Guide: Basics

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Welcome, cadet...

Welcome to the beginners' Basics Guide, the first of many guides for players of Star Trek Online (STO). This guide shall serve as a launching pad for all players who are new to the game or just want to know more about the basics of STO.


On the character creation screen you can choose your faction & race (left) as well as your career path (right).

Before character creation, you must choose a faction. You are able to play as the Federation, the Klingon Empire or the Romulan Republic. Each faction presents you with its own storyline, own set of playable species and ships, as well as faction-specific social hubs.

Career Paths[edit]

In Star Trek Online, there are three career paths players can take. They correspond to three main departments in Starfleet: Engineering, Science and Tactical. Career paths in Star Trek Online are very much like classes in most other MMORPGs, except that they aren't as restrictive and rigidly defined. A player of any career path can fly any type of starship and equip any body armor or weapon.


Each class has a certain focus and can perform one or more group roles, as well as a starship that best matches that particular class.

  • Tactical officers are most useful in the DPS or Damage roles; they do their best work while dealing damage to enemies in ground and space combat. Tactical officers usually wear red and are best matched with Escort vessels (Federation) and Raiders or Raptors (Klingon Empire), which are also the best starships in terms of inflicting damage to enemies. They do this through maximizing the damage output of their Energy (Beams & Cannons) and Projectile weaponry (Torpedoes & Mines), and through increasing that potential through Attack Patterns (α, β, Δ, and Ω).
    In ground combat, tactical kits give powers that allow the player to put out increased damage as well as spike damage (one-time concentrated bursts of firepower), AoE (Area of Effect) damage via grenades, and abilities that improve the damage output and staying power of allies.
  • Engineers are best suited to the Healer and Tank roles. Engineers wear the color gold for their uniforms and are ideally matched with Cruisers (Federation) and Battlecruisers (Klingon Empire), which are also best suited for tanking. Tanks take the brunt of damage in battle and try to attract all enemies to themselves, while the DPS or Damage players do the majority of the actual firing and damage. As healers, Engineers are adept at healing hull damage, although they also have strong shield healing. Their focus is primarily on survivability and resilience in space combat, while supporting their Away Team in both space and ground combat with fixed-position automated weaponry, shield and medical generators, technological buffs, and other repairs and improvements.
    In ground combat, engineering kits generally involve fabricating turrets and shields, supporting your team with weapon buffs and seeker as well as support drones, and laying mine barriers and bombs.
  • Science officers are most useful in the Healer and "Buffer/Debuffer" roles, where they provide healing and buffs for allies (and themselves), as well as powers that weaken and disable enemy NPCs. Science officers wear the color blue and are ideally matched with Science Vessels (Federation) and Warships (Klingon Empire), ship classes whose onus is to weaken and control their enemies, and provide some healing on the side.
    In ground combat, science kits offer team healing and AoE (Area of Effect) damage, but can also grant abilities that control or debuff enemy resiliency, damage and movement.


See also our guides on custom-built canon-aliens & canon-uniforms

Each faction has its own collection of playable races, each coming with a specific, fixed racial trait. The important thing to remember is, that there are no "Uber"-races. Go with what you feel comfortable with.


Your traits can be re-viewed and -selected in the traits menu at any time during the game.

Traits are mostly passive bonuses and are somewhat comparable to glyphs of other MMORPGs. Picking your race (or choosing to create your own custom race) automatically means picking one specific non-customizable racial trait (or creating one for your custom alien). Also, three additional race-typical traits are assigned to each preset race, however, these can be customized once you are in-game (see image on the right). As you level your character up, an additional personal trait slot becomes available every 10 levels, so each player has a total of nine customizable personal traits and one fixed racial trait at level 60 (the Reputation System grants further traits from level 50 onwards; more information on the trait-article).

Levels & Ranks[edit]

Star Trek Online lets your character progress through different levels just like many other MMORPGs. In STO, however, each bracket of 10 levels also comprises a rank (Ensign & Lieutenant counted as one rank). At each level, a set number of skill points (Skill point icon.png; comparable to "experience points" in other games) is granted. Furthermore, new tiers of starships are opened up to each new rank.

Levels Starship Tier Rank Faction Starfleet.png Rank Faction Klingon.png Rank Faction Romulan Republic.png Skill points
1 Tier 1 Cadet Warrior Citizen 0
3 Lieutenant 13,000
10 Tier 2 Lieutenant Commander Centurion 33,000
20 Tier 3 Commander Subcommander 93,000
30 Tier 4 Captain Commander 173,000
40 Tier 5 Rear Admiral, Lower Half Brigadier General Subadmiral I 263,000
45 Rear Admiral, Upper Half Major General Subadmiral II 313,000
50 Tier 5-U / Tier 6 Vice Admiral Lieutenant General Vice Admiral 366,000
55 Admiral General Admiral 750,420
60 Fleet Admiral Dahar Master Fleet Admiral 1,498,620

Note: Additionally and independently from your military rank you can gain commendation ranks as part of the Duty officer system.

