Buying and Selling in the Frontier

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by C. J. Williams

The frontier is wide open and is not governed by galaxywide standards. Different worlds trade in different ways. Some provide a set price, while others haggle. Some worlds leave it to individual territories or even each establishment to determine how trade is carried out. Many bazaars exist throughout the frontier. Often characters will get shaken down by a vendor if they’re not careful. The art of haggling is thus very important.

Also of importance is item quality. Items aren’t always perfect. There are many manufacturers with many products of varying degrees of quality and cost. There are many other factors that can lead to the adjustment of cost. Introducing this type of commerce into your campaign can add a flavor of being in a struggling society out on a wide frontier.



DifferenceCost Modifier
1-5 --
6-10 +/- 5%
11-20 +/- 10%
21-30 +/- 15%
31-40 +/- 20%
41-50 +/- 25%
51-60 +/- 30%
61-70 +/- 35%
71-80 +/- 40%
81-90 +/- 45%
91-00 +/- 50%

Intelligence and a strong presence affect haggling skills greatly. Everyone has to barter at some point or other, so everyone is experienced with it, but not everyone haggles effectively.

To determine haggling score, add your character’s INT and PER and then divide by 2. Modify the cost of the item in question by looking up the difference between your character’s haggling score and the NPC’s haggling score in the following table. If you prefer to roll for success, add the difference to your total if above the NPC, or subtract the difference from your total if below the NPC, and roll 1d100. You pay the cost of the item based on the difference between your score and the roll.

To simplify things further, you can simply take a list of items needing to be purchased and roll against your score to determine the cost of items purchased.

Your Referee may still require you to roleplay the sale after determining the difference through basic comparison of your score against the NPC’s score. In such cases, you will want to make a good show of haggling or your Referee may choose to adjust the cost.

Note that new vehicles and engines cannot be haggled below 15% off unless they are used or are acquired through the underground market.


It is said that there are only two things in life that are certain: death and taxes. In the seeming need to avoid the issue of taxes, most role-playing games, Star Frontiers being no exception, leave taxes out of the system entirely. This is certainly understandable, as this can complicate even the simplest games. I certainly wouldn’t want to break this tradition in the Star Frontiers game. Let’s just say that the taxes are in at least some of the prices we are paying and that the corporations pay other living taxes for their employees.

Quality (Value)

All things made have varying levels of quality from very poor to extremely high, and this is demonstrated through design, workmanship, and quality of materials.

When a pre-owned item is purchased, roll on the following chart to determine its quality. If the quality is already known, and is to be purchased, multiply the list price by the percentage provided and add or subtract that number from the normal listed price.

Roll Quality Item Level* Bonus/Penalty
00-04 High Quality 6 +20%
05-19 Very Good 5 +10%
20-29 Good 4 +5%
30-39 Average 3 0
40-69 Poor 2 -5%
70-86 Very Poor 1 -10%
85-96 Disposable 0 -20%
97-99 Worthless -- --

Experimental items move up this list with each stage, starting with Disposable.

To move an item up the list that was acquired from a junk dealer (See Junk Dealers below), a person with the appropriate repair skill can repair an item of equal or lower level by taking 1 day for each difference in level of the item minus 1 for each level of the repair skill used times the number of steps moved up in quality. You cannot move an item further up in quality than its original quality level.

Bonuses and penalties also apply to all rolls made with the item. Add the number to the percentage chance. Additionally, the percentage is added to or subtracted from 100 each time the item is used or when determining structural failure according to the damaged item rules in the Alpha Dawn Expanded Rulebook.

Aging Items

Roll Age
98-00 New
93-97 .5 yrs
85-92 1 yr
78-85 1.5 yrs
70-78 2 yrs
61-69 2.5 yrs
51-60 3 yrs
41-50 3.5 yrs
32-40 4 yrs
24-31 4.5 yrs
16-23 5 yrs
11-15 5.5 yrs
01-10 6+ yrs

The age of an item will affect its quality. Every item moves down in quality 1 step for each PanGal year up to 3 years after its creation, and then 1 step for every .5 PanGal years. An item may be repaired, but still must follow age progression. If repaired after the first 3 PanGal years, the quality still continues to drop every .5 PanGal years.

Example: An item repaired in its second year takes 2 steps down in quality over the next 2 years, and then a step for each .5 PanGal years afterward.

To randomly determine the age of a salvagable found item, use the Age Table.

Quantity (Volume)

The amount of supplies you purchase can decrease expenses for you.

Item* Qty reduced**
Staples 20 lbs. %5
Technology 20 ct. %10
Chemicals 20 gal %5
Fuels 100 gal or 100 ct %5
* Each product only. For instance, not just all fruit, but bananas only.
** Add a zero to the Qty to reduce the cost even further by the stated percent.

Under special circumstances, such as seeking to get rid of stock, a merchant may reduce his costs to be lower than the cost reductions in the table above.


CircumstanceGeneral Adjustment
Imported Up to +20%
Contraband Up to +50%
Questionable Acquisition -50%
Rare Up to +30%
Special Order At cost
Direct Up to -30%

Different products are more readily available in some places than in others. The price of an item may be adjusted by the Referee based on its availability to the region, legality, rarity, or special order. This is the Referee’s discretion based on the region and item.

Region. The region can affect the product’s availability through distance and legality. A region may be a whole section of space, a solar system, or just a single planet.

