Montag, 2. Februar 2015

Interview: Poison Toocool

Of course as a Cadet of the United Federation Starfleet Colony in 3rdRock Grid I met Fleet Captain Poison Toocool. But it needs to be the editor of the "Hyperzette" and not an ordinary Cadet of the UFS to have an interview with her.

So I asked her a few questioned about herself, the roleplay and of course the UFS.

Hyperzette:
Hello Poison, thanks for the interview (beforehand ;-)) and let me start with my first question.
Would you tell our readers about how it all began in virtual life for Poison Toocool and how it starts with the United Federation Starfleet ?

Poison:
OOCly (OOC = Out Of Character, editional note), I began with medieval roleplay in Second Life. I was very involved in that for awhile, playing a Fae and other characters. I’d always loved Star Trek and one day I was searching and came across the UFS sim. I joined, entered Academy and had a lot of fun meeting others and learning how to roleplay a bridge position on a starship. I was later asked to come to 3rd Rock Grid as a ‘colony’ was to be established outside of Second Life. It had been tried before, and failed. I was doubtful about leaving Second Life, my inventory, my avatars, and the nice visuals. But the community in 3rg was so nice... and I am never one to shy from a challenge.

ICly (IC = In Character, editional note), UFS was sent from the Alpha Quadrant to establish a base in the Delta Quadrant (DQ) after Voyager returned home to Earth. Pinastri was established in the DQ and Starfleet continues to explore, chart, and take care of member planets, offer help to those that need it, and so on. Five years later, Starfleet received a request for assistance from the planet Astraios Prime. They were guarding a secret Iconian gateway, and the planet itself was considered to be a life form, in that it seemed to have a consciousness of its own. The Astraios system is located deep in the Gamma Quadrant (GQ).
A team was sent to set down roots and make connections with the Civilian Authority, but hostilities broke out between Astraios and Treman, a nearby planet. Thoughts of a colony were abandoned for a time. When a peace treaty was negotiated, Starfleet returned, and I was one of the officers who came with that team.
We built the Colony and Academy, ships and stations, graduated our first cadets. Four years later, we are still here, continuing our mission of exploration, scientific research, security patrols, and making connections with others in the quadrant for trading and cultural exchange. There is just so much to see and experience.

Hyperzette:
As it looks like, UFS in 3rdRock Grid is just a part of a greater Community, can you explain a bit about the community worldwide and how you are connected ?

Poison:
One of the major differences between Second Life and 3rd Rock Grid is community. As I mentioned, that feeling of family is the main reason I stayed. A smaller grid is like a neighbourhood. You get to know the residents, attend events, say hello, chat about life. Now that 3RG is open to the hypergrid, that community has expanded. I’ve enjoyed getting involved on G+ with hypergridders and roleplayers. I’m very interested in visiting other grids and I love to see the creativity that flourishes everywhere. I still have friends in Second Life and attend UFS official functions there but my horizons have expanded, for sure.

Hyperzette:
Keeping up such complex roleplay needs a lot of helpers and a management in the background. How is the UFS organized ?

Poison:
We have a variety of offices and departments that manage things like Personnel, Academy, our Database, and our roleplay.
The Commanding Officers of the Ships of the Line are the first contact for most active members. They recommend their crew for promotions & awards, write up the backstory for the ship and the premise for the roleplays, post the mission logs, and liaise with other COs for fleet roleplays.  They report to the Starfleet Chief of Staff and the Commander-in-Chief in terms of managing their ship and crew, and they liaise with the Office of the Chief of Starfleet Operations with regard to roleplay planning, roleplay history, star charts, Intelligent Species Index, Planetary Index, Task Force deployment, and other things to do with Strategic Operations and IC roleplay. The CO’s job is not just roleplaying the ‘big chair’

The history classes in the Academy are written to introduce new members to our backstory and our cultural classes help to provide the background for a variety of sentient species.

Hyperzette:
UFS is mainly a RP in English Language but you have one session running in German Language and I have read that it might come to other sessions played in other languages. What are the requirements that this will happen and can you tell a little bit more about this ?

Poison:
We have a group of German language speakers and they belong to a ship commanded by Daecalad Brogdram (Selenmoira Resident), their mission roleplays take place twice a week. We’d be quite happy to support other ships of this nature but there would be some training required and some provisions to fulfill before this could happen. 
I would think we could easily have a French language ship! The Commanding Officer and Executive Officer of any ship have to have served a reasonable time in UFS (usually a year or more), have completed the requirements for command, and have sufficient crew members to start with.  They then go through a training period we call the ‘shakedown cruise’ during which they build or acquire a vessel, do their monthly reports, recommend their crew for promotions & awards, manage their roleplay, and recruit for the ship.
Every ship on ‘shakedown’ has a sponsor vessel who acts as a mentor to them, and I’d love to take on that role if we were to establish a ship for another language group.

