Federation Merchant Marine

I’d love to see rules and background on the Federation Merchant Marine and wonder whether that will be covered in any of the future books. Anyone have ideas about creating Merchant Marine characters? Maybe a truncated version of lifepath creation without the Academy adjustments, or perhaps an alternative to Starfleet Academy?

Nothing coming out on that I’m afraid, though I’d love to see any houserule work you do on them.

Last Unicorn Games Federation sourcebook has some material on that. Might be a good starting point.

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Yep. That’s what got me thinking about it for this rule system…

Shouldn’t be too difficult to convert the basic character creation material if you have access. The STA rules are much simpler, so you’d mostly need to decide whether to reduce the stat ranges for MM characters to reflect less extensive training (although given STA’s concentration on the PCs as heroes, I don’t think I’d do that). It would be a lot of (I feel unnecessary) work to completely update the lifepath creation rules - I’d think about doing things on a player-GM 1-1 basis.

It would be nice to wip up some new talents and the like for the new professions. I’d also look at making the new stuff less Fed MM specific and allow for private cargo vessels and non-Federation services.


Would it also be possible that some of the Disciplines would simply be absent within the whole Merchant Marine crew (first comes to mind Science, as I can not imagine scientist would be employed in Merchant Marine, but also Security or even Medicine might be absent) where the rest would simply complement each other (similarly as nowadays different functions within organizations complement each other) ?

For instance the Captain would have high Command, maybe a bit of Engineering and/or Conn and none in the remaining three Disciplines, the Pilot would have high Conn and a bit in Engineering and the Engine Mechanic would have high Engineering and a bit of Conn.

I think that even the Merchant Marine could use at least some basic scientific training, otherwise for example astronavigation could become rather difficult.

I’m with @rust, they may not empasise them, but most characters would have some rating in them. If you think about it, the 6 disciplines encompass every possible skill by definition, so someone without any Medicine at all would find it difficult to bandage an injury!

Although I note some NPCs have blank ratings for one or more disciplines.

Also eliminating any disciplines entirely would free up points for other disciplines, thus making them better than Starfleet personnel!

I think this is really a matter of reskinning rather than rewriting…

@rust: I understand your point, my thinking was that Merchant Marine are not explorers, but rather follow pre-established paths and routines (I have to think about the situation with driving around - in the unknown country you would need some navigation / mapping skills, as soon as the roads and road signs have been established, the need for navigation skills have been gone, but still some mapping skills were required to get around, but since the apps in the phones, I doubt people can read the maps same way they used to in the past, and they just simply get around simply following what the tech says). But it is fair to say, that Space is much more unpredictable, that some science skill might be needed.

@Astronut: I have not expressed myself well enough, the Merchant Marine characters would have much less points to spend in the Disciplines, thus they would not surpass the Starfleet officers. Probably they might be able to match them in one Discipline, but would be no match in sum.

I believe that you’re way over-thinking this, personally. Just because it says “Starfleet Academy” on step 5 doesn’t mean it has to be Starfleet Academy. Label it “Higher Education” instead. It could be Cardassian Spy University, or School of Hard Knocks. I hardly think a rewrite is necessary; the system handles non-Starfleet just fine.


I can see the Merchant Marine including at least some rudimentary scientific training and facilities. They aren’t Starfleet, and they shouldn’t be trying to be, but even on well-charted, patrolled shipping lanes there is no absolute guarantee that they won’t have to deal with some new phenomenon or another while the only Starfleet ship in the sector is working on something else. It doesn’t have to be more than a Discipline and Department rating of 1 or 2, but there’s some sense in it.

@Vitus: While I see your point re Disciplines where NPCs are concerned, I do disagree otherwise: a PC is a PC - I believe they should stand out from the norm to help them be interesting. It’s the focus of those disciplines that should be different.

Where maximums are concerned, a recent documentary which touched on civilian shipping qualifications reminded me that an experienced civilian helmsman (who would be very specialised) would be just as good on their chosen vessel as a Starfleet Conn officer who has to spread his skills around his profession.

Having said that, ultimately @PGoodman13 is right; I just think there’s room for more appropriate talents and foci :smiley:

@Astronut: I thought we are speaking about NPCs, so my thoughts has been only from NPC creation standpoint.

In case someone would want a Merchant Marine player character, I suppose the same rules as for the enlisted might apply to keep it in line with the games intent that the player’s are actually playing exceptional characters.

