ACTION : The opening bars of the main theme plays. The Enterprise is shown approaching a planet. Cut to bridge set.
Sulu : Approaching Vulcan, Captain.
Kirk : Standard orbit. Keep weapons cold, but bring us to Red Alert.
ACTION : ::Sirens sound. Lights flash. More extras move onto the bridge.::
Spock : ::Hesitates. Turns to face Kirk. A single raised eyebrow.::
Kirk : Just a hunch, Spock. I think the Romulans are going to make a demonstration.
Spock : That would not be logical. Success of the diplomatic mission would not be enhanced by a demonstration at this time.
Bones : Since when have those pain in the rear cousins of yours been logical, Spock?
Spock : They are, in fact, not, my cousins. Also, we should not be readying ourselves for violence on the basis of a... 'hunch'.
ACTION : Romulan Decloaks.
Sulu : A Romulan ship is decloaking, sir.
Bones : ::Looks insufferably pleased.:: Then on what basis should we be ready?
Kirk : ::Is insufferably pleased, but tries not to show it... much...:: Hail the Romulan...
Spock : :: Not disturbed or otherwise emotional at all.. well, hardly at all. :: Fascinating...
A genera might be described as a collection of clichés. Westerns feature six guns, stage coaches, cattle rustlers, gunfights at high noon, and heading them off at the pass. Star Trek might feature phasers set on stun, Romulans decloaking, standard orbits, energizing, engaging and opening hailing frequencies. One can do action - adventure, story telling, or problem solving simply by arranging the clichés according to formula.
But for many, it is the characters that count. Kirk, Spock, Bones, Picard, Worf, and others make Star Trek memorable. Creating and playing a well thought out character with a distinct if not unique personality is for many what simming is about.
A key to role playing is pace. Action, plot or problem driven sims can be run at a very fast pace. Pick up sims and academy sims often run only an hour. In that time you have to completely resolve the conflict. There is seldom time for characters to gossip, joke, flirt, tease, and debate.
Role playing is therefore found more often on the 'advanced' ships, where the same crew meets every week, and everybody knows your name. As a side effect, many 'advanced' ships deliberately run at a significantly slower pace than a pick up or academy ship.
An action player accustomed to creating his own plot lines whenever things slows down might have to learn a little patience on a plot or problem driven ship. Role playing ships can be very much slower still. If you like a fast pace, and you find yourself on a ship where everyone spends most of their time just talking to one another, you are likely on a the wrong ship. If a good size fraction of the ship is married or engaged to marry, or if they have pets or hobbies, or if there are a number of non-humans acting like aliens, the ship will likely run at a slow enough pace that there is time for these well thought out characters to exercise their uniqueness.
Action, plot or problem ships can be run 'pure', and often are in a pick up or academy environment. A ship might be pure action, pure story, or pure problem solving. Role playing ships almost have to mix in the other elements. You might have a problem to solve, but you solve it slowly, with lots of interaction between characters while you solve the problem. At the climax, there might often be a battle scene, as an action element is thrown in. After the battle, the characters talk to each other about how they felt during the battle, or how they view the results. The action, plot and/or problems might exist not for their own sake, but as a seed to make interaction between the characters more interesting.
Which brings up yet another problem. Pure 'advanced' ships are in fact rare. Many mix the four styles listed here, and might have other elements. It would be simpler if after one adventure you know the style of a ship or it's captain. Problem is, moods shift. A ship that concentrates on only one aspect of the game might in time feel stale, so many captains deliberately change flavors from episode to episode. It is not enough to pidgin hole a ship once. One must always be aware of the ship's mood and flow.