Starfleet Investigative Procedures In 4 Easy Steps!

So, you want to play a member of Section 31 or have just been asked by the captain to lead an investigation? It is important that Starfleet personnel establish a standard means by which to investigate events that occur during a mission. A standard operating procedure ensures that important details are not missed and that solutions are taken into account that protects the health and safety of all lives.

In game terms, this can help players investigate in-game problems in an organized fashion. Gamemasters can structure their challenges in a way that supports standard Starfleet investigative procedures. This is a good tool to use for when away teams arrive at a mysterious scene on a planet, in a city, or on a space-born vessel.

Investigate Procedures should not be confused with Scientific Method. Scientific Method would be launched after all clues from investigations have been gathered and hypotheses need to be made.

When the Temporal Investigation people show up, it’s best to run.


Investigative Procedure is a 4-Step process that involves:

  1. Contact at the Scene
  2. Preliminary Survey or Scene Walk-Through
  3. Scene Capture
  4. Collecting Evidence

1. Contact at the Scene

Gamemasters Guidance: When an investigation is called for, the senior officer (maybe the Captain played by the GM) will determine who the Investigative Lead is going to be, preferably a player character. Of course, the Investigative Lead is oftentimes the captain themselves.

Upon arrival at the scene, the Investigative Lead will make contact with either the senior officer in charge of the scene or lead eyewitness. If neither is available, attempts should be made to interface with any active or passive computer or surveillance systems.

a) Information exchange.

After contact with the senior officer in charge of the scene or lead eyewitness at the scene, the Investigative Lead will obtain the following information:

      • Type of investigation: engineering, medical, security, or science.
      • Exact location of the scene.
      • Starfleet or security officers’ names and identification numbers.
      • Names of victim(s) and personal information, if needed.

Gathering this information could be an Insight/Reason + (insert applicable Discipline here) task with a standard Difficulty of 0. This might increase based on complications imposed by conditions that might impede investigations. In some cases, an Opposed Task (Core Rulebook page. 82) might occur from characters who are trying to hide something or obscure details.

Momentum generated can be used to Obtain Information. The gamemaster should provide details that are not obvious if players make this spend.

Additional information may be required due to the type of investigation including the following:

      • Suspect information.
      • Vehicle(s) information.
      • Information/schematics on technology at the scene.
      • Witness names.
      • Additional scene locations (if the event occurred at multiple locations).

b) Scene processing request or specific directions.

    • Each investigation is unique, and as such, the establishment of a clear and direct method of communicating scene information is required. For example, how often will a senior officer expect updates form the Investigative Lead? Frequent interruptions may allow the gamemaster to spend threat by creating complications such as Too Much Oversight or Lost Train of Thought.
    • Investigators will discuss with the officer in charge of the scene information regarding the type of investigation that is underway. Any relevant information regarding the processing of the scene and any specific scene-processing directions or evidence collection should be made known prior to scene entry. For example, a medical officer who is the Investigative Lead might require that specific tools for collecting DNA or doing bioscans of the area are required in addition to setting up quarantine protocols.
    • In any investigation, new or additional information may be developed from outside the scene by the investigating parties. When new or additional information is developed concerning the scene, the Investigative Lead should communicate that information to the rest of the team, including the senior officer in charge. This new or additional information may cause the team to make changes in scene processing such as expanding to other areas and additional items of evidence or narrowing the scope of the scene and items of evidence.
  • Gamemasters Guidance: Investigators may develop additional information while processing the scene that may support the investigative team’s theory or may be in conflict with statements made by individuals involved in the investigation. In either case, the Investigative Lead advises the senior officer in charge of the findings so the team can proceed with its investigation. This meeting could initiate another Information Exchange (see above). The senior officer might decide to alter the type of investigation, for example, changing a medical investigation to a security investigation as new clues are unraveled. At this point, a new Investigative Lead or team might need to be assembled.
  • investigate3
    Bones asks, “Do we really need to investigate this, Jim. He is wearing red. That’s why he died. It’s as simple as that, man!”

2) Preliminary Survey or Scene Walk-Through (This is not actually collecting evidence…yet)

A preliminary survey or walk-through of the scene–either at the scene, around a conference table,  or through a simulated presentation–with the officer in charge of the investigation should take place after the exchange of information. If at the actual scene, the Investigative Lead establishes a path to enter and exit the scene, avoiding the pathway used by the suspect, if there is one, and preserving the scene from possible contamination.

During this walk-through, the investigator will do a Reason + (insert applicable Discipline here) task with a standard Difficulty of 0. This might increase based on complications imposed by conditions that might impede investigations. Likewise, certain technology and equipment might reduce this difficulty. (See Core Rulebook CHAPTER 08.30 WEAPONS, GEAR, AND OTHER ITEMS). Assistants can support this roll. Any momentum generated to Obtain Information can answer the following:

    • Evaluate the scene to help in formulating a plan for processing the scene and the collection and preservation of evidence.
    • Make appropriate notes of the scene, evidence located within the scene and the condition of the evidence.
    • Determine if any additional equipment or personnel are needed to process the scene, i.e., bio-analysis or alternate scanning devices.
  • Confer with the officer in charge of the investigation to determine what potential evidence needs to be recorded, recovered, and what processing will occur at the scene or in a lab, which might provide other bonuses.

Scene Search for Trace Evidence

Trace evidence is any material such as hairs, fibers, glass, soil, paint, DNA, body liquids, residual radiation, traces of psionic activity, etc., found at an investigation scene on a person or object. Trace evidence may be used to associate an individual(s) with a crime scene or another individual.

