Trust, but verify
In Part 2, I talked about the recruiting process that will get you into a null-sec corp. Sooner or later during this process, you will be asked to provide two related things:
- the API key for your primary characters; and,
- the names (and potentially the API keys) for any alt characters you have.
Make no mistake: this verification process is an essential part of any null-sec corp's security. It is done for several reasons, among them:
- to confirm that you have the skills you say you do, and to confirm you can fly the ships you say you can;
- to confirm that your SP total matches the corp's minimum; and,
- (if a more stringent API key is asked for) to confirm that you haven't been taking or receiving ISK from one of your new corp's enemies.
If you know of an issue in the past history of your character that might be a problem, it is always best to be up-front and honest about it right from the start. An example will suffice here: when the alliance I was with in 2009 was pushed out of sovereignty and declined to get further involved in the Great Game, I made a conscious decision to seek out a new alliance that did have sovereignty.(1) My time zone issue was foremost in my mind, and I also wanted a corp that was active in small-gang roaming PvP. I started scouting kill-boards, but that proved unnecessary.
Night after night, my current alliance would run into roaming gangs belonging to Get Off My Lawn alliance in Pure Blind. That combined with a little bit of research showed right away that they met my three primary criteria at that time: they were active in my time zone, they held sov, and they were active in roaming small-gang PvP. I sought out one of their recruiters, indicated an interest, and then told him flat-out that I had found their alliance because a couple of nights before, I had FC'ed a small gang fighting against them. The recruiter was a bit taken aback, but immediately thanked me for my honesty. ;-) Sooner or later, the fact that I was a past hostile was going to come out. Better that it come directly from me. They could have chosen to reject me because of it, but better to be rejected up front rather than to be rejected after I had moved lots of ships!
In much the same way, it is a good idea for you to spend your first couple of weeks in your new null-sec corp going slow, and being patient. You need to verify the facts that you've been told about them, too. Once you've joined, concentrate on moving smaller, scouty ships to your new home. Don't move everything right away. There will be plenty of time. Instead, concentrate on cheaper ships that you can easily afford to replace. Meanwhile, start checking out their forums and start listening in on Teamspeak. At first, it will be best if you remain pretty quiet in both areas. Get a feel for the culture of the place. Make sure it's still a good fit.
The maturity level of null-sec alliances and corps varies wildly. Although virtually any null-sec corp or alliance will be well-organized, often it's a small cadre of dedicated players providing that organization. The bulk of the player base is what you're evaluating here. Make sure the people on-line in your TZ are ones that you're going to feel comfortable talking with and flying with. If you do speak on TS, stick to asking questions. Confirm and verify the information that your recruiters told you. Make sure everything is on the level with your expectations. As you do so over the first week or ten days, you can start moving ships into their home stations.
This is the most ticklish part of joining a new null-sec corp. Sooner or later, you're going to need ships. Almost certainly, you're going to want to move ships from your existing hangars to your new home or homes. How do you get them there?
First, I'm going to make another suggestion: for your first null-sec corp or alliance, I strongly recommend that you seek one out that lives somewhere on the border regions of null-sec. There are many excellent null-sec corps and alliances that live on the edges of New Eden, and this recommendation is no slight toward them. Still, for a first null-sec corp or alliance, you're going to be happier if you can operate a bit more independently. Moving to a distant null-sec region right from the get-go is going to make you extremely beholden to your new corp or alliance, utterly reliant on them for virtually all of your needs. If you are 100% certain that you can trust them -- say, because you have friends there -- then this is no problem.
But if you're joining them cold...? Yeah. As I said, it's a bit more ticklish. ;-)
Second, start moving your main(s), plus an alt or two, into your new home system ASAP. If you're not comfortable getting around null, this is best done in a quick, travel-fit frigate. Fit a meta MicroWarpdrive, a meta Afterburner, perhaps a Warp Core Stab or two (or three), and that's it. You're not trying to fight. You're trying to pass through. Use a cheap clone, and if your new home station offers medical clone services, go ahead and move your medical clone to your new home system. That way, even if you get killed on the way, your new clone will appear in your new home station anyway. ;-) As you gain confidence in your ability to get around null solo, you can start moving clones into null in T2 frigates like Covert Ops, Stealth Bombers, and Interceptors.