Legality. When an item can be obtained, but is illegal for public consumption, this can affect the cost substantially. If legally obtained from another source and in good demand, but illegal for general sale, known as contraband, the item may be marked up considerably and haggling is usually almost non-existent. If acquired through some question of legality, such as stolen, it is in need of being moved quickly, so the item may already be reduced in cost and may be easily haggled down further.

Rarity. Some items are exceptionally rare no matter where you buy them. These items are usually in very high demand, driving their cost up substantially. If you’re after a rare item, expect to pay a hefty sum.

Special Order. These are items that the merchant doesn’t normally sell or they are currently out of stock on. You are generally only allowed to pay the full cost of the item without haggling. If the item was on sale, you may order it at the sale price only if you pay in advance.

Direct. Sometimes you can purchase items directly from the manufacturer if you buy on the planet of the manufacturer. This can afford you some significant cost reductions up to 30% off the listed price for new items.


Common services such as engine repairs, overhauling, weapon repairs are all subject to differences in cost in similar ways to products so may use many of the same tables from this article, but are usually not able to be haggled, unless dealing with individual contract workers.

Underground Market

The closer you get to the rim worlds and further away from Pan-Gal, the more expensive items and fuel are. This is because of both traveling distances and piracy. Because of this, the most expedient and least expensive purchases are going to be those found on the black market.


Smuggling is a lucrative business in the frontier. With so many trying to avoid detection or the transfer of questionable or much needed materials for starving colonies, smuggling is the cogs that keep the Frontier moving. For this reason, it is tentatively tolerated by the authorities.

Smuggling is a great way to make money and is also a great way to acquire anything you need. For the right price, a smuggler is often willing to transport any goods you ask them to.

Generally, the cost for smuggling items will be around 1/3 the actual cost of the items. Use the haggling chart above to adjust the cost


Slavery is a condemned practice in the UPF, but may be found on certain rim worlds, especially among certain rim races. Star Law does not enforce antislavery laws on the rim worlds unless the physical health of the slaves are being endangered, and when certain people of at least moderate importance are forced into slavery.

Slavery is also looked down upon because of the availability of robots. If you wish to buy a slave for whatever reason, it will cost you around 20,000 Cr. The tables in this article may also apply to slave purchases. There are 3 types of slaves: those who are force into slavery, those who are paying off a debt, and those who volunteer themselves to slavery in exchange for food and lodging. Those forced into slavery are considered to be under Questionable Acquisition in the Availability Table.

Junk Dealers

Salvage is a booming business, making junk dealers extremely common and a good alternative to the underground market or paying the full price for new items. However, without someone to repair or reconstruct the item, there are going to be quality issues affecting the item. Roll twice on the Quality Table. Whichever roll is higher is the unchangeable original market condition of the item. The lower roll is the current condition of the item.

Local Bargaining Customs

Different worlds and different species have varying customs for trade. It’s important that your character be familiar with the local customs or he/she could inadvertently end up offending someone and even getting him or her self run out of town if not shot.

Core Worlds

Customs on the core worlds are fairly amalgamated, but there are still certain differences that are good to know.

Dramune. Cut to the chase. Dramune is a world with a dark past and secretive tendencies. They don’t like to pussyfoot around. They want to know why you’re there and what your offer is.

Pan-Gal. Small talk before the sale. In contrast to Dramune, Pan-Gal is the heart of the UPF and Star Law. Everything is either by the book, or needs careful discussion to get hints for, so it is just a matter of course that every merchant is going to talk you to death, even if only to live through the excitement of the stories you have to tell. So be patient and guide the conversation toward the end of the sale. It won’t offend them. They’re used to it.

Zebulon. Act like each and every offer of the other person is outrageous. The seller glorifies its good points while the buyer deflects with equally exaggerated bad points to express why a certain cost should be retained or lowered.

Outer Reaches

The worlds of the more isolated outer reaches are more diverse and dangerous. The more your character knows about the local customs, the safer your character will be.

Capella. Continually shake hands during negotiation. Start with offering outrageous sum for the item, then seller obligatorily rejects the sum as too much, then the seller gives a more realistic sum that you may now haggle on.

Hades. Handshake under cloth using fingers to negotiate cost while conducting small talk. -10 haggling modifier to characters not from Hades. Attempts to negotiate any other way, or breaking off the negotiations can lead to deadly conflicts.

Hents. Obligatory gift exchange and constant blessings between offers. Yazirians are a religious and oft times superstitious lot, so blessings help put them at ease. In fact, it is considered an insult if you don’t offer a blessing upon meeting with any Yazirian on a Yazirian world. Strangers and outsiders are not trusted to begin with, but not providing blessings can make one an absolute outcast.

K’tsa Kar. Squat (or sit in a chair) and show disinterest (minimal eye contact). Vrusk are very intelligent and find haggling to be very mundane, so their haggling practices are going to reflect their attitude toward it.

Theseus. Unbroken eye contact while performing the negotiation forming each offer as a demand (You may blink). Theseans want to be trusting, but they’ve received many bad deals in the rim, so they want to look you in the eye and know if you’re telling the truth or not. Theseans receive +5 to perception checks to detect deception during transactions.

Acquire New Adventures

Buying and selling can lead to adventure in many ways, including sales gone bad to accidentally acquiring a private project that got tossed out and now a crime lord is after it. Whatever the case, adventure is one sale away.