Recently, I shared some musings about the constant risk/reward decisions occurring inside the heads of every Eve player every day. While sometimes it's not worth the risk to try to go through the Nourvukaiken/Tama gate in a hauler, other times, you just need to take that risk.
A week ago, I moved a character into a dedicated ratting corp, with the intention of doing a little carrier ratting to generate isk. My reasons for this weren't purely economic, though. I tend to be very nervous about cosmic anomalies; the fact that anyone can warp to them makes me a bit skittish. While carriers are capable of holding their own against subcaps now - something not true in the days between carriers being able to field light drones and the new squadron fighter mechanics - I've grown up on stories and experiences killing ratting carriers, and that kind of lesson doesn't quickly go away.
One of my corpmates, Alice Karjovic, won me over by suggesting that carrier ratting is quite different than it used to be. No longer is it the afk activity it used to be. In fact, he was pretty adamant that it's a good way to become familiar with the new fighter control mechanics, and actually serves as good training for carrier PvP. I'm very inexperienced with using capitals, so it sounded like a good thing to try to gain a little practice in a safer (yet still exposed) way.
But, first, I needed to get a carrier in the ratting system.
Fresh-eyed and ready to dive, in, I checked contracts and found a nice Thanatos hull with the right rigs and plenty of fuel for 1.3 billion in Ihakana. Over the next couple days, I bought the mods I'd need, had Red Frog ship them to the high-sec system next door, and ferried them over to Ihakana in my Viator.
Now fully fit, I sat down to plan my route. It shouldn't be a surprise that my destination was the dronelands... a long trek consisting of about 17 jumps from Ihakana, if relying entirely on cynos. I had no intention of relying entirely on cynos, though. Using a single cyno character, that round would involve me moving a character through about 90 systems, contracting my ship so I can hide it and get a newbie frigate to light the cyno, buying fuel, replacing lost cyno generators, etc. etc. It's a lot of hassle, and I wasn't eager to spend all my time for five or six days moving a ratting character.
I could afford to be patient, so I waited. Instead, if moved my ratting character to my target system in a Buzzard, and decided to scan down a wormhole that would help me bring the carrier in a lot sooner. I might get lucky and find a good connection on day 1, or I might have to wait for a month for it to work out, but at least I wouldn't be grinding through jumps and logistics for an entire week's playtime.
This wasn't my first time moving capitals through wormholes. A couple years ago when the CFC invaded Delve the second time, I decided to take advantage of a favorable wormhole connecting Tenal to Delve, with each side being a single cyno away from our home staging and deployment staging systems.
I admit, you feel powerful when you take a capital through a fresh hole and see it immediately go critical. But with the comfort comes risk. You can't go station-to-station through wormholes. If you jump through that hole, it involves risk on both sides. Capitals warp very slow... slowly enough that someone could theoretically see you begin to align, realize it's in no discernible direction, and probe down the hole before you land. And with jump fatigue, people are more interested in probing down wormholes now than ever. The risk is real.
Five days into my scanning campaign, I found a hole a few systems out from my destination leading to lowsec. More than once over the past week, I found those lowsec holes, though, only to see that they led to a system five or six cyno jumps out from Ihakana. This time was no exception: a system in Domain. But, that system was completely empty, and a couple additional signatures. Rather than giving up and returning to null, I scanned down another lowsec connection. This time, it led to The Citadel. Now we're talking.
A quick visit to jumpplanner left me depressed. Taking only gates, it was a six-cyno route. But, some of the system names were familiar. The last jump went from P3EN to Horkkisen... I knew P3EN. Checking dotlan, I saw it was next door to Obe, a system withing carrier range of Ihakana.
I started to sit up in my seat a little more. Two wormholes and two cynos to bring my carrier in? That was more like it. But, the route wasn't without risks. I'd not only have to take the Obe/P3EN gate, but I'd have to warp to a wormhole twice. That was a lot of traveling around in space.
Would I get another chance anytime soon, though? The thought of only having to burn two cynos was tantalizing. For a few minutes, I sat there, debating with myself. If I was unlucky, I'd be making a 1.2 billion isk mistake after factoring in insurance. With my cyno character, I checked the othe rside of the Obe/P3EN gate. One in local, no bubbles on the gate. But Obe itself had 9 pilots, though none on dscan.
Fortune favors the bold. I decided to go for it.
Before I changed my mind, I moved my cyno character to Obe, did the contracting trick to hide my travel Astero, and positioned a newbie ship. With my ratting character, I burned back through the two wormholes, docked up, and clonejumped to my carrier. The first cyno was an easy one, lighting it on a nice, roomy station and docking up.
Once my cyno self-destructed, I got back in my Astero, bought a new cyno generator and liquid ozone, and made my way to Horkkisen, an unfortunately named system I've never been to before. It was a lone low-sec system on the other side of a high-sec island, and I never saw a soul in local. I didn't anticipate problems on that side.
But first, i needed to get into P3EN safely. Once I positioned my cyno character, I undocked my carrier and started to align to P3EN, furiously hitting dscan for probes or ships. So far, so good. The gate was in front of the undock, so I didn't need to worry about bumping off the station while aligning. Ever so slowly, my ship entered warp. I was committed now.
As I was 12 au away, I saw probes and an Astero pop up on dscan. My eyes widened with alarm instantly, but they were only core probes. I kept dscanning, expecting to see the core probes be replaced by combat probes, but nothing changed as I landed on the gate. Without waiting for that to change, I jumped.
Mercury, god of travelers, was smiling on me. The system was unchanged, just a single pilot in local and no bubbles. Without waiting around, I lit my cyno, double-clicked in space to break my gate cloak, and jumped to safety.
Horkissen had 9 pilots in local, but the wormhole was within dscan range. As soon as my cyno self-destructed, I undocked and started aligning off to the hole. I had been lucky once already. But my scouting of the system seemed accurate. Everyone was either docked up or too busy with their own business to bother me. I jumped through the hole to an empty system in Domain, and then through the second hole to nullsec. No within the same constellation as my destination, one of my corpmates scouted me the last few gates, and I found myself home.
In the end, I saved myself fifteen cynos by taking the risk. Was it worth it? Was it the right decision? I can tell you that using that route turned a simple, safe move op into a nerve-wracking hour of travel. An hour of anxiety is a lot better than the hassle of a whole week's effort of moving a capital across the map. In the end, no one tried to catch me, but I did take a few big risks and made a few assumptions, and those risks elevated the experience from a chore to a gamble. Gambles are infinitely more enjoyable.
In the end, it isn't the reality of our situation that we really respond to, but all the possibilities of the unknown hitting us all at once. That's why I play this game; the what-ifs colliding with probability, intersecting with the pursuit of enjoyment. What a rush!