One of the key dynamics of Star Traders Frontiers is managing your crew. A Captain's crew are both an incredible blessings and an incredible curse if you can't keep them happy. It is possible though, to get to a place where you really don't need to spend a lot of time worrying about them, except in combat and occasional emergencies (such as payday). Generally, at the beginning of a game you are going to need to invest more time and effort in keeping them safe and happy, but as the game progresses you will spend less and less time worrying about them.
- 1 Avoiding Physical and Morale Damage to Your Crew
- 2 Recovering from Physical and Morale Damage
- 3 Other Crew Management Considerations
Avoiding Physical and Morale Damage to Your Crew
In crew management, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Understanding what's making your crew unhappy and avoiding it is crucial to early survival.
The biggest source of damage to your crew will come from the regular events you will encounter when flying through space. Yes, in this game, just flying from one planet to another is dangerous. There are meteors, waves of radiation, equipment failures, personality clashes and more that tax your crew's physical and emotional health. These dangerous events are displayed in the scrolling box on the bottomish right when flying through space. It is very important to pay attention to this box and get to a point where you are passing 95%-100% of those test. The two ways of passing these tests are increasing you crew's skill pools or getting Talents that will Auto-Save some of those tests. Early, you'll probably need a combination of the two. Watch that box carefully and you'll know what skills and saves you most need to invest in.
To get some idea of what those tests are doing:
- Combat and Intimidate tests tend to damage crew morale
- Ship Ops, Repair, Navigation and Pilot tests tend to damage the ship
- Doctor, Tactics and Ship Ops can damage crew HP
Lastly, if you see a sudden spike in unpassed tests and really crippling effects, it's possible that you may be traveling in a quadrant that has a Radiation Storm. If you've discovered the rumor it will be displayed in the Event Log. If you see this, or suspect it, get the heck out of that quadrant. Radiation Storms cannot be handled without large numbers of crew with Radiation Storm mitigation Talents. Even then, it's best to avoid spending much time there.
It's pretty obvious that combat will damage your crew, what is not so obvious is that it will also damage your morale. Lets be honest, nobody likes to be terribly maimed, burned or see their crew-mate get plastered to a bulkhead. Even taking a few torpedos as you flee from a pirate can have a significant effect on crew health and morale. So the best thing, obviously, is to avoid combat as much as possible, especially early on. Even a Captain who is focused on combat shouldn't be fighting every ship they come across while flying to the fights they really want to pick. It may be hard at first, but you need to learn to SURRENDER. Yes, you may have $4,000 worth of goods in your hold, but it's going to cost much more than that to fix your ship and crew and train up some level 1 crew to replace those level 8 crew you lost.
Ship operations and ship combat are generally the biggest culprits when it comes to HP and Morale loss. They should be the Captain's primary concern early on. There are other sources though, which need keeping an eye on. The first is probably keeping your crew paid. The morale penalty for not paying your crew is not actually that severe, in the short term, but it gets worse if you put it off. If you pay crew every time you land it is unlikely that you will suffer significant morale loss from this quarter. The only time not to pay is really only if you don't have any cash or absolutely have to patch up your ship first.
Morale can also be lost be lost through all of the Operations: Spying, Blockading, Patrolling, Exploring and trying to access a Black Market. The Black Market can be the worst as even attempting it will cause any crew with the Rigidly Lawful Trait to lose Morale. The good thing about Black Markets though, is that when you come out, you'll already be planet side. No crew will abandon until you land at another planet, and unless your crew has already snarfed up all the spice, you can normally patch things up before leaving.
Some crew will have Traits that will cause them to lose Morale for other reasons. Generally these are not major sources of loss and can be managed by trips to the Spice Hall. It might be worth considering whether it's not just easier to dismiss such crew and find someone better suited to your Captain's preferred activities.
Recovering from Physical and Morale Damage
Keep an Eye on the Status Bar
So, while you're doing your best to mitigate crew HP and Morale damage, you must also know how to patch things up when they go south. The best way to know exactly where things stand with your ship and crew is to keep an eye on the status bar. In terms of crew, the 3rd and 4th boxes from the left are the most important. The heart icon tells you how many crew you have below 60 health. That's considered dangerously low, because one more bad event could knock them out. The 4th box, with the exclamation mark, tells you how many crew have dangerously low Morale, below 50. These crew might abandon ship when landing -- or worse, Mutiny! Ideally, you want to keep every box in this bar empty, except for the leftmost and maybe second from right.
