Spacecraft Classification Societies as Patrons in Traveller
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue.
Author’s Comment: This article began as a posting to the Citizens of the Imperium website in 2020. I would like to thank all those who commented on the article at the time. It has been re-worked as a series of three longer articles at the generous invitation of the editor. This is the last of the three articles. It deals with how Travellers could end up working for a Spacecraft Classification Society as a Patron.
As I mentioned in my first two articles (”Classification Societies in Traveller”, Freelance Traveller #101, Sept/Oct 2020 p.52, and “Classification Society Employees”, Freelance Traveller #102, Nov/Dec 2020 p.38), my last job before the coronavirus, was working for Lloyd’s Register, a marine classification society. This led me to think about an equivalent organisation for spacecraft in Traveller.
Spacecraft Classification Societies (SCS) have to inspect all kinds of spacecraft and are found at all A, B, and C class starports and some D class starports. As I mentioned in my first article. “Any SCS will need a large network of sites over at least a sector of space. These sites will usually be in or next to the starport or shipyard.” There are many ways in which a SCS could end up needing the services of the players. However, in my Traveller Universe, there tend to be three types of mission that a SCS may hire players for.
Types of Mission
One of a SCS’s main duties is inspecting, surveying and testing newly built space craft by performing ‘shakedown cruises’, lasting one to two months and checking all of a spacecraft’s systems. These shakedown cruises usually have one or more SCS surveyors on board. If the spacecraft is under 1,000 dtons, there will normally be one surveyor; for spacecraft of over 1,000 dtons, a team of two to four surveyors are employed.
The surveyors will be supervising the activities of a standard ship’s crew on the spacecraft. Such crews are normally supplied by the shipyard that built the spacecraft, or by the buyer. However, there are occasions when full crews cannot be found. On such occasions suitably experienced and qualified individuals will be hired by the SCS.
Suitable skills include any spacecraft operating and maintenance skills. Examples include: engineering (any), Astrogation, Mechanic, Pilot, Sensors, Comms or Computer. To qualify for a ‘shakedown cruise’ adventure, a player must have at least skill level 1 (Mongoose or classic Traveller rules) in one of the skills listed.
Because such ‘shakedown cruises’ are usually no longer than two months, and carry higher risks than normal space travel, pay for the players should be at least fifty percent higher, to double that listed for normal crew salaries (See Mongoose Traveller (first edition) Core Rulebook, “Spacecraft Operations, p.137).
The second type of mission is only for player groups with their own jump capable spacecraft. A SCS will have operations over numerous star systems, and in class A and B type starports several competitors. They frequently need to transport their inspectors and occasionally support staff to and from different systems to ensure potential and actual customers do not go to one of their competitors. As such, they are often in the market for immediately available starships with one to three staterooms for staff transfers. As SCS staff are used to ‘roughing it’, these need not be high class berths, though a SCS will generally refuse to move their highly-trained and expensive staff via low berths.
Finally, like many other large corporations operating over large areas of space, a SCS will likely be in the market for deniable operatives, for illegal operations against their competitors. This will involve the players meeting their old friend “Mr. Johnson”.
Example ‘Shakedown Cruise’ Mission
Skills required: One or more Spacecraft operations skills, at minimum level 1.
Equipment required: None.
Location: Any system with a class A or B starport.
The good ship Drake Two has just been completed, and needs only the successful completion of its ‘shakedown cruise’ to be then delivered to its new owner. However, due to an industrial dispute at the shipyard, the usual crew are not available, and as the buyer is in the next subsector, it cannot quickly supply the required crew. Hence, Trans Imperium Spacecraft Classification (TISC) is hiring the players to assist its surveyor on the cruise.
The two month duration ‘shakedown cruise’ will involve at least six successful jumps to both test the ship’s systems and deliver it to where the buyer wants it. The players will be managed by a highly-experienced TISC surveyor, Martin Russell.
The PCs’ fee, if requested, will include middle passage back to the system where they were hired.
To minimise the number of non-player characters required, the referee should choose a starship requiring only a small crew. Most of the standard designs listed in the core rules for both classic and Mongoose Traveller would be appropriate. There are several possible directions for this adventure to go:
- All is as stated above.
- The striking shipyard workers are unhappy with the use of “blackleg” labour on this ‘shakedown cruise’. A “reception committee” of strikers are hidden on the ship. Before the Drake Two can make its first jump, they will try and seize the craft. The strikers should equal the players in number, and be equipped with melee weapons and non-lethal weapons such as stunners, stunsticks and smoke grenades.
