EVE Online can be a harsh place, and at times it is based more on player choices and emergent behavior than an inherent balance of forces. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the war system used to make PvP legal between two corporations or alliances in high-sec space. The disparity in force projection between a casual high-sec mining corporation and a diehard pirate ransom corporation gives 'asymmetrical warfare' a new meaning.
Players in corporations oriented towards relatively peaceful activities are sought out by these piratical organizations, and then the threat of war is used to terrorize and extort them. In short, fun and profit at other peoples' expense, often with a helping of teeth-gnashing on the side. Which has a place in the hearts of EVE players.
But never mind that. What's important is that when the terrible people hellbent on ruining fun come calling, the innocent high-sec dwellers understand what the options are, and don't panic. To that end, this guide.
The Psychology of The Extortionist
The pirates are after entertainment and ISK, in that order. They want entertainment in the form of blowing you up, and they want ISK from your dropped loot and from you eventually paying them to go away.
They don't want a challenge, but that doesn't matter because you can't put up a challenge. PvP in EVE Online is pretty darn tricky, especially in high-sec, and at least somebody needs to know what they are doing or you're going to get walked all over. First time PvPers trying feebly to retaliate is exactly what the pirates want, because when you lose (this point isn't really a variable, first time PvPers will lose against experienced war corporations) you will be more amenable to purchasing a quick end to the war.
Cost, Opportunity Cost, and Upkeep
Pirates can't make you undock, and the longer you go without undocking, the more it costs to maintain the war. This is your primary advantage against PvPers. All they can do is disrupt whatever you needed to undock for, be it mining, missions, or what have you. This isn't ideal, because it doesn't make them any money or provide much in the way of entertainment.
In order to make the war cost as much as possible, your corporation should be in an alliance. If not, the cost of declaring war on you is going to be a scant handful of millions of ISK, possibly as low as 2mil ISK. At least, for the first week of war. This is nothing. If you are in an alliance, the cost is more like 50mil ISK for the first week, or possibly several times that if the pirate corporation or your corporation are involved in multiple wars.
Some things can raise the cost of waging war against you. The longer the war goes on, the more it costs. The more wars the pirate corporation is involved in, the more it costs. The more wars your corporation is involved with, the more it costs. It's against the rules to declare war against your corporation with shell corporations, in order to raise the cost, though. This can be petitioned if anybody notices, and you may get a warning (or worse) from GMs.
You can't reason with them to end the war, because war is reasonable from their perspective. You can't beg your way out of a war, because whining is the chief motivation of most of EVE's pirate player base. As are idle threats. You do have some options, though, and it's best to be aware of them.
Responding By Not Responding
The best, most readily available way for a non-PvP corporation to deal with wars is to freeze the pirates out. Don't talk to them in local, especially in ways that let them know they are inconveniencing you. Don't undock to fight them, even if you think you can win --even losing fights can be entertaining for pirates, or at least not boring. And it's pretty unlikely that you will be able to win, no offense.
If you don't provide targets, by not undocking in any market or mission hubs, nor in any mining systems, the pirates will eventually end the war and search for greener pastures. It probably will take a week or two, tops. It's also possible that you can relocate yourself to a more obscure area of high-sec. This is not guaranteed to work, though, as special locator agents can tell the pirates where you are. If nothing else, though, this will probably mean there are less people in local chat, so you'll be less likely to miss someone you are at war with, jumping into system.
Another way to have fun but not play into these pirates' hands is to just log onto other characters, that aren't in the corporation that is involved in the war, and go about your business as best you can, until the war is over.
One of the most suggested options is to hire mercenaries to fight your enemies for you. This is unlikely to work, mostly because mercenaries tend toward the terrible side, and probably aren't going to be cost-effective even if they can somehow help against the pirates.
Some mercenaries want you to pay for them to declare war on your targets, and probably to give them some sort of ISK allowance as well. Some will actually join your corporation to fight your enemies, which is marginally more pragmatic, but still likely to be too expensive for a high-sec PvE corporation to keep up for long, at least a smaller one.
When sizing up a mercenary corporation, you will want to look at their killboard, and to search the EVE Online forums for threads about them, to try and get an idea about how effective they are. You will also want to assess their active member numbers, to compare them against the corporation that has declared war against you.
