In celebration of getting around to completing Gallente Cruiser V I'm planning to fit out two or three Thoraxes for roaming this weekend (a long weekend for some of us here in the US). That means I have two (okay, three) things I'm pondering over. What to fit, where to go, and who I can talk into joining me.
Now all of those actually also beg a fourth thing: who is my target. I'm putting that aside because I don't know enough to know what I can find to build a plan. I'll probably take what I can get. Ratters? Miners? Other solo roamers? That eventually I'll hit some sort of gatecamp is probably a given.
What to fit
I've been surprised that there aren't more Retribution-specific Thorax fits posted out there. Perhaps it is that a lot of Thorax fans know pretty immediately what they wanted to do with that extra midslot. I admit I'm also looking only at armor fits, as getting my shield skills up is the plan for the coming month. I see mentions of going dual-prop (which would be good for big targets you want to speed tank like BSs I'd guess), dual-web (which would be good for small, fast targets), or going web/scram/MWD/booster to counter being neuted. I'd love to keep those options in a station, find a target and hop back to refit to match, but I don't know if that's feasible. I see some run Med Armor Reps, but most are plated. Given the concerns people seem to have with cap I'll probably go plated. One less thing to manage too. In general I'm going to be aiming for high gank fits. To paraphrase a quote I ran into on Failheap: "If you're afraid of dying, why are you flying a Thorax?"
Where to go
Last time I roamed through nullsec I ran into a lot of nothing. From reading around it sounds like if local pops up by one with an unknown neutral then all the nullsec residents run to dock. Then if you stick around all you're likely to find is gangs of defense forces. I'm no Kil2, so I don't expect I'll be splitting gangs of triple my numbers and all that.
Lowsec I can think of as the FW zones and the non-FW zones. In FW areas I expect to run into solo plexers who will warp as soon as anything appears on their D-scan and PVP-seeking solos and small gangs. The good news is that FWers are looking for fights, the bad news is that they're both better than me and likely on comms with allied FWers who will be there in minutes. In non-FW zones I have less idea what to expect - high risk miners, pirates, people following lowsec missions and escalations. I think I might need to hang out in a scanning ship and swap to the Thorax when I find something there, which means running around a lot. The places where there are large stretches of lowsec seem to be more the hope of professional pirate types, which both means people who are way better than me (and have more buddies) as well as the kind of place that scares off anyone who isn't a top notch PVPer (at least in their own head).
There there is highsec. My friends and I have noticed a number of people running around with suspect flags that would be valid targets to jump (and bonus if they have a bounty). Also as of the new patch there is the dueling system and I've certainly seen plenty of people hanging around hubs looking for 1v1s that will probably start using those. That might not be bad for getting the feel of the ship and fit, but it doesn't feel as "real". If I wanted to do that I could just fleet up with corpmates and do the "to structure" thing (which is probably even harder to keep from being a "to destruction" thing in ganky cruisers).
So I'm thinking some low sec of a reasonable pocket size where I can run around making bookmarks for an hour or two and then spend the weekend there learning the place and looking for targets. Close enough to high sec gates to get people ducking in for missions and escalations, as well as to provide a nearby place I can get replacement ships. Probably base my clone in a nearby highsec actually.
Who to join up with
Some of my corpmates sound game for a small gang roam. It will probably be kitchen-sinky given all of our skill levels and general organization. I'll be happy if we can get together and have some fun chasing someone down - or being chased down - though getting completely blasted by something we can't counter like a Rapier plus T3 with a 23km point, and a bunch of Tornadoes might be less fun. At least if we go with T1 cruisers we won't be at risk of simply being smartbombed into oblivion by a BS as we try to crash a gate.
I was surprised I couldn't find too much in terms of googling for small gang fleet comps and tactics, though I really like the Agony Unleashed articles about their Hydra and Wolfpack ideas. What I did find (like the Agony stuff) seems to think of small gang as 10-20 ships, whereas I hope to get three ships together and will be thrilled if we get five. I'm guessing that you should just think of the 3-5 gangs more like you were a solo - jump together, warp to your optimals off target, and if you have to run in the face of a superior force just scatter and reform/reship later rather than trying to flee as a coherent group.
So going through all of the above has brought me back to "who is my target?" I guess I'm thinking that right now that falls into two categories: people who aren't seeking PVP (which gives me an edge) or places where the other guy is looking for PVP but I can control the escalation of the conflict (FW plexes, Dueling). Control isn't the right word - restrain the escalation perhaps? Nothing is going to keep a FW group from piling a dozen faction cruisers into a medium plex if I try to duck in there. Nothing is going to keep my suspected "ratting BS" from being a bait BS with five buddies in battlecruisers one system over. But then, that's part of the thrill of the uncertainty, isn't it?