Espionage Suggestions (Sensors, False Front Civics, Conspiracies)

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Lazy Name

Second Lieutenant
Apr 26, 2020
167
361
Since espionage is coming apparently, it naturally stands that empires should have more stuff to hide. Here's some random ideas I had:


- Sensor data -
You now only gain sensor data directly from listening posts or ships. You only gain intel about their fleet power if you have seen the fleets directly. Building listening posts directly on your borders creates an opinion penalty with more unfriendly empires, particularly xenophobes.

There are two new pacts you can make with empires; a pact which gives both empires full access to each others sensors, and a pact in which both empires agree to mind their own business and not attempt to see or spy on each other. The galactic council has a motion called "Force Transparency", which forces all empires to give their full sensory data to other members.


- Sensor Disruptors -
There would be two main ways to hide what's going on in your empire from nosy neighbors.

The first is a new starbase building, the "Sensor Scrambler". If this is installed on a starbase, then other empires sensors will be able to see absolutely nothing in the system. Other empires will not react to ships within the system, and you will not receive opinion penalties based on anything that happens in the system. However, having these gives a constant negative to opinion for "Secrecy", and other empires gain the Casus Belli "Uncover secrets". Higher levels of the previously mentioned "Force Transparency" motion will also make having these a breach of galactic law.

The second way is a new megastructure, the "Sensor Disruption Array". When installed, it allows you to selectively remove certain details from your system while still leaving the rest. It has two stages; the first only filters the system it is in, while the second also filters the surrounding systems as well. The only way to discover what's inside is through espionage, directly sending a ship into the system, or certain special events.


- Civic Ideas -
Two Faced
This society has always known that in order to get what you want, your true nature must remain hidden.
This empire is capable of creating a false empire, which other empires will see instead of the real one. Their opinion with other empires will be based on the false empire instead of their real empire, and if they are an AI empire they will always maintain positive relations with the player on the surface.

Organic Shells
This Machine Intelligence knows that organics always prefer the sight of their own. Why not oblige them?
Same as Two faced, except their false empire can be a normal empire instead of a machine empire. They can choose a regular portrait instead of a machine one.

Individualist Facade
This Hive has always found the best course of action to be to blend in, and hide in plain sight.
Same as the Organic Shells, but with Hive minds.


- Conspiracy Federation -
"Conspiracy" would be a new federation type based on espionage. When created, its existence isn't announced to the rest of the galaxy, and the members aren't listed as in the federation. One can join a Conspiracy even if they are already in a federation, but they will lose benefits granted by being in the public federation. Members can only leave the conspiracy if the others allow them to go. A conspiracy is always created with a target empire, or a set of target empires.

Unlike regular federations, AI empires will accept the invitation even if they don't particularly like you if they hate the target(s) even more. Once in, all members agree to focus all their espionage efforts on the target, and will aid each other in their espionage. Federation cohesion is replaced by Federation Coordination, which will also be increased by spying on or sabotaging the target empire(s).

From level 2 onward, there is an ability to "Reveal conspiracy", where all members will simultaneously declare war on the target(s) and gain a temporary boost to their fleets. This boost will be more powerful based on the level of the federation, but if the discovered before they choose to reveal then the boost will be decreased significantly. After the time is over, the members will have a choice to either disband the conspiracy, or form a martial alliance.
 
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Tamwin5

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Dec 3, 2017
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I'm not sure that the listening post needs a downside, you are already giving up a starbase building on what is almost certainly a Bastion (as it's bordering another empire). Similarly, the sensor scrambler could be combined into the already existing communications jammer building potentially. I don't think that it should act like a full nebula, but rather what I'd like to see is it either reduce sensors passing through by a certain amount, or prevent seeing past the system (so you can still see in). I'm again not sure that this needs to be penalized by an opinion penalty, as there is a significant opportunity cost. The sensor disruption array I'd just cut, It does far too little for a megastructure, and being able to selectively remove information sounds like a coding nightmare.

The two-faced civics are interesting, and being able to present a false front is something I'd really want to see, but I'd need to see how the espionage system works to know how viable it is. Maybe the ability to do this is just a base thing you can do, no special civic required.

The conspiracy federation is very interesting, and I do like how it achieves it's goal. A conspiracy shouldn't lock it's members in though, as that is just ripe for exploitation, abuse, and all around feels bad moments. Leaving a conspiracy should come with a significant diplomatic hit, and perhaps cost some influence. Rather then just "set of target empires", I think it should specifically be an empire or a federation. There would need to be some way of selecting the war goal to use ahead of time, as well as selecting the trigger for the conspiracy to reveal itself - when they next declare war the conspiracy automatically joins on the defender's side, after a certain number of years have passed, or at the moment where the members vote to begin. I don't think that carrying out espionage actions should increase coordination, as coordination requires actual diplomats to hash out deals and areas of operation, not two agents blowing up facilities on different planets. Honestly my biggest problem with this suggestion is that it sounds so fun and interesting, I don't like how it's a federation, and thus limits people already in federations from joining one.
 
