Friday, August 31, 2012

Biblical Reference, the rest of it

In writing these articles there were items that slipped through the cracks, elements that I did not address.  And in going through the articles there was a huge element that I missed:  what do I call the game?  What ship name do I choose?

This is a Big Deal.  I have spoken in the past about the importance of ads and if your ship's name is utterly lame then you are not going to get any takers.  I was in a game called Andoria and the name alone drew me.  Unfortunately the game itself was not so hot. For me the ship name I would use is...

Lionheart.  Is Lionheart a lame name?  Well, maybe.  I chose the name because of my love of Kate Bush and her work.  Over the years I think I have come up with better names for ships: Tyche, the Greek goddess of Luck.  Vixen.  Team Mugatu.  Fearless.  I think those names show a bit more creativity.  I chose Lionheart purely for nostalgic purposes.

If you were to name a ship, what would you choose?  What influences or inspirations could you use?  City names is one idea, mythology another.  Or you could name it after someone.  Imagine Star Trek: Uhura.  Hell yes.  I was looking at the Azeri Fleet web site (and no, I will not provide the link) and some of their names are pretty cool, to be honest.  Endurance, Asimov, Aurora, Triton, some good names there.  Some sound like traditional British Navy ship names, others named after famous people, still others using lesser used mythological gods.  But the ship named Wolverine?  Lame.

David E provided me with a name I though was pretty neat: The Mostar.  Mostar Bridge, or Stari Most, is located in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina and it has some history.  It is a neat sounding name with some background.  It is a name going beyond what you normally hear.

Character photos?  Absolutely, yes, character photos should be used.  However, I think a minimalist approach should be chosen.  Players and GMs should not be trying to super impose heads on other pictures so they can have their characters appear as if they are wearing uniforms.  Sometimes it looks fine, other times it just looks terrible.  A minimum of Photoshopery should be employed.  Also, photos of characters should have era neutral clothing so at least the other characters can better imagine the photos representing a character from a futuristic era.

Details?  Should your ship have a deck listing?  Should there be pictures of the interior?  Should you post information and images of things like equipment and weapons?  Not necessary.  Look, all of that is nice but why make so much work for yourself?  I used to borrow images from such awesome web sites as Ex Astris Scientia but after a while I kind of shrugged and wondered why I was making so much work for myself?  Building the web site at one time was fun, but in retrospect it seems like such a chore.  Provide links on your web site to places like The Daystrom Institute, Ex Atris Scientia, Memory Alpha.  In my case, since I am using a non canon design, I would provide some information on my site for it as well as provide a link to the source material at Memory Beta.  I would also provide more images.  But interiors?  Well, if they were available...

There they are, created by Sean P. Tourangeau himself.

Finally, on the matter on non-canon ships, I think that people are normally turned off by them.  I think a ship like Titan is an exception because there is information available online.  I have seen some ridiculous ship designs, they usually culminate in them being "Like the Sovereign, only bigger!"  Years ago I remember seeing a person running a game where they   Upping the size of an already existing ship does not work, to me.  There are sooooo many available canon designs and sure, I used a non-canon design but it was used in a series of books released by a publisher and approved by Paramount.  I think if you are going to use a non-canon design, don't make up one.  People are usually turned off by them.  Exceptions?  Sure, there was my game, Vixen, which used a non-canon design, but because I 1) found an image and 2) there were no canon fast cargo ships I felt justified.  I guess any GM can find a justification if they try hard enough.

I hope these articles help when it comes to creating your own Star Trek game.  Heck, when it comes to creating any game, really.  It comes down to preparation, providing players with expectations both through data provided and examples, and presenting yourself in a professional manner.  The next articles will decidedly be non-Star Trek related as I discuss other matters.  When they will be ready I am not entirely sure as I am attempting to write a second Animated Series review.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Song Of The Week

Rush.  Man which album to choose?  Which song?  I was a fan starting with Moving Pictures (which is not to say I did not like any of their stuff before then: Closer To The Heart from A Farewell To Kings is a great tune.) up thru Presto and then...Well, I just stopped digging what they were laying down.

