Why Corsairs?

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alex_greene
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Why Corsairs?

Postby alex_greene » Sun Aug 28, 2016 2:26 pm

Why does Traveller have big, obvious pirate corsairs? Surely, a ship whose profile screams PIRATE to the cheapest Naval silhouette recognition software is just begging to be turned into a big pirate nebula?

The not so obvious answer has got to be that these are surplus raiders from some earlier time - a war or some sort of conflict. The war might be long over, but the raiders are still there, still begging to be used - and not by the people you think.

What if a significant proportion of those corsair ships were actually owned, run by and crewed by Naval forces?

And their purpose? To intimidate unarmed merchantmen, and scare civilians into paying their taxes to maintain the naval fleets to keep the "pirates" at bay.

A good referee can turn this into a nice little scam operation, with the Travellers accidentally discovering the truth and unwittingly threatening to blow the whole operation wide open.
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fusor
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby fusor » Sun Aug 28, 2016 3:49 pm

Still doesn't answer the question of why anyone would use such an obvious ship for piracy though. It's not as if actual pirate ships were any different from normal ones in the Age of Sail (other than the flag).
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby Hopeless » Sun Aug 28, 2016 5:10 pm

I assume you're referring to 1e rather than 2e?

According to the 1e pocket handbook it sounds more like intentionally created for privateers that eventually became or always were pirates with it becoming popular as an underworld ship of choice probably because they aren't listed nor maintained anywhere the authorities can find them!

What would be your choice for 2e if the Corsair wasn't available?
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby alex_greene » Sun Aug 28, 2016 5:38 pm

Hopeless wrote:I assume you're referring to 1e rather than 2e?

According to the 1e pocket handbook it sounds more like intentionally created for privateers that eventually became or always were pirates with it becoming popular as an underworld ship of choice probably because they aren't listed nor maintained anywhere the authorities can find them!

What would be your choice for 2e if the Corsair wasn't available?
Tricked-out Type R armed subbies. Turn the Q-boat principle in on itself.

Second-hand Type Ts, bought at government auction or found and salvaged.

Of course, if they stumble across a Chrysanthemum class or Fer-de-Lance class and commandeer it, that would put the wind up most people not living in a capital ship.
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Sigtrygg
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby Sigtrygg » Sun Aug 28, 2016 5:40 pm

Always go back to the source:
Corsair (Type P): Based on the type 400 hull, the corsair is fitted out with
jump drive-D, maneuver drive-F, and power plant-F, giving it a capability for
jump-2 and 3G acceleration. A Model/2 computer installed, and contains
a standard software package. Most important to this ship are the three triple
turrets, although each turret is equipped with only one beam laser. Ten staterooms
serve as quarters for the crew (pilot, navigator, three engineers, and assorted thugs
and cutthroats numbering up to five more); twenty low berths are available for
emergency use, or to hold captives. The ship is not streamlined, and there are no
ship's vehicles or boats. Fuel capacity is 120 tons, and cargo capacity is 160 tons.
Notable features on the corsair are large cargo doors and variable identification
features. The large clamshell doors can open to reveal the entire cargo bay; the ship
can accept a 100 to ship into its cargo bay. The ship has several centrally controlled
identification features which can alter the shape and configuration of the ship
at a moment's notice; fins retract or extend, modules appear or disappear, and
radio emissions alter frequency and content. The ship's transponders can be altered
to identify the vessel as having any of a variety of missions and identities.

The approximate value of the corsair is Cr180,000,000, but this price would be
difficult to obtain on the open market, as the ship is of a noncommercial type,
and its lineage and paperwork are of uncertain origin. It could probably bring
about one quarter its value.
Now ask yourself who builds these ships and who pays into a pirate's pension fund (the qualified for a pension if CT).
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby Sigtrygg » Sun Aug 28, 2016 5:43 pm

I used armed and up rated subsidised merchants as Q ships. The launch is actually a disguised fighter, with a couple more hidden in the converted cargo bay. M-drive is uprated and it has 4 turrets, two of them pop up.
They would make good pirate ships too...
edit- rats Alex beat me to it.
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby Sigtrygg » Sun Aug 28, 2016 5:48 pm

This is my go to explanation for piracy in my 3I
In the original Library Data the first/lowest tier of Imperial government is the sub-sector Duke.
They are tasked with seeing to the economic well being of the worlds within their sub-sectors, overseeing the deployment of Imperial resources, and ensuring that worlds pay their taxes ;)

Rivalry exists between sub-sector Dukes, they are competing for limited Naval assets, they are trying to encourage megacorp involvement within their sector, and they are constantly striving to exploit the resources the sub-sector offers.
A sub-sector Duke who can encourage the development of a couple of high pop worlds, or a nice mix of industrial, rich and agricultural worlds, will have considerably more influence at the sector level - and may even aspire one day to that lofty position.

How to stop your neighbours doing the same? What if a world just over the sub-sector border offers great trade potential?

