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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: the Sgt. Major's Daughter

One, two, three and a quarter,
I got a date with Sgt. Major's daughter
Sgt. Major, he's a sucker
He doesn't know that I'm gonna SOUND OFF!
One, two...
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Lighters are cargo haulers over 100 tons that are used for in-system freight transfer. While many cargo concerns use the Lighter Aboard Ship (LASH) method -- think a freighter version of a Battle Rider -- some ships, like subsidized merchants, are too small to use such a dedicated vehicle and yet too slow to make it to a starport in a timely manner if they are on a tight deadline.

This is where Lighters For Hire come in. An LFH is a fast system ship with ample cargo space which provides a variety of services:
  • Delivering refined fuel and/or life support supplies 
  • Picking up cargo at the starport and hauling it to the merchant ship
  • Picking up cargo from the merchant ship and delivering it to the starport
  • Delivering passengers and/or swapping out crew

In return for the convenience of delivering cargo to/from the merchant ship at high speed, the crew of the LFH typically charges an additional 10-20% of the going rate for such goods and services. While charging 2,000 credits for delivering 13,000 Cr. worth of life support may seem excessive, consider the following:
  1. Given the distances involved, a secure lasercomm to the highport is unlikely. Therefore, requests for LFH services must be transmitted "in the clear", where anyone can listen. 
  2. Any pirate listening in will now know that valuable cargo is being delivered to X location at Y date along Z vector, which places the lighter crews at substantial risk. 
  3. Therefore, the price is driven by a combination of "risk of piracy" and "paying off the arms and security put into the LFH" in order to make the profits worthwhile. Naturally these are all complicated factors, including how long the lighter is in transit, if it has to traverse areas of questionable safety, if the entire thing is a scam engineered by pirates to have loot deliver itself, etc. 
So at this point you're probably wondering "Why would any crew work aboard a Lighter For Hire in any system that isn't pirate-free and patrolled to a fare-thee-well?" And the answer is
  1. There's more profit in it, and
  2. Some NPCs become adventurers, too.
In other words, "That is totally a player character thing to do," and it gives the GM a chance to use old PCs to crew a ship that their current PCs might run into... such as Sgt. Major's Daughter, a Lighter For Hire that started life as a Recovery Ship (Mongoose Starports, p.105) but had its jump drive removed and its system upgraded in a way that only other PCs would do. It is piloted by a retired scout, commanded by a retired Navy officer, has its cargo handled by a retired merchant, and whose security is run by a former Marine with combat armor and high marks in Vacc Suit, Zero-G and Gun Combat. 

Art by the amazing Ian Stead.

Are you getting a strong Firefly vibe?  Good, that's by design.

The fact that this quiet little ship also makes a dandy little pirate of opportunity?  Totally a coincidence.

(Want a nastier ship? Use a Khoghue Armed Junker instead...)

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