Hiring Escort Ships

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Old School
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Hiring Escort Ships

Postby Old School » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:43 pm

Has anyone run a Mercenary or Merchant Campaign where they had to hire a ship (or were hired) for convoy escorts or other purposes? How did you handle the cost of that? In my mind, the cost would be huge. You'd have to cover the operating costs: crew salaries, life support, fuel, and capital payment for the ship itself (mortgage payment on 1-00% of ship value is a good proxy), plus a sizeable return to the owner, based on the perceived risk of the cruise. Mercenary assault where combat is expected would obviously get a higher return than escorting spice freighters, but in either case the cost is going to very high to justify tying up the ship for whatever period of time.

How has this been calculated or determined in your campaigns?
Pyromancer
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby Pyromancer » Wed Oct 31, 2018 3:56 pm

price = ( (total base expenses of operation for the duration of the mission) + sum over all incidents that causes additional cost (probability of that incident * additional cost of that incident) ) * (1 + profit margin) [+ optional bonus]
NOLATrav
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby NOLATrav » Wed Oct 31, 2018 3:57 pm

I’ve never done it as a hiring situation but in one MgT 1e campaign the players made an alliance with a few other traders and they traveled as a caravan for several jumps thru a dangerous region. Mutual protection and slightly expanded sensor coverage was a great boon for them; no money changed hands as they couldn’t have made it safely otherwise. They ended up developing jump synchronization on their own, years before it was published in 2e, cheeky players.

As far as hiring an escort, I think you’re on the right track. How much is the escort’s monthly overhead? Add 10% and that’s probably the minimum starting point I’d think, depending on the region/situation.
ShawnDriscoll
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:12 pm

Simple hand shake.

Costs are covered by own parties.
paltrysum
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby paltrysum » Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:54 pm

This is a tricky one, and the cost would be highly variable, depending on how the escorts run their business. I have run a mercenary campaign in which the players ran a mercenary cruiser. It was back in TNE, and I do not remember the specifics of how we calculated the expenses.

In MgT2, however, we have several figures to provide a basis for cost:
  • Starship monthly maintenance cost (per escort)
  • Crew salaries (per escort)
  • Life support costs (per escort)
After that, you'd have to estimate what the patron's potential profits are:
  • Is the patron conducting trade? What are the potential profits from freight, speculative cargo, and passengers?
  • Does that patron have other sources of revenue during the voyage?
  • Is the patron's voyage subsidized by other sources? E.g., perhaps the civil service bureaucracy of Pourne wants trade to run through the region and therefore diverts some of its tax revenue to would-be trader ships to ensure that this happens in the dangerous region that is the Outrim Void.
Next, what are the escorts' potential revenue sources?
  • Flat fee per parsec crossed?
  • Lump sum from getting to a certain destination? E.g., running the entire Florian Route and back.
  • Does the escort also conduct a side business of transporting freight, mail, passengers, or speculative cargo? Perhaps the escort works in concert with a mercenary company who need to refresh personnel at some point along the route.
  • Are they smuggling goods or information to add to their profits?
I would estimate the potential profits of the trader voyage and then determine how much they would be willing to cut out of those profits for security. Then calculate the expenses for the escort(s), after which you can estimate how much of a premium they would charge on top of that to make a profit.

I wouldn't discount subsidies from the trading parties on either end of the route. For example, it behooves the Imperium to keep the trade routes at least reasonably safe from piracy so they might divert some amount of their budget to supporting escort services. Likewise for the Florians, Aslan, or other potential beneficiaries of trade. If it isn't already profitable or it's hard to make ends meet for both the traders and the escorts, then some level of subsidies might exist from the parties that stand to make the most profit: the big powers at either end of the trade route.

If this all seems like a lot of overhead, delegate to the players and then just review their data. I find that it's good to give the players some "skin in the game." :D
"Spacers lead a sedentary life. They live at home, and their home is always with them—their starship, and so is their country—the depths of space."
Old School
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby Old School » Wed Oct 31, 2018 8:16 pm

Thanks. I agree with some but not all of that. The patron's potential profits onlydetermine if hiring the escort is viable. The Mercenary business is as competitive as any other, and just because a particular convoy is immensely profitable doesn't mean the patron is going to pay more than they have to get the services they need. If the private escort wants to charge too much of that due to the high profit margin of the patron, the patron can simply find another escort. Could definitely see a gov't subsidy helping cover the cost.

