Admiral On Board

I just wanted to briefly share an idea I had. I ran a game with eleven players, recently. I figured that if there were just one Captain player, the action would be severely bottlenecked, since in Star Trek the decisions/orders generally come down from the Captain.

Well, I decided to take inspiration from a common situation in the Shatner movies, and have one of the players play an Admiral who was on board for some reason in addition to the assigned Captain. The beginning of Generations is the single closest analogy, because Harriman still sits in the Captain’s chair.

This worked out great, since the players (and I as Gamemaster) still looked to the Captain for orders, but the Admiral could jump in and effect orders as well.


There were several (some?) episodes of TNG following that pattern, as well. Only yesterday, I watched Pegasus where this was exactly the modus operandi. Good job, and nice to hear that it worked out! I will definetly consider this for large (or even smaller, depending on the plot) groups!

1 Like

Thanks! Yeah, it happened in TOS, too (with Commodores and Ambassadors and Commissioners), and it never turned out well! I wanted to stick with the Admiral Kirk analogy to suggest goodwill and competence (and a man of action, doesn’t hurt).


I’m just curious as to why you have players who are captain or admiral rank. Your idea sounds good for mixing things up, but I usually keep players below captain rank.

Just to emulate the format of the show. It never occurred to me not to have a captain. I’m curious as to your reasoning to the contrary.

1 Like

I mostly insisting on a Player as Captain, as they have to make the stupid and wiese Decisions by them self and have to bear the consequences.

I don’t like the Moment, when the Player dicide: Thats abouve my paygrade.


I am glad that the play was enjoyable for your players, @Falconer, that is the most important thing.

In the campaign that I started recently, there are 5 players. One Ensign, 2 Lt (JG)s, and 2 Lts. (One Lt being a Veteran who spent time either as Enlisted, or as an exchange officer from the Klingon Defense Force before transferring into Starfleet). The reasoning for this, is because I have them starting as being assigned to a Starbase with an attached vessel (similar to how Defiant was assigned to DS9). Through their play, they will advance and earn promotions, and possibly eventually earn a command of their own.

Currently, in the player’s careers, none of them are qualified ‘Bridge Officers’ since they have never taken the Bridge Officer’s test. Any player that wants the option of their character being able to take command (even if only for the graveyard shift) of the bridge will need to take the test.

Since there are no specifics for this other than a short optional text in the core book, I decided to make the BOT a 2-part test, the first part being a ‘Written’ portion with a single task of Reason + Command with a difficulty of 3. After they pass that, taking it as many times as needed, they will have a ‘Practical’ exam, where they will need to order someone to do an action that would result in their death (Holodeck simulation or real-life practice scenario).

One of the drawback’s of this campaign scenario is that there are many modules where it assumes that the players are in full command of the ship at their disposal, and at least one of them is the highest rank on that ship so they have the final say.

This will happen once or twice along the way, unfortunately.

Once one of the players reaches Lt Commander or Commander and has passed the Bridge Officer’s Test, they can take temporary command of the starship attached to the Starbase when it heads away for survey/patrol/scientific exploration.

One suggestion for the practical exam (assuming you feel like your players will not mutiny over you deceiving them) is to start the practical exam on the Holodeck and then midway through have the Captain issue a red alert and order the PC being tested to the Bridge (or Engineering or wherever). Except, unbeknowst to the PC it’s all part of the rest and when they call for an exit, they’re still in the Holodeck even though you narrate them leaving and going to the turbo lift, etc.

Then, when the moment comes that they have to order someone to their death to save the ship, they think they are actually killing one of their fellow PCs for real.

Another suggestion: the person who has to “die” should either be another PC or, failing that, an NPC who is really important to the PC (spouse, best friend, mentor, etc).

One more suggestion: to throw the players a curve since they might expect that the test is to order a crewmate to their death, make the action something else - maybe it’s a Prime Directive situation and the correct answer is they actually have to let the ship be destroyed to prevent a prewarp planet from being contaminated. Or a deadly incurable plague is loose and the only way to contain it is to self destruct with all hands still aboard. Etc.

1 Like

As a captain, there is a certain amount of “human resources” available at their command that may make other player’s contributions seem diminished or insignificant if they rely on using those resources. Like, if the party is Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Sulu, and Kirk just orders three squads of NPCs down to the surface to take care of things, it can be overkill for some situations but realistically it seems like the kind of a thing a player might do whenever possible to get things done.

But if the captain is an NPC, and the party are Jr Lts, Lts, etc, they can get assignments from their captain or commanding officer, and might request or need resources, but they can’t really order NPCs to do all the work for them.