EDIT: Just taking a bit broader perspective on the whole, topic I suppose it would also depend on the purpose, assignment and run of such Merchant Marine vessel. Taking a bit of inspiration from the merchant vessels history as well as a personal experience with some ship crews nowadays, the NPCs might really vary from a bunch of miss-fits trying to make their regular simple run cargo vessel on repeated safe route (where the biggest obstacles are themselves) to an excellent crew matching those of Starfleet and used by the Merchant Marine to explore new routes, logistics schemes, transporting and warehousing technologies or even trade opportunities.

@Vitus: Sorry, I’ve been out of the loop for a while… I definitely saw this is as PC creation - your arguments definitely hold for NPCs, but the way this game is designed, you wouldn’t need stats for them most of the time!

@Astronut: I agree, that from NPC perspective the stats would be a bit redundant to have on hands.

To explain a bit my thinking behind it, I got carried away a bit with a perspective of mission or even campaign, where Starfleet PC have to cooperate with Merchant Marine NPCs (I have imagined it as a small group of PCs each taking over one section of the Merchant Marine freighter), thus from the player’s perspective for instance the Merchant Marine NPCs would really depend on the Starfleet’s universality. For example only one NPC Merchant Marine (Navigator) has the Science, so he would be the only one able to provide Science assistance (as the other PCs would be in the other parts of the ship), of course under the circumstance this Navigator NPC is still around. On top of that I have also been thinking that in this particular type of mission the Merchant Marine NPCs could be used as the secondary PCs (of course only for this mission). :blush:

Now that all makes sense :smiley:

I have sometimes considered a merchant marine campaign… one of my criticisms of the 6 disciplines was directly related to the exclusive Starfleet focus.

Are you thinking of a paramilitary Merchant Marine federal service? If so, the existing char gen is pretty much ideal with only minor tweaks. It’s the same approach LUG took - a uniformed Federation service answering to the Federation Government but not part of the Starfleet.

There is little, however, to indicate a formal uniformed service (pretty much only Charlie X). Which kind of raises verisimilitude issues. And which is what has stopped me from trying to run such a game.

There is plenty to show a wide range of independent operators and private ownership. (Trouble With Tribbles, Journey to Eden, The Most Toys, half a dozen other TNG episodes, much of DS9)… which doesn’t lend itself to the rigidity of the standard character generation.

Fortunately, there is the in-play generation…

I would suggest (if running a Merchant Marine campaign) that instead of following the normal lifepath, use the enlisted rules in I think it’s the Operations Division Book, or the alternate path in the Science Division for Universities/Internship programs. (Obviously, they will need to be adjusted a little bit to fit the general feel…) Also, remove the Career events from the lifepath, and since they aren’t starfleet officers, maybe start each Discipline at 0.

Even if they are members of the Federation, and working in a ‘fleet’ of ships, they wouldn’t be as trained as Starfleet officers right off the bat. They would have to advance to that particular ‘level’ of ability.

Let’s face it… A Merchant Marine ship isn’t going to be expected to solve scientific quandaries in deep space, or fight off a Dominion Attack Wing… The focus for this type of campaign (or one-shot) would be to role-play and portray a merchant ship delivering goods, or experiencing a few problems with someone attempting to weasel out of a contract, or even having to fend off the occasional pirate.

But what kind of adventures could a Federation Astro-Merchant Marine service have to look forward too? Unless they run into something unusual, pirates, or run straight into a conflict they did not know about…not much.

Same as pretty much any Traveller merchant campaign…

  1. Equipment breakdowns.
  2. Misrepresented cargo.
  3. Stowaways.
  4. Shore leaves you need to recover from.
  5. Space hazards - unmarked asteroids, black holes, quantum strings, etc.
  6. Deceitful suppliers.
  7. Deceitful recipients.
  8. Passengers going off the deep end.
  9. Live cargo escape.
  10. Live cargo illness
  11. Live cargo damaging other cargo
  12. Cargo leaks
  13. Space-time breakdowns - Timeloops, space madness, invaders
  14. Hostile alien raids
  15. Competition for a contract
  16. Accidental first contact
  17. Rescue missions
  18. Crew Replacements need settling in (a great “talky” adventure oportunity)
  19. Deliveries to hostile areas (Think Cardassian War or Dominion War deliveries).
  20. Deliver X as a cover while on loan to Intel
  21. Deliver Intel assets to Y
  22. Pirate raids
  23. Found a smuggler.
  24. Whatever the Section 31 agent demands.

Many of these are things that a Starfleet crew would do, too

Some more Starfleet mission-type stuff might happen because they’re the closest ship to the problem, and SF asks them to start dealing with the problem.