Second Hand Starships

The topic of buying used starships came up during a Traveller Facebook Group discussion recently and it got me thinking about what sort of trade-offs one might make if one picked up a slightly used ship.

Firstly, price. Most merchant or “Adventurer” class ships are financed over a 40 year period. It might be possible to pick up a second hand ship part way through this payment cycle and continue on with the payments, or the ship may have been seized for debts or other mischief and been condemned by an Admiralty or Prize Court. In that case, the price of the ship may be lower, but the risk of malfunction may be higher, particularly if money had been tight and annual maintenance had been skimped or skipped.

Given a reasonably regular maintenance programme, there is no reason why a ship might not continue in service for well over a century. Like Grandad’s axe, we might replace the head a couple of times, and replace the handle a couple of times, but it would still a good axe. The most likely case for scrapping a ship is if its hull was no longer capable of withstanding the stresses of atmospheric  re-entry. And even then, in backwater systems, it might be possible to find semi-gutted merchant starships relegated to insystem haulage duties – dragging supplies and raw materials from gravity well to gravity well, only semi-pressurized and partially flare shielded.

Ships for sale at A and B Class Starports are more likely to have current registrations and be up to date with their maintenance. Though, if one is looking for bargains, and considers maintenance regulations more of a guide line, then it is still possible to pick up an inexpensive junker. In all cases, the ancient concept of caveat emptor – buyer beware – still holds sway.

Age of the Ship
2d6Age of Starship
2Ship is 2d6 years old
3Ship is 10 + 2d6 years old
4Ship is 20 + 2d6 years old
5Ship is 30 + 2d6 years old
6Ship is 40 +2d6 years old
7Ship is 50 +2d6 years old
8Ship is 60 +2d6 years old
9Ship is 70 +2d6 years old
10Ship is 80 +2d6 years old
11Ship is 90 +2d6 years old
12Ship is 100 + 2d6 years old

Determining the Ship’s Age helps determine the Ship’s Base Price. Base Price = Ship’s New Price – 1% per year of Age to Age 50 and then 0.5% per year thereafter (so a 50 year old ship’s Base Price should be 50% of the same model’s New Price, while a 70 year old ship’s Base Price should be 50%+ (20 years x 0.5 = 10) or 60% of New Price).

Condition of the Ship
2d6Condition of the Ship
2 - 3The ship is 3d6 years behind in its annual maintenance. Reduce Base Price by 1% per year behind and add three extra rolls on the Quirks and Foibles Table.
4 – 5The ship is 2d6 years behind in its annual maintenance. Reduce Base Price by 1% per year behind and add twoextra rolls on the Quirks and Foibles Table.
6 – 7The ship 1d6 years behind in its annual maintenance.  Reduce Base Price by 1% per year behind and add one extra roll on the Quirks and Foibles Table.
8 –12The ship’s maintenance logs are up to date. No modifier to Base Price.

Any ship behind in its maintenance will have to undergo immediate servicing before it will be permitted to carry freight, cargo or passengers. The annual maintenance cost is increased by 1% per year the ship is behind in maintenance.

+/- 1 per level of Streetwise (the character may opt to either find a cheap ship, or a good ship) on a
successful Streetwise roll.
-1 year of missed maintenance per level of Engineering on a successful Engineering roll (representing maintenance
work an Engineer can carry out with a standard tool kit).
+1 if the ship is for sale at a Class B Starport
+2 if the ship is for sale at a Class A Starport

Quirks and Foibles
Ships are complex machines and tend to develop little eccentricities during the course of their working lives. These quirks are often hard to diagnose, and locate but rarely compromise safety. Roll once on the Quirks and Foibles table for every ten years, or part thereof, of age of the Ship.

