Why not just be a pirate?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Elrick
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Postby Elrick » Sat Apr 23, 2011 8:47 pm

GamerDude wrote:
Captain Jonah wrote:Its a very narrow line and I'm a big bloke, I cover both sides at the same time :D
"a big bloke"? My wife says I'm the same, except she uses the term "fat ass" *grin*
My wife prefers to use the term "traditionally shaped gamer" :)
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Postby GamerDude » Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:25 pm

Elrick wrote:
GamerDude wrote:
Captain Jonah wrote:Its a very narrow line and I'm a big bloke, I cover both sides at the same time :D
"a big bloke"? My wife says I'm the same, except she uses the term "fat ass" *grin*
My wife prefers to use the term "traditionally shaped gamer" :)
I like that, sounds so.. 'sociological'.

Reminds me of a GameCon panel I sat on.. "Old School Gaming, is it Dead?" or something of that vein. Basically he found someone's PhD thesis on gamer culture, filled with all kinds of those big five-credit words they use to sound so intellectual on things we discuss with a 2nd grade education (don't laugh, Daddy graduated 2nd grade same year as me did!).

I finally just said "Y'know Rod, we're saying the same damm thing, only I know how to speak like the average gamer, and you are using them fancyfied words like you is some hi-faloutin col-ee-age grad-yew-ate."

That got lots of laughs and was a great end to the panel.
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Postby Captain Jonah » Sun Apr 24, 2011 8:20 am

Elrick wrote:
GamerDude wrote:
Captain Jonah wrote:Its a very narrow line and I'm a big bloke, I cover both sides at the same time :D
"a big bloke"? My wife says I'm the same, except she uses the term "fat ass" *grin*
My wife prefers to use the term "traditionally shaped gamer" :)
Lets see. Fat, check. Bearded check. Plays RPGs and PC games, check.

Ok I'm way too tall to be a D&D dwarf so I must be a "traditionally shaped gamer" as well :lol:
Traveller: Nonsense, those rumours about me and crashes, no truth in them at all. I never had a landing I didn't walk away from!

ACTA-SF: Who are we, GORN. What do we want, Cruisers that can turn.... Wait, OK Escorts... Wait. I'll get back to you !
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Postby GamerDude » Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:34 pm

This discussion is beginning to sound like cartman in the SP episode on WoW... age him 20 years and he'll have the beard too.

Traditionally shaped. Either skinny as a rail, or bit and 'stout' yet nothing in between. Bathing is optional but will get you drummed out of the corps fer dang shure!

What is a 'traditionally shaped gamer'? What about "Traditionally Clothed" gamer? Jeans? Worn out dirty t-shirts advertising your favorite burger joint, pizza house, geek film or vintage video game/console?

Arrgggg we're getting sociological again.
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Postby Captain Jonah » Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:00 pm

Erm.

Fat, beared gamer. Check.

Jeans. Check.

Mountain T-shirt with a dragon flaming someone. Check.

Oh hell. I've been stereotyped :shock:


No wait. I had a shower an hour ago. I'm saved :D
Traveller: Nonsense, those rumours about me and crashes, no truth in them at all. I never had a landing I didn't walk away from!

ACTA-SF: Who are we, GORN. What do we want, Cruisers that can turn.... Wait, OK Escorts... Wait. I'll get back to you !
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Postby karmarainbow » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:12 pm

Thanks very much for all your thoughts.

I take on board the arguments that (for various reasons spelled out above) a black market in stolen starships wouldn’t in fact exist. Having now read Scoundrel (thanks Egil) I see this is sort of the ‘official’ position too. Scoundrel says that criminals / fences won’t have the money to purchase second-hand starships at anything like a big proportion of their value, and the best you can hope for is to sell them for parts - garnering up to 10% of their value.

I suppose this does help to keep a lid on it to some extent, but still leaves me with my players making e.g. 3-5 MCr if they succeed in stealing a smallish ship.

