Falling Fire

Privateer Rutter, Part Three

Continuing on


Private Thoughts on the Privateer Playtesters' Guide

I liked the "How to Use This Book" preface.

The Quadrant maps were useful. The ship's computer should (but does not) allow you to specify a target system and have the route(s) to that system light up in yellow or something. One ends up transcribing the whole to paper, and the book contains the information that one would expect to pick up in bars or at the guild offices.

Five pirate bases, fourteen refineries, twelve mining (used to be seventeen before five played out and became pirate bases), sixteen "normal [agriculture] worlds," eight "pleasure planets." Four special planets. Not a bad balance. Nine specific base designs. Well done I thought (I've heard some carping that too many of the worlds look the same. Well, the mining pre-fab stations make sense, as do the refineries. Most of the plot runs between special stops and unique worlds. I thought it was well done, all-in-all).

The system information was nicely laid out, in several different ways. Useful, especially if you want to think of the game world as "real." The guide increases that feel rather than reduces it in illustrating the worlds.

The system by system break down of random encounters was useful -- gives you a real feel for the texture of the world and is essential for mission planning. It also helps to give you some perspective on the Troy system (helping players avoid overconfidence) and providing guidence on places to go to get certain kinds of experience (e.g. if you want to practice fighting with confederation ships or kilrathi you can go to a blockade point, if you need to try aces instead of novices, there are places to go for retros or pirates).

As an aside, I am certain that Talons are being produced by some old Steltek or other forerunner technofactories in the possession of pirates and the Kilrathi, who sell them cheap to other pirates and retros, respectively.

[Secret/Reminder of something you read in the game manual ... whenever you arrive in a new location, cycle through it using the tab key. That way you won't miss anything and you won't have to meander around with the mouse, hoping to trigger the menus. Sometimes you find surprises.]

[Secret/Reminder of something you read in the game manual ... you "can not" (sometimes you can. You only find out by having a saved game before the mission and then running the mission. If it works, keep it, if not, start over and don't take the mission -- the same is a good strategy when you want to try a mission that looks really dangerous) stop at a base during a mission without having to restart the mission or losing the mission {cargo delivery is all rush, and if you stop, the contract goes out again and your cargo is factored out}. Combined with the six jump limit on fuel, you never or rarely take a mission more than six jumps away or that is more than six jumps from where you are to the mission and back to a base for refueling.]

The system descriptions highlight the fact that not all bases have ship dealers -- thus not all bases can repair you or sell you more missiles. The repair droid is often the difference between making back and not surviving when you take damage -- much more than just a savings device on repairs. Too bad there is not an external repair droid for weapons and armor.

Query? When does killing pirates or Kilrathi count in your favor (do all the dead pirates from before the missions give you a positive balance?)? Too bad retros do not count for more.

In a backwards way, this refers to the alignment section (page 54) that lets you know that you can make friends again with the Confederation if you kill a Confederation ship.

Of course my method is better (I ran past them and did not kill any), but I did not get a chance to figure out all of the record keeping.

One of the plot missions requires you to kill some bounty hunters. After that, they become enemies, even though you both belong to the Mercenaries guild. No clue on how to make up for that. Patience worked for me, but... killing lots of retros works too.

When smuggling, hit everything at an afterburner run, blasting straight to or from a jump point.

As to pirates, I have never met anyone who was successful in appeasing them through communication. I even tried loading up on cargo and dropping it out into space while trying to talk my way past pirates. You have to avoid killing them except when the plot calls for it and otherwise kill every retro you can find, over and over again. That will let you talk to pirates and make them your friends.

You will meet an occasional Kilrathi novice. Usually in a Kamekh or in a Dralthi. Merchants and Militia do not seem to have much of an impact. Retros should always be killed on sight.

[Page 57]. Glancing collisions just knock down shields. Once you are in a Centurion, you are the heavier ship that will survive a collision, generally without any damage at all (just a reduction in shields).

