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The various factions of Star Traders are in intense competition to gain the upper hand over their rival factions. As in any battle, knowledge is one of the greatest weapons any side might wield and so the princes cultivate networks of spies who will furnish them with the information they need to master their peers. Spies may operate at the direct behest of a contact to complete a mission or they may spy independently for profit and to generate intel records that can be sold to contacts for profit and reputation. In Star Traders, spying is primarily done through electronic surveillance and encrypted message interception. Electronics is one of the key skills of spy operative.

Spying is done in orbit of a system, by using one the "Spy" operation button on the left side of the interface. Spying can be done in orbit of any urban zone with a Government Rating of 4 or higher. The results of spying are determined by a card game. The Captain will draw 5 cards which are determine by risk and reward factors. He or she may then have the opportunity to modify their draw through the use of crew talents which allow them to redraw, remove or improve a card. Then one card will randomly be selected from the remaining cards providing either a negative, positive or neutral result. All spying actions consume time and fuel.

Risk factors in spying include the Government and Military rating of the zone below.

Reward factors in spying include; the Spice and Government rating of the zone, the ship's Pilot and Electronics skills and the Captain's Resilience and Wisdom.

Negative outcomes of spying include; damage to crew, damage to ship, encountering hostile military, pirate and other ships and lost time and fuel. Encounters and/or combat with hostile ships may also result in negative reputation with its faction.

Positive outcomes include; mission success (if operation is part of a mission), credits, intel records, repair and recovery of fuel, contact introductions and encounters with smugglers. It is possible that captains who spy on a faction who is involved in a conflict can also participate in that conflict. This will move the conflict score against the spied-on faction and give the captain reputation with the opposing faction.

Neutral outcomes include contact with ships that are not hostile such as merchants or friendly ships. Depending on a whether a captain wishes to engage in piracy these may be considered positive results.