Level 4 Mission Frigates

Plus one.

Holidays mean more time off but somehow it’s become less time for me to do things in null sec.  I’ve been in high sec, shopping, setting up buy and sell orders, contracting supplies to null sec and carebearing away.  Seems that the last time I did a L4 mission, I failed to turn in the mission on time and took a terrible hit to my standings.  I spent the first part of my winter vacation doing a few missions in high sec, repairing my standings so that I could install jump clones again.  In the middle of all the holiday excitement, I lost a mission Drake.

Lesson learned:  don’t go AFK while in warp to the deadspace pocket.

At least, don’t do it with your shield booster and hardeners off.  

In our early history, Open University of Celestial Hardship was a null sec survival training corp based in high sec.  We lived in Berta, the last high sec system with a station in Derelik and deployed to Curse for PvP.  We staged some ships in low sec Sendaya, gateway to Curse, took a deep breath and jumped into the wild west that was, and still is, Doril.  We seeded the Heaven constellation with ships for replacement and started to roam about Curse.

You’re going to die… a lot.

And we did, but we really were a high sec corp dipping our feet into the shallow waters of null.  When most of us weren’t doing pvp, we were missioning and mining away in high sec.

Over time, the pilots of OUCH became more PvP centric, moving totally out of high sec, returning only to give training, and spending all of our time in PvP-only channels in TS.  The concept was great for building a null sec based PvP corp, but kind of froze out our students; we lost quite a few to disinterest.  So we started hanging out with them in the public TS channels more and started going back to high sec do some team building activities with students.

Monday Night is Quest Night.

Every Monday night, a bunch of instructors would jump into ships and head back to high sec to mission with the students, hang out in TS while we prepared them for null sec.  We’d grab a few students and blitz through a half dozen or so L4s in a fleet of battle cruisers or battleships, sharing standings with the new guys.  Not a big money making or standing increasing thing, it was more for the social interaction and camaraderie.

Flying a L4 with 10 guys in battleships and BCs, blapping L4 mission rats can be fun, but it is not a challenge.  In retrospect, it’s a play style more in line with large fleet PvP, where alpha strikes on a target remove them from the field.  So as small gang, light ship PvPers, we down shipped into frigates and cruisers.  We’d have students stick with their student fit PvP fits and teach them how to tackle on NPCs while trying to stay alive in a ship made out of paper.  We’d bring some cruiser logi to help keep everyone alive.

Today, we still base our students out of Berta and every month or so, we’ll gather everyone up and do a couple of L4 missions in armor fit frigates.  It’s an opportunity to get practice in broadcasting targets, calling for reps and exercising logistic skills in the awesome little healer, the Navitas.

A half dozen frigates can do Level 4 Dread Pirate Scarlet or Worlds Collide, it just takes a while.

When complacent frigate pilots doing L4s in easy mode wander out of logi range, it’s a race to get back in repair range and save them when they become primary.  When triggers get popped out of order it makes even fights suddenly fighting outnumbered and out gunned.  Choosing the next primary target is important, or you spend too much time traveling between targets and not enough time damaging them.  And if your spreading damage around, well, it’s going to be a long fight.

When logi pilots become primary, it gets interesting.  When mission rats jam logi ships, it gets really interesting.

We take a couple of hours and focuses the corp with two goals: hang out and get to know students who aren’t quite ready to get into null sec, and get our Operations pilots proficient at the things you have to do to stay alive with logi.

It’s not efficient isk making.  It’s not efficient standing building.  It is a nice little training and team building tool that develops skills which cross over into PvP combat.

Because soloing a Level 4 in an over-tanked battleship doesn’t prepare you for PvP.

Minus one.

Safeties On

Plus one.

You know what happens when you turn your safeties off and shoot someone else’s wreck in High Sec?

CONCORD shows up and kicks the crap out of you.

Yeah, how’d you know that?

You’re such a noob. 

I got nothing.

So class, what did we learn today?

I miss NPC Null.

How about “Leave your freaking safeties on”?

That too.

Minus one.

Hey, Little Sister

Plus one.

One of the nice things about being in a training corporation is watching players develop from newbies or carebears into solid combat pilots.  Ultimately, joining Open University of Celestial Hardship allowed me to use a real life skillset that I truly enjoy, teaching and training others, in a video game.

Bet you never saw that coming. 

Now, OUCH has a multicultural, diverse demographic, all races, creeds, ethnicities.  We’re definitely open and inclusive.  And probably every few months, we catch a female player who wants to learn how to to survive in null or get into PvP.

I love having women in corp, because to be honest, having all guys in a corp, well, guys that can kind of be jerks at times, gets freaking old.  Women in your corp tend to temper the overwhelming testosterone-fueled jackassery that comes with all-boys clubs.  OUCH currently has 2 female instructors now, and it’s pretty cool.

