bit unkempt.
Just a bit.
"Captain on the bridge!"
~Oh, why of all the times...~
Quickly, the FO pulled out, knocking his head
a few times on the way and finally stood up and saluted Tardek,
a bit of grime on his face.
"As you were, Commander, this is your bridge,
not mine. Consider me merely an interested observer."
Smiling slyly, the newly made First Officer grinned.
"Aye sir. I'll take her for what's she worth.
We should be ready soon. Just a few kinks."
There was a spark as Tore'Len'Chi was working
off to the side. Quickly, Dallas moved to the area and scanned.
A few conduits were misaligned, nothing major. With a tap of a
few buttons, he had the problem solved. He turned to the multi
tasking scientist in front of him and raised an eyebrow, letting
a small smile out.
"Keep it up. You're keeping us on schedule."
With that, the First Officer turned to the center
of the bridge and bounded up to the Center chair and ever so slowly
sat down in it. It felt good, after sitting in various chairs
over the years, to finally sit in the center chair and actually
be allowed to. Looking around the bridge, he spotted the new Second
Officer working already. He liked her and so far it seemed he
got along with most of the crew.
This was but the first day. And first days were
always the worst. Rule number 23 in the Matthews Handbook. Always.
"Matthews to all crew, this is your First
Officer. This ship will be departing in...5 minutes. I would like
status reports from all stations. Ops, go to yellow alert and
stanby. Helm, plot us a course and hold. Let's get to it!"
(posted by sulu)
Notice that not only does this post incorporate
the relevant part of the post to which it is replying, but it
advances the storyline beyond the initial post, giving other players
nearby an opportunity to add their own parts to the story.
More information about how Star Trek : Freedom works can be found
at the Documents page. You can also email the CO of Star Trek : Freedom
for more information.