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Merchants and traders use a wide variety of technologies in their business, from starships to carry their goods to computers to maintain their inventory. Many of the most profitable businesses in the 24th century are technology-intensive.

Since technology is often expensive, businesses and private individuals often have to make do with whatever they can afford, as compared to Starfleet or large military organizations. The technology used along the frontier regions is often second- or third-hand and outdated, patched together, or even altogether illegal.

Environmental Equipment

Environmental Suits

Merchant crews make regular use of environmental suits, particularly since life support systems on board their ships are more prone to breakdowns and failures, and because crewmembers must often operate in vacuum or harsh environmental conditions. Many merchant captains conserve life support by keeping their cargo area in vacuum, which can also protect certain delicate cargoes.

Civilian environmental suits are similar to those used by Starfleet personnel (see the Deep Space Nine RPG, p. XX) but their Duration tends to be shorter, usually between 10 and 15 hours. The suits worn by merchant crews are usually older models, and some crews wear their environmental suits almost constantly, even while on board other ships or space stations, even planetside. You never know when you're going to need your suit, and that attitude has saved the life of more than one crewmember in the past. Such suits are often decorated with patches and personal designs of the wearer.

Support Shelter

For extended work in dangerous environments, miners, prospectors, and workers often employ a support shelter. The shelter is a small cube about a half-meter on a side that expands into a pressurized dome some three meters tall in the center and three meters in diameter. The doorway is a small airlock, just able to accommodate an adult humanoid. The shelter is equipped with a micro-replication unit and power supply, allowing it to provide air, food, and water for up to 8 adult humanoids for 48 hours. The shelter's supplies can be extended if fewer people are using it. It can support a single adult humanoid for up to 16 days. Support shelters are also used in environmental emergencies, such as loss of life support on a space station or colony.

Size: 0.5m x 0.5m (collapsed). 3m diameter (expanded)
Mass: 60 kg.
Duration: 48 hours per person, up to 8.

Prospecting Equipment

Mining for rare and valuable minerals is one of the more lucrative activities of merchants. Prospectors use a variety of technology to look for and dig up their finds, often working alone or in small groups.

Survey Tricorder

A survey tricorder is similar to the design used by the Federation, the Cardassians, and various other civilizations. It is specifically designed to scan and detect geological phenomena, including specific types of minerals. Since some minerals and rock strata interfere with tricorder scans, such scans are often limited in range and can be misleading at time. More than one prospector has dug up part of an asteroid or planet, only to discover that the motherlode he thought he'd found was nothing more than a false sensor shadow caused by a vein of fistrium, kelvinite or a similar ore.

Survey Drone

Surveying a large area is a difficult task for a single prospector or a small crew, so they often employ automated survey drones for the task. A survey drone is a small probe, usually spherical, about 20 centimeters in diameter. The sphere contains a small anti-grav unit for propulsion, along with sensors and transmission gear. They fly at a rate of 20 meters per round, and can be remote controlled using a PADD or tricorder, or pre-programmed for certain tasks.

When distributed in a search-pattern across the surface of an area, the drones quickly developed a comprehensive map containing all available useful data. The prospector can then sift through the data looking for signs of valuable minerals and sites for possible excavation and mining. The drones can also handle dangerous tasks like surveying deep crevasses and pits, and planting small explosive charges. Some criminals modify survey drones to turn them into tools for theft, spying, and assassination.

Size: 20 cm in diameter
Mass: 2 kg
Duration: 12 hours + recharge

Plasma Torch

A plasma torch is a powerful, compact cutting tool used by miners to sheer through solid rock and metal. It looks like a slim wand attached to a small plasma-tank (worn on the belt) by a flexible cord. When activated, the torch emits a powerful, bright plasma flame from its tip. The length of the flame can be adjusted from a few centimeters to as long as half a meter. An active torch can cut through most materials at the same speed as a phaser set on Level 5; that is, a 1 meter hole in 10 cm of steel or rock in 3 minutes. The torch can also be used as a crude weapon. It is wielded like a melee weapon because of its short range, and does 10+2d6 damage if it hits. Plasma burns are very painful and often cause scarring unless treated properly; plasma scars are common among miners and others who work with plasma torches.

