One of the most emergent situations a pirate can find him or herself in is the opportunity for a ransom. While the opportunity itself is rare, and a successful execution even more so, ransoms can save you time, ammunition, and even your life in a few circumstances. Much like normal (solo) roaming, there are a few tricks you can use and some guidelines to follow to make the chances of a ransom larger. Hopefully this guide can help some of my fellow pirates to get some additional cashflow, and meet some interesting folks.
Choosing a target to try and ransom is a little different from choosing a target to fight 1v1. For example, if you are in a frigate, another frigate is not generally a good choice. Most frigate fights are over so quickly that you may not get the chance to make an offer, one way or another. That can work out a different way, too - they could fly the white flag and then try to catch you with your guard down. Regardless, people view frigates as largely disposable, and will so will fight to the death while laughing at the notion. In my experience, the best ransom targets tend to be ships at least two sizes larger than you, at least as far as frigates are concerned.
Your ideal target should be something that you could destroy without sustaining a great deal of damage. An enemy is much more likely to agree to pay if they feel they have zero chance of a comeback kill. Be sure to factor in any active tanks. Especially with an ASB tank, the rapid regeneration can be very tempting for the pilot to overheat and fully recover shields. Regardless of shield or armor, you will need to be able to break their tank, or last long enough for them to run out of cap booster charges and then defeat the weakened sustained defense. If you have backup of your own, this become largely irrelevant, but be sure that your wingmen are all on the same page as far as your plans. Next, their ability to deal damage should be as low as possible. Whether drones, guns, webs or neutralizers, anything that can kill you is obviously bad. If I could choose between a Zealot and a Hurricane, the Zealot is the obvious choice. It has no drone bay, it's potential weapon systems both have relatively poor tracking, there are no utility high slots for pesky neuts, and of course, it's more expensive than your normal Hurricane. Finally, the last factor to consider is the value of the killmail. No one likes to have a buffer tanked battleship get soloed by a frigate, so they are much more likely to pay you to go away. Unfortunately, this is a kill any frigate pilot dreams about, so you have to decide whether to ransom or not, and then whether or not the killmail is worth betraying your space-honor and potentially losing ransom revenue down the road.
Regardless of the enemy, try to have a ballpark figure in mind for your initial ransom offer. My rule of thumb is that I ask for a the nearest 10 million above what a T2 fit plus the hull should cost. While many will scoff and say that it would be cheaper to die, get insurance and refit, enemies that are faction or deadspace fit will tend to agree to higher prices to try and preserve their shiny modules. If this happens, feel free to revoke your offer of ransom and play the Loot Roulette. If there is any comedy or embarrassment value to the potential killmail, inflate the prices accordingly.
Begin the fight as you would any other, but with one minor difference. Worry more about conserving your own health than destroying theirs. This helps make your position of power more clear when it comes time for ransom, and if they call in friends, it gives you a better chance to escape. If your target has drones, especially if they are ECM drones, try and destroy them. If your target has a huge drone bay, however, you may be better off trying to burn the ship down instead. Generally, I remain silent until I'm reasonably sure that I can hold them down without dying, and have made sure I can break their active tank, if any. As always, continue to watch local and d-scan to see if enemy reinforcements are coming. However, don't assume every ship in system is out to get you. Enemy corpmates, alliance members, or any other locals that you should hopefully be familiar with are red flags. If local swells with probable backup, try to burn your opponent down, but be ready to disengage if you want to live.
Assuming local remains at the same number as when you started, and d-scan reveals no threats, get ready to call ransom. If you can time it right, calling for ransom at the same moment that the shield or armor alarms go off can give your threat some extra weight, even if it took you a few minutes to drop them those last few percents.
You only get one chance at a first impression, and especially and gunpoint, it's important that you don't get off on the wrong foot. Your first choice here is how to address them. If you and your target are alone in local, or you're somewhere that random interlopers would struggle to get to, call ransom in local. Most good pilots will have local as its own window, so it should be quicker to get noticed. If not, attempt to start a conversation. If you have your own channel for ransoming (covered in next section), use that, if not, a normal private chat will suffice. I usually keep it short and sweet. "Ransom?" is my go-to line, although you can always use the classic "Your money or your life!", or even "Stand and deliver" if you're feeling particularly old-timey. However, the stranger your line, the more likely the target is to think you're just trolling and keep shooting.