Skills & Abilities[edit]

Abilities give you new powers. Skills (comparable to "talents" in other games) increase the effectiveness of existing powers, as well as Bridge officer abilities. More specialized skills and abilities are available only once you have reached a particular rank. For example, you must reach the rank of Lieutenant Commander before you can acquire the Starship Auxiliary Systems Maintenance skill.

Appropriate skills can combine their bonuses. For example, a captain trained as an Engineer would be able to combine the bonuses from the Modification Training, Fabrication Engineer and Drones skills while using Support Drones to protect his or her Away Team.


Skills in Star Trek Online are comparable to "talents" in other games and are distributed as your character gains skill points while leveling up.

Groups & Tiers[edit]

Skills are seperated into two major groups: Space & Ground. Space skills are subgrouped into "Tactical Systems", "Engineering Systems", and "Science and Operation Systems". Ground skills consist of only one career path-specific group ("Tactical/Engineering/Science Officer").

All players, regardless of career path, will have access to all space skills. Ground-based skills are career path-restricted; e.g., for the Lieutenant tier, Tactical players will have "Grenades", Engineering players will have "Demolitions", and Science players will have "Medic".

There are five columns of skills, from Lieutenant on the left, to Admiral on the right. In order to have access to the next column of skills, you must hold the required Rank. As is shown in the figure on the right, you must be a Lt. Commander in order to access the "Starship Energy Weapons" skill.

Skill level[edit]

Each skill has 9 upgrade levels whose skill point costs depend on the rank of the skill: 1,000 Skill point icon.png for Lieutenant; 1,500 Skill point icon.png for Lt. Commander; 2,000 Skill point icon.png for Commander; 2,500 Skill point icon.png for Captain; and 3,000 Skill point icon.png for Admiral skills. The bonus granted per level diminishes (shown below), i.e., the first three upgrade levels grant +18 bonus each, the second three +10 each, and the last three only +5 each (the quantitative improvement granted by a bonus increment depends on each individual skill). The amount of skill points granted while you level your character up is shown in the rank table in the Level & Ranks section. At level 50, you have a total of 366,000 Skill point icon.png to assign to the skills of your choice, however, you can only assign a maximum of 300,000 Skill point icon.png to space skills, i.e., at least 66,000 Skill point icon.png MUST go into ground skills.

Skill point bonus.png

Skill Points apply to skill levels from Level 1 until Level 50. After Level 50, Skill Points are used to accumulate Specialization Points instead.


Abilities are the actions that you and your bridge officers can take in combat. There are both space and ground abilities. You gain access to abilities in various ways:

  • Players will learn a few new abilities as they rank up. The majority of the skills available to players, however, will be based on the kit you have equipped.
  • Your starship's abilities are determined by your bridge officers - their space abilities and the rank of the station you assigned to them. A Commander-rank bridge officer at an Ensign station will only be able to use his/her Ensign ability, regardless of the officer's actual rank.
  • Your away team's abilities are altered via the Bridge Officer Trainer. Your Away Team may not equip kits, so your bridge officers' skills are far more flexible than your own.


In addition to their normal recharge time, Abilities that are linked to the same subsystem (e.g. if they have "System: Batteries" in their descriptions) share an additional cooldown time during which no other Abilities of the same subsystem may be used. For example, the Emergency Power to Weapons I ability triggers a 20-second cooldown on your ship's Batteries subsystem, during which time no other "System: Batteries" Ability (such as Emergency Power to Shields) may be used.

Bridge Officers[edit]

In Star Trek Online, your character can be assisted in ground combat by an away team of up to four computer-controlled Bridge Officers (comparable to "pets" of other games and with up to four ground-abilities per officer). In space combat, Bridge Officers (or "BOffs") bring with them most of the abilities you can use (up to four space abilities per officer).

In order to gain access to and improve these abilities, each BOff has its own, simplified skill tree in which you spend BOff-specific skill points called "expertise" (which is earned along with normal skill points as you play). Each BOff must advance in rank before they can use an additional ability, so, since you are their captain, you must promote them. Bridge Officers must be a lower rank than you, so you will not be able to promote any of them until you reach the rank of Lieutenant Commander, i.e., then promoting them from Ensign to Lieutenant. A Bridge Officer that has sufficiently advanced his or her abilities will be eligible for a promotion, which can be handled through a respective officer's status window.