I suppose we can accept that hijacking is possible (with profits as above), but try to deter it in some of the ways suggested, and by making clear the risks. However, if you are stealing and selling for parts then the risks people have pointed out which relate to the stolen ship being traced / identified etc don’t arise here.

I gulped at CosmicGamer’s suggestion that if PCs are going to hijack, why not just run out on their ship loans too? I hadn’t thought about this, but I suppose they could do so so and get another 3-5MCr...though I guess here they would be left running around in a new stolen ship, and would be identifiable as the defaulters. Of course if the players could make it look as if the ship was destroyed...or hijacked by pirates....(!)

In terms of deterring piracy, I was intrigued by rust’s suggestion that even parts have identifiable and traceable serial numbers, which would discourage hijacking - although going by Scoundrel this doesn’t seem to be an insurmountable problem.

I also thought it was interesting to say that heavily armed player ships would have trouble landing at starports and would face ‘imperial entanglements’ if they did. I suppose my worry there is that if starship weapons are tightly controlled, then other traders won’t have them either - potentially making piracy by players even easier (I’m assuming the players could get themselves badged as genuine traders, so would either have weapons to, or their targets won’t).

I’ve got the sort of players who will think about this stuff, and will take advantage of the economy if they can. Even if they don’t set out to be pirates, opportunities may well arise to make vast sums from selling starships (e.g. The Snowbird Mystery from White Dwarf 40-41, where the PCs are sent away for months to find a 255 MCr Explorer Class. “No boss, no sign of it. Guess we won’t be getting our 100k”...). For that reason I’m still attracted to some other ‘unofficial solution’ like getting rid of private starship ownership, though I can see that would be an anathema to those who want to run a classic style game.
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Postby rust » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:44 pm

karmarainbow wrote: I also thought it was interesting to say that heavily armed player ships would have trouble landing at starports and would face ‘imperial entanglements’ if they did. I suppose my worry there is that if starship weapons are tightly controlled, then other traders won’t have them either - potentially making piracy by players even easier (I’m assuming the players could get themselves badged as genuine traders, so would either have weapons to, or their targets won’t).
Perhaps an example from one of my settings could be interesting.

The planet in question is an independent colony on a hostile desert world
which is undergoing a long term biological terraforming. Until the atmo-
sphere of the planet becomes breathable, the protection of the habitats
is essential for the survival of the colony, and an armed starship could
easily wipe out the entire colony by damaging the hulls of the habitats.

The planet's system has a number of sensor satellites which cover the
most likely "entry points" for starships, the gas giant and the most likely
"approach routes" to the planet. When a starship enters the system, the
satellites send a warning to the planet's starport.

If it is one of the ships the colonists usually have business with, it has a
transponder provided by the colony. Ships with such a transponder, for
example the regular supply ship and some well known and trusted free
traders, may approach the planet and land there, whether armed or not.

Ships without such a transponder receive orders to stay in a far orbit and
await inspection by a small craft. If they refuse to follow these orders, or
if the inspection team comes to the conclusion that the ship's crew has
no legitimate business in this system, the ship is ordered to leave the sy-
stem or be treated as hostile and attacked.

If the ship has legitimate business and is armed in any way that could en-
danger the colony, the closest it can get to the planet is a low orbit, any
attempt to enter the atmosphere will be treated as a hostile act and lead
to an immediate attack.

So, merchant ships can be armed, but planets can take care to protect
themselves against potentially hostile armed merchant ships.
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Postby Captain Jonah » Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:20 pm

Karmarainbow.

Piracy and stolen ships etc will either work or not work as you want them to. There are loads of reasons why they would not be able to sell a stolen ship but then there are ways that it could be done. Nowhere near full value but still 10-20% or a Mcr50 ship is a fair pile of cash.
There is a cannon adventure about pirates, red corsairs or some such name where the players have to recover a stolen ship that is being sold in Doggy space. One of the clans is having a stolen ship auction.
In terms of paying it is entirely possible to have an “underground” banking system with the big “Mafia” type crime gangs running their won banks and clearing houses. Somewhere like the marches is surrounded by non Imperial places to do business and people who ask few questions. But they are also the sort of people who will have you killed for crossing them, you takes your risks, you takes your profit!

