Thursday, 10 January 2013

Lowsec Survival Guide

The most common mistake that a new player can make on their first trip into low security space is to vastly underestimate the risk that's involved. An equally large number of people set out believing the polar opposite; that a trip into lowsec might be tantamount to suicide! The truth is that lowsec is dangerous - other players will actively hunt you, and you need to keep your wits about you at all times - however with some simple precautions even a new player can enjoy the excitement of lowsec life. In this article I'll explain the basics of how to survive and thrive in this hostile environment.





Before I do that, I'd like to address the question of 'why lowsec?'. Many new players first travel into lowsec in search of profit - more expensive ores or higher-bounty NPCs. Let's be clear from the start; while there is good money to be made in lowsec, you're probably going to lose ships in the process and in all likelihood you'll turn less of a profit as a new player than you would in highsec. In fact, you may well make a loss to begin with. So why do it? For me, and for many others who enjoy the lowsec lifestyle, it's about the excitement and challenge of operating in lawless space; whether you're there for PVP or simply for the experience of living in the Eve equivalent of the wild west, day to day life in lowsec is never boring.


Getting to Know Your Neighbours

The biggest danger in lowsec is from other players. Not everyone will be out to get you - you'll encounter your fair share of mission runners, industrialists, and people simply passing through - however a large portion of the lowsec playerbase do get involved in PVP, and the likelihood of crossing paths with someone who wants to make your ship explode (often referred to as a pirate) is fairly high. Because of that, it's essential that you know who and what is around you at any given time.

Knowing who you're sharing your space with is actually quite easy; the local chat window gives you a list of everyone that's currently in your system, and updates immediately as people come and go. When you're operating in lowsec, I recommend splitting this channel off into its own window, and keeping it somewhere nice and visible.

You can find out more about pilots in local by right clicking their name and selecting 'show info'. This can be a good way to figure out who the PVPers are and who is likely to be a danger to you. Negative security status or membership of a corporation that describes itself as a PVP or piracy corp are both clear warning signs, however just because someone looks friendly doesn't necessarily mean that they really are; it's best to assume that any unknown pilot is a potential threat until you know otherwise. Here are a few examples that I encountered today:


Negative sec status is a clear sign of a PVPer who is willing to shoot first in lowsec.
A bounty doesn't necessarily mean they PVP, but it pays to be safe.

Characters who've been in one of the NPC corps for a very long time are usually alts.
While it's less likely that this is a PVPer, it could easily be a scout for someone who is.

High sec status means that this character has done a lot of PvE, and doesn't have a
history of shooting first in lowsec. They could be a mission runner, an alt, or just
someone who does their PVP elsewhere.



When you spot an obvious PVPer, it's a good idea to add them as a contact with low or terrible standing (right click their name and select 'add as contact', or even better - search for their corporation and then add the corp as a contact instead). This will give those pilots a red tag in local, helping you spot them quickly should you come across them again.

Think of local chat as an approximate measure of how dangerous a system is - the more unknown pilots or known PVPers that there are in local with you, the less of a good idea it is to hang around in that system looking like a juicy target. It also serves as an early warning system for new arrivals; when you see one or more new entries appear in the local list, you know that someone - potentially a hunting pirate or a gang of PVPers - has just come into system and they're likely to be active and looking around. Your next priority should be to figure out what they are.


Scanning for Activity

While monitoring local chat is incredibly useful in itself, you also have another tool at your disposal: the directional scanner, commonly known as 'd-scan'. You can open your scanner by clicking the button just to the left of your capacitor (the one that looks like a radar) while you're in space. There are a few tabs in this window, but the one you want is called, unsurprisingly, 'directional scanner'.

Your d-scan is an incredibly powerful tool, but for now we're going to stick to the basics. For advanced users, you can find my full guide here. What the d-scan does is ping the space around you, returning a list of all objects within a certain range of you in a particular direction. For our purposes, we just want to set it to the maximum range (fill the range box with a bunch of 9s, and it should default to the maximum range) and a 360 degree angle (drag the angle slider all the way to the right). This will return everything within about 14.3au of your ship, in any direction. Lastly, tick the box labelled 'use active overview settings'. Your scanner window should now look something like this:

The directional scanner, set to maximum range.


