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Source Ports of Call pg. 166
The life of an independent trader isn’t an easy one. On paper, the career is simple: get a ship, get a crew, get cargo, and get paid. Nothing ever goes as planned, however—starships break down or get caught in firefights, a journey through the Drift turns out far more dangerous than anyone expected, sellers charge too much, and naturally, buyers pay too little. But the prospect of danger and uncertainty make for an exciting Starfinder campaign! The following optional rules provide a new way to structure a campaign for independent merchant PCs flying a starship of their own, buying, moving, and selling cargo in the Pact Worlds, Near Space, and the Vast. These rules are especially useful in sandbox-style campaigns; see chapter 3 of the Starfinder Galaxy Exploration Manual for more on designing and running sandbox adventures.

Alternative Building Points

Source Ports of Call pg. 166
The focus of these new rules alters the way PCs obtain Build Points (BP) for building and upgrading starships. In the standard rules, BP are a pool that constantly increases as the PCs level up. Build Points are never lost; if the PCs’ starship is completely destroyed, they can just use their BP to purchase a new starship when the GM allows it. However, in the cargo subsystem, Build Points become a form of currency. The PCs spend BP on their starship and cargo and earn BP when they sell that cargo.
The PCs’ starship becomes an investment—like any other piece of equipment, but bought with BP instead of credits. As the PCs complete jobs, they get more BP with which they can upgrade their starship. They can do so gradually, installing one new system at a time, or by hoarding and spending BP all at once. They’ll always want to keep some unspent BP on hand, however, since they’ll need BP to buy the cargo for their next job. If the PCs’ ship is destroyed, those BP are gone! (Many crews insure their starship for just this eventuality; see page 170 for details on starship insurance.) But if the PCs’ business flourishes, they’ll find themselves living in the lap of luxury, hiring additional employees, or even buying a second starship to ply the interstellar trade routes.
The Starfinder Core Rulebook includes some guidelines for how the PCs can acquire the Build Points they need to create their first starship and upgrade it—via salvage, favors, or an arrangement with a friendly spacedock, for instance—suggesting that BP represent a lot more than simple credits. Indeed, they’re an abstraction separate from the methods by which the PCs buy their personal equipment, used exclusively in the starship creation system. This is an important distinction, because if the PCs can exchange BP for credits, they could end up underpowered in starship combat while simultaneously overpowered in all their other encounters.
In the rules presented here, Build Points represent the party’s business capital. That capital has many components, including the PCs’ available credit, loans they’ve taken out, and assets they might use as collateral. This capital is used to make big purchases—lots of cargo or starship modifications, often with the help of financing from a bank or other establishment.
To begin, the PCs receive a number of Build Points as determined by their Average Party Level (APL) as noted in Table 9–1: Starship Base Statistics on page 294 of the Core Rulebook. They should use those BP to build their starship as usual, keeping in mind that their vessel will need plenty of room for cargo and that they’ll need a few BP to purchase that cargo.

Galactic Trade Basics

Source Ports of Call pg. 166
The PCs will earn most of their Build Points by hauling cargo from one world to another. See page 171 for other ways the PCs can receive BP.
A cargo job can be broken into several steps.
  • Find Cargo: The PCs find cargo. Determine the cargo’s type, the price to buy it, its destination (if any), and how much it might sell for.
  • Determine Complication: Most jobs have a unique, complicating factor, which is determined in secret when the PCs find their cargo (the PCs might not become aware of it right away).
  • Transport: The PCs take the cargo to its destination or to a world where they hope to sell it.
  • Make the Sale: The PCs deliver the cargo to its intended recipient or try to find a buyer.

Find Cargo

Source Ports of Call pg. 166
Cargo in the Starfinder setting is standardized into lots, each massing 25 tons; a single lot of cargo fits into one of a starship’s cargo holds. The PCs can easily tell the maximum number of lots they can transport by counting the number of cargo holds on their vessel. Finding cargo to buy is a downtime activity as detailed in the sidebar on page 168. For more on downtime activities, see page 150 of the Starfinder Character Operations Manual.

Cargo Type

Source Ports of Call pg. 166
When the PCs successfully find a cargo to purchase, you determine the type of cargo, usually for the needs of your campaign. Alternatively, you can randomly determine the type of cargo by rolling a d20 on the table below.

