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So, you’ve picked your ship (please tell me it’s not a Nestor) for exploring the galaxy of New Eden – now you’ve got to fit it for the job. Luckily for you, future explorer, that’s a relatively simple task. As long as you’ve got the ISK and the guts to balance mod cost with survivability, you’ll be on your way to finding and stealing treasures from all across the universe.
Mandatory High Slots
All reasonable exploration vessels offer at least two high power module slots, with some options like the Stratios wielding as many as five. Depending on which you picked, your options may be limited, but luckily there are really very few things you’d want here anyway.
First, you will need a cloaking device to ensure your safe-ish passage through the less secure areas of New Eden. Choosing which one is really friggin’ simple – equip a covert ops cloaking device (requires cloaking level IV) as soon as you can. They’ll run you 5 or 6 million each, but if they save your cargoload even once, they’ve paid their weight in veldspar.
If you don’t have access to covops cloaking yet, you might as well stick to the prototype cloak. All the mid-range devices are only marginally better than the basic version, and none are even close to as good as the covops edition, which allows you to warp while invisible.
Your second mandatory high slot item will be a core probe launcher or expanded probe launcher. While core probes can only scan down cosmic signatures, combat probes can scan down signatures, ships, structures, drones, and various deployable items. This may make it sound automatically better than the core version, but combat probe launchers have significantly greater fitting requirements. To be more specific, an expanded probe launcher requires more than 10x the CPU of a core probe launcher. As such, you will be hard-pressed to get an expanded launcher on, say, an Astero, without sacrificing a lot of other important slots.
But what will you get if you opt for a combat probe launcher? Basically, you’ll have the option to:
- Scan down active ships to kill their pilots
- Scan down active ships to “ninja salvage” their loot
- Scan down mobile structures to destroy and salvage them
- Scan down abandoned probes and drones to steal them
- Check for hostiles outside of directional scan range
- Scout enemy positions for fleet intelligence
This is certainly a lot of utility, but it’s important to note that many exploration ships won’t be able to capitalize on these options. If you are flying, say, a Probe, you won’t really be equipped to take down ratters by yourself, nor can you efficiently salvage their loot. So hold off on the expanded probe launcher until you have a covert ops frigate, a Stratios, or a strategic cruiser. Even when you acquire these ships, you should only fit an expanded probe launcher if you plan to routinely engage in the dastardly activities listed above.
If you’re wondering “Which probe launcher and/or probe variants should I use?” the answer is almost unilaterally the Sisters of EVE editions as soon as you can afford them. They all offer a +10% bonus to scan strength over the T1 versions, which is somehow more than the T2 modules give. SOE parts are plenty expensive, about 25-50 million ISK for launchers, but they’ll save you hours of your life by making scanning significantly easier without taking up extra fittin space. And again, if that +10% bonus finds you even one additional nullsec relic site, or helps you avoid even one nasty gatecamp, it will pay for itself.
Optional High Slots
After your first two fittings, additional high-power modules should be dictated by your primary activities while exploring. None of these are strictly necessary, so don’t get stressed if your run out of CPU or powergrid before you can smack these modules on. Also keep in mind that, with the exception of self-defense, you can always leave extra modules in your cargohold and swap them out with a mobile depot when the opportunity arises.
For salvaging: The obvious pick is a salvager module, but avoid equipping one if you can carry salvage drones instead. Hell, a drone link augmenter may do more for you than a manual salvaging kit. Don’t bother with tractor beams – your ship and/or salvage drones will be fast enough.
For PvE: If you’re going to be running combat sites regularly, just throw on whatever turrets or launchers match your ship’s bonuses. There are far too many options to list here, but if you can clear DED sites solo, you most likely don’t need my help picking out guns. I will however advise that lasers are best suited for extremely long-range exploration, since they don’t require real ammunition.
For PvP: As with PvE, you can certainly fit your choice of turrets or launchers, but nosferatus or capacitor neutralizers can be more useful, especially if most of your damage comes from drones. Draining out your enemies’ capacitors is hugely useful for both defensive and offensive situations, especially if your victim’s fit is far from stable. If you’d rather leave the blapping to someone else, a cynosural field generator is the perfect tool for getting the (hot) drop on unsuspecting foes.
Mandatory Mid Slots
The very first thing you need in a middle power slot is a microwarp drive (MWD). You’re going to be flying around a lot, and oftentimes the containers in a relic or data site are nearly 100km apart from one another. Cutting travel distance quickly will save you time, decreasing risk and increasing ISK (per hour).
Your MWD will also go a long way to keeping you alive when you encounter nasty gatecamps. Basically, if you activate your MWD then immediately cloak, you’ll retain the +500% speed bonus for one module cycle, giving you some much-needed breathing room. For more information, just Google “MWD cloak trick” – there are literally thousands of video demonstrations out there.
