Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

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IanBruntlett
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Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby IanBruntlett » Sat Sep 28, 2019 2:01 pm

Hi,

I have a few issues with the economics of the traditional Traveller game. In particular, I am not sure that your typical troupe of adventurers could afford the mortgage payments of a new ship. One work-around is to give the players a battered old spaceship as a reward for a good deed or telling them that they have won a no-expenses-paid lease on a used starship, possibly lasting for 2 years.

On page 145 of the Core Rulebook is the Running Cost Summary.

For Life support, why is it Cr1000 for a stateroom, Cr3000 for a double occupancy? Why not Cr 2000 or even, given economies of scale, Cr1500?

And, once you've paid for staterooms, why the clause "Each person on board a ship who is not in a low berth will cost an additional Cr1000 in life support costs"?

Take a 4-person crew that are sharing two staterooms. That will cost Cr6000 for the staterooms and a further Cr40000 in additional life support costs. Am I missing something here?

Thanks,


Ian
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AnotherDilbert
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby AnotherDilbert » Sat Sep 28, 2019 4:20 pm

IanBruntlett wrote: For Life support, why is it Cr1000 for a stateroom, Cr3000 for a double occupancy? Why not Cr 2000 or even, given economies of scale, Cr1500?
It's Cr 1000 per stateroom plus Cr 1000 per person, hence Cr 3000 per populated dual occupancy stateroom. The table is a bit confused.

IanBruntlett wrote: Take a 4-person crew that are sharing two staterooms. That will cost Cr6000 for the staterooms and a further Cr40000 in additional life support costs.
Double counting costs.

It's Cr 1000 per stateroom plus Cr 1000 per person, hence Cr 2000 for the staterooms and Cr 4000 for the people = total Cr 6000. Which is Cr 3000 per populated stateroom.
IanBruntlett
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby IanBruntlett » Sat Sep 28, 2019 5:12 pm

AnotherDilbert wrote:
Sat Sep 28, 2019 4:20 pm
IanBruntlett wrote: It's Cr 1000 per stateroom plus Cr 1000 per person, hence Cr 3000 per populated dual occupancy stateroom. The table is a bit confused.
You're not kidding. Thanks for the clarification. Would be nice if Mongoose collated problems like this and kept them on their website. Or do they already do this?

BW,


Ian
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AnotherDilbert
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby AnotherDilbert » Sat Sep 28, 2019 5:30 pm

IanBruntlett wrote: You're not kidding. Thanks for the clarification. Would be nice if Mongoose collated problems like this and kept them on their website. Or do they already do this?
Not as far as I know.

There were some errata threads back in 2016.

There is a fan-made errata:
GarethL wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 7:37 pm
I threw this together, mostly for my own use with answers from the forums, but help yourselves. If there's anything else anyone knows of I'd greatly appreciate it if you could point me in the right direction.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KGX ... sp=sharing
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby Saladman » Sat Sep 28, 2019 6:53 pm

IanBruntlett wrote:
Sat Sep 28, 2019 2:01 pm
In particular, I am not sure that your typical troupe of adventurers could afford the mortgage payments of a new ship.
That's kind of the point. If they're only taking freight jobs, they're also going to need to take patron missions to bring up their total income, and patron missions of dubious legality or safety are one key part of Traveller.

Now if they come out of character creation with a large chunk of credits to buy speculative trade cargo with, they actually can cover their costs with some good rolls. But that should also lead to adventure if you're dealing with high value goods, which are often illegal and always of interest to other traders.

Or, less likely, if you mean that typical patron jobs don't pay enough to cover ship costs, that's a GMing mistake. You just have to pay them real money and get away from the [Dr. Evil voice] one thousand credits each pay scale. Hiring a crew with a starship is like chartering a plane, you don't just pay the pilots $15 an hour, you pay a fee that covers all operating expenses plus profit plus something towards sitting around waiting for the call.
Old School
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby Old School » Sat Sep 28, 2019 7:47 pm

Agreed. The cost of hiring a ship should factor in what running cost of a ship, including its mortgage payment.

Mongoose Economics very a similar issue to classic traveller economics: a jump-1 free trader can be extremely profitable on jump-1 main, because the free trader is cheap and has tons of cargo and passenger room. The premiums given for 2 jump journeys don’t make up for the lower cargo capacity of a jump-2 ship. The tables also don’t address the issue of megafreighters.

I approach it this way: the tables are only useful to a (very limited) point. Applying a little economic reality:
- heavily trafficked routes are going to be dominated by larger ships, due to economies of scale, which will drive down prices. Tramp traders cannot compete on these routes for run of the mill passenger and freight services.
- in these areas, smuggling and other illegal services would be a common use of smaller ships, which of course means these ships will be automatically subject to suspicion.
- high end services, ie.e. Private transport of the ultra rich, is another possibility.
- tramps and fat traders come into their own on backwater routes. Not enough volume for larger vessels. More lax legal enforcement likely as well.
- backwaters are inherently more dangerous, raising rates accordingly.
- certain cargoes and passengers come with higher risk, demanding armed ships and crews. Rates charged will be much higher for these cargoes.

