Monday, 29 June 2009

Negative 5 (And Counting)

One of the real challenges of a pirate, particularly an aspiring pirate such as myself, is dealing with the inevitable consequences of your actions. Almost every pirate will, at some point, find themselves locked out of high security systems. Eventually, they may become outlaws, free game for anyone to kill on sight. For any aspiring pirate it is something which is inevitable. As a member of the Guristas Associates once said: “If, at the end of your pirate career, you don’t have a negative sec status, chances are you suck at pirating. Better just hop back in you hulk and get back to mining…”

Last night, I took the plunge and became an outlaw. On the way back from a roam in Amarr space, we encountered a thorax in Mormelot. Naturally, in a large gang and with Tracking Disruptors in our fleet, we could not lose, and the first Thorax popped as expected. As the first Thorax exploded, a second Thorax warped in and engaged us. He too was destroyed. The two engagements were positively mundane; such fights can be found anywhere. The differentiating factor of this fight was that the sec status hit from the first Thorax reduced my sec status to -5.1. I was now an outlaw…

Unfortunately I found no other engagements that night, docked up, and returned to Hevrice the next morning. The remainder of the morning was dominated by logistical runs and I found little solid time to undock until the evening.

Tonight, I took my new, fully fitted, Rifter for a spin. I checked out all of the usual places. However, as I entered Hulmate and Vitrause, the quintessential carebear systems, I found that all of the miners and ratters fled the system as I entered. I tried to engage an Auguror as he was sitting in Vitrause but he bolted as soon as I appeared on his overview. Discouraged, I continued to Palmon where I found no fights. Discouraged further, I decided to head to Old Man Star to find a fight.

As I jumped into Vitrause, I was greeted by a somewhat pleasant sight, an empty local channel. I decided to use this opportunity to run a quick test on my ship. I have heard of finding the sweet spot of your ship -the orbital radius where you angular velocity is highest- and endeavored to find out my sweet spot for myself. I began approaching the gate to do the first test at 500 meters when the gate activated and a Harbinger class Battlecrusier jumped into system. The harbinger spared no time in locking and firing upon my frigate, successfully stripping my shields away and cutting deeply into my armor. Panicking, I jumped through the gate again to Palmon with my armor at 50% integrity.

I waited for several minutes at the Vitrause gate but the harbinger did not jump through to reengage me. I jumped back into Vitrause to find both the Palmon and Onne gates to be mercifully empty.

Again, I found no fights in Aeschee or Ladister and my roam in Old Man Star was uneventful. Disappointed, I planned to return to Hevrice and dock up for the night when I discovered a problem with my overview settings which may have accounted for the somewhat anomalous lack of targets on my directional scanner. I landed on the Ladister gate and found it to be devoid of targets. Confident that the gate guns would protect me while I configured my overview settings (temporarily forgetting that I was an outlaw and that I could be aggressed by other ships without incurring the wrath of the sentry guns) to allow all ship types to appear on my overview, I quickly got to work.

As I configured my overview A Tristan landed on the gate and began to burn towards me. Blissfully unaware of the fact that the Tristan could aggress me at the gate, I thought nothing of it and continued to select the necessary ship types that would appear on my overview.

When the Tristan was within 1,000 meters of me, he locked me and opened fire with his powerful advanced blasters, stripping half my shields away. I quickly closed the overview screens, cycled my weapons and damage systems up and returned the lock. I was able to fire immediately but the one second it took for my targeting systems to acquire a firing solution, the Tristan was able to squeeze off another salvo at my ship, reducing my shields to 25% integrity. My targeting software finally resolved and my weapons systems sprang to life, my 200mm autocannons firing rounds of barrage at my target, melting his shields in a matter of seconds. Now, with both of us into armor, the fight quickly intensified. However, I made the mistake of choosing a tight 1,000 m orbit which meant that my autocannons poorer tracking reduced the damage I was inflicting on my target while his blasters and rockets successfully tore away at my armor. With my armor at 50% integrity and the Tristan’s at 75% I activated my repair systems and attempted to kite him to minimize his transversal. It worked for several moments, and I managed to land a slew of wrecking shots on the Tristan reducing his armor integrity to about 40% while I managed to hold my armor at just over 30%.

