How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Jump Dave
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Jump Dave » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:07 pm

A starship's jump drive could be equipped with a black-box transmitter, that automatically broadcasts the current state of the mortgage as soon as a ship comes out of jump, and then, if payment is overdue, at periodic intervals. Or the ship's computer could include a hardware element that adds a carrier signal to any outgoing transmission, with this information. Overriding or tampering with this system would certainly be considered a crime, and a breach of the loan contract, resulting in forfeit of the ship and any previous payments.

Certainly, a ship could (and should, really, given the advanced state of technology) "know" whether payments on it are overdue, and could simply refuse to accept jump coordinates that put if farther away from the bank.

Banks might also demand a flight plan, with check-ins that can be communicated back to them, so ensure you're trustworthy.

I wonder too what's canon in terms of *where* payments are supposed to be made. Are you intended to return to the same system every month to make your payment? If so, that severely limits the range of a ship under mortgage. If you can make payments elsewhere (e.g., at any A or B starport, or in any system on an X-Boat route), then the farther you are away from the loan's "home", the longer it will take for the money you deposit to make it back to the loan - so does that imply you have to make payments that much earlier? Maybe this means a ship newly purchased has to stick close to the bank, until it can make an early payment, allowing it to travel farther away, and so on. If that were the case, then you might be able to pay a fee to move your loan to a new "home" that's closer to where you'll be flying.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby steve98052 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:53 pm

Jump Dave wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:07 pm
. . .
I wonder too what's canon in terms of *where* payments are supposed to be made. Are you intended to return to the same system every month to make your payment? If so, that severely limits the range of a ship under mortgage. If you can make payments elsewhere (e.g., at any A or B starport, or in any system on an X-Boat route), then the farther you are away from the loan's "home", the longer it will take for the money you deposit to make it back to the loan - so does that imply you have to make payments that much earlier? Maybe this means a ship newly purchased has to stick close to the bank, until it can make an early payment, allowing it to travel farther away, and so on. If that were the case, then you might be able to pay a fee to move your loan to a new "home" that's closer to where you'll be flying.
I think we can make some assumptions based on the recent history of checks. First, here's the recent history of checks:
  • Today, physical checks are rare. But when they're accepted by a business, what often happens is that the cashier types in the handwritten payment amount (and probably confirms the date, the payee, and the presence of a signature), and runs it through a scanner that reads the magnetic digits (routing number and account number) at the bottom, and optically scans both sides. The scan is transmitted to a bank, which processes it as a more-or-less instant transfer of funds. The physical check goes into a bag that goes to the vendor's bank, where it's stored for a while, and discarded unless an allegation of fraud turns up. Businesses that lacked the scanning system would use an older processing method.
  • A decade or two ago, physical checks were common, though less common than credit and debit cards. When accepted by a business, the cashier would type in the payment amount and magnetic digits, and a machine would query a bank about whether the check was likely to be honored. They'd deposit the checks to their bank, which would scan the magnetic digits and optically scan both sides, attempt to read the payment amount, and have a human read the payment amount if the scanner couldn't. Then the check was processed more-or-less instantly. The physical check would be either mailed back to the person who wrote it, or stored until it was too late to challenge it as fraud.
  • Three decades or more ago, physical checks were probably more common than credit cards (and debit cards were rare). When a check was accepted by a business, they might (if their customers often wrote fraudulent checks) look through a list of accounts with a record of fraud. They'd stamp the back of the check and deposit to their bank. The bank would scan the magnetic digits, and manually read the payment amount (and possibly look at the payee and date). The bank would provisionally credit the business with the amount of the payment, and print additional magnetic digits representing the payment amount (and possibly other information). They'd deliver it to the nearest Federal Reserve clearing house, which would electronically debit the account-holder's bank and credit the payee's bank, after which the payee's bank would convert the provisional payment of the amount to a cleared payment. Then the physical check would be delivered to the account-holder's bank, which usually mailed the check to the account-holder. (On the other hand, the Federal Reserve clearing house transfer of funds, and conversion of the payment from provisional to cleared, may have been delayed until the physical check went to the account-holder's bank and they confirmed that it was legitimate, but I'm not sure about that.) It could take as long as two weeks for a payment to fully clear.
Even in the days when a payment took a long time for a check to clear, it was customary for businesses to treat the payment as received when the physical check was received. There were exceptions; sometimes mail-order businesses (who had little recourse if a check turned out to be fraudulent) would not treat the payment as received until the check cleared, and not mail orders until then. But treating payment as received as soon as the check was received was far more common. That made it possible to commit a fraud called check kiting.

