The Dichotomy of Piracy

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
AnotherDilbert
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby AnotherDilbert » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:58 pm

Reynard wrote: Rather than worry that Traveller isn't following current 21th century Earth events and behaviors and every realistic minutia, ...
Sorry, I agree, I just disagreed with the sweeping "piracy is almost impossible, and would immediately lead to overwhelming naval response" with a current example.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby phavoc » Tue Nov 13, 2018 10:39 pm

Reynard wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:20 pm
Rather than worry that Traveller isn't following current 21th century Earth events and behaviors and every realistic minutia, I prefer to get back to pirates of the Caribbean and tales of the golden monkey where empire are surrounded by wild, often lawless territories allowing adventurers to risk life and limb against both government forces or ruthless scoundrels trading laser cannon fire while exploring backwater worlds for fame and fortune.


Seriously, the real world is incredibly dull, often miserable and boring. I'd rather be pirating.
That's part of the dichotomy as well - from an RPG perspective, more and smaller ships being the norm would lead to more believable piracy. But the size of the Imperium, not to mention that trade is it's supposed lifeblood, means that the hulls necessary for this to work require far more massive ships than what we see.

It's not helped that so much of the game is based upon the single starport listed on the system UPP. Intra-system details (stations, colonies, traffic, trade, etc) barely rate a footnote in most of the core books and supplements. Trying to catch a ship you have no idea is coming into your range while stooging around at the 100D limit without being caught has a problem with beating the common sense rule. It doesn't help that the rules state ships use newtonian movement, so if you happen to be heading in the wrong direction when you spot an incoming ship, well, guess you have to wait for the next one...

And this has been a problem since day one. Traveller rules have been bolted and slapped on to one another until they are a mishmash of inconsistency and often directly contradict each other. None of the publishers seem to be working very hard to clear this up, so much handwavium is required. Of course, it's just a game, so no big deal there. But it's still annoying when the entire purpose of buying a set of rules is for someone ELSE to put the game mechanics together so that you don't have to.

I suppose the other problem here is that classic Traveller setting, with it's massive Imperial background, just doesn't fit well into a universe where you want lots of competing interests and players.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby Reynard » Tue Nov 13, 2018 11:01 pm

I'll worry about all this 'reality' when every space faring science fiction movie and TV show millions of people enjoy over the decades follow *any* semblance of reality. That goes for just about every non-Traveller science fiction RPG.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby paltrysum » Tue Nov 13, 2018 11:01 pm

Reynard wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:20 pm
Seriously, the real world is incredibly dull, often miserable and boring. I'd rather be pirating.
You're onto something here. :)
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby Old School » Tue Nov 13, 2018 11:41 pm

No pirate infrastructure or organization has been crushed.
That's because there is no organization or infrastructure to crush. These are guys in fishing boats. You can dispute the effectiveness and the energy of the response if you want, but large numbers of pirates killed and captured, and a 90%+ reduction in attacks on commercial shipping and a 100% reduction in successful attacks sounds pretty effective to me.

I did miss the 2017 hijacking in Somalia because for some reason it's listed as an attack rather than a hijacking. Gained control of the ship they did. Also gained $0 for their efforts. But when looking it up, I do see that a pirate crew based in Somalia did manage to steal a skiff attached to a fishing boat. Whoa! Danger on the high seas!

If you want believe you're correct and that our assertions regarding government responses to piracy are incorrect because no one has landed troops on the shores of Somalia to defeat the non existent pirate base, then by all means. . .
This year, 18 of the region’s 47 pirate attacks occurred in the waters surrounding Batam, which lies a mere 45-minute sail from Singapore’s main harbor".
Yes, and every one of these pirate attacks have a summary report that is available. Here are a couple of samples:

https://www.icc-ccs.org/index.php/pirac ... y-map-2017
Five robbers armed with a knife boarded an anchored offshore tug. Alert crew noticed the robbers on the CCTV cameras and raised the alarm. Seeing the crew alertness, the robbers escaped without stealing anything.
Better luck next time!
While underway, duty crew onboard a bulk carrier noticed two unauthorised persons on the aft deck. OOW notified and alarm raised. Seeing the alerted crew, the persons escaped in their waiting boat. On carrying out a search, engine spares were reported missing.
Full credit. Engine spares aren't cheap.
While at anchor, two robbers boarded a tanker. They threatened the duty AB with a knife, took his walkie talkie and held him hostage. They then entered the engine room through the steering flat door. When the AB failed to report to the bridge the duty officer raised the alarm resulting in the robbers escaping with stolen ship’s property.
Man, they took his walkie talkie!

