Freelancer offers a massive variety of ways to set up a ship, and discovery has taken that to a whole new level. Even your starflier can be optimized into a half way decent mission boat. Unfortunately, many people seem to miss this. I see fittings that are at about 5 different ranges and fire rates.
Remember, this is a RP server. That means that even if you see a shiny gun that does 2x more damage than yours that belongs to an enemy or unassociated faction, you cannot grab it. Please also remember that these fittings have to be APPLIED in a RP context. As someone once put it, do not fit up a solo pwnage battleship and siege new london. Now that this important rule is in mind, lets look at fitting.
Selecting a Ship
In Freelancer and EVE, ships have well defined roles. While some groups are more versatile than others, most of the time you want to choose a ship that works for what you need to do. Remember it also has to be a ship you can legally fly in RP. Here is a breakdown....
Fighters: Good for determining your path in Freelancer, scouting, missions, hunting NPCs, exploration. Also good for fleet engagements. PVP.
Bombers: Good for coop missions (some bombers have a fighter problem) and fleet engagements. PVP.
Gunboats: Good for missions and hunting NPCs as well as PVP. Great for tanking damage in a mission.
Cruisers: Like gunboats, but much tougher.
Battleships: Either PVP or missions/hunting NPCs.
Liners/Freighters: Trade, collecting loot.
Transports: Trade, hunting NPCs due to large cargo hold with good weapons.
I believe that's it. If I missed anything let me know. Those roles are based on my observations and talking to others.
There are 5 factors to choosing a weapon: Range, Fire Rate, Damage,energy consumption, and Type. The range of a weapon determines how far it shoots, fire rate determines how often it refires, damage is what damage it deals, and type is the damage type dealt (Photon for example). Energy consumption is how much power it takes to fire.
You should pick one of these to work with. Typically, weapons do one but not the other. Read the descriptions to see the ups and downs of a weapon.
Next you need to formulate a combat strategy. Do you want to go head-on and destroy them in a single salvo or do you intend to fire many shots until you actually hit? I have to use the second one because of my....interesting....piloting skills and the lag. However, maybe you want to do a lot of damage fast and close.
Now buy weapons that fit that. Remember that your slots can only hold a certain type of weapon. Let's stop here for a second. Ships have an optimal weapons class, or the combination that best balances damage and sustainability of fire. For example, you may be able to fit 6 class 10s, but maybe class 8s would be better in the end.
There are two routes to go here: 1. Moar damage! Basically, you fit the maximum damage you can and be accurate. 2, sustained fire. You have the ability to sustain fire on a target for a long time. If you are energy stable, you may be able to deal more damage in the end.
The final consideration is what your hunting. Different NPCs have different shields. Some weapons are more effective than others. Fit your ship with the strongest damage type against what your hunting. For example, liberty rogues in NY should be hunted with photon and laser weapons. In EVE, this saves you a lot of time missioning. In fact, in EVE, it saves you almost 50% more time sometimes. In Freelancer, it has a similar effect.
Tanking is the art of absorbing damage without dying. There are multiple ways to go about this.
Speed Tanking: You can maneuver well enough to keep out of the line of fire. This means they are shooting blanks. I recommend the Arrow for this.
Shield Tanking: Fit a strong shield generator, the rest comes naturally.
Armor Tanking: Fit a large armor extension such as an Armor Upgrade MkV. This greatly increases your armor. Remember you'll need many bots.
Omni Tanking: This is the most likely one you'll use. You want to cram as much EHP (effective HP) into your ship as possible. We will focus here.
For Omni Tanking you will want to get a strong shield generator and thick armor upgrade. You also want to find a ship you can fly that supports large amounts of shield and armor. You will also need to recharge yourself with bots and bats. Effective Hit Points are how much damage you can absorb before dying. So, here is a formula... Modifier is how much armor is added.
EHP = Armor*modifier + (bots*600 ) + Shield + (bats*300 )
So, my order fighter has 11038 shields, 14500 armor (base), 78 bots, 78 bats, a 2.1 modifier armor upgrade. Very nice? Let's see how much that gives me....
EHP = 14500*2.1 + (78*600) + 11038 + (78*300)
That gives me.....111,688 EHP. That's a lot of damage that can be absorbed!
Think of the EHP of a battleship!
Next, defend yourself against your foes: Use shields that are strong against them. This adds more EHP that will not be listed here due to the shield modifiers.
If you are a fleeter, you may want to sacrifice something for the good of the fleet. For example, why not sacrifice your bots/bats to someone who needs them? Or maybe you can simply be a cargo carrier. When in a fleet as a fighter, why not give up one slot for a Mini Razor to deal with big stuff (ungroup it tho)?
Equipment like a thruster or scanner is important too. They can drain energy as well as provide role-fitting abilities.
First of all, thrusters drain power from your ship when active. This means the less power drained, the more power for other things.
Secondly, scanners do different things. Cargo scanners let you check cargo from afar for example. Make sure your fitted for what you plan to do.
Finally, different people have different opinions on fitting ships; if your fit works, run with it.
Woah, text wall! I hope this has helped you in some little way. I sleep now (not literally). Contact me for more info or if you see a problem.