Various institutions regulate space travel. The extent of their power depends on the setting’s tone and theme. Travelers on an exploration mission probably don’t run into customs inspectors or local system militias — they have their own problems investigating the undiscovered reaches of space. Spacers in a smuggling campaign obviously run into customs officials and trade organizations, while those in a military setting regularly deal with war fleets and pirates.
The descriptions herein briefly outline various authorities heroes might encounter, as well as the extent of their control. Game Masters seeking further ideas on integrating such entities into their campaigns should consult the section on “Politics and Contraband”.
Most wide-reaching galactic powers enforce their edicts with vast fleets of military vessels: cruisers and battleships, carriers with launch bays filled with fighters, scout craft, and even spy ships with advanced sensor arrays. The military exists to protect a government’s territory and assets from all threats. Task forces sortie to confront known enemies, intercepting them before they strike, destroying their bases, and responding to immediate attacks. Small fleets often stand permanent vigil near high profile targets, ready to repel any assault. Cruisers patrol sector travel routes to ensure civilian craft have safe passage between systems. Escorts protect diplomatic vessels engaged in delicate or dangerous negotiations.
Military fleet facilities and resources include:
> planetside bases for fighter squadrons, ground forces, supply depots, and repair units
> orbital docking and repair facilities for capital ships and personnel transfer
> deep space deployment and supply stations
> fortified ground defenses near hostile or frontier territory
> secret deep space listening posts near enemy borders
Some campaigns focus on military activity in space. Characters serving aboard warships or in fighter squadrons act as soldiers of one government against its adversaries: alien invaders, hostile empires, pirates, and internal rebels. Since they’re active military personnel, such heroes frequently spend their time on allied fleets guarding against and often directly confronting enemy warships.
Heroes who aren’t in the military may still encounter fleets in their travels near bases, capitals, combat zones, and planets of tactical value. Law-abiding characters have nothing to fear from the massive fleet deployments. Although space navies don’t usually engage in simple law-enforcement activities (especially on the planetary level), they do serve governments in hunting down those who have committed capital crimes and severe offenses (see “Star-Faring Regulations” for details about violations that fall into these categories).
Mercantile organizations control commerce between planets. Corporate alliances, merchant guilds, and customs administrations on the galactic and local level all seek to regulate and assess fees on interstellar trade. In conjunction with planetary and sector governments, they help determine which commodities merchants can freely trade, which ones require monitoring through fees and permits, and which materials are contraband. Trade agencies enforce these agendas with their own paramilitary fleets and ground units, though these rarely approach the level of full military forces. Customs cutters patrol systems with heavy mercantile traffic. Elite sentries protect corporate factories, ware- houses, and offices. Guilds sponsor punitive measures against members and outsiders who breach their bylaws.
Trade bureaus most often prosecute criminals who abuse the space travel infrastructure for personal profit at the expense of others. They issue permits (and collect fees) for purchase, transport, and sale of restricted goods. They collect taxes based on the value of goods going to market. They pursue anyone dealing in illegal or stolen materials, even if corrupt trade agencies handle such merchandise covertly.
Merchant associations have a variety of available resources:
> customs patrol ships protect in-system traffic and board suspect vessels
> agency inspectors examine cargo, check credentials, and collect taxes on imported or exported goods
> guarded warehouses hold quarantined or impounded goods
> customs security troops conduct raids against criminal organizations, smugglers, and gunrunners
> vast office complexes control agency activities, record transactions, and influence markets
Civilian characters encounter agents of mercantile regulatory institutions more often than military forces. Freighter captains often dread customs inspections, either docked with a patrol craft or boarded upon landing. Fees, tariffs, and penalties related to innumerable local and interstellar trade regulations eat away at profits. Even travelers aboard starliners must submit to searches for contraband. Many guilds require starport businesses to join their associations to ensure profitability and security.
Local militias maintain peace on the system level. Such forces vary greatly depending on the planet’s wealth, interstellar status, distance from major trade routes, and overall importance in regional affairs. Sponsored by the local government, aristocracy, or dominant mercantile power, militias vary from one patrol cutter and a handful of starport security officers to small in-system fleets and entire legions of soldiers. These units serve as the ruling enforcement agency at the planetary level, subject of course to military forces and trade associations with interests in the region. Native laws and prohibitions can sometimes turn a benevolent and helpful militia into a bullying force aggressively enforcing a local agenda (see the section on odd local ordinances under “Star-Faring Regulations”).
