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In every edition of Traveller I've seen, a noteworthy part of the maintenance cost of a starship is... Well, the maintenence cost of a starship: Bills must be paid to keep all the parts in the right places and approximately functional. In most editions of Traveller that I've read, this consisted of monthly inspections and maintenance at a reasonably well-equipped starport, with maybe an annual overhaul for good measure.

However, I've been unable to locate the rules for calculating maintenance costs in T5. Maybe I'm just missing it - I've been having some trouble navigating the rules, since they do make a weighty tome - but I'm growing increasingly worried that they might not exist at all.

Thus, I have to ask: Are there maintenance costs (as distinct from, say, mortgage repayments) in T5? And if so, how are they calculated?

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2 Answers 2

I don't have any T5 resources, but for what it's worth:

  • In Traveller: The New Era, maintenance is expressed only in terms of hours, not credits (core book, page 241). For a Jayhawk, this is 89 man-hours per week; if a mechanic makes Cr1,000 per week, that's 0.2% of the vessel's purchase price per year for labor alone.
  • In Mongoose Traveller, maintenance is 0.1% of a ship's purchase price per year (core book, page 137).

These rates seems pretty damn low. I'd compare Traveller spaceships to modern warships - loaded with tech, but not cutting-edge like the space shuttle is was. There are some figures out on the interwebs; someone with a copy of Jane's Fighting Ships can probably get better numbers.

Per a maintenance company, the annual operating costs for a small frigate is between 25% and 30% the construction cost, mostly in the form of fuel and crew; maintenance proper looks to be about 2% of the ship's price, per year.

Per a random defense web site, the USN's estimated total operating cost for the Littoral Combat Ship is about $40 M per year, or about 10% of purchase price (not relative to the class ships, which always cost more). That's everything-in, so if you're charging separately for fuel and crew then 1% of the purchase price is probably close.

Per a major Canadian newspaper, maintenance and operations for next-gen Canadian warships will be 8% of acquisition price, per year. This includes personnel and probably fuel, so maintenance proper is probably between 0.5% and 1.0% per year.

Also of interest, a paper from George Mason describes the annual cost of maintenance for the Arleigh Burke class of destroyer rising by 50% for parts and 100% for labor for routine maintenance (performed by the crew), and 250% for "intermediate" maintenance man-hours (performed at dock, not a shipyard), from a ship's first year to its 16th. So an older ship like the Millennium Falcon or Serenity can be presumed to take much more maintenance than a shiny new Heart of Gold, especially if the owners have skipped a couple of refits.

For a civilian perspective, a paper gives the operating cost for a Panamax cargo ship as $6,500 to $8,400 per day. If a typical bulk cargo Panamax ship costs $20 M, that's about 14% of purchase price per year. However, the point of the paper is that costs roughly doubled from 2000 to 2010, so it seems that this is a volatile factor. An academic page suggests that fuel is the main component here too, with maintenance again making up about 8% of operating costs. The main difference is that military ships have far larger crews; salaries are a small part of a tanker's costs.

For comparison, a modern car may cost $30,000 to buy, and as little as $300 a year to maintain (oil changes, tires, belts, but not gas), so 1% per year. An old beater may cost $1,000, compared to $20,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars when new, and another $1,000 a year as parts keep falling off, so 5%.

The real answer is "do whatever works for your campaign," if you even want to track these things at all - they never named numbers in Firefly, as being perpetually broke but still flying was simply the expectation; quantifying it was needless. If I was going to track this, I'd probably go with 1% of purchase price per year for a brand-new ship, up to an extreme of 10% for an old clunker - 10% of the original price, not what the players pay.

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+1, now this is what I call a well researched answer. Many thanks. –  Sardathrion Feb 26 '14 at 11:20
+1, and another +1 for including "do whatever works for your campaign" ;) At the end of the day the game needs to be fun. Depending on the group, that could mean making sure they're not being unfairly taxed on maintenance fees (although, of course, you're also in charge of how much money they're making) or ensuring they're getting charged enough that they feel challenged in the amount of work they have to do to pay the bills. –  Matt Thomason Feb 26 '14 at 11:57
Wow, thank you! I'm glad my insomnia could help someone! –  Jon of All Trades Feb 26 '14 at 16:56
This is a great answer! Not exactly what I was looking for (I was hoping for a more RAW-ish answer), but definitely useful and worth a +1! –  GMJoe Feb 27 '14 at 4:00

Traveller5 mentions starship annual maintenance in relation to drives, power plants, and the ship in general. However, page 52, which has other starship costs, omits the cost of annual maintenance. This is noted in the errata document, but not yet answered. From older sources (classic Traveller), it seems to me that the annual maintenance cost would be 1% of the purchase price of the starship.

As mentioned in the above answer, however, do whatever works. If this is a hard economic campaign, be clear and consistent with players. If this is an adventure campaign, then ignore it until it's part of a plot point.

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