Rookie Lowsec Survival Guide
Good and Bad Reasons to Go To Lowsec
Before you even jump in, especially for the first time, you need to stop and think, "Why am I going here?". If your answer sounds like something lots of other people would do, odds are the system is going to be full of horribly nasty pirates looking to farm noobs like you.
Some bad reasons to go to lowsec:
- Picking up skillbooks. I can and have farmed noobs in frigs all day long in Lisbaetanne because they're too lazy to go two jumps out of their way to pick up a skillbook in a safe location.
- Your highsec mission agent is sending you there. Again, other people know your agent likes to send people to that system and they already have probes out, just waiting for you to show up.
- It's on the shortest route between two highsec hubs. Go the long way.
- Mining. Veldspar is the single most valuable ore outside of nullsec and has been for a long time now. If you want better ores mine Arkanor in wormhole systems.
Some good reasons to go to lowsec:
- To look for trouble!
- PvE exploration
- To mission for a lowsec agent - the further from highsec, the better.
- BPO research - lowsec stations tend to have much shorter queues.
Setting Up Your Overview
When you right-click the triangle next to the word "Overview" at the top of the overview, you'll get a menu that shows many options. The one you are interested in is "Open Overview Settings".
Feel free to fiddle around with the Filters to set up your overview how you like it. You can save multiple overview settings by right-clicking the triangle again and choosing "Save Current Type Selection As...", and then you can load it again in the future by clicking the triangle, and then choosing "Load <name>".
You should set up several overviews - one for just getting around (stations, planets, stargates), another for missioning, mining, etc. My general rule of thumb is to avoid seeing a scrollbar on the overview. If you see a scrollbar that means you are not fully aware of what is going on around you and that will get you killed, especially in lowsec.
I suggest all your overviews have stargates on them though, so you'll always have a warp-out handy.
Using Warp to Zero
You should never use the autopilot for anything, as its navigation method is very inefficient. It warps you to 15kms from the next gate, then approaches the gate, then jumps. This leaves you exposed and vulnerable for long periods - even in highsec you should not use the autopilot as it makes it very easy for would-be suicide gankers to follow you around and gather intel on your ship. Instead, you should manually warp to zero and jump on every gate.
To do this, first make sure your default warp distance is set to zero. On the row of buttons above your overview, right-click the "Warp To" button that appears when you select something on the overview. It's the second one from the left and looks kind of like ->>>. Right-click it and select "Select Default Warp to Within <X> Distance", and enter 0 into the window that pops up.
Now, when you select a destination in your starmap or via the mission screen or however, the next gate you need to go through to get there with your current route settings will turn yellow. Select the gate, then either click the "Warp To" button at the top of the overview, or right-click it and choose "Warp to Within 0km", and you'll warp straight to it. Once you come out of warp, click the jump button (3rd from the left, next to the Warp To button), or right-click the gate again in the overview and select jump, and you'll jump.
Choosing Your Routes
Using the Starmap
Press F10. You get this nifty starmap. You can set destinations in your autopilot while looking at this map and see the route on it.
Now go to your World Map Control Panel. Two tabs you want to pay close attention to are "Autopilot" and "Color Stars By"
For now, click Color Stars By, you get a big list of stuff that you can have displayed on the map. The main two things for lowsec are both under Statistics - Ships Destroyed in the last hour, and Average Pilots in Space in the Last 30 Minutes. The former will cause hotspots to light up on the map, the latter will show you potential hotspots.
Now for autopilot. Click your autopilot tab, then click Settings and set yourself up how you like. Back before I was -10 I ran "Prefer Safer" with 49 security penalty and disable autopilot at each waypoint.
Now click your waypoints tab and by using your starmap settings, seeing how the systems themselves are linked together, and manually adding waypoints (by right-clicking the system and selecting "Add Waypoint" and moving them around as necessary in the World Map Control Panel window) you can route around potential troublespots or plot alternate routes to avoid becoming a predictable target (more on that later) - for regularly used routes using sets of BMs works very well.