Size: 15 cm wand, plus 1 m cord and beltpack.
Mass: 0.8 kg
Duration: 120 minutes + recharge

Laser Drill

A laser drill is a larger piece of mining equipment used to bore passages through solid rock. The drill consists of a swivel arm mounted to a solid surface (often a mobile platform of some kind). The arm holds a powerful cutting laser, controlled by remote equipment, and the servos in the arm allow it to move in any direction or angle for cutting. The drill can be controlled manually by the operator, or carry out a set or pre-programmed instructions. The beam can cut a 1 m hole in 10 cm of rock or metal in 30 seconds, quickly boring long tunnels and passages used for mining and terraforming operations. Used as a weapon, the drill inflicts 12+3d6 damage. Either use uses 12 energy. The drill may have a portable battery power-source, or it may run off a standard fusion reactor or ship's power.

Size: 2 m swivel arm and 20 cm laser emitter.
Mass: 150 kg with servo and support equipment.
Duration: 1,500 energy + recharge

Transport Equipment

Getting things from place to place is a merchant's job, and they use a number of pieces of equipment to help them do it.

Grav-Lifters

Anti-gravity lifters, or simply "lifters," are units that generate an anti-graviton field, neutralizing the weight of objects placed on them and allowing them to be moved more easily. Lifters range in size from small platforms a meter square to large lifting platforms covering 6 square meters. Larger loads are generally moved using tractor beams or cargo transporters.

Size: 1-6 square meters
Mass: 25 to 150 kg
Duration: 12 hours + recharge

Bulk Transporters

Transporters are the workhorses of heavy cargo moving throughout the galaxy. Of course, transporters are highly advanced and complex pieces of technology, particularly personnel transporters, which have to scan and reconstruct their subjects on a quantum level. Such a fine level of resolution isn't necessary for the majority of cargoes a merchant ship might carry, so they often use cheaper bulk transporters.

Unlike the cargo transporters found on board Starfleet vessels, bulk transporters are simply not capable of quantum-scale resolution. They can transport only non-living matter; any living thing beamed through a bulk transporter rematerializes dead. For this very reason, bulk transporters have safety interlocks preventing them from beaming living subjects. Bulk transporters are otherwise identical to standard transporter technology.

Computer Equipment

Computers are everywhere in the 24th century, and the marketplace is no different. Merchants rely heavily on computers for a number of different tasks, from keeping track of inventory to profit-and-loss statements to running their ships.

Expert Systems

Although 24th century computers have access to a tremendous storehouse of data, it can take time for a computer to search through its databanks to find the right information. In businesses where time is money, it is often useful to have computer programs equipped with pre-sorted "packages" of information and important facts at the user's fingertips. Expert programs in finance, shipping, inventory, and navigation are in common use among merchants in the civilized galaxy to obtain the most precise and useful information possible.

Weapons

The life of a merchant is not an entirely safe one. The frontier regions are filled with pirates and renegades who prey on unsuspecting ships, and less scrupulous merchants have a way of earning themselves enemies in some of the places they visit. It is often wise to be prepared to defend yourself out in space. For that reason, merchants and their crews often travel armed.

Blasters

Crude and primitive when compared to Federation phasers or even Klingon disruptors, blaster weapons fire packets of super-heated plasma, channeled by a magnetic field. Larger blasters are often known as "scorchers," and are used by renegades and criminals because they're cheap, powerful, and have a strong intimidation value.

All these reasons make blasters a common choice of sidearm for merchant crews, as well. Additionally, the plasma fired by a blaster, while it may do terrible damage to vulnerable flesh, is less likely to penetrate the sometimes-fragile hull of a merchant's ship. Blasters have standard, continuous and wide-beam settings like phasers. They are more difficult to use than most energy weapons; anyone without the Energy Weapon (Blaster) skill suffers a -1 Test Result penalty to all Tests when firing the weapon.

