Thursday, March 6, 2008

How do I savage you? Let me count the ways...(lowsec)

It wasn't long before my security status meant my highsec piracy days were behind me (and I found that out at the end of a sentry gun). Aside from the sentry guns at gates and space stations, in lowsec there are no authorities to punish acts of aggression. Interestingly, this means that as dangerous as lowsec may be, like highsec it remains most dangerous to the pirates themselves--the outlaws who can suffer sentry fire but are not defended by it.

Belt piracy is my meat-and-potatoes. Pirates scan celestial objects (mostly asteroid belts, but also planets, moons, and anything else they can get a fix on) for targets, warp to the target, and attack it. No CONCORD shows up, no faction police; it is tooth and claw, survival of the fittest.

There is a nasty food chain in belt piracy, with clueless pilots interested in mining and ratting at the bottom. However, pirates themselves are at risk at the belts, whether from anti-pirates or other pirates higher on the food chain. Hunters set out harmless-seeming mining vessels as bait; predators appear from under cloaks; reinforcements are called in...anything goes.

Hey you potential miners and ratters--I want to warn you just how at-risk you are in lowsec. Watch the local communications channel; it tells you when people enter the star system, and who they are. It can take just seconds for a pirate to scan you down to a specific belt, and then he's in warp; have warp core stabilizers (WCS or "stabs") so you can defeat their warp scramblers, or be fully aligned to warp out (aimed at your destination, engines engaged and ship moving), and warp out at the first sign of a pirate in the vicinity. A good pirate starts scanning while he's still cloaked from the jump gate, and has bookmarks already set up to scan as many points of interest as fast as possible (fast indeed--most pirates do little else but scan, hour after hour). And don't rely on your battleship to save you; that pirate in a T1 frigate just has to hold you down long enough for his mates to arrive from the other side of the gate.

Some corps set up well-organized mining ops in lowsec, with dedicated security vessels, scouts, and experienced PvP pilots. In such cases, things simply come down to who, from minute to minute, has the biggest blob--the miners or the pirates.

Gate camping. Although there are sentry guns at gates, their DPS is limited and many pirates shrug it off. This means they can sit there at the gate and kill anything that passes through. Pirates in certain cruisers or assault frigates can tank sentry guns long enough to pop a typical industrial ship, scoop up the loot, and get out; other pirates in battlecruisers and battleships can tank sentry guns all day, and just sit there waiting for prey to jump in. Well-organized gate camps have a network of cloaked scouts, so they know exactly who is coming through the gate, and when; they know what's in your cargo (even if it's in a container); they'll have a tackler that can lock most ships faster than they can enter warp; they'll have containers of cap boosters at hand, so their tank never fails; and they'll have ships in reserve or on the other side of the gate if you try to escape.

If you're in a fast ship, like a frigate (and especially interceptors), you can often escape gate camps simply by warping away to a point in front of you. Your small signature radius and quick acceleration don't give the big boys much time to lock you. If you're in a well-tanked ship, you can often escape small gate camps by simply returning to the jump-gate and jumping back through; anyone from the camp who's aggressed you has to wait out a short timer before they are allowed to jump through after you. Ships that can sustain plenty of damage can also load up their low slots with warp core stabilizers; they'll be locked, webbed, and damaged, but eventually they should be able to warp out.

Flying in a fast frigate can help you make it through most gate camps; but don't assume you won't be attacked just because you're in a lowly frigate or shuttle. Many pilots try to be inconspicuous when hauling expensive, low-volume loot such as BPO's--and gate campers know this.

By the way, pirates and anti-pirates are also adept at "turning" gate camps. They'll send an attractive target ahead, one that has a good tank, and perhaps several webbers and warp scramblers; then, about the time the gate campers start engaging the bait, they hear scouts reporting a blob of menacing warships approaching the other side of the gate. One or two of the gate campers often find themselves tackled, then destroyed.

Gate-camping tactics also apply at space stations, where this strategy is called, unsurprisingly, "station-camping."

Scanning down mission runners and breaking safe spots are also well-known lowsec practices, albeit ones that require a bit more skill than belt piracy or gate-camping. Some skilled pirates will use scan probes of various types to locate pilots running missions for agents, or perhaps other pirates who are taking refuge at a safe spot. Once they've got a fix on your location, they'll con an appropriate combat ship, call for reinforcements if desired, and head your way. In highsec, CONCORD would be there with immediate consequences--but not here in lowsec.

Some pirates are so good at what they do, and so familiar with the missions assigned in their star system, that they'll wait for you to kill off most or all of the rats, so that they can scoop up the officer loot and salvage your wrecks, just to sweeten the pot.

War-deccing is used in lowsec just as it is in highsec, by pirates who want to minimize their security hit or remove the threat of sentry fire.

Lowsec is fun--I recommend it. There is no reason to avoid it until you're flying some big mean battleship; in fact, the local pirates are probably more interested in killing battleships than T1 frigates. Come on in while the ships you lose are cheap--it just means the tuition you pay for learning PvP will be that much lower.

No comments: