Pirate's How-To Guide
Imperial Database > Pirate's How-To Guide

Greetings, privateer-in-training! This guide is here to help you get started, and realize what you have to work with - the boundaries, the possibilities, and the law. Let's start out with your new ship.

The Ship

As a privateer, you can start out with a frigate or smaller ship. Why, would you ask, should I start out with anything less than the largest ship I'm allowed to? We will look into the economics and concerns of a pirate shortly, but first of all, you would do well to actually play out how you came to captain this ship. Was it a mutiny from some navy? A successful pirate named you his(her) heir? Did the crew boot the last captain for being incompetent? These are concerns that you should be thinking of, not any millions of credits down the road.

The Prey

As a pirate, you want profit above all else. And as we shall see, for very good reasons. But how to acquire all those glorious credits? Well.. you have your ship, you should go out raiding. What you want is fat targets with little protection.. good luck finding any. This is where many pirates fail; finding your target. You need connections in the criminal world to get tips, and you will probably need to pay your informants. A properly bought NR official may just give you info about shipping from a world he despises, but it's not easy to set up these things. It can take months or years to set up a good intel network.

When you have actually found a convoy, you have to stage the ambush. You probably don't know exactly where they are going, so you will have to cover your possibilities. They might just hyper off and leave you with nothing if you can't catch them properly. Ion cannons and stealth are the preferred tools of a pirate. Forget looting passengers unless you have enough crew to quickly overrun the ship. Time is of essence. The law is probably on the way already.

The Loot

Let's say you strike luck and capture a medium transport, transporting nerf fillets. The ship is worth 175,000 Credits, and the cargo of 19,000 tons is worth 1.9 millions. The first problem you face is to find a place to sell it. As a privateer for the NIF, you can do it at practically any NIF spaceport. But stolen goods are always less worth. It's an automatic 50% off to begin with. Your ship was damaged to 5%, and the transport is down by 30%. If you have a Nebulon-B, that's almost 10 millions in repair costs alone. You also have to pay your crew somehow, and if you do actually make a profit, the NIF takes 50% for letting you sell it and not just blast you out of the skies. Quickly, you realize that the 500,000 you just earned doesn't even cover a new paint job on your ship. This is why pirate ships are almost always in a state of serious disrepair. To be fair, if you have a good crew with skilled specialists included, they will probably be able to repair minor damage if you can provide parts. Scrounging other ships is the cheapest way to get them. As a base assumption, expect to pay 50% of the repair cost if your damage is less than (10-20% depending on crew quality) and 25% if you can steal parts. Better yet, try to not duel with escort ships more than you have to.

The Crew

You could hire your crew (asssuming they want to sign up with a pirate), and pay them monthly wages. For a Nebulon-B, that's 920 people. The basic crewmen cost 250 per week, and specialists such as engineers may cost 1,000 or more. But you may very well have to pay them more considering the risks in your line of business. They could easily sign up with a transporting company instead. Let's say you have 800 crewmen and 120 specialists (1/8th of the total can be assumed to be specialists. You could get better performance by hiring more.. and less performance by hiring less. That amounts to 1,280,000 credits per month in salaries alone. If you can't pay up, they will leave.. or worse, rebel and off you for a better captain, which can lead to very interesting roleplaying. An alternative to paying the crew is to let them share in the profits. In that case, you will get 5% of the earnings as a starting captain after all the bills are paid. Eventually, as you gain a reputation you will slowly be able to increase your share up to a maximum of 25%. You can also reduce the crew. Skeleton crew is typically 1/5th of normal crew. But the reduction comes with a price in performance, once again.

Economics of a pirate

Let's get droids instead! Yeah, but droids aren't nearly as good as regular crew, which will probably leave you with lower profits, too. They also come with a pricetag that is higher than crew, at least initially. Droids are excellent complements but not a good replacement. Finally you have to pay maintenance. Keeping your ship in trim will cost you about 10% of the ship's worth per year in fuel, repairs, supplies, food etc. About 20 millions a year for your hypothetical Nebulon-B, and that's not counting droid maintenance or port fees. It also doesn't cover battle damage.

Striking gold and the law

If you actually manage to get past all the economics... and as you can hopefully see by now, you will have to raid constantly, ditch everything but critical repairs, and take a lot of chances to even get started. Well, how about I strike a one in a million find and earn lots? Well, for starters, it's no less than god moding if you do that right away. Realistically, it will never happen. But let's say you do. You now have your small flottilla of pirate ships in good condition, a good intel network built up, connections for buying and selling, and is ready to take on anybody. Guess what, that's exactly what you will. Since you are a NIF privateer, you will probably face the NR. They can and will wipe you out - all they need to do is find you. The more successful you are, the more attention you will get. Maybe there is a disgruntled crew member whom they captured who tell them where your base is? Maybe they set up a fat, juicy convoy which turned out to be a death trap? Or maybe your fence just sold you out... there is no end to the dangers of being a pirate, which is exactly why that 50% profit cut to the NIF is a cheap price for a relatively safe, friendly, and well-equipped port with easy trade access.

Other pirates

They should generally be avoided, as they will fight back much more fervently than merchant vessels. Capturing privateers from other nations or full-fledged pirates who abide by no law is strongly approved by your supporting government, however, who will surely pay you a sizeable bounty for turning them in. It may be even more profitable to ransom the pirates or take their bounty in territories they have raided, but its also worth considering what a good relationship with your host is worth. A pirate captain may be worth millions in bounty, and pirate crew members will at least give you their worth in a week's pay (ie, 250-1000 credits per head, more for famous members). Another possibility is to hire captured pirates into your own crew. Aside from famous captains and lieutenants, dead pirates are usually not given a bounty.

The benefits of being a pirate

What you have is a lot of freedom, as long as you "play by the rules" which you have to live by. The good parts of playing a pirate is that freedom to develop you character, ship, and crew in just about any direction possible. Success is actually less interesting than failure, from a roleplaying point of view. And realistically, you will have many, many failures before getting somewhere. Even when you raid, and raid again, successfully, you can probably barely keep your business going. All this is very interesting.. suppose there's a mutiny? What happens if your neglected ship fall apart mid-battle? What if you have looters aboard a luxury liner when the law shows up? All those angles for a pirate and many more, is the real reason why you should want to play a pirate. Because it can be a lot of action and conspiracy. diplomacy, haggling, stealth, running from the law... the possibilies for roleplaying are endless, and that's where the real fun is. If this document has given you the impression that being either a pirate or a privateer is like living on the edge of a vibroblade every day, you would be right. A successful privateer is one who can maintain this careful, dangerous balance as long as possible. Very basically, it's not much unlike the financial world, where higher risks always means higher chances of both profit and loss. You must decide what risk level you wish to play. Welcome to the wonderful world of a pirate.

Editor's Notice

Privateer tax levels and conditions were based on real historic letter's of marque and events.