Free Traders Setup Part 9: Trim the fat

Posted: 24 May 2013 in Settings
Tags: , ,


You’ve now seen the thought and prep work that went into creating the setting; in all, probably about 20 hours’ effort, which is more than usual for me. I can get away with such limited preparation firstly because I’m using existing games and real-world history to do the heavy lifting for me, and secondly because I’m not writing a saleable product, and therefore don’t need to explain things that will be intuitively obvious to my players or myself.

Here’s what the players will get as their handout, which is also pretty much everything I will take with me to sessions except for the character sheets, dice, and a few pages pages of quick reference. Behind the scenes, I’m using the Stars Without Number world tags and adventure seeds to prepare adventures, but the players don’t need to know that.



From Firefly to Futurama, free traders are a science fiction archetype; a bunch of scoundrels on the make, in a ship just big enough to carry them and the McGuffin from patron to doublecross.

You’re Sinbad the Sailor, Marco Polo, Han and Chewie. You’re the crew of the Solar Queen or the Pride of Chanur. You take on anything that isn’t safe enough, legal enough, or profitable enough to interest the big shipping lines. Someday, you’ll make that one big score that lets you retire in style; but for now you need a fast tongue, a fast gun hand, and a fast ship.


  • Available Arcane Backgrounds: Psionics.
  • Available Races: Android, Human (the default), Rakashan, Saurian. Androids may swap Asimov Circuits for another Major Hindrance with GM permission. Rakashans and Saurians hate each other, and are both by turns mercenaries and bandits.
  • Languages: Are boring. This is pulp SF, everyone speaks English.
  • Cyberware: It’s all about the trappings. You levelled up and improved your Strength? Sounds like muscle implants to me, chummer…


This is your standard run; carrying robots and weapons from Uppsala to trade with Kiev for foodstuffs and rare metals, or Lygos for luxury goods (artworks, databases, fabric, jewelry, spices and wine).

(Varan Federation)
Theocracy, Unbraked AI
Sealed Menace, Trade Hub
(Colony of Kiev)
Colonised Population, Preceptor Archive

The Seven Portals
Alien Ruins, Warlords (Rakashan pirates)
(Imperial Ally – for the Moment)
Oceanic World, Pilgrimage Site
(Celestial Empire)
Exchange Consulate, Trade Hub
(Celestial Empire)
Regional Hegemon, Trade Hub

These are just the most important stops on a single major trade route. Expect more worlds to appear temporarily during adventures; they’re always there, you just don’t often have a reason to step outside the starport bar when you visit.

The stretch between Novgorod and Kiev runs between star systems too far apart for normal hyperdrives; fortunately, some long-vanished alien race seems to have had the same problem, and left hyperspace portals bridging the gaps. Ships must fly a predictable course to use these portals, which makes them a favourite hunting ground for pirates. The usual method is to go as fast as you dare, in the hope the pirates can’t match vectors before you jump.


And there I’ll park it for the moment. Normally I would run a solo adventurer through the setting for a while to bed it down and flush out unexpected issues; but I’m very busy at work this year, and haven’t really got the time to do that.

  1. raikenclw says:

    I like it. Sounds very “fast, furious, fun!” Will the PCs start out as Novices? I ask, because ISTR a recent post by someone (I think it was you) saying how Classic Traveller characters – as initially generated – were equivalent to 5th+ Level d20 characters. If you’re trying for a Traveller feel, would you start the characters at Seasoned or possibly Veteran? I ask, because someday I’m hoping to run a Travellerized version of Daring Tales of the Space Lanes (which starts the PCs as Novices).

  2. andyslack says:

    I’d start them at Novice. I always do, regardless of what the setting book says (and Daring Tales of the Space Lanes is one of many product lines which assumes beginning PCs start at Seasoned). I’ve found SW to be very tolerant of PCs who are the “wrong level”, or parties with mixed “levels”, and that works just as well whether the PCs concerned are on the high end or the low end.

    Statistically, though, and assuming no modifiers for range, armour, evasion etc: An average Extra with Shooting d6 hits a target on 4+, i.e. 50% of the time. In a d20 system, that would be hitting on 11+, which is slightly worse than a 1st level fighter in Original D&D, and about the same as CT expertise-1 (58% chance to hit).

    However, PCs are Wild Cards and get a Wild Die. With Shooting d6, they hit 75% of the time, or on a 6+; slightly worse than a 7th level OD&D fighter, and about the same as expertise-2 in CT (which is about a 72% hit rate).

    A sufficiently determined PC could start with Shooting d12 and be about 10th level equivalent, or expertise-3. And that doesn’t allow for them spending bennies to reroll…

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