So, based on the example of checks when they took a long time to clear, I would argue that payments in Traveller should be treated as paid as soon as they are recognized by an approved recipient. In the case of a starship mortgage, the approved recipient could be any branch of the original lending institution, or any other bank with which the lender had a correspondent bank relationship. For a typical lender, it's reasonable to rule that correspondent banks would be present at any "A" or "B" starport, and at every world on an xboat line. But some lenders might be more strict; having a mortgage that's a bigger nuisance to pay might count as a starship quirk.
Jump Dave
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Jump Dave » Sat Jul 14, 2018 12:30 am

Thanks for the historical perspective!

Maybe it's as simple as that - you just make the payment wherever (probably though at an A or B starport), and as long as it's received there by the end of the month, the banks take care of the rest. That's easiest on the players, at least. But that would seem to provide the greatest opportunity for fraud.

A step up in control from that could be: when you make a payment (or take possession of a ship to begin with), the bank asks where you'd like to make your next monthly payment (A or B startport, still). They'll send their couriers ahead of you (small, fast ships capable of Jump-4, so most likely well able to get their ahead of a player's ship) so that the bank there will be ready and expecting the players' arrival. They'd add that if something happens during the month that would prevent making the next payment on time, that word be sent ahead (or to the nearest A or B starport) with an explanation and alternate plan.

Interstellar banks could be considered to have (or work with, in consortium with other banks) a network of small, fast (Jump-4) courier ships that ferry cash and communicate the status of loans as well as the flight plans of starships under loan. If a ship under mortgage is spotted (by the courier itself, or by registering with local starport authorities to receive a landing or refueling permit) in a system far enough away from its registered next-payment system that it's not physically possible to make the payment on time, then it's contact directly (if possible), or bounty hunters are notified.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Epicenter » Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:24 am

Jump Dave wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:07 pm

Banks might also demand a flight plan, with check-ins that can be communicated back to them, so ensure you're trustworthy.
There's a note under the description of the Subsidized Merchant in TNE, which probably exists in other editions as well which I think is actually a universal rule of how this loan-payment system is supposed to work.

In it, they describe that a merchant who applies for a ship has to be able to present an economic plan for how he (or she) plans to use the ship. This includes the actual trade route he or she plans to follow.

The requirement for the trade path featuring the exact worlds you plan to trade at is probably pretty universal for the standard 'bank loan' system as described in Traveller for the majority of ships; ships like a merchantmen and liners. This sort of answers how payments are made; to a bank on one (or all) of the planets you plan to trade at. If you went to shipyard the next subsector over because they make ships for a bit less money (their world in an economic slump and the sector duke is subsidizing them), the bank you get the loan from probably trades your loan to a bank local to your trade route in return for some sort of asset of equal value. Monthly payment is then reasonably simple - you pay at one of the worlds you trade at that has a branch of the bank, payable in Imperial Credits. I don't recall where I read it, but I remember reading somewhere that most free traders don't actually go wandering through the universe trading - they actually stick to a Main (a small-ish cluster of worlds in J-1 distance of each other) and they never leave it. This to me shows the mentality of the ship loan bankers. If you don't plan to do this, you're probably not getting a loan.

Scout ships are loaners so they don't have to be paid.

More eccentric ships like the Lab Ship, Safari Ship, Yacht, Mercenary Cruiser (and any others I'm forgetting) I don't think should be under the standard bank loan system. No bank is going to going to take an unshielded risk ("subprime" loaning) like that for a ship whose profitability is so questionable.