Jacking ships, doable. It’s an attack/defence thing. Is it worth the effort and cost of breaking the anti hijack protocols for the gain.

Running out on ship loans has been covered in great detail. Essentially it’s not that easy because the banks that give the loads only do so to people who are considered a good risk. Your players may see no down side but they didn’t get the ship shares by magic. They were awarded to people who had been in the business for a number of terms and who had built up a local rep. Do they have families or friends that an annoyed bank can find, are they cutting all contacts and allies free or do they stay in touch and therefore become traceable. It’s not so easy to totally disconnect from your life.

Molecular tagging is easily doable at tech 12+. If this is done at the factory it becomes a hard job to deal with and a molecular scan can read the serial numbers later. The only defence is how far the “Stolen Starship” report travels.

The real defence of players involved in starship theft is slow communications. If you are sent off to recover a missing ship and cannot find it then it comes up for sale later the owner is going to have a good look at who is selling it and may be upset.
If your players have been hoping lifts for months and suddenly turn up “owning” a starship local security may just get curious.

In the end its up to you, if you want it in your game then make it so. :D
Traveller: Nonsense, those rumours about me and crashes, no truth in them at all. I never had a landing I didn't walk away from!

ACTA-SF: Who are we, GORN. What do we want, Cruisers that can turn.... Wait, OK Escorts... Wait. I'll get back to you !
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Postby GamerDude » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:37 pm

In the setting I've been developing (about 500 pages so far), there is a faster form of inter-system communication although it isn't as real-time as the players probably want. All registry information is transmitted along this between star systems, forcing pirates taking a ship for resale needing some way to get forged information into the system, and then be very careful where they go before it completely filters out and back. If not, then they stand a good chance of being caught for piracy or at least answering some very rough questions with the local authorities.

This allows for both piracy and everything that comes with it, plus implications, danger, intrigue, etc. for the PCs.
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Postby justacaveman » Thu May 05, 2011 8:32 am

When I first played Traveller our group tried being pirates for a while. We ended up losing money because of repairs from battle damage etc.. We would also do things like accidently destroy the target merchant vessel etc., which didn't help our bottom line at all.

We finally decided to become pirate hunters after we were jumped by another group of pirates who thought we were merchants, and actually made a profit on bounties etc..

We found out that we could make more money from bounties, salvage, and recovery fees, and we took less damage by "surrendering" right away. When they tried to board us, we would grapple on to them with magnetic clamps and ambush the boarders. We would also Have a couple of guys EVA and enter their ship from another hatch.

This didn't always work, but was usually fun since we were a bunch of GIs who liked blowing sh*t up.
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Postby zero » Thu May 05, 2011 10:44 am

^ Thats cool and seems theres good money in it. I take a strategy of having a small merchant ship with a small cargo hold, thus not being so much of a target for the privateers out there.
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Postby Somebody » Thu May 05, 2011 11:57 am

So a group snatches a starship and makes ten percent of it's value. But what are the COSTS:
  • They have to operate the pirat ship
  • They need two crews (One for stolen ship, one for their own)
  • The Pirat needs enough crew for a boarding party without stripping crew from guns
  • The whole job will take more than a few weeks since ships travell slowly
  • It has to work without damaging the target so it can no longer jump
Hijacking LOOKS like a good idea. But it isn't all that easy if the ship crew plays by ElAl rules. A simple bolt on the INSIDE of critical hatches and the hijackers have problems getting to the controls before a ship jumps. So Hijacking only works if the ship jumps into "empty" systems. This will happen for smaller ships with short legs mostly, not the big lines.

Hijacking also needs a sizeable team since you must take over the ship otherwise the crew might change your jump target from "Tortuga" to "Scapa Flow". Getting that team and it's equipment on board won't be easy unless ship crews are played like the germans in old WWII movies.

