Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Servicing the Passengers

Captain was not a morning person and it was always morning on some planet out there. He stumbled into the galley and grabbed a preloaded a cup of steaming coffee, black ad hell, sweet and love and strong as death.

Their last passage had been an uneventful passenger run to Inerze. There were quite a few high passengers and they kept all the crew hopping. everyone was sleeping in today in a lazy far orbit. Ah well ... he should get this part over with. Captain pulled a large and thick envelope out of the pocket of his robe.

Was it the rustling of the paper, some sixth spacer's sense, teleportation? His crew magically appeared.

Only jump drives and tips allowed faster than light travel.

***

In most classic SF games tickets on a starship are fixed prices. You get middle passage for 8,000 credits. You get high passage for 2,000 more credits. Middle passage means you may have to share a stateroom or even get bumped off your flight if someone shells out for a high passage ticket. More to the point, a high passenger can displace two middle passengers on a full ship. This forces the captain to rent space for 10,000 credits once instead of 8,000 credits twice and they really don't like that.

But let us say that tickets are indeed fixed in price. This could be a measure to keep small freighters in business and thus paying their mortgages. Not all ships however are equal. A trip on a crowded tramp freighter is a far cry from a dedicated mega liner. A mega liner also needs more money to stay in business.

More to the point, a ship's ticket price (and freight rates) should be based on the ship's monthly costs. However, this would soon doom the little guy. Little guys have mortgages and low volume of traffic. So tickets and freight rates are fixed.

That levels the jump field against the big guys who are left with political influence, first choice of crew, money to buy out their competitors and strangleholds on shipping contracts.

So the mega liners can offer more for the same price. There can be stores onboard, casinos, spas. You could imagine what those cost but they aren't included in the price of passage.

Below the mega liners we have the dedicated people movers. Not as posh perhaps, but clean and comfortable

At the bottom of the food chain we have the ships likely to be owned and run by player characters (bitch all you want, you know I'm right). Most of these ships have any passengers wanting to step outside for a breath of fresh air ... knowing that it's vacuum outside ... without a space suit.

At worst they are cramped with no amenities and a single part time steward ("I ain't making you a cup of tea, I gotta man this turret!").

When your passengers are the crew they are going to be scurrying about trying to get those passengers. If you're using Cepheus Engine each stateroom costs 500,000 cr. plus 400,000 cr. for the hull enclosing it. That's 3750 cr. worth of the ship's mortgage every month. PLUS 1000 cr. for life support costs.

Retail practices suggest that trying to cut prices is a losing game. It might not even be possible if ticket prices were fixed by law for whatever reason. When small retailers are faced with larger and more efficient corporate rivals the big guys can go much lower making profit by volume or just eating a loss long enough to drive the little guys out of business. In the case of fixed prices they could offer better food and accommodations with extra fees of course.

What the smaller operations can do is cater to their clients individually. This can be meals (they laughed when I took/rolled up Steward three times!), workouts (are any crew members skilled in unarmed combat captain?), or running errands (you want to borrow my gig to take what where for who?)

Small operations will go where the big boys will not. Perhaps there's not enough traffic to justify a regular passenger line to a planet off the beaten path. Perhaps it's too dangerous, being rife with pirates, or a region causing misjumps.

Big shipping lines are also leery of dropping off passengers or cargo in warzones. They also frequently ask troubling questions, troubling if you're a fleeing felon or small time smuggler. If you're a big time crook or government  or military they look the other way.

Finally a small freighter is just the thing if you're traveling incognito or shipping a cargo on the down low. For that matter some cargos are very off putting if you're a wealthy shipping line, like venomous beasts or radioactive material or explosives (c'mon what could go wrong?) In fairness such hazardous or live cargos (sometimes that's both) will command higher shipping prices (5,000 to 10,000 credits per ton if you can prove your referee is reading my blog).

Then there's tips. A few hundred to a few thousand credits per crew if we're talking high passengers (Rick Stump noted in his blog that high falutin' living cost a mere 10,800 cr. annually, people traveling the 'lanes have some serious cash or are desperate and will pay you to keep your big mouth shut.) Imagine, money for roleplaying! That usually involves people shooting at you, outstanding warrants, and possible iron bars on the exits.

For a crew starting out, that can't be choosy, the adventures write themselves.