To get a loan for a Mercenary Cruiser probably requires you to have some pretty massive collateral to give to the bank - something that can really only be afforded by a successful mercenary company, megacorporation or some similar group. No bank is going to give a loan for such a sketchy ship -- players would likely have to just have the money up front to pay the shipyard to make one or be such a lucrative merc company where "we could pay for the ship out of pocket, we'd just rather not, so we're taking a loan out ease our finances / we're so consistently profitable that we'll eventually pay off the ship even if we have to renegotiate payments."

Lab Ships are likely to be funded by the secured assets of an educational or research institution of some sort - the player shouldn't have to be making payments on it, though the players have to answer to the institution that owns the ship as to what the ship does and where it goes and so on.

Yachts are playthings for the wealthy - so you're someone who's wealthy who has enough secure assets the bank can claim as collateral if you vanish or the ship gets destroyed that they feel secure enough to loan you the money. Many yachts are likely paid for straight of out of pocket.

Safari ships are likely similar to yachts. However, I can imagine a bank giving out a loan for safari ship if you're in an area where there's perhaps one or two high population worlds within a Safari Ship's jump of very low population verdant worlds and the high population world has a sufficiently large population of people who like to go on such trips. Again, if you wanted to get a loan for one, you'd need to be a safari operator of some repute, be able to show you think you'll be able to make the payments by showing your rate of customers and which planets you'll visit and so on.

I know that ships like the Corsair have a "type" but they're so idiotic as a concept that I'm not getting into it.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Condottiere » Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:16 pm

Image

You could pledge your liver as collateral.


There are probably less spaceships than bitcoins; a blockchain could follow them like goldfish trailings.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Reynard » Sat Jul 14, 2018 11:25 pm

"I know that ships like the Corsair have a "type" but they're so idiotic as a concept that I'm not getting into it."

The corsair is quite legit. It started as the ship reward for the pirate career but had no origin. As time and editions went by, we realize there's a broader sense to the class as a commerce raider. Privateers and official military/corporate personnel are well known to conduct these missions often under agreed upon rules for such affairs. This means these ships are also commissioned by governments and megacorps openly.

There's no reason crime organizations wouldn't make use of the same concepts and vehicles whether using absconded designs or making their own to be built at friendly and private shipyards. In the corsair topic a while back I explain how pirates can receive a pirate vessel whether on mustering out or later as part of adventuring. Pirates need to pension a 'private' business that make and/or sell vessels of which some are a specialty to raiding work from Jumpcussers to Corsairs. They are contracting a ship and will make payments to the organization. Quite often the organization will stipulate the possessors of the ship will partially or wholly paid the mortgage by performing services and share a percentage of any loot the party gains. You're in deep when going through a group that doesn't fool around and WILL hunt you down.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Sigtrygg » Sun Jul 15, 2018 9:49 am

Epicenter wrote:
Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:24 am
There's a note under the description of the Subsidized Merchant in TNE, which probably exists in other editions as well which I think is actually a universal rule of how this loan-payment system is supposed to work.

In it, they describe that a merchant who applies for a ship has to be able to present an economic plan for how he (or she) plans to use the ship. This includes the actual trade route he or she plans to follow.

The requirement for the trade path featuring the exact worlds you plan to trade at is probably pretty universal for the standard 'bank loan' system as described in Traveller for the majority of ships; ships like a merchantmen and liners.
You keep missing out a key word - subsidised. The subsidised merchant and the subsidised liner must file a trade route due to the nature of the subsidy - but even then the Traveller Adventure shows a subsidised vessel can go off route for quite an extended time.

Free traders are just that - free. Their limited jump number and restriction to mains means that even the scout jump 2 message distribution network can get ahead of the trader.
snippage of stuff I agree with :)
I know that ships like the Corsair have a "type" but they're so idiotic as a concept that I'm not getting into it.
I agree with Reynard, the corsair as a type makes perfect sense in a setting that allows trade war, conflict between mega-corporations, rivalry between sub-sector dukes, rivalry between planetary systems, and has a dedicated career with a pension scheme :)
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby AnotherDilbert » Sun Jul 15, 2018 11:24 am

There is no reason to believe the corsair is a standard type, but just an example of what is possible.

