Written by - Codiak
Updated: September 10, 2023
Posted: September 9, 2023
Teased during Starfield Direct the idea of becoming a pirate and smuggling contraband was something that intrigued me, and I bet it piqued your interest too. The idea is simple, become a pirate lord, steal ships from your enemies across the stars, and smuggle any contraband back to a vendor who will pay a premium for those goods, but that’s easier said than done.
Throughout the galaxy, as you’re salvaging abandoned labs and stealing loot from spacers you’ll run across contraband. You’ll know it’s contraband because it’ll have an insane value, and you’ll see a yellow icon indicating it’s the good stuff. I’ve only run across a couple of contraband items in all my travels, as has Livid; they’re rare, so keep an eye out because they can be found almost anywhere.
Picking up the item won’t inherently bring the UC down on top of you, but you do now have a marked item in your inventory. The question is, how do you get this item to a vendor without one of the local security forces taking it and forcing you to pay a fine. Well there’s a couple things we can do.
First, we can invest points into the social skill Deception. Each rank reduces enemy contraband ship scans by double digits, maxing out at 50% at rank 4. This is a great foundation for us to build on, but it does require you to spend your hard-earned skill points, which you might not be willing to do right off the bat, and that’s ok.
Another skill you might consider is Payloads in the tech tree. Now this is a bit odd because it clearly says on one of the game’s loading screens that payloads increase the chance to avoid contraband scans, but the skill itself shows absolutely no indication of that. I’m including it in this video because the developers tell us point-blank it works, but that’s not exactly easy to test.
The final piece to this puzzle is directly tied to your ship, and to gain the necessary ship parts we’re going to first have to get in with the Crimson Fleet. This is relatively easy to do, but only if you’re willing to break the rules a bit. To trigger the start of this quest you need to get caught by the UC Vanguard. You can most easily accomplish this by stealing something in someone’s home. Instead of throwing you right into jail you should be redirected to the UC Vigilance, the fleet’s command ship. This will kickstart a quest line that you’ll need to follow until you have access to The Key, the base of operations for the Crimson Fleet.
Once you have full access to their base you can talk to Jazz, the Ship Technician, and just like every other ship technician out there she’ll sell you ships, and more importantly, have a special inventory of ship parts.
What you’re looking for are shielded cargo bays, and Jazz has quite a few. These will, as the name suggests, shield your cargo from contraband scans, which is why it’s the most effective way at avoiding detection. Now truth be told it took a lot of stumbling in the dark to find this out, mainly because I wasn’t really focused on the Crimson Fleet storyline, but I’m glad I eventually started working on it because outfitting your ship with these cargo holds is the best way to store contraband and bring it back planetside to sell.
If you checked out our Secrets of the Mantis article then you’ll actually be ahead of the game because the ship you get as a reward for completing that quest, the Razorleaf actually has a small, shielded cargo bay, perfect to kickstart your life of crime.
Selling contraband isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There are vendors on The Key that will buy your items, that’s your best bet for an easy transaction, but you can also find buyers elsewhere, like the shady trade authority vendors that operate in most major cities. You can identify them thanks to their yellow and green jumpsuits. They’ll give you the best deal on these parts, which validates all the work you put in to make sure you can smuggle like the best of them.
Fun fact, if you decide to really embrace a life of piracy you could always speed up this process by stealing a Crimson Fleet ship, or attempting to at least. Their base of operations is in the Kryx system, but you’ll also run into them in other parts of the galaxy. Knock out their engines by taking the Targeting Control Systems skill, Board their vessel, defeat the crew, and claim the ship as your own. Then take it down to a starport, like the one in New Atlantis, register the ship and there you have it, your very own smuggling ship.
Contraband is incredibly valuable and with the right set-up it could be your surefire way to keep the credits rolling in.