Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Split for Bigness: Trading Without A Starport

Hang out away from port, and hail a merchantman... or do it on your way in or out of system. Or hover 'round the gas giant. Roll for reaction: Type S, A or R vessels will be willing to make a courtesy call on a 10+, and that may bring an opportunity for trade. Thing is, port authorities don't like this, so you can't do it near port: you have to go out in the sticks, and everyone gets skittish. A hostile reaction will be just that, because either a) they figure you're a pirate or b) they figure you're an easy mark. Encounters with patrol ships will tend to be adversarial as well. Also, it's not unheard of that a friendly drink in the other ship's ready room turns nasty. Also, goods sold this way are probably stolen, and almost never have proper documentation.
Now, it does occur to me that "pirate" encounters have pretty much ended up being death sentences for my characters most of the time. But pirates are pariahs: they can't just sail a corsair into port and unload all their undocumented cargo. They really can't sell on the open market what they steal. So they need to convert their booty to cash. The luckiest of hapless merchantmen might be the venue for this.

If I go by reaction rolls, though, I might consider this
A) Hostile = attack, possibly with intent to take the whole ship.
B) Middle-range reaction = robbery with threat of violence (shut down and heave to: anyone sneezes and we're back to option A); forfeit will be any cash aboard, weapons, life support supplies, cargo, even ship's armaments and supply tools. Basically, everything that isn't nailed down and can be pried up.
C) "Captain, I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse." A very positive reaction might mean an offer to trade:  their stolen cargo for your legitimate cargo (this is the way we launder our money, launder our money, launder our money...) Of course, this is also under threat of violence, so if you don't do the deal, this could devolve to a type B encounter, which could devolve to A. It'a not a good bargaining position to be in. It strikes me that the best case scenario for the merchantman would be on the order of receiving stolen goods valued high, for an equal value of the merchant's goods (valued low.) The pirate gets legitimate cargo for nothing. The merchantman keeps his ship, but has to figure out how to recoup on his stolen cargo.

Stolen cargo: more on that later.


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