Piracy is a role that involves stealing Commodities from other ships and then selling the goods for profit. When stolen Commodities need to be sold on the Black Market, piracy also overlaps with smuggling. Conventional pirates leverage their superior firepower into quick and easy financial rewards by intimidating traders and miners, who acquire their cargo at their own expense and often forego weapons and defenses for the sake of cargo space or mining tools, into giving up a portion or all of their cargo in exchange for being allowed to leave the scene intact. However, many pirates also destroy their victims while robbing them, either in self-defense or out of malice, which draws the attention of local security forces and bounty hunters. A pirate can be considered successful when they make more credits than they expend on maintaining and upgrading their ship.
Pirates can operate anywhere in the galaxy, but low-security systems are the most lucrative. Piracy is prevalent in Anarchy systems and systems with a ruling anarchy minor faction. Pirates don't gain a bounty and there's no NPC security in anarchy systems.
It's worth noting that if the last station you were docked is owned by a minor faction you have, or gain, a bounty with, you'll respawn at that station and have to pay that bounty off if your ship is destroyed. Thus it's beneficial to keep your last dock at a station in Anarchy space.
Piracy requires the use of several specific modules to operate successfully. Being able to track down targets between systems requires a Frame Shift Wake Scanner. Pirates must force targets out of supercruise with a Frame Shift Drive Interdictor. Next, a pirate must be able to ascertain what kind, if any, cargo the ship is carrying. This requires a Manifest Scanner. Without that a pirate has no way to tell whether a pilot has value cargo or the type and amount of cargo. Then a pirate must obtain the cargo, by force if necessary. This means directly damaging the target's Cargo Hatch, or by using Hatch Breaker Limpets. Lastly, a pirate's ship must be equipped with Cargo Racks to hold the looted cargo. Collector Limpets can be used to more efficiently pick up disposed cargo. Doing these tasks effectively determines whether you make profit.
Proper ship choice is key to a pirate. Proper offensive and defensive capabilities are needed. Sufficient speed is necessary to not be outrun by haulers and other vessels. The ship must have enough internal space to carry all modules and cargo racks.
NPC ships that enter and leave stations carry cargo reflective of the station's economy. The respective imports and exports are based on the system state and the background simulation. The NPC ships may also carry an array of expensive rare commodities. Thus players can pirate the shipping lanes between wealthy stations and outposts that import or export expensive goods. Such as wait just beyond No Fire Zones of stations or follow the wakes of haulers.
Pirating other players
The philosophy of pirates in Elite is one of simplicity. It draws on the fear of total loss of a ship and cargo by the attacking pirate. Pilots either drop some of their cargo to meet the demands of the pirate, or risk destruction and the total loss of their cargo with a pricey insurance payment. Pirates may use any number of activities to assert dominance over the situation and persuade the target into cooperation, (e.g.- mass locking, proving faster speed, or showing superior firepower). Sometimes the simple presence of a large combat ship is enough to pressure a pilot into dumping some of their cargo. In Elite, most pirates only seek cargo and do not actively engage for PvP kills; though will attack if pilots don't cooperate.
Generally, pirates will leave players unharmed if their demands are satisfied. Some will still attack to kill afterwards. However, like any other flamboyant task, those who engage in piracy will start to become known among pilots and those who destroy their targets after receiving cargo will become infamous. Such pirates are known as "player killers," and pilots are less likely to cooperate. Instead, they'll attempt to escape or die fighting which leaves the pirate with nothing. It is therefore beneficial to the long-term success as a pirate to be careful with actions and to keep their promise of no harm if they drop cargo.
One of the most common methods of piracy involves staying in supercruise at a low speed around a Nav Beacon while waiting for players to jump into a system, then use a Frame Shift Drive Interdictor to force targets out of supercruise. Once a target has been interdicted and their cargo is scanned, the pirate has numerous options. The pirate can start simply by directly talking to the player with the Comms Panel or a microphone. The target player may already realize they cannot outrun or outgun the pirate and quickly hand over some cargo before moving on. The pirate can choose to attack, damage the cargo hatch until cargo is ejected. Once cargo begins to eject (module ~75-80% health), it is advised to stop shooting, as further damage will not change how much cargo the ship loses. Once cargo stops, you can attack the cargo hatch again. Hatch breaker limpets can be used separately or while attacking the cargo hatch. The time needed to hack the cargo hold is related to the health of the target's cargo hatch module. Traders may jettison cheaper cargo first to draw attention away from themselves and attempt to jump to hyperspace before jettisoning more expensive cargo. A Manifest Scanner helps to prevent this and it gives you more bargaining power by telling the player that you know what they have and what your demands are ahead of time.
It's possible to pirate players without using Hatch Breaker Limpets. This frees a module slot for something else or use a ship with a more limited number of internals. This approach relies on the target manually ejecting some cargo after the pirate makes demands over the Comms.
