Not for Trafficking

Posted: 20 March 2015 in Rules

We travel not for trafficking alone:
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known
We make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.
– James Elroy Fletcher, The Golden Journey to Samarkand

What I’m finding is that interstellar trading, simple though it is in the Science Fiction Companion, is very boring for me. You may enjoy it, and if you do, more power to you; it’s just not what my games are about these days.

I spent some time crafting a faster, easier system, and some time researching how contemporary tramp freighters actually operate – mostly on charters arranged by brokers, it turns out; speculative trading of the kind SF RPGs emulate has practically disappeared since (and possibly because of) the invention of radio.

None of that made it any more fun, sadly. So I’ve circled back around to the Daring Tales of the Space Lanes approach; the characters spend a lot of time trading, but that all happens off-camera and generates just enough money to offset the ship’s operating expenses; the players don’t get involved in it.

Since this has been the outcome whatever setting and rules I’ve used since the late 1980s, I’m going to knock trading on the head now; you won’t see it here again.

That does leave me with the question of how much money PCs should reasonably have available, so for the time being I shall adapt the Savings rules from Beasts & Barbarians, summarised and modified as follows:

  • At the end of each adventure, PCs get paid or fence their loot, replenish supplies, and replace lost items.
  • They retain $500 per Rank (more than in B&B because the SF PC tends to have more, and more expensive, gear) for emergencies. This is adjusted by the Rich and Filthy Rich Edges, and the Poverty Hindrance, as usual.
  • They then spend everything else they made on the adventure before the next one starts – on the traditional “ale and whores”, starship repairs, training, collection of pet fish, or whatever.

I’m also bored by the hyperspace astrogation rolls and variable trip time. Henceforth jumps succeed and take a week each, and we’re not interested in how much of that week is in hyperspace and how much in realspace. So there.

So much for trafficking. On with the lust for knowing what should not be known!

  1. Michael DiBlasio says:


    I like the simple system of $500/rank. I know that you have starship repairs baked-in but have you given thought to starship enhancements? Would you treat the acquisition of, say, smuggling compartments, as an adventure itself or set aside a set amount earmarked for the starship itself? If setting aside, what would be a reasonable amount – $5000?


    • andyslack says:

      I think I’d make it either an adventure itself, or the reward for one. I wouldn’t treat it as something the PCs could just buy.

  2. Brass Jester says:

    You could use Mythic GME here to test for out of the ordinary. Not every time, but along the lines of “I’m cutting every corner I can. Do we get to Mizah safely?” Or “I’m pulling out all the stops here; do we get a good deal on the sale of the gemstones?”
    As you sold me on ‘Night’s Dark Agents’, you could even go down the whole money-less system; if the players need it, they’ve got it (or possibly not got it if it’s a vital spare part – use Mythic again),

  3. Daveb says:

    A nice mechanic for controlling PC’s money. I especially like that there is scope for what the players blow their money on, based on their background, but blow it they will. Also a great side effect is the enhanced function of the rich/poor flaws. Nice work.

  4. rsmsingers says:

    It almost sounds like you’re turning your ship into an Ars Magica covenant.

    • andyslack says:

      Hmm, that’s a game I haven’t played, so I can’t tell. Sure I’ve got a copy somewhere though, maybe I’ll take a look.

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