Try it out by hitting the 'scan' button, and you'll get a list of everything within range at that moment. Well, not quite everything; because you ticked that box above you'll only get the types of objects which would normally show up on your overview. This removes all the various detritus that usually litters a system, and makes it easier to spot the important things. What you're looking in particular are ships, specifically combat ships; when there's both an unknown pilot in local and one or more combat ships showing up on your d-scan, you should be very wary. Not every ship that appears on scan will necessarily be active - people often leave them unattended inside the forcefield of a player owned starbase (POS) - however when a ship appears on scan that wasn't there a moment ago, that's a reasonable indication that someone is out and about. D-scan doesn't update automatically, so keep hitting that 'scan' button as often as you can!

Unfortunately, you're not the only one with a d-scan - if a hostile ship is in range of your scanner, you're also going to be in range of theirs. A skilled operator can pinpoint your location relatively quickly purely using their d-scan, and could be in warp to your position (assuming you're at a publicly visible object like a planet or asteroid belt) within 30 seconds or less. In other words, you need to be on the ball and have an exit strategy ready the moment anyone new starts showing up on that scanner!

If you're not at a warpable location (that is, you're at a location which you can only warp to if you scan it down or have the bookmark, such as an NPC mission or at an exploration complex), you've got a little more time - while a hostile pilot might be able to locate you, they can't warp to you without the use of probes. Providing you have probes set to appear on your overview (you can find them under overview settings > filters), these should also appear on your directional scanner as 'combat scanner probe'*.

One final warning on the directional scanner: just because there are no ships on d-scan doesn't mean there aren't any ships there. Ships with a cloaking device activated will not appear on your d-scan, and some advanced ships can even warp around while cloaked. It's best to be vigilant whenever there is an unknown pilot in local, even if you can't see them on your scan.

* Deep space probes can also be used to find ships, but are much less common. Core probes will only locate sites, not ships, however if you're at an exploration site these could be used to locate the site that you're running and warp to that.


Getting Out of Dodge

If you wait until someone actually attacks you before attempting to escape, you're very unlikely to get away. In fact, even waiting for the potential hostile to appear in space beside you is probably leaving it too late - to have a good chance of survival, you need to be making your preparations the moment you start to suspect a threat, or ideally earlier!

There are a few general things that you can do to increase your likelihood of escape. The first is simply thinking carefully about what you do and where. Mining in a lowsec asteroid belt for example is particularly dangerous - it involves sitting stationary, close to the warp-in point of a publicly viewable location in a ship that has minimal defences. Mining in a site that you need to probe down is significantly safer, and running combat missions for an agent is safer again (since the sites are neither publicly available nor can they be scanned down without combat probes, and you're in a ship with some defensive capability).

While a tough combat ship might put off some hunters, most PVP-fit ships will be able to take on your mission running ship without too much difficulty. Even battleships are just a juicy target if they're not set up to fight other players. Rather than hoping to fight off your attackers, the best defence is simply not being there when they arrive. Flying a small, agile ship like a frigate will increase your chances of warping out before you get caught, as will fitting modules to increase your agility (such as nanofiber internal structures, aka 'nanos'). If you want to, you can also fit some warp core stabilizers (commonly referred to as 'stabs') - a low slot module which increases your resistance to warp scrambling at the expense of weakening your ship's targeting ability. The Venture mining frigate actually comes with the equivalent of two stabs built in to the hull, which makes it especially popular for lowsec use.

