Chapter 7: Trade and Commerce

As outlined under Starship Revenues in Chapter 6: Off-World Travel, a vessel can easily haul cargo for a flat rate, without having to engage in speculative trading. However, for those merchants willing to take the risk, speculative trading can prove to be a very profitable enterprise. This chapter provides a simple speculative trade system for use in Cepheus Engine campaigns, for those interested in such pursuits.

Speculative Trade Checklist

Speculative trading follows a basic procedure. The following checklist outlines the various steps in the speculative trade procedure.

  1. Find a supplier
  2. Determine goods available
  3. Determine purchase price
  4. Take goods to new world or market
  5. Find a buyer
  6. Determine sales price

Find a Supplier

The first step in the process is simple: find a supplier with something to sell. Characters can search for multiple suppliers, but there is a –1 DM per previous attempt on a planet in a given month.

Finding a supplier:
Broker, Education or Social Standing, 1D6 days, Average (+0).
Finding a black market supplier:
(Illegal goods only) Streetwise, Education or Social Standing, 1D6 days, Average (+0).
Finding an online supplier:
(Worlds with TL 8+ only) Computers, Education, 1D6 hours, Average (+0).

The size of the Starport provides a bonus to finding a supplier. Class A starports give a +6 DM, class B starports give a +4 DM and class C starports give a +2 DM.

Determine Goods Available

Goods are divided into two categories of goods – Common and Trade Goods. Common Goods can be purchased on any world. Trade Goods can usually only be found on a world with a matching trade code. The amount of each type of goods available is limited – the tons column on the Trade Goods table determines how many tons of a given type of goods is available for purchase.

A given supplier has all Common Goods available and 1D6 randomly determined goods. Roll D66 on the table to determine the goods available, ignoring results 61–65 unless dealing with a black market supplier. If you roll the same type of goods multiple times, then the supplier has extra amounts of those goods available.

Some goods are illegal, and can be purchased only through a black market supplier. A black market supplier has whatever illegal goods match his world's trade code, as well as any randomly rolled illegal goods. Other goods may be legal on some worlds, but not legal on others (such as personal weapons and armor, which might be restricted on a world with a high law level). The Referee should adjudicate such situations as they occur.

Table: Common Goods
Item Cost (Cr) Tons
Basic Consumable Goods 1,000 2D6x5
Basic Electronics 25,000 2D6x5
Basic Machine Parts 10,000 2D6x5
Basic Manufactured Goods 20,000 2D6x5
Basic Raw Materials 5,000 2D6x5
Basic Unrefined Ore 2,000 2D6x5
Table: Trade Goods
D66 Trade Goods Base Price (Cr) Tons Purchase DMs Sale DMs
11 Advanced Electronics 100,000 1D6x5 Ht +2, In +3 Ni +2, Po +1
12 Advanced Manufactured Goods 200,000 1D6x5 In +3, Ri +2 Ag +1, Ni +2
13 Agricultural Equipment 150,000 1D6 In +3, Ri +2 Ag +2, Ga +1
14 Animal Products 1,500 4D6x5 Ag +2, Ga +3 Hi +2, Ri +1
15 Collectibles 50,000 1D6 In +2, Ri +3 Hi +2, Ni +1
16 Computers & Computer Parts 150,000 2D6 Ht +3, In +2 Na +1, Ni +2
21 Crystals & Gems 20,000 1D6x5 Ni +3, Na +2 In +1, Ri +2
22 Cybernetic Parts 250,000 1D6x5 Ht +3, Ri +2 Na +1, Ni +2
23 Food Service Equipment 4,000 2D6 In +3, Na +2 Ag +1, Ni +2
24 Furniture 5,000 4D6 Ag +2, Ga +3 Hi +1, Ri +2
25 Gambling Devices & Equipment 4,000 1D6 Hi +2, Ri +3 Na +2, Ni +1
26 Grav Vehicles 160,000 1D6 Ht +3, Ri +2 Ni +2, Po +1
31 Grocery Products 6,000 1D6x5 Ag +3, Ga +2 Hi +1, Ri +2
32 Household Appliances 12,000 4D6 Hi +2, In +3 Na +1, Ni +2
33 Industrial Supplies 75,000 2D6 In +3, Ri +2 Na +1, Ni +2
34 Liquor & Other Intoxicants 15,000 1D6x5 Ag +3, Ga +2 In +1, Ri +2
35 Luxury Goods 150,000 1D6 Ag +2, Ga +3 In +1, Ri +2
36 Manufacturing Equipment 750,000 1D6x5 In +3, Ri +2 Na +1, Ni +2
41 Medical Equipment 50,000 1D6x5 Ht +2, Ri +3 Hi +1, In +2
42 Petrochemicals 10,000 2D6x5 Na +2, Ni +3 Ag +1, In +2
43 Pharmaceuticals 100,000 1D6 Ht +3, Wa +2 In +2, Ri +1
44 Polymers 7,000 4D6x5 In +2, Ri +3 Ni +2, Va +1
45 Precious Metals 50,000 1D6 As +3, Ic +2 In +1, Ri +2
46 Radioactives 1,000,000 1D6 As +2, Ni +3 In +2, Ht +1
51 Robots & Drones 500,000 1D6x5 Ht +3, In +2 Ni +1, Ri +2
52 Scientific Equipment 50,000 1D6x5 Ht +3, Ri +2 Hi +2, Ni +1
53 Survival Gear 4,000 2D6 Ga +3, Ri +2 Fl +2, Va +1
54 Textiles 3,000 3D6x5 Ag +3, Ni +2 Na +1, Ri +2
55 Uncommon Raw Materials 50,000 2D6x5 Ag +3, Ni +2 In +2, Na +1
56 Uncommon Unrefined Ores 20,000 2D6x5 As +2, Va +1 In +2, Na +1
61 Illicit Luxury Goods 150,000 1D6 Ag +2, Ga +3 In +4, Ri +6
62 Illicit Pharmaceuticals 100,000 1D6 Ht +3, Wa +2 In +6, Ri +4
63 Medical Research Material 50,000 1D6x5 Ht +2, Ri +3 In +6, Na +4
64 Military Equipment 150,000 2D6 Ht +3, In +2 Hi +6, Ni +4
65 Personal Weapons & Armor 30,000 2D6 In +3, Ri +2 Ni +6, Po +4
66 Unusual Cargo * * * *

