Hijackers - gotta love'm

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
HalC
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Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby HalC » Fri Mar 29, 2019 10:25 pm

Hello Folks,
I thought I'd have a little fun here and suggest a method by which a Hijacker crew might hit a ship. I invite others to join in this thread to either point out flaws, or add new ideas - as I can't be the only one who has given this thought. Call it mini-scenarios, or call it something where it can reflect a campaign direction. Net result? Sharing ideas is not always a bad thing.

;)

Ok, starting with phase one of the hijacking incident:

The Starport authority generally vets its employees, largely because the work they do enables them to have access to all areas of a ship at any given time. Problem is - even a background check may not be proof against someone slipping through that don't raise any security checks. Perhaps someone who did make it past the background check later on, is compromised in a fashion that renders them willing to work with criminals.

In any event, it all starts with the Annual Maintenance crew. One who is working for the bad guys, does simple things like replace keyboards or computer interface devices (keyboards, how quaint!). These newly installed boards are of course, doctored with password harvesting software/hardware that stores the vital information in a way that later hijackers can access.

But it doesn't end there. All of the security cameras can be mapped out. All of the wiring for those cameras can be noted, and any unsupervised work can be performed to add kill switches or even a coded radio message sent to disable the power to the cameras etc.

Now, if certain access panels are tied into the security system, they can either be replaced with bypass panels, or they can simply have their "vulnerabilities" mapped out for later teams to handle during an actual hijack attempt.

That's phase I of the Hijacker's operation.

Phase II is misdirection of sorts...

Enter the Longshoreman Widows and Disability Fund. Yeah, it is supposed to sound shady, and yes, the ship's crew that is hit up for it will likely refuse. The trick isn't to get them to pay into the fund, the trick is to make them NOT pay into the fund. Why? Because the real target of this phase is to replace the ship's Purser/Steward with a ringer. If you attack the steward out of the blue, the rest of the crew might wonder at the why and become extra alert. On the other hand, if the local criminals take revenge on the crew for not paying the protection racket its fee - then you guide them towards a viewpoint that is less vigilant. What you want for your "ringer" is someone that the target crew will deem desirable above all others. The ringer has to be temporary so that the actual steward, upon recovery, can rejoin the crew. This ringer has to be someone who has a glowing report from his last employer. This ringer has to be someone who is relatively old and deemed to be harmless - like a retiree returning to his destination of choice who is willing to work via working passage rules.

Phase II is all about getting the purser/steward out of the picture and replaced with the ringer.

Now, what can that purser do to advance the agenda of the hijackers? Keep in mind, the purser already knows the layout of the ship, its security cameras etc - due to the work from phase I. He can, as a result of his duties, select which passengers get picked for boarding to the next destination. He can even insure that some of the hijackers "specialists" are brought aboard as low berth passengers.

Disassembled laser weapons can be brought on and hidden in various different luggage compartments or as seemingly harmless things for other applications. Knives from the galley can be made available. In short, the Purser/Steward can give an edge to the hijackers all without the crew being aware of what is happening.

Phase III - the take over.

Depending on what the GM thinks will work best - the Steward can easily doctor the food the crew eats or drinks. He can have shaving cream cans filled with knockout gas. He can have small canisters filled with biowarfare weapons in the form of a virulent virus that can be debilitating (of course, the hijack crew will have been vaccinated!). He can stage a medical emergency requiring the assistance of fellow crew. The purser can also be taking food to the captain, while the rest of the crew are elsewhere (engineering and bridge for instance). Take the captain out quietly would be one way to handle this.

With access to the passwords contained in the logger devices, the hijackers can access the control systems and take it from there. Once the ship is hijacked, the ship can either act as if they were the legitimate crew, or they can file a flight plan involving the intent to engage in wilderness refueling - from whence they will jump to a new destination.

Best of all? In addition to having a ship worth money, they may even have legitimate passengers who can be ransomed to the authorities for money.

If you run this scenario? I would suggest that you do so in a fashion where as GM, you are RUTHLESS. This is a gang that knows their business and intends to win. If one of the things that is loaded onto the ship as "Freight" is a grav car, the hijackers might even have planned an escape in case things go bad.

