Exploration by Contract?

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 2, 2017 - 9:06am
Rather than assume all the risk might mega corps and others award contracts to private ship owners to do exploration work?

The contractor would have to write a proposal invovling their ship's abilities (primarily to land and take off) and the crew expertese. There would be a money award up front for the contract winner to get started and a payout with bonuses for certain things upon return and verification of data. Contractor assumes all the risk.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!
Comments:

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 2, 2017 - 9:18am
The way I might play this in game is the PCs are hiring on to crew a ship and bid on such a contract for an absentee owner. Owner has a rep, the ship's purser who controls the money and pays wages who will be on board and represent his/her/it's interests.

Players must flesh out a crew either through their own PC's expertese or those of NPC's hired to go along out line a proposal for how they would spend the upfront money outfitting the expedition as well as fixing any little minor condition issues with the ship (back up life support has always been glitchy and the computer might need some program upgrades for this mission)

rival ships/crews will be bidding too and will do things like try to hire away NPCs and even proposition PCs. may even attempt sabotage of the PC's ship just before the inspection of the ship.

Maybe one crew is a pirate crew running a scam and looking to disappear with the up front money.

so this would start with the PCs determining what equipment they will have and wont have and dealing with things like should we spend the money for an analysis program or not for the ships computer and what level of program should we get. the guy we hired as an environmentalist wants it for number crunching his data. Naturally, he wants a level 5 but do we really need to spend that much? can we get by with something less?

I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 2, 2017 - 9:24am
Contract Directives:

1. What to do if they discover sathar. This will no doubt mostly conform to what Star Law says is the average citizen's responsibility. Do not attempt to engage, retreat & report if possible, if retreat is not possible: kill.

2. What to do if they discover sapient species.

3. looking for and cataloging what? mineral deposites, flora and fauna, potential colony sites? resource exploration?

Collect and safeguard all astrographic, environmental data- PCs will have to sign non-disclosure agreements.

EDIT:
more than likely there would be a directive about avoiding combat even though the ship might have some weaponry
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 2, 2017 - 9:31am
Might an opposing mega corp award a similar contract to the runner up and might this lead to hi-jinks out in the black?

Rival ship puls up in orbit and raids and steals equipment from the PCs main ship while they are down on planet and tries to blow up the ships's computer crippling the PC's ship. Its badly damaged but can be repaired (maybe with components from the lander's computer) but will remain glitchy for remainder of mission.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
November 2, 2017 - 4:54pm
this sounds like it would be a very very very long contract
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 2, 2017 - 4:58pm
Wondering about the Economics of this. 

Charted jump routes (charted both ways) generate a flat, what was it 100k payment (I'm at work -no books). I would say the owner of the ship who bears the burden of loss gets the lion share. Crew get 1% (I'm basing that off similar numbers from admiralty courts condemning contraband or confiscating a ship) so each crewman gets 10k (of course AD says they only get 1/2 of that due to cost of living expenses and taxes and etc).  So if the chart 5-6 routes on their expedition they'll walk away with 25k to 60k depending on whether the GM is a stickler for cost of living rule

What would the reward for having surveyed a whole system be? How much work is that? An environmentalist can analyze an ecosystem in 100 IIRC. Make the navigator/astronomer spend 100 hours to analyze the system and produce a report? What constitutes an adequate survey?
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 2, 2017 - 5:40pm
I'm thinking survey activity generates percentage points

Astrographic survey of the system: X%
Ecosystem analysis of 1 ecosystem on habitable (up to 3 possible) Y%
Asteroid samples Z%
Orbital maps and scans of planetary bodies W%

If their survey percentage adds up to 100% or more the get 100k if less then they get that percentage of 100k.

Bonus for finding sapient species
Bonus for laying ground work for friendly trade relations

Maybe for this activity the crew/survey team get more of the award although the ship owner should still get a big chunk.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
November 3, 2017 - 5:12am
Just to be clear, a small recon team of mostly scientists is supposed to make first contact with a new species and establish trade relations with them for a "bonus"? 