If the crew has several low Morale members, then the best idea is to get them to a Spice Hall. For severely demoralized crew, go to an Independent world or a world with very low Zone ratings, as the crew does not want to be left behind in the backwaters of the galaxy. Next, head to a world that is not of your Faction that has a good Spice Hall, as the crew does not want to be left among a different Faction either. Paying the crew in the Spice Hall will also increase their Morale. If you are struggling with Morale it is often worth it to go to a planet with a high Spice Hall rating (8, 9, 10). These ratings determine how much morale they can give your crew, so if you're only visiting 4, 5, 6 planets you're probably running chronically low on morale.
Like paying your crew, healing wounded crew every time you land in a zone is probably the best idea. Leaving crew unhealed makes it that much easier for them to die in the next Deep Space Event. If you're not landing naturally at planets with Doctors, you should go out of your way to find one. You can see if a zone has a doctor from the bandaid icon next to the system on the Quadrant map.
Sometimes you know that you have a lot of unhappy crew on your ship and that there will be a wave of abandonments as soon as you touch down. If you want to avoid that, there are a few ways to recover morale before landing, though they are not without their dangers. They all revolve around using specific talents that can increase morale.
Get in a "Fight"
Furious Prodding (Pirate 1), Incite Victory (Military Officer 11), Overriding Discipline (Military Officer 8), Rallying Cry (Quartermaster 5), Solace in Battle (Doctor 11) and Steady Hands (Commander 1) are all ship combat talents that improve morale to a greater or lesser extent. So if you happened to get into combat, say with a friendly ship who didn't shoot at you, you could use these talents in "combat" to fix some morale.
Get in a real fight
Loyalty Rousing (Commander 1) increases morale if you win a ship battle. So if you found a weak enough ship to fight, you might attack it, use the above talents in battle and Loyalty Rousing at the end.
Let a Mutiny happen
Military Discipline (Military Officer 8), Lethal Example (Pirate 8), Quell Mutiny (Commander 5) and Voice of Reason (Doctor 8) end mutinies and restore some morale to crew. If you've got a very unhappy crew, you might be better off flying around until you get a mutiny in space and then using one of these talents to end it.
Other Crew Management Considerations
It's important to differentiate being understaffed with regards to Skill Pools (in which having less than 100% Skill Pool is very bad ), versus being understaffed as in having empty beds on board.
If you are flying a non-crew-combat focused ship, as long as you have fulfilled your Ship's Skill Pool requirements, it is reasonable to have leftover empty beds. If you include combat crew (fighters) on board, you likely won't have any spare beds.
When you have fewer overall crew, the Experience allocated for your character's activities is less spread around and allows individuals to level faster, as well as keeping maintenance cost for the doctor, Spice Hall, and crew payments lower. This tactical decision can be a big help in the early game. If you are consistently having fewer crew than your Barracks can support, you also have the option of downgrading to a smaller Barracks, freeing up some Mass that you can use for other ship upgrades.
Another option is to focus on filling every bed and pushing your Ship Skill Pools near the 200% level. Also, keep in mind all the additional choices for other important hires (e.g. Doctor, Commander, Pirate, Diplomat, etc) available through Contact Services. So another strategy is to leave a few beds open (especially as your Experience increases), to leave room (or make room) for hiring these important specialists from one of your Contacts as you progress in the game. A higher effective rep with your contact will allow you to hire a more experienced crew member from them, and they can be brought on-board as a crew or officer. As with everything you do as a Star Trader Captain, there are tradeoffs to every choice.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind, especially on higher difficulties, is that having "spare" crew on board will help buffer against death or desertion. As an example, if your Pilot Skill Pool was just above 100%, a single death among your Pilots could plunge you into an Understaffed situation. If you have spare Pilot or Pirate characters on board to boost your Skill Pool level higher, you still won't be understaffed should death or desertion strike.