EVE Online: A Newbie-Friendly Guide to Ninja Salvaging

By Giuseppe Nelva

August 21, 2011

After reviewing EVE Online I received a couple mails from our readers letting me know that they were giving the game a try, but they were a bit disoriented on how to make money at a decent pace in order to afford better ships and equipment.

That’s not surprising, given that EVE is a sandbox game, and as every sandbox game it doesn’t give you a direction as clear as other MMORPGs. Newbies often fall prey of more experienced and better equipped players that love nothing more than turn their little frigates into space dust, or to scam them out of the little ISK they managed to acquire.

Sandbox games are also great equalizers. If the sandbox is well balanced, there are ways for the newbie that comes equipped with brains and guts to taste the rage and tears of players with several months or even years of gameplay more than them. EVE Online is one of those games and Ninja Salvaging is one of those ways. 

Despite the charming name, Ninja Salvaging isn’t exactly the best way to make friends, so don’t expect to stroll around dressed in black, wielding sharp blades and wooing the ladies. While it’s considered perfectly within the rules of the game, it’s not a profession made for people that want to appear like a good guy, so if you imagine your capsuleer as the sci-fi version of a knight in shining armor, this guide may not be for you. If you find the dark side tempting, keep reading, most people end up giving in to it in EVE Online, one way or another, so you may as well get used to the idea.

One of the easiest ways to make money in EVE Online is by running missions, your galactic equivalent to the quests that you can find in other MMORPGs. The problem is that, when you’re a newbie, you have access only to level 1 missions. The really profitable missions are level 4 and require a long time to gain access to, not to mention the fact that  you’d need a ship that you won’t be able to afford or even to fly decently for several weeks if not months. Let’s not even talk about replacing it if, by chance, you were to lose it.

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Ninja salvaging lets you gain access to part of the income of level 4 missions with a much smaller investment and in negligible time.

When mission runners, also called “Missionbears”, as they are considered to be “PvE Carebears” by the PvP-addicted part of the population of EVE Online (while this isn’t always true, as missions are a great way to better one’s standings, so many PvP fanatics still run them), kill their targets during a mission they leave behind wrecks that can be salvaged for valuable components. While most Missionbears think about those wrecks as their property, fact is that they aren’t. The actual loot inside the wrecks is indeed property of the one that killed the ship, but salvaging the wreck itself is free for all, and anyone can do it without fear of direct retaliation. This, of course, tends to infuriate the Missionbears to no end, and the EVE Online forums are always full of complaints about the practice.

That said, the concept of Ninja Salvaging is simple: detecting Missionbears as they run their little quests in the void of space, warping to them with a fast salvage ship, and grabbing all the valuable salvage under their nose before they have the chance to finish the mission and come back with their own salvaging ship (mission-ready ships aren’t normally good for salvaging).

To that end, you’ll have to equip yourself with a cheap scanning ship and an equally cheap but fast salvaging frigate. There are many possibilities there, and the examples below are just what I personally use. You can follow them if you don’t feel like researching, or create your own.

Scanning Frigate: Heron

The Heron is a nimble Caldari frigate with a 5% bonus to scan strength per level of your Caldari Frigate skill. This, and the fact that it’s really cheap, makes it the perfect newbie friendly scanning ship. Outfit yours with a Co-processor I, a 1MN MicroWarpdrive I, two F-b10 Nominal Capacitor Regenerators, one Expanded Probe Launcher I (loaded with at least five Combat Scanner Probes I) and two Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I rigs.

Salvaging Frigate: Merlin

The Merlin is a powerhouse between frigates, and while it’s a only slightly slower than others, it’s very durable and has good capacitors, turning it into the perfect ninja salvager ship (at least in my opinion), allowing for a good margin of error and for the ability to better react to unpredictable situations.