Nor that a pirate career pension is provided by a government or megacorp together with the proverbial gold watch, but simply the dividends from what you have been able to stash away yourself.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Epicenter » Sun Jul 15, 2018 1:07 pm

Sigtrygg wrote:
Sun Jul 15, 2018 9:49 am

You keep missing out a key word - subsidised. The subsidised merchant and the subsidised liner must file a trade route due to the nature of the subsidy - but even then the Traveller Adventure shows a subsidised vessel can go off route for quite an extended time.

Free traders are just that - free. Their limited jump number and restriction to mains means that even the scout jump 2 message distribution network can get ahead of the trader.
I don't really see the two things as that far apart, ultimately.

* I'm aware that the Traveller Adventure has a subsidized vessel going off route. I personally think that part is bad adventure writing. Subsidized merchants should be the most restrictive and unappealing vessel for players. They should be required to literally service a route. That's their purpose - that's why they get subsidies - to service a certain route in return subsidies. You're the British during the height of their Empire and you're looking for more ships to visit Cape Town and Mombassa because everyone is going through the Suez. So you subsidize someone on the proviso that he start from the UK and go around the cape to India and back by the same route. But he decides to go haring off to trade between the UK, Bermuda, and the US.

* Banks aren't giving out subsidies, but they still want to ensure that their millions of credits are going to be paid back. They're well within their rights, and I'd say any smart bank is going to ask, "So where are you planning to take this ship? What worlds do you plan to visit? Do you have verifiable records and receipts about the profitability of that trip?" I think the more fixed assets, collateral, or upfront payment someone who wants a loan has, the less stringent a bank will be economic plan, but even a million credits is still a large amount of money for the bank. I think they're still going to want an economic activity report, possibly even transponder records of their current ship (assuming they have one), and the bank will want to check all these records to see if the person who wants the loan really is trustworthy enough to be giving money to. By assumption, I think the types of people who become PCs never would get a loan.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Reynard » Sun Jul 15, 2018 2:15 pm

Looking at careers, I don't see subsidized vessels as a mustering benefit and for good reason. Mustering ships are small and *relatively* inexpensive. Mercenary cruisers, patrol corvettes and corporate level ships are very expensive to the point a party of 4-6 couldn't possibly bring in enough revenue in mortgage payments. One reason the Corsair disappeared. These ships are the playthings of governments, corporations and crime organizations. You want to be on those ships then get a job on one. They more plot device than party home bases.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby steve98052 » Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:15 pm

The specific commercial role of the free trader is to pick up jobs that don't fit into the business model of the big freight or passenger liners.

If a given route has a weekly cargo load of 10k dtons coreward and 9000 dtons rimward, with a typical variation of 500 dtons week to week, the big guys will probably schedule 8500 dtons per week, because they would rather leave the extra 500 to 1500 dtons rimward and 1500 to 2500 dtons coreward to the little guys than ever have vacant space in their ships.

That leaves room for free traders. For one thing, if they have a feel for when the leftover will be abundant or scarce, they can pick it up at a profit. And if they can find a collection of other routes that allow them to travel only coreward on that route, they can fill up a piece of the disparity.

So what makes a good business plan for a trader whose role is to exploit the uncertainty that big business doesn't want to touch? A lot of it is reputation. Here's the kind of business plan that a lender might go for:

"Captain Eneri Shushulisi of the Daddy Longlegs recommended me to take over ownership of the free trader Skadi (upon retirement of its current captain), and has guaranteed 20% of the purchase price. This is on the basis of my long service on the Daddy Longlegs, starting as an engineer assistant high school intern, continuing as a full time engineer assistant, later adding the duties of ground relations assistant. After 16 years, I was senior engineer, second officer, and senior ground relations. When Captain Shushulisi took 65 weeks of medical leave, he placed me in charge of route selection and ground relations, during which the Daddy Longlegs remained profitable, in spite of the difficulty of keeping a Jump-3 free trader profitable. Given the lighter profitability requirements of a Jump-1 free trader, I believe I am qualified for the remaining 80% of the loan balance for purchase of the Skadi.
"Attached, see recommendation from Captain Shushulisi and independent engineering assessment of the Skadi."
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Linwood » Sun Jul 15, 2018 11:29 pm

