Bounty Hunting Made Easy
This was the featured article in the March/April 2020 issue.
We have seen all forms of Bounty Hunting in Science Fiction. From Star Wars to Bladerunner to Killjoys, we have seen people in this occupation running the star lanes in pursuit of the scum and villainy of the Imperium. I know this subject has been addressed in a wide variety of forums, but it is my hope that this article will go from soup to nuts how to conduct business as a registered and licensed Bounty Hunter. I have also included a character generation process for Mongoose Traveller, with three specializations: Independent (Indie) Hunter, Organization Hunter, and Skip Tracer.
- The Imperium will want to have some sort of means to control wildcat or unauthorized bounty hunting. In that light, unlicensed bounty hunters will only receive 50% of the listed value of any bounty.
- Bounty Hunters are not headhunters, per se. Therefore, all assassination attempts should be handled outside of these considerations.
- Bounty Hunters must establish contact with planetary authorities (if they exist) when it comes to carrying and using weapons. Bounty Hunters will typically not be sporting hand-held energy bazookas while hunting a mark. Referees can take liberties with planetary officials taking bribes to allow more ‘unorthodox’ items of ‘self-protection.’
- Bounties may be researched on most worlds, but all Imperial bounties must be turned in at the sector and subsector capitals to the proper law enforcement authorities.
Anyone who wants to consider Bounty Hunting as a trade must be licensed to do so. The Imperial Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will recognize those individuals who they deem qualified and reliable enough to fulfill and serve an Imperial warrant. You must be recognized by the MoJ in order to pursue a “Jump Skipper” or to be fully rewarded for an Imperial warrant.
To gain a personal bounty hunting license you must obtain an Imperial Bounty Hunter Bond. This is an one-time, non-refundable surety of Cr100,000, to be held in any Imperially-approved financial institution against claims for possible damages caused in the pursuit of a wanted individual. Generally, Independent hunters will find it necessary to arrange financing of the bond through a financial institution-backed loan; Organization hunters will generally have the bond paid for by the organization employing them. Once the license is issued and the bond on file, the hunter is allowed full access to the Imperial Bounty Database, an IISS-maintained, MoJ-fed information program on who and where potential wanted persons can be found. The bond is ‘tapped’ (value deducted) for damages that are incurred. This facet of Bounty Hunting is referred to as “Bounty Solo” or “BS” to those who have corporate backing.
Many Bounty Hunters become members of a Bounty Hunting Association. This is a company, much like a mercenary company, that employs a stable of bounty hunters in order to pool and share resources. Safe houses, lodging and Imperial credentials can be obtained with membership dues of Cr5,000 annually (minimum) and 20% off the top of all profits obtained from a bounty. Many Imperial Nobles run their own Bounty Hunting Companies as some see it as a sport much like a safari. Some organizations will have a “prime membership” where those that pay double or triple annual fees get the best pickings for bounties. To help pay for the initial Bounty Bond, the initial cut for the company is usually 50% until the bond is paid in full. This seems to motivate the bounty hunters to bring in more marks. Some Associations are run as coöperatives by the Bounty Hunters themselves and you can expect yet another annual membership fee of some sort to help this group maintain its resources. An exception to all of this would be the company hunter who maintains a corporate salary with bonuses based on their success. The referee should recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all structure; some companies will be rigidly structured, others will not.
Ordinarily, the bounty hunter will be required to pay an annual fee of Cr5,000 to maintain their license in good standing. If a claim is made against the hunter’s bond, an additional annual assessment of Cr10,000 is imposed until the claim is settled in full. If a bounty hunter wishes to “go inactive” then the annual fee is dropped to 1,000 a year (for maintenance). If they wish to “go active” during that year, they must pay the additional 4,000 credits or be treated as unlicensed and receive only 50% of the posted value of a successful hunt. If a claim is made against a hunter’s bond, the Imperial authorities will investigate to validate it; no payment will be made until the claim is validated. This protects the hunter and/or his organization against ‘bond gouging’. It also identifies to the Imperial authorities those bounty hunters that are somewhat reckless in their pursuit of bounties (which can be identified for remonstrance, or to organizations for special attention), and those worlds that are hostile to hunters (which the Imperial authorities can provide warnings about to hunters and organizations).