I’ve never had much interest in a campaign in the more civilized areas of the OTU, although that’s just personal preference. No shortage of good campaign ideas for these areas. But for your typical small ship crew struggling to get by campaign, the less populated areas are ripe with adventure.
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby Linwood » Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:19 am

This feels more like scaling the campaign to fit the resources the players have than just economics. A party running around in a scout ship might be more focused on patrons to pay the bills. Operating costs are low (no mortgage) so you can get by on less. In return you have a ship with much less cargo space, limiting your profit opportunities from speculative trade. Depending what the players are looking for that be more fun than the typical “buy low sell high” mercantile campaign.
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby PsiTraveller » Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:56 am

Here are my rough notes on ship economics

Assumptions: Jump 2 Far Trader.
2 trips per month
6 low berths
64 tons cargo space

Costs
Mortgage 52. 240, 500 Ship / 240 = 217 668.75 Credits per month
Maintenance: 4353 per month
Fuel: 8100 Credits: Unrefined fuel
Life Support: 20 600
Salaries: 20 000
Berthing Costs: 7000 (Assumes Type A port, 3500 credits per visit)

Cost for all this: 277 722.125

So a lot of money for 2 trips a month
Does it pay?
Assuming best case scenario all holds and staterooms filled: The numbers are:

Low berth: 15 600
10 Middle Passages (took middle as a safe bet) 90 000
Cargo: 128 tons * 1600/ton = 204 800
Income: 310 4000

Profit: 310 400 - 277 722 = 32 677

So if the ship is always full of passengers and crew you make 30 000 profit per month. It does not take much to go broke. Even buying refined fuel puts a dent in the profit column.

Things can improve by 4000 credits per month per ship share in mortgage payments, which helps.

The other factor I am ignoring is spec trade. This can make a lot of money if you have a good broker skill.

The numbers also show why a crew may be willing to take on shady jobs. They need to.

Now you can substantially alter the economic picture for trade with a couple of modifications to a ship to move more cargo. This depends on their being enough cargo to move. Jump Nets or external cargo mounts change the economic picture completely for a ship.
Old School
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby Old School » Sun Sep 29, 2019 2:37 am

The easiest way to move that needle is to reduce the downtime between trips. Up to the GM to decide if this cuts into passenger or cargo volumes. A regular (i.e. advertised) route and schedule, assuming good cargo and passenger volumes, could by very profitable using the tables, even without spec trade. But what fun would that be?
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby Moppy » Sun Sep 29, 2019 10:01 am

The free trader is a fancy name for "tramp steamer" (a merchant ship with no fixed route).

Let's look at how tramp steamers historically operated.

They were common when cargo had to be delivered to a tight schedule (example: fruit with no refrigeration or something, dunno what exactly), and ship scheduldes were not reliable, so trampers had the potential to be in a lucky place at a lucky time, to make an unscheduled run at premium price. Today this just isn't a thing because the shipping network is large and relaible enough that forward planning has destroyed the tramper's niche.

If your imperium has a well developed shipping network, it probably doesn't have many trampers, and the reverse is also true.
PsiTraveller wrote:
Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:56 am
So if the ship is always full of passengers and crew you make 30 000 profit per month. It does not take much to go broke. Even buying refined fuel puts a dent in the profit column.
At least you have a profit. This is not the case for many planes or yachts today, which are chartered out to reduce the owner's tax liability, and lower their ownership cost, using the provision that the owner doesn't need the vehicle 24/7. That's not to say that commercial charters don't exist. They do, but "charter to reduce cost of your toy and avoid tax" is something that doesn't really exist in Traveller. Anyway, the point is that you do not require a profit from the ship.
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby PsiTraveller » Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:08 pm

Well if you do not make enough to cover your mortgage you will have the skip tracer agents on you. If you cannot cover your life support costs you will have a problem pretty quick. That was my point of the need for profit.

Once a ship is paid for they are very profitable. 200 k a month since there is no mortgage payment. You can buy a lot with that.
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby Moppy » Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:43 pm

PsiTraveller wrote:
Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:08 pm
Well if you do not make enough to cover your mortgage you will have the skip tracer agents on you. If you cannot cover your life support costs you will have a problem pretty quick. That was my point of the need for profit.

Once a ship is paid for they are very profitable. 200 k a month since there is no mortgage payment. You can buy a lot with that.
Ah well, you don't own the ship if you have a mortgage. That's a bit of a different situation. In that case you will have a number of restrictions on your use of the vessel from the owner or the owner's insurer, like maybe you can't miss maintanetnace, your engineer must be quaified, you can't leave the imperium, you can't carry certain cargoes or certain routes, etc.

edit: Like, I can't imagine they are going to be happy with you doing DIY repairs on the jump drive. If they're no certified repair center in the system you'll have to hire an FTL tug or something.
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby PsiTraveller » Sun Sep 29, 2019 2:51 pm

Given the Benefit during character creation of a ship with 25% of the mortgage paid off, and ship shares taking a million off that total left per share the weight of a mortgage hanging over the players heads is a running thread in the traveller concept. It can be the reason the players take the dodgy deals or commit the odd bit of thievery and piracy. They have to in order to survive.

