As one of the main characters in Star Trek: Discovery Lieutenant Commander Saru fascinates me, he’s extremely different from most of the other characters we’ve seen on Star Trek over the years. For one thing he’s the first Kelpian to join Starfleet, but we’ve had many first officers over the years on other series. Data, Worf, and Nog were all the first members of their species to join Starfleet, but Saru is also the first member of his species we’ve even seen.
Another distinction is that he is far more cautious and willing to take the safer course than virtually any other character we’ve met. I think that will annoy some fans who will call him a coward, but I think it makes him an interesting member of the crew.
A lot of what came up during character creation was very different from when I made Michael before. I had to create a unique species and make some assumptions about Saru’s background that may not be accurate, so apologies if that proves to be the case.
Step 1: Species
So Saru is a Kelpian, a prey species from a world with dangerous predators. He’s also the first member of his species to join Starfleet. I used that tiny bit of information to choose what abilities would be enhanced. I went with +1 bonus to Fitness, Insight, and Reason. As a Prey species on a dangerous planet Kelpians would have to be reasonably fit to stay alive, Saru seems pretty insightful, and of course a species would have to be reasonable to survive under such harsh conditions.
For a trait I went with the Kelpians ability to sense death, which some people seem to love and others seem to hate. I can certainly see a scientific explanation for this ability despite all the naysayers. Kelpians may be able to sense the electrical activity present in a living creature’s brain, and they get an instinctive warning when that activity changes in a way consistent with brain death. This would certainly be a handy ability for a prey species to have, and it could come in hand for Starfleet officer.
When it came to their Talents I went with the way a sentient prey species would evolve, and came up with something old and something new.
Like Harry Dresden said, if something is trying to kill you being able to run away is always a good option. With that in mind I whipped up the talent Prey Species. Adapted for flight over fight responses Kelpians are capable of running at high speeds for prolonged periods of time over unforgiving terrain. You may take the Sprint Action as normal with the following differences. If successful you may move two zones rather than one, and one additional zone per Momentum spent (Repeatable). Also, you ignore Terrain factors that would increase the Difficult of this Task.
The fact that Kelpians have hooves seems to support the idea that they can move one they want to, and thatthe terrain on their homeworld isn’t the most hospitable to sandals or going barefoot.
The second talent I came up with was What Your Species Calls Cowardice Mine Calls Caution. You may reduce the Difficulty to sense another beings true motives, or to detect a trap or ambush.
I chose not to have Saru use either of these talents as he isn’t your typical Kelpian, and I felt there were other options to explore for him. However if you want to make a Kelpian of your own and you do use those please let me know how they work out. The first Talent I chose for him was Quick to Action, allowing him to react quickly in a life or death situation thanks to his survival instincts.
Step 2: Environment
We don’t know much about Saru’s background yet but given that he is the first Kelpian in Starfleet I think it is safe to say he grew up on his homeworld. At this point I gave him a +1 to Reason and a +1 to Science. For his first Value I chose “You’re Either Predator or prey. My Species is Prey.” His instinct to survive certainly influences many of his choices.
Step 3: Upbringing
Here’s where I had to take a leap and try to draw some conclusions about Kelpian culture and Saru’s background. For now I am assuming they’re world is beautiful but deadly, and that the Kelpians are advanced enough to have wrap technology, but they’re still struggling for survival at home.
With that in mind I embraced the idea that Kelpian society is Agricultural or Rural for the most part. If they’re not preying on other creatures to survive they have to get their food from somewhere, and with predators hunting them I imagine they are nomadic or isolated.
Now we know Saru is a scientist, and being the first to leave home for a life in Starfleet it seems reasonable to say he rebelled against the norm of what is expected of his species. I He gained a +1 in Presence, a +2 in Reason a +1 in Engineering and a Focus in Botany. Although he hasn’t great knowledge of life sciences yet it seemed like a reasonable first choice for him to study up on.
For his Talent I chose Intense Scrutiny as he definitely the type to take his time getting the right answer rather than jumping to the wrong conclusion.
