Honourless: Playing Dirty in Lowsec PvP

PvP in EVE Online is infamous for being unfair, deceptive and ruthless. The fact that EVE introduced me to the expression “non consensual PvP”, illustrates that point well. To an outsider it might seem strange that such a quality is valued and aggressively protected by the community. Even people who suffer greatly at its expense will defend it with a sense of pride. Although I’ve turned it into somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek trademark, Sun-Tzu said it best: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” This quote encapsulates EVE PvP perfectly. Freedom is the beating heart of EVE Online, well reflected in how we fight. Today’s Lowlife will be taking a look at how that manifests itself in lowsec. After a decade of thievery, piracy and underhanded tactics it is already notorious in this regard, and only the novice will have issue with the no-holds-barred modus operandi lowsec dwellers take for granted.

Prime cuts

As any butcher or hunter (or Hannibal Lecter) will tell you, the meat tastes best if the game never sees it coming, and so it is in EVE. Being two-faced, deceptive, unfair, and a generally shifty bastard – and good at it – are virtues in the world of lowsec PvP. Honour is often the hallmark of the dead and looted, whilst others would not limit their toolkit due to any notion of moral principles. The inept would do best to tread lightly in this world, for things are not what they seem. Tricks and illusions most sinister in design lurk in every corner, luring the curious, proud, greedy, aggressive, and fearful alike. Out of need or simply for sport, PvP-ers play on these qualities and lie in wait for their next victim. And when there are no lambs left to slaughter, they turn on each other to try their mettle – an endless contest in which the those with fearless grit and creative guile are the apex predators.
“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
With Kronos and Crius lowsec has entered a golden age and pilots from all walks of life flock to its gates. But it is a siren’s call as much as it is the promised land; for with one hand brigands and warmongers welcome them on, whilst gleefully stabbing them in the back with the other. To some it’s simply more people to shoot, all in good sport, whilst others gird their loins in anticipation of fresh tears in local. Not all lambs will be silenced however, and those intent on their stay in lowsec would do well to learn the signs of danger, one day perhaps becoming the wolf, themselves.

Mob rules

The simplest, most fundamental way of hitting below the belt in lowsec is getting an unsuspecting target into an engagement where they are outnumbered and outgunned. Gate camps are the tried and true method, popular in both null- and lowsec. Although they can be used in the traditional sense – shoot all the things that jump in – we will look at a scenario where bait is used. A solitary ship loitering on a gate in lowsec may look like an easy target to the untrained eye. The reckless or inexperienced might think they have a fight on their hands when that lone Slasher locks them up. In fact the Slasher pilot is just waiting for a neat red box to show up in their overview. By the magic of the aggression timer – forbidding those who have activated any type of module on a target to jump a star gate – and a point, they can hold the erstwhile aggressor in place. The next thing you know a couple of dozen cheap and dirty Thrashers jump in from the adjacent system, fitted to the teeth with artillery and damage modules, quickly turning expensive ships into wrecks. Rinse, repeat, and move once in a while to keep intel channels guessing. There is no easier way to be ISK efficient in lowsec. Expensive and advanced gate camps have their place, certainly on entry systems into lowsec from highsec. But when in lowsec proper, a cheap gatecamp is well adapted to the hostile environment – costing little in ISK while not attracting the attention of larger entities. Meanwhile it is easily relocated and replenished with ships as needed.


Gone fishing

“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” ― Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
Every fisherman worth their salt could spend hours talking about lures – it’s all about knowing your fish. With some it must be shiny and moving, attracting the aggressive and adventurous. Others require or more subtle approach, a lure that will signal weakness and easy prey in order to pique their interest. Anyone who has spent serious time baiting in lowsec would tell a similar story. Baiting is nothing new as far as PvP strategies go, but nowhere is it more evolved than in EVE. It’s a game of psychology and behavioural study, the art of which lies in the subtleties of providing bait that is hard to resist, but inconspicuous of its true intent. In the example above the Slasher provided the simplest type of bait, used directly with a star gate and aggression mechanics. Tackle, fleet jump, kill – easy. Baiting can be used for all manner of more advanced setups however. Faction Warfare plexes provide an excellent place for baiting. In that case the bait has three functions; attract, tackle and survive. A good fit will be nimble (or able to immobilize the target), have full tackle and a decent amount of EHP, while preferably being cheap. Using D-scan and local chat, those who plan to engage in fights in FW plexes know what they’re up against, so the ‘gank’ fleet must not show up in local until the target is tackled and not getting away. Thankfully, lowsec is filled to the brim with people that will engage first and think later, making plex baiting a relatively easy way to get targets. The baiting pilot must possess some skill and discernment, while the rest of the fleet provide the muscle. One particularly nasty tactic involves cloaks and makes use of the ‘drone assist’ mechanic. A lone ship will sit inside a plex with a fleet of drone boats sitting cloaked 30 km from the button (the decloak radius, as of Kronos). As a target enters and is tackled by the bait, the done boats decloak, spewing out fast drones such as Warriors, immediately setting them to assist the tackler. Baiting at belts or other celestials (especially with industrial ships) can also yield good results, more so since Kornos, but still sees much less traffic than plexes. baiting