Play on the fact that the ships crew may have to deal with hostage takers. Make it a point to show that in subsequent hearings - the captain may be called before the Admiralty Board to account for his decisions that led to the death of passengers (or the loss of his ship!). If it turns out that, in your opinion, the crew did everything they were supposed to and were legitimately surprised, be nice to them and allow for insurance to pay for 80% of the loss of their ship's value, of which the bank will grab what it is owed, and with luck, the players still have enough funds to put a down payment on a new ship...

Then?

Let them meet the old retiring Steward who did them wrong in a star port some place else...

GIVE the players the chance to fail, and even make it TOUGH to win. The next time, they won't be so easy to target. If as GM, you feel they wouldn't know about the password loggers - let them try to resolve the issue of "how did they get the passwords!" Like any stage magician, do NOT reveal your secrets! Let them be mystified, and if they ask pointedly to where they are in open rebellion, simply state "As GM, I'll make you a deal. If the scenario I outline would have succeeded - you guys owe me <fill in contract here>. If you feel I railroaded you badly, then <insert penalty clause here>".

Make them work in your game universe, and what they do get to brag about, they will. Years later, they will retell that story to others, or reminisce amongst themselves. If you want, let the story circle back a bit in that the hijackers make a mistake in collecting the ransom and they can get revenge that way. Have a patron approach them after one of the kidnap victims is released, to "Hunt those <expletive deleted> down and make them pay".

Last but not least?

If the players actively WIN against such a hijack attempt, tell them "Hey, you did GOOD!" Praise them and let them know that this scenario was intended for them to lose. They can bask in the afterglow of knowing that you did NOT pull your punch and they succeeded despite it.

As an afterthought? It occurs to me to throw in one final misdirection element...

If they keep hammering away at "how did they know the passwords!" simply have an NPC state "I wonder if the Zhodani were behind this, or a rogue psion". Maybe the efforts to guard against THAT will prove entertaining. ;)
Linwood
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Linwood » Sat Mar 30, 2019 3:19 am

That scenario could work on a larger ship - maybe one where the PCs are passengers themselves. Not sure how well it would work with a PC-crewed ship.
HalC
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby HalC » Sat Mar 30, 2019 6:06 am

Linwood wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2019 3:19 am
That scenario could work on a larger ship - maybe one where the PCs are passengers themselves. Not sure how well it would work with a PC-crewed ship.
If you can, try this with your own group or if you're a player, tell your GM about it. See just how savvy the players really are - with the scenario being one in which the BANK that holds the Mortgage tests the security capabilities of the player characters.

See how it works out and then get back with a report. It would be fun to see just how smart the average everyday Ship crew are. I suspect more would be caught than you would expect. The only real issue might be those crew that have psionics working for them or what have you.
Moppy
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Moppy » Sat Mar 30, 2019 11:45 am

HalC wrote:
Fri Mar 29, 2019 10:25 pm
In any event, it all starts with the Annual Maintenance crew. One who is working for the bad guys, does simple things like replace keyboards or computer interface devices (keyboards, how quaint!). These newly installed boards are of course, doctored with password harvesting software/hardware that stores the vital information in a way that later hijackers can access.
This is what you might do if you wanted remote access, or you were targeting a specific individual on a specific ship (e.g. the yacht of the boss of a corporation).

If you are on the ship, things are much easier. The other day I read a white paper about guessing phone passcodes by having a radio monitor how much the phone's radio (wifi or cell, they're all radios) signal changes as the user taps, and thus moves, the device (dopper effect, for those with physics). All this needs is a radio device with fancy software, i.e. it's going to pass "what is this?" checks by security.

Humans of course are the weak point as they don't like being hurt. This leads me to ask: is fabber (3d print shops) gear allowed to be used on board? You could fit one into a backpack and it could probably make weapons or hacking devices.
Linwood wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2019 3:19 am
That scenario could work on a larger ship - maybe one where the PCs are passengers themselves. Not sure how well it would work with a PC-crewed ship.
For an adventure like this you can run 2 separate groups and have them compete against each other.
Linwood
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Linwood » Sat Mar 30, 2019 11:59 pm

My group has generally very wary of carrying any passengers (although they may be rethinking that in the current campaign). Some sort of weird paranoia about hijackers....