- As 2., but due to the bitterness of the labour dispute, the strikers will be equipped as well with any legal lethal weapons, available on their home star system.
- There is no strike reception committee, but the ship has been subtlety sabotaged by the strikers. The first ship operation skill rolls the players make will all be difficult (DM -2 as per Mongoose Traveller (first edition) p.48).
- As 4., but to make matters worse the surveyor, Martin Russel, is a ‘by the book’ strict disciplinarian. Any failed skill rolls by the players will lead to reprimands, sarcastic remarks, and (in the case of repeated failures) threats to dump the PCs at the next starport, without being paid.
- All is as stated, except a highly-talented spy or assassin has stowed away on the Drake Two. He/she is hoping to get secretly away at least five parsecs from the start point. Unless the players say there are exploring the ship with a fine-tooth comb, the assassin/spy will not be spotted, in the first two weeks. Later, only little things (like a slight higher oxygen consumption, missing foodstuffs, or a slightly higher than expected ship’s mass) might give the spy/assassin away. The spy/assassin is highly skilled and well equipped with weapons, armour and a vacc suit.
Example Transportation or Undercover Mission
Equipment required: One jump capable ship.
Location: Any class A, B or C starport.
The players are approached by a senior manager with Trans Imperium Spacecraft Classification (TISC), with a job offer. TISC has sent one of their surveyors, Diana Blanco, to a class D starport in the same subsector to survey a just repaired Far Trader, the Boom Boom Five. The surveyor has not been heard from since she arrived, and is now a month overdue. TISC want the PCs to go to the class D starport, locate Diana Blanco, and bring her back.
If asked, TCIS will provide the details that Diana Blanco originated from the D class system in question. She has worked for TISC since she graduated university, and has an excellent work record. The referee may take this in several possible directions:
- The low technology level of the system, a lack of certain parts, and the age of the ship meant Diana Blanco had to order a lot of remedial work on the Boom Boom Five before she could certify it as spaceworthy. Her lack of contact with TISC has been due to no ships calling at the D class starport that were subsequently going to a TISC site. By the time the players have arrived, the job is done and Diana is ready to come back.
- As 1., except Diana refused to certify the repair work. As a result she is being held hostage by the crew of the Boom Boom Five. The players will have to work with local law enforcement and/or armed forces to secure her release. Or do they have the skills and bravery to do the rescue mission themselves? The crew of the Far Trader will be armed and equipped to match the players.
- As 2., except it is the owners/staff of the shipyard at the D class starport who are holding Diana hostage. That the shipyard is owned by the local planetary government, and well-guarded, means the PCs’ task is much harder. Assume guards at any one time at least as numerous as players, and equipped as local army, but it is only a mid-tech level planet. The shipyard is right next to the Imperial-controlled starport.
- The Chief Engineer of the repair yard is also a receiver of “used” parts for a local group of pirates. Diana noticed the carefully hidden serial numbers of parts fitted in the repair match those of the missing Far Trader Little Ship That Could. Her enquiries panicked the Chief Engineer, who had Diana kidnapped. She is being held by a group of pirates/rogues (enforcers) in a disused warehouse in the largest city on the planet. The players will be needing their investigate/streetwise/persuade/recon skills to find Diana. Help will be in the form of all local witnesses, confirming she was last seen entering the repair yard, and the crew of the Boom Boom Five, if persuaded, mentioning she seemed “puzzled” by one of the parts fitted as part of the repair.
- Diana Bianco was an excellent employee of TISC, until she was passed over for promotion. She has taken advantage of being away from her normal place of work to contact the rival Beyond the Claw Spacecraft Services (BTCSS). However BTCSS took longer than she thought to send a representative to discuss her working for them. When the players arrive, the Boom Boom Five will have been certified as spaceworthy a week earlier and left the system. The repair yard, if asked, will show their copy of Diana’s report dated a week ago. If asked they will mention Diana said she was staying on another two weeks, to visit the family and friends she still had on the planet. Only if the players can locate Diana in one week, on the mid tech planet she was born and grew up on, will they be able to stop her “defection”.
- As 5., except the players have been hired by a “Mr Johnson” to pick up one Diana Blanco, and transport her secretly off world to a nearby system with a BTCSS operation. (The PCs do not know they are working for BTCSS.). However, a similar sized team with a space craft similar to that of the PCs has arrived on the same day, to locate missing TISC employee Diana Blanco….
Example SCS-unique Mission
Equipment required: One jump capable ship, due a service or requiring repairs.
Location: Anywhere with a class A or B space port and an office of Trans Imperium Spacecraft Classification (TISC).