Now the fight went downhill. the Tristan called to his other corp member in system for backup, which swiftly arrived in the form of a Rifter class frigate. At the same time, my own Rifter capped out, and, under the combined power of both of the frigates guns, my ship succumbed.

So what did I learn from the fight you might ask? The answer: quite a lot. Firstly, I should always use ammo such as RF EMP for close range work; the tracking penalty inherent in Barrage makes it less ideal for close range work.

Secondly, I must remember, as an outlaw, to be prepared for a fight wherever I go; there are people everywhere spoiling for a fight and I must not become easy prey for them.

Thirdly, and most importantly, if I am going to draw my attention away from the main game screen, I must remember to safe up…

In the end, I made no excuses to the pilot; I simply posted a GF in local and went back to Hevrice in a pod. It was my own idiocy, and general ignorance that lost me my ship, and it my opponents daring and savvines that allowed him to come out on top. Now I know my mistake and shall continue to learn.

The next morning, I awoke to find a pleasant surprise on battleclinic. The offending pilot had lost his ship shortly after I lost mine, and I appeared as the top damage dealer. Justice had been achieved!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

East Is East

Although I like to think of myself as a veteran 0.0 pilot, the validity of such a bold statement is highly overstated. During my time as a member of The Caldari Confederation (abbreviated as the TCA) I spent an inordinate amount of time in Providence, basing myself out of 9UY4-H for weeks on end, ratting, mining and dodging- sometimes fighting- the occasional AAA or U’K gang that would pass though.

That said, it is hard to imagine providence as ‘true’ 0.0 space. For one thing, the area I like to call ‘Northern Providence’ (All areas accessed directly by the KBP7-G and Y-MPWL pipelines are dubbed 'Northern Povidence') are densely populated and relatively safe. Thanks to local Intel channels such as ‘thecitadel’, it is possible to know the location of a hostile gang almost as soon as they enter the region, meaning that, with all necessary precautions, it is possible to minimize, or even altogether avoid, ship loss. During my 5 months as a TCA member, I have only lost one ship in northern providence as a result of non-consensual PVP. Thus some find it easier to think of providence as an extension of low security, or ‘lowsec’ space.

Sothern providence is slightly different (I personally think of 'Southern Providence' as the area adjacent to the system of D-GTMI). Here, AAA and U’K roaming gangs are a frequent, almost everyday, occurrence and are generally free to roam the systems of 'Southern Providence' with relative ease. Thus 'Sothern Providence' can be likened to more to real 0.0 space, as opposed to an extension of lowsec, albeit a lowsec extension with better rats and ores. I’ll not say much about sothern providence as I have only really spent 3 or 4 days down there, during my short stint in the corporation ‘Whips Chains and Ballgags’. During that stint, I lost a drake to a U'K pilot and vowed never to head down there again.

However, yesterday, spurred on by the efforts of fellow tusker pilots such as Wensley, I decided to go for a roam in 0.0, namely the drone regions of the Kalevala Expanse and Etherium Reach. If I was lucky, I might extend the trip by heading to the system of M-VACR (a personal goal that I have yet to achieve) in the Cobalt Edge region. Spurred by the thrill of adventure, I fitted up a classic ‘active’ Rifter, filled its cargo hold with ammunition, and excused myself from the locality for the time being.

In order to save time, I decided not to travel exclusively through low security space and to cut through Gallente and Minmatar high security systems or ‘highsec’. This was to prove difficult as I cannot travel through any systems with a security of 0.6 or above in Gallente space. I am also dubbed an ‘enemy’ of the Minmatar, by virtue of the -5.0 standing I have with the faction, and thus cannot travel through any high security Minmatar systems without incurring the wrath of the local faction police.

This proved to be a non issue for the overwhelming majority of the highsec leg of my journey. However, an on the ball pilot in Colelie decided to annoy me slightly and bumped my Rifter while I was aligning to the Bei gate. This allowed a few members of the faction police to squeeze of a couple of shots at my rifter, successfully demolishing my shields and cutting slightly into my armor. However, I was able to warp out and passed through the remaining high security systems undisturbed.