Step 4: Starfleet Academy
I don’t imagine Starfleet was much fun for a younger Saru. Being the only member of his species there, and the first ever to attend the academy probably made him pretty isolated. Those things probably influenced the adult he grew to become more than a little, he’s always going to be at odds with the non-prey species, but he’s learned to work with them. Being a Science Officer Saru clearly followed the Sciences Track at Starfleet. He gained a +1 to Insight, +1 to Control, and +1 to Presence. He gained a +2 in the Science Discipline, a +1 in Con, and a +1 in Engineering. For his focuses I stuck to sciences to expand his areas of expertise as much as possible adding: Computers, Astrophysics, and Spatial Phenomenon.
I’d imagine young Saru threw himself into his studies and excelled, but he never managed to stand out as much except the Kelpian cadet.
For his Value I chose “I Am the First Kelpian to Join Starfleet, That is Courage Enough.” I’d imagine he’s proud of what he has achieved, and he sees it as a courageous act to leave his world to explore the stars. However, he does’t seem himself as foolhardy or brave as a rule.
For his Talent I chose Cautious (Science) as he is definitely willing to err on the side of caution when it comes to discover or hypothesis.
Step 5: Career
As with Michael Burnham I decided to make Saru an experienced officer, he has experience but he isn’t yet a veteran and he’s got a ways to go before getting there.
For his Value I added “If You Don’t Survive the Act of Discovery There’s Little Point to it.” I think a career in Starfleet has shown Saru more than he could ever imagine, and he has been witness to some amazing phenomenon and discoveries. At the same tie, he’s seen officers taking risks they didn’t need to, and more than one probably dying as a result. He’s a scientist first and an explorer second.
For his Talent I chose In the Nick of Time, giving him the ability to gain more benefit from taking longer periods of time to complete his work.
Step 6: Career Events
With Michael Burnham I outlined the events that took place during the first episodes of Star Trek Discovery to form her career events. I did the same thing with Saru, only this time the events played out from his perspective to form a very different narrative.
Event 1: Conflict with a Hostile Culture
Saru was also involved in the battle with the Kilingons, although far less directly, and more reluctantly than his Captain and First Officer were. He still gains a +1 in the Fitness Ability and a +1 in the Security Discipline. For his Focus I settled on Shipboard Tactical Systems. I think Saru certainly has a working knowledge of how the tactical systems work, and while he’s unlikely to be called upon as a tactical officer he can help improvise better defenses and offensive maneuvers.
Event 2: Called Out a Superior
When Michael attempted to override the Captain Saru sensed something was not right, and he stood up to his First Officer. This is a major moment for Saru. Everything about him up to this point suggests he’d keep his head down and follow orders, but he steps up and holds true to the orders his Captain has given, and the ideals of Starfleet. He gained a +1 to the Reason Ability and a +1 to the Con Discipline. For his Focus I went with Starfleet Protocol, he definitely knows the rules and when they’re being broken.
Event 3: Required to Take Command
I had a few options here, and while we don’t know Saru took command of the ship during the conflict at any point he was certainly on command on the bridge, and he may have been in charge after the captain died as one of the most senior officers. I went with that because it provided more growth to his character, and in my mind made more sense than the other choices available. He gained a +1 to his Daring ability and a +1 to his Command Discipline. For his Focus I chose Composure as Saru never lost his head during the crisis.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
To finish him off I gave Saru +1’s in both his Control and Presence abilities, as well as +1’s in his Science and Con Disciplines. He’s a capable officer who can fill in a number of roles aboard a starship, but he is definitely best suited to being a Science Officer.
His last Value is “You’re a Valuable Asset, but You’re Dangerous.” After his encounter with the Klingons and the betrayal of the captain I think Saru is a bit less trusting of his fellow officer’s motives. He does still see the value in cooperation, but his guard is up more than it was.
His Stress ended up at an 11, his Damage Bonus is a +2.
We can see how different the two characters to survive these events really are, and how that might influence the way the develop over time.
Saru character sheet
If you liked these last two entries please let me know. As more episodes of the series come out I may create character sheets for more of the crew if there is an interest.