I got many little trading posts all over my my worlds and orbiting around them. Everyone can trade in there, nice guys as well as scum of all kind. The trading posts are rich places.

How could a system be established that would make the posts safer against the scum traders and bandits/pirates? Or why would no pirate or bandit try to raid the posts? Basically how could such trading posts be a safe place to trade for all traders?

There is a law force but they are very corrupt. There are also gun towers and gunners paid by the trading posts, but they alone would not be able to hold against a full scaled raid - they're more for shoplifters and lower-level scum.

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    $\begingroup$ The wiki on Piracy has a nice section "Suppression of Piracy", as well as a large amount of examples of piracy stretching through the ages, far and beyond the 2 well known examples of Golden Age Caribbean and present-day Somali. Research on those examples and how they were combated will give you a great answer on both what works and what doesn't work but may be attempted. The exact measures available depend on both which government structures you have (Are the ports independent? Are they part of a far-away Empire? Are they part of a country that just doesn't care?) and the technological level. $\endgroup$ – Ordous Oct 8 '14 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Ordous Is there a link to that Wiki? I can't find it. Do you mean the Wikipedia page, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracy#Anti-piracy_measures , or a separate Piracy Wiki? $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 12 '16 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ @ohwilleke I did mean that article, but the section I meant is no longer in existence. You can find it in the revision history. The part you linked to is modern anti-piracy, which is not as relevant. $\endgroup$ – Ordous Nov 13 '16 at 1:18

Traditionally pirates are cowards. They go for the easiest prey, for the most gain. In the few cases of where you hear of "daring" pirate attacks, it is because the pirates have a leader who either scares them more than the prospect of do a dangerous attack, or the leader convinces them that the loot will be worth the risk. Usually the former. But these leaders are few and far between, generally pirates parties are going to be unstable, criminals don't trust each other.

So the goal of a trading post would be to try and keep themselves stronger than other closer targets. There are multiple ways they could do this.

  1. Hide wealth. This would work because it would make them look less worthwhile than nearby stations. Unfortunately this would be hard to do, trading generally means wealth after all, and it could also reduce trade.
  2. Sabotage other nearby trading posts. This would be an interesting, and somewhat risky technique. If a station could make other nearby stations weaker, pirates would be more likely to attack the other stations.
  3. Rumors. If a trading post could manage to start a convincing rumor that it had some secret defense that will blow pirates out of the sky, then pirates may possible be tricked into believing it. Probably the best way to do this would be to hire an unfortunate pirate (who had got his ship blown up near the trading post), to spread the tale.
  4. Form a federation. Have several nearby trading posts from a collective army (of mercenaries). If a pirate should attack any of the stations, the entire army goes after the pirates. The army will also come from all the stations, and with the combined wealth of several station, would be quite powerful. This would be a major disincentive for pirates to attack. The disadvantage of this is that you pull yourself up to equal strong as nearby stations, which means you are all equal hard for pirates to loot. That means the pirates may just decide to have a go at the station, because they have no better chance anywhere else nearby.

Now, another interesting option would be that the pirates actually own the posts. So each pirate group will try to protect their post at all costs. After all it is the source of their wealth. Pirates who try and attack the post will know that their post will likely be counterattacked. Whatever authorities exist in the galaxy would probably be bribed to ignore pirate going-ons.

Trade posts could also have a group of pirates that associate with the post. These pirates would always trade at the post, as well as protect the post. In return they would get cheaper prices and possibly a share of profits. And local authorities would turn a blind-eye to anything the pirates did that, well "bent" the rules a little.


The thing about being a pirate is that you have a job to do, that being pirating stuff. There are two things that a successful pirate needs:

  • A place where marks are going with goods that could be successfully pirated.
  • A place where pirates can sell said goods without too many questions asked.

So for pirates to raid trading posts, they risk biting the hand that feeds them - I mean obviously we are dealing with scummy space bandits here who are out to steal everything that they can, but the smart pirate is going to want to have a sustainable business model that offers them the most possible profit for the least risk. That means that you pick up on shipping, but you probably leave trading ports well alone because you actually want to have agents in them telling you about shipments coming and going and helping you to fence goods that you have purloined. If you turn an entire station over, then you have a good chance of harming your own people or reducing a potential source of revenue.

The consequence is that pirates and shadow economy traders are going to need those trading posts as much as anybody else and they are going to benefit from a certain status-quo where no trading post gets too powerful or able to make stronger demands but in the case of an outside raid on a planet's periphery stations, you are likely to see an unlikely alliance of local criminals, local law makers and the stations themselves banding together to protect their local power base.

Criminal organisations' interests do not necessarily stand against everyone else's - look at the role of the Mafia in WW2 - and competent criminals, the ones sufficiently resourceful to have control of ships capable of causing serious trouble to a trading post, are likely to be rational about matters of business and income.

Edit: It occurs to me on rereading this that one of the important things for your trading posts is that they don't need to be objectively tough, they need to be relatively high risk targets. So if a potential raider looks at your trading post and the other trading posts and the traffic coming into and going out of the trading posts, they need to see that a raid on your trading post is going to be a bigger risk than a raid on others. It is less about being a hard target and more about being less of an easy target.


Simple suggestions:

  1. Bounties as a deterrent.
  2. Private security/military.
  3. Paying protection money to local pirate group.
  4. Local militia.
  5. Societal viewpoints. Since scum use these places as trade, attacking them might be counter productive - at least in the eyes of some of the older, wiser and meaner 'scum'.
  6. Easier targets elsewhere.
  • $\begingroup$ I don't really disagree, but I can imagine bounties becoming a contest between pirates as well, sort of like how rep works xD $\endgroup$ – mechalynx Oct 8 '14 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ @ivy_lynx. True, some pirates might consider a rep. Of course, I'm not sure how successful it is. 'You think that's a bounty? This is a Bounty! Oh wait, whoa, put that knife down, let's talk this over boys'! $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 Oct 8 '14 at 21:23

Pirate ships probably don't want to destroy the only place where they can get wealthy. So, have one trading station for every planet. Alternatively, you could have an announcement on the PA system like "Alert! Alert incoming offensive ships, please evacuate, and if possible defend the station.", because it is in the interests of the peaceful (as well as the scum) traders to defend the trading post.

Another idea is that maybe normal spaceships can only go from one trading station to another, and not land. If you have special ships that can land more efficiently, they don't need to carry an extra ton or two of the equipment to so whatever you do to get to another planet. If you are going from planet to planet, you don't really need to carry an extra few tons of fuel, or a parachute, not to mention how dangerous it is to carry humans (pilots) up and down a gravity well.

  • $\begingroup$ So, to complete your thought, a planet surface trading post would be less vulnerable to pirates, and a space station that was merely a dock for orbit to surface shuttles would be less of an attractive target? $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 12 '16 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ @ohwilleke yes. the game Oolite(and it's predecessor, elite) uses this as an excuse to not let the players see the surface of the planets(true, it would also be hard to program). $\endgroup$ – Mark Gardner Nov 18 '16 at 21:33

If the trading post itself is relatively cheap compared to the goods it contains, then a simple, "death before dishonor" mindset will do. If the pirates take the goods, they're lost anyway, so just make sure to always destroy them before the pirates can get their grubby mitts on them. Once it becomes known that prospective pirates not only must fly in under the station's guns, but also have to get out of the blast radius before the bombs go off, the risk/reward ratio becomes too unfavorable to bother with frontal assaults and thefts will be focused more around fraud or stealth.


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