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Thread: Player Character roles on a Starship?

  1. #1

    Player Character roles on a Starship?

    I'm getting ready to run a game. The following issues have come up.

    I am really opposed to the idea of a PC being the Captain of a ship. I would still like for the Characters to be Department Heads but the Captain will be an NPC.

    It looks like we are going to have 6 Players and myself as the DM. So I am thinking great, all of the newer shows had about 7 main characters. However, the it was brought to my attention that if two players want to be Tactical Officers...then what?

    I can think of other jobs for characters to play plenty that there shouldn't be a problem but how is this best handled? I can't say i have had to deal with it before the last game I had run had fewer players and so it wasn't an issue.

    The other issue is...what do all the characters do? What is the easiest way to handle that? For example it will probably happen that a PC will be the First Officer although at least one of the players thinks that may be a bad idea as well but lets say during space combat what does a First Officer actually contribute other then sitting by the Captain?

    I want to be sure to keep all the players interested in a session and happy. I suspect that most groups aren't as blessed as mine that has as many players as we do but on the flip side I am worried that blessing may become a curse if I am not careful.

    Interested in opinions and past experiences of people. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Here is my suggestion...

    In your example of starship combat, I always had the PC's responsible for the maneuver make the rolls (i.e. if it is a helm maneuver, the helm PC makes the rolls, Tactical or command respectively). Also, while combat is going on your other PC's may be making skill checks to shore up the shields, repair a weapon system, etc. I would sometimes give affinity bonuses from having the science officer on hand to scan while tactical fired, etc.

    It might just be that in a scene, a character, though present, has nothing to do and as you stated, may just be sitting next to the captain. If your players know and like a military structured game, then this shouldn't be a problem for them. But I do suggest that try and at least make all PC's close so that they can interact - or work real hard on your feet as GM. This can be simulated kind of cool by having different personnel, in different parts of the ship, sit in different rooms or at different tables. Inter-department communication can go on, but they will have a feel for not 'being on the bridge'. Like I said, this can be a challenge GM-ing, but it is fun.

    As far as multiple officers in a station - there is nothing wrong with that. Have two lieutenant (j.g.)'s subordinate to an NPC superior of a department. They still answer to the captain, but they may work the station in shifts. And I have no problem with a PC captain, it just needs to work well with your players and the cap can't let it go to his/her head.

    Finally, your concern for the number of players and keeping them all happy... everyone needs to know that there are going to be times when they are not flying around, or when phasers aren't flaring. Each player must bring to the game what their PC actually would/could and be patient when they may not have anything to offer. The burden, of course, falls on you as GM to draw up a story arc to bring in multiple character classes so that everyone has a chance to contribute.

    An example of a story... I had a situation where my players came across a disabled ship with survivors on board. The women of these people generated an enticing pheromone that aided in their suggestions. The medical staff and science staff worked urgently to create an antidote, while engineering dealt with trying to get the disabled ship working (or abandoned), command and security were dealing with the crewmembers who were succumbing to the pheremones and causing dangerous disruptions on the ship. It was a lot more detailed, but you get the point, I hope.

    I hope this helped.

  3. #3
    OK... Well, this all really depends upon setting, and whether you are going with the fast and loose 23rd century or slightly stricter 24th century.

    Back in Kirks time, it seems that the First Officer could also be a serving department head, whic would keep the occupied in situations, but also give them input into tactics and orders (ewspecially if the captain gets injured).

    I say 'could' because Spock was both first officer and Science, just as the demoted Decker in the Motion picture was also both (until Spock returned)... But in the Pilot, No1 seemed to just be Exec, as did Chekov aboard the Reliant...

    But in Picards time the roile of 1st officer was definately a seperate role, and effectively a back-up catptain, whose job it was to lead away teams, or to fill any vacant or support bridge positions during red alert and to ensure that the captain was advised of ALL options...

    I also prefer the captain remain an NPC, at least until a player has consistanly proven their ability to take-charge in character, in which case let them have their promotion...

    As for the 2 tactical officers, split Tactical and Security? Let there be a red shirted Tac officer (I see this as a Command post) on the bridge as well as security chief who also gets all the juicy away teams... When both are present, the senior officer will depend upon circumstance and whether the situation is Tacitcal or Security.

    Altermnatively, if you find your players are each after the various roles... Get them to build their characters and then YOU as NPC captain can then assign them. A senior rank would be chief... But perhaps that other Operations officer might also suit Helm or Engineering? Perhaps a transfer to another department but do it as a plot device led by your NPC captain? Using this NPC status to your own advantage, hell, you can even invole the players of the XO and Councilor, make them part of the decision and get them involved?
    DanG/Darth Gurden
    The Voice of Reason and Sith Lord

    “Putting the FUNK! back into Dysfunctional!”

    Coming soon. The USS Ganymede NCC-80107
    "Ad astrae per scientia" (To the stars through knowledge)

  4. #4
    All of that is actually pretty good advice. The game is set at the very end of the Dominion War. It wouldn't be an issue if it was in Kirk's time the XO is a Dept head then and those ships needed all the Security Officers they could get...

