Why Play an Enlisted Character: The Challenges and Advantages
Most people start as a commissioned officer on Shadow Fleet but we have the option for people to play enlisted characters. There are advantages and disadvantages on this path but it balances out in the end. Enlisted characters, in-character and out-of-character, will/should ALWAYS to be treated with the same respect as their commissioned counterparts. Now, in-character, a commissioned officer always outranks an enlisted character (even an ensign outranks a MCPO) but a commissioned officer does not deserve that position if they don’t respect them.“Commissioned” vs “Enlisted” (vs “NCO” vs “Flag Officer”)
In the most simple of terms, a “commissioned” officer is someone who gives the orders and an “enlisted” crewmember enacts them. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, chief medical officer of the USS Enterprise, is a commissioned officer. A nurse who assists him is an enlisted officer.
There are two other terms that relate to these. They both denote senior leadership. The first is an “NCO” or “Non-Commissioned Officer”. This is a high-ranking enlisted crewmember who might have some managerial responsibilities. A “flag officer” is a commissioned officer who has a purely administrative senior position (such as someone who manages an entire fleet).Technical Skills
Short Version: High ranking enlisted officers are often more skilled at their job, but lack the managerial skills of a commissioned officer.
A commissioned officer goes to Starfleet Academy, learns the skills their department requires, and takes leadership courses. It’s a difficult academy and produces some of the most skilled people in the Federation. Enlisted character go to the Starfleet Technical Services Academy on Mars. This is a less strenuous entry exam and doesn’t cover much leadership/management stuff. So as an enlisted character progresses doing the same tasks day after day while their commissioned counterpart is doing paperwork and attending briefings, they are more likely to be more skilled.Playing the “Low Man”
Short Version: Enlisted characters are great for playing someone with a shady past, someone who doesn’t quite fit in, or someone who is more a “common man” than a knight in shining armor.
Miles O'Brien is a great example of this. He’s an integral part of Deep Space 9, but he is always overworked, underpaid, and has to deal with problems a high ranking Starfleet official probably wouldn’t have issues with. He gets to hobnob with merchants, get thrown where the Federation wants him to go. This is a great angle to play a character from.Promotability
Short Version: It’s (kind of) easier to get promoted as an enlisted character.
Enlisted characters have similar minimum post and time requirements for ranks. However, the higher ranks are unobstructed for enlisted character. You can go as high as you want so long as you are active. Commissioned officers, after about the rank of Lt. can only really be promoted if a command spot is open for them and then it’s entirely merit based. This can be a little political (“Who contributed more in the last 6 months?”) and lets an enlisted characters just kind of do their own thing.When Rank Doesn’t Matter
Short Version: If rank doesn’t matter to you, enlisted a good option. Lower key.
If rank isn’t super important to you or you don’t want to jump into a test right off the bat (like commissioned officers need to do)- you can stay as a crewman forever with no one pestering you.
You don’t need to take a promotion test until PO2.Enlisted Characters in Star Trek
Star Trek is written in a fashion called “high melodrama”, where important people do important things with dramatic results and reactions. It’s very sensationalist and tends to focus on people with positions of power (even if that’s just within a family). Thus, we don’t see enlisted character as “main” characters in the series. The only one regular character who hold an enlisted title position: Chief Petty Officer Miles O’Brien (though Odo is technically a NCO of the Bajoran Militia).