Crew Structure On TNE Starships
Traveller is a registered trademark of FarFuture Enterprises.
Portions of this material are Copyright © 1977-1996 FarFuture Enterprises.
Recently I created a 1,000Td frigate using FF&S (posted elsewhere
- try Goeran's Site). Then I tried to take
the statistics from that, and create a deckplan. I ran into a
little problem figuring out the bridge layout from the crew, since
I couldn't figure out what all the "command crew" were
doing. I had 11 out of 26 workstations with no clearly defined
role. So I posted a cry for help on the TML. Now I want to share the
consolidated fruits of that with you.
First I'll present the various possible jobs these
people can be doing. Then I'll go over actually setting up a command
crew. This is going to depend on the society fielding the ship
- a Solomani crew will be organized differently than a Vilani
crew, and a nonhuman crew like Aslan or Vargr will be completely
different from either. Since I'm Solomani, for now, I'm going
to call my structure Solomani. If it doesn't match up with the
"canon" psyche for Solomani, let me know (I don't have
"Rats & Cats"). I'll be eagerly awaiting inputs
from others - both on mine, as well as suggestions for how other
races would work.
NOTE: I refer to "the bridge" throughout as if it were
a single compartment, but that's not necessary. Each of these
persons has a "bridge workstation," which is larger
than a normal one, but they don't necessarily have to be located
together. Traditionally, they are, but nowhere is that a requirement.
No matter how you structure the crew, these people on the bridge
have to be doing something. They're not just there to look good.
While FF&S glosses over these details and just says you assume
one command crew person per six other crew persons, I want to
have a little better idea what's going on. It impacts the layout
of the bridge on one hand, and can have all kinds of "hooks"
for adventuring: from who you need to hire for your crew to what
skills you have available in unusual situations.
So, the good folks on the TNE Mailing List came up with the following
different positions that might be needed on a bridge.
- Manned by ship's commanding officer during combat/crises, or by
the Duty Officer (first through fourth officers) when the captain
is not on the bridge. Primarily supervisory; this station can
monitor any bridge station, and has pickups and controls for intership
and intraship communications (voice and video). This station can
also override any other station, and hence has special security
requirements to activate it.
Quote: "Lieutenant, put B deck on audio. This is the captain
- Tactical Officer
- Manned by ship's tactical officer (usually the executive officer,
or second in command) only when ship is on alert status or at
battle stations. Receives and presents information from sensors,
fire control, and analysis stations in such a way that the captain
and tactical officer get "the big picture," provides
advices to the commander, and interprets and executes the commander's
Quote: "The enemy is displaying two-dimensional thinking
and a lack of situational awareness. I recommend ..."
- Fire Control Officer
- Manned by ship's fire control officer only when ship is on alert
or at battle stations. Station can monitor any of the MFD's, turrets,
or screens workstations; FCO assigns targets to individual offensive
battery controllers (MFD's or turret gunners) and coordinates
Quote: "All HPG banks charged and standing by to fire."
- Defense Officer
- Manned by the ship's defense or security officer. Station can
monitor any of the MFDs, turrets, or screens workstations, Defense
Officer assigns targets to individual defensive battery controllers
(MFD's or turret gunners) and coordinates defensive fire.
Quote: "Sandcasters, watch out for the lasers on that
gunboat bearing 45 mark 32 and be ready."
- Communications Officer
- Manned at all times when ship is not in jumpspace (note that electronics
consoles may not be manned at all times). Controls and routes
intership and intraship communications, generally the first point
of contact for any communication to the bridge; can monitor or
override any function controlled by the electronics consoles.
If this position exists, it is in addition to the positions FF&S
calls out for "electronics crew," and is generally a
supervisory position on large ships, coordination all the electronics
crew members. The functions are performed by one of the electronics
crew on smaller ships.
Quote: "The captain of the alien vessel is hailing us."
- Sensor Officer
- Manned at all times when ship is not in jumpspace (note that electronics
consoles may not be manned at all times). Controls and coordinates
sensor usage, and preliminary analysis of results; can monitor
or override any function controlled by the electronics consoles.
Like the comm officer, this is in addition to the "electronics
crew" positions. Performed by one of the electronics crew
on smaller ships.
Quote: "Three bogies - bearing 45 mark 17, range 8.0,
course 12 mark 3."
