The game has - not really surprisingly - a strong combat focus. Still, there are a few scenarios and situations where it seems that - as Utopian as they are - the Federation ideals aren't really held up, and Starfleet comes off as an agressor. Most of that is part of the mission design, but I wonder if one couldn't also create a game mechanic reflecting this theme?
Normally in combat, it is best to take the initative and fire the first shot. But that doesn't really fit the way Starfleet ship traditionally acted - typically, they react with force only when attacked first. So, to facilitate that - give a Starfleet ship that didn't fire yet a defensive bonus, maybe damage resistence or just a greater miss-chance, an ability to negate or shorten the duration of enemy attacks.
In a way, it would be the counter of the Klingon out-of-combat cloak - without removing the general advantages of cloak. There should also probably be an offensive penalty when you shoot under this "Federation Peace Flag" before anyone has attacked you...
From a pure roleplaying perspective, it creates a good reason to not come in guns blazing...
Wow man, that is a really great Idea. If federation ships received a nice defense buff for being fired upon first, I would slowly cruise into every encounter and never try to get that crucial first strike off. Fits with canon too.
That said, I think it's important to come to grips with the idea that this is not the Federation of TNG, nor even the Federation of DS9. STO is set in an era where the Federation is literally at war with a whole slew of enemies; the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians, the Dominion, the Borg. Wartime breeds, by necessity, a different set of ideals and a different way of operating. Diplomacy is not always the solution.
If you're at war with the Romulans, you don't wait for them to shoot you before shooting back, because tactically that's a pretty severely bad idea. When you're at war, you win or you die. Winning is better.
Technically, the Federation isn't at war with the Romulans. The Klingons are. Doesn't mean there aren't current hostilities, but that's mostly the splinter faction of the surviving RSE stirring up trouble. Case in point, the Romulans were allowing Federation survey missions into the Hobus system (with limitations) and not attacking. Not exactly what happens between two civilizations at war with each other.
The Alpha Quadrant Jem'Hadar might be another matter, as are the Borg and the Hirogen, but the Cardassians are as above... those belonging to a splinter faction from the main established government seeking a new way for their people. The Terran Federation, well... good luck figuring out it's not one of your ships before it fires.
There are cases where a Federation ship would fire first. The Borg, absolutely. The Klingons, probably, provided they weren't cloaked (can't shoot what you can't see) or in an aggressive posture with weapons hot and locked (lack of immediate intent). The Jem'Hadar and Hirogen, possibly, though a Federation ship would likely attempt contact first. The Romulans, no, unless they make their intentions clear. The Cardassians, definitely not, until confirmed as hostile.
By the way, to the "not in Red Alert" debuff statement... there's such a thing as Yellow Alert. Raises a ship to defensive posture, when it's heading into a suspicious encounter. The only way that debuff would apply, is if the Klingon ship managed to close distance undetected, decloak and fire without warning. Even with that said, unless it's a deep space encounter, you're not likely to find a Federation ship travelling without at least shields up and weapon systems on standby, especially in Federation/Klingon contested space.
I believe this is a good idea. I would suggest the following:
-The bonus should only apply when fighting certain races. Only those races that the federation is not currently at war with. War breeds a need to fight tactically which includes firing with the advantage of surprise.
-It should not confer the same bonus for every race to which it applies. This, to represent the current level of hostilities between the federation and the opposing race. (full bonus for peaceful race, half bonus for hostile but not warring race, and no bonus for a race at war with the federation) I suppose this one is really an extension of the first one...
-it should also confer a debuff, should a ship currently under the buff, fire first on another mob of ships or a ship that has not yet fired upon it.
-And show the Klingons some love too, the bonus FOR firing first makes just as much sense.