I've started playing Eclipse Phase with a group of friends. Most of them have a Dungeons and Dragon history, and love getting magic items and such. I've already made up my mind to take the party on more dungeon raids, but what specifically can I do in the way of loot? It is a hard science fiction setting; no magic. It's noted in the core book that some brand-name weapons and items will have special features, and there is something called Psi that is basically watered-down psychic abilities. What are some recommendations you would make for drops and treasure caches?
The biggest difference between fantasy and sci-fi notions of value is that: ideas have value
Therefore, besides the standard stuff players receive, they can also discover what amounts to IP.
One of the oddest forms of IP is actually Real Estate, as it's a purely symbolic agreement that X owns area Y, even though X may not sit on Y with guns. (Note how this doesn't exist in most fantasy worlds.)
So one of the most interesting (from a cognitive dissonance point of view) rewards that players can get is the dungeon itself. They clear out an asteroid full of Nanoinfested Bots? They now own the asteroid and derive value from it. Our heros don't engage in Loot, Pillage, Burn any more, instead, they secure the objectives and get a stream of income. Sure, they can sell it, but it's far more interesting to present to them a tally of their "investment holdings" and recent events on each one. Plenty of plot hooks there and a way to get exactly the level of loot into their hands that you want without having to find ways of pushing the shiny things into the mission de jour.
Other forms of IP are roughtly grouped into the "valuable memes" grouping. So, one thing of great value would be an ancient mpX player with some hit songs from the 20th century. This is, of course, only of great value if managed correctly, but enterprising players will see the value in rare memes. And if they don't, then the first few times they release the IP into the infosphere, they get flamed/praised for their generosity.
And so on. The notion of value was hugely changed by the Industrial Revolution (that we're still in, arguably.) and by hitting home with the idea that "ideas have value" you can give them loot and emphasize the non-fantasy setting in ways that will make the less thinky players quite squeamish (yay! cognitive dissonance!).
Of course, they can be compensated for their efforts with upgraded gear and stuff, but that's expected.
Note: I've read a little about Eclipse Phase but I'm not really familiar with the setting or the system, so take anything I say with a grain of salt. ;)
Guessing that just handing out money (cred chips, rare metals and ores, etc.) wouldn't satisfy your players I would consider following options:
Multi-part construction plans for special gear
Instead of giving them the prototype weapon/armor/cloaking device/etc hand out some memory chips (or other preferred data storage device) containing one of several parts of the construction plan to build the prototype.
Example: "The chip contains part of a very detailed construction plan for what appears to be a brand new plasma rifle design. You've found the part detailing the plasma generation chamber and it seems that the complete plan consists of 4 parts in total. Notes in the plan indicate that the other parts describe the barrel, the firing mechanism and the energy matrix and storage."
Often the option to upgrade an existing piece of equipment is just as good as brand new gear. Upgrades can come in the shape of actual components for the weapon/armor/etc (e.g. a better scope for a rifle or a better CPU for a hacking device) or some sort of nano-assemblers improving one characteristic of the equipment they are applied to.
Example: "You've found a tube of what appears to be a set of nano-assemblers. From the RFID description sent out from the tube the nano-bots can be applied to a weapon and can improve one characteristic of the weapon. You can program the bots to improve the weapon's accuracy [bonus to attack roll], its power management [more shots per energy cell or rate of fire], or its energy discharge [higher damage]."
Perhaps the solution to one of the group's plot related pains would also make good treasure. Experimental medical nano-bots being able to heal a mortally wounded/ill NPC, a prototype drug inducing psychic abilities in a character (so that the player can either add that feature to his character or redo some choices that are otherwise unchangeable), or a top secret (and probably dangerous/volatile) engine booster so that the characters can get somewhere where they are needed really really fast are possible options here.
Example: "From the data you've collected from the station's main computer you conclude that the box in front of you contains the experimental Fusion Engine Booster. The technical description mention that it provides so much additional power directly to any craft's engines that the vehicle's maximum speed is increased by 200% for up to 12 hours; further, it projects an energy field absorbing the additional hull stress imposed by the increased speed. However, the testing protocols indicate that the device is unstable - probably the reason why the project was abandoned - and can damage the engines or the hull of the vehicle it is used on. No matter the risk, with this device you could make it to the capitol before the traitor can arm the bomb in the Congress building."
- Self-mobile plot-hook - NPC similar to Princess Leia in SW Ep IV in role. In distress, but of use down the road
- Illegal goods of use to the party
- Better weapons than the party has... if they can take them from the current owners.
- Rescue a trainer who can provide them esoteric skills training
- maps to other places to raid
- Entry Tokens to Eroticon 6 (HHGTTG reference...)
- repair parts
- almost untraceable bulk cargo of high value
- Readily traceable very high value cargo worth black marketing (ADVENTURE HOOK FROM H***)
- parts for improving their gear
- manuals for various bits of gear
- objects d'arte
It doesn't have to be something that has a direct/immediate value to your players
There are many things you can give to your players, as other answers have shown, but I propose something immaterial that can have the same and much more value in the long-term: Influence and Intelligence. You can give them Items with no value to themselves, but to others. Maybe it's Intelligence that you yourselves can't really use, or something of symbolic value to a faction or individual of power.
Just because you have money doesn't necessarily mean you can get what you want. Specific equipment, especially high-grade military stuff, may be barred behind either government officials and their laws regarding access to military hardware OR can only obtained by knowing the right people in the underworld.
Either way, you will need some influence and respect over/from these people, or they will either not even talk to you, or worse, prosecute you in some way for attempting to get access to that sweet hardware.
Sometimes, being well-equipped is not enough. Sometimes, you just need someone to back you up. Would it not be great to have someone with influence back your actions up and shield you from unwanted repercussions (to a reasonable degree)? Someone who can clean up your mess after your opponent had the upper hand while your well-crafted plan misfired due to "battlefield contact" and its unforseeable consequences?
Maybe, the players are interested in influencing political discourse, either directly as an actor at the front, or as agents in the back? While completely different, both again require someone of power to vouch for you
In many modern-day and science-fiction stories (as well as some magic settings like WoD) it is not necessarily the equipment that helps you to achieve your goals, but information. You can't kill that adversary, unless you know how to find him. And even if you do where he is, how can you get to him? You know that there is a ton of guards at that place where you know where your special part for your exoskeleton is, so many in fact that a frontal assault is very risky at the least, but almost futile to attempt. What if you could get information on where and when the next supply run for that installation starts, so you could infiltrate it? Or, there could be information on an adversary that operates without you knowing it, and opens up a new plot line to interact with.
Or, tied in with the previous section on Influence: You know someone wants that information you just recovered. You might get their support or even friendship by delivering this piece of itelligence to them, so they return the favor some day.
Goto RPGNow and look at the first three Traveller Adventures,
If you get one Twilight Peaks is the one to get. They are pretty stat light and while the Imperium is not a Eclipse Phase style background they do overlap in addressing various science fiction issues. For example the Kinunir has an ship A.I as part of the central plot. Reasearch Station Gamma and Twilight Peak could be plotted to involve genetic engineering.