So, you’ve decided to create a custom (non-canon) race for your USS Portland character. Cool!
Choosing whether to accept a custom race or not is up to the discretion of the USS Portland command staff, and you’ll need to provide us with a brief description of that race’s physical characteristics, culture, etc. Here are a few suggestions before you get started to maximize your chance of creating a fun, interesting custom race which will be accepted.
1. Ask yourself why you need a custom race
The galaxy of Star Trek is very diverse. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of races that have been established in the world of Star Trek. It would be a good idea to take a look at these before trying to create a custom race, as something which fits your concept might already exist. You want to play a cold logician? Try a Vulcan. A warrior with a code of honour? Klingons and Andorians fit the bill. A religious guy? Roll up a Bajoran.
If a canon race already exists that matches your concept fairly closely, it would be a good idea to consider using that instead. You’ll have the advantages of having resources out there on Memory Alpha and Memory Beta to use, and it will be easier for your fellow writers who all know what a Ferengi is but aren’t familiar with Trumpians.
2. Make sure you can interact with the environment and the characters around you!
You might think it would be cool to play a sentient cloud, but you’re going to run into some problems with that very quickly. How does your cloud talk to people? What sort of personality does it have? How does your intelligent floating cloud chief engineer change a burnt out plasma relay?
Before you create a giant centaur-like creature who is supposed to be an engineer but can’t fit through the Jeffries Tubes, make sure your character has the ability to interact with everyone else and do her duties. Here, it might be better to stick to something vaguely humanoid.
3. Why did your character join Starfleet?
This is an important question. If your character comes from a custom race that is barely out of the Bronze Age, you’re going to need to come up with a really good explanation as to how they wound up hurtling through the galaxy on a Federation starship. Make sure your custom race concept actually fits before you go all out.
(The above goes for a lot of canon alien races as well, particularly those hailing from non-Federation worlds)
That said, there’s nothing wrong with being the only one of your kind in Starfleet. Some of the best characters from Star Trek, such as Worf, Data, Odo, and Neelix are one of a kind.
4. Don’t be super-powered!
It’s okay to create a character who is well above average. After all, we’re not just Starfleet officers, we’re primary protagonists. That means that our characters are generally a little more badass than the average Joe.
That said, there is a line there somewhere. If Ensign Bloggins can use his species’ magical powers to snap his fingers and make a fleet of Borg cubes disappear, it can easily short-circuit entire stories and suck away all the dramatic tension. Consider strengths and weaknesses, and where your custom race has some sort of unique ability, try to make sure it’s somewhat balanced and not totally game-breaking.
5. Where did you come from?
Custom races are fine. Trying to shoehorn races from other fandoms such as Twilight vampires, furries, or Jabba the Hutt into Star Trek, a little less so. This isn’t meant to shut out any character ideas, or to stop you from using a picture from another movie or show to represent your character, but we’re a Star Trek RPG. If you want to play a Jedi, vampire or furry, you might be better off seeking out a community which caters to that sort of thing than trying to come up with a way to play Luke Skywalker in the world of Star Trek.
6. Make it cool!
The tabletop RPG 13th Age has a concept known as a One Unique Thing. This is something about your character which is totally unique in the universe, and which no other character possesses. When creating a custom race, think of your race’s One Unique Thing and make it cool!