Once again we look at a common small ship of the Bleed and see what your Ashen Stars characters can typically deduce about the people who drive it.

Whenever your console pings the presence of an approaching small vessel, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it’s going to be a hauler. Ninety-eight of those times, or more, its crew won’t be performing laser duties. They’ll be doing what the name of the ship suggests: hauling a cargo from one planet to another.

That tells you something about freelance justice-makers who choose to ride one: they like to blend in. They may actively maintain cover identities as freight carriers, or simply prefer the anonymity that comes when a ship of their profile comes up on the viewscreen.

You can’t assume that a crew that isn’t really hauling freight is working a laser contract, either. Reasons for laying low abound in the Bleed. Pirates don’t go for haulers much, preferring to invest in either escape velocity or offensive punch. Assassins and mercenaries, on the other hand, whose dirty business occurs planetside, might find a hauler suits them just fine.

When the crew of that hauler turns out to be a rival laser operation, certain assumptions come to mind. They’re no substitute for investigation but will get you started.

They’re either thrifty, with an eye for the balance sheet, or scrappy types who bought the first ship they could afford. Or perhaps they used to fly something better, but lost that in a dogfight and have had to settle for a crummier ride. Beware of this last group: skeevier crews might try to snag your boat if it’s better than theirs.

If you’re looking for the most influential member of a hauler’s collective, seek out its business affairs officer. By tradition this individual often carries a nickname like Numbers, Spreadsheet, or Tab.

Hard-headed and bottom-line oriented, you can best deal with them through Bargaining, offering genuinely appealing quid pro quos. For best results, tell them about a solid cargo deal you’ve sniffed out but plan to pass on. They eat red tape for breakfast, but that means they leave a paper trail. When they’re being tight-lipped, you can find out what they’re doing to tapping local officialdom via Negotiation. Inspiration works poorly on them; they’ve done a cost benefit analysis on altruism. Risks and payoffs determine their willingness to scrap, so don’t try Intimidation if you’re bluffing.

And skip the Flattery, unless you’re polishing their rep for delivering in on time and under budget.


Ashen Stars is a gritty space opera game where freelance troubleshooters solve mysteries, fix thorny problems, and explore strange corners of space — all on a contract basis. The game includes streamlined rules for space combat, 14 different types of ship, a rogues’ gallery of NPC threats and hostile species, and a short adventure to get you started. Purchase Ashen Stars in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop. Ship plans appear in Accretion Disk.