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Old July 21st, 2003, 03:45 PM
marcus18 marcus18 is offline
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marcus18 Citizen

First time poster, long time reader.

I'm GM'g a new campaign, and one of my players just received a Letter of Marque. After looking for material online, I banged together a very rough draft of rules and regs for Letters of Marque. (I'm GM'g a MT campaign in 1140, but the basic concepts still apply to most settings, I think.)

I thought I might post it here to get some feedback from the community. Comments and criticism welcome. Be gentle.

Letter of Marque or Reprisal:

Definition: The legalizing and commissioning of private enterprises to outfit and send out armed merchant ships as commerce raiders. Privateers have the legal authority to prey on certain designated shipping (“the privateer’s Mandate”).

Privateering is legal and recognized in the Imperium, although public and military opinion of privateering is low. Privateering is often seen as a “hot war” between rival governments or megacorporations; in addition to capturing cargo or destroying shipping, it drives a competitor’s insurance rates up and undermines reputation as a secure, reliable transporter of goods.

Letters of Marque or Reprisal are issued to governments or megacorporations by Ducal Authority and regulated by the Imperial Naval Office. These Letters can be assigned to certain private individuals or legal entities. Letters must be Registered in the Imperial Naval Office, Ministry of Shipping & Commerce, to an Imperial citizen. Registration requires posting of a Bond to ensure compliance with the Rules of War and Privateering. Bonds are often 1% of ship’s value, though Bond financing may be available through banks or investment houses.

Registration includes installation of Certification software at the level of Ship’s General Registration Information (GRI Code). Cert Soff allows broadcast of official identification as a registered privateer. Privateers can send Official ID broadcasts to opposing ships to compel surrender. Official ID info must be presented upon boarding. If requested, ID must be sent to Imperial Naval ships, although, as an element of GRI Code, Cert Soff can be remotely accessed by Imperial Naval ships.

Registration details include Ship Specification (laid down, owner, crew, ship systems & weapons details), Declaration by privateer captain of Adherence to the Rules of War and Privateering, Mandate setting out Legitimate Targets (ships of governments or megacorporations that may be engaged). All privateer ships must carry current information on megacorporate structure (parent corporations, subsidiaries and affiliates) so that Legitimate Targets can be properly identified. N.B.: Molesting or attacking a ship that is not a Legitimate Target will be considered an Act of Piracy, and prosecuted as such.

Note: Naval ships are ill-disposed towards privateers and, though they cannot officially interfere with privateer engagement, will often demand broadcast of ID at an inopportune time (eg: during combat), to the detriment of any privateer ship that does not have maser or laser comms.

Right of capture and salvage: Privateer may retain prize and prize goods (ship, cargo) to be sold in market. Privateers must pay 10% of prize to authorizing megacorp or government, in addition to any local or Imperial taxes. Insurance is not available to privateers.

Imperial systems must recognize the right of privateers to engage in privateering. However, privateering is not allowed within 50 diameters of starport’s world, or within traffic controlled area of an asteroid/planetoid-based starport.

Privateers are often disliked around starports, and will find themselves discriminated against at repair, resupply and recreation facilities. Privateers make many enemies and few friends; enemies include members of victimized megacorporations or governments, captured ship’s crews, governments of worlds where privateering is practiced (due to consequent reduction of shipping, economic reprisals from megacorporations & governments, etc), starport officials and other business owners who rely on ship traffic, many the Imperial Naval crews (who detest piracy) often called upon to aid striken ships.

Known privateers often find that, though their actions are legal and acknowledged by Imperial society, they are treated little better than pirates at Imperial starports. For all this, successful privateering can be amongst the most lucrative, if dangerous, occupations: seized cargoes usually find a buyer, and captured ships can legally be sold at auction (unlike vessels captured by pirates).

Some privateer’s have made a virtue out of a vice, arriving in a starport with outlandishly painted ships (complete with Skull & Crossbones), trailing a captured vessel, advertising their victories by spraying their hulls with “kill marks”, buying rounds of drinks at a starport bar after auction, even contributing a percentage of profits to charities such as the War Widows’ Fund. Several popular netvid programs include the adventures of privateer ships.


Rules of War and Privateering: 1) During and engagement, all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that opposing crew casualties are minimized. 2) Offers of surrender must be given at the earliest opportunity 3) All declarations of surrender must be honoured. 4) Captured crew must be accorded the protections of the Regina Protocols on Prisoners of War, 1127 (food, shelter, prompt medical attention, repatriation, communication with family members, etc) 5) Captured crews must repatriated to a C+ class starport in an Imperial system within the next jump transit or as soon as reasonably possible 6) Privateers must follow registration and bonding requirements as set out by the Imperial Naval Office, including the filing of reports disclosing all privateering engagements immediately following same. 7) Only Legitimate Targets may be engaged by Registered Privateers. Molesting or attacking non-legitimate targets will be considered an Act of Piracy.

Let me know what you think.
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