People hate it when I say this, but it's true nonetheless: the best way to learn how to get around null on your own is to try to get around null on your own. Move through some boring areas. Flee from some gate-camps. Learn to watch Local. Learn to warp to off-gate celestials instead of directly to gates. You'll get killed a few times as you learn, but you'll find those deaths quite instructive.
Ideally, once you make the decision to start moving more major ships, you have your own carrier or carriers. If you don't, either make training at least one character for a carrier a priority, or strongly consider buying a character with these skills. You can join and operate in a null-sec corp or alliance without your own travel carrier, but I'm pretty sure that you're not going to enjoy the experience very much. If you have your own carrier, this step becomes much easier, particularly if you join a null alliance that's within one jump of some low-sec station. It's a relatively simple matter to smuggle ships into low-sec, and once there, they can be loaded on your own carrier, which is then jumped into the proper system with a cyno lit by one of your own alts. Make sure to carry a spare cyno ship or two in your carrier, plus spare Cynosural Field Generators and Liquid Ozone, and you're all set.
Alternately, if your new null-sec alliance is sov-holding, and has their own POS-based Cyno Generators creating a path to their home systems, I find this to be an extremely civilized way of moving into null. All you have to worry about then is scouting each system in turn (again, with an alt) to make sure they're clear or relatively clear of hostiles, and you can jump from Cyno Generator to Cyno Generator, slipping into a nearby POS's shields while your alt goes on to the next system. If this is the case, your corp might ask you to contribute fuel for these generators. Again, keep LO in your carrier to do so.
If you can provide your own carrier, but not your own cyno for some reason, a corp- or alliance-mate might offer to provide you a cyno. This is a generous offer that shouldn't be refused, but you should confirm the location of that cyno before using it. Stories of capitals and super-capitals jumped to bait cynos are legend in EVE Online. If you can't personally verify the exit location of the offered cyno, don't use it! Again, all this means is getting an alt in a cheap ship into the target system, warping to the cyno, and confirming that the cyno pilot has placed that cyno where promised, and that the location offered is relatively safe and free from a surrounding ring of Nyxes and Erebuses. ;-) A cyno within dock range of a station is best, particularly if that station is an NPC station.
If you don't have your own carrier, that's more ticklish still. You're going to have to rely on the generosity of your corp- or alliance-mates to get a significant number of ships moved into their home systems. Again, I counsel patience.
Figure out the top three or four ship types you're going to need once you're situated. Start with those ships. It's not a bad idea to check the markets in your new home region with the alt or main you've already moved in. See if ships are already for sale relatively cheap. Check local contracts as well. Many null-sec corps keep approved ships and fittings in contracts, ready to go in the home station, often as contracts that are only available to corp members. This can greatly speed up your first couple of weeks in corp without putting yourself in undue risk. If you can buy the ships cheap but not the fittings, do so! It's much easier to bring piles of ship fittings into null than it is whole ships. You might even be able to do so yourself with a cloaky Blockade Runner.
If all of those options are not available, then your last choice is to ask your recruiter about logistics. Virtually any null-sec corp will have some kind of solution to this problem. Most often, it will involve setting up Courier contracts with corp-mates from some relatively convenient high-sec station to your new null-sec home. This is almost never free, so be prepared to pay ISK for this service. In addition, this process probably won't involve putting a Collateral on the Courier contract. This is where you're going to have to trust your new corp-mate.