[Page 58] Armor should have been handled so that larger ships needed more. I would have allowed two layers, with the extra layer adding a performance penalty. As it is, there is never any reason not to buy Tungsten armor.

Shields really do use energy. Generally, if engines are at one level higher than shields, you can afterburner slide, do repairs and otherwise have fun. When engines and shields equal, you run out of energy and bog down. Always buy the most shields you can afford, and then cycle down if you need the energy. (i.e. when running, cycle shields from 3 to 2. You'll have shields at 3 for the brushing contact as you pass through -- in case they hit you, then run out of range at 2. Stop, repair and regenerate, then hit the next navigation point full shields and afterburners roaring).

[page 60]. Dumb fire missiles do only 13 cm of damage, FF do 17.5. The difference can be critical. When firing a salvo of two, it comes to 7cm... Image Recognition and Heat Seeking missiles are valuable because they can be counted on to chase a designated target. Heat Seekers can also confirm when you are riding a Demon's back side. Knock the shields down some, fire two heat seekers, and change targets, knowing that the missiles will hit the weak sector. This lets you change targets.

IR missiles do not require you to be facing the locked target. Very useful in a running dogfight with multiple opponents. The fast recharge, follow-up fire rate of the torpedo is important. Also important is the fact that you can fire two missiles at the same target and then, 2.5 seconds later, fire two more.

With guns, most enemies are difficult to hit outside of 2800 meters (the shortest gun range). Novice Talons will level out and let you get closing shots at long range, and Demons will try for exchanges (you shoot them, they torpedo you), but later, most fire is at close range. Vastly different speeds for guns will separate the ITTS markers except for when the course is straight on -- a nice signal that you've got a clean shot with guns and a torpedo.

The ITTS is not terribly useful as targets change course a lot more often (much more so that Wing Commander).

[Page 62]. Keep in mind the amount of abuse a gun can take. You'll note that you often repair guns in the game. Consider that low level guns are out of commission when high abuse level guns are still firing reliably.

Slow and bulky target ships get blown up quickly by any multiple ship encounter. Turrets are rarely useful (in the Drone scenario, if the Steltek weapon ends up in your rear turret, drop shields to 2 and run, keeping the distance at around 4000meters -- out of its range but in yours, It flies straight after you until it is killed. After which, the thing is useless since a rear turrent is almost impossible to get any use out of).

Everything else means everything. "upgrade" level 1 often means upgraded from nothing.

The Hunter 6i is a nice scanner.

The B&S Eye has a slight speed advantage it has (besides price) over the Omniscience?

I got tired of the constant advice in the book to buy IR missiles. Constantly "cheaper than FF, lock faster than HS." No, with IR you can count on which target they'll track (unlike FF), and they will fire at a target that you are locked on, but not facing.

Count on four missiles per ship for ship killing (outside of Kilrathi ships). While often less, it is rarely more.

Pendar's Star is where all the Tarsus ships are. Once you sell, you can never go back (which is too bad. The Tarsus is superior to the Orion and the Galaxy for many things).

[Page 64].

The Tarsus loadout advice is good. Experiment with the various cheaper weapon types (up to Tachyon Cannon). You'll get some very useful insights (be sure to save your position prior to buying some of the weapons).

I fail to see how, with an Orion and the standard random enemies generated at each Nav point, you can avoid multiple enemies. Except for Perry... which they recommend and which is filled with only safe random encounters. One alternative is to use the "cheat" mode (invulnerability). You can then engage is safe, full cargo, merchant runs until your money is high.

The Centurion is the ship of choice. The book hits the best loadout, for most uses, perfectly. A heavy fighter ought to allow you the option of internal missile bays (for more missiles on the craft at the expense of not carrying as much cargo). The New Caldonia/Prasepe route is a nice thought (though not one I've used).

Combat Tips and Tactics (page 67). Yes, versus multiple enemies, if you do not ride the afterburners, you are history. Riding the afterburner is essential to dogfighting.

Yes, once a mission is over, it can be nice to just cruise back to the mission origin (you have to do that in some of the plot missions. Also, if you take cargo deliveries, and can't find a return mission, it lets you just slide home and work on your next mission).

