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Alive 9
Universe in a Box 3

             Trade, Society and stuff

Trade,  why  trade?  In  theory  most  planetary  colonies  should  be  self
sufficient, if earth-like level of richness. Or able to obtain raw materials
within solar system.  Some communities, extreme ideological or religious may
well opt to do this, cutting off and shunning contact with others.

Elite  and Frontier - active trading network,  the lifeblood of the  settled
galaxy. Trading very important here. Most trade between star systems, not so
much made of inter-solar system trading, which I think would be more common,
at least for routine commodities.

Tendency to specialise, some planets primarily agrarian with low-tech level,
others  highly industrial but unable to grow enough food.  This is the basic
trade mechanism of Elite and its kind.  Other communities could be too small
to offer a full tech level and create a demand that way.

Over-specialising, such as central planet of empire given almost entirely to
'Admin' tasks,  examples include Star Wars Coruscant home planet, and planet
Helior from 'Bill the Galactic Hero' (book).  Their "trade relations",  such
as they are,  would be almost parasitic,  sucking in 'tribute' from the rest
of the empire, and 'exporting' waste products in huge quantities.

In  any semi-realistic trade model,  very few places would lack the means to
feed  themselves  entirely.  Basic foodstuffs would not be moved  around  so
much. But tech levels would vary, with higher tech being very much prized.

There are several interesting and potentially profitable niches.

Tech-goods,  higher  tech  level sells down to lower tech level,  commands a
good  price  for this.  Could be anything from computers,  robots,  critical
space-ship parts, warp drives etc.

Luxury goods,  a clever idea from the makers of Elite,  there will always be
high  demand  for these.  If you wanted to be very clever,  you could create
local  conditions in the trade model where the market is hyped or  collapses
due to excessive demand or over-supply.  Luxury goods will cover a very wide
spectrum.  See  also 'wines and spirits' under Elite.  It could also include
things like Lotek Style DVD-ROM collections ;-) This will constitute a major
part  of legal interstellar trading.  Most planets without high tech  levels
may  well produce some kind of high-value luxury or craft-produced items  to
use as an export cash crop earner.

Waste disposal, hazardous. Most planets will have some enlightened recycling
policy  in  force.  Some  smaller space-based concerns will  recycle  almost
everything. Some things people won't want to keep to themselves though, such
as long-term hazardous,  ie radioactive waste. People will pay good money to
have this hauled away!

Fast-response courier services,  the Parcelforce or DFS of space! Fast ships
for those time-critical packages.. Also people could come under this sort of
service (Barnard Star Taxi's Limited!.

Salvage  of damaged and broken space-ships,  tends to be a specialist  trade
with properly equipped ships, space tugs etc.

Asteroid  mining  and  gas-giant  harvesting  for  super-rare  elements  and
minerals.  Will  need  specialist  equipment and ships.  Then there is  some
associated   trade  and  carriage  of  these  super-rare  elements  to   the
manufacturing planets that need them.

Bulk  carriage,  asteroid  and iceberg/comet shifting - Very very big  ships
only need apply!

Terraforming,  transforming  inhospitable ice-balls into earthlike paradise,
see immediately above!

Repair  and shipwright work.  Higher tech level planets can make good  money
fixing  up or customising passing trade vessels.  Are second-hand space-ship
salesmen as dodgy as their car-selling counterparts on Earth?!

Bounty-hunting,  this  was  always a second-line occupation to  the  primary
trader role in Elite. I'd go further, and make the bounty rate viable enough
to take up bounty hunting as a full-time occupation. Perhaps some really big
rewards for some really big and well armed crims!

Illegal trade niches. The risks and rewards are higher.

Slaves, an Elite classic, could be a by-product of piracy, or specific slave
raids  and  people  trafficking.  More likely to be a  feature  of  frontier

Narcotics,  universally popular!  Can take many forms,  easy to carry. Could
even be something as normally innocuous as wines and spirits if landing on a
prohibition world by mistake!

pR0n  DVD's,  why  not!  Quick  and  easy way to cash in  on  religious  and
repressed planets!  Or 'WareZ in general?  "We knew the game was up when the
sleek  hunter  killer ships of the RIAA hove into view,  and  their  laser's
sliced into our forward hull..."