Even the most effective mercenaries will only be a temporary show of force. If they humiliate the pirates that have been bothering you, it will still not guarantee an end to the war. Some pirates will interpret this as a fun challenge to be overcome, or an insult that must be punished, and become even more interested in your corporation, rather than less.
The Worst Option
It's against the rules to leave a corporation to avoid a war. There's no game mechanic that prevents this, but it is petition-able, and most high-sec pirates know this. Most competent pirate corporations will have some kind of list or address book folder of your corporation's members, and if they notice a mass migration going on, a GM will probably come calling. What is not against the rules is completely disbanding your corporation, and starting a new one. This is a pretty bad way to cope with a war, for obvious reasons, but for a low-key corporation without any POS and without tons of stuff scattered in various station hangars, it could a palatable last-ditch option. Of course, whatever corporation your people join, next, will be susceptible to war if the pirates are keeping track of you. And yeah, they probably are.
The Second Worst Option
Trying to muster resistance against pirates that declared war on you isn't going to go well, barring significant help. Even if you think you outnumber the pirates and you have them out-gunned, there are still any number of ways that they can turn things around on you. They could have neutral alt characters remotely repair them. They could have a fleet of backup ships one system out, or ready to log in at a moment's notice. They could have a bunch of falcons cloaked nearby, ready to pour on the ECM at a moment's notice. Half of EVE PvP is fooling your enemies into thinking that it is safe to attack. And that's assuming your fleet of mission-runners or miners is anything resembling combat ready. Hint: If you haven't been having regular PvP exercises, they probably aren't.
PvP in EVE Online is discussed and refined in numerous guides, articles, tutorials, PvP classes, and further polished through extensive in-game experiential learning. It cannot be opted into at a moment's notice, especially under the the hectic conditions of war. Or at least, you won't be very successful unless the pirates for some reason don't know what they are doing. PvP success in EVE is the result of constant striving, sharpening of tactics, and a great deal of thought. Newer players can PvP in low-sec or null-sec when they catch people unawares, or against other players without too much experience. But pit a mining or mission-running corporation against a pirate corporation, with all the cards more or less on the table, and you'll see the pirates win every time.
I don't mean to be negative, here, but I think an ounce of precaution is worth a pound of newbie player wrecks. As a new player, you should be easing into PvP under controlled conditions. That is, with a fleet of your friends, looking for kills in low-sec and accessible areas of null-sec. You don't want to "learn by doing" and feeding kills to pirates that are doing their level best to cut into your bottom line.
Bribes work surprisingly well in EVE Online. If the pirates are looking to extort you, they will probably be up front about it. Usually, this kind of pirate will pepper local chat with "Only 500mil to make it end" and so forth. If the price seems reasonable enough that you might consider it, do a little research to find out if their corporation has a reputation for honoring demands or not. Search on the main EVE forums for threads that contain that corporation's name. If they have a track record of honoring or betraying ransoms and extortions, ten minutes of searching will probably turn some things up. If the corporation is mentioned in a bunch of threads with names like "dishonorable a$$hats do not pay" and typo-laced screeds from angry CEOs, paying them probably isn't such a good idea.
Nor is shelling out ransom ISK a good idea if the pirate CEO doesn't give some kind of guarantee that he won't declare war again, two weeks later. It's a gamble. Doing research can hedge your bets, but it's still a gamble. You can try for arrangements like "we'll pay you half now, and half in installments every week, for the next six weeks, if you don't declare war, again" but most pirates' terms are non-negotiable, so good luck with that.
If you pay ransom and the pirates betray you and keeps attacking, you're pretty much out of luck. The best you can do is head over to the Crime & Punishment sub-forum on the main EVE Online forums, and post a thread as a warning to others not to pay that corporation ransom. That sub-forum is sort of like an impotent Better Business Bureau for PvPers in EVE Online. Cold consolation, I know, but still better than nothing. And maybe the next guy won't pay the ransom.
The Best Defense
EVE Online's mechanics are designed to incentivize mixed corporations that have PvP-specialists, and PvE specialists, or at least to have players that are moderately competent at both. Every corporation in EVE should have PvP training ops to raise their general PvP skill level, and to get their players used to working with each other. Even the most "carebear" organizations in EVE should do this. Otherwise, your options are going to be pretty damn limited when the pirates finally notice you.
Got pirate problems or a pirate solution? Come tell us about it on the Ten Ton Hammer forums. We'll commiserate and kibbitz, and you can share your own war experiences.
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