I was considering making the relic analyzer an optional fit, but archaeology sites are so lucrative you’d be stupid to pass them up or waste time refitting in order to complete them. There’s really not much to say about this tool – it’s necessary for completing relic sites, and you should train archaeology to V so you can capitalize on harder/more valuable nullsec relic loot with a relic analyzer II.
Pro tip: Make sure you right-click on your analyzer modules and set them to auto repeat: off. This will cut down on your ship’s capacitor load and reduce the time between hacks since your modules will always be ready to cycle.
Optional Mid Slots
After propulsion and archaeology gear, there are really no other modules you constantly need in your mids. Still, here are some ideas.
To new players, it may seem that data analyzers and relic analyzers are two sides of the same coin. However, data loot is both way less valuable and way more voluminous than its relic counterpart. You could easily fill 200 m^3 of your hold with data loot worth “only” 80 million ISK. By comparison, a full load of relic parts could easily be worth several billion.
Yeah when you’re just starting out, you will find most data sites to be worthwhile (since their loot is still worth much more than your ship’s value). You will need to complete data sites in order to gain practice and build up initial capital reserves. But if your ship is hurting for mid slots, it’s totally okay to ditch your data hacker. Since every journey in and out of highsec is potentially fatal, try to maximize each trip’s value to safeguard your long term profits.
Cargo scanners on the other hand are a perpetually valuable tool. If you didn’t know, you can use a cargo scanner on relic/data containers to see what, if any, valuable loot is in each one. This can help you save time by skipping crappy nodes, and it can help you score the best loot by letting you know what to grab once the system core has been breached. By the way, this isn’t really a time-sensitive action, so feel free to stick with the ultra-cheap module variants.
In your adventures, cargo scanners can also be used to check the contents of mobile depots, mobile tractor units, and abandoned ships you find strewn around New Eden. Take a peek at what’s in the box, then decide if it’s worth your time cracking the case (or waiting around to gank the apparently rich owner). Obviously this secondary value is only applicable if you’re running combat scanner probes.
Propulsion inhibitors (webifiers and warp scramblers) can’t hurt if you’re planning to tackle other players, for obvious reasons. You probably shouldn’t attempt this until you’re experienced in either exploration or PvP, but once you’re sufficiently bloodthirsty, prioritize the scrambler, then the webifier. Most exploration ships are pretty fast, so preventing your prey from warping out is a bigger issue than keeping them in range.
As far as scan arrays (acquisition/pinpointing/rangefinding) go, they’re fine as long as you have the midslots and CPU to fit them. I understand their general allure, but other scan bonuses (SOE equipment, gravity rigs, and implants) won’t generally be competing for your limited mid slots. Still, scan arrays are super cheap, so if you can’t afford the more expensive gear, you might as well start here.
If none of these options interest you, you could go for capacitor rechargers, shield extenders, drone navigation mods, or even an afterburner to supplement your MWD where needed.
Recommended Low Slots
There is absolutely no low-power module that’s strictly required for typical exploration activities. You won’t be dealing or taking sustained damage 95% of the time, so combat and armor mods are usually a waste. Still, you can focus on making your ship faster, more agile, and more slippery in order to get in and out of dangerous space as easily as possible.
Warp core stabilizers will prevent all but the most organized tackle squads. Each one you equip nullifies a long-range warp disruption, and most solo gankers won’t be armed with lots of redundant copies. Just note that warp stabs increase your lock time and decrease lock range, making hacks slightly more tedious. Most variants are identical for your purposes, so take whatever is cheapest.
Nanofiber internal structure mods greatly boost your align and movement speeds. So whether you’re leaving a gate to warp, or crossing a huge deadspace site to gather loot, you’ll do it faster (and therefore more safely). These will slightly cut your hitpoints, but if you’re taking damage in an exploration ship, you’re already dead. Upgrade to higher meta levels as soon as possible.
Other Low Slot Options
With the exception of cruiser-class ships, you won’t really have that many low power slots, so throwing 2 nanos and a stab on your Probe is totally fine. But if you have extra room or don’t find yourself running into pirates frequently, these mods might serve you better.
Cargohold expanders will slow you down, but hugely increase how much loot you can store. It’s a percentage modifier, so T1 ships or cruisers will benefit much more than covops frigates will. Also keep in mind this bonus is multiplicative in both directions, so equipping a few of these could double your storage room… while halving your speed. This is what we call game balance.
Damage control units and buffer armor tanks wouldn’t be a bad consideration if you’re planning to fight other players. They could also help you survive lucrative “ghost site” anomalies, where unsuccessful hacks result in massive explosive damage. Contrarily, active tanks are useless in most situations, and will only waste cap while your ship is busy imploding within the first few salvos.
Inertia stabilizers should be avoided. Sure, they bolster turning more than nanofibers do, but they blow your signature radius sky-high, making you easier to lock and increasing the damage you take.
New players won’t have a lot of options in the rigging department, but luckily they don’t really need them. Only a small handful of rigs are even remotely useful to would-be explorers. As far as meta level goes, T2 rigs tend to be up to twice as hard to fit as their T1 counterparts, so don’t blindly “upgrade” to them without finalizing your calibration.