System Levels of Risk
OK, by now you should know that not all lowsec has the same level of general risk. Try to plan your routes to avoid potentially dangerous areas, unless you're looking for trouble. Generally I've found this short list holds true, for the part. In decreasing order, risk goes by...
- Systems that noobs are likely to go to. Pretty much all the 'bad' reasons to go to lowsec outlined above will land you in one of these systems.
- 0.0 side of lowsec-0.0 borders
- 0.0 logistics hubs - places where 0.0 dwellers tend to shift supplies from standard haulers to jump-capable haulers, Aunenen and Kinakka are good examples.
- Pirate corp/alliance bases of operation, if you're not blue
- Lowsec side of highsec-lowsec borders
- Systems along a highsec-highsec pipe (such as the Stacmon - Vivanier pipe)
- Systems not bordering highsec or 0.0 but two jumps or less from either
- Deep lowsec (more than two jumps from highsec or 0.0)
- Isolated lowsec pocket (surrounded by highsec) of more than system
- Isolated lowsec system (all jumps go to highsec)
- Pirate corp/alliance bases of operation, if you are blue. Systems like this are only slighly less safe than highsec.
Getting Around in Lowsec
- Make sure to have your session change timer shown. It's hidden by default and many lowsec escape mechanisms require that you wait out this timer.
- You can not dock or jump for one minute after taking any hostile action. So if you're trying to make a run for a gate or station, do not aggress your attackers, as you will have to live for one full minute after you stop taking hostile action before you can dock or jump.
- Fit a propulsion mod! Ships without an afterburner or a microwarp drive are very slow and will never make it back to the gate if you get caught. Even mission fits should always fit an afterburner.
- Have the local channel open and visible at all times. It should be in its own window and not stacked with the other chat windows. The local channel is the single most useful intel tool in lowsec as it lets you know exactly who is in the system with you.
If you have two accounts, this is trivially easy. If you don't, you still might want to move an untrained alt down to your base of operation, be it highsec or lowsec, and use it to scout the highest-risk gates before you jump through. If this is too much trouble, you can also scout in your pod. As pods instawarp you have exactly zero chance of getting caught in a normal gatecamp. You might still get caught in a smartbomb camp but these are very rare.
If you have blues with the locals, you'll likely have access to an intel channel that will greatly reduce the need for you to scout in the area the intel channel covers. This is not an excuse to be stupid, keep your wits about you lest you get caught by surprise.
Travel fitting a ship means to fit it such that it can get through lowsec with the greatest chance of getting to where it's going. Generally, you should travel fit any ship that you're going to take any distance at all through lowsec unless you're being scouted every step of the way or doing a solo pvp roam. You carry your real fit in your hold and switch out when you get where you're going.
The single most important aspect of a travel fit is the ability to fit a cloaking device and a microwarp drive. This allows you to do the (in)famous cloak/warp trick (which does still work despite what some naysayers say), which is when you jump into a camp, you click to align to the next gate, hit your MWD, then immediately cloak. Once the MWD runs one full cycle you drop the cloak and go to warp. If you do it right, you'll instawarp and be nigh invulnerable.
Other things you can do are fill your lows with warp core stabilizers and inertia stabilizers, fit an ECM burst in your mids, and try to fit enough of an HP buffer that if you do get tackled you can survive the run back to the gate and jump out.
Undocking is your most vulnerable moment in lowsec, even more than jumping through a stargate. You get shot out of the station at full speed, you can't cloak, and you can't dock back up until your session change expires. Aligning and warping after undocking takes much longer than after jumping, as you already moving at a full speed, and if you undock into a camp you'll often be forced to choose between waiting out your session change timer and then trying to re-dock (at which point you may be well outside the station's docking radius), trying to warp off and hoping you can align and warp before they lock you, or turning around once you go outside the dock radius and hope you can tank the damage long enough to dock.
