Pirate Attacks for Dummies

The Code of the Stars

There is an unwritten code of understanding between pirates, merchants and the great powers. While stealing cargo is a crime, the cost of hunting down and exterminating such a pirate is far more than the value of the cargo that pirate is likely to steal over the course of a career. Some small-time pirates have survived for years by never taking more than the insurance companies and trading corporations can bear. As long as a pirate only takes cargo (or better yet, accepts bribes to leave a trader pass freely), the great powers will turn a blind eye to the corsair, at least for a few months. A pirate who intercepts a ship, steals a few tons of cargo, and leaves both merchant ship and crew unharmed is not considered a major threat.

Finding Prey

The trade route between the Third Imperium and the Aslan Hierate is prime hunting territory for ambitious pirates. The cargo ships that ply those routes are heavy with valuable cargo, and the comparative lack of civilised worlds along the way means that the pirates are less likely to run into System Defence Boats or pirate hunters. To avoid attack, most merchants travel in convoys escorted by either military vessels or armed mercenaries, but there are always a few unlucky ships who either can’t afford an escort or lose it along the way in a mistimed jump. Beyond the trade route, the pickings are thinner. While there are always free traders and vagabonds chancing their luck in the backwaters of the Reach, pirates are less likely to fi nd a suitable
target in systems off the beaten track.

When a pirate attempts to locate prey, roll on the Prey Encounter Table to determine the most likely target. A result of ‘no prey’ does not mean that there are no other ships in the system, it implies that there are no other ships that the pirate has a chance of successfully tackling right now, although this may change at any moment if a ship jumps in.

The amount of traffic in the system determines when to roll on the Prey Encounter Table.

Roll d66, applying DMs as follows:
Backwater System: -1DM to first die only
Dangerous World: -1DM to second die only
High-Traffic System: +1DM to first die only
Secure World: +1 DM to second die only
Capital or other key System: +2DM to first die only
Naval Base: +2 DM to second die only

A backwater system is one with a Class X or E starport that is off the Imperium-Hierate trade route.

A high-traffic system is one with a Class A or B starport and
with at least one of the following traits: High Technology, High Population, Industrial, Agricultural, Rich, or a system on the Imperium-Aslan trade route.

A capital or other key system is a subsector capital, like Pax Rulin.

A dangerous world has an Amber or Red Travel code, or a Law Level of 3 or less, or is otherwise unable to patrol its space.

A secure world has a Law Level of 7 or more, and has the technology to protect travellers, or has a naval base present with six parsecs.

A naval base in the system offers the best possible protection for travellers.


Enemy ships have a morale score, just like pirates. The morale for a merchant starts at 1d6+3; for an armed ship, it starts at 1d6+6; and for a naval ship like an escort, at 1d6+8. Morale is
reduced by 1 for every Structure Hit, and by 1d6 for a Bridge Hit or if the M-Drive, J-Drive or Power Plant is disabled. A ship with damaged morale may be willing to sacrifice a portion of
her cargo in exchange for the promise of safe passage

If morale reaches 0, then the victim either jumps out (if possible) or else surrenders.

Encounter Distance & Timing

The ‘encounter window’ for a pirate attack is a slim one. It takes a ship only a few hours to lift off from a spaceport and pass through the hundred-diameter jump point, or to travel from
where it entered the system to the safety of the atmosphere. Within that window, the pirate has to come within range of the target, disable it or force its surrender, match velocity, dock, loot
the cargo and then escape.

The initial encounter distance is set by the Referee; as a rule of thumb, roll 3d6 and multiply it by the diameter of the mainworld (or 1,000km for Size 0 worlds).

Roll 1d6 or choose the prey’s direction of travel. On a 1-3, it is heading towards the planet to land; on a 4-5, it is heading to the jump diameter limit. On a 6, it is stationary or heading towards some other destination, such as a moon, another planet or another vessel.

Pirate Attacks for Dummies

Far and Away KellyArmstrong KellyArmstrong