Although militia resources vary widely, some common capabilities include:
> checkpoints to control and inspect incoming and outgoing travelers and their baggage
> security stations to respond to law enforcement incidents
> ground and air vehicles to implement local laws and ensure general safety
> in-system patrol craft to protect against pirates and intercept criminals
Heroes visiting any starport inevitably run into local militia. They patrol the streets, accompany customs inspectors, respond to criminal incidents, provide protection for valuables, and generally enforce an irritating host of petty local laws. Anyone getting into trouble finds a handful of militia guards on their trail.
The forces that manage and protect starport facilities fall under the jurisdiction of local militias, though they often operate independently to ensure their own interests. Smaller operations simply assign a militia unit to undertake guard duty, tariff collection, inspections, traffic control, and law enforcement in port areas. They are considered starport administrative personnel simply by the fact that their “beat” consists of docking areas and warehouses. Immense ports have a huge starport control bureaucracy that may even rival the size of the local militia infrastructure.
Starport control resources and facilities include:
> a traffic control tower to monitor starship movements on approach and departure
> checkpoints to control and inspect freighter cargoes and crews
> ground and air vehicles to secure docking areas and ensure general safety
> liaison offices to issue permits, identification, and other datawork for interstellar travelers and crews
Anyone frequenting starports — including independent captains or travelers — inevitably encounters starport control personnel at some level. Pilots talk with traffic coordinators for approach and departure clearances. Checkpoints and inspections are routine, but may increase during heightened security. Those causing trouble within starport precincts usually find themselves facing starport security, with planetary militia forces called in for serious problems.
Docking and Repair Fees
Use the “Starport Fees” chart as guide to determining the difficulties for paying docking charges and repair costs at different classes of facilities. Representatives of local militia force or starport administration collect landing fees in person upon arrival, require payment at automated kiosks before landing bay doors open for access to the starport, or deny departure clearance until paid at a central office. Assume that docking payments include the cost of basic maintenance for a craft, such as life-support refills and fuel/recharging. Modify repair cost difficulties by +5 (+50%) for heavy damage and +10 (+100%) for severe damage.
Credits listed are examples; Game Masters should adjust them to better reflect availability in their own settings.
|Spaceport||Landing Fees Difficulty (Credits)||Repair and Labor Difficulty (Credits)|
|Backwater||Difficult (4,000)||Very Difficult (8,000)|
|Dependent colony||Moderate (400)||Difficult (4,000)|
|Minor||Moderate (400)||Moderate (400)|
|Major||Easy (200)||Moderate (400)|
|Hub||Easy (200)||Easy (200)|
|Principal government||Moderate (400)||Easy (200)|
Honor Among Thieves
Some more disciplined extra-legal groups provide security and stability for fringe regions, including pirate bands, criminal organizations, spacer gangs, and those rising up against established and often corrupt galactic authorities. These factions provide some semblance of law enforcement where no established government rules.
The resources of impromptu enforcement units differ based on the nature of the parent organization. Pirate bands implement a code of conduct to maintain some semblance of order, with violations prosecuted by an impartial sergeant at arms appointed by the captain. Local gangs often defer to their leaders to resolve internal disputes. Organized criminal syndicates retain various units to ensure peaceful internal operation, root out stooges, undertake combat operations, hunt down traitors, and carry out action against those outside the association. Rebel factions and paramilitary organizations keep strict discipline through a corps of security personnel.
Although most outlaw groups encourage some degree of lawful order to operate effectively, some simply bask in savage anarchy where only the strongest and most influential survive to make and enforce the “rules.” Lack of any code of behavior only encourages discord within the ranks, constant in-fighting, disregard for orders, and an overall weakness when faced with outside threats.
Most interstellar and system governments expect spacers to observe numerous laws and regulations implemented to maintain peace, prosperity, and safety. Many seem like commonsense courtesy to law-abiding citizens. Various entities enforce these ordinances, from starport security and traffic control to local militias, customs patrols, and in dire cases, military vessels. Those who obey and respect the authorities, operate within the law, and fulfill their professional obligations have nothing to fear.
