Department Head Overview
Whether as a prospective Department Head, a first time DH or even an experienced one looking to see if you know everything, this should have something new for you. This page aims to break down the basics and to provide you with the essential information that anyone needs to be both a successful DH and an asset to your ship and crew. All areas will be covered from in character work to out of character work.
What is a Department Head (DH)?
The role of a Department Head is the true backbone of the ship. A Department Head is in charge of a particular section and any junior officers assigned to that department.
For example, the role of Chief Engineer places that person in charge of the ship's engineering department and, by default, gives them the responsibility for maintaining the working order of the ship.
A DH is a supervisor that organizes their department most effectively and efficiently to do the job that is required daily, as well as interpreting any special requests or orders from the Commanding Officers. Think of yourself as a bridge. At one end, you ensure that your junior officers have plenty of routine tasks to do to keep them busy in keeping with the normal routine of your department. At the other end, you are responsible for facilitating and implementing the orders of your superiors. They will tell you what they want done. It is your job to interpret that and to pass it onto your own staff. What is a Department Head's job In Character and Out Of Character? In SF we are here to role-play and we all role-play best when we have something to work with. This is both the basic requirement of having fun and to being a good Department Head. Think of the best ships you have served on or the ships where you have the most fun. These will always be the ships where you have more to do, whether that is working with other role-players or dealing with tasks. It is possible to break down the job of a good Department Head into two main areas, In Character (IC) work and Out of Character (OOC) work. In Character
It is the job of a good Department Head to ensure that your department is run efficiently and your officers have plenty of work to do. You will be required to give your staff tasks. You should feel free to issue orders within the structure of your department and the main sim. For example, if you are the Chief Medical Officer, feel free to tell your staff to organize physical examinations.
Your job is to give professional advice and feedback to the XO and CO, when given the opportunity to do so. This does not mean speaking out of turn in front of other officers or behaving in an inappropriate manner. Feel free to request a word in private if the situation requires. Remember you must support the chain of command as it is the principle all military vessels operate upon.
Your job is to accept the orders from your superior officers (XO and CO) and to pass them onto your department for action. This may require holding a briefing or redeploying people from other tasks. Also don't forget the handy dandy multiple timeline facility. Keep your staff busy, just as you would if this was real life.
Set an example. You have to set an in character example for your staff and show them what is acceptable behaviour in your eyes. If you act in an unprofessional way then your junior officers may do the same things too. You are setting the discipline and tone for your department. Out of Character
Just as in character it is your responsibility to set an example for your junior officers. So make them feel at home, send them a welcome email, get to know them and make sure they have plenty of work to do. Don't argue with people on the ship and always conduct discussions via email.
Support your command staff and always be positive and friendly.
On the best ships it is not only the GM that will provide work for people. The best DH's will also create side stories for members of their department who are not occupied. Take responsibility for creating work, but never let it take over the main sim. For example, as Chief of Security, you might well decide to run security alert drills to keep your teams occupied
Giving orders Giving orders is always a tricky area. How do you give orders to a junior officer? What if they are someone who is actually higher in club rank than you are or has more experience as a role-player? The answer is simple don't think of it as an out of character action instead place yourself in the mind of your character. They have earned the right to be in charge and be in that position. That experience gives you the right to be confident and to know your orders will be obeyed.
Think of the following Four C's Concise - don't gibber or be confusing. Say what you need to say. Confident - it is a military environment so it is fair to act as if your orders should be obeyed. Calm - don't scream at another person's character unless it is actually required. It can be counterproductive Clear - be clear as to what your orders are and what the task is you're delegating.
Finally, be respectful and polite. Try not to scream and rant in character unless it is required character development.
Delegation of Tasks In SF delegation of tasks is essential to be a great DH. You have to be able to pass tasks onto your department to keep your officers busy. Your job is to make sure they have something to do as their jobs!
How do you delegate? If you have orders from your CO or XO, a job to do in the sim or you are creating work for your staff, always break the job down into tasks. Assign one person to each task. If possible assign people to work together in teams to promote in character interaction. Once you have your task in mind, assign it to the appropriate person. Be mindful of leaving someone who is inexperienced as a role-player without any support. Try to assign them in a team with a more experienced role-player to interact with. Always try to help players improve and settle, where appropriate. In the same way try to find out what their characters specialties are. It may be that one of your junior officers happens to be an expert in just that task, so find out more about their in character backgrounds. For example if one of your junior officers is a communications specialist and the task is about the communications systems then assign them! You can always assign someone to work with them too. Delegating a task to a junior officer is down to giving the person the right orders.
Keeping your JO's busy There is a common misconception that the responsibility for providing something for everyone one to do is down to the GM alone. This is incorrect. The responsibility is also down to those in the chain of command. With the position there is also additional responsibility to those below you. It will be down to the Captain and XO to notice your department has little to do and try to find a task to pass down to you. Failing that, it is your responsibility to create something to keep your junior officers occupied. In simple terms it is rare that a main sim will involve the whole crew at any one time. A sim mission could last four months, so there will be periods of time where people are not occupied. A good Department Head will excel by finding sim related tasks for their department to become involved in, or to create a side sim for involvement. Look for tasks in your orders that you can issue to your junior officers. Invent a training task or issue general house keeping issues. There is always the ever popular individual chat to a junior officer in your office, or holding a team briefing. There are lots of different options available. Keep your JO's busy! Don't assume someone else will!!! Common filler tasks for each department This section is there to help you find a task as a Department Head of a particular department. There are department specific tasks as well as general tasks that any department can undertake. Below are some basic tasks. General Tasks
Team Briefings - get your department together for a chat Individual assessment - talk to your JO's on a one to one basis
Medical/Counseling Get your JO's to perform crew physical/mental exams Assign medical/counseling research projects Side story some form of interesting medical emergency or medical condition
Security Run security alert drills Run hologram simulation drills Perform ship weapon systems tests
Science Perform sensor scans Assign scientific research projects Side story some data that needs to be analyzed
Engineering Assign repair duties. Side story an engineering problem that needs a solution Perform ship systems tests
Swing positions Some positions are not the standard ship DH positions. Some are outside the normal roster, such as Chief of Operations, or Chief Tactical Officer. Often in these positions there are no rostered player character junior officers for the Department Head to manage, but this is not to say your duty to the ship is over. You still should keep yourself busy and help out in the sim where required. For example, you can create Nameless Ensign Junior Officers to give tasks to IC. Remember to support your command staff and prove that you can perform in the position. Be an asset to the ship and the crew.
Admin Welcome to the admin side of the position. As with any promotion or higher rank there is always an increase in your own responsibility. As you move higher up the chain of command so the responsibilities increase too. Some CO's may delegate additional responsibilities to you, but they will make these aware to you when you are taking on the position. These may be ship specific so it is best to discuss these with the CO. However, as a DH on any ship you should be taking responsibility to welcome and greet your new junior officers. These may have been appointed to the ship by the CO, they might be recent academy graduates, or just an experienced role-player looking for some fun. Whatever the case always send them an email welcoming them to the ship and saying who you are. It helps to create a good atmosphere and gives that person a link to the ship and the crew. This is especially important if the person is new or just starting out. Remember, we were all there once!!! What is a welcome email? Simple, it is an email that you send welcoming someone in your department to the ship. Be friendly, give them some details, and maybe even provide a sim update or a potential starting pointer. Help the person out. On many ships the CO and XO send out their own welcome emails, but there is no excuse for you not to add your own personal touch. Remember, people like to deal with people and we are all here to have fun!