Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Travellers' Aid

Travellers' Aid Society. A private interstellar organization which maintains hostels and facilities at various starports throughout our Traveller universe.

Travellers far and wide find a sanctuary in the Traveller's Aid Society. If you get membership as a mustering out benefit that's a High Passage every two months. Buying membership is a pricey 1,000,000 cr. But again that is a free first class ticket every 60 days. Not to mention the great food you can get at a cut rate. All this promotes the image of a benevolent organization out to do good
and promote interstellar travel.

Bah. But wait certainly I'm not going to impugn the TAS? That bastion of decency and first rate coffee and donuts?

Do you even read this damn blog?

The Travellers' Aid Society is a private organization which maintains hostels and facilities at all class A and B starports in human space. Such facilities are available (at reasonable cost) to members and their guests.

An organization reaching the length and breadth of settled space has power first of all. We all know what power does. If you're going with LBB 81 or later then the TAS can classify worlds as Amber which ... has many ramifications. It's more than a kindly mom and pop serving coffee and breakfast to weary spacefarers.

Let's look at its finances. You pay your 1Mcr. and get 1 High Passage every two months or six a year. Your membership is costing the TAS 60,000 cr a year. Now if the TAS invested that 1Mcr through normal means they'd get what, 4-5% or 40,000 or 50,000 cr a year? they'd need at least 6% return on that membership fee to break even. Except there are memberships given away pro bono as mustering out benefits. So they'd have to charge even more to cover the freebies. Then they'd have to charge more to cover the hostels and other services. Okay maybe the banks in this enlightened future are super generous and give them higher interest rates? These super generous enlightened banking institutions?

I will wait while the people who have played merchants characters with ship loans stop laughing, wipe their eyes and get oxygen. Breathe fellows.

What I am getting at is Travellers' Aid is a large financial institution able to 1) get a large return from the membership fees and or 2) has many sources of revenue besides the membership fees. Neither has to mean they're a front or criminal in nature. Just that there's a lot more to the TAS than that hostel. they could own banks to operate a money exchange, arrange letters of credit and handle financial matters for travellers of every stripe. They already have a ton of publicity. 

When I started writing this I thought "Maybe they're the ones who arrange ship loans?" First they sell you the ship and then they insure passengers through high passage tickets. They make far more than six points on the memberships fees by investing them in ship loans. But the math didn't seem to add up. It takes @ 37 memberships to purchase a Free Trader. That A2 will bring in 1/240 of this in payments per month or 152,000 cr. In two months you get about 300,000 credits but have to pay out 370,000 cr in high passages. You lose about 70,000 cr. on a membership every two months!

So whatever the TAS is investing their fees in is more lucrative than ship loans. Speculation, stock, terraforming projects, belt mining. The mind boggles.

Another pause to let the merchants begin breathing again.

But wait there's more!

The Amber Zone system is regarded as part of the Third Imperium setting by some but it's too good an idea to abandon. Consider it for what it is a travel advisory system. The TAS must write up a lot of those, be a sort of Zagat of the stars. How much is it worth to you to have your planet get a god review. True most planets are already green zones by definition but there are different shades of green. How green do you want to be? TAS can put a few words in the right ears and send the tourists and merchants your way.

TAS facilities are located near the starport, not in it. This may seem strange for a multi-sector organization, but it indicates the Society must have a relationship with the local government. The exact relationship of the TAS to the planetary government is up to the referee. In other words the ref decides who pays who to keep business running as normal. If the planet needs offworld trade badly you might have special forces descend on your for pinching a donut from the buffet without paying. Or the TAS might not be the place to hide out when you can't reach your embassy as it is already being watched. The TAS might also do a profitable sideline in snitching on captains who are skipping out on payments for rewards or running their own repo service?

Maybe the TAS is selling refined fuel to the starports? After all 500 credits a ton for what is essentially filtered hydrogen is pretty lucrative. Yes a ship to scoop the stuff involves crew, salary, maintenance etc. But on planets with a hydrosphere you'd just have to run lines from the beach to your refinery and cryo tanks (I know still some overhead but way less than a ship's.)

My last post delved into buying flight plans if you couldn't afford a Generate program yet. I think generating flight plans (or jump tapes as my gang called them) is an appropriate side line for the TAS. In fact perhaps a ship's captain with a TAS membership could exchange his high passage dividend for a single use flight plan. 

As a final note on the power of the TAS, it's at every A and B starport. It operates hostels with the auspices of the locals. It hears from all sorts of travellers and hears all manner of stuff. Do you really think those patrons find adventuring groups through blind stinking luck? Nope. the last stream of revenue: finding adventurers to order for 10% of their pay (paid by the patron of course).