Pirates represent a major threat to the trade routes connecting the planets of the Frontier. Pirate ships are crewed by members of all four races, and every inhabited star system has suffered from their scourge at one time or another.
Most people believe that the standard pirate tactic is a fast assault on a lone ship, usually a freighter or spaceliner. The pirates try to disable the victim's drives and maneuver jets and then board her. Everything of value is removed from the ship, including passengers and crew in many cases, who can be used as slaves at the pirate base. Sometimes the passengers and crew are not kidnapped, but left on board the drifting hulk, hoping for rescue before their life support runs out.
Pirate ships usually are small and fast. Assault scouts and frigates are the preferred pirate vessels although they often seem to prefer the corvette. Whatever type of ship is used, it will be heavily armed.
Asteroids, uninhabited planets, unknown regions of outpost worlds and moons all might serve as pirate bases. These bases usually are not very well developed, since the pirates must be prepared to escape quickly if ships of the Spacefleet or a planetary militia suddenly attack.
Some lightly populated planets have governments that are actually run by pirates. Because of the charter of the UPF, the Spacefleet is prohibited from taking direct action against these worlds, and must limit itself to intercepting pirate ships as they go about their unlawful business. Outer Reach (Dramune system) is the most significant of these pirate governments.
Despite popular belief, the most common pirate tactic, by far, is hijacking through infiltration by an "inside man"; either as a passenger or as a crew member.
Notes & References
- Source: Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks Expanded Rulebook pp. 52
- This attack usually takes place when the target ship is in orbit or on final approach to a recently colonized world; it is too difficult to match velocities with the target ship prior to this point, and only new worlds and colonies don't have means of countering pirates.
- More commonly they simply threaten to do so, since weapons fire can cause significant damage to the ship, rendering it useless as a prize.
- Or ransomed, which can often be more profitable than the actual booty captured.
- This is more common in systems with relatively high space traffic. In other systems, it is akin to a death sentence.
- Note that these are not commonly "actual" warships, but upgraded armed civilian ships converted for the task. Some privateers-turned-pirates use ships purpose-built for the task, constructed by their sponsors.
- Or "pirate lords" who sponsor pirates.