I think it is a crime that radio stations (at least the ones where I live) do not play a wider variety of Rush songs. They play nothing later than Signals, which came out in '82.  Radio stations suck when it comes to airplay; they consider some music to be "classic", in which case classic rock radio stations will give the songs airplay.  And other radio stations will only play current music released in the past couple years.  Everything else falls into limbo.

Anyway, the song today is Show Don't Tell:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong, RIP

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, one of America...hell, the world's greatest heroes, died today.  He was 82 years old. More details can be found here.

I had begun a negative rant, not against Neil Armstrong but against other things, but now is not the time.  Instead I choose to dwell on the positive.  Neil showed what human courage and ingenuity were capable of, traveling to an alien environment in a fragile spacecraft where a thousand things could have gone wrong and gotten him killed.  His courage and the courage of the others of space programs past and present are almost beyond comprehension.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Song Of The Week

There was a commercial for the HP Beats laptop and this song was used in it.  It caught my attention enough for me to look up who sings it.  Nero is an electronic music act hailing from Great Britain.  The song used in the commercial is Promises.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Biblical reference, part five

If you have just tuned in, I have been writing a series of articles regarding the creation of a new Star Trek game and taking the cue from how some television producers create a "bible", a guideline for the creation and production of their series.  We have our ship, our tone, our captain and some guidelines regarding the creation of NPCs.  What is next?

The adventures.

There are three sorts of narratives: man vs man, man vs nature, man vs himself.  The definitions themselves are open to interpretation.  For example, some might say man vs society is a fourth sort of conflict but for the purposes of this article I am lumping that in with nature in that nature encompasses a force that cannot be reasoned with in a conventional manner.  Nature can be manipulated to some extent (i.e. damming a river or seeding clouds to cause rain) as can Society (i.e. election campaign ads), and just as often Society and Nature can run amok regardless of a person's best efforts.  There are instances where the lines blur between conflicts, or there are stories that combine one or more.  For example, the Deep Space Nine Episode For The Uniform has Captain Sisko hunting former Starfleet officer and now Maquis rebel Eddington.  While on the face of it the story is a straightforward contest of wills, throughout the episode we see Sisko dealing with what he perceives are his personal shortcomings and his growing obsession with capturing Eddington.  The internal conflict is every bit as compelling as the external.

For the purpose of this article we are going to ignore man vs himself and focus on the other two, in large part because man vs himself is largely in the hands of the players.  The GM might produce situations where man vs himself comes up but such a circumstance is far easier to write in than to force someone to role play in a game.  It is entirely possible that players and GM both can collaborate and do some excellent role playing creating circumstances where man vs. himself is appropriate, but I am just saying that where role playing games are concerned mvm and mvn are the norms, mvh might arise from them and you should not push it.  Let mvh happen if the circumstances arise and everyone is cool with it.

So let us begin with man vs man. IO9 produced an excellent article about ten things they wanted to see in a new Star Trek series and this is a good place to start.  Number ten suggested we seen new aliens and this is a valid point, but at the same time we are dealing with an established universe and players do like to see some familiar faces, or at least faces with a canon background.  Are there any in it that are suitable?  Romulans?  Klingons?  Cardassians?  Borg?  Kazon?

 ...Um, no.  No, I think the Kazon are unsuitable.

However, Voyager did introduce one interesting alien race: The Vaadwaur:
The episode Dragon's Teeth was about an alien race that had employed a series of "underspace corridors" that allowed them to travel hundreds of light years in minutes.  They used the corridors to create an empire and ultimately their various enemies united to defeat them.  A contingent of Vaadwaur placed themselves in suspended animation and were awakened centuries later to a very different universe.  The episode ended with them fleeing in their small ships into the corridors, their fate unknown.

Imagine this.  There are reports of pirate raids on core Alpha Quadrant worlds, small vessels appearing suddenly, stealing industrial grade replicators, dilithium crystals, even possibly hijacking a starfleet vessel!  Records of these attacks identify the vessels as Vaadqwaur.  But how does this tie in with new aliens? What if there is something...different about them.  Their vessels have received upgrades.  How did they receive these upgrades?  Have the Vaadwaur found new allies?

