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Author Topic: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse - Updated 28/05/20  (Read 34189 times)

Captain Trek

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"Which mods should I install first?" - Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse.

Many a time has the question been asked: Which mods are good? Which mods are the most similar to vanilla? Which mods should I install first? In this thread, I will endeavour to answer all of these questions in a couple of useful ways. You can read the FAQ below for more details on how and why this guide is structured as it is and how everything works, but if you'd like to get right into it; proceed to the mandatory mods and advice section. After that? The vanilla-adjacent section and the non-adjacent section each function as their own fully-fledged modlists designed to give you, without all the hassle of having to choose, a couple of fairly different but both immediately playable modded gameplay experiences that are (I hope!) sufficiently curated that they will prove to be good ones. Alternatively, you can read the more detailed information I have provided in the spoiler tag under each individual mod. These should hopefully give you enough information to allow you to decide for yourself. Or feel free to employ a combination of both styles, taking either modlist and adding your own alterations!


Contents:

Contents, FAQ, and credits: You're reading it right now!
Mandatory mods and modding advice: The mods you must install as a prerequisite before installing many other mods, and especially content mods. Also contains advice and "rules of thumb" for running Starsector with mods, if you need them.
Vanilla-adjacent modlist: Mods generally recommended for players less experienced with mods in general. Also functions as a curated list suitable for a first-time modded playthrough.
Non-adjacent modlist: Mods generally recommended for more experienced players looking to mix things up with more unusual gameplay elements and greater challenge. Also functions as a curated list suitable for a subsequent modded playthrough.
Other mods - up-and-comers: Mods currently in active development that might soon make it onto a curated list (or at least the worth considering list). Ones I recommend keeping an eye on.
Other mods - worth considering: Mods that are fully functional and interesting in their own ways, but didn't quite fit onto a curated list. Particularly worth considering if the gameplay experience provided by the non-adjacent modlist just isn't exotic enough for you.
Other mods - not recommended: Mods that, due to technical issues or other concerns, I generally do not recommend that you use. Listed here for your convenience and consideration none-the-less. Includes some mods suffer from issues due to not having been updated since version 0.9 of the game.
Synergies and anti-synergies: You'd be surprised how many subtle, interesting interactions there are between various mods, from special ships that only come available when certain other mods are also installed, to gameplay elements that make gameplay elements in other mods stronger or weaker. This section seeks to document as many of these interactions as possible.

Note: There are two types of mods that I consider outside of the scope of this mod guide: The total-conversion mod Archean Order, which by-and-large is not compatible with most other mods, and IP mods (i.e. mods that add a faction from someone else's intellectual property into the game), whose use (or not) scales directly with how big a fan you are of the IP on which the mod is based. If you note that a mod of either of these two types was not included in my guide, rest assured this is entirely intentional and is in no way a commentary on the quality of those mods.


FAQ:

Why a mod guide?
When I say many times has the question been asked, I mean it. If you are a regular on the Unofficial Starsector Chat Discord server, you'll know that such questions are almost a daily occurrence. Indeed, mods are such a big part of the Starsector experience that an entire channel had to be re-branded specifically for non-technical mod discussion to separate it out from the general chat pool. I've had it suggested to me before that there isn't enough of a diversity of mods in this game to warrant an extensive mod guide like this one, but to that I would point out that the demand is obviously there, and very strong. Moreover, Starsector is not a game that functions well on either a gameplay or runtime level if you just blindly install everything, and even a few-dozen faction mods can be a lot for a person to get their head around when they're first starting out and don't know what the "rules" (so to speak) are. Doubly so if you have a potato PC and have to boil it all down to just two or three choices out of all the larger, more hardware demanding mods available. Worse yet, Starsector is a game with a very, very high percentage of good mods, which is also part of what inspired me to do this, and in the way that I did. The majority of mods on the forum, I would argue, have something to offer to at least some audience, and having to choose between so many good options can be hard enough without having to personally investigate every individual mod page. My hope is to make the sometimes rough transition into running mods just that little bit easier for all-comers, and at the same time to help give deserving mods (and there are many) their time in the sun.
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Isn't this all just your opinion?
Frankly? Yes. With something like this it's sort of inevitable. However, my goal is simply to provide both a starting point and broad, convenient overviews of what to expect out of each mod so you can plan out a better modded experience for yourself. This guide is not and should not be treated as gospel regarding what mods to use or in what combinations. Though I've attempted to craft a strong gameplay experience with each modlist, my suggestions are as valid as anyone else's.
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Why is your guide structured like this? How do I use it?
As it says in the opening paragraph, you can quite happily use the modlists provided "as is", or use the more detailed descriptions in the spoiler tags underneath each mod entry to decide for yourself, or some combination of both. Providing lists that you can just install and not have to think about it and providing the (relatively) short versions of what makes each individual mod worthy of your consideration (or not) caters all (well, most) levels of ducks-given all in the same place. Again, you can employ any combination of the lists as presented and/or my detailed descriptions of each individual mod to cater your modded experience to your own whims as you see fit. And all this from one thread, all without having (mostly) to trawl every individual mod's thread. You'll note that I emphasize the actual lists and the detailed descriptions equally, as I want very strongly to avoid giving any impression that my should be taken as any kind of gospel that necessarily provides the best possible experience to suit all tastes and needs. I do feel, from my playtesting, that these lists provide an excellent gameplay experience that is suitable for general use, but the lists' intended use is as a quick-start tool to get you up and playing modded (and hopefully having fun doing it) as soon as possible, and nothing more. Use my guide to help yourself, not to straight-jacket yourself. There are good reasons the "not recommended" section is so short.
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What does "vanilla-adjacent" mean?
For the purposes of this guide, a "vanilla-adjacent" mod is simply any mod that can be largely considered compatible with the existing lore of the vanilla game. In addition, the vanilla-adjacent list is designed to give you as similar as possible an overall gameplay experience to the vanilla game, while still providing access to a (very!) healthy amount of new content to explore. There is, due to the game lore's deliberate vagueness, plenty of leeway with regards to how ships and factions could've come to exist, with most of the hard limitations the lore does impose being technological ones, so the net I cast for vanilla-adjacency is relatively wide. The particular reasons I consider a mod adjacent or not are elaborated upon in the detailed description drop-downs for each individual mod. Note that, if you disagree with any of my reasoning in this regard, keep in mind that my modlists are meant as a starting point, and any player who wishes to make the game as vanilla-adjacent to their own standards (as opposed to mine) as possible can still use the detailed descriptions to help design a modded experience that works best for them..
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Okay, but how did you arrive at your current definitions of vanilla-adjacency, and the current state of the guide in general?
The original genesis of the concept of vanilla-adjacency is that I saw more than a few people saying that they wanted to get into mods, but wanted to keep things fairly similar to the vanilla experience at first. Whilst it doesn't matter to everybody, it matters to enough (including me, when I first began installing mods for the game) that I felt it made an effective demarcation point for sorting mods into solid but rather different experiences (and it is to this community's immense credit that you can install two almost completely different lists of mods and give yourself a very different but equally high quality experience). Moreover, while developing my lists I noted that using this metric as the starting point for separating the mods out into different lists also allowed me to achieve other positive ends. For one, the game is easier when using the vanilla-adjacent list than when using the non-adjacent one - better suited for a less experienced player who might very well have only played one campaign of vanilla Starsector before deciding to try out mods. The non-adjacent one, conversely, can be quite hard on a poorly-prepared player, generally featuring a greater proportion of aggressive, warlike factions. It is also an effective way to offer a greater proportion of more exotic gameplay experiences to those who choose to utilize the non-adjacent list (furthering the concept of the non-adjacent list being better suited for more experienced players), as less lore-friendly factions, I found, tend to also have gameplay that deviates more from vanilla. For example, even though it's a great mod that just about everyone should check out eventually, I would never suggest that a first-time mod user install Vayra's Sector right away, even if they care nothing for maintaining a vanilla-similar experience in principle.

In the end, whilst it started purely with the intention of separating things into "the vanilla-similar experience" and "a more exotic experience", over time repeated serendipity allowed my lists to provide several additional functions. It's purely good fortune that both lists are able to contain such things as a way to have pirate fights be less repetitive, a way for high-tech raiders to harass the player, a high-tech motive-focused fleet that uses mostly hybrid weapon mounds, additional end-game enemies, and other useful additions besides, but it is thanks to that good fortune that the modlists are (I believe) as robust and playable as they are.
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You've divided mods between several different sub-headings. What does each sub-heading mean?
I'll just cover these briefly:

Overhaul mods: Make a significant number of gameplay alterations all in one convenient package to substantially expand upon and polish up the Starsector experience.
Ship packs: Mods primarily focuses on adding new ships to the game; usually (for the most part) for use by the vanilla factions.
Faction mods: Mods primarily focused on adding a new faction and its own unique crop of starships to the game.
Sub-faction mods: Mods primarily focused on expanding a vanilla faction or adding a new hostile-only faction ala-the Remnant.
Portrait Packs: Add more portraits to the game, giving the player more choice and causing NPCs to repeat less.
Quality of Life mods: Mods, typically small, that give the game better ease-of-use, provide you more information, or otherwise improve your experience without materially altering the actual gameplay.
Gameplay enhancers: Mods, typically small, that improve your experience by in some way materially altering how the game is played. May add new content or a new way to interact with existing content.
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What if I disagree with something so strongly that I NEED you to change it?
That's what spirited discussion in the thread is for! Go ahead and give it a bash and, who knows, I might just agree with you.
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Can I suggest mods you don't have in your guide yet?
Yup! That goes in the thread too. Even better if you can provide your own write-up for the detailed drop-down, or at least a brief, overall picture of the mod's strengths and drawbacks to make things easier for Trekkers when he comes to do the write-up (this also applies to mods that are in the guide, but don't have their detailed information filled in yet. I will endeavour to update these frequently, but after the amount of work the base guide has already taken, I make no promises!). You will, of course, be credited if you provide this.
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Changelog:

It's a change log!
28/05/20:
- Minor updates to the write-ups of Anvil Industries, Diable Avionics, Galaxy Tigers, Mayasuran Navy, and Vayra's Ship Pack to account for their most recent updates.
- Major update to the write-up of Sanguinary Anarchistic Defectors. Added Vesperon Combine to the sub-factions section of the non-adjacent modlist as Sanguinary's blueprint-farming aspect has been substantially nerfed.
- Major update to the write-up of Hazard Mining Incorporated. Mod is no longer vanilla-adjacent and is presently in a bit of a state of upheaval, so has for the moment been moved to the optional factions section of the non-adjacent modlist.
- Added entry and detailed write-up for Xhan Empire.
- Removed entry for Kipling Radiative, as the mod is defunct.
- Done some additional work on cleaning up FAQ wording.

22/02/20:
- Added detailed write-up for Anvil Industries.
- Added entry and detailed write-up for Torchships and Deadly Armaments.

08/02/20:
- Added detailed write-ups for Galaxy Tigers, Transponder Reminders, and Grand Sector.

02/02/20:
- Added Starship Legends, which was missing from the initial release of the guide because I'm a dumb and didn't notice.
- Started work on cleaning up wording and formatting.
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Credits:

A big thankyou to Vayra for her support and excellent advice, to Scarlet-MagicianX26 for his assistance with editing and on the write-ups for ApproLight and Yuri Expedition, to Monarda for his assistance with editing, and to Avanitia for helping with proof-reading. More general thankyous also to Gwyvern, isaacssv552, Nia Tahl, Sozzer, MesoTroniK, lolghurt, and others besides. Without the support (and, occasionally, galvanizing derision) of the community, this mod guide wouldn't have been possible.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2020, 03:01:01 AM by Captain Trek »
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Captain Trek

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2020, 05:46:18 PM »

Mandatory Mods and Modding Advice:


Just a couple of quick notes before we cover the essential prerequisite mods:

How do I install mods?: Nemonaemo covers the basic installation process here: https://youtu.be/PwquQTmOwYs?t=155 . Note that if you are updating a mod, you must delete the previous version of the mod before installing the new one. Merging the two folders of an old and new version of a mod is likely to yield game-breaking bugs. Note also that after 6:01 in the video, Nemo proceeds with his own recommendations for mods. Feel  free to either stop the video at this point or to take his suggestions for mods into account alongside my guide.

Critically Important!: Mod updates that are save game compatible are very much the exception, not the rule. This is not the fault of the modders, but rather is just the unfortunate reality of how Starsector (and modding in general) works. As a rule of thumb, you should always assume that any updates to mods will break your saves unless explicitly stated otherwise, and generally refrain from updating your mods or adding additional mods until your current campaign is finished and you are looking to start a new one.

With that said...


Mandatory mods:

As stated in the OP, these are mods that serve as perquisites for many other mods to be able to function. I strongly recommend installing them first, especially if you are presently unsure as to which other mods you wish to install, just so that you always have these vital pieces of "scaffolding" immediately available for any other mod you might happen to decide to install.

Graphics Lib, by Dark.Revenant:
An important note for potato PC users: If you are using a potato PC (which for the purposes of modding Starsector can be considered to be any setup with less than 8 GB of RAM and/or a graphics card with less than 2 GB of VRAM), consider disabling VRAM-intensive features of GraphicsLib using the out-of-memory section of this thread: https://fractalsoftworks.com/forum/index.php?topic=10931
Details
As its name suggests, GraphicsLib provides a variety of graphical enhancements to the base game (most notably, you will likely quickly notice, being that large ship explosions will not "flashbang" you anymore), whilst also providing essential infrastructure that certain other mods require for them to work.
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LazyLib, by LazyWizard:
Details
Simply provides essential infrastructure that enables many other mods to function. This mod consumes very few computer resources, and should have no impact on your game's performance.
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MagicLib, by Tartiflette and the Starsector community:
Details
As with LazyLib, this provides essential infrastructure that enables other mods to function, though generally somewhat more esoteric than LazyLib, with fewer mods generally requiring it. As with LazyLib, this mod consumes very few computer resources, and should have no impact on your game's performance. Note, however, that the mods that require MagicLib to function generally tend to be the more graphically intensive ones.
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Modding advice and rules of thumb:

Compatibility and stability:: Generally speaking, modded playthroughs of Starsector tend to be exceedingly stable. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of Starsector mods (with the exception of total conversion mods, which are outside of the scope of this mod guide) are fully compatible with the rest of the mods available, and this is reflected in the selection of mods within this guide. Any individual exceptions or issues will be noted under the detailed entry for the relevant mod.

Mods from earlier versions of Starsector: Any mod flagged with Starsector version [0.8.1a] or earlier will not function with the current version of the game, and is outside of the scope of this mod guide.

Faction mod count: In my view, it's generally not advisable to install more than 12 or 13 mod factions at the same time. This is 1.5 times the amount of factions in the vanilla game, meaning around 40% of the factions in a modded playthrough with this many mod factions installed will be vanilla factions, which I feel is a suitable ratio for having many new places to explore available but without completely "burying" the vanilla factions. Additionally, even if your PC can handle more factions than this, you'll tend to find, in addition to the aforementioned issue of the vanilla factions potentially starting to feel "buried", that your gameplay experience will begin to degrade into a chaotic mess the more factions you install beyond this point. Note that this count includes all the factions from mods that add multiple factions (such as Junk Pirates, which adds three to the count), as well as factions from mods that are not primarily intended to be faction mods (such as Arsenal Expansion, which is principally a ship pack, but also adds the IX Battlegroup faction to the game). It does not, however, include the emergent factions from Vayra's Sector, 'nor any mods listed in the "sub-faction" categories of the other sections of this guide.

Ship mod count: Feel freer to add many ship packs if you desire. Too many ship packs will not generally serve to disrupt the overall gameplay experience the way too many faction mods may. Note, however, that I have kept the number of ship packs in my modlists conservative in order to promote balanced gameplay and to ensure most of the ships from the ship packs on my lists have a reasonable chance of being seen and available during the typical playthrough. Thus, whilst not strictly necessary, in order to avoid "burying" interesting ships, I do generally recommend using fewer ship packs over a larger number of playthroughs.

Other mods count: Generally speaking, you can add as many quality of life, gameplay enhancer, and portrait pack mods as you desire without substantially harming game performance or overall gameplay experience. It is, however, far better only to install the mods you actually like from these categories, and to avoid installing numerous mods just because they happen to be there.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2020, 03:09:53 AM by Captain Trek »
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Captain Trek

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2020, 05:46:40 PM »

Vanilla-adjacent modlist:

As mentioned in the OP, this is the more beginner-friendly and lore-friendly of my two modlists, and can be quite happily used "as is" for your first-time modded playthrough if you otherwise aren't sure what mods you'd like to use, or just want a quick place to start. If you use the list "as is", you will tend to find that most of the gameplay is very comparable to what you experience in vanilla Starsector, should on average be slightly easier (mostly in terms of making money) than the vanilla game, and shouldn't be too chaotic with Nexerelin's diplomacy and war mechanics, as many of the factions on this list are relatively peaceful. To use this modlist, simply install and activate all the mods listed under each sub-heading not marked with "optional". In using the modlist in this way, you do not need to read the detailed drop-down beneath each mod. From there, feel free to add any mods from the sub-headings marked "optional" that interest you.

Alternatively, you can read the detailed information drop-downs beneath each mod to help you decide for yourself which mods you'd like to use, and customize your modded experience to your preferences. If you choose to customize your experience, feel free to mix-and-match mods from this section and the other sections, or remain solely in this section if you'd prefer a customized sub-set of my curated vanilla-adjacent experience.


Once again, a few notes before we get started:

A note for potato PC users: If you are using a potato PC (or desire a more condensed experience), you can find half-sized, quarter-sized, and micro-sized versions of this modlist at the bottom of this post.

The mods under any given sub-heading (such as ship packs or quality of life mods) are presented in alphabetical order. The definition of each sub-heading can be found in the FAQ section of the OP.

This modlist contains 12 mod factions, so if you're going to use it "as is" I recommend adding no more than one additional mod faction beyond those listed here.

With that said...