Simple things like the positioning your ship in space can make a big difference. Don't just sit where you landed when you warped in - incoming pirates will probably land there too. The further away from that spot you are, the more time you're likely to have to escape before they can get you scrambled. If possible, keep your ship aligned to an object that you can warp out to if the need arises (aligning means moving at full speed directly towards the object, and means that when you hit the warp button your ship will enter warp immediately rather than having to speed up first). Some activities, particularly mining, can be difficult to do while aligned due to the risk of flying out of range of the rock that you're trying to mine. In this situation, make sure you've decided which object you're going to warp out to in advance, and start aligning to it any time you see something suspicious on your scanner. Good objects to align to are stations (since you can dock), stargates which lead to highsec (since you can jump to safety), or objects which are clustered in a group to make it more difficult for your pursuer to see which one you warped to. Remember that just because you managed to escape doesn't mean you're safe - as soon as you come out of warp in your new location, you should warp again to throw off pursuit (unless you warped to a station or gate, in which case you should jump through or dock). If there's no station on hand, the next best option is to create something called a safe spot.


Staying Safe

A safe spot is a point in empty space, ideally as far away as possible from any warpable objects (planets, belts, etc). Safe spots need to be created in advance, however once you're there it will be very difficult to locate you without scanner probes. The process for creating a safe spot is simple: open your people & places window, and warp to a distant object. Part way through the warp, click the 'add bookmark' button and quickly press 'ok' - this will save the location you were at when you clicked the button, allowing you to warp back to it (you'll find it in your normal right click menu, as well as saved in the people & places window).

This kind of safe spot (known as a 'mid safe') isn't very secure - due to the way that Eve processes warps, someone warping between the same objects and placing a bookmark in roughly the same place could end up with an almost identical spot. You can make your safe spot much safer by warping to it and then repeating the process by warping to another location from there. Looking at the solar system map and picking objects which keep you as far away from everything else as possible will make it safer still.

Despite the name, safe spots aren't completely safe - a determined hunter can find your approximate location and then bring in someone with combat probes to scan you down. Keep an eye on your d-scan while you're at your safe spot, and try to stay aligned to something just in case anybody turns up. If you see combat scanner probes appear on your d-scan, it's time to move! It's a good idea to set up multiple safe spots in advance in any system that you frequent, allowing you to warp between them rather than always returning to the same one.


Moving Around

One of the most notorious dangers of lowsec is the dreaded gate camp. True gate camps (rather than a bunch of pirates who simply happen to be on a gate when they catch you) involve coordinated gangs of ships set up to ambush targets coming through a stargate. Most gate camps will feature fast-locking ships to catch you before you can warp, and they will generally use a scout (possibly a cloaked one) on the other side of the gate to let them know when a potential target will be coming through.

While you will encounter gate camps like this from time to time, they're usually in fairly predictable locations where the campers can guarantee plenty of traffic: entry systems from busy highsec areas, direct lowsec routes between major trade hubs, or choke points between busy regions of lowsec are all popular spots. If you can avoid these areas, then the likelihood of you encountering a genuine gate camp will actually be fairly low. That doesn't mean gates are safe of course - gates are the most likely place that you'll encounter other people, including player pirates. In fact often when people think they've encountered a gate camp, they've just happened to arrive at a gate at the same time as somebody else (who may or may not be hostile).

While encountering a priate (or gang of pirates) on a gate is still a real danger, it's much less so than if you'd run into a properly coordinated gate camp; the travelling pirate is unlikely to have their ship set up for fast locking, nor will they necessarily be flying something that's suitable for fighting on a gate. Light ships like frigates will often be unable to attack you safely on a gate, due to the defensive sentry guns which will open fire on them if they do so. Finally, the roaming pirate is less likely to have a scout on the far side of the gate, and will not necessarily know who you are or what you're flying until you attempt to warp away. In fact if they've just arrived, they might not even have seen the gate flash when you came in and could be completely unaware of your presence. These factors work in your favour - you have a full 60 seconds before your ship will become visible (as long as you don't do anything after jumping into the system), so take your time to think through your options and give the other pilot a chance to move on. Check out their information, and see whether they do indeed appear to be a pirate or simply another passing traveller.

