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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Thoughts #126: Picking Federation Commander Scenarios

Steve Cole reports: 

Several players responded to my notes about "spending an hour or two finding a Federation Commander scenario to print" with lists of ones they submitted. They don't understand the issue. FINDING scenario is not the problem. Finding a PUBLISHABLE scenario is much harder. There are over 100 submitted FC scenarios on file and there is no magical system that says "This one is usable and perfect for this situation." I have to check out several (which takes a while for each) before I even know if something is usable. If history is any guide, half of them can never be used and most of the rest require an hour or two of fixing things the original writer/converter could have done right the first time. In many if not most cases, it would take less of my time if they didn't even try to convert an SFB scenario but just sent a note saying "How about converting THIS scenario from Star Fleet Battles next?"

Anyway... The scenarios are in file folders by author. Whenever I need a scenario, I go to the author who is next in line (which is why reminding me of your submissions isn't productive; when it's your turn, your scenarios are already where I can find them). [Truth in blogging: That's the theory. The reality is that the scenarios were not well organized until early September and some people got their turn more often than they should have. Also, many scenarios get used ahead of their turn because they fit the product or available space.] Once in an author's folder, I start reviewing his scenarios.

First, I have to make sure we haven't done that conversion or (if a new scenario) anything too similar. (I also have to sort out the mess when an author sends multiple versions of a given scenario.) Then, I have to decide if a given scenario needs to stay in the file to be used at some later time (maybe it's too long or a special case), be sent back with a note explaining why it was rejected (notes take time to write but must be done while I still remember the issues), or if I can fix it and print it. (At least I usually don't have to evaluate a scenario twice.) Fixing it is, half the time, just standardizing the format. (We gave you the format. Please use it. Why don't you use it? It would save me having to do your work over for you.) One big issue is starting positions. SFB can say "This ship in hex 1234 and that ship in hex 3412" but FC has to say "Put this ship HERE and the rest of the ships in designated positions relative to the first ship." Very few writers get that right, and I cannot figure out why so many writers do it wrong. You cannot say "put the Klingon in this corner and the Fed in that corner" because the large-hex and small-hex maps are not the same size and that puts the ships different distances apart, and sometimes that matters.

Special rules are the hook for most scenarios, and most authors produce special rules that don't work for any of a dozen reasons. So I have to do them over. Most authors don't do the variations (assuming I will, so I do). That all takes time. One author does great work that is a joy to behold, but to be fair, I don't go to his file until it's his turn. Three or four others do work that is 80% ready, and they wait their turn as well. I'm determined to give anyone who writes or converts a scenario a fair turn at publication, but that's becoming emotionally difficult to justify.

When I went to the file to find a scenario for Communique #81 the "senior" guy had sent only scenario notes, not actual scenarios. The second guy in line had sent a scenario too big and specialized to use. The third guy in line had sent the first of a mini-campaign of three, but without the other two I could not use it. (I did remind him to send them.) The fourth guy in line (having not had a scenario published that I could find) had sent in one I couldn't use right now, but I ran a scan and found another scenario of his that had been mis-filed and it turned out to be a great pick, so I used that.