Shooting at players may send them into panic mode, especially if they have not encountered player piracy before. Try mass-locking and using Comms first.
Give the ultimatum "Stop your engines or I'll kill you." before asking for cargo. Zeroing thrust is easier to do than dropping cargo, so they are more likely to do that. From there, you have the time to talk with the target.
When you have someone mass locked say "drop half your cargo or lose all of it" works well and keeps the bounties low.
Sometimes the target will not respond in comms, but will still do your demand. You would still get what you want and can consider it a success.
Pick your targets wisely. Because piracy requires special modules so your ship has reduced offensive or defensive power. Thus it can't fight as well as the same ship outfitted for e.g. bounty hunting. So pirating traders in smaller and slower ships is ideal. You can stay on their tail, mass-lock them and they can't kill you.
- Piracy in Anarchy systems solves the problem of 1. Getting a bounty for destruction 2. Heavy fines if stolen goods are scanned in cargo holds.
- Only visit high, medium, low security systems for piracy excursions, then return to Anarchy to offload goods.
- You can be the scourge of 32 systems and just change ship and go back to trading when you get bored. This makes piracy viable as a role.
- Most pirates don't only pirate. They just don't eliminate the option as additional income and fun.
NPC pirates are typically any non-player ship with a bounty attached to it. Typically they come in two varieties; random and event.
Random pirates can be found anywhere in supercruise, inside Resource Extraction sites and Nav Beacons, and overwhelmingly inhabit Compromised Nav Beacons. When scanning a ship they can usually be identified by their bounty since all NPC pirates have some sort of bounty. This scales depending on their ship and rank. Random pirates in supercruise will attempt to interdict the player if they get close. This commonly happens outside Nav Beacons regardless if the player has cargo or not. Strangely if a player interdicts a pirate they will not fight back immediately and will instead merely scan the player for cargo, then supercruise away if they have none. These pirates can also appear in certain Unidentified Signal Sources and are frequently in a Wing. In salvage signal sources they will usually leave the player alone if they don't see them take cargo. Be careful with NPC Wings, because it's common for a small ship such as an Eagle or Sidewinder to be accompanied by an Anaconda or Fer-de-Lance.
Event Pirates are more predictable and very common for traders. There are two kinds; ones chasing your cargo and assassins hired to kill you. The former can be generated any time you enter Supercruise or jump to a new system. They can be easily identified since they always hail the player for their large cargo hold before interdiction. Cargo delivery missions also generate them occasionally. You will often be told by your mission employer that they are coming. These pirates are always scaled to the player they are hunting; a Sidewinder will be attacked by other Sidewinders, Eagles and occasionally Adders. Their rank is always one or two levels higher than yours. Assassins function mostly the same, but are much more dangerous. For one they do not care for your cargo and will attack as soon as they interdict. They also generally fly better ships than typical NPC pirates. These can spawn during a mission and you will receive a message about their arrival and attack and will gain a bonus if you can eliminate them. They spawn on rare occasions for delivering data and other legal non-cargo missions. Like other pirates, they always have a bounty and it scales with their rank and ship.
Supply runs, where you source a designated amount of cargo, have a rather deadly quirk. Unlike assassins, these missions commonly spawn pirates, a 70% chance per mission. Furthermore, these pirates have a higher level than assassins. For example, a Type-9 normally encounters ships such as Viper MkIIIs and on very rare occasions Pythons. While pirates for these missions very commonly fly Anacondas. They have a very high rank such as Elite while the player is as low as Competent. It's advised to take serious caution on these missions and don't take them in bulk. Note that Wing Missions don't have this issue.
Pirates other than assassins always demand a certain amount of cargo when they scan you; if you have any, otherwise they will leave disgruntled. Complying will satisfy them and it's useful to have the Jettison all cargo command bound to a button for emergencies. Beware, in some cases pirates can chase the player again immediately after receiving the cargo. So this is only advisable if escaping or fighting isn't an option.
Playing against pirates
You can avoid becoming a victim of piracy and keep all your cargo by knowing how pirates operate, using defensive techniques, and a bit of luck:
- Avoid high risk systems.
- Travel in wings.
- Use mines to deter pursuing ships.
- Use chaff.
- Use ECM.
- Become efficient in breaking frame shift interdictions, know the mechanics of the game (i.e.- submitting to interdiction means a faster FSD cooldown time than failing to avoid interdiction).
- Utilize developed PvP techniques and tricks to try to circumvent and outmaneuver pirates.
Dealing with NPC pirates
- If you dump a small amount of cargo they will stop to collect it.
- If a pirate NPC is in a better ship than you, run.
Dealing with player pirates
- Pirates are often accused of being griefers. While the victim of any pirate attack may view such actions as griefing, the pirate(s) will view the same situation as a legitimate way to play the game.
- Keep an eye on the comms to see demands made by the pirate.
