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I need some advice. I am GMing a game where the crew has made an unexpected move. Faced with pirates and concerned that their ship couldn't take a fight, they decided to let the pirates board. Several pirates boarded with a ship's boat, and the crew has been compliant so far, because they are hoping the pirates will dock their main ship (they have a nasty surprise for the pirates hiding on board). So I need to know how pirates would operate. The cargo is what they are after, but it is large crates and vehicles that would not fit through the airlock. So would they dock? Or how else would they transfer cargo in space? Any advice would be appreciated.
Avast and welcome aboard young Osborne. Argh and what-ho

All depend on the pirates.
Capt’n Gikur would tell ‘em to heave to and power down completely. He’d send over the launch or cutter with a boarding party and aim all the turrets on the bridge of the captured ship.

Option one. The pirates are only interested in goods. They lock the crew in a secure room and steal anything not nailed down and then depart leaving the ship more or less intact and the crew alive. This gives merchant crews a reason to surrender if they figure they can escape with their skins. (Doing 2D x1000 credits in incidental damage.)

Option two. Same as above but they also take anyone with a SOC of “A” or higher hostage for ransom.

Option three the pirates want the ship and its cargo. A prize crew will board and the current crew gets spaced.

Or you could have the pirate captain roll 8+ with modifiers for his intelligence an see if he smells a trap.

Personally like it when not every situation is life threatening. Pirates are IMHO after easy cash. If the merchant crew co-operates then that is one more ship you can steal from again in the future.

Really though do what is good for your story. If it helps move the plot along to have the pirates dock with the ship then have them do it. If not then really stick it to them. Take away all of the good equipment, and even fixtures like a the toilet and food cryochamber.
For me it all has to do with plot.

There's no one answer to that question - you can go pretty much anyway you want with this. There are many, many different views of how piracy operates in Traveller.

One question, first: how did the cargo get on-board if it won't fit through the airlock? There must be some sort of hatch big enough for it to be on the ship in the first place. Evacuate the atmosphere from the hold (most ships have multiple compartments separated by bulkheads), pop those cargo hatches, perhaps turn off the artificial gravity in the hold to facilitate moving the cargo, and move it across. If the pirates do this kind of thing a lot (in other words they're real pirates, not just a desparate merchant who's turned to piracy in a pinch) they'll be experienced at this sort of thing, and probably have whatever is needed to protect most simple cargos for the short transition. Or maybe not and they have to improvise...

Some other options:

- The pirates execute the crew - "Dead men tell no tales." Pretty harsh and not good for the game, so not recommended.

- The pirates incapacitate the crew somehow. A lot of ways to do this: physical restraints (tieing them up or locking them in a storage room or something), drugging them, manipulating the artifical gravity to pin them to the floor (might involve making some modifications to the ship to permit that), securing them in a area and then partially evacuating the atmosphere until they pass out - lots of possibilities.

- The pirates keep the crew under guard. This is a lot riskier for the pirates and ties down some of their personnel, but it offers the crew a better chance to escape.

- The pirates take a hostage (or two, or three). They threaten to start by killing the hostage in some manner almost certain to succeed (gun to the head of a bound vicitm, bomb vest like the one Sandra Bullock wore in Speed, etc.) if the crew undertakes any form of resistance, alerts the authorities, etc. This could be combined with one of the other methods. Likely hostages include children (hey, they're pirates, they're bad guys), a critical member of the crew like a pilot or engineer (depending on the size & type of ship & the crew make-up), or the captain. Evil twist: the hostage gets moved aboard the pirate's boat, or their main vessel, or stuck in a vacc suit and tethered to the hull or otherwise kept apart from the crew.

- The pirates try to recruit all or some of the crew. Again, this could be combined with another option. Prospective recruits get moved under guard to a separate location and kept secure until the operation is finished.

A few other considerations:

- If the pirates have been doing this for a while, they're going to have the obvious ploys the crew may try covered. They won't be stupid. The old "Help, he's sick, open the door!" trick is likely to meet with a sleep gas grenade thrown into the room. They're going to be ready for resistance and will act to bring the crew under tight control somehow very quickly.

- The pirates may also disable key systems on the vessel. They might crash the computers, lock out the bridge or engineering controls, remove or damage some key component, etc. They'll do this do discourage resistance or pursuit.