Overhaul mods:

Nexerelin, by Histidine:
Note: For the purposes of this mod guide, ignore the "Enable random core worlds" option when starting a new game with Nexerelin. Random core worlds is outside of the scope of this guide, and all other aspects of the guide assume you are using the vanilla sector map (which Nexerelin-enabled games also use, unless random core worlds is enabled)
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Nexerelin is, for the most part, all about completing the vanilla game's partially extant features. Most of what it changes simply expand upon ideas already present (to a greater or lesser degree) in the base game, and what completely new features it does add mostly serve to support these expansions. These are, by-and-large, highly compatible with the vanilla gameplay experience (though see below), and are a logical extension thereof. The only substantially non-adjacent aspect of the mod is that the Remnant will occasionally launch raids on the core worlds when you have Nexerelin installed. This doesn't jive with the idea that most of the sector doesn't know that the AI battlefleets weren't actually wiped out completely after the First AI War, but it's such a small aspect of the mod (with these raids being incredibly infrequent and ineffectual), and Nexerelin is such a vital piece of your modded Starsector experience (see below) that we are somewhat obligated to overlook this small detail.

What's great: In modding Starsector, Nexerelin is generally the mod I recommend people install first and foremost. To my philosophy, you're not really modding Starsector until you install Nexerelin. The mod's biggest contribution is that rather than randomly declaring and undeclaring conflicts that involve nothing more than some low-level skirmishing, as factions do in vanilla, factions will with Nex installed engage in actual diplomacy, dynamically changing their relationship levels with each other over time, and when war does break out attempt to damage and even invade each other's markets. This instantly makes the sector feel vastly more alive, and reinforces the inherent instability and danger of living there. Adding to this, the player is given more options for interacting with the various factions, and this can lead to benefits and drawbacks both subtle (ever get tired of that noxious 30% tariff? Well with Nex, just get friendly with a faction and see what happens) and gross (when your commissioned faction goes to war, your colonies can get invaded too!). Rounding all this out, with Nex, the game acquires an actual victory condition. Granted it's not a victory condition most campaigns are ever likely to reach, but, hey, it's nice to know that's there.

Oh, and Nex also lets you start aligned to any faction you want (including Pirates and Luddic Path, if you're so inclined), with a ship or ships appropriate to that faction, selected from a range of combat and trading-oriented starting fleet options for each faction. The starting options alone would be enough to demand this mod's inclusion on the list, but as it is? I'm sure you can see why I consider it so essential...

What's less great: I won't spoil exactly how, but the wars between factions can, at times, create some wonderously imbalanced trading opportunities. Said wars may also serve to screw you over if you attempt to play a Tri-Tachyon campaign (just. Trust me on this). Beyond that, not much to say here since this is, perhaps, the unqualified best mod in the whole modiverse, especially since the kinks with the diplomacy and war mechanics have been (mostly) ironed out.
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Note: If you're interested in keeping your experience as maximally adjacent as possible while using Nexerelin, I recommend the following:
1: Leave all options settings that appear upon starting a game with Nexerelin on their defaults. You don't need to click on "Faction settings" and "Other options" at all. Also, do not use "Custom start". Begin with a faction, free, or random start instead.
2: Avoid using agents, outposts, and requisition fleets, and do not invade any markets yourself. Typically, though, most players will tend to find they want to use these features late-game, just because of how feature-incomplete the vanilla late-game otherwise is. If you find that's you? Go for your life. It's your playthrough, after all.
3 (optional): As something of a nuclear option, you can disable market invasions if you find them to be (or fear they will be) too disruptive to your gameplay experience. Though, I have seldom known this to be the case, the option is available through Starsector -> Mods -> Nexerelin -> exerelin_config and change the "true" in "enableInvasions": true, to "false", so that it reads "enableInvasions": fasle, .

Ship Packs:

Disassemble Reassemble, by AxleMC131:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: This mod adds a mixture of mostly low-tech and midline ships to the game (with just a few key high-tech entries) for the vanilla factions to use. All of these ships are in-line with the size and technological capabilities of vanilla ships. Pretty straightforward, really.

What's great: Many ship packs seek to fill 'holes' in the vanilla ship lineup, and DaRa is no exception. In this endeavour, the mod performs handily, offering (among other things) smaller missile boats, new civilian and utility ships, and even a sorely missing midline frigate, all well-realized and very playable. DaRa also has some of the most beautiful, lovingly detailed, and borderline seamless kitbashes anywhere in the modiverse. A lot of these ships really do feel like they could easily have been part of the vanilla game. Most amazing of all might be the two capital ships, which bring workhorse exploration utility and Gryphon-style missile-toting hilarity to the (literal) big time.

What's less great: A number of the smaller ships can be a tad redundant, or (especially in the case of the Red Arrow, which in practice really exists only to facilitate the two "racing" missions it is associated with) can show up a bit too often. Overall, though, there's little to complain about here, and this will be a common theme for ship packs going forward. Generally speaking, in most cases you need ask yourself only whether or not you want the ships a particular mod pack offers, though I will note any exceptions to this.
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Stop Gap Measure, by MajorTheRed:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: This mod adds mostly low-tech and civilian ships, including new ships and reskins for the Luddic Church, with just a small clutch of midline and high-tech ships. As with DaRa, these ships are (mostly. See below) in-line with their vanilla counterparts. The mod also adds several new star systems featuring mostly Luddic Church and Tri-Tachyon planets.

What's great: This mod does a good job of fleshing out the Luddic Church fleet (which in vanilla tends to consist of the same few ships over and over again). The frigate-scale "pure freighters" (all frigate-sized freighters in vanilla are combat freighters) and the handful of added pirate hardware is also very much appreciated, as is the sorely missing midline frigate. Other ships are just amusing (try unseeing the hockey mask on the Pyrrhocorax now that I just brouhgt it up. I dare you), or nicely expand on tidbits from the vanilla lore. In Nexerelin campaigns, the extra planets the mods adds are much-appreciated, as the Church and Tri-Tachyon tend to be weaker than the other vanilla factions, and vulnerable to being conquered.

What's less great: Whilst not exactly redundant, some ships can feel a bit like a solution looking for a problem. There was definitely a strong emphasis placed on making ships that were more distinct from their vanilla counterparts, and Stop Gap succeeds for both better and worse. You might, for example, consider it totally unacceptable that the Zenith carries a TPC and that this weapon is thereby no longer unique to the almighty Onslaught. And whilst I don't see it myself, I've also been told that some of the sprites are a bit outdated and unappealing compared to what is available now. The mod does also have a small collection of missions, but they're fairly unremarkable.
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Vayra's Ship Pack, by Vayra:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: This mod adds new low-tech and utility ships with just a handful of mid and high-tech ones. It also adds a number of reskins for the Luddic Path. Once again, these ships are in-line with their vanilla counterparts, with one specific set of exceptions that are so vanishingly rare during a campaign that they don't affect the mod's vanilla-adjacent status (see below).

What's great: This mod is mostly focused on varying the low-tech lineup (and adding the sorely missing midline frigate), most particularly by giving it a little more mobility to work with, making it less stagnant to play and more flexible. In this, VSP succeeds with flying colours. The designs don't eclipse the existing paradigm, but do offer a worthy alternative. Great for Hegemony playthroughs. Then, of course, there's the Badger, Vayra's pride and joy, and quite the little utility rig at that, being a capable cargo ship and miner (note that the other utility ships added by this mod, despite lacking the Badger's storied history and pseudo-meme status, are also every bit as capable). Oh, and the fake XIV Battlegroup pirate ships. I guess I should probably mention those. Depending on your perspective, these ultra-rare, ultra-silly contraptions could be either a hilarious diversion...

What's less great: ...or a teeth-grindingly inane pile of lore violations. Indeed, even some of the 'normal' ships in the mod (such as the Oppressor, Dire Wolf, and Tarsus Ultra) are definite oddballs as well, even by mod standards. You'll have to decide for yourself whether they are to your taste. The Luddic Path skins are, sadly, rarely seen when using this modlist, as Luddic Path fleets are rarely fought.
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Factions:

Dassault-Mikoyan Engineering, by Harmful Mechanic:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Though arranged quite differently compared to vanilla ships, all of DME's vessels are constructed using the same design principles as existing vessels and lack out-of-place technological capabilities, being an equal match for Tri-Tachyon in this regard. The faction itself is a smaller corporate polity on the southern fringe of the core, content to make a quieter and less racketous profit than Tri-Tachyon, which is in-keeping with the notion that a number of corporate entities in the sector were strong enough to carve out their own niches.

Note that DME adds content to unexplored space that could be considered non-adjacent. When determining adjacency, I am lenient towards any Remnant-style hidden threats and other things the player may run into while exploring, as these are not a part of the core gameplay experience (and the vanilla game is even more vague as to what might truly be out there in wild space than it is about backstory of the core worlds), but I will for your convenience make a note of any mods where such elements exist.

What's great: DME is a mixed midline and high-tech faction that invests heavily into carriers. These are slick and efficient bomber-delivers, designed to utterly overwhelm the enemy with flashy swarms of kinetic missiles and other heavy ordinance. Their direct combat ships are no slouches either, generally feeling very comfortable to fly in both their faster and more skirmishy and their slower and more tanky variations, with a surprising amount of potential in their at-times limited number of weapon mounts and mostly only slightly variations on existing ship systems. Just fun ships on the whole and they also look great, too, or at least I think so. It's like if NASA was contracted to build warships and I love it. Funnily enough, though, despite all the goodness their ships cam bring, as a stable and relatively peaceful polity with strong non-combat ship options in addition to their combat ones, DME is actually quite a good faction for trading and exploration-focused playthroughs.

What's less great: Deeply subjective as aesthetics are (and this will apply to every instance where I mention aesthetics from here on out), some find DME's ships too clean and shiny compared to the vanilla art style, or otherwise out of place because DME uses vector graphics whereas vanilla and all other mods use raster. Additionally, perfectly outfitted DME ships can be on the overpowered side. This is very much a mod that rewards an in-depth knowledge of the game mechanics, and some would argue too handsomely. Most of the missions are vastly too easy.
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Junk Pirates, by mendonca:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Junk Pirates is actually three small factions in one mod. Each of these factions has its own school of ship design, all of which tend to be mostly technologically straightforward... for the most part (see below)... and in no way threatening to the sectorial status quo. The titular Junk Pirates themselves are exactly what they sound like; a group of pirates who favour cobbling together their ships from space junk, rather than using the clapped out standard hulls and modified freighters that regular pirates prefer. Perfectly reasonable. The second faction is the P.A.C.K., an insular and naive polity that just recently emerged from self-imposed isolation as the very polluted, toxic atmosphere they had been using to disguise their existence from the rest of the sector has started to become too deadly to tolerate. They are weak and have a befuddling culture, but also an uncanny knack for getting the other factions to like them. Questionable given the state of the sector, but I like to think the big boys kinda took pity on them (and have probably determined that stamping them out wouldn't be worth the resources just to acquire an earnestly terrible planet). Finally, there is the ASP Syndicate, a tiny corporate polity/organized crime ring. These (relatively) high-tech mafiosos are a constant thorn in the side of the Persean League, serving as a challenge to their authority and a provender of weapons to their enemies. The only potentially unbelievable thing about them is that the League hasn't stamped them out yet... and that they somehow managed to get their hands on Tri-Tachyon's recall device technology...

What's great: Variety is the spice of life and Junk Pirates adds plenty of that with its wide variety (more varied, perhaps, than any other mod) of weird, wonderful ship designs, quirky in both their design and roles within one's fleet. Adding to this zesty feel also are the uniquely fluffed factions, and an overall "devil may care" attitude to modding in general being taken by this mod. And on a more specific note, it's quite interesting to see a mod faction that is primarily antagonistic towards the Persean League rather than the Hegemony for once.

What's less great: The ship designs can seem all over the place. Even taking into account that this is, to some degree, the point, some still might find them ill-fitting, or simply ugly. The Junk Pirates faction itself sits around and does nothing because they lack the programming infrastructure to generate pirate bases and raids the way the normal pirates can. P.A.C.K. can also be quite passive due to their aforementioned friendly tendencies. It's certainly a mod that, for the most part, requests that you actively seek to engage with its content and pursue that taste of spice, seldom bringing the party to you.
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Kadur Remnant, by Vayra OR Outer Rim Alliance, by Tartiflette:
Note: When setting up for a modded playthrough using this modlist, my recommendation is that you select only one of these two factions to use. The reason for this point of choice is that both of these factions will reappear on the non-adjacent modlist, for reasons that will be elaborated upon later, and I want to both avoid the two modlists having too much in the way of overlap and leave room for you to add an additional mod faction at your option (my usual recommendation being to install no more than 12 or 13 mod factions, where this list current has 12). For the moment, I'll go through each of the two mods' features and merits like normal.
Kadur Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Kadur ships tend to be variations on midline technology and designs with low-tech's "insert boot into face" flair added, so no problems on the technology front. The faction itself is an eerie theocracy like the Luddic Church, but unlike the Luddic Church their star is waning, having lost one homeworld to a Planket Killer and the other to conquest by the Hegemony. What remains is a mournful, forever crusading remnant (hence the name). Moreso than any other, Kadur is a mod that respects the Hegemony's canonical dominance within the sector.

What's great: Kadur's ship designs are well-considered, both nicely complimenting and contrasting (especially with how bad their shields are. Here's a tip - Stabilized Shields works really well on some Kadur ships) the existing midline lineup, including a sorely missing midline frigate. By their nature they also fit into the existing art style almost seamlessly. Kadur itself is a weak faction on the verge of destruction, with many enemies and precious few friends. They tend to be rapidly knocked out of contention on the campaign map, but this is by design. They are a challenge faction, profitable, but difficult to keep alive. Or, alternatively, play as them and take up the even greater challenge of achieving your revenge against the Hegemony's cruelty and liberating your people against all odds. Hegemony haters (and there are many) are likely to get a real kick out of Kadur's lore.

What's less great: This mod adds powerful new markets to both the Hegemony and Pirates, which may tip the balance of campaign map power a little bit too far for some tastes. Kadur is also a bit, for want of a better word, "memey". On most Kadur ships, the activation of their ship system is accompanied by text quoting the Doom comic, or other quotes of similar calibre. If your inclinations are to be unable to look past that sort of thing, Kadur may not be for you. Additionally, if your faction makes friends with Kadur, you may find yourself dragged into more wars than you are able or willing to fight, such is Kadur's proclivity for holding many, many grudges. Their missions are also quite poor, yawing wildly between go-AFK-and-win easy to literally-impossible-to-win hard.
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ORA Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Outer Rim Alliance vessels are designed to use energy weapons and missiles exclusively, but are relatively straightforward in terms of spaceframe designs and ship systems, placing them in the upper-middle of the pack technologically. The polity itself is a somewhat more centralized Persean League-style confederation of world that is not only large enough to compete with the established powers, but previously massively out-produced them as well. A round of nerfs made towards the end of 2019, however, have brought them into line, and ensured that their unique ability to terraform worlds where the rest of the sector no longer possess this capability post-Collapse is sufficiently weak so as to not drastically change the balance of power in the sector, which would otherwise make an easy case for non-adjacent status. None-the-less, they remain perhaps the least adjacent of the vanilla-adjacent factions.

What's great: ORA has a vast amount of lore to discover and is a large, relatively stable polity perfect for challenging the dominance of the Hegemony and League from a new angle, if such is your inclination. In terms of ships, meanwhile, ORA is designed to do only one thing, but it does that one thing very well indeed - energy-based broadsides. If you like the idea of adding an entire fleet of high-tech ships solely dedicated to broadsiding with energy weapons to the game, you'll probably like ORA.

What's less great about: On the other hand, if you don't like the idea of a high-tech fleet this is narrowly focused on broadsides, ORA may not be for you. It is a very specific and arguably inflexible playstyle, after all. Additionally, the mod is notably lacking in utility and logistic ships (something most other faction mods include), so you may find it a little jarring to see these fleets of purple bricks hauling along bog-standard Buffalos, Colossi, Phaetons, and Prometheuses to keep themselves supplied. Hell, you might just straight-up find the purple bricks themselves jarring. It's certainly a striking aesthetic, though there is an alternate skin pack that makes them look duller and dirtier, more in line with the rest of the sector's ships.
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Legacy of Arkgneisis, by Gwyvern:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: The Reparations Society is a small semi-mercenary, semi-pirate organization that is integrated into the core worlds and has entirely believable reasons to despise the Hegemony. Their ships are best described as, "Midline, but different", featuring solid but unremarkable spaceframes with electromagnetic technology that is by no means out of bounds with the existing ion and EMP devices of vanilla.

Note that LoA adds an exploration mission to unexplored space with content that could be considered non-adjacent.

What's great: The Society is a dangerous and unpredictable faction that, uncommonly amongst mod factions, rocks the boat not through wild ship designs or being written into a position of power in their lore, but through their behaviour. Their mercenary mechanic manifests as the ability to randomly declare or undeclare war on any faction at any time. This gives a strong and at times unsettling feeling of never quite knowing where you stand with them, and never quite knowing what trouble they may get themselves or the rest of the sector into. Yet, at the same time, they aren't invincible. Their position in the sector is actually relatively weak, and their aggression can pay off big or be punished severely by the other factions. This further adds to the unpredictability and sense of chaos, a somewhat necessarily element to keep things interesting as many of the other factions on the vanilla-adjacent list are more peaceful than average. Their ships, meanwhile, though nothing you aren't already used to in terms of general gameplay, have a few surprises on offer in their ship systems and some unique hullmods that you may find interesting to explore and experiment with. They are also quite pretty to look at with their lean, appealing lines and oddly menacing navy blue colour scheme.

What's less great: Society ships are mainly designed to support engagements, and, unless your loadout-making skills are exceedingly sharp, may falter if you try to build an entire fleet around them. Additionally, the aforementioned chaos the Society introduces into the Nexerelin diplomacy system may prove frustrating should you attempt to make efforts to foster diplomacy with or including them.
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prv Starworks, by prav:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: The Starworks are best described as Tri-Tachyon lite, utilizing most of the same or similar technologies as the vanilla high-tech range of ships for their own crop of designs. This makes prv ships arguably less unique than some, but nicely in-keeping. The mod also adds the Rust Belt faction, who are pirate-friendly salvagers with appropriately low-tech, heavily chopped-and-changed designs. Though actually a larger and more stable political entity than Tri-Tach, prv are locked in a perpetual state of "private little war" with the Rust Belt, preventing them from effectively leveraging their strength against the rest of the sector.