Fit it with two Capacitor Flux Coils I, two F-b10 Nominal Capacitor Regenerators, one Small Subordinate Screen Stabilizer I, a Catalyzed Cold-Gas Arcjet Thrusters microwarpdrive and four Salvager I modules. I’m sure some will prefer an afterburner instead of the microwarpdrive, but while it’s true that the MWD will increase your signature (making it easier to hit you), the speed increase will make up for it, and will allow you to clean up fields of wrecks much faster zipping around at almost 2000 m/s. The Capacitor Flux Coils and the Nominal Capacitor Regenerators will ensure a degree of capacitor stability while salvaging, allowing you to continue on without needing to stop and recharge.

In order to be able to fly your two frigates and use the modules listed, you will need the following skills: Spaceship Command I, Caldari Frigate III, Engineering III, Science III, Energy Grid Upgrades III; Shield Upgrades I, Navigation III, Afterburner III, High Speed Manouvering I, Mechanic III, Survey III, Salvaging I, Astrometrics II, Jury Rigging I, Hull Upgrades I.

You’ll have some of those skills from the start and training the rest will take you less than two days. In the meanwhile you can run the tutorial missions to familiarize with the controls and earn enough money to buy the ships and the modules. In a couple days you should have plenty and some to spare.

While those skills are plenty to start, for the future you may want to plan raising Salvaging further (it’ll let you salvage more and faster), and bringing Astrometrics to IV, that will let you use seven probes instead of five. Training Astrometrics Acquisition, Astrometrics Pinpointing and Astrometric Rangefinding will also improve your scanning performance. Finally raising Engineering further together with training some levels of Shield Compensation will let you replace your Subordinate Screen Stabilizer on the Merlin with a medium one, increasing the ship’s durability by a big and very useful margin.

After getting your ships and training your skills, you’re finally able to start your inglorious (but profitable) career as a Ninja Salvager.

First of all, chose a base of operation. You want to target level 4 Missiobears, so you should use this site to locate a system with one or more level 4 agents. Aim preferably for Amarr space,  as the primary mission targets there will belong to the Sansha’s Nation, Blood Raiders or to the Angel Cartel. Those give the best salvage. Once you found a few possible systems, go scout them quickly and  see how many players they have in the local channel. If they have more than 40-50 people, you found a nice Mission hub to work with. Proximity with trading hubs like the Amarr system is also a plus, as it’ll allow you to sell your yields faster.

In any case remember that it’s a good idea to change your target system often, a Ninja that’s too well known locally risks to be hunted down or ambushed.

Once you found a suitable system, chose a station to operate from. Look for one without too much traffic, and definitely avoid the ones with the level 4 agents in it. You don’t really want to fly around your targets too much. Finally park your ships there (don’t forget to insure them) and get ready for some action.

Undock with the Heron and warp to the star in the middle of the system (no, you won’t get burned). In the meanwhile prepare an overview tab that lists only ships, stations, warp gates, suns, wrecks and cargo containers. This will be your main overview during your ninja operations.

Once you’re near the sun, in a nice central position from where to scan the whole system, open the map. Before starting to use your probes, bring up the directional scanner. Many don’t understand how important this tool is, so it’s a good idea for you to learn to use it as soon as possible.

Open your in-game notepad and create a note with the following Km/AU conversion table in it:

150,000,000 Km = 1 AU
300,000,000 Km = 2 AU
450,000,000 Km = 3 AU
600,000,000 Km = 4 AU
750,000,000 Km = 5 AU
900,000,000 Km = 6 AU
1,050,000,000 Km = 7 AU
1,200,000,000 Km = 8 AU
1,350,000,000 Km = 9 AU
1,500,000,000 Km = 10 AU
1,650,000,000 Km = 11 AU
1,800,000,000 Km = 12 AU
1,950,000,000 Km = 13 AU

Now set the scanner to its maximum range (just write 9999999999 in the box and it’ll set it automatically), and set the angle of scanning to 60 degrees. Make sure the map view is centered on your ship, then start scanning and rotating your view with the mouse gradually. The directional scanner will scan a cone in front of you with a width determined by the angle you set and the distance determined by the range. The direction is not determined by the direction in which your ship is flying, but simply by the direction towards which you’re looking with your camera.

Remember that space is completely three-dimensional, so there might be targets even way above and below the elliptical of the system, so make sure to raise and lower your viewpoint gradually.