Moppy’s 2 separate groups idea might be a pretty cool thing to do at a con!
HalC
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby HalC » Sun Mar 31, 2019 1:16 am

Now guys - I'm going to be mean here...

The purpose of this thread was to explore the ideas (Scenarios) for Hijackers.

I can't be the ONLY one who has thought about this. On that premise, there has to be others who have ideas! So, here's my thought - post a new scenario. Even if you don't think it would work, post it and then see if it can be refined.

For example - a starship that is only capable of making a single jump, is vulnerable where it comes to making a jump (or not). Where are the locations that would render such a ship incapable of making such a jump even if it wanted to?

Hint:

Jump Drive
Power Plant
Bridge

Did you already guess it? The Fuel tanks. You don't even have to destroy the entirety of the tank, you merely need to bleed off sufficient fuel that the ship is incapable of making a jump.

So, figure out ways to insure that the fuel tank gets hit. How would YOU do it assuming you knew where the tanks were relative to the ship's hull based on knowledge of its class?

Come on guys! Today is "Think like a criminal in the Third Imperium" day! ;)
Linwood
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Linwood » Sun Mar 31, 2019 2:59 am

How about poisoning the fuel itself? Add something that will degrade or cripple the fuel system but will take a few hours to act (time-release container of some sort).

I tried a hijack in the current campaign with a rather inept group of Would-be pirates who were pretending to be customs inspectors. They stole a customs cutter that had been downed for maintenance but did something that gave the game away to the PCs. Still, a more adept crew with the right transponder codes, etc. could probably pull off a hijack that way. Especially since in frontier areas there are likely real customs crews (or system navy) who are doing the same thing....
HalC
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby HalC » Sun Mar 31, 2019 3:29 am

Linwood wrote:
Sun Mar 31, 2019 2:59 am
How about poisoning the fuel itself? Add something that will degrade or cripple the fuel system but will take a few hours to act (time-release container of some sort).

I tried a hijack in the current campaign with a rather inept group of Would-be pirates who were pretending to be customs inspectors. They stole a customs cutter that had been downed for maintenance but did something that gave the game away to the PCs. Still, a more adept crew with the right transponder codes, etc. could probably pull off a hijack that way. Especially since in frontier areas there are likely real customs crews (or system navy) who are doing the same thing....
Can I be mean to you? Detail this thing out. Using HIGH GUARD (any game system version) and build that custom's cutter or use already published data on them. Create a crew of would be hi-jackers. Then, set up a standard Empress Marava Ship with its crew and perhaps detail a freighter's worth of freight/cargo aboard. Have a plan for getting past password protected computer systems. Have a plan for the hijackers with their own "take over" crew for crewing the ship.

Next - decide how the crew might fight back or put a crimp in the pirates or hijacker's plans. When you post it here? Set it up as a mini-scenario you would run yourself, or have run, or would like to see someone else try and report back on it. If someone sees flaws in the plan as presented, think of it as a Skull sweat session between hijackers who want to perfect the plan before they kick the plan in motion.

:)
HalC
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby HalC » Sun Mar 31, 2019 3:30 am

Question? If you have a cutter in system trying to pretend it is a valid custom's cutter - how do you keep the target ship from confirming via Radio, that you are indeed, the real thing? How do you keep the real authorities from getting upset that you're a bogus cutter and not come after you?
Moppy
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Moppy » Sun Mar 31, 2019 12:07 pm

Stop stop! You musn't jump!

Why?

Well you see Captain, I tampered with the fuel.

So why are you telling us this?

I don't want to misjump.

So why did you tamper with the fuel?

I ... don't ... know ... It's not my fault your engineer was too lazy to notice ... err?