- Analysis Desk
- Manned by the analysis or computer officer (4th officer, or on
survey ships by the science officer). On warships, manned during
alert or battle stations (though the captain may elect to man
this station much more frequently than that, particularly
on survey missions). Performs detailed analysis of sensor data,
including target recognition, data lookup, and computer operations.
Performed by one of the electronics crew on smaller ships.
Quote: "Drive emissions match Zhodani "Zeke"
class escorts. Missile armed, plus a single laser turret. Better
acceleration than we've got, but shorter fuel endurance."
- Chief Engineer
- Manned by the Chief (first) Engineer, whenever the ship is on
alert or battle stations, or is preparing for a jump. Monitors
the status of the ship's systems; used by the chief engineer to
coordinate activities by the engineering crew.
Quote: "Stand by for jump drive sequencing."
- Power Engineering Monitor
- Manned at all times, by an engineering officer (usually by rotation
between the 2nd and 3rd engineers, and the damage control officer).
Monitors the health and status of the ship's power plant, power
plant fuel, and power distribution grid (failure of any of these
systems will kill everyone aboard within a matter of hours). On
smaller ships, falls under the Chief Engineer's Station
Quote: "I don't have enough power, Captain."
- Maneuver Engineering Monitor
- Manned whenever the ship is not in jump, by an engineering officer
(3rd engineer, usually). Monitors health and performance of maneuver
drive, including fuel usage. On smaller ships, falls under the
Chief Engineer's Station or the Power Engineering Monitor Station
Quote: "I'm giving her all she's got sir - we can only
keep this up for another 20 minutes before the drive goes into
- Environmental Systems Monitor
- Manned at all times aboard larger ships. On smaller vessels these
functions are routed through the duty officer's station. Monitors
all environmental systems aboard ship: ventilation, lighting,
heating, water, artificial gravity, etc. May include anti-hijacking
- Damage Control Officer
- Manned by an engineering officer when the ship is on alert or
battle stations. Monitors the overall status of the ship, directs
and coordinates damage control parties. May be combined with the
Chief Engineer's Station, or may be performed by the XO on smaller
Quote: "Minor damage on B and C decks, sir."
- Flight Officer
- Responsible for the operations of all ship's small craft - launch,
flight and recovery. On carriers, there will be more than one
position, with the officers responsible for tactics and coordination
of the fighters/battle riders.
There are other crew positions on the bridge, which aren't filled
by command crew. These include:
Special thanks to Harold D. Hale <email@example.com>
and Derek Wildstar <firstname.lastname@example.org> for the detailed position
descriptions they contributed, and for their permission to edit
and add them to my own.
- Astrogator (Maneuver Crew)
- Someone to make the jump to the next star, etc. work. May also
have other duties assigned (such as Senior Gunnery Officer) on
mid-sized ships where space can be a problem, and no dedicated
command crew person is assigned.
- Helmsman (Maneuver Crew)
- Or helmsperson, pilot, whatever ... someone to steer the ship
between jumps. Can also take over as Astrogator in an emergency.
- Senior Computer Officer (Electronics Crew)
- Responsible for monitoring the status of the ship's three main
computers and any others that might be on board. Sends technicians
out to fix any computer related glitches that might crop up in
areas outside of engineering. In the NE, also probably an expert
on Virus and Virus behavior.
- Sensor Operators (Electronics Crew)
- These people actually operate the radars, etc.
- ECM Operators (Electronics Crew)
- Likewise the jammers, decoys, etc.
- Weapons Directors (Gunnery Crew for MFDs)
- These are the persons operating the Master Fire Directors and
actually controlling the ship's weapons.
- Science Officer
- There are things in space that are dangerous besides vampire ships...
This person is a scientific expert who is familiar with ship's
operations and what natural phenomenon can do to a space vessel.
Note this position is not called out in the FF&S design rules,
but is one that would be added as an exception by the ship's designer.
- Other special positions required by some societies might be the
zampolit (political officer) and ship's counselor. Anybody got more suggestions?
Solomani Command Crews
OK. Now we know what jobs we need to fill on the bridge, so how
is the crew structured to fill them? And how many of each do we
need? Well, since it's going to depend on overall ship and crew
size, I'm going to use my frigate as an example. Here's the complete
- 11 Command - Captain + ????