Table 3-1:Cargo Types

1Art or antiques
2Base metals
3Ceramics or glassware
6Hides or leather
7Live animals or animal products
8Machinery, electronics, or appliances
9Minerals or mineral products
10Paper products or books
12Precision equipment
13Precious metals, including starmetals, or semiprecious stones
14Prepared food
15Textiles, including clothing
16Toys, games, or sporting equipment
17Vegetable products
19Weapons or ammunition
20Wood or wood articles

Shipping or Speculation?

Source Ports of Call pg. 167
Player characters are usually more than simple delivery drivers, hired to move bulk cargo along well-established routes for a flat fee. Instead, when the PCs purchase cargo, it will generally be up to them to find a place to sell it. However, at your discretion, the seller can give the PCs a tip as to where they might offload the cargo they just bought. This is a good tactic for players who are only just starting to interact with this system or for groups who only want to dip their toes into the trading game. In such a case, the PCs don’t need to use the find buyer downtime activity (page 169) and receive an amount of BP per cargo lot chosen by you.


Source Ports of Call pg. 167
If you’ve decided that the cargo’s seller gives the PCs an idea of where to sell those goods, you can choose that destination based on the needs of your campaign (especially if the players have expressed interest in going to a specific place). Alternatively, you can randomly determine the general destination by rolling a d10 on the table below.

Table 3-2: Destinations

1Absalom Station. If the PCs are already on Absalom Station, reroll.
2–4A different world in the same star system where the PCs bought the cargo.
5–7A world in Near Space.
8–10A world in the Vast.

Determine Complication

Source Ports of Call pg. 167
Once the PCs find cargo, but before they commit to purchasing it, you should determine what makes this particular job unusual. This complication is up to you and can range from the seller trying to unload vermin-infested cargo on the PCs to a buyer who wants the goods for illegal purposes. How the PCs deal with each complication—if they discover it at all—is up to them.
To randomly determine a complication, roll a d20 on the table below, keeping the result a secret. You can tweak a result for the needs of your campaign, and if you’ve rolled the same result from the table a few times, consider throwing out that entry and substituting one of your own! If a complication requires a skill check, the DC for that check equals 15 + 1-1/2 × the party’s APL. Usually, only one PC should be given the chance to attempt this check. A complication that the PCs can be made aware of before purchasing the cargo is marked with an asterisk (*), and some complications modify the cargo’s buy or sell price.

