I had a long holiday weekend and planned to us it to get into a naked clone and go roaming to celebrate completing Gallente Cruiser V. Thorax being the ship of choice. I figured I'd lose three or five of them and get podded a couple times. Well, best laid plans and all that. For various reasons I only had two sessions for roaming and lost one Thorax (and pod). At the end of the weekend I was disappointed with that, but after writing all this up I see there was a lot there to think about.
My Thorax was:
5x Heavy Neutron Blaster II (Fed Navy AM loaded, Null and Void available)
10MN Microwarpdrive II
Faint Epsilon Warp Scrambler I
2x X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
800mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Damage Control II
2x Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
2x Medium Ancillary Current Router I
1x Medium Capacitor Control Circuit I
Yes, I was going for the gank side, rather than the agility side. General plan was to run the target over, web them down so they can't move, turn off the MWD and orbit at best nonprop speed. But I knew going in that finding the fight was going to be a lot more work than any actual fighting.
I was joined by my friend Iorga in a Caracal and we started roaming through lowsec in Sinq. We hit a pretty good pattern where I would fleet warp and drop bookmarks while flipping back and forth to Dotlan and he would run the D-scan and look up the local inhabitants. In a really crude way I guess I was FC and he was in-system intel. That developed pretty naturally - it's interesting to think what we'd do with a third or fourth person. Another person doing intel wouldn't be bad I suppose, after that a proper scout might be nice. Part of being part of a small team is there definitely isn't anyone just riding along waiting to hit F1.
Crossing into Carrou we ran into a lowsec pirate corp that I'd encountered before, Tea and Sympathy. They were actually the very first pirate group I ran into in Eve. I had just gotten my Destroyer skill and decided to poke my head in lowsec to try a mission and one of them dropped in on me in a Hurricane. Fortunately I did barely know enough to be looking for it and after he dropped a scram on me I managed to burn my way out of range and warped my little tail back to highsec. Even more noob, I then talked two friends into trying to lay a trap for him to see if three of us could kill his Hurricane. Thanks to my lousy organization and all of our inexperience that resulted in Iorga's first podding - of course there wasn't just one pirate. I had poked my nose around in that area of space a few times since then but stayed clear of Tea and Sympathy.
So bringing us back from that flashback: there were combat probes out moments after we entered system. I don't recall exactly what we spotted on D-scan but I believe there were three active pilots for Tea and we decided to keep moving. Intimidation or wisdom, I don't know. I think it's fair to say that for two of us as relatively inexperienced PVPers we didn't want to take on three veterans on their home turf (see Lessons Learned below).
I think it was Crielere that we had a near thing. Generally I would jump gate first to check things out then Iorga would follow. That way if there was a camp we wouldn't both get caught and if there was one person who might engage a Thorax we might surprise them when the Caracal followed in. I stepped in, saw nothing and Iorga followed. I had no plans to try Rancer and while I was making up my mind an Omen came through the gate. What went through my mind was "sniper T3" (yes, I got it confused with the Oracle) so I gave the word for us to engage. Before we could get anything on him though he had crashed back through the gate. Bummer.
Now I mentioned that two days later to a more veteran friend of mine (though I think this time I misidentified it as the Oracle). He asked some very specific things of what I had done. I think I had just hit approach and turned on my MWD. "He would have burned you down. You had no transversal and a sig the size of a battleship." Ooh, yeah. Perhaps I should have headed straight for the gate instead, which would close with him (since it was where he Omen was heading) while still keeping some transversal. Hmmm - like I said, lots to learn.
My plan was to look for a larger lowsec pocket so we crossed over into The Forge heading for the strip of lowsec systems around Akora. I was wondering if we'd run across RvB action in progress - at the time I hadn't seen the news about RvB taking on Eve-Uni. But in Josamento we found a fight happening right on the gate and lo and behold there was a Scythe who had picked up a suspect flag (presumably for neutral repping). So we went to our optimals (which of course for a Thorax means "plant nose of ship against hull") scrammed and killed him. Now I was half expecting this to erupt into something bigger for our audacity to interfere, so as soon as I looted him I warped us to get out of there. However in retrospect I don't think the current crimewatch allows that. So yeah, not a big challenge to kill a T1 cruiser logi and run but you take what you can get.
Crossing into the area around the Forge's lowsec southeast Oijanen looked relatively hot on Dotlan's recent kill scope, so we were on edge and ready. Iorga identified a lot of Brick Squad and PL members kicking around. If I knew my null politics better I might have known what that might mean, but I did remember when I did a null frigate roam into Brick Squad area before it was very quiet. But that wasn't on a prime night with 55k+ capsuleers logged in. We decided to try to break into nullsec via BWF-ZZ and given the heat in Oijanen Iorga decided to jump with me instead of waiting for me to see the other side of the gate.
