The After Action Report below was written by my fleet and corp mate TXG Sync after a memorable night out. It is reproduced here in full and with his blessing.
I will give my side of the story once my forehead is healed from hitting the keyboard hard and multiple times. Enjoy the cautionary tale….
Splatus / Epigene
The Battle of Epigene
By TXG Sync
The night started simply. My Wife started a TV show and snuggled up beside me, happily working on some home-made jewelry. I grabbed my laptop for a little site-running in or around my corp’s home wormhole, and logged into our voice comms channel.
There’s an important rule when My Wife and I are hanging out together. Even if we’re dual-screening, if we talk, we’re talking to each other. Not people online, not people on the phone. Therefore I join voice comms with one ear to the fleet, and the other listening to the TV show. I’m a piss-poor multi-tasker, so I typically am missing important information in fleet or funny jokes on the TV show. But I try nonetheless. Practice makes perfect, right?
So I muted myself and typed out a quick “listening but not talking” message to our voice communication channel. Satisfied that my teammates got the message, I fired up Eve and started tweaking the fit of my shiny two-week-old Harbinger in the player-owned starbase. I was hoping to tailor my ship’s fit to match the expected difficulty of the “Sleepers” — enemy non-player characters — in a neighboring Class 3 wormhole my mates on voice comms were discussing. Fitting a ship is all about finding the right balance. Too much damage (gank) and not enough ability to absorb damage (tank), and you’re toast. Too much tank and not enough gank, and the fights simply take forever and bore everybody to tears. Too predictable, and if other players jump you you’re just another notch in their belt. Too unpredictable, and your fleet-mates have no idea how to work with your build for a successful night.
In case I sound like I know what I’m talking about, though, I should briefly explain; I’m a newbie. Dyed-in-the-wool, bought-the-game-just-a-few-months-ago newbie. I read a lot, so I pick things up here and there, but the difference between understanding something and feeling its importance in your bones is pretty big.
I applied to join Broken Wheel, and a guy named “Epigene” was my interviewer. We had a long chat, and he advised me that I needed at least another week or so of specialized training before I’d even be remotely competent in a wormhole. I had no battlecruiser. I had low scanning skills. My main experience in wormholes was probing them out, hopping in a Venture, and stealth-gas-mining before the mysterious Sleeper enemy showed up, and even doing that incompetently; I didn’t even know that any sleeper ladar site starting with “ordinary” has sentries that will one-shot a Venture, and had lost a couple of ships as a result.
In short, I’d likely be a liability “living” in a wormhole, and probably have a really bad time. But nevertheless, a week later Epigene re-interviewed me, checked my updated skills, and invited me into the corp with the understanding that I’d probably be in the Class 2 starter wormhole corporation “a while” until my skills were at a reasonably competent level.
Apparently, the skill requirements to make it into Broken Wheel aren’t really much more than a battle cruiser, decent probing skills, and a slight penchant for masochism.
I was grateful for the invite, though, because this corp really seemed to have their act together unlike the newbie corp I joined my first week of play. Over the course of the past couple of weeks I’ve spent with them, that impression has been validated. Our corp has several experienced fellows who like to work with newer players and teach them the intricacies of wormhole life. It’s a much tougher challenge than the typical Eve Online experience, akin to camping on a remote frontier. A remote frontier where the locals will occasionally shoot you in the head while you’re taking a smoke break, then gleefully rob your corpse. That kind of frontier.
Earlier in the day, a recently-recruited — but very experienced — corp-mate had advised me on some fits. I’ll call him “Temporary Mentor”. As Temporary Mentor offered advice and I replaced modules, I found him to be pretty reliable. I watched DPS climb, regen increase, and the general “tankiness” of my fits improve under his guidance.
However, one piece of advice Temporary Mentor gave me was, “Get rid of the damage control unit (DCU). It’s really not doing much for you anyway. You can fit a damage mod or shield mod in its place and get better results.”
Now, I’m a little embarrassed to talk about this, but apparently I have a disorder common to newbies: ED. Enervated DPS. For those who didn’t pay attention in English class, “enervated” means “weak”. So I eagerly seized on his advice. My Damage Per Second (DPS) was really quite low, and like a pill-popping would-be pornstar hoping to enlarge his member, I seized on mods to improve my Harbinger’s damage at the expense of other attributes.
