The Scientific Method rules on page 157 of the STA core rulebook are great for researching new theories of doing something or the cause of an unknown problem.
I made a quick pdf to print out, that lets the Research Lead keep track of their progress. Download the scientific method pdf.
We always need some kind of pressure on the players to make mechanics like this function as designed. Here’s a few ways of doing that.
The first, and most common, is to simply limit time. This is the “standard” approach for creating pressure. The ship will explode in 6 time intervals unless this gets solved – good luck, Lieutenant!
A special note here – always remember to set time intervals such that a “round” or standard task time is 2 of those intervals. This allows for the expenditure of momentum to cut task time in half.
Limited Time can be combined with an extended task. For instance, there’s 12 time intervals total, but that includes both researching a new approach, and then completing an extended task to implement the solution. Best not take too long to research!
Another approach to consider is leaving the time intervals unbound, but creating a problem the longer it takes. The most abstract way of accomplishing this is to add 1 threat per time interval taken to finish the research. Then in the next scene, that threat can resolve into the penalty for taking so long.
This could also be done in varying patterns, like 0.5 threat per time interval initially but after 4 time intervals it starts accelerating. Use this rarely, though, as there’s probably not much gained by the complexity.
Might be nice to figure out a way to track that ship that’s found a way to fire while cloaked, right? In this model, the time is unlimited right up until the player’s ship takes too much damage and explodes. There’s a lot of pressure to find the right solution, quickly.
This also competes for resources – some players will be involved in combat and repairs, while some are trying to hurry through the research. Because of the smaller number of available assistants, consider a lower number of target successes than normal.
How do you keep pressure on the players? Feel free to comment with other ideas.