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Cost of services in the Horizon

We started a Coriolis game and soon the introduction adventure will be over and we will move to the following events that for good or bad will include some downtime. The players are planning to do side jobs to earn birrs, such as offering pilgrim and trade goods transportation between the systems while they are traveling to their destination and etc. And it makes sense, those ships are expensive. The characters in Firefly and The Expanse series do the same for example in the downtime (or carousing phase… if we use the Conan 2d20 term :slight_smile: )

The problem is that in the Coriolis books, there is nothing that really helps us judge the cost of services and how much a mission of specific type will cost. The Atlas compendium has rewards tables, but no numbers are specified. The core rulebook has a lot of items that we can extrapolate the cost of some things, but in general some numbers make no sense as everything is abstracted to various degrees.

Is there something done by the community to help the fellow players and game master? :slight_smile:

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“Travel broadens the mind even as it empties the purse…”

It’s a great question. I needed to work up some prices for things my players might want to do with their ship (Scarab Class). Here’s what I found…

First of all, I’m not looking to provide my players with a full on “Space Trucker” experience. I’ve played too many games of Traveller involving spreadsheets to calculate fuel costs, maintenance, etc. I’m running a narrative game. But I do want to figure out reasonable economics so I’m not allowing my players to become unduly wealthy by taking routine transport jobs. I want them to jump when someone offers them more coin to do something dangerous/illegal/special. To do that, I need to be able to say, “Fasil’s offer represents a month’s worth of transport jobs, assuming there’s even work to be had in this system.”

I realize that for ferrying passenger or hauling cargo, the price may fluctuate depending on where one is in the Horizon. Perhaps it’s cheaper in frequently travelled routes - those travelled by bulk haulers and large passenger liners - and more expensive when the destination is less frequented?

As a guide, the standard Scarab Class freighter (page 156) has space for five passengers (10 cabins minus 5 crew members), plus 100 tons of cargo in its two holds. The stasis module has 16 beds, but 10 of those would be needed for the crew and any passengers using the cabins.

The maintenance costs (page 155) range from 775-2,900 birr, depending on where you are in the Horizon, and if I’m reading the book correctly they should be performed after every portal jump. As noted above, there’s also a cost for astrostradium updates and the jump calculation (5,000-10,000 birr - which the crew of a small ship like a Scarab Class would likely want to split with several other ships as part of a convoy - let’s call that 500-1,000 birr on average). Anything else? Docking fees for a portal station or a spaceport?

Also, the core book suggests (on page 106) that living expenses will run approximately 500 birr per person per month in an Ordinary Tech environment, assuming a spartan lifestyle. I assume that’s the minimum for a crew member, although most crew will want to enjoy a “normal” life, which would double that. So, let’s call that 5,000 birr per month for the crew.

Finally, each trip with a mostly full ship - say, 75 tons of cargo and three passengers - should turn a small profit, after wages, to put money towards paying off the ship and/or major repairs, replacement parts and upgrades. What’s the timeline for paying off a ship? Is it a 10-year proposition? 15? 20?

The standard Scarab Class freighter costs 1,450,000 birr to buy. If memory serves, it’s assumed the crew still owes half that price - so 725,000 birr. I’m going to assume that’s calculated to include any interest payments, or that their patron has given them an interest-free loan in return for their loyal service and future considerations. That works out to about 8,055 birr per month based on the nine-month Icon calendar. Plus 5,000 per month for crew equals 13,055 birr per month in fixed costs. Let’s call it 15,000 birr per month, to add almost 2,000 birr to the kitty for spare parts. I’m going to further assume another 9,000 birr per month for portal jumps, maintenance fees, docking, etc

Another assumption: as a self-employed person I know I spend about 2/3 of my time looking for work or doing all those things that are required to run a business. So I’m going to use that as my basis. Given that the Coriolis month has approximately 36 days, that means a freighter crew would be earning approximately 12 days per month. So, they need to earn 2,000 birr per working day for costs.

Finally finally finally…

If the crew charges 175 birr per passenger per day of travel, plus 20 birr per ton of cargo per day of travel, a Scarab Class freighter would bring in 2,050 birr per working day using my many assumptions.

At the Scarab’s rating of Speed 2, an in-system journey from Kua to Jina would take one day of flight plus (let’s say) a day for take-off and landing, cargo loading/unloading, etc., so 350 birr per passenger and 40 birr per ton of cargo.

A journey from the planet Kua to the portal station in system would take 2.25 days. Connecting with a convoy, receiving jump data, and Praying to the Icons would round that up to 3 days. Heading to the planet Caph (in a similar orbit in the next system clockwise on the Dabaran Circle) might be a six-day journey - so cost 1,050 birr per passenger and 120 birr per ton of cargo. Obviously, most citizens in the Third Horizon don’t travel between systems - at least, not as passengers in small private vessels - because even a single hop costs a month’s wages. (The cost for a berth on a 1,000-coffin cabin passenger liner would be much less, but they only ply the major routes.)