Blasters are illegal throughout the Federation and the Klingon Empire, as well as Romulan and Cardassian space. However, since the replication pattern is so widely spread, it is difficult to enforce a ban on the weapons unless a person is actually caught using one. In practice, most frontier ports restrict blasters no more or less than any other weapon.

Blaster Pistol
Range:
5/20/50/100
Size: 25 cm long, 1 L in volume
Mass: 0.8 kg
Energy: 250 charges
Damage: Very Light (6 + 3d6 damage; 5 charges); Light (9 + 4d6 damage; 10 charges); Medium (18 + 6d6 damage; 20 charges); Heavy (27 + 10d6 damage; 40 charges).

Blaster Rifle
Range:
25/75/150/300
Size: 1.68 m long, 2.6 L in volume
Mass: 2.9 kg
Energy: 500 charges
Damage: Very Light (6 + 3d6 damage; 5 charges); Light (9 + 4d6 damage; 10 charges); Medium (18 + 6d6 damage; 20 charges); Heavy (27 + 10d6 damage; 40 charges).

Stunners

Stunners are small pistol-sized weapons that fire a powerful EM pulse specifically tuned to shock the humanoid nervous system, instantly rendering the target unconscious. The effects of a stunner last anywhere from a few minutes to hours, depending on the target's constitution and the accuracy of the shot.

Range: 5/15/30/80
Size: 17 cm long, .49 L in volume
Mass: 0.4 kg
Energy: 50 charges
Damage: A stunner does 8 + 3d6 Stun damage, which uses 5 charges per shot. If the shooter wishes to conserve the pistol's energy, he can reduce the charge cost by up to 3 (to a minimum of 2), but each ­1 charge reduces the damage done by that shot by 1.

Vibrocutters

Vibrocutters (or simple "cutters") are technically tools, but they have long since moved away from their original use to become weapons. Originally vibrocutters were used to cut through materials like metal and construction plastic. More precise and useful cutting lasers and plasma torches quickly replaced them, and rogues and other frontier folk took to using cutters as weapons.

A vibrocutter is a duranium blade between 20 and 50 centimeters long. It has an insulated grip handle containing the cutter's power source. When turned on, the blade vibrates a high rate of speed, allowing it to saw through most materials. An active cutter puts out a faint, high-pitched whine many have learned to beware of.

Vibrocutters are still technically legal in the Federation and most other civilizations, since their original use as tools has not been suspended. Carrying one is fairly suspect these days, however, and using on against an opponent still constitutes a crime.

Size: 20-50 cm long
Mass: 0.3-0.8 kg
Accuracy: 7
Block: +2. Additionally, any melee weapon blocked by a cutter is cut in half by it.
Damage: 6+2d6 for a small cutter, 8+2d6 for a large one. Each round of use uses one charge.
Charges: 200

Vehicles

In addition to starships, merchants often rely on different vehicles to transport their goods from place to place. These vehicles range from interplanetary shuttles to wheeled and tracked ground vehicles to water-borne ships like the ancient traders who plied Earth's oceans.

Generally speaking, most of these vehicles are on a different scale from the starships that Star Trek players are familiar with. In terms of characteristics, most vehicles are small (Size 1 or 2), with limited Resistance and Structural Points. They generally do not have ship systems like transporters, tractor beams, sensors, and even computers. They certainly do not have things like warp drive and their speed is miniscule compared to even the slowest impulse drive systems.

When dealing with vehicles in action, the "Rules of Engagement" chapter from the Deep Space Nine RPG serve as a guideline. Vehicle combat is handled in much the same way as starship combat, except vehicles do not have to worry about power allocation or other starship characteristics. The rules for maneuvers, movement, dodging, targeting, damage, and so forth operate in the same manner. Ground and water vehicles calculate their Movement Units by dividing their movement in kilometers per hour (KPH) by 50. Air vehicles divide by 100 KPH. Round fractions up.

Characters use the Vehicle Operation skill for handling all types of vehicles. At the Narrator's discretion, if a character does not have an appropriate or similar specialization, such as a character with Vehicle Operation (Ground Vehicles) trying to operate a speedboat, the difficulty may be increased by +1 or more.