Yes.  Yes, they have.  The Ukkoa:
Last year I criticized a GM named Drew due to his lack of creativity.  He ran an adventure with an alien race who was essentially like just about every other alien race seen in Star Trek: they either looked like humans, or they had funny foreheads.  One of the advantages a GM has in running a Star Trek game is they are not limited by this.  Your aliens can truly look alien.  One of the (very) few things I liked about Enterprise was one of the five Xindi races were aquatic, resembling manatees.
It was a bold creative idea, which shows that where Berman and Braga were concerned the blind squirrel really does sometimes find the nut.  The aquatic Xindi were not the first inhuman CGI aliens shown in 'Trek: there was Species 8472:
Species 8472 was a great idea; an alien race from a different dimension, they were introduced in the Voyagers episodes Scorpion parts one and two. The Borg discovered and provoked them, and in retaliatioin Species 8472 (their Borg designation; you never discover their real name.) proceeded to enact a war of extermination against all of 'Trek space.  They were utterly alien and could not be reasoned with.  Then Berman and Braga ruined them in their third appearance, In The Flesh, by having them adopt human form.  It turned out they were very reasonable fellows after all.  Everything that made them interesting was flushed because Berman and Braga played it safe.

Well, we aren't going to do that with The Ukkoa.  Who are they?  What are they?  What are their motivations?  Hailing from a different dimension, the Vaadwaur came across them by accident.  The Ukkoa have all but enslaved the Vaadwaur, are using them to test the Federation and Starfleet.  They have upgraded the Vaadwaur vessels with new technologies, possibly new and more dangerous weapons and wish to see how Starfleet will respond.

What other sort of villain could we introduce?  How about a good old fashioned pirate?  How about a pirate queen? Natalie "Nat" O'Malley is known as The Wicked Witch.  An Orion raised by human parents, independent trader captains, Nat had a difficult childhood growing up. She was always caught between two worlds.  When the Dominion War hit her parents had volunteered to help with the war effort by volunteering their ship to help ferry supplies and troops in non combat zones.  However their vessel was destroyed by a Dominion raiding party.  Embittered, blaming The Federation as much as The Dominion for the deaths of her parents for being unable to protect them in what was supposed to be a safe sector of space, Nat has turned pirate.  Over the past couple years she has stolen a wide variety of weapons and equipment, from a Romulan cloaking device to a Breen energy dampener.  She is smart, resourceful, someone who can match wits with the Lionheart crew.  And who knows?  Perhaps a dashing Starfleet officer might catch her eye and she may try and seduce him...or her, depending on the sensibilities of your players.

This goes to number eight on the list, cat and mouse games in space.  One of the things I hated about Deep Space Nine was their handling of space battles.  DS9 decided to ape Star Wars and turned majestic star ships into little better than fighter craft, easily blown apart.  Does anyone remember the most awesome battle in all of 'Trek, Khan vs. Kirk in Star Trek II?  These ships are supposed to be able to take a great deal of punishment.  The only ones that could were the ones that had major characters on them.

So when it comes to combat things should be a bit more interesting than point and shoot.  Creative uses of cloaking devices, decoy drones, electronic-counter-measures should be employed.  Make the tactical officer work at his job!  'Trek should be more about simple point and shoot.  Heck, watch the original series and see how Kirk used bluff in his encounters, trickery.

