The Secret of Steel


Filled with dreams of the outlaw life, the “1%” of New Eden, I align my Brutix toward a planet in a lowsec system close to Rens – blasters at the ready, my heart pounding in my chest.

I am fulfilling the vision of what EVE is to me along with the desperate few I have found to share this miserable life with. Chatter amongst our small motley crew comes in short, scribbled bursts – we don’t have the luxury of comms – someone has a target in one of the belts. The Brutix, which is my pride and joy, represents half of what I own, we are all dirt poor, inexperienced and hungry for a kill, some loot and a bad rep.

I land to the rumbling sound of artillery from a gang member’s Typhoon, the only battleship in our rag-tag band. I have no idea what the target ship is even capable of, “Megathron” is just another name in a very long list of names I don’t really comprehend the meaning of. I light my microwarpdrive, and barreling towards the target start firing the blasters, one after the other.

I can no longer see what’s around me, my body is shaking, my brain refuses to read any of the information on the overview. All I know for sure at this moment is that I am running on hope more than skill and risking it all for a dream.


Looking back at that moment, a decade ago, brings back mixed feelings. It was a different time then. We didn’t have guides for every little thing and every mistake I made I paid for myself, dearly. No one was there with a free ship, some good advice and a pat on the back when I fucked up. Half of the time I had no idea what just happened after a fight and it would be days or even weeks before I could afford another ship like the Brutix.

“It’s a cliche, to be sure, but it was a hard life.”

It’s a cliche, to be sure, but it was a hard life. Lowsec was more often than not a barren, unforgiving wasteland, inhabited by the desperate and the foolish, using what little money and resources they had to kill each other. Reaching out for help in a place filled with thieves and gankers was like playing russian roulette with three bullets in the chamber and trust was hard to come by. There was only one reason anyone would put up with these hardships for any length of time, and that was a genuine love for lowsec and the lifestyle it represented.

Even I lost hope several times, not wanting to go anywhere else, but having such a rough time of it I quit EVE, many times, sometimes for a year or two. But I always came back, looking for the same thing. Even today, thousands of kills and hundreds of losses later, the same love keeps me bound to EVE, bound to lowsec. Because I remember what it was like sitting in that Brutix, so many years ago.

So what is this thing, this idea that has enthralled me so? Well, we can start by looking at what it isn’t.


I was talking the other day with Dirk McGirk (TNT, The New Eden Update, The Open Comms Show and frequent guest on Podside), and a couple of weeks ago with Asher Elias (GSF, The Asher Hour) about narrative. They both noted the lack of it in lowsec, stating that this was one of their reasons for not being attracted to low security space, instead preferring nullsec with it’s names on the map and lines in the sand – and they are right.

“The only things that remember that you won this fight or lost that one are the killboards, your allies and your enemies.”

Aside from what little artificial narrative can be derived from Factional Warfare, there is none. Not in the traditional sense at least. The only things that remember that you won this fight or lost that one are the killboards, your allies and your enemies. It’s not ending up in any fancy book about the history of EVE, or being talked about on podcasts by people who spend 5 % of their time fighting and 95 % of it talking about fighting while spinning the derived meta so much that it gives you vertigo.

Ask a lowsec resident what is best in EVE, and they might say this:

“To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.” – Conan, Conan The Barbarian 1982

Although the above quote is served with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, but the principle is true. A true passion for lowsec is born from the need of endless conflict and the glory it entails. It is not only found in lowsec, but is most common there. To those that call it home and a way of life, there is no glory in hiding under the protective eye of CONCORD or as vassals to some nullsec empire, bending the knee, walking in line and namelessly toiling in silence so it will save you when you fuck up or so that you can associate yourself with various headlines in the EVE media. It is the pure need to test oneself against others and come out alive. We do not come for your lands, your flag or your wealth, we come to kill you.

The beating heart of lowsec is a battlefield with little meaning and no end save for the battle itself. Because what is narrative? For some people, the narrative is what drives conflict and conquest, they cannot have one without the other. Meanwhile, swathes of the population of EVE are crippled, starving for content, because their way to it is via narrative. That should in no shape, way or form be looked down upon and is probably a more lofty goal, but what if we simply take that and cast it aside?

“The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one – no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts… This you can trust.” – Conan’s father, Conan The Barbarian 1982

Right before getting his head chopped off, Thulsa Doom asks Conan what he would have been if he had not given him meaning, strength and purpose in the thirst for revenge. If he had not given him narrative. The question becomes how you interpret the riddle of steel. Who was right, Thulsa or Conan’s father? In the end it is simply a matter of choice, either you need a reason to go out and crush your enemies and drive them before you, or you don’t – you just do it because you love to do it, because it’s in your blood. Lowsec embodies the latter.