If your opponent isn't going anywhere (or if you've been unlucky enough to jump into a coordinated gate camp) then you have two options - you can try to warp off, or try to get back to the gate. If you're in a fast ship like a frigate, there's a good chance that you will be able to warp off before anybody can get you scrambled. As before, try to warp to a station, a stargate, or an object which is bunched up with other celestials to throw off pursuit. Ships set up with sensor boosters for fast locking might cause you a problem - if you look closely, you can tell whether someone is running one of these modules by the visual effect it creates:


This ship is running a sensor booster, and will probably
be able to lock more quickly than normal.


If you're not confident that you can get into warp before they can catch you, your remaining option is to try and reach the gate again and jump back through. Since your opponents should get a weapons flag from attacking you, they won't be able to follow you for 60 seconds. For this to work, you really need to have a microwarpdrive (MWD) fitted or at the very least an afterburner (AB). Simply hit 'jump' on the gate that you came through, activate your MWD or AB, and pray.

The most important thing to remember is not to panic - take your time, assess the situation, and then make the best decision that you can.


Dealing With Loss

No matter how careful you are, you're probably going to lose a ship eventually. In all likelihood, you will lose ships fairly regularly as you get used to lowsec life. It's important that those losses don't bankrupt you, which is where the golden rule of Eve comes in:

Don't fly what you can't afford to lose.

This is true no matter what you're doing, but it's especially true when you're living in lowsec since the chance of losing your ship is higher. If you can afford to replace ten frigates but only one cruiser, fly frigates until you can afford more cruisers. If you can't afford to lose anything, go and make a little more money in highsec before venturing into low. Whatever you do, don't go loading up your most expensive ship with all of your possessions and fly that in - yes, I've seen people do it. A good rule of thumb is to treat any ship that you take into lowsec as already lost - you just get to keep using it for a while before giving it up.

Just because someone blew up your ship doesn't make them an asshole - PVP in Eve is a lot of fun, and while there are exceptions it's my experience that most lowsec pirates are actually really nice guys (or gals). As weird as it may sound, the people who eventually catch you are arguably the best people to look to for advice - they know exactly how they caught you, and will have a good idea of what you could have done to escape from them. With that in mind, rather than getting mad when someone destroys your ship - which hopefully you were already prepared for anyway, if you've been following my advice - I recommend dropping a courteous 'gf' (standing for 'good fight') in local chat and asking your killer(s) what you should have done differently. Not everyone will respond, but most pirates will react very well to a new player who seems eager to learn and it's not unusual for them to go well out of their way dispensing advice, local knowledge, and occasionally reasonable sums of isk to someone who shows the right attitude.

While staying around and chatting is a good idea, safety should still be your main priority. In particular, you want to make sure you don't lose your pod. There's a trick to this - as soon as you know that your ship is going down, select any distant celestial object (a planet, belt, gate, etc) and start spamming the warp button over and over. Don't stop hitting that button until your pod has safely warped out of the fight. If you do this right, you should find that your pod enters warp the instant your ship is destroyed, leaving no time for your attacker to catch it. Again, you could be followed so don't just sit where you come out of warp - get yourself to a safe spot or docked in a station before you consider letting your guard down.

Occasionally, a pirate might decide to offer to let you pay a ransom instead of destroying your ship or pod. Whether you accept this or not is up to you, but bear in mind that not all pirates will honour the terms of their ransom agreement. Some pirate corporations (such as my own corp, The Tuskers) are well known for always honouring ransoms, however others are not and there's a chance that even after paying the ransom they might still destroy your ship. When making your decision it might help to look at your captor's corporation details and ask any friends that you have whether they know if the corp is likely to honour ransoms. If you accept a ransom and it is honoured, I recommend leaving the system and operating elsewhere for a while - an honoured ransom will usually mean letting you leave, but doesn't make you safe if the same person catches you again later.

Above all else, don't be put off by your losses; survival in lowsec is a skill that takes practice, and everyone loses some ships in the process. In the end, it's worth it - trust me.

