Where is the encounter type for ships you meet on the high seas generated? That is, things like "merchants", "merchants with light escort", "single merchant with heavy escort", etc. And where is the cargo to those ships assigned? What I'd like to do, if it's possible, is to try to build some sort of link between the two. At the very least, unescorted merchants shouldn't be stuffed full of gold or silver. You'd expect anyone rich enough to be carrying that sort of cargo to also hire someone to escort him. Conversely, if three warships are escorting a single merchant then he's presumably carrying something important because the local admiral wouldn't assign such a force just to escort a consignment of linen. From the point of view of game balance, an unescorted merchant is easy prey for a novice pirate or privateer and if it's carrying a load of silver then that novice just became very rich, very early in the game. On the other hand if you take on a ship escorted by two frigates and a ship of the line, and survive, you ought to expect a hefty reward.