Sample Vehicles

Hovercar

Size: 1
Resistance: 1
Structural Points: 20
Speed: 400 kph

Description and Notes

The hovercar is a standard means of surface transport on planets throughout the known galaxy, it is a small vehicle capable of seating up to five humanoid adults comfortably. It uses anti-gravity lifters and can achieve atmospheric speeds of up to 400 kph under normal conditions. Hovercars are not capable of high altitude operation, nor are they equipped for travel in space. They take off and land vertically. Military and security hovercars may be equipped with weapons (usually the equivalent of a phaser rifle). Larger version of hovercars can carry more passengers and cargo and have more Structural Points (up to 35-40 for large shuttlebuses and the like).

Groundcar

Size: 1
Resistance: 1
Structural Points: 20
Speed: 120 kph

Description and Notes

Groundcars are wheeled vehicles that can travel over relatively flat terrain. They are not in common use in most Level Six societies, since they've been largely replaced with anti-grav vehicles. Still, groundcars are found in less technologically advanced societies and on worlds that rely more heavily on old technology, such as some colonies. Most groundcars are equipped for off-road travel (since roads are often in short supply). Modern groundcars run on high-density batteries good for well over a thousand kilometers of travel before needing a recharge. Military and security groundcar may be armed with swivel mounted weapons, usually a phaser or disruptor rifle, or some sort of projectile weapon in a Level Five or more primitive culture.

Cargo Ship

Size: 3
Resistance: 1
Structural Points: 60
Speed: 80 kph

Description and Notes

These statistics are typical of the larger metal-hulled ships traveling a planet's oceans, like the cargo ships of Earth's past. Such ships may have a crew of anywhere from a dozen to thirty people or may be heavily automated using robots and computers.

Black Market Technology

Not all the goods merchants choose to transport are considered legal in places like the Federation or other civilizations in the galaxy. That can lead to unfortunate legal entanglements, unless an enterprising merchant takes steps to ensure that his transgressions will not be noticed.

Concealed Cargo Holds

Many merchant ships have hidden compartments used to carry contraband cargo. These compartments are usually not large, a few cubic meters at most. Anything larger is too likely to be noticed by anyone checking the ship. Still, even a small cache is sufficient to carry a case or two or Romulan ale, a collection of purloined archeological pieces, or some isolinear chips holding illegal holosuite programs. The hidden compartments are usually lined with material that blocks sensor scans, making it less likely that a casual check of the ship will turn up any signs of contraband. Of course, clever inspectors often use the same sensor "dead spots" to track down any hidden compartments.

Sensor Mask

A more sophisticated option for would-be smugglers is a sensor mask, a device that can project a false reading to sensors scanning an area a few meters in diameter. The sensor mask can make an area appear empty, or even appear to be a solid part of the ship, anything other than what it actually is, to prevent customs officials and others from discovering any illegal cargo there. Some merchants use a sensor mask to project a false image of legal cargo over the contraband, "hiding in plain sight" as it were. A clever Orion merchant once even tuned the sensor masks aboard his ship to convince a Cardassian cruiser that his vessel was far more heavily armed than it appeared.

Size: 30 cm long by 15 centimeters wide by 5 cm deep
Mass: 1.5 kg
Duration: 30 hours of continual use.

Subspace Shielding

Finally, ships running contraband can employ powerful subspace fields to block the sensor sweeps of other vessels. Using a principle similar to shield technology, a subspace field is established. It does nothing but block sensor sweeps and communications, making it virtually impossible for another ship or station to determine what the ship has on board without actually boarding it. Some ships limit the subspace field to the cargo bay and other sensitive areas, while most surround the entire ship in the field. Penetrating such an active subspace jamming field is a Nearly Impossible (15) Shipboard Systems (Sensors) action. A subspace shield runs off ship's power, but consumes considerably less than a standard deflector shield, requiring Power equal to the ship's Size (or the Size of the area being concealed, with a minimum Power cost of 1).