Recently I listened to several episodes of Felbrigg Herriot's excellent CT podcast Behind the Claw, which is awesome and well worth your time. There's a link also in my blogroll. In Episode 5, he highlighted a paragraph from the Traveller Book I had never noticed before. In the section of the Space Combat chapter on Starship Encounters, the rules suggest combining the Starship encounter table (Herriot calls it a 'wandering monster' table) with the Reaction table from the Encounters chapter. You get a sense right away of how the other ship may act towards the PC's ship. This is a great shortcut for the Referee, and one I wish I'd noticed years ago.
The FSS Lioness (my boy's ship, a Type L Lab) was leaving Monjeera en route to Glaumvor, so I rolled on the Ship Encounter table. Result: a Type A Free Trader. Reaction roll: 10, Responsive. I decided that the Trader captain had in his cargo hold a load of cooking spice (quick roll on the Trade table) that was the current craze on Glaumvor; but the Trader had a freight contract which was taking them away from Glaumvor. So the captain offered to sell it to the Lioness, to avoid a financial loss. They conducted the trade, with the captain's assurance that it would sell high on Glaumvor.
Arriving in the Glaumvor system, I rolled again and got a Subsidized Merchant, but the reaction roll was 5, hostile and may attack. The Subbie captain had a big shipment of the cooking spice, and reacted badly when he learned that the Lioness was competition. He raced away for the planet, to beat the Lioness to market. Captain Greene lit up his drives as well, then had an inspiration. He instructed his crew to load the spice aboard the Pinnace, which has better drives than either ship, then to take off for the planet to beat the Subbie to the punch.
Now, the Subbie's reaction roll was 5, hostile & may attack. Will the other captain risk opening fire? There's a Naval base in Glaumvor, so he might not get away with it. Or maybe he'll plot revenge once they're on the ground.
And the adventure continues . . .