The only thing that is always true, that will never waver, can’t be spun and never changes is the fight itself, and that is the narrative of lowsec.


Tags: lowlife, lowsec, narrative, niden

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.

  • Lowsec-bestsec

    Damn you. I am at work and in the wrong timezone for my buddies. Now I have an unbearable desire to go out pillaging and fucking shit up, bathing in pod goo; but I am stuck here for 6 more hours!!!

    • Niden

      I know the feeling 🙂

  • Tornike Khomeriki

    Well for those of us who see EVE as a universe that rips you out of the RL and submerges you in a virtual realm for a few hours – as opposed to just representing pixels on your screen – narrative before action is crucial, not just optional.

    • Niden

      Yep, and I recognize that, but the alternative is not just pixels on a screen. When I am fighting, I am fully immersed into what I am doing, it’s a different kind of thing than fighting as the means to a goal. The lack of the need for narrative is something that sets lowsec apart and represents a central question in choosing to live there.

      • Tornike Khomeriki

        But while looking for a fight (which in EVE often takes much longer than actual fight) without context you’re left with “I’m just looking for a fight in a video game”, not an immersive narrative like a sov war that could fill pages of a blog post even before you get to the fight.

        • Niden

          Yep, this is true. Some people want that aspect, need it. Lowsec doesn’t really offer it, more than “I want to beat the shit out of these guys over here.” The benefit is of course that PvP is a lot more common in lowsec, you can get it at the drop of a hat as most residents love it above all else, the fighting is passion, the passion is the fighting. And while you don’t build a narrative in the same way, you do build a reputation, which is a narrative of sorts.

          • Krachbummente

            “I want to beat the shit out of these guys over here.” is all the reason I need.

          • Tornike Khomeriki

            You do have a fair point in that last bit.

        • Ouso

          There *is* narrative in lowsec, just not the type you’re used to.

        • Gin

          First, it doesn’t take that long to find a fight in lowsec. Second, Low is filled with the type of people who don’t need to ponder why they’re fighting. We fight because we can and because we’re damn good at it. What ruins my “immersion” is a slow heartbeat and an empty system.

  • Ouso

    Great article. I would argue, though, that there IS a narrative in lowsec – just not the type found in null. Personal reputations, grudges and rivalries built over years of non-stop fighting provide a narrative of their own.

    The fights themselves, and the memory of them, constitutes the narrative of lowsec, just as bands of Aegean sea mauraders remembered their “history” in the places and peoples they once fought. Null has the great narrative of empires; we have the endless and violent stories of ancient warbands, prideful and violent, told around a campfire in the brief moments of respite between battles.

    Null is the story of great empires rising and falling. Ours is a smaller story. The memory of our warband, not only of the fights but the fighters; we aspire to match and outstrip the shining fights and fighters of old, to make our names known and feared by enemies old and new, and to be remembered by our comrades (and no others!) for our courage and violence. We don’t want to be Julius Caesar; we aspire to Achilles, Ajax, and Hector.

    Let them have their Rome, their empires and great volumes of history. I will keep my myrmidons, and my tales of their valor.

    • Jet Stream

      ! Replace the final sentence with this !
      Still a great article though! #LowSecs

    • Niden

      Rob Kaichin points out the same, and it’s very valid. I could have illustrated this better in the article, you are both right.

  • Great article! narrative is important… Join us to support the Minarchist Revolution narrative, or make up your own 🙂

  • Rob Kaichin

    “Because it is not my narrative, it doesn’t exist…”

    Well, Dirk and Asher might know some things, but on this they’re assuredly wrong.

    Low-sec has ‘narrative’, but because it isn’t easily drawn out on a map, it is invisible. Low-sec is tribes and warbands, fighting and feuding, grasping whatever they can.

    Maybe because it isn’t so ‘loud’, it isn’t written on, but it is passionate. I can still tell stories of fights from a year and more ago, because I remember how difficult and challenging it was, and how glorious it was to succeed.

    If anything, Null-sec should be more like LS. Groups *die* in Null. In LS they move away. Which one is better for the game?

    • Niden

      Good point, and something I didn’t illustrate in the article well enough to be honest.

  • Messiah Complex

    So, you made Conan sound like literature. That’s kind of spooky.


    Lol, in so many parts of this article you can replace low sec with wormhole space and it still is quite correct!