Random gamemastering advice:

- If one of the characters tries something truly dumb ("I charge the one holding the gauss rifle and attack him with my bare hands,") let the chips fall where they may. I generally don't try to deliberately kill off a character, but the opposition should present a real threat and if someone does something patently stupid they will face the consequences. The first time something like this happens I'll fudge the rolls and just wound them severely.

- Try to pick a flow of events that will be entertaining. Don't be afraid to allow events to take a different direction from what you had already planned, and don't feel compelled to force things to go a particular way (usually called "railroading"). Whether or not the pirates give the characters some kind of opening is up to you. Just because they aren't stupid doesn't mean they can't make a mistake, or that the characters won't be successful in pulling off some kind of subterfuge.

Hope this helps!

- John

First, a lot of wet blankets are going to jump in on this thread. Ignore 'em. If you want pirates in your campaign, put pirates in your campaign. Period.

Gkiur's and John's advice is spot on. Most pirates are going to be professionals, they'll have all the wrinkles ironed out the best way they can and you're players will not be able to surprise them. (That is unless you decide they can, but that is just another form of 'railroading'. Instead of railroading in favor of the plot, you're railroading in favor of the players, just like fudging die rolls so no one gets hurt.)

One method of piracy you may want to examine involves pirating small craft. Launches, ship's boats, shuttles, and so on have a price range in the millions of credits. Making things easier, you can also fly away the very thing you're stealing! The pirates may be after your players' multimillion credit launch and not their multithousand credit cargo.

Have fun,
"The pirates may be after your players' multimillion credit launch"

HA! the players are watching the cargo hold and then BAM!
Cables rip that launch clean away and tow it into the cargo bay.
Thanks for the ideas so far. Basically, to spell out what's happened so far... We're playing the Golden Age EPIC Adventure 1 - The Forgotten War (spoiler alert).
The pirates are Vargr, and it is the year 1108 (wartime in the Spinward Marches, but in Sector 268 where it is quiet). The pirates are interested in anything to make a buck, but do not plan to kill the party. They sent over three security personnel on a ship's boat to scope out the situation first. They failed their checks and fell for the captain's story. They think they have a simple merchant ship in their snare. However, there are 10 imperial marines in combat armor with heavy weapons hiding elsewhere on the ship. The plan is to get the pirates to dock their ship, then turn the tables and take over the pirate ship too. So the pirates checked the crew out and examined the cargo, and everything looks kosher. So far they are holding the crew at gunpoint. I was assuming the ships can only dock airlock to airlock, but I assumed they cannot dock directly to one of the big cargo bay doors, so I'm not sure what they would realistically do at this point. Would it make sense to dock? Or would they just stay nearby and transfer the stuff over outside? At any rate, the issue is, I want the party to have a fighting chance, but at the same time, I don't want the pirates to do anything unrealistic or stupid. They are pros.

It's from a T20 adventure? Don't bother with reality then, just run it the best way you see fit to make it fun.

Nitty gritty need not apply in T20.

Have fun,
Now don't be a wet blanket (to use your own phrase) just because it's T20. I use the ruleset because that's what the players are most familiar with (from fantasy gaming). But I still try to run my universe as realistically as the CT or MT I've ran before.

Just shoot Bill with the seltzer bottle when he gets unruly. ;) Aside from his dislike of T20 (and I understand & somewhat agree with his misgivings about the system) his posts are generally very much worth reading.

Bill: don't forget most if not all of the T20 adventures are dual-statted for both T20 and CT, and that the adventures themselves can get pretty down & dirty.

Back to Chad's topic: I'm not familiar with the particular ships involved here - I think I own this adventure but haven't read it. Most Traveller starships designed to carry cargo have holds with pressure bulkheads separating them from the rest of the ship and large cargo hatches, effectively making the entire hold a giant airlock. I don't recall any that are really built to dock with another vessel via the cargo hatches.

If your Vargr do this sort of thing regularly than I'd expect them to be prepared to transfer cargo in vaccumn, because how else are they going to operate? So they'll be able to pop open the holds on each ship, perhaps string a guide cable, and have some means (foam extrusion guns? big rolls of vaccum-proof shrink-wrap?) of protecting the cargo during the transfer. So chances are they'll manuever very close to the player's vessel and begin the transfer that way.