32 comments:

  1. Great article as always! Thank you very much.

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  2. This was a really informative article, you really taught me a lot about lowsec! Thanks!

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  3. Very nicely written, will likely link it to new guys in corp who are interested in explosions.

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  4. Your D-Scan guide needs to be updated- with the new 'tracking' option for d-scan (as shown on the screenshot), players with no longer require rapid hand-eye coordination skills to line up ship and brackets to scan down multiple sites remarkably quickly.

    You do have to sometimes toggle it off and on again. Sometimes the tracking camera- a slightly different thing that's more concerned with being cinematic than enabling powerful scanning techniques- seems to get muddled in somehow, just untick it and tick it again and you'll get everything lining up properly.

    Oh, and I'm looking forward to the FFA results. They're always good for a giggle and the big prizes will ensure I don't miss the next one.

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    Replies
    1. I want to second this.

      A small update only, but it is a valuable addition.

      Delete
  5. Another great article, Azual. Maybe I missed it, but I would add that the best time to d-scan is while gate cloaked.

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  6. Great article. One of the problems I have in low-sec is, not avoiding fights and pvp, but trying to find fights and pvp. But for a low-sec survival guide, this gives a lot of good tips.

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  7. > and running combat missions for an agent is safer again (since the sites are
    > neither publicly available nor can they be scanned down without core probes,
    > and you're in a ship with some defensive capability).

    This is potentially misleading -- mission sites are not scannable at all. Combat scanner probes will let you warp to a *ship* in a mission site, but the site itself does not appear as a signature. Core probes will find nothing.

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    1. True, but to the new player I think that's probably a technicality. The point is that at a complex someone with core probes would be able to find them, whereas at a mission they wouldn't.

      Delete
  8. Great article...

    My advice, fly cheap and die often. EVE isn't fun unless you're taking risks and getting your blood pumping.

    Put some effort into learning the mechanics of sentry guns, sec status, suspect timers, complexes, complex ship limitations, etc.

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  9. I visited the low-sec system of Amamake when I was 1 month old. There was a flash of light and a message about a 'Heavy Neutron Blaster', then I was back in my home station without my ship. I didn't go back to low-sec for a year after that.

    Now I know that most low-sec systems are NOT perpetually gate-camped by pirates. I often go on roams with my new corp to low-sec and null-sec. But I haven't been back to Amamake.

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    Replies
    1. That's almost exactly the same experience that I had with Rancer. Then about a year back I set up a lowsec reaction POS and was doing daily runs through there in my blockade runner, coasting past the same gatecamps without incident - it was a strange feeling.

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  10. Definitely linking this post to the new players I kill. Awesome post!

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  11. great one as always :)

    One Addition: You can keep track on who entered local by highlighting the population in local (selecting one person and then pressing ctrl-a). Everyone that enters afterwards will be not highlighted.

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    Replies
    1. Wow. Learn new things every day. Never thought of using CTRL-A like that. Thanks!

      Delete
  12. slightly off topic, but... I currently live in null sec but have a potential option to move to a corp in low sec and I am worried about the standing loss for combat in low sec and can envision myself grinding endless missions in order to keep my sec status up. any advice on this would be great.

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    Replies
    1. It's sec status loss as opposed to standing loss - while running missions would help, belt ratting is generally more effective for raising sec status.

      That said, if you PVP regularly in lowsec (and you're not in FW or strictly anti-pirate), your sec status will drop quickly and keeping it high is very difficult. As long as you've got an alt to do your hisec shopping though it's not really a handicap, and even without you can usually get supplies shipped in by corp members or Black Frog.

      Despite not being able to enter hisec, I actually feel like convenience has *increased* for me since moving to lowsec, simply because of how easy it is for me to resupply using an alt.

      Delete
    2. Create an alt to do your highsec stuff if needed, and stay all blinky red on your main ?

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    3. Exactly - it doesn't take long to train a blank alt into flying a hauler, and that's really all you need (just get someone to scout for you before flying that hauler full of supplies into lowsec)!

