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Old 08-28-2013, 10:54 PM   #1
Jinumon
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Default The Act of Smuggling

Hello Everyone!

Yet again I've come to call upon the community for aid. Please and thank you in advance for your answers.

So I've decided to run a Star Wars Campaign, set just after the events of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. The basic idea behind it is to bring back the mystique of the Sith and Jedi. Both have faced recent near-annihilations, and as such will be rare; something that will leave an impression.

The flavor for the campaign itself is sort of Firefly-esque, with the characters owning a ship and essentially trying to keep flying whatever way they can. I'm pretty much using the universe as a cool sandbox for the PCs to play around in.

Unfortunately, I'm notoriously stingy with Character Points, and have been trying to find a way to balance the act of starting out with a ship; giving them an equal point value of mandatory Advantages/Disadvantages, financing, etc. At best, they'll have to gross about G$170,000 a month, and could need as much as G$300,000.

Which finally brings me to my point. I assume that, sooner or later, the characters will turn to illicit activities in an attempt to make cash. I have no problem with this, as it should make for some interesting situations. However, there don't seem to be any rules for pricing smuggled goods or passengers (aside from Speculative Trade). Say some Hutts want them to smuggle illegal stims in from the Outer Rim. The Hutts own the stims, but the players are responsible for avoiding the law, getting past customs, etc. It's definitely not Speculative Trade, but it's also a helluva lot more risky (and thus lucrative) than Shipping Freight. I've looked in Spaceships 1-3 (Basic, plus Merchants and Piracy), Ultratech, and the Basic Set, but I can't seem to find anything.

What I'm looking for are solutions, both RaW and suggested, and would be eternally grateful for anyone who could help me out.

Jinumon

PS: If they buy the ship used, it's cheaper, but requires 1% of it's cost in maintenance per month. The ship has a mechanic, though, and I'm wondering how much that could potentially cut down on costs (some base percentage modified by margin of success/failure on Mechanic rolls?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by thrash View Post
Spaceships 2 discusses Low-Legality goods in the box on p. 39, illegal goods as a complication on p. 42.
It only lists rules for Speculative Trade, however, that is receiving a penalty for looking for a buyer but a bonus on the negotiation process. It says for Freight you assume the shipper already arranged bribes, alibis, etc. But I don't think that's always realistic, and there are plenty of times that smugglers charge a risk premium. The big question is: how big is that premium?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tbrock1031 View Post
This, I think is entirely subjective. Let the players charge what they want.
I get that and can respect it. Granted, plenty of negotiation is going to be happening. It's just that as the GM playing the potential client, shouldn't I have something to go off of to say whether or not what the players are asking is ridiculously over- or under- priced?

I could try figuring out average profit margins for the owners of the goods, and then give the players something of a finders fee. Thus, if they're delivering stims to a stims-starved world, and the Hutt selling them will be making more money as a result, their premium will be bigger.

What percentage is standard for a finder's fee? And should smuggling be more or less than a finder's fee?

Quote:
A potential system I worked out for anyone else who had similar questions.
So let's return to the hypothetical situation where a Hutt wants the players to smuggle some illegal stims.