*Note: Unusual cargo covers unique or highly unusual items, such as alien artifacts, high tech prototypes, stolen artwork of antiquity, or unique lifeforms. Such items often form the seed for an adventure.

Determine Purchase Price

Determining the purchase price for speculative cargo is based on the results of a skill check. The results of this skill check represents the best possible offer the parties can reach under the current conditions.

Determining the purchase price:
Broker, Intelligence or Social Standing, 1D6 kiloseconds, Average (+0).

The skill check is further modified by adding the largest Dice Modifier that applies from the Purchase DM column, subtracting the largest Dice Modifier that applies from the Sale DM column, and subtracting any Dice Modifiers from the supplier (such as their Broker skill). Some especially rich or powerful suppliers can demand high prices. In cases where multiple Purchase or Sale DMs apply, use only the largest ones from each column.

The Referee should then consult the Purchase column of the Modified Price table, using the skill check result to determine the Purchase Price percentage. The final price of the speculative cargo is the Base Price multiplied by the Purchase Price percentage. The trader does not have to accept this price, but if he rejects the deal, then he cannot deal with that supplier again for at least one week. After that week, he may attempt a new skill check to determine the purchase price for those goods.

Table: Modified Price Table
Result Purchase Sale
2- 200% 40%
3 180% 50%
4 160% 60%
5 140% 70%
6 120% 80%
7 110% 90%
8 100% 100%
9 90% 110%
10 80% 120%
11 70% 140%
12 60% 160%
13 50% 180%
14 40% 200%
15 30% 300%
16+ 20% 400%

Local Brokers

A speculative trader can hire a local broker to represent him in trade negotiations. This allows the merchant to use the broker's skill levels instead of their own, although that comes at a price in the form of a percentage of the final negotiated price, which must be paid even if the merchant decides not to sell his goods. The Local Broker table indicates the commission charged for a given skill level, as well as indicating what maximum skill levels are commonly available for a given class of starport.

Table: Local Brokers
Skill Level Commission Notes
1 5% Max for Class D or E Starport
2 10% Max for Class C Starport
3 15% Max for Class B Starport
4 20% Max for Class A Starport

Selling Goods

Selling goods works just like purchasing goods, with the following changes: