When a band of barbarians shows up on your doorstep, it's often because they've been displaced by another band of barbarians who showed up on their doorstep. The Goths, after all, didn't cross the Rhine-Danube line in 376 simply because it was too nice a day to stay indoors .-"Lowsec", Fiddler's Edge, January 15 2011
In response to Winter is Coming, Rixx Javix, lowsec anarchist and sometime pirate, invited displaced nullsec residents to migrate to low sec space. "Not only is it more fun," he wrote, "But we don't shoot structures - only people". Rixx and a few others have held forth otherwise and elsewhere on what a wonderful world it would be if only the alliances of nullsec would come to lowsec, where real PvP is practiced. There, unprotected by their cynojammers and warp disruption fields, they would provide Rixx and the rest of the lowsec pirates and rapscallions a target rich environment filled with PvP opportunities.
It seems one must be careful what one wishes.
With free nullsec capitulating to the Drone Russians Forces (DRF), a number of medium to large nullsec alliances and corporations players have been pushed out of their nullsec holdings. In some cases, as with Northern Coalition members driven from Vale of the Silent and Geminate, these entities moved from Northern to Southern nullsec, only to be displaced a second time when DRF and their vassals moved South to complete their run of the nullsec table. Unable to withstand the assault of the heavily bankrolled DRF supercapital blobs, ever more nullsec refugees have been seeking safe haven in which to draw breath until the much hoped for Winter Supercapital Nerf ® is deployed.
Thus, safe harbor for such refugees is at a premium. NPC nullsec, immune from being claimed by player alliances, was the safe harbor of choice for -AAA- when they were rolled over by White Noise, The Initiative and Pandemic Legion last Fall. Likewise, Pandemic Legion (PL) sought temporary refuge in NPC nullsec early last Spring, after the Northern Coalition showed PL at the Saint Patrick's Day Massacre that they had developed the tactical wherewithal needed to defeat PL supercapital fleets.
However, nullsec has never before seen so many organizations and players displaced at one time; NPC space will simply not contain all the refugees. As the DRF & Co expand their holdings, competition for the scraps of nullsec space not yet under siege increases, and the overflow is pushed elsewhere.
Elsewhere, as in nullsec-adjacent low sec space.
We've seen this before, of course. As I wrote last January in Lowsec, BOB retreated to lowsec after that storied alliance was disbanded and run out of nullsec by their many enemies. There they appropriated high-value lowsec properties, recovered, rearmed, and reorganized themselves as IT Alliance before re-entering nullsec. Though much diminished in their retreat from nullsec, the BOB refugees were veteran nullsec PvPers. Their ships and fleets more than a match in terms of size, composition and discipline for the lowsec entities they encountered during their exile.
One again lowsec alliances have nullsec entities arriving on their doorsteps. Even those denizens of lowsec with prior nullsec experience are taken somewhat aback by the sudden presence of supercap fleets they've begin to encounter. Lowsec is well acquainted with capital ship combat and the odd ratting carrier is regarded as high-value prey by lowsec pirates and griefers. Faction warfare militia regularly engage in capital ship combat, and even the odd Titan or Supercarrier encounter is not unusual.
However, Supercapital fleets are another matter. Immensely powerful, immune to ECM and unstoppable except by Heavy Interdictor (a ship class in short supply among lowsec combat groups due to its relative lack of utility there), a small fleet of ten or so supercapitals can drop on most lowsec capital/battleship fleets with relative impunity. There is limited chance (for now) that the lowsec alliances will have hictors and larger supercap fleet on standby for a counter-drop. Life in lowsec is markedly less fun when any Drake or Navy Raven caught ratting a lowsec anomaly might cyno in a supercapital fleet on top of the jolly gang of pirates that tackle it.
At the moment, the most evident example of this phenomenon is Pandemic Legion cooling their heels in Amamake. While not driven from nullsec per se, PL seems to have realized that, with no contract in hand binding them to the DRF, and the Goons having made common cause with PL's former employers, they are high on the gank list once said employers get bored with chasing -AAA- and look around for their next victim. With all of their enemies laid low or in hiding, the DRF as little use for PL and will likely seek to ensure the weapon they have employed regularly and to good effect isn't available to DRF's growing list of enemies. Thus PL seems to have quit nullsec in good order to wait outside the DRF field of vision for what changes to the strategic landscape the Winter Supercapital Nerf ® may bring.
In the meantime, the lowsec residents have largely adopted a strategy of either steering clear of the PL forces altogether, or venturing in to pick off the odd PL straggler. The faction warfare teams in particular seem inclined to take the odd potshot at the unwary PL ship. Recently a PL Carrier was jumped by an Amarr faction Stealth Bomber fleet. The degree of drama that accompanied the take-down, along with the celebratory chest beating that followed, speaks volumes about the degree to which the lowsec residents are over-matched by the new arrivals. While a critical loss for a lowsec player, mere capital ships have practically become a commodity item in nullsec; the loss of one barely attracting any notice at all.
The presence of PL in lowsec has, in turn, drawn other nullsec entities into the neighborhood as nullsec alliances, looking for some good fights with the legendary Legio Pandemica, drop in for visits. Lowsec players seem largely ignored in these incursions, unless they happen to get in the way or try to participate in the action.
Once the Winter Supercapital Nerf ® and associated nullsec sov changes have been put in place and assessed by the various parties, I expect most nullsec entities that bide time in lowsec will saddle up and head back into the sovereignty game. Their departure will be met with relief by some parties in lowsec who prefer the region as it is.
However, the wiser lowsec players will see the presence of Pandemic Legion and their nullsec peers as an opportunity; a teaching moment. As with any game, the best way to improve at PvP is to move out of your comfort zone, and play against one's betters. The presence of some excellent nullsec PvP talent in lowsec provides a rare chance for lowsec fleets to measure themselves against the big hats and up their level of play.
Expected changes to the sov rules will likely mean greater opportunities for incursions by lowsec fleets into nullsec. Likewise, they may make parts of lowsec of value to nullsec entities, resulting in nullsec alliances adding parts of lowsec space to their spheres of influence.
This could go a long way toward blurring the lines between nullsec and what I like to call "lower" lowsec.