What's great: The mod offers some decent ship designs with interesting variations on the usual high-tech features, but really the biggest thing this mod has going for it is what it adds to the campaign map. The conflict between prv and Rust Belt is ripe for a neutral player to leverage for profit. Prv itself, meanwhile, is a faction that has a lot of potential in player hands. They are noted ship exporters, which gives them friendly relations with the Persean League and Sindrian Diktat that can be taken advantage of, and also makes prv equipment sporadically available across the core worlds. Rust Belt, on the other hand, with their inferior ships and polity size, is ripe for a challenge run. The three new star systems the mod adds to the core worlds are also very intricately designed and quite beautiful. On the whole, this mod could quite readily be described criminally underrated. in other words, yes, you should try the Swedish Fika.

What's less great: The Rust Belt will tend to be remorselessly bullied by other factions, though depending on your proclivities you might see this as a good thing. Additionally, not everyone is going to like the large, plain-looking lines of prv ships and at least one of them is also awaiting a substantial balance pass at time of writing. There were further concerns, but these were addressed in the January 2020 update.
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Scy Nation, by Tartiflette:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Though Scy ships function on a different set of technological principals than vanilla ships, none display technologies in substantial excess of what is known to have been available pre-Collapse. Moreover, as a small and insular polity largely isolated from the rest of the core, the small amount of lore-violating aspects that are present would not serve to significantly impact the existing balance of power, and can thus be overlooked.

What's great: Almost everything, actually. The ships look superb with their sleek, narrow designs and small number of large, brilliantly glowing engines. They also function in a wholly unique way compared to vanilla ships, being fast skirmishers possessed of ungodly massive flux pools, but almost no passive venting for that built-up flux, instead being forced to rely on their (admittedly excellent) active venting. Scy Nation itself, meanwhile, like prv has all the hallmarks of a faction possessed of limitless potential, but held back by its own isolationism, ripe to be taken to the greatest of heights by an alternately skilled, shrewd, or lucky player. Even the missions are fantastic, providing you ample opportunity to see the Scy fighting style from both the Scy perspective and the perspective of the vanilla factions.

What's less great: Precious little. This mod is genuinely one of the best in show. Although, Scy's ability to defend their home system against invasion can be frustratingly inconsistent. This is nothing new with Nexerelin, but can be particularly annoying given the size and power of Scy's fleets and the locations of all their markets within spitting distance of each other, the proverbial wagons even more tightly circled than the Sindrian Diktat. There are also occasional claims that the ships are a little undertuned, but I generally chalk this up more to a high skill floor, given the unique fighting style of Scy ships. Either way, just be aware that they're not the most newbie-friendly fleet to command. This missions are also a bit inconsistent in their difficulty and tend to be on the easy side.
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Shadowyards Reconstruction Authority, by mShadowy:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Technologically unique, but not to an out-of-place degree (their systems are different to Tri-Tachyon's, but comparably advanced), the "Yardies" are a group of fiercely independent pre-collapse separatists that managed to hold a few small areas of space against the overwhelming might of the Domain of Man. Post-collapse, they lead a mostly quiet existence, supporting the Persean League's interests from behind the scenes and providing humanitarian aid to the victims of the sector's never-ending state of conflict. Not as grimdark as your typical Starsector faction, but not outside of the realms of possibility. They are one of the mod factions that are more heavily integrated into the existing core worlds, both this and their relative passivity serving to compensate their moderate size.

What's great: Whilst each individual Shadowyards ship is merely somewhat off-beat, in aggregate they are an eclectic but highly effective fighting force, utilizing mobility and strong interceptors to create local superiority and leverage their unique ship systems. Compared to something like DME, or even Tri-Tachyon's Asrals from the vanilla content, they are a very different take on a high-tech, carrier-heavy faction. The faction itself has quite a bit of lore and even a unique trade good (one that, unlike most other modded trade goods, is actually produced and demanded by industries) and unique colony buildings to discover, and being one of the more powerful mod factions on the campaign map they make a worthy alternative for those seeking other natively strong factions besides the Hegemony and Persean League to be commissioned with. The missions, meanwhile are fairly well-balanced and just a little bit hilarious at times.

What's less great: The anime-inspired portraits, paint jobs, and overall art style tend to be controversial (best to steer clear from this mod if you find that sort of thing anathema). Their fleet's playstyle can also be difficult to get to grips with (rewarding, admittedly, but difficult to pick up).
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Tiandong Heavy Industries, by MesoTroniK:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: THI is a private military contractor that utilizes a combination of vanilla low-tech and midline vessels and their own proprietary upgrade packages (known as retrofits) of some of those same vessels. Humble in scale compared to the vanilla polities and heavily integrated into the existing core sector, there is little to nothing about this faction that could be considered to stretch credibility. It may well be the most adjacent of the vanilla-adjacent faction mods in the game.

What's great: Generally considered one of the quintessential Starsector mods by the wider playerbase, the industrial aesthetic of Tiandong and its ships is well-realized, and the faction's ships and equipment feel fun to use and very in-keeping with the vanilla gameplay (they ought to, considering they, again, are upgrade packages for existing vanilla ships!), tending to possess overwhelming firepower, but distressingly poor point defence. "Being a mercenary company, Tiandong fleets will at times escort and aid in the exploits of the company's allies." The mod also has a small, but decent, collection of missions.

What's less great: Some of the mod's equipment may be a little bit overtuned. This is a relatively minor concern, however, compared THI's other and much larger demerit - any all discussion of this faction will inevitably lead to a cavalcade of "dong" jokes.
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Underworld, by Dark.Revenant:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Underworld's primary function is to greatly increase the variety of pirate ships in the game, and almost all of the ships the mod adds are either wholly believable modifications of existing ships, or else are junkers cobbled together from scrap. Even the Starlight Cabal faction added by the mod, presented essentially as an evil cult made up of rich Tri-Tachyon elites, doesn't seem too much of a stretch given the decadence unchecked materialism tends to engender.

What's great: There are so many wonderful pirate designs in this mod. So many! In vanilla, fighting pirates rapidly becomes a boring, repetitive chore once the Atlas Mk IIs start to get spammed. Underworld instantly solves this gnawing problem simply by ensuring the pirates throw a far greater and more interesting variety of metal at you, with everything from over-gunned heavy frigates to ex-science cruisers that have been bolted down with enough aftermarket armour plate to make even Hegemony vessels take notice. If you got as sick of fighting vanilla pirates as I did, I consider this mod (or Tahlan. See the non-adjacent list) all but indispensible, solely for that reason. Plus, everyone loves Tri-Tach ships right? Cabal ships put just a little more Tri-Tach in your Tri-Tach without breaking the game. Who could say no to that? Underworld also gives both the pirates and Cabal each a special market with vessels and equipment for sale.

What's less great: Cabal vessels might seem garish to some, and their behaviour can be annoying. Their fleets will wander the core and, if they bump into you, shake you down for your ships or outrageous amounts of credits, which can sometimes make finding your feet in the early game painful if you get particularly unlucky. If need-be, you can actually turn Cabal off by going to Starsector->mods->Underworld->UNDERWORLD OPTIONS and changing the text ""starlightCabal":true" to ""starlightCabal":false", something I definitely recommend doing if you're considering dropping this mod solely because of Cabal (or you otherwise want to use this mod solely as a pirate ship pack).
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Sub-factions (optional):
Note: These are not factions in and of themselves, and consequently do not add to the count of modded faction installed for the purposes of how many modded factions I generally recommend players install. Instead, these sub-factions either add additional content to an existing faction, or they provide the player with a new enemy that, similar to the Remnant, will spawn fleets hostile to the player but possess no markets of their own.

Roider Union, by SafariJohn:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: The Roider Union is simply a loose association of space miners, a part of the Independents faction, who have come together to make mining safer and more lucrative for themselves, especially in the face of all the piracy that goes on in the sector. Not only is it perfectly reasonable that miners would band together to defend themselves, but Independent fleets can already be seen probing unexplored space for salvage and other wealth-making opportunities even in the vanilla game. This mod simply affords those efforts a greater level of organization, as well as some centralization (see below).

What's great: First and foremost, Roider Union allows you to be commissioned with the Independents (note that you have to fly to the new Independent market the mod adds to the core worlds to do this). If that appeals to you, stop reading and install this mod right now. It comes highly recommended for this reason alone. Beyond that, however, the mod also adds a few new utilitarian low-tech ships, and also adds Independent mining bases to unexplored space, around which Roider Union fleets (which tend to be small - hand prey in pirate playthroughs) will congregate. After all, if the pirates can scrounge up the resources to build far-flung bases, why not Independents too? Being Independent, these bases are almost invariably friendly to the player and provide safe and convenient access to the black market far from home. They can be especially great fun if you find yourself able to set up your colonial empire in or near a system with a Roider base for this reason. On the whole, this mod could quite readily be described criminally underrated.

What's less great: Not the best mod for players seeking a challenge, since an Independent commission (which comes with few enemies) and convenient access to safe harbours with black markets can only ever serve to make the game easier. By-and-large, though, there truthfully is nothing significant to complain about here.
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Vesperon Combine, by Straticus:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: The Vesperon Combine could be described as treasure hunters of a sort - they are a shadowy cabal aligned with the Independents faction (though they have their own entry on the Intel screen) who seek to rediscover Domain-era technologies and (so they claim) ensure that they don't fall into the wrong hands. In Starsector, everyone and their grandmother wants to get their hands on Domain-era technology, and Vesperon lack any fleets or markets of their own, so their presence is in no way incongruous or disruptive.

What's great: Through a bar event, the Combine offers players who have a good relationship with the Independents access to the locations of technology caches containing blueprints for ships and weapons your colonies will be able to build. These will be the same ship and weapon blueprints you can normally find "in the wild" by salvaging Domain-era stations and exploring ruins. They charge an exorbitant price, but this allows you to, in effect, spawn more blueprints indefinitely, by having Vesperon representatives spawn cache locations for you. So this mod is used simply if you want to ensure you'll be eventually be able to access every possible blueprint, and don't want to leave it up to RNG to decide whether or not it will have spawned every blueprint somewhere within the sector.

What's less great:Having last been updated for the previous version of Starsector, the mod is known to be somewhat glitchy and temperamental at times. It also will not generate blueprints from any mod that doesn't contain the appropriate config file to whitelist blueprints for this mod's use, so some blueprints may be unobtainable.
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Portrait Packs:

Portrait Pack, by HELMUT:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Most portrait packs add things like anime girls, brains-in-jars, and other things that wouldn't fit in the base game at all to the list of possible portraits. HELMUT's pack does not do this.

What's great: Adds a large variety of characters of all different ethnicities and walks of life. This gives you more choice at the outset and ensures you see less frequent repeats of characters while playing the game.

What's less great: Despite his best efforts at maniping his reference images so that they would be fit, HELMUT's portraits still do have a substantially different art style compared with the vanilla portraits, and a few (such as the girl with the red football-type helmet and the guy with "police" on his helmet) are noticeably odd.
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Quality of Life Mods:
Note: The concept of vanilla-adjacency doesn't really apply to these mods, so I don't cover it here. Most of them are also so simple that I also didn't feel the need for separate sections for the pros and cons.

SpeedUp, by Dark.Revenant:
Details
Allows you to speed up time during battle (vanilla already allowed you to do this on the campaign map by holding shift). Useful for not having to wait as long for the engagement to begin or for your ships to chase down fleeing enemies. Not to be used during heavy combat, however, as it tends to deleteriously effect hit detection and the AI. Also doesn't really help alleviate battle lag on lower-end PCs.
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Transfer All Items, by Nociam:
Details
Allows you to transfer all items (truth in advertising!) to and from storage with a single keyboard press. The game's interface is really only designed to handle the relatively small number of weapons and items the player has access to in vanilla, so this can be helpful when you find yourself toting dozens of stacks of guns. No real downside to it, but just remember to use the tabs for different categories of inventory items before hitting the button.
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Gameplay Enhancers:
Note: In the case of these mods, the concept of vanilla-adjacency is applicable to some of them, but not all. For any to which the concept is not applicable, I simply won't address it in my coverage of the mod.

Automatic Orders, by Blothorn:
Details
What's great: Adds a collection of free (0 ordinance point) hullmods that allow you to designate what circumstances (if any) under which a ship will retreat from battle and which of your ships are to receive escorts when a battle begins. These orders will be executed automatically during battle at no command point cost to you. You can also assign officer personalities (cautious, aggressive, etc.) to ships without officers. The finer control it permits you to have over your fleet, with reduced micro-management, is all but indispensible.

What's less great: This mod does require you to remember to set up each ship with your preferred order mods. Otherwise, the default behaviour with this mod is for ships to automatically retreat when their peak time is about to run out, which can be very annoying.
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Combat Chatter, by Histidine:
Details
What's great: Your ships will send messages (they appear in the top-left of the screen) warning you when they are taking damage, overloading or about to overload, out of missiles, and other useful pieces of information that allow you to make command decisions without having to constantly tab out to the command view and manually check everyone one-by-one for their damage and flux levels. Makes battle smoother and easier to manage, and as such comes especially highly recommended. Also adds fluff chatter that will float above the ships themselves and appear in a separate "chatbox" to the right (rather than being added to the log in the top-left as the important notifications are), adding just a little bit of colour and life to your battles.

What's less great: Some of the chatter can be kinda memey, so take heed if that bothers you. It's also been suggested by some (much as I personally disagree) that the resulting notifications occur too frequently to actually be helpful, and instead just become annoying. Indeed, they can cover a significant portion of your screen at smaller resolutions (such as 1366x768
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Common Radar, by LazyWizard:
Details
What's great: Adds a radar map to your battle screen that shows the silhouettes of nearby  ships and fighters, revealing their orientation and shield status, as well as any missiles that happen to be in the "air". Very useful for keeping more exact tabs on what's going on around your flagship at a glance, and serves to make the battle screen feel more "complete", as a radar otherwise feels like something that is very obviously lacking.

What's less great: With its large blobs of solid colour, "reading" smaller vessels or particularly densely-packed engagements can be  somewhat difficult using this radar. Some would claim the radar is redundant when you can just tab to the command map instead.
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Weapon Group Controls, by stormbringer951:
Details
What's great: Gives you keyboard functions to disable all weapons for when you want everything to autofire, toggling between alternating and linked fire during battle, and holding down a button for temporary hold fire.

What's less great: This is simply additional control over your ship during combat and has no real downside.
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Unknown Skies, by Tartiflette:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Unknown Skies adds more planet types and market conditions to what the game can spawn. Only one of these items is technologically questionable with the existing lore, and is vanishingly rare in any case.

What's great: The vanilla game suffers a bit of a lack of variety in terms of what you can discover while exploring. Unknown Skies goes some way to addressing this problem, making exploration feel just that little bit more interesting and rewarding. Since a lot of players are going to do a lot of exploring while seeking out alpha cores and blueprints, this mod comes especially highly recommended.

What's less great: Some of the metallic planets can seem odd, and as rare as something like a space elevator is, a well-placed USkies market condition can serve to make the already overpowered colony-building mechanic snowball even harder and faster.
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Optional Ship Packs:

Luddic Enhancement, by King Alfonzo:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Since this mod consists exclusively of new skins for existing low-tech ships, it falls very comfortably into vanilla-adjacency.

What's great: This mod's primary purpose is to make the Luddic Church stronger, as with Nexerelin's diplomacy and war mechanics active the base Luddic Church has a reputation for being too weak on the campaign map. It does this by giving the Church a new market and by granting them Luddic Church skins for a swathe of low-tech ships (including the Onslaught, which the Church does not have access to in the base game). However, if you're using the vanilla-adjacent modlist, DME, HMI, and Stop Gap already grant the Church new markets and Stop Gap also grants the Church new skins, thus rendering this mod entirely optional while using this modlist. You should still use it if you just want there to be as many Church-skin ships as possible in the game, or if you just want to make the Church even stronger for your own reasons.

What's less great: Even by ship pack standards, there's very little to complain about here. You won't see the new Luddic Path skins this mod also adds very often when using this modlist, but that's about it.
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Torchships And Deadly Armaments, by Tartiflette:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: This mod adds mostly low-tech ships and several pirate skins, with just a couple of midline and high-tech entries. Though unusual in design (see below), all are technologically in-keeping.

What's great: Rather than attempt to plug gaps in the existing ship lineup, this mod instead offers you a number of rather more experimental spaceframes to help make your experience that little bit more interesting through their unusual playstyles. Among them are light frigates, missile bombardment and saturation platforms, an all-big gun cruiser, an all-small gun cruiser, and a literal flying wall of a capital ship sporting more than a dozen medium weapon mounts. The pirates can use that last one, by the way...

