This article is a Providence post-mortem and a call to action to save what I believe to be the best playstyle in EVE Online, and does not represent the opinion of EveNews24, the Editorial Team, or anyone else at the organization. I have used relevant statistics to support my arguments, but the conclusions are mine, and I invite you to draw your own.
When most people think of NRDS (Not Red, Don’t Shoot), the first thing that comes to mind is Curatores Veritatis Alliance, or CVA. Meaning ‘Guardians of Truth’ in Latin, CVA are an Amarr loyalist group with a long and storied history, and the foremost representatives of NRDS throughout the history of New Eden. For that reason, most peoples’ opinion of NRDS is inextricably linked to their opinion of CVA, and NRDS carries a lot of suppositions and assumptions based on the way CVA interpreted the ruleset, and the way in which CVA conducted themselves in Providence.
NRDS, however, didn’t start with CVA, nor did it end when they left Providence to become an NBSI alliance in the Placid/Syndicate area.The first NRDS groups in sovereign nullsec were the Confederation of Free Stars, and there have long been other groups practicing the ruleset elsewhere in New Eden.
So if NRDS isn’t CVA, what is it? Simply put, NRDS is a rule of engagement whereby its adherents welcome neutral pilots into their space instead of assuming they’re hostile or otherwise unwelcome.
This might sound like NRDS groups are just giving themselves less targets to shoot at, but as we will examine, this isn’t usually the case. Due to the incompatibility of NRDS with the major coalitions’ NBSI (Not Blue, Shoot It) policies, and the fact that NRDS space attracts neutral pilots and organizations, NRDS space tends to be fertile ground for hunting fleets and these, in turn, provide on-demand content to its holders.
As we touched on above, the NRDS ecosystem is a symbiotic relationship between neutral pilots, the NRDS ‘enforcer’ groups, and pirate groups.
Neutral pilots rely on NRDS organizations to provide a safe place for them to build up, and potentially become full members later on. Essentially, neutrals in an NRDS-protected area are like renters without the need to pay any rent. Individuals and corporations can just show up, rat and mine, dock and trade, run exploration sites, and live in the area with no obligation to anyone else, other than to follow the rules of the region and not to shoot the area’s other inhabitants.
Pirate groups rely on ratters and miners in space to hunt their prey, and in a well-established NRDS region there will be plenty of neutrals out and about in combat sites and asteroid belts. This gives the pirates a significant incentive to hunt these regions because they’re often very decentralized with inefficient communications between the neutrals and the enforcers.
The enforcers rely on the presence of pirates and other troublemakers to provide their members with targets to shoot. Instead of having to travel 20-30 jumps to bash undefended structures, NRDS offers a dynamic, small-gang focused game of cops and robbers, where the pirates attempt to pick off easy prey and make a hasty escape with their ships, and the enforcers scramble to defend those who live in the area through their superior logistics and firepower.
All of this is well and good in theory, but what about in practice? The most stable NRDS region over the history of Eve has been Providence, so I’m going to use that region as an example. From the start of zKillboard to the time of writing, these are the kill stats for various regions of nullsec:
|Region||Ships Killed||ISK Destroyed|
In fact, amongst sov nullsec regions, only Catch has seen more kills than Providence on zKillboard.
My personal experience as a PvP-focused pilot is not dissimilar. These are my top 5 alliances and the kills/day average for each:
Total Eclipse. (2,359 kills in 482 days) – NRDS – 4.89 kills/day
Phage & Terror (769 kills in 172 days) – NBSI – 4.47 kills/day
Curatores Veritatis Alliance (190 kills in 53 days) – NRDS – 3.58 kills/day
Pandemic Legion (225 kills in 117 days) – NBSI – 1.92 kills/day
Goonswarm Federation (792 kills in 650 days) – NBSI – 1.22 kills/day
It was ultimately the comparative quantity of content, and the lower number of jumps needed to get into a fight, that led me to leave Pandemic Legion to return to be an NRDS pilot in Providence.
For those not interested in tying themselves to a banner, NRDS essentially functions like renting but without needing to pay rent to an alliance that you may find questionable. You can move your ships in, have a place to dock, and have a place to trade without needing to gain permission from anyone to do it, and without an obligation to do what anyone else wants.
For individuals and small Corporations, this can be very empowering. You gain access to space you otherwise wouldn’t be able to hold, a community of players dedicated to preserving your safety, and the ability to grow yourself or your organization.
This has traditionally been the recruiting route into the NRDS groups themselves. Corporations and individuals who stick around and make a home for themselves gain their own stake in the region’s security, and combined with the fact that they’re a known quantity to the local alliances who follow the rules of the area, this can progress organically into them joining or forming one of the NRDS alliances themselves.
One of the most interesting — and often overlooked — aspects of NRDS is the cultural element. You constantly have people coming and going, Local becomes a tool for communication instead of just for intel, relaxed codes of conduct for conversation (and an increased need to be diplomatic) are natural in an area of space where membership in an organization isn’t necessary to live in the area.
