This is a brief guide I first wrote back in 2008, which has been updated for 2024. It’s a guide, and a good starting point for those starting out in this ‘business’.
Understanding the obstacles
First up, if you’re going to engage in piracy, you should know that people are going to be angry at you. Some of them will be VERY angry at you. Some of them will even want you dead. Not your character, but YOU. If this sounds like a really bad idea for you to get involved, then you should stop now. Find something more peaceful to do.
If you’re still reading because you don’t care what people think of you, well done. You’ve passed the first obstacle. You’re on the path away from being a carebear. Congratulations!
The second obstacle revolves around how much money you can throw away, and your attitude about ships.
I used to have a problem with PVP because I always worried about losing my ships. This affected how I engaged in combat. I’d be worried about losing the ship, so I wouldn’t put all of my heart and soul into the fight. Invariably, I’d lose.
Always remember the golden rule, which I talk about so much – only fight with what you can afford to lose. If you can’t afford to lose your battlecruiser, then don’t fight in it.
If you can buy 5 of your preferred ship + fittings, then you can afford to fight in it. If you can’t, then use a cheaper ship.
Obviously you might need a source of income to allow you to keep buying ships, and even upgrade the kind of ship you can fly around in combat. Missions are good for this, but some people also do trading to earn money.
If you have 50 million ISK to your name, you can afford to fly cruisers. 150 million will allow you to fly interceptors. 300 million will allow you to fly battlecruisers. 400 million and you can start flying battleships.
Piracy is not necessarily a good money-making business. It’s unlikely that you’ll get rich from piracy. You might, if you get good enough, make enough from loot or even ransoms to cover your costs. Some people get lucky, and stumble upon loot worth billions of ISK. Will that be you? Who knows, but it’s unlikely. Don’t count on it.
Ok, now that we’ve got all the niceties out of the way, let’s get onto some practical matters.
Even new characters can start out as a pirate. You’ll need the following skills though:
High speed maneuvering I
This will allow you to fit a Microwarpdrive (MWD) for getting up close and personal very quickly. Make sure you disengage the MWD as soon as you’re in range, otherwise you’ll be easier for them to hit you.
Tackling your opponent to prevent them from getting away is absolutely important. You’ll need a webifier and a warp scrambler to slow them down and prevent them from warping away.
Propulsion jamming I
If you need to work on these skills first, then make sure you start out in a frigate, because you’re nowhere near ready to use a cruiser.
As you use the MWD and tackling equipment, you’ll find they drain your capacitor. You can use capacitor power relays in the lowslots to help sustain them.
Energy grid upgrades II
Apart from these relatively essential skills, whatever else you use is entirely up to you. You will need at least level 4 in your essential skills to be useful.
Essential skills are those that help you kill your target, like turrets, autocannons or missiles. It depends on what you’re already skilled in from character creation, and what bonuses your chosen ship provides you. If you’re skilled in turrets, then jumping into a ship that provides bonuses to missiles will not help you maximise your potential.
It’s important to do what you can to maximise your results. Stack bonuses with skills to get the best out of your ship.
It’s also best to set your ship up for tanking, whether that’s armor tanking or shield tanking. The longer you can sustain their attack against you, the better.
Where to look for targets
Now that you’ve got your skills trained up, chosen a ship and fit it appropriately, you’re now ready to go out hunting for your first kill.
Don’t do it in highsec! You’ll need to jump into a 0.4 system or lower. Your targets will be those who are out hunting rats (NPC pirates) in the asteroid belts, or even mining the belts.
As you fly around the lowsec systems, you’ll want to find out-of-the-way places that have very little traffic. You can find ratters and miners out here, enjoying the peace and quiet – until you stumble upon them and ruin their day!
When you enter a system you can see who is in local. Check your scanner to see what ships are in space. If you see a ship that you think you can handle and would like to hunt down, then go look for them.
Here’s what I do. I check the system map to see where I’ve landed in the system. The scanner has a range of 14 AU from where I am. So I look at the planets within 14 AU and then go to each of those planets that have asteroid belts around them.
I then narrow the scanner down to 5 degrees (click on your ship to create a small square around it – that’s your 5 degree window which you can move around to sit on top of an asteroid belt icon), and scan the nearby belts for them. If they’re not in any of those belts, I move onto the next planet.
The reason I like doing this from planets is because some people like to leave a belt and ‘hide’ at a planet, thinking it’s safe. It’s not. So while searching for them at belts, occasionally you find them at a planet and you can engage them.
If you can’t find them at any belt or planet in the system, then they’re probably hiding at a safe spot until you leave, or they’re on a mission. Unless you have scan probes to find them, move on to the next system.
If you do find them though, then engage!
Attacking the target
Use your Afterburner or MWD to get up close to them as quickly as you can (if you’re set up for short range, of course). Orbit the target at your optimal range and start your attack.
When you attack someone, you will have a red criminal timer. This means you’re flashy red to anyone, and they can freely attack you. It also makes you a target for gate and station sentry guns, so you will want to avoid them for the 15 minutes of the timer. When you’ve finished your attack, go to a safe spot until the timer goes to zero, then you can go on your way.
Instead of destroying an opponents’ ship, you can stop your attack (if it’s safe to do so) when they’re down into their hull. Keep them locked down so they can’t get away and open a chat window with them. Offer to let them go if they pay you some money.
This will usually be what you think their ship is worth to them. They might not want to lose it, so they’ll be willing to pay you so they can keep it.
If they don’t want to, however, then destroy it. And then try to lock down their pod. Then ransom them again for double what you originally asked. If they have implants, they’ll probably pay you. If they don’t, then they won’t care.
You can make a reasonable amount of money from this, provided that you can tank whatever damage they’re trying to do to you, because while you’re talking to them about ransoms, they’re still trying to kill you.
And watch out for any friends they might have in system that can come to their aid. You don’t want any nasty surprises.
If they agree to paying you but they’re taking longer than 30 seconds, chances are they’re trying to keep you there for their friends to arrive. Kill them and move on before you get killed yourself.
Piracy is not for everyone, but if you can make it work for you and you enjoy doing it, then all the best to you.
Just remember to learn everything you can about it, study tips and guides on how to improve what you’re doing, and get the best ship setups you can use and can afford. Make sure you’re the best you can be, and you will find success in your ventures.