- 2 Maneuver - easy to figure out, astrogator and pilot
- 3 Electronics - these guys are running commo, sensors and
- 20 Gunnery - includes 10 MFD gunners under "bridge crew,"
8 sandcaster gunners (at the turrets), and 2 meson screen crew
- 39 Engineering
- 7 Maintenance
- 1 Medical
- 1 Steward
Disclaimer - this structure is heavily biased towards our present-day
structures, and probably owes more than a little bit to "Star
Trek." See the Alternate Structure comments at the
First of all, you're going to have a captain. That's obvious.
As the ship gets bigger, you'll also need the executive officer
who handles all the day-to-day details of the ship, and you're
going to need further command officers who will run the ship for
the captain while he's off duty. These will be first officer (who's
also the exec) through fourth officer (as needed), plus midshipman
trainees on really large ships. This ship will have first through
Each department of five or more people should have a department
head plus deputies (about 1 per 10). These people are more concerned
with the running of the department than with the actual hands-on
work, and hence count as command crew, not part of the department.
These people handle shift assignments, training, discipline, evaluation,
status, etc. etc. - all the administrivia it takes to make any
organization larger than three people work right.
- Engineering: The chief engineer is more concerned with running
engineering than with running the engines, so he counts as command.
Of course, a good engineer will still have permanent grease stains
in his uniform. I'm counting maintenance in with engineering,
so in this case, I need a chief engineer, and four junior engineers.
Again, these don't count against the engineering crew.
- Gunnery: Somebody's got to coordinate everything, so you'll
need gunnery officers. I've got a chief gunnery officer, and a
second gunnery officer, in addition to the gunners themselves.
- Steward: Depending on your size, you'll have a chief steward,
plus lead stewards for each shift, dining area or whatever. This
could also include your purser, trader, admin staff, cargomasters,
- Medical: Obviously, a large medical section will have a Chief
Medical Officer, plus Medical Officers and Junior Medical Officers
On this particular ship, I'd have the CO (Commanding Officer)
providing the overall direction. The XO (Executive Officer, or
First Officer) is concentrating on the tactical situation, providing
advice to the CO. The Second Officer will be coordinating sensor
data and running the analysis desk, retrieving recognition data
from the computer, and providing data to the tactical officer
and fire control officers. The Chief Gunner is coordinating all
the offensive weapons gunners - he takes the Captain's order to
"hit that patrol boat at 12 mark 15" and assigns it
to a gunner, either missile or laser. He's coordinating all the
missile gunners to ensure the missiles in flight are properly
allocated to targets, and redirected if the original target is
destroyed. The Second Gunnery Officer is performing a similar
function, coordinating the defensive lasers, sandcasters and meson
screen. On ships which don't have dedicated anti-missile lasers,
coordinates the use of lasers with the Fire Control Officer. He
also ensures the ECM operator stays on his toes. The Chief Engineer
will be overseeing all the engineering functions. One engineering
station will be physically located in engineering, and the other
three engineers will run Power Engineering, Maneuver Engineering,
and Damage Control. Finally, the Third Officer (betcha thought
I forgot him!) is available for such duties as are necessary -
replace the helmsman, take charge of damage control parties, relieve
people who are overstressed or need to take care of hygiene, and
fetch sandwiches and coffee.
Need inputs here
Need inputs here
Really need inputs here - I'd imagine they're really different.
Anybody have a copy of "Sneaks & Geeks?"
General Comments about Alternate Structures
>First of all, you're going to have a captain. That's obvious.
from Les Howie
Actually, it's not (at least as we think of the role today). A
socially stratified society, especially with a well defined warrior
nobility, might work very differently. Early Modern Spanish (e.g.
Spanish Armada) ships were commanded by a military officer (effectively
a Colonel or General) who was only concerned with fighting the
ship. Actually sailing the darn thing without sinking it was the
job of a technical speciallist of a lower social standing. Likewise
in the 19th Century Royal Navy, the title Engineering Officer
was considered a bad joke. I think this could be reflected in
some traveller societies.
from Harold D. Hale
I would add however, a bit about 1st officers, 2nd officers, etc.