      Delete
  13. I wouldn't consider mining exploration sites safe at all if there are others with you in local. Don't wait until you see probes, just get out.Local pirate corps will often scan down grav and ladar sites, and use them as bait. Mag and radar sites are a bit safer, they don't hang around for days even after being warped to like the mining ones, and there are a lot more people running them. You should still align if something fishy shows up in local.

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  14. The 'dangers' of low sec aren't what keep me out of low sec - it's the sec status hit from attacking anyone first and the tedious 'grind' required to repair sec status losses.

    Essentially, if you want to keep your sec status intact, without the grind, you can't ever shoot first in low sec (except for reds, ofc), which is an utter crap rule.

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    Replies
    1. That's a slight exaggeration - you can shoot first against anyone with a criminal or suspect flag, and anyone with low sec status themselves.

      The simple answer is not to repair it. Personally, I find that the number of times I'd want to go into hisec (other than to buy things, which I already do on an alt since my main doesn't fly haulers) is so minimal that my sec status has barely had an effect.

      Delete
    2. Do you run a second account for your alt or just run a second character?

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    3. Personally I use a second account, but there's no reason you couldn't play entirely on a single account with two characters. A few days training should get your alt into a T1 hauler, at which point you've got everything you need to do your hisec shopping. For larger ship hulls and things that won't fit in your hauler, you can just have your alt buy them and then contract them to Black Frog or a similar outfit to be moved into lowsec.

      The disadvantage of a single account is that you can't scout the entrance with your main before jumping your hauler into lowsec. Of course, that's easily solved by having a friend or corpmate check the gate for you.

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  15. Your low sec guide, as with all your other guides is very good. As a high sec player my problem is getting into low sec. Every gate seems to be camped. So the question from your guide is not how to live in low sec, but how to get into low sec in the first place. For that I would appreciate some advice.

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    1. Some gates are often camped, but far from all of them.

      Avoid gates which border very busy systems or which seem like a natural route to get from one area of hisec to another (for example, the direct lowsec routes between Rens/Hek in Minmatar space and Jita in Caldari).

      Hisec effectively forms a ring, with lowsec on both the inside and outside of it. In general, the lowsec systems on the outside are less likely to be camped than inside since there's less hisec -> hisec traffic.

      You can also use dotlan (http://evemaps.dotlan.net) to look at how many ship/pod kills a system has had in the last 3 hours. This lets you know where hotspots are, and which systems are more or less likely to be camped.

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    2. Can't you already view that information on the in-game star map?

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    3. You can. Personally I like dotlan because it's easier to see connections between systems and the borders between high and low, as well as being linked into eve-kill so you can actually see the mails for those recent kills too.

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  16. Thanks for the advice. If I could be as bold as to ask a question:

    I go to low sec alot in expensive ships (Normally a scarilidge, for the lowsec combat exploration sites. I have a spare highslot, that I normally use for a NOS - however it doesn't get much use in light of my ship being cap stable with all modules running. In light or your advice would you recommend replacing it with a cloak for my lowsec jaunts?

    Thanks in advance.

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    Replies
    1. For clarification, to use the cloak to hide from players who 'drop in' (Not sure what the game term for it its) on my plex with intent to kill (me) :D

      Delete
    2. A cloak isn't a bad idea. However, you can't cloak if someone has you locked (even if that someone is an NPC). That means that unless you've just finished the site when they drop in, you probably won't be able to cloak anyway.

      The way that you generally use a cloak is to warp off from your site (either pre-emptively before someone starts looking for you, or defensively when someone actually arrives) and *then* cloak up at a safespot. The function of the cloak is to prevent people from being able to probe you down, as well as to simply avoid showing on someone's scan if they don't already know that you're in system (thus encouraging them to move on, rather than come looking for your expensive ship).

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    3. Ok. Thanks

      Delete

The Altruist is the Eve Online blog of Azual Skoll, PVP instructor and small gang PVPer.

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