I’m very excited about the new slate of Star Trek shows coming to CBS, especially the animated Lower Decks show about junior officers aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos. It got me thinking about running a campaign of junior officers, something that I’m doing right now, and wishing again that there were character roles appropriate to those sorts of characters. So, I made some!
The Lower Decks Campaign
If you are playing a game with mostly junior officers, as described on page 275 of the core rulebook, the roles presented in the published sourcebooks. Playing a handful of ensigns means you’d miss out on roles like chief science officer and executive officer. Some of the medical roles presented in the Sciences Division Supplement might work depending on how low your lower decks go (a physician’s assistant or an anesthesiologist might be a lieutenant junior grade but not ensigns) but we could use some roles for the least experienced members of the crew.
Rather than come up with singular roles for the lower decks crew, these roles are more narrative. As seen in the episode “Lower Decks,” a player character group is not necessarily going to be a bridge crew with roles that relate to the entire ship’s function. Instead, this group is a circle of friends from across the ship’s departments who’s role reflects their function in the group instead of in the ship. Unlike the bridge positions, there’s nothing preventing you from having multiple Main Characters in a group holding the same role but it’s more interesting if everyone has their own. Looking at your own group of friends, you might have a group that’s all pragmatists or all shirkers but they each have their own particular style.
Lower Deck Roles
Before we get into the roles, though, it’s worth talking about the structure of a lower decks game. Unless this is a one-off side adventure (a perfectly fun idea) the characters in this group won’t often be in the positions described on pages 221-225 of the core rulebook. They might be thrust into important positions sometimes (or even be crewing a small craft in the middle of a critical situation) but the whole point of such a campaign is to explore situations that are much narrower in focus than the entire ship. Most of the time this will be self-correcting (when they aren’t responsible for the ship’s survivor, managing Power or firing weapons aren’t important) but the commanding officer position has important functions that will be missed. As a result the CO’s Tasks are split between the pragmatist and booster; try to have at least one of these in the group.
- Ardent: The ardent is the one who is always pushing others. She pushes them to be better, pushes them to compete, and is quick to show their own accomplishments. Sometimes an ardent can come across as a braggart or even a bully, but as a friend an ardent always sees the possibility and never accepts giving up as an option. When the ardent succeeds at a Task where a Focus applied, they generate an additional Momentum. This Momentum cannot be saved into the group pool.
- Booster: A constant source of positivity for the group, the booster celebrates their accomplishments, encourages them to seek promotion, and arranges work shift trades to help their friends. They don’t have to be sunny cheerleaders, sometimes the booster in a group is an emotionless Vulcan or icy Ktarian who nonetheless recognizes needs among their peers and takes the necessary steps. The booster may use the Rally Task as if they were a commanding officer, though only for members of their circle of friends.
- Impulsive: There are a lot of people who plan, especially in Starfleet. Then there are those who work from instinct and natural ability. The impulsive isn’t one to think things through, and that goes double for social situations. They are the ones to propose impromptu holodeck trips, to arrive at a scheduled poker game and recommend heading to the mess hall instead, or just showing up unannounced at their friends quarters with synthahol and a new VR game. When the impulsive succeeds at Create an Advantage, they can choose to modify an existing Advantage instead of creating a new one. If they do, they gain an extra point of Momentum back.
- Nerd: The nerd isn’t necessarily an academic or even an Engineering or Science officer. They’re someone obsessed with a specific topic whether that’s history, protocol, or hand phasers. They might be perfectly normal in most situations but get them talking about their favorite topic and they’ll never stop. Choose a Discipline when this role is first adopted. When the nerd attempts a Task using that Discipline and they have a Focus that applies, they may reduce the Difficulty of the Task by 1 to a minimum of 1.
- Pragmatist: The practical ones of the group, pragmatists are the ones that make sure the circle makes plans every week, goes ahead and schedules holodeck time when the group is dithering over what to do, and tells the ardent and the shirker to stop pushing each other’s buttons. The pragmatist may use the Direct Task as if they were a commanding officer, though only for members of their circle of friends.
- Reserved: As the quiet one in the group, the reserved can be a lot of different things. They might be a no-nonsense security officer, a shy technician, or a closed-off introvert but generally the group’s conversations happen around them. They are a definite part of this circle of friends, though, and show their support in other ways. Once per mission the reserved may create an Advantage without requiring a Task or spending any resources. This Advantage reflects something the reserved has noticed while others were talking.
- Shirker: While no one lasts long in Starfleet being incompetent or lazy, the shirker is someone who tries to get by on the minimum. They tend to resent extra duties and often complain about senior staff taking advantage of the junior officers. Nobody likes getting extra work (well, almost no one) but the shirker is a master at complaining about it. When the shirker succeeds on a Task which was affected by one or more Complications they gain a bonus Momentum.
- Suck Up: It can be hard to be friends with a suck up, someone always bending over backwards to be noticed by the senior staff. They try new past times to try and create connections with superiors, When the suck up assists a Starfleet officer who is of a higher rank than them, they roll two d20s instead of the normal one.