What else can we throw at the players?  Ethical dilemmas and failed utopias are on the list.  Push the players into wondering if supporting the Prime Directive is truly the best course.  See if you can get players to sit on opposite sides of the fence.  A planet not part of the Federation requiring help?  Is there some way to provide the help without violating the PD (By the way, I find the Next Generation era's version of the Prime Directive to be moral cowardice.  I much prefer Kirk's era's interpretation.  In fact, I prefer everything about the Kirk era of 'Trek and would gladly run a game in that environment if I knew I could find enough players to do so.).  Failed Utopias?  What if you combined both?  What if a planet had been a Utopia but a Federation vessel crashed, spilling antimatter through the air. Combined with the ship's photon torpedoes exploding and causing a massive tectonic upheaval the planet's environment and population have been devastated.  Survivors found a runabout, heavily damaged but it's power cells still functional, and it's replicator still operational.  Now a religion has grown around The Provider and all that keeps these people alive is what the replicator provides them.   Oh, but it gets worse.  According to scans the runabout's power cells are dying and within a few weeks The Provider will no longer function.  Taking the replicator, not replenishing the cells consigns hundreds of thousands of the last of this race to death.  On the one hand the Prime Directive says "Let them die!".  On the other hand, this entire mess is The Federation's fault.

Number three.  Diplomacy.   The reason you often see the two sides cliche is Star Trek is usually presented in hour long self contained episodes so things cannot be too complicated.  However this is a role playing game and things can be a bit more complex than that.  The difference is how you make it complicated.  Drew's game involved two sides of a humanoid race, which was a cliche.  He decided to spice things up by adding space angels, the Jem Hadar, and Section 31.  Add to that his inability to understand his role as GM and to handle all encounters by role playing all the NPCs and his attempt at a diplomatic crisis turned into a mess.

Look at the American political system and the numerous lobbyists and special interest groups that influence both parties.  Look at countries like Great Britain, Canada and Germany and their multi-party systems.  Things can get messy in quite a hurry.  Add religion into the mix and things can get seriously out of hand.  A diplomatic crisis can be role played with multiple factions getting involved.

And things can take a humorous turn as well.  Babylon 5 had a race call The Drazi and their elections consisted of the adults reaching into a barrel and pulling out green or purple sashes.  What followed was green and purple beating the snot out of one another until there was a winner, said winner running things until next election.

 Nice to see the costume designers went the extra mile and had them wearing different kinds of clothes.  In the 'Trek universe all too often aliens of the same race seem to wear the same outfit.

Imagine Lionheart coming to a planet to arbitrate a dispute, only discovering that it's the season of Glarn!  Now in the middle of negotiations the rules have been completely changed and the away team needs to learn what the hell the new rules are before someone gets killed...

Finally, there is the number one on the list and that is artificial intelligence.  With Data and Voyager's Doctor in existence how else can artificial intelligence be incorporated into the game?  What if a rogue AI had a mission to make every Starfleet vessel self aware?  What if Lionheart's computer became self aware?  Would removing it's awareness be killing it?  What are the moral implications?  What if the robots from the episode I, Mudd were responsible?  What if a twin of one of those computers Kirk tricked into self destructing was coming after The Federation for revenge?  What if the Lionheart's Emergency Medical Hologram acquired full self awareness and demanded his rights as a sentient being to not be the EMH?  What if she wants to paint?  Is it a glitch in the system?  Sabotage?  What do the PCs do?

There are a great many potential plots available to the GM, from straight up combat to other role playing opportunities, from one-shot adventures to expansive story arcs.  All that is required is a little pre planning and trying to anticipate what the players want as well as how they might react, and how to compensate when they do what you do not expect.

Next week we wrap up Biblical Reference with some errata.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Joe Kubert, RIP

Another legend was lost.  Joe Kubert died on August 12, 2012, he was 85 years old.

My first exposure to Joe's work was Justice League of America 200.  In it the original members of the League are mind controlled to fight the newer members.  Each match up was illustrated by a different artist.   Joe Kubert drew Hawkman vs. Superman:

Hawkman wins by style points alone.

Joe is probably most famous for his work not only for creating the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl, he is also very well known for his work on Sgt. Rock, and of course his art school which I used to see ads for all the time in comics.  Joe had a wonderfully gritty art style which was well suited to the grim environment of WWII:

Joe also worked on such titles as Enemy Ace and The Unknown Soldier, among other titles such as Tarzan and Tor.  In a world filled with comics consisting of men with outrageous physical features and women with impossible measurements, Joe's art is a refreshing change, making you believe normal men too could rise and become heroes.  A more comprehensive history can be found here.  Joe Kubert has left an enduring mark on comics, he has my appreciation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Song of the week, other stuff

First of all, my review of the Star Trek, The Animated Series episode The Survivor is now up at The Agony Booth, if you like you can check it out here.  I'm not sure how often I am going to be able to knock those things out.  Comedy is hard.