None of these are very good options, so at stations you use a lot you should create instant-undock bookmarks. To create one, you simply undock in a fast ship, such as interceptor or even a T1 frig with an MWD, and go straight forward no less than 150kms, though I recommend going out at least 1000kms. Bookmark the spot, and if you did it right when you undock, you can warp to that BM, and since you're already moving at full speed in the right direction you'll warp instantly. Bear in mind you actually get shot out in a small cone (roughly fifteen degrees), so it make take a few tries to get a good one.
Making Good Safespots
Being able to hide when things get too hot is very important. You won't usually have a cloak, and sometimes you want to avoid the stations. So you safe up!
But not all safespots are created equal. A poorly created safespot can be broken by a good prober in seconds, while a well-placed safe, even one charted hastily, is difficult to probe down and most people will just give up, especially if you warp between two or more of these.
There's no magic formula to making a good safe, so I'll just list things that make a safe better. Your safe should have as many of these as possible.
- Distance. If your safe is more than 14AUs or so from anything, e.g. when you do a directional scan at max range, 360 degress, you see nothing, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, for the enemy prober to find any place to start at. Without being able to get a general idea where you are, he'll be forced to probe blindly at long range, which will greatly increase the amount of time it takes for him to figure out which signiture is you and track it down, particularly if the system has lots of...
- Clutter. All ships look the same to a prober until he narrows in on a particular signiture, then he can see ship type (cruiser, destroyer, etc), then with a higher quality hit, exact ship type, but even with a 100% hit he can't see the ship's name. This means that even if you can't get completely out of directional scanner range, if you hide someplace where there's lot of other ships, such as empty ships sitting in POS's, and force him to start at fairly long range, he'll waste tons of time tracking down ships he's not looking for.
- Not being on the plane. Probers generally expect you to be on the equatorial plane, if you're not they'll have to look up and down as well, which takes extra cycles.
Now, even when you're sitting in a well-made safe, you should still be aligned and watching your directional scanner. If you see probes suddenly show up nearby, go to another safe. If you bounce around between safes they'll never, ever find you.
Using Your Directional Scanner
The directional scanner is the second most useful intel tool you have available to you, after the local channel.
You can bring it up by clicking the Scanner button on the left side of your HUD, then clicking the directional scanner button. It has a maximum range 14.35 AUs, but generally I have it set to one of the following:
All 9s - Max range 10000000 - Ten million Kms, to spot incoming ships
Put the window somewhere where you can see it but it won't be in the way, set it to 360 degrees (you're interested in avoiding people, tighter scans are more useful for finding people) and the range you like. Generally I run with ten million KMs if I'm on grid and max range if I'm off-grid. Click the name column until it sorts by name backwards (so Z is on top).
Now go about your business. Stay aligned to a bolt hole 100% of the time if you're on grid and as much as possible if you're off-grid - stations work best, if there aren't any going back and forth between 3 or 4 safespots also works. Every 5 seconds or so click the "scan" button in your window (it may sound like a lot but you'll stop thinking about it after a while). If you're on-grid and doing short-range scans you're looking for any ships coming in on your position. If you're off-grid you're looking for anything named "Scan Probe".
At the first sign of danger warp to your predetermined hideout and stay there until the danger has passed. Pirates love to camp, so if you were on-grid move on, there's nothing in the belt you were just in that's not in another belt two systems over. If you were off-grid wait until scan probes disappear or the person who placed them leaves (if you can determine this, generally it's obvious by watching local along with your scanner), then pop out and go back to work. If a pirate gets a bookmark to your off-grid location abandon it, but DO NOT cancel your mission (allow it to expire) or otherwise cause the location to despawn unless you have to (in order to get another mission from the same agent is about the only reason I'd ever do it).
You can expect the pirate(s) to camp your mission for a while. You can add them to your buddy list and wait 'till they're offline to complete the mission, come back in a day or two (they will have forgotten about it), or just let it expire.