In both cases you have the crew and passengers. Granted, you can "space" them but that leads to a big escalation. Historically pirats tried NOT to harm crews that cooperated. And based on the "it's not my ship/cargo" and "Lloyds will pay" attitude of the crew this often worked. About the only times ships fought bitterly was against Barbary Coast pirats since those where slavers. And even there "Bribery payments" lessened the "will to fight back"

======

In the end what LOOKED like a lot of money is split x ways and ends up very little. Assume a mid-sized ship (say a Typ-M, 600dt, around 200MCr new IIRC). Split among a pirat crew of 20 (5/ship + 10 Boarding) the 10 percent ends up at around 750.000/Crew since the pirat ship needs maintenance money set aside (I assume fuel is free and pirats work for the haul). And that money either needs to be laundered or you can only spend it in a "pirats haven". And those in turn charge heavily since they can.

And the "haul" likely took a few month since ships travel slowly and distance between "safe harbour" and the "feeding grounds" will likely be a few (dozend) parsek. I assume "catching" a ship will be a job done twice per year.
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Postby rust » Thu May 05, 2011 1:25 pm

Somebody wrote: Historically pirats tried NOT to harm crews that cooperated. And based on the "it's not my ship/cargo" and "Lloyds will pay" attitude of the crew this often worked.
Most of the historical pirate ships had two flags. The first flag was an order
to surrender and a promise that in the case of a surrender no member of
the crew and no passenger would be harmed and that no property of the
crew members would be taken. If the ship did not surrender, the second
flag was a message that the pirates would now attack and kill every mem-
ber of the crew unless they did surrender immediately.

Of course, if the target ship did not surrender after the first flag signal, it
either had a very suicidal or a very well armed and determined crew, so
the pirates often withdrew if the second flag signal did not cause an imme-
diate surrender. After all, the pirates were in it for the money, not for the
fight, which is quite understandable in an age when the lack of antibiotics
meant that even a small wound could well be deadly.
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Postby zero » Thu May 05, 2011 7:24 pm

Interesting, I take it the ol' skull n' crossbones was one of these flags?
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Postby Somebody » Thu May 05, 2011 7:28 pm

zero wrote:Interesting, I take it the ol' skull n' crossbones was one of these flags?
AFAIK the various pirats had "personalized" designs but death etc. often had a role in there. So basically looking at the flag you could tell "We will not simply be robbed by any pirat. No good sir, we will be the proud victims of Blackbeard today"

Wiki says
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Postby zero » Thu May 05, 2011 7:54 pm

Okay cool, so a Jolly Roger was the first one and the second a red one mostly. You could have space privateers or whatever send a sound-only comm to their target with their own Jolly Roger background covering the vid-screen (which would be changed to a red screen when the target doesnt surrender).

Also, pretty cool that the Jolly Roger were custom for each ship, just like in One Piece :)
Thanks to Barnest2 for designing my Stubby 1.0 and for GJD in doing a model also!
Thanks to AndrewW and far-trader for deckplanning my new Darrian ship and Barnest2 for renders!
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Postby Aneirin » Fri May 06, 2011 10:19 am

Another way to solve the problem is that ships are so damned expensive...who are you going to sell them to? The only way to purchase it is with a mortgage, and no one is going to give a mortgage for a stolen ship, so ships can cost a lot, because they can't be sold, the type of people who would buy them wouldn't have the funds, and the type of people who do have the funds without a mortgage will buy first hand in any event.
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Postby Somebody » Fri May 06, 2011 10:54 am

Aneirin wrote:Another way to solve the problem is that ships are so damned expensive...who are you going to sell them to? The only way to purchase it is with a mortgage, and no one is going to give a mortgage for a stolen ship, so ships can cost a lot, because they can't be sold, the type of people who would buy them wouldn't have the funds, and the type of people who do have the funds without a mortgage will buy first hand in any event.
Actually the high costs for NEW ships (used are a lot cheaper(2)) generate the market for stolen products. Just like cars did/do in Europe(1) for some time. Maybe ot in the 3I but in the border states where "ownership" is not traced if you pay the bribes. Those states will also have bankers willing to finance "used ship" mortgages at far lower costs.