What kind of ships does each side have here, anyway?

- John
Chad, nice shot back at Bill! He needs that every once in awhile... ( :D just razzin' ya, Bill!) (BTW, always listen to what Bill has to say.)

I would think the pirates would open the cargo holds of both ships (with their turrets trained on the "merchant", of course) arse-to-arse, and push everything across in vacc suits. Your players could force an error by having someone volunteer to join the crew, perhaps....
^ Hey, it's my job to be the wet blanket, Bill! Get your own job! Jeez! ;)

I would humbly recommend affording one of your players the opportunity to see the flaw in the Vargrs' otherwise perfect plan. Something like:

- an ex-mil type noticing that a pirate guard is loaded with an empty clip

- the elder spacer in the group sees the pirates haven't done their vacc suit maintenance well and only have a few more minutes of life support left

- the scout in the party, having experience with the Vargr, sees a growing power struggle between two of the pirates, which could blow over with the right needling

Let your players be the heroes, not the Impies! Just don't hand it to them on a silver platter.
T20 eh? well I guess . . .it is a modern tolerant world after all. ;)
If I were a pirate captain I would not dock. I would have my launch or ship’s boat to do the transfer in case it is a Q ship. I would rather loose the boat than the ship.

Or order them to just lash it together and dump it in space and be on their way. A simple densitometer scan or even those three troops could see to it that it is not tampered with.

At any rate if the tables were turned and the pirates just surrendered without a fight and said “Fine just come and take our stuff, we don’t mind” would YOU be suspicious

Make it tough for them.
Personally, T20 would not be my first choice either. But a GM has to do what a GM has to do if he wants his fantasy gamer friends to play Traveller with him.

The players have a far trader, The Spinward Rebellion. The pirates have a 400 ton Vargr Corsair with a 30 ton ship's boat. There is also a 1000 ton XBoat Tender converted into a makeshift pirate base within about 100,000 km, just watching the action.

Thanks for all the help so far!
I can always hope. So is the rest of the trilogy pretty good? I only bought the first one so far, and haven't seen any reviews anywhere.
Chad et. al.

My usual helter-skelter posting style has left you all with a logical; if wrong, impression.

What I was trying to say was that because the boarding action Chad is trying to use in his campaign has already been written, he should just play it as written. It already works in that context,so why fiddle with it?

A perfectly useful Epic Adventure is already in Chad's hand. Why should he bother to rewrite it?

As for my gripes concerning the T20 system, they are well known, well founded, and have no place in this thread. However, my admiration for (most) of the T20 adventures is equally well known.

Run it as written, Chad, and you can't go wrong.

Have fun,
Actually, it wasn't written out in any detail. As with most Traveller adventures, many of these side treks are written in bare-bones style, and the referee has to use his head (or run to the local forum for help).

All the adventure says is that if the Vargr try to board the ship, they will be in for a nasty surprise. It does not account for players making decisions to play possum and hope the ships dock, while the marines hide and wait. But I think you all have provided me with enough ideas to get through the encounter.
Hey Chad,

I have two suggestions...

How vaccum capable is the Marines' combat armor? If there is some doubt in the players' minds, then you could have the pirates smell a trap, request that the crew enter a sealed compartment and vac the rest of the ship. Assuming the pirates often use this threat to try to intimidate crews into squealling on crew members who are hiding in the hopes of going Die Hard on boarding parties.

If the PCs are at all uncertain about the space worthyness of the marines' equipment, it puts them back into the position of being either the heroes of the piece or complicit in the uncessary deaths of servants of the Imperium.

Suggestion 2. So your PCs' ship is not what it seems. Perhaps the pirates aren't either. In actuality the few Vargr the crew have seen are just the front for a covert Zho strike force looking to seize a registered Imperial ship for a gambit of their own. Once the marines make an appearance, the Zhos will assume that their cover is blown and try to recoup the situation. Then you can have the Imperials spring their ambush, only to find themselves facing an elite boarding party. Either a pitched battle or some tense negotiations ensue...
As soon as the pirates started talking about using zip-ties to bind the crew, the PCs plan started fracturing. It looks like there's going to be a fight, but it's just a matter of whether it becomes a gunfight, a ship battle, or both...