As an NRDS pilot, you meet interesting people who have very different outlooks on EVE, and very different ‘personal missions’. Explorers who want to see every system in EVE, industrialists with no interest in PvP who offer to build you dreads at discount prices, and banter in Local with various pirates and NPSI groups are some of my personal highlights from flying in NRDS alliances.
It’s not necessary to be a roleplayer to fly in an NRDS alliance or take part in NRDS space, but for some roleplayers, it’s definitely a necessity to be NRDS. If your character is loyal to one of New Eden’s empires, or otherwise acts as an anti-pirate, the NRDS rules of engagement are the default, as those are the rules of engagement within the space of those empires, and the mission of empire loyalists is to spread the influence of their empires.
One of the major challenges for NRDS alliances is managing relations with major nullsec blocs that live nearby. It’s near-impossible to retain permanent blue status with NBSI alliances unless they’re willing to operate on the NRDS rules of engagement in the space you lay claim to, as doing so would create conflicts of interest where the NBSI group catches a neutral pilot and the NRDS group is forced to choose between abandoning its responsibility to defend the neutral and shooting a blue entity.
Most relationships, therefore, are based on temporary mutual benefit and temporary standings, with the NRDS group and their NBSI friends shooting each other day to day, but working together on timers and objectives. This concept isn’t uncommon in the NBSI world, but it does mean that NRDS groups can’t become members of the ‘blue doughnut’.
For many capsuleers, NRDS is a foreign concept. The mythos persists that NRDS means less content and less chances to PvP, and this tends to limit the pool of players willing to join NRDS corporations and the pool of corporations willing to join NRDS alliances.
Some organizations, like Red Alert Coalition, operate NRDS within their own space only and freely engage neutral pilots outside of their home regions. This opens up more targets, and also access to NPSI fleets, which can help to ease the difficulty of recruitment.
Managing ‘who is red’ is more difficult than it sounds, often requiring not only the well-connected NRDS alliances to update their standings multiple times a day, but also access to a centralized list of hostiles for the safety of neutrals in their space.
In Providence, the issue became so difficult to manage that specialized software was designed to track KOS requests, appeals, and perform lookups against the list (check yourself, you were probably KOS).
NRDS groups often take this a step further, offering pilots an explanation for how they got put on the KOS list, their channels for appeal, and how to get back off of it. The EVE client isn’t really designed with this in mind, so it can be a gargantuan administrative effort to manage it cleanly.
Allowing neutrals to freely roam your space brings hazards. Hostiles will often use throwaway neutral alts to scout themselves or even tackle locals, and although this isn’t much different from what happens in open access groups like Pandemic Horde or Brave Collective where any capsuleer can get into the alliance a couple of hours after creating a character, it is a consistent problem which requires tracking and mitigation.
Most NRDS rulesets provide some kind of relief against this: a neutral interceptor keeping eyes on a blue fleet or a Sabre decloaking on a gate next to a hauler will usually be unceremoniously set KOS by the local FC and attempts made to deprive them of their ship in short order, and unfamiliar cyno recons flying around will be reported on intel regardless of standings.
The more difficult side of this is access to intel and fleets. There is a fine balancing act between being welcoming and taking unhealthy risks. A neutral reporting false intel to distract a fleet whilst his friends dispatch an Orca, a group being set blue and later found out to have ties to our main hostiles, and a ‘friendly’ lighting a cyno to drop our fleet into ten times the number of hostiles they reported are just some of the issues we’ve had to deal with. And for every one trap they succeeded in pulling off, another ten were thwarted by an FC or diplomat smelling bovine excrement.
Most EVE talking heads credit the fall of Provi-bloc to one of two events: the PL invasion of 2017 where the nomadic alliance deployed to take Providence’s faction fortizars, or the blackout of 2019 where Local was put into delayed mode. An NRDS region, much like a market, relies on stability to attract investors and commitments, and these events created a volatility which the region never truly recovered from.
Whilst I believe that these events were truly damaging for Providence, I think the bloc died a death by a thousand cuts — poor decisions, making too many enemies and not enough friends, an inability to adapt to the changing state of the meta, an unwillingness to invest in supers or titans, lack of central planning, failing to bring through FCs, and the aforementioned unfavorable events — rather than by a singular fell blow.
In fact, these events created Providence heroes, like Lumio en Tilavine, who would endlessly fight the PL invaders in whatever ships he could get his hands on, and my late friend Luxaar Galdr, who single-handedly sustained the industrial ADMs across a good proportion of the region through the blackout. If more had followed in these great capsuleers’ footsteps, and their leaders had organized for them to do so, Providence wouldn’t just have survived those trying times, it would have gained the admiration of much of New Eden in doing so.
It’s easy to blame CCP for those things if you’re looking to minimize your own failings, but that leads to the same kind of complacency and malaise that really killed Provi-bloc.
After a prolonged conflict with the ever-expanding #RekkinCrew, on 12th July 2020 the decision was communicated to all Provi-bloc members that the alliances would be withdrawing from the region and surrendering the war to Rocket X’s coalition.