Weapons,  I'd  guess  that these would be very tightly controlled  normally.
Will come under illegal and modified or stolen military tech.

Alien  Tech,  weird  stuff  with unknown capabilities,  also could be  alien
artefacts and antiques in situation analogous to illegally exporting ancient
Egyptian antiques today.

Fugitive  smuggling,  an  imperial stormtrooper on his Harley  Davidson  TIE
Fighter  flags you down.  "Excuse me sir,  is that Obi Wan Kenobi sitting in
the  back  of your space craft?" Could almost fit in as a  form  of  special

Frontier  had  the  nice  feature of playing  the  stock  market  for  local
fluctuations in price for varied goods.  If you were very patient, you could
make  decent money without even leaving port,  buying and selling cargo's as
the demand and supply varied.

Then  there was the Bulletin board system,  which offered a number of  legal
and  illegal  opportunities.  Most of the dodgy deals,  and things like fast
courier work are picked up there.

To trade successfully,  you have to take into account the different types of
society  that  develop.  Classic  Elite assumed no central  control,  and  a
variety  of  socio-economic models evolving in relative isolation  from  one
another.  These  tended  to be graded in stability and ability  to  maintain
local  law and order.  Going from one extreme with the ultra-clean corporate
state,  all  the way down to the wildly exciting anarchy systems.  There was
even room for existing Earth-style concepts such as democracy and communism.
The  Frontier  revamp  added  a couple  of  overwhelming  empires  with  two
conflicting  value  systems.  An  individual  planet's  own  experiments  in
politics  would  be forced in a given direction by the decrees  handed  down
from the ruling systems.  So a naturally communist planet might be having to
reconcile itself with a feudal empire with pro-slavery laws, for example.

There  is  still  scope for a variety of independent  and  lawless  systems.
Frontier  included a number of the old Elite systems,  and it is not hard to
visualise  a looser federation of independant planets,  reluctantly  banding
together  to protect themselves from the ravages of an expansionist  empire.
Even without this, some places would be too useful to be taken over, without
adverse  consequences.  Such  niches  might be filled by  a  very  high-tech
corporate world, selling their goods impartially, or an anarchy world on the
borders  where  the  smuggling  trade is too large,  and the  cut  taken  by
corrupted  government  officials too much to allow that to  pass  under  the
deadening hand of central control! To add to that, you can have isolationist
colonies  of  religious nutters,  people who have turned their back  on  the
universe  at  large.  These  will  be difficult trading  partners,  and  the
wealthier   ones  may  well  have  the  means  to  defend  their   interests

The  progress  of human settlement is onion-ring layered,  with  denser  and
longer established planets at the centre.  The outermost layer,  on the very
edges of unexplored regions are the frontier worlds.

A typical frontier world:- "Fred's planet", started up to ten years ago in a
previously unexplored region, when a mineral prospector, Fred Xavier, staked
a  claim  to  this marginal mudball.  Fred's busines plan,  such as it  was,
failed  completely within three years,  but the tiny colony attracted  other
sorts  of attention,  and now it is a staging post for fast smuggling craft,
and a useful hiding place for several outlaws.  It is entirely possible that
neither Imperial faction is even aware of its existence yet,  but it is only
a  matter of time before a lot of the criminality in the sector  is  tracked
back to here, and a punitive expedition is mounted.

Population, a few hundred (no reliable census figures)

Tech level - Low(ish)

Self-supporting - Not really.

Stability  level  - Classic definition of Anarchy system,  approach  at  own

Legal  Trade  Opportunities are very poor,  and you are likely to  get  your
cargo  taken  off you  - Illegal trade is rife,  with many opportunities  to
join in!

Typical  off-planet activity - Piracy,  the settling of blood-feuds,  hiding
stuff, bounty-hunting (if skilful.)