Second is the song of the week.  This time we have one from Terrence Trent D'arby.  Terrence was one of those guys whose music I was not really digging.  I had nothing against him or his tunes, I guess I just wasn't his target audience (i.e. girls).  However, this song I seriously dug and I am bummed that Mtv did not seem to give it much air play back in the day.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Biblical Reference, part four

In previous posts we established the game's tone by choosing the universe, area and era the game will take place in, the ship the action will take place on, and which departments your PCs can choose from.  Now to further establish what the players can expect it is time to create your NPCs.  We shall start with the captain.  In this case I am going to use an old captain, in my case the Original Captain: Devin Hadenbeer.  Of all the characters I have created over the years Devin will always have a soft spot in my heart, literary warts and all.  And what I mean by that is that at the time I created her I took my cues from what I had seen from other characters, so some of the things that annoy me about Star Trek PCs could be seen in Devin. What follows is slightly modified Devin Hadenbeer, mildly retconned, if you will.

Name: Devin Hadenbeer
Age: 40
Gender: female
Race: Human
Birthplace: Southampton UK, Earth + July 30, 2342

Physical Description: Is attractive and has an athletic build.
Distinguishing Marks: none
Height: 1.6m
Weight: 50 kg
Hair: auburn, long and full and often worn in a bun
Eye Color: Hazel
Special Abilities: None
Parents: Dead
Spouse: divorced
Siblings: two older brothers (Jon and Del)
Children: None
Other Relatives: None known
Background: Devin was born to Robert and Hannah, two doctors who practiced at Bush Hospital in Southampton. She grew up the youngest of three siblings and took an instant interest in music, but soon the thoughts of exploration and adventure filled her head and she followed her brother Del’s footsteps into Starfleet. There she unexpectedly excelled in engineering and considered taking that rout, but her instructors saw her potential for command and steered her in that direction. Her father died during her time at the academy. After serving two years on the Relentless Devin was allowed to transfer back to Earth to help aid her dying Mother. While serving on Admiral Ogolvy’s staff under Commander Gabriel she learned much concerning Starfleet’s command structure and how things were done at the top. After her Mother’s death she finished her tour here and moved on. After serving some years on the Grant she was prepared to take command of a small ship. It was during this time she had fallen in love with Jorge Straum, the Grant’s chief engineer. They were married and soon she became pregnant, this temporarily quashed her chance at command. She was reassigned to Starfleet Academy until her child came to term, but she was involved in a shuttle accident and the child died. Crushed, Straum could not handle the death and their grief subsequently resulted in their divorce. Counselors at Starfleet kept an eye on Devin and after a year or so believed she was ready to handle the responsibility of command once more. Her tour on the Lionheart was to determine if she still had what it takes to command a ship of her own.
Things did not go as planned, however.  en route to Earth, the Lionheart was attacked by a ship from an alternate future.  According to logs found the Lionheart had inadvertantly delivered a computer virus that allowed a physical virus to go undected by Federation medical, sensor and transporter equipment.  This resulted in the death of over ninety percent of all humans, allowing the Dominion to win the war.  Lionheart was drawn into the future, where it was discovered her escort ship Terminus was the true carrier of the virus.  Linking up with this future's rebellion, Lionheart's crew found a cure for both viruses and a way home by using the rebellion's Romulan warbird to slingshot around Earth's sun, as the crippled Lionheart could not withstand the trip on her own.  Upon their return, the entire episode was classified and Devin was asked to help rebuild a shattered Starfleet Academy.
Months later the USS Grant went missing in the Kuala Cluster.  Devin was at long last given her promised command, the Lionheart A, and her first mission; find the Grant.  The mission turned into a pitched battle with the Gorn, who using an incursion into their space by a Federation vessel stolen by Klingons attempted to invade the Federation through the cluster.  The Lionheart and Grant managed to maul the fleet, but not without the loss of the Grant, and a substantial number of Lionheart's fighters.  The Gorn's invasion was momentarily halted and this gave the Federation time to send envoys to broker a peace.