Soon, if you chose the right system your scanner will start showing results (keep your ninja overview tab active, so that it’ll show only what you’re looking for). Primarily, you’re looking for battleships, marauders or similar high level combat ships. Those are the ones that will possibly be engaged in level 4 missions. Some do them with cruisers, but it’s more rare.  Ideally, you may want to look for targets that are also surrounded by large wrecks. A battleship with no wrecks around may be just starting a mission, but might also be just sitting there and doing something else.

When you found an interesting battleship and lots of wrecks around it, it’s time to pinpoint your target. Reduce the angle gradually and move the camera around a bit until the scanner acquires the ship again. When you narrowed down the angle to 15 degrees you’re pretty much done and it’s time determine the distance. Copy and paste the Km values in sequence from the conversion table above into your scanner range box, starting from the bottom, scanning after each value. When your target disappears, you managed to roughly determine how far it is.

Now it’s time to drop your five probes, but don’t rotate your camera, otherwise you’ll lose your target. Select the system scanner and be ready for some “puzzle” action. Holding down Shift will allow you to operate all the probes together.

Raise the range of the probes to the distance you determined with the directional scanner (this time it’s in AU, that’s why the conversion table is useful) and move all the probes so that they are right in front of your position, but your ship is positioned right at the edge of the scanning range. This, if you did everything right (and if your target didn’t leave in the meanwhile), will roughly place your probes almost right on target to begin with.

When the probes are positioned (it’s a little tricky, but you’ll get used to it), it’s time to arrange them in scanning configuration and start the scanning process. To see this whole procedure with your own eyes you can check out the tutorial video I prepared below. If you want another video specific to probe scanning you can also check the official scanning tutorial from CCP here.

Some don’t use the directional scanner, and just start with the probes. While this might be slightly faster, it’s less precise, as probes don’t return any result on wrecks, leading to a higher number of false positives. It’s better to spend a little bit more time on the scanner, than waste more warping to the location of your target and discovering that he’s not running a mission at all. In any case, the directional scanner is such a useful tool overall, that you’ll thank yourself for getting acquainted with it early.

Chosing the ideal targets is pretty straightforward. When there are a lot of wrecks around, the more costly and rare the ship, the better. Someone flying around in a Tech II battleship is very possibly rich enough to be flying the mission only for the standings reward, and might completely ignore the wrecks and loot, leaving you with the ability to pick everything up undisturbed.

If you scan a Noctis industrial, or even a destroyer like the Catalyst near the mission runner, it means that you’ll have competition, and the Missionbear has a buddy (or an alt) that’s already salvaging for him. It’s your decision if you want to run in and compete with them or just find another target.

In any case, once you have your target at 100% scan strenght, bookmark his location and warp back to your base. Dock and change to your salvaging frigate.

Warp to 100 Km from the bookmark. You never know what awaits you there, so it’s better to have to fly a few seconds more than to get out of warp in the middle of hostiles only to get blown out of space instantly. Most of the times you’ll find a warp gate that will lead to a “dead space pocket”, a sort of space room where the mission proper is located. Every time you get out of warp in a mission area, though, give a good look to your local chat.

There are rare occurrences in which you’ll receive warnings about impending dangers like damaging space currents or similar. In that case, unless you’re very confident in your ship’s durability, it’s better to bail and find another target.

Dead space pockets work in a slightly different way from normal space. They “exist” only while the mission is being run, and can be accessed only via the warp gate. Once the mission runner completes the mission and turns it in to the agent that issued it, the pocket collapses and “drops” its contents in normal space, in the same location. That way, if you bookmarked the location of something in a pocket, you’ll still able to find it in normal space after the mission is complete.

Many missions are formed by several dead space pockets connected by successive warp gates. When the pockets collapse you’ll be only able to access a warp gate you can already see. Speed is of the essence if you want to salvage the whole mission, as you need to reach the last pocket before the Missionbear turns the mission in.

Keep in mind that getting in a new pocket via a warp gate is a little more risky than the initial warp to 100 km, as you will be dropped in the middle of the pocket, potentially in the middle of hostiles as well. Be very ready to bail as soon as you warp out if you find yourself targeted. You’re a frigate, and as fast as you can be, frigates don’t exactly hold well for long against focused battleship fire.

Let’s assume that everything went well, and you didn’t warp out to the sound of a lock on. You will find one of the following situations:

1. You’re alone, the mission runner is already gone. If there are wrecks on the field it’s time to get to work. If not, it means that there was no fighting in this pocket, or they have been already salvaged. If there’s a warp gate in sight the mission runner may be beyond it. Clean up this pocket and then follow. Be as fast as you can, because if the mission runner is already done with the mission, he might soon come with his own salvage ship. The more you grab before you have competition the better.

2. The mission runner is there, salvaging the wrecks or covering someone that’s salvaging for him. It’s time to get to work and to salvage as much as you can before your competition can. You’re faster, but you can’t use tractor beams, while they can, so you’ll have to be quick and start from the bigger targets. If there’s a warp gate, it means that there are more pockets in the mission. If the competition for wrecks is fierce, you may want to explore it. The mission runner may have already cleaned leaving the wrecks ripe for salvaging. Be ready to bail if he didn’t.

3. The mission runner is there and is still fighting. Start working on the wrecks farther away from the battle, and take your time salvaging  everything you can. Always keep your MicroWarpdrive on and try to retain as much sped as you can. To do so, don’t just approach the wrecks, but orbit them at a distance of 2000 meters as you salvage. This will ensure that, if you get targeted, you’ll be moving fast and most probably the attacks will miss. You may want to do this even in the previous case, just to make sure to have good chances if the Missionbear isn’t that much of a Carebear and gets trigger happy.
Remember that sometimes the NPC hostiles will come in waves, and when that happens they have an equal chance to target you as much as the mission runner. Be ready to bail and then come back if they chose you.

In any case, keep working fast and efficently. Depending on the situation, you may use only two or tree of your salvagers on each wreck. Using less will help your capacitor last longer and will allow you to keep your MWD on at all times (which is a must if there is any hostile around).

In every pocket bookmark the location of something, like a cargo container or a wreck. That will let you find the location again when the mission is completed and turned in.

Mission runners will react in many different ways to your intrusion: some will just ignore you. Either they don’t want to give you satisfaction, or they just don’t care about the wrecks.

Some will shoot the wrecks, hoping to discourage you by taking the loss themselves. The decision is in your hands. You can just look for another target, but you’ll give people the impression that you’re easily discouraged with this method, or you can stay and salvage what you can before your recalcitrant benefactor destroys it. At the very least you’ll teach him that this method doesn’t work. In the best case he’ll understand before everything is destroyed and will let you go about your business.

Some missionbears are more aggressive (and stupid) than they look, and they will open fire on you. Since you’re a newbie, you’re probably in a high security system (Did I forget to tell you? Oops…). This means that Concord will react and destroy the mission runner. If your ship is durable and fast enough, fly in a direction perpendicular to the incoming projectiles  (by orbiting the enemy at the current distance) to increase angular deviation and the chance of being missed. You should be able to resist until Concord has made short work of the daring (and stupid) attacker. If you aren’t that confident, just warp out as quickly as you can and come back after Concord is done. Now you can salvage and loot the Mission Runner’s ship as well.

If the mission runner is aggressive but less stupid, he’ll warp out to get a cheaper, PvP-oriented ship to try and suicide gank you to teach you a lesson. Since your ship is unarmed, if you are not confident about your ability to resist the attack, you might want to withdraw, or at least to keep a distance superior to 24 km, so that the enemy cannot disrupt your ability to warp. You only need to resist a few seconds before Concord makes short work of the attacker anyway.