Further in,  is a later stage frontier world, usually independent:- "Haywood
IV"  has  been  settled  for thirty years,  and has attracted  enough  of  a
population  to be able to enforce a degree of system-wide law and order.  It
helps that the original frontier zone is constantly pushing out, taking most
of  its  rogue elements with it.  Governance is not central,  and is  fairly
tolerant.  Especially of the colony of dissident Latter Day Elvis fans,  who
turned up,  fleeing an Empire pogrom ten years ago.  They keep themselves to
themselves.  Trade  is small-scale,  and Haywood IV has been lucky enough to
avoid becoming of interest to either of the big powers.

Population, less than 100,000

Tech-level - Low to Medium

Self-supporting - Yes, on a fairly basic level.

Stability level - Local law enforcement, fairly good, some residual outlaw
activity remains in outer system.

Legal  trade  is  small scale,  it would favour Cobra III sized  craft,  all
categories  traded,  with  more interest in higher tech and luxury  items  -
Illegal trade is generally tolerated, although you could be unlucky when the
local law enforcement has a spasmodic crisis of conscience.

Typical  off-planet  activity - Mineral and  element  prospecting,  asteroid
mining,  some small scale lawbreaking,  bounty-hunting (if still learning on
the job!)

Getting closer to the ancient centres of civilisation,  Morleanii has been a
loyal  outer planet of the empire for the past fifty years now,  having been
first  settled over a hundred years ago.Their standard of living is not  too
far removed from that of the average independent world even if they have  to
pay  onerous taxes to support their colonial master's obligations.   A major
naval base has been built on one of the moons nearby, and Morleanii supports
a  sizeable  troop garrison and other military infrastructure,  as  it  lies
inside a disputed zone with the arch-rival Federation. The Morleanii Martyrs
monument  commemorates the dead from the last 'hot' war fought about  thirty
years  ago.  The  gleaming black thirty-storey marble cenotaph is  perfectly
sited in the blast crater which is the site of the former Morleanii capitol.
As with many other outer empire planets,  visitors are advised to be careful
about strict adherence to empire laws and customs when onplanet,  and beware
of high paranoia levels and general suspicion of outsiders.

Population,  up to 50 million (additional 50,000 Empire troops garrisoned at
low alert state.)

Tech-Level - High, with military presence.

Self-supporting - Yes, policy compels self-sufficiency as far as possible as
if in a war economy. Luxury goods would be strictly rationed.

Stability level - Very high generally, much less safe when there is an alert
on. Check up to date travel advice for this region.

Legal  trade tends to be strictly within Empire guidelines.  More categories
of non-approved goods and unfavourable tariffs in places like this - Illegal
trade,  they  have  ferocious customs and police,  and will stop and search,
black  market  high-tech possible to obtain,  but be careful.  Black  market
active for other categories too.

Typical  off-planet  activity  - Being careful to  avoid  restricted  areas,
submitting to onerous stop and search procedures, routinely accused of being
a spy, generally tiptoeing on eggshells!

Sitting  smugly in a system not too far from the original home  of  mankind,
Earth,  Ingersoll  has little to fear as a rich and established inner world.
As  a  member  of the Federation,  it is democratic,  although in  practice,
planetary  politics are in the hands of the powerful Ingersoll-Rand  family,
and have been ever since the first colony was established four hundred years
ago.  As a garden world,  Ingersoll escews a high tech-level, but attracts a
number  of  wealthy  settlers  who  are lured  by  the  lush  earthlike  and
terraformed  environment.  It  operates  a lucrative tourist trade,  but  is
careful  to keep these hoi polloi away from the playgrounds of the rich  and

Population, up to 250 million

Tech Level - Low

Self-supporting  -  Yes,  apart  from hi-tech items.  Net exporter  of  some
categories of food-related luxury goods.

Stability level - Very safe,  active but more permissive law enforcement, IE
may  ask questions first before shooting for a change!  No military presence
to worry about either as protected by outer world defences.

Legal  trade,  as a rich planet,  high demand for luxury goods and some high
tech items - Illegal trade,  tends to be fairly relaxed with narcotics,  but
much less so with arms and slaves.

Typical  off-planet  activity  - Solar flare surfing  (the  'in-thing'  this

Coming next episode, Special mission scenarios!

CiH, for Alive Mag,Various '04

Alive 9