Skip Tracing will be discussed in greater detail later in the article. Unlike individual or corporate hunters, these are specialized bank-funded strike teams that are focused on the recovery of the asset (the ship) more than bringing a criminal to justice. Their funding is based on this recovery, but like their bounty hunting cousins they too must be bonded in a similar fashion.
Obtaining a Bounty
Official (“Posted”) Bounties
Posted bounties are of two types: Imperial bounties and Local bounties. Imperial bounties generally have wider dissemination and higher values, but there are fewer of them available. In general, posted bounties indicate that the individual is wanted for a most-serious felony; approximately 1/6 of Imperial posted bounties are for “Jump Skippers”.
There is always an exception to the standard bounty offers. Underworld organizations, Megacorporations, the Nobility and the many different levels of the government can and will offer bounties or job offers that are not listed in any official records. For referees, I would recommend a third party representative contact the bounty hunter(s) they desire and the offer of compensation should at a minimum be worth double or triple the standard fees. Common business would normally include one-third the bounty up front, the other two-thirds upon delivery and obviously, no questions asked. These offers may make life complicated for corporate hunters and their patrons.
To determine the number of bounties listed as available on a world, you will need to know the Starport, Population, and Law Level digits of the world’s UWP. The Starport determines whether the list of Imperial bounties is available on that world; the Population and Law Level determine how many bounties may be found.
If the hunter wishes to seek Imperial bounties, roll 2d6 for the totals below:
|Imperial Bounty List Available on||3+||5+||7+||9+||n/a||n/a|
|The Imperial Bounty List is automatically
available on Subsector and Sector capitals; do not roll.
DM +1 if world is on X-Boat route
DM –1 if world is in a frontier sector.
The table below indicates the number of bounties listed on a world, based on the world’s UWP Population digit. Roll the indicated number of dice for the type of bounty sought and apply modifiers as indicated.
|Planetary Population from UWP|
|Unofficial offer?||No||2d6: 2-||2d6: 3-||2d6: 5-||2d6: 7-|
|DMs for Law Level: Law 5-, DM –2; Law 6, DM –1;
Law 7, No DM; Law 8+, DM +1 for each level of Law above 7.
* In order to discover the Imperial warrants (or “tags”) in an area, they must be posted. Delivery of the intended mark is to be made to the Sector or Subsector capital or to a Bounty Hunter’s licensed facility.
** If world is a Sector or Subsector capital, treat POP 0-3 as POP 4-5.
The “Unofficial offer?” row does not give a number of bounties; rather, it indicates whether the hunter may be approached to take an unofficial bounty. Roll the given dice for the indicated value (e.g., 2d6:7– means to roll 2d6; if the result is 7– an unofficial bounty may be offered).
If the hunter takes an Imperial bounty, roll 1d6; on a result of 6, the bounty is for a Jump Skipper (see below).
Value of a Bounty on a Felon
The basic value of an Imperial bounty is 3d6×Cr100,000 for a successful capture (defined as alive and able to stand trial). The felon must be turned over to Imperial authorities at a Sector or Subsector capital for the bounty to be paid.
The basic value of a Local bounty is 2d6×Cr10,000 for a successful capture. The felon must be turned over to authorities on the issuing world for the bounty to be paid.
The actual value of a bounty is increased by 10% for each law level above 9 (e.g., a bounty with basic value Cr80,000 will be worth Cr96,000 on a world with Law Level B [Cr80,000 + Cr8,000×2])
If the felon is alive but unable to stand trial (permanently incapacitated), only 50% of the value of the bounty will be paid.
If the felon is deceased, regardless of whether the death occurred before or after capture, either the body or DNA proof of death must be presented to the issuing authority, and only 10% of the value of the bounty will be paid.
Local bounties (only) may be offered as “Dead or Alive”. If a bounty is so offered, the full value of the bounty will be paid even if the felon is unable to stand trial, or, if deceased, on presentation of the body or DNA proof to the issuing authority.
Locating the Target
The referee will want to know ahead of time where the target is located (if they are still alive).
Roll 2d6: 2-deceased, 3-already in jail (no bounty), 4 to 9-planetside, 10-trying to escape the planetary system, 11+ gone from the system already.