The point is simple: when piracy actually results in noticeable damages, the response of governments is energetic, and quite harmful to the pirate's livelihood, freedom, and lives. But you're right as well, no one is declaring war on Indonesia over a stolen walkie talkie and a box of engine spares. Nor are we going to invade Somalia because the locals are stealing fishing boat tenders from other locals.

Okay, I'm done. :D
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby Condottiere » Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:50 am

We're sort of swept away by The Pirates of the Caribbean, which takes place at best towards the end of the golden age of piracy.

Piracy usually takes place where governments cannot or will not project their naval power.

Further East;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p2lhxUqMMQ
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby Reynard » Wed Nov 14, 2018 12:30 pm

Traveller creates strings of civilization surrounded by seas of technological and social chaos. Central authority is very far away. There aren't enough high tech starports to build top of the line warships for every possible encounter thus focusing on the immediate threat of another superpower rival so there's no great incentive to watch over every world and every jump point. That most of the time falls to the local colonial forces in the form of police cutters and maybe SDBs with the occasional assistance of patrol corvettes on loan from a subsector navy when pirates get uppity. It's the wild west out there. Smart pirates learn to take advantage of the situation.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby locarno24 » Wed Nov 14, 2018 1:32 pm

Condottiere wrote:
Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:50 am
We're sort of swept away by The Pirates of the Caribbean, which takes place at best towards the end of the golden age of piracy.

Piracy usually takes place where governments cannot or will not project their naval power.
Absolutely.
So 47 attacks in just one region of Indonesia a few years ago. The total number should be much higher. Few of the attacks are against major first world ships, so the world takes no notice and sends no foreign warships.


Likewise I suspect the Imperium would be rather unconcerned if a tiny Free Trader or three disappears in some backwater system.
Depends whose they are, but broadly speaking, no, you're correct. Because mobilizing a squadron of Type T cruisers, at a cost of non-trivial millions of credits, to....basically just force the pirates to move to the next backwater system over...when it's not even a particularly important bit of space in the first place, might not be seen as worth the bother as long as it's not impacting an important trade route.
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby phavoc » Wed Nov 14, 2018 2:27 pm

Reynard wrote:
Wed Nov 14, 2018 12:30 pm
Traveller creates strings of civilization surrounded by seas of technological and social chaos. Central authority is very far away. There aren't enough high tech starports to build top of the line warships for every possible encounter thus focusing on the immediate threat of another superpower rival so there's no great incentive to watch over every world and every jump point. That most of the time falls to the local colonial forces in the form of police cutters and maybe SDBs with the occasional assistance of patrol corvettes on loan from a subsector navy when pirates get uppity. It's the wild west out there. Smart pirates learn to take advantage of the situation.
There's a lot of truth here. With local planetary governments responsible for protecting their own 'waters', it does make piracy possible. And with the arming of just about every ship in the Imperium, one would expect piracy to be the norm. Central authority though would reside essentially in each system with the Imperial-controlled starport.

However, with the islands analogy you have the issue of the 'poor' islands not having a lot of value to steal. One could argue the ships themselves are worth the value, and if you assume the concept of the chop shop making auto theft so lucrative today, then sure, stealing a ship is worth a load of credits. What does the hive mind think about the theft of cargoe's and ships? Do you think piracy is more like Pirates of Carribean, where crews walk the plank and ships disappear? Or are they more like Somalia where crews and cargo wait for someone to pay for them? Somalia seems a bit of a modern anomaly since the West could smash them, but they don't want to risk the lives of the crews. However in the ye olde days navies would have sent in troops and ships to root out pirate nests. History shows us that pirates were paid off sometimes to minimize raiding, as well as troops and ships being sent in to root out pirates. Today we don't see that nearly as much.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby locarno24 » Wed Nov 14, 2018 2:54 pm

phavoc wrote:
Wed Nov 14, 2018 2:27 pm
There's a lot of truth here. With local planetary governments responsible for protecting their own 'waters', it does make piracy possible. And with the arming of just about every ship in the Imperium, one would expect piracy to be the norm. Central authority though would reside essentially in each system with the Imperial-controlled starport.