Do's and Don't for when you explode
- DO try to fight if you get caught and can't run. If you can force a tackler to withdraw (or even pop him), run out of point range, or even back to the gate, you might still be able to get away. At worst you can still be a pain in the ass and inflict some damage - go for the T2 drones if all else fails.
- DO get your pod out! Once you hit hull, or sooner if you're going down fast, select something in the overview other than the gate right next to you, and spam the 'Warp To' button like your life depends on it. When you explode, your pod will warp during the moment of lag you get after you explode. Spam the **** out of this button, it shouldn't be *click, click, click*, it should be more like *clicklicklickliclkliclkcick*
- DO convo or Evemail your attacker after everything is over if you have no idea wtf just happened. The odds are much better than not he will be more than happy to tell you exactly wtf just happened and might even tell you how to not die next time.
- DON'T cry in local or send fan EvEmail. Everybody gets popped once in a while - say "GF" or nothing at all and continue with your business.
- DON'T take it personally. The people that popped you have nothing against you and probably won't even remember your name in five minutes, if they bothered to notice it at all.
- DON'T fly anything in lowsec you haven't already replaced. I never have just one of any particular fit.
Common types of lowsec PvPers
MO: Flies around by himself, or sometimes with a (generally noncombat) alt. Prefers light, nimble ships that can slip through camps and looks for 1v1 fights.
Tips: They'll find you. These guys usually give good fights so go for it if you think you got what it takes. Keep in mind these pilots are usually very highly skilled (both in terms of character skills and player skills) at whatever ship they're flying.
The bait and blobber
MO: Pretends to be a solist, but the moment you engage him 3,412 of his friends materialize out of nowhere and vaporize you faster than you can say "OH SHI...!"
Tips: After he gets you the first time, set him and his corp red and don't engage them ever unless you're prepared to deal with the hornet's nest. If you don't take the bait, they'll generally ignore you, barring easy ganks, of course.
The roaming gang
MO: Some bored people from the same corp / alliance. They'll show up, poke around for targets, and once all the targets they can find are dead, they'll move on.
Tips: Like the solist, but a group. These types will generally give good fights if you can put together a gang of your own fast enough before they get bored and leave.
The home defense guys
MO: They're at home chillin'. If you show up on their turf, they'll come after you. Generally won't chase you very far, if at all.
Tips: Not terribly hard to avoid, though if you're in a hostile system with a lot of these guys they can make it tough to get a decent fight or get anything done, especially if they have good probing skills. If you live in lowsec you'll learn where hostiles live at quickly enough, just avoid those places unless you're looking for trouble.
The gate camper
MO: Generally a small gang with a cloaked scout on the far side. If someone comes through the gate that's not blue, they shoot them.
Tips: Shuttles, pods, agility fit frigs, anyone with a covops cloak, or competent cloak/warp pilots can run these. For anyone else it depends on how big your ship is and how fast they can lock you. If you find yourself in a hostile camp, use your 30 second gate cloak and look around. If you see utlity cruisers (Bellicose, Celestis), or certain recons (Arazu, Lachesis), odds are they're sensor boosted out the ass and can lock you as fast an interceptor. Otherwise assume all the ships BC and bigger have two sensor boosters (roughly 600 scan res) when deciding whether to try to warp out or run back to the gate. Keep in mind that if you get tackled when trying to warp running back to the gate gets a lot harder.
The station camper
MO: Similar to the gate camper, but operates alone more often. Due to the need to catch a target before it warps and kill it before it re-docks, most station camping ships are highly specialized to only catch a specific type of target.
Tips: Insta-undock BMs will make you more or less immune to these guys. Failing that, you can often just ignore them if you're in something they can't kill before you're able to re-dock, or just wait out your session change timer and re-dock. Solo station campers generally go after ships 1-2 size classes smaller than themselves, and can usually only kill two-size smaller ships reliably. Group station camps are rarer and more similar to gate camps.