What's less great: If you thought the ships in Vayra's Ship Pack were oddballs, Torchships brings it to a whole new level of oddball. That, primarily, is why this mod is listed as optional, as whilst technically adjacent, some might find it disruptive to gameplay experiences that feel similar to those of the vanilla game. If you aren't sure whether you'd fall into that category, watch the YouTube video "SATURATED ORDNANCE [Starsector]". It shows off the High Tide, easily the most unusual ship in Torchships' lineup.
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Optional Quality of Life Mods:

Audio Plus, by Dark.Revenant:
Details
Integrates a number of music tracks normally associated exclusively with certain mods into the wider gameplay experience, causing them to play substantially more often and even when you don't have their associated mod factions installed (note that the Exigency mod is defunct, and incompatible with the current version of Starsector). Easing the repetition of a game's music is generally a good thing, but this ultimately depends entirely on whether you like the tracks Audio Plus adds or not. You can easily go into the mod's files and play the tracks to see what you think before installing it, if so inclined.
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Autosave, by LazyWizard:
Details
This mod gives you periodic reminders of how long (in-game) it has been since you last saved by default, and can be set to provide actual autosave functionality by editing a setting file. Nothing more really need be said - if you want autosave functionality, you'll likely appreciate this mod. If not, this mod is entirely skippable.
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Cari's Minimal UI, by CariTheKitty:
Details
Removes the fluff borders and "Tripad" logo from the HUD, and provides a variety of alternative colour options for this same reduced HUD. I've never personally known the game's UI to be an issue, but if you like the idea of culling every single unnecessary pixel, this mod might be for you.
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Combat Alarm Sounds, by jamplier:
Details
Add a series of warning sounds that play when your ship is at high flux, low hull, taking a lot of damage, or its engine flames out. Potentially useful if you find a klaxon easier than keeping one eye on your bars and the other on your target. Potentially less useful if you find klaxons more annoying than helpful.
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Lightshow, by Tartiflette:
Details
Changes the colours of the various laser beam weapons such that specific weapon types (such as those dealing EMP damage, high explosive damage, kinetic damage, etc.) are associated with specific colours. If that sounds helpful (or even aesthetically appealing) to you, you may want to consider this mod.
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Logistics Notifications, by SafariJohn:
Details
Allows you to view how many days your supplies will last for and how many light years your fuel will last for at a glance. Useful if you'd rather not calculate your fleet's endurance yourself, though the fuel range circles available on the map may make the additional fuel indicator somewhat redundant.
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Target Practice, by Tartiflette:
Details
Simply adds a couple of large, immobile, unarmed blocks that you can spawn into the simulator. Provides added convenience to testing your ship designs in the simulator. Nothing more, nothing less.
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Trailer Moments, by Nia Tahl:
Details
Simply adds trails to the projectiles of certain weapons. Use it if you like the aesthetic of weapon trails. Not recommended for potato PCs.
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Upgraded Rotary Weapons, by Tartiflette:
Details
Upgrades the animations of several weapons that have rotary-style barrels with more detail and the appearance of spinning up and spinning down when they start and stop firing (note: This has no gameplay effect). Good if you like how the mod's version of the animations look better.
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Optional Gameplay Enhancers:

Adjusted Sector, by Nerzhull_AI:
Details
What's great: Allows you to adjust the size, star count, and how many special items (such as derelicts, Remnant-controlled systems, etc.) will spawn for your sector. It is even compatible with a couple of other mods that add more procedurally generated items to unexplored space. If you have a strong PC and a penchant for far-reaching, long-term exploration, this mod can greatly extend the lifespan of a single campaign.

What's less great: VERY not recommended for potato PCs! Indeed, even if you have a halfway decent PC, the default generation settings can be extremely hard on your hardware, potentially causing the map, intel, and commodity screens to chug badly even if the rest of the game runs perfectly. You can edit a setting file to change the settings, but it can be a very trial-and-error process to find a set of settings that generates a sector you would actually want to play in. Additionally, larger sectors will tend to spawn missions (particularly exploration missions) further afield, which may make the early game (and certain playstyles overall) more difficult. Also messes up the hyperspace storms any time a sector of non-standard size is generated.
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Better Colonies, by Techpriest:
Details
What's great: Adds some simple conveniences that allow very large colonies to host an extra industry, allow the Commerce industry to be slightly less useless, add some variation and interest to hiring administrators, and take the guess-work out of Tech-Mining. Also makes space stations (both yours and those of the AI factions) just a little bit tougher, by dint of giving them access to better officers. Nothing drastic, but generally a good mod for polishing the colonization experience a little.

What's less great: Not a whole lot, really. This mod won't generally cause the colony snowball to snowball noticeably harder like Unknown Skies sometimes can.
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Commissioned Crews, by Techpriest:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: For vanilla and vanilla-adjacent factions, the hullmods this mod adds are technologically in-keeping with the existing capabilities of those factions.

What's great: Adds a series of special, free (0 ordinance point) hullmods to the game, each associated with a different faction. When you become commissioned with a faction, the Commissioned Crew mod associated with that faction is automatically added to your ships the next time you visit a market. Can help to further differentiate and emphasize the playstyles of different factions, as well as being a nice additional, more immediately rewarding reward for being commissioned. Hey, we all like free stuff, right?

What's less great: The benefits gained from the factional hullmod vary wildly in overall power and usefulness from faction to faction. Some will make combat noticeable easier, while others can go largely unnoticed. In addition, not all mod factions currently utilize the Commissioned Crews mechanic, so if you do a lot of runs where you are commissioned with various mod factions, some of the it will be as if you don't have this mod installed at all (as NPC fleets do not use the factional hullmods).
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Leading Pip, by Dark.Revenant:
Details
What's great: Provides a lead indicator for whichever ship you happen to be targeting. Shooting at the indicator will (usually) allow you to hit your target. Helpful for making the combat more accessible and for getting to better grips with it.

What's less great: This mod as been criticized for occasionally inaccuracy (particularly with fast and/or teleporting ships) and for making players complacent and overly reliant on the indicator, rather than learning to properly lead for themselves. Very much up to the individual to decide whether this is a feature they desire in their game.
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New Beginnings, by Sundog:
Details
What's great: Ordinarily, if you lose your entire fleet you respawn with a single, very small ship. With this mod, you instead respawn with a new fleet about half the value of the fleet that you lost, with the ships able to be from just about any faction currently in your game. This can be effective if you want to experiment with a lot of different playstyles during a single campaign, or if you want to play ironman-style but make the consequences for failure a bit less painful.

What's less great: You can't dictate where your replacement ships actually come from, so this mod is not good for runs where you're trying to utilize one particular faction's ships exclusively (or near-exclusively)
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Planetary Access: Shield Control, by Wyvern:
Details
What's great: Makes the planetary shield structure from the red planet quest substantially less broken. Will make it slightly less impossible for the AI to assault good colonies, and also makes the question of whether to build one at all more of a genuine consideration due to its other revamped effects. Can also allow you to artificially (albeit expensively) prevent a small colony from growing (such as a tech-mining planet you later plan to abandon), if so desired.

What's less great: As overpowered as the colony mechanic is, at the end of the day, when you boil it down, its sole purpose is to generate money for the player, and this mod does reduce how much you'll make from your colonies. So consider carefully, as this can be a bit of a "be careful what you wish for" sort of mod.
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SkilledUp, by bonomel:
Details
What's great: Allows you to continue levelling up past level 50, eventually capping out at level 103 with enough skill points to unlock every skill in the game. No longer feel obliged to either leave combat to your AI buddies or have crappy salvaging and colonies for the entire game. Now you can actually play all aspects of the game the way they were meant to be experienced!

What's less great: It's been argued that the current system is good because it forces the player to make choices. I dispute this because all it really boils down to in my opinion is which parts of the game you want to make less fun for yourself, but definitely consider carefully before installing, as the player skills are admittedly powerful.
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Starship Legends, by Sundog:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: Though this mod gives stat adjustments to your ships, it does so mostly via fluff means - the foibles and proclivities of your ships' crews. These, as you might expect, have little bearing on the game's lore outside of themselves

What's great: Starship Legends is intended to give your ships some extra personality and make any given copy of a ship feel slightly varied over any other, subtly increasing the level of interest associated with basic gameplay. To accomplish this, ships gain traits over time based on their performance in combat (or just at complete random, in the case of non-combat ships), with positive traits more likely if the ship deals substantial amounts of damage while having received little damage during a battle, and if a battle is more in the enemy's favour, and negative traits more likely if weaker enemy fleets deal heavy damage to the ship. These traits represent the ship's reputation (and associated expectations and superstitious among her crew) and level of fame (or infamy), with subtle stat changes occurring based on the reputations the ship has acquired, such as a ship with a reputation for Deadliness dealing slightly more damage. More famous ships acquire a greater total number of reputation traits, but it's entirely possible for a ship to be famous for all the wrong reasons. Given that none of the changes the mod makes are especially game-changing, it's on the whole just a fun, neat little extra you can add to your experience.

You can also find legendary ships already loaded with a full (or nearly full) suite of traits "in the wild", so to say, through stories told to you about them in the bar. These may be derelict (in which case a race against an NPC salvaging operation to be the first to reach the ship will ensue), or they may be very much not derelict and at the head of a powerful fleet belonging to one of the factions active in the campaign.

What's less great: Though their effects on performance of a ship are subtle, stacking lots of negative reputation still isn't going to do anything to help a struggling player bounce back. Or, on the other hand, you might barely notice the mod is even active if you don't pay attention to the post-battle logs showing you what ships acquired (or dropped) what traits. It can also be frustrating to watch civilian ships rack up debuffs and there's nothing you can do about it.

Moreover, those "in the wild" legendaries often wind up serving merely as more fluff, as they are usually very inconvenient to actually acquire, or may not be a type of ship you even want.

Note: Though the above points refer to when Starship Legends is used with its default settings, the mod is extensively customizable through Starsector -> mods -> Starship Legends -> STARSHIP_LEGENDS_OPTIONS (or RUTHLESS_STARSHIP_LEGENDS_OPTIONS if you are using this mod alongside Ruthless Sector).
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Unofficial New Game Plus, by Originem:
Details
What's great: Allows you to record a snapshot of your current campaign, then import a player-determined percentage of your credits and blueprints from the snapshotted save into a newly started campaign. Also provides an immediate xp boost basted on how long you were

What's less great: That's all it does. Due to programming limitations, a full-fledged save transfer mod is no longer possible, and none of your ships, equipment, colonies, etc. can be retained.
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Half-sized modlist:
Note: As stated at the start of this post, you can use one of the following condensed versions of the above modlist if you have a weak PC or find the basic modlist overwhelming. Note that the mods from the mandatory mods section should always be used:
Quarter-sized modlist:
Details
Overhaul:
Nexerelin

Ship packs:
Disassemble Reassemble

Factions:
Scy Nation
Tiandong Heavy Industries
Underworld

Portrait Packs:
Portrait Pack

QoL mods:
SpeedUp

Gameplay Enhancers:
Unknown Skies
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Micro-sized modlist:
Details
Overhaul:
Nexerelin

Ship packs:
Disassemble Reassemble

Factions:
Scy Nation OR Tiandong Heavy Industries
Underworld (turn off Starlight Cabal through Starsector -> Mods -> Underworld -> UNDERWORLD_OPTIONS and change the "true" in "starlightCabal":true to false, so that it reads "starlightCabal":false )

Portrait Packs:
Portrait Pack

QoL mods:
None

Gameplay Enhancers:
Unknown Skies
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« Last Edit: July 09, 2020, 07:10:11 AM by Captain Trek »
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Captain Trek

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2020, 05:47:10 PM »

Non-adjacent modlist:

As mentioned in the OP, this is, of my two modlists, the one better suited for more advanced players who are seeking to mix things up with more exotic gameplay mechanics, and factions that offer intrigues that simply aren't possible in a more lore-compliant experience. None-the-less, this list, just like the vanilla-adjacent list, can quite happily be used "as is" for a quick start on your more advanced modded gameplay experience. If you use the list "as is", you will tend to find that you encounter more unusual gameplay mechanics more frequently, some of which (such as boss bounties) are intrinsically more challenging compared to vanilla. The experience is also rendered more challenging by the typically aggressive, warlike nature of the factions on this list, as at any moment you could suddenly find yourself on the losing end of a bloody conflict. To use this modlist, simply install and activate all the mods listed under each sub-heading not marked with "optional". In using the modlist in this way, you do not need to read the detailed drop-down beneath each mod. From there, feel free to add any mods from the sub-headings marked "optional" that interest you.

Alternatively, you can read the detailed information drop-downs beneath each mod to help you decide for yourself which mods you'd like to use, and customize your modded experience to your preferences. If you choose to customize your experience, feel free to mix-and-match mods from this section and the other sections, or remain solely in this section if you'd prefer a customized sub-set of my curated non-adjacent experience.


Notes:

A note for potato PC users: As with the vanilla-adjacent modlist, if you are using a potato PC (or desire a more condensed experience), you can find half-size, quarter-size, and micro-sized versions of this modlist at the bottom of this post.

The mods under any given sub-heading (such as ship packs or quality of life mods) are presented in alphabetical order. The definition of each sub-heading can be found in the FAQ section of the OP.

This modlist contains 11 mod factions, so if you're going to use it "as is" I recommend adding no more than one or two mod factions beyond those listed here.

With that said...


Overhaul mods:

Nexerelin, by Histidine:
Note: For the purposes of this mod guide, ignore the "Enable random core worlds" option when starting a new game with Nexerelin. Random core worlds is outside of the scope of this guide, and all other aspects of the guide assume you are using the vanilla sector map (which Nexerelin-enabled games also use, unless random core worlds is enabled)
Details
As Nexerelin is fairly pivotal to the modded Starsector experience, the usual paradigm of adjacency, greats, and less-greats isn't really applicable here. For more details on the mod, see its entry in the vanilla-adjacent section.
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Note: For your consideration, here are the Nex. settings I prefer to use for a typical non-adjacent playthrough:
1: For faction settings, I usually have faction respawning enabled, and random faction relations disabled.
2: For other options, I usually have Prism Freeport enabled, vanilla easy mode and random starting location disabled, and random starting ships, Starfarer Mode, and starting D-mods either enabled or disabled depending on my mood at the time.
3: For starting ships, use any start you like, including the custom starts

Vayra's Sector, by Vayra:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: This mod adds a variety of advanced gameplay features that fall outside of the vanilla gameplay and lore, but are highly suitable for a non-adjacent playthrough, including exotic factions (AI users, Luddic tech-cultists with high-tech ships... walking memes (see below)...) and super-capital ships, among others.

What's great: In the same way that Nexerelin is one of the principle mods you add when you start playing modded, Vayra's Sector is one of the principal mods you add when you want to spice things up. Included in its diverse package are more varied results for investigating distress calls, a more extensive bounty system that allows any faction to be targeted for a bounty, not just pirates, special 'boss fight' bounties with unique variant hulls up for grabs that will be "auto-recovered" even if you could not normally recover them (albeit with a plethora of d-mods), 'emergent' factions that are not a part of the game at the outset, but will spawn later and begin founding colonies (or try to take them off the more established factions), and more advanced and punishing D-mods that contribute to early-game challenge. On the whole, the sector feels more alive after you install Nexerelin, and with this also-excellent mod added it becomes livelier again.

Additionally, Vayra's Sector also provides extensive infrastructure that allows other modders to add advanced features to their own mods that become active  when Vayra's Sector is used alongside a mod that is utilizing this infrastructure. There are several mods Vayra's Sector is integrated with in this way, and this will be detailed in the entries for those mods.

What's less great: Emergent factions have a distressing tendency of setting up shop as far away from the core worlds as possible, leaving their access too low for their colonies to successfully develop and, thusly, for the faction to achieve anything. Moreover, the mod is, like Kadur Remnant, somewhat "memey", which may or may not matter to you depending on your inclinations. This facet is most obvious in the revamped bounty descriptions, but will also become quite apparent with one of the emergent factions as it joins the game... you'll know it when you see it (or rather, hear it)...
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Ship Packs:

Arsenal Expansion, by InventorRacoon:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: This mod add some new midline ships (with just a couple of low-tech and high-tech entries) to the general pool, but also adds the IX Battlegroup faction. As its name would imply, this is another lost remnant of the Domain military, in this case users of high-tech models rather than the low-tech ones XIV prefers. Not only is XIV canonically the only Domain Battlegroup that was anywhere close enough to the Persean sector to reach it post-Collapse (and even they barely made it), but IX was defeated and essentially exiled from the core by the Hegemony (and they despise all the core world factions) , yet they are somehow able to maintain a massive, incredibly powerful military in their isolated little polity. Yet despite that they don't participate in Nexerelin's diplomacy or invasion mechanics at all, and pretty much just sit there. It's... odd...
Note that IX Battlegroup's markets use AI cores as a balancing factor.

What's great: Whilst the mod adds some decent options for fleet anchors and other heavy-duty slugging vessels, as well as a potentially interesting mission to pursue, its real benefit comes when combined with the expanded bounty system from Vayra's Sector. With AE and VS both installed, bounties can be taken out on IX Battlegroup fleets in the same manner as Pirate and Luddic Path fleets, adding more variety the possible encounters. IX are, if nothing else, a worthy "punching bag" faction in this regard, and potentially rewarding if you manage to salvage some of their unique skins, which offer modest improvements over regular Tri-Tachyon vessels much in the same way that Cabal ships do.

What's less great: Between IX Battlegroup being otherwise perfunctory without VS bounties and the overall relatively limited number of new ships this mod actually adds compared to other ship packs, I wouldn't generally recommend using this mod unless you're also using Vayra's Sector as well. Even if you are, though, feel free to swap this mod for a faction mod of your choosing if you'd prefer a more "active" benefit to your campaign (or just find the IX Battlegroup skins ugly), rather than the passive one AE provides.
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Luddic Enhancement, by King Alfonzo:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: This is a vanilla-adjacent mod that just happens to see an important use here on the non-adjacent modlist (see this mod's entry under optional ship packs in the vanilla-adjacent section for more details).

What's great: Though it was an optional extra on the vanilla-adjacent modlist, here the Luddic Church sorely needs the help. Lacking both the extra markets from DME, HMI, and Stop Gap, and the extra Luddic Church skins from Stop Gap, and with a variety of more aggressive factions on the map, Luddic Enhancement's extra Church skins and extra market step in to help plug the gap, as without help the Church is notorious for folding early and often on the campaign map. The extra Luddic Path skins the mod also provides are also very welcome when combined with Vayra's Sector's ability for bounties to be taken out against Luddic Path fleets.

What's less great: Nothing, really. Even by ship pack standards, there's very little to complain about here.
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Ship/Weapon Pack, by Dark.Revenant:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: This mod adds mostly high-tech ships, though with a decent clutch of low-tech and midline designs. It also adds a sizable collection of Luddic Path, XIV Battlegroup, and Lion's Guard (i.e. Sindrian elite). One of the vessels it adds is a super-capital ship that is not only larger and more powerful than any vanilla ship, but which the Luddic Church just loves to spam like it's going out of style. This simply isn't compatible with vanilla's post-collapse technology level and shipbuilding capabilities.