Providence under #RekkinCrew has gone from one of the most content-rich regions in New Eden to a middle-of-the-road nullsec region. Here are the destruction figures from the Monthly Economic Report:
May 2020 (NRDS) – 1,100b destroyed
June 2020 (NRDS) – 730b destroyed
July 2020 (NRDS) – 1,019b destroyed
August 2020 (NBSI) – 614b destroyed
September 2020 (NBSI) – 463b destroyed
October 2020 (NBSI) – 536b destroyed
This shows three months of NRDS Providence vs three months of NBSI Providence, and a seismic collapse in ships exploding from being the second most destructive nullsec region to the middle of the pack. Critics may point out that this could be temporary, due to World War Bee II, but even compared to the dip in other non-Delve/Fountain/Querious nullsec regions, the PvP activity in Providence has collapsed.
Fundamentally, New Eden lost something the day that Provi-bloc collapsed. Whether you loved CVA or loved shooting them, the loss of sov null’s only NRDS region has made all of us poorer.
I have long held that “NRDS didn’t fail us, we failed NRDS”. The downfall of Provi-bloc was the result of mismanagement, outdated thinking, and unfortunate events coupled with a relentless enemy in RC.
The Rogue Consortium were made up of ex-Care Factor and ex-Yulai Federation members, and made serious attempts to build bridges with Provi-bloc leadership before joining the invading forces. Leadership snubbed their requests for space to call their own to satisfy long-standing but much depleted holder alliance Care Factor.
Siege Green were allied with Provi-bloc and the two sides assisted each other with timers, but a choice by part of CVA’s leadership to align themselves with Snuffed Out, Siege Green’s main enemy in lowsec, caused the two to drift apart. Snuffed Out never spent much time in the area, and very rarely helped with timers, whilst Siege Green would alarm clock at three in the morning Korean time to help RC.
On a more small-scale note, neutrals — our primary source of new blood — were locked out from the Ansiblex network and, unforgiveably, the primary market. This probably, above all else, limited the number who were willing to set up in the region.
In Provi-bloc, the coalition was very decentralized. In some areas, this was a good thing, allowing each alliance to test things and then others to adopt what worked, but in others it sorely failed. There was no direct correlation between fleet participation and eligibility for SRP, as the SRP programmes were entirely based on alliance income, which served to hamper alliances which could put numbers in fleet but didn’t hold a lot of space or moons.
In Red Alert Coalition, all of the R64 moons and markets are held by the coalition and directly fund a coalition-level SRP programme. This means that the SRP wallet is well-funded, and members across the coalition aren’t punished for their alliance contributing more than they can afford to fleets.
Provi-bloc was notoriously poor at welcoming new players and getting them involved in fleets. Whilst efforts were made towards the end, it was too late to really get any recruitment & training programmes going before the downfall of the region.
In all of the successful blocs, new player recruitment and retention is a high priority as it’s well understood that newbros tend to stick around when they have a good experience, and today’s Moa is tomorrow’s Eagle and next year’s Phoenix.
Curatores Veritatis Alliance, indisputably the most famous of the NRDS alliances in sovereign nullsec, is living in the Placid/Syndicate area, seemingly running NBSI (they call it ‘Militant NRDS’, but they shoot neutrals if they’re in any kind of combat ship, so it’s more ‘NBSI but don’t shoot miners’). Having fallen from about 1,500 pilots to just under half of that since June, CVA is involved in a major era of rebuilding. It is my hope that CVA choose to return to NRDS, as they’re the traditional standard bearer for it.
Sev3rance, Provi-bloc’s main US timezone alliance, have joined Legacy and are currently involved in World War Bee II. They picked up a number of the ex-CVA and ex-APOC corps, and time will tell whether those corps choose to remain in the safety of the blue donut or pursue a return to NRDS.
Apocalypse Now., a Provi-bloc holder for over a decade, is living in Great Wildlands. Their member losses are even greater, though a large proportion of those are through purging large and long-term inactive corps.
Total Eclipse., my alliance, are still allied with Apocalypse Now. in Great Wildlands. Together, we make up the Red Alert Coalition, the only heir to Provi-bloc’s legacy which is currently practicing NRDS.
Coalicion Hispana have joined #RekkinCrew, more concerned with retaining their Keepstar and their safe ratting and mining pocket than with principle or NRDS.
As far as I can tell, all of the minor holders either merged into another alliance or disbanded entirely. Due to the now-fractured nature of Provi-bloc, a reunion is a distant vision, and the most likely route for a new NRDS region to spring up in nullsec is for Red Alert Coalition, with more pilots, corporations and alliances, to take the lead.
This is a long-term vision, starting with building up a coalition capable of taking and holding space in whatever a post-WWB2 map looks like, and building up the FCing capability and fleet compositions to make it possible.
So, you’re convinced that NRDS is a good thing for sov null, and aware of the long path ahead to re-establish a sovereign NRDS region? If you’d like to be a part of that effort going forward, there are a number of Red Alert Coalition corporations which are currently recruiting:
If you run a corporation or alliance, and you’d like to be part of this gargantuan effort, you can get in contact with RA High Command on Discord.
If you’re interested in the NRDS lifestyle without ambitions for sov, you have a wealth of options.