Months later the Lionheart A was outfitted with a special extra-dimensional drive.  What was supposed to be a short expedition of six months turned into a five year odyssey.  After numerous harrowing trials Lionheart eventually made it home, crippled, barely functional.  Devin decided to resign her commission in the aftermath and accepted a post as a music teacher at Oxford.  But soon space called again.
Personality Profile: Devin is a warm, friendly person who greatly enjoys commanding a star ship, more for the love of responsibility and accomplishment than for any thrill of authority or power.  She has a strong sense of duty and of right and wrong, and is willing to put both her life and career on the line to support friends, family and crew.  Such a decision brought her toe to toe with Admiral Strand, a decision that has had consequences over the years.
Devin loves to teach almost as much as she loves command.  Her time as an instructor at Starfleet Academy was very dear to her.  She had a reputation as being a very hard instructor, but only because she believed in tempering the minds and spirits of cadets so that they may be better officers.
Dislikes: Discussing her past
Interests: Music (singing and piano), darts
Academy Majors: Command, Engineering
Academy Minors: Diplomacy, Tactics
Other Education: 2367, Bachelors of Arts degree from Oxford for music
Languages: Federation Standard, French, Latin, Vulcan
Medical History: Suffered forced abortion due to shuttlecraft accident.  Heavy wounds to left shoulder and right thigh from arrows while on a mission to Tierga Prime.

Service Record:
2360-2364 Starfleet Academy
2365-2366 Ensign, USS Montgomery
2367  Lieutenant JG, assigned to Admiral Ogolvy’s staff, Earth
2368-2369 Lieutenant, Tactical Officer, Chief Tactical Officer, USS Damocles
2370-2372 lt. Commander, Commander, Chief Tactical officer, Executive Officer, USS Grant
2373-2374 Commander, Starfleet Academy instructor
2375  Captain, USS Lionheart, later resumes post as Starfleet Academy instructor
2376-2380 Captain, USS Lionheart-A
2381 Captain, Lionheart-B 

Okay, so what was changed?  Originally I had listed her awards and commendations because at the time that sort of thing was very popular.  If you saw the The Original Series episode Court Martial when Kirk takes the stand in his own defense the list of awards and commendations is staggering.  Spock and McCoy also had awards but they paled in comparison to James T.'s.  So every player wanted a list of decorations.  I do not think they are necessary to flesh out a character; competent PCs would receive awards, it is a given.

What else did I change?  Originally one of Devin's interests was martial arts.  It turns out a great many PCs are interested in martial arts.  The fact is if your character is a graduate of Starfleet Academy then they would have some martial arts training.  True, security personnel would have a more extensive background but every Starfleet officer would...or should be able to take care of themselves to some extent.  If your character does possess such an interest then it should have a bearing on their background history.

One thing I did leave in was her brother being in Starfleet.  It is annoying to me how a great many characters' parents-either one or both-were or are in Starfleet.   And not only are their parents in Starfleet, oft times they are captains or admirals!  It has become a ridiculous cliche and I think it is due in large part to a lack of creativity on the part of players and GMs.  There is nothing wrong with one's parents being in the military; my Dad was a petty officer in the United States Navy.  But he did not make a career of it.  Instead he learned a trade and moved on.  Not everyone has to have parents who are in the military.  You remember Ben Sisko, the baddest bad ass in Starfleet?  His Dad owns a restaurant.  JeanLuc Picard, master diplomat?  His parents owned a vineyard.  It was never said what James Kirk's father did for a living but apparently they were colonists.  Katheryn Janeway...

Oh, her.  Yeah, her father was an admiral. Figures.

Jonathan Archer's father was not an admiral, but he was a Very Important man, the creator of the warp 5 engine.  So that made him super special.  I think the only thing I liked about Enterprise was the dog.  The two worst Star Trek series had captains with super special parents.