What's great: Of all the ship packs that seek to fill out gaps in the vanilla ship lineup, SWP may be the most squarely and intently focused on this goal. And in this regard, the mod succeeds so well that it's become one of the community's most frequently recommended mods, and for good reason. Between the high-tech carriers, low-tech cruisers and fast destroyers, factional skins, and even a sorely missing midline frigate, it brings a lot that's good (and good looking. Solid spritework in this one as well) to the table. And that's without even mentioning the International Bounty Board. Like Vayra's Sector, SWP adds special "boss bounties" with mildly interesting back-stories, lots of money up for grabs and unique variant starships to win that are always recoverable even if you normally couldn't recover them (though any such "auto-recovered" ships will be absolutely lousy with d-mods). The mod adds even more of these bounties when used alongside certain faction mods.

What's less great: The Cathedral spam is a genuine problem, over-empowering Church fleets and making it difficult if not impossible to find any other capital ships in their military markets when you are commissioned with them. Most of the missions also aren't up to much, being mostly just there to show off some of the more unique vessels SWP adds.
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Tahlan Shipworks, by Nia Tahl:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: This mod adds some new low-tech and high-tech ships (with just a few midline entries) to the general pool, but has a far more substantive impact on the Independent and Pirate factions. To the former, it adds a sub-faction that is part of the Independents faction, which offers advanced upgraded patterns of a number of vanilla ships, including the Onslaught (a vessel canonically restricted to the Hegemony). To the latter, it adds a separate, technologically advanced faction that lends full-spec pirate-skin vessels (up to and including regular line capitals) to the regular Pirates faction, and even a brand new, powerful dreadnought of their own design. Ordinarily, Pirates have to rely on junkers and repurposed civilian vessels, with no access to such "shiny" kit.
Note that Legio Infernalis' markets use AI cores as a balancing factor.

What's great: This mod and Underworld (see the vanilla-adjacent list) both serve to alleviate the problem of dull, repetitive pirate fights, and I generally recommend that players always have at least one of these two mods active. They represent two very different schools of thought when it comes to how best to accomplish this, with Underworld opting for a more seamless approach with ships that seem like they could've been sourced the same way as existing pirate ships, while Tahlan opts to more directly ratchet up the level of danger pirates represent by giving them "fleet standard" vessels they couldn't ordinarily source. This makes Tahlan ideal for the sort of deadlier, more challenging campaign that the non-adjacent list represents, as large pirate armadas can become truly terrifying with Tahlan installed. Beyond how it fixes pirates, Tahlan also adds the Legio Infernalis as a sort of "boss" faction, with powerful colonies but starting off inhospitable and on the brink of war to almost everyone. These pirates-cum-fascists work rather well as a galactic menace and can even be an interesting challenge to play as when almost nobody in the sector besides pirates will trade with you, and numerous factions are liable to declare outright war at any time. Good spritework on the Legio ships as well. The aforementioned sub-faction of the Independents, meanwhile, Great Houses, lives in a far-flung system that is difficult for an early-game player to reach, but rewarding with their special ship variants for sale once you make it there (just make sure you have a good relationship with the Independents first!). On top of all that, the mod adds substantial number of new High Value Bounties when used alongside Vayra's Sector, and the ordinarily vessels the mod adds to the vanilla factions aren't any slouches either, especially the Hegemony finally getting a low-tech, uncomplicated, face-smashy answer to the terror that is the Tri-Tachyon Astral.

...you know, when I think about it, this mod has a lot of content...

What's less great: Some of the small high-tech ships and possibly the Castella might be a tad redundant. Also, with Nexerelin, when you have a "normal" faction that is unfriendly to almost everyone, and liable to be thrust into more wars than it can handle all at once, this can yield some odd results on the campaign map. Pirate and Pather colonies in the core are safe from invasion and will not invade another markets, whereas Legio is a full (and rowdy) participant in Nex's diplomacy and invasion mechanics, for better and for worse. Beyond this occasional jank with Legio, though, there's very little to complain about here. It's a non-adjacent pirate (and independent) enhancer mod. You're very much getting what you pay for with this one. If you don't want shiny pirates and shiny Independents, steer clear.

Note that, if you'd like to use Thalan solely as a ship pack, you can turn both Legio Infernalis and Great Houses off by going to Starsector -> mods -> tahlan -> tahlan_settings and changing the text ""enableLegio": true" to ""enableLegio": false" and the text ""enableLethia": true" to ""enableLethia": false", respectively.
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Vayra's Ship Pack, by Vayra:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: It actually is, but the reason it's here on the non-adjacent list as well as the adjacent list is that VSP is integrated with Vayra's Sector, adding additional content when both mods are running.

What's great/less great: The integration with Vayra's Sector grants you new starting options and a special bounty to hunt down. VS also allows for normal bounties to appear with Luddic Path targets and not just Pirate ones, meaning  you may actually get to see VSP's LP skins more than once in a blue moon, which is nice. Beyond that, see VSP's entry in the vanilla-adjacent list for what's great and less great about this mod.
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Factions:

Blackrock Drive Yards, by Cycerin:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: Blackrock possess just a couple of technologies that are out-of-step with the vanilla lore, but they're quite large ones. The first is the fact that they have a teleporting battleship. Canonicaly speaking, only the Radiant is capable of this feat, and the mere fact that it can at all is considered a truly shocking, nigh-unimaginable achievement, genuinely thought to be impossible by all known laws of physics. If Blackrock was known to be teleporting its battleships, even if the principles behind a Scalar Deracinator and a Phase Skimmer are very different, the appearance of a Skimmer-equipped Radiant wouldn't be such a shock to the people of the sector. The other one is that Blackrock's phase ships can draw in enemy fire and convert it to shots it can send back at the enemy, and also regenerate their armour. Obviously that's a bit beyond what a Harbinger or a Doom can manage...

Blackrock itself is a small corporate polity (are you sick of hearing that phrase by now? :V) south-east of the core, who have built a large navy to counteract the fact that their loud, racketous, and rather shameless profiteering has *** off more than a few of the wrong people. They're poised to tear down the whole damned sector to save their own hides, if it comes to it.

What's great: In many ways, BRDY feels like a sort of dark reflection of Dassault-Mikoyan (or DME is a brighter, happier reflection. Whichever you prefer. Blackrock did come first, and indeed is one of Starsector's earliest mod factions). Instead of a peaceful disposition and ships of beautiful, spotless white, we get warmongers with dingy, industrial-feeling hulls; the acrid, sickly green glows of their ships and their pollution-choked homeworld giving an almost Malon-esque vibe and really bringing across Starsector's grimdark feel in a spectacular way. Beyond such superficial observations, however, we can also note that Blackrock ships are mixed midline and high-tech inspired, with, similar to some DME ships, a strong emphasis placed on skirmishing and hidden potential, just without the heavy investment into carriers. By-and-large, Blackrock ships are designed to enter combat quickly, punch above their weight, then duck out and vent (which their ships can do more rapidly than other fleets) before their relatively low flux capacities get them into trouble. To facilitate this, BRDY ships tend to have either movement-related ship systems or ones that have a large impact on the battle but only for a brief moment. It's a more aggressive playstyle than DME's skirmishers (befitting the faction's hostile disposition), feeling less cushily comfortable, but potentially more rewarding in the hands of a talented pilot. The faction itself feels quite balanced on the campaign map, with just a few planets, but a lot of potential to expand (though just as much to be wiped clean out). Missions seem appropriately balanced as well.

On the whole, this mod certainly earns its storied legacy within the community.

What's less great: Another thing BRDY shares in common with DME is that art style could feel out of place to some players, what with the extensive detailing, heavy shadows, and in-general unusual, faintly insectoid look of Blackrock's ships. The ships also aren't particularly forgiving to fly, requiring, as stated before, a skilled player to bring the best out of them.
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Diable Avionics, by Tartiflette and FlashFrozen:
Note: Hold on. Didn't I say no IP mods? Well, whilst it's true that Wanzers and the name Diable Avionics are derived from Front Mission, the ship designs and weapons are largely original content. There's more original than derived here, so call this an exception to the rule. Besides, I'd be turned inside out if I left this faction out of my guide...
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: Diable is a corporate polity (and a cruel and heartless one at that. One of their planets' economy is even heavily based on slave labour) that has burst onto the scene claiming from their staging areas to the east of the core that pre-collapse agreements with the Domain of Man give them sole rights to the territory and resources of the entire Persean Sector. Leaving aside the fact that a swift, hostile takeover of the whole core worlds is an... ambitious project, to say the least... Diable's stock-in-trade is spaceborne mechs, a technology that, whilst I wouldn't necessarily put it past the technological capabilities of the Domain, is nowhere to be found anywhere else in Starsector, and thus represents a substantive departure from vanilla gameplay.

Note that Diable's markets (somewhat infamous among the playerbase for getting rather badly bodied on the campaign layer) use AI cores as a balancing factor to make them more difficult to invade.

What's great: One thing I've noticed players tend to look for in their modded experience is factions that offer unique playstyles. In this regard, Diable is one the best in the modiverse. Not only do they bring the more obvious and visible addition of mechs, which offer a very different way to utilize the game's carrier mechanics as compared with vanilla carriers (as these are generally slow, tough, heavily armed units that tend to wade into the fight and stay there, as opposed to the hit-and-run tactics of vanilla bombers), but their ships are also noteworthy, possessing an intriguing combination of swift manoeuvre warfare and sustained, withering fire. They tend to utilize long-range, rapid-firing weapons backed up with a lot of small mounts (Diable ships can be very strong in point-defence, if so-equipped). In addition, they also take a page or two from Macross, with some of their ships able to utilize massive swarms of small, weak missiles that can easily saturate the enemy. The faction itself, whilst not strictly speaking a challenge faction, does subtly suggest that the player should try to conquer the entire sector, which can be a challenge in its own way.

What's less great: As with any other mod faction that has a highly distinctive look to it, Diable's aesthetics can be controversial. Their ships have (accurately) been described as "space katanas", and the whole thing has a definite anime feel to it overall (not as much as Shadowyards, but still), so take heed if that's not your thing (though do note that Tartiflette's faction mods come with alternate skin packs, so check these first before rejecting Diable on the basis of aesthetics). Their fleets can also be quite "swingy" in their effectiveness, especially Wanzers given that they are, in-effect, under-sized fighter squadrons (though, as mentioned, tougher than normal fighters). If the enemy proves effective at taking Wanzers down, a Diable fleet can find itself in a disproportionate amount of trouble. They're sort of the same way on the campaign layer, too. Even buffed with AI cores as they are, Diable is still weak on the defence, though they're very strong on the offence. It's not the most consistently performing faction overall.
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Grytpype and Moriarty Defence Authority, by King Alfonzo OR Concordance of Protection Syndicate, by J0hn Shm0:
Note: When setting up for a modded playthrough using this modlist, my recommendation is that you select only one of these two factions to use. As mentioned before, I generally recommend sticking to about 12 or 13 modded factions and no more. The reason why this point of choice features these two factions in particular is that these factions both follow the same concept of essentially being a space police force, making it somewhat redundant to utilize both of them during the same campaign.
Also note: At present, COPS will crash the game unless Vayra's Sector is also active.
GMDA Details
Why it's non-adjacent: GMDA utilizes advanced technology in excess of what even Tri-Tachyon is able to deploy, chief among which is a capital ship capable of phase cloaking. In addition, the very concept of a pseudo-space police force, complete with flashing red-and-blues on their hulls, is, to a degree, an inherently "memey" one. They don't really fit in with the tone that the base game's lore and setting establishes, but that makes them perfect for a modlist full of more unusual ships, factions, and technology, like this one.

GMDA itself is actually a scam organization - these privateers do battle pirates as they advertise, yes, but their primary stock-in-trade is that they raid shipping from the larger factions for profit, then hide behind the Independents (who they protect fiercely) as a means of avoiding being brought to justice. It's a complete racket.

What's great: The GMDA fleet consists of only the most absurd, extreme Pimp My Ride-esque modifications of standard galactic ships. They have a more extreme version of Tri-Tachyon's hit-and-run playstyle, being designed to strike fast and hard (with their ships becoming even more dangerous at high flux levels, berserker-style), without any regard to how quickly their Combat Readiness degrades because, in theory, the fight will be long over by the time that matters. There is an appealingly palpable sense of danger when both facing and flying GMDA ships. GMDA are based out of the Independent markets on Agreus and Ilm, where the player will find slick, expensive showrooms that sell GMDA equipment and hulls (though it's usually more economical to recover their ships in battle any time they "catch you speeding").

What's less great: The faction (and the mod as a whole. This isn't like Underworld where the mod also adds a ton of new pirate ships or anything like that) is, at the end of the day, fairly limited. Once the novelty of their flying cop cars wears off, there really isn't a whole lot else to them. Moreover, remember how I said they raid legitimate shipping? The player will run afoul of this frequently during a playthrough that includes them, similar to Cabal from the Underworld mod. As with Cabal, this can be annoying and make the early game harder than it needs to be. Though given this modlist is geared towards being a greater challenge for the more experienced player, perhaps in this case that could be considered a good thing. Up to you, really.
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COPS Details
Why it's non-adjacent: COPS utilizes advanced technology in excess of what even Tri-Tachyon is able to deploy, chief among which is a frigate that combines phase and shield systems together. In addition, the very concept of a pseudo-space police force, complete with a hostile fleet theme replete with police sirens and radio chatter, is, to a degree, an inherently...

...

...is anyone else getting a sense of deja-vu right now?

Anyways, COPS itself is, unlike GMDA, exactly what they advertise (something of a rarity in the sector, all told) - a specialized anti-pirate task-force consisting of old-guard Hegemony officers and some defected Tri-Tachyon scientists. Though they lack a strong industrial base of their own, their selfless, stalwart dedication to a cause just about everybody can get behind has won them many friends across the core worlds, and they are as adept in vigorous guerrilla warfare as the pirates themselves.

What's great: The COPS fleet combines the technologically advanced spaceframe design of Tri-Tachyon with the "stand fast and deliver overwhelming firepower" combat style of the Hegemony, producing a fleet that can be refreshingly straightforward to fly compared to the more skirmishy, hit-and-run playstyle of traditional high-tech fleets while still using their unusual ship systems to disrupt the enemy in unique ways. Hell, there's even one that lets you vent flux into an enemy ship, but I'll let you discover this mod's other interesting gameplay ideas on your own. on the campaign map, COPS are a very "active" presence, compared to GMDA, participating in Nexerelin's diplomacy and invasion mechanics as normal while also staging raids on pirates and their other enemies from so-called "COPS Camps", which spawn in the same fashion as pirate and pather bases do. Between that and their primary markets in the core worlds being very weak and lacking shipbuilding capability (COPS fleets are full of d-mods, just like Pirate fleets), they have a very strong, well-realized feeling of being very much the "anti-pirates" they are intended to be, an interesting challenge both to play as and to face (particularly if you're going to try a Pirate campaign). It's also a rare example of a mod faction that's actually friendly to the Hegemony.

Note: If these guys seem entirely too "nice" compared to most of the other factions on this list, that's because, frankly? They are. Solely in terms of disposition (though not really in any other way), they truthfully fit better into the vanilla-adjacent list. However, their inclusion here gives you the option, if so inclined, to cut the Hegemony a break, granting them an ally they will typically form an alliance with almost immediately, and making your non-adjacent campaign slightly less teeth-to-the-balls than it otherwise could be. If, on the other hand, you don't want the non-adjacent campaign to pull any punches whatsoever? Well, that's what GMDA is for.

What's less great: The combination of grey, mostly un-gussied up hulls with highly advanced technological components visible inside is interesting, but do take note of whether you'll find that off-putting. Their general friendliness can make them fairly passive on the campaign map at times, and when they do become aggressive against another faction, the raids launched from  COPS Camps will tend to pack significantly more powerful fleets than pirates typically do, even with all the d-mods, which might be more than you are ready to face, or that you want the AI factions to have to face.
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Interstellar Imperium, by Dark.Revenant:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: The Imperium is, perhaps, the OG example of why I structured my modlists in the way that I did, as it's a great mod that just doesn't fit in with the vanilla lore. The idea is that they were an insular, separatist polity from the Domain with a strong authoritarian tradition (it doesn't take one long to realize that the Imperium are, more-or-less literally, space Romans). Nothing so out-of-the-ordinary there, but the problem is that their major seats of government are run by AI cores, and the Imperium is heavily integrated with AI usage in their everyday lives. Knowing as we do how vigorously the Hegemony and Luddic Church prosecuted Tri-Tachyon's use of these same AIs, it quite simply isn't possible that the Hegemony would allow the Imperium to remain, especially given the Imperium's relatively small size as a polity. The Imperium's lore includes access to Planet Killers and the implied threat of Mutually Assured Destruction as a way to try and excuse this, but the possible threat of (and actual use of) PKs in the vanilla lore has not stopped the Hegemony before.

Thus the Imperium can, quite easily, be considered to be outside of a vanilla-similar gameplay experience. Not a bad gameplay experience, it must once again be stressed, but simply not the first place (as is true for the rest of this list) you should go for a modded experience that is as similar to the vanilla experience as possible. It will (as, again, is true for the rest of the non-adjacent list) be more your thing if you're looking to mix things up with some of the more unusual mod factions, or if lore-snarls just simply don't bother you. This same logic will apply to all other heavily AI-using factions.

What's great: The Imperium has rich lore and an extremely well-thought-out lineup of ships. On the face of it, these ships are merely a fairly standard, roughly midline sort of style mod fleet (even with a similar colour scheme) with a decent number of hulls and a couple of fairly unique ideas for ship systems. However, moreso than any other mod, Imperium seeks to make each individual modded hull offer as much replayability and potential for different loadouts as possible. To accomplish this, Imperial hulls have the option to install unique Imperium-only hullmods. These not only substantially alter the ship's stats, but also change the way each ship's ship system functions, greatly altering the ship's playstyle. If that wasn't good enough, the Imperial fleet have clean lines and detailed textures that give them an appealing aesthetic... and then you realize their appearance subtly changes depending on which (if any) of the special Imperial hullmods is installed... This fleet is cleverly designed and achingly beautiful. The Imperium itself is powerful, but feels surprisingly balanced on the campaign map, and offers some very unique terrain for the player to explore. You won't go far wrong playing a campaign as space-Rome.