Jump skipping is the act where a person or persons have gone over 90 days in arrears in paying off their ship. The bank holding the loan note will hire responsible bounty hunters who know that they need to save the ship as best as possible, more than bring the thieves to court. You can find an example of this type of hunting in Freelance Traveller, Issues #81 (“The Corporate Repo Campaign”) and #83 (Character Generation Rules, “The Corporate Repo Career”), written by Joshua Levy. The following breakdown applies to Jump Skippers:
|Ship Displacement (tons)||100||200||300-400||500-800||900-1500||>1500|
The bank will pay the bounty hunter’s team 10% of what the ship is worth when they have the ship in their possession. The bank will deduct for repairs that need to be done in order to bring the ship back to operational status. Every crewmember of that ship will make for an added Cr50,000 bonus, but only if they are found guilty in a trial. There are no bonuses for dead prisoners. The desired ship must physically be returned to the bank’s corporate office located at the sector or subsector capital.
This is not a job for the solo hunter. Skip Tracing Teams (“ST2s” for short) usually consist of a mix of marine boarders, wildcat pilot/navigators and thrill-seeking engineers/gear heads. The standard ST2 will consist a team of eight: a minimum of four (4) combat-skilled marines (one with combat medic skills), one (1) pilot/navigator, one (1) software specialist who needs to override the ship’s security measures and two (2) engineer-mechanics who will likely need to make immediate repairs along with ensuring the targeted starship is jump-worthy. Obviously a second ship will be needed to carry this eight (8) person team to its intended location. Often, older Naval gunboats such as the Gazelle-class or patrol craft such as the Type T are bought from the mothball fleet by corporate banks and used for this purpose.
One thing to keep in mind is the fact most banks do not want a bloodbath. They just want their ship back. Many banks would, after the ship has been returned, recruit the wayward fugitives to perform a new contract with potential borderline legalities. The boarding parties of the ST2s may want to think about ways to subdue the wayward fugitives quickly rather than opening up with energy weapons or slug throwers in close-quarters fighting.
More than likely, a bank representative with some financial and legal background will accompany these recovery teams. Referees should consider this NPC to be a stabilizing force to keep the team focused on their task. Usually this person will be the annoying bean counter who is constantly trying to keep the recovery costs at a bare minimum. This NPC will normally be next to useless because they will turn on the team if things go badly wrong. Most will be interested in maintaining what they call ‘plausible deniability’ of any possible wrongdoing.
The Bounty Hunter Career
- Bounty Hunters:
- Individuals who seek out and apprehend fugitives from the law.
- Int 7+ (-1 DM if previously in any military career path (due to military training))
- Assignments: choose one of the following:
- Indie Hunter – you hunt down fugitives mostly by yourself
- Survival: Dex, End or Int 5+
- Advancement: Int 6+
- Organization Hunter – The hunter is backed by resources provided by others, and remits a portion of any bounties collected to those others
- Survival: Dex, End or Int 5+
- Advancement: Edu 7+
- Skip Tracer – you hunt down fugitives who have skipped their bank payments on their starship
- Survival: Int 5+
- Advancement: Edu 6+
- Starting Out Gear
- Indie Hunter: Personalized armor (as least cloth), Personalized unique weapon, hand computer
- Organization Hunter: Combat-type armor, Hand computer/communicator, Security-locked hand weapon
- Skip Tracer: Combat-type vacc suit, starship repair kit, hand computer/communicator
|Skills and Training|
|1D||Personal Development||Service Skills||Advanced Education (Edu 8+)|
|1||Gun Combat (any)||Streetwise||Medic|
|2||+1 Strength||Recon||Remote Operations|
|5||+1 Intelligence||Investigate||Social Science: Law|
|6||Melee (any)||Drive (any)||Sensors|
|1D||Independent Hunter||Organization Hunter||Skip Tracer|
|3||Gun Combat (any)||Deception||Mechanic|
|5||Admin||Gun Combat (any)||Engineering|
|Ranks and Benefits|
|Independent Hunter||Skill||Organization Hunter/Skip Tracer||skill|
|0||Rookie||Social Sc: Law-1||Rookie||Social Sc: Law-1|
|3||Senior Hunter||Gun Combat (any)-1||Senior Hunter||Recon-1|
|5||Master Hunter||Jack-of-all-Trades-1||Senior Team Leader||Admin-1|
|6||Team Director||+1 SOC|
Sten Reznikov (human, Solomani-Vilani mix)
Str-8, Dex-7, End-8, Int-7, Edu-5, Soc-5
Homeworld: Efate/Spinward Marches/1705 (non-industrial, High Population)
Skills (pre-adult): Streetwise-0
(age 18) Joins the Marines/Ground Assault
Skills: Gun Combat(Energy Rifle)-1, Stealth-1
Event: front lines (#8), gain Leadership-1
Failed advancement roll
(age 22) Failed survival roll, dismissed from service
BENEFITS: +Cr5,000; +1 EDU
(age 26) Joins Bounty Hunter/Indie Hunter
Skills: Social Science:Law-1, Investigate-1
Event: First Responder Training (#5), gain Medic-1
Passed advancement roll, now Rank-1
(age 30) stays an Indie Hunter
Skills: Computer-1, Streetwise-1
Event: Life event (#7). Rolls a ‘7’. Gains a new contact (bounty hunter).