    I probably will split Security and Tactical if that happens, I am not sure if it will but one of the players has already expressed an interest in a Security Officer. Also it willallow for one to as you said go on away teams and another to stay aboard ship. Also one can fight any intruders while the other handles the Tactical situation in space combat.

  5. #5
    well. If you are setting the game at the end of the Dominion war you have another get out of jail free card available to you too.

    Wartime Casualties. The Federation lost a lot of personel during the conflict, and so Starfleet Command may well have to re-assign personal to best fit the needs of getting a working fleet back out there. This could also leave some crews short handed.

    It also allows you to mix species too. With Bajoran officers transferring in from the Bajoran Militia to train as Starfleet Officers, and even (dependant on where you want to go with your tale) the possibility of Romulan or Klingon exchange officers...

    When I ran a post DS9 game, one of the themes I wanted to push was the post war Federation with Starfleet split between the Hawks and the Doves... Those that only knew war, and had become so drawn to it that they sought more conflict, and the idealists and old school officers who wanted to return to an age of exploration.

    Just another thought for you...
    DanG/Darth Gurden
    The Voice of Reason and Sith Lord

    “Putting the FUNK! back into Dysfunctional!”

    Coming soon. The USS Ganymede NCC-80107
    "Ad astrae per scientia" (To the stars through knowledge)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 1999
    at my Home By The Sea
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Gurden View Post
    When I ran a post DS9 game, one of the themes I wanted to push was the post war Federation with Starfleet split between the Hawks and the Doves... Those that only knew war, and had become so drawn to it that they sought more conflict, and the idealists and old school officers who wanted to return to an age of exploration.
    Sounds interesting. I'd be a dove, I guess.

    How did things turn out in your group back then?

  7. #7
    I don't really want to shove players into a position they are not wanting to do. I might combine positions such as the Tactical Officer also doing the job of Operations Officer since he doesn't have to worry about Security if the above mentioned scenario happens. Sort of how Worf was both Tactical and Communications Officer on the Enterprise.

    I am using a ship that has not been featured in any show other than background so I can basically make the Bridge crew work how I need to hopefully without causing angst among the players.

    Luckily Starfleet Officers are a versatile bunch so I don't think combining the responsibilities of a position or two will cause any great strain on anyone.

    I dislike the idea of exchange officers for my setting though. I have allready limited my players to Federation member species. There are plenty of them to chose from in my opinion.

  8. #8
    If it is a dedicated war ship, it would seem to be a good idea to divide phaser batteries and torpedo launchers between multiple tactical officers. Perhaps, you could have two tactical officers one in charge of starboard and the other in charge of port weapons.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 1999
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Contrariwise, I uaually find a PC captain to be a "must". an overall authority can be then made more distant, and the characters have to think for themselves and not "run home to mommy (the NPC Captain)".

    Yeah, i know... thread necromancy... I'm bored and there's not much going on here. Just trying to kick-start theings.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Jacksonville, Arkansas, USA
    I'd get all the players together to hash out who's going to do what. If they're creating characters as a group, they're more likely to come up with a crew that works well together and doesn't have any glaring weaknesses.

    And if two of them want to be security chief, toss them into an arena, winner takes all. I bet 20 quatloos on the guy in the red shirt.
    + &lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;<

    Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. Psalm 144:1

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    You could also focus on what sort of jobs you think will be needed on the ship. One idea might be to make a list of all the jobs you think the game will need, and mark off which players are doing them. Then have a couple missions where the the missing character type is really needed.

    I.e. nobody takes Chief Medical Officer. So you have a mission where an alien disease takes down some of the Away Team, and the NPC doctors have to solve it. At the same time, a pirate group pops in system, and the PCs have to deal with it. Unfortunately, due to the disease, all the main crew are operating below normal. The Captain will have to decide who gets the cures first.

    • Captain - organizes and provides a dice roll boost to one PC per turn
    • XO - can provide a smaller Captain bonus, technically expendable vs the Captain, very useful on Away Missions when the Captain has to stay on board the ship
    • Medical Officer - lots more capability to figure out physical problems and heal people
    • Tactical - knows ship weapons
    • Security - knows ground weapons and tactics
    • Engineering - handles main power distribution and some repairs
    • Sensors - help breaking enemy cloaks, detecting changes, etc

    For other idea, check out Fantasy Flight Games "Rogue Trader", with the jobs roughly equal to Starfleet:
    • Rogue Trader - Captain of the ship often, lots of being the contact person
    • Seneschal - does all the illegal stuff so the Rogue Trader doesn't have to
    • Missionary - helps to being the Light of Mankind to people who got along fine without it
    • Void-master - Knows ship-board weapons
    • Arch-Militant - ground commander, very good with hand weapons (including tank guns) vs starship guns
    • Explorator - Tech-Priest who goes exploring off the ship, rather than part of the Engineering crew that stays on-board.
    • Astropath Transcendant - psionic communications (often an NPC)

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