Prize Crew are the sophonts which operate stolen or appropriated vehicle, smallcraft, bigcraft, NAFAL spacecraft, or FTL interstellar starcraft, to maneuver them from wherever they are found to a port or other facility where they can be salvaged, sold, or repurposed and properly crewed.
- Almost all crew are considered Spacers, part of a minority of the inhabitants of Charted Space who experience the dangers of space firsthand.
- Most are pirates or privateers. Some are naval or police. Quite a few who consider themselves the latter are considered by others (especially those they take vessels from) to be the former.
Interstellar and intra-systemic vessels require crew for operations. While most ships are designed to be operated by multiple crew, smallcraft and Adventure Class Ships (...and vehicles of similar size and complexity) can be operated by just one or two multi-talented crew, so long as they avoid stressful situations such as combat, or landing on a planetary surface under any but the most ideal circumstances (where autopilot can suffice); in some cases, the ship is even designed to operate normally with just one or two crew. It is not practical to do this on Battle Class Ships or larger without enough automation that the crew is just overseeing things, (usually) able to stop the vessel should things start going wrong (...such as the ship veering off course, or weapons arming).
Ship Seizure Job Tasks
Whether the intent of ship seizure is criminal or government-sanctioned, the job is roughly the same:
- Gain access to the vehicle.
- Gain access to the control mechanisms of the vehicle.
- Gain control over the vehicle's operations.
- Pilot the vehicle to a prearranged safe destination.
Prize Crew Roles
Prize crews must be able to fulfill, at a minimum, the roles of pilot, astrogator if taking starships from systems other than the crew's home port, and usually also engineer. Such individuals normally command a high salary in normal crews, and must usually be promised comparable pay to serve as prize crew. There are several exceptions, such as when some cultural or social aspect would deny them fair pay on a normal crew, leaving prize crew as the only fairly paid option.
Aslan Prize Crews
For example, the Aslan Hierate tolerates (but does not openly discuss) male Aslans learning normally-female-only astrogation and engineering skills so as to operate Adventure Class Ships, but to be employed for them (which employment as prize crew would entail) is regarded as unthinkable. While piloting is normally a male-only skill, female Aslans have some ways to socially justify learning it (especially in the non-combat context a prize crew expects to operate in), so most known Aslan Hierate prize crews are female. No small number liken their jobs to hunting, in an attempt to further legitimize their career.
Robot prize crews have been tried, with mild success though greater vulnerability to unanticipated problems. Within a single system, an autopilot can take a ship (with functioning maneuver drive and power) to a designated berth on a designated port, assuming no hazards. When jumping to a nearby system, the variability (in time and place) of arrival and other factors mean a more reliable automated approach is to program the ship's computer to initiate jump, with coordinates fed from an astrogator nearby but outside the jump bubble, and then be open to remote control (to bring it in for landing or docking) from some agent on the far side of the jump, who is expecting a ship and has the control codes the ship will have been given. While this still requires a multi-talented crew to set up and plug in the autopilot, said crew does not have to personally travel with each ship, making this useful if the crew has other business in the system, such as seizing multiple ships at once.
For almost as long as there have been vehicles and the concept of ownership, there have been those who would steal vehicles. For almost as long as there have been vehicles and governments, there have been governments which confiscate vehicles as property in some cases, and require public servants to move those vehicles away from their former owners. Both cases see the advent of "prize crews", usually individual sophonts able to defeat security mechanisms and operate a vehicle.
Throughout history, vehicles have tended to be significant investments of capital; this is just as true of starships during the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Imperiums. Moving them without the consent of the owner therefore tends to result in armed expeditions to recover said stolen property.
This means that prize crews largely boil down to three types:
- Government-funded and protected, seizing vehicles as part of some legal procedure (usually punishment for a crime, sometimes part of taxation or fee payment), who often travel with police escorts to deter any immediate retaliation.
- Privateers who deliver to the government employing them, who provide their own protection and/or rely on stealth.
- Small time operators, usually relying on stealth.
The latter category is by far the most numerous - and notable, as they tend to quickly arouse a response from whatever government is protecting those the ships were taken from, if there is any. Further, it is often difficult to sell a stolen vehicle, so they must usually scrap it for parts (dramatically reducing the value obtained). Profitable operation of a stolen spaceship, or any vehicle of significant complexity, requires maintenance; most starports capable of doing this have a list of known local stolen ships, and a vested interest in reporting any sightings of ships on that list, so any stolen ship will be limited to operating out of ports that will not report (often just a single port - if the pirates are fortunate enough to even have one - and then only until the local authorities crack down on it). Most pirates are better advised to steal only cargo, limiting their predations to what their prey's insurance can cover.
- . (, 2016), 20. (minimum crew requirement)
- . (, 2017), 68-70 Book 2. (Aslan skills)
- . (, 2019), 108-110 Book 1.
- Traveller Wiki Editorial Team
- Author & Contributor: Adrian Tymes
- Author & Contributor: Lord (Marquis) and Master of Sophontology Maksim-Smelchak of the Ministry of Science