(meanwhile back at base)

Crimelord: Where is my prize? What do you mean mis-jumped? It wasn't supposed to jump at all. What did you jackasses do, and which one of you is going to get shot ... first.
Condottiere
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Condottiere » Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:54 am

Typical Fuel Costs[edit]
Fuel costs vary greatly across Charted Space, but typical costs are often estimated at:

Refined Fuel is available at starports at about Credite Imperiale 500 per ton. [2]
Unrefined Fuel is available at starports for Credite Imperiale 100 per ton, or can be skimmed from gas giants for free. [3]
Most starports will carry fuel at or around these prices as long as proper refining, storage, and other facilities are available.


Bait and switch; surprisingly lucrative.
ChalkLine
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby ChalkLine » Mon Apr 01, 2019 8:12 am

A guy boards the ship with no weapons, just his had-comp and normal luggage.

The PCs don't know but he is sending six big sealed crates by a shipping company on the same flight.

Inside the crates are four big robots converted to war-drones. Also in there is survival gear, weapons and armour for himself and enough robots to run the ship.

Halfway through jump the war-drones break out of storage and start to take over the ship. Of course the passenger has waited for the crew to be totally dispersed before letting loose his toys.

It's Traveller, there has to be complications:

- A passenger is isolated somewhere in the ship and desperately calls for help over the hard-comm.

- The drive takes damage during the fight and a countdown before a meltdown starts

- One of the other passengers produces a hidden weapon and tries 'to save the day', complicating who is who
HalC
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby HalC » Mon Apr 01, 2019 8:40 am

ChalkLine wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 8:12 am
A guy boards the ship with no weapons, just his had-comp and normal luggage.

The PCs don't know but he is sending six big sealed crates by a shipping company on the same flight.

Inside the crates are four big robots converted to war-drones. Also in there is survival gear, weapons and armour for himself and enough robots to run the ship.

Halfway through jump the war-drones break out of storage and start to take over the ship. Of course the passenger has waited for the crew to be totally dispersed before letting loose his toys.

It's Traveller, there has to be complications:

- A passenger is isolated somewhere in the ship and desperately calls for help over the hard-comm.

- The drive takes damage during the fight and a countdown before a meltdown starts

- One of the other passengers produces a hidden weapon and tries 'to save the day', complicating who is who
Does MgT have rules for building robots by chance? I know that CT does, as does MegaTraveller. GURPS TRAVELLER has its own ROBOTS construction rules (and I'm not all to conversant with the others sorry!

But if MgT does, why not post the stats on them? The idea here is providing some future reader with a seed of an idea that they can develop for their own campaign further down the road.

:)
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby locarno24 » Mon Apr 01, 2019 10:07 am

Well written and argued.

And yes, ultimately, TL12+ security is unbeatable.....provided it's used. You can make a system theoretically unassailable today.
The weakness, always, always, is the human element. People have to get on and off the ship. Crews are lazy and/or change on a regular basis due to short-term hires.

Getting an inside man or inside software agent or both onto the ship is a good start. I agree that any 'double bluff' plan is your best bet - a similar option might be if you can create the impression that the ship's systems have been compromised, leading them to seek to 'fix' them. In an extreme case, you can even have a true 'pirate' attack ships in the hope of pushing them into the arms of the friendly local repair yard.

The big problem will be any ship with a properly competent engineer - the 'doctor the annual maintenance plan' relies on the crew handing the ship over to a maintenance crew rather than buying bits and yard time and merely presenting it to a spaceworthiness certification officer to inspect and stamp.



If you want to screw with the jump, then don't attack the fuel (because that puts them in an unknown location), mess with the navigation data.

Navigational jump data is commercially available stuff bought by the crew for a region and presumably patched and updated as scout service surveys constantly flag up new objects big enough to have a meaningful 100D exclusion zone and 'close down' a potential jump origin or terminus, or nail down an orbital path more precisely and 'open up' a new one.

The average bunch of reprobates in a rusted type S have enough astrogation skill to punch in the destination co-ordinates, press 'run' and say "computer says yes!". Obviously a skilled astrogator would spot if you've slipped them a ringer, but a skilled astrogator wouldn't be buying off-the-shelf local astrogation-for-dummies data in the first place.