Awww.  You old softy.  What ever happened to the old He-Man-Woman-Haters club?

Dead and gone, brother.  Good riddance.

Don’t get me wrong.  I treat my female pilots just how I treat my male ones.  I don’t make any special accommodations for them:  I tell them when they do good and when they make mistakes.  Make sure they’re on the training schedule and fleeting up.  Help them figure out what they need to be working on to support the corp mission and their own personal development.  If they fly stupid, I give them crap just like one of the boys, because they are one of the boys, a member of the fraternity of OUCH instructors.

In other words, they are treated as equals.

Yeah, so when I told my youngest little sister, OMG, you’re soooo sweet, I’m almost going to feel sorry when I make you cry, she replied, you can try.

You love it.

Hooyah!  Give me a half dozen more just like her.  I told her I was looking forward to her being one of my best FCs.

So the other night when I log in, she’s FCing, something she had been successfully avoiding for a couple of months while she learns the OUCH playbook.  I ask her what she wants me to fly and she tells me a stealth bomber.  I come out to Camp Curse and take a look at the fleet composition.

A lot of people don’t know that OUCH teaches FCs.  It’s kind of hard to primary our FC off the field because if you happen to get the right one, there are usually 5 guys in fleet that can replace him or her.  In our fleets, the senior most experienced FCs are usually not leading the fleet: they are coaching the FC, and doing imitations of good soldiers by following orders.

Trying hard not to second guess the junior guy.

When you are a new FC, what you can or cannot take on is the biggest hurdle to knowing if you can commit the fleet to a  fight.  What comes naturally now to our senior FCs, their gut check, is based on simple math they learned when they were new FCs.

If x is greater than y, kill all the things.  If y is greater than x, run away.

So my FC is figuring out her tactical plans for tackle and EWAR, with some of my senior guys coaching her and giving her feedback.  I casually ask a question.

FC, what’s your fleet strength?

Eighteen, she says.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard my FCs talk about fleet strengths.  They are macho manly dudes, making gut checks, taking on Ishtar fleets with pocketknives, trying to get me podded.  I’m pleasantly surprised when she pipes up with a number so quickly.

Oh, I say? And, pray tell me what genius Operations FC taught you that?

I read it on the forum, she says confidently.  The smile on my face expands into a huge grin of pride.  She can read.  Yet another reason why I like women in corp.

You know something, I tell her, you’re going to be a bad ass someday.

And one of her brothers pipes up:

She already is.

Minus one.

BB51: The Rush

Plus one.

There was a fight.  They were in cruisers, HACs and BCs.  We were in frigs, assault frigs, stealth bombers.  They had logi.  Even numbers:  We weren’t outnumbered, only out gunned, but we had EWAR.

So we engaged them on the gate anyway.

Guns versus EWAR.

The tackle grabbed everything they could, the bombers rained torpedoes on the primary, but it’s slow damage and well within the limits of their logi.

I can almost hear the other FC say, Bren in the Falcon is Primary.

I’m pointed and taking damage and I tell the FC.  My voice is calm.  My voice is almost always calm, at least that’s what the videos show.  But it doesn’t change the fact that a healthy dose of adrenaline dumped into my bloodstream the moment I was pointed.

Help is on the way.

I’m the Angel of Mercy for my fleet.  I’m the guy who protects them from the big bad wolves in their powerful ships who want to take their ships away from them.  And now I am going to fall and leave them unprotected.  I certainly don’t have the damage to take one of the bastards with me.

I cycle a jam off of one target and tag another who has me pointed, but a there’s a third as well.  My shields give way to armor.  I’m aligned, but I can’t break free.

Then Local spikes:  Plus 8.  It’s all blue.

Shield reps land when I’m halfway to structure.  The cavalry has arrived.  My FC is hooting and hollaring in TS; somehow he drew reinforcments from a few systems away.  Then he gets back to the business of calling primaries and destroying spaceships, one at a time.

Afterwards, I warp to a tactical, get up, and walk around.  I look at my hands.  They vibrate.

I take a deep breath, and then another.

I’ve killed a lot of ships.  Lost a few too.  It’s not the kills or even the losses that get my blood pumping, get my pulse racing.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate losing ships.  I really do.  I don’t like losing anything, whether it’s a game, an argument, a fight or my ship.  Winning is important, but it’s the near misses, the almost losses that stir my blood.

If you’re the type that believes that there’s no value to your ship losses, then you must never feel that rush that you get when you’re under the gun, your heart pounding in your ears as somehow you make it out of combat with your ship intact.

The rush comes from risking something of value, your ship or maybe it’s your reputation, and somehow coming out on top.  It could be a T1 frigate or a T2 Battleship.  Unless that loss means something to you, you’ll never know how I feel.

Oh.  I forgot.

You didn’t want those ships anyway.

Minus one.