Table 3-3: Random Complications

1Blockade Running
3Expiration Date*
4Fire Sale*
5Friendly Discount*
6Handling Problems
7Hiding Something*
8High Demand*
13Rush Job*
16Strange Customs
18Tough Sell
19Uncommon Tongue
Blockade Running: When the PCs reach the destination, they find it blockaded. With a successful Piloting check, the PCs can slip through the blockade. Otherwise, they must engage in starship combat of average difficulty (Starfinder Core Rulebook 326).
Competition: Once the PCs have loaded their cargo and determined their destination, they discover a rival crew that’s selling the same cargo at that location. Determine how long the rival crew will take to reach the destination (usually assuming average time in the Drift); if the PCs don’t beat the rival crew to the destination, the sell price is reduced by 2 BP per lot.
Expiration Date*: This cargo is perishable. If it isn’t delivered in 2d8 days, the PCs can sell it for a maximum of 1 BP per lot.Fire Sale*: Everything must go. The size of the cargo increases to the maximum number of lots the PCs’ ship can carry. Reduce the buy price by 1 BP per lot.
Friendly Discount*: The seller has something in common with one of the PCs (for example, they both fought in the same military campaign or have the same prosthetic limb). If that PC succeeds at a Diplomacy check, reduce the buy price by 1 BP per lot.
Handling Problems: There is a potential accident while loading or unloading the cargo. Treat this as a trap with a CR equal to the party’s APL. The exact nature of the trap, and the skills necessary to disable it, are up to you.
Hiding Something*: The seller is aware of a problem with the cargo (roll again on this table), but they’re not telling the PCs. A PC who succeeds at a Sense Motive check deduces the problem before purchase.
High Demand*: This cargo is trending. The buy price is increased by 1 BP per lot, and the sell price is increased by 2 BP per lot.
Illegal*: Possession of this material is against the law. Law enforcement can detect the illegal cargo with a successful scan that identifies the ship’s load (Core Rulebook 325). If inspectors board, any cargo not in a smuggler’s compartment is automatically detected. If the PCs give up the seller to law enforcement, their punishment might be reduced.
Imitation*: These goods are actually cheap knockoffs. A PC can detect this with a successful Perception check, reducing the buy price and sell price by 2 BP per lot. If the PCs want to try to sell the goods at the initial price, they must succeed at a Bluff check or else attract the attention of law enforcement.
Radioactive*: The cargo is radioactive and not properly shielded. A PC who succeeds at a Physical Sciences check detects this before the transport is underway; the cargo can be safely stowed with 1 day of work, or by spending 1 BP per lot. Otherwise, the crew is exposed to constant low radiation beginning 1d6 days into the journey.
Regulated*: Exhaustive regulations govern this cargo at the point of purchase. A PC must succeed at a Computers or Profession (merchant) check, or the crew members must spend 1 day navigating customs and filling out forms before they can load the cargo.
Rush Job*: This cargo must be delivered to a specific destination in 1d8 days. If it is, increase the sell price by 2 BP per lot. If not delivered on time, the PCs must find a new buyer.
Stolen: This cargo was stolen from another crew, and they’re coming to get it back! This represents a hard encounter, but the crew can be pacified if the PCs surrender the cargo.
Stowaway: An NPC with a CR equal to the party’s APL hides among the cargo, revealing themself after takeoff. A PC who succeeds at a Perception check can detect the stowaway during the cargo loading process.
Strange Customs: The buyer is from an unfamiliar culture or has unusual traditions. A PC must attempt a Culture check to maintain proper etiquette. If they succeed, the sell price is increased by 1 BP per lot. If they fail, the sell price is reduced by 1 BP per lot.Telepathic: The buyer is telepathic. If none of the PCs have telepathy or limited telepathy, and the PCs can’t succeed at a Diplomacy check, the buyer doesn’t trust them and reduces the buy price by 1 BP per lot.
Tough Sell: The buyer tries to strongarm the PCs, reducing the sell price by 2 BP per lot. A PC can negate this reduction with a successful Intimidate check.
Uncommon Tongue*: The seller of the cargo speaks an unusual language, chosen by the GM or determined randomly from “Other Languages” (Core Rulebook 41). If the PCs can’t find a way to communicate with them, no sale.
Vermin*: The cargo is infested with tiny or smaller creatures. A PC discovers them with a successful Life Sciences check. If found before purchase, reduce the buy price by 2 BP per lot and spend 1 day fumigating. If found after purchase, reduce sell price by 2 BP per lot; additionally, the vermin may infest the ship.


Source Ports of Call pg. 169
The next step is for the PCs to get the cargo onto their starship and transport it to a place where it can be sold. In general, the farther the PCs take the cargo, the more it’s worth. This factors into the cargo’s sell price, which is determined when the PCs try to sell it (see below).

Cargo Handling

Source Ports of Call pg. 169
Loading or unloading a single lot into a starship cargo hold takes 1 hour for one person using a cargo lifter (Starfinder CoreRulebook 204) or similar equipment. Without such equipment, loading the same lot takes 8 hours of labor; multiple people can work together to reduce this time. For example, it takes 4 hours for two people without major equipment to load a single lot into a cargo hold. While the PCs will usually be able to take their time, a complication might mean that every hour counts!
The PCs will also have to unload the cargo once they reach the world where they want to sell it, but this generally occurs while at least one of the crew engages in the find buyer downtime activity.

Make the Sale

Source Ports of Call pg. 169
When the PCs have reached the area where they want to try to sell their cargo, finding a buyer is a downtime activity, as detailed in the “Find Buyer” sidebar. Certain complications might make this more difficult, but once a buyer is found, you need to determine the sale price.

Cargo Sell Price

Source Ports of Call pg. 169
First, determine the base sell price of a cargo by rolling a d8; if you roll an 8, roll again once and add the newresult to 8. This result is modified by the distance traveled (as noted on the table below) and any complications, inthat order, resulting in a sale price per lot (minimum 1 BP per lot). Finally, the results of the PCs’ find buyerdowntime activity might also alter this price.

