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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 new result to 8. This result is modified by the distance traveled (as noted on the table below) and any complications, in that order, resulting in a sale price per lot (minimum 1 BP per lot). Finally, the results of the PCs’ find buyer downtime 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