I quickly previewed my proposed fit via the in-game fitting tool and my Temporary Mentor was right: without the DCU, I could fit more gank for a bit less tank, better range, and I could probably run sites quicker with much higher damage per second. Without a noticeable hit to my HP. The prescription seemed perfect!
However, I forgot to look at a couple of important statistics in my hurry to re-fit my Harbinger and not keep my corp-mates waiting in the Class 3. My ship had anemic armor and hull resistance without the DCU. I’d neglected to turn the DCU *on* to examine my resistances in the in-game fitting window, so the replacement of it with additional damage mods seemed inconsequential.
On the advice of earlier Temporary Mentors, I’d faithfully added a DCU of some sort to every build of every ship I owned if possible. The improvement in survivability was — ostensibly — enormous for a unit that takes so little capacitor to run and is fairly easy to fit, and I was no longer accustomed to combat without one. To add to my other newbie mistakes, I had never run a Sleeper site in a Class 3 wormhole before. The difficulty, if I understand, scales non-linearly, from an “easy” C1 in a well-tanked cruiser to a deadly C6 that can easily demolish capital ships, swallow whole fleets, and eat one’s first-born if one does not exercise excruciating care.
So there I was. Under-tanked for a C3. Blissfully unaware of that fact. Suffering from ED yet proud of the throbbing of my slightly-swollen DPS.
Epi had to take a business trip my first week in the corp, so I had not flown with him much. For this flight today, he was bringing a Tengu (or Falcon, he switched at some point) with some very impressive missile volley damage. We all did a quick ready check, and began warping out to traverse the C4 in between our fleet and the target C3.
Then Someone Spoke In Local.
If you aren’t familiar with wormholes in Eve Online, they are the one place in the game where you can’t immediately see who else might be a threat or an ally using a window called your “Local” window. It lists the players so that you can discern their security status, corporation membership, and other details. If you pay attention to it, you can gain a great deal of intelligence about potential opponents. And if you’re good with your D-Scan, you can often discern the class of ship they are flying and potential vulnerabilities. Local is an asset to your survivability if you know how to use it well.
And in Wormholes, “Local” simply doesn’t exist unless someone types into it. It simply remains empty, mocking me: “There might be people in your system. There might not. And I’m not gonna tell you. Neener-neener!”
Now, in our corp, We Don’t Speak In Local. This rule is so important it deserves extra capitalization. “Local” gives away too much information without getting any in return.
Therefore, seeing someone having typed words in Local was eerie. People speaking in Local are usually confused, upset, gloating, or clueless. Sometimes a combination of all four. Which one was he?
After a little discussion, Epigene decided to speak with The Speaker In Local privately. The Speaker apparently wanted something from our corporation, but we couldn’t quite puzzle out what. Epigene multi-tasked, flying with the fleet and chatting with The Speaker to try to determine his motives.
We scouted out the intermediate C4 on our way to our target C3, and everything was clear. We arrived in the C3 without incident, and fleet-warped to our first site. It started off great. I was finally doing decent damage — considerably better than I can in the fleet-standard Drake due to my low missile skills — taking hits and receiving them reasonably well. My Harbinger was “primaried” — made the main target by the enemy — several times, and our spider-tanking setup was none the worse for wear. My teammates would target me and the remote repairs would begin flowing, and I was glad to offer a great deal of direct and immediate frigate and cruiser damage the Drakes and Tengus in our fleet struggled with. Plus do my part when one of my fleet-mates was primaried, too.
Something hit me HARD. I’d never seen a single hit from a NPC ever hit my shields quite that viciously except in low-shield armor-tanked boats. I was accustomed to hits in the 800 to 1000 HP range; this one hit for well over 2000 HP. I was stunned.
“<– Primaried”, I typed into corp channel. Within a few seconds, repairs began arriving from my fleet-mates.
WHAM! Again, a massive hit. That must be one hell of a battleship in the site. The hits were arriving about every eight or nine seconds, taking away 20% of my shields with each hit. Adding to that the damage from being primaried by a new wave of Sleeper frigates and cruisers, and my shields were dropping too fast. At around 60% shields, I wrote “shields going down”.
