How to handle NPC crew?


I had several campaigns where the players had their own 200 ton ship and we handhaved missing crew positions by automation and pure luck that nothing important happened while the pilot was sleeping.

The Pirates of Drinax campaign pretty much suggests that you need more people for the Drinax Harrier as a pirate, because in that role, positions like multiple gunners and marines are less optional. So in the end for playing this campaign I intend to also encourage my players to find and hire talent for these positions.

Do you have any tips and experiences regarding this issue? How to include those NPCs without them overshadowing the PCs? Also of course the NPCs should not take part in the adventuring. What I really, really want to avoid is a GM-PC.


Emperor Mongoose
They're really interested in their own niche, and/or only perform duties actually stated on their contract.

On occasion, they may show initiative.


Banded Mongoose
our PoD campaign is now managing 5 ships split into 3 groups, each doing something different.

The players have a main pc in one group and a secondary pc in a second group.

The rest is made up of NPCs.

They switch between them as needed.

Typically we will run a month or two with one group before jumping to the other one.


Banded Mongoose
NPC crew work the position they're hired for, but don't do away missions. Even in jump space they expect to work shifts standing watch if bridge crew or doing routine maintenance if engineers/mechanics, but will need a bonus if they're pulling double duty or covering an unrelated position. They'll expect bonuses for combat, radiation exposure, or other hazardous work. They'll usually have a beneficiary designated for remaining pay and bonuses (and death on duty or onboard ship should itself be worth a bonus), and a ship that doesn't pay that will eventually have a hard time hiring qualified crew.

I'll try to come up with a personality quirk for each one, but it won't be something that renders them a total liability. Might be a hobby, a like or dislike, sometimes a mild phobia of something not too commonly encountered, so on.

They're good sources for replacement characters, or a player can take one over for a session if that makes sense. If they are adventuring though they'll expect a share of rewards over and above their base pay.

really want to avoid is a GM-PC

Well, just don't run them as a GMPC. They're NPCs, run them as reasonably smart and looking out for themselves when necessary, but they're not trying to be heroes.

One thing I've tried is making up notecards with basic skills and a couple of words about personality (literally a couple of words, not even sentences), and put those out on the table for players to roleplay as just briefly, when their own PCs aren't on scene. Not all players or groups really do a lot with that, but a few have. What I want to avoid at all costs is my voicing two NPCs talking to each other while the party sits around. So if I don't have any players willing to rp as NPC crew then the crew will be pretty silent and in the background much of the time - but that's okay.

A tangent - I don't use the book method for training skills, but I do treat a campaign's party or ship as a career in itself. So there's an opportunity to ask your group what jobs they'd assign and what skills they'd teach hired crew to fill out the Service Skills table, then to use that as basic training for new hires. One at 0 for most, but an 18 year old rookie might get all six. Should be things they actually want NPCs doing though, so no filling it out with sexy skills like Pilot and Gun Combat unless they're actually letting the new guys fly the ship and practice with firearms. Mechanic, Steward, Vac Suit, Turrets are more common choices.


Emperor Mongoose
There's two possible additional options.

You use ye Dungeons and Dragons henchmen and hirelings method.

Or, for the more mature player, you have a primary character, and a bunch of subordinate secondary characters, which if taken direct control of, it would be expected to play them within the confines of their known character or normal behaviour.