It was that DHL truck at the end that made this post possible.
Yes, even in the most oppressive and isolated nation in the world – yes, worse than the Islamic State – the leaderships and the moneymen want to stay in touch with the rest of the world (if only for the foreign currency). For example, the sci-fi Ryugyong Hotel could not have been built without Egyptian help and (planned) German management.
So what does this mean to a Traveller? It means that there is money to be made in daring to go where others fear to tread. Even collectivist monoracial monocultural isolationist communist states are willing to cut a deal… if the price is right.
Naturally, the Traveller has to be careful: after all, the Dear Leader (or one of his close friends) could change his mind at any time, and simply seize everything for himself while slamming the PCs in the gulag for some reason or other. You need to know who you are dealing with.
Now, a paranoid dictatorship isn’t going to make a deal with a direct enemy – an American or Japanese business in the case of North Korea, an Imperial or nonhuman corporation in the case of an ideologically committed Solomani Confederation world, etc. But they need to make a deal with someone. Splendid isolation just isn’t going to cut it, in a universe where any pirate – or ‘violence-oriented entrepreneurs’ – can just drop a nuke 50 km from the capital, then begin polite negotiations with the local low-tech government “for mutually beneficial trade arrangements”.
“Mutually beneficial” meaning “I get what I want, and you get to live. For now.”
No interstellar trade => no money and no technology => dead meat.
(Actually, a massive airburst explosion with a nice, fat shockwave and a deafening is better. No one dies, so you don’t rub the powerless of the locals in their face – and so gain all sorts of repressed hatred and resentment… but the local authorities get the message. Consider it an updated version of Commodore Perry visiting Japan.
In the Empty Quarter, the highly professional, high-tech Vargr/Vilani pirates from Ikon have raised this to an artfrom: and several have a nice stream of income from various extortion rackets. For example, there could be serious trouble with a planet’s TL 10 financial network system… which are easily cured, once certain off-world Ikonic ‘system engineers’ remove the TL 14 viruses from the planet networks for a phenomenal fee. And off they go, to the next shakedown.
“And remember, not a word to the Imperial Ministry of Justice. Or else.”)
Now, strange and extreme law level worlds get that way for a reason. Typically, they are very different from their immediate neighbours, and usually have bad relations with them – normally including a set of wars, hot and cold.
The PCs need to know their standing locally. For example, the Vargr are intensely loathed on the more backward Solomani-dominated worlds in the Empty Quarter, so it could be wise to leave them on the ship – or at least make sure they don’t leave the starport & the attached city, where they are more tolerant of the Vargr.
Which leads to the need for a certain amount of situational awareness. In the Imperial Empty Quarter, anyone who owns a starship is filthy rich: and often even the crew are paid salaries far higher than most people earn in the impoverished local worlds. The PCs may forget this: but the locals never do.
So, keep an eye out for envy. And unexpected encounters with criminal elements on the way home from a business meeting.
Also: the starport, startown, capital, or nearby trade city can be VERY different from the rest of the planet. Many times, the PCs will be restricted to a isolated trade port (a la Shogunate Japan) or perhaps the capital (North Korea), where the locals are very different from the rest of the country. For example, only politically reliable people from approved castes may be permitted to live in the capital. (Or the right race/religion/culture…) Or again, the capital/the trade port could be living a good tech level 0r three (or even more) above the rest of the planet.
And naturally, the rest of the planet may have an unpleasant reaction to nonhumans. Or humans from the wrong race. Or the wrong belief system. Or with unnatural technology.
Now, having given hundreds of words of warnings and advisories to scare you off, it is STILL possible for a courageous PC with dreams of unlimited profits to make real money, servicing worlds other traders avoid like the plague.
For example, take that DHL truck in the Hermit Kingdom. With some good deals and know-how and connections and some real guts, you can reimagine that vehicle into, say, an air/raft service.
The only air/raft service on the entire planet. An exclusive service, for only the best customers.. with prices to match.
Then, let’s extend that service to cover the planet. Then many planets. With a starship network, to ferry high-priority cargo and passengers across a blighted, backward region of space – like the Empty Quarter, say.
Who can say no to a nice, fat, regular cash stream, supported by powerful friends?
But of course, this will only last for a time… until competitors start to break into your market at lower prices. And/or pirates, sniffing money, start making you offers you can’t refuse.
That is when things start getting interesting.
(And if the PCs survive that… there are always the megacorporations, always looking for new markets to dominate…)