At 30% shields, I wrote “warping”. I aligned my Harbinger to a safe spot, but didn’t quite warp yet. My alignment time is 10.3 seconds; I figured I could weather at least another hit or two. Then I noticed the name of the person hitting me:
“epigene” I wrote as my ship continued to align for warp, “You are killing me.”
Epigene was, apparently, not watching his fleet chat window. The hits kept coming.
“Warp out, Sync!” I heard a friendly voice tell me over voice comms. I saw the wisdom of their words. I clicked “warp”.
There’s a well-known downside to this “spider-tanking” thing, though. It is that pilots must all orbit very close to one another, because the range of remote repair units — except on dedicated Logistics ships — is pretty terrible. One must orbit so close, in fact, that it’s possible for teammates to bump into you and de-align you from warp.
At that exact moment, as I typed “warping” and clicked warp, a teammate bumped into me and threw my ship out of alignment. Another 10 seconds to align, and I’d already lost almost ten seconds.
WHAMMO! Another hit from Epigene. Shield is totally gone. I’m into armor, and due to my extremely low resists, Epigene hits a wrecking shot that shows over 5,000 HP on my screen. I type a brief message, but I should have realized by now that Epi couldn’t see me.
This would have been a good time to have a Damage Control Unit equipped, no? And as an aside, I always wonder why the killmails and lossmails don’t show the actual amount of damage taken. It’s like they take all the resistances out, showing one dealing much less damage than one did. Weird. Anyway…
Holy crap! The Sleepers apparently smelled blood, as my armor resists are now completely pitiful in a shield-tanked Harbinger with no DCU. Suddenly Sleepers who were hitting for 800 or so through my decent shield resists were smacking me around for 2400+.
WHAMMO! I’m into hull. But I’m finally aligned. Spamming my warp button. I’ve had a few losses during my brief career in Eve, and usually I can take a hit or two once my damage is down into structure. That is, a few hits… if I have a DCU.
I warp to the safe spot.
In a pod.
60 million ISK Harbinger a smoking pile of wreckage behind me.
Our salvager — thank you, @T Lyran! — picked up the wreckage and deposited the modular remains into my barracks back at the corporate player-owned starbase. Epigene graciously replaced my boat, complete with all of its equipment that night, leaving a new and shiny Harbinger floating in the POS named “Epi-Bait”. But from my perspective, this friendly-fire incident was not entirely his fault, and I felt a little guilty accepting his replacement ship in addition to the 20M ISK payment from insurance.
I said a little guilty. Not guilty enough, apparently, to refuse it.
However, I learned some important lessons:
1. Tank is still more important than gank when fighting sleepers as a team. Don’t try to fly a cruiser-HP Harbinger (~30K EHP) when you really need a battlecruiser-HP Harbinger (>50K EHP) in a C3! Better the site take too long than lose a ship and slow the fleet down even more.
2. Re-run my fits via EFT or Pyfa prior to flying them. There’s a good chance I’ll miss something if I just use the in-game fitting window.
2. A damage control unit can add over 12,000 effective hit points to a shield-tanked Harbinger between shield, armor, and hull bonuses. That buffer would have saved my ship in this case. It’s a lesson I won’t soon forget.
3. Typing is ineffective in fleet. It’s important to be able to two-way communicate. Be extremely cautious in fleet if only listening on voice, not talking. Warp out early, warp out often. If possible and not warp-scrambled…
4. Epigene has MAD missile skills, and could easily kick my butt back to hisec at any moment if he wanted to.
And The Speaker In Local? Turns out he wanted our corp to bash a player-owned starbase or something for him in his home wormhole system. We’re not really a mercenary crew, but we’d take the job if the ISK was good, I’m sure. The Speaker just seemed terribly confused, and dealing with distractions is challenging when running a site.
Anyway, here’s the memorial screenshot: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/2742689/2013.05.13.02.42.58.jpg
And here is a cropped screenshot from our fleetmate Nefteran. After he recovered from his laughing fit. That is what friends are for after all. And here is the killmail.