IMHO, these would be titles assigned to show the chain of command
on the bridge, they would not actually be a specific person with
a specific job description. Thus, the Science Officer could also
have the title of 2nd Officer. A lot would depend upon how the
society was oriented, and what, if any traditions there are.
(Personally, I disagree with this - I wouldn't put a Science
Officer in a command position. However, if I had a Second Officer
who had a scientific background, I might give him the additional
duty of Science Officer. I feel the "command" qualifications
take precedence, setting up the chain of command. These people
should be qualified in all aspects of running a ship. They would
then be assigned specific duties based on their particular strengths,
and the needs of the ship. But that's my viewpoint, and different
societies will certainly see it differently)
The Executive Officer would likely be the 1st officer, but not
necessarily. For example, in certain warrior societies, the job
of running the staff on board a large warship might be vested
in an Executive Officer, who also does the paperwork for the Captain.
This person might even take command in a non-critical situation,
should the Captain be away or temporarily incapcitated. In battle
however, they would yield to the 1st Officer, who probably is
also the Tactical Officer, or Chief Weapons Officer. I imagine
Aslan ships are run this way, with a female XO and a male Captain
and 1st Officer.
Another example, courtesy of Star Trek. Dr. McCoy is never left
in charge of the ship (note how a mere lieutenant, Sulu takes
charge of the bridge instead of "Bones", a lieutenant
commander, when Kirk, Spock et. al. are off on an adventure) -
Federation tradition was that Medical personnel could not be in
command. By ST:TNG, it was permissible to leave the Chief Medical
Officer in charge if there was a lack of qualified senior officers
(I'm thinking here of the second episode featuring Hugh the Borg
- the one in which Data is captured - sorry, I rarely memorize
episode titles). Even the ship's councilor could take an exam
to qualify to run things (become a Bridge Officer), something
that would not have even been comtemplated back in Captain Kirk's
One last bit of Star Trek indulgence...
Star Trek (Old Series) Command Crew
Captain - James T. Kirk
Executive Officer, Science Officer, 1st Officer - Mr. Spock
Pilot, 3rd Officer - Sulu (among others)
Astrogator, Chief Gunnery Officer - Chekov (among others)
Chief Engineering Officer, 2nd Officer - Montgomery Scott
Chief Medical Officer - Dr. McCoy
Communications Officer - Uhura
Note: By the time of the first few movies, Sulu was 2nd Officer,
and a new bridge position, Tactical Officer (Chekov) had been
created. The astrogator becomes a much less important position.
Also note how command crew assignments routinely "doubled
Although all of these workstations are called "bridge workstations"
by FF&S, they don't have to be physically located in the same
compartment. For example, I've located one of the command crew
bridge workstations in engineering. Depending on the number of
workstations, you may have a Maneuver Bridge (which would contain
the helm and astrogation positions, as well as the captain, and
the communication and sensor positions) a Combat Information Center
(MFDs, electronics operators, analysis, fire control and ECM),
an Engineering Control Center (the engineering stations - maneuver,
power, chief engineer, and damage control), etc. On really large
ships, you'd break these up even further.
In normal operations, the combat information center would not
be manned; the workstations that are normally manned are on the
bridge (which would have at least two people in it at all times
- the duty officer and the power engineering monitor). When an
alert was called, people would move to their action stations and
both the bridge and CIC would be manned. For combat purposes,
it's all one bridge, but for role-play and for design purposes,
it's been divided into combat and non-combat functions (it's worth
noting that if you delete all of the ship's weapons and the people
that operate them, almost everyone in the CIC goes away). It might
make sense to have the sensor officer in the CIC, but that means
that station is not on the bridge (and is the only station
in CIC manned) during routine operations.
Eventually, I hope to get some good graphics of bridges for various
size and type ships in here. Any contributions are greatly appreciated.
The following people have contributed significantly to my understanding
of what the crew's doing. In fact, many of the words you've read
are theirs. Thanks!
Jerry Alexandratos <email@example.com>
Michael Bailey <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Douglas Berry <email@example.com>
Peter H. Brenton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Harold D. Hale <email@example.com>
Les Howie <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Derek Wildstar <email@example.com>
Please, if you have any comments, e-mail them to me, or even better,
start a discussion on TML. My e-mail address is
Command Crew FAQ August 12, 1995, by David J. Golden