“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!