After a bit of discourse with my GM, I was left with a lot questions when it comes starship combat. When engaged in starship combat, how much do you know about enemy ships?
Do you know how much HP their shields or hull have, what weapons they have, etc... or is it completely obscured?
"Scanning" the enemy ship is a helm phase (science officer) combat action on CRB p325, which grants you information about the ship, and the info covers what you've asked for.
The higher the check, the more info you get: it goes sequentially down a list through basics -> defenses -> weapons etc. so if you beat a DC by 10+, you get basics, defenses and weapons in one go.
As far as I can tell, RAW, the only information you have about the ship is that it has become hostile.
This is clearly obvious to all other starships in the vicinity with working sensors,
Whether a GM decides to give you additional info that might otherwise be obvious is probably up to him/her, but RAW you get basically nothing, not even the frame/size.
I like playing the scanning rules as written because they introduce a tense aspect of figuring out whether you’re in a fight or not to even harmless random encounters. Until you succeed on that first check you have literally no information except that some sort of ship is there. Tiny? Colossal? Azlanti? Eoxian? Warship, pirate, or merchant? Captain, start yelling at your science officer to find out.
They don't have pawns and minis for not-yet-identified ships, so perhaps we are meant to be able to determine the size, manufacturer, and even make and model, without sensor checks.
Why would you need a mini for an unidentified ship? They’re all the same size on a map, just designate something that fits as your unknown sensor contact placeholder.
For the old 2300 AD game, enemy ships that had not been successfully scanned were marked with a miniature that was basically a ping pong ball painted black. You couldn't tell if it was a Battlecruiser, a fighter, or a missile without scanning it. So there is a precedent for a miniature that represents "unidentified vessel."
The catch in 2300 AD was that using your active scanners had a much better chance of detecting things than your passive scanners, but using them "lit up" your ship and made it easy to spot.
Thanks for the help. As an upcoming GM, I think having to do sensor checks would make things more interesting and fun to to play out figuring out just how in the deep end you are. Well, as long as they don't anger that one battleship I made that has four (linked) persistent particle beam cannons in the forward arc.
Captain: "Science officer! What does the scanner say about enemies threat level!"
Captain: "Science officer?"
Science Officer: *Inelegant screaming*
The scanning rules work well as far as I can tell. My players (who vary, as I run public Society games on Fantasy Grounds) tend to go for the scans immediately and switch to balancing shields later on as damage begins to fly. Once they have hull and shields I (semi) openly mark that on the same reference sheet as they use to track their own ship info.
This is what we have figured out and assume is correct.
Every round with a successful scan check the players will get 'unknown' information.
Shield strength is always 'unknown' information and usually after the first or second round will be the first 'unknown' info given to the players. As all the info before it has been 'scanned' and is now known.
This info is always unknown because the ship being scanned can have it's shield damaged since the last scan and/or changed their power settings for the shields.