- There are good pirates. They aren't benevolent players, but they're good at piracy. If he or she talks to you: listen. If you run or shoot first, you will likely die.
- Losing some cargo might seem bad, but it's a small loss compared to the cost of total haul plus ship rebuy if you resist the pirate and die.
- A good pirate knows that if he kills you after you have given cargo, you will likely add him to his ignore list. That is bad for his long term profits so he shouldn't kill you if you give up cargo.
- If it's a player in a better, faster ship they will know the tricks to not let you get away and will likely blow your rear off. So it's better to meet their demands (or run anyway if they shoot first).
- Combat Logging to avoid getting killed is not permitted. It will get you reported and your account warned and possibly name-shamed on public sites.
PvE Low Temp Diamonds Piracy
First, look for a system with an Agriculture economy type that is in Boom and has an Anarchy government type. While supercruising in the system, watch for Type-6 Transporters, Type-7 Transporters, Type-9 Heavys, Keelbacks, Asp Explorers, or Diamondback Explorers in addition to the big three ships. Target and scan these ships; if they are equipped with a Mining Laser, then they are a miner carrying LTD. Interdict the target and immediately fire on it to prevent it from High Waking. At that point, there are two reliable methods of acquiring the LTD:
- Shield Tanking - Most effective against small ships, as medium and large ships often have better weapons. After attacking the target, come to a full stop, max pips in shields, and wait for the target to hover between 700 meters and 1.2 km away. While the target attacks, use Hatch Breaker Limpets an Collectors to seize all of the cargo and then depart. Note that if the Target has Point Defence modules equipped, Hatch Breaking will not work unless those modules are destroyed, but it may be faster to leave and find another victim.
- Disabling FSD/Weapons - Designed for large ships. Equip weapons capable of quickly taking down shields or penetrating them and damaging modules. After attacking the target, focus on disabling the FSD and dropping the shields. Next, disable all weapons, including Point Defence. Allow the target to attempt to flee, but since it cannot jump away, it will eventually come to stop on its own, effectively surrendering and allowing its cargo to be taken with Hatch Breakers and Collectors. This method is high-risk, and may result in the unintentional destruction of the target, but it also offers the highest reward.
Reduce ship speed to minimum or zero while using Collector Limpets to ensure that they do not impact with the hull and cause the loss of LTDs. After returning to supercruise, whether with cargo or just to select another target, be sure to wait for and evade an interdiction attempt by an NPC pirate before undertaking another interdiction. This will prevent an NPC pirate from dropping in and interrupting a piracy attempt.
Note that switching modes can reset an instance in the event that there are too few or no available targets in a system. Also, shield tanking is reliable, but not nearly as profitable as targeting and disabling larger ships, so be sure to invest in and practice the second method when possible.
Required and recommended equipment PvE Low Temperature Diamond piracy:
- FSD Interdictor (mandatory to pull target from supercruise)
- Shield Generator (mandatory if shield tanking, otherwise optional, engineering suggested)
- Cargo Racks (mandatory, for obvious reasons)
- Collector Limpet Controller (mandatory, A or B rated module preferred)
- Hatch Breaker Limpet Controller (mandatory, A rated preferred, high class preferred if shield tanking)
- Beam Lasers or other anti-shield weapons (optional for shield tanking, mandatory for the rest)
- Pack-Hounds/Seeker Missiles/Cannons/Multicannons (optional for shield tanking, mandatory for the rest)
- Shield Boosters (mandatory, engineering suggested)
- Manifest Scanner (optional, effective only to monitor how many LTDs left in the target's hold, otherwise replace with a Shield Booster)
- As of Update 1.5, Piracy in Elite was overhauled and the definition of "piracy" broadened. Previously, the term "Pirate" was normally reserved only for players who would actively seek out and prey on other CMDRs hauling valuable cargo, as well as the generic term for any Wanted NPCs that interdict players and that populate Nav Beacons, R.E.S., USS sites, and other locations. After the changes implemented in update 1.5, NPC ships entering and leaving stations now carry cargo more reflective of each station's Economy and its respective Imports and Exports. These NPC ships may also carry an array of expensive rare commodities. This means that players can now choose to pirate the shipping lanes between wealthy stations and outposts that import or export expensive goods - sometimes even laying in wait just beyond No Fire Zones of stations or following the wakes of trade ships. New and updated piracy missions were also added to the Bulletin Board. These changes provided a more open-ended path with more choices for players choosing piracy. Players can now engage in a form of piracy that is reliable, lucrative, and well-paying without having to rely on only attacking other players directly; this also had a secondary effect of lessening the social stigma and impact of the term "Pirate." Since it's possible to carry out the activities of a pirate without having to attack other players many are more likely openly admit to pirating, leading to open discussion about the profession between players and helping to further piracy as a career. Piracy has become a more lucrative career choice with the potential for a much larger income less reliant on PvP than it had been previously.