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Piracy: The socioeconomics of Piracy within Charted Space have long been controversial.

Description (Specifications)[edit]

Is Piracy Possible?:
OOC: Piracy is a vexed subject in Traveller.

Canon makes it clearly happen, but the mechanics of profitable piracy just aren't that easy, given Traveller rules and what we can extrapolate from current physics.

Further Discussion[edit]

Pirates are a part of the Traveller milieu; they appear in Book 2 of the original set. In a frontier zone, it is clear pirates could function. In a core area, though, piracy would be fairly easy to suppress.

The problem is that a pirate must have a base of some sort. Privateers have a de-facto base in the principality that issued the Letters of Marque. For goods taken, it must have a market. If they go all the way to taking ships, they need a place to sell them, or refit them to fighting use.

So, we can assume the ability to find wandering planets, and set up pirate bases on them. There, they would transfer the goods taken in piracy to merchant vessels not noted as pirates, and the merchant would sell them as normal speculative goods.

The existence of speculative goods, and large variance in law levels, means that a merchant selling a cargo is no big deal, so unless the cargo is unique in some way selling it would be simple.

So, what of ship title, and so on? Pirates who took ships in a "civilized" area must somehow forge new transponders, or scavenge them from boneyards, derelicts, and so on. They would have to replace the transponders, come up with some forged log to make it plausible for the ship to be where it is, and so on. A good distance for the forged port of manufacture or transfer would be something like 2 months away by X-boat, an expensive message to send just to check on a random trader appearing at port. There might even arise a black market in transponders for common ship classes. Rare ships, unique ships, and so on would have to be transited to about 30 parsecs from the location of its former activity. Setting up so many pirate bases to be able to do that would be prohibitive, so those flying a custom ship are probably safer from seizure of the ship by pirates.

Now the third piracy income stream - kidnapping and ransoms. First, care must be taken to assure you don't let on where your base it to the targets. So, you would want to "disappear" the people for a few weeks. Then, you want to bring them to either their destination or origin, or where the personage tells you to contact their friends or relatives. The hazards are in setting up the handoff; in taking the risk that the contact information is going to lead to a private investigator tracking the pirate to his or her lair; and, of course, pissing off someone with enough power to get the military searching for wandering planets and checking them for pirate bases, ruining the whole setup. The perfect targets are the social standing 8-9 mid-level execs and military personnel, with fairly deep pockets but not enough clout to trigger the full-on military response.

Piracy without a base would be limited to stealing the cargo and staying ahead of the reports. Perhaps even kidnapping, if done right and the crew is willing to risk it.

History & Background (Dossier)[edit]

Sunbeard Declaration on Piracy: The below is the Sunbeard Declaration, the peace statement authored by yours truly, Ian Whitchurch, that just about everyone signed up to at the end of the Great TML Piracy Flamewar of 1997-98.

  • 1. Mainworlds, with either significant trade or significant economies, can and will defend their space out to about their 100-diameter limits.
  • 2. These anti-pirate defences will make piracy in and around mainworlds unprofitable.
  • 3. These anti-pirate defences do not extend to the entire system.
  • 4. Most career pirates concentrate on the unsafe outsystems.
  • 5a. Shippers apply risk premiums to trade with either unsafe systems or outsystems.
  • 5b. A corollary of 4. and 5a. is that Outsystems will tend to remain underdeveloped, as they cannot develop until they are secure, and they are not worth securing until they are developed.
  • 6. Merchant ships specialising in trading in safe areas tend to be lightly armed or unarmed.
  • 7. Merchant ships specialising in trading in unsafe areas tend to be heavily armed.
  • 8. The best markets for stolen starships and cargos are in other states, however unsafe areas will buy commodities they know to be stolen at heavily discounted rates.
  • 9a. Pirate ships will tend to be converted merchants, as unsafe areas tend not to be profitable enough to justify custom-built warships.
  • 9b. Safe areas tend to be too dangerous for even custom-built warships to operate in for long enough to defray their build costs.
  • 9c. Pirate warships may exist from mutinous or rebel crews.

References & Contributors (Sources)[edit]

This list of sources was used by the Traveller Wiki Editorial Team and individual contributors to compose this article. Copyrighted material is used under license from Far Future Enterprises or by permission of the author. The page history lists all of the contributions.