What's less great: Not a whole lot. In the same way that Scy is arguably the best-in-show of the vanilla-adjacent list, the same is true of the Imperium in this list. The missions are a bit disappointing, being generally under-cooked and vastly too difficult for the most part, and their fleet is lacking in mid-sized utility craft, forcing their fleets to mix in a handful of non-Imperial hulls (similar to ORA in this regard, but not as bad, especially as Imperial hulls visually fit with vanilla hulls better than ORA ones do), but that's about it.
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Kadur Remnant, by Vayra:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: Kadur Remant, like Vayra's Ship Pack, is integrated with Vayra's Sector, adding additional content when both mods are running. This content, among other things, involves a playable super-capital ship; far removed from the types of ships one can command in a vanilla or vanilla-adjacent experience.

What's great: All the same points from Kadur's entry on the vanilla-adjacent list still apply. In addition, "Kadur Camps", similar to pirate bases, will now spawn when you have Vayra's Secotr installed, periodically launching raids against the core worlds in a manner similar to pirate raids. This, in effect, adds midline pirate fleets to the game, which can (if you choose to fight them. Kadur tends to be significantly easier to make and keep peace with than pirates) be an appealing change of pace from the low-tech offerings of regular pirates and the high-tech ones of Cabal from back in the vanilla-adjacent list.

What's less great: On the other hand, the raids launched from Kadur Camps will tend to pack substantially more powerful fleets than pirates typically do, which might be more than you are ready to face, or that you want the AI factions to have to face.
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Mayasuran Navy, by Knight Chase:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: Mayasura is essentially a "what if...?" story of a mod. Canonically, Mairaath's defenders were cleared out by the Hegemony after the Luddic Path devastated the planet, and the remaining population eventually fell in with the Persean League, but a faint echo of their formerly proud selves. This mod questions what might have happened if Mairaath had managed to hold onto its independence, and the Mayasuran Navy retained its pride and strength even in light of the terrible fate that has befallen their home, continuing to stubbornly battle on to the present day. So obviously it falls somewhat outside of the vanilla lore given that it literally changes the vanilla lore. Even if not for that, though, the mod also contains a phase cloaking capital ship and at least one ship that supposedly requires an alpha core for its targeting systems, so... yeah...

What's great: Mayasura is entirely unique among mod factions in that if you select a Mayasura start for your campaign, you will begin the game with governorship of Mairaath. Yes, you did read that right - you essentially start with a colony right off the bat. Do not think this will make the game easy, however - Mayasura is essentially tailor-made for a challenge run, being a relatively unprofitable one-planet minor with weak defences and many enemies, and you (at least initially) lacking the capital or income to substantially strengthen those defences. Whether you choose to begin the game as governor or choose a free start (or perhaps a Persean League start) and pick up a commission with Mayasura later, keeping the planet from being overrun by the Hegemony and Tri-Tachyon will be difficult, to say the least. Indeed, even though this was back before the start-of-game governorship was an option, bringing home a pristine forge to plug into Mairaath's orbital works just in time to purchase the pristine capital ships I needed to beat back an advancing Tri-Tachyon invasion remains one of my most memorable moments in this game.

As for Mayasura's ships, as we know from the Mairaath mission in the base game, the Mayasuran navy was a heavy user of midline starships even before they joined the Persean League. So rather than give Mayasura its own completely unique line of ship designs, the mod instead grants Mairaath a batch of new midline designs that are shared with the Persean League. Though not technically a ship pack, then, this may well be the single most expansive addition to the midline ship pool of any mod in the modiverse, including a sorely missing midline frigate (several of them, in fact!). Mechanically, the ships are solid performers that mostly align well with the design principles behind the existing midline hulls. As for aesthetics, well, let's just say this mod is a particularly strong case of "embraced the memes". Wanna have an Eagle where half the guns are replaced with two fighter bays? Caaan dooo! Wanna have a midline Legion-equivalent that has a literal battleship turret for its main armament? Why the hell not!? Wanna have frigate, cruiser, and capital-sized Hammerheads? I'd be insulted if you didn't! Now personally I love this combination of mechanically sound and artistically zany, but see below.

What's less great: Like I said, this mod is a very clear-cut case of "embraced the memes". The biggest reason not to use this mod would be if you simply find the ship designs to be unbearably silly (or, failing that, a case of crossing the line from an interesting variety of ships to plain ol' bloat). Aside from that, if you decide not to start as governor and instead commission with Mayasura post-game start, you will never be more frustrated with the inherit limitations of a commission than when you play a campaign commissioned with Mayasura. You can (and should, as soon as possible) sell your people a nano-forge to make their fleets less crappy, but you want so badly to fund an orbital station, more industry, heavy batteries, etc... and you just can't... You'll be stuck babysitting a relatively defenceless planet for the entire campaign. For this reason, I highly recommend choosing a Mayasura start and just taking the damn governorship, even if it seems like even the worst insta-colony would be OP on the surface. In AI hands, meanwhile, the faction is likely to have limited relevance, besides potentially pulling the Persean League into more wars.
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The Mayorate, by kazi:
Details
Why is's non-adjacent: The Mayorate is a small, insular polity that struggles to eke out an existence just off the north-east of the core, almost like a weaker, more pitiable Sindrian Diktat. Unlike the Diktat, however, the Mayorate is ruled not by an ambitious former Hegemony admiral, but by a rogue AI core known only as The Mayor, a fact the polity is widely known and widely disliked for. As an AI user, the Matorate is non-adjacent for the same reasons as Interstellar Imperium.

What's great: Mayorate ships are a curious, yet interesting combination of low-tech's preference for lumbering slowly into close combat with relatively straightforward ship systems (How straightforward? Several Mayorate ships simply deploy a swarm of mines out the back), midline's mixture of adequate performance in both shields and armour, and high-tech's preference for mostly energy-based weapons (though the mod adds some special ones that deal more damage when the host ship is high on flux to facilitate a brawling sort of playstyle, so not quite the usual high-tech standard), with some missile-favouring ships thrown in for good measure. The Mayorate itself is well-positioned to work as a challenge faction, with their weak strategic position, few friends, and limited selection of ships. They also have remarkably extensive lore to discover, and Mayorate is generally regarded as a very historically significant mod within the Starsector community.

What's less great: Mayorate finally received an update at the end of 2019 after not having had one since mid-2016, and it's definitely true that years of progress in the modding scene have left the mod somewhat behind. Whilst it is acceptably polished, it is just plain lacking in content (gameplay content, that is. Story content the mod is A-okay) compared to what became available between the mod's last update and the current one. It simply can't measure up in terms of the variety of ships, weapons, and fighters that are available in other faction mods. Though entirely compatible with a solid campaign play experience, it's probably best not to use this mod if it feels too incomplete to you, or if the art style doesn't agree with you. Mayorate ships also seem like they could get into trouble very suddenly and then have a hard time extracting themselves out of it. They're definitely intended to slug it out, though how well they actually do this remains to be seen, and might even be somewhat dependent on what energy weapons you have available from other mods.
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Outer Rim Alliance, by Tartiflette:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: It actually is, but the reason it's here on the non-adjacent list as well as the adjacent list is that they form a nice mutually friendly "clique" with Interstellar Imperium and Sylphon RnD. When you have Imperium and Sylphon, with their relatively far-flung systems, the newly expanded north-east of the core feels rather barren without ORA's systems. Hence, they're mostly here to promote a better gameplay experience.

What's great/less great: For what's great and less great about this faction, see ORA's entry in the vanilla-adjacent list. Unlike with Kadur, not much here has really changed from there.
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Sylphon RnD, by Nia Tahl:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: Despite Sylphon RnD being a very small corporate polity that has ostensibly survived by keeping its head down and trading with Tri-Tachyon, the Persean League, and the Sindrian Diktat, they none-the-less managed to develop the "nullspace" technology (think fleet-wide phase skimming, but with more eldritch abominations), more refined than anything Tri-Tachyon is able to offer. They are also a particularly extensive user of AI cores, even to the point of, to some degree, treating alpha cores as citizens and giving them rights. Certainly an interesting faction, but not the most lore-friendly.

What's great: Whereas Interstellar Imperium's fleet is dedicated to facilitating a wide variety of different possible playstyles on the same hulls, Sylphon's fleet is instead geared towards providing the player with many different ways to facilitate essentially the same playstyle. Whilst on the surface Sylphon ships seem to play very similar to Tri-Tachyon ships, with an emphasis on energy weapons, shield-tanking, and motive systems, they distinguish themselves with an aggressive, mid-to-short-ranged playstyle that utilizes the chaotic energies that "push back" against anyone attempting to access nullspace to create havoc and destruction. Some Sylphon ships have the ability to manifest powerful, short-ranged energy discharges when certain conditions are met, and all have the ability to do so when overloading or by installing a particular hullmod. Alternatively, their ships can be equipped for tanking or greater mobility to support the purple lightning shooters at the front line, and there's even one ship that will take built-up flux from nearby allies and use it to add to the quantity of discharged energy blasts coming from your fleet. Carriers with unmanned drones (Sylphon carriers cannot use manned fighters) are available for screening and fire support. It's a complex but interesting fleet to fly, well-suited for the grand orchestrator. The chessmaster's fleet, you might call it. The polity itself, small and isolated as it is, might feel vulnerable, but rarely seems to get invaded, so you should be reasonably able to get your economy going while playing as them, and have reasonable chances to fight them when desired when not. They also form a mutually-friendly "clique" with Imperium and ORA, nicely filling out the north and west of the mod-expanded core worlds. The combination of Tri-Tachyon-esque curves and sharp angles with purple stripes, engines, auras, after-images, and the general strange, almost unsettling glow of nullspace energy makes for a very unique aesthetic...

What's less great: ...but likely not one that's going to appeal to everybody's taste. Moreover, one thing you'll quickly notice about Sylphon ships is that the AI has, frankly, no Earthly clue how to properly fly them. Their playstyle could be charitably described as "fiddly", and AI simply isn't savvy enough to get the most out of it, which often makes a Sylphon battle fleet weaker than it should be, even with micro-management from the player. Worse yet, the nature of their ships discourages running fleets comprised of mixed Sylphon and non-Sylphon ships. You can still do this, of course, but the non-Sylphon ships will always be at risk from the energy discharges of the Sylphon ones, though there is a special hullmod available to partially alleviate this. Said "fiddly" playstyle, especially with the no manned fighters rule, might feel downright restrictive to some, rather than unique and interesting the way it was intended.
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Sub-factions (optional):

Sanguinary Anarchistic Defectors, by Snrasha:
Note: This mod used to be an effective means of farming for blueprints. This aspect of the mod has since been nerfed and is no longer the principal reason to install it. It still offers the potential for some very challenging end-of-game battles, however, so that may still make it worth installing in and of itself.
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: Though not entirely incompatible with a vanilla-adjacent playthrough by the same previously established principle that deep space exploration elements can be given more leeway than elements that are made a part of the core worlds, adding a mod that would exclusively add non-adjacent elements (specifically, a series of extremely unusual exotic ship designs, complete with hull transformations, super-capitals, and truly faaabulous paint jobs) to a vanilla-adjacent playthrough seems like a silly idea when the vanilla-adjacent modlist already has mods that add more of these Remnant-style wildspace enemies to the game (see below).

What's great: SAD adds a hostile, Remnant-like faction that, like the Remnant, will control a number of star systems throughout unexplored space marked by warning beacons. SAD fleets, consequently, serve as an additional late-game challenge for the player. SAD fleets are very tough, and potentially even more challenging than their Remnant counterparts, while (unlike the Remnant) offering the chance to salvage and restore their hulks for your own use. Additionally, as a Shadowyards fan mod of sorts, SAD allows the player a way to access to Shadowyards weapons even when not using the Shadowyards Reconstruction Authority mod.

What's less great: Again, these ships are gaudy, so even though you won't see them that much during a playthrough, take heed if this bothers you. Mission content is presently incomplete, lending something of an unpolished feel.
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Vesperon Combine, by Straticus:
Details
Why it's vanilla-adjacent: It is, but with Sanguinary Anarchistic Defectors' ability to be used to farm blueprints having been significantly nerfed, Vesperon is now the premiere blueprint acquisition mod for any modded playthrough.

For what is great and less great about this mod, see its entry on the vanilla-adjacent modlist.
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Portrait Packs:

Quality of Life Mods:
Note: The QoL mods I recommend as being basic essentials are the same for every modded playthrough, and thusly this part of the modlist is the same as for the vanilla-adjacent modlist. As such, I will simply list the mods here without the detailed write-ups. You can find the write-ups for these mods in the vanilla-adjacent modlist section.
SpeedUp, by Dark.Revenant
Transfer All Items, by Nociam

Gameplay Enahncers:
Note: The gameplay enhancers I recommend as being basic essentials are the same for every modded playthrough, and thusly this part of the modlist is the same as for the vanilla-adjacent modlist. As such, I will simply list the mods here without the detailed write-ups. You can find the write-ups for these mods in the vanilla-adjacent modlist section.
Automatic Orders, by Blothorn
Combat Chatter, by Histidine
Common Radar, by LazyWizard
Weapon Group Controls, by stormbringer951
Unknown Skies, by Tartiflette

Difficulty mods (optional):
Note: These mods actually are vanilla adjacent (though see the entry on Ruthless Sector), but I don't recommend them for use on a first-time modded playthrough, so instead I gave them their own section here. As the heading implies, these mods are focused around increasing the game's difficulty, so there's no reason not to use them if you want the relatively friendlier vanilla-adjacent sector to give you a somewhat harder time, or wish the relatively harsh non-adjacent sector were even harsher. That is just about all they're good for, though.
Ruthless Sector, by Sundog:
Details
This mod makes a series of adjustments intended to make finding your feet and getting by in the sector more of a challenge. XP and reputation gain for battles is scaled based on the relative power of your ships deployed compared with the enemy's, and will be reduced if you save-scum, the combat power of Derelicts (including any additional ones added by mods) is buffed and commission and stipend pay are greatly reduced. The mod also causes Remnant fleets to roam hyperspace, but this violates the vanilla-adjacent lore by having them wander alarmingly close to the core, the majority of whose inhabitants have been lead to believe the AI battlefleet threat was destroyed once and for all. They will harass the player almost constantly even just outside of the core, making Ruthless Sector hyperspace Remnant a near ever-present menace, which is a far cry from the hens-teeth-scarce Remnant raids added by Nexerelin. If you wish to use this mod while maintaining a vanilla-adjacent experience, turn off wandering Hyperspace Remnant by access mods->Ruthless Sector->RUTHLESS_SECTOR->OPTIONS and changing the true in "enableRemnantEncountersInHyperspace":true to false. Personally, I feel like the Remnant are easy enough to avoid in any case that hyperspace Remnant actually make the game easier in the long run (easier access to alpha cores), not harder, but that aside I, as always, leave the decision of whether or not to use them up to you.
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Second Wave Options, by RustyCabbage:
Details
Adds some default and some optional adjustments that serve generally to intensify the mid-to-late game. CR recovers more slowly, factions improve their ship quality, quantity, and officers over time, and AI markets are strengthened with additional ground defences, patrol bases, and orbital stations. Optionally, you can also activate options to increase fuel use with your distance from the core, to increase supply and fuel usage with the amount of time spent without having docked at a market, and to improve the sensor strength of small ships and increase the sensor profile of large ships, as well as reducing the sensor strength and increasing the sensor profile of the player's fleet.
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Optional Ship Packs:

Seeker Ship Pack, by Tartiflette:
Note: Seeker is not available here on the forum. To acquire it, make your way to the Discord sever Unofficial Starsector Chat and search the mod_updates room for the mod. The version on the forum is long-since outdated and will not work. I think the donwload link might have been removed from the thread anyway...
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: This mod is something of a splatter-painting - a highly eclectic mix of all manner of weird and wonderful ship designs, most rather experimental in terms of gameplay design. Quite a few of these ships fall well outside of the technological capabilities of the vanilla lore.

What's great: One of the purposes of the non-adjacent modlist is to allow you to experience many new and exciting things in a convenient, playable package. Seeker, whilst it's not a primary part of the modlist because it would be unreasonable to expect everyone to get on the Discord server just for this one mod, is the perfect extension of this principle, giving you access to a ridiculously wide variety of highly experimental ship designs. Unusual hullshapes, exotic weapons, nonstandard intended uses, and the odd interesting new ship system abound in this mod. I won't spoil too much, as this is one mod that is better experienced blind, but suffice it to say that Seeker is the mod you use when you want to take mixing it up one step further, and it is very interesting, and comes recommended if that is your inclination.

What's less great: There's a fine line between "eclectic" variety and "schizophrenic" variety, and this mod will surely cross that line for some users. If you're remotely uncertain about whether or not this level of zany is for you, watch the YouTube video "SATURATED ORDANCE [Starsector]". It shows off one ship from Seeker in particular, the Dawn, which should give you enough of an idea of what you're getting yourself into if you use this mod without spoiling too too much.
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Optional Factions:

One or two factions from the vanilla-adjacent list: Dassault-Mikoyan Engineering, Legacy of Arkgneisis, prv Starworks (with Rust Belt), Scy Nation, Shadowyards Reconstruction Authority, Tiandong Heavy Industries, Underworld
Note: Since the non-adjacent modlist contains 11 modded factions present at the outset and my usual recommendation is to install up to 12 or 13 modded factions, feel free to add one or two factions from the vanilla-adjacent list that you are especially fond of. Note that prv Starworks adds two factions. Junk Pirates adds three factions and thus would exceed my recommended total factions.

ApproLight, by Orignem:
Note: I don't believe in obfuscating things from my audience, so I'll level with you here - ordinarily, ApproLight would be the one of the mod factions I'd simply consider too "weird" to fit in as part of a curated gameplay experience, and so would fall more neatly into the "other mods worth considering" section. However, this mod earns special attention and recognition for being the premiere and most well-regarded example of mods created by the Chinese Starsector community. It holds unique standing because of this, and, in honesty, does deserve particular, special consideration. Additionally, I myself received push-back both when I wanted to put this mod in the "other mods" section and when I wanted to make it part of the non-adjacent modlist proper. And so here it wound up, as an optional extra for the non-adjacent list. If you're interested in adding an especially unique mod, with some uniquely Chinese game design sensibilities, read on. Otherwise, it is in no way a necessary component of your modded gameplay experience.
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: In addition to being a heavy AI user, ApproLight's foundation and fleet operations are predicated on a veritable cavalcade of super-advanced technologies that the rest of the sector can only dream about. The faction itself is a tech-cult of personality surrounding the in-universe character of Orignem, and does the whole cabal of shadowy, cloaked figures with inscrutable goals thing.