In addition to assigning expertise to a BOff skill in order to improve the associated ability (like in your character's own skill tree), BOff abilities also come in three versions (I to III), reflecting increasing effectivness. Training some of your own character's skills to the highest level will also enable you to train a Bridge Officer of the appropriate Rank in a version III ability. You will only be able to train Bridge Officers in the same career path as you. Therefore, a captain who is in the Science track cannot train a Tactical officer in any ability. Keep in mind however that your BOffs aren't restricted to just the abilities that they start with or the abilities that your character can train them in. The main headquarters of each of the 3 main factions (Federation, Klingon, and Romulan) has an NPC BOff skill trainer that (For a price in Energy Credits) allows you to train your BOffs in the skills of your choice from Ensign rank level I skills to Commander rank level III skills. This allows you greater flexibility in setting up the skills you want to have according to the various ranking BOff stations aboard your starship.


See also: Guide: Keybinds

This is a very basic guide to the initial controls of the game, both in flight and ground modes, and also a couple of "tricks" to help you along the way.

Please Note The following key mappings are true for the Windows English keyboard layout. Other OSes or language layouts may vary.

The game has two basic playing modes:

Ground Mode[edit]

See also: Ground combat

This is where your character is in person on the screen either in friendly territory such as a starbase or in enemy territory such as a ship or planet.

Basic Controls[edit]

Key Action
W Walk Forward
Shift + W Run Forward
S Walk Backward
A Turn Left
D Turn Right
Q Strafe Left
E Strafe Right
R Toggle continuous walk on / off
F Interact with an object near to you, such as a person, crate or turbolift

Space Mode[edit]

See also: Space combat

This is where you are guiding your ship through either open space or within a star system

Basic Controls[edit]

Key Action
Q Decrease flight speed
E Increase flight speed
R Toggle full speed
Shift+ R Toggle Full Impulse
A Bank Left
D Bank Right
W Nose down
S Nose Up
F Interact with an object near to you, such as an anomaly, or accept a prompt


See also: Player abilities

On the screen in either mode are controls for actions that your character can perform. In ground mode you will be shown your weapon's main action (normal "fire") and other possible actions such as "Exploit attacks". These each have a number to the top left of their control, and can be activated by pressing the corresponding key on your keyboard (1 through 0)

You can have up to four rows of controls on screen at any one time in both ground and space modes, to set these click the icon to the top right of the control module that looks like three stacked playing cards. This brings up a control that allows you to select between one and four rows of controls.

On the left hand end of these rows is a number between 1 and 10 with up and down arrows. These allow you to set up your own configurations and scroll between available controls.

What do A, C and Sh mean?[edit]

These are the methods of using that control on the keyboard

A = ALT, C = CTRL, Sh = Shift.

Bridge Officer abilities[edit]

See also: Bridge Officer abilities

Those guys seated in the other chairs aren't just for show you know, each has training in different capabilities allowing them to vastly change the basic setup of your ship, be it by adding extra power to your next phaser shot or healing your shields mid-combat.

The initial play setup gives you a row of icons below your main ability section, showing the face and abilities of each of your bridge officers. When you start the game each officer will only have one ability, but as you progress through the game the number and class of abilities increase (you can also train your officers either through your own abilities, additional bridge officers or at certain starbases).

These action icons will generally have "A" and a number in their action boxes. To control with the keyboard hold the ALT key and press the appropriate number.

Remember, when purchasing a new ship, set the bridge officers! Also you might try to remember to keep them as trained and as promoted as possible to increase their additional abilities.

Moving Controls[edit]

The game has a funny habit of moving your controls around, especially when you gain new abilities, even as far as new weapons!

To stop your firing actions, heals, buffs and debuffs being all over the place you can move the controls around as you wish them to be, just do this when not in a combat area to avoid some blushes and much muttering of "Where did my phasers go!?"

To move a control drag it with the right mouse button from where it currently resides to your required location. This can be within or across action bar rows (see above). After you have your actions set up the way you want them, you can click a checkbox that locks your action bars to prevent your abilities from being moved around or from accidental removal altogether.

Advanced control setup[edit]

All of the key mappings and controls can be adjusted and moved around the screen using the controls in the option menu. To manually adjust the placement of monitor panels and controls, click the game options icon to the right of the minimap and select the top HUD option, then drag the corresponding green boxes to your convenience.

Luckily they also have a reset function!