Megacorportions are the power behind the throne of the Imperium. They exploit the resources, operate the refineries and factories, and transport the goods to market.
They conduct exploration - to find new markets and resources - they conduct research and development - to stay ahead of the competition, they found colonies, buy and sell whole worlds, and pay their taxes... ;)

So what if a rival company is making inroads into your market share? What if a world that used to provide the raw materials for your factories decides to trade with someone else? What if an upstart transport company starts to undercut your transport monopoly? What if another megacorporation perceives your foothold in a particular region to be weak and ripe for takeover... hostile takeover.

Individual planets are free to govern themselves as they see fit. They are free to build their own naval ships, to subsidise trade, develop their own economies, and exploit their own resources...

So what if a rival world has ambitions to claim an uninhabited part of your system, or you want to develop the potential in another worlds system because they lack the resources?

So basically I can see how each of the above groups would sponsor raiders within the territory of their rivals.

By claiming "Trade War" you have partial immunity from the IN blowing you out of space because of your activities. The letter of marque is a natural extension of this IMHO.
This helps me to explain three things:

how the pirate career can have such a well-defined structure, including a pension plan

where Corsair class "speculative traders" come from (and why it is a standard design

how pirates can find a ready market for their booty.
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby Condottiere » Sun Aug 28, 2016 6:58 pm

The British loved pirate hunting, having graduated from a period of Elizabethan privateering.

Most navies would find that a perfect live fire exercise, as well as performing a public service, and with jump factor two and acceleration three, you can't run, and in the middle of the Imperium, not really likely to be able to hide.

The perfect pirate ship would have to be a souped up armed merchantman; if an actual warship started raiding, the Navy would sweep through the subsector.
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby Condottiere » Sun Aug 28, 2016 7:12 pm

Actually, the Somali style of pirating would be more fitting, a mothership and fast skiffs.
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby Hopeless » Sun Aug 28, 2016 7:23 pm

And a safe harbour... some place they can disappear within and expect no threat of reprisals as long as they don't draw unnecessary attention to themselves or their safe port.

Babylon V had an episode or two on this, in one it involved the Narn supporting pirates at the same time as they were securing a Centauri world they subjugated and then basically lied making it seem they were invited in.

Legend of the Rangers dealt with those pirates too at the start and one of the tv movies I believe?

They used a jump capable mothership and numerious fighters to secure their targets and jump out before help arrived.
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby Condottiere » Sun Aug 28, 2016 7:39 pm

Some place where the financial services and fences don't ask questions, like London.
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby wbnc » Sun Aug 28, 2016 7:46 pm

My take on the corsair is that they are built by less than legitimate groups in off the books shipyards. Mostly to be sold to people operating in areas well outside of the local region of the shipyard. Imperium based groups supply the ships to groups operating in Solomani or Zhodani territory, and vice versa.Vargr, Aslan or larger Non-Imperium worlds might actually build "Armed Merchant Vessels" for sale to businessmen who operate outside their home territories.

Simply turning a blind eye to the construction of Corsairs allows one power to discretely make life hard on competing powers. if corsairs constructed by a particular yard seem to be used by groups raiding in the home territory of a power rather than crossing the border...the Local authorities can go have a "chat" with the yard owner/operator.

To me, the short range low speed, thin armor, and short jump range of the Corsair compared to military ships appears to be a deliberate choice by the desingers. They are in no way shape or form up to raiding patrolled areas, or taking on well-equipped merchant shipping The corsair is "Just enough" to make it a threat in frontier regions, against small independent ships. If upgraded with better weapons, and better drives it might be up to taking on larger ships if it has a couple of other corsairs along for the attack.

Since a corsair is no threat to large well funded and well-protected shipping. and they are easy meat for any patrol ship, they aren't a major threat to corporate heavy cargo ships, military assets a few stray crews going full pirate rather than operating as an unofficial Privateer won't be an issue.If the corsair is used against shipping friendly to the party constructing it, the local patrols will quickly hunt it down nd make short work of the rouge crew
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby AnotherDilbert » Sun Aug 28, 2016 7:54 pm

alex_greene wrote:Why does Traveller have big, obvious pirate corsairs? Surely, a ship whose profile screams PIRATE to the cheapest Naval silhouette recognition software is just begging to be turned into a big pirate nebula
Why would there only be one type of ship that all pirates use? Pirates are likely to use any ship that is handy, or if really successful build a custom ship. The Corsair is just an example of what is possible.
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby phavoc » Sun Aug 28, 2016 7:57 pm

alex_greene wrote:Why does Traveller have big, obvious pirate corsairs? Surely, a ship whose profile screams PIRATE to the cheapest Naval silhouette recognition software is just begging to be turned into a big pirate nebula?

The not so obvious answer has got to be that these are surplus raiders from some earlier time - a war or some sort of conflict. The war might be long over, but the raiders are still there, still begging to be used - and not by the people you think.

What if a significant proportion of those corsair ships were actually owned, run by and crewed by Naval forces?

And their purpose? To intimidate unarmed merchantmen, and scare civilians into paying their taxes to maintain the naval fleets to keep the "pirates" at bay.