I arrived in LXQ2-T without incident and set my destination for the system of HPV-RJ in the Kalevala Expanse, a system I was vaguely familiar with, having travelled through the system and the surrounding locality by means of a wormhole a number of months ago.

The Journey through Etherium Reach continued to be uneventful and somewhat boring. The drone regions are very large and tend to be sparsely populated, save for any border systems and some isolated pockets of activity. One pilot however took to chasing me through the region in his Vagabond. However he seemed ill experienced with 0.0 space as well as the local pipelines and systems, as he seemed to take his time at each gate, carefully contemplating where I could have gone. Eventually, he took a wrong turn and disappeared from local altogether, leaving me free to pass through the remainder of Etherium Reach unscathed.

Things took a turn for the worst as I jumped in to AY-B15. Both of the gates in the system were camped (but not bubbled, thank god). I evaded the first camp with surprising ease (no sensor boosted ‘ceptor and no interdiction bubbles meant that I went to warp before any of the camping pilots could lock and point me). Thus, I took to being chased by a group of rowdy pilots who were spoiling for a kill. As I jumped in to SG-3HY, a sensor boosted crow was waiting on the other side of the gate. As I aligned to the G-KCFT gate, the crow pilot locked and pointed me. However, I didn’t panic as I normally do in hopeless situations such as these. I returned his lock, loaded EMP ammunition into my autocannons and engaged my afterburner. It worked beautifully. I started to land light blows against his ship and my shield was absorbing his light missiles, corrently holding at 60% integrity. At least for the moment, I began to feel that I could win this fight and continue my journey.

As the Crow’s shields dropped to 50% integrity, support by means of a veritable fleet of Vagabonds (this ship is a damn Vagabond magnet!) as well as several Crows and Taranises. However only one Vagabond and one other crow managed to land blows on me before my poor little Rifter popped. To add insult to injury, my pod was popped shortly afterwards too.

It turned out to be a rather fruitless and uneventful trip. I didn’t make it to my destination system of HPV-RJ, nor did I learn that much from my one and only engagement of the trip, but such is life. At least now I have an idea of what real 0.0 is like!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Hold The Line!

Hold The Line!

Tonight started of in a normal manner. I did my tour of the systems in Verge Vendor. The vast majority of the systems were empty, I tried to engage a mining Osprey in Hulmate, but he was aligned and bolted as soon as I landed on the belt he was mining in. Disappointed, I returned to Hevrice and docked up with the intention of taking a quick rest before heading to Old Man Star to find a fight. However that was not to be. A gang was forming up to head to placid. Not one to turn down a fleet op, I ran to my Rifter and prepped it for launch while posting an X in corp chat. I undocked from the station and rendezvoused with the rest of the fleet at a safe spot. With the gang assembled, we saddled up and headed to Placid.

The roam up in placid was relatively uneventful. Our scout picked up a drake at a belt in Dastryns. The decision was made to engage. The scout made the tackle and we warped in and popped the drake in short order. As we waited our GCC’s down, the pilot split loot up and we prepared to leave system. The remainder of the roam went uneventfully.

As we prepared to head back to Hevrice we caught a flashy Paladin at our gate, Convinced that our gang could take on the Amarr marauder (He was taking sentry fire, and his armor was dropping, albeit very slowly!) a locked and pointed him, at the same time moving 5,000 meters from the gate. The FC decided to run rather than to fight and the remainder of the fleet jumped through. By this time, the Paladin had returned my lock and began firing on me with his powerful tachyon lasers. Luckily his guns tracked too slowly to keep up with my Rifter and I was able to evade the attacks.

Convinced that I could survive long enough to burn back to the gate, I ran, activating my afterburner, hoping to reach the gate before he could pop my fragile ship. At the same time, the Paladin released a flight of 5 Ogre II’s and webbed my frigate as I closed the distance to the gate. I was 3,000 meters off and closing fast.

I could make it!

