Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rocket Repos?

        So on Saturday, thanks to slicing the tip of my right ring finger rather badly (It's held together with butterfly tape and Nuskin right now) I didn't get any work on the Pumpkin-Suit's Manual.  I spent the day cleaning house with a glove on the victimized hand and watching crime-solver shows on TV.  They kept advertising the new season of Lizard Lick Towing, which is a reality show that follows a team of redneck repo men as they get shot at, threatened with flamethrowers and generally abused verbally by men and women that would have been at home on The Jerry Springer Show.

         Sounds fun, right?

         The incessant repetition of the ad promo did infect me with an idea for a campaign arc in hard SF gaming that I've not seen really used that often:  Rocket Repossession.

         Repossession a la Repomen is, for those of you in Germany or Russia or other parts of the world, a "help-yourself" legal option in the US and UK that involves getting back a car, boat, plane or other financed item when the party with the right of possession defaults on their loan to pay for it.  The repo-men come for the defaulted item, and in the US at least, as long as they do not "breech the peace" they have every legal right to take the chattel without consent (informed or otherwise) from the debtor in a way that is very reminiscent of stealing, except that the repo man is taking back the property of the bank or car dealership or whoever and not for themselves.

         A particularly high-end form of this business is aircraft repos, which can range from taking back a Gulfstream from a investor that lost it all when the US housing bubble collapsed, to a 747 from a European airline that's missed more than three payments.  This kind of work will net the handful of professionals that can manage the military-like operations needed to steal a plane from an airport between six and eight hundred thousand dollars a job.
         The guys that go after the big jobs (like the President of the Congo's private 747) seem to be pretty much distilled bad-ass, with a dash of awesome for flavor.  Kinda like PCs.

 much would repo-ing a rocket be worth?

          In The Black Desert, a cheap, mass-produced Liberty Bell will cost about 12 million new, with a maximum depreciation of about 25%.  Add on financing at about twenty percent, the cheapest rocket will cost about ten million over a ten year mortgage, which sounds pricey but isn't that bad when you consider that at $20.00/kg, the 'Bell can haul five million worth of cargo a trip.  That being said, fees, expenses, fuel and crew salaries and maintenance will eat up most of those dollars and a free trader could easily see themselves too far in the red to hold onto their rocket.  A space transport company with a dozen rockets might lose the whole fleet because of lender requirements for "minimum upkeep standards" not being met.

         Then there are fusion-powered craft, which can cost up to ten times that much...and are typically military and armed with missiles and protected by Espatiers.

         So I could see a group of PCs being able to charge a couple hundred grand a job, go to exciting places, steal rockets, get shot at, clash with local authorities, and all that jazz.  In fact, it allows a resolution to one of (for me) the most difficult paradoxes in gaming in modern and future eras: If there is actual law-and-order in the society that the PCs operate in, how can they kick ass and blow stuff up like PCs always seem to want to?  It occurs to me that stealing a freaking rocket from orbit or a spaceport on any of three planets would seem to qualify.  Some of these real-life aircraft repo guys go after military assets in third-world countries.  That's right; they steal fighter jets from foreign air forces.  This is a scenario tailor made for gaming, RocketFans, and I for one am excited to run adventures for it.


  1. I love it. I wonder what other legal gray areas the PCs can slip into?

  2. Brilliant. You wouldn't mind if I used this idea in my own work, would you?

  3. Of course not, Mangaka2170! I would like to see more of this in SF. As much as I love the Tramp Freighter trope, it is getting pretty worn...


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