Gate camp. I spotted several Naga, Talos, and Huginn and made a noob mistake. I didn't take full advantage of my gate cloak to think, but instead must have done something to break my cloak because next thing I remember I had the scram symbol down on me. I told Iorga to run and I dove straight at the Huginn that had me scrammed. For a moment I thought I might melt him but then the fire intensified and my buffer tank melted. I had the presence of mind to aim myself back at the gate as I went into structure, but my pod was snagged before I could get out and I woke up in station. In retrospect I probably hit my MWD to get to the Huginn which meant I could catch him but also meant I was a huge target. Best would have been to make sure I toggled that off once I was on top of him and had him webbed. I see on my own killmail that a Blackbird is listed, but I don't remember seeing my lock break before I died. I don't know if you show on the kill for attempting to ECM or if he just happened to break my lock right at the moment I died. I know I was watching the Huginn's shields drop right up to the point that I was podded, though that could have also been my Hammerheads.
Fortunately Iorga did make it out of system. Sloppy on the camper side I think. Given that they had multiple Huginns and Claws present they had enough points around that they should have been able to nail both of us. So we spent the next little bit with me staring at Dotlan working out the shortest/safest path back to empire for him as he zipped through nullsec. He ran into several bubbles on the way, but apparently nobody was minding them so he kept going without being molested.
Monday I got back on and started heading out again, solo this time. Cruised around Sinq lowsec a bit, running through belts to see if anyone was out and about. I was using Jumps as a stat to follow on dotlan, rather than recent kills. My theory was that if there were double-digit kills in an area then it was probably already hot and people would be avoiding them. Solo I would much rather find an out-of-place missioner or explorer than lowsec residents. But no one was being silly and hanging out in an obvious place.
Eventually I wandered over to the area around Gerper. If you don't know the system take a look at that map and I bet you'll see my mistake right away. I got in there and started making the usual bookmarks and noticed local pop up behind me. Somehow I had the impression that just because the corp name was Thou Shall Not Kill I shouldn't expect them to be big adherents of that particular commandment. On D-scan I spotted an Ishkur and was ready to take that engagement. Then a Falcon appeared on scan too, and I realized that wasn't an Ishkur - it was an Ishtar. I had no desire to take on an Ishtar and a Falcon - jammed and bored isn't a fun way to die. That's when I realized how stupid I was in putting myself into a dead-end system.
So I decided to dock up and get lunch. Let them get bored and I could make a run for it. Thou Shall pilots buzzed around a bit, and they put one of their alts into the same station I was to keep an eye on me. A veteran friend of mine logged on and offered to come by in a CovOps to check things out for me after he ran an errand in a nearby area of space. That was certainly much appreciated, as was his advice about various details I won't go into in this post.
In the end I made a run for it and didn't run into any opposition. My hand was also forced by the arrival of the local cable company tech, so I figured that not only was I likely to be distracted at any moment, but offlining my internet was likely in my future. So while the roam came to a anticlimatic end, I still think there were some good lessons in there.
Home Sweet Lowsec: I think it's only just dawned on me how a reasonably sized group can really lock down a lowsec system or three. I would guess that the keys are geography, activity, and aggressiveness. Geography - you want a pocket out of the major traffic patterns. Activity - you need enough people around to claim it consistently and be known to claim it. Aggressiveness - you have to be ready to challenge newcomers. There is always a bigger fish of course. This is also a really interesting contrast to WHs that I think hadn't quite sunk in for me before. With local you have the ability to get undocked and challenge visitors in minutes - and people may expect that of you if you're trying to hold down the space. With WHs you don't see them come in, but perhaps the expectation difference is important too. Do people actually claim down systems and own up the moons (likely via alt-corps I suppose, given the standings needs)?
There's never just one pirate: Is this a rule? Does this mean to solo you have to be ready to take on multiple ships? Perhaps if you're in a pirate's home lowsec you should consider it a rule, if you're out an about it's a maybe.
Manual Piloting: I think it was Azual Skoll who recommended that you should take any new PVP ship out and try a few things. First, use the orbit command around an asteroid at your optimal with your propmod on and see what orbit you actually hit at that speed. It will probably be more than you set, so you don't want to be surprised if it swings you too far out of optimal or scram range or the like. Second, try manually piloting to do the same thing. I've done this before on random undockers in highsec too, which gives you a feel for what happens when the target is moving - though unless they are making an undock safe they probably aren't at full prop.
Escape plan: If things go wrong, what is your path out? If you go into null and hit a gate camp have you and your fleet already talked about whether you're crashing the gate or running through it? If you go into lowsec what is your gate out? Or do you want to dock up, logoff, or sit in safes? These plans have to be decided, at least by the FC, and in small groups everyone has some FC responsibility.
Overheat, Overheat, Overheat: Yeah, I know this is a repeat from my FrigFest lessons. But I realized I didn't overheat when suiciding into the nullcamp and I have to wonder if I could have taken that Huginn with me if I had overheated. It's not like I had any question that any of those modules were going to survive the fight.