If they decline either the invite or the offer in local, try melting them a little bit more. A shield ship in deep armor, or any ship with flames coming from the hull is a nice visual reminder. Beware of leaving Gallente ships with full structure however. Gallente ships tend to have fairly beefy hulls, and coupled with a damage control will often be stronger than their shields if armor tanked. At this point I usually will try "Last call" or "You sure about that?" If they still refuse, oblige their death wish and if possible, send them home aboard the Pod Express. Better luck next time, but don't forget to scoop your loot, call "gf" (or taunts) in local, and get safe.
Congratulations, they are now firmly in your grasp and you can almost taste the payday. However, keep your focus until your wallet blinks, and even then, keep your wits about you. Your first message can be a short greeting, or just cut straight to the chase. First things first, they need to cease all offensive actions. This means drones pulled, guns off, webs, scrams, points and any other Ewar should likewise turn off. Your best bet is to tell them to just untarget you. This gives a visual indicator when they do, and a warning if they try to reagress. Be careful if you are ransoming on gate, time is now of the essence, as they will only have to last one minute before they can jump, and since you're holding them pointed, aggression timers will prevent you from pursuing. Next up, any defensive modules should go. Pay close attention to their ship for the tell-tale sparkles or pulses of repairers or hardeners of any kind. If you decided to make your own ransoming channel, state the above two steps clearly, probably using a large font, in the MOTD.
If you have an ally or alt with a ship scanner, now is the time to use it. Adjust your price accordingly, or if faction/deadspace mods are revealed, reevaluate if you want to ransom or not. A word of warning: just because there is a little blue or green triangle doesn't mean the module is worth millions. Modules that only boost one resist are fairly cheap. Multi-resists, on the other hand, are worth a pretty penny, as are blinged out midslots. Also be aware that the ship scanner will occasionally throw random results, or put out double readings for fitted modules.
Now is the time to state your first offer, along with a reminder to be hasty. 30 seconds is usually a good starting point, as it gives you some room to build tension by counting down, but doesn't immediately drive them to panic and do something stupid. Keep your eye on local and d-scan as always. Beware of any stall tactics, as they are probably frantically calling for backup. If you haven't heard from them in a few seconds, shoot them a little more. If your ship has a drone bay, letting your drones chew on them while negotiating is a fantastic way to apply pressure. Just be sure you can quickly recall them.
If they accept your offer, double check your wallet and make sure they sent the right amount, and not just 0.01 ISK to make your wallet flash. Take your time here, count the zeros. Most of the time, they will try to haggle. This gets easier with practice, but depending on the situation, you can (literally) stick to your guns, or give them a bit of wiggle room. If they are very new, they very well might not have enough ISK. Use your best judgement. Personally, I borrowed the custom of ransoming new players for a good joke, but your mileage may vary.
If they continue to try and barter, remind them who is boss, but politely. Say that you have places to be, and give them a final offer, possibly accompanied by another salvo from your guns. Be aware, if you continue haggling after your (now failed) ultimatum, they will start to gain some confidence back, and the odds of enemy backup arriving are getting higher. If they still refuse or lowball you, finish them off.
Payday (and more?)
Now you are either a few million ISK richer, died to his reinforcements, or are scooping the loot from a fresh kill. Congratulations. If possible try to grab the pod for a shot at another ransom. Catching the pod can yield some interesting offers. One time, my friends and I caught a guy trying to steal from a wormhole corporation. His hatred for his former corp was so strong that he promised to give us the password (and remaining ships) in exchange for his pod. After verifying the password with a scout, we let him go and began ferrying out our new ships.
If they agreed to your terms, paid correctly and are now expecting to be released, you always have the option of blowing them up anyway. Personally, I frown on this sort of thing, as it’s bad for business in the long run, but nothing gets the tears like a good old fashioned backstab. Weigh the pros and cons if you’re economically inclined, otherwise blap away. Just be aware that most people really hate being lied to, and might go shitpost you on the forums, or bring some pals to hunt you down. Again, if you care, probably keep your word.
Of course, not everything goes according to plan. Here are some possible snags you may encounter while trying to separate a fool from his ISK. Burning out your guns is the classic example of this. Depending on the shield and armor levels of your prey, you may be able to successfully bluff your way through this. Should this happen to you, ungroup your weapons, chances are one of them may still be working. Another thing I’ve had to deal with are corpmates or wingmen who are hellbent on killing the target no matter what your intentions. Depending on your corp, and the pilot, you can order them to stand down, threaten/cajole, or throw ECM drones on them if you must. Finally, you might encounter the guy who threatens to self-destruct. I generally will sit around and wait just to call his bluff, but beware, as this could be one last desperate stall for backup.
I hope you all enjoyed my little guide! Please feel free to comment with your own cool ransom stories or spectacular failures, and I might take my favorites and ask you for a full interview if you’re interested.