What's great: Moreso than perhaps any other faction mod, ApproLight's greatest strength lies in expanding Starsector's endgame content, providing not only a hostile challenge faction reputed to be significantly more challenging than even the Remnant at their strongest, but also rewarding the player for such battles with access to a "crafting" system. Not unlike an MMO in principle (and here we see some of that aforementioned Chinese influence), this system allows the player to gradually assemble the most powerful starships in the ApproLight catalogue, serving to help justify fighting these enemies in a similar fashion to how fighting Remnant to acquire AI cores works, albeit with perhaps more direct benefit to one's minute-to-minute gameplay.

As far as the faction itself goes, ApproLight ships are, principally speaking, snipers, somewhat similar to certain Tri-Tachyon ship builds that involve burning down the enemy with long-ranged energy weapon fire, but even more extreme. Vulnerable at close range and to flanking, they are intended to win flux duels and beat the enemy into submission on the approach before either of those vulnerabilities become an issue. Facilitating this is an extensive system of interlocking, slot-limited factional hullmods. I honestly wish I could say more about these hullmods, but... see below... They are a powerful opponent, but relatively easy faction to actually play as (again, see below).

Note that, being of Chinese origin, this mod has been (serviceably) translated into English.

What's less great: Appro has some woefully imbalanced market shares and overpowered fleet strength around their homeworld. Moreover, ship balance is a hotly, hotly debated topic when it comes to this mod, with some claiming that Appro vessels substantially over-perform when properly fitted and flown. Although proper fitting is not as easily as it sounds because, well, I can't make heads or tails of Appro's factional hullmods. You might have more luck, but heed my words that getting the most out of their ships is going to take some work, and here we once again see that Chinese influence. It courses through this mod's veins for both better and worse. Then there's the art style. Heavily over-detailed, spiky, religiousy, glowy, and very, very anime. In that way (and in many others), this is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of deal. Take that for whatever it may be worth when making your decision whether or not to use this mod.
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Hazard Mining Incorporated, by King Alfonzo:
Note: For those who recall and are curious, yes, this mod used to be a part of the vanilla-adjacent modlist. Subsequent updates to the mod have since greatly expanded upon its less lore-compliant aspects, rendering it unsuitable for continued inclusion on the vanilla-adjacent modlist. It is still, however, a very strong addition to one's modlist more generally, but is also in somewhat of a state of upheaval as Alfonzo is currently deciding what direction he wants to take the mod next, so for the time being I have chosen to include it here, as an optional faction.
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: Hazard Mining adds two new factions to the game. The first,  the titular Hazard Mining Incorporated,  is a blue-collar corporate polity specializing in delivering raw resources (including a few extra ones unique to the mod, which tend to become profitable whenever times are hard in the core worlds) to the rest of the sector in bulk quantities. It's best not to ask too many questions about how they do it, though, as life on HMI's distant, lonely planets is seldom pleasant. By design, HMI utilizes some of the hackiest chop shop job-esque technological solutions in the entire sector (right next to one of the other factions contained in this very mod). Many of these are exceedingly low-tech and entirely compatible with the existing lore, however the "techmined" designs - stated to be various half-finished high-tech prototypes HMI has re-discovered and then back-fitted for their own purposes, are at least a little bit questionable. More questionable than these are their low-tech "scav" versions of the Astral and Paragon, both of which stretch credibility and might come across as downright cheeky depending on your point of view. The proverbial nail in the coffin for the faction's lore friendliness, however, is that HMI has access to a super-capital ship design, a feat even well-equipped polities cannot accomplish within the vanilla lore. Purported to merely be a station with engines strapped to it and vanishingly rare, this ship will (in the best traditions of super-capital ships that get added to a faction's standard fleet list) none-the-less inevitably show up in numbers both in Hazard's military markets and its invasion fleets. The fact that the pirates are able to utilize this monstrosity also doesn't help with lore-friendliness.

The second faction is the Brighton Federation. Essentially a series of glorified refugee camps a ways out from the core worlds, the Federation does what it can to assist the survivors that continue even 200 years later to trickle in from the now "wild" space outside of the core worlds, but their efforts are severely curtailed by their own crippling lack of resources. To partially compensate for this, the Federation's fleet consists primarily of Derelict and Remnant hulks dragged in from that same wild space, hastily cut apart and welded back together with crude liveable modules. These could be somewhat overlooked back when they were merely a rare sight in Hazard fleets, but when they are what an entire polity's battle fleets are most known for, it fairly well shatters the existing lore that most denizens of the core worlds don't realize that the Hegemony actually failed to destroy all of the AI Battlefleets during the First AI War.

Note also that, beyond the two factions, Hazards adds new exploration elements both within HMI space and out in the wider unexplored space that could be considered non-adjacent, including notable elements of cosmic horror (not usually a feature in Starsector).

What's great: In most respects, this is a faction mod wholly unlike any other... fascinatingly so, at times... HMI almost has the feeling of a player-created faction gone horribly, horribly wrong, the Hazard-controlled stars feeling like an unsettling and threatening place to be, barely removed from dangerous wildspace. When it comes to the titular faction, this is definitely a mod that nails its atmosphere. Mechanically, meanwhile, Hazard offers a plethora of unique ship designs you won't find allegories for almost anywhere else, chief among which are the "Junkers", literal piles of flying scrap which, thanks to the effect of their built-in "Junker" hull mod, gain progressively more ordinance points the more d-mods the ship possesses. This encourages a risk-reward playstyle that befits the "Hazard" name just perfectly. The mod also, appropriately, adds a large number of new pieces of equipment that can be used with Nexerelin's mining mechanic. The unique resources are mostly flavour, but, as stated before, occasionally profitable (check their prices when planets in the core worlds are taking large access hits from piracy, raiding, or invasion). Hazard space itself is also very profitable. Built like a house of cards, any access hits from pirate activity, or if HMI gets itself into too many wars, can be reliably leveraged by the player. Or, alternatively, challenge yourself to lead the sector's worst to victory.

What's less great: By its very nature, HMI is always going to feel less polished than many other mods. It just has so many ideas baked into it that they struggle to breathe at times, and whilst Alfonzo is to be commended for managing to keep so many balls in the air, especially after version 0.2.2 that fixed a lot of issues with the mod, the inherent precariousness of such an act remains obvious. That same diversity of content may also lead a more discerning or demanding player to reject this mod for any number of reasons, such as how the "Junkers" look, the idea of derelicts and Remnant ships that have been cut apart and welded back together with liveable compartments,  the cosmic horror elements, or even just the very concept of a giant space Belgian Congo.

Adding to the aforementioned unpolished feel, the Brighton Federation is currently very early into its development. The idea is interesting to be sure, and I'm sure in time the feeling of desperation inherent in their awful position, awful planets, and awful fleets will come across much more strongly and they will become as atmospheric to interact with as HMI currently is, but as it stands at the moment they mostly just feel like a rather standard sort of basic mod faction, with a ship gimmick that is difficult to comment on due to their ships presently lacking codex entries. Indeed, if you wish to experience only the best that this mod has to offer, I would actually recommend turning off the Brighton Federation by going to Starsector->mods->HMI->HMI_OPTIONS and changing the text "brighton":true" to ""brighton":false".
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Optional Portrait Packs:

Another Portrait Pack, by atreg:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: This portrait pack features a number of anime-type girls, which needless to say aren't really something you see much of in the vanilla lore.

What's great: Numerous high-quality edits serve to add a wide variety of interesting, oft-times over-the-top avatars to your selection. Will reduce repeats and, possibly, serve to add some spice to your game.

What's less great: The images being manips. of unrelated images found on the Internet, the style of the avatars is fairly inconsistent, and some of them suggest a much lighter tone, whereas others bring across a darker tone. Decide for yourself whether consistency or quantity is more important to you.
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Optional Quality of Life Mods:
Note: The same QoL mods that were listed as optional extras for the vanilla-adjacent modlist can also be utilized with the non-adjacent modlist, to the same benefits. As such, I will simply list these mods without duplicating their detailed write-ups. You can find the write-ups for these in the vanilla-adjacent modlist section.
Audio Plus, by Dark.Revenant
Autosave, by LazyWizard
Cari's Minimal UI, by CariTheKitty
Combat Alarm Sounds, by jamplier
Lightshow, by Tartiflette
Logistics Notifications, by SafariJohn
Target Practice, by Tartiflette
Trailer Moments, by Nia Tahl
Upgraded Rotary Weapons, by Tartiflette

Optional Gameplay Enhancers:
Note: The same gameplay enhancer mods that were listed as optional extras for the vanilla-adjacent modlist can also be utilized with the non-adjacent modlist, to the same benefits. As such, I will simply list these mods without duplicating their detailed write-ups. You can find the write-ups for these in the vanilla-adjacent modlist section. After this list, you will find an additional list of gameplay enhancer mods that are specifically relevant to a non-adjacent playthrough, with detailed write-ups provided as normal.
Adjusted Sector, by Nerzhull_AI
Better Colonies, by Techpriest
Commissioned Crews, by Techpriest
Leading Pip, by Dark.Revenant
New Beginnings, by Sundog
Planetary Access: Shield Control, by Wyvern
SkilledUp, by bonomel
Starship Legends, by Sundog
Unofficial New Game Plus, by Originem

Fuel Siphoning, by Sundog:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: Part of the reason reason why fuel and volatiles are such profitable industries is that there are only a few places left in the sector that produce fuel, and these few producers are the only way to get it. If any fleet were able to quickly restock fuel at any time, this would completely undercut the canonical scarcity. It also represents a substantive gameplay alteration better served for later playthroughs in any case.

What's great: This mod simply allows you to convert supplies to fuel by flying your fleet through a nebula. It does this rapidly...

What's less great: ...so rapidly, in fact, that it can be very easy to accidentally siphon far more fuel than you intended and run yourself clean out of supplies. Be gentle after turning on the siphon. Small movements.
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Gates Awakened, by Wispbone:
Note: This mod is mutually compatible with Terraforming and Station Construction. It is, I feel, more interesting (and less broken) to explore the different approaches taken to the concept of fast travel by these two mods on two different runs, but if you do choose to use these mods together, you will be able to jump from Gates Awakened gates to Terraforming and Station Construction gates, and vice-versa.
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: The setting of Starsector, backstory and tone, is entirely predicated on the idea that the gates stopped working, do not work, and there seems no hope of them ever starting to work again or building new ones. So the prospect of a reactivated gate network, even if very limited, is well outside of the manner of story the vanilla game is attempting to tell.

What's great: This mod adds a series of quests to the game that allow the player to eventually connect up several of the dormant Domain-era gates the player can find scattered throughout the sector. This is a welcome convenience for late-game colony management and politicking with Nexerelin, though a shrewd (and somewhat lucky) player may even be able to secure this convenience for themselves relatively early.

What's less great: Not much, really. Adding fast travel obviously affects gameplay balance even in the late game (as large fleets can save on prodigious quantities of supplies this way and reach profitable areas much faster, though you must still pay the fuel cost for the distance to be travelled), but really, if you're intent on adding fast travel to a game that steadfastly isn't supposed to have it, you know what you're getting yourself into.
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Supply Forging, by Techpriest:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: Though not as lucrative as fuel, having sufficient nanoforge capacity aboard ships to manufacture supplies anywhere you want would, as with Fuel Siphoning, be a game-changer in the vanilla sector, and also like that mod represents a substantial gameplay alteration better kept to subsequent modded playthoughs.

What's great: This mod simply allows you to convert Metals and Heavy Machinery (both of which can be salvaged during combat and exploration in abundance) to Supplies. Compared to Fuel Siphoning, this can be done anywhere, but is a gradual process the occurs over time...

What's less great: ...and at the cost of doubling the range at which your fleet can be detected, so be mindful of that. It also likely won't make much of a dint in the running costs of a large, expensive fleet.
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Terraforming and Station Construction, by boggled:
Details
Why it's non-adjacent: There are four principals aspects to this mod, each representing a substantial lore or gameplay departure. This mod should be reserved for playthroughs where maintaining lore and gameplay similar to vanilla isn't a consideration. I will address each of these primary aspects separately:

Stations: It is by no means  technologically impossible for the inhabitants of the post-collapse sector to build space stations, but being able to generate a large number of 100% hazard markets in a system of choice represents a rather substantial change to how the colonization aspect of the game functions, as it permits the insular, one-system empires players usually like to build for mutual defence between the markets in the empire to become substantially larger and more powerful.

Terraforming: Canonically speaking, most of the sector's existing terraforming projects were abandoned after the Collapse, and the polities of the sector lack both the technology and the industrial capacity to construct new ones.

Gates: The setting of Starsector is entirely predicated on the idea that the gates stopped working, do not work, and there seems no hope of them ever starting to work again or building new ones. So the prospect of a reactivated gate network, even if very limited, is well outside of the manner of story the vanilla game is attempting to tell.

Domain-tech industries: It should be obvious, but freely utilizing Domain-era technology to construct AI cores, space elevators, Domain-era com relays, and the like, is quite impossible within the vanilla lore, for both technological and political reasons.

What's great:

Stations: At semi-exorbitant cost (though nothing especially outrageous for late game), this mod allows you to construct self-contained space station colonies of the sort you see in the core worlds (e.g. Nova Maxios), using a new set of controls the mod adds to your ability bar. These can be situated in the asteroid belt of a system and will have access to metal and transplutonics (one per system), or around a gas giant and will have access to volatiles (one per gas giant), and will have their space port and mining industry construction already completed upon being spawned. Additionally, your planet-based colonies can construct up to three astropoli structures each, which have no resources available but like other space station colonies function as markets independent from the market that built them, with only 100% hazard, though these take several months to construct (as opposed to the mining stations, which are instant when selected from the appropriate ability bar option provided you have the necessary resources). This functionality makes this mod perfect if you want to build the largest space empire possible in the smallest amount of space possible... or if you just want to side-step the high-gravity issue when colonizing a gas giant for volatiles... It's also very good if you've modded in a lot of new structures and industries, as this way you can actually have enough quality markets in a one-system empire to be able to properly utilize them all.

Terraforming: This mod allows you to construct a variety of different structures on your colonies that use various terraforming techniques to contribute a quantity of points each in-game day towards a player-selected project. This can involve transforming a terrestrial planet into another, more desirable type of planet, or improving the planet in specific ways, such as increasing its available resources or removing a particular negative market condition. Most any terrestrial planet can become most any other type of terrestrial planet, but the more dissimilar the planet is from the target type, the more points are required to complete the transformation, so it is often advantageous to use this functionality to further improve an already respectable colonization prospect, rather than attempt to build one out of a selection of hellscape-planets, as this can mean the difference between a terraforming project taking a few months or several years.

Progressively more powerful terraforming methods are progressively more expensive to maintain, with the highest costing potentially hundreds of thousands of credits a month, though this can be partially mitigated through interaction with the Domain-tech industries (see below). Most terraforming structures are constructed on the planet to be terraformed, but a couple (that are restricted to specific market types, one of which is the asteroid mining base from the space stations functionality of this mod) contribute terraforming points towards colonization projects occurring on all other markets in the system instead. On the whole, this is a cleverly designed and somewhat logical (though they are mechanically equivalent, hot planets can be furnished with stellar shades while cold planets with poor light can receive stellar reflectors, for example) mechanic, even if it works far faster than would be remotely plausible (necessary considering most Starsector campaigns take place over 5-10 in-game years at most).

Gates: Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to unlock this mod's gate construction mechanic, so I cannot comment as to its quality with sureity. If you have experience with this system, please let me know.

Domain-tech industries: This mod allows you to construct the Domain Archaeology industry. This is similar to tech-mining in principle, but produces a unique resource, Domain-era Artifacts, that are demanded by the most powerful of the terraforming structures from the terraforming aspect of this mod (with each unit of artefacts you are able to supply progressively decreasing the structure's insane maintenance cost). They also demanded by the new Skyhook Anchor structure (a space elevator, which increases the host market's access) and Kletka Simulator industry (which produces a new AI core of a random type every month. Install an AI core into the industry to produce better cores), and if you are carrying a supply of them, you can construct proper Domain-tech comm relays, nav buoys, and  sensor arrays (with their corresponding more powerful buffs) instead of the usual makeshift varieties. Though this annoys the Church and especially the Path, all of these things add up to simply make life as a colonial master that bit easier and smoother.

What's less great: Note that if you are considering giving this mod a miss because you'd only want some of its content (entirely understandable), you can disable particular elements of the mod by going to Starsector -> mods -> Terraforming and Station Construction -> data -> config -> settings and changing the various "true" texts to "false".

Stations: Naturally, the ability to spawn multiple 100% hazard markets in most any given system is very, very overpowered, as limited colonization prospects are the only thing that keep one-system player empires from being even more game-breaking than they already are.

Terraforming: As constructing the terraforming buildings takes time, and then actually terraforming takes time (sometimes quite a bit of it) on top of that and is quite money-intensive, in most situations your colonial empire will already be firmly established before any terraforming gets done, rendering this less of a legitimate element of strategy and more of a bragging rights cherry on top to let you show off your "perfect" system. Might be fun in a Mayasuran Navy playthrough, though, come to think...

Gates: Again, can't really say as I haven't been able to test this feature yet. I could comment on how fast-travel disrupts the intended gameplay flow due to the time and resources saved to cross space, but frankly? If you insist on installing a mod that lets you do fast-travel in a game that steadfastly isn't supposed to have it, you know what you're getting yourself into.

Domain-tech industries: The Archaeology industry may come off as little more than an arbitrary way of trying to make something that was always going to be broken regardless marginally less broken, and the rest of these structures may come across as making already broken things even more broken... did I mention you should only use this mod if you're okay with broken things being even more broken...?

