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Businesses on Federation Starbase

Hello all

My gamers want to have our next campaign be set on a starbase, mainly because they like the general feel of DS9. But they want this to be on a Federation starbase.

So here is the question.

Given that the Federation is a “post-scarcity” economy, thanks to all of the replicators available, would there even really be businesses, per se, on a Federation starbase, as opposed to just places where you could gather, such as to just pick up some food from a replimat?

On a slightly different tack, if there were shops run by locals (non-Federation, like Garak’s tailor shop, etc.), how might they compete with businesses that don’t charge for their services?

Just a brain teaser

Well, if your players like the general feel of DS9, then there should be “businesses” of some sort. How exactly they’re run and how this ties into an economic system (or not) should be subject to your campaign’s drama (if it is to be defined, at all).

Welcome around! :slight_smile:

The money situation of Star Trek has frequently been a consideration of mine. I have always accepted that it is a “post-scarcity” economy as you have mentioned and therefore the need for the exchange of money for items/services is no longer necessary…but then in the very first episode of TNG (1x01 Encounter at Farpoint), Dr. Crusher looks at a printed fabric and says, “I’ll take the entire bolt…Charge to Dr. Crusher.” So, apparently there is some sort of monetary system employed by the Federation or maybe just Starfleet (seeing as how their folks are often interfacing with non-UFP societies).

Given that, I would think that there would be the opportunity for outside/non-UFP businesses to operate on various starbases, especially those near the borders of the UFP. That way, the other societies are able to increase their potential customer base to a wider variety of folks.

So, how would “money” businesses compete with “Federation” businesses? That’s a good question! If we presume for a moment that what I mentioned above about there being some sort of money system in use at least by Starfleet, it could be that the same is true for any Federation businesses that operate in such close proximity to money businesses. That would seem to help eliminate the distinct advantage that the Federation businesses would have and allow for more fair competition.

Of course, the issue that comes into play is how a typical Federation citizen might come into possession of money if not granted an allowance by Starfleet or some other administrative branch of the Federation for services rendered (such as enlistment in Starfleet). Anyone have any ideas on this point?

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Some things can’t be replicated

  • ancient artifacts
  • works of arts, ancient books, original star trek figurines still packed
  • alcohols (most can, but I don’t think Federation Replicators are good at it otherwise there will be no bar at DS9. Perhaps a Starfleet Regulations)
  • food products from planets (the soil is important, replicators can’t replicate all flavors), and live food
  • live art; klingon opera, poetry, music and everything new and not programmed in holodecks yet
  • special holodecks programs specially made for you and also holodeck time (federation holodeck time is limited there’s room for entrepreneurs)
  • sexual services, real or holo-deck
  • gaming
  • restaurant with more complex recipes than replicator ones
  • pet shop (with tribbles ?)
  • un-replicable materials (dilithium and all that is mined)
  • fashion unique items, body modficatons (starfleet medical will not give you green eyes for your St Patrick Day), Tatoo, body painting

And maybe many more

Ethanol would probably be one of the easier things to replicate, but yeah I guess the flavor from the rest of the alchoholic beverages might be hard to replicate. Replicators really kinda mess things up and aren’t even needed for “post scarcity” kind of societies. One thing I don’t get is how you can “transport” almost everything, complicated liquors, etc, but can’t replicate some things you can transport. The molecular level patterning would basically be the same…

Umm… on to the idea of what the shops could do, I’m sure textured clothing/fabrics might come out wrong, so natural woven clothing/tailor services might be a nice thing to have. Services that only people can do, etc.

Transporters operate at a higher resolution than replicators do. Plus as I recall the replicators do make alterations for nutritional reasons much to Troi’s dismay one afternoon.

You can’t replicate things that aren’t programmed. And I don’t think computers can’t store all different wines, of all years of all planets at high resolution

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One thing to consider is that post-scarcity doesn’t meant that everything is available from a replicator by default, even if the replicator could provide something that might do the job.
You want shoes. Fine.
You want Louboutin red soled, handcrafted shoes. That ain’t coming out of a replicator and the point of it is that they don’t.