Gravity capacitor upgrade modules grant a hefty bonus to probe scan strength (10 to 15%) and have absolutely no downside, a rarity among rigs. This is a top pick for any explorer simply because it’s useful in almost any scenario – relic/data, salvaging, PvE, PvP, and scouting.
Pretty much any astronautic rigging is sure to be valuable to you. They’re all pretty low in calibration, allowing you to mix and match whatever you want.
- Cargohold optimization can kick up your loot storage.
- Low friction nozzle joints boost agility for faster warp alignment
- Polycarbon engine housing provides a mix of base speed and agility
- Hyperspatial velocity optimizers greatly increase your in-warp speed
I want to make a personal point that while warp speed may not seem like a big deal to most players, it is hugely valuable for exploration. Your ship will be spending dozens, if not hundreds, of hours warping between celestial bodies – so hastening your lightspeed drives can shave days off your long-term flightplan. It also gives you an edge against potential pirates who may find they are unable to beat you to stargates, even when they know exactly which direction you’re going.
One note of caution: while I absolutely love hyperspatial rigs, their drawback is decreased CPU (most other astronautics rigs cut armor). As such, you should carefully consider your CPU skills and the rest of your fitting requirements before putting one or more hyperspatials on your ship.
Outside of scan or astronautic rigs, there really aren’t that many good choices. You can fit armor, shield, or drone rigs if you’d like, but they’re not going to pull their weight nearly as much as the picks above.
And oh yeah – you’ll find data/relic mods are a total ripoff. Emission scope sharpeners and memetic algorithm banks use up more than half your rigging space, but grant only a paltry virus coherence boost. Even worse, you can usually only fit one at a time, which sucks if you’re planning to run both site types.
If you happen to be flying a ship with a sizable drone bay, you might as well carry drones.
For T1 frigates, you’ll only have space for six to eight small drones, and the bandwidth to field three or four at once. As such, I recommend a mix of salvage and ECM drones (three or four of each).
Salvagers are great for, um, salvaging junk. ECM drones can be set to orbit you in aggressive mode while you perform hacks. If a player gets the jump on you, fire them at your attacker and pray they successfully jam his targeting systems, then warp for dear life!
For the Helios, the only covops ship with a drone bay, you’ll only be able to fit one small drone. I can only assume CCP considered it a hilarious joke to give this ship a drone damage bonus, but only enough space for one drone, but hey – nothing about Iceland makes any damn sense. Throw one salvage or ECM drone in there.
The Astero is a frackin’ dronebeast of a frigate with 75 m^3 of storage and 25 Mbit of bandwidth. Here, you can keep three full flights of small drones: scout, ECM, and salvage. It’s beautiful, because you have tons of utility for tackling offensive, defensive, or nature-protecting missions. As you can imagine, this makes the Astero a very capable combat ship, something to consider when weighing your fight/flight options.
Strategic Cruisers and the Stratios have a metric shitton of potential storage space. But don’t fill your drone bay for every trip. Keep in mind you’ll be fully capable of scanning down and taking abandoned drones from space, and there are literally millions of free drones lying around out there. Instead, throw in a set of ECM drones, a set of salvage drones, a set of scout drones, and a Gecko or two for razing structures.
This isn’t really a fitting suggestion per se, but you should seriously considering bringing one or more mobile depots with you on long flights. They allow you to reconfigure your ship without the use of a station, which is great if you’d like to bring along a combat setup in cargo or if your slot layout forced you to choose between say, data and relic analyzers.
More importantly, mobile depots act as a stationary bank for your loot. They have up to 20x more space than your ship’s hold does, allowing you to pack away prizes you don’t have the means to carry home. You can anchor a mobile depot at a safe spot in a quiet system, fill your cargo hold, then dump it in the depot. Go back to exploring, get more loot, rinse and repeat. When you’re ready to cash in, pull just the most valuable stuff from the mobile depot and head to market knowing your second-best stuff is still waiting for you.
As long as you bookmarked its location, you can head back to your mobile depot and pick up leftovers later. Don’t worry about it getting poached – only players actively looking for depots with combat probes can find one. And even if your depot is targeted, it gains 48 hours of invincibility when its shields are dropped. So as long as you check back on your mobile depot every few days (like a good mom), it should be fine. And hey – if it’s taking fire regularly, you can scoop it back to your bay and deploy it somewhere else.
I do want to note that other deployable structures like mobile siphon units may be of value to you, but only really after you’ve established a somewhat firm area of operation. If you aren’t going to be regularly checking in on these thief-machines, they’ll cost you more ISK than they earn.
As with ship selection, fitting is largely based on what you wish to achieve. Yes, there are certain modules you’d be an idiot not to equip, but there’s a lot of wiggle room when it comes to mids, lows, and rigs. Pay close attention to the factors that most frequently lead to your death (too slow, too squishy, too visible), and build your next scanboat for survivability along those lines.
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