The Crossroads of the Aether
I'm doing research for a serials story I'm writing and I'm interested in knowing what kind of crew positions would be required to operate an airship. Certainly, the needs of the story will dictate what characters I use, but I'd like to know what positions are conventional, or typical of Steampunk fiction and roleplaying? What positions often overlap or make for an interesting charater? I'm currently using the model provided by the main crews of both Star Trek:TOS and TNG since I am unfamiliar with nautical terminology. Looking forward to your replies.
Prof. Artimus Huxley
You're right. Most of the Airship Pirate roleplayers I see have only about 6 people in them. There is always "The Captain" and then it seems like a ragtag crew of people who may or may not be qualified to operate a flying vessel. As a writer, I can imagine the difficulty of trying to juggle a story built around several crew members with the same position. At least the list you assembled is not as complicated as other cruising vessels like the RMS TITANIC which had 885 crew members.
What is considered the essential/pentultimate crew to assemble, a Steampunk "A-Team" if you will.
There are two good articles that I stole cached here that go into more crew duties, operations, and passenger concers:
A Purser (who could also serve as Loadmaster) would be a useful two-for-the-price-of-one officer position. Someone in charge of small engines, instead of driver engines, could be called a donkeyman. In an airship, even for a pirate vessel, something resembling military discipline would be necessary; if something goes wrong on a surface ship, it can wallow around until everything gets sorted, but in an airship, lots of clouds have rocks in them...
This is a wonderful idea to discuss, Although I understood the need for an airship to have shifts so that there is a fresh crew when it is being operated around the clock. Which works much like any naval ship. I had not really put much thought into the real numbers needed for such operations. My own story which has an airship in it, is something unique for an airship. So I should have put more thought into the true numbers required for the crew. Since my Aeroship is over 24 times larger than the Hindenburg it does not mean she would require 24 time the crew. If that were the case... Since the Hindenburg has a total crew of 61 then my Freedom would require 1464 minus the 143 Captains... haha.
This is what I came up with for my Freedom.. Both for crew and for bridge stations.
Lord Admiral: Owner and Airship Commander RAF (rt) Royal Air Fleet.
Captain/Commander, 1 ( I am pondering if I should change Captain to Commander to distinguish between Naval and Air Command structure.
First Officer, (LT) 1
Officer of the Deck (LT) (Deck watch) 3 One for each eight hour shift.
Station Officers (Ensigns or higher) 12
Watch Officer. (this can include the Capt/Com, and the First Officer) But will always include a watch officer.
Bridge: (39) in three shifts
Ship Maintenance: (18)
Weapons Crew: (40 as needed)
Medical Staff (4 on doctors are on staff) (emergency staff 100)
Passengers: 70 max comfort, 1000 emergency, with no cargo 5000,
Bridge Flight Control Stations
Navigation s Officer (1) OOD
Automatic pilot (1)
Instruments Sonar Altimeter (1)
Long Range Radar (2)
Ballast control (2)
Lift Gas control (gas board) (2)
Propulsion Controls: Primary (1) and Secondary (6)
Captains Station (1)
Maneuvering Stations, Docking Stations, Tether Controls (6)
Visual Observation Stations (6)
Security Officer (1)
Offensive Station- Anti-Boarder systems (6)
Defensive Station- Primary Weapon Tesla Cannon, (5)
Control Panel (2)
I will have to give this much more thought to see if my numbers stay close to what is functional for a airship the size of the Freedom.
The Airships I have designed for this serial, being entirely fantastical except for the style of naval architecture like clippers and East Indiamen operate with a small crew of about 12 individuals. With regards to role-playing and drawing inspiration from Star Trek and Pirates of the Caribbean, I have assembled this list of crewmen:
Science Officer/Ships Surgeon
Cabin Boy( or Girl)/Lookout
What others would you suggest I add?
Marines Sgt or commander
Navigator or Chartsmen (not the guy driving, the one with the map!)
Unless of course you don't HAVE marines or guns...in which case the IAAC will probably be paying you a visit soon. :)
The Irascible Wind-Imperial Amerikan Air Corp Warluft and crew:
Captain/Navigator- Mr. Stout (Lt-Cpt)
helmsmen -3 (2 shifts)
Watch Commander -Mr. Witt (Ens)
bridge crew-8 (2 shifts)
Signalman/Communications command –Mr. Bootae (Ens)
Signal corp 6
Chief of Engineers/ Phlogistern Master- Mr. Umsipha (Lt)
Flight Leader- Mr. Lovechild (Lt pilot)
Bumble pilots 12
Bumble support crew 6
Ships Surgeon- Mr. Wonders (Cpt)
Undersurgeon –Mr. Rashka (Lt)
Medicos 3 (Ens)
Main Gun Commander- Mr. Kasar (Lt)
Thunderer crews 4 3-man crews
Gun Harridan Commander- Mr. Gams (Lt)
broadside gun harridans 12
gun support crew 12
Master Of Arms- Gunnery Sgt Skulderson
Ship Marines Commanders- Master Sgt Peaches, Master Sgt Dzbanki
60 Imperial “Redneck” marines (multi duty)
Quartermaster - Mr. TwoDogs (Lt)
You, sir, have butchered both the American and German languages to an embarrassing degree. I respectfully suggest that you do both Herr Huxley and myself a favor by inserting your "Amerikan Warluft" into the arse of your own Major Girth and leave us in peace.
Actually I was simply sharing in the discussion and offering a sample of "Amerikan" fiction. Not sure why the attack...but if you ever have the balls to come a little south to an event by all means look me up in person and we can discuss your response.
As you suspect, Prof. Huxley, our (small) crew's positions were chosen as much to accord with our interests and abilities as for the actual needs of an airship, but here goes:
Captain & First Mate (our founding couple),
Gunnery Sergeant (likes to mod weapons),
Ship's Scientist/riggings hand (biology grad student and amateur aerialist),
Quartermaster (serious shopper),
Cargomaster/general deckhand (me - no particular qualifications), and
Spiritual Guide/Pastry Cook.
As of right now, we have no one in the Engine Room, altho' perhaps our newest recruit, a Scotswoman of Korean heritage, will choose to follow tradition there. (It was said that you could call "Hey Mac!" down into the engine room of any British Navy ship, and a Scot would answer.)
Right now I guess our fantasy Engine Room has an equally fantastic crew - they just never come socialize with the rest of us. Maybe they prefer it that way.
That depends very much on the size and purpose of the airship. For the basic flight and living tasks, I would suggest a Captain to run the ship, a Quartermaster to organize gear, a Cook to prepare food, a Mechanic to repair any malfunctions, several simple but able-bodied Men to work the sails and other such simple but necessary labor, a Foreman to oversee the working men, a Navigator to chart a course and give bearings, and a Gunner to man weapons.
A vessel that carries cargo would require many more Men and Foremen, a passenger ship would need Stewards to see to the Passengers, and a military craft would employ many more Gunners and several Officers as well. Also, any larger ship would need assistants to the Quartermaster, Cook, Mechanic, Gunner, and perhaps a second-in-command as well. A ship with many people aboard might also include a Doctor to see to the sick.
For the purposes of a story, Cabin Boys may play many roles and make for interesting characters.
Much of interest! However, it begs a question. Just what kind of airship are you proposing to use in your serial-tale?