Point is, when doing your character's background, be creative!  What if your character's parents were bohemians and utterly freaked out when your character enlisted?  What if they had, you know, normal jobs?  Whatever you do, do not make them Starfleet.

Now, there is one element in the history that might stand out to some people if they know me at all, and that is the mention of fighter craft.  Tom, you might say.  Don't you hate that fighter wing, ultra-militaristic crap?   Yes.  Yes, I do.  That particular adventure had the Gorn invading the Federation over a misunderstanding, and a rescue mission turned into a pitched battle.  As to the fighter craft, I felt it made more sense to have the crew members of an Akira class crossed trained on flying such craft rather than have dedicated fighter wings.  So yes, there were fighter craft but there were no flight wings.  Did it makes sense compared to modern militaries?  Not exactly.  You know what else does not make sense compared to modern militaries?  Keeping the same command staff for fifteen years.  That simply does not happen especially in war time when senior officers get promoted to their own commands in the face of heavy losses.  

Star Trek takes some cues from modern military structure, it is not wedded to it.

Another point: I find it admirable when GMs create captains who do not have a captain's rank, especially when you see smaller ships like Novas or Defiants.  "Captain" is both a rank and a position on a ship, you can hold the latter without the former.  Destroyer captains are often lieutenant commanders, for example.  Submarine captains can be commanders.  Ben Sisko was originally a commander when he commanded Defiant.  And Devin Hadenbeer started off as a commander, commanding a Saber class vessel (an under rated design, in my opinion), and was promoted later when she was put in command of an Akira (Quite possibly the most bad ass looking ship in all of Star Trek).  What I find really annoying is when GMs decide to place commodores and rear admirals in charge of ships.  Perhaps some of these GMs are taking their cues from the classic series Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea:
In that series (Great show, by the way.  You can watch the first two seasons on Hulu for free.  It takes place in the far flung year 1978!) you had Richard Basehart playing Admiral Harriman Nelson who was in charge of the Seaview...Only he wasn't.  Basehart was the Seaview's creator and he was in charge of the special missions the ship went on.  The ship was really in command of commander Lee Crane.  But actually I find it far more likely GMs who have their GMPCs as admirals are just playing out pathetic power fantasies.

Equally annoying are the extremely young captains.  Sure, Hadenbeer was 33 when she was a commander, and I think she was 34 when she was made captain.  Young?  Yeah, a little on the young side.  My excuse was in the wake of the Dominion war lots of young commanders received commissions to fill the horrific losses Starfleet had sustained.  That is no excuse for twenty four year old captains (Trust me, I've seen them.).  Please show a little common sense.

And speaking of common sense, let us discuss your character's race.  Please don't make your character a half breed: they are cliched.  Please do not make them joined Trills: they are cliched.  Please do not make them of a non Federation race like Klingons, Romulans, El Aurians or Bajorans: this has become a sad, pathetic cliche.  What most GMs like this are looking to do, much the same way GMs who create admiral-captains and twenty four year old COs are attempting to create Special Snowflakes or Mary Sues.  You don't want your players doing it, you should lead by example.

Finally, let us discuss your other NPCs.  Your ship should have a few so your PCs can interact with others in their departments.  You do not have to make them bland, but please do not make them so overly competent that it seems they should be running the department.  Do not make them unusual.  When I ran my Firefly inspired game Star Trek: Vixen, I made the mistake of having some super special NPCs on board.  There was Grudge, eight foot tall extra-dimensional alien:
And there was George and Gracy, the exo-comps, last seen in the Next Generation episode The Quality of Life:
Potential players resented the fact that I was being picky about the sorts of characters they could play and here I was sprinkling my game with weird NPCs!  GMs really should practice what they preach and be fair when discussing character creation with their players.  If you wants your way-cool NPCs then be prepared to deal with a player who wants to run his Angosian super soldier from a parallel universe who wears a miniature Bajoran Prophet stone around his neck after winning it in a poker game against Q.

Next week...or whenever I get around to finishing it, I will submit the final installment of Biblical Reference. There I will discuss the creation of long term campaigns as well as villains/antagonists.