First, let's say that Gihrada the Hutt wants them to smuggle 1 ton of the stuff. It's a relatively small ship, and he doesn't want to risk losing more of it if his smugglers are caught. Pharmaceuticals are valued at G$1,000,000 per ton, and stims are pretty much pharmaceuticals. Now, Gihrada has been in the stim business a long time, and he creates his own product with an assembly line of chemists, indentured laborers, and slaves. As such, we'll allow him a bit of a discount from the usual 50% cost to create a product, down to 40%. Gihrada creates a single ton of illegal stims with a G$400,000 investment. The Hutt wants the players to deliver these stims to the planet of Corellia, a Rich, Industrial world on the Inner Rim. There, he has a buyer lined up, ready to take it off his hands for 210% it's market value (100% standard, +3 for Industrial, +4 for Rich, +4 for Low Legality on the Actual Price Table in Spaceships 2), or G$2,100,000. His net profit on this venture is G$1,700,000, nothing to scoff at. And now he just needs some people to get it there. Gihrada offers 20% his profit margin to someone who can transport it safely, or G$340,000. A victory in a Quick Contest of Merchant on the part of the players raises it to G$374,000, and Gihrada assures them that if those stims never reach Corellia, they had better hope they don't either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ze'Manel Cunha View Post
If the smuggler isn't involved in the production and sale of the product, then there isn't any reason for them to either know what they're carrying, nor to charge based on the potential profit of the product.
I don't know. There are certainly times when the smugglers aren't aware of what their smuggling, but there are also plenty of times where they ask because they want to know exactly how much trouble their likely to run into. Usually if it's a "no questions asked" kind of job, theirs an additional fee for the smuggler's cooperation. But I would say that a fair portion, even a majority of the time, they do know what they're hauling.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
Sounds pretty good, although 20% as an initial offer seems a little high.
Also, after thinking about it, I figured I agree. I think the standard rate should be about 15%, adjusted by 1% x Margin of Victory/Failure. If you were to role-play it, they'd probably make an initial offer of about 10% (everyone low-balls), and after a good dickering section you'd end up with the 15 +/- Margin amount. I mean, you'd have to screw up pretty bad (failure by 5+) to actually cause them to lower their original offer (via gratuitous insult or idiocy). The final result would be somewhere between 5-25% of the profit margin.

Quote:
Yet another option.
Debates about the logistics and protocol of smuggling aside, I'm getting at least a fair number of folks who are saying that it matters less about what you're smuggling, and more about where, and the legality in that region. With that in mind, here's another possible take on risk premiums for smuggling.

(5 - LC) x (Highest CR on route) x G$5,000 + Expenses

Granted, this is going to make it so that smuggling certain substances or to certain places simply isn't worth the cost, but I suppose that isn't necessarily unrealistic. Additionally, you simply can't smuggle things to an area with a CR 0 (anarchy), because no one is going to say "Hey, that's not allowed here!" Although, if it truly is a lawless, violent place, you could simply treat it as freight with additional hazard pay.

Once again, what do you think of the formula? Should the price be raised or lowered? An exponent used in place of simply multipliers?

EDIT: Quoting numerous later posts so it's easier to see the back and forth.

Last edited by Jinumon; 09-02-2013 at 02:39 PM.
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Old 08-29-2013, 12:10 AM   #2
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Default Re: The Act of Smuggling

1. Handwavium is required on payment for smuggling. The job is paying X amount to get these unmarked crates from Point A to Point B.

2. If you wish to allow it, the pilot can have Enemy or Patron to start off with the ship. Either pay it off with the patron or kill the enemy to resolve that little bit.

3. A mechanic as part of the crew cuts upkeep down to just parts prices, as opposed to parts + labor.
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Old 08-29-2013, 12:13 AM   #3
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Default Re: The Act of Smuggling

Rules for pricing smuggled goods or passengers seem to me impossible, because it's completely situational. Smuggling someone into Indonesia vs the US vs North Korea are each magnitudes of difficulty apart. Are you smuggling in someone who will "steal jobs", commit felonies, or undermine national security? Add the vagaries of sci-fi tech, and it's not anything amenable to a formulaic approach.

Instead, I would tempt the players with specific offers of fast cash for certain jobs with "no questions asked". A Mexican coyote doesn't get offers to smuggle terrorists every day, people approach them with specific tasks in mind.
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Old 08-29-2013, 12:54 AM   #4
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Default Re: The Act of Smuggling

