Appropriate discipline onboard a starship

The game is still going strong with 8 PCs atm. The player that left was due to never wanting to change up his play style to accommodate his team. While I was all for him playing to his characters strengths, when a player constantly wants the other players to change their values and play styles to suit them there in lies the problem. The player that quit was getting left behind in a sense by the “spot light mechanic” which allows all players to vote for their “favorite character” due to actions that game everyone else was getting these and even some earning their arcs and getting to “level up” but no one, time and time again voted for this PC. In a game that involves so many other actual real life players (mind you we are all freinds in real life as well even the player that left the game) if you always blame someone else for your problems and can never take responsibility for them then the problem is usually yourself.

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Thanks for sharing!

I’m especially glad for you and your group that you all could turn this into a good development. It is, of course, sad to hear that one player couldn’t let the others shine with their strengths, but, then, good to hear that this problem has been solved, too! :slight_smile:

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Consideration might be given to turning the officers over to the planetary authorities. (Barring the judicial system and/or sentencing guidelines being incompatible with Fed values).

However, since the planet was not part of the Federation, there may not be an extradition treaty. With that, there could be a reason not to hand the offending officers over to the local authorities.

Plus, it would look bad to have an officer(s) handed over to punishment etc that may be considered excessively harsh compared to the Federation norm. Also, it doesn’t look good to other officers to see a fellow officer(s) handed over without proper defense etc etc etc.

Now that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t have been some form of punishment - NJP/Capt Mast/or something more harsh - but those have all been well covered.

Oooh, nice! If I ever get into such a situation, I will take this as the premises for a diplomatic mission with other characters, maybe even including admiralty.

Imagine the adventures of the USS Examplia to be put on hold while Admiral E. G. Random and their Staff (played by the original characters) have to negotiate with the planetary authorities the disciplinary measures against ship and crew.

I once did a court adventure with my D&D group where only the offender and his advocate (the group’s Paladin) stayed on their character and everybody else played NPCs (prosecutor and judges). I’d love to take this one step further to let the Players solve their problems in game but out of character. :slight_smile:

Edit: @Lurker – all very true. And this should indeed be used in the setting I envisioned. :slight_smile: An ad hoc extradition treaty for the single case (this is not uncommon in today’s real world) could be the outcome of such a session.

Hey folks,

The resurrection of this thread reminded me of a fairly recent bit of shipboard discipline drama that happened in a campaign recently, so I thought I’d recount the story. Unlike the original post in this thread, this in-game drama didn’t translate to player drama; we were all pretty entertained by the turn of events, even though it made the scenario we were playing thorny as all get-out.

Sorry, but this gets long.

Brief overview: in this campaign, I’m a player (I GM for a different campaign), and I’m the Captain of an Intrepid ship exploring the Shakleton Expanse in a post-Dominion-War/pre-Nemesis campaign. Most of this story involves our Bolian Chief Science Officer: the player leans heavily into the character’s moody backstory, even though the character is often happy-go-lucky (one of the dominant values: “Shore Leave is Most Excellent”). When we were first rolling up characters, we put a lot of time in to brainstorming the relationships between characters, and we established that the Captain and Science Officer are old friends, having served together on previous ships as lower-ranking officers. The Captain knows the Bolian’s dark, broody backstory, and selected him to be Chief Science Officer regardless.

Ever since the beginning of the campaign, our Science Officer has been searching for love. He’s a bit atypical of most Bolians, as he’d prefer a monogamous partnership. In an early scene at a bar on Nerendra Station, he wanted to flirt with the Risan Ship’s Counsellor (NPC), and he dragged the Captain along as a wing person, but the ship’s pilot, a Cardassian exchange officer (and NPC) was also at the table, and she’s just happy that someone’s finally having a conversation with her. Next thing you know, the Bolian’s in a triad relationship with both of them, even though he really wants the One Twue Wuv experience.

Over the next several sessions, lots of stuff happens: the Bolian is confronted with several encounters that brings him face to face with the broody backstory. At one point, in a crucial moment, the Bolian has a complication on a roll: our GM often solicits player input on what might make an interesting complication, and the player of the Bolian – who roleplays the heck out of scenes – decides that the Science Officer has a meltdown, overcome by guilt and the memories of broody backstory, and crumples up on the floor. Eventually, with the help of his partner, the Ship’s Counsellor, he’s back on the job. Very shortly after that, we’re in a skirmish with the Borg, and we’re trying to technobabble a novel type of attack, and the Bolian needs to spend a point of determination. The Value, “Shore Leave is Most Excellent” is crossed out: this is a harder, darker Science Officer by the end of the battle.

Cut to several sessions later. An away team is investigating a cluster of planets colonized by ancient Vulcan colonists – we figure they left Vulcan at the same time that the Romulans split off. At one point, the away team encounters another group of aliens and the Bolian has a one-on-one meeting with a special oracle and is granted a boon: the player decides that the science officer, to break out of his dark funk, is still looking for one true love, and the oracle gives him a crystal that will make him irresistible to his perfect, monogamous mate. (Is this true? Is the oracle a snake oil saleswoman? We don’t really know, but the player is all over this)

Not long after this, we’re negotiating with/arguing with/trying to control two other factions: a rogue Klingon group who wants to conquer the Vulcan colony worlds, and a Romulan faction who wants to induct the Vulcans into the Romulan Star Empire. Along the way, our science officer meets a strapping, virile Romulan marine and decides to test out his love crystal, and soon, the Bolian and the Romulan marine are making out in the rear compartment of the Argo-class Shuttle. But we have peace we need to broker, so they’re temporarily separated (but exchange numbers and a Tricorder). Before long, we find that we have to stop the Klingon orbital bombardment of the Vulcan worlds. We’re seriously out-gunned, so we negotiate an alliance with the Romulan ships. We’ll support the Romulans’ pitch to have the Vulcan worlds join the Star Empire if they help us repel the Klingons (and if we have a seat at the negotiating table to ensure that the Vulcans really have a choice).