Most space-faring personnel must possess some accredited documentation proving they’ve received training and certification in their chosen duties. Pilots need licenses, engineers need technical certificates, and gunners need proficiency ratings. Vessels also require their share of datawork: registration with a government regulatory agency, permits to carry various types of cargo, and authorization to mount weapons (even if only intended for self- defense). Assume any character who’s legitimately acquired a ship has the required datawork to allow legal operation. Game Masters can revoke such documentation to penalize heroes, particularly if they commit crimes using their craft.
Although few galactic governments possess universal criminal codes, most categorize offenses into general classes of illegal activities. Tolerated misdeeds inhabit one end of the spectrum, while crimes punishable by execution stand ominously at the opposite end.
Few governments consider this level of wrongdoing an actual crime. Offenders really shouldn’t engage in such activities if they know what’s good for them, but they haven’t really harmed anyone else or caused any disruptive amount of trouble. Those caught committing tolerated misdeeds often receive an official warning or an insignificant fine (payable on an Easy Funds roll, or 3D+2 times 10 credits). Anyone with a warning on record unfortunate enough to get caught engaged in another similar offense (usually in the same system) receives treatment as if they had committed a trivial violation.
Authorities deem this degree of crime worthy of punishment, but more to inform violators of the importance of the law and teach them a lesson to dissuade violators from repeating their behavior. The activities aren’t quite worth overlooking, but they aren’t worth the trouble of imprisoning anyone. Law enforcement officials simply fine offenders for their misdemeanors, payable with an Easy to Moderate Funds roll (or 1D times 100 credits; adjust depending on the offense’s severity). This slap on the wrist also earns money for the government’s coffers, which some crooked bureaucrats abuse for their advantage.
Criminal activities of this magnitude often violate laws enforcing control of trade or safe spacecraft operation. Offenders cause financial harm or put others at risk without inflicting actual physical injury. They disregard revenue-collecting agencies, flaunt customs regulations, and ignore flight procedures and requirements meant to insure everyone’s safety. Penalties may include a fine requiring a Difficult Funds roll (or 1D+1 times 500 credits) to pay, or up to 5D days’ incarceration.
Violations at this level constitute obvious crimes in blatant defiance of the government’s authority. Those convicted of major infractions must pay a fine requiring a Difficult Funds roll (or 1D+1 times 500 credits) and serve 4D months’ imprisonment. Enforcement officials also impound any craft involved in the crime and revoke flight certifications and starship registration.
Authorities consider anyone committing even one offense of this magnitude a true career criminal. Offenders contribute directly to the degeneration of society, increased violence, and underworld activities. Violators receive a fine payable with a Very Difficult Funds roll (or 1D+4 times 1,000 credits) and spend 5D years in prison. Authorities also confiscate any craft involved and rescind flight certifications and starship registration.
The worst offenses challenge the overarching authority of governments, the military, their personnel, facilities, and vessels, other than as an act of war. Those convicted of such heinous crimes in restrictive societies receive the death penalty, often in the form of highly publicized public executions to satisfy the mob’s need to see justice served. More tolerant societies sentence such criminals to lifetime imprisonment or permanent exile where the prospect of escape and return remain nonexistent.
Not all infractions carry the same punishments in every system. The laxity or strictness of a governing body might increase or decrease the severity of a crime by one level. For instance, a fanatically fundamental dictator might impose capital punishments for severe offenses, while an open-minded colony council would tolerate trivial misdeeds. Consider any crime modified beyond a capital offense as unimaginably atrocious, prosecuted with extreme vengeance. Use the “Sample Enforcement Modifiers” chart as a guide when varying the punishments for crimes in different parts of the galaxy.
No misdeed is ever considered less than “tolerated” or more than “capital,” regardless of the modifier.
Odd Local Ordinances
Game Masters might liven up their universe with planets that severely enforce peculiar laws reflecting local custom or prejudice. Sometimes characters remain unaware of these strange regulations until they break them, leading to interesting encounters with enforcement officials and offended natives. Such unusual edicts could also provide local color and ideas for entire scenarios. Planets that depend on interstellar trade and travel might restrict transient populations of off-worlders to separate “foreign quarters” where such regulations do not apply, but expect those wandering outside these contained areas to abide by regional laws and traditions.