Trickier mission runners will warp out temporarily to let the aggressive NPC enemies target and attack you. If that happens, just warp out yourself, wait a few seconds, and then warp back in. Chances are that the mission runner will be back, allowing you to restart your work. Some will repeat the process multiple times before giving up. Giving the durability and speed of your Merlin, it’s very unlikely that you’ll die. Just make sure you stay very far from frigate-sized NPC ships. Some of those may have a warp scrambler fitted, but if you react fast enough, they shouldn’t be able to target you before you’re gone.  Some mission runners may even decide to pause the mission for a while and move to another. If that happens just keep the bookmark and come back later yourself (you can use the directional scanner at any time and on any ship to see if the Missionbear is back. His reaction when he sees you warping in after he thought he got rid of you might possibly be priceless).

In any case, don’t worry too much. The fact that you’re a newbie isn’t the only reason why you chose a cheap ship. With the income from a single successful Ninja Salvaging outing you can easily buy and refit at least five new Merlins (and some will net you the equivalent of ten or more), so, if by chance you get blown to bits, just get a new one and carry on.

The best Missionbear that you will encounter is the one that will start raging and crying in a private conversation, or even better in the local chat channel. There are few things in EVE that prove more yummy than the impotent tears of someone that flies a ship hundreds of times more costly than yours and that would gladly make your newbie life hell if given the chance. Feel free to use the more juicy bits to decorate your bio, as a forum signature or for similar creative purposes.

As a word of warning, you may want to avoid joining a player corporation if you’re an active Ninja Salvager, or at least you may want to warn your corporation’s CEO and make sure that he’s ok with it. If your unwilling benefactor/victim is high enough in the ranks of another corporation he might decide to declare war on yours. If that happens he’ll be able to attack you without retaliation from Concord. To avoid this problem many use non-affiliated alts as Ninja Salvagers (after all you have three character slots per account).

If everything went well, and you managed to clean the wrecks in all the available pockets, it’s time to haul your bounty back to the base. A successful Ninja Salvage mission on a level 4 can easily net you between two and ten million ISK, sometimes more. That’s why above what you can make with any other newbie-friendly activity in EVE-Online. It’s more risky and tense, but tension is hardly a bad thing in an online game, and you will learn several techniques that will be very useful in the future.

As you haul your precious cargo back to the base, your work may not be done yet. If you didn’t meet the Missionbear at all, or if he decided to quit leaving wrecks and loot behind, you might decide to step up your game, raising both the risk and the rewards by quite a bit by moving to Ninja Looting.

Many wrecks will have, inside of them, a cargo container that will carry modules that can be looted. Especially large wrecks carry battleship-sized modules that are worth way more than the salvage, literally hundreds of thousands ISK per piece.

The problem is that, while Ninja Salvaging is not a crime, Ninja looting is indeed a criminal offence (this doesn’t mean that it’s against the rules of the game, mind you, crime in EVE Online is encouraged). It’s not serious enough to get you shot down by Concord, but gives your victim and his player corporation a 15 minutes aggression timer during which he’ll be able to attack and kill you without any retaliation from Concord.

This means that if you’re caught red-handed looting someone else’s wrecks, and that someone is in an armed ship while yours isn’t, you better be fast at warping away to avoid being blown to bits. If you think the risk is worth the reward (a reward that can sum-up to 15-20 million ISK or more per mission) read on.

First of all, you will need a ship with a good cargo hold, because battleship-sized modules are big, and stopping to cherry pick only the valuable ones will remove your speed advantage, exposing you to a possible retaliation. Your ship will also need to be quick, in order to fly between the cargo containers reasonably fast, and agile, to be able to align and warp out quickly if your “victim”decides to appear on the scene. A decent defense is also a good idea, to resist the couple hits he might manage to land on you before you warp.  Here’s a good example:

Ninja Looting Industrial: Sigil

The Sigil is bigger than a frigate, which means that it’s also slower and less nimble. Despite that it has a good cargo hold and decent durability without being a complete slowpoke, which means that the right fitting can turn it into a good Ninja Looting ship. Let’s not forget the fact that it’s also extremely cheap, and that means that being blown to bits in this risky business won’t hurt you much, compared to what you can earn.

Fit your Sigil with a Beta Hull Inertial Stabilizer, a Beta Hull Overdrive Injector, three Beta Hull Mod Nanofiber Structures, one Y-S8 Hydrocarbon I Afterburner, a Medium Subordinate Screen Stabilizer I, an Invulnerability Field I, and a Salvager I (just in case you forgot some wrecks around).