The Ogres locked me and, in one volley, took my shields to 50%. Now at 2,500 meters, I selected the gate and started hammering the jump button as hard as I could. However the gate denied my jump due to acts of aggression.


Now I was panicking, everything I learned fell apart, I should have reactivated my Afterburner and orbited the gate, instead I just sat motionless in my frigate hammering the jump button. The ogres fired again, and, in another volley, stripped the remaining 50% of my shields and began to make steady inroads on my armor. Finally, my aggression counter was up, and I was able to jump through with 75% armor integrity.

I met up with the fleet and, collectively, we began to make the return journey to Hevrice. Again, we met no resistance heading back to our home systems until we reached Melmaniel. One of our scouts reported an Arbitrator sitting at a belt (or at least I think it was a belt). A game of cat and mouse ensued until finally, our scout caught the arbitrator at a planet. A point was called and the fleet jumped through to Melmaniel and warped to the planet. Under the combined power of our gang’s weapons, the Arbitrator’s shields quickly dropped and we began working on his armor. Rounds of barrage and bolts of plasma from our ships and a collection of drones pounded against his Arbitrator, melting and twisting pieces of golden Amarrian armor plating off. His armor has dropped to 25% in a matter of seconds and it looked like we were going to acquire the second kill of our roam when two Thorax class cruisers warped in. The order was given to scatter, and our collection of frigates and cruisers warped off to various safe spots and celestials, however not before the offending arbitrator was destroyed.

As I initiated warp, I could see ships flying out in all directions, fleeing the scene before the powerful Gallente cruisers could lock and point our precious frigates. Unfortunately Caster was pointed by one of the thoraxes and his Taranis class interceptor was quickly destroyed.

We quickly safed up our ships and took a quick couple of minutes to repair our shields and armor and to lick our wounds. Leo Solunar and another pilot (whose name evades me at the moment) took this opportunity to fit tracking disruptors on to their ships. With tracking disruptors, it would be possible to reengage to two Thoraxes and survive long enough against their guns to pop their drones and then destroy the two ships without sustaining major casualties.

With the two tracking disruptor modules fitted ships in our fleet, the order was given to warp back to the planet and to primary the closest thorax the warp in point. As the shields of the first thorax dropped to ¼ integrity, Chatgirls, the Arbitrator pilot we killed before, reentered the fray in a second Arbitrator. Keeping the two tracking disruptors on the Thoraxes, Chatgirls was called primary and her ship was destroyed with little resistance. Attention shifted to the Thoraxes, The closest thorax to the fleet was called primary, and fell to the combined power of our guns. The second thorax pilot hung 20km off the warp-in point and burned towards us as his buddy began taking structural damage. As the closest pilot to his ship, the second thorax locked me and released a flight of Hammerhead II’s upon my ship. Luckily, the drones failed to hit me, and, as his buddy’s ship fell, attention shifted to the thorax that was attacking me. With the pilots’ guns disrupted twice over, and his drones unable to hit my fast moving frigate, his ship dropped in a matter of seconds, without hitting any of our frigates once.

Our gang had held the field, twice, with no casualties, against a gang that should have torn us to shreds. As we collected loot, a Merlin class frigate warped to the planet at range. Foreseeing another attack, the decision to move all of the loot to a safe place was made. However, before this plan could be implemented, an AF/ Interceptor gang warped in and engaged our frigate fleet. For some reason I was called primary by the hostile fleet and was attacked by no fewer then 3 Taranises, a Claw and a Jaguar. Needless to say, my ship exploded in less than 15 seconds, and I whipped my pod out of the fray as quickly as possible.

As I journeyed to Hevrice, reports came through. Our fleet had not only beaten back the hostile gang, but had also killed all three of the offending Gallente Interceptors. An attempt was made to escalate the fight further, with reports of a HAC gang making its way to Melmaniel. The decision was made to collect as much loot as possible and run back to Hevrice before we suffered any severe losses.

To sum the engagement, we held the same point in space twice over, against two gangs that should have torn our humble gang apart. In the end, we only suffered two losses versus seven kills. I would take an engagement like this over 0.0 fleet warfare any day!