Pern and Star Trek: I got to thinking the other day, while looking at a starship in Obsidian Fleet that I would like to become the CO of, that very often fandom writing groups and RPG's are a lot smaller than the fictional versions of those groups that they are meant to represent.
Take a Pernese Weyr, for example. A typical full-strength Weyr will house about 500 mature, fighting dragons and riders, plus 250-350 dragons and riders who are either still in training or are too old or injured to serve in the fighting Wings anymore. In addition to all of the dragons and riders, you have about 1000 support staff--people skilled in all manner of trades--healers, dragonhealers, tanners, cooks, Headwoman's staff, harpers, smiths, woodsmiths, masons, you name it.
How large is the typical Pern club? About 30 or so members, on average; it might be much fewer, nowadays.
Then you have the Federation starships. I am currently serving on the USS Courageous, a Defiant-class ship, as its CMO. The Defiant class has four decks, 15 officers, and 35 enlisted crew.
Our current number of players is eight.
I am noticing that it is much, much easier to play onboard the USS Courageous than it was to play on the USS Merlin, an Excalibur-class starship, which had 40 decks and needed 250 officers, 600 enlisted crew, 288 Marines, and had room for 200 passengers.
I have seen this population disparity problem handled in a couple of different ways in Pern fandom. Either the club ignores the support staff for the most part, with focus being given to the dragonriders, and only people like the Headwoman getting frequent play, or else the players are required to play a couple of support staff people in addition to their rider characters. Sometimes, this works very well, and people enjoy playing their support staff characters very much; other times, the support staff get ignored because all the player really wants to write about is his or her dragonrider.
On Star Trek sims, the usual practice is to either place a new member directly into a department head position or else have the person work his way up the ranks. Usually, though, you have very few crew (often less than 10), so you tend to put those people in as department heads as soon as possible. Sometimes, people will choose to play a member of the enlisted crew, but not often.
The population issue seems to work out pretty well in Harry Potter fandom because every student in Harry's year at Hogwarts is named, and players can manage two or three such characters at a time, in the Potter RPG's which use the canon characters. Potter fnas have matured to the point that people do not fight to play Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Draco as much as they once did, because they have discovered that giving life to less well-developed characters, such as Millicent Bulstrode, for example, can be every bit as satisfying as playing Harry.
Still, the point is that Harry's class contains at most 40-50 named students, and a club containing even only 20 people can handle those, for the most part, without too many student characters being ignored.
I would love to see a fandom universe in which the starships are the size of a Defiant-class ship or where the housing unit of the Cool Characters We Want to Play numbers no more than about 30, not 1500 or more. That way, we could have fun and realism in the game play without having to always create a veritable army of mostly unused NPC's.
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Pursuant to this problem of unplayed characters, extra green and blueriders, etc...I just came up with an idea for fairly handling the breakdown of dragon colors.
First of all, I think we should unchain ourselves from the need to adhere to Pernese reality when it comes to fannish Weyr size. For purposes of population, Pernese canon reality can be disregarded!
On Pern, a full-strength Weyr during the middle of a Pass will have five queen dragons, each laying a clutch of about 24 eggs twice a year. That's 240 hatchling dragons a year, folks. They must have this number of new hatchlings because the mortality rate among fighting dragons is extremely high.
However, X Weyr Club has 15 members. To have enjoyable game play, it only needs one queen dragon and one Hatching, at most, per year. You could even go every two years between Hatchings. Dragons in a club do not die in Threadfall as readily as they do in canon Pern, because we're writers, and we like to write for our characters as long as possible. So our club's dragon population does not need constant replenishment--unless, by some great good fortune, we have a sudden influx of new members--Yea!
Suppose you start a fannish Weyr by first off deciding how many weyrling and fighting dragons are going to be in it.
Say you are just starting out, and you only have about five members. Given that there are 30 dragons in a fighting wing, you might start out with just one Wing. To populate this Wing, you need:
The person organizing and leading the club need not be a bronze or goldrider. The leader could be, as was once the case in Fort 9, the Weyrharper. It doesn't matter who the club leader plays--and that's important, because the determination of who gets to ride what color dragon is all luck of the draw. That's the way it is at a Hatching, anyway, so it shouldn't be a problem. Candidates have to accept the color of dragon they Impress.
If you have 30 fighting dragons, and a new member wants to play a wingrider, assign a number to each of a Wing's 30 dragons, excluding the ones who have already been paired. Don't match dragon colors to numbers in numerical order; intersperse the colors among the numbers so that the greens aren't all clumped together at the higher numbers. This will have to be recalibrated every time a member joins or leaves the club, but at least you won't have a club containing five people, all of whom are bronzeriders or goldriders, with the rest of the riders being NPC's.
When Wing #1 is halfway populated, open Wing #2 up for riders, as well. This way, the people who come in for the latter half of Wing #1 still have a chance at getting a bronze or a brown.
This way, the fan Weyr is populated according to the canonical proportions, and you don't have a bunch of unused or underplayed dragonriders, which has been a perennial problem in every Weyr I've ever joined.
This same process can be used for people who want to play weyrlings. For crafters, it can be used to determine a character's rank within the craft, if need be.