Table 3-4: Transport Modifiers

Travel TimeDestinationBase Sell Price Modifier
1d6 daysAnother world in the same system or Absalom Station–2 BP/lot
2d6 daysOne of the Pact Worlds other than Absalom Station from outside the system–1 BP/lot
3d6 daysA world in Near SpaceNo change
5d6 daysA world in the Vast+1 BP/lot

Spending Build Points

Source Ports of Call pg. 169
The following section expands on the rules for spending Build Points and includes some obligatory expenditures (like upgrading the PCs’ starship so they can take on bigger jobs and bigger threats), as well as new options (like a comfortable lifestyle or the hiring of employees). The PCs can hold onto as many unspent BP as they like.


Source Ports of Call pg. 169
The PCs can spend BP to hire agents, professional representatives, and even full-time employees who work for them. They can even buy another starship and hire crew to haul cargo as part of their overall business. When the PCs hirepersonnel to expand their business, you decide the NPCs’ stats (though usually, an NPC has a total skill bonus in a handful of skills equal to 4 + 1-1/2 × their CR). They are generally loyal to the PCs but won’t risk their lives. If treated poorly, they might leave the PCs’ service. Employees hired by the PCs agree to a 1-year contract; at the end of that term, the PCs must renew this contract or the NPC leaves their service.
Planetary Agent: A planetary agent costs BP equal to the agent’s CR, which can be no higher than the party’s APL; as the party’s APL increases, the PCs can spend the difference to raise the agent’s CR. The agent lives on one world or space station, and though they might have many other clients, they work on the PCs’ behalf to perform the find cargo and find buyer downtime activities. The agent can also perform the gather information task of the Diplomacy skill. The agent won’t leave the world upon which they’re stationed. The PCs must supply the agent with the credits or other requirements necessary for any task the NPC is asked to perform.
System-Wide Representative: A system-wide representative is similar to a planetary agent but will travel to any world in a single star system (such as the Pact Worlds system). A system-wide representative costs BP equal to twice the representative’s CR, which can be no higher than the party’s APL.
Starship: The PCs can use their BP to buy another starship. This starship can’t be higher in tier than the party’s APL – 2 and is likely to be much lower. The PCs must spend additional BP equal to 5 × the starship’s tier to hire an NPC crew to run this starship; each crew member has a CR equal to the starship’s tier, and they follow the PCs’ instructions when it comes to buying, transporting, and selling cargo, as well as the day-to-day operations of the starship. All the BP earned by this second ship goes to the party’s pool of BP, and the PCs are responsible for the other costs of any additional starships they own.


Source Ports of Call pg. 170
The PCs can insure their starship or cargo, so that if their starship is destroyed or their cargo is lost, they can recover some or all of the value. Starship insurance policies cost a number of BP equal to a percentage of their starship’s total BP value at time of purchase (see below). An insurance policy remains in effect for 1 year; after this time, the PCs must buy a new policy (at a higher price if their starship has increased in BP value). If the PCs’ starship is completely destroyed while the policy is in effect, the PCs receive a percentage of the ship’s BP value in payment. The rest of the BP the PCs spent on their starship are lost!
Starship insurance policies are rated bronze, silver, and gold. A bronze insurance policy costs 5% of the starship’s total BP value and pays out 50% of that value. A silver insurance policy costs 10% of the starship’s total BP value and pays out 75% of that value. A gold insurance policy costs 15% of the starship’s total BP value and pays out 100% of that value.
To insure cargo, the PCs can buy a policy for 10% of the cargo’s buy price (minimum 1 BP). If the cargo is lost and not delivered, and the PCs can prove that they weren’t negligent or didn’t steal the cargo, they’re repaid BP equal to the cargo’s buy price.
The PCs can have only one insurance policy per starship and per each cargo.