So the sort of shops I would expect to see on a starbase, and anywhere else for that matter, are the services (Quarks bar is as much for the ambiance as for the drinks) and the bespoke niche shops like one off jewellery or tailoring.
It may be a lot of them don’t really run them as businesses. More as a place to do a hobby to high level and get the satisfaction of being able to make things that people want.


I would use the scanners of the transporters to create replicator programs for things. Its simple treknobabble.

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  • you need one original
  • you need a good programmer
  • you need to upgrade replicators
  • you need energy permission; transporting a living being as he/she/it was is important and energy is allocated. Making 6 dozens of Mouton Rotshield 1989 isn’t a starfleet priority.
  • Complicaton: making quanum identcal replicates may break the rules of physics of the universe (like transporters replicates but at industrial scale).
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after the spore drive being a real thing, any other limitations imposed by “technology limits” just feel empty.


Complications are just here to help the scenario. What if 2 quantum replicated wine bottles become quantum explosives if mixed together (be careful it will give cheap explosives to your player in the campaign later), or disappear in another dimension that irritate the Q or endanger the fabric of reality.

And don’t forget that Discovery is later in the future.

As CountThalim noted, there is a difference between post-scarcity providing basic needs and providing everything that people enjoy. Just like a boiled 25 cent pack of ramen and an awesome bowl of ramen at my favorite restaurant may both be food. But they are not the same.

There is also a difference between Starfleet and the regular people of the Federation. There are many instances in the series that show that the life experiences and the lives between them are very different. Starfleet personnel live on Starfleet starships. They are members of an elite segment of the Federation living on specialized starships fully supported by the full resources of the Federation. Regular non-Starfleet citizens may not have to worry about food, shelter and even entertainment. But they probably don’t have casual access to holodecks, laboratories or even starships.

If you think about it and watch for it, you will notice a lot of the split between Starfleet and non-Starfleet lifestyles in the shows.


Within The Federation Monetary Economics was always something that was present, but along the lines of an antiquated system practiced by non-Federation cultures, such as the Ferengi, at least with how I’ve thought about it. That said, the Federation does recognize that other cultures still do have some form of functioning monetary economic system and whole considered quaint, they do still teach economics for help in dealing with other cultures. Your mileage may vary. Admittedly, in the 80s, when my group at the time played FASA Trek, our characters pulled down a salary based on their rank. SO my thinking has changed over the changes.

The economy in Trek is still a mystery. Officially, the Federation is a post-scarcity society with no money. People don’t work for money, they work because they enjoy it. That’s why they join Starfleet and that’s why Joseph Sisko has a fully staffed restaurant that apparently does not charge for its services, which in turn indicates that they don’t have to pay for groceries and stuff.

On the other hand, Starfleet officers seem to always have latinum available for gambling and other stuff. I’ve always imagined that the Federation supplies Starfleet officers operating in deep space with sort of an allowance.

This to me indicates that the whole “post-scarcity” society only exists in the core Federation, and the further towards the fringes you go, the less post-scarce society gets. Think of failed Federation colonies, such as the homeworld of Tasha Yar. A far cry from earth to be sure.

So playing on a Starbase in the heart of the Federation would not be optimal. DS9 means “deep space” and I think this is an important aspect of the feeling. You never know what wacky alien might march in to try to sell their strange goods and services. I don’t think it is important if the station is Federation or Bajoran.

If I were to make such a setting, there are some points I would consider:

  • The starbase is located in deep space
  • It needs a strong Ferengi presence
  • It needs to be located somewhere where it attracts travelers or business

The starbase could be located at the border of an anomaly. Maybe a dangerous nebula were the Federation has mapped out a safe path which essentially routes all traffic in the sector through this starbase.

Also I find it nice if you have some other power nearby, which regularly bully the starbase. Maybe the starbase is not the most important one in the Federation, as such they have to make due with what they have.


I think among the Federation citizens, shopping is more about personal aesthetics and experience, rather than needs. So there’s still a large market or demand for “Stuff”. As for replicators, I see the following as inherent limitations to the technology that may affect how business operate in the Federation:

  1. Energy cost: There’s an energy loss from replication. This is probably why replicators were rationed on Voyager, much cheaper to power a stove for a few hours than replicate a single potato (Harry had to save up a week of rations to replicate a clarinet). If a starbase has any economy at all, it’s an economy of energy because despite it’s immense size, it still has a finite power source(s).

