Geography is very important in pvp. Much like maritime warfare in the age of sail, space combat very rarely takes place in the middle of nowhere; it takes place at points of interest or value. And it happens because somebody thinks that a place was worth visiting, and his opponent finds him there.
Gates are the most important and most obvious piece of geography, which is why gate campers exist. They simply set up shop and wait for their prey to come to them.
As a solo frigate pilot, things are not so simple; I can't aggress on gates, so I have to find my targets elsewhere. I must search the other celestials for targets of opportunity, and then move in swiftly enough to catch them. The D-scan is my primary tool, and positioning myself so that I can cover the most important celestials as soon as possible after entering the system is quite important.
That's where safe spots and getting to know your hunting grounds really helps. And that's why I knew at once when I had found an afk pilot in a safe spot.
You see, one of the better lowsec roams in Amarr low sec is the Milal loop. It's a 6 system loop of empty space; there are no NPC stations in the loop, so anyone in local is actually in space. Milal is the mouth of this system, and the gate from high sec is set well above the ecliptic plane - by as much as 50 AU if I remember correctly.
Like most low sec dwellers, I always run the D-scan once after entering a system, taking advantage of my temporary cloak. It's habit, and I often find myself doing it even when there is nobody else in system. So when I entered Milal I immediately noticed a shuttle within 14 AU.
Typically, I ignore shuttles. They are usually either behind a force field or on a gate and it's a waste of my time to scan them down. But his time I knew that neither of these was the case because in Milal there are no celestials within scanning range of the gate.
I re-checked the D-scan to make sure I had not caught him mid warp. He was still there, so I guessed the pilot was either afk or semi-afk (eating his dinner, etc), and he had to be at a safe spot. I had no idea how long he would stay there, but I knew I had to try and catch him.
I raced back to Amarr and loaded up my Bestower with my Magnate and a Punisher. I then made best speed for Shuria, where I docked up and assembled my Magnate.
Jumping back into Milal I scanned again, breathing a sigh of relief when I saw the pilot was still in his safe spot. After warping to my own safe spot I deployed my combat scan probes and began trying to pin him down.
It was surprisingly difficult, actually. Shuttles are apparently really hard to resolve, and I was barely able to get a lock. It took me so long that I was certain the pilot would see combat probes on the scanner and leave the system.
However, he was clearly not checking his scanner, and I got the lock. Two minutes later I was back in system with my Punisher and I jumped straight onto the shuttle. The results were predictable.
Victim: Kid La
Corp: Republic University
Destroyed: Gallente Shuttle
Damage Taken: 450
Name: Taurean Eltanin (laid the final blow)
Corp: Strategic Conflicts Incorporated
Weapon: Gatling Pulse Laser II
Damage Done: 450
Post battle review:
It turns out the pilot was not afk, as he certainly warped out of there fast enough once he was in his pod. I'm guessing he was trying to juggle real life with Eve and paid the price.
Once again, the battle itself was not particularly interesting, but the hunt was quite exciting. This was the first time that I used combat probes to pin down a targetl, and I am quite impressed by how useful they are.
While it's not a priority, at some point I'm going to want to work on my scanning skills and be able to fly a covert ops.
Lessons for the future:
Safe spots offer only temporary safety. Never assume you cannot be found.