When do they learn the language and culture enough to determine what will make a good trade deal?
Where do the keep all the trade goods they will be trading or at least using as examples to trade with?
Are they doing a secret deal with the leadership or elites and not destroying the culture of the world when they find out they are not alone?
What does the UPF think of lone megacorps exploiting new races and signing trade deals with them excluding everyone else including the UPF?
If you are a megacorp are you really going to trust a "contracted" team to do everything in your best interest instead of a dedicated team of your own employees who can spend time analyzing the reports from the recon team and going in fully prepared for the long term negotiations it would take to open up trade with a new race?
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 3, 2017 - 7:28am
rattraveller wrote:
Just to be clear, a small recon team of mostly scientists is supposed to make first contact with a new species and establish trade relations with them for a "bonus"? 

When do they learn the language and culture enough to determine what will make a good trade deal?
Where do the keep all the trade goods they will be trading or at least using as examples to trade with?
Are they doing a secret deal with the leadership or elites and not destroying the culture of the world when they find out they are not alone?
What does the UPF think of lone megacorps exploiting new races and signing trade deals with them excluding everyone else including the UPF?
If you are a megacorp are you really going to trust a "contracted" team to do everything in your best interest instead of a dedicated team of your own employees who can spend time analyzing the reports from the recon team and going in fully prepared for the long term negotiations it would take to open up trade with a new race?


Good Point.

Still I think the contractor, especially one like a mega corp which will look for a way to exploit the locals will one at least a species report so that those experts its going to send will be able to plan and target such exploitation. No doubt a mega corp isn't going to get rich trading steal impliments and glass beads to primitives but ensuring good relations when a colony is a new start up is important and having the right trinkets for that will be a plus. Later on they will want to exploit the primitive labor pool for grunt work resource collection, at least until the heavy duty robots are shipped in.

so maybe a species background as part of the survey bumps the survey award up a little? 50K
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
November 5, 2017 - 10:04am
Well the contract aspect makes sense. A company, group of investors, or government would be looking for specific results. 

In the other game I am poking at... (Star Probe) the exploration ship is granted $ from backers to explore, and over the course of the game based on what happens will make & loose money, there is even a financial review due every 3 years IIRC. Now this is for a huge ship more or less doing the Star Trek thing with a huge crew that has the needed specialists on board to do it all.

On a smaller scale I would think goals would be more modest. There would probably be a Primary Goal but with a few lesser ones. So maybe the Primary is simply maping a safe route, or securing a faster route (so sort of safe passage deal for the company), it could be finding minerals or a specific mineral, find civilizations the specialists might be able to open trade with, find planets that are good for colonization, look for Sathar, look for pirates, look for a missing ship, and so on. Note I am not saying the crew of the ship needs to do everything... just find, get in, get out, don’t make waves, stake first right claims for the contracting party with authorities. 

Once the government, the investors, or Mega Corp have their “rights” secured than that party would send appropriate forces to do what ever and the contracted crew would have fulfilled their contract which probably is enough cash to keep them “prospecting” but not enough to normally get rich. Wild Cat operations would be the crew working without a contract and thus no back up and hopefully finding something they can sell. So the Wild Cat groups are running a bigger risk hoping for a bigger pay out.

Having someone backing your activities should have some perks... one backers probably have a clue in general where your going, so if you send a distress call I think the Ref should take into account that help will be forth coming but added to the expeditions bill... Wild Cat folks are doing it all alone, no one is listening for them, expecting a check in and so on... so help might never come or if it does could be way late and might cause the Wild Cat operation to loose claims of ownership or might not be help at all.

Privateers VS Pirates is sort of similar... in reality these guys do the same thing, pillage, plunder, kill for profit specific targets but one has legal backing and protection from an entity capable of offering protection in certain locals where as the other label has no such protections... basically all the targets call their attackers Pirates while backing their own Privateers and Official Security. Basically who has safe port and passage where versus none. A sort of grey area, but any Privateer can become Pirates by everyone’s standards if they do not follow the rules or contract they operate under. Thus a Privateer ship will get assistance from it’s backers but a true Pirate ship is it’s own thing and has no such backing except what it creates, thus Pirate Fleets which traditionally arise when there are no more sanctioned jobs for Privateer ships. Note Privateers often seem to get a cut of the loot and ships they seize aka salvage rights to sell or keep ships or weapons, this way they can build a fleet to harass whom ever their employer wants, ships generally get renamed. 