Quirks and Foibles
d66Quirks and Foibles
11Power Plant always displays a voltage drop just before Jump and dims all the lights throughout the ship. A service engineer will mutter something about “darn Vilani distribution busses”.
12Manoeuvre Drive becomes sluggish in non-standard gravity fields. Manoeuvring within 10 Diameters of a planet of Size 7 or less or Size 9 or larger becomes one level of Difficulty greater.
13Jump Initiator is laggy. When the Jump Drive is engaged, there is a 2d6 second delay before the Jump Initiator engages and the ship Jumps.
14The Engineering deck is always five to ten degrees warmer than the rest of the ship and the hottest part of the Engineering deck is around the Power Plant.
15Under low power, the port side (or starboard side) Manoeuvre Drive Impulse module vibrates. These vibrations reverberate through the deck plates along the port (or starboard) side of the ship.
16No matter how the Jump Drive is tuned, it always seems to use 2% more fuel than expected per Jump. At some stage, a cross tank pump was installed that makes up the deficit by siphoning fuel from the Power Plant supply. This reduces standard Power Plant endurance from 28 to 20 days.
21The Library Computer is buggy. On a roll of 8+ it will have partially scrambled the particular entry a user wishes to consult. Sometimes, this data is recoverable on a subsequent search, or if the character has Computer Skill.
22The Navigation Computer is buggy. If the Navigator fails a Navigation roll, on 1d6: 1 – 2 the Navigation computer suddenly reboots; 3 – 4 the Navigation computer throws up an error message that requires a successful Computer Skill roll to clear; 5 – 6 The Navigation Computer tape drive shreds any Jump tape in the drive, or suddenly starts spooling madly if there isn’t a tape in the drive.
23The Gunnery Computer is prone to lock up. All Gunner Interact and Targeting programmes will crash if they have been used together for more than 1d6 combat turns. Turrets will still function under local control.
24The Life Support Computer is prone to flagging errors. On 7+ on 2d6, these are false errors, otherwise they are actual errors. On 1d6: 1 – 2 Carbon dioxide levels in crew quarters are dangerously high; 3 – 4 atmospheric humidity controls default to Bwap-comfort levels; 5 – 6 Oxygen levels begin to drop to planetary Thin Atmosphere classification.
25The Ship’s Artificial Gravity will start to fluctuate. It will cycle either up or down from Standard Gravity, one Planetary Size Band per 1d6 minutes over the course of 1d6 hours before resetting to Standard Gravity. The effect can be ship-wide or localised.
26The Galley Entertainment module will spazz for 1d6 minutes every 1d6 hours. During this time, the tri-D viewer will play random files from all directories, the lighting module will fluctuate, and the audio module will cycle through random audio files while the volume fluctuates wildly.
31One State Room is always five to ten degrees colder than the rest of the ship.
32When anyone uses the fresher, the smell of wet locker room permeates the crew area.
33Atmospheric Humidity fluctuates. As more systems come on line, the humidity increases until it reaches Bwap-comfort level. As systems go off line, humidity levels decrease until they reach Deep Desert levels.
34All plant life brought aboard the ship will die within 1d6 weeks.
35The lights in the common areas fluctuate from pitch black to complete white out over a period of 1d6 minutes. This light fluctuation will be triggered by 1d6: 1 – 2 preparations for jump; 3 – 4 enforced system idle time during Jump; 5 – 6 system idle time when the ship is in port.
36The ship’s water supply will become brackish after 1d6 weeks. While not harmful, it will taste unpleasant and be hard on skin and hair. Replacing filters and flushing the system will alleviate the problem for 1d6 weeks, when it will occur again.
41A cabin door will jam half open, or half closed, every 1d6 days.
42Cooking odours from the Galley will permeate the ship for 1d6 hours after any cooking has finished.
43One iris valve sticks. It takes 1d6 seconds longer to fully close or fully open.
44All clothing washed in one of the Galley’s washer units will come out stained slightly pink.
45One cabin always smells slightly of wet fur.
46There is a stain on the deck carpet in the Galley. There does not seem to be a carpet cleaner in Known Space that can remove it.
51One landing jack always leaks fluid from a pinhole in a line up in the gear well.
52The rear cargo ramp is prone to jamming. During extension or retraction, on an 8+ the power drive will jam. It will take 1d6 hours to clear the jam.
53One of the main Ship’s Riding Lights will fail every 1d6 Jumps. If the ship is operating within the Traffic Control Zone of a Class C+ Starport, it will be fined Cr5,000 for the violation and written up. All subsequent visits to that port will attract additional official interest.
54During Jump, an unpleasant odor permeates the cargo hold, contaminating anything stored within. For certain cargoes, this will make them unsaleable.
55The Ship’s sensor array will jam in the deployed position during landing or docking approach every 1d6 port calls. This will delay landing or docking 1d6 hours until the array can be retracted. A successful Engineering roll will reduce the time required by half.
56The main airlock control is sticky. Every time the lock is cycled, on a 2d6 roll of 8+ it will jam. It will take a successful Engineering, Computer or Electronics roll to clear the jam and allow the lock to cycle.
61One turret is always 1 -2 degrees off target when under Computer assisted fire control.
62The truck in the missile/sand hoist for one turret squeaks when in use. This intensely irritating squeak can be heard through all surrounding compartments.
63One turret will always lock-up on traverse if under Computer assisted fire control. It will respond perfectly under manual fire control.
64The Gunnery Station for one turret always smells slightly of vomit.
65Power supply for one turret fluctuates. After 1d6 combat rounds, roll 1d6: 1 – 2 Power drop, lasers cease to function and missile racks fail to reload; 3 – 4 Power surge, lasers fire at double effect and then burn out, requiring an Engineering and Gunnery roll to repair, missile racks cook off, firing their missiles in random directions; 5 – 6 Turret goes offline. A successful Computer or Engineering roll will bring the turret back on line.
66The Manual Fire Controls for one turret are prone to short out. After 1d6 Combat Rounds on Manual Fire Control roll 1d6: 1 – 2 Manual Controls short out, turret off-line for 1d6 hours, reduced to 1d6 minutes on a successful Electronics roll; 3 – 4 Manual Controls short out, turret off-line for 1d6 days, reduced to 1d6 hours with successful Electronics and Engineering rolls, turret operator takes 1d6 damage from flashover; 5 – 6 Manual controls short out, fire at Gunner’s station, operator takes 2d6 damage and turret off-line until serviced at a Class C+ starport.

An older, second-hand starship may be an economical way for a party of Adventurers to get into space, but older ships should also have character.

This article appeared on this blog on 23 March 2014.