The biggest expense is the "cost of capital", i.e. the bare minimum return just to cover the cost of owning the star ship. The monthly mortgage payment is as good starting point as any there, although I'd argue that the going rate for starship loans (just under 4% for a 40 year mortgage) in no way covers the return necessary to justify sending that asset into combat. This, of course, means that the 4% interest rate is itself ridiculous, unless the asset is completely covered by insurance, which in the case of a star merc vessel would be prohibitively expensive itself. This means these vessels are only owned by large, well funded corporations, and governments. But now we are into the topic of "why this particular fictional economy wouldn't actually work", which is a rabbit hole best avoided, so we'll just go with the mortgage payment as a monthly capital cost, with the return above that being dependent on the risk involved as well as the competitive environment (patron will pay as little as possible, the escort will charge as much as they can).
Linwood
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby Linwood » Thu Nov 01, 2018 12:24 am

If i’m the escort vessel owner I’d argue for a share of any bounties or salvage for capture/destruction of any attacking vessels. Whether there would actually be an opportunity for salvage is another matter, but I’d ask for the rights anyway....
Old School
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby Old School » Thu Nov 01, 2018 12:51 am

That seems fair. Possibility depends on the mission, I would think. A true convoy escort is a boring job, but expensive due to the cost of the escort ship. Pirstes dont attack convoys with capable escorts.

When youre being hired to blow something up however, salvage would likely be a material part of the projected payday.
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby steve98052 » Thu Nov 01, 2018 2:58 pm

Since the capital cost of the escort ship far exceeds the other expenses -- except for insurance on a hazardous route -- just charge a flat percentage of the replacement cost of the escort, and the patron pays all insurance costs. (Then you don't have to calculate the cost of insurance.) I'd say about 10% of the ship cost per year of escort duty, with higher rates for shorter contracts, such as 1% per month with the patron paying for one extra month for repositioning expenses if the escort has to go out of its way for a short-term contract.
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby phavoc » Fri Nov 02, 2018 3:45 pm

Old School wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:43 pm
Has anyone run a Mercenary or Merchant Campaign where they had to hire a ship (or were hired) for convoy escorts or other purposes? How did you handle the cost of that? In my mind, the cost would be huge. You'd have to cover the operating costs: crew salaries, life support, fuel, and capital payment for the ship itself (mortgage payment on 1-00% of ship value is a good proxy), plus a sizeable return to the owner, based on the perceived risk of the cruise. Mercenary assault where combat is expected would obviously get a higher return than escorting spice freighters, but in either case the cost is going to very high to justify tying up the ship for whatever period of time.

How has this been calculated or determined in your campaigns?
First thing is to determine what it costs, per month, to keep the lights on for the ship being hired. That would be mortgage & crew salaries. That's your base cost.

Then you need to figure out just how much that NPC is going to be charging for profit margin - 20% isn't unreasonable, but 50% is a mite on the high side. Too high of a cost means no contracts. It should be at least what you might expect a merchanter to make (profits from regular hauling, not speculation).

Then, on top of that, your patron should be responsible for fuel, expendable munitions and repairs. However the patron would not necessarily be responsible for the merc losing their ship. That's a risk you take being a merc. On the flip side, no merc is going to risk losing their ship for no reason. They are NOT fighting FOR a cause, they are fighting FOR a paycheck. So suicide attacks and hopeless combat stands won't be done my mercs.
baithammer
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby baithammer » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:04 am

That would be mortgage & crew salaries.
It would be a portion of the mortgage, operating expenses and wages with a bit of overhead for potential profit. ( Not factoring high risk assignments.)
Condottiere
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby Condottiere » Sat Nov 03, 2018 1:10 pm

Convoys tend to require government escorts.