The Investigative Lead should be trained to recognize trace evidence, understand the potential value of trace evidence, and collect and preserve the sample and the control sample. When encountering noticeable items of trace evidence, document and collect the item immediately. Document and collect additional items, depending upon the conditions at the scene and stability of the item of evidence.

The investigators should determine what equipment is available in their era of play for use in the search and collection of trace evidence.

Let’s not go making accusations or jumping to conclusions until the investigation is complete, Mr. Odo.

Gamemasters Guidance: All eras of Star Trek have various types of technology that lets characters find evidence not easily identified by the naked eye. Do you research online to see what might be available, but don’t stop your players from getting creative or inventing new types of technology. Some species have traits that can aid in an investigation, like Betazoids who are great as lie detectors. Ferengis have great hearing. Make sure to use traits such as these to provide details to the case as Obtain Informations are used.

If trace evidence is found, it should be collected, photographed, stored, or somehow memorialized and noted to include the following:

    • Location where the evidence was recovered.
    • Type of material or energy.
    • Amount of material collected, or specify if only a sample was collected.
    • Condition of the evidence, i.e., wet or powder.
    • Controls or standards obtained, and locations from where obtained.
  • Packaging or container used for transportation to the laboratory along with other means of transportation like transporters.

Scene Search for Biological Evidence

Investigators may search a scene, other locations associated with a scene, or individuals for suspected biological evidence (i.e., blood, semen, spit).

When suspected biological evidence is identified, collect a sample for biological analysis or collect the entire item. This is a Control + Science/Medicine task with a standard Difficulty of 0. When collecting the item, make a mark near the area where the sample was found. (Electronic markers acceptable.) An arrow, line or circle should be made clearly indicating the location of the substance. Document the notes appropriately including:

    • Whether an alternate light or energy source was used to locate the stain.
    • Location of the stain.
    • Size of the stain.

3) Scene Capture

Scene Capture is one of the most important duties that an investigator performs. Visual and audio communications are substantiated and verified by quality, concise and accurate captures of both the scene and the evidence as it was found. Capture of the scene and of evidence is one of the first procedures performed at a scene. This generally occurs after the note-taking process has begun. Capture is a Control/Insight + Security task with a standard Difficulty of 0.

“Move along. Nothing to see here,” the doctor said.


Gamemasters Guidance: The Investigative Lead might purposely select a team member who has a finer eye (a.k.a. higher Security Discipline) for detail to perform or Assist with scene capture.

    • Take the photo/video/audio capture so that the area and items of evidence will be identified and oriented with other areas in the overall scene. This makes for great holographic recreations later.
  • The technique used at scenes is primarily a three-step process:
    • A long or wide-angle view, sometimes referred to as an establishing shot.
    • A medium or midrange view which focuses on particular objects, areas or evidence items.
    • A close-up view that clearly shows what the item is, its condition and its position at the scene.

Capture all collected evidence at its original location.

    • Investigators should use rulers and manual or electronic markers at scenes to identify items or areas being captured. When using markers, take a capture of the object or area with and without the marker.
  • When evidence has been identified as having been moved from its original position at a scene, the investigator should make note of that. If the investigator is directed to capture the evidence item in its original location, a detailed note should be made that the item was captured in the area where it was originally located.


Vehicles recovered at a scene of investigation or other location should be captured along with an associated landmark. Take captures of the vehicle from a distance, if necessary, in order to include the landmark.

    • Take captures of all four sides of the vehicle, with special attention to damage on the exterior of the vehicle.
    • Any items of evidence/property identified or recovered from the vehicle.

Biological Evidence

Some biological evidence that is not easily identified with the naked eye may be visualized with chemical enhancement or observed with an alternate light or energy source.

Case Files/Notes

Case files may be prepared for each of the following:

    • Each scene processed.
    • Capture assignments of scenes. (Who was responsible?)
    • Requests for services requiring the issuing of a formal laboratory report. (Who is/was working the lab?)
  • Follow-up assignments.

Case files may contain the following:

    • All investigation scene notes.
    • All rough sketches or diagrams.
    • Formal diagram, if required, based upon the type of investigation, or if requested.
    • Any captures taken.
    • Secure electronic documentation, including the following:
      • Chain of custody (who was responsible for survey/walk-through, scene capture, and collection of evidence.)
      • Vehicle information sheet.
      • Weapons data form.
      • Explanation of how evidence was processed (equipment, lab, sciences used).
      • Evidence room (What went in or out as evidence?).
      • Laboratory examination report.
      • Criminalistics information sheets (if applicable).
      • Any significant case-related conversations communicated by any technological means.

        “What the hell is that?”

4. Evidence Collection (Now it is time to collect evidence)

Investigators should perform the evidence collection process in a systematic and careful manner. The process begins with the preliminary scene survey/walk-through, followed by a determination of the evidence collection sequence to be used. Evidence collection is a Control + Security task with a standard Difficulty of 0.

The evidence collection sequence may be based on the following information:

The latest in Starfleet evidence collection, the Tricorder Mark 23 available at your local Apple store.


    • The scene location: interior, exterior, within a vehicle.
    • The condition of the evidence: either fragile or stable.
    • Weather or environmental conditions that might affect the scene or evidence within.
    • Scene management considerations which may alter or contaminate the evidence.
  • Additional processing techniques may need to be conducted at the scene with specialized personnel.

Investigators should use the appropriate equipment when collecting evidence. Collection equipment that may come into contact with evidence should be sterile.

Well, there you have it! Now that you collected all the evidence now you can move on to making your guesses and closing out this mystery! Good work, team!

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