If the jump data actually happens to land them in a 'blind spot' behind the system's gas giant where the system's orbital sensors can't see, near a cluster of incapacitation drones.....well, bad luck for them.
This leads me to ask: is fabber (3d print shops) gear allowed to be used on board? You could fit one into a backpack and it could probably make weapons or hacking devices.
Yes and no; a backpack 3d printer is fine but not massively easier to smuggle aboard than the thing you want to use it to make unless you can contract the ship to carry a batch of them as cargo. But then as a rule, passengers won't be allowed unrestricted access to the cargo areas.

'Fake' customs officers are a great way to get people to pull over.

Honestly, depending on how daft your players are, you can always try and do things openly. Carrying a small merc outfit for a somewhat-less-than-legal ticket on a backwater planet is not unheard of work for independent traders.
Perhaps someone who did make it past the background check later on, is compromised in a fashion that renders them willing to work with criminals.
If there's a serious background check, then pressuring someone who's already passed it is always easier. Yes, you can create a 'sleeper' agent to get through it but criminal enterprises rather than national intelligence services are ultimately a profit-driven business and generally expect a return on investment in a timescale which prohibits that sort of thing.


A big part of it is "what is the plot". If it's "Hijack for ransom" then what you're doing is saying "give us money or the people on the ship will die". That doesn't actually require hijackers on the ship. A sufficiently large warhead secured amongst the cargo with some sort of timer (a remote trigger is subject to jamming or lack of signal) and anti-tamper system is perfectly sufficient to hold a ship to ransom without needing to board it at all.
"how did they know the passwords!"
Depends on what they actually need to do. They're not needing to run jump control, for example. Even if you can't beat the system security, physically cutting network cables to isolate the ship's computers and tie in a high-TL laptop instead is potentially doable if you can get it to the right part of the ship.
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: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Moppy » Mon Apr 01, 2019 10:38 am

locarno24 wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 10:07 am
This leads me to ask: is fabber (3d print shops) gear allowed to be used on board? You could fit one into a backpack and it could probably make weapons or hacking devices.
Yes and no; a backpack 3d printer is fine but not massively easier to smuggle aboard than the thing you want to use it to make unless you can contract the ship to carry a batch of them as cargo. But then as a rule, passengers won't be allowed unrestricted access to the cargo areas.
"We're a month in transit, and I need to use this gear to work for my clients during the trip."

It's not an airplane - on a ship (today) you have your luggage in your cabin and I imagine Traveller's no different.
Old School
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Old School » Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:08 pm

One of the challenges I’ve faced with these types of scenarios is that the the players are always on alert, because there wouldn’t be an interesting game session if something wasn’t up. You can build in a bunch of very details customs inspections before the hijack attempt to try to get them complacent, but with any level of detail that also gets boring quickly.

Another alternative is the hand of god, i.e. the passwords are already stolen, inside man already in place, etc. That works fine when traveling as passengers on a liner, or crew serving a patron, but not so much on their own ship.

After running a PoD campaign (which I love), the thought of running something where the travellers have significantly less resources, i.e, don’t own a ship snd perhaps aren’t in charge, is appealing. Naval adventures are one way to do this, so I’m glad to see Mongoose go in that direction. Same concept could also work for mercs, passenger line companies, etc.
Linwood
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Linwood » Wed Apr 17, 2019 12:26 am

Maybe a mercenary detachment on the way to their unit - an NCO or two, a couple of new recruits, etc - riding along with a subbie carrying supplies for their unit. The crew had been scheming to just make the cargo disappear but then the mercenaries requested passage at the last minute....
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Condottiere » Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:55 am

Or bug hunters in low passage, that the rest of the passengers weren't aware of, plus a civilian consultant, a megacorporation Mister Johnson, and an android.
Linwood
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby Linwood » Wed Apr 17, 2019 9:47 am

<grin>
HalC
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Re: Hijackers - gotta love'm

Postby HalC » Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:14 am

Of course, you can always tell the player "roll 2d6 please" before every jump. Regardless of what they roll...

"Darn, don't get to do it this time."

not that I'd do that!

(Note to self: implement this for the next campaign on a ship with passengers)

For what it is worth, my Fantasy Grounds Traveller player wants to use a Seeker class ship because he doesn't want to deal with passengers.

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