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There is no official rank of executive officer within a crew and no official duty station or indicator to show who is the executive officer of a ship. Compare this with the Master at Arms position in Atlantis battles. By convention in Y!PP, the executive officer, also known as the XO, first officer, or first mate, is the designated second-in-command aboard a ship. This person is designated by the commanding officer or immediately determined per the rules of the crew.
The need for an executive officer to be designated will vary on the size of the ship and the size of the crew. On smaller ships, such as the sloop and cutter, there may be no need for an executive officer, and the commanding officer will handle the duties of the executive officer. On larger ships, however, the need for an executive officer, and possibly secondary officers, is apparent and may be necessary to successfully maintain order aboard the ship.
Role of the Executive Officer
The executive officer's role aboard the ship is twofold: they have direct command over the crew aboard the ship, and they are the immediate adviser to the commanding officer.
By having direct command over the crew, the executive officer can handle any immediate crew-related issues, allowing the commanding officer to focus on the ship and the sea. The executive officer should immediately deal with any disciplinary issues and see that all stations are filled.
When booty is divided, the executive officer can inform the commanding officer of exceptional crew members and those who were trouble makers for appropriate adjustments to the division. Any members who are planked should also be reported at this time.
While the executive officer will typically be issuing commands to the crew, they should never be assumed to actually be in command. While the executive officer will have immediate command over the crew, they do not have absolute authority and always answer to the commanding officer.
The executive officer will also maintain a watch over the status of the ship, including the hold, and advise the commanding officer accordingly. If supplies are running low, the executive officer can inform the commanding officer so that a port arrangement can be made.
If deemed necessary, the commanding or executive officer may designate secondary officers to help further maintain order and establish a chain of command. The need or desire for secondary officers, sometimes called deck officers, becomes apparent as you approach the largest ships: the war frigate and grand frigate.
For example, some ships will designate a gunnery officer who is in charge of the guns and gunners, while also taking a gunning station. This person may also be in charge of finding the higher-ranking gunners among the jobbing pirates and ordering those individuals to gunning stations.
General Tips & Advice
- Have notepad, or a shortcut to it, handy for tracking lists of good and bad jobbers, reminders to raise or cut pay at the end, notes on who works well and who annoys who else, and just general notes for future reference. Likewise, a calculator and access to the wiki/forums can be invaluable.
- Know your CO. Know how to read their moods, know when to be harder on the jobbers, and know when to hop on a station yourself.
- You (probably) have a blackspot and (definitely) a plank. Use them. Don't abuse them, of course, but don't be afraid of touching them.
- Know your limits. If you can only sail for two hours or so, then discuss this with your CO beforehand. Few things are as disappointing from a CO's perspective as their XO leaving them with a boat full of jobbers.
- Act the part. Remember, you're here to help run the boat. Be nice, be pleasant, be fun and be yourself, but remember your role.
Almost universally, the XO is the designated "jobbing contact" for the pillage: They're responsible for processing jobbing requests, dealing with the notice board if necessary, and if worst comes to worst, begging hearties, flagmates, and those already aboard for potential jobbers.
- At the low level of the scale, jobbing is often as simple as jobbing anyone who asks.
- At the high level of the scale, jobbing takes sudden importance. Often on the more elite pillages, there will be requested minimums that all jobbers meet, and it falls to the jobbing contact to check and make sure that potential jobbers meet these requirements before jobbing them. This can be a long and emotionally draining process, as the XO may occasionally have to turn down a friend or flagmate due to not meeting eligibility requirements.
- Expert XOs address this by jobbing off the board as little as possible. Most XOs who do so regularly have a stable of jobbers who they know, trust, and work well with, and whenever possible, will rely on hearties and hearties of those already aboard to staff the boat. Consequentially, expert COs know their limits, and are able to recognize when jobbing is going sufficiently poorly to start jobbing off the board, or advise the navver to end the pillage due to lack of jobbers.
XOs are also almost always responsible for ensuring discipline and maximum output aboard their boats. The strictness depends upon the nature of the pillage... a XO on a greener run should be anticipating more questions and perhaps rudeness from those who quite simply don't know better, while an XO on a higher-level pillage has to be prepared to diffuse outbursts of drama and anger (It's difficult to believe that there are people out there who actually go "NO, I REFUSE to be on the same boat as HIM/HER" until you're staring them in the eye.)
- At the low level, discipline broadly covers keeping rude and careless jobbers in check with liberal use of the plank, as well as dealing with potentially disruptive questions and suggestions from jobbers who only think they know better. (For example, the XO is the one responsible for correcting jobbers who, during boarding, encourage the entire boat to hop on the one with the hat, under the delusion that the hatted brigands are more powerful, or enhance payment, or whatever else.)
- At the high level, discipline becomes more complex, because jobbers do know better. The exact duties of a high-level XO depend largely on what their navver requires. If the navver requires absolute silence on vessel chat, then the XO should crack the whip and keep the tarting to a minimum. If the navver doesn't mind a bit of chatter, the XO should still be firm but pleasant to ensure output without crushing enjoyment or ego unnecessarily. It can be a balancing act, but it can be mastered.
- Expert XOs, again, through avoiding random jobbers and relying on those they know or trust to fill their ships, have fewer discipline cases than those who job mostly off the board.
Easily the most vital puzzle of the ship when engaged and not dead in the water, managing the guns is tricky business that XOs have to keep a close watch on, and be prepared to react to very quickly.
- At lower levels, XOs themselves will often be called upon to gun, as guns are a tentative puzzle. (That is to say, it's possible to gun well without needing a league in advance to set up combos and the like, and it's possible to leave the puzzle at any time without endangering a standing.) They may also have difficulty finding competent gunners aboard a ship of mostly newer players and greenies, so are advised to find a few good gunners within their crew, flag, or hearty list, and give them preference.
- Higher-level XOs need to micromanage guns less, because they come into contact with more competent gunners on the whole. It can often just be a matter of picking a few people with decent stats and never having to worry about them ever again.
- Expert XOs will often delegate gunning completely to a "master gunner" or gunnery officer, who just manages the guns and gunners. They decide how many gunners they require, they decide who they are, and they issue the gunning orders, entirely beyond the XO's control or attention. This is one less detail for the XO to worry about during a pillage, although the loss of direct control can be problematic in it's own ways.
Entertainment & Education
Keeping jobbers happy and working aboard your ship is tricky business, and you'll need different ways of doing it for the various levels.
- At lower levels, the education role can be greatly emphasized. The best XOs can simultaneously run a ship, advise the navver, deal with all their other issues at hand, and teach new players about the boat. This involves explaining teaming before swordfights, this involves dispelling rumors, this involves explaining how the various puzzles interact with one another, and this involves explaining the individual puzzles themselves. Low-level XOs are also advised to have a large quantity of light, easy amusements on hand in case of a lull... funny battle cries, good jokes, interesting tidbits about the game, or just good old fluff.
- At high levels, Education falls away to Entertainment. Unless you're on a cruise that is supposed to be deathly silent, you are the host or hostess of a floating party, and you'd better be prepared to keep the punch flowing. Have topics in mind, be witty, and be aware of limits and potential hotspots. If it's any help, remember what your grandmother called the "two rules of good conversation: no money, and no politics".
- Expert XOs can drive the conversation without even participating in it, with just gentle nudging here and there. They know who they have aboard, they know who gets offended by what and who doesn't like who and all the other dirt, so they know when to steer the conversation elsewhere. They know when to teach and when to link to the documentation instead, and they know when to refer someone to a greeter for a more thorough explanation than they can give while drowning in vessel-related management.