(1) Kaum gestohlen schon in Polen - Barely stolen, already in Poland was a common saying in the early 90s when "high price" Volkswagens where stolen a lot and shipped east

(2) A ship is often considered to loose about 2 percent per year in value. So the 40year old ship after the mortgage has been paid is worth about 20 percent of the initial value. For a FarTrader that is around 16 Million.
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Postby Aneirin » Fri May 06, 2011 11:03 am

Yeah, but the ships aren't cars. They have to be thought more of a houses (in terms of price and financing). Even if a house drops price by 20%, that is still a lot of money, and not really feasbile for buying without a mortgage or a lot of cash.

You would have to handwave the corrupt mortgagors away saying that none would provide a mortgage for a stolen ship (or one that couldn't be verified) due to risks involved of it being nicked back.

If you were to sell a ship on over the blackmarket, it would have to be at a low price, and that would get around the problem of the ships being worth too much. It may be worth 50 million, but if you can only sell it for 5 million. It's still much more than doing missions...but then you have the other problems associated with it (mortgagors coming to claim the ship back and kick your ass for interfering with their income, why should someone with a stolen ship pay it back after all, what will they reposess?)
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Postby Somebody » Fri May 06, 2011 12:16 pm

Aneirin wrote:Yeah, but the ships aren't cars. They have to be thought more of a houses (in terms of price and financing). Even if a house drops price by 20%, that is still a lot of money, and not really feasbile for buying without a mortgage or a lot of cash.
Actually even the rules provide that there are other means to aquire a ship. You can role "ship" more than once and each roll gives you 10 years of the mortgage. Since the rolls do not increas character age this is not "working it off" but a source of cash

And characters can pool those rolls. This can be interpreted as "The line I worked for sold me a ship they don't need for cheap" or "The line gave me a ship with some contract attached" or as "I landed a Subsidized contract"



You would have to handwave the corrupt mortgagors away saying that none would provide a mortgage for a stolen ship (or one that couldn't be verified) due to risks involved of it being nicked back.
Historically that worked fine, just ask the British Navy that has "bought" more than a few stolen ships :) Granted, they called it "captured" and "prize" but all the same.

Sure, an IMPERIAL bank won't finance a ship with "dubious" papers. But selling a stolen Imperial registered ship in the 3I screams "Stupid!" to me (Makes Captain Jack Sparrow look smart!). So sell it in the Swordworlds, Reft Sector, the Gateway states, Vagr Extends.... Everywhere they ask few questions and "Possession is ninety percent of legal". Such a ship may not be an option to USE for groups operatin in the 3I. But it is an option for a group playing pirat to SELL a captured ship in one of those states.


If you were to sell a ship on over the blackmarket, it would have to be at a low price, and that would get around the problem of the ships being worth too much. It may be worth 50 million, but if you can only sell it for 5 million. It's still much more than doing missions...but then you have the other problems associated with it (mortgagors coming to claim the ship back and kick your ass for interfering with their income, why should someone with a stolen ship pay it back after all, what will they reposess?)
Captures ships getting 10-20 percent has been mentioned a few times in this thread. And with the slow commo and travel in the OTU setting Repothings are not as much of a problem. Just make sure that you either got a good set of new papers or stay out of the 3I with a stolen ship.

Stolen ships resold, reflagged/renamed and then openly operated are a problem in real life. Somewhat reduced these days since most ships are "unique" or "unique to a line/operator" but in the 1950s-70s with the Liberty-Ships and similar "mass produced" units steaming around as tramps that was quite common. So common that it made popular books (Cussler, McLean etc.)

And the Traveller-ships are the ultimate "mass products" being build from century old "standard" blueprints all over a HUGE empire and likely at least one non-friendly neighbor state (Solomanie Confederation)

Granted, you need a new transponder. But those are national things and the new nation will provide one.

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