Station games

Nothing says “bait” like an outlaw Prophecy or Maller sitting on a station, but it will keep happening until fools stop undocking their big shinies, thinking they have a juicy kill in the pocket. Again, the aggression timer comes into play, leaving a trail of wrecks in its wake. The strategy here is simply getting a target – the bigger the better – to aggress on the station undock, and then swarming them with DPS. The bigger the target the less likely it is to get away from the baiting ship, especially if the station itself blocks direct lines to celestials and safe spots. Although heavily tanked ships like the Prophecy are classic, small or traditionally DPS-heavy ships can provide much more inconspicuous bait, luring victims to undock bigger ships for an easy kill. Depending on the situation, ship sizes involved, and local inhabitants, the gank fleet should either be in the station, off grid, or in an adjacent system, hugging the gate. station-games

Easy prey

Some of the most interesting predators in nature catch their quarry by feigning weakness or mimicking prey. Adapting that tactic to EVE takes a bit of practice, but can yield very satisfying results in an advanced form of baiting, useful both in conjunction with a fleet and solo. When employed for solo work, the ship used is simultaneously the bait and the gank, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, if you will. The ‘gank’ part can be replaced by a fleet however, lying in wait. The trick is to make an evasive target believe the bait ship is unwilling or unable to engage on their own, stimulating the predatorial instinct. Against kiters, as an example, the microwarp drive is switched on, but the speed regulated to resemble an afterburner, providing the target with a seemingly ideal fight where they think they would have the advantage. A target can also be tricked into engaging by feigning fear. Erratic behaviour, resembling a stressed reaction and a (deliberately slow) alignment out towards an obvious celestial, like the sun, can be just the confidence a green or uncertain PvP pilot needs to think they can take the fight. People who believe they have the upper hand drastically change their behaviour, and a bloated ego is an easy balloon to pop.

Grand Theft Spaceship

Fancy a new ship but don’t want to pay for it? Then steal one! This con, and potential gank, requires some setup, knowledge and good timing. It is the EVE equivalent of the wallet on a string and primarily targets solo PvP-ers who like to fly expensive ships. As such it works best with knowledge of the local area and the behaviour of potential victims. Common roaming pipes for fleets are to be avoided, this tactic works best off the beaten path. Staging the ambush requires the (potential) thief to set up a lure in the form of an abandoned ship, preferably in a location frequented by solo pilots, such as an FW plex (making sure it’s at least 30 km from the button). The lure does not require any modules except perhaps some meta weapons so as to minimize suspicion, and should in that case have no ammo loaded. The thief then sets up close by in a cheap cloaked ship. With the trap set the thief lies in wait for curiosity and greed to take it to the next step, hoping that a target will show up (in something other than a pod), intent on searching the abandoned ship for loot. As soon as the target boards the lure ship to have a look inside the trap springs into motion. The thief must decloak get close to the newly abandoned ship, leaving their own and boarding their prize as quickly as possible. With any luck the target will still be in the lure ship and easily killed, assuming they brought a combat vessel, giving the thief a kill on top of a free ship. Persuming a target falls for the trap and the thief pulls off the boarding, the worst case scenario is that they warp off in either the lure ship or the cloaking ship, but that’s why they are both cheap. A bit like arriving in a Proche and leaving in a Trabant. “Au revoir, thanks for the ship!” Of all the methods discussed so far, this one is the most prone to failure and requires the most practice. GTS

AFK gank

Those of the lazy / evil – alignment may find that all these fiendish shenanigans sound like a lot of work, but fear not – let targets do all the work! Exploration sites are a wonderful thing. So are ships that can fit covert-ops cloaks. This laid-back tactic consists of a few simple steps: scan down an archeology or hacking site, enter it and cloak up, take up position near the closest can and wait for a target. Although stealth bombers can get the job done, Sisters of Eve ships and strategic cruisers are the final word on lazy ganking. Just make sure to lock fast and have dual warp scramblers fitted for those annoying warp core stabilizers. It may take some time, but requires very little work – perfect while reading a book or watching a movie on another screen.

Creative killing

Underhanded tactics in lowsec, with all their forms and nuances, could fill a short book. Things like inviting random people to fleets and warping them to their deaths, parking smartbombing battleships or strategic cruisers on the gates close to large engagements, creative ways of awoxing entire fleets in Factional Warfare and so on, and on, and on. The point is that someone did it the first time by being creative around game mechanics and there are lots of blank pages left. In the end it boils down to a mindset of pushing the envelope and trying new things, not only for their own sake, but for the sake of variety and novelty. Space honour does exist in lowsec, but anyone with any experience knows better than to take it for granted. The other side of that coin is a constantly evolving beast, an essential part of what makes lowsec dynamic, interesting and surprising.
Tags: baiting, ganking, lowlife, niden, pvp

About the author


12 year EVE veteran, Snuffed Out scumbag, writer, graphic artist, producer, Editor-in-Chief of Crossing Zebras and the second most influential player in EVE, according to EVE Onion.