Like a lot of players here, I've been disappointed by barbaric despoilers as a concept. Rather than being awesome Space Vikings, Barbaric Despoilers play more like any other empire, only with a practically worthless extra CB, and a mechanic that is also available to almost everyone else via the Nihilistic Acquisition perk (and without the diplomatic penalties that BDs have).
I would like to make Barbaric Despoilers function more like the Vikings from Crusader Kings 2. If you haven't played CK2, the vikings can put their armies into a "raiding" stance, and then go on their merry way raping and pillaging along the coasts of England and France. They are not actually at war with their raiding target, but they are considered hostile towards said nation.
Something similar could be used for Barbaric Despoilers. You can put your fleets into a "Raiding Stance" which will allow them to ignore closed borders, but will make foreign assets hostile to this fleet. You can only toggle the stance within your own borders so that way you can't suddenly declare yourself off limits to a reprisal until you return to safety.
This way, you can send your fleets into nominally non-hostile empires, and raid their planets just as in vanilla. However, I would like to see a few more mechanics added into the game to make them more interesting.
For one, I would like to see resources gained based on the planets that are raided, rather than a lump sum of minerals and energy upon a treaty at the end of the raiding war. For example, if I send raiders to someone's farming world, I would like to see my monthly food income go up because I'm stealing food out of the farms. Any material good (food, minerals, consumer goods, alloys, and strategic goods) that is produced on a planet can be taken, and the amount that is produced is proportional to the amount actually produced on that planet, as well as the amount of fleet power present in the raiding fleet.
Diplomatically, I would like to keep this simple. There are already diplomatic penalties to being a Barbaric Despoiler, such as not being able to join a federation or have migration treaties, which seems rather reasonable. Perhaps this could change with the Federations Expansion where Hegemony Federations are a thing, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
However, I would like to change one thing diplomatically when it comes to the Barbaric Despoilers. I would like to remove the "Despoilation" casus belli for the Despoilers themselves, and replace it with a "Punitive Expedition" casus belli for everyone else. This will be an innate CB for every empire without the "defensive wars" policy, that if won, will disable raiding on your nation (or federation) by the Barbaric Despoiler for 20 years.
I think that this would make the Barbaric Despoilers much more interesting and fun, and create a more unique play style rather than just a useless piece of flavor.
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