All of which can be thrown out if you just want to run around and have fun. Maybe a Patron pays the bills. I was just posting about the economics question at the start of the thread.

As for increasing the frequency of Jumps, I think the 2 Jumps a month is pretty standard. In the Pirates of Drinax campaign they mention a Jump rate of a Jump every 10 days, but this is moving a convoy of ships, not trading.

Not even sure how much the rate can be increased. Assume 7 days a Jump, so 14 days minimum. Then you have to make it to the Starport to drop off cargo and load up again. Travel times at various speeds are listed on page 153 of the book. Maybe there is a tug system where you can load up and fuel near the Jump point. Maybe you could get 3 Jumps a month in. This would be an increae in income, as long as you can get the ship unloaded and loaded in time to make those 3 Jumps a month.
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby Condottiere » Sun Sep 29, 2019 3:11 pm

If you look hard enough, you can probably identify some loopholes, besides cutting corners and operating on marginal performance.

One thing you should never skip on is annual maintenance, since it costs peanuts.
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby Moppy » Sun Sep 29, 2019 3:28 pm

The problem with annual maintenance is that they tend to download a lot of things about where you've been and when you run your drives at full power.

I read somewhere ships broadcast their ID and route automatically (It might have been the megatraveller ship manual) and I don't therefore see how peopke visit all these red zone worlds that adventures take them to. Especially with a mortgaged ship or detached duty scout.
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby Old School » Sun Sep 29, 2019 3:31 pm

As for increasing the frequency of Jumps, I think the 2 Jumps a month is pretty standard. In the Pirates of Drinax campaign they mention a Jump rate of a Jump every 10 days, but this is moving a convoy of ships, not trading.

Not even sure how much the rate can be increased. Assume 7 days a Jump, so 14 days minimum. Then you have to make it to the Starport to drop off cargo and load up again. Travel times at various speeds are listed on page 153 of the book. Maybe there is a tug system where you can load up and fuel near the Jump point. Maybe you could get 3 Jumps a month in. This would be an increae in income, as long as you can get the ship unloaded and loaded in time to make those 3 Jumps a month.
The two jumps a month thing is a bit overplayed. It is a means to an end - i.e. a week break to have an adventure and get in trouble before heading out again - rather than anything that makes sense on its own merits. Perhaps takes a week as a tramp in order to get passengers and freight, but that could be avoided by having a regular, published route. There’s also the distinct possibility (such as the convoys you mention) that your passengers and freight aren’t bound for the next system, but rather a system several jumps away, making a weeklong stop unnecessary and not at all wise economically.

As for the travel times on page 153, even at 1G, the time to get from a planet to the 100D jump point is measured in hours, not days. At most this is a one day addition to the trip.
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby PsiTraveller » Sun Sep 29, 2019 3:57 pm

Re Travel Times: agree completely. Assume 1 day in, during which time the Broker on board sends the paperwork ahead electronically to the shipping department. Arrangements for berthing and unloading the ship.
Then the advertisements for taking on passengers and cargo. Negotiations for incoming cargo commence.
A day to dock, clear customs, goods unloaded to inspection area, pay fees, taxes, bribes etc. Then load passengers and cargo. Probably not next day travel for that, although Travellers used to the system may be willing to board the next available ship

So 3 days in system 1 day to head to port and negotiate. A day to unload, load and take on passengers and fuel. A day to get to Jump point. 10 day cycle time. This makes streetwise and broker checks important as you try to find cargo, but as you mentioned, the posting of a route could result in cargo waiting for you to arrive. So a ship on a route could move pretty quick.
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby IanBruntlett » Sun Sep 29, 2019 7:17 pm

Thanks to everyone for their feedback. I've been running a few numbers and they aren't as dire as I first feared.

I do have an additional question. Passengers. They want space for their belongings. Namely
High : One ton
Middle : 100Kg
Basic : 10Kg
Low : 10Kg

Now the ships cargo hold in this case is 82 dtons (Free Trader) in volume. Is there any simple rule-of-thumb to convert the desired cargo space in Kg (weight) into dtons (volume)?

Thanks!
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Old School
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby Old School » Sun Sep 29, 2019 7:26 pm

Keep it simple. 1 ton = 1 dton. No conversion required. Doesn’t actually make sense, but neither do a lot of rules when you peel them back. So don’t peel them back if you don’t have to.
AnotherDilbert
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Re: Spacecraft Operations - Running Costs

Postby AnotherDilbert » Sun Sep 29, 2019 7:43 pm

I agree, keep it simple. But the personal effects are not only feathers.

1 Dt ≈ 14 m³, so 10 tonnes are more reasonable.


If we consider the weight of a regular suitcase, we might end up somewhere around 1 Dt ≈ 5 tonnes.

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