A good referee can turn this into a nice little scam operation, with the Travellers accidentally discovering the truth and unwittingly threatening to blow the whole operation wide open.
The more obvious answer is that it sounded cool in the very first Traveller books, and it's stuck with us just like the Free Trader model.

The reality should be that pirate ships are going to come in all shapes and varieties. Standing out is just an invatation to be blown out of space. Being able to blend in with regular traffic allows you to get close enough to your victim to attack. Or else you have to run them down and do your work before the authories arrive to stop you.
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby -Daniel- » Sun Aug 28, 2016 8:04 pm

phavoc wrote: The more obvious answer is that it sounded cool in the very first Traveller books, and it's stuck with us just like the Free Trader model.

The reality should be that pirate ships are going to come in all shapes and varieties. Standing out is just an invatation to be blown out of space. Being able to blend in with regular traffic allows you to get close enough to your victim to attack. Or else you have to run them down and do your work before the authories arrive to stop you.
Amen to this answer. It just has the ring of truth to it. Once done, it just is continued because of tradition. :mrgreen:
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby rust2 » Sun Aug 28, 2016 10:19 pm

phavoc wrote:[The more obvious answer is that it sounded cool in the very first Traveller books, and it's stuck with us just like the Free Trader model.
Yep, just like all the rest of Traveller. Some author wrote something because he considered it cool, and we can either ignore it or attempt to develop some more or less plausible explanation for it ... :lol:
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby phavoc » Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:35 am

I think a more realistic answer would be to have the corsair ship have a different purpose in it's original life. However with the outsized cargo hold, the larger engines, it's ability to be easily modified to look like other ships, etc, THEN it would make more sense to have it as one of the more popular ships that pirates turn to.

Pirate ships on the high seas tended to be fast and maneuverable and able to fight (and win). Modern pirates use speedboats and guns to attack unarmed merchantmen. Even ships in days of sail didn't always have guns on them.

So the question is, what would space pirates be looking to steal? Cargo is valuable, but the ship itself is worth the most - assuming you don't destroy or disable it before you are able to board (i.e. sinking it or breaking the masts in the old days). Aside from the terrible but somewhat funny Ice Pirates movie, how do you see space pirates acting?
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby Condottiere » Mon Aug 29, 2016 1:07 am

Car jackers being a less glamourous term.
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby Epicenter » Mon Aug 29, 2016 10:00 am

alex_greene wrote:Why does Traveller have big, obvious pirate corsairs? Surely, a ship whose profile screams PIRATE to the cheapest Naval silhouette recognition software is just begging to be turned into a big pirate nebula?
I actually always thought the standard ship list in Traveller was Traveller's Monster Manual of starships. Not all Scouts would have the same features as the generic scout, but it was good enough for a GM who wanted to have Scout in his game. In the same vein, the Corsair was a generic ship that was "typical of the sort" that could be used by a GM who wanted a quick encounter with a pirate without going to the trouble of constructing a vessel in the ship design rules.

Unfortunately, like Medieval Christianity or the old Star Wars Extended Universe, there was a huge number of nerds in Traveller obsessed about overexplaining everything in the universe (like me right now). In fact a lot of GDW's staff were like that and DGP made GDW look like the popular kids. Nerds like to have everything (overly) categorized, standardized, and then everything has to have a backstory and a model name (Force powers and divine encounters are optional in the TU). Someone at GDW thought ships all needed "hull codes" because somehow, like UPPs this was somehow cool (remember this was the same age that thought that "Treasure Type" in D&D was useful. Except Treasure Type actually did save space the Monster Manual. Has anyone ever written out a starship encounter in Traveller where it just says "enemy ships: S x 2, C x 1"? No. It was a terrible idea then, it's still a terrible idea). Unfortunately, in this situation the pirate ship got assigned a standard hull code. This is probably one of the less illustrious moments of Traveller.

The result today of this living fossil of a "pirate ship" that sits alongside these other "named" ships like the Broadsword-class Mercenary Cruiser, the Suleiman-class Scout Ship, or the Donosev-class Science vessel giving everyone the impression somewhere in the Traveller Universe there's shipyards cranking out standardized "pirate ships." Banks will give you 30-year loans on them, provided you can give the bank a good business plan and/or if you have a good credit rating.

Yeah.

I personally feel the way out of this mess is to Marc and Mongoose to just get together and put their feet down and finally solve this decades-long gaff. "Destandardize" the Corsair, drop the hull type and all that and just state clearly "this is a heavily modified starship that is typical of pirates for use by GMs who need a quick and dirty pirate vessel for a quick encounter - it is not a standardized vessel you can go to a shipyard anywhere and order."
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Re: Why Corsairs?

Postby rust2 » Mon Aug 29, 2016 6:45 pm

phavoc wrote: Aside from the terrible but somewhat funny Ice Pirates movie, how do you see space pirates acting?
In my view space piracy requires an insider on the pirates' target ship or some other means to at least disable the target ship's attitude control system - I simply cannot imagine how to realistically board a starship which is still able to rotate around all three of its axis.
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