Because, yeah, on the whole this mod just serves to make the already overpowered colony mechanic that much more overpowered. Use at your own discretion.
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Half-sized modlist:
Note: As stated at the start of this post, you can use one of the following condensed versions of the above modlist if you have a weak PC or find the basic modlist overwhelming. Note that the mods from the mandatory mods section should always be used. Also note that although I called Interstellar Imperium the best-in-show for the non-adjacent modlist, it is removed from the half-sized modlist (and all smaller versions) due to it being exceptionally graphics card-intensive.:
Quarter-sized modlist:
Details
Overhaul:
Nexerelin

Ship packs:
Ship/Weapon Pack
Tahlan Shipworks

Factions:
Blackrock Drive Yards
Mayasuran Navy

Portrait Packs:
Portrait Pack

QoL mods:
SpeedUp

Gameplay Enhancers:
Unknown Skies
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Micro-sized modlist:
Details
Overhaul:
Nexerelin

Ship packs:
Ship/Weapon Pack OR Tahlan Shipworks

Factions:
Blackrock Drive Yards

Portrait Packs:
Portrait Pack

QoL mods:
None

Gameplay Enhancers:
Unknown Skies
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« Last Edit: July 09, 2020, 07:10:33 AM by Captain Trek »
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Captain Trek

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2020, 05:47:28 PM »

Other mods - up-and-comers:

These mods, currently in development and seeing frequent updates, might be a bit rough around the edges now, but are very much worth keeping your eye on to see how they turn out. Who knows, some of them even might make it to either of my curated modlists some day!

Ship Packs:

Sozzer's Ship Pack, by Sozzer:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Factions:

Anvil Industries, by connotron7:
Details
Is it vanilla-adjacent: Not quite. Ths mod includes two factions. The first, Anvil Industries, is a small corporate polity that reinvests the credits it earns through repairing and refurbishing the many "unsalvagable" hulls littered throughout the sector on behalf of the larger factions into stabilizing and rebuilding the sector. The relatively distant star systems they have taken up residence in serve as both bases of operations and refuges for the disaffected. Politically Shadowyards-esque, these ramshackle humanitarians also have a strong anti-pirate streak, and their battlefleet was constructed primarily for this purpose. The second faction, The Exalted, are ex-Tri-Tachyon employees who, dissatisfied with their host company's poor performance in both AI Wars, fled the core worlds to establish what amounts to a tech-cult. They believe that only advanced technology can allow humanity to survive going forward, and that the incompetence, ignorance, and delusions of past glory of the major powers will lead to humanity's extinction.

Perhaps surprisingly, The Exalted are not an AI core-using faction, and both factions utilize technology that is well-within existing bounds, with Anvil utilizing customized variants of existing midline and low-tech designs coupled with some original designs, and Exalted utilizing customized variants of existing high-tech designs coupled with some original designs, and neither fitting their ships with technologies in excess of what Tri-Tachyon or the other vanilla powers could manage. So why is this mod non-adjacent? Well, canonicaly speaking it is no longer possible to program new ship designs into nano-forges post-collapse, and yet both of these factions do so freely.

What's great: Both fleets do a good job of balancing the familiar with the distinctive, both in terms of their well-considered visuals (Exalted ships in particular nail their intended "Tritach-alter" look, and out of all the "purple" mod factions, their purple is by far the most tasteful and subtle) and in terms of gameplay. Anvil is essentially a mid-to-low-tech carrier faction, sporting numerous carriers and battlecarriers loaded with swarms of low-quality fighters and heavy torpedo bombers. These swarm-based fleets are powerful at a distance but vulnerable in close combat. The Exalted, meanwhile, emphasize burst damage and fluid combat, with most of their ships able to boost their damage and speed for a short while, allowing them to fling a large amount of ordinance at the enemy while simultaneously burning away. It's not quite the hit-and-run tactics of regular Tri-Tachyon, as the speed boosts tend to be much smaller than those of Tri-Tach motive systems, but rather more-so a ballet into which ships dance gracefully into and out of. Supporting this playstyle of a fluid battleline are their extremely heavy shields, rendering them stalwart enough to stand in that line. However, their weakness is revealed in the form of alarmingly thin armour the instant their shields fail. Exalted ships must be constantly swapping their ships in and out of tanking position to give themselves time to vent if one is to make the best use of their ships.

Two factions also offer the player a choice of campaign playstyles. With many friends and an isolated starting position, Anvil players will enjoy amassing profits through peaceful exploration, and quietly building up their forces in relative safety. The Exalted, meanwhile, have many enemies and only two planets at the start of the game, making them very comparable to their Tri-Tachyon progenitors in terms of a challenging and deadly starting position, while offering the shiniest kit as the reward for standing firm in the face of all of that.

Note also that Anvil brings numerous useful civilian and semi-civilian ships to the game that are also able to be utilized by the sector's vanilla factions. There are also a handful of pirate ships, including a new pirate capital ship. Useful for making pirate fights less repetitive in the late game, but not as useful as Underworld or Tahlan.

What's less great: Some ships designs may seem a bit uninspired, the fluff descriptions are thin or missing in some places and in desperate need of a proofreading pass, and the mod is lacking in weapons content at time of writing. There are also some ships (as well as Anvil's campaign position) that are awaiting a significant balance pass. Moreover, I must at this point admit that I lied earlier. The mod actually has three factions. However, the Blackjack Mining Syndicate is a currently at a very early stage of development and is extremely light on content, to the point where it's hardly worth discussing until it gets fleshed out a bit more. On the whole, this mod is impressive, but still fairly rough around the edges.
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Galaxy Tigers, by KnightOfTigers:
Details
Is it vanilla-adjacent?: Not in the slightest. The Galaxy Tigers are a splinter-polity of Tri-Tachyon who have taken advantage of their strategic "crossroads of the galaxy"-esque position to attain wealth and independence. Whilst their crewed ships (you can probably already see where this is going) are mainly variants of vanilla craft, they have also learned to utilize and construct improved versions of the Domain-era "Derelict" defence drones, effectively giving the Tigers access to AI battle fleets of their very own. This makes them perhaps the most blatant of AI users in the modiverse, with even their own fluff stating how they do all this in flagrant violation of the Hegemony's moratorium on AI usage.

What's great: Features an interesting fleet setup, with numerous improved (though still relatively weak compared to crewed mainline ships) drones supported by slower, heavier variants of mostly vanilla fare designed to pummel and survive a pummeling in turn. This fleet draws a very stark divide between the expendable swarm and the key, crewed command ships at the core of the formation. If you've ever wanted the carrier playstyle on a far bigger scale, or just enjoy sending ships you don't care if they live or die to their deaths, this might be the faction for you. Still early days yet, since there are plenty of the drone ships but only a few of the slow "elite" ships available, but with great future promise for providing an interesting and unique playstyle and/or challenge. Definitely keep an eye on this one. Also features a custom trade good that, almost uniquely, is profitable from the very start of the game without breaking the game.

What's less great: If the colour orange or the unusual, ungainly fighting style of the Domain derelicts aren't your thing, this may not be the mod for you. A ton of flavour text is currently either missing or poorly proofread. The mod is also waiting on more of its own, original spritework at time of writing, with plans in the works for Galaxy Tigers-original ship designs for their elite, crewed ships to replace the existing modified vanilla designs. So getting there, but still not quite "finished", so to say (in as much as any mod is ever truly finished).

Note: Be aware this mod contains several meme fighter wings despite not technically being a meme mod.
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Xhan Empire, by Circumsoldier:
Details
Is it vanilla-adjacent?: No. The Xhan Empire is an insular theocratic tech-cult on the far fringes of the sector that is now attempting to overcome its problems with dwindling resources through conquest under the auspices of a supposedly immortal emperor. Despite its distance from the core worlds, however, the polity is already infamous for its usage of AI cores, most prominently in ship design, but also into the management of everyday affairs (albeit not quite to the same extent as Interstellar Imperium).

What's great: Xhan's ships are an unusual combination of naturalistic curves and solid slabs of drab-coloured metal (quite good-looking in terms of spritework, all told). From a distance, they almost give the impression of having been built from asteroids. Appropriately, then, their playstyle is similar to that of vanilla low-tech, but with fewer weapon mounts in exchange for stronger hull, armour, and shields. Mostly (though not exclusively) sluggish but with powerful motive systems, Xhan fleets are designed to get stuck in and then stay in, brute-forcing the enemy principally by simply out-lasting them. Similar to Diable, the Empire's ambitious plan of conquering the entire sector has brought them into conflict with most all of the core worlds' most powerful (both modded and not), making them ripe for a challenge playthrough.

What's less great: The polity's lack of resources is reflected in some truly, spectacularly terrible access values on Xhan planets, and it remains to be seen whether this will create too many imbalanced trading opportunities or render them too swift and easy a kill for the powerful and well-resourced vanilla polities. More generally, this is presently a relatively content-lite mod, similar to Mayorate (so as with that mod, take heed if you prefer more content-heavy mods), but it does not currently possess the same level of polish as Mayorate, still needing some work done on the fluff/lore and proofreading side of things before this mod can "graduate" (so to say) from up-and-comers. Still, it's not in too bad a state as it is already, and is certainly higher on the quality-to-quantity ratio than Anvil and Galaxy Tigers, so this one is no less worthy of keeping an eye on than those two.
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Yuri Expedition, by creature:
Details
Write-up provided by Scarlet-MagicianX26 -

Is it vanilla-adjacent?: No. To quote straight from the mod author himself: "As you might expect from gaudily painted ships with cute girl decals, there's no way this is or can be lore-friendly." The entire mod is effectively a big fat tribute to Japanese-styled sci-fi, with a massive dollop of 21st century ultra-weeb references as seasoning (Touhou, Idol anime, shipgirls, etc.), all decked out in defiantly outrageous pink hulls and weapons, alongside the 'justification' for their presence being a mere OOC excuse.

What's great: Despite having a paper-thin excuse for existing, the internal lore of the faction is very well detailed and arguably beats most other faction mods in depth and gameplay integration. Each description of every ship and weapon in the Caparice Trade Co. inventory is heavily detailed (in a way that would make even model kit collectors happy) and helps reinforce and play off the whole 'fish out of water' shtick that the Yuri have (e.g. Yuri ships not having shields) in the Persean Sector. The bounties and missions also introduced have a wealth of lore behind them that writes the story of the Yuri further, so those of you who like a nice dash of lore can consider trying this mod out for size.

The ships that the mod brings are 'something completely different' as compared to most other mods. With most of their ships featuring either no shields or weak front facing shields only, the Yuri rely on a doctrine focusing on their smaller ships being highly manoeuvrable and their bigger ships being outfitted with heavy armor, all while focusing on suppressing and overwhelming enemies in an unholy saturation of missiles (Macross style). To facilitate all this, Yuri ships actively make use of a lot of lesser-known ship ships, like ablative armor, modules, detachable drones and a plethora of other unique systems and hullmods. While unique, it also does its best to ensure balance for its arsenal.
 
What's less great: As the non-adjacent description state, anybody with not much of a taste for anime is probably not going to enjoy it. For the unironically 'anime is trash' types, usage of this mod might possibly result in stage IV pancreatic cancer.

As per factions with a non-standard fleet doctrine (similar to people's issues with GMDA somewhat), the Yuri Expedition fleets are not beginner friendly. A lack of proper shielding means that their ships require more micromanagement on the tactical command screen, and even endgame ships require careful positioning to fully exploit their capabilities. Fighting them can also result in an exhausting experience, as their long-range bombardment focused doctrine can result in extended, tough battles.

Lastly, it's incredibly graphics intensive (although this is probably because of Scarlet's old GTX 860m). Yuri fleets can output hundreds of missiles on the battlefield, and tracking all these projectiles can be a little demanding for those with weaker PCs, slowing battles to a crawl. It will be a visual, somewhat gaudy, feast for the eyes if you are willing to endure the hardware demands.
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« Last Edit: July 13, 2020, 10:34:27 PM by Captain Trek »
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Captain Trek

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2020, 05:47:39 PM »

Other mods - worth considering:

These are mods that, for various reasons, simply don't quite fit into the curated gameplay experience of either of my modlists. They are, however, fully playable, and many quite interesting in their own ways, so don't let that dissuade you from installing any of the following, if they interest you!

Ship Packs:

Ed Shipyard, by Ed:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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High Tech Armada, by Snrasha:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Missing Ships, by scarface:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
[close]

Factions:

Blue, by Protonus:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
[close]
Green Knight Security, by MinusUdn:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
[close]
Kingdom of Terra, by Sinosauropteryx:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Neutrino Corp., by FlashFrozen:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Red, by Protonus:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Quality of Life Mods:

Console Commands, by LazyWizard:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Imps Weapon Sounds, by Imp0815:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Version Checker, by LazyWizard:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Gameplay Enhancers:

Boardable Unboardables, by ShadowDragon8685:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Gladiator Society, by Snrasha:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Hyperdrive, by Sundog:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Safety Override for capital ships, by HELMUT:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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« Last Edit: May 28, 2020, 07:13:47 AM by Captain Trek »
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Captain Trek

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2020, 05:48:01 PM »

Other mods - not recommended:

These are the mods that I simply do not recommend. In most cases this will be due to technical issues.

Factions:

Celestial Mount Circle, by Originem:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Tyrador Safeguard Coalition, by Machine:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
[close]

Quality of Life Mods:

Combat Analytics, by Nick XR:
Details semi-TBA
This is a somewhat popular mod, but it suffers from frequent severe bugs and certain issues that are unfixable in the current version of Starsector.
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Fix Empty Planets, by Carabus:
Details
No longer necessary. This mod was intended to fix an issue with planet generation in version [0.9] of Starsector, but this issue was fixed as of version [0.9.1]. This mod, curiously, remains in the Mod Index in spite of that, thus I have included it here.
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Transponder Reminders, by Blothorn:
Details
Was previously the only way to forewarn yourself to turn your transponder on before entering friendly space and to turn it off before entering hyperspace, but as of version [0.9.1] interferes with the vanilla transponder reminders and warnings of hostile ships on the other sides of jump points.
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Weapon Arcs, by Archigo:
Details TBA
Currently under construction!
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Gameplay Enhancers:

Grand Sector, by Alec:
Details
What's great: Makes the sector map 1.3x larger and doubles the number of stars that spawn.

What's less great: Has been rendered effectively obsolete by Adjusted Sector. Does not allow you to modify the spawn rates of Derelicts, Remnant systems, etc. as Adjusted Sector does, often causing the Grand Sector to feel very lonely and bereft of loot.
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Langly's Terraforming, by Langly2:
Details
What's great: Allows you to terraform planets very simply by repeatedly building and upgrading a single structure, which will remove one negative condition on the market each time the structure is built or upgraded, before adding habitable and then mild climate if no negative conditions remain.

What's less great: Has been rendered effectively obsolete by recent improvements in the terraforming aspect of Terraforming and Station Construction. The planet type changes far too quickly, even when most of the originally existing negative market conditions are still in place, and the mod cannot improve the planet's available resources at all. It also takes too long to be practical for the typical Starsector campaign. It used to be that boggled's mod was very fiddly and could only terraform very specific planet types whereas this mod could terraform any planet, but this is (for the most part) no longer the case.
[close]
« Last Edit: May 28, 2020, 05:19:20 AM by Captain Trek »
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Captain Trek

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2020, 05:48:18 PM »

Mod synergies and anti-synergies:

This section is currently under construction!
« Last Edit: January 31, 2020, 08:50:45 AM by Captain Trek »
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DDwarrirofire

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2020, 09:38:19 PM »

I'll be putting this to use tomorrow.  I'm getting to the point in my first campaign where I think I'd like to do a reboot in normal difficulty.  Looking at all the mods I was a little unsure but you've pretty much taken all the guess work out of it.  Thank you fine sir.
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Morrokain

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2020, 09:55:28 PM »

You can add Archean Order onto this list (if you want- it is very much your opinion as you say and I do respect that) as more along the exotic lines of your original spectrum of intention.

I'm not even going to pretend it doesn't feel bad to have not even had a mention on the list in the first place, though.  :(
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Captain Trek

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2020, 10:51:22 PM »

I'll be putting this to use tomorrow.  I'm getting to the point in my first campaign where I think I'd like to do a reboot in normal difficulty.  Looking at all the mods I was a little unsure but you've pretty much taken all the guess work out of it.  Thank you fine sir.

No, thank you. It's relieving to know that at least somebody is benefiting from all that effort, so that it wasn't a complete waste of time. ^^;

You can add Archean Order onto this list (if you want- it is very much your opinion as you say and I do respect that) as more along the exotic lines of your original spectrum of intention.

I'm not even going to pretend it doesn't feel bad to have not even had a mention on the list in the first place, though.  :(

Apologies. Total conversion mods are outside of the scope of the guide. But now I've clarified that point where it's made note of by specifically mentioning Archean Order by name.
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Morrokain

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2020, 11:23:27 PM »

Apologies. Total conversion mods are outside of the scope of the guide. But now I've clarified that point where it's made note of by specifically mentioning Archean Order by name.

Fair enough.
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Dark.Revenant

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2020, 01:37:48 AM »

Just a quick note: The SWP Cathedral spam is solely because the Luddic Church does not have any other combat capital ship to spawn.  Capital carriers (e.g. Legion) are a totally separate category.  The only good way to resolve it is to add yet another ship for the LC to spawn in the Cathedral's category, since currently there's no way to tell the engine "just spawn two combat cruisers instead of the Cathedral most of the time".
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Captain Trek

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2020, 03:50:42 AM »

The only good way to resolve it is to add yet another ship for the LC to spawn in the Cathedral's category

I tried that, but Luddic Enhancement's green Onslaughts don't seem to do the job. Hell, they don't seem to show up much at all, even without SWP installed. ^^;
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Valikdu

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Re: [0.9.1a] Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2020, 04:21:57 AM »

The only good way to resolve it is to add yet another ship for the LC to spawn in the Cathedral's category

I tried that, but Luddic Enhancement's green Onslaughts don't seem to do the job. Hell, they don't seem to show up much at all, even without SWP installed. ^^;

With Arsenal, they use Vanquishes all the time, it fits
« Last Edit: January 28, 2020, 04:29:01 AM by Valikdu »
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