However, with the islands analogy you have the issue of the 'poor' islands not having a lot of value to steal. One could argue the ships themselves are worth the value, and if you assume the concept of the chop shop making auto theft so lucrative today, then sure, stealing a ship is worth a load of credits. What does the hive mind think about the theft of cargoe's and ships? Do you think piracy is more like Pirates of Carribean, where crews walk the plank and ships disappear? Or are they more like Somalia where crews and cargo wait for someone to pay for them? Somalia seems a bit of a modern anomaly since the West could smash them, but they don't want to risk the lives of the crews. However in the ye olde days navies would have sent in troops and ships to root out pirate nests. History shows us that pirates were paid off sometimes to minimize raiding, as well as troops and ships being sent in to root out pirates. Today we don't see that nearly as much.
It depends how easily you can dispose of a starship, I guess. Thing is, even a lil' old Type S is worth 27 million credits. Even at a fraction of the true worth, that's worth infinitely more than any realistic cargo, even if you've caught it with a hold full of Radioactives.

Equally, looting a handful of shuttles and pinnaces off a big freighter can easily bring in a several tens of millions of credits.

By comparison, a 1,000 dTon heavy freighter is harder to dispose of, naff all use to the pirates if kept, and carries 500+ dTons of cargo - enough to rob, let go, allow to refill, repeat.

Holding hostages is probably more awkward, because the operating costs of a 'pirate' are much higher - they need a combat-capable starship - meaning that the price you charge has to be much higher and therefore the odds of getting someone to pay you off without annoying someone you don't want to annoy much lower. Kidnapping crew on shore leave probably works fine.

If you can steal a capital freighter, then releasing (some of) the crew and holding the cargo ransom is still arguably a workable way to turn a laden ship into cash; megacorps have insurance and want whatever approach will disrupt their business the least.
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby Sigtrygg » Wed Nov 14, 2018 8:39 pm

Privateers and Gentlemen - piracy in Traveller, well MTU at least…

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. And of course they collect the taxes.
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?

What if you are the sector duke and a sub-sector duke is gaining support, influence and economic parity within YOUR sector?

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 to do so themselves?

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: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby Reynard » Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:23 pm

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

Corsairs can be originally considered purpose built commerce raiders. As with many ships in a Traveller universe, they can be captured and repurposed for other duties or back engineered if the design is successful and become a regular feature in another career. I analyzed the corsair design for it's flaws and benefits and rebuilt it a bit. The iconic bay is the prime feature, it's meant to hunt and capture small craft which will easily fit if their designs were more standardized. I added a cargo scoop system so the bay has a secondary feature to capture and haul a lot of cargo. Those two income sources should be lucrative and cost efficient by themselves without getting messy trying to subdue and hauling prize crew around to capture starships. Oh, I also dropped the whole Transformers ability to mimic ships and went with making corsairs pouncers. Gave it EAG and stealth plus high burn thrusters to get as close as possible then fire the high Gs to intercept prey with guns and size they can't match.

As to how they survive on the run, there is no reason the universe can't have governments, corporation AND crime cartels. They exist in real life so make use of them in Traveller. A well established and well funded criminal organization fits into the shadow world and can rival those corporations and governments. Works for the Hutts. The corsair class could be a common product of their shipyards and available for a price in loyalty and a cut of the loot as part of a mortgage. You also have a place to hide and dispose of your haul including small craft or even starships that get overhauled, new transponders and sent to places where they're in demand no questions asked. Pirates of Drinax addresses a lot of this.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby AnotherDilbert » Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:33 pm

Old School wrote: That's because there is no organization or infrastructure to crush. These are guys in fishing boats. You can dispute the effectiveness and the energy of the response if you want, but large numbers of pirates killed and captured, and a 90%+ reduction in attacks on commercial shipping and a 100% reduction in successful attacks sounds pretty effective to me.
There is always organisation, there are the financiers, the organisers, and the gun-men. Take the criminal network away and it takes much longer for the activity to resume.

There is always infrastructure, however primitive it may seem to us.