Source Ports of Call pg. 170
The PCs can spend BP to live the good life. There are two degrees of lifestyle expenditure: comfortable and luxurious. These degrees assume a group of 4 PCs; you can adjust the costs for larger and smaller groups as you see fit.
Comfortable: The party spends 1 BP to live comfortably for 1 month on a single world or space station. The PCs reside in spacious lodgings decorated to their taste, have access to stylish personal transportation, and enjoy their favorite entertainments. They partake in high-quality food and drink whenever they wish and attire themselves in fashionable and flattering clothing. This lifestyle doesn’t impart any mechanical benefits to the characters.
Luxurious: The party spends 5 BP to live in luxury for 1 month on a single world or space station. The PCs reside in fabulous homes in an elite neighborhood; they have multiple forms of personal transportation, including custom-made vehicles and antiques, and their wardrobe is full of unique fashions made for them by famous designers (equivalent to formal wear). A large staff of professionals—housekeepers, gardeners, personal tailors, groomers, and chauffeurs—see to everyday chores the PCs don’t wish to concern themselves with (each professional is a professional freelancer with a skill bonus equal to the party’s APL). When they wish to be entertained, they have tickets to all the most exclusive galas and parties, or they hire legendary performers and throw the party themselves. This lifestyle doesn’t impart any mechanical benefits to the characters.


Source Ports of Call pg. 171
The PCs can spend BP on their starship if they have the time and facilities required to make such upgrades (Starfinder CoreRulebook 305). Using this system, the total BP value of the PCs’ starship can be no more than 5% higher than the value listed for its tier in Table 9-1: Starship Base Statistics on page 294 of the Core Rulebook.
For example, a group of 1st-level PCs have a tier 1 starship on which they’ve spent a total of 52 Build Points (saving the rest to purchase cargo). As they accumulate BP by selling cargo, they can spend at most 5 BP to upgrade their starship, raising its BP value to 57 (5% more than the 55 BP used to normally create a tier 1 starship). When their APL rises to 2, this group can upgrade their starship further, but not to a value higher than 78 BP (because a tier 2 starship is normally created with 75 BP). The PCs still can’t spend more than 1,000 BP on their starship when their APL reaches 20th.


Source Ports of Call pg. 171
Due to bad luck or mishandling of cargo, the PCs might end up with no spare BP to keep the cycle of buying and selling going. In such cases, you can reward the PCs with BP as treasure (see below) to get them back on track, but if you want to be less generous, the PCs can sell parts of their starship to acquire BP. There’s no added cost to do this; for instance, if the PCs want to hock their vessel’s coilgun, they receive the weapon’s full BP cost of 6.

Running the System

Source Ports of Call pg. 171
The cargo subsystem helps to generate short adventures for cargo-hauling PCs, as there’s always a chance of something going wrong during what (at first) seemed like a simple cargo delivery. It also works hand-in-hand with a sandbox-style campaign, as the PCs will be traveling from world to world looking to buy low and sell high.

Session Zero

Source Ports of Call pg. 171
Before beginning a game using this subsystem, make sure your players are interested in engaging in the life of freelance merchants—an occupation they hold alongside their adventures delving into alien ruins or fighting back against an evil empire. Free trader PCs aren’t beholden to any one patron and can go where they please, but this subsystem does involve additional bookkeeping, and some groups may feel strongly about that requirement.

GMing Expectations

Source Ports of Call pg. 171
On average, the PCs will need to complete three to four cargo transport jobs to gain enough BP to upgrade their starship to the next tier. As the group advances in level, they might need to complete a few extra transport jobs per tier, depending on their market savvy and whether or not they’ve switched to a larger frame that can hold more cargo.Of course, during this time, the PCs should be having adventures and earning XP in the usual way (by overcoming skill-based challenges, defeating enemies, and from story-based rewards) so that the group’s APL keeps approximate pace with the amount of BP they can invest in their starship. At your discretion, you can reward the PCs with XP as if they had overcome an easy encounter (Core Rulebook 390) upon selling their cargo; this XP should be in addition to any XP they earn from encounters that emerge from complications.

Other Sources of Build Points

Source Ports of Call pg. 171
This subsystem assumes that the PCs earn their BP only from transporting and selling cargo. However, at your discretion, you can reward them with BP as treasure from particular encounters (such as a raid on a smuggling operation’s warehouse) or as salvage from starship combat encounters (such as a fight against a rogue Corpse Fleet ship). In the former case, the PCs might have to transport the BP to their ship much in the same way as loading cargo (count 4 BP as a lot of cargo for these purposes), and in the latter case, the PCs can spend a day salvaging BP from a defeated vessel equal to that starship’s tier.