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.

Bridge Positions

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 speaking ..."
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 wishes
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 offensive fire.
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 thermal shutdown."
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 systems.
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 ships.
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:

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?
Special thanks to Harold D. Hale <> and Derek Wildstar <> for the detailed position descriptions they contributed, and for their permission to edit and add them to my own.

Crew Structures

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 crew listing:

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 end.

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 third officers.

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.

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.

Aslan Crews

Need inputs here

Vargr Crew

Need inputs here

Hiver Crew

Really need inputs here - I'd imagine they're really different. Anybody have a copy of "Sneaks & Geeks?"

Zhodani Crew

Vilani Crew

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 day.

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 up".

Bridge Layout

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 <>
Michael Bailey     <>
Douglas Berry      <>
Peter H. Brenton   <>
Harold D. Hale     <>
Les Howie          <>
Derek Wildstar     <>


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


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