The prices I came up with are guidelines. They could vary from system to system - perhaps more for systems where corsairs are known to operate, and less in places where security is excellent and problems are few. The price certainly would vary from ship model to ship model, as each model would have different costs associated with it, different cabin and hold sizes, etc.

Players and NPCs are of course free to haggle the price for passage or transport. Perhaps the players will take pity on a missionary and transport them for less - or maybe in exchange for prayer and work as a deckhand during the voyage. Or perhaps they don’t like the look of the customer and would rather not carry their cargo, so hope to price themselves out of contention.

“It’s gonna cost you extra: 10,000 - all in advance”
“We’ll pay you 2,000 now, plus 15,000 when we reach Dabaran…”

May the Traveller smile upon your journey!

  • Trevor
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What my long rambling reply comes down to is a couple of numbers I can give my players as reference points. They have a ship - therefore, they should have an idea of the going rates for hauling people and goods.

Now that I have a figure, I can figure out appropriate monetary rewards for missions… or opening offers for haggling compensation for services. For example, if the players are approached by someone who wants to hire their ship to transport 10 tons of cargo from Dabaran-A to Coriolis (a 12-day trip), and is offering them 2,500 birr to do job, the players shouldn’t have to look at me and ask “Is that a fair price?” They should be able to do the math and decide for themselves.

It should also allow me to set rewards that help the players decide whether to take a job: “That’s three times what we’d make hauling freight - let’s do it!”, or perhaps even “That’s three times what we’d make hauling freight - what’s the catch?”

I really hope it doesn’t result in spreadsheets - at least not for the players! But I also don’t want to tell them “You must take this mission because you’re running out of money” - because that would be removing some of their player agency.

I’ve been thinking about this since I’ve run Dark Flowers a couple of times. As a one-shot, it’s fine to say “You’ll be handsomely rewarded” but as the introduction to a campaign, I wanted to come up with an appropriate financial reward for taking the job.

This also doesn’t tie my hands as GM. I can always have their patron “request” that they do a job “as a favour to me”. But even then, I needed to know how much it’s going to cost the crew to travel from system to system, so the patron can provide letters of credit or cold hard birr to cover their travel costs.

May the Traveller watch over you between the stars!

  • Trevor
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Many thanks for the awesome replies @Tpm1ca! :slight_smile:

We started thinking in those directions (or at least I and the player who is the ship’s captain) and we came up with Excel files ( :joy: ) where we calculated all expenses that needs to be covered, the hours the ship should operate to sustain the birr flow to pay for repairs, costs of living and the lease. All of course quite generic, otherwise the math becomes crazy and with too much assumptions to be usable.

Still, the overall feeling of the setting is that the economy is undeveloped and flying between stars is not something that happens often for the regular people. The ideas of my crew to always sell tickets for passengers while they travel somewhere won’t work. The way I feel the setting is that jobs are few and far between, probably few per month with proper rewards, rather than uber-style of working. The other problem is that they got a Class IV ship and doubles the base cost with things.

I am considering in the “downtime” between the adventures (I am connecting all published adventures in a nice chain), to roll on their behalf on the tables in the “Atlas Compendium” to just told them how good the month was so they can focus on the macro part of the game, rather than a crazy micromanagement of trade routes and etc.

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That sounds perfect, Valyar.

Yeah - my thought was to assume the group picks up jobs where it can, and that if they stayed on a major route those jobs would earn them roughly 15,000 birr per month, which would promptly get spent on operating costs and living expenses for their class III ship and crew of five. But they’re not Space Truckers - so when adventure calls, they jump at it.

But as a GM, I want to make sure I give them the right incentive to take a mission. If the incentive involves financial reward (eg: In the “Dark Flowers” quickstart, they’re offered money to find out what happened to Shamza and its crew), then I want to make sure I don’t a) offer them too little or b) offer them too much. (In the end, their journey to and from the location for that adventure, plus the adventure time itself, took about a month - an they earned 18,000 birr for it. That worked out to a 3,000 birr bonus for the ship that month.)

As I mentioned earlier, I can now tell the players, “Normally, the going rate for a ship like yours would be about 175 per per passenger per day of travel and about 20 birr per ton of cargo per day of travel.” And with that, I can then role-play negotiations for passage or haulage, and the players can make up their own minds about whether to take on the work.

As GM, I can always introduce incentives, too: “Your gravitron projectors go offline sometimes during hard acceleration: you might have to replace them before Founding Day. And that’s not going to be cheap…”

May the Messenger bring you good news!

  • Trevor
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As you said, most people don’t Portal jump, and Free Traders will use convoys to cut costs.

I like to think that apart from industrial size bulk hauling by the Consortium fleets mostly, trade is more of the Marco Polo kind. Rare spices or minerals, Dabari clockwork wonders, etc. Not potatoes and corn.

Planets will rely on planetside resources for basic needs. Not super expensive intersystem trade.

My point is that the price by the ton of cargo could be quite high for luxury and rare goods. But missions are few and far between, and all or nothing dares. Marco Polo style.

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