Tensions are hot; we’re about to go in to battle against the rogue Klingons. And the science officer, who is still thinking of his one true love, decides to abandon his post and steal a shuttle to go after his Romulan marine. The player felt that the character’s arc kind of lead to this, so the Bolian was going to defect to the Romulans in search of his one true love.

By the end of the session, we’d defeated the Klingons, and the Captain called the Science Officer to basically ask WTF? The Science Officer says that he’s not coming back, and the Romulans aren’t offering him up. We know that the character has been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster over several sessions, so I persuade him to at least have a session with the Ship’s Counsellor (and, I guess, now-ex-partner), which he agrees to, so long as it can be via video call.

In between sessions, the Bolian’s player writes up an amazing counselling session conversation between the counsellor and the science officer. It’s pretty clear that he might not be making choices that are coming from a place of perfect mental health, but he’s made his choice. Unless we’re prepared to physically extract him, he’s defected.

Next session, the player of the Bolian character is instead playing the Ship’s Counsellor for the session. We have to decide what to do about the Science Officer. Declare him awol? Have him charged in absentia? The Captain has to recuse herself from the session: one of her values is “Starfleet Protocols are Strict, but Necessary,” but also, she’s close friends with the science officer and can’t be objective. Eventually the Ship’s Counsellor and the First Officer agree on how to write up the Bolian’s dereliction of duty with an addendum that pleads for leniency if he ever tries to return to the Federation.

But it doesn’t end there. Later in the session, we’re coordinating the diplomatic session with our ship, the Vulcan colonists, and the Romulans. In an intermission scene, the Ship’s Counsellor hooks up with his remaining partner, the (NPC) Cardassian pilot. The GM, being evil, decides to have the pilot propose that she and the Ship’s Counsellor steal a shuttle to launch an unauthorized rescue mission to “save” their third partner.

So, at our first recess of the diplomatic negotiation, the Captain receives a call from the ship: “Captain, one of our shuttles has been launched from the shuttlebay without authorization.”

It was not our most shining moment.

From a crew discipline point of view, it was a complete disaster. But as players, we were all there for it. We were completely committed to running with these turns of events. But, wow. Most chaotic RPG storyline I’ve ever been in.

“How bad can a diplomatic mission go?” Answer: total fail gravy.


Part of the problem lies in knowing what law enforcement authority Starfleet officers have.

There are episodes where it is said that Starfleet does have the power of arrest, even on sovereign planets.

So, if they can make an arrest do they have sufficient reason under whatever rules the Federation uses for that sort of thing? What protections does an arrestee have?

I suspect that in the Federation the scenario described would be an unlawful arrest, and an assault on a detainee.

If you use the US as an example (current news hyperbole notwithstanding) both officers would be suspended pending an investigation. If the allegations described were found to be true both would be fired and charged with kidnapping and assault.

The first officer’s further behavior… Starfleet claims not to be military, but they have courts martial. Refusal to obey the orders of a superior commissioned officer, behavior unbecoming, attempted mutiny… just for starters.

Both careers would be over, and both would likely spend at least some time in prison.

bc hlomes - that is some deep end role playing, glad you are in a group with a DM that can pull it off without any nightmares associated with going off the rails like that (yes great role playing and character development, but in the wrong group that could easily go sideways). I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a group that could go that deep in role playing, but I can admire it from the outside.

tanksoldier - I agree, but one of your comments made me think for a second 'star fleet claims not to be military, but they have courts martial.

From my military background, I always default to that thought process, but is that the norm … I assume that the majority of gamers do not have military experience, so that will color how the see discipline etc even on a semi military based setting.

Also, for star fleet, like you said, they claim not to be military, sooooo how many captains and ship officers do not have an ingrained military/discipline mind set? How many are political appointees or got their positions because they were from the right family or had the right politician as a friend. With them, what would discipline be like on the average ship. Heck in my 21 years I had 3 Os that were NOT military. They may have worn a uniform and had rank but they weren’t military in any way shape or form.

Of course, on a ship with leadership that has faced actual combat situations etc, there would be more of the military mindset. But for those with less combat orientation …

My point is, by definition, only military organizations have courts martial. That’s what the name means.

…and even in a paramilitary organization, direct defiance or orders will be dealt with harshly.

Watch Deadliest Catch. What do you think would happen on one of the crab boats if somebody did that?

At least they would be thrown off the ship and never work in the industry again.

Those people tend to me MORE likely to use the rules to reinforce their position.

…and not every Captain in Starfleet is Picard. Hate him or love him, what would Edward Jellico have done with the First Officer in this story?


As for being “non-military”, the only reference I remember is when Captain John Chistopher asked Kirk about it and he replied, “We’re a combined service…”

The “combined service” explanation was likely more to deflect further questions while explaining as succinctly as possible that Starfleet does everything.

…and I don’t know that the “non-military” aspect was explicitly referenced in TOS, tho Roddenberry insisted on it several times.