I do need to see your identification and these are the droids I am looking for (Bureaucracy Part 2)


One of my favourite parts of reading the Star Wars Expanded Universe is reading about the hilarity of ordinary things. I know it’s rather hoopy of me, but there is something about the mundaneness of the everyday world that is very amusing when portrayed well in fiction. Douglas Adams is perhaps the best at it, but he’s not the only one.

The best example I can give in Star Wars is the Clone Wars era novel Dark Rendezvous. There are many quite hilarious events, like when Yoda gets two Padawan learners to scour out the guts of a starship. But the scene I enjoyed the most was when two Jedi and their Padawans are trying to clear security while attempting to stay in disguise. This was one of the origins for a similar scene I played out when I had the players enter Bespin.

But I’ll get to that later, as I’d like to continue on the theme of players owning their own starships. I’ll try and be a bit more generic as well as talk about Star Wars.

Spaceports and Inspections – The Basics

This entire post is going to be based around this topic, yet here I’ll talk specifically about an event that would only happen when characters have their own starship. Most of these things will happen on arrival on a planet, though in varying levels depending on where they are.

Last time, I spoke of the supplement Starships of the Galaxy, this time I am going to plug Scum and Villainy due to the extensive information it has on this very topic. The tables, whether you use them with dice rolls as intended or to pick and choose, are a very valuable resource on spaceports and the various bits and pieces. This means docking fees, the availability of fuel, consumables and maintenance. Really, if you are only going to do only a small amount of bureaucracy in your game, this is what I recommend as you hardly have to do anything.

This can be taken on step further with cargo inspections, which could be purely done in terms of the GM making their players sweat about all that contraband. A Classic-Era campaign would be perfect for this, as the Empire is rather anal in this way.

Also in this category I would put the METOSP, the Message To Spacers, which is really just a shout out when the players arrive at a planet. And it would be a good tool to use to make this system work, as I will go into now.

Spaceports and Inspections – How it Would Work

As with guns and ships, how much detail you can go into with this would first depend on how much a GM would want to take it. Which would probably correlate with the patience of the players. Secondly, the planet the players have arrived on is a big influence. The general rule of thumb is the bigger and more “civilised” the planet is, the more extensive their bureaucratic system is likely to be. This also could influence how likely the officials are to look the other way after being plied with credits.

So, a starship coming to enter the planet…Commenor, for instance, what would be expected? Firstly, with densely populated planets towards the core, there is bound to be a little traffic in the spacelanes. A privately owned and operated civilian ship would normally be expected to wait for quite a while. There are exceptions, if the players had certain permissions for clearance or they were carrying an urgent cargo (more bureaucracy) or even if the captain happens to know a few people onworld.

Then, they’re hit with the METOSP with a request for identification (as well as any Deception or Use Computer checks needed) and the assignation of a docking bay in a spaceport (as the planet probably has more than one). This is also where the players can request any services they need on arrival, such as fuel or a medic.

The METOSP can also be used to convey information very briefly on the situation on the planet, such as if there is a battle, the planet is under quarantine or interdiction. But only brief and very important information, details about where the good cantinas are can wait until later.

On arrival, there will probably be someone to meet the players, whether docking bay personnel or some officials to inspect the cargo and probably also check the ship-related licenses that I talked about last post.. The potential for role playing and story with a cargo inspection is extensive. Think about if the players try to bribe the officials, and it fails and they are imprisoned. Or a corrupt inspector is willing to look the other way for a fee and a slice of the cargo. Or the players could be arrested on arrival.

But the fun isn’t over yet, as they players move onto customs.

Customs and Commerical Space Travel – The Basics

With the level of paranoia surrounding airports these days, travel has given us a new level of ridiculousness. Personally, I haven’t experienced this myself but I have heard plenty of stories, like the five year old who was on the No-Fly List.

This isn’t just the checking of the various licenses of equipment, although that is part of it. There’s also the checking of identification (everyone’s this time) and the potential to be regarded with suspicion simply because a player is who they are.

Fortunately, independent shippers will only get a light dose of this as well as a cargo inspection, travelling through space commercially is comparatively a lot more thorough. After all, they don’t want you smuggling an ion bomb in your luggage, do they?

The novel Dark Rendezvous deals with this, and I’ll go into a little detail later.

But this sort of bureaucracy could be extended to a medieval-era fantasy campaign, such as Dungeons & Dragons, upon entering a city. Of course, in the Middle Ages one did not have as many pieces of paper to prove you are an actual person as one does today, but there were letters of marque and introduction.

Perhaps the biggest way this could be done is if the players were wanted criminals in a city that was also controlled by the lord of the city they have just arrived in (a mouthful, but it does make sense). The sentries at the gate may have information to lead to arrest. Though a lot of my own experiences of sneaking in and out of medieval cities comes from the Microprose game Darklands.

Customs and Commerical Space Travel – How it Would Work

Like before, it depends on how much the GM wants to do and what planet the players are on. An Tatooine they are just going to leave you alone, on Alderaan they won’t only check you out thoroughly but may even ask you to secure your weapons with them while you are there.

IDI have found the “checking in” with customs to be rather interesting role playing, and it doesn’t even have to be very long. I made a sort of “passport” for the players which they have filled in with their details, and this could be taken further with perhaps showing where they have been, sort of like when your passport is stamped in real life. These may be legit or forged, though you’ll have to distinguish them from each other, as the latter will require Deception checks. Applying or purchasing one could be amusing, but I have never gone into it.

The fun can start really with the species a player is or the planet they happen to be from, though this would very much depend on era. For example, a Neimoidian entering a Republic world during the Clone Wars may raise a few eyebrows, just as a human from Alderaan entering a Separatist world would.

For travelling commercially, it would be doubly difficult no doubt with the checking of baggage, diseases and possibly a sterilisation bath akin to what Mace Windu went through in Shatterpoint.

I have yet to do this, but probably will one of days and then there may be a more extensive post about liners and freighter trampers.

But like with the METOSP, the customs check-in desk is a good way to pass on information about the planet, yet this time it needn’t make it so brief. Slipping a customs officer a few credits may be a good way to find out what is really going on at the planet.

Summing Up

I could have gone into a lot more detail about bureaucracy, but I didn’t need to as the level of complexity is how far a GM would want to take it, as said in the article I quoted in the very beginning. Here are just a few examples, including what has already been set up.

And one more thing, there seems to be the impression that this has to be exhaustive and you role play every step of the way. It doesn’t, as you can just outline it to the player, have them make a Knowledge (bureaucracy) check and they spend a certain amount of time doing that while other players can be attended to.

It makes role-played shopping a little easier for the GM if players are waiting in a line.

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~ by katanageldar on August 30, 2009.

One Response to “I do need to see your identification and these are the droids I am looking for (Bureaucracy Part 2)”

  1. […] if you want to read about the little bits and pieces that make a game real and believable, look up my posts on […]

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