How Earth was colonized and explored by various parties in the past is a real good example of what would occur in space. 

Which brings us to “the flag” issue or staking a claim. Generally once powerful anyone’s discovers there is something of interest in location X they start considering how to gain control of or access to location X. There are a variety of ways this is achieved but one major one as we all know is sending someone out there and just claiming the place as theirs even if someone is already there. Thus I am pretty sure this pattern would repeat. So in my mind besides paperwork, contracts and so on... there would be a physical thing left or done to a location that would give ownership rights to a company and government regardless of what the natives think. Space Flag/Claim Stake device.




 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
November 5, 2017 - 12:21pm
As a suggestion you might want to look at the contracts of the original European colonists to the Americas. While many came seeking religious freedom or to start a new life of their own, they still needed bucket loads of cash to do it. So most of the early ones signed contracts agreeing to repay their sponsors with things they found/harvested/collected from the New World.
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 18, 2017 - 2:41am
As an investment, this type of operation is wildly speculative, so one would have to figure out if (a) it was practical in a financial sense and (b) likely to attract investment capital due to the aforementioned speculative nature of the undertaking.

Looking for new planets in the hope that they may possibly be of use in some way is expensive just in terms of fuel and time costs, let alone anything else. There are a wide variety of unknowns, unless investors have some idea that any given planet or systems is likely to contain any profitable resource(s).

That said, one could potentially aim missions at systems that might containt viable planets. I mean, nowadays we can 'see' potential Earth-like planets around other stars by various means. In SF there might be more adavanced ways of doing things. But just heading out into the wild black yonder probably isn't viable as a job nor as a way of making returns on any money invested in it. Even when the various races in SF first met, they probably were heading in each others' direction because they had some inkling that something else was 'out there'.

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
November 18, 2017 - 8:49am
I agree in principal with you. They should be using probes, drones, long range scanners, space based telescopes and other scanning devices. But the lore mentions all the ships and crews lost while exploring the Frontier. Maybe it is a cultural thing to like boldly go where no Yazirian has ever gone before.

Of course they could use all the technology at their disposal but you still send live beings at some point and space is still pretty dangerous.
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 18, 2017 - 11:14am
I ran an adventure back in the 80s in which the players were sent by CDC to try and find out what happened to a missing exploration probe. I think actual live crew would only be sent if it was worth the risk/trip for the exploration. Just picking some random part of space and heading that way seems a bit haphazard, if not suicidal. Usually people explore because they think there's some end point that justifies the journey, unless they're completely mad or eccentric and have somehow convinced others that the mission is viable.

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
November 18, 2017 - 2:49pm
I agree with that explanation totally. BUT I have another one.

The above explanation works in a unified cohesive Frontier where all are working for the greater good.

We ain't got that comrade.

In an ultra competitive Frontier with Megacorps, bigcorps, smallcorps, corps and various planetary governments and independent parties are all vying for a very limited resource, livable planets. Great rewards do not come without great risks. Of course a Megacorp would never cut corners on the rumor another Megacorp was about to scoop them.

Think of the California Gold Rush. Thousands came on the rumor of finding a huge strike. We will never know how many died alone and in groups seeking gold in out of the way places others were not looking we will never know. 
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 19, 2017 - 1:11am
Yes, but with the gold rush people knew that they were heading to a part of the Earth that was similar to other parts of the Earth, and that there was the possibility of finding something at the other end as other people had already found something. The whole escapade wasn't a complete unknown quantity.

Things would be different in space exploration. Yes, there might a few 'knowns' (i.e. a vacuum, radiation, distance, etc) but the actual end point would be a complete unknown. In terms of an investment it would be wildly speculative, so whilst it may attract some investment it probably wouldn't be one that many would chose to put  money into.

I still think that there would have to be a reason for heading into some part of unexplored space, if the whole thing was a commercial venture. Possibly missions are backed and sent out only after probes have done the pathfinding and initial detective work, and found something of possible interest. That possibility might still be remote, of course, but much less of a shot in the dark.

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
November 19, 2017 - 5:36am
The difference is less than you think. First other beings had already found habitable planets so they know they are out there. Next the area they were going to is untamed wilderness. Most of these people did not know much about living on the American Frontier. Yes other people were there but only if you went to the mining camps. We are discussing those who went out into the wilderness looking for new areas to dig. 

We have agreed they would go into areas that some unwomanned probes had already explored but the gold miners did not have unwomanned probes. They just struck out into the wild.
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 19, 2017 - 6:07am
Okay, the question still stands as to how any habitable planets were found. Were they found by probes or random chance? If such planets are a limited resource, the chances of finding one are low, and so sending out random exploratory ships with crews aboard wouldn't be something that would be worth funding. Or, at least, it wouldn't be a particularly safe investment. Especially not without some hint of guarantees, along the lines of 'A probe indicated a system with at least one habitable world'.

If anything, I think there would be enough technology at hand to make leaps of faith less likely as far as exploration missions are concerned. I mean, at the moment we can spot stars that may have planets and surmise that some of those might be like Earth in some way. We just can't get to them. This isn't an issue in SF, aside from plotting a new route and having enough fuel and supplies to get there. Yes, it's still speculative but still not a shot in the dark. There might still be issues on the way and/or on arrival, which could perhaps lead to ships and crews being lost.

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 19, 2017 - 6:26am
Thank you for specifying unwomanned probes because I would hate to be pegged [cough] as a sexist.

1.) is there any arguement that organizations in the Frontier that have or do fund exploration might do it by contract as an effort to save costs and minimize liability? i dont think so.

2. arguement has shifted to economics of space exploration, by all means bring that.

3. Unmanned probes are part of the setting: volturnus was first explored by unmanned probe IIRC

Proposal: those other small stations mentioned in Clarion space beside the star ship construction center, Clarion station, and Fortress Redoubt- one is a platform that launches these probes- astrogator must do the calculations aim the probe before it launches.
Com specialist monitors the subspace radio for the reports from these probes each probe launch involves months of monitoring so they dont just launch one a week.

The probe executes a void jump to the system then the on board robotic brain begins to align the subspace radio to establish contact and begins to compile astrographic data on the system.  eventually making its way into interesting worlds were it will launch atmoprobes and landing probes (as per KHs but i think these are inadequate) it might even land on a planet and begin sampling the environment and sending back data.

Now this probe idea is interesting in that it puts advanced tech on a planet for the players to scavenge. it has robotic components, it has telescopes, scanners, and astrogation package, a void capable drive, geological and biological scanners. Something like this would be a bonanza of material for someone stranded on a planet.

I think we should detail and stat one or two models out.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
November 19, 2017 - 6:36am
You could have a situation where instead of the Heliopes worshipping a tank they are worshipping the Mars rover.
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 19, 2017 - 6:52am
rattraveller wrote:
You could have a situation where instead of the Heliopes worshipping a tank they are worshipping the Mars rover.


wypongs and the "sky gods"
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 19, 2017 - 8:46am
V'ger  Foot in mouth

Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
November 19, 2017 - 4:08pm
All good points. I have been looking at SP/SE imagined tech and have to say that reflects the times of the 1970s, just as SF reflects the 1980s... imagine Jump capable ships using 1970 tech, early early computers, a lot of ideas in our material is thus a lot more by the seat of your pants like exploration. I agree space probes or at least telescoping it would make sense before going or at least someone misjumping there first.

Then there is another thought I had that explains the lost ships, why no one can get home and so on... when we look at the Frontier map it is plane 0 very 2D, we got clouds all around it, very much expanded in Zebs pretty color version. What if there are space clouds above and below not shown on the map for visual clarity reasons... what if the Frontier is basically a bubble of clear space... just a thought.

I think long range space probes are a very good idea... and depending on type can really add to the game.
 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 20, 2017 - 11:20am
Didn't someone make a 3D map of the Frontier, or did I imagine that? I know several have been made for the 2300AD RPG, as star co-ordinates are usually part of a system description.