Caravans hire Conan.
PsiTraveller
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby PsiTraveller » Sun Nov 04, 2018 10:18 am

The monthly operating cost is the place to start, plus costs if damage is taken.

This can be offset by offering shares in salvage if attacking ship is taken, possibly signing away any claims to the attacking ship. An escort ship that captures a pirate ship would be rich if they could claim the ship as theirs, plus any rewards for stopping the pirates.

Looking at the Mercenary contracts might also offer some ideas. Evaani Escort and protection company offers escort services. Sadly no prices are listed, but the idea is there.
Old School
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby Old School » Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:50 pm

Thanks everyone for the ideas. I think we are on the right track. One issue that always bothered me about various versions of Mercenary over the years was the idea that the calculation for the value of the contract bing completely seperate from the costs involved. Hiring ships is going to be incredibly expensive, and private fighting ships will likely be fairly rare as a result. Transporting mercenaries across space as paying passengers will be more common, but also an expensive proposition.
PsiTraveller
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby PsiTraveller » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:15 pm

Well you could always try and work it out as a cargo shipping idea. A 200 ton Far Trader ship wants to go Jump 2 destination. A full Cargo hold at 1600/ton is worth 102 000 in shipping fees. Subtract ship costs from the ship and you figure out what you have left to pay the escort ship.

Will it cost less than that to pay for an escort? Or will it cost more than that and a few free traders/small ship folk pool their resources to pay for a combat ship to escort them to the Jump Point?


Another thought. In my Drinax campaign the players were discussing ideas about making a system safer for ships to attract investment, trade, travel etc. They had a route to the common Jump Point patrolled. Ships coming into the system could immediately head towards a patrol ship and then be safer as they moved towards the starport.
Patrol ships are cheaper to run, in system only and provide training time to piloting school classes.

Would it be cheaper to hire a ship to escort the ship to the Jump point? The difficulty in arriving together makes a convoy difficult to actually maintain in practice. Going halfway in the process and having an escort to the Jump point out of a system? Getting to the starport at the other end is another problem I admit.
Old School
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby Old School » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:37 pm

No way a far trader could afford its own escort. Maybe the client if its carrying a load of very high value cargo on a high risk route, but not the trader itself based on freight rates. It can barely pay its own bills , much less the expenses of a 2nd ship.

For a convoy itself to cover escort costs, thats in the realm of freighters carrying many thousands of tons.
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby phavoc » Mon Nov 05, 2018 2:16 am

It's not the cost that makes hiring an escort expensive, it's the potential repair and risk factor the escort ship has to incur. Otherwise you are talking relatively small amounts to pay for the ships crew and it's operating costs for the month (which is 2-3 jumps, depending on numerous factors). Repairing battle damage is expensive and insurance companies would most likely NOT insure privateers or armed escorts (not without prohibitively high costs).
baithammer
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby baithammer » Mon Nov 05, 2018 3:36 am

Not all parts of the route are going to be dangerous and arrangements could be made to escort through the leg that is of concern, further in some circumstances you wouldn't need a starship in order to provide the protection. ( Such as smallcraft from the system itself.)
AnotherDilbert
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby AnotherDilbert » Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:54 am

If we take a Gazelle as a random example of a small escort it would cost something like this to run:
Image

With a reasonable profit margin and (small) risk premium it would cost in the region of MCr 1 per jump (two weeks) to hire?


I believe steve98052 came close to a reasonably simple but usable system:
steve98052 wrote: Since the capital cost of the escort ship far exceeds the other expenses -- except for insurance on a hazardous route -- just charge a flat percentage of the replacement cost of the escort, ...
Condottiere
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Re: Hiring Escort Ships

Postby Condottiere » Mon Nov 05, 2018 5:06 am

Convoys have government warships escort them, it's what your tax dollars are paying for.

Taking a page from more recent history, basically the Tanker War, warships escorted merchant vessels with their national registry through a hostile environment.

You should note that insurance and escorts are only paid for if a government designates keeping a specific trade route open as a matter of national security.

As regards to private security contractors, ever had a glance how much they charge the State Department and the Pentagon? And then you had the cost of leasing equipment.

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