(age 34) Musters Out. No failed aging rolls.
BENEFITS: +Cr10,000, Bounty Hunter gear
Final Character Profile
Sten Reznikov 878765 age 34 Cr15,000
(Marines-2 terms, Bounty Hunter-2 terms)
Computer-1, Gun Combat (Energy Rifle)-1, Stealth-1, Leadership-1, Survival-1, Investigate-1, Medic-1, Streetwise-1, Social Science:Law-1.
Bounty Hunter gear, Personalized armor (at least cloth), Personalized unique weapon, hand computer.
Contact (bounty hunter).
PCs Bounty Hunting
After a player-character has mustered out, they are considered completely out of their organization (applies to organizational hunters and skip tracers). If they wish to continue in the game setting as a bounty hunter they could consider paying for a physical exam (1,000 credits at a local military base) and then posting their own bond. Their name and record are on file if they paid their 1,000 credit “inactive” fee so unless they were forced out due to a mishap, re-obtaining a personal license should not be a problem.
Indie Hunters are simply continuing to ply their trade. Their bond has been paid so they simply need to maintain the costs of their license (5,000 credits/year for an active hunter; Cr1,000 if inactive). If the indie hunter was removed due to a mishap injury, they can likely bribe the doctor to have them pass the aforementioned physical exam.
Sten Reznikov, our 34-year old recently retired bounty hunter is running into hard times on his homeworld of Efate. He decides to go down to the local starport to see if there are any bounties he might pick up for some quick cash. He has not paid his one-time bond, but he is simply looking for a quick mark. He could pay the 5,000 credit annual fee, along with the 1,000 credit exam, but he chooses not to part with a chunk of his current standing money.
EFATE (1705/Spinward) - A646930–D.
Starport A. A roll of 3+ is needed for a list of bounties to be publicly posted. The referee rolls 5, so there is a public list posted.
Population 9, Law Level 0. The table shows that there will be 2d6-2 Imperial bounties. The reeferee rolls 7, so there are five (5) Imperial bounties available. The table also shows 6d6-2 local bounties. The referee rolls 20, so eighteen (18) local bounties are available. The Imperial bounties are worth 3d6×Cr100,000; the local bounties are worth 2d6×Cr10,000
One of the local bounties is for an individual accused of murder. The posted value is Cr120,000 (at 50% for being an “unofficial” hunter, Sten would earn Cr60,000). Since this is Sten’s homeworld and he has Streetwise skill, he decides to go after this person. At this time the referee rolls to see the disposition of this person. A roll of 6 means the person is still alive and on planet.
Using a combination of his Computer and Investigate skills, Sten locates his target within a week. He does not need to worry about the local law restrictions on weapons, so he armors up and heads toward the target’s hideout.
Will Sten bring in his man? Does the target have allies? Is he hiding in a “priest’s hole” behind a patron’s bookcase? This could easily be a decent one-shot adventure.
Later, Sten could use his contact (bounty hunter) to join an Organizational bounty company or start on his own solo career. He will likely need to pay the Bounty Hunting Bond (100,000 credits) to go after the juicier marks. There is plenty to work with here; I hope you find these ideas and guidelines useful.