Interesting. I appreciate the insights. Something to think about, for sure. I guess I just thought in terms of the players at the table being the “cast of the episode” who were responsible for getting done whatever needed to get done; but I realize that’s a bit of a meta attitude. Also, there would still need to be a pool of NPCs available because logically they would be; I would have to think about spoken or unspoken limits on how many, and what they can be trusted with.

i wanted the players to “run the show”, made it harder for me though. i had to spend threat to bring in things to get them back an track at times. if i ran the captain then i would have been telling them where to go and what to do. with them all as the bridge crew (and one of them the doctor) they made all the decisions and it felt more like the show, which was why i wanted to play this

Our campaign has been running for about 15 years, through several rules sets, but we like STA best!. We have had rotating GM’s, different “casts” on different ships, and we rotate after the story arc is over. This gives the GM’s some rest and a chance to play, recharge and renew. It also gives multiple players a chance to be the Captain, and try out differing roles and characters. All of our campaigns are in the prime universe, set after TNG, DS9 and VOY. We have had as many as 15 players, but we found this to be very challenging for the GM’s. Right now we have 6-7 players. The players who run the Captain understand they are only a part of the campaign and one way we know a player is ready to be Captain is how well they get others included in the storyline.


I imagine that era might play a role in this decision. In TOS, the Standard Operating Procedure appears to be Capt always leads the landing party. I’d think if the Capt’s an NPC that would put the damper on the players in the landing party… unless the Capt is the galaxy’s unluckiest person and can always be counted on being on death’s door/sucked into another dimension/captured/turned into a newt.

Well, the Captain being an NPC could be a problem in a setting where they would always be present leading, especially with landing partys. But the Captain being a SC, i.e. a Supporting Character – that could be a very interesting approach since everybody has a chance to be Captain for some time.

I had the idea of leaving all bridge positions for players’ choice – with the exception of the Captain, who would be a supporting character.

I already thought of something similar for this… having the player report to a transporter room on the Starbase to be beamed to the attached Starship, and instead being beamed onto the holodeck in a running program simulation of the ship and simulation.

This is an interesting idea that I had not considered yet. One of the player characters is a medical officer, so the possibility of having to quarantine or otherwise deal with an incurable deadly disease could work, but not to the extent of having to self destruct the ship (in my opinion).

The one problem with these scenarios, is presenting them to the two telepathic Betazed characters being played. (Medical officer being one of them). Trying to portray the scenarios without the two being able to tell the scenario was face would be difficult, due to the telepathy.

I’d just like to comment on something that seems to be coming up a few time- I can understand the concerns people have about players being captain, or the idea of an orders bottleneck, however I always try to go in to my sessions with a couple of considerations:

  1. senior officers are senior. Although the captain has the final overall say, every member of the senior staff has earned their position in part because they are capable and trusted to make decisions independently. Sometimes this is shown in the shows by brilliant saves, and sometimes as misguided mistakes.

If the players are comfortable stepping into those senior roles, there shouldn’t really ever be a bottleneck in the action.

  1. The idea of a situation being able to be overpowered by committing huge amounts of resources is one that could always happen in the show. However, generally speaking there is always a narrative reason why that isnt possible- something preventing transport, the ship being busy with something else, or simply a tense situation that would be thrown into chaos by the arrival of extras are all pretty simple examples.
1 Like

We play TOS and as such the Captain is a player character who goes on away missions and the executive officer, who is a npc helmsman, stays on board.
In early games the EO was a player but no longer plays which has made my job easier.
Having saids that, any player can run the EO if the scene shifts back to the bridge while main characters are off screen.

1 Like

There were several Star Trek novels from the 1980’s that were based on the premise that the main characters were common crewmen on the Enterprise and the main officers would hardly ever put in an appearance. (One was named Dreadnaught, by Diane Carey, and I think there were others in the series.) It worked sort-of, but occasionally the main characters would get into a bind so that Kirk and Co would zoom in to save the day and then keep moving off camera. That made the series a little odd, I thought.

I think that the advantage of having a PC captain would be that someone would be able to make the key decisions, but the advantage of not having a PC captain would be that the PCs would often be in situations out of their control.

I first heard of this from the Complex Games Apologist on YouTube, and I thought it a good idea.
After the players have built their characters, all of them pitch in and build their Captain who is an NPC (doesn’t count against their Supporting Crew max).

I wouldn’t want the Captain to use up one of the Supporting Character slots; you don’t have that many.

One way to handle this is say the players all built away team members, now have them build secondary characters as the bridge crew to, of course, use when there is ship to ship action.
Or the GM can just make a bunch of bridge crew “NPCs” that can be taken over when needed.

An example of this was demonstrated when Modiphius hosted a live game on YouTube running the adventure Signals; at one point during play, they cut away from the landing party to address a ship combat with a Romulan warbird.

Oh, and in my TOS game, the Captain DOES NOT beam down with the landing party! Sorry Kirk.