Hyperzette:
When one starts a career in the UFS he has to decide on a branch within the fleet. If one has decided is that his final decision for the rest of his participation or can he change ?

Poison:
Yes, a branch can be changed. A member might be asked to take the Intro classes for the new branch and perhaps some further training as they begin their work in the new department. We don’t restrict this as we want people to have fun and do what they most wish to do. However, Command branch is only available by invitation due to the complex nature of the job. ICly of course it would be nice to justify the change. It would not be typical for a medical doctor to suddenly become an engineer. However we role with the punches on that one!

Hyperzette:
As the UFS RP is mainly played as a paramilitary RP with its special procedures and protocols, is it possible for someone to participate as a civilian or an alien character ? If yes, how will that be handled ?

Poison:
Absolutely. Sometimes we will have guest civilians or guest aliens as the roleplay story requires it, those characters typically only RP for a mission or two. The CO would incorporate those characters into the RP planning. It is possible for a ship or station to have permanent non-Starfleet characters, this would have to be worked out effectively as they would typically not be on the bridge or go on away missions unless they had some special designation. For example, Kira Nerys in DS9 was a Bajoran Milita officer and held the position of XO to the Starfleet Commanding Officer, Benjamin Sisco.

Our ship ‘missions’ tend to be scheduled so everyone can be present for the story. But we also have immersive RP outside of missions. We have 19 regions set up as the northern continent of Astraios Prime in the year 2413; within that ‘world’ there are villages, camps, diplomatic residences, Starfleet infrastructure, and the indigenous population. Among these would be ambassadors, diplomatic officials, representatives of difference species to the Council, traders, tradesmen, bakers, gardeners, criminals, builders, etc. Those characters would live and breathe and go about their business, interacting with each other in all the ways people do.
Like most RP groups, we expect the newcomer to write a backstory for their character and I like to check them to ensure they’ve figured out the details of who, what and when. I have character cards in the recruitment area or people can just talk to me. I love roleplay and writing, so I enjoy hearing people’s ideas and figuring out how to incorporate them into the larger history of Astraios.

I should mention that certain species are off-limits for most of our roleplay unless permission is given. Borg, Q, Founders, and the like are not permitted. Other species may be restricted to non-Starfleet roles, as they typically would not be permitted to join Starfleet ICly.

Hyperzette:
UFS Roleplay, is that a living in the day roleplay or are there challenges and tasks one has to face ? Will those challenges and tasks influence the development of the played character ?

Poison:
Mission roleplay is designed to present a challenge of some kind that needs to be dealt with by the team of officers and crew.
A simple example could be: “Your Intrepid class vessel, USS Tenner, is on patrol in the Task system when a garbled distress call is received from a ship claiming to be under attack. You change course to investigate.”
The roleplayers then develop the story from that point. Each RPer has their own character, strengths, weaknesses, level of experience in Starfleet. They respond to the situation as their character would, while remembering they have been ICly trained to deal with these kind of scenerios. There are also relationships between the bridge officers and crew. Some may be good, some not so good. Personal logs are encouraged, where the characters may talk off duty about their experiences, worries, etc and develop that way as well.

Day to day roleplay would be similar to any other roleplay group. Each ‘day’ and each roleplay adds to the history of that specific character and they would grow and develop accordingly.

Hyperzette:
How will a participant be informed about maybe new challenges or tasks ?

Poison:
Ship’s roleplay always begin with a starting point that is described in a ‘brief’ like the one I mentioned above. The RPers should know where they are, what ship they are on, what speed they are travelling, etc. Then they have a context to begin the scene... and the rest is developed by the RPers working cooperatively with each other as they write the story. The CO or Mission Leader is a Gamemaster for the roleplay and may guide slightly behind the scenes if they see an opportunity or suggestion was missed that could move the story forward. I personally don’t like scripted endings where the mission leaders push for a certain outcome. I like to give my crew their starting point and see where they take it, incorporating their ideas along the way so we all end up someplace new.

I mentioned that Command is invitation only and this is one of the reasons why. A CO has to have an indepth knowledge of the history of the vessel, the sector and UFS as a whole so that ideas and suggestions in roleplay can be incorporated into the ongoing story of the fleet while not negating what has gone before. They also need to be skilled in watching roleplay and fostering those who may be nervous or uncertain, making sure everyone has chances to participate, and seeing the larger picture.

I should mention every Cadet has “simulator training” where they go on simulated missions to try things out and learn the ropes. Still I remember being quite nervous in my first few RPs on the bridge, I was so afraid I’d say something wrong, lol. It’s all in a spirit of fun and just like the TV shows there is banter on the bridge and even IC disagreements about what course should be taken.