Old School wrote: Yes, and every one of these pirate attacks have a summary report that is available. Here are a couple of samples:
Yes, most "attacks" are petty theft, by the Times article something like 80%, but there are also real piracy e.g.:
23.06.2017: 1300 UTC: Posn: 03:55.2N – 103:52.8E, Around 33nm ENE of Kuantan, Malaysia.
A tanker enroute from Singapore to Songkhla, Thailand was boarded by six pirates armed with guns in a speed boat. They took all the crew hostage, hit a few crew with their guns and damaged the navigation and communication equipment. They then sailed the tanker to an unknown location where part of the gas oil cargo was stolen and transferred into another vessel. Before escaping the pirates stole crew personal belongings and ship’s properties. After the pirates departure, the crew sailed to a safe port.
But if one or two out of over 100000 ships passing the area every year is hijacked it is not noticeable.

Most attack fail, and no real attempt to find the assailants is undertaken.


In Somalia it took almost ten years of attacks, including about five years of noticeable attacks, before basic patrols to suppress the pirates. Some attacks have been prevented, including killing a few low-level gun-men, but no successful pirates have been tracked down. The swift and energetic response is obvious by its absence.


If the same swift and energetic response happened in Traveller, warships would start patrolling the area infested by pirates a few years later, making no attempt to find the perpetrators of earlier attacks. Any pirate attacking a few tiny ships in backwater systems, and then moving on should be rather safe.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby AnotherDilbert » Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:39 pm

locarno24 wrote: Because mobilizing a squadron of Type T cruisers, at a cost of non-trivial millions of credits, to....basically just force the pirates to move to the next backwater system over...when it's not even a particularly important bit of space in the first place, might not be seen as worth the bother as long as it's not impacting an important trade route.
Agreed.

Except I would not use Patrol Corvettes, I would use something with decent defences and sensors, probably a small warship. Patrol Corvettes are no better than any other civilian design in combat and easily killed by slightly improved pirates, such as the Harrier from Drinax.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby Reynard » Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:49 pm

Yeah, that's the issue with PoD campaigns in which a single very powerful commerce raider and it's munchkin crew quickly turn it into a powerhouse warship capturing other warships and building a *Pirate Fleet* thus forcing overreactive responses by two Empires as if it's the end of the world (that comes a lot later for the Imperium).

Seriously, don't give players the means for *Pirate Fleets*.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby paltrysum » Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:25 pm

Pirate fleets are kind of a central theme of the campaign. You could referee around that, I suppose, but the campaign itself mentions several times that the players are expected to have built one over time.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby locarno24 » Thu Nov 15, 2018 9:28 am

paltrysum wrote:
Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:25 pm
Pirate fleets are kind of a central theme of the campaign. You could referee around that, I suppose, but the campaign itself mentions several times that the players are expected to have built one over time.
Certainly in the 1e version the mission Finale is going to be kind of short if they don't.
"In the name of King Oleb, we blockade.....err....nowhere, really. Take Our Kingdom Seriously!!!!!"
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby Reynard » Thu Nov 15, 2018 11:59 am

You're expected to build a pirate fleet, which I assume other space navies consider squadrons, and hope you don't actually draw the attention of two huge empires who can field actual fleets in response. We never got that far in PoD but I wonder how well a pirate fleet fares against a Hierate subsector fleet.

Since you're mission is to disrupt the trade of two empires, I would expect a dual response with the Hierate and the Imperium engaging in talks on dealing with the complaints of various businesses on both sides and agree upon to have joint patrols specifically to hunt these pirates. Tensions cool and relations warm for another decade until new of the Rebellion reaches both sides. Thank you King Oleb!
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby paltrysum » Thu Nov 15, 2018 4:07 pm

That's the trick, isn't it? Hit and run and disrupt things until the two sides take notice and come to the table. That's an essential element of the campaign in a nutshell.
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Re: The Dichotomy of Piracy

Postby Condottiere » Thu Nov 15, 2018 8:56 pm

The issue with piracy is the endgame.

Privateering works because you can retire in your home country, or in newly acquired colonies, assuming your government doesn't sell you out for some diplomatic gain.

Pirate fleets aren't that difficult to achieve, if you have enough latitude, organizational capacity and charisma to keep the horde long enough together.

If culturally homogeneous, you and your band could also go on to annex the regions you used to raid.

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