Although the 'Verse can be a dark place, FIREFLY rarely delves too much into the truly unsavory, which probably explains why, per PIRATES AND BOUNTY HUNTERS, all bounties are delivered alive.
But what if that weren't the case?
This is something I may play with in my upcoming BLACK MARKET, but I think it could also be an interesting variant on it's own.
* When you Apprehend a fugitive, you may declare that they are Killed. This counts as an Immoral act.
* If you turn in the Bounty, you collect only half the value, rounded down. The authorities expect their bounties brought to them alive, but a dead criminal is still better than a criminal out there and causing mayhem.
Bounty Bonuses are not affected.
* A Dead Bounty is not Killed by the Reavers.
* A Dead Bounty may still be Jumped, but is not subject to Rescue.
So, basically, Killing the Bounty is sort of like insurance. You get paid less, but mitigate some of the risks of carrying the Bounty on your ship.
Pretty cool. I don't know though, if the bounty hunter should have the option to kill the mark. Since the goal is collecting money, they're going to go for the higher amount. Now, the truly Ruthless would, and maybe that's an option.
Maybe something like a modified Win result on the Bounty card: if the bounty hunter's total # in the showdown is double the defender's (or more), and Fight was used by either side, the bounty has been killed in the exchange.
And a Ruthless captain would always have the option to execute a prisoner, Disgruntling any Moral Crew of course.
And the rest as you said, half the bounty, can't be taken by Reavers, etc.
Just a couple of thoughts...
1) Killing the bounty ought to be a separate Free, Immoral action. So you can keep them alive when capturing them but have the option to top them pre-Fight roll when the Reavers land on you or pre-Showdown roll on a Bounty Jump.
2) In terms of accidentally killing your Bounty, I'd say that happens when you only just succeed i.e. the Attacker wins by only 1 point (and at least one side is using Fight in the Showdown). That would NOT be a separate Immoral act.
(Incidentally, non-Ruthless Crew could also be upset by the deliberately reduced pay day, but I think that's too subtle a situation for the standard rules... sure, I've got an untested house rule for Disgruntlement possibles )