Hyperzette:
How can one participate in the roleplay ? Does she/he need any requirements to fullfill ? Is the gameplay for free ?

Poison:
Most ships have set times for their mission roleplays and anyone who would like to participate should contact the Commanding Officer. I welcome guests to observe or participate in any mission. A non-member or civilian member may not play a Starfleet officer but they can be given an assignment for their character. The requirements are the same as any RP, listen, take your turn, incorporate what’s been said already, use IMs to clarify or suggest while staying IC in local chat. Those who wish to play Starfleet officers do need to sign up for UFS and go through Starfleet Academy to earn their Ensign pips or Crewman Recruit pips.

UFS is entirely free to its members. We provide uniforms, combadges, titlers, and even avatars, we provide a forum for the posting of mission and personal logs, in-world and online classes, great sets, ships and stations to RP on, a roleplay wiki, events, and more. After Cadets graduate they are free to choose where they would like to serve. They are posted on their chosen ship or station in a junior position and begin their Starfleet careers.

Hyperzette:
Will there be more than one challenge be played at the same time ? Are those isolated for a single group of people or will they influence the tasks of other groups ?

Poison:
Each ship develops its own story and its own place in the larger story. Mission roleplay then is probably isolated to the crew taking part on that vessel. As those mission logs are posted those details become known to other RPers and may be incorporated into the RP of other ships if wished. In addition, we have temporary and permanent task forces that include two or more participating vessels. As they each RP their part in the task force their part in the story will influence the RP of the others.


Hyperzette:
Regarding playing a specific scenery I assume that it is necessary to build the environment just for that scenario. For this you need a bunch of people who develop and build those scenes. How can I imagine things like that happen in the background ?

Poison:
We often do away missions in our Starfleet RP! Quite often the ship’s engineers will be builders as well – not necessary as it is a roleplay position, but it’s a natural fit. Often they will build sets needed for away missions. At Astraios we have a number of good builders and it’s up to the Commanding Officer or roleplay leader to organize building the sets they need for their upcoming missions. One of the reasons I’m excited about hypergrid is the ability to use other grids as ‘alien worlds’, as well!

Hyperzette:
I have heard that, if someone has an idea for a task scenario she/he can get in contact with you to see if this idea could be made real within the UFS RP ?

Poison:
Yes... typically a member would go to the Commanding Officer of their ship or station with their ideas, however any roleplay involving the Colony or the civilians living in it would come to me (the Colony Commander) for discussion and approval. Part of the reason for this is that I am the historian for the Colony and know a great deal of what we have already set up ICly, and as a Trek fan I know some of the canon as well.

In addition, I’m very interested in finding out about other RP groups on the hypergrid. It’s possible we can do roleplay together from time to time if we can figure out the IC premise.


Hyperzette:
Besides exploring the universe and make contact to unknown species in the depth of the space there is recreation and entertainment as well. Could you tell a bit about that.

Poison:
ICly everyone gets time off for rest and relaxation. An off-duty officer might work in their garden or take a stroll by the ocean, or head to the village for a glass of ale.

OOCly we have regular weekly events to which the 3RG and hypergrid community are invited: ‘Raktajino Hour’ Sats 0800; ‘Starfleet Boogie’ Tues 1200. In addition we generally have a special event every few weeks.  Coming up we have a dance to celebrate the 200th mission of SS Astraios (March 15); Starfleet Open Day (April 12); a ‘Dance into the May’ party (Apr 30) and our 5th Annual Masked Ball (May 10).
Our event calendar is located at:
http://tinyurl.com/astraioscalendar

Hyperzette:
I may have forgotten something to ask which might be important for you to tell the readers. This is the chance to do so.

Poison:
It’s very important to United Federation Starfleet that we provide an immersive RP environment and an atmosphere that is friendly and inclusive. We have a duty to walk tall, wear the uniform with pride, conduct ourselves in a respectful manner, and in all things we do – OOCly and ICly - to strive to be the best we can be, with tolerance, with compassion, and with kindness.

I am proud to be part of something that tries to emulate the vision of Gene Roddenberry. The people we roleplay with and hang with become our virtual family. I’m immensely grateful to the dedicated people who work at my side to ensure UF Starfleet Astraios survives and thrives.

And thank you, Cadet Enoch, for being interested in UFS, we hope you are having a good time as you go through Academy. I have been watching your progress and I will be proud to present you with your Ensign pips when you graduate.  We do a special graduation ceremony on our Parade Grounds and you will take your Starfleet oath. Then you can wear your officer’s uniform with pride! *Grins*
(Oh well, note by zaphod.....)

Hyperzette:
Thanks Poison for all the given information.



Interviewpartner: Poison Toocool (Fleetcommander of Untited Federation Starfleet)
For the "Hyperzette": zaphos Enoch

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