People seem to have the idea that "a fair fight" consists of two equally-matched opponents risking it all in a thrilling space battle. But if one were to stop and consider for a few moments what "equally-matched" could possibly mean, it becomes clear that there is no such thing as a fair fight. Consider this short list of factors that contribute to one's ability to win a fight:
- Skills (in broad terms, skills affect speed, DPS, EHP, agility, and the modules one may fit; in more narrow terms, skills affect speed, the damage capability of the turrets one may fit, the range of those turrets, the rate of fire of those turrets, the tracking of those turrets, the damage capability of one's drones, the number of drones, the range of the drones, the speed of the drones, the hp of the drones; they affect the actual HP of one's ship, the resists to various damage types one has, one's scan resolution, one's manuverability; they affect the size of one's turrets and the tech levels of one's modules). In other words, fighting completely fair has to start at the beginning of a pod pilot's training.
- Ship and modules. Two equally-skilled pilots may make different choices as to ship (e.g. Incursus or Tristan) or modules (e.g. web or tracking disruptor). Even ships with roughly the same fitting could actually have modules with different meta levels. Further, two ships fit identically could still load different ammo. So fighting fair has to take into account one's fitting bay.
- Numbers. More is better. This is easily controlled, unless you don't find it easy deciding which members of your gang don't get to get in on the killmail.
- Pilot experience. At what range to fight? Traveling at what speed? Which modules to activate, and when? Which ammo type to load? Which drones to deploy? Shoot the ship, or take out her drones first? Fly into that asteroid field, or steer clear? Should I use up my own cap to suck up theirs? Good answers to these questions come from native intelligence and experience, and an intimate knowledge of the other pilot's ship, modules, experience, and personality doesn't hurt, either.
On the other hand...
I do actually believe that the combat we engage in is fair. Let's back things up a little.
- As a pilot, I am free to choose which skills to train, which ships to spend my money on, and how to fit that ship. Sure, I can't have it all, but the information is available to me to help me understand the trade-offs. No other pilot in the game makes these decisions for me.
- As a pilot, I am free to roam lawless space's asteroid belts, or stay huddled in my hangar. I get to decide whether to undock, and where to go and what to do if I so choose. The information is available to me to assess the risk of any activity: system security levels, recent kills, pilots in space--all are publically available information. In the system where I am--in the place where my ship is vulnerable--I have further intelligence on every other pilot: their security status, their employment history, and their tenure as a pilot.
- As a human being, I get to choose whether to live a solitary existence, or whether to build relationships with others. Society with others can be a powerful deterrant, and having friends who are willing to risk themselves for my sake can make all the difference in whether I win or lose a battle. If I do have such friends, I get to make the decision whether to fly with or without them.
- Finally, in many instances I get to decide whether or not to engage. The judicious use of coverts ops cloaking devices, warp core stabilizers, safe spots, and speed cover a multitude of combat vulnerabilities once one has made the decision to share space with combat-ready vessels of all types.
The basis for fairness in New Eden is free will (I get to choose how to prepare myself and my vessel), full disclosure (I have access to information that helps me assess risks), and actual rules (everyone knows that anyone may attack anyone in any system of any security status).
No fair fights in New Eden, you say? "All is fair in love and war," says I.