Demons are often great targets for ramming (you will rarely fight them in anything but a heavier ship....).

"Strider" gave some stupid advice. I tried the "lock, fire and move on to new target" routine and had it fail on me several times. When I realized the old target had not died, the shields were regenerated and I lost time. On the other hand, it is much worse to be outnumbered than outgunned and Demons are very dangerous from head-on.

General Comment:

The background characters should have come up with different talk bars, as follows:

"talk with" (has a new clue)

"banter with/exchange idle chatter" (a recycled old clue available).

"flirt with" (get an advertising message for holographic secretaries -- explains why they all look alike).

The Mercenaries Guild should have had combat tips, etc. The Merchants Guild should have had all the commodity information, one drop at a time (with encounters with friendly merchants resulting in similar tips -- something more than "nice to see a friendly face" after you jump in and kill the pirates off their tail).

The Commodities info was invaluable. Otherwise you have to work it out from logic and experience.

[Page 75], Mission Computer missions also offer delivery missions.

"Bravestarr" isn't quite accurate. The fixers were all plot related, and not all paid that well for what you were actually doing.

I rarely saw ejected enemy pilots in space. After I bought my tractor beam, I never had the chance to tractor one in.

Note, two playtesters recommend that you have just one kind of gun (tachyon cannon) when you start the plot. It may be better to have two tachyon cannon and two neutron guns in the front (that is what I started with). I used FF missiles from time to time (I was ahead on credits), but preferred IR when cost was no object.

Plot outlines are well done. Also well done, there are checklists that follow the outlines that hit the important points and the critical checklist points.

[Page 80]. When you use the pursuit view, you can see Asteriods chase your ship at high speeds. They really are attracted to you, by some sort of random sort, the more the faster you go. 200kps is a safe speed. 300 is on the edge. 400 needs the F8 view and practice, 500 to a 1000 are possible, but take luck.

Too bad the secret compartment can't be used when you do not have contraband, but it is a clue as to the type of cargo a Pirate has when you try to tractor in pirate cargo on the rare time the pirates have some when you kill them. Fighting the drone is an interesting proposition.

Interface Comments

Suggestions for Privateer 2

I have two kinds of suggestions.

First, I'm basically proposing that the manuals, and most of the clue book, be replaced with dialogues in the game. Second, I would like to see some expansion on the wonderful graphics. (That is just an extra).

General Notes (responding to reviews, etc.).

The base types are well done, as are the multiple "special" bases. In general, the interiors of agricultural bases (with different landing zones and bartenders) were good, as were the mining bases (if the bartenders differed). I've little patience with complaints that those "all look alike" -- they should.

Whenever a character's title bar is clicked on, if there is new dialogue, it should read "Talk with ___" (e.g. "Talk with Bartender") if there is new dialogue, "Idle Chatter with ____" if it is old dialogue to be recycled. Yes, I want a faster way to check if there is new news.

Conversation Topics and Actors.

Machine Ghost (appears at Options and Opening Screen): Various game mechanics discussed. Bartender (each base a different one): background on settings, plot clues, notes on fixers. Fixers, Patrons. Should be a method to add a few non-plot individuals into the game. Mostly as passengers, sources of stories.

Mercenaries Guild Holograph "Secretary." (All look the same).

i. combat tips. Demons & torpedoes, afterburner slide (which doesn't work anywhere near as well), abuse limits on various weapons, mistakes on damage, range or cost vis a vis the player's handbook, etc.

ii. notes. How to get back into Confed good graces if you kill a Confed ship, etc. iii. your status. Who hates you, who is hunting you, etc. (Hmm. Did you know that all Confed ships are hostile to you as a result of the ships you killed. Until you confirm kills on some Kilrathi or Pirates, you are not welcome in Confed patrolled space).

iv. back room. Local guild officer specials (a mission source and for plot hooks).

Merchant's Guild.

i. Warnings about common mistakes (i.e. stopping at a base before making a delivery).

ii. basic merchant information (i.e. iron from mining bases to everywhere else, etc.).

iii. back room (triggered whenever credits on hand exceed 100,000)(invest money in long term, nontransferrable, debentures, etc. -- i.e. take money away from the character; buy franchise at a place without a guild office, etc. Also for launching plots).

Ship Dealer

("Listen to sales spiel" or "Talk with Ship Dealer")

i. advice on equipment choices for ships.

ii. sell five types of ships:

a. Tarsus

b. Demon

c. Centurion

d. Galaxy

e. Orion

iii. Board with ship statistics (same information as in player's guide, differently presented).

iv. specials. (damaged used equipment/etc.)

v. allow you to "store" a ship (e.g. you can store your Centurion and buy a Tarsus for a special run, rather than sell, losing 25%, sell the Tarsus losing 25%, and be back much poorer). Also can lease ships out -- with the warning that most are destroyed or stolen within four missions (and then the game always eats the ship leased in the next one to five missions).

Other Ships in Space

i. "how's business" (business tips: money is good running wood to mining bases, rumors. "Business is good. By the way, Iron is selling between 20 and 45 at New Detroit." "Glad to see a friendly face, the pirates sure are thick around Pentonville")

ii. "this sector" (encounter notes: e.g. "We see a lot of Retro Novices in this sector, keep your eyes peeled Call Sign" -- not "Ace.").

Ship to Ship Dialogue (color code)

Blue/green: friendly

White: neutral

Red: hostile

("got any spare donuts? Is that friendly or hostile? Two layer dialogues would be nice. So, if you pick one of the blue or green lines, the next time you punch C for that target, it brings up the blue/green menu).

Specific Game Notes/Log for Privateer (initial phases)

\sell the missile launcher and laser

\buy torpedo launcher and max load torpedos (2,000)

\buy two meson blasters (5,000)

\\\or buy two mass drivers (3,000)

add tractor beam (7,500) asap

\buy afterburner (3,000)

\\\or buy armor

early purchase goals:

Hunter AW 6i (eventually B&S Omni), Shield 2, Engine Upgrade, ECM package (eventually ECM 3), Tungsten Armor, tractor beam, cargo expansion, lots of cash.

Troy System

Nav. 1

jump to Pyrenees

1-6 Pirates (confident novices in talons)

7-9 Militia

0 Retros (fanatical novices)

Nav. 2


both guilds, ship dealer

buy: iron

sell: food, wood, grain, liquor

1-4 Drayman & Militia

5-9 Drayman & Militia

10a Drayman & Pirate (2 confident novices)

b Galaxy & Pirate (2 cofident novices)

Nav. 3

jump to Pender's Star

1-3 Merchants

4-6 Bounty Hunters

7-9 Galaxy & Pirates (confident novices)

10 Retros (fanatical novices)

Nav. 4


both guilds, ship dealer

buy: iron

sell: food, wood, grain, liquor

1-8 Merchants/Militia

9 Drayman & Pirates (confident novices)

10 Retros (4! fanatical novices)

Nav. 5

Jump to Regallis

1-4 militia

5-8 confident pirates

9-10 fanatical retros

Nav. 6

HELEN (AGRICULURE) "8/10ths safe"

merchant guild, ship dealer

sell: iron

buy: food, wood, grain, liquor 1-3 Merchants

4-6 Bounty Hunters

7 Pirates (confident novices)

8-9 Merchants

0 Retros (fanatical novices)

Nav. 7

jump to War

1-3 Militia

4-6 Pirates & Militia

7-9 Pirates

0 Retros

Nav. 8


1-6 Militia

7-8 Pirates

9-0 Retros

Trade Guidelines

Agriculture Mining



100-120 100-140


260-300 280-300



10-30 30-40


5-20 20-27


30-50 50-60



25-50 50-65


70-100 90-110


65-100 100-110

Mining Agriculture


900-1000 930-1000


25-50 45-50


Mining Mining


425- 480+


920- 980+