While away from their craft and the space port, the PCs are approached by a woman who identifies herself as Mary Alexandra, Subsector Head of Customer Services for TISC. She explains that for the last few months, customers operating similar starships to that used by the PCs have been complaining. The complaints all centre on a TISC office in a class B space port, three or four parsecs away. The complaints are all the same: the TISC surveyor has always demanded what the shipowners consider unnecessary expensive repairs, before granting an annual certificate of space worthiness.
The complaints have become so numerous that Mary Alexandra has begun an investigation, but can find no proof of wrongdoing by any TISC employee. She proposes to hire the PCs and their ship, and have it fully serviced and repaired at this port so that it will pass any reasonable annual survey. The players will be given new ship’s papers showing an overdue annual survey, and will then travel to the class B space port under suspicion, and see if they have the same problem as the complaining customers. They will then report back to Mary Alexandra, by Scout Service x-boat message if necessary due to their craft “failing” its annual service.
If the players seem unresponsive to the mission. Mary Alexandra can offer a free annual service and certification at any spaceport where TISC has an office, for the next two years.
If the players check with the local TISC office they will confirm Mary Alexandra is the subsector Head of Customer Services.
If the player think to ask operators of similar ships if they had problems at the B class space port mentioned, opinions will differ; some mention no problems at all, and others mention the same problems described by Mary Alexandra.
If the PCs check with Mary Alexandra or the Imperial Spaceport Authority, they will learn that there are two Spacecraft Classification Societies operating at the B class space port under suspicion: TISC and Beyond the Claw Spacecraft Services (BTCSS)
Possible directions to take this scenario:
- All is not as it seems. The repairs were reasonable, it’s just that the shipowners in question did not want to admit they were not maintaining their ships properly. The PCs’ ship has no problems being certified. They have a nice, straightforward run, out and back, and will (grudgingly) be paid in full.
- The TISC office under suspicion has only one corrupt surveyor, working with a friend in the local shipyard and splitting the profits 50:50 between them. This surveyor, Deng Ming, will inspect the players ship, and demand Cr50,000 of “urgent repairs” be done. As long as the players do not let slip their mission, they will have enough evidence to get Ming and his partner, Rosemary Carpenter, prosecuted and dismissed. They get their agreed fee and a good reference from TISC, but make enemies in Ming and Carpenter.
- As 2., but all the surveyors and other staff at the TISC office are in on the corruption, along with the senior management of the shipyard. The PCs’ ship will fail its inspection, and be refused permission to leave the shipyard, without Cr100,000 of “urgent repairs”. The PCs’ only way to inform Mary Alexandra of the problem, is by x-boat message (slow), or taking the ship to the rival Beyond the Claw Spacecraft Services (BTCSS). BTCSS will of course pass the PCs’ ship, without any need for repairs. The whole TISC office and shipyard management will be successfully prosecuted. The scandal and the PCs’ involvement in unraveling it will be news all over the subsector.
- As 3., except the local staffs of both TISC and BTCSS are involved in the corruption, as are the senior management of the shipyard, and a few corrupt officers in local law enforcement. If the PCs refuse to pay for the urgent repairs, they will find themselves jailed while awaiting trial for operating a seriously unspaceworthy ship. To alert Mary Alexandra, they will need either to bribe someone to send the x-boat message or escape from the prison, to the Imperial jurisdiction of the spaceport. The players will be involved in months of legal arguments before receiving their due rewards.
- As 2., but the corruption is more subtle. When the survey of the PCs’ ship is complete, it is given a clean bill of health. Deng Ming invites them out for a meal to celebrate. He asks if the PCs have any competitors running similar ships who are “causing them trouble”. If the players answer affirmatively, he will offer to arrange for the competitors’ craft to fail their next annual inspection. The fee is Cr40,000, half in advance half on “delivery”. Unless the players take recording equipment to the meal, they will have no proof of the corruption. It will be their word against Deng Ming’s. If the players ask for time to consider the deal, and contact Mary Alexandra, she asks them to accept the offer. All the players have to do is think of a convincing competitor, and be “wired for sound” at the first pay-off.
- The work is done on the PCs’ ship as agreed. However a successful difficult (DM -2) engineering or mechanic skill roll reveals the ship has been subtly damaged. If the players do not notice, or do not check, their ship will fail its annual inspection, whether this inspection is done by TISC or BTCSS. If a message is successfully sent to Mary Alexandra, she does turn up at the B class space port. However the woman in question looks nothing like the woman who gave them the mission. The players have an unusable ship and now have to work out which of their enemies is rich enough to organise this type of deception. Luckily for them the real Mary Alexandra is eager to help….