Most cultures consider violation of these local ordinances minor infractions, but particularly intolerant system governments might punish offenders according to guidelines for major or severe crimes. Game Masters should determine the strictness with which authorities enforce a strange local law and remain consistent in its prosecution should characters visit that system later. The next page has some suggestions for odd local ordinances.
Alien Prejudice: The local government enforces laws more strictly against aliens. Tariffs and fees double, infraction levels increase, and aliens do not enjoy the same freedoms as the dominant population. Some merchants even refuse to deal with aliens. Bear in mind that some cultures may view Humans as undesirable aliens.
Food Prohibition: Authorities consider importing, preparing, and eating certain kinds of foodstuffs illegal. Vegetarian societies proscribe eating meat. Carnivorous cultures ban vegetables and fruit. Alien species that eat their own kind find other food offensive. Religions or philosophies consider particular foods “unclean.” Importing prohibited food only encourages locals to violate the law.
Technology Ban: Some planets forbid general kinds of technology or specific items that the government believes corrupts the populace or places it in danger. A planet that recently fought a war against robot armies might prohibit androids, automated machines, or even computers. Fundamentalist authorities could outlaw entertainment technology it feels corrupts its followers. Environmentally conscious governments advocate biases against pollution-generating engines or machinery intended to strip natural resources.
Unbelievers Forbidden: Authorities do not tolerate those who don’t subscribe to a particular (and often radical) set of beliefs. Such laws do not necessarily originate from religious institutions, but may arise from narrow political views (“Our planet should dominate the sector.”), philosophical morals (“The way to enlightenment is through generous giving to society.”), and economic theories (“Off-world competition hurts our financial system.”). Such feelings reach beyond their limited fields and permeate every aspect of society, excluding if not actively persecuting those who don’t believe.
Weapons Ban: To maintain peace, a system prohibits weapons to some degree. Some planets forbid any ship mounting weapons from landing, while others tolerate armed vessels but ban crewmembers from carrying any weapons, even those meant for self-defense. Sometimes a middle-ground exists, with differentiations made between energy and hand-to-hand weapons, concealed and openly worn, and those for personal defense and those mounted on starships.
Sample Infractions and Enforcement Modifiers
Locate the misdeed (or one similar to it) on this table to determine its starting regulation level. Then adjust the level by the condition of the system using the “Sample Enforcement Modifiers” chart to determine how that system treats the misdeed in question.
Infraction Level – Tolerated Misdeeds
> failing to update in a timely fashion any changes to star- ship registration
> minor versions of trivial violations (such as having recently expired emergency supplies)
Infraction Level – Trivial Violations
> using a restricted communications frequency or mode
> operating a vessel without adequate emergency equipment and life-support stores
> failing to file flight plans or disobeying traffic authority instructions
> violating local import, export, and other customs laws
Infraction Level – Minor Infractions
> operating a vessel without a valid starship registration and pilot accreditation
> purchasing, possessing, transporting, or selling any commodity in quantity without proper taxation payments, permits, and proof of sale
> operating a vessel without properly displayed or transmitted identification
> failing to respond to communications from authorities
Infraction Level – Major Infractions
> mounting shipboard weapons without a permit
> bribing a government official
> purchasing, possessing, transporting, or selling restricted materials without a permit; popular restricted substances include narcotics, medicines, and toxic materials
> disobeying orders from military authorities regarding flight plans
Infraction Level – Severe Offenses
> committing violence against civilian personnel
> transporting military weapons and equipment without a permit
> purchasing, possessing, transporting, or selling illegal materials
> purchasing, possessing, transporting, or selling stolen items
> bribing military personnel
Infraction Level – Capital Crimes
> attacking another ship
> engaging in acts of piracy, including support activities
> conspiring to overthrow a government
> committing violence against government or military personnel
> purchasing, possessing, transporting, or selling classified information or items
Sample Enforcement Modifiers
|Condition||Misdeed Treated as|
|Criminal authority||1 level less|
|Backwater system||1 level less|
|Informal government||1 level less|
|Military installation||1 level higher|
|Principal governmental system||1 level higher|
|Intolerant government||1 level higher|