  2. Diminishing returns: We never see whole starships replicated in Star Trek, they still need to be assembled which leads me to believe the energy cost scales faster than the size of items to replicate. Replication is largely limited to small scale items. Larger items could be relegated to a limited number of Industrial Replicators, if there’s a high demand for utilization there could be a long wait time for orders.

  3. Data storage: It stands to reason that any given replicator, or computer network, would ultimately have a finite limit for storing patterns. Replicators use Molecular-level patterns, they are a mere fraction of a quantum-level pattern. Probably why antimatter and other exotic matter (latinum?) can’t be replicated easily or at all.

  4. Personal preference: Star Trek touches on this a few times regarding replicated food and drink with references to people who “didn’t believe” in replicators, or held that natural foods were healthier, or true alcoholic beverages were superior (It’s not clear if all replicators substitute synthehol, or if it’s just Starfleet, or maybe it’s some Federation-wide legislation to protect Big Beverage). These people are less likely to seek goods from a replicated source.

  5. Intellectual property: In Voyager the Doctor argued for his rights as a creator of fiction. This leads me to believe that Intellectual Property Law still exists in some form in the Federation. What patterns are available in public replicators may often times be “open-source” or “public domain.” Anything else would require procurement from a specialty source (shop).

So this leaves the question: How do businesses work/compete? In light of the above, shops may be more like Boutiques than department stores. Small but specialized establishments: Shops that serve specific IP goods (Think a designer brand store), or custom hand crafted goods (a jeweler or tailor, perhaps), or fresh foods (live foods?). Even services: programming, holography, gambling/games, hairdressing, nail salons (personal fashion is still a thing in Star Trek, they rarely allude to it but it’s there). Also, no two Boutiques would be alike, their offerings may differ in style, culture, aesthetics, and overall customer experience (I certainly don’t expect a Tellarite shopkeep to be as jovial as a Bolian hairdresser).

What does one exchange for these services? Best I can tell, the Federation does have currency but only when dealing with entities that have currency based economies. Within the Federation it’s not openly practiced. Also consider some if not most Federation citizens simply have an interest or passion in what they do, serving customers is its own reward for them.


Disco started pre-Kirk

I’m sure I read/heard somewhere that the Federation use a “credits” system, roughly tied to the additional work you do for the planet/ship etc, so for example if 1 credit = 1litre of standard h2o, it might also =2g of gold, or 5g of titanium, which may be of more use to another civilisation or individual who can use your 200 credits to replicate 1kg of titanium, just enough to finish the casing of the probe they were working on etc

Interesting thread!

I like to think of the Federation’s “monetary” system as a cultural element rather than what we think as a fungible regulated monetary system.

Culturally speaking, everyone in the Federation is raised to believe in giving being greater than receiving. Giving and receiving, whether services or materials, is similar to carbon credits (or offsets). When you receive a service, that is then encoded on something akin to a personal blockchain. No one ever denies you a receivable because you are not balanced on your give/recieve or “overdrawn”. Rather, it is reflective of how much you give back, or “pay-forward” to society. This is always private, a place for you to self-reflect. The only penalty to taking much more than giving is your own conscience. (and maybe your family for some Federation cultures). I could imagine this system being “monitored” by an AI, such that if there is a behavior that rises to extreme, it may mean a visit from a councilor.

When you provide a service, you get a “credit” to your chain. If you create something from your personal talents, say a cloak made by Garak, then that item is a non-fungilble (unique) credit added to your chain. No one can replicate it exactly and Garak will always be credited with having made the cloak, and his customer from receiving it.

To live your life as a giver? Perfectly in balance? Or slide into the photon tropedo casket having taken just a bit more than you have given back? It’s your freewill to decide, but somewhere an AI knows…

This is an outright creepy thought. :slight_smile:
But, to be honest, there’s a lot of creepy stuff into Star Trek, e.g. the “Computer, locate xyz.” command that seemst to be accessible to virtually everyone.