Two ideas. First, I always wished Salvage was a bit more important in CE. I thought it would be good if lots of wrecks could contribute to more bad events, as it makes sense that flying through garbage-ridden space is more dangerous. (Just ask NASA or ESA.)
So… What if combat wrecks had a chance of exploding?
Make the chance roughly one half or one fifth the tonnage (HP?) of the wreck. The chance occurs when the wreck times out. Usually the just drift off into space, but there is a small chance they detonate.
If a wreck is partially salvaged, the chance of detonation obviously greatly decreases. If the wreck is completely salvaged, either no explosion, or if the explosion occurs it is harmless. (Nothing more than a cool special effect.)
There are two options with the damage.
The ship does 1d10 damage for every full 10 points tonnage of the wreck. The tiniest wrecks are just flashing lights, while a sizeable wreck is a major challenge. The damage is rolled once, and then reduced by -10 for every one step distance. (Every one distance “taxi driver” measurement, like how the game currently measures weapon ranges.) Distance from the wreck is safety. It would also be possible to lure enemy ships near wrecks, while you back away a square or two. This could be a risky way of taking down stronger enemies.
Instead of damage, there is a chance that nearby ships have a “struck by debris” event chance. This could be a chance equal to tonnage or half the tonnage for adjacent squares, then a -10% or so reduction for each step distance. There may have to be some tweak for this to affect enemy ships.
Con: Combat grinding solo would be dangerous. Too many wrecks would make an area a minefield. Regular cleanup would be needed to create a “safe area”.
Con…?: A ship minding its own business could suddenly take damage and come into combat angry. Surely Coops wouldn’t enjoy something provoking idle ships into more dangerous combat, he’s not that mean. (Everyone, quick, smile and nod!)
Pro: Salvagers would be valuable in large combats, like repair support, keeping space lanes safe. Selectively keeping a clean “safe” zone and dangerous enemy zone could help swing dangerous battles.
Pro: Coops would no longer have to take a mining laser to his stupid questions salt to shed debris to pelt our ships. This would give a naturally occurring source.