Again: be patient. Start with a few ships, and make them cheap ones. Scout Interceptors, a shield BC or three, maybe one armor HAC, maybe one battleship. If you're joining a more PvE-oriented corp, stick with a couple of cheaper ships to start. Don't commit more than a few hundred million ISK to 0.0 at most, total, in your first few weeks. You don't have to move your faction-fit Machariel or your Tengu to 0.0 right away. Hell, even if you could easily do so, you probably don't want to have access to that ship your first few weeks in null anyway. ;-) Allow yourself a learning curve. If this is your first null-sec corp, not only does nobody expect you to be flying anything shiny right away, good null-sec corps won't let you and will be suspicious of you if you want to. They'll want you in nice, safe, standard DPS ships at first. They want to limit their losses, too, in case you don't know what you're doing...
On the flip-side, you should be openly suspicious of anyone who encourages you to start moving too-shiny ships to 0.0 too fast. One more time: be patient, and move at your own pace, and only as much as you feel comfortable.
The first two weeks
Move your medical clone for any character you intend to move full-time into null-sec. Your corp will have specific stations they want you to do this.
Once that's done, get both some additional jump clones, and at least one or two alts into your home system as well. Sooner or later, you're going to get a ship separated from the rest of a null-sec fleet and you're going to need to scout yourself home. Having alts available to do that will be a Godsend. Having an alt already in your home system to make sure things are quiet, even more so.
This is an important one: get into ops! Whatever you've joined your new null-sec corp to do, get busy doing it right away. Most null-sec corps either officially or unofficially have a 30-day evaluation period. Even if they don't say so, they're checking you out. Being patient is one thing, and that's fine, but you also have to be productive and show that you're willing to support the corp's mission, whatever that is. If you have joined a PvP corp, that means using those first few cheap ships to X up for fleets and provide a DPS or scout role. If you've joined a more bearish corp, that means joining their ops, whether that means ratting, mining, doing sites, or whatever. Show them what you can do. ;-)
Don't be afraid to ask questions, and ask for help! Many null-sec corps will have some kind of mentoring program for newer members, to ease the transition and answer any initial questions. Still, even if your new corp does not have this, ask questions of anyone who will talk to you. No matter how experienced you are at null, you're going to trip over something in your new corp that "everyone knows". If you don't know something, ask!
I've said this a couple of times already, but I want to emphasize it one more time: during your first few weeks, don't worry about not being in a special role. Whatever ops your corp is active in, it's best for the newest members to be in the most generic role. Another example will illustrate: I am an experienced scout, an experienced Logi pilot, and an experienced Recon pilot. But I've done none of these things in Rote Kapelle so far, even after being with them for more than a month now, and despite having appropriate ships for all of these roles staged. I was content to stick with flying basic line DPS to start, confident that my time in flying a specialized role in something shinier would come.(2)
A good way of getting around the issue of a lack of ships is to ask to borrow ships from corp members. You'll find that in most corps, members are pretty casual about this sort of thing. Just make it clear that you'll replace the loss if you die in the ship, and don't ask to borrow something that you can't afford to lose!
It's also a good idea to get a good firm handle on your new corp's reimbursement process, if any, sooner rather than later. Different corps will handle this differently. Many will have no reimbursement program at all. A few will reimburse anything. Most will reimburse select ships: logis, scouts, and dictors, usually.
Finally, it's usually a pretty good idea to spread ships out a little bit. This will happen naturally to a certain extent as you move additional jump clones into your new corp's home systems: each clone is going to need its own station. If you're joining a sov-holding corp, this will mean you have jump clones in multiple systems. It will only be natural that you fly to these different stations in a ship. Therefore, when you jump out of that clone, a ship will be there waiting for you to come back. This sort of thing is extremely useful to avoid getting camped into a single station without useful response ships to fly. A good means of handling this: if you have one clone that's good at armor HACs, and another that's good at shield BCs, put all your armor HACs with the appropriate clone, wherever you decide to leave it. Ditto with shield ships for the shield clone. As you start to get ships staged in your new home, make plans to do this sooner rather than later.
This concludes Part 3 of this guide. Part 4 will wrap up with a series of longer-term considerations.
(1) That was what I wanted at the time. ;-)
(2) And it did.