I see “subsidized merchant” more as a reference to a particular type of business arrangement rather than a class of vessel. From that viewpoint, the operation of a cutter might be subsidized to ensure regular passenger and freight travel to small defense or research outposts within a system, or between small communities in an asteroid belt. On the other end of the scale, a government might subsidize operation of a 10 kton freighter on a route judged not viable by the megacorps to build trade relationships, grow export businesses, etc.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Condottiere » Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:32 pm

Corsairs and privateers require some form of official or semi official sanction; you can't build a paramilitary vessel with such an obvious purpose otherwise.

Pirate ships are usually repurposed and up armed merchant vessels.

As for free traders, they could also work on one variant of the start up business model: find and develop a profitable trade route, and get bought out by one of the larger shipping corporations. Or an apparent profitable trade route.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby NOLATrav » Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:30 pm

IMTU it’s the Noble Houses that facilitate ship loans and subsidies. The Houses are also the MegaCorps and the Imperial government.

Clearly there are ravenous pawns like Dune’s House Harkonnen but also noble Nobles trying to do the right thing. So who you make a deal with may have consequences down the road.

I’ve eased the costs of ownership/operations so smaller “jobs” are more viable and the trader game is less prevalent but I game in a very small Imperium of home brew origins. But no reason this paradigm wouldn’t work for 3I games - House Pryme and House Tobia are very likely subsidizing scads of traders in the Reach as we speak.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby tolcreator » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:20 pm

My solution to this was to divide the cost of ships by ten, but to increase prices of things like fuel, maintenance, docking fees etc so to balance out.
This results in a more "firefly" feel where you're working to keep the ship flying, not working to pay the mortgage.
I talk about it here:
viewtopic.php?f=89&t=107604
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Tom Kalbfus » Mon Jul 23, 2018 12:06 am

You boot them out of the game if they don't make payments!
Just kidding, but read the sentence, "How do you (Logically) prevent players from skipping payments? I think the OP meant Travellers or characters, not players! Players are they guys and girls sitting at the table with you playing the game. ;)
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Condottiere » Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:01 am

While players may have experience with home mortgages, and know that you can't pick up the house and just plant it in another country, they may consider the fact that a starship is mobile and the ingame communications lag more ideal conditions. Like an RV.

I'm gonna bet that getting ship shares is the result of a whole series of people vouching for them, and in the case of the Merchant Marine, itself as an institution, possibly to an inhouse financial arm.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby steve98052 » Tue Jul 24, 2018 4:55 pm

Condottiere wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:01 am
I'm gonna bet that getting ship shares is the result of a whole series of people vouching for them, . . .
That's a good point. One way to discourage skipping is to give the characters an in-game explanation for their good fortune in having a credit line worth millions.

Merchant: the character has an automatic contact in their former employer, who acknowledged their service in a run of uncommon good fortune with profit sharing that earned enough cash to buy the ship share, and enough good will to vouch for the character with a lender.

Military: the character impressed an admiral, general, lower ranking person with budget authority, or civilian attached to the military, and they're a useful connection who helped declare the character deserving of a piece of a giant loan.

Others: the character did something worth a large chunk of money in the former of ship shares, and the character has a contact who vouched for a piece of a big loan.

In all cases, the contacts should turn up occasionally, and be useful enough that the characters don't want to skip because it would alienate a valuable contact.
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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Condottiere » Sat Jul 28, 2018 12:16 am

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Re: How Do You (Logically) Prevent Players from Skipping Payments?

Postby Old School » Sun Aug 05, 2018 2:57 am

Hey! Those are ten sided dice in that picture! This is the traveller forum, not the Star Frontiers forum!

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