If you want a rough formula, take the listed cost of whatever it is from UT/HT (Or whatever you figure the closest item is, or your best estimate for what the legal market value would be). EDIT: Multiplying values by (5-LC) should get you a starting point. It's not perfect, but it gives you a way to take rules and turn it into value. IRL, for instance, I have seen sources that indicate that a quantity of cocaine that costs US$.50 to make can retail for above US$50 on the street. The smuggler won't capture all of this, obviously, because the wholesalers on both ends and the dealer on the street all take a cut as well, but someone with a plane and a willingness to keep their mouth shut can turn a fair amount of cash off of it. I once had a copy of a book written by a man who claimed he had done this for some years, making upwards of US$200,000 per year in actual profit in the early 1980s, which is close to $600000 in today's money. This assumes that what's being smuggled is outright contraband; if they're tax dodgers, the profit comes from ducking the tariffs, in which case the markup will be relatively small (if it's too high, everyone will go to the legal shippers and avoid the potential hassle); an example of that would be the rampant tobacco smuggling of Colonial America, or the smaller scale illegal movement of cigarettes into New York. Arms runners can probably get an even bigger markup, since the end customer has usually got deeper pockets.

Last edited by Dalillama; 08-29-2013 at 11:36 AM.
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Old 08-29-2013, 01:04 AM   #5
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Default Re: The Act of Smuggling

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinumon View Post
PS: If they buy the ship used, it's cheaper, but requires 1% of it's cost in maintenance per month. The ship has a mechanic, though, and I'm wondering how much that could potentially cut down on costs (some base percentage modified by margin of success/failure on Mechanic rolls?)
The maintenance cost normally includes hiring a mechanic. So you can reverse-engineer the appropriate mechanic job's typical pay grade to roughly equal the amount saved on maintenance.
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Old 08-29-2013, 01:35 AM   #6
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Default Re: The Act of Smuggling

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dalillama View Post
If you want a rough formula, take the listed cost of whatever it is from UT/HT (Or whatever you figure the closest item is, or your best estimate for what the legal market value would be). Then figure multiply that by the LC of whatever they're moving. It's not perfect, but it gives you a way to take rules and turn it into value. You may find that a multiplier of 2x LC or more works better.
Remember that more tightly controlled items have a lower Legality Class, not higher. I'd multiply cost by 2x(CR-LC), 2^(CR-LC) or even higher. The more illegal the item is, the harder and more lucrative it is to smuggle in.
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Old 08-29-2013, 06:11 AM   #7
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Default Re: The Act of Smuggling

Spaceships 2 discusses Low-Legality goods in the box on p. 39, illegal goods as a complication on p. 42.

Note that the canonical exemplars (Serenity and Millenium Falcon) are almost always shown smuggling goods belonging to other parties for a fee. The usual way to approach this is via a risk premium: calculate the base rate for legal goods on the run, and then multiply by some factor (x2 to x5, say) that represents how difficult it is to avoid detection and capture, or the potential for damage in the process.
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:06 AM   #8
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Default Re: The Act of Smuggling

There are also rules for trading and smuggling (including fencing stolen goods) in GURPS Traveller: Far Trader (p.116). Perhaps that might help you?
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:14 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vierasmarius View Post
Remember that more tightly controlled items have a lower Legality Class, not higher. I'd multiply cost by 2x(CR-LC), 2^(CR-LC) or even higher. The more illegal the item is, the harder and more lucrative it is to smuggle in.
Blast, you're right; I was working from memory late at night when I wrote that.
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Old 08-29-2013, 12:19 PM   #10
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Default Re: The Act of Smuggling

Another thing to factor in is to consider how 'hot" the cargo is perceived to be by the smugglers, as that'll affect the fees they charge, as opposed to the punishments delivered.

Remember, Han originally charged Ben ten thousand credits for "avoiding Imperial entanglements", and then later remarked, "Our passengers must be hotter than I thought," with the implication that he would have charged more had he known just how badly the Imperials wanted them. (That Ben was already offering more upon arrival - presumably from Alderaan's House Organa - was also factored into his acceptance of the trip.) If he had thought his passengers would have been worth more - or if he'd known ahead of time just what kinds of trouble they'd get him into - he may have charged up to twice what he originally quoted, or perhaps refused them altogether.
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