Sunday, September 28, 2014

Boarding Actions Part 1: The Science of Making Their Ship Yours

I must confess that I am a semi-retired murder hobo in Traveller (I only off NPCs three days a week now.) The ships were always an important part of the game obviously. A lot of action took place on them. I'm not too crazy about intense pointless combat these days but I had a bunch of thoughts on how taking a ship might look in the game. You might want to look at ( for less violent alternatives first.

Boarding Actions
So you want to take over another ship? Waiting till she's on the ground and the crew is off getting hammered is one way to do it. Oh, you want the ship taken in space? Well most starports would object to people just grabbing berthed ships. The clients are entitled to some security for their berthing fees. Also, many starports are built inconveniently close to naval, marine, and scout facilities and those guys are just plain nosy and intrusive.

What are your reasons for boarding the ship? I compiled the following reasons:
1) economic
2) evidence
3) intelligence
4) survival
5) mistake

Economic- you want the ship and/or its cargo. Please note a Free Trader in the showroom costs you about 37 Mcr. Unless that ship has radioactives, pharmaceuticals, gems, and computers the value of the ship will exceed the value of most cargos. If you have the above in your cargo hold hire some mercs! The ship's value will still be a sizable fraction of the cargo's value.

Evidence- the Steel Remorah was scanned in numerous acts of piracy true. Any navy captain would love to blow that ship to Glory. But what about the crimes you don't know about? The navigation computer might have the coordinates to dens of vice and pirate havens. The quartermaster might have all kinds of records of transactions you need to convict many people. Send in the Marines, do you think I want to be a lousy SDB captain my whole career? I'm in term 4 for GHU's sake!

Intelligence- information of military importance might be in a ship's computer, in the heads of the crew or in the construction of the ship itself.
Survival- your ship is trashed. Theirs is not and they are being unreasonable about keeping it.

Mistake- boarding actions are only as rare as opportunity (much like pirates.) A normally lightly defended ship might be carrying a load of gauss rifles and battledress. It might be hauling a merc platoon to their ticket. How good was your information?

On the defending side there are few reasons to put up a fight.
1) Survival
2) Delaying action
3) Desperation

1) Survival- you have reason to hope if you stay in control of your ship you will survive. This is a much better situation than losing your ship after all.
2) Delaying action- in a large fight some ships will be disabled by others. Some will be boarded while the battle is still in doubt. Holding off the boarders gives you a good chance of keeping your lives and freedom. More rarely help is on the way out of the black.
3) Desperation- this is probably the worst reason and leads to the most vicious defense. You have no reason to believe the bastards are going to let you live but you're going down fighting.

Some captains will try to avoid boarding actions whenever possible. they work on their silky tones to convince the pale faced defenders that surrender is a good option. "We'll settle for your cargo. We only want the Contessa of Andalusia IV. Surrender and you will receive fair and humane treatment; it's a new policy!" They'll settle for you spacing your cargo and such ("Put the Countessa in her monogrammed vacc suit. We're not savages!") Even the Marines use the subtle psychological ploy of hacking resistant people to tiny pieces with their cutlasses to make surrender more attractive.

Even pirates will try to make boarding a last option. They are business men after all. They might allow a crew to board a lifeboat with enough fuel and supplies to reach a safe destination. that also cuts down on naval pursuit. Given the choice of pursuing a ship full of murderous rogues or a ship full of greedy extortionists which do you think receives first priority?

A slight divergence here. Some people may say, but Rob, we spaced all those poor bastards. Who's going to talk? Your crew. When your navigator gets picked up for drunken air/raft driving and the cops find he's wearing the earring of the Contessa of Andalusia IV ... he'll talk. Or the Contessa will (you did ransom her right?) Optionally the cops turn up some cargo from a lost merchant ship in a factor's warehouse. Note that working your crew without leave, killing them and hiring new crew is way beyond murder hobo. Even pirates have some standards.

Similarly merchant crews you spare will talk ("They took the cargo but didn't harm a hair of our heads. They even gave the Contessa back her earrings!")

Cargo can also be insured.

But despite all this for whatever reason you have to perform a boarding action.

More next post.