The posting standard for Captains is slightly higher than normal players. This is because typically, the more a Captain posts, the more the crew will post, so if you are able to post more than 3 times a week, you may notice an increase in posts from the entire crew. You will be held to a post rate standard. This standard is an attempt to ensure Captains are active enough on their ships to be a fun place to post on. If you post below minimum for four consecutive weeks, you will receive a ion, training, vacations, encounters with strange alien species, and anything else you can come up with that is appropriate for your ship.
Running a Plot
Running a plot is the majority of what you will be doing as a Captain. It involves introducing the plot in some manner, then ensuring that the plot keeps developing, all the while involving the entirety of your crew. The most important part of running a plot is being flexible. USI is a strong supporter of the open plot twist - i.e. any player on the ship may post something that changes the situation in a new and exciting way. We do ask that players speak with their Captains off list if the twist they are introducing is major, but you may find some players do not do this. It is up to you to formally enforce this - but do allow for players to introduce less major twists without first consulting you. Give players something to react to. Some will enjoy posting twists, while others will like to post their reactions to new situations. They may look to you specifically for directions - i.e. in-game orders - or they may simply expect that you will provide them with something to respond to in terms of an ever-changing situation. While we hope that players will develop the skill and confidence to be part of the first group - the plot twisters -, we must be considerate of those who benefit from being placed in situations or being given situations in which they can act and react.
Ending a Plot
Never be afraid to end a plot too abruptly. If everyone has stopped posting, they are no longer engaged with the plot. Try to wrap it up quickly and move on to something new. If people are still actively posting, but the plot has been going on for a long period of time (plots can range from a couple days to a couple months - it will depend on your crew how long is too long for a plot to run), indicate in NRPG that you would like to wrap things up to start something new, and then start nudging the plot in the direction you'd like it to go for its conclusion. Always allow players to backpost if they like to indicate their character's role in the conclusion of a plot.
Sub-plots are the best way to give your ship extra dimensions. They may also be the only way to get some players involved - those who resist involvement in main plots may enjoy sub-plots that allow them to post with a smaller group. Sub-plots typically center on character development, but that's not a necessary component. They simply are plots that run in the background, often during downtime, but occasionally even while the rest of the ship is involved in a major plot. Some players will introduce sub-plots themselves - it is often good to try to discuss with them off list what is happening, and what their goal might be (to ensure the goal is not to acquire a superhuman skill or a new invincible robot or some such). You may need to introduce NPCs to facilitate sub-plots, and should encourage others to as well.
Plot and Posting Tips
You will discover that which plots work and don't work will depend heavily on your own style of Captaining, and, even more so, on your crew and what interests them. Don't force a plot on a crew that is not interested in it - if they stop posting, post a huge plot twist to get them interested again, or end the plot altogether and try something new. This will again depend on your crew, but consider whether it is appropriate to run a plot wherein the player characters split up individually or act in larger groups. It can be difficult for some players to post when they are posting by themselves - and we encourage as much interaction as possible. Consider what degree of plot complexity is appropriate for your crew. Some people will be able to follow an intricate web of intrigue in which NPCs go from being good guys to bad guys and back again. Some will have difficulty with that. If you find that only one or two players are constantly asking for clarification - perhaps it is appropriate for you to try to regularly post a plot update, or perhaps it would be better to attempt a more straightforward plot. Be flexible. You may have an idea of how you want a plot to end, but you may equally find that idea ruined by a plot twist someone posts. Don't get upset, this is simply how the game is run - part of the fun is taking something new and seeing what you can make of it. Do not ignore posts. Sometimes, a player may post something that contradicts a situation, or has little to do with the plot. Try to include their post in the plot in some way when you post. Introduce an NPC that will get them involved, or have your character send them orders, or make a few changes to their post when you paste it into your own so that the gist of what they have posted is maintained. Put in the effort to include everyone, regardless of how 'out there' their posts may seem. Consider creating an 'arch-nemesis' for your ship as a whole. Players may not become engaged in plots with villains that are interested in harming only the Captain or one particular character on the ship, but they do become interested when you create a new villain with a grudge against the former crew of the USI Phoenix, or a space pirate who has recently moved into the territory your ship frequents, etc. etc. Make the villain want to do evil to the entire crew, rather than just the Captain - provide opportunities for everyone to interact with the villain. Find ways to make sure the villain escapes at the last moment (or earlier, if it fits their personality), and return in later plots. It is appropriate to incorporate villains with a vendetta against one single character for character development, but do not have this kind of villain involved in every single plot on your ship. Remember that actions have consequences. If a character's actions are SHS - speak to them off list, but then on list, introduce consequences for their actions. Maybe they think they have just saved the day, but instead they have ruined a complicated undercover operation to expose the bad guys. If they have just used an ability to create a fireblast - when they lack such an ability via the ability system - perhaps they now have a severely burned hand, or the fireblast has acted in an unexpected way. Even if the actions aren't SHS - thinking about the consequences of actions are often good ways to come up with plot twists of your own. Don't be afraid to fail the mission. It's great fun to be the heroes, but consider what might happen if you fail to save the farmers from the monsters in the forest, or if you cannot stop the bomb from exploding or if the ship is unable to outmaneuver the bad guy's ship.
The Head of a Department is essentially in charge of their department. In NRPG terms, they are the same as any other non-command member of your crew. Within an RPG context, the Department Head is responsible for the daily running of their department, and outranks all members of their department. They can issue orders to their subordinates, manage department resources, submit reports and/or make recommendations regarding their department, etc.. Monitor your Department Heads to ensure they are not pushing around their subordinates - we want the game to be fun for everyone and no one likes to be ordered around all the time. Typically, Department Heads should be the character in a given department with the highest rank. However, Department Heads should also be reliable posters, particularly if there are other PCs on board the ship in their department. The position of Department Head should be given to someone deserving of an expanded RPG role, and you should feel capable of reassigning the position if the current Department Head ceases to post, or posts infrequently.
Civilians on a ship can provide unique challenges for Captains, such as when trying to get the entire crew involved in a plot. While civilians are authorized to be on USI ships, they should be protected at all times, and would not have the same access to the ship that an officer in one of the standard departments have. For example, civilians should not be present on the bridge without permission. Civilians come in all shapes and sizes - some will be diplomats, others children. Some will be teachers, or bartenders or any other role you can think of for a civilian to fill on a spaceship. You will need to learn to be flexible, finding reasons to draw civilians into plots. Work with the player to determine whether the character has any particular knowledge or expertise (remembering the ability system!), that could be beneficial in various situations. Remember that civilians do not receive promotions the way that officers do, so find other ways to recognize them when they post well.
The majority of your crew will be officers who are not department heads. Some may post frequently, others not at all. Keep in mind what activities are appropriate on a departmental basis when thinking about what roles these characters can occupy. Try to find ways to create interaction between departments so that everyone can play with each other. Encourage them to post frequently, and to get involved. Keep in mind what behaviour would be appropriate in an organization such as USI, and respond accordingly in game to whatever players throw at you: you will be constantly surprised by the creativity of your crew.