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Lazy Name

Second Lieutenant
Apr 26, 2020
167
361
I'm not sure that the listening post needs a downside, you are already giving up a starbase building on what is almost certainly a Bastion (as it's bordering another empire). Similarly, the sensor scrambler could be combined into the already existing communications jammer building potentially. I don't think that it should act like a full nebula, but rather what I'd like to see is it either reduce sensors passing through by a certain amount, or prevent seeing past the system (so you can still see in). I'm again not sure that this needs to be penalized by an opinion penalty, as there is a significant opportunity cost. The sensor disruption array I'd just cut, It does far too little for a megastructure, and being able to selectively remove information sounds like a coding nightmare.

The two-faced civics are interesting, and being able to present a false front is something I'd really want to see, but I'd need to see how the espionage system works to know how viable it is. Maybe the ability to do this is just a base thing you can do, no special civic required.

The conspiracy federation is very interesting, and I do like how it achieves it's goal. A conspiracy shouldn't lock it's members in though, as that is just ripe for exploitation, abuse, and all around feels bad moments. Leaving a conspiracy should come with a significant diplomatic hit, and perhaps cost some influence. Rather then just "set of target empires", I think it should specifically be an empire or a federation. There would need to be some way of selecting the war goal to use ahead of time, as well as selecting the trigger for the conspiracy to reveal itself - when they next declare war the conspiracy automatically joins on the defender's side, after a certain number of years have passed, or at the moment where the members vote to begin. I don't think that carrying out espionage actions should increase coordination, as coordination requires actual diplomats to hash out deals and areas of operation, not two agents blowing up facilities on different planets. Honestly my biggest problem with this suggestion is that it sounds so fun and interesting, I don't like how it's a federation, and thus limits people already in federations from joining one.

My idea for the sensor scrambler would be it would be a full nebula you'd only put in important core systems, but I like your idea of reducing sensors passing through and instead creating a border. I didn't really consider the opportunity cost for the two buildings, but I still feel there should be some diplomatic cost for building them, since that's the intuitive conclusion for most people and it would be disappointing if no one reacted to them.

Same with the megastructure, I agree that it doesn't work that well but I feel like there should be a way for specialized empires to be able to keep secrets without putting up the starbase buildings everywhere and basically telling everyone they're hiding something. I don't really have a solution to the coding problem though, so I guess it makes sense to cut it.

I personally don't think that the false front civics should be usable for every single empire since it'll just be clutter for most empires that don't need it. I do agree that without complicated diplomacy it really doesn't do much gameplay wise unless you're playing as a genocidal empire or something, but I can't really see anywhere else to put it.

Same for having conspiracies completely separate from federations, they just aren't a thing that is going to be used often enough to be a completely permanent separate part of the UI, which is why I put them with Federations. Perhaps you should be able to join a conspiracy when you're already in a federation, and you would just have another tab added on? And about locking members in, I feel like there should be some way to try and stop an empire from just waltzing out of the secret society, but I guess that probably wouldn't be very fun to play. I like all your other ideas on how they should work, the war triggers seem interesting.

It is really hard to really get a feel for what these will be like before we actually know how espionage will work, though. A big part of these would be how other empires would be able to uncover them in an interesting way, and I'm not sure how that'll happen.
 

Tamwin5

General
19 Badges
Dec 3, 2017
2.179
2.188
  • Age of Wonders III
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
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  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
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  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
My idea for the sensor scrambler would be it would be a full nebula you'd only put in important core systems, but I like your idea of reducing sensors passing through and instead creating a border. I didn't really consider the opportunity cost for the two buildings, but I still feel there should be some diplomatic cost for building them, since that's the intuitive conclusion for most people and it would be disappointing if no one reacted to them.

Same with the megastructure, I agree that it doesn't work that well but I feel like there should be a way for specialized empires to be able to keep secrets without putting up the starbase buildings everywhere and basically telling everyone they're hiding something. I don't really have a solution to the coding problem though, so I guess it makes sense to cut it.

I personally don't think that the false front civics should be usable for every single empire since it'll just be clutter for most empires that don't need it. I do agree that without complicated diplomacy it really doesn't do much gameplay wise unless you're playing as a genocidal empire or something, but I can't really see anywhere else to put it.

Same for having conspiracies completely separate from federations, they just aren't a thing that is going to be used often enough to be a completely permanent separate part of the UI, which is why I put them with Federations. Perhaps you should be able to join a conspiracy when you're already in a federation, and you would just have another tab added on? And about locking members in, I feel like there should be some way to try and stop an empire from just waltzing out of the secret society, but I guess that probably wouldn't be very fun to play. I like all your other ideas on how they should work, the war triggers seem interesting.

It is really hard to really get a feel for what these will be like before we actually know how espionage will work, though. A big part of these would be how other empires would be able to uncover them in an interesting way, and I'm not sure how that'll happen.

Max level sensors only reach 4 jumps, that's +2 with a listening post. If you want to hide stuff without building the jammer, you can just keep it more than 6 jumps back from the border, or put it inside a nebula. Having listening posts and jammers contribute to border tension might be a good way to handle it the opinion penalty.

For conspiracies, you could just make it a separate icon next to the federation icon. I primarily play MP, and frequently end up in situations with secret contracts and backstabbing and the like. Most of what I want for conspiracies could actually probably be achieved through the ability to make secret diplomatic deals, but I do want the ability to betray a defensive pact or federation, or for subjects to conspire to try and overthrow their overlord.
 
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