In order to fly this quick industrial ship that holds more than 2500 m3 and still flies faster than 500 m/s, you’ll need, on top of the skills you already have, Amarr Frigate III, Amarr Industrial I and Tactical Shield Manipulation I. The higher you go with Amarr Industrial, the faster the ship will be and the more cargo it’ll hold.

Now that you have your Ninja looting ship and can fly it, as you come back from your successful Ninja Salvaging mission, get on your Sigil and undock. Give a quick look with the directional scanner in the direction of your first bookmark, and make sure your Missionbear didn’t come back. You should already know the distance from before. Then warp in.

Put the scanner to 360 degrees and lower the range to 4 AU (600,000,000 Km). Scan periodically, and if you see combat probes, there’s a good chance that the Missionbear noticed that he’s being stolen from and he’s poking around for you. Keep mobile, since he might try to warp in as near as possible to you to try and immobilize and kill you before you can react. By moving around a lot you’ll make his scan slightly obsolete and delay him.

Start looting the items from the cargo containers, moving as fast as you can from one to the next. Ignore the stealing warning (or disable it completely) and pick up everything you can. You have plenty cargo hold anyway. All the while keep a close eye on the overview and the scanner.

If the mission runner warps in, don’t panic, but assess the situation very quickly. The information you need is all in the overview. What kind of ship he’s in, his distance from you and if he’s targeting you.

If he targets you instantly after warping in, it’s a good cue to bail on the fly. He’s not surprised at all to see you there, so he probably came prepared. Warp out as fast as you can, and if everything goes well you’ll be out of the hairy situation before he locks on you.

Otherwise, if he’s in a battleship or an otherwise combat-worthy ship, he might not have expected your presence, but you better not stick around to give him time to react. Just warp out as fast as you manage. If he’s in an industrial ship, then he’s most probably slow and unarmed, as he possibly just came back to salvage and loot. In that case you might decide to stick around and continue grabbing the loot until you see him warp out (probably to grab a battle-worthy ship to kill you). When he does, get the hell out.

If you decide to stay, though, there’s a little risk factor to consider. His industrial might be just a covert tackle fit with a warp disruptor/scrambler to prevent you from getting away as his armed buddies warp in to finish the job. If he targets you and gets nearer than 24 km you might want to start considering that possibility. It’s rare, but it can happen.

In any case, if you find yourself in a messy situation, immediately warping back to your base might not always be the best solution. Quickly check the space directly in front of your ship, and warp to the available object nearest to your vector of flight. Before being able to warp out your ship will have to align with your destination, and as relatively nimble as your Sigil is, aligning to something right behind you might take too long. Warping to something in front of you will be nearly instantaneous. After reaching your destination you can just warp back to your base with a little more ease (or just dock if you warped to a station).

Whether you had to bail, or you just did a nice and profitable cleanup job, park yourself in the station and wait for the 15 minutes aggression timer to expire. As long as you stay inside you’re safe. Once the timer has expired, you can go about your business freely. If you had to bail, it’s worth it to check the bookmark one last time with the directional scanner. Many Missionbears will just quit in rage if they find their precious wrecks salvaged and their loot stolen, giving you a chance to go back and finish cleaning up. Of course, be wary as you do so, keep your eye on the overview and scanner for probes and ships, a trap is not that unlikely.

In the future, when you’ll be able to afford some decent PvP-oriented ships, you might even want to intentionally let the Missionbear fire on you. If he does you’ll be able to warp to the station, grab your battle-worthy ship, come back and blow him out of the sky without fear of Concord retaliation.

This is pretty much it. Of course experience and mistakes will teach you more than this guide can do, but hopefully this will be a good place to start your profitable Ninja career at the expense of all those veterans that look down on you just because you’re a newbie.

Just make sure to always follow the golden rule: never fly what you can’t replace. I won’t tell you to “fly safe”, that’s for chumps and missionbears.


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Giuseppe Nelva

Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.

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